Chapter 14: Death of a Seer
Table of Contents|
Chapter 13 appeared
in issue 135.
Andina knew she was going to die. As her horsemen charged away to meet the coming enemy, she realized what she must do. Renson stooped over, his silky robes rubbing softly together. The pearl on his ear glowed purple. Andina could feel the power wrapped around the man.
She could feel the radiance of the magic inside the small carriage. It was a small tingling behind the neck, a slight rousing of the hairs on the back of her arms. It almost felt like breathing and moving over a thin film of water.
Since this morning, the mage’s aura radiated power. His eyes were icy cold; his manner distant but gentle, and his voice was purely raw power. “It is time, Andina,” he said in that voice she knew many enemies would never want to hear. “You know what must be done. It is destiny that carries us now. Don’t be afraid. Death is always natural, no matter how harsh the experience.”
She felt tears come to her eyes. But there was no grief. Just hard resolve. “If it’s supposed to be this way, then I want the bastard responsible dead. If this should go terribly wrong, Renson, tell Palance to go after Ria Cervannes. She will make him happy.”
Renson stared at her flatly. For a moment his hard resolve gave way to compassion. “It will be a you say. The men out there are all as good as dead. By my hand it shall be.”
“Good,” was all she said before Kendel came to the carriage door.
None of the blood faerries covered him now. If he was ever just a warrior, he was more so now. His armor was polished and his cape was neatly rolled up in his saddlebags. “Madam, they come fast. My men have already engaged them. But we will need Renson’s help because they are thrice as many.”
Renson nodded his support. “You are safe by me, Andina. Let us go out and help your prince reach us.”
That lifted her spirits a little. Today she wore not her Seer garments, but battle gear. She wore studded leather strapped together at her back. She wore two daggers at her calves. She hoped she never had to use them. At her hip, she wore a saber gleaming with a jeweled hilt. She wore no cloak, just tight vestments that would allow her to move quickly between armed men.
Without another word, she stepped out of the carriage into the sunlight. Immediately she heard the sound of hoof beats. Kendel’s men stood ready at her attention. They formed a ring around her carriage with their weapons drawn.
With Renson’s help, she climbed to the top of the carriage where she could see over the entire field. “Turn!” she yelled. The men turned away without another word.
“Ready!” The horses to her carriage had been released. “We fight to the death! Never surrender! No Seer has ever been taken alive! Let us not be the first!”
She turned to Renson. “When the first sign of a red vest comes into view around that last hill, the rain will come.”
“I have already instructed the men to stay away from the rain.” Kendel thought for a moment. “If it does catch us, I have commanded them to stick together. Rally around the carriage should things go wrong. The horses will prove to work as a first line of defense.”
“Palance will reach us soon,” said the mage. “We just need to stay alive.”
“Except me,” she added, holding back tears. None of that now, she thought. She must be empty. It’s what they had taught her at Stonegate.
Renson continued. “When he reaches us, his aid will be everything. But he will be pushed towards the border of Corinn Ada. The enemy will chase him all the way there, until the rain has its own slaughter. That is all Andina and I have Seen. It is up to us to see them there. Corinn Ada is our goal. Forget Acrene Tarrynth.”
Andina turned away to the horizon. Yes, there they were, men and horses all in red charging towards her. Hurry, Palance! Hurry. I’m waiting for you.
And then she heard the first toll of thunder.
The clouds were gathering behind her. It was almost time. Just stay away from the wolf killer, Palance. He is dangerous and he’ll hurt you.
* * *
With the knowledge that someone had betrayed him and stolen his written message to father, Palance rode forward with all the fury of a legion of men. Eliath was the teacher of the Iinnin Lodar. Larson and Soulcryst were his protectors. He was their leader. Today he would show them why.
Gripping his sword, he held on tight to the reins of his horse. Larson and Soulcryst charged right along side him. He was charging at the head of his Iinnin Lodar, following closely at the heels of the enemy party. They rode like the wind, and as they gained speed, they went undetected by the enemy they followed so closely.
