Ascent 6 – The Guardian

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The burned out ruin of a great temple overlooking the city of Danessa finally appeared on the horizon, and it couldn’t come soon enough. They had stayed on the road eighteen hours the last 4 days to make it here as quickly as they had, but it was worth it… At long last, they were approaching the final leg of their journey. Here, they would at last find the Scroll of Destiny. Here, at last, they would be able to change their destinies back to what they were supposed to be, and restore Ariadna to her rightful place.

And not soon enough. Nira felt exhausted, bone weary from the trip and the stress. She didn’t belong among these people, and soon enough they would realize it… that she was a fake. Seeing Inara, hearing her story, only solidified that for her… the woman had meant well, and then in her attempt to try and help she had caused a disaster. That was Nira… and if she stayed, it was only a matter of time before she screwed everything up in some even more legendary way. The fact that no one treated like the failure she was made it worse… it was like she was just waiting for the hammer to fall, all the time. The sooner she wasn’t in a position to ruin everything, the better. Now, she just wanted nothing more than to be done with the whole quest and to just… vanish. Go with Leila and not need to fear the future. Knowing that if something happened to Ariadna now, and she could have done something about it, was the only driving force that compelled her to continue on with the group.

There were few people in Danessa now… even a decade later, the town hadn’t recovered from the siege that had smashed the Grand Temple and the loss of the priestesses. Those few residents that remained seemed to pay them no need as they made their way through the town and up to the hills that hosted the former temple. Nira’s heart sank at seeing it. She had never seen the Grand Temple before, had just been a teenager when it had fallen, but she had heard the legends… and even now, with stone cracked and char having consumed it, there was something elegant and wonderful to the structure. This was a place of beauty, a work of art… but long ago. Many of the buildings had collapsed either during the siege or in the fires that followed, and in the decade since no one had tried to resurrect the complex. Why would they? Followers of Ariadna were being hunted by Karnites and prosecuted, tortured and raped, and no one wanted to put themselves in the target of Karn’s church along with them… They had no reason to seek out such wrath. The common people of the city wouldn’t rebuild the temple and risk bringing down the same kind of fate on themselves.

And so, the beautiful place lay in ruin. The main temple had mostly collapsed save for a few of the walls and columns that still stood. The outlying buildings were little better, and some of the taller buildings were just barely standing, only three walls supporting their ground level. A mighty hit would dislodge the foundation and send the top floors crashing down. It was a true testament to the skill of the artisans that had once crafted this place in Ariadna’s honor that the temples had not fallen already.

Nira took in a deep breath as she looked over the temple. She could imagine the carnage that had befallen here, but there were no bodies. At least someone had seen to them. The fallen priestesses and warriors and followers of Ariadna did not deserve to lay here abandoned. Still, the scene left her heart heavy at the loss of so many. How could a simple thing like a scroll have caused all of this to start? She shook her head. She knew why. The scroll hadn’t caused it… it had simply allowed it to happen. It allowed the way the world worked to change. One well meaning mistake… and all of this. The scroll was linked to the destinies of everyone that ever lived. Everyone in existence. The scroll tied them together. What affected one person would affect another. The fate of a man today would have an outcome on his children or his children’s children. A dispute between friends would have lasting impact because the scroll decided the destiny of all. Gods and mortals… who knew how much they had changed in that brief time, how their fates had forever changed, and all because a priestess did something wrong that she thought was right. And Nira wasn’t even a priestess.

She didn’t belong here.

The wagon that the dark haired woman rode in the front of with Leila slowed to a halt. She reached her hand over to squeeze Leila’s hand in her own. “Finally here,” she said softly. Leila, in answer, kissed her. She didn’t want to go, but instead, anxious to feel her legs again, she hopped down from the wagon to walk along the dusty path.

Jaymes and Kaya dismounted from their horses, but being the ever-cautious type, they had their swords drawn. Their eyes scanned the area to look for any signs of trouble. “Stay close everyone,” Kaya said as she looked around. “It appears we beat Jaras here but we don’t know by how much.”

