Chapter 42:

Chapter 42: Struggles and Strength (Elly)

The Heir of the Dragon

Elly felt an overwhelming rush of terror roll over her as she stared in stunned horror at Blake lying unmoving on the ground.

“Blake!” Elly screamed, the strength in her legs giving out as she fell to her knees. Why was this happening? First Amy, and now Blake? Amy’s shattered legs could be healed with time, but right now Elly was faced with the terrifying prospect of death for the first time.

If Blake was left there to bleed out on the ground, he would die. Elly didn’t have to be a doctor to understand that basic fact. She had to get to him, she had to help him, if she didn’t…

No! Blake won’t die! I won’t let him! Elly shouted to herself. Come on, Elly! This isn’t the time to be standing here, paralyzed with fear! You have to move! Move! Get up and get to him!

But to her dismay she remained rooted to the ground.

“Get away from him!” Lance roared, leaving her side and raising his hand. A magic circle shined in silver in front of his palm, and from that circle a sharp sword appeared, shining in the sunlight. He swung that sword at the Estvalian who named himself Trevan.

“You think a hunk of metal like that is enough to stand up against Eldrasil?” The Estvalian snarled. He raised the massive white sword of his, and swung its enormous Blake at Lance’s side. The sword in Lance’s hand shifted, turning into a spear. He raised his bad arm to grab the base of the new weapon, moving it into the space between his body and the wooden sword.

Elly watched her half-brother fight while her heart pumped terror and regret through her body. Lance hadn’t hesitated at all to throw himself into combat, why couldn’t she be as strong as that?

She clenched her hands into fists. She wasn’t a pathetic girl who couldn’t stand up for herself anymore. She was going to help Blake. She wasn’t going to sit here and tremble like a coward.

MOVE! Elly shouted to herself, and this time her legs listened. She jumped to her feet, still a little shaky, and pushed herself forward to where Blake was lying in the grass. What she saw frightened her. His face was pale like death, even paler than hers.

Elly knelt down next to him. Seeing how much blood he’d lost, she was afraid he really was on death’s door. But she had to ignore that. She had to get him to safety that was what was most important. Using all the strength she could muster, she pulled him up over her shoulder. Heavy as he might have been, her fear made him lighter than air. She rushed forward, heading towards where Amy lay unconscious.

But before she could get there, a spike of pain shot through her leg, and it suddenly refused to move. Caught in place Elly fell forward and nearly dropped Blake from her shoulders, feeling the weight of his body crush down on her. She looked back, seeing that a sharp thorny stem had ripped out of the ground and pierced through her ankle, rooting her in place.

“Elly!” Lance cried, his head jerking towards her. To Elly’s horror, the second Lance took his mind off the fight the Estvalian swung his sword and hit him in the side, knocking Lance into a tree.

“Lance!” Elly gasped. But she couldn’t let her worry for her half-brother get the better of her. There was someone else she needed to care for. Lance wasn’t in immediate danger and Blake was. She gritted her teeth and pushed through the pain, tearing her leg free of the root.

It was like agony. The thorns scraping through her and ripping her skin open tried to pull pained shouts from her lips as she crawled across the ground, dragging her numb leg behind her. She set Blake down gently and concentrated her mana, creating a protective barrier around the three of them.

I need to stop the bleeding, now, Elly panicked brain managed to note. There’s too much blood, if only I could…

Then Elly thought of something crazy. Desperate and crazy, and just possibly capable of saving Blake’s life, if it worked.

She took a few deep breaths to calm herself down, and glanced tentatively at her half-brother. Was he…

Elly sighed in relief. He was back on his feet, swinging his sword furiously at the Estvalian. The fact that the Estvalian was fighting one-handed certainly must have helped.

Lance is giving it his all, so I have to, too! Elly resolved, turning her attention back to Blake. She ripped his shirt open and looked at the wound. It went all the way through, but it wasn’t as big as she feared. It wasn’t much larger than the arrow hole in Lance’s shoulder.

Okay, you can do this, Elly, you were made for this, Elly worked herself up. She held her hands above Blake’s wound. “Fireball!”

Like always, Elly’s fireball was pathetic. Squirming trails of fire that would sputter out before they got anywhere.

But that was just what the doctor ordered. Elly didn’t have the mana to use a spell that would cause damage. But the heat and fire was just enough to sear the wound shut. Blake was still unconscious, but he thrashed around in a fever, scraping at the grass as he groaned and screamed from the pain of her treatment.

