- September 24, 2023
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 49)
“The Light comes in response to your need, it does not bend to your desire.”
Unknown, 448 A.C.A.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Andy ducked under Jack’s sword only to have to bob and weave to avoid Malum’s. She took out the sword that Henry had given her only for it to snap in two under one swing from Malum.
“Aaahh!!” she screeched right before Malum kicked her in the stomach.
She could hear the Bard of the Song giggling at her expense.
“You didn’t really think I’d give you a real sword, did you? It was only for aesthetics.”
Andy frowned as she looked at him from where she lay flat on her back. Whoever thought that smiles look like frowns upside down is a fucking idiot. Then she heard the thunder of footsteps running after her.
Then they stopped.
Andy quickly kicked with her feet to roll out of the way of Malum’s blade.
Lucky her, she didn’t have to worry about Malum’s follow through because Jack did it for him.
He nearly gutted her, but she sucked her stomach and pull back, just narrowly missing his blade. He was so close he cut a line across the abdomen of her tunic.
Before he could pull back, she wrapped both arms around his and threw body weight forward. With both of their forward momentum, she flipped them onto their backs, him with a thud.
As he raised his sword, he was met with a quick elbow crack to the nose.
He’ll forgive me later.
She didn’t hear Malum coming. It was more like she felt the wind as his wings carried him to her. She grabbed Jack’s sword as she got to her feet and instinctively raised it to block.
The meeting of their swords forced Andy to stumble back, which left her quite bug-eyed considering he lacked this strength before. Are the wings making him stronger or just adding that much to his speed? Better question, how the fuck didn’t I know the brooding bastard had wings?
Clang! Clink! Clang!
Andy moved her sword in a mad flurry to block Malum’s lightning-fast slashes. She thought she was going to break until she felt this strong pull on it.
That pull went from strong to unbearable in split seconds, and the sword leaped from Andy’s hand, nearly taking Malum’s head off. It just sliced his shoulder and his wing as it continued flying past him.
The assassin made the mistake of looking behind to see where the sword went, only to get speared in the stomach by Andy.
She took him to the ground and quickly reared back her head to headbutt him, cracking his mask. I see he’s not tougher with those wings.
At that sound, she immediately looked up to see Jack heading toward her with his sword in hand.
She stood up just for Jack to thrust his arm out and hit her with a gust of wind that she couldn’t see.
She was sent flying into the wall with a slam, and to add insult to injury, she slide straight down onto her tailbone.
“Ooohhhooo,” she groaned.
The Wind has to be the most annoying Iligsia someone could have, and Jack just had to have it!
She looked up, expecting for one of her brainwashed allies to attack her, but as she could see they were too busy fighting each other.
Jack’s sword arms weren’t as fast at blocking as Andy’s, but he didn’t need to be when he could push Malum away with bursts and gusts of the Wind. Even in this enclosed space, Andy could see how the Wind was pushing and pulling Malum’s wings around.
Malum’s wings are going to take him to an early grave. I’ve gotta break this illusion somehow…
She set her eyes on the Bard who was causing this all in the first place. “You wanna help?!” she yelled at the Bard of the Song.
Henry stopped watching the fight to look at Andy and point to himself. “Me?”
“Who else?!” she said as she started stomping toward him.
“Wha- why would I do that?” he questioned, making a face of perplexion as Andy shook her hands at him. “Are you stupid? You’re my-”
He caught himself and struck a string of his lute. He amplified the song the lute and his Iligsia of the Wind were playing.
The song’s notes became background noise in her head, but in a way different from the presence in her mind, her internal sounds grew louder.
She blinked several times, trying to see clearly, but her sight remained blurred. The song began to comb over her consciousness like it did in the ballroom, and from her brain burst the presence that saved her before.
Now that she knew to pay attention, she could feel it wash over her like a wave, cleansing her of the poison that tried to control her.
Andy was in greater control of her faculties now with the mind cleanse than she was beforehand, and she showed it by flexing her arms, cocking them into place, and ripping the sleeves in the process.
