Dara raced as fast as she could. She had no direction in mind. Red energy flaming, her body covered in her unique armor. Vision blurred as if peering through a screen. Flying faster and faster, terrified Fei would undoubtably give chase.
She fought hard to gain control of her speed, still very new to her powers. Before long, her fire hushed, and she plummeted from the sky fatigued. The momentum of flight carrying her a few yards after contact with the ground. The accumulated wounds would have been countless had it not been for her armor.
She breathed momentarily, sitting up slowly. Dara examined her surroundings. There was no immediate danger visible. She rolled onto her back and relaxed her mind and body. She felt depleted. Like a battery finally out of power.
For the first time in her life she had a moment to herself. No mother, or members of the city to baby sit. Her eyes flooded with tears. The horror of being alone consuming her. She dwelled on her mother. Remembering the last time, she saw her.
Seeing her put on her armor to finally address the looming threat that had landed on Tetcht over a year prior. The gravel chilled her body. The Eira was near. In her panic, she unknowingly flew in the direction of the storm. The unrelenting cold was rapidly approaching.
She considered allowing the storm to overtake her. She laid motionless on the ground preparing to accept her fate. “If we leave the universe to the malicious, the brave and moral may never return.” She thought. Those were the last words her mother ever spoke to her.
Dara opened her eyes. The snow beginning to lightly fall all around her. She cautiously stood to her feet. Examining her surroundings once again. “Ok. You win. I won’t give up.” She mumbled to herself. Dara took her first steps into the storm.
She could feel the temperature dropping, as the shroud her breath created warned her to seek shelter. Snow sticking perfectly to the pattern on her armor, before she either shook or brushed it off. The sky started to darken. It would be the last spotting of the sun until the long Eira storm passed.
Dara trudged through the snow for hours, desperately fighting against the blizzard conditions impeding her travel. Only the steps she made in front of her were visible. The wind sailed passed her ears so loud at times the sound of her voice were as thoughts in her head.
It became nearly impossible to steer her eyes forward, her exposed face stung as time stood still. Her armor no longer resisting the bite of the cold. Fatigued, Dara fell to her knees. “I can’t do this.” She thought, or maybe she said, she couldn’t tell.
She couldn’t focus. Each second among the elements became more intense. She was not the first person on Tetcht to witness the Eira outside of the Protector, but none of those who did, lived. Dara tried but couldn’t regain possession of her thoughts.
The wind nearly blowing her over. Gusts lifted her off her feet several times before she plowed back into the compact snow. She removed her armor; the unpleasant sensation of needles pierced every inch of her body.
Wounds and sores beginning to form with each tumble into the now solid snow. At this rate she knew she would be dead in minutes. She closed her eyes trying to produce her flame. Three times the flame blew out. Time dwindling, failed attempt after failed attempt. The cold was so brutal, her tears froze halfway down her cheek.
A glimpse of Fei lunging at her crossed her mind. Instinctively she propped her hands up for protection. Suddenly, the red flame flickered on her hands. The warmth was pleasurable beyond measure. Dara allowed the frightening scene to replay in her mind’s eye once more. The flames returned.
She latched onto the feeling. The control. The fear she felt, and the power it provided. Concentrating, she distributed the flame around her body, allowing it to protect her. The snow melted beneath her feet, flakes unable to reach her bare skin, the unforgiving crunch of the cold, being held at bay. It was manageable, and before long, she was warm.
Dara’s red flames was the sole light in the indefinite distance. She had no idea where she was or which direction to travel, still she could survive. Testing her limits, she levitated off the ground. Harnessing her untamed power to fuel her fire.
As the blaze exposed the darkness, and fought off the Eira, her body began to revitalize. A sped-up process of healing, the wounds disappearing slowly, sores gone, as if they were never there. All injuries were restored.
The pain lingered as she was rejuvenated, but she didn’t mind by comparison. Twirling in the air, she marveled at the power within herself. The red fire danced around her blond hair, flickering but not a singe or even a follicle of hair burned.
Dara survived days in the Eira. She remained in her red flame form for the duration. It dawned on her finally, she had not eaten. Yet she never hungered. The Iku sustained her, its properties of increasing life, completely rendering her stomach obsolete.
Dara pondered her next move. The snow beneath would be eye level provided she stood on solid ground. The red form prevented the elements from harming her. For hours she would fly, getting used to the feeling, while taking brief rests.
Dara would walk through the deep snow, enjoying the sight of it melting around her as she strolled. The trickling sounds replacing the usual crunch of footsteps. Dara returned to the air.
Looking for a place to hide while she plotted her destination. This day, the wind was absent. But the heavy flakes continued to pile on top of each other. However, she found the quiet soothing. Allowing for her to easily focus. Occasionally, the crackle from her flame would break the silence but she almost stopped hearing it.
