It was a beautiful sight, the sun rising in the valley between the mountains. The chilled spring air felt quite welcoming to the small group of fifteen that stood before the valley in silence. Only a few members of this group were human. The rest of the group were what most refereed to as demons. Human looking beings with animal appendages. Some had wolf ears and tails, some cat ears and tails. There were even a few bear-like and bird-like beings among the group. But there was one member of this mostly male group that stood out more than the rest.
A teal haired woman with white fox ears and five white tails tipped blue swaying gently in the wind behind her. Instead of armor, she wore a short gray battle kimono, underneath a large black hooded jacket that was obviously too large for her tiny frame. The jacket she'd obviously tied to look much shorter and high enough to not be in the way of her tails. Her yellow-green eyes fixed on the rising sun as a small, sad, smile formed on her lips. A sharp spade-like poleaxe was held firmly in her grasp.
“It is nigh. This may be the last any of us may ever speak, but know that as I stand here before you it is not as your leader and commander. I stand here as your sister in arms. I fight alongside you to make right the things they made wrong. I am honored to have each and every one of you beside me, for I know very well I would not have lasted this long alone. Thank you for assisting me.
"It is time now that we end the bloodshed. We cannot let the past deaths be in vain! We cannot let our fallen be shamed by us on this day. So all I can say to you, my brothers, is merry meet, and merry part. I hope we one day meet again, be it in this life or the next.” Her voice was soft, but loud. A deafening roar of cheers echoed her words loudly. They all knew that surviving this last battle would be highly unlikely.
"Milady, you bring more honor to us than we deserve. They are proud of you.” One of the armored wolves spoke softly as he placed his hand on her shoulder, causing her to turn her eyes away from the sun to look at him.
“I can only hope your words ring true. You have my thanks. Prepare the others. Once the sun no longer meets the earth, we enter the valley.” With a quick, “Hai!” he'd turn away and move to address the others.
A soft sigh escaped her lips as she recalled the day she first met him, her reason for fighting. The shouts of rage of an old human wise man accompanied by the repeated cracks of a bladed whip echoed in her mind. As did the silent whines that she had refused to let loose. Then she remembered the gentle voice that had stopped it all. She remembered how he tricked them then, with simple ease and an intelligent mind not often seen in the countryside. How he released her from her bindings before he even knew her name and covered her trembling form with the very jacket she now wore.
The singing of the birds, who soon flee, freed her from her memories. With a shake of her head, she turned to look at the brothers. "We march!" she called out her order and began to walk down the grassy slope. Her mind began to wander once more.
She remembered the daughter whose life was ended before she'd left her womb due to a careless mistake and the son who had somehow managed to survive. The sound of her love's rage and her son's lonely wails now echoed in her mind. She remembered the numb feeling that had overtaken her mind and the first laugh her son had made to free her mind from its dark cell.
A shout from the other side of the valley returned her to the present once more. Across the field a much larger army of men completely clothed in armor moved noisily toward them, quite unlike the small band of fifteen. Six meters away from the center of the valley, The woman raised her arm, her brothers behind her halting their movements and preparing to spring into action. Across from her a hairy human mimicked her actions.
The two stepped closer and she could hear a whisper on the wind urging her forward, cheering her on. A small smile formed on her lips at the annoyed look in the man's eyes. "They send a woman to do battle between men? This is quite comical."
"No one sends me. Who do you think has felled your last three armies? Who do you think has slain your generals? If not I, then who?" She said, not bothering to hide the amused smirk that his words had brought forth.
“This is what is left of the mighty evil army that once had every kingdom in the nation under their sway, is it not? There used to be five generals, if the rumors are valid what cowardice has befallen them to send a woman in their stead? Surrender your troops, and your lives will be spared,” he droned on, only to be caught off guard by her taunting laugh.
“My... You really do know not of whom you speak to. I am the last of the five generals, now commander as we had ruled evenly. This day your crusade ends. Be it by my death or yours.” She announced with such calm clarity that silenced the very environment around them.
The man had a frightened look in his eye, but he hid it rather well. "Then let me end it quickly, for I shall show no mercy!” He moved to strike her. Her bare foot planted itself into his gut, denting his breastplate as he was sent flying back into his troops. His troops stood in awe, for but a moment, before they began their charge.
As she readied her weapon to face the onslaught, the image of her fallen comrades charging into battle and the roar that always sent chills down the enemies' spines filled her mind. Blinking, she'd realize that, for once, the roar came from her own lips, instead of one of her comrades. With her battle cry made, she leaped at the first enemy to get close to her and was surprised a bit at how easily she knocked the shield from his hand. She chuckled as the sharp end of her weapon tore him to shreds.