“This area is Karn’s territory now,” Jaymes agreed. “This could become a trap.” His voice carried an air of authority, filled with faith and surety of purpose. He would make a good priest of Ariadna if his attitude and birth hadn’t lead him to become a Guardian of the Church… certainly a better priestess than she had made.

Nira shook her head, clearing the thoughts. This wasn’t why they were here. Their goal here focused on protecting Ariadna. Without her, they would have nothing to show for this. She needed to focus. She couldn’t disappoint. Kaya said it all the time… it was the duty of the Guardians to protect her priestess even if it killed her, and right now, to Kaya, that priestess was Ariadna. She wouldn’t be a burden.

Leila climbed down from the wagon, approaching Nira on her left. She drew out two of her daggers to have them at the ready. “Careful,” she said softly. “They are right. We could be in a trap. This area is out of the way of the rest of the town. It would be easy to get caught and surrounded.”

She would make a good Guardian, too. Through her talks with Leila over the course of their journey, Nira had learned how the redhaired beauty had managed to accomplish so much as an assassin at such a young age… good at looking for opportunities, always watching for traps and ambushes that she could lay. The skills mirrored those of a Guardian… and they could be used the same way. Her caution had served her well many times, making her capable of killing a dozen priests before she had been caught… and then more afterward.. Her strategies and tactics had gotten her out of many situations where she thought she would be captured.

If Nira were a priestess, she would trust her with her life. She would stay with her beloved and not leave her side. But she wasn’t a priestess.

There was no sign of trouble. Lost in her dark thoughts, Nira pointed up to the main temple. The partially collapsed building stood at the center of the surrounding buildings. According to Ariadna, the area with the best access to the catacombs would be the lower parts of that collapsed building. They would need to enter and find a way down in order to get the scroll. Anxious to get this over with before she could fuck everything up, Nira motioned with her arm. “Come on. Let’s get going.” Her eyes focused back onto the rest of her companions and found, to her annoyance, that they were not moving at all. Jaymes, Kaya and Leila were looking around at the taller buildings… Their eyes searching the top walls for any signs of movement.

There was such a thing as too much caution.

Eager to get this over with, Nira strode up the stairs, lost in her own thoughts as she approached the main entrance to the temple. With her mind trapped in her own self-hatred, she didn’t notice when, halfway up the stairs to the temple, the horses began to scuff their hooves on the ground. They whined loudly, backing up from the temple. “Nira!” Leila screamed, realizing for the first time that the dark haired woman had left her side.

Nira turned her head back at the call… and found the others all looking towards her, staring up at the temple’s entrance. A looming feeling of darkness and dread suddenly spread over Nira, and her skin rippled like it was trying to crawl its way off of her to escape. Her heart sank inside of her chest, feeling suddenly cold as she slowly turned her head. In the doorway to the main building, Nira saw what spooked the horses. Her spine trembled, and everything told Nira to run… but her legs wouldn’t move. Couldn’t move. She was paralyzed in the gaze of the Fury standing in the frame of the collapsed door.

The reptilian man was tall and strong as he emerged from the dark recesses of the temple, holding a massive two-handed sword behind him, the edge grinding carelessly as he dragged it across the ground. One single glowing eye shone crimson in his deformed skull as the eerie sound of metal scraping against stone made Nira shake, and the thing laughed. “Why hello there, little plaything,” he said, a far-too-wide smile stretching across his face. “Ssssso nice to ssssee you.”

Nira had never been so afraid in her life. Not when she had been discovered as a false priestess. Not when she thought Arianda had been captured and there was nothing she could do to save her. Not when she was certain she was going to die being raped in Skyvus’s grasp. Supernatural dread just overwhelmed her, wiping away common sense, rational thought, and even instinctive reaction. Nira’s legs gave out from under her and she collapsed, crumpling in fear, and no matter how hard she tried she could not rise.

