This was supposed to be a simple escort.
Bandit activity this time of the year was normal, but I currently found myself ambushed and outnumbered by a large margin.
Our group of knights was faring well but starting to lose energy. What was worse, we were under constant assault from rogue mages who assailed us with fireballs and ice spikes, which all took great effort to block, even with our enchanted shields.
Our own wizard had already fallen at the hands of these lowly humans.
There was no time to mourn our loss. I blocked another weak dagger attack, before dealing a blow of my own with my sword. I dismembered the human’s arm before kicking his screaming body with my steel sabatons.
I held my ground in our ever-shrinking ring of knights around the marquis’s family. They were still in the carriage and would be safe, as long as we stood, which wouldn’t be too long; our numbers were dwindling as more and more elves were injured, or worse.
I prayed that reinforcements would arrive soon. One of our scouts had managed to break through the enemies’ lines earlier and was our only lifeline at this point.
A patrol was bound to be close, but they might not make it in time. The battle had already lasted for an hour or so. The start was very slow, but over the last few minutes, with our magic reserves and energy mostly depleted, we’d started to lose badly.
Still, it was our only hope.
Another lightly armored bandit charged at me. Their leather outfits were inferior to our mail and plate, but every now and then, they managed to get a few lucky hits in.
I bashed his face with my shield before sinking my shortsword in his stomach. His daggers did not pierce my armor, and I quickly retracted my blade.
Pain shot through me as I looked down to see an arrow that had pierced my mail vest. While the armor had absorbed the brunt of the attack, it still penetrated deep within the side of my stomach.
I had to ignore the pain.
I had to keep fighting, or I’d find my end here.
Whatever this wound was, I could probably get it healed. I just had to survive this mess first.
A second arrow coming for me was deflected by my shield. A third arrow missed.
I was forced back as the pain started to become too much. Blood ran down the wound onto my plated legs.
“F***,” I let out.
If only I’d had larger mana reserves. I would have been able to keep my defensive barrier up for longer…
I shook my head. I couldn’t worry about that now. The humans were shouting in their incomprehensible language. I looked behind the carriage to see elven soldiers approach on the dirt road that led through this god-forsaken forest. It would seem reinforcements had arrived at last.
That didn’t seem to stop these bandits from throwing everything they had at us. It seemed their attack became desperate and without regard for any kind of safety. It seemed they were dead-set on claiming the life of the marquis that had caused these scoundrels to be exiled from the human kingdom in the first place.
Unfortunately, their numbers were still far beyond ours.
With regained hope, I sprung back into action, claiming another human’s life as my now-dull sword struck one in the neck with the necessary effort.
The large war hammer of another rogue smashed down on my vambraces, causing yet more pain to shock through my body, and I lost my sword in the process.
I tried biting through the pain, but even doing so did not cause me to regain the function of my hand. I simply couldn’t move my arm after that. All I had left was my shield.
Our circle became smaller by the second. We were now almost on top of the carriage as there was no space between us anymore. Our reinforcements seemed to be running, but they were not going to make it in time, I could see that much.
Flashbacks of when I was a young elven girl started racing through my mind.
I would not let it happen.
I would not allow it.
I knew very much why these humans were here and seeing as I was in a terrible state, I did the only thing I could reasonably think of at the time.
I opened the carriage door with my one working hand before jumping inside with my shield. I closed the door, locked it from the inside, and held up my shield to the door, hoping to buy a little extra time for reinforcements to arrive before this family was wiped out.
I paid no attention to the shivering elves behind me. The marquis and his wife and two children, two young girls, were holding on to one another behind me.
My attention was on my kite shield. It blocked the doorway well enough, at least in my mind it did. I hoped that wasn’t hopeless optimism.
The screams of dying elves and humans alike were still heard through the reinforced wood. Although muted to a certain degree, I still felt tears form in my eyes as my comrades in arms gave their lives to protect the family behind me.
I didn’t know any of these people. I’d only recently joined this squadron, but I knew they didn’t deserve this fate.
The outside went quiet, too quiet. It wasn’t for long, as someone tried to open the door, but failed.
I knew I was the last elven warrior standing.
The elven girls behind me cried as the blade of an axe shattered the lock and the door flew open.
I held on to my shield for dear life. Even as a spear found its way from under the shield and created another wound in my abdomen, I held on.
I held on for these girls.
I would not let them go through the same as me.
The spear was removed from my body and I tasted blood in my mouth. It then returned and pierced my armor once more. Still, I held on.
I knew my life was forfeit. I just hoped I’d buy the time this family needed.
It was all I could do.
I heard a volley of arrows impact ground and armor alike, followed by screams. An elven horn sounded outside, indicating the reinforcing soldiers started a charge.
Just maybe, this would be enough.
Fearful screaming came from outside as the spear stabbed me again. Hands started to appear around my shield in an attempt to pull it out of the way. I held on with all my strength, and two helping arms appeared from behind me as the marquis helped me hold on to my shield.
My vision started to become hazy as I knew I was nearing the end of my strength.
Still, I held on.
I couldn’t go.
More hands appeared around my shield and it was finally ripped from my grasp. The tip of a spear came into my vision and was aimed at the noble behind me. I did the last thing I could do to protect him and prayed to the goddess that these reinforcements could save him and his family.
I threw my body in front of him. I was already dead, as things stood. Hopefully, my sacrifice would not be in vain.
The spear impaled my torso and one last flood of pain rippled through my body, before my senses dulled. The sounds of arrows were the last thing I heard before the pain completely disappeared. My vision was the last thing to leave me, and in my last moments, I thought I saw soldiers rushing in.
At last, I would see my parents again.
Then, everything went white.
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