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Chapter 12

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    Maria Catalina Higuera

Chapter 20

“Here”, I shouted, coign a dead stop in the middle of the hallway that unlike the devastated scenery we had left behind looked relatively normal, it was almost easy to pretend that everything we had left behind had been a dream, a very bad one, that the dead, the fire and destruction was little more than a bad play from our imagination. Of Course the illusion shattered the moment we looked at ourselves, we were covered in blood and filt, burns that hadn't quite healed making us cringe and wince everytime we moved, despite how calm the environment was, our hearts were still racing with fear and anxiety. “Dig here?”, Petra asked, lookign at the Roky sealing. I shook my head, “No...but we have to change direction”, I said, moving towards a set of double dark metal doors, “Help me open this up”. In seconds everybody was beside me, digging their fingers into the abnormally tough metal and pulling with all their strength until the entire thing gave out and we stumbled in to a white sterile smelling room whose only exit was a glass door from where I could see what appeared to be a forest or that was the best place to described it at least. “We are in the gardens”, Draven breathed, looking at the landscape. “The gardens?”, I voiced back as Calder detached the entire door from the wall requiring no assistance from us and a wave of fresh scent hit us. It was like nothing I had experienced before, but somehow it made my mouth water. The smells were just so appealing it was like I was in a trance and I wasn’t the only one, everybody had a dreamy expression on their faces. “Guys”, Calder said, trying to sound like he wasn’t as affected as the rest of us, “We have to keep moving, come on”. He works at least to try and shake some of the effect from that intoxicating aroma as we clumsily squeezed through the door trying to do so all at once. My breath caught in my throat as I got my first real glance of the gardens, as Draven had called them, but truth be told that didn’t make them justice. It was more like a jungle, a wild but beautiful jungle, there were trees so high they rivaled skyscrapers, giant fruits of many shapes and sizes I had neve seen hanging from their branches. Their smell was what had drawn us all in like moths to a lantern. Under our feet lush green bluish grass grew and flowers of many colors and sizes. “What is this?”, I muttered, not sure of what to say when faced with such great beauty. “A dragon forest”, Petra said from beside me, “Flora that was very abundant in the times of the dragons but had since gone almost extinct, the Handlers keep part of it alive here”. Was that why I found the plants so appealing? I had to physically restrict myself from climbing the closest three and stuffing myself silly. “A pity...it will all be destroyed”, Calder commented, a comment that made me also flinch, my mind feeling so intoxicated by the sweet smells I had almost forgotten we were running for our lives. I had to force myself to think of all the people we had left behind, all those who had already lost their lives. “Let's keep moving”, I said, turning towards the others trying to snap them out of their trance, “The right place to dig is still a way off”.

“This is it?”, Petra asked as we all crambed ourselves in the small room barely illuminated by some strange luminus seedlings somebody had carefully been planting here. The Garders, or more like the jungle, was way bigger than I had anticipated, we had to run for a long time before I lead us to the opening of this tunnel that forzed all of use to move in all fours and something even crawling on our bellies to reach this small caved sistem. I had to bend down to be able to stand, Calder and Enya were having even less of a good time. This part of the jungle appeared to be used to grow certain types of plants, why my senses had led me here I wasn’t sure but the truth was this was the safest place in the entire Base at the moment. “Yeah...this is it”, I answered trying to sound even half as confident as I felt. “Well then...you are up now”, Calder said to Petra, pushing her forwards with impatience, we all wanted to get out here as fast as possible. She took a shaky breath, “I know, I know”. She muttered, placing her palms against the wall as her markings began glowing and green cracks began to spread on the dark material. Right away I noticed that her energy was spreading a lot slower than normal, way too slowly seeming to almost crawl on its way to the ceiling where it began to form a very narrow tunnel, barely enough for a person to fit through one at a time. As if things were not desperate enough I cringed as my danguer senses went up seconds before the ground shook violently under our feet and the sound of an explosion assaulted us so great that even from afar the sound was deafening. “That can’t be good”, Calde said quite unnecessarily, it had been a while since we had felt any explosion and that one was by far the worst. Petra scrunched her brow, pushing past her limit to try and dig faster. “Here”, I said, placing my hand on her back and allowing my energy to flow into her and give her the extra push she needed. The effect was immediate, the energy spread faster, and our exit tunnel also began to take shape at a more acelater pace. If we could keep this up maybe we could manage to get out on time before the enemy caught up to us, that was a big maybe since I knew very well I didn’t have enough energy to fuel Petra