When the cubs woke up a few days later, Primus Bayn wasn’t in the camp. They went ahead with their chores. It was Sennen’s turn to gather wood and Torruhk hunted some small animals. The others stayed in camp and helped the Bane Warband. Torruhk came back with his kill after an hour.
“Where’s my fire?” Torruhk shouted.
“Sennen isn’t back yet. Didn’t you see him?” Korina helped Torruhk to skin the animals.
“No, he went in another direction. He’s taking to long. I’ll stomp his tail when he get back.” He growled.
Korina punched his shoulder. “Don’t be mean. I’m sure he has his reasons.”
“I’ll go take a look. My stomach is growling as well.” Malkov ran off to find a high enough tree. He came back down soon. “He’s preoccupied with a lady. Seems a bit old, but eyes can deceive. Especially from this distance. He’ll be back soon.”
Torruhk growled again.
“Hi, sorry I’m late. I’ve got enough wood here.” Sennen panted as he dropped the firewood.
“So, when’s the wedding?” Malkov grinned.
“What?” Sennen looked up startled.
“I saw you with your lady friend. You can’t escape my eyes.” Malkov winked.
Sennen kept his silence. Torruhk was still annoyed and stomped on his tail.
“Ouch! Why did you do that?” Sennen rubbed his tail.
“You know why. We’re all hungry because of you. Do your duty.”
“Guys. Quit it. No need to go tail stomping. Let’s finish breakfast before Primus Bayn comes back. I suspect he is preparing for our graduation assignment. We have to be ready.” Miira came between them.
It wasn’t until well after noon that Primus Bayn came back.
“Ok, cubs. Last one.” Primus Bayn grinned. “I’ve been following the flame legion in the area for a while. And tonight we’re going to disrupt a meeting of theirs.”
Sennen froze for a moment.
“Now, no need to be scared. There is only a few of them and they’re not high ranked. They’re meeting a charr from the iron legion and hope to recruit him. They don’t know he was undercover for me. He won’t come, but you will. The flame legion usually sends three charr for a recruitment meeting. One spokesperson and two guards. We’re meeting in front of an old guard tower. Besides the ruins, it’s an open field. And one tree for Malkov. The guards are weaker than the spokesperson. I honestly don’t get why they bring guards, since the spokesperson has far more power. But hey, Flame Legion is a special kind of special.”
The cubs snickered.
“We’re going to have an early dinner and leave before the sun starts setting. You have until then to figure out a strategy.” Primus Bayn saluted and walked away. This was something the cubs had to do themselves. He wasn’t supposed to be involved any longer.
“Alright. Open field, tree, ruins. Malkov, like Primus Bayn said, the tree is yours. I want you to shoot the guards in the knees to cripple them. Sennen and Torruhk will kill the guard you hit first. Korina, you will terror the other two as a distraction. In those two seconds, you and I will take care of the other guard. If you notice the other charr comes to his senses, distract him again, until all five of us can focus on the spokesperson.”
“Hey, why do you get to kill one alone?” Torruhk asked Miira.
“I’m not. Korina and I will.”
“But she also has to keep the main kitten preoccupied.”
“Those are big words from you. Do you think I can’t do it?” Korina was agitated.
“It just don’t seem fair.” Torruhk was pouting.
“Tor, her spells can affect multiple targets. If they stand close together, she can hit both with one spell. If Primus Bayn is right, we can have them both down in seconds. Then you can charge the spokesperson.” Miira assured him.
“You know this isn’t a matter of fairness. This is a real battle. We have to complete our objective. As a warband. There is no unfairness between the warband members. No jealousy. Victory is ours, not just one person’s.” She continued.
Torruhk sighed and gave up. He couldn’t win when Miira started using reason.
“How are we going to approach this? I mean, if it’s one big open field, they’ll see us coming.” Sennen asked.
“Malkov will be in the tree. Torruhk and I will be at the meeting place. You and Korina can hide behind the tree and initiate a ranged attack after Malkov’s first arrow. I suspect they’ll be coming from the ruins, so just keep out of sight from there.”
Miira didn’t like that she didn’t know the place. It meant they had to improvise. Not Sennen’s strongest point. She knew Korina would follow her. Malkov just shot whoever was not on their side. Torruhk just hit what was in front of him. She had to be ready and quick with any decisions. There wasn’t anything more she could do now.
The cubs prepared their weapons, ate, and headed off to the ruins.
Primus Bayn walked with them until the edge of the hill. The ruins were visible at the top of the hill.
