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A War to Win

By Sam_ORiley All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Chapter Five

I walk to the centre of the pentagram, my eyes fixated on the key in the centre. Bartholomew is right. This is the key to our futures. With this we should be able to locate the book, and then bring Daniel back… Never before have I been this close!

Tessa walks up to me, standing across from me. I notice that Jack has sat down. He’s probably very shocked. Noah and Bartholomew are talking about something, but they don’t matter right now.

“You going to pick it up?” Tessa asks softly. I nod, doing so. I have to keep this close. I find a chain in my pocket and put the key on it before placing it around my neck. I look at Tessa. “Damien,” she says, standing closer to me. What does she not want the others to hear? “I know I shouldn’t have, but I was reading the Daemons mind…”

I scowl at her. “Tessa, that’s so dangerous!”

“Shut up,” she snaps. I obey, strangely intimidated by her. “You need to know this. It was thinking about you, a lot. Honestly it was creepy. You should be glad that Bartholomew banished it to its realm or you’d probably see it again.”

I can’t help but to shiver at that. If it can contact other Daemons, then soon enough they’ll all know I’m alive. Perhaps this was a bad idea. Maybe I should just let Daniel just rest in peace, like Jojen. “Did you find out anything important?” I ask.

She shrugs. “It was kind of cryptic. It said ‘an old friend of his shall soon show itself, but not before an old foe.’” She sighs. “Any idea what that means?”

I shake my head. “No idea. All my friends are dead and my enemies think I’m dead.”

Tessa laughs at that. “You have new friends now,” she tells me. I frown. I don’t exactly consider these people to be my friends… “And with us, you’ll easily get new enemies!”

“That’s really reassuring,” I mumble, turning my attention to Noah and Bartholomew. “Thanks Tessa.”

She leaves and goes to sit with Jack.

“The Daemon could have been of further help,” Noah is saying.

Bartholomew shakes his head. “Noah we must not see the Daemons as allies, or even as tools! The moment we do is the moment we become like the worshippers. They are our enemies. They are nothing more than that.”

“He’s right, Noah,” I say, stepping forward and joining the conversation. Noah glares daggers at me. “What’s wrong with you?” I ask, frowning. Obviously this isn’t just about the Daemon.

He shrugs, looking strangely guilty. “I guess I just feel bad for it,” he tells us, avoiding our eyes. “It’s been trapped for a thousand years… I wouldn’t even be able to handle two years of it. All we did was get the key from it and send it back to some other realm.”

Bartholomew speaks before I can. “It’s better there than here. For everybody. We let it live, and it can’t torment and murder humans.” Noah nods, understanding. “Now, I suggest you go back to bed. We still have a few hours before first light. It will give me time to find out what to do with the key…”

“Gladly,” I say, finding myself yawning. Noah starts towards the stairs, and I follow. “Are you okay?” I ask. It’s annoying that I actually care.

He nods, opening the door and heading up the stairs. Thankfully he doesn’t pause to listen to whatever lies behind the locked door. “Yeah. It’s just a Daemon. I’ll actually care if it happens to somebody I care about.”

Who does he care about? Other than his parents and Bartholomew I don’t know any other people from his life. Maybe he just cares about them. “Fair enough,” I say as we reach our room. He enters, not hesitating to lay down on the bed. “Did that tire you out that much?” I ask, gingerly sitting beside him.

I find myself wondering whether he has ever loved. Did he have a Daniel like I did? Maybe he’s trying to get them back too. I don’t doubt that he’ll do it, if that is what he needs the book for. I get the feeling that Noah gets what he wants, no matter the cost- or the collateral damage. Hopefully I won’t be in his line of fire…

“It wasn’t that,” he says, smiling at me. “I just find myself more tired these days. Kind of as if I’m worn out. Hopefully I’ll stop feeling like this soon enough.”

I lay down beside him, wondering if there’s anything I could do for him. Unfortunately, I understand how he feels. It’s as if… As if my time on this earth is done. I constantly feel as if I’m too tired to go on, too tired to keep fighting. Sometimes I think there’s no point, but then I remember Daniel. I have to keep living for him so that one day we will be together again.

“You just need to find your reason to live,” I say gently.

He yawns cutely. “Maybe I’ve already found it.”

I look over and see he has closed his eyes. For a crazy moment I consider kissing him. That would be stupid… Throwing myself at Noah would mean giving up on Daniel. I can’t do that. Not while there’s still hope. Not when I’m this close.

I find myself thinking about something Jojen told Daniel and I, shortly after the mission that changed it all. “If there’s a chance, even the slightest chance that you and your loved ones can be happy, take it.”

