"A promise made by the Blademistress is a promise kept. Isn't that right?" All in little Anna's heart-wrenchingly innocent voice.
The Blademistress shifted on the small stump she'd found for a seat and winced as sharp pain lanced through her right leg. Unfortunately, whatever had happened to the leg was a serious injury and would require time to heal. She needed to rest it badly. Other wounds plagued her as well, most notably a deep gash in her left arm that still oozed blood.
The Blademistress knew she was in no shape to attempt a rescue. Against a foe that had already defeated her so soundly? The very idea was absurd. And yet . . .
She had made a promise.
Firelight danced in her eyes as the Blademistress thought back to the events that led to her present situation.
The Blademistress strode alongside the small caravan with an air of contentment, for she relished escort jobs such as this. Mostly, it was due to the contact with other goodly people. There were so few left in Fevre anymore. Not after the forces of evil had triumphed long ago and twisted the world into a grim mockery of what it had once been. Only the very strong communities and peoples remained.
The Blademistress also enjoyed this kind of work because it was a rare chance to fulfill her true role as protector. For a short time, she could almost forget that she had failed the world of Fevre. She could briefly put out of mind her hopeless quest to some day regain that which was lost.
Inevitably, she would glance up at the sky, dusky gray even though it was midday, or her gaze would swing to the twisted, sickly trees surrounding the dirt track they followed, and whatever brief taste of joy she felt would turn to ash.
She heaved a sigh.
"Are you all right?" a soft voice asked.
The Blademistress looked into the creaking wagon beside her to see the eyes of a young girl peeking over the side. The Blademistress smiled. "I'm fine, just tired. What is your name?"
"Anna." The girl pulled herself up so her entire head showed. She wore a wide smile that utterly defied their grim surroundings.
"That's a pretty name."
"Thanks. I think so too." The girl's smile took on a mischievous light. "I already know who you are. My ma told me. You're the Blademistress. You're here to protect us."
The Blademistress nodded. "I am."
They rode in silence for a few moments, the Blademistress eyeing the trees around them for any sign of a threat while Anna stared at her unblinking. A small flock of ravens burst from a nearby tree as the wagons jostled past, and they both watched the creatures circle in the air a few times and fly away. A moment later, the young girl's gaze was back on the Blademistress. Some might have found it rude, but in this case the attention was welcome. Children reminded the Blademistress of the life she had given up to become Fevre's protector, in a world far different from this one. It was nice to remember from time to time.
"What are you here to protect us from, exactly?" Anna finally asked. "All I've seen are those ravens, and I'm pretty sure my da could handle them himself."
The Blademistress considered a moment before answering, finally deciding that honesty was almost always the best course. "Fallen have been spotted in this area recently."
Anna gasped. Fallen were considered some of the most dangerous beings in all of their world.
Fallen had all once been among the goodly folk of Fevre, like those making up the caravan, but the Fallen had joined the forces of evil during the great war. They did it out of fear, greed or a combination of both. Whatever had been promised them after the war was never given, however. They were banished, no longer a part of either side, to roam aimlessly, leaving naught but pain and death in their wake. Most agreed it was best to avoid them if at all possible.
"What if they attack us?" Anna asked quietly.
"I will stop them. I've dealt with Fallen before."
"But what if there are too many? You're only one person, after all. What then?" The fear in the little girl's voice was evident.
The Blademistress smiled. "Take heart, child. I've fought the likes of them for longer than I care to think about. I will keep you safe."
Anna nodded emphatically, all fear vanished. "Good. A promise made by the Blademistress is a promise kept. Isn't that right?"
"That's right." The Blademistress reached over and patted the girl's head fondly. Then, with a final wave, she picked up her pace to survey the rest of the caravan.
The conversation with young Anna was the first thing she thought of that night when the Fallen attacked.
The caravan had set up in a small clearing beside a swift-flowing river, just a short distance from the dirt track they'd been following. The wagons were circled, and a large fire burned in the camp's center. The sweet smell of roasting meat wafted from it in succulent waves. The Blademistress circled just outside the wagons, her eyes peering intently into the concealing darkness of the trees all around them.
She couldn't see anything, but a sudden, cold certainty that she was being watched filled her. She dropped into a crouch and drew the two blades strapped to her back. A moment later a single dark-shafted arrow whistled through the air where her head had been, thunking into the side of one of the wagons.
