As night fell, the bustling city of Twilight Valley lulled to a calm. Businesses closed, and restaurants took their last round of customers for the day. The streets emptied of the citizens heading home. Teams of light mages enrobed in black and yellow moved through each district to begin their work casting spells. A quick tap of the hand and a word in their elven tongue is all it took to illuminate tall, thin opalescent posts at each street corner.
The day watch guards took their leave from the barrier wall as the night’s watch prepared for their shift. Thousands of fully armored soldiers occupied the wall at any given time. Thousands more patrolled the sleepy streets on shielded drakes, each equipped with short and long-range weapons.
Twilight Valley was sheltered from any outside danger should the war reach its doorstep. They were secure knowing that every precaution was taken to ensure the nocturnal forces were kept at bay.
Deep in the forest just outside the wall, an unassuming bird fixed her gaze on changing of the guard. Dark grey in color and no larger than a housecat, a bird of prey was not an uncommon sight for even the most attentive soldier. It circled the edge of the forest twice before coming to rest in a bare tree.
Five minutes was what she was granted.
Five minutes to bring miles of rock and wood and blood to a cinder.
From her vantage point on a high branch, Samira could just make out the hazy silhouette of her goal. For hours she waited there, occasionally checking the small jewellike object nestled into her breast feathers. Then, shifting her weight from one leg to another, she gave her ashen wings one final stretch before readying herself.
Although it was near midnight, the city ahead stayed brightly lit. It was a wonder how these elves got any sleep with every building on every street aglow. It made it hard to see the stars and turned the slim shape of the moon into a haze. A moment caught in her quiet reflection passed before a grizzled voice crackled through the static of the communicator around her neck.
The simple command was all it took to set her on her path. With one powerful swoop, she took to the air. The branches of nearby trees cracked and snapped from the force of her wings. Samira could feel the familiar warmth start from her beak and begin to engulf her body. The ends of her feathers gleamed red, combusting into a brilliant flame. Orange flames licked at the night sky as black fumes billowed from the treetops.
The immense heat radiating from the firebird was enough to incinerate everything in her path. On the wind, she could hear the horrified screams of the night watch as she neared the barrier that separated the forest from the city. They fired weapons meant to take down an aerial threat in vain. Spelled arrows and ballista bolts flew from the wall. She barely made out the scrambling forms of the soldiers, desperate to take her down. Anything they threw at her melted before hitting their target.
She beat her wings harder, gaining as much speed as possible. She had no time to think about the countless souls in her path. Of the buildings ablaze or the people scorched in her wake. Burn the city’s southern district, get to the castle, turn their attention away from the northern sea. Sight forward, head low, Samira burned as brightly as she dared.
As she got closer to Castle Starlight, she better understood why it had that name. Like white marble infused with billions of glittering diamonds, the tallest building in the city stood stark against the night. It had a slight unnatural glow to it. Samira found it ironic that a culture so heavily influenced by the heavens kept their skies so polluted by light. If they succeed tonight - when they succeed tonight, they will darken the elven airspace again.
The intensity of her flames died down as she approached the target, focusing her energy on defense rather than destruction. No matter what the soldiers fired, nothing could touch her. Finally, a cavalry astride amphiptere closed in, attempting to take her down with a weapon the likes of which she has never seen. A cute attempt. They readied their plasma rifles, aimed, and fired. Samira narrowly dodged the first set of blasts.
Flying near her was a death sentence, and she made sure they knew it. Targeting the first few soldiers, Samira reignited her feathers, controlling the heat so that it stayed closer to her body. Then, she dove down and shot back up as quick as lightning, barreling through the winged serpent and eradicating the rider.
She tore through with the wings of the second one, sending both beast and elf plummeting to the earth. The next rider barely had time to let out a scream before Samira brushed past him. The mere touch was enough envelop him in flames.
Some riders began to panic; others prepared for their next shot at her. They were wasting her time. She let her flames die down until her feathers blackened again. Practically invisible against the smoke rising from the city, she allowed her body to drop just below their range of sight.
Samira silently glided past the majority of the battalion, only igniting once more to break through the rear formation. The remaining riders struggled to turn around to find her before she hid herself again. She was so close to the castle now that she could make out individual windows in the tower.
Her wings strained, her body ached, but her job was not done yet. One last blaze was all she needed to ensure her part in this was complete. Elven soldiers hurried to cast a shield of protection over the side of the castle as she neared. Unfortunately, it was an attempt that came too little too late. Samira summoned every ounce of strength she had left and let out a triumphant cry as she dove toward an opening.