This is perhaps a bit darker and more violent than most of what I've posted, but I've been itching to write a battle scene for a while.

The smell of blood clung to the wind, wafting up the hill with the breeze. Drax breathed in deeply, her eyes narrowing in pleasure at the familiar and welcome scent. She flexed her fingers and looked over the battlefield below, laid out like a giant chessboard, waiting for her divine hand to move the pieces. She knew where the other magic users were by instinct and by the crisp rings of unburned grass dotting the field. The largest ones marked the few truly powerful people, the only ones she cared about.

Smoke curled from burning bodies and broken instruments of war, and black clouds hung over the field. The roll of thunder formed an almost constant backdrop as lightning struck over and over. She appreciated whoever had thought to bring a weather mage; that had been a clever touch. A bolt shot towards her and she grinned madly at the feeling of the hair along the back of her neck rising in an instant. She let it strike, directing the flow around her body, preventing any damage and closing her eyes against the light. Let them think her a goddess who could absorb the lightning. Her generals and king already stood in awe of her.

Somewhere out there Noakes and the Fennish generals were huddled together thinking about shields, routs, pathetic defenses through which she would smash. The Kingdom of Gale would be victorious in this war and the vast lands to the west would be her reward. She would have her own title, her name emblazoned among the honored ancestors of the Dielle clan and the honored descendants of the Marielles, provided of course that in three years when her daughter was of age she didn't try to get out of the arranged marriage to the Dielle heir.

None of the major lineages were taking part in this war. Too tied up in generations of strategic marriages and inbreeding, all their hands were tied. It left scions of minor houses and secondary lineages to prove their worth, as she was about to do. Her father had been one of the many useless Marielle boys, totally without magical ability, and her mother only the younger sister of a younger sister of a younger sister in a secondary Phoebaen line, a mediocre sorceress at best. But Drax ignored that part and reminded herself only that she was a descendant of a living goddess, that she one day might be considered one herself if she was successful.

She cast her gaze across the field once more, sweeping the specks of people and horses in one impassive glance. She could barely consider them ants fit for crushing, it was even less interested than that. This was between her and the other sorceresses on the field, between her and Noakes, the two strongest present at the battle. It was a matter of destroying the other's chess pieces and she was about to show them her best gambit.

Drax turned from the field, her hair flowing in the light breeze of death and her ceremonial robes fighting the wind's coarse grasp. Everything had been arranged while she surveyed her board and she smiled at the men before her. Fifteen lay head to toe to form a circle. Five more lay positioned on specific symbols her apprentices had carved into the packed earth of the hilltop. At the center the last man had been positioned kneeling, the ceremonial knife waiting beside him.

Her soldiers and generals stood well back and watched her with dark and nervous eyes. The generals had suggested using prisoners of war, but something about the tableau before them, the priestess and her sacrifices, unnerved them. They had not expected her to need so many for each spell. They had not expected her to kill them like animals at slaughter.

"Three sevens," she said pleasantly as an explosion rocked the earth and a fine spray of dirt and rocks reached nearly fifty feet above their heads. It came down like heavy rain, pattering on the cleared ground and the flowing tents of the generals' encampment.

Drax stepped over the bodies, her heavy skirts scraping behind her as she pulled up her hood. The men had all been dressed in their uniforms and armor; some even had their weapons set beside them, in a sick mockery of their current positions. A few were still struggling against their bonds and the stakes they were tied to to keep them in place, but most knew in a what was going to happen. Most of them had given up the moment she had picked them from the line of prisoners leaving the last battle.

The man at the center was one who had not given up, a cavalry officer, nephew or cousin of the Fennish king. He had a sweetheart waiting, a frantic, worried, royal family, and ranks of admiring soldiers waiting for his return. He had ridden into battle on a white horse and his men had followed him. He had gone through lightning, fire and blood and come back and then the priestess had plucked him from the herd. He pulled and strained, even as she approached. A single flick of her wrist had destroyed his steed, sent him flying, killed the dozen men behind him. Drax crouched beside him and put a hand on his arm; he felt his limbs go numb and all his struggles ceased.

"Yours will be the easiest," she whispered into his ear and planted a kiss on his cheek. Then she took hold of his hair with one hand and the knife with the other.

She stood and jerked his head back, baring his throat, before beginning her spell. The words flowed around them, rising and falling on the wind, seeping into the earth, distorting the fabric of existence until every single person could see the growing, shimmering thing that was forming on the hilltop. Something monstrous and dark. Magic of the lower gods, gods of fire and death, the deep and empty places. Drax reached out to the ancient powers; the knife glittered in her raise hand. She called aloud for destruction; the knife flashed through the air, its blade red.

On the opposing hilltop the sorceress Noakes called on the gods with every ounce of strength she had, throwing a shield spell as far as she could reach, though not even she could cover their entire army. The magic rumbling down from the Galen camp was visible even to the least magical foot soldier on the battlefield and the sheer intensity of it was upsetting her senses. The sky looked red and purple, the ground pulsed beneath her feet and the air beat on her eardrums. Everything in her was telling her to run, as far and as fast as she could, and she knew that even that would not be enough to escape.

The goddesses answered, lending her strength and she fell to her knees, pulling the shield tight against the ground as Drax's abomination washed towards them. It swept over and around the Galen forces, leaving them unharmed though perhaps incontinent. The Fennish were not so lucky and Noakes watched as row after row of them fell, the curse ripping through the layers of spells her apprentices had spent the entire battle weaving. She saw them falling as well, warlocks and sorceresses blinking out of existence along with the soldiers. And still it came closer. She pulled her shield in, sacrificing more people and praying that what was left would be strong enough to weather the attack.

She closed her eyes and waited as the rumbling became something felt in every muscle, drowning out all senses and all knowledge of anything besides its great destructive intent. When she opened her eyes she found that she was still alive, as were the people around her. She had saved the generals, the wounded, and the division directly before them, though most of them were on their knees vomitting and crying. At least half the Fennish force lay dead, spread out like toy soldiers knocked to the ground during play, still in their orderly rows, their weapons still in their hands. The Galen troops were advancing even now on what was left of their force.

She looked up at the opposing hill and saw a figure standing on the brink, raven hair flying in the wind, a dagger gleaming red in her hand. Noakes swore that Drax would not live to the end of the next battle.