At the sight of Andy’s biceps beneath the torn sleeves, the Bard of the Song gulped.
He flung his arms at her as he questioned, “What the fuck?! You should be hypnotized too!”
She started stomping towards him again, more determined than before. “I’m built different, like my foot for instance. It’s perfect for going up your ass!” She started making a full-on sprint for him.
Wide-eyed at the sight, he still stood his ground and put his freed hand on his sword while the other held the lute he was playing with the Wind.
Distract him, Andy! Think! Think! He’s got a sword and a… something and you’ve got nothing!”
“Hey!” she yelled at him, which didn’t make him flinch. “Is your name even actually Hennrick?!”
Henry’s expression twisted in this combination of revulsion and confusion, breaking his fighting stance.
“Wha… Yes, Hennrick shortens to Henry!”
That stopped Andy in her tracks. “Why… why did you shorten a two-syllable name to another two-syllable nickname?”
Henry’s mouth was aghast as he tried to come up with something to say. “I… don’t ask me to explain how our language works!”
While he was distracted, Andy grabbed a painting off a wall, and threw it at him one-handed.
The split second where he had to cut the painting in half was all she needed. He never saw her coming as she bodychecked him and sent them both to the floor.
He kept his hand on his lute and his music playing, but he lost his sword across the floor. It was a saber, not her favorite type of sword, but it would have to do.
She dove for it as a gust of wind came her way. Just as her fingers were about to touch it, the Wind sent her flying across the room again.
She hit the wall, side first, only for the sword to fall towards her head. She covered her head, but the flat of the blade only bonked her a bit.
Oh, that wasn’t so bad.
She grabbed it and immediately tried to get up, only to feel a numbing pain in her side.
Oh, that’s where the pain went, into me.
“Where is he?!” she heard Jack yell as he leaped and was about to come down at her.
She considered whether death was really a sweet release as the Wind swirled so powerfully around his sword, light itself bent around it, letting her see his Iligsia take shape.
Then came the cut by Malum across his back.
“No!” Andy screamed, not knowing what kind of poison coated Siwang.
It seemed to spread quickly through Jack’s body as the Wind dissipated and he started to come down fast at Andy.
She managed to roll out of the way, but he came down hard, slamming his head against the wall, and landing on the floor knees first. She could hear something snap, and she hoped it was the wood.
Bone didn’t jut out of his leg, but it was not in the right position. He stumbled as soon as he tried to stand on it, hissing in pain as he clutched his right knee. His knee must have hurt, but his blackening veins made him look even worse.
Through it all though, the Wind began to swirl around him, slowly forming a tornado that she could see. He pooled all of his rage and sorrow at the illusion he saw above. The thing was… the illusion was Malum.
“Jack!” Andy screamed at him, but the ex-Stormguard heard nothing of her words, Henry saw to that.
In fact, the Bard began to strum harder and play the tune himself, making its reach and impact even more potent. The music that was burning a hole in Jack’s brain pushed his Iligsia to the max, to the point that his eyes themselves began to glow.
And then he threw everything he had at Malum.
The tornado took hold of Malum rather quickly. Immediately, his wings twisted inward around the bone. The sounds of them breaking made Andy’s stomach twist, but the way the assassin’s body contorted into a fetal position to power through the pain was something she wished she had never seen more than anything else that day.
Jack then slammed his hand down, and the tornado brought Malum down to the floor, but not before dragging him across the surface of the wall, wanting to make sure that he was never flying again.
The moment Malum hit the ground, there was a big Poof! and gone were his wings. It seemed that they did not actually hide and sprout from his back, but were some kind of mystical summon that dissipated as it came.
If the fight was over though, they would have been wrong, but at least they wouldn’t have been Andy, who was not between the two of them.
Despite the poison in his veins, Jack’s Iligsia powered through, filling his veins with light to fight off Malum’s poison and hold up his potentially broken leg.
Malum stabbed the ground with his sword into the ground to push himself back up, fighting the aching pain of the many broken ribs he must have had.
