Chapter 9:

Starlyn sat alone in a cold cell pondering her memories of the horrid place. It was over now and she sat where it all began. Chills ran all down her spine and she closed her eyes. All of her memories flooded her mind in seconds. She flashed back to as a child and her memories of Arria playing with her. Starlyn always looked up to her sister. It was so strange now that she had to look down upon her.

The memory rushed at her as she skipped through a meadow with the sun behind her. Arria skipped at her side holding her hand laughing. Starlyn looked to her older sister and smiled. Arria's midnight hair glittered in the sun. She had the darkest hair of any elf and for that she was noticed beyond any. Some feared her while others worshipped her. Most elves were brighter complexion, yet Arria seemed darker. She would often argue with other elves about topics she didn't agree with. Nothing bothered Starlyn though, as she looked up to her. Her sister was beautiful, the most beautiful in the village by many standards. None could match her black hair or perfected face structure.

She continued to smile at her older sister not noticing the rock misplaced in the meadow. Without a warning Starlyn went tumbling to the ground screeching into the wind. Arria skidded to a stop and bend down to pick up her younger sister.

"Everything is going to be alright sister, your soul shines like the stars, and which nothing could ever harm you. Nothing can harm a star, remember that." Arria reassured.

"Starlyn…. Starlyn!" a gentle voice yelled.

She shook her head letting the memory of her sister shatter out of existence. When she looked up she saw the concerned look of Sh'on. In his hands he held her armor. He was on one knee and bowed to her.

Starlyn smiled as she received her armor. She disliked what she was wearing as it made her chest feel tight and constricted as well as her hips. Quickly she slipped off her current armor causing Sh'on to turn around after having a glimpse of her leather bra. After changing she decided to walk out of the cell and get fresh air.

Anaela stood alone twirling a single arrow in her hands. The tip was made of thin black glass, obsidian. It would shatter into whatever it impacted. There was nobody else in sight and Starlyn wondered where Vil'ek had gone. Quietly she walked up to Anaela feeling the rocky terrain crumble under her feet.

"Are you okay?" Starlyn asked wearily.

The archer looked up seeing Starlyn and smiled. She seemed relaxed and cautious of her surroundings. She slipped the arrow back into her arrow pouch on her back and took a step forward staring into Starlyn's eyes. That's when Starlyn noticed her eyes, a light green, the color of leaves in the forest. This elf was strange to her as she had never been around a wood elf before. She seemed to even have larger pointier ears than the high elves.

"I was growing more concerned of how you felt. Are the memories haunting now that you're back here?" Anaela asked.

Starlyn looked to the wood elf in wonder. She didn't seem to be the caring type. Perhaps there was more to this elf ranger that she thought. After recollecting her thoughts she spoke, "It was hard at first, but it's becoming a faded memory."

Anaela nodded and turned back to the sunset. The glistening swirls of red and orange pooled into the clouds in the horizon. It was a magnificent sunset despite the location. Starlyn stopped for a moment as well to gaze upon its beauty. She smiled as she turned to Anaela who was also still enjoying it.

"Tell me of the wood elves." Starlyn insisted.

Anaela's eyes locked with Starlyn's but they weren't excited or happy, but solemn with despair. "My parents were the only ones who made it to this land. They bore me and as a child I remember waking up one morning to see them both in a pool of blood."

"Oh my. I am so sorry to hear that. You're the only wood elf?" Starlyn asked.

"There is a colony of them somewhere, but where I've yet to find. I've heard stories that they're lots more on other lands." Anaela alleged.

"It seems hopeless to fight. Everything just seems to go to chaos." Starlyn muttered.

Anaela looked shocked and stepped closer to Starlyn brushing her blond hair behind her ear. "Never give up faith, for it is the last thing we can hold true to."

"Thank you." Starlyn whispered.

Starlyn turned to walk away and continue on the journey. She still seemed distant and Sh'on approached her. His blond hair tossed in the wind and his green eyes glowed. He was calm as he stood by her.

"Starlyn, I know this is a tough journey for you. I could only imagine what you must be going through. You love your mother very much, and we will find her." Sh'on said.

"Thank you Sh'on… but where do we look?" Starlyn asked. She gazed up at the mage and sighed.

"We'll keep heading north searching all the camps if we have to." Sh'on said.

Starlyn leaned forward and grasped the mage in a hug. He was shocked at first but gently tapped her back. She quickly stepped away from him noticing Vil'ek's distaste.

