Luke sprints toward the incoming enemy, holding a sword up for silence as he passes the mercenaries. He cringes when he hears the warriors draw their weapons in a symphony of scraping metal. Running low to the ground with his sabers sticking out behind him, Luke swiftly closes the distance between himself and the enemy. He stops when he finds a solitary krypter, sniffing at the air and chewing at the remains of a fox. The fox’s tail is sticking out of the monster’s mouth when its eyeless head turns toward the half-elf. The creature angrily hisses until a pair of arrows impales its chest and its lifeless body drops to the ground with a dull thud.
“Have you ever seen a krypter by itself?” Luke asks as Conrad joins him on the ground.
“This would be the first time,” Conrad replies, nocking an arrow and preparing to shoot again. “They’ve proven to be pack hunters, but I assume a krypter could be kicked out of the pack like with natural animals.”
“Call the men over,” Luke whispers, checking the area with his hearing sight. “We’re in a lot of trouble.”
Conrad makes a cat-like yowl as the thick canopy shakes and splinters. Luke and Conrad dive in opposite directions, avoiding a large pack of krypters that drop to the forest floor. Many of them are still shifting from the colors of the forest to their natural black and red. Luke breathes a sigh of relief when he hears the mercenaries charge forward and clash with the krypters. He spins and leaps through the monsters, slashing at whatever he can reach until he fights his way out of the mob of fangs and claws. He can see Conrad on the other side of the krypters, gracefully dodging their attacks and firing into the pack.
“Over here!” Luke screams to get the attention of the nearest krypters. All of the krypters turn toward him and rush forward, ignoring the other warriors. “Not what I expected.”
“That plan didn’t work out for you!” Conrad yells, dropping three krypters with arrows to the backs of their heads.
“I didn’t really have a plan!” Luke admits, spinning his sabers and charging into the approaching pack.
Luke kills four krypters with his initial rush, but the others surge forward and force him to dance out of reach. He attempts to charge again, only for the pack to part and let him into the middle where they surround him. Realizing he has been isolated, Luke desperately spins and whirls around, so that any krypter that comes too close is slashed. He feels a dull throbbing in his arms as he continues fighting, at first thinking it is nothing more than his muscles straining. The sensation turns into a gentle quiver along his arms an instant before his sabers strike a krypter and the monster explodes in a cloud of red dust. For a brief moment, Luke sees pink energy coiling from his wrists to the points of his sabers.
“That was surprising,” Conrad mentions, joining Luke and watching the krypters back away. “By the stunned expression on your face, I assume you have no idea how you did that.”
“Not a clue,” Luke whispers.
The two warriors are about to attack the krypters when they hear a loud, teeth-gritting crack behind them. They spin around to see a cloaked figure step out of a black fissure in an ancient oak tree. Luke smirks at the red eyes staring at him from under the moldy cowl, the warrior refusing to move until the creature puts away a pale green wand. Conrad fires three arrows at the Lich, but his shots are frozen in the air as soon as the necrocaster waves his fleshless hand.
“This is not a dance for outsiders,” the Lich hisses. He flicks his hand and the arrows flip in mid-air, launching back at the calico. Conrad is unable to react in time and is struck in both shoulders and his stomach. Luke is already angrily slashing at the Lich as the calico falls to the ground.
“Damn your weapons!” the Lich screeches when he feels Luke’s sabers magically pull at his body. Luke notices a brief shimmering underneath the Lich’s cloak and rags, the brief light revealing a rainbow-colored shawl that is out of place on the rotting necrocaster.
Hearing the krypters approaching, Luke spits at the Lich before rushing to defend Conrad. He can hear a sucking sound behind him as the Lich leaves the area through a new fissure. Cursing the retreating necrocaster under his breath, Luke dives into the mass of krypters and decapitates two of them. The mercenaries attack from the rear, but the creatures continue to fight back with a primal fury that wears the warriors down. Luke struggles to figure out how to reactivate whatever power awoke in his sabers, but the only sensation he feels in his arms is the growing numbness of fatigue.
A mighty yell erupts from the surrounding forest and every living and undead creature freezes in its tracks. The remaining krypters nervously sniff the air as a large form leaps over Luke and Conrad. Four krypters fall to the ground, their lower halves cleanly separated from their top halves. The mercenaries cheer and back away when they recognize Timoran, his red hair practically bristling as he butchers the yelping monsters. Within seconds, the krypters have been reduced to twitching body parts scattered around the area. The barbarian raises his face to the sky and roars loud enough to be heard for miles.