The Blademistress swore softly, then turned and vaulted the nearest wagon as a hail of arrows arced toward her from the darkness. Dozens of the deadly missiles crashed into the wagon or sunk into the ground around her, and the Blademistress experienced a profound sense of dread. How many of the bastards were there?
The Fallen always traveled in small groups, probably due to their inherent selfishness and greed. She'd never seen more than half a dozen work toward a single cause. But this was different. There were far more Fallen than she would have imagined possible, and she knew the caravan was in grave danger. The conversation she'd had with young Anna popped into her mind. She angrily forced it away.
"We're under attack!" she shouted. "Prepare to defend yourselves."
The people of the caravan sprang into action, grabbing weapons and forming into a protective circle around their few children. They were no warriors, but it took a certain caliber of person to live in Fevre as it now was, and they were not easily daunted.
A loud roar erupted from the treeline, and a large group of Fallen charged from the darkness, at least three dozen strong, swords and axes held high. Thick, swirling scars covered the entirety of their bodies--a final insult when the forces of evil banished them, forever marking them for what they were--and crazed fury filled their eyes.
The Blademistress circled the arrow-studded wagon she'd been crouched behind and charged out to meet them. Recognition dawned on the faces of many of the Fallen just before she tore into their ranks, both arms working in perfect unison, a whirling specter of death.
The Fallen fell back before her, a few of them cut down within moments. They were fierce warriors in their own right but no match for the fury unleashed upon them. The Blademistress existed for righteous battle, her entire life spent on the knife's edge of imminent danger. Unfortunately, in spite of the success of her initial onslaught, the attackers outside her reach surged past, charging unimpeded toward the caravan.
The Fallen around her quickly recovered as well, those in front falling back into a solid defensive style of fighting while others surrounded her. It was a sound strategy. In mere moments, the Blademistress found herself under attack from every angle, her whirling blades just able to defend herself.
There were simply too many of them. She would wear out quickly, and the caravan stood no chance at all.
It was hopeless.
Some of the defenders of the caravan cried out as they were overrun. Then one voice screamed in fear, drowning out all others and all else in the mind of the Blademistress.
Anna. The girl she'd given her word to protect.
The Blademistress turned toward the sound and launched herself into the Fallen before her. A heavy wooden ax-handle smashed into the side of her face as she bore them to the ground. She was on her feet almost immediately, attacking wildly and charging back toward the caravan, trying to ignore the way her vision swam from the vicious blow. The Fallen didn't hesitate to attack her exposed back. Many struck home, though they could only manage surface wounds through her leather armor. One sword bit deeply into her left arm, however, and intense pain erupted along the length of it. The sword she'd clutched in that arm dropped to the ground, and she was forced to leave it behind.
The Blademistress leaped into one of the wagons. She caught her foot on the side and crashed onto the injured arm, screaming in agony. She forced herself to her feet just as Fallen began to climb into the wagon after her. Her blade struck again and again, stabbing out in quick, economic movements, and Fallen fell away from her, injured or dead.
She looked about when she could spare a moment, trying to find Anna. Fallen were binding the people of the caravan hand and foot and carrying them away. It appeared most had been left alive, and the Blademistress knew at once the reason why, and it also explained why so many Fallen had banded together in a common cause.
They were taking the people prisoner to sell as slaves. It made sense. There were many beings in Fevre that required the use of slaves and were willing to pay handsomely to acquire them.
The Blademistress spotted Anna, and her heart wrenched. The girl was slung over the shoulder of a particularly burly male Fallen and was being carried away with haste. Anna's eyes were wide with fear, and they were locked on the Blademistress imploringly. One small hand reached desperately back.
The Blademistress hacked at her attackers to clear some space, then leaped in Anna's direction. When she hit the ground, her right foot came down awkwardly on one of the dead Fallen. There was a loud popping sound as something tore inside her knee, and she fell, dropping her second sword and clutching at the injured limb.
Fallen closed in around her, eyes full of hatred for the one that had slain so many of their number.
The Blademistress struggled to stay conscious as wavering blackness moved in from the edges of her vision.
The nearest enemy stepped over her, looming, and raised his sword high for the killing blow. The sword stabbed downward.
At the last instant, the Blademistress found the strength to roll out of the way. The sword buried itseelf in the ground where she had just been. She reached out and grabbed its pommel, jerked it away from her attacker and ran him through with the blade. A look of surprise stole across his face, and then came the glossy-eyed stare of the dead. She pushed herself to her feet, wavering, almost all her weight on the one good leg. Two more Fallen approached, and she killed them with one lightning-fast swing of the sword.
