Blonde Archer

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
David Lighte in his war against the Barbarian Wizard Krohl, utilizes the skills of a Elaine Archer to get information that is vital to his cause.

Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Archer

By David Grape

 

 

The Kingdom of Fen was currently engaged in a war for dominance.  The ancient barbarian wizard Krohl had breached the ward on the Stone Mountains set by the head of the Fencrye David Lighte himself. 

 Now King Ghallamhuire the and the Northern kingdoms were entrenched in a war that had waged for the last two years. The minions of Krohl were called the Silent ones due to the fact they made no noise. Not in battle; not in death. The eerie silence as they charged human armies was disturbing.

Elaine had witnessed it herself once.

 The Silent Ones were creations of Krohl himself and they were reanimated by a gem set in their forehead.  As long as the gem remained imbedded in the flesh of the Silent ones they were unable to be killed. Northern armies had figured that out and decapitating the minions had worked for a while, and they had beat back the barbarians minions.

 Several months ago Krohl had immerged from beyond the Stone Mountains at the head of a new army of Silent Ones containing six stones set all through their flesh. One on each limb, one in the center of the torso and one in the forehead. He had advanced straight on the capitol city of Doth.

 The Northern Armies advance had foundered and then fell apart as the Minions of the South had rolled through their defenses. General Reebhak was the in charge of the most advance army of the Silent ones.

 Even when decapitated, headless bodies would rise up and strike soldiers in the back, severed limbs would trip and drag down the foot soldiers.

 It was at this time of no hope David Lighte had returned from a quest to re-forge his legendary ax Naethryn.  He had appeared outside the city walls ahead of Krohl and had went straight to the king. Unfortunately due to bad blood between

Lighte and members of the council the Kings ear had already been bent to their side. The King and the council had scoffed and declared it too little to late.

 Krohl broke off with a smaller group of his minions numbering at about two hundred to arrive at the capitol city gates several days ahead of his main army. Little was known about what had been said in the council chambers, but it was common knowledge that when  Lighte had heard the news of Kohl’s arrival he had stormed from the room in a blood rage his Halo glowing like a beacon and headed straight for the wall.  The songs sung about that moment had likened him unto a blue meteor of retribution falling from the sky. Lighte had leapt from the wall, Naethryn clasped in both hands and landed amidst the Silent Ones. It was then discovered the power of his weapon. Whatever magic Krohl was using to control the gems set in the flesh of his minions, it was countered by Naethryn’s presence on the field. When a Silent One was slain while Naethryn was on the battle field it stayed dead. Lighte had slain the two hundred Silent Ones down to the last one, and they stayed dead. After a brief clash between Lighte and Krohl himself the barbarian wizard had escaped and returned to his army.

 As word of his legendary charge had spread Lighte had gathered the broken remains of the army and re-united them

behind a miraculous drive forward shattering the advancement of Krohl s army.

 Now the Armies were at a standstill. Lighte could not be every where, nor could Krohl. They had played a cat and mouse game of feints and withdrawals trying to trick the other into committing to a battle, however Krohl had managed to slip around Lighte’s army with small forces and while Lighte was engaged with Silent ones that would stay dead anyway, Krohl would wreak havoc on the countryside around him burning villages and settlements.

 General Reebhak’s arrival last month had spelled doom for the Northern Armies. Minions fighting with General Reebhak reanimated the same as those with Krohl.  General Reebhak was the in charge of the most advance army of the Silent ones.

 One thing was clear, with General Reebhak, Krohl could now coordinate attacks when Lighte was not on the field.

 General Reebhak would have to die.

#

Darkness had settled around her like a familiar cloak when she finally spotted movement on the plains below her. Crouched in the upper branches of the majestic oak tree she slowly drew her bow and sighted in on the last of the group of five. The horsemen continued riding unaware they were in the final moments of their evil lives.

 As her bow string came taut she felt, more than saw, her target. She focused on him and then bore down with her mind opening a void in the space between them. The void would only be filled by her arrow. The void seemed alive in its drawing of her arrow but her arms did not shake as she held off the pull of the rift as it seemed to scream like a craving in her mind. She let it build and felt the drawing strengthen, giving it time to build. She had five shots to make and once she opened the rift the longer she held it open without releasing her shot the stronger it would build until just one shot would not fill it.

 Her bow make a quiet whispering noise as she loosed her first arrow. The silencers on the string kept it from making the familiar twang associated with her weapon of choice. The empty rift in between her target and her arrow greedily pulled the arrow forward at a blinding speed. The shot was easily over three hundred yards, however space and time did not matter to the void. The arrow appeared in the chest of the last bandit almost as soon as she had released it. Her next arrow was nocked and her bow was bent without her having to think about it. The void was still there hungry and screaming in her ears  for its next arrow. She moved her focus onto the next target and loosed.

