Chapter Thirteen: Conflict

Alassiel could feel Lahk approaching, his presence a dark stain on her senses even though she could not see him through the storm of her own creation. He could hide from her eyes, but not from the earth… through her druid link to the world around her, she couldn’t help but notice him… he practically made the air around him boil as he flew on dark wings, making a line directly towards her, sensing her just as she sensed him.

Her mind cast to the war, to the death of her mother more than twenty years ago now. There Sirae had fought Sanguinar in a storm, among the sea of demons and carnage and death, battling for the salvation of her world. This would be little different. Then, Sirae had been willing to die to end Sanguinar’s dark shadow. Alassiel breathed slowly, and let the fear leave her… she was willing to make the same sacrifice her mother had.

Her eyes closed, she felt the ground want to recoil away as Lahk’s boots touched the ground twenty feet from her, striding towards the redhaired elf. “Why can’t you just die like any other whore?” He growled, coming to a stop. Even bereft of Cerec feeding it power, she could sense Blackwand’s strength… the sword bent her perception around it as she felt the blade’s magic connect with Lahk’s, the dark god holding it in a guard position. “This will be… the third time I’ve had to kill you. There won’t be a forth. This time, I’ll pluck your soul from the hell itself and leave it in a cage if I have to…”

Alassiel stood there calmly, Menelrûth held easily in her hands. Once she would have been shaking with rage if she hadn’t already charged him, or she would have been stuck there in fear. Now the golden glow of her eyes was cool as she stared at the man, and she could barely imagine how she had missed how much of Sirae she could see in his face. She had known long ago, of course, had known since barely after she met the man, but had never been able to think of him like that before, hadn’t been able to think of him as anything at all but an enemy, a monster. The recent revelation of her own heritage meant that, to Alassiel, she couldn’t dismiss him anymore, not out of hand.

He was a child when he was taken. The church had spent his entire life turning him into this, and he had probably never gotten to truly make a decision for himself. He didn’t grow into a monster… he was crafted into one. She didn’t feel hatred as she looked at him now. She just felt pity.

“I’m sorry,” she said without inflection. “It’s my fault they took you. If I’d been smarter, faster… if I hadn’t been so blind in my grief… if I’d be better, none of this would have happened. You could have been someone else. That’s my fault. I’m sorry I failed you.”

The expression on Lahk’s face, a look of eager anticipation for the coming violence, had vanished… he now wore no emotion on his face at all. “What?” he growled slightly. “What are you blabbering about whore?”

“I’m sorry you became what you are. But I can’t reason with you. I can only put you down.” The d in down hadn’t quite made it past her lips when Alassiel lifted Menelrûth to an advanced guard and charged, the soft leather of her boots kicking up the pooling water on the fortress castle as she did, darting at Lahk in a spray of rain and splatter and and pulsing surge of the lighting caged in her sword.

Alassiel was fast, but so was Lahk. Although the druid goddess closed the distance in the blink of one golden eye, her weapon met Blackward before it could find his flesh, the two weapons clashing again and again as each sought an opening to kill the others, weaving through rapid series of strikes broken up by the occasional thrust. Colored sparks showered out of Menelrûth each time it met the other enchanted blade, the lightning discharging but failing to reach Lahk through even the weakened magic of his mighty sword… instead it danced around the two of them like a cloud of static, glowing blue as it sliced between falling raindrops and lighting their battle in the storm so brightly that she could see little else.

Lightning crashed above them, and before the thunder’s echo had faded their swords had crashed together more than a hundred times. Her assault was unrelenting, aggressive, and precise, his counters no less deadly… his reports slammed hard into her longer weapon, hard enough that she could feel the shock all the way to her shoulders at each block. Alassiel ducked a swipe at her head, close enough that it took some of her crimson hair from her hair.. She retaliated with a thrust forward that forced Lahk to spin to the side, arching his back out from the blade so that Menelrûth struck a line of electricity across his bellyHe missed the next thrust and had to spin to the side, arching his back out. Navaris’s sword struck a line of sparks along his belly, deflected at an oblique angle by the armor. If the touch of electricity bothered him, he showed no sign. Then he was attacking back again, and she couldn’t think to press the attack for the need to defend herself.

He was better armored than her, but against a blade of Blackwand or Menelrûth’s quality armor made little different… any direct strike would kill either of them, slicing through the steel like wool, so his armor actually slowed him somewhat, giving her that slight edge against his greater power, power stolen from her mother and his father. She used that advantage of speed ruthlessly, keeping him from attacking as much as possible, forcing Lahk to block more than counter-attack, to give ground before the storm of steel and lightning she woke around him to stop it from swallowing him.

Then Lahk’s foot stepped over the edge of the battlements. She hadn’t realized they had gotten that close, Menelrûth’s discharge of power keeping her vision limited to little more than Lahk’s force… apparently he hadn’t expected it either, but it didn’t stop him from using his other foot to launch himself upward as hard as he could, his wings beating the drenched air furiously as he rose above her into the storm.

