Before the Fall

Fanfiction of When the World Falls to Darkness by DragonSoulJess.

The fall has begun. alliances are being formed, and guardians are being rounded up. In a small outpost called Ryoko, a small number of guardians still fight for their freedom.

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5. Choices

 

The field below Kylora was a hive of activity. Other guardians scrambled about in a frantic panic. She watched, trying to think of something to say. Two larger armies were heading their way. One of dwarves, and one of humans. They’d be crushed between the two of them. They were bringing nets and heavy weapons, ready to trap or kill every single guardian. The news had reached them too recently. Maybe not enough time to escape. They had to fight, even if fighting meant suicide. If they tried to flee deeper into the mountains they would be cornered, and the armies would catch them before they got away. They were trapped in an impossible situation. It was exactly what Kylora had feared would happen. They had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and the armies were closing in on them.

    She wanted to transform into a dragon. She needed the strength it gave her, along with the confidence. But the thought of the approaching humans filled her mind with animal panic. She wanted to fly as far away from here as she could, and take her sister with her. She wanted to abandon the rest of the guardians, and leave them to fight their own battles. That was how it had always worked, right? Guardians were solitary creatures. But they had worked so well together. She had been sure they could accomplish something.

    A few years ago, Kylora wouldn’t have even hesitated. She would have chosen to save herself- fleeing into the mountains with Hylla. But now she was more attached to the guardians around her. She had led them into this disaster. She had to lead them out of it.

    She forced herself to transform. Normally she enjoyed the experience of growing larger and stronger, but this time it felt painful. The scars she hid so well burned against her back- a reminder of what she would suffer again if she failed.

    The other guardians noticed her transform, and gradually all noise subsided as the guardians turned to face her. She wanted to hide, to run, but she forced herself to stand tall. You have to tell them what they need to hear, even if you don’t believe it yourself. Miel had been right about one thing. She couldn’t afford to look weak in front of them.

    “I know you’ve heard about the armies that are coming.” Kylora’s voice was rough with emotion- emotion which she did nothing to hide. She wasn’t sure she could hide it. She was just as terrified as they were. “There are more of them then there are of us. We’ll be fighting what may be a losing battle. If you…” she choked slightly. “If you wish to flee now, I won’t blame you.”

    There was dead silence. For months now, Kylora had pushed them to fight back, to follow her, and stand against the humans. Now she was telling them that their only hope was to run away.

    Kylora wished she could disappear. I can’t do this, she thought. I’m a horrible leader. They’re terrified, and here I am telling them that they’ll die.

    She gritted her teeth, lashing her tail behind her.

    “You can run,” she kept going, “if you like. But as for me, I’m going to stay here.”

    “To die?!” Ryder again. Of course it would be him. He often challenged Kylora when she spoke.

    “To make a name for myself,” Kylora replied. “To become a legend. If I must die, then I’ll make the humans remember my name.” She began to pace, and tried to believe the words she was saying. “We all die eventually, don’t we? The humans will never stop hunting us. It doesn’t matter when we die, because it’ll happen anyways. But how we go out, that’s what matters.” She thought back to her conversation with Miel. Maybe it’s time you showed them. If there had ever been a time to show them why they should fight, it was now.

    She took a deep breath, and shrunk to her human form. The other guardians murmured uneasily. She always addressed them as a dragon. They probably saw this as a show of weakness, but she had to keep going.

    “You know they’ll never stop hunting us. They’ll take us down alone in the mountains when we’re weak and hungry. So we must fight them.”

    “Why?!” Ryder snapper, as she’d suspected he would. “Why not ask them for mercy, and surrender? Surely they’ll let us live if we promise to do them no harm!”

    “Surrender,” Kylora spoke quietly. “I’ll show you what they do to the guardians that surrender!” She threw off her jacket, and turned away from her army. She was wearing a sleeveless top, that left her shoulder blades- and the mess of scars that covered them- visible. She heard several soft, sharp gasps, and knew the other guardians had seen them. She resisted the temptation to pull her jacket back on- to hide the scars, like she had for months. Instead, she let the other guardians see them.

