fantasy woman in forest

Malinda ran to the top of the hill overlooking the battlefield, her long stole and the tails of her tunic whipping in the wind. Her foot slipped in the gravel but she pushed herself off and scrambled onwards.

 

Alex’s face was all she could see. She would do this for him, and for her brother. Her eyes were dry. She had not been able to weep yet, not even when she had told Alaea what Baelmah had said about Anton’s fate and the other woman had seemed to shatter in front of her eyes. She was right to do this. They wouldn’t let her help, they refused to believe that she could be strong. What use was healing when the dead and dying kept rolling in? It was like a wound. Better to cauterise it at the source than keep trying to mop up the blood. She would take care of Arrik. Burn him out.

 

The hill top gave her a view all around. She could see the armies below, wind carrying the sound of their booted feet and the clash of metal. She fixed her gaze on Arrik’s standard. Malchor she would leave to the others; he was not a good man, but he was not an evil one. She reached inside herself, tapping the energy. She gasped, the power rising in her as it had never done before. It filled her body, her soul, lifting her to a feeling perilously close to omnipotence. She raised her arms to the sky, magic crackling emerald green around them. Casting her eyes back to the soldiers below she narrowed her focus, her jaw clenched. Slowly extending a hand out in front of her she concentrated the flow of energy, feeling it move down towards her fingertips as it did when she used it to heal. But today there would be no healing. Only destruction. The heavens parted with a thunderous clap, shattering the air and reverberating around the cliff tops. Emerald fire erupted from her fingers in a long arc, heading directly towards the centre of Arrik’s massive army.  Not to be outdone, the sky unleashed a raging tempest which swept down on the army, engulfing it in a chaos of storm and wind

 

She could feel the magic rushing through her, and part of her recognised that it was draining her own life force. She could not stop it. She didn’t want to. This man was evil and would create more evil if he was allowed to succeed. He had taken her brother and her friends. The thought of them lying dead or broken on a field somewhere flashed into her mind, adding fury to the energy spilling out of her fingers. She thought she heard a soft voice cry out but ignored it

 

The first burst of fire had wreaked havoc on the army below, but she could see now that it was being turned aside as if there was a shield over the soldiers. She pushed harder, her knees shaking and her eyes and face drawing tight as she put everything she could into breaking that dome. Her breath ripped out of her and still she tried.

 

Distantly she was aware of movement near her, someone calling something. Was it her name? She could no longer hear sounds clearly, the magic filled her mind with a crackling rage. A body hurtled into her side, knocking her hard into the ground. The shock of the impact jarred something inside her and the energy died like a tap had been turned off. The sudden loss of that emerald glow ached like something had been severed and she whimpered

 

A strong arm lifted her into a sitting position and a hand cradled her head. She sobbed as a gentle voice murmured her name. She turned her face towards his white coat and tried to breathe

 

“I couldn’t do it, Ger. I couldn’t stop him” She trembled and gripped the lapels of his coat to try and steady herself. ‘I thought if I just stopped him then it would all be over. I thought it was working but then it stopped, I don’t know why!

 

“Sshh, sweetheart. Just breathe. Be still.

 

She tried to keep talking but he got his hand in between his coat and her mouth and put his hand over her lips

 

“You did something extraordinary, Mali. But the power of the gods is not a weapon to be used lightly or for too long

 

Her gaze fell on his strong hand, pale against her dark skin, calloused against her smoothness. He calmed her. He always did. The pain and the screaming was still there, but it was now deep inside, and she could control it.

 

She took a shuddering breath. “I just wanted to be strong, to help end this stupidity”.

 

His face burrowed into her hair and she felt his lips move against her head. “You are incredibly strong Mali, you are just not a killer.”

 

She let herself soak up the feel of his arms around her. He sat back and regarded her with a little laugh. His hand trembled as it stroked back her hair from her face.

 

“We should go. I need to get you back to the camp and to safety.”

 

He stood and pulled her up to him. She smiled wearily up at him but her brows drew together as his grip tightened and his face clenched.

 

“We need to go now” he said in clipped tones, his eyes like daggers looking over her shoulder down to the soldiers below.

 

Jerking her head around she saw Arrik riding towards the hilly outcrop on which they stood his helmed gaze fixing her in place.

 

“It’s like before” she whispered “He is coming to find me”. She should have known, how could she have been so foolish.

 

Racing down the steep path, hand in hand, feet slipping on the loose gravel, hope bloomed –  they might make it to the other side before Arrik arrived, perhaps throw him off. They turned onto a small plateau and reared back as the sorcerer flew up over the edge, floating with his arms out, riding the wind.  Gerwyn thrust her behind his back and drew his sword. Her heart raced; he was a pretty good swordsman for a churchman and had often trained with Anton, but he was no match for a sorcerer. She could see from the set of his shoulders that he knew it but would die protecting her anyway. Too fast for her to stop him, he ran at their enemy. Hands to her mouth she watched as each man slashed at the other. No fancy spins or footwork, just pure hacking. She could see the strike as it came and reached her hand on a scream.

