Kartega

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Chapter 46

“Ash! Watch out!” Sid yelled as she charged atop her beast toward the group of Starblades ahead of her. Her body was a blinding ball of light and she straddled the beast with both thighs, squeezing as she wielded the magic in the direction of the guards’ ready weapons.

To her left, Ashlan turned on his heels and knocked the back of his blade on the temple of a Starblade that raced his way, turning quickly around to rush the tip of his weapon into the man’s shoulder. The Starblade hunched over, blood dripping from his wound as he tried to scramble for his weapon. He was about to grasp hold of it when Tann knocked it out of his reach and thrust his boot into the Starblade’s cheek, knocking him unconscious.

“You alright?” He asked Ashlan and waited for him to nod. “Good, you had me worried for a minute.”

Ashlan’s eyebrows lifted in surprise but he quickly regained composure, just in time to run his blade through the leg of the Starblade charging at Tann from behind. “Right back at you. We’re moving in from the left!” He yelled to Sid, “You and Dee take the right! Center them to the gates!”

She followed his lead, letting out a loud whistle for Dalrak to follow.

Pressing the edge of her boots into her beast’s sides, she charged to the right, imploding the blades of those she passed and letting the warrior knock them out once their weapons were useless.

They moved quickly, leaving a trail of sleeping Starblades in their wake. Sid was clear in her instructions, there was to be no killing tonight. A rule not everyone agreed with but she hoped would listen to regardless. Behind her, a roar of beasts sounded and she turned to see the herd charge forward. Dust rose on the bridge, flying like a tidal wave through the dim light of night.

Shrieks and yells rose from the Starblades that scurried away from the incoming herd. Some managed to jump out of the way but some were too late, their limbs trampled by the weight of the beasts’ heavy footfalls. Sid heard the cracking of bones near her and grimaced, choosing to concentrate on holding her magic over the energy of the blades the guards held. Her body was inhaling their currents, lighting up her skin in a cacophony of colors.

In front of her, she could see the gates to the city begin to close and her eyes quickly found the source. A young Starblade, about her own age, was scrambling to input a lockdown code into the system lock behind the group they had cornered in the center of the bridge.

“Dee! They’re shutting down! Get to the gate!” She yelled.

The warrior leapt from behind her, his large legs stomping past the crouching Starblades. He slid to a stop next to the Starblade and without hesitation, crashed his elbow into the back of the boy’s head. The Starblade crumpled to the ground with a thud, air escaping his lungs in a loud exhale as he fell. Not bothering to check for a pulse, Dalrak stepped over the limp body and pressed his hand to the control panel. From where she sat atop her beast, Sid could see his body shake as he sent a rush of magic into the console. Sparks flew from his hand and a sharp screech echoed over the bridge. She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the sound without losing her hold on the energy of the weapons. When she looked up again, the warrior stood tall, grinning in her direction, a charred console behind him.

“Thank you!” She yelled and the warrior nodded, moving back into formation behind the Starblades.

The herd behind her was restless, stomping their hind legs into the flatness of the bridge. Each stomp sent shivers down her spine as she felt her own beast twist beneath her weight, eager to charge forward. She looked in Tann’s direction, his back turned to her as he held a Starblade by the throat, wrestling his blade away. Ashlan was not far from him, his own blade aimed at a group of Starblades kneeling before him.

The protectors of the bridge were surrounded. Weaponless and overpowered.

One of the beasts took a long stride forward and she could hear a yelp sound from the back. They were afraid. She should be happy; this was what they came here to do. They took the bridge and no one died, she should feel something akin to relief right now. Instead, Sid thought only of Edek.

Fear made people do foolish things.

She felt her beast’s eagerness to charge and pressed her heels into its back. Her hands stretched out in each direction as she grasped hold of the magic of the abandoned blades on the bridge. With a deep breath in, she closed her eyes and called their energy to her, swallowing the currents. One by one, the metal of the blades magnetized and she yanked them to her. The scrape of metal on metal rang in her ears as she pulled harder on their currents until all of the blades lay in a pile at the feet of her beast. Sid opened her eyes to find nothing but the awe-struck faces of the surrendered Starblades, their gazes shifting between her and their blades uncomfortably.

Slowly, she climbed off the beasts back and came to stand in front of them.

“No one will get hurt if you do as we say,” she said, hoping it was enough to convince them.

When no one moved, she nodded to Tann who raised two fingers to his lips and let out a whistle. From behind them, Serryl stepped through the wall of beasts, followed by a group of Freedom Runners. Each person held a blade in one hand, charged and ready to strike while wielding a current of electricity in the other. Their faces were nothing like those Sid had grown accustomed to, no longer questioning every move and fearful of the outcome. They were hungry and strong. They were warriors.

Sid noted the looks of shock that spread through the Starblades. It’s actually working!

“Leona held us captive for too long!” Sid yelled over them. “We don’t want to hurt you but if anyone tries to stop us,” she nodded to the graveyard of blades to her left, “you’ll meet the same end as your weapons.”

The Starblades exchanged looks but not one dared to move.

“Time to go!” she shouted. “If anyone so much as moves, blast them!”

With a reluctant smile, she patted the back of her beast.

“And you can eat them,” she said loud enough for the Starblades to hear. When they recoiled away from her, she grinned and charged past them and into the city, her team on her heels.

The bright lights that dominated the streets of Tower City made it nearly impossible to imagine that night had swallowed the star. From the corner of her eye, she could see discomfort wash over Dalrak’s face, his large, savage body sticking out amongst the glass and clean lines of the city; an imposter in its midst. She reached for his hand, giving him a jolt of magic to bring his attention to her. “Don’t worry, Dee,” she whispered, “I got this.”

As they moved through the streets, Sid basked in the electric surge of the city, letting its power cradle her in its warmth. Step by step, she breathed it in, turning off the life around them light by light until they were consumed in darkness.

Until the only glow in Tower City were their blades and Sid herself.

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