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The Way of the Hunter - Escape (Chapter Six)

Alya Elvawiel
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“Is he…finally dead?” Neeshka asks warily, as Casavir helps Alya to her feet.

“Aye…I think so…” Khelgar ventures, limping up to them.

“I no longer feel the evil,” offers Casavir, as he wipes the blood from Alya’s head wound.

“We did it, then,” she whispers, hardly believing herself, feeling a surge of triumph.

Suddenly, another explosion rocks the room. This time it is stronger. The portal starts making a high-pitched keening noise. The ground seems to buckle under their feet. First dust, then stones, and finally huge boulders rain down on them from the ceiling.

“We have to get out of here!” Elanee says urgently. “This whole place is collapsing!”

Another blast. One of the exits cave in, buried in a mountain of rocks. A boulder crashes down just inches from Neeshka, who lets out an involuntary squeal.

“This way!” With everything that is going on, they had forgotten about the ranger. He stands at the mouth of what appears to be the last accessible exit.

Alya makes a move towards him, but is held in place by a firm hand on her shoulder. “No,” Casavir says, scowling, “it could be a trap.”

“Aye,” Khelgar agrees, “I don’t trust him any further than I can fling him. Actually, I can fling him quite far, but…I just don’t trust him.”

“But…” Alya wrestles with indecision, “we don’t have any other choice!”

Just a moment’s hesitation, but it is enough. Another tremor hits. Bishop looks up. Another rockslide! The ranger dives out of the way of the falling rocks – by running out of the doorway instead of into it!

Why didn’t he run back the way he came? Alya looks at the sealed exit. Now he’s trapped here with us.

“The portal!” Ammon barks. “It still stands, but not for long! It’s our only choice!”

“But what’s on the other side?” Neeshka asks. The look on the warlock’s face makes it clear that he has no idea.

“There’s only one way to find out…” he says darkly.

“Alya, look out!” She is suddenly pushed roughly backwards. As she lands on her back, she could see a huge chunk of the ceiling falling towards where she was standing.

Where Casavir is now standing.

Before she could utter a sound, the stone slab crashes to the ground, and the paladin disappears amidst a shower of rocks and dust. The shock waves from the impact reverberates all the way up her spine and into her heart.

“No…!” her cry sounds hoarse and helpless to her own ears. She runs to the pile of debris, swiping away at the rocks. Elanee and Khelgar rush to help her. She claws at the stones, barely noticing that her fingernails were being ripped off.

No, this can’t be happening, her mind races. Not Casavir, please, not Casavir!

Khelgar lifts up an especially large boulder, and they catch a glint of plate armour.

“Casavir…” she gasps, reaching for him. Elanee and Ammon help remove more debris from the paladin, but his legs are crushed beneath a stone slab so large and heavy that not even their combined efforts could budge it. He is bleeding profusely from a horrible head wound. His armour is twisted and dented, mangled by the sheer weight of the rocks. No doubt most of his bones underneath are broken as well. He is unconscious, his face deathly pale. The sight of him breaks her heart.

“Oh, Casavir,” she says, her voice breaking with emotion. “You stupid, stupid paladin. Why did you have to go and do that?”

Casavir coughs. His eyelids flutter, and he opens his eyes. She feels a surge of hope. Cradling his head in her arms, she runs her fingers through his dark hair. Her fingers come away stained in blood.

“Hang on, Casavir,” she pleads. “We still have some healing kits left.” She grips his hand. “You’ll pull through this, you have to.”

Weakly, the paladin shakes his head almost imperceptibly. “No…” he coughs, and she is dismayed to see a trail of blood seep from the corner of his mouth. “There’s…no time…leave…me…”

“No!” she protests, as the tears start to stream down her face. “There is time! I –“

“There isn’t time!” Ammon interjected roughly. “The portal will blow any minute!”

Alya looks down at Casavir. She finds it so hard to see him looking so weak. He has always been such a pillar of strength. And now…

Casavir gazes back at her. Those brilliant blue eyes, still bright as ever. He says nothing, but the look in his eyes seems to plead with her, begging her to go.