“Just a little more,” Elly said soothingly, the flames burning the hole shut. “Just a little more,” what am I talking about? I don’t even know if this is going to work!

But Elly didn’t let those doubts cloud her judgment. She had to keep the fire going, she wasn’t going to let Blake die.

When the wound was finally closed, Blake didn’t look much better. He was breathing, but his face was still twisted in pain. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, which made Elly hopeful. This had to be enough. She couldn’t do anything more for him.

She slumped back, wiping the sweat from her brow and raising her head to look at the others. She may have saved Blake, but so what? It wouldn’t matter at all if they were just going to fall here.

If only Elly knew some offensive magic, then she might be able to help them somehow. But there wasn’t anything she could think to do.

Luckily, things seemed to be going okay. Ark was bleeding from his head, but he was doing an amazing job of countering the professor’s Water Elemental Magic with his ice. …No, she’s not Professor Saleigh anymore, she’s just Rio, Elly corrected herself.

Lance was doing well too. He was using a sword and a shield now, his shield over his bad arm, and she was worried. He wasn’t raising his shoulder. It looked like the longer he fought, the more pain he was in. And the Estvalian, Trevan, was trying to overwhelm him with blows of wood from all directions.

It was only now, watching him fight like this, that Elly could finally, truly appreciate her half-brother’s skill as a warrior. Somehow, he was parrying, dodging, or blocking all the attacks that the Estvalian threw at him. And that’s when Elly realized it.

He was moving like Miss Esterwind did, in her match against him! Avoiding the attacks by only a hair, keeping himself vigilant, and taking openings when they came. The Estvalian drew a sharp spear of wood up from the ground to pierce his stomach like he’d done to Blake, but unlike Blake Lance saw the attack coming and dodged to the side. He thrust his sword forward and the Estvalian moved out of the way… but then Lance’s sword extended into a spear, and pierced the Estvalian right through the shoulder!

Yes! Elly silently cheered for her half-brother. She didn’t know much about fighting, but she could tell that this “Trevan”, or whoever he was, was a lot more dangerous from a distance. But this close, Lance could definitely win!

“Aaargh!” The boy roared in pain, the dragon egg slipping from his fingers and rolling through the grass.

That was when Elly realized that there was something she could do. It was too dangerous to approach the two of them when they were fighting like this, so she couldn’t get the green egg back right now. But Blake’s duffel bag was just lying on the ground, and there were four more eggs in there. It was small, and it wouldn’t help them win. But if she got their minds off the eggs, then it might be a tipping point in the fight.

And she wanted to keep them safe.

Elly rose to her feet, and nearly screamed. The agony in her leg was unimaginable. She glanced down at the wound and saw it was a lot worse than she had previously thought. But she couldn’t try to sear it shut like she did with Blake. Not only would she probably pass out from the pain, but even if she succeeded she still probably wouldn’t be able to walk on it for some time.

So she clenched her hands into fists and forced herself to walk forward. She wasn’t going to let her pain get the better of her.

Each step was like fire, but she pushed through it. Pain was something she was all too familiar with. She clung to the edge of the clearing, making use of the skills she’d developed in her years of keeping her head down and trying not to get noticed.

Her throbbing ankle was a good motivator to hurry. I can’t believe I was complaining about the hike earlier, she bitterly noted. It took her hundreds of agonizing steps, but she finally managed to get to the bag.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered to the dragon eggs. “I’ll get you back to Blake.”

She lifted the bag up, but the added weight on her back was too much for her injured leg to bear. The pain flared up even more and she cried out. She just barely managed to keep from falling over, but that didn’t matter. Her shout had drawn the attention of the Estvalian.

“Tricky little pointed-eared thing,” he snarled, and she felt his eyes on him. So much for stealth. She broke into a run, even though it made the pain so much worse. Tears streamed down her face as she focused on Blake, trying to get to his side.

“Barrier!” Elly shouted, taking a deep breath. Mana filled her lungs and she created a barrier stronger than any she’d made before, the spears of wood smashing against it and bouncing off. Her shields held and her heart thrummed with triumph. She could do this! She could protect herself with her magic and get back to her friends!

“Elly!” Lance cried. “Watch out!”

Just as Lance shouted his warning, Elly felt her leg finally give in. The pain overwhelmed her. As she fell over a massive spear of wood ripped out of the ground and shot right for her chest. It was only by the grace of her fall that she hadn’t died instantly, the wood ripping her shoulder to pieces and tearing through Blake’s duffel bag, the eggs spilling out and rolling across the grass.

