I followed the tracks through the snow. It was deeper down in the gully and made my going slow. At the bottom was a frozen river. I could hear the water rushing under the ice. It was violent and unyielding. If I were to fall through the ice, there would be no saving me. It felt sturdy enough, but I knew never to trust anything created by winter.
Arsan rode to the edge of the gully. “At least wait for Nell.”
There was no time for waiting. “He will be gone before she gets here. She’s probably not done playing with her victims anyway. No matter what happens do me a favor and keep Ruan and yourself safe.”
“How touching.” Farenan was standing on the other side of the frozen water. His eyes glared through me like arrows. My heart jumped, not expecting him to show himself. I thought him more of a coward. “When I am done with you what makes you think I won’t go after your friends?”
Farenan strutted back and forth across the ice. His words seethed with malice as they flowed from his mouth. One of us would die this day. I was prepared for that.
Nothing I had done in my life would ever come close to the importance of this. Not only did I fight for my freedom, but for that of Arsan and Ruan. I even fought for the secrets of my ancestors. Farenan would find them one day and steal their magicvlike so many other people his wrath touched. That was why I stood my ground.
“You don’t scare me Farenan.” My words came forth with power and purpose. I let the magic flow through me, giving me a renewed sense of being. I would not go down easily.
“You should be, Tabri. I have unraveled your small existence with my own bare hands. I have killed your precious fury, now there is no one left to save you.”
I was screaming inside. Delah had made sacrifices for me because she believed I was special. I hadn’t believed her till now. The magic that surged through my veins was real and it begged to be set free. I wasn’t going to let Delah’s memory die with me. Stopping Farenan from hurting another soul would be how I’d repay her. “This is where your tyranny ends, Farenan. Your time is done on this earth.”
“That’s where you’re wrong little lady. I have the magic of seven people running through my veins.” He smiled sadistically. “Three Dominion, four Lantian and even one Artican. I know all about the power that you possess and I know how to use it better than you.”
I smiled and tried not to laugh. “That’s where you’re wrong. I wasn’t raised by an Artican. I was raised by a fury, and I know all of her tricks.”
Farenan’s confidence faltered. His head cocked to one side while he tried to comprehend and understand my words.
“No matter.” He didn’t sound as confident as before. “When I’m done killing you, I’ll take care of your friends.”
I let lose my power, allowing it to take over my entire body. It told my muscles what to do and made them move. I lunged forward, running with all my speed toward the man in front of me ready to fight. The ice below my feet was slippery, but my footing was sure and I was fast.
Farenan stumbled back as my first blow came to his gut. My next swing nearly missed his face as he stuck his arm up to block my attack. I didn’t know how I was moving, but I let go of everything I thought and just let my body flow with my magic.
We moved in a dance of death. He lunged toward me. My body moved to the side and my hand clasped around his neck. I picked his whole body up of the ground and slammed his back on the ice, cracking it from the force. Farenan grabbed onto my hand and rolled me to the ground. He perched above me ready to strike, but I didn’t give him a chance. My legs kicked and he went flying through the air again landing in a snow bank on the side of the river.
After a few minutes my nose was bleeding and my check was sore, but Farenan was far worse off. He had a gash above his left eye that was pouring blood down his face. His right arm was dislocated and almost useless and he walked with a limp from a blow to his right knee. His reflexes had slowed considerably, the sign of a man that was exhausted and near his end.
The magic of my ancestors still flowed strong. The healing of my minor cuts and bruises had already begun. I could feel the slight changes in my body where the warmth accumulated the most. There was no way for Farenan to win. It made me smile to think that he would be dead and I would finally be free, even if his death would come from my hands.
I stood ready for another attack, bracing my feet as best I could against the icy ground. Farenan lingered in front of me, staring. His deep blue eyes crazed with the heat of battle. He was muttering something under his breath, nothing loud enough that I could understand. What was he waiting for? He must know that his time was over.
It was in his eyes, the first sign of something about to change. I watched as they turned from blue to black, filling the whole pupil. I had a bad feeling in my gut, and the magic confirmed it when the warmth turned to burning in my veins.
Farenan’s words grew louder and clearer. “Flame of fire, cold as ice, dark of night take flight. Flame of fire, cold as ice, dark of night take flight.”
His words sent a chill down my spine. I knew that Farenan had dark magic, but I didn’t know how powerful it was. I never imagined he would be able to use it against me. I had no idea how to defend myself against such an attack. My heart raced with a renewed fear for my life. If I was going to end this, now would have to be the time.
My legs reacted to my decision. I jolted forward as fast as I could, racing toward Farenan before he could unleash his magic. Farenan didn’t move from where he stood. I kept my eyes locked on his, waiting for something to happen. Twenty feet. Ten feet. I was closing the distance between us fast. Five feet. I jumped. My back arched and my hands reached over my head to come down on Farenan with a massive blow to his chest. Then it happened, a sudden movement. Farenan dropped to his knees, slamming his fist into the ground.
A shockwave exploded in all directions. I was too close to protect myself. The power of the magic hit me like a brick wall. It carried me backward to the snow bank, where my body came to rest half buried in the white powder.
I couldn’t breathe. It felt like there was a ten tone boulder sitting on my chest. Pressing down, crushing me. Then he was there, standing over me, a smile of triumph on his face.
Was this it? Was I going to die here like this? I sucked air into my lings still feeling the pressure of the shockwave. How could I have failed?
Farenan stood over me laughing as I gulped for air. My breathing was shallow. Anytime I tried to take a deep breath a sharp pain shot through my torso making it hurt to move. My rib must be broken. He broke it.
