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Lore: The Battle for Kyhlo (Part Three of Three)

"The gate has been breached!"

Mordakai felled another Zealot and turned around to see the eastern gates of the castle standing wide open.

The passage to the east side of the fortress was narrower, harder to climb and easier to defend from the castle walls. There had been men stationed there, but fewer than at the front gate. Now they all lay dead, overwhelmed by a huge warhost.

Mordakai lifted his hammer over his head. "To the guild lord!" he shouted, and he sprinted toward the open gate.

The other elite guards followed the big warrior's lead.

Just inside the eastern gate, Mordakai stopped dead in his tracks. On the ground, his head twisted, his eyes staring blankly into the sky as if he could finally see Balthazar himself, lay Burian. His fine white robes were turning red as they soaked up fresh blood from a wound in the man's chest.

Mordakai knelt down beside the monk. There was nothing he could do—all the strength in his arms, all the skills he possessed, none of it could help his friend. The warrior took a deep breath. Never before had he felt so weak, so helpless as he did right now.

"They've killed the clerics," shouted an archer from his perch atop the wall.

These words pulled Mordakai out of his trance.

The Zealots of Shiverpeak were no fools. Once inside the castle, they had gone for the healers first. The other spellcasters would be next, then the guild lord.

Mordakai gritted his teeth. With the monks and clerics gone, Ascalon's Chosen had no more healing magic left. Their prayers to Dwayna would reach only deaf ears.

Those who fell in battle now would not return.

Getting to his feet, Mordakai took the stone steps two at a time, leaping to the top to be greeted by the vision of a swirling melee. The guild lord stood on the raised dais at the center of the castle, surrounded by more than a half-dozen Zealots. Smaller pockets of fighting littered the open courtyard.

Mordakai waded in.

A pair of Zealots were attacking a Chosen archer. Mordakai wound up and brought his hammer around in a flat arc, hitting the first Zealot in the helm. The man flew sideways, his head colliding with the head of the other Zealot, and the two of them crumpled in a heap.

The big warrior took two more steps, and brought his hammer up, smashing another invader in the small of his back. The sound of bending metal and the snap of bone echoed off the stone walls of the castle, and another Zealot fell to the ground.

With his next stride, Mordakai reached the bottom step of the dais and was instantly awash in a sea of forest green and ice blue—Zealots of Shiverpeak colors.

A cry went up from the top of the dais. The guild lord had fallen. Mordakai bashed aside one Zealot, then another, determined to make it to his lord. But the invaders held their ground, buoyed by their victory over the lord, and they swarmed in on Mordakai, pinning him in place on the steps.

A spear pierced his stomach, and a jolt shot up his spine. It was as if his insides had suddenly ignited, and the pain moved through his body with the speed of a wind-blown flame. Every muscle seized tight, trying to push back the agony. Every pore tingled with the realization that he'd been mortally wounded. Mordakai staggered forward as the spear was pulled from his gut. He shuddered as it pierced his flesh once more.

His head began to feel light, and the pain began to numb. His burning hatred of the Zealots of Shiverpeak dulled, and a warm sensation, like a summer breeze on a sandy shore, took hold of him. His tired muscles felt relaxed, and the cares of defending the castle just simply slipped away.

The big warrior hardly flinched when the spear punched through his armor a third time.

As his body crashed to the ground, Mordakai's mind wandered. He thought back to the day he had left his wife and daughter to come defend the castle. He could see clearly Devona's face as she had kissed him goodbye. That seemed so long ago.

"Don't be sad, Devona," he said. "I'll be back before you know it. I promise."

His little girl smiled at him. "I know daddy."

The image of Devona faded, and Mordakai closed his eyes. "I'll be back before you know it." The big warrior breathed his last sigh, and collapsed completely to the stone.