“This is it, cubs. This will be my last act as your Primus. You either fail and become gladium, or succeed and become the best warband of your generation. I’ve taught you everything you need to know. You’ve done great and made me proud every step of the way. I’ll still be proud of you no matter what happens.” Primus Bayn wanted to inspire them.
“Jeez, ‘no matter what happens’? Have a little faith in us, old man. We’re going to kick their ass. I’m going to be the greatest! I mean, we, of course.” smirked Sennen.
Korina elbowed him in the ribs. “Get off your high horse. We haven’t won yet. I wish you’d save that energy for the fight.” Her voice trembled.
“Nervous, are we?” Sennen still had a big grin on his face.
“Sennen, stop it. You’re being a jerk.” Miira came between them.
“What? She’s being a pussy. If she’s afraid of the Flame Legion, she should just be gladium.” Sennen crossed his arms.
Torruhk’s fist flew towards Sennen’s snout and connected before anyone saw it coming.
“Ouch!” Sennen stepped back and covered his nose.
“Torruhk! Please! Guys, seriously. Stop it or I’ll have this mission cancelled. Sennen, shut up. Torruhk, save your strength. We need it, but not now and certainly not against our own warband.”
“Don’t worry. I didn’t use my strength.” Torruhk said with a hint of arrogance.
Miira glared at him and saw him shrink. Sennen wisely kept his mouth shut, still rubbing his nose.
“Do your thing and make sure you’re back before dinner. I want you to prepare for this battle. Sharpen your weapons, clear your mind, be prepared.” Miira was steadfast. She didn’t blink. She looked everyone in the eye to make sure they took her seriously. Her voice sounded resolute. At that moment she felt the respect the others have for her, as did Primus Bayn.
Prmius Bayn sat down next to her as she was sharpening the blade of her greatsword.
“You did good, kid. You’re the reason why the five of you work so well together. They know that. Do you?” He asked.
Miira hesitated for a second. “Yes. I think I did. Before we split up, I felt their eyes on me, like they were waiting. I know Korina is scared, but so is Sennen. His eyes betrayed him. He tried to hide it by keeping his paw over his nose. I still felt it, though.”
“You have a gift for this, Miira. You feel what your warband brothers and sister feel. You don’t copy their feelings, but you know how to read them and how to use it. I honestly wish we had someone like that when I was younger.”
The camp was quiet. The other cubs had left to prepare and Miira was the only one to behind. The sound of her sharpening stone sliding of the blade was the only sound to be heard. Primus Bayn sat there quietly thinking. Miira felt something was off. She was waiting for him to speak, but he didnt.
“Tell me.” she said.
Primus Bayn looked up surprised. “What?”
“Whatever it is your thinking about. Your thinking is giving me a headache. Just tell me. I know you want to.”
“You’re sharp.” Primus Bayn sighed. “I really hope I made the right choice. This is a hard mission. Harder than most graduation missions, but we needed someone to intervene and I know you can do it. You’re the best warband I’ve seen in all my years as Primus. Maybe there are still some internal struggles, but you can handle them.”
Primus Bayn started fidgeting with his dagger. Miira stopped sharpening and looked at them.
“Miira, I’m not supposed to tell you this. And they’ll probably banish me just for saying it. I don’t care anymore. Your name will be Miira Lightbringer when this mission is over. This may sound like the cheesiest thing ever, but you brought me light. The light of your staff does, but your personality as well. I’m sure you’ll bring back the light for many people. Especially since the dragons are stirring. Tyria needs someone like you. Many of them.”
“Primus Bayn, you’re depressing. You talk as if this is the last time we’ll see each other. That’s not true, right?” Miira looked at him expectantly.
“It just might be the last time. I don’t know. All of your names are with the Bane Warband, so even if I’m gone, they can do your naming ceremony.” Primus Bayn made an attempt to leave.
“Wait! You will see us off, won’t you?” Miira jumped on her paws and grabbed his arm.
“Yes, I’ll escort you to the meeting place. After that I’m not allowed to assist you any longer.” He couldn’t bear to look at her.
Miira dropped her sword and hugged him. “Thank you, Primus, for everything you’ve done for us. I wish you were my sire. I’d be proud to have you as my sire.”
Primus Bayn held her for a second. “Thank you. Hearing that means a lot to me. I’ve to go now. I’ll meet you all later.”
Dinner passed by quietly. The cubs were tense and Torruhk and Sennen still wanted each other’s throats. There wasn’t much Miira could do about that. Stubborn men. They cleaned up their camp and stored it in the Bane main camp. All they needed tonight were their weapons and luck.
The sun was already setting when they left camp. The meeting place wasn’t very far from the camp. Just half an hour walk. Malkov climbed the tree with ease and looked to see if he saw the Flame Legion yet. No sign. Primus Bayn left the cubs alone and walked back towards the camp.
