Her eyes fell on a flash of gold, a pommel shaped like wheat shining in the firelight. Vhalla didn’t know how she found Daniel out of all the soldiers, but her eyes were solely on him for a brief moment. He moved like a dancer to his own dirge of grim victory. It had its own macabre beauty.
Taking a deep breath, Vhalla held out her hands once more. Ten, she would claim a Northerner’s weapon with each finger. Focusing around Daniel, ten swords soared into the air with a flick of her hands. Twisting her wrists, Vhalla sent them back upon the enemy, a rain of blades.
A few Southern soldiers looked in confusion. Daniel turned briefly, but his eyes didn’t find hers in the pandemonium. But Vhalla knew he had been searching for her in that brief second. He knew the Windwalker was looking out for him when she could. Vhalla gave it no further thought; her hands were already in motion again.
It was like playing an invisible instrument, her fingers plucking at the air. Aldrik made another call at her side, but she didn’t even hear. For every sword she picked into the air, two more seemed to appear rushing out from beneath the burning trees.
“Vhalla!” the prince called for her, and she was broken from her trance by her name on his lips.
They were moving again, Aldrik pushing the Black Legion forward to meet the already growing havoc of blood and death. Vhalla’s ears picked up the patter of arrows being knocked from a point in the trees to their right.
“Aldrik!” She didn’t think twice for using his name without title. Aldrik turned to her quickly. “Give me flame!” Vhalla cried, and trusted it completely to be there as she swept her palm across the open sky.
He raised his hand in time with hers, and she felt it once more, the sensation of a body beyond hers, herself outside of herself and him within her. The dark sky was set ablaze by a dome of fire, arrows burning and falling like smoldering rain harmlessly on the armored soldiers below.
“More!” Vhalla demanded. He raised a second arm, obliging her will. Vhalla actually took a step as she swept her hand forward, sending a blanket of flame into the trees to the southeast where the arrows had originated.
The second the magic left her control, Vhalla stumbled, off-balance from throwing out her arm. She swayed, but a firm hand gripped her, pulling her upright. The prince had a small smirk playing on his lips. A crazy little grin for the secret they shared, the secret that they were slowly exposing to the world.
“My prince!” A soldier broke the trance. “The front line is breaking.” The man looked between Vhalla and Aldrik, awaiting orders.
“No,” Vhalla breathed, her eyes darting to the front. She couldn’t find Daniel, and her chest twisted into a knot. “No,” she seethed.
“Firebearers and Groundbreakers!” Aldrik bellowed. “Then Waterrunners. Support the charge of the blades first.”
Vhalla watched as the soldiers prepared themselves for the second wave. More than half of them were Black Legion, but nearly all of them—swords included—had a wing painted upon their breastplate. The battle slowed for a brief moment, and Vhalla stepped forward and out of the shadow of the prince.
“We stop them here!” she screamed. “They will not pass this line. We stop them here!”
As she thrust her fist into the air, the world was filled with such a shrill battle cry that it almost shattered the sky. Vhalla turned, watching the last of the front line crumble. Her breath caught in her throat as the Northerners made it to them, the maelstrom upon her.
Aldrik was the first to move between them. His body halfway covered hers as he shouldered the attack of the enemy swordsmen. Aldrik’s mailed hand reached the enemy’s face, and the Northerner cried in anguish. The man collapsed as a charred ruin.
She returned to life and disarmed their next attacker. With a flick of her fingers, the blade was in her hand just in time to turn and parry a new sword that whizzed from behind. The heartbeat in her ears was panicked. It was a frantic rhythm that tried to keep up with the madness around them.
Vhalla ground her teeth. The Northerner was much stronger than she was, and he made quick work of disarming her stolen blade. She stumbled backwards, trying to regain her footing. There was a grunt behind her, a burst of flame. Aldrik had taken out the man she had disarmed, but his focus had yet to return to her. Vhalla’s attacker took a step back, raising his weapon above his head.
A soldier lunged forward for the soft spot under the arm where the plate met. Vhalla saw a flash of blue, an ice dagger plunge deep into the man’s side. The Northerner cried in pain, his blade arced wide as he instinctively turned to face his new assailant. Fritz jumped backward. The man brought up his sword. Vhalla lunged.
Her hand clamped over the Northerner’s shocked mouth, and she claimed his breath. She watched the fragile moment just before his face exploded before her, bits of nose and eyes splattering her cheeks and armor. There was hardly a moment to breathe, and Vhalla turned, thrusting out an arm to disarm a man who was attacking Aldrik.
“Where did you learn to do that?” Aldrik called as he tossed a body aside.
“Must you ask?” she shouted over the whizz of blades and bows, her back clanking against his as she dodged another sword.
Aldrik’s amusement rang out, his mad and hearty laughter crackling through the air. He knew that she was him and her—both at once. Her movements were a mix of everything the Joining had given her and everything that she could be. Amidst the blood and carnage, she found herself wearing her own insane grin to mirror his. He turned left, she turned right; they spun away from each other, taking out two more in the movement.