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Forest of Arlathan

.Meanwhile, in a distant corner, far from the Autumn Palace.


In the heart of Arlathan’s dense and ancient forest, Rohan and Galebor found themselves in a small clearing, their bodies coated with the grime of battle. Their Elysian armor, a blend of dark leather scales and metal reinforcements at the elbows, knees, and chest, bore the marks of countless encounters. The intricately crafted scales shimmered in the moonlight, remarkably intact despite the ongoing chaos.

Their soldiers were methodically stacking the slain foes in a grotesque mound, which would soon be engulfed by the hungry flames they were preparing to ignite.

Rohan, thirsty and weary from the ceaseless combat, reached for his water flask, the liquid a merciful balm against his throat. Beads of sweat dotted his brow, mingling with the dirt that caked his skin. His dark, damp hair clung to his forehead. The smell of ash and searing flesh hung heavy in the air, a grim reminder of the carnage that had unfolded.

Galebor emerged from behind a mound of orc carcasses, his own face etched with the signs of exhaustion. His brown locks were tied back in a nonchalant bun. He wiped his brow with the back of his gauntleted hand and approached Rohan, a glimmer of friendship in his eyes. “By the stars,” he remarked, his tone tinged with a touch of dark humor, “I’m beginning to think these wretched orcs have a particular affinity for chasing us through the most inconvenient of terrains.”

Rohan chuckled, a weary but genuine sound that echoed through the clearing. “It appears they have a penchant for making our pursuits a tad more picturesque.”

Galebor grinned, his teeth flashing white against his dirt-streaked face. He admired how Rohan could find beauty even in the most dire situations, and how he could express it with such poetic words. “You always did have a way with words, Prince of Shadows. Maybe you should write a novel about our glorious adventures.”

Rohan rolled his eyes, but his smile didn’t fade. “And you always had a way with weapons, Troll of Saydha. Maybe you should stick to what you’re good at and leave the writing to me.”

Galebor feigned offense, clutching his chest in exaggerated dismay. “How dare you belittle my striking and rugged features? You’ve wounded me deeply, Rohan. Deeply.”

Rohan laughed and shook his head, appreciating his friend’s sense of humor. “It’s a miracle any female can stand to be near you, let alone fall for your ‘charm.’ You look like a troll who crawled out of a swamp.”

Galebor tilted his head back, a mock gesture of pain. “You hurt my fragile ego. I’m devastated.”

Rohan laughed, feeling a surge of warmth and gratitude for his friend. He clapped him on the shoulder, his voice sincere. “You’re the finest warrior I’ve ever known, Galebor, and the dearest friend I could ask for.”

Galebor smiled, his expression softening. He returned the gesture, squeezing Rohan’s shoulder gently. “The feeling is mutual, Rohan. Always.”

As the two friends shared their wry laughter in the eerie aftermath of the battle, a soldier emerged from the nearby treeline, his expression a troubling blend of sorrow and concern. His steps were hurried, and his gaze bore a heavy burden as he met Rohan’s eyes.

Breathless, he approached Rohan, and his voice, heavy with a sorrow that needed no words. “My prince!”

The two warriors tensed, the playful atmosphere dissipating in an instant as their gazes locked onto the soldier. Rohan’s brow furrowed, a flicker of worry darkening his eyes. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

Galebor, too, leaned in closer, anticipation etched into his features. Unspoken worry hung in the air, casting a shadow that left them both on edge.

The soldier’s voice trembled, his reply laden with unspoken dread. “My prince, it’s your sister.” He didn’t need to say more.

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