Drawing my sword fast enough to block her first attack was easy, even though she moved with the speed and grace of a dragonfly in the wind.
Having an hour-long sword fight with a powerful magician, in the middle of a crowded area, while constantly having to maneuver between civilians takes a toll, but it was not my first rodeo. However, realizing, only a split second too late that your adversary has used one of her displacement spells to switch places with a twelve-year-old girl; that brakes even the best of us.
Wow, I guess I sort of started near the ending there. Let’s back up a bit and let me give you the back story. My name is Sabia. I am a completely normal, average sixteen-year-old girl, who also happens to be sort of a hero in my village. Or at least I was. My entire life I have been training to protect the people of my home, with my sword. Most days that is an easy task, as we don’t get attacked often; but some days I have to fend off evil doers. Mostly the servants of evil that come here are spellcasters and enchanters from the dark woods around out village. Most of them give up and retreat, as soon as one of their attacks are deflected by my sword or blessed amulets. Only a few try their luck and engage in close combat, and so far, none have had any luck with that. My sword skills are refined and although I am no true magician, I know enough chants to keep most regular magic at bay, inside the village perimeter.
Only a single enemy has ever proven to match my skills. A girl about my own age. Beautiful, smooth skin; long black hair, well dressed and with dark blue eyes, like the ocean at night. When she walks, it looks like she is floating on air, and when she fights, her speed, precision and strength is almost god-like. Oh, and her magic is strong. I can feel it whenever she is near, like electricity in the air. She casts the most wicked spells and uses any trick she can think of. She has, on more than one occasion, covered the entire village in complete darkness before attacking me, forcing us to fight with zero visibility, which is quite difficult. So far, I have held her off, by luck, as much as by skill. Until today.
She cast a new trick at me, early this morning. A dream. I was sitting in the grass, enjoying the sun, when suddenly I couldn’t move, and everything got cold around me. Then she appeared, out of nowhere. She was standing right in front of me, staring at me with her dark eyes, when she spoke without moving her mouth.
“How does one make a villain? You take a hero and add tragedy”.
Then I woke up. I remember the dream now, vividly, but I didn’t then. I knew I had a nightmare but had no idea what it was, so I went on with my day.
It was mid afternoon when I felt the electricity in the air. I knew she was coming and drew my sword just in time to block hers. She attacked out of nowhere. We fought back and forth for hours. My speed only just matching hers and her filthy teleportation tricks giving her the edge the entire time. I was getting tired, but determination kept me going. I was starting to feel more and more inclined to just kill her, rather than scare her off. Murder is a sin that takes years to wash off you soul. A sacrifice I was willing to make, to rid out peaceful village of this evil. So, I started looking for an opening. Any mistake on her part would do, but she didn’t seem to make any. Until she did.
A perfectly sloppy attack, leaving her abdomen completely exposed and no way for her to protect it in time. I took it and thrust my sword towards her with all my power. In the second the tip of my sword touched her clothes, she was gone, and the schoolgirl; an innocent bystander; had taken her place. I couldn’t stop. The power was too grate, and my reaction too slow. When everything was finally still, my face only an inch from the innocent girls, I could feel her warm, sticky blood running over my hands, clinging the sword. The little girl knew what had happen as fast as I did. Her eyes wide with fear and sadness, knowing she was already dead. I couldn’t move a muscle. Frozen in the horror of what I had just done, when I felt a presence right by my face. And then the ice-cold voice that I now remembered from my dream.
“Oh, no. What a tragedy. I guess we are on the same side now”.
The cold disappeared. The air no longer electrified. The dying girl in front of me fell to her knees, with a small whimper. My sword still lodged in her tiny body. I felt the people around us. All their eyes fixed on the girl and on my sword. The sword they had all come to love and trust as their protector. Now stained with innocent blood.
I looked down on my hands, covered in the red sticky liquid. I looked at the girl, now laying on the ground, motionless, with her eyes still open. I looked at my sword, only the hilt sticking out from her flowery dress.
Killing a servant of the dark forest, an enemy of the village, that is a sin that can be forgiven over years. But murdering one of the village children will never be forgiven. I turned to the people around us. They were staring at me now. All of them. In their eyes I saw disbelief, sorrow, hate and mistrust.
“I’m sorry. It was an accident. You know I didn’t mean to…”
As I took a small step towards them, they all collectively backed away. Like I was a sick animal or a dangerous monster. So, I ran. Home, to where no one can judge me.
Here I am now. Home in my bed, trying hard not to fall asleep. Trying to figure out what to do. Fighting off the darkness forcing my eyes to close. For the second time today, I lose a fight. In my sleep I see the little girl again. It is dark around us, and she is crying, looking at me in disbelief. I try to tell her I’m sorry, but I can’t speak. And when I try to move closer to her, she only seems to get further away. Before I know it everything around me melts, into darkness. Then tall dark trees rise out of the ground around me. The girl from the dark forest steps out from the shadows, and starts to slowly walk in a circle, keeping her distance to me. Keeping her eyes fixed on me.
“Welcome to the forest. We have been expecting you”.
Her mouth still not moving when she talks.
“I hope you don’t mind me trading places with that little girl today. I just didn’t feel like dying”.
A strange sensation fills my body. I feel a rage, empowering me, but at the same time a heavy sadness drains me of power, so I can’t move. A feeling of trapping energy inside me and having no way of letting it out. It is a painful experience. A strong urge to move, that at the same time leaves me unable to.
“You have a choice now, Sabia. You can go back to your precious little village and leave your fate to the people there. I’m sure they will soon forgive you. It was only one child you chopped down, right?”.
I see the hint of a smile on her lips. I still can’t speak, so after a short pause she continues.
“Or you can join me. Become a true magician and get the powers I have. All you have to do, is swear your soul over to the Dark Forest and you can have anything you wish for”.
I wish I had my sword so I could put it through this manipulating witch. Then I realize I have my sword at my side, as I have had every day for as long as I remember. I manage to put my hand on the hilt, feeling the cold, familiar leather wrapping again my palm.
“Oh, I see your rage. It is good. Let it fill you. Let it guide you. Let the forest grant you your wishes”.
She is standing right in front of me now. I feel the electricity in the air again. Not as a bad omen now, but as a power, flowing through my body. She is right. I have to make a choice now. So, I choose. I let the forest have my soul and life. I give myself completely, with only a few wishes. I wish that the forest will put all its darkness in me. I wish that all evil power shall live in my body. I wish to hold all the powers in my chest. And I wish that I could go back and change what happened in the village.
I am back in the village. It is afternoon again. I deflect a perfectly sloppy attack, that leaves her abdomen completely exposed and gives her no way to protect it in time. Just like before.
I have an urge to thrust my sword into her with all my power, but I don’t. Instead I hesitate. Leaving my own back exposed, knowing what is to come. Feeling so prepared and yet the pain of her sword drilling through my back and out my chest is excruciating. I look down at the bloody sword sticking out of my body as I feel all the powers inside me die. I look up at all the bystanders, watching in shock, when I lock eyes with a young girl. Only twelve years old. Her eyes wide, not with fear, but with pride. Pride in me. I give a small smile as her flowery dress moves playfully in the wind.
Then only light remains.