    “They did that to me,” Kylora said calmly. “I begged for mercy. I begged for them to stop, and did they? No. They would never stop, unless I swore to obey them. They would not stop until they broke me, and they will do the same to all of you. Do you know how I escaped?” She looked around, daring them to challenge her. No one spoke. “They thought I was dead, and threw me out into the snow. I survived, barely. But I was fortunate, and they won’t take so many chances with any of you! If you run away, then this is your fate.” She studied Ryder. “You ask why we don’t just surrender? The humans see our surrender as a given. They believe we’ll surrender anyways, under time and pressure. They won’t let us go. They won’t accept negotiations because to them we are objects to be bought and sold. Animals that are only useful when they are broken. They won’t let us just walk away. If you try to surrender to them, you’ll find yourself chained up faster than you can transform. The humans will hurt you, just like they’ve hurt many of us. So you can run, or surrender. But me?” She clenched her fists, and turned to face the horizon. Her hands were shaking, but she forced all the confidence she could into her voice. “I will fight. And I will die before I let the humans take me again. So choose if you like. Run, or surrender, or fight here with me. I’ll let each of you decide for yourself.” She pulled her jacket back on. It didn’t matter now. All of them had seen her scars. Still, the jacket gave her a slight feeling of protection. Without it she felt naked and exposed, with so many people seeing the pain she had suffered. At least now they were hidden again.

    She closed her eyes, and clenched her fists to stop her from trembling. She had just sealed her own fate. She wished she could be calm and brave about it, but in truth she was terrified. But she had spoken now. There was no way she was going to turn and run now. Not when she would be caught anyways.

    “Kylora!”

    She turned, and saw Hylla running towards her, in her humanoid form. Hylla threw her arms around Kylora, and buried her head in her sister’s chest. Hylla was shaking almost as badly as Kylora herself was, and Kylora felt a surge of guilt. She hugged her little sister, trying to figure out how to say what she had to say.

    “You’re really staying?” Hylla whispered.

    “I have to…” Kylora replied. “I can’t keep running, Hylla.” She took a deep breath, then spoke again. “I want you and Miel to escape into the mountains.”

    Hylla blinked, looking up at Kylora in shock. “You mean… run? You just said that would mean death!”

    “Not if you’re with Miel,” Kylora replied, doing her best to sound brave for Hylla’s sake. “She can protect you. But you can’t stay here.”

    “You want me to leave you?” Hylla demanded. “Just run away into the mountains and leave you to fight a losing battle here? You’re… you’re my sister! I can’t do that!”

    Kylora put a hand on Hylla’s shoulder. “You have to, Hylla. Don’t you get it? If I know you’re safe then…”

    “Then what?!” Hylla demanded. “You’ll be fine with fighting a losing battle? Fine with dying, and leaving me alone?! Is that really what you tell yourself?”

    Kylora winced. Each of her sisters words were like knives to her heart. She knew this was dangerous and stupid. She knew that, but she wanted to give Hylla a chance. Her sister was too young. She deserved to live a longer life.

    “Listen to me,” Kylora insisted. “Hylla, you have a better chance at living then I do. You could hide, and-”

    “And live a life of running and hiding, moving from place to place, never able to stay for too long in case I was recognized and identified as a guardian?” Hylla demanded. “I’m a guardian, Ky. Just like you. There’s no peace for any of us, and there never will be peace for any of us! You just said the humans will never stop hunting us!”

    “It doesn’t have to be that way for you!” Kylora insisted. “You don’t have to fall with the rest of us! I’m just trying to protect you.”

    Hylla paused, and then whispered, “And who’s going to protect you?”

    Kylora blinked, and reached out to touch her sister's cheek. “Hylla-”

    “We all have to be brave,” Hylla insisted. “I want to fight here with you. I’m not leaving you to fall alone.” She turned into a wolf, and loped away, leaving Kylora staring numbly at the space where she’d been.

 

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