Our enemies arrived before she had finished. The army advanced cautiously, armor clanking as they marched down the forest path. Off to the side, heralds silently took position to observe and adjudicate the coming violence.

The enemy commander called out. "Kaltor, I challenge you to an honor duel. No other fighting shall commence until our duel is concluded. The victor will be granted safe return to his army."

Kaltor accepted over some protests. I was bewildered by the ordeal and anxious to join the fight myself. Noting my confusion, a teammate explained, "He's buying us time. We need our people back from Valhalla, especially our heavy armor and shields."

Kaltor and the enemy commander moved off to a clearing. They circled ether while both armies awaited the outcome. Swords struck in a flurry of thumps as padded blade met shield. Suddenly, in simultaneous death-stokes, both commanders lay dead.

***

Dagorhir arrows had padded heads that looked like giant doorknobs. They lost velocity quickly in flight, but were still fast enough to catch the unwary. One narrowly missed my head as I ducked behind our fort's ramparts.

Rose and another archer returned fire as the Dragons whittled away our perimeter defenses. As the defenders fell, Rose dropped her bow and cried, "Bring the wounded to me!" But our warriors died faster than she could heal them. I watched helplessly as the elf-eared girl engaged two armored warriors, only to collapse with a scream under their unrelenting attacks. They hammered her body with additional hits to make certain she was dead.

Once the perimeter defenders were dead or forced back, the Dragons literally attacked the fort, smashing and pulling at our walls. I had forced several attackers back with my javelin when a black sword blade swung over the wall and struck my arm. I howled in feigned pain, leapt backwards and put my arm behind my back.

"Warrior, you are injured! Come to me!" Rose called from the center of our fort. I knelt while she recited the healing poem.

Fey rushed to cover my position, now facing four opponents. As the attackers smashed at the wall, it collapsed inwards on top of her. She dodged, but her weapon was pinned under the branches. The emboldened Dragons attacked her as she attempted to pull it free.

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The last seconds of Rose's poem seemed an eternity as the enemy fighters backed Fey against an opposite wall. The moment Rose finished, I charged the four men with relentless fury. I hadn't noticed that Fey was already dead.

I managed to injure one of them before a spear struck my leg. I fell to one knee, and my opponents pummeled me with their weapons. I made an appropriate death-cry, fell over, and tried to avoid getting stepped on.

The heralds cried, "Hold! Dead, you may rise and go to Valhalla."

The fighting ceased. We stood up and put on our white headbands. One of the skull-faced Dragon warriors politely tugged Fey's javelin free from the collapsed wall and handed it to her.

"Thank you," she said cheerfully.

"No talking to the living!" a herald snapped with mock gruffness.

***

"Sorry I couldn't save you," I apologized as we trudged to Valhalla, the sounds of battle resuming behind us.

"It's bad luck to try and save me," Fey responded without elaboration. She had her own story, one in which I played only a bit part.

I broke character. "Some game, huh?"

She shrugged, "My last battle was better."

Jay Barnson grew up to be a videogame developer, and to run the gaming blog Tales of the Rampant Coyote, where he often expounds upon the virtues of indie computer roleplaying games. Alas, he never saw Fey again ...

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