His sword took the last red vested horseman in the back. The man went down with a cry and was trampled by the following Iinnin Lodar. The man’s cry alarmed the rest of his comrades of Palance and the pursuing army. Many turned to fight.
The battle was on.
Palance charged forward, slicing his way through two more men. He felled horses left and right, spilling their guts and their riders down to the ground. By the time he took his sixth man, his arm was covered in red blood. But his anger was not abated.
Larson and Soulcryst were plows reeking havoc on a corn field. They left a trail of red and crumpled bodies behind them; two men charged by battle, sobered by duty, angered by the threat to their prince and future princess. Men cried out in pain as weapons took them in the side. Horses screamed in agony as they crashed to the hard floor.
Palance didn’t flinch as two of his Iinnin Lodar went down, their bodies crushed between two huge red vested men. Their arms were the size of tree trunks. The two men from the Iinnin Lodar were dead before they hit the ground.
Palance trusted his men to take care of those two. H felt drops hit his forehead and for a moment thought he was showered in blood. He wiped his forehead with a sleeve and felt more. Then he saw the sheet of water come down from the darkening sky, covering the land like a blanket.
Dread. It was the first thing he thought of. Since all this started, rain was something to be avoided, something to be feared.
He felt a blade whiz by his ear and it would have hit had the wielder not missed. He felt a grunt more than heard it and turned to find one of the huge men from the enemy slumped over in his saddle. They had made a try for his head and failed. As the man fell off his horse, he found Eliath staring at him.
“One more hill, my lord!” he screamed over the roar of cries. “There is a man fifty feet from here! He has already taken out ten of our men. They lie at his feet. It is there that I go!”
“No!” Palance yelled. “Rally the men! Make them aware of the dangers the rain holds! Watch it!”
Eliath spun about in his horse just in time to catch a rider in the throat. The enemy rider dropped the axe he was aiming at Eliath’s back. The enemy reached for his wound as a dull look crept into his eyes, blood spurting between fingers.
“Now, go!” the prince yelled. “I’ll take care of the skilled fighter up ahead! Go!”
With orders given, Palance charged through the sea of fallen soldiers and dead horses. There were no moans in this ocean of monstrosities. Proof that both sides had devastated each other.
Suddenly the rain came down. It began to thunder successively. One after another, a shard of lightning split the sky. Thunder rumbled all around. Then it began to pour. Clouds rolled in from every direction. Darkness. The sun was covered in a matter of moments. Deepening gloom ruled the land. It was as impenetrable as the darkness that replaced the sun.
He didn’t know why, but he felt compelled to get off his horse. It was too dangerous to be riding. He let his mare go free and watched it gallop away. He would see it again. Just as he would see Andina again before the day was over. Gripping his black hilt sword two-handedly, he charged off into the rain amidst a sea of red.
* * *
Palance was alone. The battle had moved off around the hill leaving him to search for this man that was destroying his men. As he came around the hill, he saw the battle roaring around the seemingly small carriage. Three fronts. Coran was fighting no more than two miles away. Eliath, Larson, and Soulcryst were all fighting less than three hundred yards away. And here, around Andina’s carriage, two small forces taking on one large force big enough to swallow them both.
With rage still pumping through his veins, Palance decided it was time to end this. One thing at a time, though, he scanned the battlefield. The carriage stood on top of the highest hill in the area opposite him. There were two people standing by the carriage, but he couldn’t make them out due to the pouring rain. At the bottom of the hill, he saw the real carnage. Bodies were strewn from the top of the hill down to its foothill. Horses and bodies, both in red vests and blue capes, made it almost impossible to pass through. The land was scorched here. It smelled like burned skin and hair. Small wisps of smoke still rose from the sprinkling rain.
At the foot of the hill where he stood, the fighting continued. Men in red and blue fought with steel. Cries made their way up to his position cutting through the rain like a knife through butter. Blood mingled with water as puddles formed. A rider on a horse in a blue cape broke away from the battle and made his way up the opposite hill. He expertly maneuvered his horse among the bodies and continued forward.
