Disclaimer: Let's be real here.  Do you really think that if I owned XME and could have my ideas put into the show I would be wasting my time on this site?  I mean, honestly. 

Well folks, here it is: the beginning of my second great endeavor.  I hope this proves to be just as entertaining, and then some.

Blood matted her hair.  Sweat soaked her brow.  Fatigue dominated her body.  She moved by rote.  Swung with fading strength.  Dodged with dying speed.  Nothing seemed real.  Not the shrieks of rage, not the wails of agony, not the blood-soaked earth, or the sky as black as death.  Time no longer seemed to exist.  She was trapped in eternity, doomed to forever swing her blade at the enemies that never tired, never slowed, never stopped.  She was in Hell.

Cut.  Slash.  Kill. 

Another black-clad soldier fell from the tip of her sword, freeing her to swing at the man at her rear.  An axe raised above her head.  She cut off the arm.  A sword came at her middle.  She lunged, her blade exploding between the man's unguarded ribs. 

Swing.  Jab.  Kill.

It was dark.  There was no moon to light the ground, and the stars were hiding behind thick clouds.  The only real light came from the roaring signal fires up on the wall.  It seemed that they were useless signals, because no help had come.  None would.  Still, it was nice to be able to see.

Even if all she could see was death.

Kill.

Rogue lifted her sword.  Metal rang against metal.  She twisted her arm, throwing off the man's strike.  His arm swung away from his body, following the new path of his sword.  His chest was unprotected.  She lunged, throwing her weight into the strike, into the kill.  From her lips exploded a scream that even she didn't comprehend. 

She yanked her sword free of the corpse, falling back against a wall.  Not the city wall, but the wall of a house.  In the hours since night had fallen they had been pushed back to the fringes of the city.  Thankfully most of the people had evacuated hours before.  Those who hadn't were killed indiscriminately wherever the enemy found them. 

Her ears were starting to ring.  Small wonder, with all the noise of battle.  There were war cries, screams, the clash of metal, the roar of flames, the snarls of those hideous griffins.  Those beasts were ten times as evil as Blain made them out to be.  Their claws ripped flesh and bone in a single, swift motion.  Those hideous black beaks had the power to crush human skulls.  They exercised that power at every opportunity.

The men riding them were no better.  They used a variety of weapons, from swords and axes to maces and flails.  They fought with deadly efficiency.  Nearly every strike killed.  At the least, they always drew blood.  Few managed to return the favor.

Her eyes caught sight of Blain, red cloak flying out in the wind, fall back as he was struck on the arm.  His assailant lifted his sword, intent upon cleaving the Captain in two.  Rogue charged for him.  The sword began to fall towards it target.  She ran faster, altering her course at the last second so she would pass him.  Steel met flesh, and the man let out a cry of pain.  Blood sprayed from the wound in his side. 

She didn't hesitate, but immediately swung around, driving her sword into his back.  The man went rigid, then slumped forward.  Her eyes met Blains.  There was a long, jagged cut down his left arm.  With her help, he got off the ground, holding his injured arm close to his body.

The ringing was growing louder.  The constant drone of it was starting to annoy her.  Funny, how in the midst of death and destruction a tiny sound would manage to dominate her thoughts.  Why should she care about a buzzing in her ear, when she was in the midst of a battle for her life? 

"Thanks," the Captain said.  She nodded, too tired to say anything.  She wanted to rest so badly.  She would give anything to be able to lie down for just five minutes, and rest.  Just five minutes. 

She raised her sword once more, and turned her eyes to the battle.  It was hard to tell what was happening in the dark.  Were those figures off to the right friends or foes?  Did the wall still belong to Paladir archers, or were those enemy arrows raining down on them?  She wished the sun would come up.  It seemed like years since she had seen daylight, or felt the warm rays on her face.  To rest in a sunny field would have been heaven.

A movement to the side caught her eye.  A blade was swinging down for her.  She raised her sword, but it didn't want to move.  Strange.  Her arm began to travel lazily upward, while the other blade was ripping towards her.  Her body refused to move quickly enough, and her limbs felt heavy.  The sword came at her, faster that life.

And then it was gone.

The sword, the hand holding it, the arm—all gone.  Rogue looked down at the ground.  There they were, lying in the grass.  She looked back up at the now one-armed man.  To her surprise he was no longer moving.  She glanced at his face.  It was missing.  Well no wonder he wasn't moving.  The body slumped forward onto the ground.  She watched it fall, hitting with a soft thud next to the severed head.

