It grew colder the farther Lucas walked. He had no idea where he was now, the trees grew thicker and closer together. There was a familiarity around him, as if he had seen this forest before. But Lucas could recognize nothing, just a simple feeling that plagued him. He had eaten little, only what could be found in the trees. Magic had aided him slightly, but ever since he had released on the battlefield it had felt raw, and uncontrollable. So Lucas shunned it, choosing instead to rely on his innate ability to survive.

So far it had worked, at least he hadn't died yet. Lucas sighed deeply as he looked around, wondering if he would ever find a path back to his beloved. He was certain that he could come back to her physically, but after what had happened, what he had done. Lucas didn't know if he could ever face her again. Thumping his fist against a tree in frustration Lucas wondered if he should just retreat into the trees, living away from all creatures. But if the Academy found out they would kill Trisha, maybe Hope as well.

Tears sprang up as Lucas realized they might have already, clenching his hands into fists tight enough to whiten the knuckles Lucas checked the position of the sun and began to calculate how to return to the Academy. Then he began to run. Leaping around bushes and over stumps Lucas made good time through the forest. However the farther he traveled the more familiar things seemed. Distracted as he was with this sensation Lucas almost didn't see the ground drop off ahead. His feet skidded on damp grass as he registered the cliff and tried to stop, managing only by grabbing a creeping blackberry bush.

Heart pounding as he realized what had just happened Lucas edged closer to the sheer drops and peered over, examining the rocky wall. It was tall and, judging by the ledges and rocky outcroppings, climbable. However it was what lay beyond the base of the cliff that drew Lucas's attention. A field littered with fallen trees, the long trunks of wood were devoid of bark and branches. But ivy twisted between the trunks. Ignoring the cuts on his hands Lucas released the thorny vine he held and started to climb down the cliff.

*~*~*

He remembered the field at the base, he had played in it as a small child. He could remember chasing X in wild games of tag. Darting in and out of tall grass and piled snow drifts. He had always been faster then his friend, but X was exceptionally skilled at hiding in the most unexpected places.

Smiling Lucas traced paths still worn through the now dead grass. He used to run down them only to have X leap out behind him, or perhaps disappear around a sharp bend ahead. Laughter would echo behind the other elf.

No such sounds of joy broke the silence now. Instead the field lay dead in the northern cold, each broken branch of grass weighed with glistening frost.

With fingers as cold as the frost they touched Lucas ran his hands through the blades, sending tinkling drops of ice to the ground. He made his way towards the village he knew existed only a few minutes away, wondering how much would be left after Istrali's destruction.

Logs were piled in the grass, behind them Lucas could see small buildings, or perhaps they could be more accurately named piles of wood and debris. Many of them were burned black and covered in a grey mix of ash and soot. As he walked among them Lucas remembered the sick pleasure he took in destroying everything.

Surprisingly enough he saw no twisted bodies in the ruins, there was no trace of those who had once lived there.

Looking ahead Lucas saw a single figure standing in what used to be the village center. Squinting he tried to make out who it was, who could be in the village of the dead. The figure turned and raised an arm. "Hail!" it cried out.


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