With a spear jabbing at her face, Sir Danielle Longbow dodged and deflected. Her shield took the blows.
“Why am I here?” Fending off the spearhead of an alien warrior she had no enmity with was an all too familiar feeling.
“Because you love your family, you love your city, and you love your country. If you want any of them to survive, you have to kill this man, and the next three targets I give you.” The voice of the immortal voyeur drilled at the back of her ear. The voice was honeyed poison.
She tried to rush the alien warrior, knocking the spear tip aside and advancing. The local dressed in armour made of hide and bone matched her pace, stepping back out of reach. The spear withdrew to keep the point a threat to her. It shot forwards again, over her shield. The clang of metal against the right side of her helmet made her twitch to the left.
“Who is he? Why do you want me to kill him?” She tried to hack the end of the spear off. The wood survived her sword and withdrew for another thrust.
“It’s not who he is, Danielle. It’s what he represents.”
“What does he represent?” Danielle asked. The warrior before her was shorter than her, slimmer, and nimbler. His chalk white face was crimson in the light of an aurora that lit the world. No sun dared to look upon that dreadful planet. Light didn’t shine down upon anything there. It was up in the sky, finding a way to escape.
“His tribe slaughtered mine. I was never allowed revenge, not directly.” The birdsong voice both aliens shared was hovering over the battle. The attacker wasn’t responding to it. Sir Longbow fought to concentrate on the fight before her, and to ignore the tormentor above.
“Why didn’t you use the three runes to trick his tribe into doing the job for you?” Danielle backed between carved stones, feeling with the heel of her foot for solid ground and empty space.
“The runes don’t work here. This is the world of my god. The wrath that laid low civilisations on other worlds is already here. It was born here. Here the Path of Wrath is law.” Her feet stuck in muck she couldn’t afford to pay attention to and couldn’t afford not to. Unable to step out of the way of the spear thrusts, Danielle had to twist her whole body to take them on her shield.
“The Path of Wrath? Is that poetry?” Danielle tried to be smug, but she was too out of breath. Going straight from one deathmatch to another was familiar turf. The mire she was stuck in exhausted her. Sir Longbow tried to pull her right foot from the sucking muck while feeling her enemy getting ever closer to spearing her.
“You know the concept as might makes right. It is the principle that defines everything on this world. Weakness is death here,” said the herald.
“So, you’re just as fucked up here as we are on Eshrep.”
“Never compare this paradise to your shithole of a world.” His spitting rage was loud and clear as it came down from above her. “Hurry up and die. I want to watch your nation burn to ashes.”
“You should meet the Emperor of the Holy Proclamation; you’d get on like a house on fire. What’s the name of his planet?”
“Home.” She saw his pale face upside down behind the spearman.
Distraction cost her. The spear shot between the shield and her arm. It severed the strap that stabilised the slab of steel as she twisted it to protect herself.
“Fuck it.” Danielle threw her father’s shield at the spearman.
It hit the warrior in the chest.
She rushed the pale fighter. Danielle was inside the range of his spear before he could withdraw. Forgetting the sword in her hand, she threw herself at him. They fell together into the mud.
He screamed, monstrous fangs parting to let out what could only be a cry for help. She pushed his jaw shut and began bashing him with the pommel of her sword.
“If he’s not dead, it doesn’t count.” The herald’s face flickered at her side.
Lifting herself up to give the stab momentum, Danielle brought her sword down where a human’s heart would be. His armour gave to the Crann forged blade. Blood pooled in the wound and dribbled from his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” she said to the dying alien. “It was you or my country.”
“I bet he appreciates the apology.” The grin on the herald’s face was insufferable.
“That’s two,” Danielle spat. “Take me to the third. I want this done. I want to go home. I’m sick of fighting monsters.” She shook mud from her gauntlet.
“Not just yet, little knight. You killed one of my kind, but he called his whole tribe to you. How will you handle so many sealgair?”
“That’s what your people are called?” She smiled. He’d let slip a little information to her. Anger at himself was a frown and a low growl.
“They’re not my people, Danielle. Feel free to kill them all.”
“I don’t want to kill any of them,” she growled.
“Then you’ll have to run very fast, in your heavy armour, holding a shield.”
Danielle looked for the shield. It was strap up in the mud. The sucking sound as she pulled it free sounded alive. Spiders crawling on the strap bit her. Their bites burnt as she smacked at them.