 Its brother appeared in the chest of the next rider. The horse reared as it current passenger pitched backwards and spooked forward. By the time the horse‘s front hooves hit dirt again two more arrows had found their home leaving the lead man looking back in bewildered surprise at the complete destruction of his crew. A sudden thud in his chest brought his attention back to himself and he found himself curiously lying face up in the dirt looking at the arrow that had suddenly sprouted from his chest. He had no more time to ponder this when a sudden wrenching pulled his soul from his body into a void and sent it spinning up into the trees surrounding the edge of the plain.

 Elaine gritted her teeth and closed her eyes in anticipation of the darkness slamming back into her.

 The magic she had discovered within her while she was still an adolescent had a nasty side effect. The void she created was demanding in its need to be filled. As her arrows would find their mark, they would release the souls of her targets and they would be sucked into the void, and back into her. It was a trade off. The void would carry her arrows to their mark, but it would carry back the negative energy of the souls she had just released.

  She felt a rush of darkness flood her mind as the evil released fom the men filled the void created by her arrows

flight and slammed backward into her.  A breath of a prayer escaped her lips in a whisper as she was deluged by darkness and memories of atrocities committed by the men she had just killed.

 This was anticipated however and she had already mentally prepared herself. Taking everything about herself that was defining and made her who she was she had locked it away in a dark corner of her mind. Leaving only the archer side of herself loose in her mind to carry out the task at hand. The archer side of her was feral and instinctual enough not to be corrupted by the flood of evil memories and negative energies that poured into her mind. Flashes of faces, and conversations spun through her mind in no pattern until she forced them back and left them to shift and simmer in the back of her mind like a caged animal. As the archer in her once more dominated her mind she opened her eyes and grinned into the darkness.

 Silence returned as the horses footsteps retreated into the distance.  Elaine swung lithely down from the branches, dropping the last ten feet to land on her feet in a catlike crouch. She dropped to one knee and rested her hands flat on the ground in front of her. She stayed this was for several minutes, centering herself. She then opened her mind and released the darkness and memories into the earth. She felt

the ground shudder as plant roots withdrew from the area below and around her. So much evil was incomparable to the energies of mother earth however and they were slowly siphoned out of her mind and replaced with an influx of powerful energies from the life around her. As the last of the darkness within her slowly filtered into the soil beneath her she felt a measure of peace return. Still kneeling with her hands flat on the ground she reached inside and released the lock on the mental barriers around her identity and memories allowing them to flood her mind with everything she kept locked up while on a hunt. Once more her mind was flooded with voices, faces, conversations and emotions but this time it was from her life. She smiled as familiar images flashed through her head. It felt like coming home. She opened her eyes again and stood.

  The ability to section off her mind was crucial to her skill. For several years when she was younger she had carried around the memories of all the men she had killed, each one corrupting her mind with every addition. Those had been dark times, each kill taking her closer to the darkness swirling in her mind. Kills had been indiscriminate and she had sunken into the evil shroud building in her mind. The breaking point had come when a job had gone wrong and she had been wounded. She had dragged herself into the wilderness to die, but fortune had smiled upon and a kindly shaman monk had chanced upon her. He revived her body and taught her about the positive and negative energies in the world. Under his guidance she had learned how to control her mind and section off what she needed and hide the goodness inside herself so it could not be corrupted by what was pulled back from the void.

Brushing dirt from her hands she made her way slowly down to the bodies. As the moon peeked out from behind a cloud it bathed the scene in a white ghostly light, highlighting everything with silver shadows.

 No wind stirred the plains and the grasses around the bodies bent slightly away from where they lay  allowing her to move directly to them.

 She bent over the first and removed her arrow with a sharp tug. The arrow came loose with a ripping sound allowing trickles of blood to gurgle to the ground. She wiped what she could on the bodies and returned the arrow to the left side of her quiver to be cleaned later. Touching the body as little as possible she pilfered what he had in his pockets. Moving to the other bodies she repeated the procedure, with the exception of one. She pulled a curious looking bladed weapon from her belt and removed the hand of one of the bandits, this she stuffed into at oilcloth sack and tied to her belt.

 Her employer would be interested in the tattoo on the back of the hand.

 When she was finished she moved back to the woods. Several hundred feet in she stopped at the small creek she had discovered earlier that day and cleaned her weapons. Removing all traces of blood and flesh she dried her arrows with a soft cloth, and then wiped down the tips with a oily cloth to prevent them from rusting. When this was finished she removed the stained cloth from the bottom of the left side of her quiver and digging a hole at the side of the creek that filled with water she used a stone to hold the cloth under the water and then filled the hole back in.

