The Forbidden Village

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Chapter 23

I needed to have a serious talk with those healers, immediately. I wasn’t sure if Avin would give me an answer, but I was pretty sure that Mallon would. I around the mourners to Mallon, trying to be as discreet as possible.

Once I was right next to him, I looked up at him from the corner of my eye, trying my best to catch his attention. He looked down at me from the corner of his eye and gave him a discrete gesture that we needed to talk, and gave me a signal to follow him.

I followed Mallon out into the hall, from another door on the opposite side of the room. Mallon shut the door behind me and then turned around to look at me, waiting.

“Where are they?” I asked him point blank. There was no way that he would not know who I meant. Mallon had hesitated a moment before he responded.

“Why do you want to know?” he asked me slowly, it sounded like he was careful about what he said. What was I supposed to tell him? I could tell him the truth because there really was no point in lying to him about my intentions.

“I want to challenge Mage, the head healer,” I replied just as carefully. Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second. How the hell did I know what her name was? I’m pretty sure that no one had told me her name, and I’m fairly certain that I hadn’t overheard it considering that everyone clammed up whenever I got too close.

Mallon looked at me about as surprised as I felt when I said the head healer’s name. He stood there silent for a moment or two. I’m pretty sure that he was debating on whether or not to tell me where they were. Mallon sighed, reluctantly.

“Alright, come with me,” Mallon replied hesitantly as he held a hand out to me. I took his hand, and we jogged through the halls. He led me down some familiar hallways and then down a couple of unfamiliar hallways.

I felt a little bit uneasy being alone with Mallon in unknown hallways, no one else knowing where I was. I could defend myself if I had to. Luckily, he had a hold of my right arm so my left was free to bring out my weapon if I had to.

We stopped in front of a big wooden door that looked like it might’ve been made from pine. Mallon looked at me from the corner of his eye before he walked forward and opened the door. The room was filled with people and creatures, all mixing different chemicals and other liquids together in various sized containers. But when I took a step inside the door the smell had me stumbling backwards.

The smell was absolutely awful and burned my nose. The smell, if I had to describe it, was like a mixture of rotting flesh and burning acid. I was pretty sure that I made a weird face because I heard Mallon chuckle from beside me.

“Yeah, it does smell rather horrid but it isn’t so bad after a minute or so,” Mallon commented as he walked up towards the door. “Now, let’s go find Mage.”

Mallon entered the room but turned around to look at me, smiling slightly. I could feel myself smile a bit, and I quickly walked up to him. He led me to the place while chatting with me, and making me laugh. No one even seemed to notice us as we walked around.

This place looked a little like the infirmary on the other end of the palace, except that the wounded here were a lot worse for wear. Not to mention that the place was filthy and completely unsanitary.

Blood covered the tables, the people and the floor in some areas. I was surprised that I wasn’t nauseous from the smell of the chemicals and all of that blood. I even heard some screaming echo from the other side of the room. The scream made me cringe. Screams like that should not be happening in a place that is supposed to help people, they should only occur when someone is being tortured.

It pulled at my heartstrings and made me even more furious when I heard a child scream in pain. The weird tingling in my arm became an ache, and the creature in my arm became very restless. It wanted blood, it wanted to stop whoever was causing a person to scream like that. Even rubbing my arm didn’t seem to calm it down.

The one thing that kept going through my mind was that this shouldn’t be happening. This was supposed to be a place of healing, not of pain and torture. I stopped talking to Mallon so that I could focus on keeping my rage under control. I could see in my peripheral vision that Mallon would glance at me nervously every couple minutes.

Finally, we came to another big wooden door. This one was probably made from some sort of dark wooded tree because I was sure that I had never seen a wooden door quite this color. The odd color of the wood only distracted me for a moment. I could hear muffled screams coming from the other side of the door. I stiffened at the sound and the smell that seeped out from under the door.

“I’m guessing you’re not going to wait, are you?” Mallon asked me quietly. I wasn’t sure whether he was afraid of me, or trying to joke around with me. Either way, I was done playing games. Mage needed to be dealt with, immediately.

I wasn’t actually paying attention to what I was doing, or whether or not people should know about my powers yet. I was just really mad. I flicked my wrist at the doors, and both of them flew open. I stepped into the room. It didn’t look like anything relating to an infirmary, it looked more like a horror house.

Blood was everywhere in the room, and there was a lot of it. Bloody handprints stained the walls and the doors and even streaked across the one window that they had in the room. It looked like people had been trying to escape from here, or from whatever was going on in here. It made me sick, and something in me just turned off.

There were four people in the room, besides the one who was strapped down to the table. They all turned to stare at me, stunned by the sound of the doors being thrown open. Mage was the first one to recover.

Mage glared at me and said some very crude things in Elvish, directed at me, before going back to poking at the guy on the table. The other girls around the table looked at Mage rather startled, and even a bit scared.

“Get back to work!” Mage barked at the other young ladies at the table. They quickly started to resume their positions. I noticed that they all seemed to be scared of Mage. Other healers should not have to fear their leader to want to obey them. They should respect and look up to their leader for help and guidance.