“I will not go back, Father,” Malum told himself, only to repeat again even louder as he stood to his feet.
Jack, on the other hand, roared to his feet, stumbling as he stood, but still wildly swinging his arms around as he did. “You will tell me where Kion is, or I swear to god, no one in this godforsaken castle is getting out alive!”
Of course, let’s make the fight personal, it’s not like I have any idea what’s going on.
They should have been broken and beaten, but still, they were up and ready to continue the fight, with their eyes each set on Andy. They both readied their swords, and she realized a bit too late that their eyes were not on each other, but on the one closest to each of them.
Fuck my life.
Then they rushed her.
No, seriously, fuck me!
It was an impossible decision to make. Andy could block Malum’s attack, keep his poisonous blade at bay and try to disable him. If she or Jack were cut, they were good as dead. Even if Malum’s poison was only paralyzing, they would be dead soon after. She looked back in the split seconds she had to think.
The presence had become more fluid, but it could only say so much when Andy’s mind raced faster than had before.
To say her mind was in the danger zone would be an understatement. She couldn’t even register just how fast she was thinking, the boost the presence in her mind had given her flew over her and around her head as she tried to outthink the unrelenting, killing machines her allies had become.
Which is more dangerous? The Jitari Blade or the Iligsia?
She ignored the voice to think. She had to consider that if she went after Malum, Jack would be on them in moments. Jack could either close the gap to cut one or shoot both of them down with the Wind while they were fighting.
Andy could rush to meet Jack instead. Were my chances better?
Jack could immediately blow her back straight into Malum. That would give Malum the perfect opportunity to cut her down, but regardless of whether or not he did, Malum’s speed wasn’t going to contend with the Wind. He’d be blown back after she was dead.
They’re closing in Andy, think, think already!
Shut up! I’m trying to think! Now is when you choose to talk?!
The walls of death were closing in on her. She could feel the cold snap of the Wind, and the chill of being in a specter’s shadow. The cold haunting music playing in tune with her thoughts rather than the passage of time only made her mind race faster without a thought to show for it.
I’m going to die here, aren’t I?
To these fucking losers.
Is it worse or better that they can’t even control themselves?
This way, it isn’t even personal, and it should be nothing but-
‘Follow the light!’
As her two foes closed in with their weapons and spirits of magic, the world around her darkened, like someone had turned off the lights, but it didn’t go black. There was a green string of a fate that swam between them.
Her eyes followed it as a little light zipped along the string. It was as if it beckoning her forth along a path she could not see herself.
What do I have to lose? My life? My mind? I’ll lose the former either way, and the latter was never mine to have.
Andy followed the light, ducked, and sidestepped to the right, following the thread. At that moment, the world blinked and sent a signal out to the rest of the world. In this flash, she saw that the world wasn’t dark, but she wasn’t seeing the light. She could see without it. Things and people were surfaces of black, and their edges were faint green threads.
The thread was linked to her heart and led her to sidestep a gust of wind that began to take shape.
No, it was already coming at me, but I can see it now.
The threads that led Andy began to form around the current of the Wind, the one from Jack’s Iligsia rather than Henry’s. As it blew past her, up and into Malum, she became one of the few who would ever know what a wind current would look like if it were visible to the human eye.
Well, color me special.
Andy looked ahead, beginning to see the thread she was following lead her around and toward Jack’s side. His left hand was still outstretched blasting the Wind, but his sword was getting ready for her.
The thread she was following was leading towards his torso then…
Nothing? Gonna tell me where to go and give me nothing more?
‘The Light is a tool, as is your sword. Does your sword fight for you?’
Oh, fuck off with your logic.
She saw the light flowing along the thread from her to Jack repeatedly, the light pulsating brighter and brighter the more she focused on it.
Come on, give me something to work with.
The more she focused, the more the light shook, and all at once, the thread both dissipated and expanded.
Rather than a path toward Jack, she was left with three images of herself attacking Jack.
