Raising Kane

The Queen has ruled with an iron grip for years. But even an iron grip isn't enough. She needs more power. And there is one person that can help her. An inventor by the name of Kane. She sends out her most powerful assassins- teenage girls called Devias- to find him. All have failed, and been killed. And now it's Natalia's turn.

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38. Chapter 37- Iya Saves My Life... Why?

I haven’t dueled for a few days, and it’s relieving to lose myself to something so familiar. Iya and my blades whirl in beautiful arcs of steel, sparking off of nearby tables, and the walls of the forge. I take full advantage of the terrain, doing my best to insure that Iya alway has an obstruction in her way that keeps her from killing me.

She sweeps at my chest, and I duck low, rolling between her legs, and aiming for a blow at the back of her head. She spins, deflecting it at the last moment, her eyes dark with determination. Nearby, I can hear Tallima’s blade whistling through the air. How she’s still standing, I don’t know. Kane’s energy boost is the only thing keeping me alive right now.

“Iya, you don’t have to do this,” I whisper. She lunges at me, and I deflect her blade to the side, sticking it into the leg of one of the tables. I go to strike at her head- to knock her out- but she deflects it off her arm.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers back.

She pulls her blade free, and lashes out at me, opening a cut on my arm. I dodge her next swipe, and wonder for the first time if she might be holding back as well- trying not to kill me. Trying to prolong the fight. I feel a burst of gratitude towards her. As long as I’m fighting her, I am, in a way, safe.

Of course, I’m never safe. I hear Tallima let out a soft groan of pain, and glance away for a second to see her on her knees, bleeding from a cut on the side of her head. She looks half conscious. I nearly cry out, but I feel Iya’s blade whip towards me, and I turn, blocking it with my sword. I force her back, twisting my blade to disarm her. Her blade falls to the floor, and I prepare myself to knock her out.

I never get the chance. Abruptly, I freeze. Literally. I’m completely unable to move. My eyes widen in panic. This has to be magic- but what kind of magic is this?! Why can’t I move?!

Out of the corner of my eye, I see the Queen smirking darkly. She steps towards me, and I wonder suddenly if she is doing this. But… the Queen has no magic. Not that I know of.

“Well?” she demands to the suddenly silent room. She turns to look at Iya, her expression full of contempt. “Finish her!”

Iya picks up her sword, and levels it at my heart. My eyes widen. I can’t speak, so I do my best to send her a message with my eyes. Please, Iya. If you’ve ever been my friend. Make the right choice. Don’t end this here. Not like this.

Iya’s hands tremble, and slowly, she turns to look at the Queen. “No.”

No?

“No,” she says softly. “I won’t hurt Natalia. Not while she’s helpless like this. Only a coward would finish her like this.”

The room is completely motionless. All eyes are on Iya.

“Are you defying me?” the Queen says softly.

“I won’t kill her. Not like this.” Iya looks around the room. “Natalia has stood for us when no one else has. I’m sure all of you have had a time where Natalia’s taken a punishment for you. The Queen’s been telling you she’s a traitor- but who has she betrayed? She stood with us- even when she was with Kane. She never hurt any of us. I might not understand some of her actions, but one thing’s clear. Natalia is one of us. The Queen is the one that ordered us to be stolen from our lives. The one that ordered the beatings. The punishments. We’ve blamed our family’s deaths on Kane, but who ordered them to their deaths? Kane was just trying to survive. Natalia stands for us. The Queen would just see us all killed!”

The Queen’s eyes widen with rage. “Traitorous child…” she whispers. She snatches a blade from one of the nearby Devias, and approaches Iya. Iya lifts her chin in defiance, as the Queen makes a gesture with her left hand. The spell holding me breaks, and I see Iya stiffen.

“Live a traitor, die a traitor,” the Queen growls. Then she thrusts the blade forwards.

For a moment, there is nothing. Then blood wells from Iya’s chest. She stays there, locked, motionless. Then the Queen releases the spell, and she collapses to the ground.

All eyes in the room are on the Queen now. My energy is gone, but I crawl towards Iya as the Devias turn on the Queen, expressions dark.

“You stand with Natalia? Then stand with her, and burn with her. The kingdom will fall, and you will long for my leadership soon enough.”

Tallima stands shakily, leveling her sword at the Queen. “Leave. Or we’ll kill you.”

“Very well.” The Queen locks eyes with me. “You will fall, child. You know nothing of ruling.” She snaps her fingers, and vanishes into thin air.

I’m too exhausted to be shocked. I look down at Iya, cradling her head in my lap.

Iya…” I whisper softly.

“Natalia…” she smiles, laughing softly.

“I’m sorry…” I stammer. “I didn’t… The wound… is it…?”

“Fatal?” Iya studies herself. “I… think so.”

