Feeling the icy weight melt off his chest, Evalieh woke in a daze. He shivered and rubbed his eyes, hearing voices nearby.
“Brakierie!” Hanali said. He clashed swords with another. “Evalieh, I’ll protect you!”
“Electro Sickle!” Came another’s voice.
Streams of electrical blades came hurdling towards Evalieh. He rolled out of the way, dusted his hair, and rubbed his face. Blurred by the evening sunlight, he tried to make sense of what was happening.
Between the rays of warm light, Hanali, in his golden form, leaped around with fury in his eyes. A barbed serpent with an owl’s head snapped at him. He tried to dodge the attacks all while a caped silhouette danced around him with flashy kicks and punches. Hanali couldn’t strike the serpent because the silhouette’s steps were as fast as his. With every jab of his sword the figure knocked Hanali’s sword away and tried to trip him.
Evalieh crawled forward, trying to make sense of things. Hanali ran into the trees to catch his breath, but the serpent swung its tail around and crashed through the trees. “Watch out, Hanali!” Before Hanali could move the serpent smacked him into the trees and a stray limb pinned him down. He struggled with all his might, but the limb was too heavy to move. He reached for his rapier, but it was too far.
Evalieh stood up trembling with fear, he felt a sudden overwhelming urge course through his body. Without thinking, he ran towards the rapier, picked it up, and swung it around crazily. “Brakierie! Brakierie! Brakierie!” he said.
The serpent reared back, and the cloaked figure chuckled. His voice was muffled and distant through the shadows of his silhouette. “Do you actually think that would work?” he asked.
With his hands shaking, Evalieh held the sword up at the serpent and backed towards Hanali. Without turning his head away, he pulled Hanali from under the branch. “Here, take it,” Evalieh said.
The cloaked figure sighed and backflipped onto the serpent. He wrapped his legs around its head like a saddle and kicked the sides of its beak. “You are making this harder than it needs to be. If you’d just give your heart to me this would all, be over in a flash,” he said.
“Never! I’m not joining someone who attacks me!” Evalieh said. In that moment, he looked over at Hanali and considered him a friend, realizing he’s been nothing but kind and helpful from the start. “I’m staying with my friend!”
The serpent reared and snapped at the boys. It tore through the trees, sending splinters and branches hurdling towards them. They dove out of the way, each rolling in a different direction. Evalieh noticed, the snake wasn’t trailing after him but instead, Hanali. Feeling a moment of relief, the urge to run and hide came over him. With his jaw clenched tight, he sucked the air through his teeth and hurried after Hanali, waving his hands and yelling. He was trying to distract the enemy.
“What are you doing? Get out of here!” Hanali said.
“You can’t even hit it—I’m trying to help you!” Evalieh rounded a tree, calling out to the enemy. The serpent twitched and lunged its prickly beak at the Evalieh, snaping branches in two. Hanali yanked Evalieh out of the way and they divided among the trees. The serpent followed them closely and swapped targets with each call. Evalieh chuckled and ran ahead of Hanali, he jumped over the serpent’s body, feeling cocky. He tripped over a rock and plunged into a bush. He spat leaves out and rose, closing his eyes just as the beast snapped at his face.
Evalieh held his breath and pried his eyes open. The serpent jolted and jerked its body around. It had tangled itself around the trees and got trapped.
“I knew this thing would be useless,” the cloaked man said.
The serpent reared back and Hanali leaped off a mound of rocks. He plunged his rapier into the purple jewel on the serpent’s head, shattering it. The beast hissed and slammed itself around, it sent the cloaked man flying. He slammed into a rock and his shadowy silhouette dispersed in a puff of smoke. He bounced onto the ground like a stretchy blob and rolled into round bat. It was the stubble long-eared bat from before. He rubbed his squishy face around and a thorny collar appeared around his neck, causing him pain. He tried to pull it off, but Hanali lunged towards him.
Hanali dropped his sword and fell on his face. He grabbed his shoulder and cried out in pain. His warden form flickered away and Evalieh rushed to his side. Hanali clutched onto Evalieh, nearly pulling him down with all his weight. “I’m alright.” He tried to pass off a smile when Evalieh picked him up. Their legs buckled and ached.
“Will you be, okay?” Evalieh asked.
The bat hobbled over to the young men and looked Evalieh in the eyes. “Looks you’re your light has run out, little godlings.” He tapped Evalieh on the leg and a spark of light consumed the bat. A misty image appeared behind him in the shape of a tall, blonde, man draped in blue. “I thought so—you don’t belong here, like me,” he said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Evalieh asked.
“I am Enma Rome De’Larc and I make you a promise.” The bat held out his stubby hand. “If you give me your heart, I can help you summon your inner strength. Together, we can get out of here.”
“I don’t think so—never!”
Enma chuckled and snapped his stubby fingers. A bellowing synth rang around them. He waved goodbye and a hoard of shadows dragged him away.
The jungle quickly fell silent until the echoes of wind blew through the destruction.
“What…was that?” Evalieh said. He and Hanali flopped onto the ground with a thud, taking a deep breath. They grabbed at their arms and legs, feeling the pain ripple throughout their bruised and battered bodies. “I’m not built for this, Hanali.” Evalieh cringed and gripped his shoulder, feeling the knife wound reopen.
Hanali rolled over and reached for Evalieh. He coughed and gurgled his words. “I’ll help you,” he said. He struggled to get up until Evalieh leaned him against a tree.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m more worried about you.”
Hanali waved his hand around, dismissing Evalieh’s notions. “Don’t be silly, I’m fine. I can handle this.”
“No, you’re not! Look at you—that warden ability is taking a lot out of you. At this rate, we’ll never get out of the Sun Clan.”
Hanali chuckled and crawled forward, parting the bushes. “But we’ve already made it to the Broken Planes,” he said.