Final Strike

The Manticore dragged her useless legs behind her as she crawled to the front of the cave. Behind her, she heard the whimpers of the children that had fled to the dubious safety of this small cave when the Patient Child's people had attacked.

She reached the mouth of the cave and snuck a look. She pulled back a bit and sighed. The situation had not changed. There were still six of Jezebel's people out there. She half turned, looking at her long time friend and lover. He looked so peaceful lying there, as if he only slept, as if she could wake him, as she'd done so many times before, with a kiss and a hug.

No kiss of hers, though, had the power to wake him from this sleep.

She winced as the pain in her heart was matched by a flare of pain in her pelvis. She didn't have to be a MediWitch to know something in that area was badly broken, or that she was going to pass out from her injuries soon.

She looked out of the cave again, and pulled her rifle up. She took careful aim, and pulled the trigger. A second later, she had to duck back, but only five weapons were sounding out there now. She watched the cave mouth and tried to think through the haze descending on her mind.

The two of them had been on messenger duty when they found a squad of the enemy attacking a small Wizard school. They called for help and attacked the rear guard of the enemy, drawing their attention away from the remaining students. The teachers and four of the students were already dead, cut down like so much wheat during harvest.

Jezebel's troops would attack a school, killing almost everyone, and taking a dozen or so smaller children hostage against the village's future actions. If the villagers did as they were told, the children would live. If they didn't, they started getting small children back, in smaller pieces.

The unexpected attack had driven the enemy back long enough for them to collect the children, but her lover had taken a round through his calf, and they had to retreat. They had been looking for a place to hole up and wait for the team approaching, and one of the kids had suggested this cave. Without any better options, they had fought their way to the cave, and called in a report.

Help was still forty minutes away, and they'd settled in to wait. They had repelled two assaults, and were beginning to think they would make it when the enemy launched another attack. Her friend had been hit, and she'd taken at least one, possibly two rounds through the hips dragging him back. She hadn't known he was already dead, and had thought she could bandage the small hole that was the only outward sign of his injury.

She jerked, realizing that she'd passed out for a second, maybe longer, and she turned, looking outside, afraid the enemy had gotten closer. She looked out at the enemy, and what she saw chilled her.

At least one of the enemies had to be a Wizard, because a shield was forming in front of the troops. As long as that haze covered them, no weapon she had would touch them. Even magic couldn't destroy it before they were close enough to rush her. She wasted a minute wishing for some explosives, since that was the only thing that could stop them from getting into the cave now.

The enemy bunched up behind the shield, starting their advance.

The Manticore looked back at the crying children and her lover. A sudden peace fell across her, and she turned back toward the enemy. The team racing toward them would never get here in time, and she swore that her lover's sacrifice would not be in vain.

She took a second to kiss his forehead. "Wait for me, love, I'll be along in a minute."

She cast the useless Muggle weapon to the side and drew out her wand. She looked back at the children huddled against the wall and smiled gently at the one girl that was looking her way. "Some friends will be along shortly to take you home," she said.

She turned back to the enemy, watching them approach calmly. The pain was a distant thing, lost under the peace that had covered her soul.

When the enemy was just twenty meters away, she rolled into plain sight, gripping her wand in both hands. Before the enemy could react, she pointed the wand and spoke her final spell. "Terminus."

For an instant, she glowed, a rich golden color, as every bit of her magic, everything she was, ever had been, or ever would have been was converted into pure magical energy.

A golden beam shot through her wand, burning it to a fine ash. The bolt struck the shield, destroying it instantly without the slightest change to the golden energy. It struck the people behind the shield, and they were no more of an impediment than the shield had been.

They disappeared in silent puffs, leaving nothing behind, as if they'd never been.

When the relief force arrived, there was only one witness, the young girl that had heard the Manticore's final words. She swore that the two Manticores had gotten up, embraced, and walked into nothingness.

Epilogue

Somewhere further away than any star, and yet closer than your skin, two balls of light spend some time touching and communicating in a manner nothing human could understand. When they have said everything they want to say, they move, and cross a barrier, a Veil no mortal eye can pierce.

There is nothing strange about this, it happens all the time. The sole difference here is that these two lights have no regrets.