The kingdoms’ coat of arms
Avian’s heart sank as he watched his friends’ bi-wing fighter plummet to the ground. He had to have survived. Avian thought. Even though the fighter was burning as it went down, he could tell that Soren worked hard until the moment of impact to put the plane down as safely as possible. The plane had gone down in the woods behind enemy lines. Avian felt sudden panic at realizing that if Soren had survived the crash, there was little hope that he would survive through the night when enemy forces would undoubtedly raid the crash site.
He knew what he had to do. He was going to get his friend. It was likely a suicide mission, but he couldn’t leave Soren there to die if he wasn’t dead already. Avian refocused on the battle for a moment to establish his bearings. The other fighters in his squadron were still engaging the drakes in combat. Machine gun fire tore through drake flesh and in return, the drakes would spew fire at their attackers. Avian looked at his squadron and felt a twinge of guilt at the thought of leaving them alone to deal with the remainder of the drakes, but mostly he felt pride. Pride for the unwavering bravery and duty they all felt for each other. They’ll be just fine without me. Avian thought because he had to believe they would make it, just as he believed Soren would make it.
Next, he drew his attention to the battlefield below. The armies of Balfore and Skaryth were beginning to leave the cover of their trenches converging on the central battleground. Gunfire transitioned from rifles to pistols and was quickly replaced with the melee of knives and swords. Through the smoke and haze, Avian could see flashes of light from exploding mortars and grenades. It was no doubt a nasty place to be, and he hoped that his friends on the ground would survive the fight. He spotted a small clearing behind the enemy’s lines not more than three hundred yards from the woods where Soren had crashed. Avian pulled the throttle, cutting off power to the engine from the quorr drive and shoved the nose of his fighter down sending it quickly to the earth. He had to land fast or risk being spotted by a drake. Drakesbane – the name he and his fighter were given by the squadron – had gunned down more drakes than anyone else in the Balforean Flying Corps. The enemy looked for his plane in the sky, in hopes of being honored as the one who brought him down. If he was spotted it would make the ability to help his friend that much more difficult. He had to stop thinking about it. Come on. Focus. He told himself.
Avian’s hands were tight on the controls and his eyes were directly on the spot he needed to land on. If he missed the spot, then his plane wouldn’t be able to stop in time before the tree line. He would either be killed or at the very least crash and have no way of getting him and his friend out of there. If Soren was alive, then there was a real possibility that he was seriously injured. Avian was as capable a soldier as he was a pilot but going up against an entrenched army alone wasn’t going to work out for anyone who tried it.
The earth drew closer and Avian began to notice the details in the trees and see the blades of grass swaying in the wind. His bi-wing dipped just below the tree line when Avian pulled up on the controls causing his fighter to flare, dropping speed drastically. Keeping tension on the controls the wheels touched down easily, and with only a slight bounce on the uneven terrain, Avian managed to bring Drakesbane to stop a few yards before the tree line. Before cutting the engine, he turned the plane around to face the open field. It was possible that he was going to need to make a quick getaway, in which case Avian wanted to be prepared. Avian unstrapped himself from the seat and hopped out, grabbing his sword from its secured mount along the external fuselage. He attached the sword and scabbard to the left side of his belt and made sure his pistol was still securely in its holster on his right. Once satisfied with his rapid assessment, he headed into the woods towards the smoke.
The battle had started shortly before sunset and Avian had landed his plane just as the last rays of light faded beyond the horizon. He walked through the woods in almost total darkness save for the moonlight. The battle was still raging in the distance. Avian could hear the sounds of machine gun fire and could feel the explosions rippling at his feet. The darkness began to weigh on him and he began to feel the fear of being alone in an enemy’s land. He reached for the quorrstone that was hung around his neck, seeking comfort from its presence. Sure, there was quorr all around him. It came from the earth and resided in all living things, but the stone, only a small capsule of quorr, was tangible proof of its existence and it brought him comfort. He could draw his sword and summon quorr to its blade, but that might give away his position to the enemy. He would only use it if he had no other choice. Avian walked deeper into the woods towards the crash.
The walk was only a few hundred yards, but the forest was dense with trees and undergrowth, so it was slow going for Avian who was maneuvering his way through the mess of it. The moon was out, and it was a cloudless sky, so Avian focused on the smoke that was lit by moonlight as it rose into the air. Soon Avian could see a dull flame, it was the tail of the downed bi-wing still smoldering. Avian felt a surge of hope when he noticed that the fuselage looked to be intact. Crumpled, but intact. The cockpit of the A-2 Bi-wing was reinforced making it the sturdiest part of the fighter aside from the engine compartment. Avian sped up from a near crawl through the brush to a sprint once he was within twenty yards of the crash.
