"When in doubt, shoot the wizard." A voice reminded Kalika of her childhood lessons. It was almost her grandfather's voice but there was something faded about it. For a fleeting moment she wondered if she had ever known his voice; just like her mothers face, it did not exist when her eyes closed. Kalika pushed the thought aside; there was no time to think on such things.
Kalika put her final arrow to the bow fastening it in place. She hefted the bow up pulling the sting back to her ear watching the tall man decked in silver greys. The point of his hat flopped to the side while those small calculating eyes scanned the attacking troops.
The Mage of the Warriors.
Someone near by fell; she heard the sound and ignored the strangled scream, which signalled their demise.
She drew her breath deep pushing all else away, and narrowed her sights to the silver decked man. She twisted the arrow in its place; the phoenix feather tickled her ear as she turned it. Then hesitated.
Her mind flooded with the questions she had not asked herself the moment before. Why was the wizard in plain sight, so obviously attired as wizards often were? Powerful enough to conceal the attacking creatures from her defenders but he himself standing on the edge of the forest unprotected. Surely he did not think himself so invulnerable to all things that he would place himself in deaths path.
Furiously she looked about her, the wizard still targeted.
Beyond the mayhem of her guardians fight, deeper in the forest then the wizard stood a little girl, dancing with herself like a court lady. The child did a fancy spin and pretended to laugh at something.
Kalika glanced from man to young girl in indecision.
What right did a child so unaffected by the bloodshed have to be there? Kalika demanded of her senses trying to find an answer, trying to find the right answer. Her arrow wavered and fixed on the girl following her dancing movements.
Her decision wavered again, the arrow still ready to fly. If it was the man, if he where the wizard and she shot the child they would all be slaughtered. Her feelings told her he was too obvious, but the child, no one would think a child capable of such violence.
"Kali! Where dieing!" The voice in her ear shook with desperation, the hand clenching her arm pleading, but she ignored it. Thoughts fixed upon choosing the arrows path.
There was no doubt the arrow would fly true to its mark, and the feathers it bore would break any spell they encountered. But uncertainty of the target prolonged its release. The wrong decision would kill them all, and a right decision made too late would be just as fatal.
"Shoot!" Someone ordered her. Distracted she shrugged that mans vice like grip off her arm and stood from her crouch. The bow, still drawn, slipped to face the ground.
Why hadn't she stopped shooting sooner? She wanted to know angry with herself. One more arrow and she knew she could have shot both, the arrow split between them.
She looked about, but like their assailants, the weapons released where not visible.
"Shoot the wizard!" Again a voice of desperation and demand, again it was ignored.
"I'm trying." She replied calmly, still starring at the two praying for a sign to reveal the answer she sought. Hoping for a slip on either's part to mark the other or themselves.
From nowhere grey eyes appeared before her own, a scant breath away. She stepped back, her footing uncertain, her concentration broken and stumbled. Her hands opened to catch her fall and she collided with something solid, a body she realised though she cold not turn to check, immobilised by the power she sensed staring into her.
A breath and reality tumbled back to her. She tensed her head swinging from the subtle attack in grey eyes and began to move. From behind hands clamped around her upper arms before she could escape, they crushed her together, and swung her back to face the enemy.
She did not meet the eyes, looking instead to her guardians who lay disarmed and broken across the field of battle. Unarmed creatures of proportions that were gigantic loomed over the men still alive, while human males in unmarked armour sorted through the weapons and bodies.
They had done well in their battle. She noted with a small swell of pride as she surveyed the land. She could see several of the monstrous creatures amongst the dead. Against an enemy unseen they had done better then she would have anticipated.
A cry filled the air, and she turned to see an enemy warrior withdraw his sword from the chest of one of her guard's. Analytically she noted that the guard's right leg had been torn away during the fray. The warrior stepped towards another man. She looked away.
Her eyes came to explore the ground before her, and two steps forwards, where she had stood during battle, where someone else stood now, was a perfect unbroken arrow. She nearly cried as she stared at it, but the injustice of fate was forgotten when her eyes locked onto something of far greater importance.
As she drew in a painful breath she acknowledged that her hands where empty that the bow on the ground was her own that she had foolishly dropped her greatest weapon. She looked passed the bow and found it. The blue phoenix feather blazed against the blood stained grass.
A scream built in her throat, primal and deadly and she swallowed it, transforming it into the anger she needed. Her eyes jumped to the feet by her weapons then to the man attached to them.
He wasn't old, in his mid-twenties at the most. His brown skin suggested he came from a country of the Sun. He was in casual clothes, not a warrior's armour. His feet were bare, his rumpled white shirt carelessly unfastened revealing the taut muscles beneath, and his black trousers held in place with a black leather belt were neat.
She turned her eyes to his face. His expression was blank, so she didn't linger. His hair was sweat soaked, tendrils of black sliding over his features haphazardly. With bitter resentment she acknowledged those features where from Rawn. But his eyes where like nothing she had ever seen before, a burning grey that regarded her with cool interest, the same eyes that had trapped her for a breath too long.
Another anger joined the rage inside her and unthinkingly she tried to lunge forwards. The hands clamped about her refused to budge, the strength of them shocking her and jolting her back a step. They crushed down on her harder, squeezing the breath from her lungs and raised her from the ground.
"Now, now, Crog, you're being a brute." The grey-eyed man's voice was calm and pleasant, and on his words what ever held her lowered her back to the ground and released its hold. Disregarding her, the grey-eyed man bent down, fingers reaching for her arrow. Protective battle instincts kicked in and she went to attack with uncoordinated ferocity.
Things around her shifted, she wasn't sure if the world was moving or if she was. She grit her teeth and ordered her body to trust itself before once more going to lunge forwards. Hands clamped about her arms again, pulling her back from her attack, they where gentler now, but still restraining. And as abruptly as it had begun things fell back into place.
She glared hatred at the man before her, seeing a crinkle at the corner of his eyes that betrayed mirth. He looked from her and held the Phoenix Arrow close to his eye examining it carefully.
And she knew then, as she should have immediately that he was a Mage, and there was no doubt he knew what kind of prize her arrow was. Yet even as that knowledge came to her she realised something of greater importance. This was the Mage of the Warriors.
She brought herself back to rationality immediately, pushing hatred aside and allowing the cool calm to take over. Her expression became blank, her eyes amused, her posture calm.
He looked from his scrutiny of the arrow to her his eyes sliding down her form and then back up. The smile he gave her was pleasant. His eyes moved over her shoulder "Her, in my tent. The rest with the other slaves." His eyes grazed over her once more before he turned away, the arrow still twirling between his fingers.
Human hands grabbed her arms, weaker then what ever had previously held her. She glanced only too be certain they where human, too defeated to care who handled her to the Mage's tent. She suspected the fate that awaited her when the he was done with his battleground.