“Dance with me” said the man in the black cape, before a bullet blew his brains out onto the tree behind him. Holding the gun, Captain Raj Singh of the Indian Army. Gingerly, the veteran soldier went up to the dead man and removed the wand from his cold hands. Then, the Captain pulled out a knife with an ivory handle. With a snap, he cut the oakwood wand in two. Then, he tossed them beside the dead wizard.

“This is Captain Raj Singh of Agni Company. The north door is secure.” he spoke into his communications device. The Major General responded, “Received. All units, Operation Vinash shall now move into Phase II. Are all Companies in position?”

Over the next few minutes, each of the companies responded in the affirmative. As the last of them confirmed their position, Major General Shatrughan gave the order “Operation Vinash is a go.”

Inside the forest, the watch posted by the wizards already knew what was going on. The non-Awakened humans had set off every alarm in the vicinity. This was, however, completely unexpected. An attack by the non-Awakened was an unimaginable eventuality. There were ancient texts illustrating what was to be done in such a situation, but the present generation of wizards had never actually taken such a possibility seriously

Inside the large oak tree which housed the Awakened, Grand Vizier Yury had began the painstaking process of finding the texts that illustrated the required actions. He stood in the massive library, whispering and mumbling to himself.

Suddenly, his eyes widened. He’d found it. With a flourish he pulled down the scrolls, but his smile quickly faded. These texts would need to be magically restored, and that was a slow spell to complete.

“Time…” he whispered, “I need more time…”

His daughter, who had so far stood next to him, nodded. She picked up a war-staff on her way out of the library. Though she wasn’t an official part of the Security Detail, her father had trained her well.

Outside, the Awakened Corps had been getting ready. The forest was home to over 500 wizards, not to mention the host of magical beings that called the place home. Giant dog-like beings made of shadows, half-horse half-lion beasts and some white ghost-like monkeys all lived in and around the oak tree. For the past millennia, they had lived here, in harmony with the Awakened humans. These were ancient beings, this was sacred land. Who dared trespass?

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“They have magic” said Security Commander Jamal as Roma emerged from the oak tree. With whips, combat staffs and wands, the odd hundred wizards who had been trained to defend the oak had gathered in front of the entrance, waiting for commands.

“Nonsense, Jamal. They are not Awakened. They cannot use magic. It is those guns of theirs. Barbaric weapons, unworthy of a second thought.” Roma replied. Seeing how unsure Jamal and the rest of these wizards looked, she realised that they were afraid.

“Listen to me!” she called out. She knew she had only a few precious seconds. From the corner of her eye, she glimpsed Jamal. He may have been responsible for the protection of these lands, but he had never fought the non-awakened. He had fought threats from other worlds, threats that magic could easily deflect and horrors that were banishable by a strong mind and a potent spell. This was a different ball-game altogether.

“Wizards! I know you are afraid, but do not forget that we are superior to these invaders. A hundred of us stand here. This is your home. Surround it, take defensive positions, and dig in for a long night. As I speak, my father prepares the ancient texts, studying a way to annihilate these enemies in the blink of an eye. You are warriors of an order older than any civilisation those barbarians knocking at our doors have managed to sustain.”

Her word rung through the air. A little confidence returned to the faces of the Security Detail. Only Jamal looked unconvinced. However, seeing his men in slightly better spirits, he wasted no time in setting them up into positions. As the last of the wizards stepped away to the battle-stations, Roma pulled Jamal aside.

“You know we can take them, right? I was talking to the men, their doubts are pretty unfounded. A couple hundred non-Awakened against an entire settlement? If worst comes to worst, we’ll call the non-soldiers and children in to fight.” Roma assured him. She needed the leader of the forces to be strong.

“You don’t understand. I lied to them. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. Our watchmen…they’re dead. The women and children need to be evacuated. Your father won’t find anything Roma, take him. Run. Fly. Get to the Council and beg for help. It’s too late. We need to run..” a shivering Jamal replied.

“We can take a few hundred non-Awakened. Even if they have guns.” Roma spoke firmly.

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“It isn’t a few hundred, Roma! It’s thousands! Ten thousand at least! You need to run! Me and my warriors can buy you time…”

Roma stopped. For a moment, everything was still. Ten thousand against five hundred. Yet, there was a glimmer of hope…”My father will find something. Trust him. Trust me. We aren’t running. Wizards don’t run. Stay strong and fight.”

Jamal looked Roma in the eyes. For a few seconds, no one said anything. Then, with a new resolve, he nodded. They would survive this. The question that now loomed was whether the civilians and children should be evacuated. Without them the Security detail was outnumbered 100 to 1. With them, the odds grew. They weren’t much better, but 20 to 1 were odds even Jamal could envision a good chance of holding out in. If they held out for long enough, Grand Vizier Yury would save them. The ancient texts were made by masters of magic, those who had found the power to move mountains, surely there would be a potent manner of defeating these lower humans.

With a final prayer on his lips, Jamal moved into position. His war-staff in hand, he raised his arm towards the sky. A blue light glowed on the top of his wand. Before he could do anything else, however, a single bullet pierced his throat. Unable to even scream, he fell to the ground and slowly bled to death.

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