Vol.1, Ch.3, P.10

 

Was it mere murderous intent? Nay.

A sheering, gnashing assault fast approached us, naked in its violence and ferality. A blink of an eye, and already was this “bestial” force thundering through our ranks—and straight for me.

In a slice of a second, I drew my sword with my yet unbroken right hand. Through the darkened air, my sword sailed forth, till in the midst of its cutting arc, there appeared before its glinting edge a Nafíl.

“Wha—!?” came the assailant’s yelp. Shock overcame the thought-speed bearer of the “bestial” force as my blade neared its target: the neck.

But the steel would find no flesh, for its wielder was but I, a man ungraced: there, my weapon was fully halted, little more than a digitus away from meeting its mark.

And in another slice of a second, there came Tiselius, discerning the situation. The hero-dame’s silverblade flashed forth.

“Syah!”

“Tch!”

The “bestial” Nafílpulled away, avoiding the mareschal’s sword-strike by no more than a hair’s width. With a leap back, our assailant was immediately rejoined with the other Nafílim.

“A keen blade, they have…” rang the Nafíl’s voice—a girl, “…but how?” Suspicion sallowed her words as she glared straight at me. This girl seemed quite young, more so than Emilie and I, seventeen years of age as we were. It would not be a stretch to call her a child even, whose twin daggers she so held ill-befit her image.

Yet, it was this same image, this same child that had attacked us with swiftness unimaginable.

“Rolf! You’re not harmed, are you!?” Emilie exclaimed, coming up to my side.

“Not any more than I was, my Lady,” I assured her. “Such speed. That Nafíl—has she bolstered her own body with odyl?”

“She has, and frightfully so,” Tiselius confirmed. “Take her for a damsel and she’ll take you to the dead.”

With those words, the mareschal summoned forth wreaths of flame about her silverblade, the fires snarling thunderously in their spiral motion.

“Igneō Trūdendō!!” roared Tiselius, and with a thrust of her firebrand, hell itself spewed forth in a fell line, blasting a hole through the Nafílim ranks.

“Ooaagh!” they screamed from within the inferno.

“There breathes the Dame Estelle, our mark! Spread and smite her down!” one amongst them commanded. “Tarry not! Or a pyre she makes of us all!” It was heeded with all speed, for in another moment, Tiselius was beset on both sides by Nafílim fighters.

“Not on my watch!” Lindell interjected, and at once, both he and the other knightly underlings of Tiselius clashed with the ambushers, their weapons biting bitterly against each other in sharp symphony.

“Ggrrgh!” groaned the knights in their outnumbered and increasingly futile struggle.

“Sir Erik! Away!”

Lindell quickly shrank back, and then in his place was Emilie, rushing in with her blade taking wing through the embattled dark.

“Ferum Fulgur!”

But dark was it no more: lengths of lightning fanned forth from her sword, flashing through the Nafílim.

“Ggaaagh!” The struck handful of foes were together laid low by the lethal levin.

Elsewhere, the Nafílim magi readied their spells, but were swiftly set upon by Tiselius’ sword.

“Seh!” her voice cut the air, answered by death-screams in quick succession.

“Eaahh!!”

Already had the hero-dame sundered deep into the midst of the belligerents, having at once seen that Emilie and Lindell were perfectly capable of handling the enemy vanguards. There, her silverblade flew in flowing flashes, finding and felling her foes one after the other.

“Surround her at once! Strike in concert!” grated the voice of another Nafílim—orders boiling with agitation.

But they were followed nonetheless, and Tiselius soon found herself encircled with blades all around, closing in quick. Yet this did not stir her in the slightest. Indeed, she was the eye of tranquillity within a hurricane of chaos, and with neither wasted effort nor delay, she then swept wide her sword, as if to trace a ring through the air itself.

“Levis Cremātiō.”

Immediately from about the mareschal, there arose a towering whirl-fire.

“Ggeeaaahh!” so wailed the foes that fell into its flaming walls, both their bodies and their screams fading into ashes.

Such strength. Dreadful, yet majestic.

By her blade alone, thirty Nafílim were slain here.

I knew it then. The Des Ailes Greatbridge, from the dawn of the month-long battle till this very day, was never victim to the fury of her firebrand on account of but one fact: the mareschal had heretofore been holding back her flames.

Estelle Tiselius—the mightiest amongst all Londosian knights and dames.

Her swordskill was of another plane, like a living legend, beautiful and fatal. Tell any that Tiselius, along with just two other souls, had managed to defend a legion of trapped forders, and an undoubting nod would surely be returned.

But upon the face of that same Tiselius, there flickered a grim regard.

A danger was sensed.

One that I shared.

I quickly brandished forth my sword into the seemingly empty air once more. This time, again, its slashing course was stopped before the neck of the female Nafílim.

“Hah…!!” she gasped, before backstepping away with immediacy. “…My blade—how can you see?”

“I’ve my eyes to thank,” I quipped.