Miira sighed as she looked at his back. She had decided that she would visit him after their victory, wherever he was. Miira nodded towards Torruhk and they walked up the hill together. Sennen and Korina stayed behind the tree trunk.
Malkov whistled when he saw the Flame Legion coming. Miira and Torruhk were ready. Malkov drew back an arrow and Korina and Sennen held their staves tightly.
The Flame Legion looked surprised to see Miira and Torruhk.
“I wasn’t expecting a bunch of kids.” the spokesperson said. “Let’s go. They’re a waste of time.”
“Wait. We want to join the Flame Legion. We’re serious.” Miira called out.
“We don’t recruit kids. Come back when you are strong and ready to fight.” The shaman growled. “I have no time for this.”
“Sir, we are the strongest cubs in the Citadel. The council knows who we are and they’re ready to send us out on missions we don’t agree with. My… My sire is also with the Flame Legion. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed when you see us fight.” Miira bluffed her way through it. What she said was a half truth. She had heard rumours that her sire was with the Flame Legion, but she never knew for sure. It was also true that the council heard of them and she was sure they already had a mission ready for them. It wasn’t true that they disagreed with the council.
“Fine. If you’re so desperate to convince me, then show me your strength.” The charr crossed his arms and waited. The two guards he brought hadn’t said a thing and just stood besides him.
Miira and Torruhk looked at each other, unsure what to do.
“What are you waiting for? Attack each other! I came to recruit one charr, not two. The one who lives comes with me. If you can’t kill the other, I’ll make sure both of you are dead.” He kept a straight face and waited.
Miira grabbed her greatsword and stepped back to give Torruhk some space. She looked at Torruhk to see what was happening behind her. He could see Malkov in the tree. He blinked the second Malkov’s arrow left the string. He roared to covered up the sound. Miira was impressed and surprised. Torruhk was moving towards her as if he wanted to engage in a swordfight.
Not sure what he was planning, she called up her defense and held the sword in front her to block him if necessary. She then heard one of the guards crying out. Torruhk immediately changed his route and jumped towards the guard, stabbing him in his other knee.
Korina appeared and cursed the two other charr into terror. Miira jumped on the second guard and hit him on his helmet. Malkov shot his knee. Sennen also appeared used water magic to help Torruhk. He tried to stay out of range of the Flame Legion and walked towards the ruins.
Suddenly a fireball flew through the air. It hit Torruhk and Sennen as they prepared for a combined attack. Both charr flew backwards. Korina quickly summoned a well of corruption on the first guard. Malkov sent down a rain of arrows, enough to leave the charr crippled and near dead. The poison and bleeding wounds were enough to kill him.
Miira swung her sword around her and tried to hit both charrs at once. A few of her swings hit. It wasn’t enough to seriously damage either of them. She summoned a symbol of wrath on the ground. It wasn’t much, but it would retaliate some of the damage.
She saw mark appear beneath her. Korina placed a mark to help her as well. It would help her heal if she needed it. Malkov was focusing on bringing down the other guard. She saw the shaman turning around and about to throw another fireball, but this time she aimed for the tree. The shaman had found Malkov.
Miira jumped towards the shaman and distracted him for a second. The fireball missed Malkov, but the tree was lit. Malkov had to get out of the tree and jumped down into the bushes. Korina summoned more marks around Miira. She was Miira’s support in this fight. They had to kill the shaman before he could do more damage to them. In close range, Miira had the advantage. The shaman’s attacks took longer to charge than she needed to get out of the way. She slashed his legs and arms through his cloth robe. Her symbol of wrath and Korina’s marks protected her enough to kill him.
The guard was pulling out the arrows, took off his helmet and threw it aside.
“You dumb kids don’t know who you’re dealing with!” he roared.
Miira was still swinging her blade as the fireball flew past her. She didn’t see it coming and was shocked. She hadn’t expected the guard to still be alive.
“Korina! Quick!” she shouted.
Korina called up another mark to induce fear, but she wasn’t quick enough. Another fireball released before he was feared. This one did hit Miira.
She fell back, glad that she had enough protection. Her armor was hot, but she couldn’t give up. It took her a few second before she was up again.
The fire shaman summoned another fireball. He aimed at Torruhk lying a few meters away.
“No!” screamed Miira. She ran towards the shaman with her greatsword and launched an attack when she saw a flash out of the corner of her eye. The fireball left its summoner’s hands. Miira feared the worst. The blade of her sword cleaved the shaman in his side. He backed down, but it was already too late. The fireball had hit its target.