 Next she cleaned her bladed weapon with as much care and returned it to the sheath on her back.

 She splashed cold water over her face and stared into the reflection for a moment lost in thought as water dripped from her face and rippled the surface of the water.

 The face looking back at her was nothing short of stunning in its breathtaking beauty.  Her eyes were startlingly brilliant and almond shaped. Long full eyelashes highlighted them even more.  High cheekbones, and an aquiline nose accented her full bow shaped lips that she had a habit of pursing when she was deep in thought.

  Right now she was pursing her lips. She sat back on her heels and reached back to untie her hair shaking it loose. Spun gold dropped from the nape of her neck to cascade around her shoulders.

 Elaine leaned her head back and sighed in contentment. Jobs like this were a rare treasure.  Only too often she found her marks in the city and carried the burden of their darkness until she could retreat to the wilderness and cleanse her mind.

 Now she had at least a day before she was expected back and she fully intended to find a quiet treetop and sleep for most of it.

 Smiling in anticipation she stood, retying her hair and taking stock of her gear. Once she was satisfied everything was secure and in place she turned and vanished into the woods.

 Out on the plains a single breath of air rustled the grass as a small feral cat crept out of the woods to sniff at the bodies.

#

 “I cannot stress the importance of this job.”

 Elaine mentally rolled her eyes. They all said that. Outwardly she retained a respectfully arched brow and nodded her head for the man seated across from her in the bustling tavern to continue.

 They were seated in a corner table where they both had a view of the room in front of them. It was midday and the place was busy. Servers shuffled back and forth hurriedly filling tankards and carrying tray of food. Men laughed and talked, no one paid any attention to the quiet couple in the back corner.

 “Your targets name is General Reebhak.”

 Despite herself she was startled, but again no sign of it showed on her face.

  Elaine’s mind spun. This job had to have come directly from King Ghallamhuire himself…or David Lighte.

But why did they want her?

 She refocused on what the man was saying beside her.

 “-comes down to this. Probably the only remaining hope for the Northern armies. My livelihood is directly affected by this. Trade routes have been disrupted,  prices have gone up-”

 She wanted to know who was really behind this. Putting out a contract on the general was beyond a simple merchant. Elaine interrupted him.

 “Stop.”

 He was instantly quiet.

 “I want to know who I am really working for.”

The man fumbled his words and then nervously coughed. “I - well, I was told not to reveal that, however,” He hurried on at the dark look that crossed Elaine face,  “It might be best if they dealt with you personally, I will convey your request.”

 Elaine’s smile was frosty, “Why don’t you do that.”

 The man rose swiftly and bowing his apologies, rushed from the room.

 Elaine sighed and finished her drink. Nothing was ever simple.

 Earlier that day she had arrived in the town met with her previous employer and been paid. From him she had gotten the name of this man that had a job for her. She had never worked with him before and this explained why. He was a front for someone else. Someone much more powerful.

Her mind kept returning to David Lighte.

 He did not conform to the same rules as those in power. He seemed to genuinely believe in his cause and was not to be deterred by the misguided agendas of corrupt politics. As a Fencrye and possibly the most powerful member of the Mage Warrior sect, he could very easily use this power to bend the rules. However he had never done this always fighting for equality in the ruling power heads.

 Her mind went over the magic wielded by the members of the

Fencrye. All inhabitants of Doth had access to magic of some type, be it earth magic, arcane or as in the case of the Fencrye magic garnered from the energies of the human emotions. A Fencrye when wielding his power was protected by his Halo. A blue light sheathed the Fencrye from head to toe, enhancing their movement speed and strength. Their reflexes were almost godlike and they felt no fatigue the entire time they were cloaked in their Halo. The power was pulled from their emotions. The power of the Fencrye was not something that could be learned. They were born with it.

 An angry Fencrye was a force to be reckoned with. 

#

 The man was back in ten minutes looking very out of breath and slightly sweaty.

 “He says he will meet, but he will be a few minutes. “

 Elaine nodded and leaned back in her chair. The merchant moved to sit but she held up her empty mug and smiled coyly at him.

 He took it and went to refill it, looking flustered by her smile.

 Her beauty was one of her most important tools when it came to dealing in close quarters assassinations. Her smile when accented with a little of enamoring magic would dazzle simple minded peons and had helped her out in many situations. She did not rely on it, but it had its uses.

 The merchant returned with her drink and moved to sit once more but she waved him away.

 “I want to meet them alone.”