I pulled myself to my feet holding my side, my face contorting from the pain. If I was going to die, this would be how I wanted to go. On my feet, head held high, a free woman. He had taken everything from me, but not this, not my defiance. I would hang on to it till my last breath.
“I told you Tabri. You can’t run from me. You can’t fight me. As you can see, I have powers beyond your pathetic Artican magic. There is no stopping me. I will be master of the entire world.” Farenan stood a few inches from me. His eyes never left mine as he gloated.
“You have no powers of your own. You sold your soul to the Underkeeper for what you do have. Do you really think he would let you do what you wished without a price?”
Farenan’s fist jabbed my side, pushing my broken rib into flesh. I cried out in agony. “Don’t be worrying about what the Underkeeper wants from me, you should be worrying about yourself. You will meet him soon enough. I intend to kill you…Slowly.”
Even though the pain in my side should have been more than I could handle, I pulled strength from my magic. I could feel the warmth migrating to my side, repairing my ribs. But the healing would be too slow to do any good. All the magic was good for now was to calm my nerves and prepare me for the end.
I could hear Arsan calling to me. He had been knocked off his horse when the shock wave hit him, but he was far enough away that Ruan and him weren’t hurt, just stunned. “Ride Arsan. Take Ruan and ride. Don’t come back for me.”
“I won’t leave you,” He called back as he struggled to climb to his feet. I didn’t want him to save me. He needed to stay away. My heart begged for him to run.
“How touching,” Taunted Farenan. “If he runs, he won’t get far. My men will find him.”
“Your men are dead.” I screamed in frustration.
Farenan didn’t believe me, I knew he wouldn’t, but he didn’t like to be talked to in that manner. His face scrunched up in anger. He pulled a small golden dagger from his boot. It had a dragon on the handle with a single blood red ruby for an eye. “My men are the strongest army in the known world, there is no way to defeat them. Forget killing you slowly, I just want you dead.”
A sadistic smile was plastered on his face, the one that frightened me the most. He raised the dagger over his head, ready to drive the metal through my chest. I stood my ground, trying to compose my emotions so he wouldn’t see the fear in my eyes.
Arsan yelled and struggled through the deep white snow to get to me, but he wouldn’t make it in time. I didn’t want him to make it in time. I was tired of these games, this emotional turmoil.
If I was dead than he could go back to his normal life. He could take Ruan and be free from this life of running. Farenan might chase after them for a while, but without an army, he wouldn’t have any support. This was the best way. Everyone would be happy.
The dagger came down, directed at my heart. I braced for the piercing blow that would end my life, but it didn’t come. Nell stood between Farenan and me, the dagger buried in her heart. I could see the tip of the blade protruding through the back of her jacket. Her mist had appeared out of nowhere, forming a human body in the split second the dagger came down to meet me. I cried out in shock, not believing what just happened, but relieved that I was still alive.
There was no blood where the dagger had pierced. It didn’t stain her jacket, nor did it run down her chest to pool on the ground at her feet. There was nothing but a hole from the jagged metal.
Farenan stumbled back in shock, tripping over his own feet and falling to the ground. He quickly regained his footing, but stood clear of the red head that saved me. “What form of sorcery is this?”
“It’s not sorcery you ignorant fool.” I had forgotten how rough Nell was, but was glad that she didn’t hold her tongue for Farenan’s sake. Nell sauntered across the frozen river, pulling the dagger slowly from her chest. It slid from her skin clean, not a sign of red blood attached to it. I watched as the puncture wound in her back quickly knit itself together, leaving no trace of a scar behind. Only the hole in her jacket remained.
Farenan kept his distance, always staying feet away from Nell’s fearsome scowl. “If it’s not sorcery, than what is the meaning of this?”
Nell laughed, still advancing on her prey. “You want to know what this is? This is where I send you to meet the Underkeeper.”
“What are you talking about?” Yelled Farenan, “I have great power, not even the Underkeeper can stand up to me…”
“Stop whining you pathetic pig. You had great power and you used it to bring imbalance to the world. Did you really think the forces of this land would let that happen?” Nell stood on the ice playing with the blade of the dagger impatiently.
“The forces of this land? They are long gone. Only I have the power to rule not this girl.” Farenan pointed his shaking finger at me.
“Like I care. I do not answer to the Underkeeper nor do I like you. You would have killed the one person who could bring balance to this world, you idiot. I couldn’t let that happen.” I could tell Nell was becoming aggravated with Farenan. I’d seen the damage she could do when she became angry. It was not a sight I wanted to see again. The memories I would carry would haunt me for the rest of my life.
Farenan didn’t know what to say. His mouth hung open, gulping like a fish out of water. I had never seen him like this. It was pathetic.
“Please. You can’t kill me.” Farenan fell to his knees in front of Nell, pleading.
“You’re time is done.” Nell lifted the dagger over her head and plunged it into the ice between them. There was a low rumbling through the ground. The wind went calm and the snow ceased to fall. There was an eerie calm surrounding us that made me uneasy.
Farenan rose to his feet, panic stricken and fidgety. “You can’t do this to me. I’m Lord of the Dominion.”
The echo of Nell’s laughter filled the trees around us with a haunting sound. “I’m a fury. I can do as I wish. Don’t try to run. The Underkeeper is waiting.”
Nell lifted her foot and slammed it down on the handle of the dagger, pushing it into the ice up to the handle. The ground around the blade splintered and cracked. Water splashed through the slit as it grew larger, spreading toward where Farenan stood. He turned tail and ran, trying to outpace the widening crack. It would take him soon, pull him into an icy cold grave. The crack reached his feet and pulled the ground out from under him. Farenan disappeared into the water quickly with a splash and a shout. Jut like that he was gone.