Rogue lifted her eyes, her gaze passing over thick black hooves and muscular brown legs, to a stirrup holding a high-cut boot that went over black trousers.  Above those was a silver breastplate decorated with an eagle crest and a heavily muscled arm with an armored-glove holding tightly to reigns.  The other hand was wrapped around the hilt of a sword.  A weathered face watched her from beneath a metal helmet. 

The man smiled.

"Close call, eh?"

Rogue stared up dumbly.  He was on a horse.  But the Paladir forces had no cavalry…Understanding washed over her.  She looked over her shoulder, to the east.  The sky was just beginning to brighten.  Dawn. 

"How long until reinforcements arrive?"

"Two days, if we're lucky."

Had it been two days already?  The past hours seemed like a blur of death and destruction.  She looked back at the knight.  He offered his hand.

"You have no idea," she said, grasping his wrist.  He hauled her up onto the horse behind him.

"We came as soon as we saw the fires.  Looks like we came just in time.  Hya!"  He kicked the horse, urging it into a gallop.  As they moved through the battle scene, Rogue took in the drastically changing sights.

The gates were being flooded with cavalry.  They trampled over the Empire forces, hacking them apart with swords and lances.  She realized that the ringing in her ears had been the sound of horns, announcing the cavalry charge. 

Men ran in every direction, fleeing before the advancement.  The cavalry had taken out the officers first, giving the enemy no one to rally around.  Confusion spread through the ranks.  The riders were now going after the Shiran, with three horses attacking every one.  The griffins, formidable as they were against foot soldiers, were much less effective against trained warhorses.  The great beasts started to fall, their horrific screams renting the air.  As the enemy watched their best troops die, the fear was evident in their features.  Many began retreating, but found the way blocked by lances.  In the chaos a few men tried to restore order, but arrows took them down quickly.

The sudden appearance of allies boosted Paladirin morale.  Soldiers who had been on the verge of giving up now fought with renewed resolve.  Hope-filled battle cries rang once more across the field.  As she watched it all Rogue could feel her own despair melting away. 

As the horsemen rode around, picking off the last of the unfortunate enemy, a few men raised the flag of Paladir above the gates.  Men cheered as it flapped in the wind.  The King had gotten a horse, and now raised his blood-slick sword into the air.

"Victory!" he cried.  A mighty cheer went up.  Men waved their weapons at the sky.  Archers fired shots into the air.  Rogue cheered along with them, thrusting her sword into the air. 

"Three cheers for the King!" someone shouted.  Thousands of voices joined shouted out as one.

"Hip! Hip!"

"Huzzah!"

"Hip! Hip!"

"Huzzah!"

"Hip! Hip!"

"Huzzah!"

The ground vibrated from all the noise.  Horns announced the end of battle.  Men whooped and cheered, running wildly through the field.  Rogue laughed at the absurdity of seeing grown men dressed in full battle armor hugging and dancing like drunks.

"Hail King Marcus!" she shouted.  It seemed like the right thing to do at a time like this.  Instantly people echoed her cry, and it soon became a chant. 

"What a night, eh?" the knight asked.  She laughed, something which she thought she'd never do again.

"I can't believe it!  We won!  We won!"  The very idea made her giddy beyond anything she had ever experienced.  Even the joy she had felt upon learning to control her powers paled in comparison. 

"Aye, that you did.  And judging from the blood on your sword I'm guessing you didn't make it easy for them.  Gave 'em blood'n'viniger, I hope?"

"You better believe it!"

He laughed.  "So where to, my valiant lady?"

She straightened her back, trying to imitate royalty.  "To the King, my good sir knight," she said, adding a bit of an English accent. 

"As my Lady commands."

He tugged the reigns, turning the horse toward the wall.  As they trotted through the mass of celebrating soldiers, men who caught sight of her would clap fists to hearts, shouting words of praise.  The knight glanced over his shoulder, curiosity plain on his face, but he didn't say anything.

They galloped up alongside the King's horse, coming to a halt at the last second.  General Reece and another soldier were standing by the horse.  Rogue hopped off to greet them.  The General clapped a fist to his heart.  To the surprise of many of the cavalrymen, King Marcus did the same after jumping to the ground. 

"Beautiful morning, isn't it, Ausierre?" the King said.  The man Rogue had been riding with blanched visibly. 

"Ausierre?"

Reece scowled at him.  "You mean you didn't know?"

The knight shook his head vigorously.  "No, sir.  I had no idea…"

"What's your name, soldier?" Reece demanded.