Three options, but which ones were the best? The thread of fate-
‘Not fate,’ the presence told her, with the voice of a thousand souls.
The thread of whatever the fuck, feels like a multiple-choice test question.
What the fuck do you mean exactly?
‘Should you not have the time to think through your options? But still, the free will to make your own mistakes?’
How about I get the right answer so we don’t die?!
‘The Light never dies.’
I think I liked it better when you didn’t talk.
‘If you had never fallen for the Bard’s trick, we would never have been able to. The Light comes in response to your need, it does not bend to your desire.’
The options were to cut Jack’s hand at the wrist, his back where I had any number of targets, or to shoulder bash him.
It’s a no-brainer.
The first option meant that I would be cutting Jack’s hand off at the wrist if I succeeded, which was extreme. Even worse, that left me wide open for the sword that was ready to stab as it was raising to protect that very arm. I’d be fast enough to sever the hand at the wrist before he could stab me, but to dodge the retaliation? I don’t know.
And shoulder-bashing him? I’d be right on his arm, the easiest place for him to blast the Wind from. He’d stopped blasting Malum and blasting me, assuming he didn’t stab me.
But there’s nothing specific about going behind him. I have so many places to slash. The back of his neck, his back itself, or…
Andy stopped thinking and took the best option.
Time stopped flowing in slow motion for her, and she caught up to the present without skipping a beat.
She followed up her sidestep by leaping behind Jack’s back. Jack tried to release the wind from the arm facing her, something she didn’t foresee, a mistake that was avoided by seeing the potential options before her. He missed wildly and nearly unbalanced and turned himself around trying to stab at her.
When she found herself at his back, she went for the slash he was too turned around to block.
She cut him in the back of his leg, enough to disable him, but not so much that it will paralyze him.
It did bring him to the ground, leaving him to clutch for the wound with his free hand and stifle a cry of pain. As he reared his head up towards the ceiling, the veins in his neck bulged and choked down the scream.
He should have just let it out because, in his need to hide his pain, the heel of Andy’s foot caught him in the side of the head.
His head snapped in the opposite direction.
Then banged off the floor, stunning him so bad he dropped his sword.
She quickly moved to it, put her toe underneath it, and kicked it up to her other hand. It was a much better sword to block with, and one she was more familiar with than the saber she clawed off the Bard.
Andy turned towards the Bard of the Song, who stared at her starstruck, his fingers frozen as the music from his lute started dull without him playing it.
My eyes…? she thought.
She raised Jack’s blade to her face and its reflection she saw what he meant. Her brown eyes had changed all kinds of colors. The whites of her eyes had turned green and had begun to flow in the form of a pattern… a pattern it couldn’t maintain.
In seconds, it was back to normal before she could get a bearing on the pattern or the color underneath the green glow. She would get even less time to think about it as she saw the assassin in the blade’s reflection.
She dropped the saber and spun around to raise Jack’s blade to defend herself.
Malum’s sword came down hard on Andy, and she fell back to the ground with him on top of her. She had to put her left hand behind the flat of the blade to hold Malum back.
You’re always a pain in my ass.
Malum let up the pressure to quickly reach into his cloak for a knife, but that gave Andy the time she needed. She raised her knees to his chest and kicked him completely over her.
Unlike most, he rolled to his feet when he landed and was turned around and ready by the time Andy was on one knee.
Where does he find the energy?
Before she can even finish getting up, the whirlwind encircles her and Malum, keeping them in place.
In the name of Almulan… Andy cursed to herself.
‘Do not speak the name of the false goddess.’
Andy’s mind found itself filled with curse words of every nature, both as the presence in her head giving her lip, and at the sight behind her. She slowly turns around against the Wind Jack sends forth.
I knocked his ass out!
Yet, as he used the Wind to stand from one knee back on both feet, it would seem he is very much conscious, and with glowing golden eyes to boot.
Andy turned ahead of her to see that the assassin had unfurled his wings again, but this time, he held them up and open against the Wind. He let the wind pool around his wings, and it only took a second for it to become clear that he was going to boost himself forward with it.
