Metal made interesting sounds; unforgettable sounds.  When it was forged, it rang like a bell – she’d been told, once, that the sound of a metal being forged told the smith all they needed to know about the metal they were working.  Purity, strength, power – it was all in the ringing of the steel on the anvil.  She thought that was a nice idea; it was always wonderful when things sang, or rang, or told their stories through music.

She hated her voice when she sang, now.  So, anything that had a good voice already was good, and more singing would never hurt anything, even if it was swords on anvils and hammers on swords, she supposed.

In a battle, though, metal made other sounds.  It howled, it shrieked, it screamed, it rang.  Sometimes it crunched – through mail or gravel.  Sometimes it skittered, especially when it fell from a hand or was in an arrowhead hitting stone.  You could tell everything about a battle from the sound of the metal in it, and it was a music she knew she understood well.  There was the sound of gyrocopter engines, of the loading of cannons.  You could hear the sound of swords crashing on shields, or armor buckling under strain.  The shouts of fighters could say anything, but the cries of steel couldn’t lie.

Her own blade grumbled at her – shuddering in her hands.  The saronite was sluggish, somehow – angry and discontent and bitter.  She felt it turn in her hands, knew that it was trying, but something was… wrong.  

It hadn’t been the same since Victor’s adventure, and the… explosion.  But she’d felt it was healing, then – it was muttering, but had started the fight easily enough.   But now, something wasn’t quite right.  The runes burned, but flickered and smoked and sparked; the blade’s own whispers had become pained, and – though it still gloried in spilling demon blood, it seemed… distracted.

That was a good word.  Distracted.

She had joined up with a group of Alliance footmen in Westfall, and had been holding the wall for what seemed like hours.  The men around her had cycled twice, between exhaustion and injury, but she stayed with them – holding the line, stepping into the gap when their Sergeant had melted in a blast of fel-fire and the mad giggles of a mage.  When there were not enough men, she raised the dead on her side to fill in the gaps – throwing them into the teeth of demons…

… but they held.  

They held… until the infernal.

She didn’t see it hit – she was fighting a wave of cultists when the shockwave picked her up off of her hooves and flung her /over/ the low wall behind her.  It’s howl was like nothing she’d ever heard – an echoing screech of stone and magic that was deafening from the proximity.  She gathered her wits and stood, slow and uncertain, looking up… and up… and up… at a construct of fel-fire and impossible stone, towering six times her height, the grass burning at the edges of the crater its arrival produced.

The wall must hold.

She grinned, like a lunatic – baring teeth that was more a primal snarl than a smile… and she charged.

The first half-dozen steps were the worst – but she found her stride.  The green fire hit her next, blasting at the grass, at her face; withering her hair, scorching her armor.  Runes flared, and she countered the heat with pure frost, cold that poured forth from her in waves, a localized snowstorm that kept the worst of the demonfire at bay.

A massive rock fist went over her head – she tucked.  Rolled.  Came up running.   It was slow in the way battering rams were slow; deceptively, impossibly strong. It couldn’t matter; the blade in her hand seemed to howl in agony as the felfire touched it through the cold, her storm weakening as the flame pounded at its edge.  

She planted a hoof on its knee, and launched herself up.  There, a handhold that pulled her up on the arm; she rode in the crook of its elbow until it failed to throw her, her hands burning-oh-so-sweet where they touched soul-hot rock.  Then, up again, along the thing’s shoulder – there.  There – where the green glow was brighter, a gap at the back of its head into its body..

… she drove that crying sword deep, and fell.  And fell.  Rocks exploded around her.

She landed hard, without grace.  She heard stone fall.  She saw the flare of green.  

She heard the metal crack.

Something in her wrenched… and the whispers fell silent.  Bits of saronite sparkled like diamonds on burned grass.

The druids and their little roving task force found her; their magic repaired her far faster than her own healing.   When she could walk again, they helped her away from the battlefield, to the gryphons ferrying soldiers on out-cycles, back to the cities where the healers could work on survivors, where fel-taint could be purged and a bit of rest still had, if rest could be had anywhere.   

Author Aunne
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