"Sergeant First-Class Ashton Moore, Sir!"  The man saluted.

"Well, Sergeant Moore, I have an assignment for you."

"Sir!"

"I want you to get a message out to all your troops that the Savior has come.  Then I want you to get a messenger.  Have him send word to your king.  Understood?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Dismissed."

Moore saluted again before riding off to do as he had been ordered.  Rogue saw him stop by a group of horsemen to relay the message. 

"At this rate I'm going to be famous by lunchtime," she said.  "So General, where'd the cavalry come from?  They don't look like Paladiren soldiers."

"We aren't," the soldier beside the General said.  "We're Kirakian.  You'll never find stronger horses anywhere in the world, I guarantee it."

"And you are…?"

"Prince William, at your service," he said with an elegant bow.

"I'm Rogue."

The King clapped Prince William on the shoulder.  "Well, now that the introductions are done, I believe a celebration is in order.  Tonight, we will have a grand feast, to celebrate our victory over the dogs of the Empire!"

"And tomorrow morning," broke in the General, "we will have a funeral ceremony, to see our fallen soldiers off to the spirit realm."

The King made a face.  "Food first.  We will talk of death later."

Rogue laughed.  "You and Kurt ought to get along great."

"Rogue!"

She glanced over her shoulder and was surprised to see Logan on a horse, charging at her full tilt.  He hauled in on the reigns at the last second, jumping off the horse before it had even come to a stop.  There were tears in his eyes.

"Logan?"  Rogue fought to keep the panic out of her voice.  Why was Logan crying?  Logan never cried.

He put a hand on her arm tenderly.  "Rogue, I'm sorry."

"About what?  Logan, what's going on?"

"It's Kitty.  She was hurt."

Rogue felt a lump forming in her throat.  "Is it serious?"

He nodded.  "They found just found her a few minutes ago, thought she was dead.  The surgeons are doing they're best, but…We have to hurry."

He jumped back up on the horse, pulling her up after him.  With a flick of the reins they were off, galloping through the carnage of battle as fast as the debris would allow.  Rogue's heart pounded in her chest.  Kitty was hurt.  Not just heart, almost dead.  She watched the bodies that littered the floor as they passed, her stomach churning at the thought of Kitty being like that.  Cold, pale.  It was unreal.

They were in the city now, the horse's hooves pounding thunderously against the cobblestone.  Logan turned onto a wider street, urging the horse to move faster.  Rogue soon saw where they were headed—the palace.  She watched the giant stone wall approach through watery vision.  They were taking too long.  They weren't going to get there in time.

In time for what?  To watch Kitty die?  Logan said she was on the verge of death, how would they change anything?  If the surgeons couldn't save her, they wouldn't be much help.  The entire thing was mad.  Why had Kitty even come in the first place?  She should have been back in Bayville Mall, trying on dozens of outfits and flirting with cute guys.  What had ever made the girl think she could handle a war? 

Rogue noticed, quite suddenly, that they had stopped.  She jumped down from the horse, onto the white marble floor.  They had made it all the way into the palace without her noticing.  Logan's boots echoed off the walls as he jumped down beside her.

"In here," he said, pushing open a small wood door.

Beyond was an infirmary, lined with row upon row of beds, all laden with injured and dying men.  Surgeons and nurses moved about constantly, cleaning wounds, giving stitches, setting broken limbs, changing bandages, giving medicines, and sometimes putting straps of leather between men's teeth for them to bite down on against the pain.

Rogue almost gagged at the sight of some of the wounded.  She riveted her eyes to the ground, trying to ignore the moans of pain as they walked between the beds.  Every once in awhile the nurses would cover up a man with a sheet, and then the body would be hauled out on a stretcher, making room for one more. 

Logan grabbed her arm gently, telling her to stop.  She raised her eyes, bracing herself for the worst.  Kitty was lying on her back, arms and legs straight.  She glanced down at her chest, and felt her stomach flop.  She forced herself to look away.

Two surgeons were standing beside the bed, watching Kitty but doing nothing.  Jennsen was with them.  She glanced up at Rogue, and immediately grabbed her wrist, hauling her around the bed to Kitty's head.

"Ausierre, there isn't much time.  You must hurry."

"What do you mean?  I'm not a doctor!"  She gestured to the two surgeons.  "Why are they just standing there?  They should be helping her!"

"These men can do nothing for her.  Her spirit is leaving."

Rogue blinked back tears.  "But they have to save her!"

Jennsen tightened her grip.  Her fingernails dug into Rogue's flesh.  "Her spirit isn't gone yet.  They can't save her, but you may be able to."

