Even Angels Fall
Some call us angels.
Others call us Hellhorses with our White Demons.
Whatever people want to label us, we like to think that we stand for liberation and equality.
Maybe that's what we thought we had been doing. Liberating the Karsite prisoners from their own Priests holding them captive. Offering them equality in place of inequity.
We had certainly not expected the newly freed multitude to turn on us.
* * * * *
It had all started when Aidan and I were riding circuit near the Karsite border. I had been trotting along quite happily for most of the morning and it was nearing noon. We had stopped for lunch and I was grazing at the roadside when we first heard the fateful noises coming from off the trail.
Aidan had packed up his meal and remounted. We moved silently through the underbrush following the easily trackable sounds of what was obviously a large carriage trundling through the bush.
We had caught up with them when they stopped in a clearing to repair a broken axle. That's when I first spotted the Priest. He wore the trademark black robes and stalked around the cart positively glowering. I feel Aidan suppressed amusement as he struggled not to laugh aloud at the furious expression on his face.
You laugh, you cry, no one knows why…
It was about that moment we had realized just what it was that the carriage carried – prisoners.
Then one barely past his teens had broken down the door in an attempt to escape and was in the process of being hauled back by invisible ropes. The Priest's face was contorted in a snarl as the limp body of the prisoner was slammed into a tree. He had hung there, against the trunk, feet dangling a foot above the ground, body shaking in terror. Tears streaked unnoticed down his face and he quivered as the Priest approached.
His body jerked as a bright red stripe appeared on his bare chest. Another one had made itself known and the boy screamed in agony. The Priest seemed to be getting some sort of sadistic joy in the shrieks, cruel features alight with glee as blood began to drip from the lashes that now crisscrossed his torso.
I looked at Aidan and he looked at me. I felt what he was feeling and knew without doubt that we had to put a stop to this. Regardless of who these captives were, they were still prisoners, and prisoners of a Karsite Priest, no less. They were being physically abused and tortured and it was our duty as Herald and Companion to free them.
So we had.
But, oh the thrill of it, together you and me…
Aidan had resettled himself in the saddle and drawn his sword quietly.
Everyone had looked up, startled, as I galloped into the centre of the clearing before skidding to a halt. I turned to fix my gaze on the Black-Robe. Baring my teeth, I had savagely pawed the ground and charged.
I had felt the coal-black fire erupt around me and felt it as a wave of agony shook Aidan's body. But I could also sense his determination and so I grit my teeth through my own pain and continued my breakneck charge. I barely saw the look of shock on the Priest's face as he realized that the pain wasn't causing the desired effect. We weren't stopping.
He had panicked and, even as he struggled to form another conjuration, we had ridden him down.
I had felt the sickening sensation of human flesh churning under my hooves and then we had been clear. I dropped back to a canter and circled, leaving a crumpled red and black form in our wake. Falling back once more into a trot, the guards had scattered in fear as we rode into their midst.
Hearing a groan, we had started over to the abandoned victim of the late Priest who lay forgotten at the base of the tree, when a deafening crash and thud alerted us to the fact that the rest of the captives had broken down the door. Aidan dismounted and we had turned back again expecting to see a thankful bunch of people.
That's the way it's supposed to be…
Instead we had been greeted by the sight of a sea of menacing faces and threatening visages as the very people we had helped, advanced, aggressively brandishing weapons that had been left behind in the guards' haste to flee.
* * * * *
So here I am now surrounded by a group of hostile ruffians who would like nothing more than to spill our blood, and standing next to my significantly weakened Chosen. I could still feel the spasms of pain wracking his body though he gave no external sign as to the agony he was suffering.
Needless to say, I was experiencing major regrets as to our decision to save these people.
A large, burly man stepped forward and, raising his weapon, shouted something that sounded horribly like a war cry. I felt Aidan wince involuntarily and sensed that he too had recognized the language as that of Karse.
The mob began crowding in on us. :Aidan, you take the ones to your right, I'd deal with the left: I barely had time to register his nod of acknowledgement before the first pair let out a yell and ran forward. Soon everyone else was doing the same and Aidan and I were struggling to keep them at bay. At almost twenty-to-two, the odds for our survival were not good but I paid them no heed as I bit, kicked and lashed out with my hooves at the oncoming horde.