***

We had travelled for two weeks. Me, Daniel, Jojen and his sister Thalia. The journey across Wychelm was tedious, and the company wasn’t too great. Mostly I talked only to Daniel, who talked a lot to them, leaving me alone as the outcast.

“Say, Thalia,” Daniel said as we walked through yet another forest one afternoon. “What power do you have anyway? We’re about to infiltrate the enemy’s headquarters together but we don’t know much about each other.”

Thalia laughed lightly. “Well, my only power is invisibility,” she told Daniel. “My big brother got better powers than me, but I got better looks.”

There was little family resemblance between Jojen and Thalia. While Jojen was tall, Thalia was short. Instead of sandy blonde hair like Jojen, Thalia had auburn hair. They were polar opposites when it came to personality too. Jojen seemed very held back, reserved, while Thalia had a ‘take-no-prisoners’ attitude.

Jojen scowled at Thalia. I expected him to get defensive about his appearance but instead he just reassured her about her powers. “Your invisibility is great Thalia,” he told her. “You use it so well.”

She shrugged. “I’d still rather have your powers, or any of your powers,” she sighed. “You’re all so useful in fights. Daniel has fire, Damien has ice and you have conjuration.”

“And speed,” Jojen added at the same time I said; “and wind.”

She laughed. “See, two of you even have a second power!”

“Yeah, but none of us are as good with weapons as you,” Jojen said. “If any of us get our magic disabled, we’re screwed. You’ll still have your weapons to help you.” She mumbled in agreement.

As the forest thinned out I noticed a small town, not too far ahead. It seemed unlikely that it was Asherton. I assumed that Asherton would be bigger, and would probably radiate a feeling of dark magic.

“Where are we?” Daniel asked before I could.

“A fishing village,” Jojen said.

I frowned. “We’re already at the coast?” I asked in shock. I didn’t think we would get there for a while, but this meant we would reach Asherton very quickly…

“Yes Damien,” Jojen sighed. The forest ended very abruptly, leading to a path to the village. Behind the village I could see the ocean, glimmering in the sun as waves crashed gently over each other.

I couldn’t help but to smile slightly as I saw it. I hadn’t seen the ocean in a long time. It reminded me of my childhood, where I lived beside the sea. Daniel moved to stand beside me, grabbing my hand. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” He sighed. “Makes me think we should travel someday.”

“To another country?” I asked, laughing lightly. The closest country to Wychelm was a hellhole with no government or structure. Not much was known about other countries, people were too scared to explore. Some mages however, were not. They never did return from their adventures though. “That sounds… Dangerous.”

He smiled. “We’re always in danger,” he said. “Might as be in danger on our own terms.”

“Well, if we survive this war, we’ll definitely go to some other country. Could be fun,” I said with a smile. I had to admit; it would be quite the adventure. Sure, we would probably die, but at least we would die together.

As we entered the village, Jojen began to speak. “We’re going to spend the night here, then at first light we attack Asherton.”

“How far is it?” I asked Jojen with a frown. It occurred to me that it was strange that the worshippers attacked far away cities and villages but left this one alone.

“About an hour away, we’ll discuss tactics on the way, but I suggest we enjoy ourselves tonight.”

Somehow I felt like he was telling us to prepare for death the following day. It was then that I decided that Daniel would be my priority, Daniel and myself. It was obvious that not all of us would make it and so if it came down to it, I would choose the two of us over them. I have to go into Asherton knowing what I’m fighting for, and it’s not for the sake of this war.

“We should really lay low,” Thalia said. “Get to an inn and just stay there. If they know that we’re coming for them then we stand no chance of getting near Valek.”

“Do we anyway?” I asked. I only partly meant it as a joke… Sure, we could infiltrate Asherton and wipe out a lot of the worshippers, but the chances of us getting to their leader was very unlikely. It occurred to me that I could just force Daniel to leave the war with me, but he seemed so determined to help.

Thalia laughed lightly. “You shouldn’t think like that Damien,” she told me. “We actually have a good chance of getting to Valek. We’re some of the most powerful mages in Wychelm!”

“If we’re some of the most powerful mages, is it really wise to walk right into the dragon’s den?” I asked, still feeling sceptical. “It’s like handing over our chances of winning.”

“If it means we can kill their leader then yes,” Jojen snapped, speaking before Thalia could. She glared daggers at her brother.

By this point we had reached a rather shabby looking inn. Jojen opened the door without hesitation. The rest of us followed wearily. The main room is barely a room… More just a desk with a miserable looking man behind it. “How may I help you?” He asks, not sounding at all like he wants to help us.

