Chapter Eighteen – Fate of the Innocent

Raelin woke from blissful sleep to an agony of pain. At first the pain of her injuries overpowered her, and she could not breathe or move. But after a few moments of lying still, though the pain did not lessen, she was able to force herself to open her eyes.

It had been dark with twilight when the battle ended. Raelin was confused therefore, for she found herself staring into a vast blue sky. A small cloud, moving quickly, passed across her field of vision, and then left. Raelin blinked. The sight remained. Could it possibly be the next day? Had she been knocked out for that long?

Blood leaked from her wounds as Raelin struggled to sit up. She failed, but did manage to prop herself up on one elbow. It was enough to see the pile of bodies about her. It stretched for a sickening distance. So it was real then.

Raelin heard a faint sound, as of gently trickling water. She wondered what it could be, since there was no river nearby. And then she saw that the sound was made by a river: a river of blood, weaving through the desolated army, and passing on to the south.

Two figures rose from the piles of corpses. One gripped a crushed and bent axe. The other held a shattered hammer. Both were blackened, as if they had been at the epicenter of an explosion.

Jandar and Utgar staggered towards each other, and met half way. For nearly a full minute, they stood still, staring at each other. And then Jandar knelt. Raelin saw that his pride was gone. “If you will accept my hammer, Utgar,” he said, “I will surrender to you.”

Utgar looked at the hammer, and then at Jandar. After a moment, he pushed Jandar’s hammer away. “There is no need for surrender. This is not victory, for there can be no victor after such carnage. Let it be known that the war of the wellsprings is at an end. It ended not through defeat, not through victory, but through peace.”

Raelin smiled. Utgar held out his hand, and helped Jandar to his feet. “Let us rebuild this world together,” he said.

Jandar stared at Utgar in disbelief for a moment. But then he put his hands on Utgar’s shoulders. “I would like that,” he said.

“NO!” Not far away, a ruined frame of a kyrie burst from beneath a pile of corpses. The kyrie held a spear in his hands, and raced towards Utgar and Jandar.

“Valkrill!” Utgar commanded. “Stop! The war is at an end!”

“No!” Valkrill screamed, launching himself at the two Valkyrie. “The war cannot end! Revenge is stronger than peace, and always shall be!” he landed in front of Jandar, and thrust his spear at him.

Raelin didn’t think. She wasn’t even aware of moving. She launched herself from the ground, forcing her tattered wings to fly with her one last time. She sailed neatly between Jandar and Valkrill, taking the spear destined for her Valkyrie. The tip cut deep into her chest, and she fell to the ground.

Utgar and Jandar pounced on Valkrill. Raelin never saw what happened to him, however. The only thing she saw was the body she had landed next to. It was Drake’s, his eyes staring into the blue sky, his body horribly cut by Cyprien’s swords. She heard a cry she recognized as Mallidon’s, and turning her head painfully, saw him rushing towards her from Kelda’s broken corpse, her blood on his remaining hand. She felt her own blood pooling beneath her, and knew that she had already lost too much. Blackness threatened to envelop her.

This is enough blood, she thought. Enough blood for my father. Enough pain. More than enough. The blackness closed in, and Raelin left the world of conscious thought. Only one sentence continued to echo in her mind:

Never again… will I seek revenge on another.

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