Sunday, November 1, 2015

Handmaidens of Petra: The Fallen Queen

The sky split, spilling sickly greenish fire from a golden tear that opened between the stars. The cacophony of yips, snarls and howls faltered on the other side, then became high, pained shrieks. Bursts of golden flame flashed along the base of the wall of fire, as beast men still charging from behind crashed into those trying to backpedal away from it. The beast men vanished in a lick of flame, leaving only echoes of their cries and wisps of ash on the cold night’s wind.

“Wichery!” Justin breathed.
“Witchery that keeps our heads on our shoulders,” Brynne said.
“They’re coming through!” The young man drew his sword.
Brynne knocked his blade back down as he made to raise it.
“Don’t be a fool. They’re on our side.”
The shadowy figures drew closer, the greenish-gold glare lessening, revealing the  broad-shouldered Halav and a handful of archers hurrying away, their eyes wide and wild.
“Where are the others?” Jasna asked, as they drew nearer.
“The white witch said to retreat, that’s what we’re doing,” the big man rumbled.
“Where are Petra, and the Huntsman?” Jasna pressed.
“I told her it was folly. They are too many. Hurry, now, lads. The little witch said her wall would not hold for long.” Halav ushered the archers past the girls. “We won’t wait at the shore,” he said.
“You can’t just run away!” Jasna called after the man. He did not even slow his pace.
 The girl turned, and ran to catch up with the other three.

They found Zirchev, kneeling over the Queen, tying off an already-blood-soaked bandage around her midsection.
“I told her to stay back with the rest of the archers,” he hissed, hands trembling as he reached for another bandage. “But she insisted—”
“Move aside. Let me see,” Katarin said, her hands going to the fallen woman’s side. She peeled back the bandage, and blood welled up over her fingers. She sucked in a sharp breath.
“This is bad,” she said.
“What do you need?” Brynne asked.
“Hot water. Hot irons. Warm, clean cloth. More light. More time.”
“What do you need that we have a chance of getting?”
Katarin shook her head, biting her lip. “Too much blood. This wound is too deep.”
“I saw you work your healing on the little one,” Zirchev said. “Her wounds were deeper than these.”
“That took nearly all of my strength,” Katarin said. “And Petra helped with that. Now stop, you’re making it worse!” The girl snatched the bandage from the Huntsman’s hands, winding it up and packing it against the bandage he’d just applied.
“Time,” Morana said, as if she’d just remembered something. She fished the green stone from the front of her bodice. “I think there is something I can do about that.”
“This isn’t some trick to turn sticks into arrows,” Katarin said over her shoulder. “No, hold that here,” she said, turning back, and moving Zirchev’s hands.

Morana shook her head. “No, that was something completely different, making them into something they would already become, but skipping all the time in between. This wouldn’t hurry her along…” The golden chain clanked as she tightened her grip on the stone. “No, I think I can do just the opposite.”

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