Camon awoke, not being able to see anything, but he felt everything. He felt the weight of rubble and debris crushing his lower body, and his right shoulder throbbed with pain. Camon tried to move his right arm of his aching shoulder, but it protested. He was able to move his left arm, legs, and feet even though he was pinned under the debris. He managed to free his left arm and feel around him. He felt debris and rubble on all sides of himself within arm’s reach as he groped around as well as he could. He felt a metal object lying next to himself and quickly identified it as his sword. Camon then tried to reach for his pocket and feel for his healing stone. He found it and wrestled it free and hummed. The magic made the pain in his shoulder throb more, but he then applied the stone to his shoulder, and the pain was mitigated. Camon then worked on getting free, wiggling and squirming, kicking, and pushing with his legs. After some effort, he could get from being pinned under the rubble, but it was not clear how deeply buried he was in the debris that was over him or how long he had been there.
Camon went to find his sword again, located it, and tried to free it. It came loose with relatively little effort. Camon then used it to probe the rubble over him, poking outwards to see if he could see anything above himself. Each probe was met with resistance, but after some effort twisting and turning the blade, he could get it through all the way to the hilt. He then removed it, and he could see faint light coming in through the hole he made. He judged by the amount that it was night, but he had no idea how long he had been under the debris.
He tried moving the debris more with the blade, pushing and shoving such that the opening widened, and after about half an hour, the opening was wide enough for him to stand. He stood up through the hole and looked around and up, seeing he had fallen from the hotel wall through the next building’s ceiling. He had landed on the floor and had been buried in two feet of debris and rubble from the explosion and subsequent crumbling. Camon climbed out of the hole and looked around the room he was in, seeing somebody’s residence, but the occupant was not there. There was a bed, washbasin, wardrobe, table, and chairs in the room. Camon hobbled over to a nearby window and looked down at the street. A contingent of Imperials was standing outside of the hotel, but the street was otherwise deserted.
Camon began rummaging through the things in the room and found some clothes that he thought might fit him. He removed his and washed in the washbasin and dressed in the clean clothes. He looked in a mirror over the basin at his face, which was scratched some, but nothing major. He then cleaned his sword with his old dusty clothes and discarded them. Camon left the residence and went down some stairs, opening the door of the building slowly. The contingent did not notice, and Camon slipped out and closed it, then ducked into shadows and waited. Nobody came to investigate, so Camon went north along the street, staying in the shadows the best he could. When he was far enough away to see the damage, he turned back and surveyed it in the moonlight. He then walked back towards the hotel and made his presence known to the contingent who stopped him.
“Sorry, but nobody is allowed to pass this way,” one of the soldiers said.
“Apologies. I was trying to get to the docks. What happened?” Camon asked.
“Last night, there was some kind of fight. Witnesses say a series of explosions went off. A man fled the scene with a young woman on a horse. You wouldn’t happen to know anything?”
“No, sir. I just have a busy day ahead of me. I’m trying to get an early start…”
“Very well. You can go north and take another street to the docks.”
“Thank you,” he said.
Camon turned north and walked down the street. He had not been out more than a couple of hours, and the mage had taken Achara with him. After Camon was out of sight, he paused and removed one of his stones and started humming. He swept his left hand while holding his right hand out, palm to the ground. He did this as he walked along, feeling the magic come back to him as he probed as far and wide as possible. Nothing came back of note. Camon intensified the magic, humming louder and gripping the stone tighter, which began to glow. The heat was almost searing his hand. He waved his hand in all directions and stopped in his tracks as he passed north. He repeated the motion again to the north to check, and his face went flush.
“Demons!” he hissed under his breath. “And Jorn is near….”
Camon rammed the stone back in his pocket and went into a full sprint towards the inn. The streets were clear in the morning hours just before dawn, as Camon could see. When he got back to the inn, he went straight to the stable and saddled Tangmaw and Appon. He tied a lead rope to his saddle on Appon, then mounted up and rode out of the stable at breakneck speeds down the streets and out of the city towards the Northwest. He reached the monastery in as little as an hour and kept pushing hard for several more down the road. He stopped only for a moment near a creek to let the horses drink. He dismounted to repeat the ritual of locating the demons. The feeling he got was much stronger now. He climbed on Tangmaw and attached his lead rope to Appon and started again. The light changed to morning hues of pink and purple as Camon rode. The sun peaked over the world’s eastern edge and started to climb into the sky, and the sky was a bright blue when Camon stopped again and checked. The demons were not far, but Jorn was closer.
Camon didn’t bother resting but continued. The horses complained, but Camon coaxed them faster and further still for another half an hour when he came to a bend in the road, and it opened to a caravansary, and Jorn was there readying his gear. Camon came to a screeching halt when Jorn turned and faced him. Jorn took his large sword and took a defensive position as Camon approached.
“I’m not here for that,” Camon said.
“Get away from me, Paladin, or I will kill you…” Jorn growled.
“Jorn, put the sword down.”
“Then, why have you come? Where’s the girl?”
“In trouble, just like you are,” Camon said.