“Foolish worssshippers of a whore,” he growled. “I have misssssed you in the heavens, Ariadna… do you think your brother will reward me when I sssingle handedly return you to him?” He chuckled. “Perhaps lessss one eye. Fair isss fair, wouldn’t you sssay?” He took three slow strides forward, beginning to walk down the stairs. “You cannot match my might any longer… none of you can,” the Fury hissed. “I don’t even need to sssee you defeated. I need only not permit you to essscape. Lord Jarasss and his army will be here sssoon… Your fates are now sssealed. Sssurrender now, and perhaps I will permit a few of you to live as ssslaves.”


Ariadna closed her hands into fists. “Raska,” she breathed softly. She began to slowly walk forward.

“You can’t!” Jaymes insisted, standing before her. He knew well how dangerous Furies were… there was no way any mortal would be standing against one. Even from here, he could feel the supernatural aura of dread beginning to weigh him down, make him feel like he had weights on his limbs. “If he takes you, it’s all for nothing!”

“I can’t leave her!” Ariadna said, sounding like she wanted to scream. “I can’t leave another one.”

“We won’t,” Kaya said firmly. Her eyes were fixed on Raska at he took another slow, deliberate step towards Nira… forcing herself to stand straight and tall.

Jaymes swallowed. There was only one hope left. “We have to find that scroll,” he said. “Now! Protect the goddess!” Jaymes grabbed Ariadna, spinning her around to lead her away from the Fury. With his other hand, he grabbed onto Amellisan. He could see that she was frozen in shock and fear herself, almost as unable to move as Nira was, but he couldn’t take her and Ariadna both. “Leila!” he said, shaking her loose from her wide eyed stare at the Fury and Nira. “Leila! You can’t fight him. Help me get her out of here!”

Leila fists were clenched and she was shaking with rage… she felt utterly helpless. He was right… she stood no chance against something like that. There was a difference between stealth kills and defeating a monster with brute strength, and with that nigh-immortal monster fully aware of their presence, the element of surprise was gone. He could wipe them out in seconds and wouldn’t break a sweat. Still, she stood there trembling. “I have to go after her…” She started to take a step forward, and as she stumbled through the insanely hard step towards the monster Kaya placed her hand onto her shoulder.

“No,” Kaya said simply. The sudden force and strength of that hand on her shoulder made her pause. “Your place is here with the goddess. It is your duty to protect her. Protect Ariadna.”

Tears streamed down from Leila’s face. “But…” she protested, slowly sagging beneath the weight of the oppressive waves coming off the fury. “Kaya, I can’t leave her behind, I have to…”

Kaya forced her hand to her sword and drew it. “A guardian has to think of more than simply who to kill, Leila. She has to think of who to protect. Get Ariadna to safety. I’ll get Nira back.”

Weeping, Leila nodded… though her throat was dry and her nerves shot, she scooped up the almost unresponsive noblewoman and half ran half carried Amellisan away from the battlefield, taking her in the same direction that Jaymes had run.

With nerves hardened to steel, Kaya face down the Fury ahead and forced herself to take one more step. This was… this was an impossible fight. No mortal could take down a Fury. No hundred mortals could. Tales told that it took armies with the assistance of a Siren. This wouldn’t be a hard battle… it would be one step shy of suicide.

But she was a Guardian… and Kaya had already left behind the last priestess she ever would. She didn’t have a plan other than to distract the Fury, but maybe that would be enough… enough to let Nira escape. Maybe even to let her escape. Perhaps if she did that much, her life would have meant something.

