The Last Stand (The Eleven Years War: Book One)

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Chapter Fifty

Elise ran through the streets of Semata as fast as she could, praying to the gods that Bram wouldn’t catch up to her. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she couldn’t seem to get enough air in her lungs, but she didn’t dare stop running; she was too scared that Bram would catch her. She wound her way through back alley after back alley, street after street, until she stumbled onto a welcome sight: a small cathedral, one that kind of looked like the Gisken one Olrick had pointed out to her when she first came to the city.

She ran faster when she saw it. Please, gods, let them believe in offering sanctuary to people!

Elise raced up the stairs of the cathedral and banged her fist on the door. “Help! Please, open the door!” She listened to hear if anyone was walking to the door on the inside of the cathedral, but she didn’t hear anything; it seemed like they either didn’t hear her or didn’t care.

She banged on the door, again. Please, gods, let someone answer!

“What makes you think they’re going to help you?” she turned around to see Bram standing in the street, his arms folded over his chest.

Elise put her back to the door and let fire lick at her fingertips. The fact that he was here and not Finn could only mean a few things, none of them being good. “What did you do to him?”

“Who, Finn?” he asked as he slowly walked towards her. “Don’t worry about him; he’s on his way out of the city for his court marshal. I have no doubt that General Raul will give him the treatment he deserves once this battle’s over.”

She felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. How many people would be taken from her because of this stupid war? She wasn’t very sure how much more of this she could take.

“You’re a monster!” Bram simply laughed at that.

“I’m having some déjà vu,” he said. “Let me guess, you want me to get the hell away from you? I’m sorry, but you’ll have to make me.”

Elise could feel something snap inside her. She was so sick and tired of Bram pushing her around; if she was ever going to be free of him, she would have to be the one to do it.

She threw flames at him, hard.

Elise couldn’t think of a time she’d made fire so big, not since she escaped Thaos with Olrick. Bram simply stood there for a second, shocked at how massive and powerful the wave of fire coming towards him was, but he soon sprang to action. He ducked just in time to keep from getting burned as badly as Blair had, but not soon enough to avoid getting hurt. The flames scorched his coat, turning it black, and burned the back of his neck and his hair. Elise almost threw up at the scent of burnt flesh and hair.

She leaned against the wall next to the church door before she passed out. She was feeling dizzy and cold, just as she had that night in Thaos. Bram slowly stood up, a hand at his burnt neck. She didn’t need to look him in the eye to know what was going to happen, next.

“You little shit!” He pulled his batons off of his belt. Almost the second he did, lightning began to jump up and down the batons. “You’ll pay for that!”

He launched lightning at her.

Elise didn’t have the strength in her to react. The lightning hit her right in the stomach.

For a few agonizing seconds, her muscles felt like they were being ripped apart. Her heart pounded against her chest hard enough that Elise was worried that her ribs would break. She found herself screaming in pain, just as every other part of her body did.

The next thing she knew, she was laying on the stone steps of the cathedral, unable to move.

Elise watched in horror as Bram walked toward her, lightning still jumping on his batons. Her mind screamed at her to get up, throw some fire at him, anything to keep him from getting any closer to her, but she couldn’t. The lightning had paralyzed her, and she didn’t think it would wear off any time soon.

He pointed a baton at her, a menacing look on his face. “Try not to take this too personally. If it makes you feel any better, I wanted to keep you around.”

Fear grabbed Elise’s heart. Was it all just going to end there, just a door between her and salvation?

Just as Bram was going to kill her, however, someone grabbed the baton. Elise watched in horror as a novice took all the lightning himself, something that she thought would kill him for sure.

However, that wasn’t what happened. As the novice took in the lightning, he pointed his hand to the sky. More lightning shot from the novice’s hand and into the sky in a massive bolt, followed by a loud, thunderous boom. Bram simply stood there in horror as the novice pointed his hand at him. He launched across the road and landed in a heap in front of an alley, groaning in pain.

The lightning stopped flowing from the novice’s hand and he gently picked up Elise, who still couldn’t move. After seeing what he was capable of, Elise was surprised to find that he was younger than even Milo had been; fourteen, maybe fifteen years old.

“Be careful with that power of yours,” he said quietly. “There’s a lot more people like you than you think there are.” With that, the novice carried Elise into the church, with a monk shutting the door behind them.

The second the door was shut, the monk who’d shut the door took Elise, allowing the novice to collapse in front of the door. It seemed that using his lightning had exhausted him, just as using fire exhausted her.

“What in the world were you thinking?” the monk asked the novice. “By the gods, you could’ve gotten yourself killed!” the novice rubbed the back of his neck and slowly stood up, leaning against the door.

“Sh-she needs a doctor,” he stuttered. “That oraniomancer got her pretty bad.” The monk looked down at Elise, then began to carry her into a second room, one that had a few couches, chairs, and a fireplace with a few dying embers left in it. He set her down on the couch closest to the fireplace. He turned and said something to the novice in Gisken, who nodded and ran off into a different room.

“You’ll be safe, here,” the monk promised. “He’s gone to get the abbot. He’ll be able to heal you up, and you can go back home.”

Home. With the way things were going, Elise wouldn’t even have one once the sun rose.

Marion shut the door of her room behind her, terrified beyond anything she could have ever imagined was possible. Her hands were shaking so badly, she could barely hold her sword, and only one thought occupied her mind: hide. That was exactly what she did the second she got into her room: she ran sprinted for her wardrobe, yanked the door open, and shut the door on herself, just before Blair kicked her door open.

She put a hand on her mouth to keep herself silent as Blair’s heavy footfalls rang out in her room. Gods, please let him just go away!