It's a secret that no one tells…
They weren't trained and they had no concept of team work, but they were determined. Before long I could feel my coat dripping blood from the numerous cuts bestowed upon me from the attacking adversaries. By this time, I was standing in a pool of blood, though how much was mine and how much my opposition's, was anybody's guess. Bodies were beginning to pile up and yet still they came. I could feel Aidan's strength flagging, vigor hastily departing his body along with his blood.
One day it's heaven, one day it's hell…
At first there were eighteen. Then there were fifteen. Then ten…seven…four.
Then it was just two.
I could see Aidan and the leader in a fighting crouch, circling warily, but kept my attention on my own foe. I snorted and drew my lips back in an effort to display my dripping red teeth to full effect. I feinted to the left, turning at the last minute to deliver what should have been a fatal blow to the head by my lethal kick.
Instead, he somehow managed to twist to the side, dealing a slash to my shoulder that sliced through flesh and muscle. Blood flowed quickly and freely, sending waves of excruciating agony the whole way down my leg. I ignored the pain and struck out with my forelegs again and again, sometimes advancing, sometimes retreating, but always attacking. I didn't stop until I felt the satisfying crack that was my hoof impacting with his skull.
Aidan seemed to be winning his battle so I paused for a moment to rest my leg. I closed my eyes and took stock of the situation. The pain was only increasing and I knew without having to look that my blood loss was immense. That probably had something to do with the light-headedness I was feeling.
It's no fairytale but while you're on the ride…
I swayed somewhat on my feet and felt my legs shake slightly. The many small cuts on my body still oozed red, not to mention the deeper, larger ones. I shook myself, trying to dislodge the faint dizziness of my mind (not really a good idea as it served only to increase by discomfort).
You might as well open your eyes…
I opened my eyes just in time to witness the sudden desperate swing that caught Aidan across the stomach, slicing long and deep. Aidan staggered backwards as I raced forwards. A hot fury powered my limbs as I thundered to a halt in front of the man. Some terrifying emotion must have shown in my eyes, for where before he had been all boldness and bravado, now he cowered in fear.
I leaned back on my haunches and reared. My shriek of rage rang out as I came back down again, hooves flashing red in the air.
:La…Lani: I whirled around as my whispered name brought my attention back to Aidan. I tried to reach him but as if the release of my anger were some sort of trigger, the adrenaline rushed from my body, leaving me staggering from exhaustion in its wake. My limbs felt watery and weak and I wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest but what I could feel through the bond kept me from relinquishing my hold on consciousness.
Aidan was hurting – badly. He was bleeding almost as much as me and some organ or another had been hit. I tried to get to him, but my body was shaking too badly and my head was swimming, causing the world to tip alarmingly.
My vision blurred, the edges turning black. My knees buckled from beneath me and I landed flat on my side, legs partially extended. I could feel my breathing grow shallower as it became harder to draw breath.
You will fly and you will crawl…
My head lay at an awkward angle and there at the very corner of my vision I saw Aidan crumple and fall. I felt a wrench in my chest as though someone was tearing out my heart, and he was gone. The place where he had been for as long I could remember was empty and hollow.
:Aidan!!: A grief-stricken scream rang out as my mind strained for his.
Yet his inert body lay motionless. Not even a flicker of a muscle.
No such thing as you've lost it all…
I struggled to stand but loss of blood rendered me too weak to get past my knees. As I sank back into a pool of my own blood, I felt a strange numbness creeping up my limbs. The darkness was closing in on my mind and I wished more than anything that Aidan was here with me. My breathing faltered as something clamped down on me, constricting my throat. My vision dimmed and flickered before the black took it over completely.
My senses took their leave and departed until all I could feel was the unfilled void my Chosen had left behind and the deadening sensation that was taking over my body. All I wanted was to be with him. He was my other half, my better half – I needed to be with him. The cold overwhelmed me, pulling at me, dragging me down into its depths until even those sensations were gone.
And the Death Bell began to toll.
God knows even angels fall…
Thanks for reading and could you please spare a few moments on your way out to review? Any criticism, praise or hints for the future are very much appreciated. Thanks to those who reviewed Where Angels Fear To Tread – Karen Scollins, Alaawya, JadedEcho, and peachfreak. Any reviewers are perpetually esteemed.
Anyone who also reads and reviews my other Mercedes Lackey one-shot, My Last Breath which has also been posted today, will be doubly adored. I am planning more fics to be posted hopefully in the near future.