The blackness spread across her vision.
More Fallen stepped cautiously closer.
She glanced over her shoulder to see the river they had camped beside only a few paces away. With the last of her fading strength, the Blademistress limped the short distance and flung herself into its roiling waters. Fallen shouted in anger and arrows plunked into the froth all around her as she was carried away.
Then she knew no more.
The Blademistress spat into the fire before her in disgust.
She had failed in her role as protector. Again. First the world of Fevre, now something so small as a single caravan. And she had been unable to save them. Unable to save the girl she had just promised to protect. She might have wept but found she was too tired and beaten to do even that.
What good was she? What was the point?
She needed to track the Fallen and rescue those that had been taken. She knew that. But how? She'd washed up a good distance downriver, and it took all the strength she possessed to simply walk back to the scene of the attack after she awoke.
A feeling of the most intense hopelessness she'd ever experienced nearly overwhelmed her.
But she was the Blademistress. She had been knocked down many times in her life and always found the will to get back up.
Slowly, hopelessness gave way to anger. She was not a foe to be tossed aside and forgotten.
And she had made a promise.
It seemed an impossible task, but she would rescue the people of the caravan--rescue Anna--or die trying. It was as simple as that.
She climbed slowly to her feet, grunting with effort. A careful retracing of her steps during the battle turned up both of her trusted blades. They didn't look like much--which is why they hadn't been procured by one of the Fallen--but the swords had served her very well over the years. She strapped them in the customary crossed position on her back, though her injured arm made even that difficult.
The Fallen's trail was easy to pick up--a wide swath of trampled grass and discarded waste--and why not? They had no reason to try and mask it. They had won.
With one last look at the corpse-littered site of her defeat, the Blademistress limped after the Fallen and those that had been taken.
And sweet, innocent Anna.
The Fallen's trail remained obvious and easy to follow, and the Blademistress allowed herself to hope it would remain so.
Then she came to the lake.
It was too big to see across and eerily dark. Thin tendrils of fog squirmed over its surface like worms, the movement not quite natural, and a huge, pyramid-shaped rock rose up from the lake's center. A sense of malevolence pulsed from the rock in waves. Or maybe it was hunger.
The Blademistress shook her head. Of course this wasn't going to be easy. It never was.
Large bodies of water were always better avoided in Fevre. They seemed to attract some of the most evil, dangerous creatures alive. It was yet another way in which this once beautiful world was now twisted and broken.
A number of boat-shaped depressions along the bank told her the Fallen had definitely crossed. No doubt they trusted in their large numbers to warn off any dangers lurking beneath the murky water. Unfortunately, she would have no such advantage. The lake was far too big to go around, however, so cross she must.
Though the Fallen were careless with the trail they'd left for her to follow, they had failed to leave any boats behind. The Blademistress knew beyond doubt that swimming was out of the question in her current condition. With a shrug, she set out along the water's edge to see what she might find.
Before too long, she came to an old boathouse. Its warped boards and partially collapsed roof screamed of abandonment. Nevertheless, she decided to take a look. The large front door was jammed, but when she kicked it, the whole thing collapsed in on itself in a cloud of dust. She stepped inside. At first, the boathouse appeared to be empty. Then she saw it, tossed into a corner and forgotten countless years ago. It was the single smallest, oldest, least-trustworthy looking piece of trash of a boat she'd ever seen. Short and narrow with a single seat, and a dull grayish color that didn't match any type of wood she was familiar with.
Without a moment's hesitation, the Blademistress took hold of the boat with her good arm and dragged it to the lake. If it didn't float, she would probably drown. No use denying that. But she didn't have time to worry about such things. She needed to catch up to the Fallen.
The boat rocked wildly when she pushed it into the water, but it stayed afloat. She stepped inside. There was a loud creaking sound, and water began to accumulate in the bottom. It was a slow leak though. She thought it would likely make it across the lake. The Blademistress sat on the lone seat, grabbed an ancient oar from a bracket along the inner side of the boat and began to row.
It was agonizingly slow going. She kept having to switch sides with her good arm to continue on the correct course. She settled in after a while, however, and it was nothing she couldn't handle.
Then it happened.
When she was far enough across that the opposite side came into view and as close to the pyramid-shaped rock as she would come, a low humming sound began. It came from the rock and grew louder by the second. Whatever evil claimed this lake, she was about to meet it.
