Cydel and Francesca sprinted from around the last corner near the north gate, spotting their father holding up their mother in the distance. He had propped her up against the wall, eagerly awaiting his children’s arrival, especially due to Cydel’s healing ability. The siblings skidded to a stop in front of their mother, Anroma. The boy placed his hand on her without a second thought, glancing between his father and sister, essentially asking which wanted to offer their energy first. Sledg was the first to step forward. Cydel took his wrist while Francesca stood nearby unmoving, face stoic.
Cydel closed his eyes and began to draw energy from his father. Anroma stirred as his energy flowed into her. Eager to save his mother, the boy drew more energy than he usually would have – causing his father to collapse to one knee. Cydel released his father’s wrist, calling Francesca forward. The boy switched to drawing energy from her all the while biting the inside of his cheek, hoping her energy would be enough.
The boy tuned out all sounds except the beating of his mother’s heart – the rain beating down on his body, the whistling of the wind, and the cries of the fallen soldiers around him were all forgotten.
Finally, Anroma stirred, her eyes slowly opening. “What…” she murmured. She looked over her family gathered in front of her. “Cydel, Francesca, Sledg…” A faint smile played over her face as she closed her eyes, attempting to maneuver herself into a full sitting position. Cydel motioned for Francesca and his father, Sledg, to rest while he assisted his mother up against the wall.
“You’ll be alright,” Cydel reassured her as the sounds of the world suddenly came rushing back to him. Now that his mother was out of immediate danger, he felt his hands begin to shake from adrenaline. He shook his head and stood. “You’ll be alright,” he repeated, looking around for rations for his mother to consume.
Walking toward the gate, Cydel spied movement in his periphery but ignored it, soon reaching a jug of water he retrieved for his mother. On the short jog back, his brain finally processed what he’d seen. He quickly did a double take, his mouth falling open, the jug almost slipping through his palms. Impossible, he thought while staring through the gate, his legs still moving toward his mother. Sledg stood up, seeing his son’s change in focus and looked through the wall’s entrance.
Cydel absentmindedly handed the jug to his mother while trying to process the fact that there was another entire army marching on the gate. His head snapped to his dad, “Can you send word to Ace?”
Sledg shook his head. “Not before they get here.” The man knelt and touched Anroma’s cheek. “This might sound crazy, but we need you to send a message.”
She blinked and managed to sit even straighter. “To who?”
Sledg ran his hand through his hair before answering. “Ace – ask for backup.”
“But I’m fine,” Anroma replied tersely.
“Not for you, ma.” Cydel pointed through the wall at the approaching force.
Anroma leaned forward, finally able to catch sight of the mysterious force marching upon them, a gasp emerging from her lips. “Who-” she began before closing her eyes, presumably sending the requested message. Cydel checked on Francesca while they waited for their mother to finish.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
She simply nodded. One hand falling to the hilt of her weapon. He hadn’t noticed her dismiss the earth polearm or hammer before running here. She simply fiddled with it, staring off into the distance.
“They have no one to spare. There’s a beast,” Anroma said suddenly.
“What’s it form?” Cydel asked.
Anroma shook her head. “Not like an animal. It’s nothing like he’s seen before.” She turned her head to Sledg. “At the south entrance.”
Without a reply, Sledg had run and taken off, smoothly transforming into crow form. Smooth didn’t even cover it, smooth implies a process. Sledg simply changed, one moment he was a man, the next he was a crow. Cydel gaped silently in amazement – he’d never gotten used to how fast his father could change; he had to be the fastest in Ikalga.
The growing sound of the war chants returned the boy to reality. He bit his cheek once more, attempting to urge the heartbeats in his ear to calm. His father would make it in time. He didn’t dare think of the alternative. Cydel and his two exhausted family members would take on the mysterious, approaching army.