On top of the stairs, Nira stood paralyzed and alone, terrified. She couldn’t see her friends… but no one was coming. Who could? She had been left alone to the mercy of a Fury. She didn’t want to think about what would happen to her. Death seemed inevitable but… she could think of so much worse. The sound of that large sword getting dragged down the steps felt like an inevitable countdown to her end, each sharp rap as it plummeted one more step one fewer heartbeat she would have to live. Nira didn’t know how many steps were between her and the Fury, but even though she couldn’t manage to keep her eyes open, she could hear every single one of them… clang clang clang as the metal death fell between one step and the next. Trembling with fear, the horrific aura of suppressing, oppressive terror overwhelming her, the false priestess pissed herself. She could feel the hatred radiating off of him like heat he was so close to her now.

“Priestessss of Ariadna…” he hissed, mocking laughter in his voice. “Where is your goddessss now? Does she not protect you? Call her forth. Call your goddess to come ressscue you…” His hand, seemingly burning, grabbed onto her chin, and Nira cried out with everything she had. The scream was weak, breathless, and it barely reached her own ears. “That’sss right. She has no power to help you, doesss she? No one has the power to help you. You are at the mercsssy of me. You are at the mercy of Rassska now.”

Raska took the giant sword that he carried and with monstrous strength he slammed the sword down. It buried deep into the scorched marble steps with no noticeable effort as his hand snapped forward, grabbing Nira by the throat with all the speed of a striking snake. Then, savagely fast, he slammed her down against the stairs so hard she thought she would break. He held back, of course… he would have turned her into paste against the stone, but instead she just hit hard as his other hand came for her dress, ripping it down the middle to expose her long, luscious legs until her bare sex was visible to him.

Nira wanted to scream, to fight, anything. She wanted only Leila’s touch upon her skin… She was the one that she had fallen in love with, the one she wanted. This wasn’t supposed to happen… Maybe, if she could resist him, her friends could save her. Maybe she wouldn’t be used by this monster… but she couldn’t make herself do anything. She just stared up at his one glowing eye in helpless, stunned horror.

The Fury growled at her as his hand reached down to her legs, and effortlessly he pulled them apart, splitting them wide around him and fully baring her sex to his lecherous gaze. Raska casually, possessively cupped his hand over her sex and Nira winced to feel his scaled, hot fingers sliding over her pussy lips. Hatred and spite boiled off him like a physical thing, scorching the mortal girl and making her scream a breathless scream until she bit her lips hard enough to make them bleed just to silence herself. Then Raska slid one of his fingers into her pussy and nothing in the world could have kept her silent. Nira screamed and wept as her tight pussy walls squeezed on his finger, trying to force him back out of her. His right hand came back to her throat to keep her pinned to the ground.

“Now,” he whispered to her. “You and I are going to have some fun… and then I’m going to go after your friendsss and take them as well. The male ssserves no purpose to me, but the ressst…” He chuckled. “Well… it isss good that Jarasss will not be here too sssoon.” Raska’s hand moved away from her sex, and she could gaze past her trembling to see the large Fury’s cock standing erect from his body. He grabbed hold of that monstrous, scaled weapon of a cock, stroking it in his grasp as he gazed down at her. He briefly looked down the stairs and smiled widely. “Ooh, ssso someone elssse wants to play asss well,” Raska hissed out a laugh. “Take your sssweet time, little slut.”

Nira couldn’t see. Who was he talking to. Leila? She wanted so badly for Leila to come and save her but… seeing this monster, powerful enough that just the fear of him kept her from even moving, she wanted the woman she loved to run far far away from this thing and never return. Then the Fury’s cock head pressed firmly at her cunt. The false priestess winced when he shoved, a whimper of pain escaping her sore lungs even through the hand on her neck as he forced himself inside her snug sex. Her hands gripped weakly onto the Fury’s wrist, trying to push him off her with everything she had… and she doubted he even noticed .

Unable to free herself from her assailant, Nira felt the full length of the Fury’s cock slam deep into her pussy. The air in her lungs was purged with that first thrust, and with the choking she couldn’t get it back. Each mighty thrust forced another suffocating grunt out of her as she squeezed at his thighs with her legs, trying to slow his progress but she couldn’t hold him back, couldn’t even made him fuck her the slightest bit more gently. Her feet flailed in the air wildly as he raped her and she suffocated.