I stood in the doorway for a moment and watched to see exactly what I was dealing with. One of the healers tried to discreetly heal one of the man’s wounds, but Mage saw and slapped her across the face.

The young girl stumbled back a step and gingerly touched the side of her face that was now turning red. This was definitely not right. You should never ever treat a healer that works under you with such disrespect. I had had enough of waiting and watching. I was about ready to kill her right then and there.

“Mage,” I called to her to get her attention back on to me. My voice didn’t sound like mine anymore. It was much more commanding and determined. “I challenge you for your position as head healer…in a death match.”

That last part got Mage’s attention. She dropped what she was doing and walked around the table to face me.

“A death match, you say?” Mage asked playfully, smirking. She looked like she was trying to be thoughtful but I knew better. I gave her a sharp nod and waited for her response. She seemed to be thinking it over, but the smile never left her face.

“Okay, the courtyard at dawn,” Mage commented and turned around to go back to the man that was laying on the table. I grabbed her arm before she could get too far. She whipped around and glared at my hand, but I wasn’t about to let go of her.

“No, now,” I told her and then let go of her arm. I turned around and walked out the door. I flicked my wrist at the doors, and they slammed shut behind me. Then it hit me. I closed my eyes in frustration. How stupid was I to say all of those things and do all of this stuff? I mean, what was I crazy?

“Well, that was something,” Mallon commented from in front of me. I opened my eyes and looked at Mallon. I smiled nervously. Crap, I forgot that he was here.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” I muttered blushing slightly. What the hell had come over me in there?

“Alright, let’s get you suited up,” Mallon said as he put an arm around my shoulders, and started leading me away. He smiled down at me. He was trying to act like what I had just done wasn’t a big deal, but I knew that it was huge.

As we walked out of the room everyone we passed stared at us. To be more specific they were staring at me. I tried not to notice their stares, but it was tough when everyone in the room was staring me. Some were staring at me with sympathy, others with surprise and hope. There were the rare patches of people that stared at me with rage and hatred. I hadn’t realized that there were this many people in the palace.

I was relieved when we finally got away from the prying eyes. Mallon took me down some more unfamiliar hallways until we came to the door of the armory. I didn’t really want any armor, but Mallon insisted that I would need it.

Mallon got me a chest plate, a helmet, some arm guards and some shin guards. I had to change my outfit to a t-shirt and a form of shorts that went underneath my metal skirt. Mallon said that it was just so that the metal wouldn’t pinch my skin.

Once I was suited up Mallon wanted to get me a sword to use. I stopped him and told him that I already had a weapon that I wanted to use. Mallon looked me up and down, confused. I didn’t want to tell him about my sword, so I just told him that I would be okay. Thankfully, he agreed if only hesitantly.

Mallon led me around the halls, through the greenhouse and out into the courtyard. Mage was already there and suited up in her own armor. But there were a couple people there that I hadn’t expected to be there. Sally, Avin, Val, and Aquaphira were sitting in some chairs that were set up off to the side of the courtyard.

The courtyard itself was dressed with torches because the sun had yet to rise. There was a chalk outline of a circle on the courtyard. That must be where we will be fighting. I guess the Royals needed to be here as witnesses and referees of the match.

“Just remember always keep your eyes on her, never turn your back on her or she will strike faster than you will be able to move,” Mallon whispered to me as he checked to make sure that my armor was tight enough. I felt uncomfortable in someone else’s armor.

I would’ve preferred not to have any armor on, or to have my own armor. Hmm? I had my own armor?

Okay, something was going on with me, and I needed to get to the bottom of it. I looked over to Mage. Right after this battle. I would try to get more information, but for right now I had to focus.

Mallon jogged away from me and around to the right side of the chalk circle. He looked between both Mage and me as we entered the ring. I closed my eyes and took a deep in through my nose to relax. I let it out through my mouth and then opened my eyes.

I suddenly felt very focused and alert. All of my senses were heightened, but my body was relaxed. I was ready to do this. I was ready to win.

Mage drew her sword, unbelted her sheath and threw it out of the chalk circle. I flicked my left wrist, popped my sword out and caught it in my hand. Mage stared at me with wide eyes, fear was radiating from her so strongly that I could feel it from where I was standing.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the only people who looked really surprised about the sword were Mallon and Avin. Sally looked a little surprised, but it faded. Val and Aquaphira didn’t even pretend to act surprised. They both smiled at me supportively from where they sat.

I couldn’t help it, I cracked a smile, and I was looking right at Mage when I did it. She looked at me, really pissed. I guess I couldn’t really blame her. After all, I am going to be trying to kill her in a moment. Avin and Mallon were still in shock, so Val got up to referee the fight in Mallon’s place.

“Okay, I want a good clean death match,” Val explained looking to each of us one at a time. “No dirty fighting. If you are caught dirty fighting, you will be dishonored and stripped of your ranking. Oh, and you will be executed.”