The humming grew to a dull roar. The Blademistress rose carefully to her feet and drew one of her blades.
She took a calming breath.
A black cloud exploded from the apex of the pyramid-shaped rock.
It seemed a formless mass at first, but as she peered into it, the mass resolved into the shapes of hundreds of winged creatures. Leathery skin stretched over long, wiry bodies. Their small round heads all bore the same hungry, fang-filled grin, and beady red eyes that glowed in the darkness watched her intently.
The mass of creatures flew high into the air, disappearing in the dark sky, then curved in a wide arc, leveling off just above the water's surface and coming straight for her.
She tried to set her feet, but the boat rocked wildly. Pain shot through her from the injured knee, and she noticed that too much water was already in the boat. The leak was getting worse.
Then the creatures were on her. Even off balance, she managed to cut her sword in a dizzyingly fast defensive weave. A lesser warrior would have been ripped to shreds in moments. As it was, she killed dozens of the things until the mass broke around her, and the creatures shrieked away in frustration. Only after the initial attack did she feel the many bites and scratches that she'd suffered. Blood streaked down her leather armor. Alone, the wounds were manageable. Added to those she'd already taken, they were devastating.
Her legs trembled and a wave of nausea threatened to topple her.
The mass of winged creatures circled back for another attempt.
The Blademistress grit her teeth and drew her second sword. Pain exploded through the injured arm she had to use, but she forced herself to ignore it. Both swords were necessary. She needed to be at her best. Another round of wounds like the first might kill her.
The creatures thundered into the lone woman.
Her swords met the charge head on, spinning and slashing and stabbing with the utmost efficiency. Leather-skinned creatures dropped thrashing and screaming into the water all around the small boat. They died by the dozen. But for every few she killed, one would sneak past her defenses with a savage bite or rake of the claws, and pain threatened to overwhelm her resolve.
Finally, mercifully, the column of winged beasts veered away to regroup. In spite of her slaughter of them, their screams took on a triumphant tone. They knew they almost had her.
The Blademistress stood weakly, arms dangling at her sides, thick rivulets of her own blood trickling down her armor, exhausted beyond measure.
She knew she was going to die in the next attack. It would almost be a relief. She closed her eyes and waited for death's merciful embrace.
"A promise made by the Blademistress is a promise kept. Isn't that right?" The words came to her unbidden. Accusing. Refusing to let her give up.
She had an idea.
Her eyes snapped open. The winged creatures had circled and were coming for the kill. The Blademistress sheathed her swords and tossed herself over the side of the boat and into the water. Icy cold pierced her skin and stole her breath. A growing red cloud of her own blood surrounded her, and the wounds themselves burned fiercely. The weight of her gear pulled her down, but the Blademistress kicked wildly until she reached the surface. Roiling blackness circled above. She reached out of the water, ignoring the immediate bites and clawing attacks. She caught the edge of the boat with one hand and used the weight of her body to flip it over.
Even upside-down, the boat proved buoyant. A small pocket of air had been created as part of the inside of the boat floated just above the water. The Blademistress swam up to it and pulled herself onto the bottom of the seat, wedging herself in so that she wouldn't fall, the boat's bottom acting as a protective roof. Then she collapsed, too tired to move, her legs hanging down in the icy water, her multitude of wounds throbbing.
Loud thuds sounded above her as winged creatures attacked the boat. It shook with each impact, and their was an unmistakable sound of splintering wood.
The creatures wanted her badly, either to devour her themselves or take her back to some greater evil they served. The latter seemed likely given the palpable malevolence she'd felt upon reaching the lake. Both possibilities ended with her dead.
The boat was thick, however, and it held. After a while, the attacks stopped and she heard the angry shrieks of the winged creatures as they returned to the strange, pyramid-shaped rock they had come from.
She let the boat drift in what she thought was the direction of the other side of the lake, occasionally kicking her legs when she could muster the energy. What she needed was rest. Time to recover. Her body screamed for it, but she knew the time simply could not be spared.
Before long, the boat scraped against the gravelly dirt of the other side of the lake. The Blademistress pulled herself reluctantly from the boat's protection and dragged herself up the embankment. She spotted dozens of newer-looking boats not far away.
She counted how many of them would be needed to carry the people of the caravan back across the lake and mentally set them aside. She climbed to her feet, not flinching at the wrench of pain in her knee, and set to work disabling the other boats.