“Two rooms please,” Jojen told him, handing him some money. “Just for the night.”

The man took the money and handed over two keys. Jojen turned to the three of us, handing one of the keys to Daniel. “Thalia and I will share a room,” he said. “You and Damien can too,” he said to Daniel with some bitterness.

“Happily,” Daniel smiled, missing the tone of Jojen’s voice. Perhaps I was imagining it… “We should go get some food, then come back and rest for the night,” he said to me. I nodded, hoping that we would get time away from Thalia and Jojen.

“We’ll join you,” Jojen said.

Thalia and I both glared at him. “Jojen no,” Thalia said. “I need to speak to you about some things. We’ll eat later.”

I sighed in relief, silently thanking Thalia for giving Daniel and I the chance to be alone. She grabbed Jojen’s arm and walked upstairs, dragging him behind her.

“Where should we eat?” I asked Daniel, smiling.

He shrugged, holding my hand and walking from the inn. “I’ve never been in this village before, but I’m sure we’ll find somewhere.”

“I hope it’s somewhere good,” I sighed as we walked onto the street. “This could be our last date if tomorrow doesn’t go well…”

“It won’t be,” he told me confidently. Somehow I didn’t believe him. “We’ve got time left together. This isn’t the end.”

***
When I woke the next day, I found myself looking through the window from where I was on the bed. It was still night. The crescent moon shined brightly in the sky, surrounded by stars. I sighed, looking to my side where Daniel lay; still sleeping. It was hard not to think about how we would probably never share another bed if we went into Asherton.

“Daniel,” I sighed, shaking his arm.

He woke quickly, turning and looking at me. “What’s wrong babe?” He asked, smiling.

“We should leave,” I blurted out. I regretted it instantly, but couldn’t stop myself from continuing to speak. “This mission is such a terrible idea and you know it. We can’t win the war this way. Do you really think it’s a good idea to burst into the enemy’s headquarters and try to assassinate their leader? This is suicide! I don’t want us to die here, but we’re going to if we do this.”

He blinked a few times, looking upset. “Damien… We have to do this. The four of us are the only people who stand between the worshippers and their takeover of Wychelm. If we don’t at least try to kill Valek, life as we know it could change. Wychelm could become just like those other countries. We can’t let that happen…”

Sighing loudly, I stood up and began getting dressed. I purposefully grabbed each item of clothing with quick movements. Daniel sat up, frowning at me. “Damien calm down,” he told me. “I understand that you don’t like bursting in, all guns blazing but it could save a lot of lives.”

“Just not ours,” I snapped. Before he can speak I walk quickly to the door, making sure not to look at him. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”

***
I hear a yawn next to me, causing me to stop staring at the ceiling in the dark. Looking over, I see Noah looking at me, eyes wide. “Why are you still awake?” He asks sleepily.

“I was just remembering something,” I tell him. “Go back to sleep.”

He sits up slightly. “Well I’m awake now. Care to tell me what you’re remembering?”

I consider it. Noah did tell me all about his traumatic upbringing, so it’s only fair of me to share this with him. “I was just thinking about when me, Daniel, Jojen and Thalia tried to assassinate the worshipper’s leader.”

“Oh, I know a bit about that,” Noah says. “It was shortly after the war began. It ended horribly…”

“Yep,” I laugh lightly. “I know that it did, I was there, unfortunately.” He laughs too, a short, cute laugh. He yawns again, so I decide to tell him what happened until he falls asleep. A nice bed time story about murder, sacrifice and desperation…

***
I sat at a table outside of the inn for a while before anybody joined me. All three of them joined me at once, and for the first time I was thankful for us to be in a group because it meant I didn’t have to be alone with any of them. Daniel and I would just argue, Jojen and I would probably murder each other, and Thalia… I just wouldn’t know what to say to her.

“Is everybody ready to go?” Jojen asked as they sat down.

“Ready for our group suicide?” I laughed lightly. “Sure!”

Needless to say, all three of them glared. “We’re not going to die,” Jojen snapped. “Valek is.”

“Whatever,” I sighed, standing. “Let’s just get this over with. With some luck we’ll survive today.”

Jojen stood too, not even waiting for us before walking. Thalia hurried to catch up with him while Daniel hung back with me, dawdling behind them through the village. Gas lamps still flickered lightly, giving me a strange sense of calmness. I prayed that we would get at least a surprise attack on the worshippers. Unless they somehow saw us coming for them, they shouldn’t have expected the attack. After all, it would be stupid to send your leaders to assassinate the enemies… That’s what professional assassins are for!

