Rated M for violence ahead.
There's something addictive about stepping onto the battlefield—the way dust never settles, the way the air is always cold; the way screams linger, even hours after death.
Eryn loves this more than she can express. She loves the salt of sweat in her eyes and mouth; she loves the weight of every swing of her sword. She loves her ragged breath and her sore limbs.
She loves that she finds it no matter where she goes.
A weapon sits in her palm, curled around it as if her fingers have been made for the broadsword's hilt. Armour—gold splashed with red, in abundance like paint—covers Eryn from her hair (a crown of fire in the form of wild curls) to the very tips of toes (bare and thickly calloused, leaving her blood mark with every step she takes).
Wherever war calls, she answers. Like a piper calling children along—like an alluring siren, singing just once more, only once more.
The call to war is a love song to the very blood that runs through her veins; to the very soul that resides at the centre of her being.
And she falls every time—because this is the one weakness Eryn does not mind having.
(Eryn only knows she's this way because it's the first art she learnt. Before her words could manifest, she was bellowing flames. Before her human legs could stabilize, she knew the proper grip to have on a weapon. It's engrained in the fibres of her being, this art. Her form here is perfection—the one thing she can be proud of).
There's a break, somewhere between the mindless slaughter, and Eryn sits away from the gathered army, staring blankly into the hazy atmosphere.
The lulls in battle are brief—breathe, wipe the blood from your face, check for the living.
Before they (Eryn and the soldiers she doesn't know fighting a war she knows nothing about because she's not on their side) can move off, their commander calls a retreat.
"Go back!" She cries. Her eyes are hard, yet her dark skin is pale, as if she's seen a ghost or demon, and she cries again. "Retreat! Go back! They command a—"
She collapses on broken legs, choking on nothing, cracking like glass, shattering like china all over the battlefield. She screams, claws at her hair, arches her back like a woman possessed, or a woman verging on insanity.
(Except in the distance, where Eryn hears a familiar screech.)
Then, they (the soldiers) are running the opposite way, leaving everything behind—their fallen comrades, their foaming commander, their humanity.
Eryn continues forward.
Her broadsword scrapes behind her, trailing a line in the never settling dust.
Faster. Fight more. It's not enough. Never enough.
It has never been enough.
Not since that day.
Fog is rolling on beyond the hill and Eryn sprints straight into it, meeting the first enemy with the tip of her blade. It goes across his neck in a fatal mercy, and his body doesn't even hit the ground before Eryn is gone again, running her blade through another and beheading a third.
Her head is ringing.
Until it is enough.
'When will it be enough?'
Her sword clangs against another blade.
It vibrates from her arm to her teeth, and she tastes dust as she jumps back, stumbling before she regains her balance.
Eryn senses power before she meets her new opponent's eyes.
It's different from the magic that pulses from her heartbeat to her fingertips. This is a wave, spreading out from his feet to everything his eyes touch, bringing only cold nothingness.
As equal as her eyes are bright with fire, his are watery and frigid, the barest of blues.
He wears no armour except for the scales on his chest and the smile on his face.
It shows his pointy teeth.
Eryn returns it.
She drops her weapon; her talons click against each other as they flex, and she tilts her neck to the side, easing the kinks with a sharp crack.
There's no greeting—no preamble when dragons fight. This is their way, their truth. Meeting one of her kind on the battlefield is seen as a test, a rite of passage for young ones with no scars on their backs and no holes in their wings. Eryn's eyes slide over his alabaster skin—smooth and clear and unbroken in any way. His eyes don't mourn the way most elders' do on the battlefield, where they know only one will be leaving, because this—
He flings his spear forward.
Eryn's stance changes, her foot pulling back behind her, then she's gone, the spear's tip whizzing past where her head was.
This is their calling.
She reappears directly in front of him.
Fist pulls back, knuckles tight; Eryn's expression is murderous (in tightly drawn lips and furiously burning eyes she doesn't really notice anymore) as she swings her arm towards his face. He blocks her, but Eryn's fast, wrenching away her hand and following up with a kick that catches his stomach.
He flies, rolling head over before flipping over and righting himself, but Eryn is right there, knuckles hitting home this time, slamming him into the earth.
"Respect your elders, hatchling." Eryn chides, tone calm. Her eyes betray her composure; they're bright and excited, because her knuckles sting.
She loves this.
He coughs, and stands steadily, wiping blood from his mouth.
There's a grin there, sharp and furious.
Eryn returns it.
Eryn steps to the right, and he mimics, and they begin to circle each other.
"What may I call you?" He asks, in a way Eryn has not heard for centuries. A true dragon, after all, no matter how young, can be given many names in their lifetime, but they always have a preferred one.
Eryn doesn't have to think about it too hard. "You may call me Eryn."
Fie lashes out, trying to catch her off guard. Eryn catches his arm, twists it and him around, and pushes him into the dirt with a kick.
He stands again.
The smile is gone.
"Come, young one." Eryn drops into a stance, legs wide, knees slightly bent, arms up and fists closed. "Do your worst."