The swoosh from a large object shattered her focus. It was familiar. The sound of a Pratham ship. Her stomach turned into a knot. “No.” She thought. Dara extinguished her flames and dropped into the snow.
The bitter chill momentarily pierced her skin. The pain returned like before. Her body still hot, snow melted around her sizzling on her skin. It wasn’t until now that it occurred to her. The protection the flame brought, is the very trail she provided. All the melted and uneven snow left in her wake.
The burning aroma amongst an otherwise odorless freezing air. She activated her armor, refraining from making sudden moves, as not to alert the ships occupant. “How could I be so stupid?” She thought. Frustrated that she wasn’t more careful. But there was nothing she could have done differently and survive, as she pondered.
She ultimately led her would be captors right to her. The sound remained in the distance, subtle, but there. Had there been wind this night, the ship may have gone undetected. Dara hid, more cautious not to repeat mistakes.
Moving through the snow that was cradling her would produce noise, giving away her position. So, she remained still. Thankfully, she was airborne for the past couple miles, not to leave a direct trail. Or so she thought.
The snow prevented her from seeing how far off the ship was. Only a small peak upward was available, through her dropping point as she sunk into the slush. The noise of the ship increased. It was heading her way. She could feel her flame starting to restore itself, reacting upon her anxiety. Dara concentrated. Trying to prevent the flame from betraying her location.
The ship slowly descended imprinting in the snow. She listened closely to the commotion but was unclear what was going on. She resisted the urge to take a peek. “It isn’t Fei.” She reasoned. He would have sensed her heartbeat or smelled the smolder in the air. Dara focused.
“The Sentry?” She deduced. Only they could survive this far out, and with their almost undying fealty to Fei, surely, they would do his bidding amongst the deadly storm. Still, Dara refused to move, even with the element of surprise she wasn’t sure she would last long against a member of the Sentry.
Let alone more than one at a time. “I wonder if they’re all here?” She said to herself. Dara waited. Pondering how she would survive this predicament. The Sentry member’s steps were heavy crunches, still nothing significant enough to give her reason to flee.
Dara remained still; she would wait them out if she had to. The ship began to move. It ascended back into the dark sky. Higher and higher, taking Dara’s fear with it. Breathing heavily, she waited for the swooping sound of the ship to fly off into the night, but it never came.
A blinding flash peered down, penetrating the mushed snow she created from her chosen hiding place. The light revealed the irregular level in the snow and thus her location. She was found. Dara blasted into the air.
She saw the uniquely designed Pride, Fei’s personal vessel. 19 stood at the exit in his shimmering black armor, only slightly different from Fei’s, holding his large pole axe. She deactivated her armor and ignited her red flame. Sheading the extra weight of her armor would not only save her energy but allow her to maneuver better.
Dara shot multiple flaming blasts at the Pride’s exit which 19 easily deflected with his weapon. Dara fled as fast as she could. 19 jumped into the cock pit in pursuit. Dara’s mind raced trying made up evasive maneuvers.
It was even harder as there were no structures, terrain or mountains around to distort 19’s line of sight. The Pride was quickly gaining on her. She was trying her best to shake 19’s hunt. After a sharp turn, a white circular laser whizzed by her. With no time to scope out the new development, she continued her made up flight patterns.
Dara twisted and turned avoiding the bolts. “Keep cannons to stun. I need her alive.” 19 ordered to the ship. 19 saw a warning on the dash screen. “Unknown heat signature nearby.” He read. “Disregard. Focus on capturing Dara.” 19 ordered. The lasers were relentless.
A few more missed their target, before one finally landed. Just barely grazing her left thigh, Dara’s body went completely numb. She plummeted into the snow. Crying in agony. Her flame extinguished upon her reentry into the snow. Dara’s armor reactivated to protect her.
Sentry 19 circled her for a time in the ship, plotting his place for landing the ship close to her. The stunning laser left her in severe numbness, but somehow it hurt just as bad. Sentry 19 menacingly exited the ship. The shimmering of his armor the only significant difference against the darkness of the night. He stretched out his arm.
His massive red pole axe materialized in his hand. The colossal blade puffed up the surrounding snow as it dropped. The snow parting as if commanded to do so by the axe, as 19 drug it behind him. Dara could do little else but blink as her impending doom approached.
19 stood before Dara. “I’m not going to hurt you Dara. You know that?” 19 asked rhetorically. Dara didn’t respond, hoping he would make it quick. “I have to bring you home. Or Fei will kill us both. Please make this easier on both of us.” 19 pleaded. Dara said nothing again but could see the conflict in his eyes.
He looked as if he didn’t want to take her, but she couldn’t understand why he would choose to do so anyway. 19 seized her by the helm of her armor, knowing she couldn’t resist her apprehension and hoisted her into his free arm.
