Friday, August 24, 2012

Handmaidens of Petra: Chosen of the First Ones

The clash of iron on air never came. There was a brightening of the darkness before her closed eyes, but it was a warm reddish color, not the cold blue light of metal against sorcery.
And the gnoll howled, this time in genuine pain, rather than annoyance.

Katarin opened her eyes, to see a smoldering furrow in the thing’s shoulder, the metal pauldron steaming, the edges gleaming orange-yellow against the night. It turned, looking up, over its charred shoulder, at the sky, where a pinpoint of brilliant orange gleamed like a new star.
A falling star, Katarin realized, as the point of light grew rapidly bigger, brighter, streaking like one of the stars from the Festival of Lights.
It struck the gnoll in the back, and the thing’s howl bubbled, then choked off as the armor glowed a dull red, the orange lancet bursting through to sear into the ground at Katarin’s feet.
Steaming mud and dark beastman blood spattered off the lower edge of the shield of air she still held in place, and she scrambled backwards, letting the shield fall as another star streaked towards the beastman.
Not just one, she saw, as she looked past the creature. Streaks of orange and yellow fell from the sky, raining down on the tents along the outskirts of the village, and through the weaving of silence, she could hear more howls, each more pained than those of the beastman before her.
A bolt struck its wounded leg, and it collapsed to its knees, its howl a high, brittle thing as it clutched at the smoking hole.
The night sky above rippled, and a figure appeared, descending amidst a blaze of silvery-gold light. It was hard to see just where the flowing gown, streaming hair, and outspread wings left off. A golden crown blazed on the figure’s brow, above molten golden eyes. A familiar red-gold gleam from the circlet matched the light emanating from pair of stones bound in an impossibly delicate weaving of golden threads and loops and whirls encasing the figure’s lower arms. A gossamer golden thread shimmered at the fingertips of the figure’s right hand, which was held at her cheek. Her left was extended before her, clutching a heavy war bow of gleaming platinum and gold.
A streamer of fire snaked from the stone adorning the pale angel’s right wrist, coursing from her fingers to align with her left finger, which pointed steadily at the mortally wounded beast man.
The great silvery wings gave a beat, steadying the descending figure, and she loosed the arrow of flame, sending it streaking into the beastman’s sword arm. Most of the limb tumbled away, sword and all, amidst another shrill howl of agony.
The wings flexed once more, gave two beats, and the figure’s silvery boots touched down on the muddy ground, the shimmering gown settling about her ankles. She gave the top limb of the bow a sharp wrench, and it came apart. The shining figure didn’t break stride, but brought the sword in it’s left hand up, blade reversed, cleaving through the beastman’s iron back plate as if it were cheesecloth. The blade spat and steamed, even as the angelic figure planted it in the ground at Katarin’s feet.
The figure knelt, head bowed, golden hair flowing, wings leaving steaming furrows in the mud as she went to one knee behind the sword, before the wide-eyed weaver.
“The Homeguard is arrived, Oh, Chosen of the First Ones.”

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