She wrenched her blade free, trying to ignore the fountains of red that pooled like wine in a Creator’s parable. Her heart thundered as the circle about her grew tighter, the skin of her palm was ready to break at each painful clash against sweat, leather, metal, hastily uttered spells.
She looked up, the bluejay was watching her every move from a higher slope. A misaimed spear distracted her, and she guided the thrust across the radius of the circle into an unsuspecting swordsman. She glanced up again, but the bright blue was gone. A wild guess prompted her to swing, spin, the sting of her raw palm proved her right.
“Did he teach you?” Eridani hissed, shoved and sent her stumbling backward and the soldiers scattering as they knew better than to interfere. “Why would he teach such a pathetic thing?”
“You are not your brother’s keeper. Aldebaran can do as he pleases,” She was uncertain if it was wise to provoke that Nokshan as blue feathers bristled, a hateful glare chilled her spine.
“You don’t deserve to utter our King’s name,” The Nokshan growled, launched herself into a fiery of slashes and haphazard jabs and, while Lyra saw through those and parried or avoided or suffered only minor scratches, the last kick landed square upon her stomach, crushed her against jagged barks of an ancient trunk.
She gasped, fell to her knees and looked up just in time to see Eridani’s blade burying into the tree where her neck had been. Her heartbeat roared oppressively accompanied by numbing agony; but still, her body moved on their own accords as her elbow struck the wrists, stole the half-lodged sword then blunted and stunned with the back of the hilt.
“Arrogant, misguided Nokshans do not deserve to serve the Creator if she cannot even grasp the concept of respect,” Lyra held the tip of a blade against the young Nokshan’s throat, pinning her to the earth.
“What are you going to do?” Narrowed eyes pierced her and Lyra almost forgot she was the one holding the sword. “Kill me? What would my brother think?”
“Don’t pretend that you care for him. You are the one who animated your own father’s corpse against him.”
“Do you not do the same? Parading your dead father’s face to gain power for yourself, threatening your kinsmen into submission?” She spat, “Who is worse, then, one who walk in the muck, or one who walks in the much and preaches as though she is untainted?”
Wrong, this Nokshan saw not the constant greyish tumult behind her forced smiles, the noises, the resolve that gathered her into a form. Wrong, this assumption saw not the narratives, the pain and scar she earn every time she donned the mask of her father, the selfless justifications.
The air behind her split, she attempted to dodge, but she sidestepped too late and the blade caught her waist.
She snapped around, brought together her sword and the confiscate blade to block another heavy blow. There were two, those lifeless Nokshan puppets, who remembered their sword and spells but not their life and tales. Eridani had already regained her ground and armed herself with a passing soldier’s blade. Lyra glanced from one puppet to another, marked the remaining spirits trapped within, the gentlest breeze made her side sting and her abused back ache.
A puppet stepped forward, she dropped a sword and raised a hand between them. In a blink, she could feel the air pressure of the strike reaching her, but she connected with the disgruntled spirit first. The blade landed upon the shoulder of her outstretched hand, blood, she just saw the single strand of spirit within her hand.
Come, she asked and it left its shell behind. The sword cutting into her stopped its malicious track, fell limp as the sack of tortured flash fell forward. She stepped back, watched the lifeless form join dust.
“You…how…” Eridani’s shock was hardly noticed by Lyra as the latter took the chance to run, broke through the dented circle choking her with an explosive spell.
“Give chase, your idiots,” A shout from behind, she bit her lips and sprinted against jolting pain.
More than thrice she nearly twisted her ankle dashing full speed down the overgrown hill, the last occasion being that a blockade of soldiers had obscured the narrow mountain path where she came. She darted into the cover of forests, ducking a hurled spear while swallowing in attempt to quench the fire creeping up her throat from her lungs. Dense green shadows and panic made her a moth, drawn to lost directions and the first bright spot of light offered over the bough of a slanting, rotting tree. She ran towards it, skidded to a stop, swallowing the bitterness of impending doom.
Of course, she had to be trapped to a cliff, panting like an old horse while her world shifted in twisted visions of blood loss and agony. It was an abrupt outcropping of rock, the mocking stage for her pathetic demise either by falling off the crushing heights or rushing into the soldiers emerging from the shadows like hell’s minions.
“Give up, princess,” A captain stepped forward with a sword and declaration drawn. “Surrender now and the Grand Priest may even absolve you of your follies.”
“No,” She clutched stubbornly to her blade, to her crying wounds. “I don’t need a pest to absolve my sins.”
The general guffaw over her blasphemy was hushed by the Captain’s order to ready their attack as she grimaced, she neared the edge of the fall.
She jolted, Alde?
She barely summoned a shield to block the first shower of projectiles, and the last arrow undid her spell, grazed her chin as she tilted her head, her world spun. Where are you? I…
I will catch you, jump.
She gasped, killed logic and turned and leapt, squeezed her eyes shut to fall.