He glared down at her, Blackwand held in both hands as he floated above her. Rain hissed against his armor, evaporating to steam as it came into contact with the power boiling around him, surrounding him in mist that his wings were quick to beat away before it returned a second later. “How is this possible?” His gaze promised death as he looked at her. “I am a god, the one true god within the Veil now. The power of both my father and your precious goddess flows within me… yet you match me. How?”

Alassiel thought for a second before shrugging… it seemed as good a plan as any, and she always had wanted to try it. Sirae had done it before, so it was possible… She summoned the strength of the earth, the winds whipping any loose flaps on her leathers as it whistled around her, gathering strength, pooling into a column on power directly beneath her until it lifted her entirely off the ground. It was easier to control than she thought it would be… she was in the eye of her own personal tornado, the pressure of the air holding her aloft and reasonably well balanced. Fighting like this would be difficult… but no more difficult than for Lahk with his wings, especially not in the storm. “Because I have to,” she muttered in answer to Lahk before rushing across the air to cover the last few feet of space between them.

The rain storm around them was blown to the side by the hurricane of wind Alassiel had summoned as her blade met Lahk’s again in a clash of electricity and blue sparks. Lahk struck back, a halfhearted counter to force her to duck before he shot straight upwards, his wings beating the air as he guided the fight higher. Alassiel had little choice but to follow, so she did, racing forward and up through the storm, above the battle raging beneath them for control of the city.

Lahk suddenly stopped midair, his wings propelling him back hard hard enough to counter his forward momentum. Alassiel rolled to her right on pure instinct, and an instant later Blackward sliced through the empty space her head had occupied the moment before. Then Alassiel was past him, the current of wind carrying her past him and spinning him around, nearly sending him spinning from the sky. The elven woman gathered up the furies of the sky, summoning lightning to her hand and launching it at him while he was off balance, but even distracted he had enough dark power surrounding it to make it fizzle out uselessly inches from him, seeking easier paths to ground out than through him. Then she lost sight of him in the storm as her speed carried her too far past him.

Alassiel managed to get herself under control, slowing down gradually and coming to a hover, extending her senses outward. He was out there in the storm, out of sight, circling her… the goddess summoned more lightning to her will, sending it sailing out into the darkness of the driving rain, the crack of the lightning and the hiss of rain turning to steam the only sounds she could hear as she launched them out into the night after Lahk. None of them made contact with the flying god, or likely would have hurt him if they had, but the fourth such blast lit him up, showing her his precise location. He was flying right toward her, shockingly fast, a blue of black wings and steel armor in the rain.

She raised her sword to meet his charge. Blackwand licked out, seeking her throat, and Menelrûth caught it just inches from her, angling so that his incredible speed and momentum would make it roll away from her and not off of her block and through her. A web of electrical sparks the size of a building came flying off of where their swords met, and Alassiel caught an impression of Lahk grimacing in pain as they surrounded him. Then he was gone, screaming in fury as his wings carried him past her even as he beat the air, banking and coming around to rush her again.

Lightning gathered to her again, hurling outward to meet Lahk’s charge… the dark god went right through it, as she had known he would… it hadn’t been the point. This time, the storm’s fury had been channeled through her sword, and Menelrûth glowed with the absorbed fury. Lahk didn’t hesitate… he swept forward, angling towards her in a charge, sword thrust out in front of him.

“I’m sorry brother,” she cried out in the instant before Blackwand sliced across the side of her abdomen, cutting through the leather armor as though it wasn’t there and pinking her… but Blackwand’s power had been broken when her ascension had shattered the prison and killed Cerec, and no blue flame welled within her to make the cut lethal. For that moment, Alassiel knew exactly where his sword was…

And the goddess of the earth whirled away from him, bringing her own glowing sword down not on Lahk but halfway down the matte black surface of his sword.

Menelrûth shined with gathered magic as it cleaved through the weakened Blackward, the black shattered in seven places from the force of the impact. Immediately Alassiel gathered her wind to her and brought it all between her and Lahk… it meant she was now falling from the sky, her support gone, but she did it just in time. There was an instant of silence, like some vast monster taking a breath… then Blackwand exploded in a blue flash of power, an inferno of destruction that consumed Lahk, removing him from sight entirely. The barrier of wind and her nearly created distance carried the energy away from Alassiel, sending it off in other directions to light the sky like a second sun for a few blinding seconds.

The elven goddess worked frantically to put her power back together, to form a new current of wind before she finished crashing to the ground… it came easier the second time, the storm obeying her call without question, her Eren Eregdos burning hot within her as untold power was channeled through her from the earth… just in time to witness Lahk, tumbling out of control, fall past her a hundred feet away, plummeting towards the city beneath them.

Alassiel set her face… she felt no elation, no victory. It wasn’t done yet. Gathering the storm behind her, she raced forward after him, towards the ground.

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