We both nodded solemnly. I understood what was at stake here, and I’m pretty sure that Mage did too. Val looked to each of us one more time.

“Fight!” Val shouted and threw his hand down before quickly retreating out of the circle. Mage lunged at me, going straight for a killing blow. I side stepped her and brought my sword down on her back. It wasn’t hard enough to kill her, but it was hard enough to dent her armor, and she dropped to the ground.

I jumped back a couple of feet to allow her some recovery time, and me a safety zone in case she struck back sooner than I anticipated. Mage scrambled to her feet, absolutely furious. She tried to come at me again, but her anger made her unbalanced. I managed to sidestep her and bring my sword down on her back again. I jumped away a couple more steps and waited.

Mage really wasn’t all that good of a fighter. I don’t know why people feared and blindly obeyed her. She really wasn’t good at the stuff that she was being praised for either. She couldn’t heal worth a damn from what I’ve seen, and she wasn’t a good fighter because she let her emotions cloud her judgment. I must be missing something here. What could’ve possibly got her to such a high ranking with such poor skills?

As Mage stood up again, I noticed that something in her body language had changed. She seemed much more relaxed and calm. When she turned around, however, she looked anything but calm and relaxed. Her face was pulled back into an unnaturally creepy grin, and her eyes were fogged over like she was dead.

I tried to listen to her heartbeat. I was stunned to find that I couldn’t hear it. What the hell was she? Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that everyone was completely stunned by Mage’s sudden transformation. I took a deep breath in through my nose to double check that she was really dead. All I could smell was death and rot coming from her general direction.

Mage came at me again, but she was a lot faster than she had been before. Her fingernails scraped across the side of my armor, splitting the side open. Mage turned her head to an unnatural angle and stared at me, her regular teeth had turned to dagger-like teeth. They looked super sharp, and about as long as my middle finger.

Mage was still smiling, and now it was beyond creepy. Ohh, I was so getting no sleep for the next couple nights. This was just getting to be really scary. What had I gotten myself into?

As Mage lunged at me again, I tried to move out of the way, but she clipped the other side of my armor this time so that my armor was just dangling off my shoulders. Well, this really wasn’t all that useful anymore.

I quickly stripped out of my shredded armor just in time to dodge the next strike. I hadn’t realized it until now, but Mage didn’t have her sword anymore. She was just using her hands and nails to try to grab and scratch at me.

Mage kind of seemed like a zombie of sorts. Still, something just didn’t click with how she was acting. What could I possibly be missing? I pushed Mage away when she got too close, and I couldn’t hit her with my sword. Her skin felt leathery, almost like a snake’s skin.

Okay, what do I know? She likes pain, blood, and suffering. I dodged another set of fury swipes. Um, she has super sharp claws and teeth, looks dead….oh, and has leathery skin.

“Demon?” I whispered out loud, not even realizing what I had said. “She’s a demon.”

I felt so happy that I had finally figured out what Mage was that I forgot the danger that I was in. Until she was coming right at me. I barely had enough time to duck out of the way before she came barreling past me. I felt absolute agony burning into my side.

Shit, Mage got me. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from crying out. I hadn’t even realized that she was in front of me again until I felt her leathery hand grasp my neck. Startled, I dropped my sword and grabbed her hand as she lifted me off of the ground and into the air. She squeezed my neck tighter and tighter as she held me up.

I tried to pry her hand off as I gasped for air, but she was a lot stronger than she looked. I had to think of something fast before she crushed my throat. What could I possibly do when she was so much stronger than I was?

I closed my eyes and focused all of my power into my left hand. I was starting to see black spots in front of my eyes. It wouldn’t be too long now, I had to act fast.

“You should’ve stayed away,” Mage hissed at me and tightened her grip even more. But at that exact moment, my power reached its peak, and I threw my left hand up in the air. Spikes shot up from the Earth right underneath Mage, spearing her in several places and taking her head off.

I dropped to the ground coughing and gasping for air. My lungs and throat felt like they were on fire from being so heavily deprived of oxygen.

I looked over to where Avin, Sally, Val, Aquaphira and Mallon should’ve been, but there was nothing there except shadows. As I started to focus more on my surroundings, I noticed that there was a lot of magic around me. A spell that pauses time? Heh, how original.

I waved my hand in front of me, and I could feel the magic slowly dissipate. The shadows faded, and the spectators reappeared, frozen in time. Their expressions were of complete horror, except for Mallon’s. Mallon was smirking. Had he known about Mage being what she was? I guess I could ask him about it once I took this spell off.

I snapped my fingers and time started up again. Avin lurched forward, and Val, Sally, and Aquaphira jumped up from their chairs so fast that they knocked them over. For a moment, they all looked around confused.

I quickly picked up my sword and absorbed it back into my arm. I tried to walk towards them but my right leg crumpled underneath me, and I fell to my knees. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly exhausted. I fell forward, and the last thing that I saw before hitting the ground and blacking out was Avin rushing towards me.

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