Holding his massive axe in one hand and Dara in the other, Sentry 19 prepared to return to the city. In front of the Pride stood a set of gleaming purple Pratham armor. On both arms’ thick bands with sky blue tassels whipped as the wind picked up. The helmet securing the face, revealing the caramel skin of a woman.
Her long white hair protruding from the back of her helmet like a plume. Dara’s armor pulsated as she gazed at the woman. Her hair would suggest she was of an advanced age, but her flawless skin told a different story.
Sentry 19 pointed his axe at the lone woman. “Aside stranger, or I will remove your head.” He warned. The woman did not move. “Release the child to me. Take the ship and leave this planet. You have no other option.” She responded.
Dara met the eyes of 19. He would not shirk from his duty. The woman opened her hand above her head. A long purple scimitar materialized in her hand. She expertly twirled the blade before getting into an offensive stance.
19 unceremoniously released Dara. Brandishing his pole axe. “Whom should I tell the Sovereign stood valiantly before me?” He asked. “I am the terror of Tetcht. Vanquisher of the Deceiver Vanakan. The Hope of Pratham.” Dara and Sentry 19 shared a look of bewilderment.
“Tumakako? Impossible. Vanakan killed you.” 19 questioned to himself. Dara limped to a safer distance. Keeping her eyes on the two would be capturers. “I will bring the Sovereign your head. You will burn before the citizens for everything you have done to us. Your betrayal will not be forgiven.” He promised, preparing for battle.
Tumakako rushed in to attack 19. The snow provided no obstacle for her as she seemingly floated through the distance between them. Her strikes were quick and effortless. Every clash between the scimitar and axe rang through the night.
19 could barely parry her blows. Multiple swipes and swings scarcely missing their target as the woman warrior pressed the attack. 19 began taking large steps in retreat. He attempted to increase the space between him and his opponent.
In close she would be lethal, 19 knew space was needed to effectively wield his axe. Yet every opportunity to create an opening, she would close the distance while striking simultaneously.
Tumakako circled her foe, as if stalking prey. Dara watched in obsession. Her armor feeding her every emotion inspecting the duel. “Don’t run. I will help you.” Said a voice through her armor. Dara looked around to ensure no one else was near her.
Only the two combatants and herself were in the vicinity. “A link? How?” Dara questioned to herself. As Tumakako, circled Sentry 19 she flashed a quick look at Dara. 19 could feel his body becoming tired. He wasn’t as adjusted to extended combat as his opponent. His training with Fei was far from complete and most of the time the session didn’t last very long.
Dara continued to observe the duel, leaving her thoughts for a moment. Tumakako lunged forward. 19 was on the defensive yet again. Tumakako twirled her scimitar as she swung her blade. Seizing an opening, she leveled her opponent with a kick to the chin.
19 tumbled back a few steps. Spinning to gather momentum, Tumakako slashed 19 across the chest. Her blade cutting through his armor. Sentry 19 fell to the ground. Quickly turning onto his back, he felt the edge of her blade on his throat. Realizing defeat, he dropped his axe. 19 was impressed, his expression would have lasted had not for her next words.
“Leave Tetcht. You will not receive a second command.” Tumakako demanded. Sentry 19 looked over at Dara. With no other choice he cautiously retrieved his axe and stood to his feet. Tumakako never deterred her eyes from the Sentry member.
Still, he was no fool to try a sneak attack, he understood quite well he was outmatched. 19 withdrew to the Pride. Tumakako waited to verify that the ship ascended into the sky, before disappearing into the dim snowy atmosphere.
Dara remained on the ground. Not sure what to expect. There was no point in running, in her state Tumakako would catch her without struggle. The veteran warrior swiped her sword in the air, and it disintegrated. Tumakako approached Dara. “Who are you child?” She asked.
Dara removed her armor revealing herself, while entering her red flame form. Tumakako studied Dara’s face for only a second. “I recognize that face.” She said, staring down at the young girl.
The Pride entered space, 19 sat defeated in the pilot chair, countless stars in the galaxy before him. The further the ship flew away from Tetcht, Sentry 19 could feel his link with the other Sentry members and Fei become strained. Before long he could feel their connection no more.
His armor felt emptied, void of an affiliation, not sure where to go. If he returned to Tetcht, either Fei, Tumakako or both would surely have his head. Staring into the emptiness of space, he dropped his head into his hands. “I don’t know any other planets but Tetcht.
Am I doomed to wander this darkness till death?” He thought. Sentry 19 peered around the ship, looking for anything to alter his fortune. “Only other place….” He stopped. Questioning himself, not sure what to make of the idea that populated into his head. “Take me to Pratham.”