to this level for long. Calder seemed to realize this as well, “We you run low absorb from me”, he told me with certainty in his voice. The offer caught me so of course I almost forgot to keep up the flow of energy. “I don't think I can-”, I began but Calder cut me with one severe look. “I don't care if you think you can, you will do it because there is no other way we are getting out of here so I suggest you get your shit together right about now”. His words made me swallow nervous, feeling even more pressure on my shoulders, but it was the truth, if I couldn't resolve more energy to pass it on to Petra we were dead. “I 'll do it”, I said, trying to hide the fear I felt, “You can count on me”. “We better”, Enya mutered, clearly feeling even more reastles than usual since she was doing nothing at the moment, “And for the record you can absorb from me as well...I can produce more juice than Calder over here”. The comment made the blue eyed boy scoff, “At least I compensate for it in brain power”. “I'm not as good as Calder or Enya but you can take energy from me as well”, Draven offered before Calder and Enya could launch into a full on verbal assault, at least it had served to lighten the mood somewhat.
“Me too”, Hela piped in softly as she formed a very small, mouse sice bone monster which she sent outside probably as a scout. I gritted my teeth, remembering Coach's words on how I would eventually be forced into using energy absorcion, I just wished that day hadn't come so soon. Another explosion made the earth tremble from under our feet, this one wasn’t as mighty and powerful as the last one...but it had been closer, possibly in the hallway we had left or even here, inside the jungle. “I should go outside and see what’s happening”, Calder offered but didn’t get far as Enya blocked his path. “No you're not”, she said firmly, “Your leg is still healing...and besides, we aren’t getting separated again like back in the great hall”. I could see him getting irritated at her, especially comment over his still injured leg, it was evident he hated feeling weak or that he needed special treatment somehow. “Enya somebody needs to go out there and-”, “Ice!”, I suddenly shouted, tackling Petra to the ground, who made a little surprised squeal, “Calder make an ice wall!”. The words hadn't even fully left my mouth before the earth seemed to open up from under our feet so violently it turned us into the air before a heat wave so strong I felt like my skin melted out of my bones hit us, white light burning our eyes. For several terrifying seconds I laid in complete disorientation, blidn and deaf, the explosion having burnt my eardrums. I dare to use some of my healing to get my sight back hoping to try and see if anybody was aproabhign us, not that any of us could do much at the moment, still standing from an explosion going off practically in our faces. The first thing I noticed was that there was way too much light, my eyes having grown a costume to the gloom of the small cave, the second thing was the horrible smell, so acrid and vile it made me gag. Swoly I sat up, trying not to throw up only to be met by possibly our worst fear. The jungle seemed to be crawling with Celteilas and farther away some Desolation, moving among the troops like small mountains. They had thrown some form of explosive at us which had not only completely blown up the entire cave system but part of the huge main wall. The only thing that had saved us from getting completely blown to pieces and the progress in our tunel ruined was Calder’s quick reflexes and my danger sense that had practically screamed at me to take cover. Just like I had shouted, he had formed an ice wall around us that snow laid broken into millions of pieces, but it had done its job, saved us from the worst of the blast. A few shots made me notice the previously unseen forces that were struggling against the overwhelming power of the Celestials, so few in number they had been lost among the masses of black armor. There were a few remaining Handlers and Carriers, bravely trying to make a suicidal effort against the advancing army. Staying a little bit ahead of them, which was an accomplishment in itself. The entire horrifying picture was enough to get rid of the fog that had settled over my brain. “Petra!”, I shouted, shaking the small girl who laid a few feet away from me, “Come on, we have to keep working”. She slowly opened her eyes, looking at me like I was some strange miriad, “What happened?”, she grudgingly asked, “Im sleepy…”. “No time to sleep, come on”, I said, giving her a good dose of energy to try and wake her up. Seh jumped almost like she had been electrocuted, “Hu?”, her eyes wandered towards the approaching army, going as wide as plates, “Oh no”. “We have to move”, I said, draguin her to her feet as the others slowly began to regain their senses. “Oh gods”, she whispered, still looking at the approaching army, “We won't make it out in time we are-”. “Petra”, I said, grabbing her by the shoulder, “I know it looks useless…”, I began searching for words, damn I really sukcet at motivational speaking, “I also want to give up but...that will mean giving up on everybody, your friends, the Carries the Handler Coach”, my dad, I added silently, feeling like I was telling this to her and much as myself, “We cant give up on them okay? we fight till our last breath just like everybody else, no exception”. Her eyes filled with tears, which she quickly wiped away with a new face of determination replacing her previously distressed one. “Yes...of course I'm sorry...lets keep going”.

