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With a gasp Eoryn turned and ran towards the stairs leading off the tower. He was running still as he reached the bottom of the Light Tower and ran towards the inn his friends had entered. Up ahead, he saw Lucas and Finiah walking down the street, no doubt searching for him.
“Ah, there you are!” Finiah said as his panting friend approached. “Where were—” but Eoryn cut him off.
“Finiah, there is no time! There are ROIbots coming!”
Finiah, his face suddenly puzzled, couldn’t reply. Lucas spoke, his voice elevated above his usually calm tone, “You are certain? You have seen them?”
Eoryn nodded rapidly. “I saw them from the Light Tower, and they were making towards the city! Finiah, run to my ACVOT and grab as many Double Blades as you can carry, and Lucas, alert the rest of our group to our danger! I will try and find help; meet me at the eastern edge of the city. Hurry!”
The three Kinrin parted, all three of them running in different directions. Eoryn headed east down a street, shouting as he did, “Alarm! Alarm! To arms!” The few Kinrin in the streets paused and stared at Eoryn, and several doors were flung open, the Kinrin stepping out of them looking startled and dazed.
“What is the meaning of this?” one of the male Kinrin shouted from a doorway.
Eoryn stopped before him. “ROIbots are approaching this city! We must gather and fight!”
“ROIbots?” A female Kinrin shook her head. “We need not fight them! They are good.”
“No!” Eoryn exclaimed. “They are coming to destroy this city. They will kill you!”
Several of the Kinrin burst out laughing, and most of them returned to their doorways. “Go home, lad. You know nothing.” one of them called before closing his door with a bang.
Eoryn looked desperately around him. Lord, I can’t do this alone. He again resumed running down the street, calling, “To arms! To arms! This city is being attacked!” Slowly, a small group of Kinrin gathered behind him as he neared the eastern edge of the city. It was only a handful of the citizens of the city, but the small group encouraged Eoryn.
He turned to them once they reached the edge of the city. It took only a glance to see that most of the Kinrin before him were older men around his father’s age, and some of them were unarmed. All of them looked expectantly at Eoryn, waiting for his instructions. “Kinrin,” Eoryn said, “I thank you for your faithfulness. How many of you are armed?”
A handful of Double Blades were unsheathed and held high, but it was clear that more than half of the Kinrin were unarmed. “Very good,” Eoryn nodded, “I have a friend coming who can supply Double Blades to the rest of you. We will wait here for him.”
“What are we attacked by?” one of the unarmed Kinrin asked. “Can we face them alone?”
“ROIbots,” Eoryn replied. “I saw them from a distance, but there seemed to be at least a dozen of them.”
A murmur rippled through the group. “Lad,” one of the oldest of the Kinrin said, “I would suggest that I and whoever is armed make with all haste outside the city and form a line of defense there. We cannot be caught here in the streets by ROIbots.”
Eoryn looked into the weathered face of the Kinrin who had just spoken. His intense blue eyes stared calmly back at Eoryn, and it was clear that he had been a leader in his fighting days. “Yes, that is a good idea. Lead the armed Kinrin outside the city while the rest waits here. We will come as soon as we are armed.”
The older Male Kinrin nodded, and he led the detachment of armed Kinrin down the street at a rapid pace. Meanwhile, Eoryn heard footsteps coming from the opposite direction and turned towards the sound. Lucas and the other Kinrin from the Inrelion were running towards him. “Why are we waiting here?” Lucas asked urgently as he stopped by Eoryn. “Surely the ROIbots draw near!”
“We are waiting for Finiah to come with the Double Blades. Have you seen him?”
“No.” Lucas shook his head.
A tense silence followed, and Eoryn started pacing. He knew that Finiah would be slowed with an armful of Double Blades, but he wished his friend would come quicker. They could not wait much longer, but without the Double Blades, their numbers would be cut in half. Finally Finiah came, running as fast as he could with an armload of the weapons. There was a cheer from the unarmed Kinrin, and they began arming themselves, Finiah passing the Double Blades out as fast as he could.
“May I have a Double Blade?” It was Lucas who asked this to Finiah.
“But you are already armed!” Finiah said, passing a Double Blade to the last of the unarmed men around him.
Lucas shook his head. “No, I am not armed for combat against ROIbots. Please give me a Double Blade.” For only an instant, it seemed as if Lucas’s calm face flickered with anger. Finiah, a little surprised, shrugged and handed him the last of the Double Blades.
All of them armed, the group started down the street to join the Kinrin who had gone before. Before he followed the group, Eoryn turned to the two female Kinrin from the Inrelion. “Nayele, Alena, stay here. If it looks like things are going poorly or if we don’t return, take my ACVOT and leave the city.”
Nayele’s brown eyes flashed. “We will not stay here! We can—and will—fight!” She unsheathed her Double Blade almost fiercely.
