The Call - Part Two
"Rally the troops," Brand said. "It's time to take out Zadara once and for all."
Borodan disagreed immediately. It was the first and last time he would ever challenge Brand's orders, but if Chrava was to live and find her place in this group, she needed a little more time before they discovered her true identity. "I think this rescue would be better with just you and me," Borodan said.
"We're not ready to launch a full attack on Zadara. Two of us can get in and get Chrava to safety easier and quieter."
Eventually Brand would become suspicious, assuming he hadn't already. Borodan's belief in Chrava was a bit startling. But he pressed forward. All the stories of Zadara and Chrava's past reached him long ago and he saw the potential for greatness that lay within Chrava's young, inexperienced heart. She was misguided and hurt, yes, but hope still echoed deep within her. It had to.
"All right," Brand said. "Do you have a plan?"
Zadara stood on the bed, her feet sinking into the mattress as if she were standing in mud. Across the room, pinned against the wall, the traitor Chrava watched her with a horrified expression of guilt. She was scared and had every right to be. By the time Zadara finished with her, little Chrava would be nothing more than a pile of bones.
"I asked you a question," Zadara said quietly. "This will be much easier on you if you cooperate."
"I was kidnapped!"
"Soldier boys? Yes. I'm sure you know I wasn't referring to them. Everyone knows what the Wielder did. So the question still remains, my dear. Where have you been?"
Would she be stupid enough to say she was collaborating with the Wielder? Zadara sincerely hoped so.
"Just let me go. Please, Zadara. I've done nothing to you."
Narrowing her eyes, Zadara shoved the barrier pinning Chrava to the wall. To Zadara's amusement, Chrava's eyes bulged as the pressure built, pushing the air out of her lungs.
"Don't nothing to me? You lie, little girl. What do call that?" Zadara motioned to the crumbled remains of the box she'd crushed. "Do you think so little of me that you don't expect me to know what that was?"
"It wasn't for you."
"Wasn't for me? Wasn't for me!" Zadara jumped off the bed and took several lunging steps toward Chrava. "You're little box of magic was for me. Just because it wouldn't be used against me doesn't mean it wouldn't affect it."
"I was embarrassed. Nobody feared me anymore. I was a joke. What would you have me do? Become a joke? They had to learn that I was no joke. They had to fear me again."
"They never feared you. They your association with me. That's all."
"Please. It's hard to breathe."
Lessening the pressure was no problem. But Zadara wasn't finished. With a flick of her wrist, she watched fascinated as Chrava's left foot twisted completely around. Snapping bones accompanied the pitiful howl of pain that retched from Chrava's lips.
"Where have you been?" Zadara asked again.
"I loved you." Chrava's words were struggling to get out. Zadara had to admire the fortitude Chrava showed.
"So? Is that supposed to make me melt? Perhaps I'll let you go? Hmm?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because you betrayed me with the Wielder!" Zadara sighed. So much for making Chrava say it. "Does he even know you killed his lover? Maybe I'll tell him."
"Thought so. Even when you try to be good you can't. That's always been your problem, Chrava. Can't be evil without me harping at you to do something as simple as kill the Wielder's lover; can't be good without lying to the people you want to trust you. I often wonder why I bothered with you."
"You loved me. I know you did."
"Love is not in my vocabulary. You truly are dense, aren't you?"
"Wake up, little girl!" Zadara turned her back to Chrava. Loved her. Ha!
"Why'd you take me in after my parents died, then? Why'd you train me and help me to realize my full potential if you didn't care? You--"
A screech ripped through the room. Zadara peered out the window as an eagle of pure gold flew by on its way to who knows where. Something about that eagle bothered her, but it was a brief glimpse of unease and then gone. She turned back to Chrava.
"You what?" Zadara said.
"Yes, me me. Are your eyes open yet? Could it be? Little Chrava has finally discovered the truth?"
"You--all these years."
"Adara was a good target for your anger. When you said her mission caused the death of your parents, well, you weren't wrong. You just weren't completely right, either. They poured their life into fighting for Adara. They sacrificed everything in order to help Adara regain control over this city and where'd it get them? Dead. And what about you? They put you in Adara's care. You know you were just headed down the same road. And look! You're about to join them."