We quickly got out of the village, and onto a path that lacked wildlife and trees. We seemed to be straying away from the sea, but the salty smell stuck. Jojen and Thalia were quite far ahead of us, obviously eager to get there and get the job done.

“Just so you know,” he said quietly. “You’re my priority, not this mission. If it came down to saving a country from worshippers or saving you, I would choose you every time.”

I couldn’t help but to smile as he took my hand. It was a dull day, the moon and the stars were hidden behind clouds and a chill was in the air, but Daniel was all the warmth I needed.

We walked for a long time in silence, as if speaking would alert them that we were coming. We walked until the moon was replaced by the sun. I wondered whether I would ever see the moon and stars again. After what Daniel said, I didn’t doubt that I would. He had never let me down, and it was unlikely that he would start then.

Before long, a town appeared ahead of us, as if from nowhere. When I saw it a sense of dread filled me. It practically emitted dark magic! The whole town was surrounded by a large wooden fence; a gate was visible but I suspected it would be heavily guarded. Only a few buildings could be seen over the fence. I could see a clock tower and a town hall, both much like the ones in Dalmerton, only these ones seemed ruined.

“Why isn’t Dalmerton as well guarded as Asherton?” Daniel asked as we moved to walk beside Thalia and Jojen. We still spoke quietly.

“Obviously we’re not as scared as they are,” Jojen said with an irritating arrogance. “We’re our own security, they need to hide behind fences.”

Thalia laughed lightly. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’d sure like some security.” I made a noise of agreement. “So what’s the plan big brother?”

By this point we were very close, causing me to worry. Surely we shouldn’t have been out in the open like we were. Any of them could see us, and kill us before we even got close to Valek!

“I’m going to cast an invisibility spell, and then we’re going to run very quickly to the town hall,” he said calmly.

I sighed deeply as Jojen got a book from him bag. “This is a terrible plan,” I told him.

“Do you have a better one?” He asked, flipping through the book.

“Leaving…”

Thalia smirked. Jojen ignored me and began mumbling words to a spell.

I felt magic envelope me, and suddenly I felt a sense of freedom. I looked around, realizing I could barely see my allies. They were… Transparent.

“Follow me,” Jojen whispered, running suddenly towards the town. Thalia and Daniel didn’t hesitate, but I did. The feeling that I was running to my death was so overwhelming but I had to shake it off, I had to do it for Daniel.

It didn’t take me long to catch up, and we were soon at the fence. Jojen jumped over it with ease, and Thalia climbed quickly. I didn’t even need to ask Daniel to help me, once I was on top I offered him my hand and pulled him up, and together we jumped down into enemy territory. We followed Jojen through the streets, only having to avoid a few worshippers- and one Daemon- before reaching the town hall.

As we approached, the door opened and out walked a worshipper. He walked right past us, allowing us to sneak in as the door closed, thankfully slowly. The door closed behind us, leaving us in the entry way.

“He’s through there,” Jojen whispered, pointing to a large door. The invisibility was wearing off quickly, unsurprisingly. Thalia was still fully in stealth, but that was her power… The rest of us were relying on Jojen’s obviously shitty spellcasting.

“It’s not too late to leave,” I mumble as Jojen crept towards the door. Daniel shook his head at me as we followed Jojen, who opened the door slowly. The room was very large with numerous windows that spanned from the roof to the floor. Most of the space was taken up by a circular table, surrounded by regal looking chairs. There were three people sat on some of the chairs, all next to each other and all facing us.

“Please,” the middle one said, standing and pushing his chair back. “Do come in, we’ve been expecting the three of you.” The guy was tall and muscular, wearing the black of worshippers but not the robes. His clothes were much like ours, made for combat and travel. They were fitted and durable. He had a hard face, tanned and scowling. When he looked at me I felt he was staring into my soul with his dark brown eyes. His hair was a similar color to mine, but was a lot shorter.

Jojen strolled confidently in, smirking. Daniel and I followed his lead. Thalia however, obviously undetected, crept in and stuck close to the wall beside us. Once we had all entered, the doors slammed shut behind us and the other two stood up.

“You probably know me,” the middle guy said. “I’m Valek, leader of the daemonic revolutionists.”

Jojen laughed sharply. “That’s what you call yourselves?” He asked, shaking his head. “You call your invasions and plans to put Daemons in power of our country a revolution? A misguided rebellion maybe, but this is no revolution.”

Valek rolled his eyes, which seemed out of character. “Silly, silly Jojen. We care not what you would call it, we care only about our victory.” As Valek spoke, Thalia crept silently across the room. “The worshippers will win this war because we have Gods behind us, and an army of Daemons at our disposal. What do you have?”