The one-eyed Fury laughed loudly, reveling in the rare, glorious triumph of his cock claiming another priestess of Ariadna. He relished in the conquest, sneering as his cock pounded deep into her… Repeatedly claiming her body with his flesh. Without a care for her pleasure, he let out a hissing, serpentine snarl of his pleasure as he hammed her down like he was trying to drive her into the stairs.

Kaya’s eyes burned as she watched the one-eyed Fury over Nira’s abused form, but she felt frustratingly helpless… her body wouldn’t move. She had to. She had to. She wouldn’t fail again. She… would… not…

Fail!

Kaya’s will pressed against that of the Fury like a frenzied hurricane off the ocean, shoving against it on every front and battering at it like a stormfront. Pushing it back, precious thought by precious thought… forcing him away from her. She had been subjugated before, by Camden… and she had spent years after that day living in her head, remembering what it had been like to feel that helpless for that long, unable to move, unable to fight, barely able to think. She had thought of every single sensation, every moment of the pain and helplessness, and she had thought about what she would do next time. This was so much stronger than anything Camden had ever been able to do…

But so was she.

One at a time, she forced him out of the doors in her mind and slammed them shut behind her. Slowly at first, but faster and faster and faster as she gained momentum. It was like rolling a boulder down a hill. He didn’t belong in her mind… and as she began to force him back and free more and more of her thoughts, her mind agreed and more and more of it fought with her. Then, all at once, Kaya was free.

The blonde warrior lifted her sword, gripping the hilt with both hands, and ran up the stairs. The one-eyed Fury took notice of her, turning his head with a visible note of surprise. Their eyes met in that briefest moment, then he pulled back up off Nira and pulled his massive sword from the stone he had impaled it into moments before.

“Impossssible,” he hissed, slitted eye narrowing.

The pressure against her mind doubled and she almost buckled… it hit her like a physical blow. A gentle breeze blew through Kaya’s hair. She took a deep breath, gathering up every ounce of strength she could muster. “Is that all you’ve fucking got?” she snarled. “Hear me, Fury. My name is Kaya, Guardian of the temple of Ariadna and her followers, and your blight on this land has lasted long enough. You will die today.”

Raska laughed at her pronouncement. If the impossibility of his aura of subjugating fear being shrugged off disturbed him, he didn’t show it. “Foolish mortal ssslut. You think you can defeat one of Karn’s chosssen yourself? You are no sssiren… you are nothing but a mewling bitch, and I will break you like one.” He began driving down the stairs towards her. “It is your death that you ssseek today. The othersss, I will give to Jarasss, but you? Before I kill you, I will rape your battered body to ssshredded meat while you watch your goddessss fall and know the full humiliation of your failure and defeat.”

The words of the Fury crystallized something furious in Kaya’s mind, and with a battle cry she leaped at him, swinging her weapon down at the mammoth figure. The one-eyed Fury was quick to counter her blow. His sword, huge as it was, lifted like it weighed nothing to meet hers, and her arms shivered as her steel clashed with his. The metal rang out from the impact and she narrowed her eyes, circling him on the stairs, trying to rely on her footwork and the unsteady ground to find a way to counter his strength.

It didn’t work. She delivered a series of consecutive blows, but the Fury was too fast… every bit as fast as she was. She had hoped he might be slower, or he might be overconfident, or he might be used to overwhelming power and not be skilled, but she was fully disappointed… he fought with the skill of a warrior with many lifetimes of experience in battle. He wasn’t just stronger and faster than she was… he was better, too.

She needed a different strategy.

Slowly, Nira started to move during the battle. She gathered her strength to stand, slowly trying to force herself to her feet as she looked over and saw Kaya fighting for her life. Her hands held over her brutalized stomach, she looked on in horror as the mighty Fury drove her back with each swing of his blade. She wanted to help but… she still couldn’t move. She felt so worthless.