Despite my little motivational speech I felt my own hope melting away like ice cream on a hot summer day. The Celestials were only coming closer and we had no good way of stopping them. Calder, Enya, Draven and Hela had taken to trying and slowing them as much as possible and buy us the much needed time required to create our escape route that so far, according to my calculation, was probably less than one fourth done. The only thing that seemed to be going in our favor was the fact that the Celestial almost certainly wanted us alive, or at least some of us since they hadn't thrown any more bombs in our direction, enough of those and I was sure we would all be dead. I was fast running out of energy, my vision began to blur, black dots dancing in front of my eyes. I won't be able to stand for much longer and giving Petra more energy would be out of the question by then since I probably was going to pass out. I knew I needed to absorb energy soon, or more like right then and there, but I was reluctant to call any of the friends as they seemed quite busy at the moment. Calder had created a next to impenetrable ice wall around us that despite its thickness was almost perfectly translucent allowing us to keep tabs on the oncoming enemy. Enya on the other hand was concentrating on making a river of literal lava, her hands buried deep in the earth, the markings in her legs glowing brighter than the now liquid dead field that laid around us like some extreme version of a water moat in medieval castles. Draven , however, was probably the one doing the most to prevent the enemy from advancing. He had created a veil of darkness around them. Like one of the plagues of Egypt suddenly descending upon them the Celestial suddenly found themselves in pitch darkness and by the significant delay in their progress it was taking quite the toll. Draven’s darkness wasn't like a normal night or even one of those very darkened rooms some museums have. It absorbed light, not even shining the most powerful lantern inside of it could penetrate it and the Celestials were getting a very good first hand desmotration on the kind of power the absence of light has and the chaos it creates. Hela was also helping, summoning monsters to go and and take down the already confused enemies aiding Draven who was probably already chopping them inside his nightmare world. Of Course it looks quite effective, but somebody had to give in eventually, we weren’t bottomless sources of power, and I was afraid I had been the first one to reach my limit. “Are you alright back there?”, Calder inquired, not taking his eyes away from the battlefield. I had to repress the temptation to answer yes, that would have been a lie, and we were a team, we had to work like a well oiled machine if we wanted to survive another hour and that meant being completely honest with each other. “No actually”, I said, out of breath, “I need some help”. “Allright”, he said, sounding all business, “I'll go first”. “No”, Hela protested, blocking his path, “I'm the one doing the least out of everybody here...I'll go first”. I had never heard Hela stand up so firmly for something, Calder however didn’t seem to be too impressed and I could feel an argument brewing, an argument that Calder would most likely win. “Just decide, damit!”, Petra shouted in a strained voice, as I ran out of energy, so did she. Hella, very wisely, instead of verbally arguing with Calder, simply ran around him before he could react, surprisingly nimble on her feet as she claspeed my sweaty palm in between her pale hands. “Come on, just take it!”. I swallowed something that was surprisingly painful on a dry throat. Well...moment of truth, I thought, I had to take her energy, I had to somehow control myself to stop when necessary something I was afraid would be even harder considering how tired I felt, how appetizing the energy running right under her skin felt. I didn’t even have to thing about, didn’t have to try without even meaning too I had already leached onto her soul energy, what kept her alive, something so sacred and precios it felt almost like breaking some law of the universe to take it away from its owner yet that's what I had to do...there was no other choice. “Wow”, Draven muttered suddenly, distracting me from the task at hand, “Guis look!”