That One Time I Went On A Quest

Kastor applied for a job he wasn't qualified for and got it. His employer? A woman known throughout the Realms as the greatest dragon slayer in the world.

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31. Ironclad (1/2)

Everything’s…spinning. Turning upside down. Stuff coming out of my mouth. I need a napkin – how embarrassing, with all these people watching…

She’s running towards me. Why? I’m quite alright. Just a little…stuffy…

So hot…also cold. Numb. Must be the poison. Kind of redundant, to be poisoned with a slit throat.

Talu has pushed me aside, and the world is turning upside down. Light. So much of it. That took no time at all. Light, heat, coming close. Closer.

Wait a minute. That’s…

That’s Kaishen.

It’s flying at me hilt-first. Hilt-first. She threw it. Tossed it at me.

But wasn’t she about to fight? Talukiel is two steps in front of her. Why did she throw her weapon at me?

Never mind that. Have to catch it first.

My arm rises all by itself…then falls back down. The muscles, can’t feel them. No blood to drive them – obviously, since the blood is pooling on my chest. Oo…flashing pictures! What…?

In the King’s gazebo, looking up with a smile.

Three travellers, galloping across the prairies under a fiery sunset.

Ashen rain, arms wrapped around me. No words.

 

Top of a broken carriage, dragons circling overhead. ‘Come, my esquire, let us stand against the enemy together. And after our foes are no more, I shall tell you the tale of a stubborn little girl who wanted to save the world.’

Together, she said.

My arm is moving again. Rain slips through my fingers, cold, fleeting. Then a heavy impact, like the strike of a red-hot hammer.

The grip.

 

Hot. The fire has returned, but this time with an urgency driven by a foreign yet intimate rage. Kathanhiel’s rage, must be: transplanted as the sword was torn from her grip in the middle of its surging. But it’s only the surface, ocean waves in a storm. There is something underneath…

A dark room, lit by a single lantern in the corner, its sputtering light painting shadows upon the litter of corpses strewn across the floor. The walls, the curtains, the shattered mahogany bed by the steel-barred window, the white smock of the girl standing in the middle of the carnage, holding a jewel-encrusted sword – all painted red.  

Footsteps are coming up the stairs, but the girl doesn’t react. Looking out the window she sees the streets far below, choked full with content people going about their content lives. An alien world.

The door breaks open, the four locks upon it shattering to pieces. The glowing sword in the intruder’s hand catches her eye, but only briefly. Her own sword, so heavy and covered in so many useless diamonds, rises easily. Never thought it would be this easy, this dispensing of death. Should have done it sooner.

She points her sword at the intruder, holding it steady with one arm.

‘I’m not going back.’

The intruder, a young man with a sickly, wheezing voice, raises his own. ‘Over there. Is that the Prince of Lucia?’

‘You’re all the same to me,’ she says quietly.

‘“You”? What do you think I am?’

‘Dead, if you don’t leave me alone.’

He strikes without warning, lightning fast. One blink and the glowing sword has severed a third of her blade. Undaunted, she spins around the next blow like a dancer, her broken hilt rearing towards his face. Hands move in a blur; the intruder catches her wrist just as the jagged edge scratches his chin, drawing blood.

With a twist he throws away the sword of jewels and, with a sleight of hand, shoves the glowing one into her hand.

Great is the fiery pain that ensues…but not that great. This must be some abstract torture, another miserable game. Biting down on her lips, she tries to throw it away, but the hilt of the strange sword is somehow stuck to her fingers. At first the metal seared into her flesh, but then...the heat…began crawling into her blood…

So warm.

‘What?’ she asks, surprised at her own surprise.

‘It likes you.’

The intruder hunkers down so they are face to face. He is not very tall at all, his cheeks so sickly pale. There is a river of sweat running down his forehead, into the grey folds of his skin.

She couldn’t help herself. ‘Are you…are you ill?’

‘Tell me, little hero,’ he asks, ‘do you wish to die?’

Timidly, and hating herself for being timid, she nods.

His eyes are swirling. ‘Are you going to die here, in this filth, having done nothing, angry at all that had come to pass?’

She looks down at the sword. So brightly it glows.

‘Soon I will die,’ he says casually, ‘and that sword there will be needing a new master. It’ll give you the strength to remember, and to forget. I can show you how…unless you’re scared?’

She looks up at that, her eyes on fire.

‘I’m not afraid,’ she says.

He laughs. ‘And you never will be.’

 

A crimson light washes over the scene, brightening until there is nothing else.

There is lava pouring from my throat, there has to be; don’t think there is enough blood left to make it pour like that.

In my hand, the grip. Kaishen.

Close by yet so far away, the courtyard is shrouded in a red mist. Two figures are dancing.

Kathanhiel, no sword. In her hand the black pick is a desperate whirlwind. Her shirt is in shreds, her right sleeve gone entirely. The puddling rain beneath her feet is turning red.

Talu’s dark sabre flies by her left ear, slicing her earlobe in half. Her pick pushes it off, but the blade is already at her shoulder. She drops, spinning low with the momentum and swipes at Talu’s feet. No one could’ve seen that coming, yet somehow Talu puts his foot forward in time to wedge against her knee, looking as if the two of them practiced this as a part of a routine. In a blink his dagger is at her throat. Rolling into a puddle she avoids it just in time, a swath of her hair shedding like so many leaves.

A duellist more skilled than Kathanhiel.

She needs her weapon. Got to throw the sword.

Getting up has never been so hard. It feels as if a metal cast is cooling under my skin, making all the muscles rigid. An ocean is beating in my eardrums, and

Alright, kneeling – good enough. Now throw the sword.

Heave, two, three –

Kaishen is, of course, welded onto my fingers. 

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