The Fallen had set up camp not far from the lake to rest after their early evening attack. A series of domed white tents of various sizes had been set up in a crescent shape, no doubt full of sleeping Fallen warriors. Across from the tents was a row of wagons with cages built onto the backs of them. The people she had come to save milled aimlessly about inside the cages.
The Blademistress tried to find Anna among them, but it was no use. She was hidden among the far larger adults.
Only four sentries patrolled the camp's perimeter. It seemed the Fallen were still confident after their victory. And, in all honesty, they had every reason to be. The last they'd seen of her, she was injured and battling for consciousness as a river whisked her away. They had no idea she possessed such an unyielding resolve.
Unfortunately, the sentries were very disciplined in their patrols, two circling the camp one way while the other two circled the opposite direction, and all were spaced perfectly so it would be almost impossible to take one down without another seeing her or discovering what had happened within moments.
The Blademistress laid her head on the soft grass of the hillock she'd found to survey the camp. She allowed herself a moment to rest, to mentally prepare for the task ahead. But time was short. Already, a thin ring of the lighter gray that passed for daylight in Fevre peeked over the horizon. If she wanted to stage a rescue, this was the last opportunity to do so.
She pushed up into a low crouch and watched. One sentry seemed far less interested in his job than the others, staring at the ground in front of him and kicking at the tall grass. Perfect. She drew two small throwing knives from their strap on the side of her boot.
The Blademistress cocked her arm back. She waited until the sentry she'd singled out walked past one of his companions. She let one of the knives fly. It hurtled through the air and buried itself in the companion's head, dropping him instantly. The Blademistress hurried toward the sentry she had marked, crouched low in the grass. Pain shot through her injured knee with every other step, and it was all she could do not to cry out. Also, she couldn't move close to as fast as she would like, and it took far longer to reach the sentry than she'd anticipated.
The plan was to slit his throat, then turn and throw for the next approaching sentry before the first body was discovered. The sentry she approached turned at the last moment and saw her. He threw his arms up defensively, and she launched herself toward him with her good leg. His arms deflected her attack--though she cut one of them deeply--and he grabbed her knife-wielding arm with his other hand as she bore him to the ground. He inhaled deeply, preparing to cry out, and the Blademistress clamped her free hand over his mouth though it pained her hurt arm to do so. His muffled screams fought to be heard.
She couldn't allow him to attract attention, and she didn't have any more time.
The other sentries would alert the camp. She would be surrounded, and this time there would be no escape.
Her head snapped forward, the top of it smashing into the sentry's face. His nose broke with a loud snap. She brought her head forward again and again until she was sure he was unconscious.
He fell in a limp, awkward heap.
The Blademistress rose and let her other knife fly just as the third sentry stepped into view. His eyes fell upon the first body, widened, then glassed over when the knife buried itself in his head.
She spun quickly, drawing one of her swords in the process, as the final sentry stepped into view. Her injured knee buckled. She stumbled to the side, barely keeping herself upright, then lined up the last throw. But it was too late. The final sentry saw her, saw the blade leave her hand, and jumped out of the way in time for it to fall helplessly beside him. He looked at it briefly, then looked toward the Blademistress.
Her second sword--that she had drawn and launched on the heels of the first--took him in the throat.
She watched him drop.
But, unlike the others, he got back up.
The sentry clutched desperately at his throat, and the only sound he seemed to be able to make was a soft gurgle. He immediately stumbled toward the tents. The Blademistress forced herself forward, limping badly now and veering slightly from side to side, in an attempt to cut him off.
She could tell right away she wasn't going to make it. Willpower alone was not enough to make her knee cooperate.
It seemed she had come this far only to fail at the last.
Five steps away from the nearest tent, the last sentry dropped dead to the ground, no longer able to hold off the inevitable.
The Blademistress stared at his fallen form for a moment, unbelieving. She took a steadying breath. Then it was back to the business at hand. She limped to retrieve her swords and made her way to the cage wagons. When the prisoners saw her, their eyes lit up, hope returning where none had been, and it warmed her heart to see it. She motioned them to stay quiet and inspected the lock on the first cage. It was fairly thick, but it was also old and rusted. She jabbed one of her swords in it and used the leverage it gave her to try and break the lock.
Nothing happened. She lacked the strength in her present state. The loss of blood and the pain and the sheer exhaustion refused to be ignored any longer. Just remaining on her feet felt like an impossible task.