"How?"

"With this."  Jennsen tapped the Amulet hanging from Rogue's chest. 

The Amulet of Life.

"I don't know what to do," she admitted softly. 

"You have to try."

Rogue nodded.  She took a deep breath to try and steady her nerves, but it didn't work.  She placed her hands to Kitty's temples, the way the Professor did when he entered someone's mind.  The warmth of the Amulet coursed through her.  At the same time, she could feel Kitty getting colder, like the heat was receding from her just as it was entering Rogue. 

In the movies, whenever people died they always talked about getting cold.  Rogue had always thought that was because the person's heart was beating, so there was no blood moving.  But now, as she felt Kitty growing chill, she knew it wasn't because of something physical.  The warmth wasn't just fading, it was pulling away, leaving.  It was like feeling Kitty's soul leave her.

Rogue tried to pour the Amulet's heat into Kitty, to give her more time.  The Amulet glowed white, and the light spread over her just as the warmth did.  It flowed over her shoulders, down her arms, across her hands, and vanished into Kitty.  Rogue could feel the energy flowing through the other girl, like it was an extension of herself.  She watched where it went, how it coursed through her veins, without really seeing it.  The light's path became the only thing she was aware of.  Jennsen, the bed, the room, the castle, Logan—all were gone. 

Then a wisp of something thin and gray began to float up from Kitty's body.  It was like smoke, but it moved with deliberate intent.  The smoke-thing continued to rise like a vapor, gathering in the air above them.  As it left Kitty, she got colder.  Rogue didn't want to think about what would happen if it left her completely.

The Amulet's light had reached the wound, and now thin tendrils were weaving across the gash like stitches.  Rogue gently raised her right hand, leaving the other in place to finish the healing.  The light on her raised hand swirled around her fingertips, awaiting command.  She held her hand palm outward towards the gathering cloud of smoke.  The light shot forward, wrapping around the cloud like ropes.  Rogue's chest heaved with the effort of directing the Amulet's power in two places at once.  She tightened the coils around the smoke while simultaneously drawing the wound closed.  The white bonds held the flesh momentarily, then slipped away, leaving behind perfectly healed skin. 

Rogue directed the rest of the light, wrapped around the smoke, back down to Kitty's body.  The gray mist slipped down into the girl, disappearing completely.  The ropes, along with the rest of the light, retreated back into the Amulet.   

Suddenly Kitty gasped.  Rogue jumped, yanking her hands away.  The world snapped back into existence. Jennsen and Logan were watching them with awe. 

Kitty blinked a few times, then winced.  She put a hand on her forehead.

"Ugh, I feel like I was just hit by a hummer."  She looked down at herself, taking in the ruined shirt.  "Guess I need to do some shopping, huh?"

Rogue realized her hands were trembling.  She balled them into fists to make them stop. 

"What just happened?" asked Logan suddenly.  "How did you save her?"

"You were there," said Rogue.  "You saw it."

Logan shook his head.  "I saw you do some stuff with your hands, and then suddenly she was healed."

"You mean you didn't see all the light?"  Logan shook his head.  "And the gray smoky stuff?  But it was everywhere.  You must have seen it."  Again Logan shook his head.  She turned to Jennsen.  The other girl shook her head as well.  "How could you not see it?"

"Not everyone can see the threads of magic," said Jennsen in an explanatory tone.  "Especially magic as powerful as the Amulet's."

Rogue nodded, not really sure she understood, but too tired to push the matter.  The effort of healing Kitty had left her feeling drained, and even more exhausted than before.  She needed a nice long nap, immediately followed by a shower.  Her sweat-drenched shirt was sticking uncomfortably to her back.

Bamf!

Jennsen, still unused to Kurt's sudden appearances, jumped when he suddenly materialized next to her.

"Kitty!"  He bounded over to her bed, tail swishing back and forth excitedly.  "You're alive!"  Without warning he wrapped his arms around her in a hug, squeezing for all he was worth.

"Kurt!" Kitty panted, "I, like, can't breath!" 

He pulled away from her, muttering a sheepish "sorry."  She beamed up at him.

"You missed the show.  Rogue just totally saved my life, according to them."

Kurt turned to look at Rogue, and she braced herself for a similar hug.  Instead he asked, "Is that true?"

"Is her chest still ripped open?"

"No."

"Then yes."

This time Kurt did give her a hug, squeezing her middle so hard she thought she was going to snap in half.