. Despite my less than efficient vision at the moment I still followed his pointing finger, taking me a few moments to notice there was movement in the trees, and even loguer to figure out that they weren’t enemy soldiers, but our own. They seemed to be signaling something to us that I couldn't quite comprehend, luckily Draven did because the darkness disappeared and the air was suddenly filled with bullets. It was quite literally raining lead, or whatever those bullets were made off, on the Celestials heads. I had since lost track of the few Handlers and Carriers that had initially tried to stop the waves of enemies right after we were almost killed by a bomb. They were probably dead, and I had thought those were the last of the support we were going to get, I had apparently, as usual, been dead wrong. “Look! there”, Calder said, sounding genuinely amazed, as several figures jumped down from the impossible heights and right in the middle of the hornets nest, it wasn’t hard to tell who exactly they were. Suffice to say the Celestials weren’t exactly going out of this world in the best maner. It was like seeing one of the recordings of our own training at the arena except this time we weren't the ones causing the chaos. “Our parents...they are alive”, Hella said with surprise in her voice “Alive and kicking mayor ass”, Petra added, suddenly not looking as tired and hopeless as before. “They won't be kicking any more ass”, Calder asway the pessimist began, “If the Desolation cach up to them”. Well that was truth enough, that was bound to happen eventually witch meant this probably wasn’t a crusade meant to take down the entire army, more like buy us some more time We all seemed to realize this at the same time the fascination of seeing our seniors in action suddenly evaporating and the cold hard truth of our situation hitting us once again. “Some people are running towards here”, Calder pointed out, “Enya let them through”. With a grunt she complied scrunching brow in concentration as she pulled her fire back and allowed a relatively safe path to form. I almost felt like melting in relief seeing who the people were, not real sign up until that moment just how much the uncertainty of their fate had been hanging heavily on my chest. Coach looked like he had gone through a blender that had been simultaneously on fire, or at least his clothes looked like it. His visor was so cracked he probably couldn't see anything through it and had to leave it up. Besides him walked Dc. Grace who appear to be in better shape but still beaten down, I couldn't imagine it would have been and easy journey here, and even less of a simple tasks to keep the enemy contain around the entrance area, and since they were here and the Celestial were here, that meant something had gone awfully wrong. “Is everybody alright?”coach asked, barely having set foot inside our little ice bubble after Calder had allowed him to get in by parting the wall as easily as supermarket automatic doors. “Mostly”, I admitted trying to stand upright. “Mostly is better than dead”, Dc. Graces added ,giving me a quick comforting smile that wasn't even half as bright as her usual self, but considering the sircuantace I wasn’t sure how she could still even try and cheer us up, she was truly an amazing person. “We will certainly be much better once we get out of here... alive”, Calder commented, making Coach sight. “We are working on that...though we are a little short on people...your parents are about ready to drop dead...they already went through a lot trying to contain...this...this damn thing”. He shook his head, looking tired, his eyes acquiring a far away look, one that only belonged to those who had already seen too much pain, destruction and tragedy for three lifetimes. “They are crazy...set off an explosion and killed so many of their own people just to break through the Terran’s emerald...I never thought they could reach that point…” he sounded like was no longer talking to us, more like ramblin to himself like a shell shock soldier. Dc. Grace placed a comforting hand on his shoulder which was enough to snap him back to reality. “The way...the best we can do is keep on moving, keep on pushing there is no other choice”. He extended his hand towards me, “Here Asher, take my energy, or whatever is left of it, it will at least help you for a little bit”. “Actually”, I began, refusing to grab his hand, “I have an idea to get energy, lots of it...and nobody would have to get drained”. He raised an eyebrow at me, “What are you getting at?”. I made a head movement signaling towards the oncoming army, “You think we could get those closer to here...maybe?”. He looked between me and the chaos outside before chuckling, “I like the way you think kid...I really do”.

