This is my worst nightmare.
How did I manage to get into a fight with the biggest, meanest knight in the entire guild you ask? Good question. I guess it’s just my irresistible personality.
My opponent, Shioba Hiztcha, the most powerfully magical knight in over a century, the queen bee.
Me, an idiot with a big sword. The ant.
Shoiba towers over me, a smile playing around her narrow mouth, her long silky ponytail dancing in a light breeze. Her slender hands finger two long daggers.
I crouch, my bare feet digging into the sand, looking for an advantage, my hand at the hilt of my sword.
“Cara!” She calls, a hint of poison in her playful voice. “Are you ready to lose against the best knight in history?”
Play it cool, just like always. “I dunno, Shoiba, you don’t look like me.”
Onlookers giggle and her smile stiffens. “Charming as always, Carasik.”
I smirk and tighten my grip on my sword. “At least one of us is…”
Not even a second later, Shoiba’s daggers are out and she’s in the air. She twirls overhead using a difficult move, her signature one. I smile. Predictable.
Sand flies and I twist away, drawing my sword in a single fluid motion. Shoiba lands in a cloud of dust and I duck as a dagger flies out of it. My sword comes up without a second thought and Shoiba narrowly avoids it.
I chuckle and in that moment my grip slackens. In an instant, the second dagger shoots out, knocking my sword right out of my hand. I watch it fly to where it clatters to the ground a couple yards away.
I curse myself under my breath. Rule number one of being a good warrior: NEVER get distracted. Crap.
Shioba’s perfect teeth flash in a contemptuous smirk, and in a second we’re in hand to hand combat. My fists flash and she twirls away. Her leg comes out of nowhere and knocks me squarely behind the knee.
I yell in surprise as my legs buckle. In another moment I’m on the ground and a fist is crashing down next to my head. Shoiba raises her hand to strike again, and I kick out in a moment of pure instinct. Shoiba collapses in a hiss…
I scramble to my feet and she howls “You’re lucky I went easy on you Carasik! If I’d used magic you’d be dead!”
My lips twitch, and I turn away “Heh, I doubt you even have any powers, Shoiba. Your magic is almost as fake as your hair.”
Out of nowhere I feel a burning, stabbing pain in my left knee and my leg buckles. I’m on the ground for a second time. A scream builds in my throat as the pain spreads up my leg.
Shoiba screeches at me “How’s THAT for magic, you brat!?”
I scream back at her in a mixture of rage and agony.
The commotion stops abruptly when a familiar voice shouts “CARAISK KACZKA!!”
It’s the voice of my mentor Akela. She is strict enough to freeze the blood in even Shoiba’s veins. I feel a tug at my collar and I’m hoisted into the air.
I flinch away when I see Akela’s blazing blue eyes. “By the Beacon, what is going on here! Carasik, you know that fighting amongst your peers is highly punishable.”
I cross my arms, still refusing to meet her furious gaze. “Well Shoiba started it.”
Akela’s disapproving bark seems to bite me right in the ear. “No excuses! You are on patrol duty, Taeka, outer rim. And you’re taking Eshoy’e. Don’t come back for at least three rotations, understand?”
She lets me down, and I fold my arms more tightly, not responding. “Understand?”
And that’s how I found myself four sectors into the Taekan steppes, in for the most memorable patrol I’ll ever have.
* * *
Huge white paws thrum against the ground, and deep purple grass flows around us like the parting waves of an ocean. Thick white fur blows gently in the sage scented breeze, and above me the sky darkens into a soft heather color, pinkish clouds still streaked across the horizon.
Eshoy’e, my beast, my best friend. I’ve raised him since I first came to Portas at ten years old. We raised each other. Those who’ve been to Earthside say he looks like a wolf, but three stories tall. We go everywhere together, and I would trust him with my life.
The sun sets in a purplish haze, the occasional ruins silhouetted against the blazing horizon. I feel for my sword that hangs on my waist. Shadows will be appearing soon, and this far into the wilderness, no one would be able to hear me call for help…
An hour passes, and then another, and stars begin to twinkle into life in the dimming sky. Eshoy’e runs at a steady pace, his gaze focused at the point where land and sky meet. A breeze picks up, drifting low over the grass bringing a fragrance of flowers, warm air, and… something else.
Eshoy’e’s large ears prick up, and he changes direction abruptly. I know he can sense it too. I crouch low as Eshoy’e builds speed, my hand tightening on my sword.
Excitement rises in my chest as Eshoy’e gives his blood curdling battle-cry. In the distance I can see three shadowy masses grouped around one spot. I get into position waiting to get close enough for my signature move.
The right moment is… Now. I gather all my power in my legs, and launch myself skyward. My sword leaves it’s hilt, and I close my eyes as I flip through the air, focusing. Just like you’ve practiced, Cara.
My eyes fly open, my sword flashes, and the first shadow disintegrates with a hair raising screech. I land with one foot, and before I have time to lose my balance, I twist, and my sword goes right through the second shadow.
I’m about to turn on the third one, but Eshoy’e flies out of nowhere and eats it whole.
“Eshoy’e! That cannot be healthy, you big moron!” He rolls his slanted blue eyes, and I stuck my tongue out.
Then I see something out of the corner of my eye. A figure laying motionless in the grass. A stranger.