“ELLY!” The last thing Elly saw was Lance lunging at Trevan and swinging his sword, the blade flashing as it struck nearly struck true; but the Estvalian maneuvered his white sword to block it.

Elly hit the ground hard, the air forced from her lungs. Her leg throbbed with pain and her head was spinning, but through the fog her eyes landed on one of the dragon eggs, the spiky brown one that had stung her before. Elly’s leg and arm were killing her, and she knew she didn’t have the strength to stand.

I won’t… give up… here… Her lungs burned and her vision was cloudy, but she knew she needed to get away. She dug her fingers into the dirt and used her good arm to drag her injured body forward, scooping up the egg with her other hand. While her half-brother kept the Estvalian occupied with his furious blows, she managed to pull herself the rest of the way to Blake’s side.

Elly flung herself on her back and panted, the pain doing a wonderful job of keeping her from losing consciousness. She held the dragon egg tightly to her chest, surprised at how soft it seemed to her touch now.

A scream shook her from her haze. Elly jerked her head up and turned frantically towards her brother, but he was still fighting. No, the scream had come from Ark! Ark, pierced in several spots by spears of water, which had begun to redden with blood.

“I can see why they call you a genius. You’re perhaps one of the most talented Elemental Mages I’ve ever met,” Rio Saleigh’s cruel voice rang out over the forest. She stood confidently, even as blood stained her white shirt from where chunks of ice had embedded themselves into her. “But you spend too much mana on big bursts. You rely far too much on your affinity for ice and your reserves of mana. But once those reserves are exhausted, you can do nothing.”

Brushing her dark skirt, she straightened up and flipped her wrist, flinging Ark into a tree. “You still have a ways to go before you get to my level.”Conserve your mana next time. …No, never mind,” she added, a dark look crossing her face. “You don’t have a future any longer…”

Elly wondered for a brief instant if Rio regretted her actions, before her mind was occupied with more pressing matters, namely the condition of Ark. He was too far away for her to get to in her present state, but his groan from the impact was ironically relieving to Elly; it told her that the boy was still alive.

“Now then, it seems you’re having some difficulties over there,” Rio mused, turning towards the skirmish between Lance and the Estvalian. She adjusted her glasses and picked Soulfire up from where she’d left it. “Shall I lend a hand?”

“Shut up, you Saekorian bitch!” Trevan shouted. A green aura surged through him, and suddenly Elly worried for her brother. She could feel the mana in the air tensing, and it terrified her.

“You piece of-!” Lance’s curse was cut short. He had raised his shield to block Trevan’s swing, but the blade had been swung with far more force than either he or Elly had imagined. Elly saw his bad shoulder finally give out, his arm dropping and the massive wooden sword colliding with him.

Lance was flung through the air, crashing into the ground and rolling to a stop by Elly’s feet.

“Lance!” She cried, reaching to her brother, but before she could he was already back on his feet.

But Elly knew he couldn’t stay standing for long. His arm was hanging limply at his side, assuredly broken. And from how roughly and irregularly he was breathing, Elly feared that something had happened to his lungs. His sword long-fallen, Lance raised his good arm and pointed it towards the advancing Estvalian.

Elly was shocked. Lance’s arm was shaking. All of him was shaking. He looked like a gust of wind might blow him over.

She had never seen her half-brother look so weak.

“Lightning…” Lance rasped out, a desperate plea that Elly shared. But no lightning came. Her heart sunk in her chest.

Lance took a shaky step, refusing to give in, and Elly saw a flash of red out of the corner of her eye. He had nearly tripped over one of Blake’s eggs, the red one with the black streaks.

“Brother…” Elly begged, the words leaving her lips for the first time. “Please, don’t…”

But her words fell on deaf ears. Lance stumbled forward and he kicked the egg back, rolling up next to Elly’s leg. She couldn’t reach out to Lance, she couldn’t beg him to stop, all she could do was scoop up the second egg and hold it to her chest alongside the other, and try to defend them as best as she could. “Barrier” slipped from her lips with a whisper, and she created a shield that protected Lance from the foes ahead of him.

Elly held no false hope that her shield could keep out the Estvalian. He had already broken it once. But if she was going to die here, if she was going to watch her half-brother die, she wasn’t going to do it as a pathetic, sobbing wreck.

She would protect them as best as she could, until her mana or body gave out, whichever came first.

Real Aire