I was now getting the energy I needed, but it was coming at a price since we had to allow them to get so close to us now for me to be able to tap into their souls. I forced my friends into directly engaging them to protect me and Petra who couldn't defend ourselves at the moment. Of Course the strategy didn’t work for long, soon enough the troops caught on and figured out where exactly my range for abosorsion began and kept well behind it. Which just meant somebody had to push them from behind. The other parent ended up being the choice for the unfotunable mission. “Something...doesn’t feel right”, Coach mentioned, standing close to me. I frowned, “How so?”, the way I saw it things were going way better than they had in a while. “They are acting stupid”, he saimd motioning to the enemy, “Barely attaking us, just standing there like idiots”. “Well..doesn’t that help?”, I asked, I really wasn’t about to complain about our enemies war tactics if they suked. “No...they are way smarter than this...something else is going on…”. The words had barely left his mouth when the troops suddenly began to retreat so fast it reminded me of the water disappearing from the beach before a tsunami hits. “There it is”, Cocahs said, sounding like he regretted being right, “Everybody regroup!”, he shouted, “Something is coming”. There was no resistance, not even a second glance towards our people from part of the enemy as they regrouped, around twenty Carriers, ten Handlers and of course all of us, the dragons and Halftlings. Not exactly the formidable army, but it was most of the people left alive who were trained to fight. “What do you think they are planning?”. Terran, Petras’s dad, asked, wiping blood from his face, it was hard to tell whether it was his or not. “Hard to tell”, Coach answered, looking worriedly towards my and Petras' direction who was still busy, not daring to stop for even a minute break. “But it probably won't be good”. The troops were moving back so fast that they were now disappearing out of sight in between the thick foliage of the jungle that despite the punishment the battle had inflicted upon it was relatively intact. “You think...they could maybe be retreating?”Draven asket always the optimist. “That would be wonderful”, Cocahe said, shaking his head, “But I doubt they would have gone this far, lost so many people just to give up now when they are so close to their goal”. He turned to look at me for a few seconds like trying to communicate a silent message, “Keep on going...the rest...let's prepare...I feel a storm brewing”.

Those were probably the next most tense minutes of my life, time itself seemed to become miningle as our small group stood in perfect stillness, our breath the only thing that could be heard as our eyes searched the jungle, waiting for the enemy to appear at a moment's notice. Then...like lightning striking, like the sudden eruption of a volcano, loud, powerful and fierce the enemy made their entrance. One moment we were looking at the jungle, the next it was all gone, reduced to little more than a few sad half detroyes trunks. The shock wave responsible for such destruction hit us seconds later so fast none of us had time to reach, the only thing that saved us was once again the Calder ice wall that was destroyed just as the trees had moments before. This hadn’t been an explosion, not like the ones they had used before, tere had been no heat, no acrid smell to combine it had only thrown us back and in seconds most of us were back on our feet, adrenaline making us ignore any pain from the fall our eyes widening at the spectacle before our eyes. No longer did the enemy look disorganized or walking forward with no command or strategy, in the nearly former clearing now stood what could be considered in every sense of the word and army a formidable one at that. Turns out we had been fighting with the simple foot soldier all this time, now I saw more, so much more, it looked like the big guns had finally come to play. There were guns, huge guns mounted on top of Desolation like battle tanks and other units carrying gear that I was unable to identify but that looked scary enough for me not to want to find out what it did. I saw row after row of soldier who were clad in armour much more elaborate than the what I had seen so far, and behind them came those who also used black capes draped across their shoulders, I may had been wrong but if I had to guess I would say this guis were much more dangerous than the normal soldiers we had been fighting so far. In short...we were screwed and all of us came to the same conclusion at once, our eyes turning to look at each other like, “Please tell me somebody has a plan”. If anybody did they didn’t step forward to volunteer it, Petra and I hadn't even gone back to diguing, the tunnel was more than halfway done give or take, but it wasn’t like we could finish it before this army was upon us. From the very back of the army a figure caught my attention as they stood on top of