It was the end. The precipice loomed just inches from her bare feet, mist concealed the valley floor, making it look all the more like a passage to the underworld. "If only I had wings" she thought a bit ironically now that escape was out of the question. The soldiers had closed in around the edges of the clearing. Now the only way out was either down through the mist or sliced to ribbons. She gulped trying not to think about Mom, Dad or her older sister. Scrunching up her eyes, she tried to cleanse them of the images of blood and fire. "Maybe they got away," she told herself, trying to stay blissfully ignorant for these last moments.
The valiant thing to do might have been to throw herself off the edge, to keep them from the satisfaction of the kill. It was what Mom might have done, but as she opened her eyes once more she found that she still couldn't muster the resolve. She didn't want to die, why should she help them complete their task?
She turned to face her attackers. There were five of them, all dressed in the same uniform, helms covering their faces. She cared not what side they fought for, whether they were elven, human or even half-elves. Each side despised what her existence represented and ultimately responded with the same violence, rage, or cold indifference.
She watched in horror as they all moved closer, swords drawn, they spoke but the small girl took no note of what they said. She became aware of a high pitched keening, like the sound of an animal begging for its small life and hoping for a miracle. She couldn't move, and for a moment she realized that she was the one crying for her life. She tried to make any kind of movement, but only managed to fall to her knees. She put her hands over her face and waited for the bite of cold metal.
In her last moments, she waited behind the darkness of hands and eyelids, holding her breath. It seemed to her that her heart was getting a lifetime's worth of beats done during these last few seconds. She focused on it, avoiding thoughts of what was to come. She listened to the rapid beat for what seemed like an eternity. After a while, it began to slow and she became aware of a burning sensation in her chest, her body had become starved for oxygen. She started one more breath, but it was soon caught into a gasp as the clash of steel rang to her core, stinging like acid.
She opened her eyes slowly, in the strip of ground visible under her shaking hands, a new pair of shoes had arrived. They were leather and worn, they darted among the armored boots of her persuers. She didn't wince as she saw one of the soldiers collapse just a few inches from her, she smelled metal and a wet, sticky mist dusted her hands and shoulders. Absentmindedly, she wondered why the rain was so warm. She stared at the soldiers eyes and knew that he no longer saw her. His hand held a sword that could no longer cut her.
Was she being protected? Or had a new foe simply arrived and was taking care of their rivals before finishing the job. Maybe the soldiers had gotten to her faster than she thought, and this was only a dying child's hallucination. There was a squelch as two more sets of armored feet simultaneously turned into prone forms, stained with red.
She slowly began to stand, dazedly ignoring her pent up fear, revulsion and despair. There was now room to escape. She removed her hands from her eyes in time to see the fourth soldier fall. Her legs had gone numb from her her crumpled posture, as she planted her foot in the sand, the grains felt like little shards of glass.
Blurred red rivulets ran down from her shoulders, but she felt no pain as she clenched and unclenched her fists. Running was the smart thing to do but once again her body just wouldn't respond. A strangled yell and the heavy thump of something falling to the ground was heard. Her eyes moved slowly from her bloodied hands to the only one that was still standing.
He stood slightly hunched over his last opponent, his fast breathing created a small cloud of mist in the chilly morning air. The swordsman wore no armor. His only clothing was a ragged shirt and trousers that hung off of his wiry frame. Around his waist was a battered sheath that had been repaired by hand many times. A mop of reddish-brown hair veiled his eyes and the expression underneath.
The girl stood petrified as his posture straightened in her direction. Not knowing what his next move might be, her muscles tensed, preparing her so that she might run if things turned worse. Though, if he had been able to kill all five of those soldiers, her chances were obviously limited.
For a second she felt his gaze flick to her, but it quickly turned down to the bloody sword in his hand. With a few small and rough swipes through the air, he managed to get most of the blood off and returned the weapon to its sheath. For a second, it seemed as if he planned to leave without saying a word, but after a few steps he stopped and looked at her again. It was at this point that the little girl saw that he had a hand clamped over his lower abdomen and a crimson stain was slowly dyeing his shirt.
"You're hurt." the sound of her voice seemed so much louder than it should in that dead landscape.
"Yeah." He said a bit breathlessly and with that acknowledgment it seemed that whatever was keeping him standing ceased to be.