“No! I am doing this to protect you. Stay!” Eoryn said, his voice rising. He had no time to argue with the girls.
His eyes turned to Alena, and this time she held his gaze for more than a second. It seemed to Eoryn that she was searching him. “Nayele,” she said quietly after a moment, “we need to stay here.” This statement was said quietly, but it was firm. Nayele, who had just opened her mouth to give a haughty reply to Eoryn, turned to Alena and fell silent.
Eoryn stepped forward and handed the key to his ACVOT to Alena, and she said as she took it, “We will wait as long as possible; we will only leave if it looks like you and those with you have been overrun.”
Eoryn nodded and, turning from her, ran down the street to help in the defense of the city. Cresting a rise in the street, he beheld the plains stretching out before him. The loyal Kinrin were stretched out in a thin line some fifty feet from the first buildings of the city. The ROIbots loomed beyond this line. They were still a distance away, but they were rapidly closing the gap.
Eoryn ran to the front of the line of Kinrin. “Prepare to meet the ROIbots! Stick together and hold your positions as long as possible. Only retreat if our enemies shatter our lines!” Eoryn unsheathed his Double Blade, and those who had not yet unsheathed their weapons did the same.
The man who had led the first wave of Kinrin stepped to Eoryn’s side and turned so that he too was facing the line before him. “Soldiers, I see that many of you are my peers in age, so as a result, most of you have seen battle before, but I doubt any of you have faced a ROIbot. They are fierce adversaries, and they cannot be defeated alone. We must face them in groups of three and four, for that is our only hope of victory. Is this clear?”
The Kinrin around the leader nodded or voiced their understanding, and the man continued, “Let none of you give way to fear! Remember who we fight for, the one we draw our strength from. Let us fight for the Creator, and let us win his victory!”
There was a rousing cheer from the Kinrin, and they held their Double Blades high. Eoryn and the man who had spoken walked back to the front ranks of the line of Kinrin and turned so that they faced their oncoming enemies. The Kinrin were ready for battle.
Eoryn stood with Finiah and the three male students from the Inrelion. “Stay with me,” he said, looking at each of his young friends. “We cannot be separated.”
The ROIbots had come much closer, and they were now so close that Eoryn could make out their features. Their towering, metallic bodies were shaped like those of a human, but they were much larger, being at least twelve feet tall. All of them held huge metal hammers or a long, sharp piece of steel in their hands. Eoryn counted fifteen of them.
The ROIbots closed the distance, and with a fierce yell the struggle began. The ROIbot leading the group swung the huge sword he carried into the line of Kinrin, literally cutting two of the men in half. Bursts of purple flame from the Double Blades enveloped several of the ROIbots at the same time, and the ROIbots inflicted with the fire bellowed, their strange voices loud and piercing. Kinrin were sent flying from the hammer strokes of their terrible adversaries.
A ROIbot raised its sword and brought it down on Eoryn, who dodged the blow. He felt the heat from his Double Blade as purple flame arced between the dual blades and then shot forward into the ROIbot before him. The robot let out a piecing scream, sparks flying from its body as the fire burned any exposed wires. This burst of flame hardly slowed it down, though, and he swung his sword again. The aim was off, and the sword implanted itself in the ground under Eoryn’s feet, the force from the blow knocking him off his feet. Seeing him fall, Finiah jumped to his friend’s side and helped him up.
Meanwhile, Lucas sprang forward before the ROIbot could free his sword from the ground, trying to take advantage of this opportunity. He swung his Double Blade at the robot’s leg, and the weapon sunk deep. The ROIbot fell to his knees with another screech. It finally freed its sword and jerked it back, and the hilt of the weapon smashed into the back of Lucas’s head and stretched him flat on the ground.
Jalen and Kiran sprang forward. The ROIbot, still on its knees, was too quick for them, though. It again swung its sword, and both of the brothers raised their Double Blades to block the sweeping blow. They were knocked off their feet and sent tumbling across the ground, their Double Blades notched from the tremendous strength of the blow.
The ROIbot turned back to Eoryn and Finiah, and it laughed as it raised its sword. But it never got the chance to swing it. A purple burst flew from Finiah’s Double Blade and surrounded the ROIbot, and Eoryn charged at the distracted enemy. He drove his Double Blade up to the hilt in the ROIbot’s chest just as the flame dissipated from his friend’s weapon. The robot shuttered, but the hand not holding its sword suddenly gripped Eoryn’s waist. The ROIbot lowered its head so it was only inches from the Kinrin’s face, and a torrent of its strange, robotic dialect assaulted his ears. Its red eyes fixed onto him, and it squeezed. Eoryn felt as if he would be squashed in half.