 The merchant bowed his head and moved several tables away, before taking a seat and waving for a drink himself.

 Elaine had only to wait several minutes before the door opened once more and Lighte himself entered.

 He glanced around the room once before his gaze settled on her. There was a steadiness to his gaze that made her certain her already knew who she was. He headed over to her table stopping only to speak a few words with the merchant who rose quickly and exited.

 David Lighte sat down across from her and they spent a few moment studying each other faces before any words were spoken.

 “Elaine Archer.” He said her name as if testing out the way it sounded aloud for the first time.

 She smiled. Something about the way he said it made it sound bold and different.  She liked it.

 “David Lighte.”

 He grinned at her suddenly and she realized that she liked this stranger seated across from her.

 His hair was long and unbound. It fell to his shoulders

which were broad but straight. His eyes were brilliant shards of blue ice that seemed as if they would never un-frost, but his smile contradicted this with its warmth. The ring of gold around the blue in his eyes identified him as a Fencrye.

 Lines in his face hinted at weariness but the set of his jaw and the air of strength he projected lent itself to a dogged determination that would not quit.

 There was no doubt in her mind the stories she had heard were true.

 Lighte in turn studied the beautiful creature across from him. She was leaned back in her chair with one long booted leg flung casually up on the chair next to her. Even in a relaxed pose she seemed poised for action. He had no doubt if he moved suddenly she would beat him to her feet. Elegant and deadly all at the same time. This was the woman he was looking for, the one who could accomplish what no one else could.

 “Elaine I have a job for you.” He said.

  “So I have heard.” She smiled and flickered her eyes over his shoulder indicating the vanished merchant.

 “If what I have heard about you is accurate then you are truly my one in a million shot at accomplishing this.”

 “What have you heard?” She was being coy, but she was also

genuinely curious about what was being said about her.

 “I am told that when you make a kill you see inside their mind.” He was being very direct.

  She was silent for a minute. She raised her glass and took a sip before speaking. “That is a very simple way of putting it.”

 He leaned forward, a lock of hair slipping down over his forehead. “Is is accurate?”

 She resisted the urge to push the errant lock of hair back over his ear and settled for gripping her mug tighter and nodding.  “For the most part.” He looked like he was going to ask more questions, but she forestalled them by saying, “Why don’t you tell me about the mark and tell me what you need. Explaining how I work is very complicated and not something I discuss with my clients.”

 He leaned back and studied her for a moment. He took a drink and then nodded, “Alright, that is fair. Here is what I need.”

 As he outlined his plan and exactly what he needed from General Reebhak she found herself watching his eyes and his face, her mind was absorbing everything he said and working over some of the sketchier parts filling in steps she would have to take, but after years of training her mind to function in two parts she found herself also examining the way he spoke, the way he dragged his hand back through his hair and the flash of gold in his eyes when he spoke of the fight he waged against the legions of darkness. The passion in his voice at times awoke the same raging feelings in her.

 He was interrupted once when the merchant returned and placed a box on the table at his elbow.  Lighte nodded at him and then continued after the man withdrew.

 When he finished he took a swallow of his almost forgotten drink and waited for her response.

  Elaine tapped her finger against her pursed lips a few times and then spoke. “It can be done, but I have one small problem. I work only with a bow, and the plan you just outlined eliminates that weapon.”

 Lighte grinned and pushed the box across the table towards her.

 She raised her eyebrows in surprise, but withheld judgment until she saw the weapon nestled in its oilcloth wrappings. She glanced around the room and then shut the lid.

 “I’m impressed.” She was telling the truth. Very few had ever managed that. “I think it is time I meet General Reebhak.”

 He raised his glass and she tapped it with her own.

“To freedom!”

 “Freedom!”

#

 Elaine glanced around the shadowed room and grimaced inside. The interior of the giant tent was lit by candles and small oil lamps placed throughout the room. Men an women dressed in regal outfits paraded themselves around laughing and talking loudly. Wine had begun to flow somewhat freely and they were getting drunk.  The tent had been set up in the middle of a field outside the recent battlefield. The ground had been grass, however after several hours of drunken nobles staggering around the impromptu banquet hall it had turned to a squishy mud. As the inside began to heat up with the churning of the sweaty party goers the ground had begun to steam slightly giving off an earthy, muddy smell. The party was being thrown by the General in celebration of his recent victory. Throughout the night she had heard it hailed as a,  “Brilliant military coupe” or other such nonsense. She had seen firsthand on her ride south what it had been. A small contingent of soldiers had gotten separated fom the main army and had holed up in an abandoned fort.  The Silent ones had bombarded it from afar with trebuchets until it was nothing more than a smoking hole in the ground. Strategic military coupe was as far from the truth as you could get. The upper class of ----- seemed to be intent on getting in his good graces and not angering him. From what she had heard he was a cruel vindictive man who loved nothing more than to cause others pain. That was more than enough reason for her to end him. However Lighte needed more than that.