The Fury swung his mighty sword forward and Kaya barely had time to block with her own. The force of the impact was so great that she was flung backwards, finally losing her footing and tumbling down off the stairs. Her side slammed into one of the barely standing stone pillars hard enough that the damaged stone cracked and tumbled, making her spin away to avoid being crushed as it collapsed.

The wind knocked out of her, Kaya reached her hand up to brace against her chest. She took a deep breath. Her eyes looked toward Nira. The priestess wasn’t moving still. She mustered her breath. “RUN!” she hissed. “You… have to run!”

Hissing with laughter, the Fury slowly descended the stairs. Kaya’s words, however, were able to reach Nira and trigger some kind of fight-or-flight response, breaking through the crippling wall of terror the Fury wore like a shroud. The dark-haired woman scurried off behind one of the crumbling stone walls, away from the fight.

For now, she was safe. Kaya had accomplished something.

Moving her sword in front of her, Kaya stood her ground in a battle stance. “You caught me off guard, bastard,” she said, wiping blood of her lip. Had… had she coughed that up? “No more.” She ran at the one-eyed Fury, her sword swinging in wide arcs. Left to right. Raska had to dodge the many blows and he countered a few with his sword.

Kaya had to hope she could create an opening. His weapon was heavy… he was obscenely strong, but perhaps she could put him behind in his movements, get some kind of edge. Maybe, somehow, she could wear him out… Get the better of him when he could no longer lift that blade. She moved in to strike when Raska caught her right arm with her sword in it. He stopped her from hitting him, but it also left her open to his own attack.

The two-handed sword swung rapidly, approaching her ribs. Instinctively, she grabbed her dagger from its sheath and stabbed it toward his rapidly approaching arm. The sword connected against her armor, but her dagger pierced his wrist. The action only stopped him from cleaving her in two. The blow still carried enough force that it connected with her armor and crushed it beneath the force of the impact.

With a loud curse, Raska let go of his sword and swung her around, blood flying from his cut wrist as he did. Then he released Kaya, and the Guardian flew through the air like a crossbow bolt before she slammed into one of the temple walls hard enough to crack bones. Kaya breathlessly screamed as she felt something in her ribs give… She hit hard enough that bricks jostled loose when she slammed into them. She coughed into her hand. Blood dripped across her lips. Her chest burned from the impact. Her ribs hurt with every breath she took now.

Raska looked triumphant from where he stood. He had no sword now since it had come flying through the air with Kaya when he tossed her, still embedded into her armor. The Fury’s over confidence would be his undoing.

Dislodging the Fury’s sword from her armor, Kaya stood once more. The coppery taste of blood filled her mouth. She spat out the red liquid onto the ground and raised her sword in defiance. “Is that the best you’ve got?” she forced out. “I thought Furies were supposed to be tough. You talk a big game, but if this is your level I can see why you hide behind your priests… you’re weak!”

Raska’s one good eye flashed. Quick as a striking snake, he charged at Kaya. He didn’t need a sword to defeat her. He would use his bare fists to take her down.

Getting close to Kaya, she swung her stolen sword out. Too slow… the thing was so heavy. The blow connected to his tough skin, but it barely left a scratch on his scales… A trickle of blood that hardly matched the wounds she had taken. She prepared to lift her sword again for another strike, but that was when the Fury struck her with his large fists.

Pain radiated through her body when he hit her. Her armor served her well, but it was denting under the forceful blows. She did her best to shield her body from the impacts, but he kept hitting her. The armor tightened against her torso. She felt the air being squeezed from her lungs. Her ribs burned and ached as he rapidly battered her to death.

Raska stopped hitting her long enough for Kaya to catch her breath. She looked up at him with defiant eyes… and spat blood in his face. She smiled up at the fury with crimson teeth. “Fuck you. You hit like a child.”

