Chapter 23

A chuckling gurgle from the massive creature as it begins to descend its weapon upon my helpless figure. I flinch with my eyes closed, awaiting my doom. A splash of warm liquid falls on my face and body. Then, a hideous yell pierces my ears. I expected death, but the warm sensation over my body was puzzling. I cannot dare to open my eyes; was it fear? Or was it accepting my fate?

“My Lord! Please run!”

The sudden outburst came from Julia; her usually sweet voice was gruff and filled with excitement. I open my eyes upon hearing the words. Seeing the towering giant clutching his eye as the arrow had struck deep into it. The newfound hope urges me to move. Scrambling to my feet, I barely prevent the club from smashing me and rolling toward Julie. Blood trickles down my nose even further as the dizziness caused by my injury slowly fades, but my legs are still numb and feeble.

With her bow and arrow, Julie fires another arrow that lands on the shoulder of the ogre, angering it immensely. A small pack of goblins attempted to stop my escape, but Juile knocked arrow after arrow, striking true into their skulls with each shot and dropping them on the spot.

Allowing me to run, I wobble with each step as I approach. Julie quickly runs to me, grabs me by the arm, and attempts to pull me past the gates. A large shadow looms quickly, forcing Juile to tackle me to the ground to avoid the massive stone hurled by the ogre.

“Just leave us the f*** alone, will ya?!” She shouts with furious passion and begins to knock another arrow.

Before she releases the bowstring to fire, a sneaky goblin shoots an arrow that strikes her shoulder, causing her to lose some grip on the bow. Gritting her teeth, Juile quickly shifts the aim before losing the grip on the arrow and fires. The hurling arrow strikes the goblin with the bow in the chest, quickly ending its life. The ogre begins to charge at us. The gate is only meters away.

“Come on! Hurry and get inside!” The villagers pressure us to move.

“Alright! Let’s hurry! Caleb, take my hand!” Julie shouts as she tosses her bow to free her only good arm for me.

Thuck

Before I could grace her hand with mine, the sudden quiet sound of an arrow pierces her chest—a broad expression of pain and shock. Blood slowly drips from her chin as she forces herself to grab me and throw me as far as she can. The sound of another arrow leaving a bow flies into her back; the impact alone causes her to fold over into the snow. The bright white snow turned crimson around her. Juile with a weakened expression as blood drips from her mouth, unable to speak. She looks at me, telling me to go. The hands of villagers grasp my collar and try to drag me back. I reach out for her, but the distance slowly begins to pull, and the image of Soriko clad in blood stares back at me. The painful memory sears into my heart. It was happening all over again, unable to protect something, someone that I cared about. The gates begin to shut, the ogre drawing closer to the wounded Juile…

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“NOOO!!!”

Slipping off my cloak, I slip right through the cracks of the gate and sprint right toward Juile. Her shocked expression wanted to scream at me; the sole reason she accepted death at that moment had been lost.

“I WON’T LET YOU DIE!”

I leap forward; the massive ogre swings his heavy club toward Juile.

“BARRIER!”

Standing over Juile, I raise my hand and utter the words. A massive goldish hue bubble appears around us—a loud thud echoes into the woods as the club clashes with the shield. The staining sounds of my breath force me to cough as the ringing in my head intensifies; I was indeed passing my limits far beyond what they could endure.

The ogre retracts his club once again and strikes over and over again. My resolve, far stronger than a brute of horrid nature, would not beat me as long as I could help it.

“Come on! Is that all you got? I’m right here!” Goading the ogre begins to work as he ruthlessly swings with intense force and with no mercy.

Each strike causes the barrier to crack, but I force more of my mana through the artifact and repair it immediately. In a battle of stamina, continuously burning through everything I can muster into the barrier, the ogre begins to tire, and the festering wound of his eye begins to be too much for such a creature.

Exhausted, the ogre makes one last pitiful swing that connects and slides off the barrier, leaving it off balance. The barrier faded with my command, and I grabbed my dagger, leaping toward the eye of the monster. Knowing it can’t afford to lose the last of its sight, it shifts its head to the side. Continuing with the motion, I slice through the ear and sever it. The inky brown blood sprays across my arms and hands. The giant creature’s hand tries to grab at my legs, but I kick off and barely clip the fingertip from the side of my head. Landing on the snow, I stab the knee and jump up to stab its chest with a puny dagger. I was plunging it as deep as possible, ripping down the chest to eviscerate this ogre’s torso.

It thrashes and shifts me off to the ground. My dagger flew out of my hands and landed on the side. Without a single moment to think, I quickly try to protect Julie with my own body; whatever good it will do, I still show my resolve.

Tattered and bleeding, the ogre wants to finish this once and for all and recklessly swings its weapon in my direction. Preparing for the attack, the sound of metal clinks in the background. Soon, I saw the flowing dark red cloak race forward toward the creature.

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“Divine Strike!”

With a glowing sword in hand, Eckhart cleaves through the club, shattering it into splinters as well as the right arm of the ogre—the inky brown blood sprays and stains the snow. Standing before me, Eckhart holds his sword ready and stares at the retreating ogre. The remaining goblins look in horror and look at themselves, realizing that they should run.

Without remorse or compassion, Eckhart swiftly charges, and his blade rends through one of the goblins, slicing through the middle of its head, letting the body fall to the ground before the top part of the head could even move. He leaps into the air and stabs a running goblin through the back. Its intestines shoot out, and the blood sprays across the snow, tainting it with the inky green.

The glowing blade barely vanishes with each swing of its master; Eckhart’s beauty and artistic form dispatch the remaining goblins in seconds. Turning around to look at the wounded prey, Eckhart charges the ogre again and leaps into the air. Slicing down the clavicle of the creature all the way down to the ground below. The body slowly splits into two and falls over dead—Eckhart finishes by flinging his blade to the side to rid the inky blood off the sword.

“My Lord, are you alright!” He approaches me, sword in hand, and reaches.

Without a second to think, I race forward and grab the sword from his hand; the shocked look across his face is sudden, watching me hold the blade tightly in my hands. Without his realization, a goblin that was playing dead quickly had gotten up and went to slash at him. 

I deflect the short sword from the goblin and twist the blade before gliding it up its arm and through its neck. The sound of gushing water spurts from the stub where the head once was, and the sickly green blood splashes across my face and neck. Breathing hard, I turn toward Eckhart and hold his sword tightly in my hand. The inky blood drips from my nose and the tip of the blade, my hands firmly grasping the sword’s hilt; I stand there before Eckhart with total resolve and the spirit of a warrior once more.

“Took you long enough to show…up…” I speak weakly as the overwhelming fatigue washes over me, and I collapse to the ground, snow wetting my face. I take a deep breath before my brain shuts down, forcing me to rest…

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