 Upon her arrival in the small settlement it had been an easy thing to garner an invitation on the arm of a lesser noble attempting to impress his peers.

 She shifted uncomfortably in her tight gown and faked a smile at the man talking directly to her chest.

 She wore a tight fitting bodice with a short skirt that flashed several inches of leg before disappearing into her thigh high leather boots. The boots were important to her plan. The tops of the boots were loose enough to hide the weapon given to her by Lighte. She had it strapped to her right thigh in its special holster that would allow her to draw it and re-sheath it quickly. The chance of it getting noticed would have been high except for the fact she was wearing a very low cut tight fitting bodice that kept all the men’s eyes in the room securely fastened to her chest.

 She had spent several days familiarizing herself with the weapon. It was a small one handed arbalest with collapsible lathes. The design was ingenious. The crossbow was pulled and nocked with the bolt. The lathes were made from a flexible metal Elaine had never seen before. They were short and when the bow was cocked the lathes set flush against the tiller, or the main part of the arbalest allowing for it to be sheathed with a very slim profile. After the bolt was fired the weapon would need to be sheathed quickly. The leather sheath strapped to her leg was held open at the mouth by a steel ring that would catch the lathes and push them flush against he tiller again allowing it to return to its original position. Unfortunately there was not a way to quickly reload. It was, for all intents and purposes, a once shot one kill, assassins weapon.

 It had taken her several days of repetitive drawing, firing and sheathing to become familiar with the weapon. The draw was the simplest to learn. She had practiced from an easy stance with arms hanging loose at her sides and then moved on to drawing from a sitting position and starting with her arms folded. Drawing and firing behind her, above her and below her. The sheath had taken a little  longer to get used to. The small arbalest had to be forced into the sheath at the correct angle to allow it to seat in the sheath but it also had to be pushed with a  fair amount or force to push the lathes back into position.

 She had also taken that time to prepare herself mentally. She had locked her mind off and allowed the feral Archer to learn the weapon. She also had to leave a small part of her loose with the Archer to allow her to function at the party, flirt and make small talk. This was crucial and she had spent quite a bit of time, replicating emotions and habits allowing her to split a small part of her psychic into pairs. The part that would remain loose during the kill and the subsequent deluge of t darkness would be released with all the alien memories. However she could not loose those parts of herself completely so she had to make a copy.

 This was achieved by creating another person in her mind. This alternate identity could not know of its true purpose or its ultimate end otherwise it would not cooperate. It was a very tricky process that had taken sixteen straight hours of sitting with her hands flat on the earth back to a tree eyes closed, allowing the energies from mother earth to sustain her while she performed mental acrobatics that would have left her former teacher sweating.

  Her attention snapped to the rear of the tent where she had spotted General Reebhak. The hunched figure bent and twisted atop his small horse had entered the room through a rear entrance and now sat gazing over the crowd with a cruel smirk on his lips. A serving girl approached him with a tray and he took a glass with one  hand and backhanded her to the floor with the other. The violent move caught the attention of several nearby and they shuffled awkwardly and nodded in respect bobbing their heads nervously, eyes darting back and forth. 

 General Reebhak was a cripple. However in an attempt to appear more that he was he had a special saddle made that fastened him in place on top of the horse that would not let him fall off. The small horse he rode now allowed him to move freely through the tent at the same level as everyone else.

 Elaine was not interested in his method of traverse however. She was here for one reason. Blood.

 The General was the key to Kroh’ls spreading minions. How was it possible for Krohl to reanimate the Silent Ones and how was General Reebhak doing it as well?

 The only way to know was for Elaine to kill the general and absorb his memories. Once she had access to the contents of his mind she would be able to sift through and gather what useful information she could.

 As General Reebhak moved through the crowd, Elaine managed to shadow him with her date not realizing what was happening.

 She needed the perfect shot. And she was prepared to wait for it, but she had to be in the right spot at the perfect moment for it to happen. The dance that ensued for the next half hour was excruciating in its precise movements, however she did not falter once.

 She was standing across the room directly opposite General Reebhak when the moment arrived. Her back was to the tent wall a small table of refreshments to her right and the man she was talking to was standing in front of her. The General was directly across the room. She could see him talking to one of his aides and it appeared he was going to retire for the night. She summoned the void and focused on Reebhak. She entered her clear casting state and fell the Feral Archer within her coil in anticipation of the kill. The torch flickered to the right of the tent flap as one of the aides pulled it aside for the General to exit. Elaine was blocked by her shot only by the man in front of her, who was also shielding her from the rest of the room. Catching his eyes she faked a giggle and dropped her glove out of her left hand.

