by Dawn Elliot
The sorcerer’s unliving army seemed endless, wearing down the Queen’s defenders. Jen knew every death was simply fodder for the sorcerer’s dark arts. She could almost feel the evil feeding on the pain, death, fear, and rage around her. But to refuse to fight was to bow to the enemy’s advances.
Jen had been battling her way through the press most of the day, and there were few who could face her skill with a blade, her training, or Kili, the rhy-cat bonded with her heart. She heard Kili wail behind her and shared his frustration as they were stalled by a wall of shambling corpses. Then the great rhy-cat bounded over Jen’s head to fall on them, lashing out with razor-sharp claws to drive the zombies back. Jen pushed through the gap, and the two of them raced up the shallow slope towards the sorcerer’s command post.
Arrows rained down on them, but they danced out of the way, steps light despite the wearying battle. Kili and Jen moved as if they were two parts of a single warrior, striking through the scattered enemy. Behind her, Jen heard the shouts of her companions as they saw the brilliant gleam of her sword. Battle noises rose again as the Queen’s army was encouraged by the rhy-bonded’s glorious, and insanely risky, charge.
Risky yes, but not insane. Jen knew if they couldn’t find a way to shatter the sorcerer’s control over the unliving, the army would fall. Morale was already fraying. Even the bravest warriors tasted terror as they faced their former shieldmates, still bearing their death wounds. Jen prayed for just one chance against the sorcerer who had raised such evil.
The sorcerer clearly placed little trust in the living. Kili made short work of the zombie guards at the command post. Jen drove ahead, quick blows disabling or destroying those who faced her. A black tent stood at the center of the camp and was surrounded by blood-filled runes cut in the ground. The stink, magnified through Kili’s senses, made Jen’s stomach lurch. Horrified and enraged, she slashed at the tent, slicing a great hole in it.
The only person inside was a withered old woman, rocking back and forth and muttering to herself as if mad. Jen hesitated, and it was only Kili’s warning cry, echoing in her mind and ears, that saved her life. The seemingly decrepit crone suddenly lashed out with her staff and hissed curses at Jen, who dodged aside at the last moment. Taking a spinning kick-step, Jen struck the staff away and then gathered her focus, and the white hot Light burning within her, and struck. The sorcerer shrieked, curses cut off as the blade impaled her, a blow to smite the strongest of shadows. Jen felt the evil in the air instantly dissipate, washed away by the Light she’d called to her aid. There was a great rush of noise, as a thousand spirits were set free, and then a clatter of armor and weapons as the entire army of the unliving slumped to the ground, dead once more.