 

Gerwyn fell on his knees at her feet, blood pouring from a gash in his abdomen. His hand went to the wound, trying to hold in the blood, even as he tried again to stand, to protect her. Arrik laughed and with a flick of power knocked him onto his back. She rushed forward and collapsed to her knees beside him, reaching out to cover his wound, waiting for the magic to come, to heal him. But nothing came. Panic flared in her eyes and she tried harder, pushing until her skin stretched. She felt nothing, not even a flicker.

 

“No! Why won’t it work!”

 

Gerwyn reached out a shaking hand. “It’s alright Mali. It’s alright”

 

Marius’ words flashed into her head The world has more than enough fighters, what we need more of is healers. Kindness. A gentle hand. Don’t try too hard to join the battle; you might lose more than you gain. Her face crumpled and tears spilled out. Now, when it most counted, she couldn’t heal. She held Gerwyn’s hand tight and pressed a kiss to his palm. His eyes widened as he realised what she was going to do.

 

“No, Mali, don’t!”.

 

She shook her head sadly. Picking up his sword, she stood and faced the monster. She would not let him harm this man.

 

The sorcerer pouted at her then flashed his blade in a gleaming arc.

 

“So, little bird, you think to be a falcon. I will have to teach you how to appreciate the falconer’s jesses”.

 

She heard the sound of scoria falling and what sounded like someone scrabbling up the hill face behind her. She bit her lip, sweat beading on her brow. Did she turn to see this new threat or keep her eyes on the bigger one in front of her? Arrik’s frown decided her. If he wasn’t sure what was coming then she would trust it to be better than him. She took advantage of his distraction and lunged clumsily, aiming for his belly. His gaze whipping back to her he easily parried her blow and used her momentum to push her off her feet. She rolled, hoping the long blade wouldn’t cut her, and scrambled to her feet. She shook her hair back, blowing upwards to get the last errant curls out of her eyes. She could see Gerwyn struggling to get to his feet and despair filled her. It was as if history was repeating. She would fall to Arrik and then he would murder her friend. A roar sounded in her ears and a blast of pure white energy shot past her and knocked the sorcerer over. He fell heavily and lay gasping. She turned to see Anton walking from the top of the hill, his black coat flaring behind him and such a fierce glow of power around him that until he smiled at her, demons dancing in his eyes, she wasn’t sure it was her brother. He stopped in front of her and cupped her jaw with his free hand. “I wasn’t too late this time Mali.”

 

Her arm dropped and her lip trembled. “Gerwyn…” her voice broke and she looked to where she had left him struggling to get up. Her eyes widened. Anton’s hand stroked her face as he left her to stalk his prey. “We are all safe. Go and stand with Reinaldo and when they say to leave, you leave, no coming back for me do you hear?”

 

She grabbed his hand. “Be safe then my brother or I shall have to”

 

He gave her a lopsided smile and focused back on his prey, unleashing another bolt of power that flipped Arrik onto his back again. She ran to the little group huddled on the edge. Daegal was wadding what looked like the bandages from Gerwyn’s belt bag onto his wound. His eyes lit as she knelt next to him behind the curtain of Jelena and Reinaldo’s blades.

 

“Here is our healer! Over to you Malinda”

 

The light in his face dimmed as her mouth turned down and her head shook. “I am empty Daegal, I cannot heal”.

 

“Ah.” He frowned. “Then we may have a problem.” Daegal glanced over at where Anton was pounding Arrik with bolt after bolt. Her eyes stayed fixed on Gerwyn’s pale face.

 

She smoothed the hair from his brow and his warm brown eyes smiled at her even as his teeth clenched down on the pain. She could see the effort it took him to speak.

 

“Daegal, I won’t have much longer unless I get to a medic tent”

 

The other man turned and Mali marveled at his ability to keep smiling. “We will have to get you to that tent then my friend. Mali are you strong enough to help me?”.

 

She nodded emphatically.  “What do you need me to do?”

 

He was all speed now, tucking in the wadded bandage and holding Ger’s hand down on it tightly. “We’ll take a shoulder each and head down the scree. Should be easier than coming up.”

 

He paused and looked at Jelena, her back straight and her gaze straight ahead at where Arrik had managed to get to his feet and was flicking invisible bolts at Anton, whose shield was holding but flickering. “Jelena…”

 

“I heard.” She didn’t turn her eyes away but she moved her head slightly towards them. “I will see you back at the city. Look after them, Daegal”.

 

Mali’s eyes flicked to Daegal. He seemed like he wanted to say something more, then he shrugged wryly and knelt down to help her hoist Gerwyn up. They staggered slightly but Ger found his feet and managed to take some of the weight. Not for the first time, Mali found herself cursing her short stature. They headed carefully out on a lopsided lean when Jelena’s voice floated after them.

 

“If you die for real this time Daegal, I will hunt you into the next life and slap you”.

 

She looked across at Daegal in surprise and saw him grinning. Meeting Gerwyn’s eyes she saw a tender amusement behind the pain and, on impulse, leaned to kiss his cheek.

 

*****

from REDEMPTION, old completed first draft, awaiting revisions shortly.

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