 As the man in front of her immediately bent to the floor on the left side of her to retrieve the glove, Elaine drew.

 The arbalest seemed to materialized in her right hand. Firing from the hip as the tent flap began to fall the bolt was swallowed by the hungry void. Instantly she felt more than heard the thud  as it buried itself in the Generals skull.

 The crossbow was already sheathed again as her date straightened and handed the glove back to her. She put her hand on the mans arm and smiled at him.

 The backlash of darkness hit her so hard it almost knocked her down. The man in front of her did not notice however as the sudden commotion from the front of the tent caught his attention.

 “Assassin!”

 The cry was taken up and every soldier in the room lurched towards the door. Elaine staggered slightly the man shook her hand off in his haste to make it up front.

 All attention was on the front of the tent and she could hear hoof beats and the cry of alarm as the sentries took up the call and began spreading out.

 She steadied herself and quickly slit the tent behind her. She glanced around one last time and then vanished into the darkness awaiting her outside.

#

 The feral Archer crouched in a quiet corner of room and growled. Across from it a molten pool of crimson shadows and black ichors swirled on the floor. It seemed to be emitting a audible hiss as it moved. Its movement gradually sped up as it rose from the floor and slowly solidified into a figure. A figure of a woman. As the clouded mists seemed to dissipate from the face of the figure across the room from the catlike representation of Elaine animalistic side of the archer within her, the form of Elaine herself slowly immerged. The only difference was the color of her hair. Raven black tresses dropped from her head to her shoulders. She stood like a statue, head down hair hangin in front of her face, eyes closed.

 This was not supposed to happen. The Generals memories were not supposed to take a form of their own. 

 Neither figure moved. The tawny cat lashed its tail as it waited. The dark haired Elaine suddenly drew a breath in through its nose smelling the air as it filled its lungs.

 Its eyes snapped open and the cats growl deepened. Crimson light flashed from the eyes of the dark Elaine. They stared across the room for a fraction of an instant and then the shadowy figure attacked.

#

 The tawny animal dragged itself to its feet again and launched another attack at the Dark Elaine only to be rebuffed and again thrown across the room. The Shadowy figure was strong and her darkness had filled the room and was spilling into the next.

 The crimson swirling cloud was now attacking the last locked room that housed Elaine memories and identity.

 The cat swiped helplessly against the smoke trying to clear it from the door but it swirled unaffected. Dark Elaine appeared behind the animal and blasted it clear of the door. Placing her hands on the door she pushed. Nothing happened. Frowning in concentration, black hair hangin over her red eyes, Dark Elaine bent to the task of opening the last remaining barrier in in her mind.

 The feral archer raised its head from where it lay broken and wounded and began to drag itself  slowly to its feet, one last time.

#

  In a small dark room cramped by grey walls and a low ceiling, the locked away part of Elaines mind came awake.

 She knew something was wrong. Locked awy inside her own mind she struggled in vain to escape the barrier erected to protect her mind, that now served to restrict her attempts to set things right.

 Outside the door she could hear a struggle taking place but was powerless to do anything.

 Sudden silence outside the door. She paused in her restless

pacing listening. Her ear pressed against the rough door, she heard a slight hiss that sent shivers down her spine.

 She sensed movement again and realized her body was moving on its own accord. Focusing what little control she could exercise from within her own barriers, she managed to conjure a window in her cell allowing her to see dimly what was happening.

 Brief flashes of sight glimmered through the foggy glass of her mental window.

 Trees, brush, plumes of frosty breath as she watched herself run headlong through the woods. A brief spark of light flickered through the trees ahead and she slowed and began to stalk forward.

 Pushing a little too far into the mind that now controlled her she sensed an overwhelming hunger and quickly withdrew, but not quick enough. It had noticed her.

 Sudden tension entered her body and she felt a presence at the door to the last protected corner of her mind.

 Crimson tinted smoke began to seep through the cracks around the door straining to widen them and she fought back  managing to force it back out.  The pressure receded for a moment, then redoubled the force of the attack.

She gritted her teeth and fought back, but despite her efforts, shadow wisps of the smoke began to curl around the door reaching for her tentacle-like.

 One of them brushed her ankle and she saw a disjointed memory from the General.

 She saw through his eyes as he cowered in front of a giant of a man. Stripped to the waist and thickly muscled, the man held in his hand a crimson jewel. Tattoos adorned his face and shaved head.