Screams of agony filled the meadow. Something snapped in Miira’s brain. Her friend was dead. The shaman had to pay the same price. She raised her greatsword again and blindly started slashing in his direction. The shaman was still bleeding from one of Malkov’s arrows. A few seconds later another arrow hit the shaman in the arm. This gave her some hope that not all of her friends were dead. She jumped on the shaman and drove her greatsword through his neck, killing him. She stepped off the body after she made sure he was dead.
Miira needed a moment to realise what had happened. She turned around to see what was left of Torruhk and saw the body still burning. She ran towards him and started to cry. Her grief pulled her down as she covered her face with her hands. She couldn’t believe it. Her friend was dead because of her. She made the wrong call.
A paw squeezed Miira’s shoulder. “Mi, look up. You’re wrong.” It was Korina. “Trust me.” Her voice was barely audible.
The white charr raised her head and let her hands fall along her body. The flames were dying and the body was visible. The charred remains lay before her clear as day. What did Korina mean? Why was she wrong? All Korina did was nod towards the body. She looked again. The smoke cleared and that’s when she saw red fur. Torruhk wasn’t the one who got hit. Someone had jumped to shield him.
She jumped on all four and ran towards her friend who lay a few meters behind the burning corpse. Torruhk was still alive, but only barely. She immediately started calling on her spells to help him heal enough to get away from this place. He could fully recover later.
Korina’s arm was wrapped around Malkov for support. Her side was burned. Malkov didn’t show any sign of injuries, but he looked exhausted. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t do anything. I was too far away to be of any good use.” he apologized.
Miira shook her head. “You did well. Your arrows landed and they definitely hurt them.” she said, still focussing on Torruhk.
“Korina, who is… Where is Sennen?” Miira asked.
“Guys! Don’t forget me!” Sennen’s voice came from behind the ruins.
The three charr turned around to see the fifth member of their Warband lumping towards them.
“Sennen! You’re alright! Well, more or less. You’re not dead.” Malkov said impressed. “I thought you were a goner when I couldn’t see you anymore.”
Sennen grinned and joined his friends. He looked at the remains. “Who is that? What happened?”
“I don’t know who it is, but I have a bad feeling,” stumbled Miira.
Torruhk groaned and slowly opened his eyes. Miira was the first one he recognized. “I like you better with a smile.” he said.
Miira had her eyes closed for a better focus and didn’t notice her friend waking up until he said something. The relief was visible on her face and she hugged him.
“Ouch. Be careful with the patient, please. I think my ribs are either bruised or broken. And my leg feels dead,” Torruhk laughed. “What happened? The last thing I can remember is this huge fireball coming towards me.”
Miira told everyone what happened. After she finished her story, she walked over to the corpse. The fire had died out and she could see parts of the charr’s armor and weapons.
Malkov immediately recognized the sword. “It’s Primus Bayn!” he said. “He jumped in front of the fireball to save you. I knew he was around but never in my life did I expect him to give his life for us.”
“What do you mean? He was a great charr and good educator.” Korina looked at Malkov with surprise and punched him softly. She had liked him very much. “If you thought anything less of him, you suck and I hate you.”
“He died in battle, just like he wanted.” Miira looked down at the remains of their Primus. “He was a good educator. He allowed us to come this far and we have to go further. He is the reason that we were able to find our talents and bring them together. Without it, we all would have died today. His sacrifice won’t be in vain. Our Warband will be the greatest there ever was. And maybe we can prevent other charr from being burned alive by the Flame Legion.”
“How did you know what he wanted?” Korina asked.
“I spoke to him before we left. Something didn’t feel right and I wanted to know if my gut feeling was right. I would never have agreed to do the mission if it was too dangerous.” Miira explained. She looked up at her friends while still kneeling down. “This was important to him. Maybe his death was planned, I’m not sure. He was afraid what the council would do to him. Death in battle was what he wanted most out of the alternatives.”
Malkov nodded. He heard sniffling and looked to his right to see tears welling up in Korina’s eyes. He gave her his handkerchief.
Sennen was still standing close to Torruhk, using one of his healing spells. He prefered to be attuned with fire, but his friend needed the power of water. Torruhk was conscious, but he still wasn’t able to get up. Sennen shifted on his feet, looking around nervously. He felt more uncomfortable each minute they stayed in the area.
“Miira, can you help out? Maybe we can get away from this place soon. I don’t like it here.” Sennen called over.
Miira sent more of her healing power to Torruhk and Malkov wrapped his wounds. It took awhile before Torruhk to be able to stand again. Sennen and Malkov supported Torruhk, while Miira supported Korina as they headed back to the Black Citadel.
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