Was Andina still alive?
Directly below, he found part of what he was looking for. The man destroying his Iinnin Lodar stood at the bottom of Andina’s hill, his back to Palance. He was flanked by two men. All around him lay dead bodies that were once Palance’s companions. The prince counted fifteen.
Covered by mud and sweat, his steps masked by the rain and on going battle, Palance charged. He almost gained the element of surprise when one of the men below produced a bow and arrow. Swiftly, the soldier dropped to one knee, cocked his arrow, and let it fly up the hill, away from Palance, toward Andina’s hill.
It happened so fast. The arrow flew into the air and disappeared behind the veil of darkness the rain had produced. Palance couldn’t count the second it took for everything to happen. Lightning flashed and Palance was barely able to catch a glimpse of Andina on top of the hill.
She stood there with her hair matted by the downfall of rain. He should have known it would be her up there. She held a sword in one hand and was wiping her brow when the arrow took her in the heart. In one second, Palance’s heart stopped. His world crumbled before him as she fell to the ground, her body limp. Numb shock crept into his fingers. The rain disappeared behind his agony, as did the pain and the exhaustion from fighting so long. The thrill of battle faded away. Everything faded but the soldier that had ended his beloved’s life.
With a roar of bestial rage, Palance pounded down the muddy hill. Tragedy. Pain. Loss. Death. Andina! Romen Garrenson’s word were right. He had tried to stop it, and there wasn’t a thing he could’ve done.
The three soldiers at the bottom of the hill turned to face him. Not even the rain was enough to mask his charge. He splashed his way down the hill, unmindful that the soldier to his left was cocking another arrow. The man in the middle drew a silver lined sword that gleamed brightly in the rain and stepped back. His black eyes were cold and calculating. Palance made a mental note. That was the one man Eliath was after. The last man to Palance’s right had red hair.
The man with the silver lined sword gave his orders in a harsh bark. “Sherelyn, take him.”
Palance could hardly believe it. The soldier in front of him cocking the arrow was not a man, but a woman. So was the other, the redhead running at him now. Sherelyn was the red-haired one. The second woman, the one with black hair, the one that had killed Andina, let her arrow fly. On total instinct, Palance brought his blade parallel to his body and spun around. The arrow missed him by a fraction of an inch. He felt it deflect off his sword and fly into the hill behind.
She was the one he wanted. Woman or not, she was responsible for killing Andina. She would die first. Lightning flashed. Sisters? Twins, as a matter of fact. Then the other sister would die, too. Before she could cock another arrow, Palance was on top of her. Using N’evindor like a bat, he sliced across and cut the string to her bow. Keeping to his motion, he swung around and brought the blade over and down on her shoulder. The black haired woman gave a loud cry as she dropped her bow.
“Kill him, Sherelyn. The bastard’s hurt me,” she yelled.
The prince was barely able to duck down as Sherelyn’s blade missed his head by a hair. Keeping him off balance, Sherelyn pressed her attack. Her blade was of an exceptional quality, and her steel rang out above the rain as it struck Palance’s blade. Several times Palance had to grip his sword firmly or it might have been knocked out of his hand.
He was amazed at how smooth the woman moved. She carried herself better than most men he’d seen wield a sword. Her long legs made her quick as a cat and her long arms hard to hit. Palance worked furiously to keep her off of him. He parried with all the skill he had and it almost wasn’t enough. He began to wonder where this woman had learned how to fight.
As much trouble as he was having defending her off, he knew he was in grave danger when her black-haired sister joined the fray. She came in with brute strength, slashing and lunging, all while grunting from the effort. Palance lunged away from her only to be battered by her more finesse-styled sister.
The red-haired woman turned to her dark, beautiful sister. “I have been saving him for your enjoyment, Eliana. Let’s finish him, now.”
Copyright © 2005 by Julian Lawler