The Third Battle
After another week of training and mentally preparing for my third and final battle, it was finally time.
Sand crunched underneath my boots as I strode into the arena. The crowd cheering and chanting either for me or against me, I couldn’t care less. My focus was on the huge wooden door opposite of me, where my opponent or opponents would come out of.
I registered the announcer who was, for the third time, announcing me to the crowd. I took the time to look up at the King’s box. Ignoring my father who tried desperately to catch my eyes, I looked to his right where my brother, Soren, and Rorek sat.
Soren caught my eyes first and he gave me a respectful nod along with a small smile, which was a lot coming from him. Next, I looked to my mate, who had never left my side all week and offered me the physical and emotional support I didn’t realize I would need. Even from quite a distance, I could see the pride shining in his purple eyes. My chest panged at our distance.
For what felt like the millionth time, I found myself wondering what I had done to serve him. His kind and caring side surprised me, but he also managed to keep me in line, which was definitely something I need. Despite our sleeping arrangements and constant interaction, he had expressed that he would never pressure me to do anything I didn’t want. To which I was grateful, because, despite no one knowing about what had happened to me several times while I was completing my one hundred fights, I was unsure if I was ready for us to move forward just yet. He was truly amazing and I was so grateful for him.
Finally, my eyes looked to Locke, who had one of the King’s guards whispering in his ear. It was hard to make out, but I didn’t miss the widening of his eyes and the flash of panic that took over his features. That can’t be good. I mused to myself, dreading whatever had caused my brother to react how he did.
Whatever it was, I had a feeling it had to do with me and my fight. Locke must’ve noticed that I was looking because he suddenly schooled his features and offered a fake-reassuring smile.
I squinted my eyes at my brother in an accusative glare, before dragging my attention to the arena door that my opponent would come out of.
Taking a few steadying breathes, I felt as I centered myself. Blocking out the stares and hollers, blocking out all outside influence, I let the sand beneath me become my rock, my center.
The swords on my back became a comforting weight, the daggers hidden all over my body pressed into my skin, alerting me of their presence, and the bow strung across my shoulder felt as if it was an extension of my limbs.
I could hear the announcer start speaking again as they introduced my opponent, though the door to the arena remained closed. Until it wasn’t. As if it was all an illusion, the door, walls of the arena, and the presence of the crowd disappeared.
The only thing steadying me was the sand beneath my feet, which was no longer sand. Instead, hard dirt replaced it. Tall trees surrounded me, towering over me and causing a familiar feeling to bubble in my chest.
The Black Forest.
“So ancient,” A young and bored voice came from all directions, surrounding me like the trees. “and boring.”
Movement drew my focus to my right, but after further inspection, I could see nothing. Sounds threatened to drag my attention all around me, as I felt like someone was running circles around me and working to distract me.
Finally, whatever was distracting me stopped moving. A dark and familiar figure stood between two trees. My eyes traced the feminine curves and watched as they brought their hands up to remove their hood.
Sea-green eyes taunted me along with curly red hair. A maniacal laugh filled the forest as the figure sauntered towards me. Until the familiar face was eye-to-eye with me.
She always was my height, whereas Locke towered over both of us. I thought out of complete shock.
“Dear sister,” Ingrid said, a sweet but deadly smile gracing her perfect face.
No snark, no remarks, and no thoughts rushed to my head. I couldn’t move, frozen, as I stared at my sister.
“But you’re dead...” My voice was weak and strained.
Sea-green eyes looked up, as if in thought, before a sneer crossed my sister’s face. “Whoops...” She said in a horribly familiar voice.
Then she drove a dagger into my abdomen.
Pain seared through my stomach and a whimper fell from my lips. My sister’s pleased face neared my face and that was when I saw it. The slight flicker. The static. Almost as if she was an illusion.
Just like the forest surrounding me. It wasn’t the real Black Forest, it lacked that special feeling that always tickled me whenever I entered the forest. Just like the illusion of the sister, it lacked the feeling of safety and home.
Whatever was in front of me was a monster. It was not my sister.