A burly man reached his hand toward her through the bars of the cage. "Let me try." She nodded weakly and handed him the sword. With a grunt, he easily snapped the lock, and the cage door swung silently open.
"Open the others," she whispered to the man. "Then lead everyone back to the river. Use all of the boats not marked with an 'X'." He nodded and set about his task. She watched with a mixture of satisfaction and fear. They weren't out of danger yet.
Before long, the entirety of the caravan was moving toward the river. The Blademistress struggled to keep up. Darkness filled a majority of her vision, and she swayed badly from side to side. It felt as if her legs were slogging through deep mud. She wondered if she could make it to the boats.
A small hand slipped into hers. The Blademistress looked down to find Anna smiling up at her and couldn't help but smile back. Everything she'd endured was more than worth it for the girl's smile alone. She felt the hot sting of tears in the corners of her eyes.
"You're hurt," Anna said.
Anna laughed as if that were never in question. The Blademistress patted her head. All seemed right with the world . . . for the space of three breaths.
There was a loud shout behind them, followed quickly by a chorus of angry voices. The Blademistress looked back. Dozens of Fallen poured from their tents in pursuit of the escaped prisoners. Weapons out and fury painting their faces, the warriors moved with the speed of the well-rested.
One early riser must have discovered the bodies or the open cages and raised the alarm, the Blademistress thought.
The burly man fell back and grabbed her arm to help her along.
"No." the Blademistress said. "There isn't time. Get everyone to the boats and set out as quickly as possible. Stay far away from the rock in the lake's center and you should be fine."
He glanced at the rapidly approaching warriors and nodded. Then he started to leave.
"We can't leave her!" Anna protested. "She saved us."
"Take the girl," the Blademistress ordered. He obeyed immediately, scooping Anna up and tossing her over his shoulder in spite of the girl screaming at him to stop. It broke her heart to hear, but the Blademistress knew it was for the best.
She wasn't going to make it.
But Anna would.
Strength of will alone powered her forward. Pain enveloped her body, and the darkness had nearly stamped out all else before her. She weaved back and forth, concentrating fully on maintaining the right general direction. It wasn't how she'd imagined dying, she thought, but it could have been worse. At least she saved the others.
She crested the last rise before the lake. As ordered, the others had already set out, rowing fiercely and avoiding the pyramid-shaped rock.
There was only one thing left to do.
The Blademistress drew her sword and turned to face the approaching Fallen.
She thought it odd they hadn't overtaken her long before. When she turned and looked upon them, they no longer appeared to be in any hurry. It seemed they'd slowed simply to enjoy watching her struggle. The fools were confident they could recapture their prisoners and still hadn't considered the possibility that she'd sabotaged the rest of their boats.
She raised her weapon and motioned them forward.
Bloody, broken, exhausted, the Blademistress refused to surrender.
One large Fallen waved his companions back and stepped forward. He raised his own blade in a salute, and in his eyes she saw none of the expected crazed fury or bloodlust. Only respect. The rest joined in the salute. It was one of the most surprising and heartfelt moments of her life. It gave her hope to see that even such as these possessed some level of decency, buried deep but present nonetheless. Perhaps Fevre wasn't lost after all.
The sword slipped from her fingers and fell useless to the ground. She hadn't the strength to hold it a moment longer.
The large Fallen stepped forward, raising his blade high to finish her.
"Blademistress, over here."
She looked over her shoulder. A single boat had returned for her, Anna and the burly man inside it, beckoning.
The Blademistress stumbled away just as the large Fallen attacked. His sword missed her throat by a hand's breadth. He stepped forward to attack again, then staggered backward, a sword buried in his gut.
The Blademistress didn't know where she'd found the strength to pick up her own sword and use it--Anna's bravery in returning, perhaps? The Fallen proving they were not wholly evil?
She stumbled to the water's edge and leaped into the boat, landing in a twisted, bloody heap.
The Fallen let them row away, confident they could use their other boats to catch up. They would soon find out otherwise.
"You did it," Anna said, her wide-eyed face hovering over the Blademistress. "You kept your promise." She patted the Blademistress affectionately on the cheek. "I knew you would, of course. Because a promise made by the Blademistress is a promise kept. Isn't that right?"
"Yes," the Blademistress answered weakly. "That's right."
© August, 2014 Paul Miller
Paul Miller lives near Dallas, Texas. His work has appeared in KZine and Silverblade, among other places, and is forthcoming in CRICKET.