The battle had begun.
Battle cries filled the air, accompanied by the clash of steel. The smell of iron was strong in the air, and numerous bodies lay crumpled on the ground. In the center of the fighting only five of the original fifteen still stood. Only they still drew breath. The woman stood with her four surviving comrades surrounding her in a wide circle. Within the circle, the woman did the one thing she had truly hoped to avoid. She drew a large intricate seal within the circle as her brothers in all but blood held the enemy at bay.
When it was done, she stood and removed the large black jacket. Folding it tenderly and placing it in the center of the circle, she'd straighten herself with a soft sigh before focusing all of her energy and sending it into the sky in a blinding white light. The light faded as quickly as the air grew colder. Fluffy gray clouds formed in the sky and snow began to fall as a heavenly voice boomed from above for all to hear:
“What would you say to those who set your fate? If there were a way to change the cards you've been dealt? Would you really change your fate despite the price you'll pay? To escape the hate, if only for a little while? Would you give another's life to alter your destiny? Regardless of the strife that is sure to follow?” The fighting had ceased in surprise as the woman straightened.
“No! I will never change my fate! I will fulfill the purpose of my birth! The land will know peace, by my hand and no other!” She shouted to the sky as a lone figure, covered in just as much blood as the woman, charged into her circle. An odd chuckle carried on the wind caused him to pause.
"Now that we've both warmed up a bit, I take it you are finally ready to fight me yourself, General!" She taunted, the cold air seemed to have no effect on her or her brothers. The humans weren't so fortunate. The icy winds and sharp snow biting at their open flesh and hindering their movements.
By her estimate it was now around midday, and she had long since lost her weapon in the battle. She began to gather ice in her hand willing it to take the form of a sharp spear of ice as the man resumed his charge. The two fought in the center of the raging battle, locked in a deadly dance. Both blocked and struck out with their weapons with deadly skill. The resonating clang of their weapons were quickly joined by numerous more as the battle continued to rage.
Hours ticked by as the fight around them drew silent and the sun began its decent. Both were now fairly wounded and knew that the other was growing tired. All but two had fallen, either by blade or the cold. The woman and the General seemed to be evenly matched.
“Give up, woman! You don't have the strength to keep this up much longer. I was wrong, I'll admit. You are a worthy opponent. You have earned an honorable death. Stand down and it will be quick.” He offered with a large grin, only to hear her chuckle.
“Now if I did that, my family would surely think me a weak coward. No. I shall never give up so long as I draw breath!” This battle was far more entertaining than she had anticipated. She knew she was stronger than most human men, but this man seemed to be as well.
“If that's how you want to die, so be it!” The man yelled as he charged her once more, only this time instead of meeting her ice spear,he was startled to find his blade taste the flesh of her stomach. He was further surprised to find the spear had pierced his abdomen and exited the small of his back. “W-what?” He gasped as he stumbled backward, pulling his sword free from her flesh and the spear from her hand. The moment the ice spear left her hand the ice began to melt within his wound.
“You'd have us both die? You stupid woman!” The man yelled out as he fell to his knees. Glancing up, he saw her stumble and sway her way over to the jacket she had so tenderly folded before. Then she collapsed to the ground, leaving behind a trail of blood.
“Yes and no. You never did ask what the seal was for...Or did you even notice it? No matter. From this moment forth, no more of my kind will be born as we are. No more shall the powers of the elements and the gifts of the gods and goddesses be bestowed upon life. With the life blood of those who have fallen today, and the souls of you and I, the gods will assist me in separating our existences between two plains. This is the only way I can ensure a time of peace in this land, for man can be just as evil as you perceive my kind to be."
The man grew silent as he watched her gingerly pick up the jacket and hold it to her chest. In the light of the setting sun, he felt as though his eyes were playing tricks on him. For behind the woman stood three transparent figures: a tall two-tailed kitsune man and a miniature version of the man held a small infant that resembled the very woman that he now knew to be his end. They were what the war had stolen from her.
She fell onto her side, still clutching the jacket with a smile on her face. He knew, then, why she did what she had. With that last thought he felt a tugging sensation and he knew no more. As his head and torso bounced off the ground, the woman sighed her last breath.
- Title: To End the Crusade (Version 2)
- Artist: Arrinae Maeya Tsuki
A woman leads a group of fourteen men against the odds to end a war she never wanted to fight.
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- Date: 10/29/2013
- Tags: crusade