The days since my return had blurred into weeks, the weeks melded together into months and I had almost gone an entire fortnight’s worth of sleep with but one or two nightmares. I had been steady in my improvement and with that had come more assurance to my Brigade General that I could perform my duties as one of Destiny’s Clerics, without provision. Aalairius, Toxemia, and I had been assigned to take several of the mid-level Legionaries into Heiron, the reports of Asmodian infiltration activities having increased at an alarming rate… Aion I should have known. With hind sight there is always perfect vision, we had been too lax as we had approached Stenon Bay and we had paid for it with the blood of one of our colleagues as an arrow had sprung from their shoulder. Too late for recourse, the ambush was upon us. We were six to their five but they had the upper hand… I healed my people as fast and as sure as I could, my prayers leaving my lips and the light leaving my fingertips almost simultaneously when I saw him…
His face was hidden beneath a mask of tragedy, but there was no mistaking that shock of raven black hair, nor the way he moved as he engaged one of the newer Destiny recruits, I knew I was not mistaken, and as he struck down the Chantress he locked eyes with me and I knew. There was no mistaking the icy jade gaze of my worst nightmares, nor the way his eyes crinkled at the corners beneath the mask as he grinned at me… the bastard. Switchkin the assassin who’d tortured me for four long days, the man my friends had warned me would not relent, he’d found me. Worse yet, he was close to my beloved, and my dearest friend.
I cast a renewing spell upon Aalairius and one upon Toxemia and slapped Switchkin with a hallowed strike to slow the swing of his twin cursed blades and I ran. I ran as hard and as long as I could for Storm Circle and beyond, away from my people, away from the rest of my assigned unit, because in my heart I knew it was the only way to save them. My breath came in heaving gasps and the voice of panic tried valiantly to overtake the voice of reason that kept repeating that I remain calm. I listened to my body, heart pumping, blood rushing, and air filling and leaving my lungs and tried to find a rhythm to it all that would carry me farther from my legionaries, leaving them safe. I tasted the bitter copper of my fear and fished for one of the small enchanted rolls of Egrasi paper in my cube, I slipped one free held it before me and spoke the word of command written upon it, the paper crumbled and an infusion of renewal slipped through my being and I felt stronger, increasing my speed. I kept going, running with everything that I was worth.
I let my stride take me south and flew as fast as I could across the aether soaked environment of Storm Circle folding my wings in and diving into a glide out the other side. I landed deftly and heard him grunt as he landed not far behind… I reached the small tumbling water fall of the stream that fed past Jeiaparan Village and I turned, swinging my mace free and shield on my arm and faced the son of a bitch.
He circled me much like a wild kirrin would and I watched, waiting for him to strike, waiting for him to make any sort of mistake I could exploit. I had to get further away. He slid in the dirt and came to a stop not expecting me to fight, and oh Aion did I want to fight him. I spit in the dirt before his feet.
“Not so easy for you now that I’m not chained to a post in a locked room.” Malice coated my words and he tilted his head to the side, much like a bird of prey that thought I’d just done something interesting.
“I don’t want to hurt you. I’d like to but I don’t want to.” His Elysean was near perfect, barely a hint of an accent at all and I raised my shield and dug my boots into the soft mud of the marsh for a better purchase. He sparked his blades, running them down the length of each other and leapt, he angled his back to the sun and I raised my shield, temporarily blinded as I followed his movement, eyes watering in the bright light. What a stupid mistake! I got my shield up between us just in time, his swords making contact with the destiny crest emblazoned on it’s front, grating painfully down the shield’s length. The blow had been blocked, but at the cost of my arm going numb from shoulder to wrist with the force of it. I took the risk though blind and swung my mace and swung it hard at him, he leapt back and I hit the catch on the handle with my thumb, the weapon extended, catching him off guard… the head of the mace, loosed on its chain smashed into his jaw, the mask cracking and splitting, blood blossoming from a brutal gash in his lip. It was a glancing blow but he retreated, and I smiled to myself, a wicked grin… Perhaps I owed him a little pain after all. He pulled the fractured mask off his face and tossed it violently to the ground and spat blood after it.
“Feel good?” he asked, and I raised my shield returning to battle stance, ready for the next round. His clawed feet dug ever so slightly into the loose soil, and I saw it, he launched forward and I spoke to the earth beneath his feet, vines springing forth to wrap his legs. I leapt back and shouted sacred words to the sky.
“Kaheirgan!” the bolt of light sprang from the ground to smite him back a pace, and before he could recover I called down the lightning, a bolt from the blue striking him again before calling the wind to clap him into a stupor, but the last left my lips too late because he was forward and near upon me, blades whirling and slashing at me, and before I could regain my concentration I was off the ground and in the air, helpless in an aether hold.
Aion! Father! Help me! My terrified mind screamed. I was suddenly on the ground and rolling away, but not quick enough. Twin swords point down crashed boldly through the front of my shield on either side of my arm and it was either let go or let myself be pinned. I let go and sprang back, swinging my mace before me to give me some clearance. He leapt back away from the swing and I rooted him to the ground once more, stepping back into the pool, sinking knee deep into the freshwater, it was not where I wanted to be, but it was the only place I had to go. I called upon the earth’s wrath and let the light smite him back, drawing another thunderbolt from the air, and finally feeling the spark of the divine within me I willed the aetheric energy to my hands as the roots snapped and he began his approach and called upon the wind and with a cry loosed the energy from my hands at him. It caught him full in the chest, staggering him back and I could tell it had hurt him, badly. A surge of triumph bubbled up in my chest but had no time to spill over as he regained his footing and slid to the side in a long step and disappeared from my sight. I picked up my ruined shield and went on guard, the falls to my back and waited.
Damned assassins, bending the light and shadow to their will, hiding in plain sight, I ground my teeth in frustration and waited. I heard the splash behind me too late, I whirled but only made it mid-motion, the hilt of his sword crashed into the back of my skull, my eyes rolled up into the back of my head and the dark over whelmed me, I felt my self slipping and began to fall, everything sounded fuzzy and my senses went gray as I heard his swords sheath and the steel bands of his arms went around me, catching me and lifting easily.
Switchkin had captured his prize.