“You know as well as I do, we have no means of getting him out from under that slab!” Ammon insists roughly. The logical part of Alya’s mind hears him, and knows his words to be true – painful, but true. Unfortunately, her rational mind is not currently in control.

“Ammon, Elanee, Khelgar, Neeshka,” she says, her voice steely. “Go.”

“Wha-? No, Alya!” Neeshka cries, shaking her head vehemently.

“We can’t leave,” Elanee protests, “not without you.”

She stares back at them, her face set in determination. “This is my decision. Please…go.”

“Alya –“ Neeshka begins, but she is cut off as Ammon physically drags her and Elanee towards the portal. Unceremoniously, he pushes each of them through the gateway, where they disappear in a flash of light. For once, Alya is grateful for Ammon’s no-nonsense, militaristic ways.

As he stands on the threshold, Ammon turns to her. “You are a fool to stay – but you have fulfilled your destiny. The King of Shadows is no more. I guess that means you’re free to throw your life away now.” He nods. “May the gods bless you.” Then he too steps through the portal.

As soon as they have gone, Alya turns her full attention back to Casavir. He lies on his back, his legs still trapped. Blood pools around his head. Alya takes off her cloak, folding it up, and tucks it beneath the paladin’s head to serve as a makeshift pillow. It stains red almost immediately. Remarkably, Casavir remains conscious.

“Alya…I beg of you…please leave…” His voice is barely above a whisper. She tries to ignore him as she sops up his blood with some bandages. So much blood…

She is moving to uncork a bottle of healing potion when the ground lurches again. More boulders crashed down a few feet from them.

“This place is going to the hells, lass! Ye have to go!”

Alya turns, startled that Khelgar is still there. Didn’t he leave through the portal with everyone else?

The dwarf moves over to Casavir’s side. As he looks down at the dying man, the paladin’s pleading eyes seem to beg him to try and get Alya out of here.

“Alya, I know this is very difficult for you, but there’s nothing more ye can do here.” She shakes her head, as if not understanding. “Listen, lass, it’s what Casavir wants as well. No point wasting yer life this way.”

Her tears flowing freely now, she sobs helplessly, “I…can’t…leave him…not this way…not when there’s still a chance – “

Khelgar shakes his head sadly. “Come to yer senses, Alya! There is no chance!” He tugs at her arm, but she starts to struggle - fiercely. He fears that he is losing her to irrationality. Another large slab of ceiling slams into the ground dangerously close by.

“Listen to the dwarf, monk, the paladin’s a dead man.” They both turn to see Bishop standing on the other side of Casavir’s body. He looks down at the paladin. Casavir’s breathing has grown shallow, and his face is twisted in terrible pain. “I say you save yourself.” A chunk of rock smashes into the ground right next to him, but he hardly flinches.

“No…” Alya whispers. “He’s not dead –“ Before she could finish, Bishop whips out a small dagger, bends down, and slashes Casavir’s neck. Bright red blood spurts upwards, and the paladin gurgles as blood fills his throat. Alya’s breath catches as she stands dumbstruck for a moment, unable to believe – refusing to believe – what has just happened.

Khelgar also stands there, staring in shock, until Bishop’s command spurs him into action. “Take her, dwarf!”

Tentatively, Khelgar pulls her arm gently. There is no resistance. She has been broken. He half drags, half carries her to the portal, with Bishop following closely behind. All the while, she never takes her eyes off the body on the ground. She just stares dumbly, tears streaming down her face. At the threshold, the ranger looks back. Rocks continue to pelt down from the ceiling. The ground rumbles ominously. And there, like a calm oasis among the chaos, Casavir’s body lies still, as if in quiet repose. His head is tilted so that he faces the portal. He looks surprisingly at peace. As his life slowly ebbs out of him, the paladin’s piercing blue eyes start to dim. Unnervingly, Bishop sees in them something that burns bright and clear.


With a slight nod, the ranger steps through the portal. No sooner has he disappeared across the threshold, the portal stops humming, then disintegrates in one final explosion, and any parts of the crumbling fortress still standing collapses with it.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 6 - Escape © Alya Elvawiel

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