“Soren!” Avian yelled as he approached the accident. It looked as if Soren had used the tree branches as a way to slow the fighter down before it fell through the trees and landed upright and at a steep angle on its nose. The wings were gone, sheared off on the way through and all that remained of the tail end was charred and smoldering bits of the wooden frame, but the painted symbol of the Balforean Flying Corps was still bright along its side. Soren was there, strapped into his seat. Avian felt a sense of relief when heard his friend cough and saw him open his eyes. Soren moved his head to look at Avian and frowned.
“You didn’t seriously come out here to rescue me, did you?” He said weakly as Avian already began to look for a way to get him out of there.
“Well, I would have brought the squadron but they’re a little busy picking up your slack.”
Soren laughed which quickly turned into a cough. Avian grew concerned for his friend when he realized just how beat up he looked.
“I’m going cut your harness and pull you out. Is there anything that hurts particularly worse than the rest?” Avian asked in earnest, but it caused another laughing coughing fit from Soren.
“Nope! I’d say it all hurts pretty damn bad.”
Avian gave him a sympathetic look.
“Just do what you’re going to do. I won’t hold it against you.”
“Because you know that’s what I’m worried about most,” Avian said with a smile and began cutting the harness with a little foldout knife he had on his belt. It didn’t take much before Soren was free and Avian wrapped his arms around Soren’s chest.
“I’m going to pull you out now. Ready?”
“OK. One two three, up!” Avian heaved with all his strength and Soren did all he could to lift himself out of the crumpled cockpit, screaming as they went – partially out of pain and partially for the sheer motivation that comes from screaming at the top of your lungs. Avian tried his best not to drop his friend after the force he put into pulling him out, but in the end, he lost balance despite his best efforts and they both ended up on the ground.
“Hell of a rescue, Avian.” Said Soren checking his waist and legs for injuries and mobility.
“You’re welcome. Glad I could help.” Avian sat up and scanned the area thinking that he might have heard voices in the distance.
“Don’t worry. No one saw just how weak you are.”
“Ha ha.” Said Avian. “Just making sure no Skaryn’s get the better of us. That would end this rescue really quick.” It was dark except for the dull moonlight shining between the breaks in the trees. The sounds of the battle could still be heard in the distance and the ground still vibrated under them from the shocks of explosions, but Avian could make out a sound that was separate from the battle. It was the sounds of enemy troops, and if Avian was right they were getting closer and they had a drake with them.
“Avian.” Soren’s tone was serious for the first time since finding him and it caused Avian to look at him in earnest. Soren was holding his left leg and when Avian looked at it closer he could see the bone sticking out of the skin. Avian grimaced.
“That’s not the only problem,” Said Soren. “A few of my ribs are broken as well as my left arm. I’m beaten up pretty bad, Avian.”
Avian felt immense sorrow for his friend’s condition, but he also felt a deep sense of dread. If they were going to get out of there together, then he would have to carry his friend the whole way and fast.
# # #
The short grass crunched under the boots of Magnus’s men as they made their way from the staging area to the frontlines. It was dark, save for the pale moonlight. There were twenty men in all, and they marched columns of two, with Magnus in the lead. The fighting had gone on for several hours and the commanders at the front began asking for reinforcements to fill the holes developing in the line. Magnus and his platoon were amongst the first sent out to help reinforce the line. It was a call that Magnus couldn’t wait to get.
Unlike most, he and his men were hoping to be positioned at the front for the initial attack. But he and his men weren’t from Skaryth. They were part of the Remnant sent to aid Skaryth in the fight against the quorr abusing forces of Balfore. Skaryth might not have cared about the use of quorr, but their military was inferior to Balfore’s and so they welcomed the aid from pretty much anyone. It was, however, the Remnant’s prime directive to eradicate the use of quorr as well as all quorr summoners, and Skaryth didn’t mind that so long as their enemies at the border were defeated. This war, however, was more than just a job for Magnus, it was personal. The queen of Balfore had his daughter and he was going to get her back. It didn’t matter how many enemy soldiers he would have to kill. Once Balfore lost the war, their queen would be forced to release her.
“Sir!” called the platoon sergeant pointing at the line of trees in the distance.
“Did you see that? It looked like a plane went down in the woods up ahead.”
“Avian and the Dragon”
Artwork credit goes to my friend, Micah Brown.
“Thrall” The enemy stronghold
Artwork credit goes to my friend, Micah Brown.
“Ashburg” one of Balfore’s frontline cities
Artwork credit goes to my friend, Micah Brown.