ONE: Battlefield

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Images flashed in the elf girl's mind. Swords clashing, plunging. Explosions hurling wet mud into the air. Limbs flailing. Lightning cracking. Her masters being thrown to the ground, dying. The look they gave her. And then... nothing.

Erya Sarula's eyes opened slowly. The first thing she was aware of was the bright blue sky. The storm must have broken, she realized. Then she heard voices. "General! We got a live one!"

A strong, male voice responded. "One of theirs or one of ours?"

The form of a young man loomed over Erya's head. He looked expectant and then he frowned. He stood up. "One of theirs, sir."

Humans, Erya thought, clenching her jaw. The elves and humans had been at each other's throats for more than a generation. Her anger dissipated and faded to sadness. If there were humans tramping over the battlefield, then her people must have lost.

She stiffened. Several pairs of footsteps were coming her way. "Are you sure she's alive, Corporal? They usually take their live ones with them."

The young corporal leaned closer to Erya. She jerked away, and he stood up again, addressing his general. "Yes sir, she's alive." He cast a glance back down at her. "Barely," he said under his breath.

The footsteps drew closer. Erya tried to get up and get away, but her body refused her commands. She could hardly wiggle, and even that caused massive amounts of pain. She closed her eyes. She felt cold, wet, and terrified.

"It's not by much, but you're right, she is alive," the strong voice said.

Erya opened her eyes and locked eyes with the human standing above her. He was tall and well-built. Blood still soaked the leather armor he wore. His short brown hair was swept up and help back by a headband he wore across his forehead. His eyes were blue and squinted with interest. He knelt down next to Erya. "Can you understand me?" he asked.

Erya could, but she just stared back at him.

He sighed and looked up to another person. "She's so young," he said.

"Too young," a new voice agreed. Erya looked up to find an older man standing next to the other one. She recognized the insignia on his uniform as the symbol of the human medical core. She was surprised by the kindness in the older and the younger man's eyes, despite the fact that she was their enemy.

She looked back at the other one and found the insignia on his uniform. A general. She ground her teeth. She should be fighting this man, trying to kill him, not laying helpless at his feet. A shimmer caught her eye. Under the blood on his armor was a small gold pin of a falcon. She knew it immediately. She should really be killing this man.

Her arm moved seemingly of its own accord. She grasped a dagger at her thigh and swung toward the kneeling man's throat. He move quickly and caught her hand. "Whoa there, I'm not going to hurt you," he said, making sure to keep a death grip on her arm.

"Seems she is not inclined to agree," the older man said.

No, she wasn't. Even though she knew it was a losing battle, that she was far too weak to injure him, she had to try. This man was the embodiment of everything she hated. He was a human, and more than that, he was the human prince: Fenton de Alvaro.

A shiver went down her spine when she felt cold metal on her neck. She turned her head to see another human man holding his sword tip to her throat. In his eyes, she saw none of the mercy of the other two. She dropped the knife, unable to hold it up anymore.

"A wise decision," the big man said.

"Put the sword away, Colonel Reichs," Fenton said. "She can't hurt us."

Reichs held her sword under her chin for a moment longer and then sheathed it reluctantly. "She is an elf, Your Highness. They have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves." Reichs glance suspiciously down at Erya. She scowled back at him.

"I can't believe she survived this," the older man said.

"I can't either, Martin," Fenton said. His head swiveled around. "Seems she's the only one from this group that did.

Only one. The words cut through Erya like a knife. She sat up in a panic, pushing Fenton out of the way. He stumbled backwards and then stood up. Her head slowly turned around her. The muddy battlefield was strewn with the fallen bodies of elves and humans alike, and her masters, elves she thought were invincible were lying dead in a circle around her. It was impossible, she knew, but there they were. Ten of the top elves from the strongest magical guild just... dead.

She tried to crawl over to the closest one. His veins showed in stark relief against the unnatural paleness of his skin. She reached for his face with tears running down her face. Atros. He had been so kind to her, even when everyone else looked down on her. And now he was gone. She scanned the rest of the circle, the rest of her masters. They were all gone. The men that she had fought so hard to protect, gone. Erya curled into a ball as well as her mangled body would let her, and she wept without making a sound.

"We should do something," she heard the young corporal say.

"No," Fenton said. "Let her grieve."

And grieve she did. For nearly ten minutes, she cried while the humans stood looking on. When she was done, she lay flat on her back, spent. She was alone, she realized. Her masters were dead, and her people had left her behind on the battlefield. Elves never left living soldiers behind. But she was just a servant girl. Perhaps she wasn't worth it. She used her good hand to grab another hidden knife from her boot. She closed her eyes and prepared to plunge it into her chest.

Suddenly, her hand was forced down painfully behind her head. She opened her eyes. It was the human prince. He had grabbed her hand and was holding it down, stopping her from killing herself. "No," he growled.

She blinked. "I have seen too much suffering and too much death today to let you hurt yourself right now," he continued. "Look at your friend over there. Would he want you to do this?"

Erya's hand released and Fenton snatched the knife away and stood up. Erya looked away, her eyes becoming heavy. The stress of the day was too much for her body to handle right now. Before she passed out, she heard the humans conversing.

"Can you help her, Martin?" Fenton asked.

Martin sighed. "I can try."

"Don't you argue, Reichs," Fenton snapped. "Help Martin deal with her, and for God's sake, keep her away from sharp objects."

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