“…So you should,” she returned, “but why still your steel?”

“The thing stills itself.”

“Mayhap it needs more thanking!”

Lightly then did she lunge forth, intent upon another attack. Deftness haunted her daggers, guiding them into an unbroken flourish.

That speed, no less phenomenal now than it was prior.

But I saw through it. And avoided it.

Only—

“Aagh!!” came my clenched howl.

Ungraced flesh ill-resists magicked fury. Even if I could avoid the blade, the odyl fraught within it would find me without fail. As proof, my chest burst open with a gash, a long line clear across my pectoral muscles.

“Rolf!!” Emilie shrieked.

The wound was shallow enough that it did not cross any bones, but much blood was made to course from its ghastly depths.

I yet had this much blood within me? An honest surprise. And now a haze was filling my vision—not good.

“What’s this, now…?” the Nafílim girl muttered, taken with doubt. But I shared none of it in guessing she’d never before crossed paths with an odylless soul such as I, not in her entire life.

Just then…

…strikes upon a gong.

One.

Two.

Three.

Three resounding rumbles from the heart of the encampment.

At once, the female Nafílim’s face furrowed in frustration. “…Curses!”

“The curtains look to be closing,” I pointed out to her.

“‘Twas a play too-brief,” she remarked.

“Now’s a fine time to exit stage, wouldn’t you say?”

“Will we meet again?”

“The playwrights willing.”

To this, she fell silent, but in the next moment, vanished right before my eyes. At the same time, I crumbled to my knees. This was my limit. Not another step could I endeavour.

The other Nafílim were now scurrying away. Looking further across the encampment, I spotted the enemy horde flowing past the overlooking hill.

They were retreating. The day was ours, it seemed.

“Rolf! That wound… so much blood…!” Emilie wailed, rushing to me. “Surgiens! Surgiens, please! Over here!”

From just a little ways off, there stood Mareschal Tiselius, turning my way.

To her flew an arrow of fire.

Just one.

A vengeful present from our parting foes, perhaps? But it was ill-given, as it struck not the mareschal, but the tent situated just behind her. Through the canopy the flame-ensorcelled bolt went, landing somewhere within.

The other knights, seeing this, breathed a sigh of relief. The foe’s final attack, all but a failure, they thought to themselves.

But it was a thought eager to betray them.

Of course the arrow would not find Tiselius. The Nafílim archers knew as much. That was precisely why it was made to find another mark: the tent itself.

I peered through the distance and into a tear within the pierced canopy.

Hiding there were crates. The sort with which I was painfully acquainted. And it was not a meagre few that the tent concealed.

There were many.

Too many.

A whole hill of them.

I screamed.

“Estelle!!”

Off to her I bolted at once. A look of menacing horror wrung my face, a dot of desperation within a sea of relief. But Tiselius saw it and knew. Eyes wide, she turned to the tent, the target of my attention.

There, she shared in my realisation. With all the might her legs could muster, she erupted into a dash towards me.

Her silver armour. The paling it provided would save her from an explosion. But not from its heat. Not from its shock waves. And being so close to such a monstrous density of explosives, she would not escape unscathed. Not in the slightest.

Tiselius, rushing to me.

And I, to her.

In my eyes flickered a reflection most foul—crates, all aflame within the tent.

This was it.

The fates have played their hand.

 

 

Knowing of the hell that was to ensue, I took hold of Tiselius from behind right as we passed each other, at once bringing her to the ground and shielding her body with my own.

How small she was, more than I ever imagined.

As the ill-placed thought bubbled up in my mind, there burst an ear-breaking boom, bellowing all throughout the encampment. An unseen force flashed through the air, slamming onto my back with the weight of a giant’s falling foot.

And then…

…blackness.

 

─────────ㅤ♰ㅤ─────────

 

Notes

 

Digitus

(Language: Latin; plural: digitī) A unit of measure used by the ancient Romans, taken from the width of a finger. 1 centimetre is equal to 0.5405 of a digitus. A digitus, therefore, can be roughly equated to 2 centimetres.

 

Ferum Fulgur

(Language: Latin; original name: “Fierce Volt”) “Fierce Lightning”. A levin-elemental ensorcellment and bladespell. The sword is imbued with a shroud of electricity. When swung, a fan of lightning is thrown forth, burning and shocking targets caught within.

 

Igneō Trūdendō

(Language: Latin; original name: “Blaze Thrust”) “Blazing Thrust”. A fire-elemental bladespell. The sword is wreathed with intense flames. With a thrust, an abrupt blast of fire is shot forth. A veritable shaped explosion, incinerating and blowing away targets caught within.

 

Levis Cremātiō

(Language: Latin; original name: “Levia Cremate”) “Swift Cremation”. A fire-elemental bladespell. The sword is swung laterally in a circle. From the ring-like blade arc erupts a well of fierce flames, instantly incinerating outside targets that make contact with it.

 

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