Suddenly a Double Blade cut into and through the ROIbot’s neck, and it released Eoryn and pitched forward, its head rolling away from its body. Lucas stood before Eoryn, breathing heavily. Their eyes met, and Eoryn nodded his thanks. He turned to look for the rest of the young Kinrin around him. Jalen and Kiran had regained their feet, and Finiah stood unharmed.
The battle raged around them. The massive forms of several of the ROIbots lay unmoving on the ground, but many more human bodies were strewn about the plain. The line of Kinrin was breaking, and already many of them were retreating back towards Erailindor in ragged groups. The ROIbots also were running towards the city, squashing anything that got in their way. The group of young Kinrin was in danger of being cut off from the city.
“We need to get back to Erailindor!” Eoryn exclaimed after seeing their predicament. “We will be trapped alone here if we stay!”
The five of them ran back towards the city, running at an angle to try and avoid the ROIbots. They reached the city’s edge, but a scene of chaos met them. Here and there Kinrin stood in the streets, trying to fight the ROIbots, but the majority of them fled down the streets. The remaining ROIbots tramped through the crumbling streets, smashing buildings and people at will. They were overrunning the city. A wall of bricks came crashing down before Eoryn and the others, dislodged by the hammer of a ROIbot. Dust and wind flew through Eoryn’s hair as the cascade of stone slammed into the ground.
“The girls,” Lucas shouted, “where are they?”
Eoryn looked around desperately at the chaos. Alena and Nayele were nowhere in sight. “They are probably headed towards my ACVOT!” he shouted back. “We should head there too. We need to leave this city!”
Lucas nodded, and he, Eoryn, and the three others resumed running. They wove their way between buildings, taking side streets and alleys, trying to avoid the ROIbots and crowds of fleeing people. Suddenly Jalen shouted and pointed to two female forms running up the street next to them. “There’s Alena and Nayele!”
The male Kinrin quickly altered their course so that they ran onto the street the girls were on. “Nayele, Alena, wait up!” Kiran shouted as they approached.
The girls turned, and Nayele said as they approached, “Hi! You did a great job of protecting the city, huh?”
Eoryn ignored her. “We need to get out of here! The ROIbots are destroying the city.”
Alena nodded. “We were headed for your ACVOT.” She handed the key to the vehicle back to Eoryn.
“The ACVOTS should be just a few blocks down. Let’s go.”
Suddenly there was a scream from one of the fleeing woman. A tremendous crash followed, and a ROIbot emerged from a crumbling wall onto the street the group of young Kinrin was on. It was only forty feet away, and as Eoryn looked up at it, the robot’s red eyes fixed on his group and it made towards them with hammer raised. “Run!”
The seven Kinrin started down the street as fast as their legs could carry them, the male Kinrin with their Double Blades still unsheathed. The ROIbot had singled them out, though, perhaps because he saw they held Double Blades, and it trailed them doggedly, ignoring the other people that scurried out of its way. It was gaining on them.
Eoryn suddenly turned and led the Kinrin up the steps to a towering building. “I think our ACVOTs are just on the other side of this tower,” he said in almost a gasp. “We can cut across it and maybe lose the ROIbot behind us!”
He threw open the huge wooden doors of the tower, and they quickly filed inside. Finiah and Lucas stopped to close the doors, wedging a stout plank of wood between them. The group was little more than half way across the floor of the building when there was a tremendous crash behind them. The ROIbot broke through the doors.
There was a shout besides Eoryn, and he turned just in time to see Lucas charge the robot with Double Blade in hand. With a backhanded stroke the ROIbot met this sudden attack, and its hammer smashed into Lucas, sending him through the air and into the wall of the building. Lucas slumped with a groan to the ground. The ROIbot turned to Eoryn, who stood alone before it. The rest of the group had continued on some ten feet before they had realized Lucas’s attack.
Eoryn dodged the first hammer strike, and summoning all his strength, he flicked his Double Blade over his shoulder and leveled it at the ROIbot. Purple flame burst from it and surrounded the robot, keeping it from attacking the rest of the group as it bellowed in pain.
“Go! Go!” Eoryn shouted, sweat standing out on his forehead from the heat of his Double Blade. “I will hold it back!”
Jalen and Kiran ran to Lucas and helped him up, and the two of them supported him on either side as they made for the opposite door. Already Finiah had led Nayele and Alena to the door, and he stood with Double Blade ready to defend them as they opened the door for Kiran, Jalen, and Lucas. The girls, Lucas, and his helpers got safely outside, but Finiah paused at the doorway, looking back at Eoryn.
Sweat poured down Eoryn’s face now. It took a ton of effort to hold the Double Blade steady as purple flame poured from it, but he kept the flame tormenting the ROIbot, desperately trying to keep it from reaching his friends. “Go!” he exclaimed hoarsely to Finiah. “Lead them to the Crystal City!”