The words she spoke couldn’t be further from the truth. The wall behind her started to crumble further from the force of the impacts as he used it as an anvil to bang her armor into shape, like he wanted to crush her inside it. The wall crumpled with each hit. More bricks jostled loose. “You dare mock a Fury…” he snarled. “The children will hide beneath their bedsss rather than lisssten to what I did to you.” Her armor had dented in so much that she could barely breath, her lungs actually being crushed by the deformed metal. Kaya could feel the last bits of her strength leaving her. The only thing keeping her standing were the wall and the blows from the Fury’s fists… she would have sagged without his beating to keep her up. Blood coursed down her chin as she was pummeled.

Kaya forced herself to laugh. She barely had breath, but she did it anyway. Nira had gotten away. Nira had gotten away. He couldn’t take that from her. The more he hit her, the louder she made herself laugh. This enraged Raska to the point he was hitting her harder. The bricks behind Kaya gave way. “What is so amusssing about this? You laugh when you are sssoon to die? Is the bessst you can hope that I kill you before I rape your broken corpssse?!” On that last word, the Fury hit her so hard that the bricks gave way and pushed her out the other side of the wall, into the broken temple.

Kaya closed her eyes at that moment. Her thoughts went to Jaymes… her beloved husband. She thought of Leila and how happy she would be to see Nira alive. She thought of Ariadna… Her goddess that had saved her in more ways than she could recount. She loved them all.

He hadn’t touched her face… he must still want her pretty when he took her. His shadow reached her, and Kaya forced herself to look up as he strode in after her. Kaya coughed blood again as he saw him stand over her, glaring with fury, his chest heaving with exhaustion. Light shone through cracks in the wall and Kaya stared up at the sun. It was bright and beautiful like the hair of her goddess, and it back-lit the monster as he loomed over her, hissing and spitting and furious.

And she laughed again.

“What,” he snarled, “is so funny sssslut!” He kicked her, his hand already on his cock as he stroked it.

“You…” she said, nearly breathless, “…bleed.”

With the last of her strength, she chose the part of the wall with the most light coming through it, and kicked with everything she had… and the beautifully constructed temple, a monument to the skills of artisans to have made it through so much, gave up. A loud rumble echoed through the area when the wall collapsed, and Kaya got one, glorious glimpse of at the look of horror on Raska face. Then several hundred tons of stone collapsed down onto them like Taelin’s fist.


“…no…” Nira whispered as the temple collapsed, watching with wide eyes as her trembling form clung onto the side of the nearby building. As abruptly as the snuffing of a lantern the aura of suppressing dread just vanished, banished like the cool when the sun came out from behind a cloud, and she could breathe again. “NOOOO!” Nira shrieked, the half-naked woman sprinting for the downed structure. Frantically she grabbed at stones, trying to pull them away, trying to dig down… sure that Kaya would be down there if only she could reach her.

She couldn’t even move a single block.

The weight of it hit her. She couldn’t move a block… and the Fury’s aura was gone. The Fury was… gone. And if the Fury was gone, then Kaya was…

Kaya was…

Nira collapsed. “Why…” she whispered. “Why did you do that? Why did you come back for me? Why didn’t you just run? I’m… nothing. I’m no one. The goddess needs you… she doesn’t need me!” She looked up and saw her dust-covered hands, her nails scratched away in her desperate, doomed attempt to save her. “I was no one…”

The words came to her, and she wanted to weep at the cruel irony of them. “It was the duty of a Guardian to protect her priestess… even if it kills her.”

But she wasn’t a… she wasn’t really a…

Nira swallowed. Then, weeping, she began to say final rites over the cairn that Kaya had made of her final resting place… A blessing to protect her as she passed from this world from the next. To shield her soul from Karn, to guide her safely to Passage’s river. Nira did not know what lay beyond the veil of life in eternity… but if anyone deserved it, it was Kaya.

Then, moving like she had aged forty years in a few minutes, Nira began to walk in the direction her friends had taken the goddess.