The next ranzak camp wasn't what they expected. Normally the creatures were savages and unorganized, yet this one seemed well maintained. She noticed they had placement guards at every possible entrance. It was unsettling to her to know that her sister had turned these savages into organized warriors.

"What do you suggest?" Starlyn asked turning to Sh'on.

His eyes raised as if in shock at her requesting his input. He knew he was providing her with help on her quest, but he was nothing of a leader. He pondered in thoughts for a few moments calculating their movements.

"The question is… what are they protecting?" Sh'on asked.

"Arria… she's here." Starlyn muttered.

"Even if she were, what could be going on for her to have them this protective?" Anaela asked stepping up next to her.

The three of them leaned on a small grassy hill overlooking the camp in the distance. Vil'ek stood off behind them and shook his head. "Are we going to strike or not?"

Starlyn shook her head and ignored his comment turning to Sh'on, "Do you think they're guarding because mother is here?"

"It is a possibility. Are you ready for this Starlyn?" Sh'on asked.

She inhaled a deep breath concentrating. Fear was in her eyes but she nodded. Anaela put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. After a long gulp she slid back and got to her feet.

"What do you suggest Starlyn?" Anaela asked.

Starlyn seemed surprised to be asked the question. She had just asked what the mage had thought. She realized that she was the one in charge of the party, but it still scared her to show leadership where she wasn't comfortable. She knew that the mage had a lot more experience in battle than she did. Tossing the thoughts in the back of her head she looked into Anaela's eyes.

"Can you kill the guards from this distance?" Starlyn asked looking at Anaela.

Anaela thought for a moment holding her finger in the air testing the wind. She crept back over to the edge where she studied the guards' positions. It was near two hundred yards out, an impossible archery post for any elf.

"Yes." Anaela stated confidently.

"You stay back here and take out the guards as we rush forward and then I want you to cover us as we break through to the camp. Stay here as long as you can with cover until your range cannot reach further." Starlyn said.

She turned to Sh'on now who was smiling, "You stay behind Vil'ek and I blasting away as many as you can that rush at us from the sides and behind. Meanwhile we'll slice them down from the front."

Sh'on's smile only grew now as he clasped his hand upon her shoulder, "A brilliant plan indeed."

Starlyn laid on the hill the misty green grass brushing against her soft skin as she watched. She studied the behavior of the guards and when they were the least observant. Shortly after watching them she developed a pattern that every ten minutes they would argue with each other for a few minutes oblivious to anything in front of them. She smiled and nodded to Sh'on.

"On my signal." She whispered.

After a few minutes another argument began between the two ranzak. She jumped to her feet and quickly descended down the hill followed by Sh'on and Vil'ek. After reaching the bottom she sprinted to a full run. She was careful to dodge the few shallow trees and cautious to not step on any branches that might give them away. Once she was close enough she almost pulled out her sword when an arrow sank into the flesh on the ranzak on her left. It collapsed to the ground without a sound and by the time the other turned to her an arrow penetrated its head causing it to collapse as well. She smiled at the skill of the wood elf.

She quietly pulled out her sword and continued on. With the guards down it took a while for the camp of ranzak to even notice them. A few came at them which were quickly sliced down or claimed by arrows. Sh'on hadn't even raised a hand in magic yet which meant they had the advantage.

Starlyn saw something she didn't expect, a cabin in the rear of the settlement with black, blue, and white lights shining through the window. She gasped in fear as everything around her became a blur. Luckily Vil'ek stepped forward in front of her to intercept a slash of a ranzak axe. The sudden clash of metal brought focus back to her as she began clashing her sword to metal.

Fear enveloped her in a cloud of despair. Her body trembled as she fought the ranzaks. A lone tear streaked her face making a line sparkle down her face. She needed to get to that cabin before it was too late. If it was as she thought Arria was attempting to change her mother to what she was, as if it could save her life. It was not worth the price because her mother wouldn't be the same. She would turn into a creature of evil as Arria has.

Green swirls of magic shattered behind her as Sh'on blasted away any incoming ranzak. No ranzak were oblivious to their presence now and it was a full battle where they were greatly outnumbered. Arrows continued soaring through the air striking down ranzak all around them.

Starlyn finally reached the cabin and she made no attempt to finish off the many ranzaks still running at them. Instead, she busted the door down, finding Arria in the midst of dark swirls of magic by a large black pot. She turned to see her mother still unconscious lying on a bed next to Arria.

"Arria! Step away from mother!" Starlyn cried.