"I loved you--"
"Love doesn't exist, little girl. You admire me. You just didn't know why. I did you a favor. This is how you repay that favor? Aligning yourself with the Wielder and his companions in their mission to destroy all that I've created?"
"You killed them. You killed them and made me think it was because of Adara but it was you all along."
"Yes, dear. I killed them. They begged for mercy. They pleaded for their lives with such pathetic weakness it was sickening. In the end, I saw their true feelings. They didn't want to die for Adara. They would have done anything to live. Probably even worked for me."
"Why? How could you?"
"Why? Why did I do it? That's easy. I needed you. I needed your power. It would probably please you to know that you made the right choice. Had you stayed with Adara, well, I would have killed you to prevent your power from being used against me."
"I hate you," Chrava whispered.
"Again, I ask, so?"
"You're going to die. The Wielder will end your life."
"Perhaps. Not if I can help it, of course, but I'll give you that. You know what? No, he won't kill me. He'll be too busy killing you that he won't see me striking the fatal blow that will end his life. Quick thrust into his back and it's over. I win."
The conversation between Chrava and Zadara passed through the open door into the hall where Borodan stood pressed against the wall. Down the short hall, Brand stood just around the corner, waiting for word to go. The plan wasn't to attack Zadara just yet. Right now they wanted Chrava. In and out as quick as possible with, hopefully, no casualties sounded easier than it would be.
Reaching out with his mind, Borodan called to the eagle again. Calmness stood at the door of the creature's mind, a willingness to give its life for Borodan. The calmness washed over Borodan, opening his mind to a window in the past. The bear that lost his life because of Borodan's carelessness spoke to Borodan from the depths of the dead, telling him it was all right. The eagle was serving its purpose that bear said. The eagle would understand. Borodan only hoped he would.
In Borodan's mind's eye, he saw the eagle come around and dive toward the open window. Zadara loomed ever closer, her back facing the window. Then the cry blasted through the air, echoing in Borodan's mind as he hear it both from his connection with the eagle and through the door of the room.
"What the--!" Zadara cried out.
Borodan went into action. He spun through to the door in time to see the golden eagle slam into Zadara's face as she spun around to meet the cry. Flapping wings beat wildly at the confused goddess causing her to lose her hold on Chrava. The girl slumped to the ground, her face stretched in a new pain as her foot buckled under her weight. Borodan grabbed Chrava under the arms and pulled her out of the room.
"Go!" Borodan shouted, the signal for Brand to take off down the hall and keep the path clear.
Outside the door, Borodan scoped up Chrava. Shrieks of surprise and cries of battle erupted from Zadara and the eagle, but the battle was quick. A flash of light blasted the eagle, vaporizing it in an instant.
Time grew short. Borodan ran down the hall with Chrava in his arms, never daring to look back. For he knew what was following them: A very pissed off goddess.
"Stop!" Zadara yelled.
By now, Brand would be nearing the entrance. Borodan kicked it up a notch, unable to help jostling the girl in his arms.
"She's catching up," Chrava said. "Hurry--oh no."
White-hot pain ripped through the muscles in Borodan's back. A flood of blood soaked his legs completely in seconds but determination kept him moving for the stairs.
"I give you my life, Chrava," Borodan said. "Use it well."
Before Chrava could respond, Borodan ran past the stairs and unceremoniously tossed the wounded girl through the window. Glass exploded and rained down on the street below but Borodan didn't have time to consider the results of his actions. He spun around in time to meet a fireball of pain as Zadara ran into his, her hand slamming through his chest. As he fell to his knees, the world faded away. His last glimpse of life was of Zadara holding his heart and swearing at the shattered window.
Being three stories up didn't do much for Chrava's peace of mind when Borodan threw her through the window. Shards of glass shredded her skin without mercy, but that was the least of her problems. The plummet to death took precedence.
I give you my life.
It didn't make sense. Why would Borodan say that, then toss her out the window to her certain death? The answer came about five feet before she hit the ground. Strong arms seemingly from the heavens broke her fall and carried her away from Zadara's fortress at a blistering speed. As she struggled for breath, her eyes looked up at her savior and melted at the sight she beheld.
I give you my life. Use it well.
The world went out of focus as Brand blasted through several alleys. Moments later, the pain became too much. Chrava passed out.To be continued...