“Morals,” I put in, trying not to look at Thalia. It was weird that we could see her but they couldn’t. Perhaps her powers allowed her to choose who could and could not see her.

“And an assassin,” Jojen added, grinning.

It all happened so quickly, so horribly quickly… Thalia pounced, dagger in hand and her invisibility fading. She aimed for his neck, but he spun with inhuman speed, grabbing her wrist and spinning her around. The sound of her breaking bone could be heard from across the room!

Jojen screamed her name with enough pain you’d have thought he had just had his arm broken. He tried to run forward but Daniel grabbed him, holding him back. He screamed her name again. All I did was stand there, watching it all unfold, frozen in horror.

Valek grinned as Thalia cried out in pain, flailing around like a fish out of water; completely at his mercy. He picked the dagger from where it fell.

“Let her go!” Jojen screamed, pushing against Daniel. He turned suddenly, punching Daniel in the face and breaking free. Daniel staggered back as Jojen jumped on the table and ran across it, but he was too late!

Valek spun the dagger, sinking it into Thalia’s chest with one swift motion.

Her crying ceased and the world fell silent for a brief moment.

The silence broke with a noise so delicate; Thalia’s last breath, somehow audible to me throughout the commotion.

Jojen screamed once more as Thalia was thrown backwards, through one of the windows and out of sight. Glass shattered to the floor as Jojen pounced onto Valek, tumbling to the floor with him.

My instincts kicked in very suddenly, causing me to run forward as Daniel did too. I was met by one of the worshippers who swung at me with a cumbersome fist. Barely thinking about it, I ducked under it, shoving my hand against his abdomen as I did so. He gasped loudly, his eyes wide in horror as pain as he turned to ice so suddenly, falling to the ground and shattering…

I was shocked at what I had done, never before had I wielded such power! I didn’t have time to stand shocked, I continued to move towards Valek and Jojen.

Just as I reached them, scrapping on the floor like children with all magic forgotten, I was shoved back. Gasping, I found myself pressed suddenly to a wall. Jojen was beside me, with Daniel on the other side of the room.

Valek stood, sighing loudly. “You killed my bodyguards,” he frowned.

Jojen was struggling next to me. “We’ll kill you in a minute!” He screamed, his voice hoarse.

I too struggled against the invisible force holding us, but it was futile.

“There will be no more death today,” Valek said with a sly smile. “Three is bad enough… What mages like yourself don’t seem to understand is that us worshippers don’t want anarchy and countless deaths. We just want a country governed by Daemonic Gods and Goddesses.”

“You people are crazy,” Daniel spat.

Valek laughed. “Probably, but crazy gets results…” He stood for a moment, looking at each of us in turn. He stopped at Jojen. “You really shouldn’t fight anymore today,” he smiled. “You’re wounded.” With that, Valek vanished suddenly, taking the invisible force with him.

I gasped as I fell to the ground, landing on my hands and knees. Daniel and Jojen rushed straight outside, climbing out the window. With a heavy heart I got up and approached, looking out. Thalia lay bleeding and unbreathing, the dagger still shoved in her heart.

“In there!” I heard behind me. I turned, seeing the doors being pushed on. Quickly climbing out the window, I ran to where Jojen sat, cradling Thalia’s lifeless body.

“We have to leave,” I told them, feeling horrible for doing so. “We can’t stay here…”

Jojen’s breathing steadied suddenly and he stood, but not before planting a final kiss on Thalia’s forehead; a final goodbye to his beloved sister.

He turned to Daniel. “Do you have the crystals?” He asked, wiping away tears.

Daniel nodded, reaching into his pocket and pulling out four small crystals. I recognized them instantly, they were a rare and powerful magic capable of taking somebody far, far away. He handed each of us one, putting the one obviously meant for Thalia back in his pocket. He sighed heavily before whispering “Dalmerton.”

Magic surrounded us, powerful magic strong enough to take us across a country, but not powerful enough to raise the dead…

***
I wipe away a tear, feeling embarrassed as I look at Noah. He’s asleep now.

I’m thankful that he is. I don’t want him to see me cry.

Sitting up, I lean over the bed, breathing heavily. Why had I just stood there? When Valek grabbed Thalia I should have done something to stop him… I should have… I should have…

“Damien,” Noah whispers behind me. I turn, eyes wide in surprise. “It’s not your fault.”

Smiling weakly, I nod. I don’t believe him, but I can at least pretend that I forgive myself. For Noah’s peace of mind.

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