 The memory shifted slightly and she saw through the eyes of the general lying with his bent and twisted legs curled under him. She felt the touch of the barbarians fingers on the back of her skull and then a blinding flash of red rimmed pain. She heard the scream of pain and terror rip from the throat of the cripple.

 A wave of nausea swept through her as the tentacle withdrew from her ankle and reached higher towards her waist. She fought back strengthening the barrier in between them and succeeded in stopping its advance. Holding it there she spared a glance towards the window to watch what was happening.

#

The Archer was late.

 Lighte circled the fire he had built several hours earlier. Moving slowly through the brush fifty feet from the flickering flames he kept his eyes turned out from the light to maintain his night vision.

 So far nothing. He made another circle, watching his step and being careful not to scrape through the needles of the low hanging branched on the pine trees.

 He paused.

 A shadow shifted on the other side of the circle of firelight. It was such a slight movement he almost thought he was imagining it, however years of never second guessing his instincts made him freeze in place.

 Barely breathing he looked to the side of where he had seen the movement, allowing his more sensitive peripherals catch the movement again. 

 Nothing.

 He remained as he was for what felt like an hour but must have been only ten minutes. 

 There. He saw it again and this time looking directly at it he could make out the outline of a figure crouched as he was, staring to his left. He shifted slightly to better make out the figure and it’s focus snapped to him. 

  The figures eyes began to glow with an unearthly red light

and Lighte felt his adrenalin begin to rise.

 As he rose slowly to his feet, his Halo billowed around him illuminating his half of the fire with its blue light.

 The creature matched his movements and its eyes lit up until they were glowing like lanterns casting a reddish hue across its features.

 Lighte gasped in surprise as he recognized the figure.

 “Archer?”
 Its movement was so fast and so unexpected he almost died right then. Fortunately the power of his Halo had not faltered and at the last split second he unsheathed Naethryn from his back and parried the blow aimed at his chest.

 As the weapons met he turned and tossed the figure off to his left. She landed on he feet like a cat and pounced again. Again he parried her and then leapt back towards the fire. He wanted to get a better look at his attacker. Elaine had no reason to attack him, but here she came again.

 This time she did not leap bodily at him, but instead aimed several sweeping blows at his chest and neck. He parried them in rapid succession and then counterattacked.

She was unbelievably fast!

 Their was no break in the battle as they waged back and forth around the fire. He was waiting for a pause to attempt to talk to her but she never let up. He was still unsure of

her identity. She looked like Elaine but her face was so contorted with anger that he couldn’t be sure.

 Spinning as he dodged a blow to his face he swept his leg out and knocked her off of her feet. Before she could recover he was on her grabbing for her weapon arm. She fought like a wildcat spitting and twisting. He barely managed to keep control of her, struggling to restrain her. Finally as they grappled for leverage against the other, he ended up face to face with her.

 He had her left arm pinned under his elbow and had his forearm across her neck trying to force her head down as he head her right arm away from him with this left.

 She had her hand under his chin and was pushing his head back. They strained against one another for a moment until her finally found his voice.

 “Elaine?!”

 An eerie chuckle rose from her throat. And then a voice he knew all too well spoke from her mouth.

“Again Lighte, you overestimate yourself.”

 Krohl!

 Sudden rage took hold of Lighte. His Halo eclipsed the red of her eyes as he rolled with her and came to his feet throwing her bodily into at nearby tree.

  Her small frame slammed into the tree trunk with a

sickening thud and rebounded her into the dirt. She staggered to her feet, eyes gleaming red as her mouth twisted into a snarling grin dripping with blood and the hated voice spoke from her mouth.

 “You will not get her back Lighte!”

 He raised Naethryn and pointed the spike on the top of the gleaming weapon into Krohl’s eyes.

 “You will die.” His voice shook slightly as he controlled the rage that wanted to dissemble the figure before him.

 “She dies with me, and you lose. You will never know what she discovered.” The voice issuing from her mouth was ragged and harsh, but triumphant.

 She lunged at him again and he defended himself from the flurry of blows but made no attempt to attack.

 Krohl laughed and mocked him, “What? Will you not strike me down?” She spread her arms and laughed. “Do it! You cannot save her! She will die.”

 Lighte tasted bitterness in his mouth. The face of others he had struck down for this same reason flashed through his mind and he fought a feeling of despair.

 How many loved ones would he lose to this monster?

 Staring into her once beautiful face he felt a pang. Why was it so hard to strike her down? He had killed the possessed before, it had not been easy, but he had done it for the greater good.

 But still his hand stayed.