In response, the whirlwinds filling the room were only getting stronger, and with a glance, Andy saw Jack reeling up his legs to come to meet Malum.
And once again… she was in the middle.
I’m… I’m right back where I fucking started.
What did I… what did I achieve?
‘You have severely-’
Fucked myself? Gotten myself between my betters? Set myself up to die?
‘You need only listen to us-’
Listen? Listen to who? Who are you? Who is this voice in my head who speaks in platitudes and weird flashbacks, and un-useful information? I can’t listen to someone I don’t know, someone I don’t hear, someone who says nothing of worth.
To you, just… fuck you. Fuck you to hell.
The presence began to retract from her consciousness at her outburst towards it, and with it, it slowly took back its protection. If she were going to give up, the presence seemed to find it easy to give up on her.
Leave, like every other bastard does.
She could feel the presence hesitating, but with its protection gone, the Bard of the Song indeed had a tune she could now hear, and by the word of the gods, Andy could hear it loud and clear.
“And fuck you to hell too,” she told the Honorguard, whose smirk froze in place as her eyes set upon him.
Andy could hear enough to know that Malum and Jack were coming from both sides. It was a question of if they kill her, but which one? Would Malum be able to send her to the grave with a quick slice? Would Jack crumple her body like paper with one good blast? Maybe Malum would slice her just for Jack to punch a hole in her, or vice versa.
Just so many great ways to die, and so many people to blame it on. There are so many things that could have gone differently to get me out of this situation. If I had never joined the Black Legion, if I had been allowed to keep my Iligsia, or if I had just slit my throat over a decade ago like I had first planned. So many ways I could have avoided a painful death here.
Andy stayed in the middle, her hands clenched before her as death closed in, and all she could do was shake her fists.
It’s not fair, to die at the hands of friends who don’t even know what they’re doing. To have to face someone with a power that basically amounts to ‘I win because you suck.’
Rage bled from her eyes, but she couldn’t tell. She was so focused on mentally preparing for the end that she could see how her eyes bled with lime-colored light, the same way blood bled from her palms.
Damn it, damn it all!
Soon, the only thing that bled the color it was supposed to would be the wounds in her fists. Her skin let loose a torrent of energy, and her hair twisted and snapped in different directions faster than the eye could blink.
Jack and Malum should have struck her by now, should have cut her down, or blown her up, but suspended they remained as every hair on their bodies began to rise and vibrate.
Before their eyes, they saw the lightning begin to pulse from their foe, and the light from that electricity began to give them glimpses of who it was they really faced.
But Andy was unaware of all of this, only asking herself why death called upon her then…
… why did death seem to desire her soul so badly…
… and why did there seemed to be nothing she could do about it.
… why?! WHY?!
‘You’re the one who gave up first.’
“I said fuck OFF!”
With a scream, she threw her arms over her head and let the world hear her roar of rage. From her stricken form, the lime Lightning spread out from her towards every corner of the room.
Malum and Jack were shocked to their cores, their skeletons flashing and revealing themselves to the world as the light seemed to reverse itself and back repeatedly. The rules of light and will were crushed by the lime rage of Andelyn Stella.
And all that was around her felt her wrath.
The floor caved under the pressure, the combatants who faced her were sent flying and spiraling, and every fragment that existed in that room rose and flung itself towards the farthest corners of the room.
The only thing that remained untouched was the Bard who watched on, mouth agape.
And as Andy’s hair flowed in every which direction, her eyes flowing with the electricity of colors the world has never seen, she opened her eyes, and for a split second, all the light disappeared from the room.
The music stopped, the Bard could no longer play, and the light came back.
Andelyn Stella no longer glowed, and her hair remained raised as if it were the victim of static rather than the culprit.
The one thing that remained was Andy’s glare upon Henry Lockley, and the lack of anything standing between them.
“Now,” Henry said as he raised one finger, “I think we can talk about this.”