Dozens of voices were coming from the area directly behind her. She ran forwards. The pain of bites drew attention to her right foot. The sabaton which had protected her foot was missing, left in the muck behind her. Without a battle to fight she saw creatures in the air. Spiders with wings hung from webs between the stones. The totems were carved to be totems of the monsters that infested the world of the sealgair.
Her shield clanged against a stone as she ran in blind panic. Things crawled beneath her armour. Beasts she couldn’t fight were chewing on her.
“Take me to your third monster. Now!” She said, wanting to shout at him but knowing it was suicide to let her pursuers know where she was. Carved stones vanished, leaving her to run through bog that leered towards her with every grassy stem. Setting foot in the water sounded more dangerous than standing on tuffets that tried to curl around her as she hoped from one to another.
“You don’t tell me what to do, little knight. If you can escape the sealgair then I will tell you where to go.”
Is he serious? She thought. “Just make a fucking portal already. We have a deal.”
“Our deal was that you kill five monsters of my choosing and I will take you back to Crann and leave it alone for one thousand years. I never said I would be your steed from fight to fight.” He flew effortlessly above her. She wanted to swat him from the air with her sword. It would only doom her to certain death on that hateful world.
Branches covered in thorns unfurled towards her as she found solid ground. She hacked at them, sending them back up into the corpse of a tree they had devoured.
Something the shape of a boar covered in hard plates turned its head to look Danielle in the eye. She ran right at it and stabbed the thing through the eye with her sword, taking it down. The steel met bone in the other side of its head.
A row of razor-sharp teeth on the outside skirted teeth for chewing plants within. The groan as it fell was less painful than the spines that shot from beneath its plates when it died. Danielle pulled a barb from her wrist where it had slipped between her gauntlets and her vambrace.
Yelling from the bog meant she was still pursued. Her trail of destruction would be all too easy to follow.
It began to rain.
“What the fuck is this?”
“What does it look like, moron?”
“It rains blood on your world?”
“We all drink blood here.” He appeared beside her. “Your vampires are lightweights.” He crossed his arms, looking at the boar thing.
“If only you had time to eat it. They taste delicious. I guess the sealgair will eat well tonight.” He’d changed his clothes. The herald had conjured a bright red satin jacket with an inverted Crann oak on the front. “I thought it would make it easier for them to find us. What do you think? Does it suit me?”
“It’ll take longer for you to realise you’re bleeding when I stab you.” A vine was silently twisting around her ankle, hoping she wouldn’t notice. “How do any of you ever get a moment’s peace here?”
“There’s no peace on the ground, little knight. That’s why you’re down here. Better keep running. They’re getting closer.” He waved the arms of his garish jacket.
She cut the vine. It bled something that made her ankle itchy. She tried to shrug bugs from her armour as she ran. Branches snapped underfoot. Leaves tore.
She would be easy to follow, but she had to run. Birds in the mad sky above screamed. Spiders leapt at her when she broke the silken chords of their webs. One was the size of a cat, buzzing with four wings as she cut it.
“I need to know what my next monster is. Tell me.”
“Your next fight will be against a fuilreum. It’s a giant carnivorous flower the size of your house. There’s a patch of them only four miles to the east.”
“Which way is east?”
He only laughed.
She promised herself she would never be the first call for monster slaying again. Every time anyone in the kingdom had a monster to kill people looked to her. Danielle had to risk her life. She had to risk never seeing the woman she loved, her daughter, and her friends again.
She ran while red light danced in the dark sky above, enemies she’d never met tracking her for the kill.
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I'm writing this from the Critique Circle. Fantasy is my least favourite genre but I liked this. The fight description was good and I could visualise it. The writing could have flowed a little better. It seemed a bit formal.
Thanks for the feedback Kenneth.
And in that very moment of realization, now knowing that she was followed, she was viciously slaughtered with no mercy intended. The herald will destroy Crann, for reasons only he knows and understands. Great job! This story seems like something pulled out of Dungeons and Dragons.
Aliens? Why are they aliens? You need to post the link to the next story again. It makes it a lot easier to keep reading. I really hate the gods messenger guy.
They’re aliens because it’s another world. I’m not jumping into science fiction with space ships, just another world made by a different god.
That makes sense. Ok
Thanks for reading. You can use this link to go to the next story. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/ior89v/