Robior looked down from the top. The Fae seemed so small and inconsequential. She was almost in range of the syphons. Just a few more steps…
She looked up.
Her green eyes pierced through him like twin needles.
“My name is Princess Vehrona of the Summer Court,” she said in a clear voice. He heard it close to his ear, as if she was right there.
I know who the fuck you are, he seethed. And she was so self-confident to tell the entire fortress her name, right away. Crazy hag.
“You hold my Lady hostage. I have come to deliver her from the weeds.” She fanned out her arms, showing off her sickles. “You will find out I’m quite the accomplished gardener.”
She took another step.
From the fortress came a rushing sound and a gurgling hiss. Streams of golden light rushed out of dozens of hidden spewers, rivers of molten iron.
Vehrona disappeared under the sizzling wave. It popped and crackled against the still-damp rocks, rising towers of smoke.
Something else flashed.
Her sickles danced faster than bees, throwing off spurt after spurt of molten drops, sending them off in a fan like a blooming golden and red flower. Some of the molten metal hit her armor and slid off it like oil on water – some hit her cheeks and burned right through her flesh, showing the white sinews and muscles beneath.
A the last spurts fell into the rocks down, she looked up, her beautiful visage as if run through with spokes.
But already her wounds were healing.
New skin grown over holes.
Muscles knitting back together.
She raised her sickles at the fortress.
“Good welcome. Now allow me to show you my own.”
The cell was once again dark. The spoke lay abandoned on the floor and the girl leaned against the bars, playing once again with her hair.
The mutters had died out.
They could not drown out the screams.
“That would be my associate,” the girl said. “She’s very good with blades. I’m sure she’s having such a good time carving all your friends into thin red ribbons.”
“No Fae has ever conquered this bastion,” the priest spat at her. “Not even your accursed Snow Hag could.”
For the first time, something like anger curled her features.
“Look at me. Do I look like the Winter Queen? Do you think I even care about such things? Houses, Courts. Dukes and Princes and Kings and Queens. I am beyond that. Our blood does not split in four.”
A pause, as she seemed to dominate herself.
“But what about you, my friends? Are you going to stay here keeping guard to a girl? While your companions are busy dying on these very doorsteps, painting the floor red? Wouldn’t you be more useful out there?”
“Bloody ashes,” another priest cursed. “I’m going.”
“But the Captain…”
“The Captain might not even be alive anymore. We can do better than…”
“Two of us should still stay here.”
“At least three, come on,” the girl taunted. “We can play dices. I’m very lucky at it.”
“I’ll stay,” another priest, a young one who seemingly wanted to play the hero, said.
The other three shared a look, but more screams coming from the outside compelled them to leave them alone.
The youngest priest’s hands trembled – he kept throwing looks at her. Waiting for her to show her hand.
She just smiled.
“I am still cold. I hope you did not try to get rid of my cape, you know. I really did work hard at it.”
“Blood unto blood paid,” she replied.
The priest did not say anything else, closed his eyes and curled his hands in prayer, trying to keep off whatever force was coming for them.
He twitched with every scream. Trembled with every echo.
“Hello, Captain,” the girl said.
“Wha-“ he turned towards the entrance.
Easy enough for her to snatch his neck and plunge it right at one of the cage’ spokes.
Iron bit happily into his flesh.
“I do make my own luck, though.”
She kept the man’s head up and with her other hand pulled off one of his teeth.
Then she inserted it into the lock’s keyhole.
Bit by bit, bone grew out of it.
Pressed against the cast iron.
And tore it apart.
The cage fell on the floor, right over the priest’s body.
The girl crawled out of the iron bars, kneading at her wounded body.
“The soil is watered. Now for the seeds.”
The Captain raised his mace. He took a swung at the whirlwind of blades that was the damn Fae – but he missed her by a good mile. She jumped back, moving as easily in her golden armor as if she wore strings of air. Her skin blacked and smoking, her armor cracked and dented, she had so far only managed to enter the main hall. Projectiles and iron and molten drops had held her back, but his men were getting tired.
And all through it, she grinned and seemed to have the most fun in the world.
“Fire!” He shouted and more bows sang – the Fae swung her weapon and knocked back each arrow, a flash of light every time silver and bronze hit iron.
From above came a shuffling sound. A priest appeared from a window and tossed a jar of salt at the Fae – she jumped away but some did touch her skin and she yowled in pain.
“We curse you in salt!” He shouted waving a fist.
Now all attention was upon her.
The Captain allowed himself a little smile. He had seen right through the little witch’s plan. She had tried to keep them busy while the Princess tried an all-out assault, but his men were used to hardship. Flames danced against the bas-reliefs of the hall and he caught a glimpse of the Winter Queen rebuked in this very place, eleven centuries before.
As in the past, so would today end in victory.
“Don’t give her respite!” He ordered. At the head of a maniple of spearmen, he charged right into the whirlwind of gold and blades.
The blonde girl crouched over the ruined corpse of the priest. His head squashed to a pulp, she carved out thin lines over his chest, peeling out skin and drawing letters right into the bones.
As luck would have it, they did not throw out her cape – she pulled it over her back and it did its best to keep her warm. If anything, her sister was proving to be useful for something.
Sometimes her skin wriggled and squirmed. She probably was still a little miffed about her newfound station in life.
Served her right.
“Roots and sinews, strings of the same,” she sang. Beneath her touch the priest’s bones cracked and bent – they bloomed in a spurt of dust and blood, painting her face red. She grinned. “Spin me a song of renewal and from white red may spill.”
The first spores wheezed out of the man’s body. They quickly spread, covering the floor in grey moss.
From the moss misshapen flowers like little mouths spurted – and roots like grasping fingers.
The corpse shivered on the ground as it spread its contents all over the place. It stretched and curled into an undergrowth, its features bent out of shape. A soft scent, like freshly-picked peaches, spread through the air.
“Ah, I smell home,” the girl mused.
The Old Country spread like if nature boiled with fever.