“I was in trouble when I was with you. Apparently, it didn’t work out too well for Achara.”
“No, it didn’t. We went after the mages, but it turned out to be a trap. She was captured, and they tried to kill me.”
“So, you want me back now to help you fail again?”
“Then, why are you here?”
“Because about two miles from here, there is a demon…well, I think a pack of demons that are coming this way. You are their target.”
“How can you be so sure? You’re no seer,” Jorn remarked.
“No, but I can track magic. How do you think I found you? That belt you’re wearing gives you away.”
“So you came all the way from Muangnoi to tell me this. Must’ve been a hell of a ride to catch up to me.”
“I left long before sunrise after I dug myself out of the rubble from the battle I had last night.”
“And you brought an extra horse…”
“Look, Jorn, whatever issues you have with me will have to wait. You can’t outrun those demons on foot, especially with a busted leg.”
“I don’t fear demons like you do, Paladin.”
“Well, you should! Don’t be a fool!” Camon screamed. “If you don’t want to go with me, fine. At least take the horse and ride. You fair a much better chance of getting away.”
“Who says I want to? I’ve been looking for a good fight, and demons should give me that.”
“If you want a good fight, take me on, then get the hell out of here!” Camon bellowed.
“Is that a challenge?”
“If it will make you flee the demons, then yes.”
Jorn laughed, “I’ve been looking forward to this.”
“Whatever,” Camon said. He got down off his horse and drew his sword.
“You may be mighty, but without your magic, you’re just another man to be cut down by my blade,” Jorn touted.
Camon said nothing while drawing his sword and holding it in front of himself. He circled back into the caravansary, keeping his distance from Jorn. Jorn waited, then approached slowly, picking up the pace towards Camon. As he got closer, he slowed as he brought the big sword forwards while Camon’s smaller blade was still held in a defensive position. Jorn thrusted slightly to test Camon’s resolve, who didn’t flinch. Jorn then stepped closer and did a more complete thrust, which Camon quickly parried and sidestepped. Camon circled Jorn’s flank, and Jorn wheeled back to face him again. Jorn went on the offensive again, this time with a sweeping arc. Camon jumped back, dodging the arc. Jorn over swung, and Camon thrust his lighter sword at Jorn, but Jorn was just out of reach. Jorn carried his momentum back around, and Camon went low and blocked the big blade with his. Camon then reached out and kicked Jorn in his bad leg. Jorn withdrew, hobbling back away from Camon.
“So that’s how it’s going to be. You’re going to fight dirty…” Jorn said. “I should’ve known you wouldn’t want a fair fight.”
“It was never fair, Jorn. I know you’re a better swordsman than me. The odds are certainly in your favor.”
“Then why throw yourself away knowing you will lose?”
“Because this is not about me,” Camon said.
“Spare me the martyr complex. Didn’t you warn me about that?”
“Jorn, I no more want to die today than you do. Truthfully, I’m grateful to be alive right now after last night. Do you think this has something with being a martyr?”
“I still don’t understand you, Paladin.”
“I’m not asking you to understand. I’m just asking you to trust me one more time. You can go your own way, but believe me, when I say it, demons are nothing to be trifled with.”
“Demons or no demons, I’m not going to miss out on this moment,” Jorn said. He advanced at Camon again, this time more aggressively. He kept his sword close and well supported in his advance, taking advantage of its size and length over Camon’s smaller blade. Camon held his sword out, slowly retreating. Jorn caught up to Camon and thrust the big blade at him like a spear, which Camon easily parried and then counterattacked as he rushed by. Jorn let one hand off his blade and blocked Camon’s blade with the bracer on his arm. Camon went forward and circled back around to face Jorn.
“You’ve always been one to use unconventional means,” Jorn said. “Typical of a coward that doesn’t want to fight.”
“Jorn, this isn’t about fighting,” Camon said. “The longer you delay, the closer those demons get.”
“So, you’re just stalling then?”
“I’m not stalling. I am trying to help you. Can’t you see that?”
“That’s what you always say. How do I know this isn’t one of your schemes to advance your agenda?”
Camon’s eyes squinted, and his jaw clenched. “Is that what you think? I’m not trying to manipulate you or Achara to advance my own agenda. I came here for your own good, Jorn!” Camon screamed in frustration. “Why can’t you see that?”
“Because I’m no fool, Camon. Achara is your pawn, and you sacrificed her. Now you would do the same with me.”
“Damn you, Jorn!” Camon threw his sword down. “I’m done with your game. Strike me down if you have the nerve.”
“You are a fool,” Jorn said. He then charged Camon and then arced his blade. He swung the blade widely over Camon’s head and brought it down over Camon. Camon did not flinch. Jorn stood now in front of Camon, and he stared Camon in the eye. “You aren’t kidding, are you?”
“No,” Camon said plainly. “But I’m afraid it’s too late.” He raised his hand and pointed behind Jorn. Jorn backed away and turned, and standing not more than one hundred feet from Jorn and Camon were three massive wolflike demons glaring intently at Jorn and Camon. They snarled and shook their quill laden bodies and bared their white teeth with fire in their yellow eyes. Camon reached down and picked up his sword.