 Seeing his hesitation Krohl snarled and Elaine leapt at him. Her weapon swept up and came down towards his face.

 Naethryn rose to meet the curiously shaped blade and they met with a sharp clang and Lighte heard a strange whine and then thud.

 Elaine landed on her feet and then slowly toppled to the ground turning as she did so landing face up motionless.

Lighte remained where he was crouched and prepared for a trick. When nothing happened he approached her and bent over her.

 A slight wound above her left eye glistened with more than blood. Putting his hand to the wound he felt sharp metal.

 Examining Naethryn he noticed the spike on the top of the blade was missing the point. It must have sheared off and embedded itself in her forehead.

 He sat down heavily next to her and pulled her into his arms.

 “Elaine.”

#

   As it launched itself through the air one last time, the animal saw the red vanish from the cloud swirling around Dark Elaine. Landing with all four feet on the chest of the dark figure, the cat bore it to the ground and ripped it to shreds with claws and teeth.  It did not stop until a swirling puddle was all that remained with no form and the red tint was no longer there.

 Sniffing it once it turned back to the door it had been guarding and examined the scratches around the doorknob.

#

 Lighte brushed the wound with his hand and then focusing the magic of his Halo in his right hand he grasped the small piece of metal and drew it slowly from the wound.  It glittered wetly with her blood. He was examining the wound closer when she startled him by drawing a shaky breath and started breathing again.

 “Elaine?”

 No response, but her breathing remained steady.

 He placed the sharp point in a small pouch around his neck and began to bandage the wound above her left eye.  He thought it unwise to move her and decided to set up camp where he was and wait until morning to head out.

 As he moved around the fire his eyes kept returning to the unconscious woman lying on his bedroll. Her breathing was strong as was her pulse. Her physical health appeared to be fine however he was worried about what had happened within her mind.

 Somehow Krohl had managed to gain control of her, and it was of crucial importance to find out how  the barbarian wizard was accomplishing this.  He shook his head and took a seat next to the fire where he could keep an eye on Elaine as he watched the surrounding darkness and listened.

  Her eyelids fluttered and he leaned forward half expecting her to awake, but she did not. A woman with a gift such as hers, as little as he knew about it must have an interesting story. He found himself examining her face.  Even in her unconscious state her face belied its strength. Its smooth beauty spoke of kindness and as he remembered her eyes they were bottomless.

 As he was watching, her eyes slowly opened and he found himself holding his breath. They stared into each others eyes for an long moment, neither one moving.

 She broke the silence first.

 “I know how Krohl is controlling his minions.”

 “Are you okay?” He asked.

 “Yes,” she shakily rose to a sitting position holding out her hand to ward him off as he leaned forward to help. “I’m okay.” She put her hand to her neck where he had bandaged her wound. “What was it that cut me?” Her blue eyes searched his face.

 He had a million question and he still wasn’t sure she was okay, but he held his tongue and held out the tip of Naethryn’s blade that had been sheared in the fight.

 She slowly reached out and took it, holding it between thumb and forefinger. “Is this from your axe?” Her eyes returned to his face and he realized he was still holding his breath.

 He let it out slowly. If she was still under Krohl’s spell then the touch of Naethryn would have shown it.

 “Yes. Naethryn.”

 “What?” She asked.

 “Naethryn. My axe. It means “God slayer”.

 “Is this what stopped Krohl?” She asked curiously still examining the piece in her hand.

 “Stopped him? What do you mean?”

 She looked up at Lighte realizing he was not privy to the events that had happened inside her head while he had been fighting her.

 “Lighte, the general had one of the red stones embedded in the base of his skull. It is how Krohl is controlling him and allows him to reanimate the Silent ones through General Reebhak.”

 “But the General wasn’t a Silent one, he..”

“I saw his memories, I saw Krohl standing above him and felt the pain as the jewel attached itself to my flesh.” She was silent for a moment staring into the fire. “That is also how he gained control of me. The jewel provides an open channel between the two. When I absorbed the Generals mind into mine, I pulled apart of the link into me as well. The precautions I had taken before the mission were the only thing that saved me. Well,” Her eyes flicked to his battle axe gleaming in the firelight. “That and Naethryn.”

 Lighte smiled. “She does that a lot.”

 “She?” Archer asked curiously.

 In one fluid movement, Lighte Lifted the axe and held it aloft, watching as the light from the fire danced over its many sharp points.

 “Yes. Have you ever seen anything as beautiful?”

 He dropped his eyes and met hers. As they matched each others gaze Lighte finally decided that Naethryn had met her match in beauty.

 

 To be continued…..

 


© Copyright 2020 DavidGrape. All rights reserved.

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