probably the biggest desolation I had even seen. Whomever they were, their armor was by far the most intricate but what truly made him stand out was that unlike the others his cape and armor were white. “Of course he would be here, that damned bastar”, Coach muttered from beside me as the figure took off his helmet revealing snow white shoulder length hair, pale skin and the ever present ice blue eyes that I could see even from here courtesy of my advanced senses. “Our queen is a merciful woman”, he shouted, his voice deep and threatening, somehow reaching us through the entire chamber. “That is why she had requested of me to give you all one last chance...surrender know and some of you will be spared and idmidiat and painful death” Nobody answered but our refusal to move was probably enough of an answer. “Um...who's that?”, I whispered over to Coach since he seemed to have recognized the man. “That the queen’s reaper”, he hissed back, “The most skilled and powerful Celestial alive...I should have known he would be here...it's been so many years since I last saw his ugly face…”. I could tell there was some past history between them but there was not time to ask. “Well then”, he said after a while, putting his helmet back on, “I guess we have to do things my way…”. Now he pointed at us, “Mark my words dragons, you lost your chance, I will tear you to pieces and bring your hearts to our queen, the dragon race ends today”. He extended his hand like signaling to his troops to advance but something stopped him, or more like distracted him, a scream so primal and fierzed I couldn't believe it had come from a human, much less the person I saw running through the large hole in the wall the Celestial had created. I couldn't believe it, for a second I thought I was seeing a ghost. “Die you bastards!”, David screamed unloading the full content of his rifle upon the reaper, the bullets bouncing harmless of his armor, Finally when there was no more bullets left in his gun he stopped, panting and growling at the still perfectly fine Celestial who didn’t say anything, only observe him before turning his back on him. “You aren’t even worth my time, go die in a hole where you belong, you filthy dog”. And just like that he went back to the task at hand, this time nobody interrupted him as he gave the command and the armier charged towards us. Coach took one look at the approaching army and cursed, turning back to look at us with a wild look on his face. “Form a wall”, he shouted, “Calder, Dorian hurry...the rest prepare to fight”. His eyes scan the few forces we had as everybody moved to action with frantic desperation, there wasn’t much hope in his eyes, more like cold acceptance, his eyes slowly showing the smales spark of hope as he caught sight of me. “Asher you have to do something”, he said, grabbing me by the shoulders firmly, “Come on boy...you can stop all of this”. I felt my eyes go wide as plates at his words, “I...I have no idea what you're saying”, I protested, “The only thing I can do is heal and fue-”. “No”, he said, shaking his head, “You can do more you…”, he looked at the enemy who was fast approaching, they would be upon us in seconds, maybe we could hold them back for a while but he desolation would be huge problem if they got within rage, the tunnel would never be ready on time. ``What did they do to you in the Counsel room?”, he suddenly asket. I wonder if Coach had finally snape and lost his mind, first he told me to do something about the approaching army like I kept atomic bombs in my pockets and then completely changed topics to something completely irrelevant in this situation, “They sealed you didn’t they?”, he pressed on before I could answer, “You can brake that come on...all it takes is a moment of extreme anguish this should classify as that….”. “I have no idea what you are saying!”, I finally shouted trying to pull free, “I really wish I could do something...but I can't, I really can't”. He scanned my face for a few seconds, golden eyes meeting silver one and finally sighted, “Of Course...I'm sorry, forget everything I said...just the desperate bablers of an old man”, he turned to look back at the army that was now crashing against the thick ice wall that had formed around us courtesy of Calder and his moms. Both were trying to maintain the wall by fixing any damage the ice received but it was clear it was putting a huge strain on them they wouldn't be able to keep this for long even as everybody else did their best to take out the enemies. His eyes scanned the army and something seemed to catch his attention, “I'm going out”, he announced, “The Carries with me, try and deal with as much desolation as possible". I thought of stopping him, afraid he would die but who was I kidding? We were all going to die either way. “Oh and Asher, Petra and Terran?”, he said, turning to look back at us, the wild expression having left his eyes replaced by his usual fire, “Keep on digging… we are getting out of here that's a promise”.