“Uh oh, looks like I win.” My sister’s soft and velvety voice was straining in a higher pitch, as if the illusion was unsure of how she really sounded.
I couldn’t help it, the soothing feeling of calm that washed over me as I slipped into my Slaying Still. My sister’s sea-green eyes widened at whatever had flashed in my eyes.
I felt as she removed the dagger and stuck it back in, twisting it this time. Pain tingled briefly before the slaying still numbed any and all pain, including the dull ache that thumbed in my chest, alerting me that my mate was close.
“Show yourself, coward,” I heard my voice say, but it wasn’t me that was speaking. The Slaying Still had full control over me.
The dagger twisted in my stomach as whatever looked like my sister started panicking. “Impossible,” the voice got even higher, the illusion flickering even more.
Through my numb body, I felt something. A tingle, not of pain but of heat. A fire tingled in my toes then fluttered up to my legs, up my abdomen and to my chest, finally climbing up my throat, until the heat filled my whole body. Sparks started to dance on my fingertips as the heat turned into a raging fire, ripping through my body.
Magic. I realized with a start as the illusion in front of me and around me completely faded. Panic and fear scrambled through the creature in front of me, as if I could feel their feelings and energy. A Púca. My earlier studying in the library finally came back to me as I realized what was tricking me.
My hands reached out on their own accord, grabbing the shoulders of the Púca that was trembling.
“What are you?” The Púca asked, already giving in to their inevitable fate.
“I’m the Acer.” I felt a deadly smirk cross my face as the sparks in my hands turned into more, lightning lit up the Púca’s disgustingly hairy body.
The energy that had been previously terrified, disappeared. The body in my hands slumping to the sandy arena in a dead heap. Lightning radiated off of me, dancing all around me in the air and the ground. Sparks seemed to sear pieces of sand, turning them into what looked like glass.
My body was moving, walking towards the Kings box with a determined pace. The slaying still was still in control, though it had lessened allowing me to speak when I stopped in front of my father.
“You’re a coward.” My voice boomed, sounding so much unlike me. “You have no business being a King. You didn’t deserve Ingrid, especially if that’s how you honor her memory, and you definitely didn’t deserve our mother.”
For once, my father’s cocky attitude was nowhere to be seen. He stared at the bolts radiating off of me in fear, only managing to school his features when the arena fell into complete silence.
“Who are you to talk to me like that?” He spoke with anger, shooting out of his seat.
The King’s box was off the ground by about ten feet, meaning I had to look up, but as the thought of having to look up to him struck me, I felt my whole body envelop in an air bubble and suddenly I was standing right next to my father.
The shock of what I had just done quickly faded when I saw the straight fear and panic in my father’s eyes. I could feel it. His energy just as I had the Púca’s. There was a major difference though. The Púca's had some light and hope to it. My father's however was black and threatening. That's when I realized, he would never give up. He would never stop a war because he was too far gone, too dark. My father was a monster.
“What are you?” He asked, a tremble to his voice just like the Púca.
Looking up and down the man that had caused so much pain and fear in my life, I felt my resolve harden. This slimly, awful man didn’t deserve to live. He didn’t deserve to be looked up to, or feared. He’s nothing but a coward.
My eyes met his forest green eyes when I answered him. “I’m the Acer.” I made sure he could hear the hatred in my voice as my powers suddenly shot out and encased him in lightening.
His screams could barely be heard over the rumble of my lightening. The zapping and heat of it burned him and shocked him simultaneously, until the King of the North was dead. When his previously dark energy disappeared, like the Púca’s had, I felt the lightening retract. The darkness that had surrounded his being was gone, just like him.
My power came back to me, the lightening that had been sparking off of me disappeared and the numbness of my Slaying Still slowly retreated. Until I was just me, standing before my dead father and a crowd of flabbergasted people.
My energy-sensing didn't go away, however. I felt as someone approached me, a warm and sweet energy wrapped me in its arms. I recognized the minty and sweet smell of my mate. Rorek. I fell back into his arms as exhaustion hit me full force, knocking me out where I stood.