Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: An Altered Fate: Echoes of Imara by Claire Frank
An Altered Fate: Echoes of Imara by Claire Frank
This is an excerpt provided by the author for the Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off Competition
The wind picked up and the air filled with a haze of dirt as debris began to fly. Daro knew this was no ordinary wind. There was a Wielder out there causing it. The wall shook as another bolt of lightning hit and the soldiers began to fall back as a blanket of fear spread through the Keep.
We need to stop those Wielders.
He ran to Cecily through a break in the fighting. “Find Callum and get him to counteract that Projection. That’s going to send our men running if we don’t stop it fast. I have to go plug that hole.”
She nodded and sprinted deeper into the yard. It was a relief to see her moving away from the fighting, at least temporarily. He turned and yelled for Shale and Stoker as he gripped the hilt of his sword. “Make for the wall!”
Another hole had broken open and more soldiers swarmed through the gaps. Daro squinted through the wind and struck, cutting his way toward the wall. A blast rang out as a bolt of lightning hit the Keep itself. The building groaned and rocks scattered across the yard. Daro wondered if his ears would ever work properly again.
Shale caught up behind him, looking like a walking pile of rock. “Which hole do we plug?”
“The wall isn’t going to stand long. We have to get Katalis,” Daro said.
Shale nodded and gestured to Stoker as Daro beat back another Thayan. Streaks of blue snaked around him, and a soldier stumbled as Cecily Pushed. Daro thrust with his blade and swiped across his throat and the man gurgled blood as he dropped to the ground. He glanced back over his shoulder to find Cecily back in the fighting, protecting Callum as he concentrated.
“Stay here,” Daro shouted back to Cecily.
He heard her voice shouting something but he was already running for the breach. Her Wielding energy shot around him, deflecting blows as he cut through the crowd of Thayans to reach the wall. Shale’s heavy stride pounded behind him and explosions rang out as Stoker threw his glowing rocks.
They blasted through the break in the wall and the air on the other side was surprisingly still. As they fought through the Thayans waiting to enter the Keep, Daro caught a glimpse of three figures across the field. They were all blazing with power but the one in the center made Daro’s heart rate jump and his adrenaline surge. His energy was a writhing mass inside him, leaking out as if he held so much it seeped from his pores. Twisting worms of black reached from his chest, up into his head, and his eyes glowed brilliant white. Snapping jolts of lightning crackled all around him and as he reached his arms to the sky, another bolt ripped down into the Keep.
Daro gritted his teeth together as he fought, the desire to tear Katalis to shreds so strong his chest felt as if his heart was caught in a vice. The utter wrongness was palpable and it beat at him in waves.
Through the darkness, another Thayan burst toward him. His blade was wide, larger than the others carried, and his helm marked him as one of the Heoru, the elite warriors of the Thayan army. Daro raised his blade to deflect the strike and felt the power behind the other man’s blow. Sparks flew from their weapons as they clashed and the hit reverberated through Daro’s arm. He swung again and the Heoru blocked, then sidestepped and brought his sword around. Daro could see the energy move through his opponent and he dodged, pulling his own sword around to smash against his chest. The Heoru staggered backward but dug his feet into the ground. He looked up at Daro as he reset himself.
With a turn of his wrist, Daro rotated his sword. He watched the Heoru’s energy shift to one side and darted out of the way before the other man could reach him. Channeling power through his body, Daro lunged, hitting the Heoru across the shoulder. His blade didn’t penetrate and the Heoru spun, seeming to absorb some of Daro’s blow. His motions were fluid and he twisted, bringing his wide blade around to strike at Daro again.
The impact nearly knocked Daro from his feet, but he pushed and thrust the Heoru back. Pressing his attack, he moved faster, his sword streaking through the night air. Daro’s vision was sharp and he struck again, pouring energy into each hit. With a fast jab, Daro’s blade punched through the man’s armor with a sickening crunch.
Daro pulled his blade free and stepped back from the Heoru as he fell. Daro felt a hint of sadness as he picked up the Heoru’s wide sword. He had killed a man who was a master of his weapon.
The Heorun blade felt good in his hand, thick and heavy. He switched his own sword to his left and gave the wide weapon a few practice swipes. With power filling him, he easily hefted the large weapon in one hand and grasped his own sword in the other.
Halthians had pressed their way through the wall and the fighting raged across the field. A mass of soldiers still stood between him and Katalis so he raised his two blades and stalked deeper into the battle. With rapid strikes, he cut through the men who charged for him, carving a path through the melee. He ripped through the Thayans one by one as his swords dealt swift and bloody death to all who came near.
As he broke through to the far side of the conflict, his chest heaved with exertion. His clothes were spattered with blood and his body raged with power. Katalis stood a distance away, flanked by two other Wielders, a beacon calling Daro forward. He stepped out and lifted the Heorun, pointing it at him.
I’m coming for you.
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