“Where are you, you little whore?!” Blair asked as he walked around her room. To Marion’s horror, he began to come closer and closer to where she was hiding. “Come on out; I know you’re in here!”

Marion closed her eyes as Blair stopped right in front of the wardrobe. Did he already know where she was? Gods, please don’t let that be true-

A sword went through the wardrobe right above her head.

As much as she wish she could, Marion couldn’t hold it in: she screamed, praying to the gods that someone would hear it and come help before it was too late.

The sword came out of the wardrobe and the door was yanked open. The second she saw Blair, she swung her sword at him.

Blair barely batted an eye when he saw the last-ditch attempt to come out on top. He parried the blow and sliced her hand open, making her drop her sword.

Before Marion could recover, Blair put his sword against her throat. The blood soaked metal chilled her skin. “If you scream again, I swear on all that’s holy I’ll kill you; got it?”

Marion nodded as her stomach began to twist itself into knots. The fact that he wanted her alive made her feel sick

Blair grabbed her by the front of her breastplate and yanked her out of the wardrobe and onto her feet. If it hadn’t been for his strong grip, she probably would’ve fallen to the ground, again.

He shoved her away and held his sword at her throat. “I would like nothing more than to go ahead and run you through like a dog; after all, that’s all you deserve. It’s a shame that, as the general of the Gisken army, I have to go through protocols, first.” He motioned at her bed with the sword. “Go sit down. If you try to run, I’ll cut you open.” Once she was sitting, he walked over to her desk, pulled out a piece of paper, and began writing.

The second she saw that Blair was occupied, Marion jumped up, ran out the door-

And right into a group of Gisken soldiers.

They didn’t give her time to react. The main soldier wrapped his arms around her, pinning her arms to her sides. She kicked and squirmed in the man’s grip as he dragged her back into her bedroom, but he didn’t relent.

Blair put down the quill he’d been writing with and walked towards her, his sword in hand.

“Let me go!” Marion begged as Blair walked towards her. “Please, I-“

“Shut up!” Blair sent the blade of his sword across her side. The blow was hard enough that it went right through her breastplate and cut her, deep.

Marion folded over in pain. If it hadn’t been for the soldier holding her up, she knew that she would’ve fallen to her knees.

“You’re over estimating my charity, Princess Marion,” Blair growled. “Your life is hanging from a very thin thread; I would try not to antagonize me any more, if I were you.” He looked up at one of the Giskens and gave him orders. The soldier nodded and ran off as Blair began writing, again.

Marion looked down at the cut in her side. Crimson blood was slowly dripping out of it and onto the floor. It scared her to see it; she knew that if she didn’t get some help, she was going to bleed out and die in her own bedroom.

After a few minutes, Blair said something else in Gisken. The soldier that was holding her dragged her over to the desk and sat her down in front of it.

Blair offered her the quill. “Sign it.”

Marion looked over the document in front of her. She tried to read it, but it was in Gisken, reminding her of one of the history lessons Polain taught her soon after Eza had arrived in Caitha: at the surrender of Kurzh, General Mitrius of Kurzh had been forced to sign a surrender with the terms written in Gisken, just like this one. He ended up signing over he and his men to the Gisken army and confessing to war crimes he never committed because he couldn’t speak Gisken and nobody would tell him what it said. “What is it?”

“It’s the terms of surrender,” Blair said. “When you sign this, all the pain and suffering going on outside will end.”

For a few seconds, Marion simply stared at the document, trying to decide if she should do it or not. She desperately didn’t want to surrender what was left of the Caithian army over to the Giskens; if she were the reason that thousands of men – including many of her friends - were sent to Kurzh to die, she didn’t think she would be able to live with herself.

Then again, as she sat there, she knew that the Giskens were out there, murdering civilians. If there was one thing Polain had successfully taught her, it was that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few.

Before Marion could decide, there was a commotion in the hallway. A few seconds later, Olrick barged into the room, his bloody sword in hand. The Gisken soldiers in the room raised their own weapons, ready to kill him.

Blair put his sword across her throat and pressed, forcing her closer to him. When Olrick saw them, his face seemed to fall for a few seconds. Then, he got an enraged look on his face. “Let her go!”

“I would chose your next actions very carefully, Watchman,” Blair said. “If you make one more aggressive move, I swear on all that’s holy, you won’t be the only casualty.”

For a few seconds, Olrick stood still, looking back and forth between Marion and Blair and the soldiers that were ready to kill him. Finally, he sighed and cursed under his breath.

He dropped his sword and put his hands above his head in surrender.

Blair took the sword away from Marion’s throat and smiled. He barked some orders in Gisken to his men, who forced Olrick to lie down on his stomach.

“I never got your answer, before,” he said as he walked over to where Olrick was lying. He dragged the tip across his back for a few seconds, then stabbed him through the shoulder. Olrick cursed, then clenched his fists before he could do anything else that might scare Marion into submission. “Are you going to sign the surrender, or are you going to let him – and every other soldier left in this city – die?”

“Marion, don’t do it,” Olrick said. “They’ll kill us all, anyway-“

“Shut up!” Blair twisted the blade of his sword in Olrick’s shoulder. Olrick tensed up, but he managed to avoid screaming.

“Stop it!” Marion begged. Blair looked back at her.

“I’m not the one who can stop this,” he said. “You signing that paper is the only thing that’s going to stop this.”

For a few seconds, Marion stared at the paper. She knew that Olrick didn’t want her to do it, but she couldn’t just sit there, procrastinating an end that she knew was coming while people died for it.

I’m sorry, Olrick. Marion picked up the quill and signed the surrender with a shaky hand.

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