Crystal Crowned

Page 91

Kicking Lightning’s sides, Vhalla rushed to the head of the charge. For the first time in her life, it was she who raced forward with an army at her back. Vhalla held out her right hand and swept it to the side before quickly repeating the process with the left. The rubble cleared for those behind her, making a path along the Great Imperial Way.

Victor’s monsters and men were fending off the inferno Aldrik reaped upon them. The fire vanished when she crossed the line where the wall had been moments before.

“Swear fealty to the Solaris Empire, and you will be spared!” she cried. “Strike an ‘X’ into the black of your armor or clothes so that we may know who stands with the sun!”

“Long live the Supreme King Victor!” one sorcerer spat.

He didn’t have time to even raise his hand before an icicle impaled him. Vhalla glanced over her shoulder, looking for Fritz.

One or two of Victor’s soldiers attempted to accept her offer, hastily scratching a large ‘X’ onto their makeshift armor. It was an army enslaved, and their loyalty only went so far. But these had mostly become Victor’s men. Whatever the false king had promised must have been tempting, because more sorcerers quickly turned on their allies, killing any who would try to return their loyalty to Solaris.

Vhalla kept charging forward. At the least, they could use the momentary confusion to their advantage. But for every one conscious sorcerer, there were five more tainted, mad, and under Victor’s control. Her attempt had been made, but it was a fairly futile one.

Fire combusted by her side, and Vhalla barely had enough time to ditch the horse and roll. The smell of singed fur assaulted her senses, but she had more pressing matters than checking if her trusty steed was well. A sorcerer was upon her. With a gleaming sharp ice dagger, he slashed into the ground by her face.

Vhalla threw up an arm, and he flew backward. Just as she stood, a heavy greave kneed her in the face, shattering her nose. She was an easy target in white and Vhalla was quickly learning why nobility didn’t usually lead charges.

She coughed up blood, surprised she had not lost any teeth or bit her tongue off. Just a laceration inside her cheek. A heartbeat began to race at the edge of her consciousness. It was both familiar and terribly different at the same time, and she struggled to fight it. It was an unwanted and unwelcome sound, a rhythm that beat to the drums of war and bloodlust.

The man with the ice had recovered and was lunging again. With a cry that was part animal, Vhalla thrust a hand onto his face, dodging the other man’s second punch. Blood splattered the ground as the Waterrunner’s head exploded.

She spun, wind under her toes, making her nimble. Making her powerful.

Her sword rang out against its sheathe, reverberating up her arms and into her chest. The sound echoed in harmony with the pulse that propelled her. She would write their requiem in blood. There was minimal resistance as Vhalla put the wind at her elbows to shove her blade clear through the man’s skull, starting with his eye.

Vhalla kicked him off her blade. Laughter rasped against the inside of her throat. They would all die. Any who opposed her were weak. This was the only truth of the world. The weak would die to form the foundation of the world, the world the strong would inherit. A beautifully, wonderfully, chaotic world. It was only nature.

She turned her head, and, at her behest, lightning crackled across a sorcerer’s flesh. He shuddered, his eyes lolling in their sockets as his body became coated in burn marks that quickly turned black. He fell dead, and Vhalla turned for her next victim. It was as though the battle moved slowly for her. She saw every pulse of magic from the sorcerers and from the tainted. Each flash of weaponry was seen in perfect clarity.

She was death itself. No, she was stronger than death. She had beaten death twice! That made it hers to administer. Her body moved without thought, reckless and wild.

A pair of arms closed around her torso.

“Vhalla,” Jax’s voice hissed in her ear. “Vhalla, enough.”

She blinked the haze from her mind. The familiar call of her name pulled her back to the present, like waking from a dream. The battlefield had changed from her prior recollections. The last of the soldiers had fallen, their victory apparent. Vhalla panted heavily, trying to make sense of it.

Turning her, his palms on her shoulders as though he would need to physically hold her in place, Jax checked her up and down. A frown weighed on the corners of his lips.

“What did I do?” she breathed.

His scowl only deepened at her question. “We should get you to Elecia; she’ll heal you up.”

Vhalla followed dutifully, noticing her feet when she followed behind the Western man. It was as though she had bathed in blood. The white of her armor was coated and splatted in bits of gore. Soldiers stared. Some began to cheer, but others looked at her with a touch of fear.

Elecia made quick work of fixing Vhalla’s nose. But there was a reserved nature to her ministrations. The woman studied Vhalla carefully for far too long.

“We should get you washed up,” she said finally.

“I can do it.” Vhalla stood.

“I want to come, continue inspecting you.” Elecia half blocked Vhalla’s path and put on her best imitation of Aldrik when he was uninterested in any arguments. “We’ll be setting up camp here for the night anyway.”

“Very well,” Vhalla sighed.

They walked through the beginnings of a camp being erected just beyond the edge of the carnage. Elecia paused, resting her hand on a tree before heading away in a diagonal direction. Vhalla dragged her feet along.

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