The first punch hits Eryn's forearm.
They come a second after the other, raining down without a break, and Eryn feels every single one, even as she smacks them away, because her hand tingles.
A fist slips past her defences, and connects with Eryn's cheek. She stumbles, but then she's being repaid by the foot in her side, which sends her skidding.
The voice inside her has gone quiet, an uneasy queasiness settling in its place.
Time in her mind rewinds slightly, making her growl—making Fie stumble as he charges towards her, but he regains his footing as Eryn shoves it to the back of her mind.
She catches both Fie's fists this time; his eyes are wide when she doesn't go down, and Eryn drives her forehead into his and knees him right in the gut.
He coughs spittle and blood on her stomach, and Eryn tosses him like a rag doll over her shoulder.
Still so young.
"Surrender." Eryn says, humour gone, eyes growing hard like cooling lava. The stinging from her knuckles doesn't feel pleasant anymore. It—this is wrong.
It's always been wrong.
But who could stop her?
Dirt shifts. Eryn sidesteps the jab at her spine, spins and connects her elbow with his nose. The bone snaps beneath her like tissue paper, and she follows it up with a swift backhand, dislocating his jaw.
The scream, sharp and bitten off, makes her chest tighten.
"Surrender." She commands, and he spits blood at her feet and sneers crookedly.
"Not to you."
Eryn's expression blanks.
The pounding in her ears is a drum.
It isn't enough.
Fie doesn't get the chance to scream when Eryn's knee slams into his chin, knocking three teeth straight from his head. She grips his hair and draws her fist back, shattering first his left cheekbone, then his second jawbone.
He tries to stop her, holding his arms up to shield himself, but she grabs one and pulls until she hears a pop and squeezes until there's a snap, and his forearm hangs limply where it should be straight.
Eryn doesn't think. She doesn't hesitate as she deals blow after blow after blow, cold fury driving her talons into his soft flesh, smearing red on his alabaster skin.
(Somewhere, between the space between her heart and the emptiness of her curse, she's screaming, begging herself to stop. But she doesn't. She never does.)
Fie is hardly breathing by now. Every inhale is a wet gurgle, most likely from pierced lungs. Every exhale is a stutter away from choking.
"Surrender." Eryn keeps her eyes blank. It's hard to see blue hair and cerulean eyes when all she can envision is hair like a sunset and eyes a blazing midday sun. Her mind is years behind, tripping over memories.
Fie tries to say something, but all that comes out is a gag.
"Surrender." She can't keep herself from begging, from looking at a girl her age, at staring her down with pleading eyes as she repeats the same thing over again over, knuckles bleeding, voice hoarse, eyes burning.
Aezili—no—Fie, closes his eyes, ready for fate.
(She wasn't. She got up, constantly, even when—when Eryn broke her legs (one at a time) and then her arms (and h-her elbow and her f-f-fingers), and sha-shattered her chest plate and—
Aezili didn't want to accept her defeat, so Eryn had to keep going. Until her fists bled and she couldn't tell where her blood began and where hers ended.
She—they'd been so young then too.)
There are—something wet, not blood, no—
Tears—there're tears—warm, unlike the body she's clutching desperately—slipping down her face and off her chin.
Emotions—despair, weakness, mind-numbing sorrow—claw at her chest and ring in her head, wailing the same thing over and over and over—
She's done it again.
She's done it again.
She's done it again.
"You fought well, young one." Eryn whispers, pressing her forehead to his.
It's cold, and not warm and not like hers and not like her tears and—
"The Ancient Ones will welcome you with open arms."
Fie smiles, brokenly (because he can't get his face to work properly anymore) and softly (as if he's forgiven her, and it doesn't hurt anymore), and Eryn sobs through clenched teeth as his last breath leaves his chest, and he chokes slightly and then—
Eryn places the body down, and wills her tears to stop, pulls herself together just enough. She breathes in the stale air, the unsettled dust. The screams have ended, yet she can hear them still—like Death's Chime, at the End of All.
She doesn't know anything about the boy she just killed, but it is customary for those who die on the battlefield to be gifted to their slayers to do what they will.
Eryn rests a palm on his chest, ignores the unsettling stillness.
"May your soul light the way, and your wings be your sails. May the Ancient Ones find you and welcome you home. May Eternity be yours, for you deserve it."
The cold bursts with a flame, darting from her palm to his chest and flowing its way through Fie, crumbling his body to ashes.
Her knees are stiff as she stands, as if she's been kneeling for hours.
It takes a minute to remember how her wings unfurl, and another for the universe to tear and for Eryn to step through it.
Every hurts. The inside of her chest is freezing cold and burning hot at the same time, and it's agonizing. She wants to sleep.
Reality should just…stop.
Just for a little while.
Until Eryn feels better.
Until everything aches less in an excruciating way, and more in an always present yet easy to ignore way.
Everything should just—
The world turns black.
Eryn slips, once and then twice.
She tumbles out of the Space just as her mind falls into the void.
Did I just write 2000 words of self-indulgent action? Heck yeah. Share your thoughts.