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And then the Primiad rolled over them and everything dissolved into a wave of darkness.  Van Joss quickly found himself moving without thought, fighting not for advantage but for mere survival.  His hands became weapons, his feet lashing destruction as he wove through the darkness, slashing through the darting bodies that sought to bring him down.  Time again flew as his conscious mind yielded to his trained reflexes, the only things that were keeping him alive.

As quickly as it had begun, it was over.  With stiffened fingers, van Joss crushed the windpipe of the Primiad soldier in front of him, looking oddly human as it fell back, choking up blood.  While it writhed its last moments away on the ground, the lean operative glanced around, looking for his next opponent.  And he found himself quite unexpectedly alone.

Not only was Longspear gone, but so were Kelly and his elves, along with the two Primiad.

A flicker of irritation sent a ripple along van Joss's jaw.  Then he shoved it aside to concentrate on looking for survivors.  If there were any.

"Longspear?  Salina?  Kelly!"  A groan to his left quickly captured the lean operative's attention.  Carefully he worked towards it, moving around the dead bodies and through the trees.

It was Longspear, pinned beneath the dead bodies of three Primiad soldiers.  Without hesitation van Joss pulled the dead bodies off of her, the last one still transfixed by one of her poniards.  As that body fell away into the darkness, relieved of the poniard, Longspear finally stirred.

"Oooh, my head," she groaned softly, leaning forward to rub it.  When she brought her hand back forward and into the moonlight, it was dark with blood.

"You must've hit it against a rock or a root when you fell," van Joss noted, glancing around cautiously as she shook her head to clear the cobwebs.  He didn't want any surprises while he waited for his erstwhile companion to recover her wits somewhat.

"I think you might be right about that," Longspear conceded with another quiet groan of discomfort.  "Last thing I remember was one of the Primiad throwing himself forward.  I tried to get my poniard up in time but he crashed into me.  Next thing I knew I was hearing your voice calling my name."

Her dark eyes, still a little cloudy from her blow to the head, then glanced around as van Joss returned her poniard minus the blood that had smeared the bright metal.

"Our losses?" Longspear asked softly as she sheathed it.  Van Joss frowned.

"Total, from what I can tell.  And they included you up to a moment ago."

"Burn me!" The Gideon operative hissed, frustration washing across her face.  "Kelly we could afford to lose.  But Salina?  She was our voice in the wilderness, our proof that our claims were valid."

"I know," van Joss began.  And just as quickly he fell silent as a soft rustling reached his ears.  On impulse he called out in the Primiad language.

"Salina?  Is that you?"

"Van Joss??" returned the extremely frightened voice of the Primiad princess from somewhere out in the darkness.  Instantly both humans heaved a sigh of relief.

"Aye, girl.  Stay there and I'll come and get you."  As he made ready to step back out into the darkness, Longspear reached out and grabbed him by the arm.

"Watch out for monkeys that aren't quite dead," she warned in a low voice, reminding him of an old Primiad tactic.  Van Joss grinned.

"You too.  And see if you can find the elves."

A quick moment's search through the darkness and van Joss slipped around the heavy trunk of a large tree to find Salina up against another tree almost as big.  She was practically buried beneath a pile of dead Primiad bodies.  She began to cry with relief and fear as he grimly began pulling the bodies off her.  And in doing so, he found Alinar at the bottom of the pile, a trio of Primiad daggers in his chest.

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