A homecoming

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The city burned but that did nothing to quell Galisai's pride of her people's tenacity, presenting a fight to the Treydolain invaders that would have been long remembered even if they had lost. Bruckin had always been a place about taking a stand and making a point, even in the face of insurmountable odds. King Guijus had evidently forgotten this lesson; they would teach it to him again.

When they'd crossed the last of the peaks and the city had revealed itself below, Galisai, Hatch and Stefan had provided critical analysis of the battle, possessing as they did a more intricate knowledge of the city and its defences than any of the Avii or their other companions from within the valley. As their new allies had flown to the aid of Bruckin, Galisai had led Hatch and Stefan onto one of the discs alongside a small squad of Avii, comprised mostly of polyants and adepts - not as powerful as those accompanying Tarn to the enemy camp but skilled nonetheless.

They had landed in the industrial district, near one of the arenas. Flying past, Hatch had spotted a large gathering of civilians inside the arena, apparently cut off from the main routes to the safer strongholds further into the city and forced into taking refuge. From the air they could see the Treydolain forces had surrounded the arena and were trying to break their way inside.

"If they get in they'll slaughter every last one of them," Stefan said grimly.

"Surely they'll take prisoners?" Hatch said, noting that there appeared to be few of the city guard with those trapped within.

"With everything that's been going on? Don't bet on it."

Galisai had ordered the pilot to bring the disc around behind the bulk of the force laying siege to the arena. As they disembarked, weapons drawn, she couldn't help but wish that Hachim was there. He'd always had a hope that they would find something north of the mountains, even though he'd never been one for unwarranted optimism. Even he hadn't expected to find a floating city full of magic-wielding outcasts.

As Stefan unleashed a volley of arrows, Galisai and Hatch ran towards the Treydolain contingent, who were only now realising that they'd been flanked from behind and were hurriedly attempting to shift their attention away from breaking down barricaded doors and towards their own survival. They fell with relative ease, many of them seeming poorly trained or inexperienced, certainly no match for the elite guard of Bruckin. The Avii team worked almost as a single unit, unnaturally aware of each other's positions and continually wrong-footing the enemy, the polyants opening up opportunities for the adepts to take advantage of, often resulting in the Treydolain soldiers falling foul of their own weaponry.

"If only Hachim were here!" Hatch shouted across the fray.

They'd made it back to Bruckin. For a long time, Galisai had not thought that possible; she had feared that they'd seen their city for the last time, and even to see it aflame and under attack provided a strange comfort: it was their home, and they were sworn to protect it. With their arrival from across the mountains, that was more than a suicidal endeavour: victory was possible. She's never felt ready to lead her own squad, even while Hachim had insisted she should - but, with her thrown into the role by fate, he had been proven right. Hachim had always been right.

"At the rear!" Stefan pointed towards the far end of the square, where Treydolain reinforcements had appeared, streaming from the side streets. At the same time, word must have spread to the far side of the arena, as more enemy troops started flowing around towards their position. Suddenly, they were hugely outnumbered.

There was a clank and a creak and the doors nearest to them swung open. "Get inside!" hissed a voice. "Quickly!"

They raced through, into the gloomy corridors of the arena's outer circumference, the doors barricaded once more behind them. "Thank you," Galisai said.

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