Chapter 2

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Cinder readied her fighting stance, preparing to meet the soldiers that were rushing at her. Her blades crossed with the first soldier with a sharp clang of metal and she shoved him back and started fighting the masses. One after the other, they fell to her weaving blades and magic. Some she used as shields, other she simply stunned and dispatched them as they fell at her feet; none escaped the brutality of her fighting as she slashed, beat and slayed all who approached her. She began sending explosions into the middle of their ranks causing chaos to break out. The formation split and the apprentice desperately tried to rally them as he recovered from the magical attack she had sent his way. Cinder spotted a puddle of water nearby and decided to use it to her advantage by forming ice spikes, and then she volleyed them into the ranks; stabbing a few of them through the gaps in their armor. She sent more explosions out nearer to the apprentice who began retaliating with his own magic, aimed at her. Again, more soldiers were rushing her in two's and three's. It took all of her focus and training, while using her abundant capacity, to slay them as they came at her, while blocking the magical attacks of the apprentice.

The magical explosions drew Sebastian's attention from across the courtyard and he realized that a troop had come up behind them. Like a nightmare, he saw Cinder facing off with the entire troop alone and he started screaming for her in his mind. Cinder! No! She heard him but was too focused to answer him as she fought with her swords, blocked magic and sent out spells of her own. A feeling of trepidation began creeping into Sebastian's mind; he had just lost her and knew the pain of it. No normal soldier would face off with an entire troop of soldiers led by a warlock, unless they had a death wish; even if the soldiers weren't supernatural and the warlock an apprentice. But Cinder was no normal soldier; even so, Sebastian felt fear fill his heart at the sight of her facing off with them alone. He began fighting to get to her, instead of the gatehouse. No Sebastian. Get to the gate. – No! I must help you, they'll kill you. – No, Sebastian, everything rests on getting the gate open. I'm sorry. With that, she sent out a roaring line of flames, to cut off the werewolf soldiers from the troop that had come up behind them, effectively keeping them safe but also keeping them from coming to her aid. Sebastian found himself trapped behind a gigantic wall of fire, with no way to reach Cinder. Frustrated, he turned back and fought all the harder to reach the gate mechanism.

A larger group of soldiers came at Cinder and she sent flames onto the blade of her sword and twisted her body in a large arch, to do a massive sweep with the sword, felling multiple opponents at once. Screams of pain came from the soldiers as the fiery blade severed some of them in half and sliced the others open. More soldiers came at her and each one met a fiery death, including one who tried to flank her. She took a throwing knife she had stashed on her being and threw it, catching the soldier right in the throat, making him gurgle blood and fall on the other bodies at her feet. A moment later, the apprentice sent a ball of deadly energy flying at her, that stole her concentration in order to block it. She had to stop focusing on those around her, in order to catch the deadly ball of energy that was so strong, it threatened to break from her hold over it. Containing it she forced it back out, toward the troop of soldiers, near the apprentice. Another soldier rushed at her, at that exact moment, and she struggled to block him with her weapons. His strike missed its target but cut through her left shoulder armor and deep into her flesh. She screamed at the hit and blocked his next strike, to return the stroke and run him through. She sent more explosions into the troops, killing more of them as she shoved the man off of her blade, preparing to block the next man coming at her. One of the explosions landed near the apprentice, causing him to fall, giving her a little more time to focus on the large group of soldiers surrounding her. 

Outside of the keep, King Adrian and his soldiers returned the arrow fire, killing archers on the wall and holding their attention for the diversion. He was however, also loosing men at an alarming rate. He needed the gates to be opened soon or he would have to call for a retreat, and he couldn't bear the thought of leaving the troop inside to their fates. He saw and felt the explosions happening inside the Keep, the flashes of light visible over the Keep's wall were a clear indicator of magical attacks being exchanged. He had watched the two minor sorcerers fighting from the wall be hit from behind by liquid fire that stuck to their skin, making them scream before they fell from the wall. Even some of the archers up on the wall had been taken out by Cinder from somewhere inside the walls but now the magical attacks were focused elsewhere, somewhere inside the Keep walls. Adrian hadn't seen the apprentice, so he assumed that that was who she was fighting with inside the walls. He could only pray that Cinder was alright; he knew that as long as she was fighting, she was breathing and that had to be enough for him in that moment.

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