Next Chapter

2 thoughts on “Ascent 6 – The Guardian

  1. We’ve already talked about this chapter, so I’m sorry for the repetition, but, you know, I leave a review per chapter, so this gets one too.

    This was the most upsetting chapter in the story for me, as you know. Kaya was my favorite character, I was rooting for her and looking forward to what she would get to do in the final battle, maybe getting to kill the traitor who brought down her rebel group and personally raped her or, as one of the team’s strongest fighters, face off against Jaras (Ariadna could do that, but I figured she’ll be having a final confrontation with her brother).

    You had brought Raska back, and when he first appeared I was actually having a Hulk moment regarding Ariadna (“Now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”), and then this happened instead.

    You told me Kaya was going to have two more Crowning Moments of Badass, and I do understand that. Her powering through the fear aura the Fury emits, essentially overcoming the same magic Camden used to subjugate her back in Chapter 5, is something I absolutely would have thrilled to under other circumstances.

    Things is, the second she sent the others away and stepped up to fight Raska, I knew she was going to die. You’d built up that this was something it takes an army to kill, and that was borne out in the fight. Raska is stronger than Kaya is, faster than she is and far more skilled than she is due to his long existence, and she’s losing from the word go. It was really, really hard to read about her being slammed into pillars and coughing up blood as Raska smashes her armor in so much it starts crushing her organs. This was especially bad because I remember saying I wanted to see her use her intelligence, and she does here, getting him to hit her so hard he destabilizes the temple with the force being driven through her body with each blow. I got what I wanted, but not in the way I’d hoped for.

    Again with the two badass moments, her collapsing the building on them would also be something I would have enjoyed, I think, under other circumstances. I can’t point to exactly what those circumstances would be, but I’ve seen and liked moments like that in other works.

    But here, because I knew what was coming and was watching it unfold, I couldn’t really enjoy the stuff I know, on some level, was cool. I guarantee you that other readers, ones without my attachment to Kaya, will enjoy this as intended. If Mask ever reads this I can almost assure you he’ll think this is pretty badass.

    I do understand how this brings her character arc full circle, facing death and accepting it, and succeeding in helping someone instead of failing.

    To some extent this is about knowledge I have concerning the setting, but maybe more than that, it’s because I’m used to the belief that you’ve expressed elsewhere, that people who deserve happy endings should get them.

    Kaya and Jaymes were people I grew very attached to, and it’s very possible they’ll never see each other again. Kaya faced her death as well as anyone could be asked to. I just felt like she deserved better.

    You have told me that there are things I still don’t know, and maybe some of that will prove important. Maybe this isn’t as sad as it looks. That would be a wonderful surprise. Whatever the case, this isn’t me criticizing your work, and I will see you next weekend.

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  2. Her powering through the fear aura the Fury emits, essentially overcoming the same magic Camden used to subjugate her back in Chapter 5, is something I absolutely would have thrilled to under other circumstances…

    …This was especially bad because I remember saying I wanted to see her use her intelligence, and she does here, getting him to hit her so hard he destabilizes the temple with the force being driven through her body with each blow. I got what I wanted, but not in the way I’d hoped for.

    But here, because I knew what was coming and was watching it unfold, I couldn’t really enjoy the stuff I know, on some level, was cool. I guarantee you that other readers, ones without my attachment to Kaya, will enjoy this as intended. If Mask ever reads this I can almost assure you he’ll think this is pretty badass.

    Yeah… I do understand this. It is a super upsetting scene in large part because of what Kaya does well rather than what mistakes she makes. I wanted to write a scene of her fighting and overcoming something that isn’t just out of her weight class but is… almost laughably so. I hope that, after the end, you will be able to look back on it and enjoy it more.

    For now…

    I won’t say that Kaya died with no regrets. I don’t think anyone can or should be said to die with no regrets. But she was at peace with the choices she made, and the sacrifice she had to make… and while I won’t say WHEN, we will see her again.

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