"Get off me!" she grunted, shoving him away.  He stepped back, but continued to grin like a lunatic.  People around them were beginning to stare at the fuzzy blue demon.

"Where's your holowatch?" Logan asked, apparently thinking the same thing as Rogue.

"Broken," said Kurt.  "So I guess I'm stuck like this—" he gestured down at himself "—from now on." He gave an elaborate sigh.  "I'm going to be beating the ladies off with a stick."

Kitty rolled her eyes.  "Whatever makes your little world spin."

Kurt stuck his tongue out at her.  (A/N: Quick question—is his tongue red or blue?) 

"So where are Gumbo and the twins?" Logan asked.  Kurt shrugged.

"I left them back in the field when they told me about Kitty."  He casually took her hand in his, and the two of them shared a smile.

Rogue found herself becoming envious of Kitty, laying there in a comfortable bed.  She wondered why no one else seemed dead on their feet.

"We should probably let them know Kitty's all right," Jennsen suggested.

Rogue stifled a yawn.  Personally, she didn't care if they knew or not. 

"Are there any bedrooms in this place?" she asked finally.  Jennsen nodded.

"Ask the guards outside the door, they should be able to give you directions."

"Thanks," said Rogue, who was already halfway to the exit.  The guards by the door were more than willing to help, and within minutes Rogue was lying comfortably beneath white cotton sheets, her eyes closed in dreamless slumber.

So how was that for a first chapter?  Finally, we see a little of what the Amulet can do.  That was just the tip of the iceberg, though, believe you me. 

In other news, I recently saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and it was amazing.  I recommend you all go see it as soon as possible.  Aside from a few scenes, I think it's the best of the three.  Also, seeing the movie prompted me to re-read the fifth book (despite all my summer reading assignments for school) and I'm hoping it will help me improve my writing skills.  I'm currently concentrating on dialogue, and would appreciate any advice/comments/criticisms you may have.

OK, time to answer all those sterling reviews from the finale. 

Crazed Maniac 02: SOT was kinda my inspiration for a lot of the last chapter.  Rogue saying "Rise my children" would be totally cool.  I actually considered doing that.  Maybe later I will…The battle was hard to do.  If you ever get around to watching The Two Towers, you'll see some similarities.  I used that and SOT for inspiration.  And there will be romance aplenty in the future.  Romy all the way!

Kay131: I'll admit Kitty's death did go a bit quickly.  I couldn't do it through her POV because she didn't really die.  I just needed the readers to think she had.  As for the language, it's kind of like in Lord of the Rings—there's a common language (English) and then the individual languages of the different countries.  Rogue can speak Jennsen's language because of the Amulet.  And don't worry, I plan on having a bit of language confusion later. 

Raye: Aye, captain!

Ishandahalf: Yes, master…

Dragon: Fooled you!  She's alive!

The Last Ronin: OK, just for the record, my brining Kitty back had NOTHING to do with your review!  I was planning it from the start.  Kurt porting and shooting?  I like…  And Gambit and Rogue met in London, not Moscow or Paris.  I might go somewhere with that, might not.  Whatever.  The language is all me.  The Sword of Truth one is actually German words with different meanings, so I couldn't use that.  With Kurt actually speaking German, it would get WAY too confusing.  Oh, and Rogue isn't using the Amulet because, guess what?  She doesn't have a clue what she's doing!  Besides, having a King swear fealty to you and then going off to war is a bit overwhelming for an anti-social sixteen year old.  One final thing: your poem ROCKED.  "Blood red hands paint the lands/stolen lives that number the sands"  I love it!   

Archmagus: OK so Kitty didn't really bite the dust, but there will be death in this story.  They're in a war.  People die.  I refuse to sugar coat it.  You really think it's fantastic???  Wow.  I like you!  ()/

Rugsrat: Was this soon enough?  And anyone who knows about Sword of Truth deserves a bag of popcorn! 

Pixie Flyer: Kill off Jean?  WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT?!?!?!  That would have been perfect!  Dang it!  That's it, I demand a redo!  Thanks for putting me on your favorites lists.  stands on a stage holding an award You tolerate me!  You really, really, tolerate me!

Well, that's it folks!  No more reviews!

On a personal note, I'd just like to say IT'S SUMMER!!!!!!!  HOORAY!!!!    I'm sure many of you can relate to how I feel. 

I just got AIM, and my screen name's Mountaneer4JoA. Feel free to IM me if you feel the need to rant about my story, or if you just want to chat.  OK, I need to shut up now so I can upload this baby.  Now time to do your duty as readers and review!  Ciao!