Side Story Three
Two Years Ago
Esen Peak Two
“A training exercise?” Karen rose to her feet and glared at the girl angrily. “Do you have any idea how many people you’ve killed here?”
“No,” the girl said cheerfully. “And I don’t especially care. Gerian-mirian says they’re our enemies and that if we came here and made a big mess, you’d come so we could get the measure of you.” As she spoke a sword appeared in her hand. She leapt from her perch and dove at Karen in a cloud of sparkling ice.
Karen gasped and flung up her shield. The girl bounced off it, but she seemed ready for that and landed on her feet.
“Not bad,” she said. “Let’s see how you handle this!” She placed the tip of her sword against Karen’s shield and began to push.
Karen took a step back. The tip of the sword was still several inches away from her skin but as it pierced her shield, it felt like it was already twisting in her gut. She groaned and fell to her knees. A moment later, the girl gave a startled cry and the pain stopped abruptly. Karen looked up to see Sarah, Jason, Kyle and Sean had all attacked her assailant and forced her to back off. She was standing with her back against one of the walls with her sword in a guard positionÂ and from the way she was bleeding from her forehead, one of their attacks had breached her shield. She must have reinforced it now because their followup attacks were all bouncing off the cloud of ice surrounding her.
“Not fair!” The girl pouted. “Four against one isn’t fair. I’ll make you pay for this.” A sharp shard of ice appeared in her hand and she flung it at Mystral. Karen tried to fling herself between it and the injured sylph but starting from her knees couldn’t get there in time. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see it hit.
“Alison, what are you doing?”
Karen’s eyes snapped back open and she stared at the newcomer in surprise. It was another girl, in the same red scale mail. She was older than the other – about sixteen maybe, though too-short wispy grey hair, pallid skin and dark circles under her eyes made her look older. She was glaring at the other girl – who must be Alison – wearily and holding the icicle she’d thrown. She tapped her foot impatiently. “I’m waiting,” she said as if no one else was there.
“I’m doing what we were ordered to, Julie,” Alison sounded defensive, but her shield didn’t falter even as she switched some of her attention to the other girl.
“Hmm? Let’s see. Our orders were to neutralise a strategically important enemy stronghold and make some noise to attract the warriors’ attention so our mirian could observe them. I do not recall any orders involving massacring civilians who were running away and I definitely recall an order not to engage the warriors until he’d done that.”
“He wanted to get their measure, didn’t he?” Alison said petulantly.
“He didn’t need you to attack them for that. Anyway, we’ve been recalled.” There was a blur and then Julie was standing by Alison with a hand on her arm. “I really am sorry about Alison’s behaviour, warriors. She gets overenthusiastic sometimes,” she said then they both vanished with a pop.
In the silence that followedÂ Karen struggled back to her feet and walked over to where Alban was still weeping silently. “Come on, let’s get to the palace and try to sort out what happened.”