“You think? The warrior magic… will it save you?” I ask hopefully. Our magic has saved us from serious wounds before- maybe Iya will pull through.

My hopes are dashed as she shakes her head. “The Queen knows about our magic. The blade took me in the heart. I’ll be dead in a few minutes.”

I grit my teeth, tears forming in my eyes. Iya smiles, placing a hand on my shoulder. “It’s alright, Natalia. Just don’t… don’t waste your life… You’re too good. You have morals. You put others before yourself. There aren’t many people like you. Sometimes… sometimes I think we need more people like that. Don’t let… don’t let power change you. The kingdom… if it’s really yours… don’t let it corrupt you. Don’t follow the Queen’s example.”

“I won’t.” My voice breaks slightly, as the first tears begin to slip down my face.

“Tallin-”

“Tallima,” I correct her instantly.

Iya nods slowly. “Tallima… I need to… tell you something.”

Tallima stumbles to our side, dropping to one knee next to Iya. “Yes?”

“I’m… sorry. Hearing you talk… hearing you talk to Mila. You told her not to hurt Natalia. You said you deserved the punishment. You’re… you’re wrong.” Iya reaches up, fumbling for Tallima’s hand. She takes it in a firm grip, eyes wide and desperate. “After you ran… I snuck into the Queen’s study. I found… information. About you. About what she’d made you do. I know why now. I know why you did it.”

“How much did the files say.”

“Enough…” Iya gasps, and a fresh wave of blood flows from her wound. “Don’t let ambition control you. You never had to work hard to be our greatest. You… you were there. You were a star to us. A dark star, but a star.”

“I was a warning,” Tallima replies.

“That doesn’t matter anymore. Take… take care of yourself. And take care of Natalia. She’ll need… need a stable friend. Take care of Kane too. Natalia… needs him…” She turns to look at me, and I wish I could tell her to fight- to stay strong, to stay alive. But she’s dying. I only can listen. “The Devias… don’t forget… we always were your family… don’t… forget us… They’ll need…” She trails off, her voice weakening.

What?” I practically beg. “What do they need?”

“You…” she whispers. Her eyes glaze over, and she goes still.

No!” I pull her close to my chest, feeling more tears run down my face. Grief is unfamiliar in my heart. I’ve seen death, and never cried at it before. But Iya- steady, brave, Iya, who always had kept a small belief in me- Iya, who had given her life for me… she was dead. A member of my family was dead. I don’t know how to cope with that. So I let myself cry.

Eventually, I feel Tallima’s hand on my shoulder. “Natalia. The Queen is gone. The Devias are going to need a leader. Someone to look up to. You have to show them you’re strong. You’ll have time to mourn later. Just… for now, try. You hear iya. They need you.”

Shaking, I force myself to nod. I lay Iya down, and gently, as tenderly as I can, I brush a hand over her face, closing her eyes. Fighting the pain of loss, I stand, turning to look at the surrounding Devias. I make no move to brush the tears away.

“The Queen is gone,” I say softly, my voice still trembling with conflicting emotions. “The kingdom is ours. But we aren’t the only ones who are going to want the throne. Other nobles will come to seize it. We have to get back, and establish our command.”

They nod. No one speaks a word. I turn back to Kane, helping him up.

“Your hand… is it… fixed?”

He shakes his head slowly. “It’s still broken.”

“But-”

“I want it to stay that way.”

What?”

“My inventions are still dangerous. If I cannot craft, I cannot make machines to hurt people. No one will try to harm you through me. I’m useless to them now.” He seems strangely happy about this. “I am nothing to anyone now. Just another boy.”

“But Kane… your inventions… you said that was what you lived for. How can you just give that up?”

“I have other things to live for now.”

“But the energy- that should have healed you!” I protest.
    “It didn’t heal me because I didn’t want it to. I promise, I spent a long time thinking about my choice. I stand by it. I will not hurt anyone any longer. I will not be used by anyone any longer.”

I grip his uninjured hand in mine, looking him straight in the eyes. “Kane… what you did… that was incredible.”

He nods, wincing and pulling his hand away from mine. “If you don’t mind… my hand… It hurts.”

My eyes widen, and I drop his hand. “I’m sorry- I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s alright.” He hesitates, then glances back at me. “I’m sorry about Iya.”

I nod slowly. “She… didn’t deserve to die like she did.”

He hesitates, before looking me in the eyes. “She died bravely.”

“She died a coward’s death,” I correct him. “Frozen. Helpless. Unable to fight back, or defend herself. No Devia wants to die like that.”

“And how would you want to die?”

“In a battle. On our feet, with our sword in our hands. Nobly. We may be assassins… but we all aspire to glory.” I turn away, to look at the surrounding Devias again.

“Let’s go.”

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