Chapter 3:

15 years ago.

Downcaster


Sounds of swords clattering armor. Teph laid on the ground dazed, he didn't know how he got into such position. He was surround be a group of people armored showing their back to him. "Sir" he heard a voice shouting next to him, he was dizzy and couldn't respond. "Sir" the voice repeated, he continued laying; not a worry of in his mind. "Sir" the voice said again sounding more desperate, then it all hit him. Pain across all joints in his body. He tried getting up on his knees; fighting against the aching pain, begging him to just sit and relax. He remembered he was in the battlefield.

He took a deep breath; sucking the air cramped in the circumference of his soldiers. His guards barely managed to defend against hordes of enemies that wanted to kill the only downcaster in both armies - killing a dowcaster was as if taking 500 men from your opposing army. The air helped relax, helped forget the pain, helped to make him focus on one objective - to kill. And, most importantly helped charge downsap. Then with a smirk on his face, shot himself a few meters into the air.

The enemy were starting to get the better of his squad. Unfortunately, they were deep into enemy territory. Teph and his men must have cut through the frontlines, before whatever happened to Teph. That almost cost him his life. A mistake he would not repeat again.

He was desperate and was beginning to descend. Checking his reserves, he found what he hoped wouldn't. Most of  the reserves have been exhausted, he only had a couple left that might only last him an hour or so. And, judging by the distance, his honor guard were a 80-90 paces away from his the main army. He had to think fast or he would make his father disappointed. NO, he told himself. Can't think about them now. Memories that were hard for him, memories that were the only reason he joined this army. Memories that he wanted to forget or at least bury; while worrying at keeping his squad safe. Now he had no time to think, but to focus on surviving the next hour.

The fought marvelously. Korn, Mort, and Trent were amongst the best swordsmen in all of Morshina. But, even the best had their limits. And, those three along with the other five members of his squad were almost reaching theirs. Teph charged his fist with downsap as he landed on an enemy, momentarily shaking the ground. The man he stood upon died and he landed right in front of Trent. "Wedge formation," he shouted. He could barely make out Trent nodding as he struggled with two dozen men who tried to intercept the downcaster. A few moments later his squad were in formation and he was leading them.

They moved slowly, but were at least making progress. Teph only charged his fists and both legs with downsap: carefully managing what little of it he had left. His legs glowed faint navy blue; having more downsap, than his fist, as he made sure not to stumble on a dead corpse, lest he wanted his squad's chances of survival to decrease even further. Fight, don't think, he kept repeating to himself. The moment you began to think was the moment you gave your enemy an opening. He punched and punched and punched. But, there was no use. In the thirty minutes they began their march back to the army, they only moved 15 out of the 80 meters left. No, Teph though. I can't die like this, I can't meet them like this.

His squad began to waver. They fell back into a circular formation. Teph did his best to find another opening, but couldn't. He received and exchanged blows. He had cuts all over his body. Blood seeped from his arms, legs, chest, and back. Most of his clothing was torn. Sweat drooling from every part that egested it. But, he had no time to think of the pain or fatigue he felt, he was going to feel such sensations after he survived; but the mere thought of catching a breath was heaven to him now. Every second that passed he was getting more and more used to the fact that he would die. "This is it captain," Korn shouted against the strong current of enemies. "It was one hell of a ride, eh?"

His men fought with honor and courage, but it was only a matter of minutes before they all get crushed.

I am sorry, Teph thought. There was nothing I could have done.

As all hope was lost, figures in blue shot in the sky and fell right into his squad. Enemy downcaster?, Teph asked; barely keeping himself from falling. But, the uniform they wore said otherwise. A woman wearing a white uniform that bore the glyphs of General Kol's honor guard, took down 6 pair of men the moment she arrived. Bless the almighty, prayed to himself. And, out of nowhere, a burst of adrenaline shot inside of him. They were going to be saved after all

****

Teph woke up the next day; he had slept for 8 hours. 8 hours a minimum to a human, but a luxury for Teph. Did he care, NEVER. Everything in his life was just a task to be completed. He lost his motivation the day they old died. NO, he wouldn't grieve, he'd done that during the first months he lost them, now he got up to get a report of the disaster he was responsible for.

His knee joints cracked as he moved himself out of bed. Covered almost everywhere in bandages, but it didn’t pain him as much as one would think; being a downcaster had its perks. Although he was able to walk, he struggled at it. Barely keeping balance in the first few minutes. He stretched and by the time he was done, it felt as if his body let out a huge sigh. With that over he made his way out.

The camp was busy, it always was the day after battle. The air was denser than usual; it carried disgusting scents of sweat and blood from battle.

Scouting squads appeared to have returned from their night shift, Teph nodded to them as they passed him. He walked over the sandy ground occasionally kicking a few rocks out of his way, before reaching general Kohl's tent. He was ready for the consequences.

General Khol’s tent wore the color of freedom - white. Ironic how a warlord claims that his colors represent freedom. Was it Teph’s place to care, NO it wasn’t, and so he paid any heed to it at all. He entered and saw that Beth - general kohl’s captain of the honor guard and the women who saved his life, was already discussing the casualties lost in the battle. Let’s get this over with.

“What you did on the field was admirable, captain” said general Khol addressing Teph in a soft yet commanding tone.

“Thanks general, I—” Teph replied

“Don’t interrupt the general, you didn’t get permission to speak” said Beth

“Beth, it's alright, but as I was saying”

“What you did was admirable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn't reckless, stupid, irresponsible, and most importantly could have cost us lots of our men.” Kohl said, voice growing more firm. “You realize we could have lost you, what would your father say?”

Teph looked down.

“He would surely be disappointed, even if you didn’t care for your comrades life, which I am sure you do, but, if, is what I am saying ” “you could have killed yourself son. You are not a foot soldier whos trying to impress his superiors, by throwing himself head on and could be replaced if got himself killed, you are one of the most skilled downcasters in all of Morshina and I would not let you repeat it again”

“I am ready for the consequences,” said Teph.

“I am sure you are, that is why I personally appointed captain Elizabeth as your partner from now on. You two are now going to merge your squads. It will help give you numbers and allow you to push enemies even further, something you seem fond of ”

Teph was shocked. Him partner with someone else? The reason he joined Khol’s army was so that he would never ask for confirmation to the orders he made.

“But sir, you promised?” 

“As have you, Captain, In this army we always stick together no matter what the situation is!” “But, you seem to forget the promises you made when joining this army”

“Sir, her squad is your honor guard”

“Don’t worry son, this ‘partnership’ is only for a matter of time. I was called back to report for some confidential matters regarding the political state of our country. Things are taking turn for the worse and I fear I might have to be responsible for something I've been trying to avoid my whole life. But, its alright I am sure you and captain Elizabeth would get along”

Teph frowned, but nodded hesitantly.

With that general Khol exited the tent and Teph left shortly after. Oh boy, things can only get worse from now on.