It was hard to obey Coach’s orders when the world was literally falling apart around me, the ice wall would be broken soon and the Desolations were getting closer. “Do something damet!”,Dorian was shouting at all of us, her once beautiful and perfectly arranged hair now dirty, burnt and caked to her face with blood and sweat, “I cant keep this up for long!”. Calder isn't doing much better, his face grimacing as he tried to maintain the quickly crumbling wall.I wanted to give him some fuel, help him along but I was currently not only fueling Petra but her father and with nothing to draw from at the moment I was quickly running short. I had long since lost tracked of Coach and the Carries, although I was certainly concerned I really couldn't spared too much of my time trying to find them around the pandemonium “How's it going?”, I asked Petra, who I could feel shivering with effort. “I mean...is it going well yeah”, she said in between gritted teeth, “Will it be ready in time? Absolutely not”. I was strange hearing such negativity from the happy go lucky Petra but then again people don't exactly act as usual when faced with certain death. By this point I had been close to dying so many times today I felt like I had gone numb not even caring what happened to me anyway, or maybe that was just the exhaustion catching up to me, like a hypothermic person laying down to sleep in the cold. With a huge crush the wall finally went down and like a barely contained flood rushed the enemies and suddenly everything the wall had been protecting us from hit, bullets filled the air, once gracing me on the right arm. I wince, the wound was surprisingly painful, it burned and itched like crazy and I could see the area around it turning pale and sickly, poison? this couldn't be good. I couldn't be healing everybody each time they got struck. “Asher”, somebody shouted beside me, making me jump as I realized I had been looking at the wound like in a trance. It was Coach, he looked even worse than before, blood pouring from several harpoon shaped wounds, but considering what he had just gone though I wasn’t sure how he was even alive. “You are going up the tunnel now”, he announced, “All of the dragon children, so get ready”. “What?”, both me and Petra shouted at the same time. “How you heard it”, he said and for the first time I noticed who was standing beside him. “David”, I said, huguign the older boy before I could stop myself. “Im okay”, he told me awkwardly, “Just...scratched here and there”. And it was true, miraculously he had managed to survive with little evidence of the hell he had been but thought. He was like a damn cockroach, refusing to die...to think I had once thought of him as weak. “All right, you're up, remember you are their scout, their life comes before yours”, He told David, who only gripped a newly reloaded rifle tighter before placing it on his back, took a deep breath and began climbing the vertical tunel. “What the-”, I began but had to stop and dodged a bullet, the troops were pushing very strongly against us, soon we would all be in close combat with them. “Calder, you're next”, he said, grabbing the blue eyed boy, who was looking rather pale from the straine he had put himself in to keep the wall up for as long as it had lasted. “Hu?”, he said for once taking a page out of my book. “Listlen”, Coach said this time addressing everybody who was within shoot, “You guys will begin climbing, the tunnel should be big enough by now that you would be out of range of the desolations and Petra will be able to keep on digging as she goes”. I could almost predict all the questions that would come following his statement, honestly I had quite a few of my own but he sush us all before we could even speak. “Not time”, he said, moving Calder out of the way before a Harpoon could hit him, “Now go, we will keep on fighting here for as long as we can...if all of you survive it will all be worth it”. The meaning of Cocahe’s word hit us all at that moment, we will keep on fighting here for as slogan as we can, he didn’t intend to followed us, nobody did, like it had happened so many times today people would be left behind to die and suffer to give us a chance to scape, this was goodbye. “Thank you”, Calder said, and I swear I saw tears in his eyes as he looked at the man ,who had been like a father to all of us, one last time. Coach placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “Nothing to thank me for...it has been my pleasure”.

I was the last up the tunnel, right after Petra. Coach had left me for last so that I could absorb the energy I needed to hopefully help her dig our way out. That also meant I was the last to see everybody who was staying behind, I hadn't seen Dc.Grace since she had gone out with the Carries, there was only three handler left and all the others parents who were fighting, sometimes literally, with teeth and nails to keep the advancing army from reaching us, if it was any consolation for my friend, in the end they had at least don't one good thing for their children. Gave their lives up for them. I felt a lump growing in my throat as I caught that last glance anybody would even see of all of them alive. “Don't worry Asher”, Coach told me, “We will see each other again...somehow, some place”. I hugged him before I could help myself, “I'm sorry”, I whispered, feeling like my heart was being torn out, how many times did I have to say goodbye, how many people would have to promise me they would see me again, but in paradise? it didn’t seem fair, why did I keep on living when so many others had died?. “Don't be sorry”, Coach told me, looking fixedly at me, “We choose to do this, but in exchange don't ever forget that is all we ask, can you do that?”. I swallowed the lump in my troth, “I promise”.

