Book II - Chapter 72

Chapter 72

 

[Imra]

 

Covered in blood that was not her own, Imra waited in the night.

“By my spear, I dedicate this sacrifice to you.” Imra whispered, as she pulled her weapon free once more.

In all directions the ground was flat. Barren soil that had been dried and cracked beneath the day’s sun. Its moisture had long been wicked away, left as nothing more than dust, so that even the most stubborn of plants refused to grow. More importantly, though, were the lack of stones.

She had chosen this spot carefully.

Aside from the bodies which now littered it, there was nothing which could get in her way. Nothing for someone to hide behind, that could block her spear. The first wagon had barely time to recognize the threat, before she had been upon them. It had taken surprisingly little prompting to run the Ro’ off. Far from where its masters had breathed their last.

Her work was far from done, though. Many more approached.

Finally.

In her chest, a feeling that rose in with each wagon that crossed into sight. Dozens of those human contraptions, pulled by faithful beasts of burden. As they grew closer, she could see them more clearly. Men in armor, warriors bearing weapons. When they finally noticed her and the shouting began anew, Imra couldn’t help but laugh.

She counted, as they jumped down from their vehicles. Tallied the numbers, weighing the odds.

Ten…

Twenty…

Thirty…

Not nearly enough, yet.

Distantly, she could see there were more. Long line of Ro’ and wagons, coming in beneath the same banners. Each flying their flags more proudly than the next.

Fifty… sixty… seventy…

Good.

Let them come.

She had debt, after all. To be given a chance for her to pay back even a small portion of it, was an opportunity she would readily accept. Perhaps, with all of them here, it would be a fair fight.

Certainly, the first of their number had provided her little challenge.

“Ah.” Imra stopped, as distantly, something changed.

In her mind, she could hear it.

All at once: surprise… confusion… fear… for her.

He knew.

She couldn’t wait any longer, then. Time was short.

Imra began to move.

The nearest wagon pulled sideways, as humans dropped down from the creaking wheels and cart. Shouts of rage greeted the sight of her, as weapons were drawn. Hollered commands issues out, as she ducked the first arrow to speed towards her chest.

Too slow.

She picked up speed. First running, then sprinting: her arm swung forward to let her spear fly true, rewarded with a far-off howl from the archer.

Then, she crashed into their numbers.

In front of the pack, a man shouted in surprise. Larger by at least a head, muscles bulging with effort, they tried to block as the stolen weapon in Imra’s left hand flashed forward. The twisted earth burned her skin like poison, but it cut all the same.

Death followed.

Hated as this human invention was, not even she could deny its effectiveness. Already passing by, behind her, the first warrior fell: familiar scent of cursed blood soaking into the sand, ushered in with a gurgling scream.

Another stepped up to stop her, and quickly died for it.

Imra didn’t stop.

Neither, though, did the Great One.

Back in the recesses of her mind, she could hear him. Terror, rage, frustration seeping through. He knew, and was fighting his way towards her, closer with every second. The stone, the soil: it parted to his will as his mind crashed ahead, willing her to cease.

Headless, a body fell to Imra’s right. Screaming in agony, another hit the ground, only to be silenced as Imra pressed her foot down, hard.

Already, she felt the gifts of the world spinning about the air.

It was working.

The Great One had redoubled their efforts.

Images, pictures and emotions swirling on a cacophony of heights. Like they were falling from a cloud's edge to smash down around her, Imra saw it all: of a life flashing before its end, only it wasn’t hers. This was a world foreign to her, a place of impossible things. It rose above, spinning in the chaos between understanding, the truth of the Great One’s past. Imra could see it so clearly. Everything that it was and was not. The Great One hid nothing.

As if that would make her stop.

Imra laughed louder, as she cut down another, stopping to pluck her spear free from the chest it rested. Even now, he still didn’t understand.

Here, in this place, was what she had been born to do.

Imra did this for herself, as much as she did it for him

Swatting an arrow from the air, Imra spun. Leaving her hand, again, the spear found yet another target. Ducking low, she released the sword in her opposing hand, and was rewarded by a similar result. The last to attack, she broke without a weapon.

Retrieving her spear, Imra counted again.

Slow, but they were gathering.

Sixty… seventy… eighty…

The main group was approaching, now.

Good.

Overhead, the night sky was suddenly alight with flares of red. Stolen gifts were screeching through the sky, flashes of steel catching like crimson. Imra could see the hatred that burned in their eyes, as more ran towards her. There was rage: a swirl of filth aflame with the need for violence, brought to life by voices that howled for war.

Then, the battle was met once more.

A dagger, stolen, flicked out and through. It barely hesitated, before passing to the far side of a warrior’s throat. Their sword hit the sand, swing ending with useless motion, as Imra kicked them to the ground, rebounding.

An axe came for her then, in that instant of space and time between a strike and its end- but stepping to the side, she watched it pass her by.

Slow.

Much too slow.

Feet pushing against the soil, legs lifting as she rose against the world's pull: into the air.

The look of confidence and wrath beneath her turned to horror, Imra struck beneath their chin. Another body dropped to the waiting sand as she landed beside it.

There were more.

Another.

Another still.

Weapons from all directions came for her, and Imra moved. Twisted earth whistling past her skin even as she dodged. Cutting as arrow heads whistled past, or swords swung close.

Her spear took two, through the belly, and was lost.

Her knife finally went missing as someone screamed, thrown to take another through the eye. Spun wide, Imra’s heel lashed out to crush its target, and the kick which followed did much the same, before diving low- only to spring back forward and take another to the ground with a sickening crack.

On this new terrain, perhaps it was good there were some stones about.

Imra laughed louder.

Someone moved in, faster than the rest- and Imra was forced to react. Her hands clapped together, catching twisted earth between her palms. Air hissing through her teeth, she held back the pain, as blisters boiled from the touch.

The look of terror was more than enough to make her forget how badly it hurt.

To the side and down, she swung it free- then, broke another’s guard. Somehow, the weapon found itself in her hands as she moved: spinning blade turned to a whirlwind on the gales of death. For all it stung her skin, burning and smoking agony, her enemies screamed of pain far worse. She did not release it. Instead, she took it in both hands, to bring it down.

Down.

And down.

And down again.

Their shield met with sparks, terrified face illuminated to show eyes wide as they crumbled to the final blow.

Lancing, a pain took Imra through the side, but she did not howl- she laughed louder!

She was not done- not yet, as still further attacks came at her. Imra’s voice rose above them all: like a creature of the Forest, like a warrior of the tribe. Her blood was offered. On her chest, on her arms, on her neck and face- all was smoke. Streaming tendrils of swirling red that lifted off her skin like the heat of flames as she turned to those who still remained.

Let the bargain be struck.

Let the old ones know.

All she wanted was power.

The remaining survivors dared not approach her now. Not as the swirling smoke of chaos cackled with laugher in the air. Rising from her seeping wounds, Imra threw her head back to join them, as all around her they looked on with horror.

For all their stolen gifts, for all the strength humans unfairly borrowed: they feared her now. Feared her, as their ancestors once had. For all the twisted earth, they were unwilling to step forward. Imra let her laughter cease, as she stared them down.

This would be enough.

To the ground beside the battlefield, burrowing beneath her feet: she could feel the Great One watching- screaming for it all to stop, but it could not be stopped.

Not here.

Not now.

Not ever.

In this moment she was more than she had ever been.

This was what Imra had been born to do.

She charged them.