“Now, do you believe me?” Camon said.
Jorn backed away to Camon’s side, speechless at the three massive creatures who strode towards them. Camon didn’t hesitate. He ignited his blade and waited for them to approach. Jorn gripped his big blade with white knuckles, and he widened his stance.
“They aren’t mindless brutes,” Camon said. “They have tactics and are likely to flank us. You’ll need to back up to me.”
“How do I know you won’t gut me?” Jorn asked.
“I could have let them do that. Do you think I want you dead?” Jorn said nothing in response, but both men pivoted until they were back to back as the three demons circled about them. Then one of them crouched and leaped into the air at them. Camon dove forwards as did Jorn as the brute passed between them. Camon then rolled into a low crouching position as another one leaped. Camon rushed at its advanced and brought the searing white blade to bear. The metal cut through the beast’s quills and down its front between its massive legs. The beasts momentum though through Camon to the ground, and it passed over him. Jorn attacked the beast swinging the big blade around and catching the beast in one of its forelegs, cutting it clean off. The beast was howling and pain and retreated. The other two beasts formed a line in front of the hurt beast as Camon got back to his feet.
“One down, two to go,” Jorn said.
“No, it’s not down. It’s merely licking its wounds. These things fight to the death until either they are dead or we are dead.”
The other two demons charged simultaneously at Jorn and Camon. Camon sidestepped the charge and brought the blade around in a deadly arc at the beast’s side. The fire tore into the beast’s shoulder and side as it passed Camon, and it howled in pain. Jorn went low and thrust his blade upward into the beast’s charge. The blade went into the beast, but then the beast’s paw knocked Jorn down and trampled him. The beast then wheeled and was about to bite down on Jorn’s throat, but Camon came to his aid in a deadly upsweeping arc that caught the beast in the mouth, breaking teeth and slicing off the beast’s jaw. The other beast though, attacked Camon’s undefended flank, tearing into him with his claw on his shoulder. Camon went down as the beast trampled over him. Jorn lay on the ground, looking about in confusion.
The two beasts were severely wounded, but both circled back around, and the third demon who had retreated joined them as they circled Camon and Jorn, who were both lying on the ground, still trying to get their bearings.
Camon looked a Jorn and Jorn back at him, “I’m sorry, Camon,” Jorn said. “I should have listened.”
“I’m sorry too. I should have listened to you as well. And I’m sorry for what I’m about to do.” Camon, while laying on the ground, grabbed his blade, and in a single arc as he rolled, reignited the sword, and he reached out enough to strike Jorn’s foot. Jorn screamed in pain, then went silent, pulling into a fetal position, then emerged as energy started to arc across his body. Camon looked at Jorn’s eyes that both glowed white with fear and fury. Jorn reached for his sword, and the beast then all attacked him at once. Jorn threw the blade at one in a deadly arc of electricity with a force that struck the beast in the head and buried itself up to the hilt. The power arced across the beast as it writhed. The other two simultaneously struck Jorn, but then snapped back and scrambled away from him. Jorn walked over to the fallen beast and pulled the sword from it. The lightning arc from Jorn’s body through the sword and into the beast as he removed it. The beast then burst into flames and started to disintegrate.
Jorn turned his attention to the other beasts, and Camon got back on his feet. Each beast attacked. The three-legged beast went for Jorn, and the jawless beast went for Camon. Jorn thrusted his sword through the air at the attacking beast, and lightning leaped from the blade and struck the beast as it approached. It stumbled and slid towards Jorn. Jorn went alongside it and buried the blade in the demon’s body up to the hilt and released an unrelenting flow of lightning into the beast.
Meanwhile, the other beast came at Camon, and Camon jumped to the side as it passed and brought his flaming blade down on the back of the beast cutting through its body. The beast went down and writhed, then went motionless. Seconds later, both beasts burst into flames.
Jorn then turned back to Camon. His eyes looked at Camon in bright fury, but also with fear. Camon’s sword was ignited still, but he let it go, and the flame died. Jorn stood, staring Camon down as the lightning still arced across his body. He pulled the sword from the beast and snarled at Camon, and then he attacked him with lightning. Camon through up his blade in defense, which deflected the lightning back at Jorn, and it rippled through him. Camon lowered the blade standing there panting. Jorn threw another attack at Camon, and Camon again deflected it back towards Jorn. Jorn did not relent, though. The lightning crackled and popped as the two faces each other. Jorn’s clothes began smoking, and the smell of singed hair filled the air. Camon then reignited the blade, and the lightning was not deflected, rather absorbed. Camon approached Jorn holding the flaming sword in front of him as Jorn continued the unrelenting assault of lightning.
Camon got close enough to Jorn to touch him. Camon then reached out and touched his blade to Jorn’s, and then the blades released the lightning with explosive force, sending them both back across the caravansary. They both went down, then lay on the ground motionless amidst the fires that consumed the demon corpses.