The tunnel, having been roughly built, had at least a lot of handholds we could use to climb but that also meant some parts were narrower than others and being that it already felt like we were climbing through a sewer pipe, it was quite claustrophobic. Dave was little ways ahead of us, why Coach had chosen to send him with us asn our schout I wasn’t sure, maybe because his small size would make it easier for him to climb or maybe because despite his bravery he lacked in fighting skills and was the only one that could be spared for the rool . Either way I was just glad he had been saved from the groomed end those below us would probably meet. I tried to chase those thoughts away from my head, concentrating on the task at hand but no matter how much I tried, the images of the dead kept dangin before my eyes like a gallery of ghosts. Above me Petra stopped, as Draven, who was above her, also came to a halt. “I've reached the top!” David called down, the sound echoing through the narrow space. “Okay…time for work”, Petra said bitterly, “You are ready Asher”. Careful to make sure I had a good grip and wasn't going to fall down, I extended my hand and Clasped it around Petran’s leg, “Redy”. Like a led light in a dark room her came to life and her energy began to spread up and into some place that I quite wouldn't’ see at the end of the line. I'm not sure of how long we stayed still, nobody saying anything as Petra worked. The only one moving was David who would also be the first out and fulfill his role as out scout. Even from here we could hear the fight below, our advance hearing before a curse as the sound of the battle progressively turned worse and screams of pain whose owners we could recognize reached us hitting us more painful than any weapon ever could. It was like the background music for a nightmare, a horrible terrible one that makes your heart race and your breathing quickened, pen that even as you wake up you taste bile in your torath and you no longer know what is real and what is not and that is the scariest feeling of all. All I wished in those awful moments as we heard the sounds of those who had been left behind being torn to pieces that this was just another nightmare, that I would soon wake up from...how many times had I wished that for in the past few weeks, how many times had I wished I could just hit a reset button and this would all disappeared? In those moment I realized something I had been trying to ignore from the moment I found my fathers bloodied form in our living room My life had turned into a living walking nightmare and I had now idea how to escape.


Even the light from the stars fell bleeding as I finally climbed out of the tunnel, my legs sinking over the fresh snow as I shakily got to my feet. My eyes scanned my surroundings, first my friends, all of them looking exhausted, shocked and hurt, but more than anything scared, the type of fear that you carry in your heart for life. Next my eyes moved to the landscape, we were on top of a small hill a good distance away from town which is probably the only reason why we managed to elude the Celestial forzed congregation at the top. The distance and elevation also allowed us to see in full detail what was left of the place we had once called home. I had never realized just how big the Den was, it ran under the entire town and beyond, but that also mean that with it collapse the town had been practically wiped out of the map the buildienand houses having fallen down into the hellbit that was all that remained of that place that had once seem impenetrable. With a sinking feeling I realized that what I was witnessing was the same image I had seen in my vision, the fire ranging, the figure moving among it like gods of the infraworld. Petra was crying, clinging on to Draven who was trying to console her and I suspected the rest of us weren’t far from also breaking into tears, what else could you do in this situation as you witness your world and everything you loved and care for crumble? We all new we had to keep movin, we were out of the Den but not out of danger, however, specially in my friends case through all their lives somehow had been there to protect them, the Den itself had been all of ours safe heaven but now...all us were completely alone and lost, feeling like the kids we were, young, inexperience and scare wanting to round to our parents arms, wanting somebody to protect us. The last image all of us saw that day before we ran for our lives was that of the enormous fire hole, of the figures among it that from a distance looked nothing more than shadows, but we all knew who they were. The image that would remain in all of our minds for years to come when we thought back to that fateful night was the shadows of the Celestials as they destroyed our home.

Author note: I would like to thank my one faithful reader for reading and also serving as editor, commentator and everything else lmao, very thanks (ill would bake you a pie but idk how to bake a vegan one) And yes I did finish this a 3 a.m, this is when the creative juice is flowing Anywho See you next book Get ready for: “Throne of Desolations”