Finiah opened his mouth to respond, but no words came. He turned, head bent, and ran out of the tower.
Finally Eoryn let the flame stop arcing between his weapon and into the ROIbot, and he collapsed to the floor, exhausted. He expected his death to come quickly, the hammer of the ROIbot smashing him where he lay, but the excruciating pain did not come. Opening his eyes, he saw the ROIbot hunched over and having trouble getting to its feet. Smoke billowed from it. A surge of adrenaline swept through Eoryn’s veins, and he stumbled to his feet. Maybe there was time to escape. The ROIbot saw him making towards the door, though, and with a robotic cry it sprang forward and blocked Eoryn’s retreat.
The two faced each other. Eoryn was too tired to make any more flame come from his Double Blade, and for its part, the ROIbot seemed to be weary or wounded, for it did not imediantly squash its opponent. Suddenly it flung its hammer at Eoryn, and he dropped to the ground and rolled sideways, trying to avoid the heavy projectile. The hammer smashed into the ground and slid along the floor till it hit the wall. The ROIbot, now empty handed, pounced on Eoryn. It picked him up before he could regain his feet and tossed the young Kinrin across the room like a rag doll.
Eoryn landed part way up a flight of stairs leading to the next level of the tower he was inside. It was by no means a soft landing, but it was better than hitting the wall and falling to the floor. Eoryn, holding his bruised side, started climbing up the staircase. The ROIbot retrieved his hammer and followed after, intent on killing its prey once and for all.
Reaching the second level, Eoryn saw before him several metal cages at the bottom of a long vertical shaft. They were a sort of elevator used to transport a person to the higher levels of the tower. Eoryn ran into one of these and quickly shut the metal gate of the cage shut. The ROIbot scaled the steps behind him and slammed his hammer into the cage, rending a massive dent in the metal. Eoryn frantically grabbed and pulled the lever that started the elevator, and the cage lurched forward up the shaft. Another blow from the ROIbot made the cage shudder, and sparks flew as the cage was thrown partly off the tracks that guided it upwards. Metal screeched against metal as the cage continued upwards, and Eoryn desperately pulled at the lever, trying to stop the elevator, but nothing happened to slow the lurching progress of the cage. He knew that the cage could very well be thrown completely off its tracks and fall to the ground, and he also knew what that meant for him. He was already some five stories high.
As a last resort, Eoryn threw himself against the door of the cage-like elevator, hoping to open it and go tumbling out onto one of the openings to the tower levels. The door didn’t budge. Eoryn stepped back into the middle of the cage. He wondered if the dented contraption he was trapped in would continue to rise till it slammed into the top of the shaft then fell all the way back down. Eoryn shuddered and prayed silently. Lord, please save me! Help me find a way out!
Suddenly a tremendous rending of metal interrupted his prayer. He opened his eyes to see that a metal barrier along the shaft had shorn the front side of the elevator completely off. This finally threw the cage wholly off its tracks, making Eoryn tumble forward. He landed with a thud on a hard surface. He had rolled out onto one of the story level openings. There was a great crash in the open shaft besides him as the cage fell back to the ground.
Eoryn said a silent prayer of thanks as he stood up. Looking over the edge of the elevator shaft, he saw that he was a good ways up from where the remains of the cage lay at least twenty stories below. He began to turn from the shaft, but a noise caught his attention. Looking down it again, he saw two red eyes staring up at him. The ROIbot was climbing the shaft.
Eoryn turned and ran, or at least tried to. His body was bruised and beaten, and he could manage little more than a limp. The hall he started down had doors spaced at even intervals along the walls, but he could see that the hall ended up ahead. He turned into one of the doors, hoping either to hide or chance upon an escape route, but the room the door led into was small and dark. It had no windows or any other openings. Eoryn started to retreat back out of the empty room, but he heard heavy footsteps coming towards him. The ROIbot was near. He closed the door to the room and locked it.
He then backed into the middle of the dark room, waiting. He heard doors being thrown open in the hall. The ROIbot was searching methodically for its prey. The sound of the doors being kicked open came closer, and his door suddenly shook. The ROIbot bellowed when the door did not imediantly yield, and the door shuddered with the weight of a blow from the robot’s hammer. Eoryn backed up further into the room, holding his Double Blade at the ready. The door cracked and began to give way.
Outside the tower, Eoryn’s friends quickly boarded their ACVOTs. The vehicles roared to life. Behind them, a ROIbot slammed his club into the edge of a tower. The tower shook from the demolishing blow, and again and again the ROIbot pounded it, intent on bringing the structure down. All around the robot its comrades were likewise destroying Erailindor.
A cascade of stone finally fell from the ROIbot’s blows, and the tower cracked and began to topple. It was the tower Eoryn was trapped inside.