And we’re back! Did you miss us? Of course you did. That was a silly question. Nothing silly about this story anymore. The battle has begun…
Plex whistled to his Queen, a signal that meant it was a trap and retreat should be strongly considered, not caring that the momentary lapse in his concentration on the battle would give his opponent an opening to exploit. He had to save her and as many of his people as possible. As he whistled, he wondered if Vinyard had known and if that was why the gnome hadn’t wanted him to come. But surely if Vinyard had known then he would have tried harder to talk Plex out of coming to save his sister?
He laughed at himself. Vinyard had told him this would likely turn out poorly. Plex realized that Vinyard let him come because the gnome knew there was nothing he could say that Plex would have listened to. Even if the gnome had said it was a trap that wouldn’t have deterred him. He had set out to save his sister and perhaps there was still a chance to do that.
“What are you smiling about?” The guard hissed as she lashed out with her sword.
“My own foolishness,” Plex replied, dodging the attack. He wanted to search the field for his sister but didn’t dare give his opponent another opening. She hadn’t take advantage of the first one. He doubted she would make that mistake a second time. “All of our foolishness, actually.”
Plex moved left with his feet but swung his sword across from the right in an upward motion. She did not move with him and easily blocked the stroke. Then she shifted her own weighted and brought her sword down towards Plex’s arm. He disengaged and moved back a step, narrowly avoiding injury.
“Why are we all fools?”
The sadness and anger still remained. Plex was sure she knew what he meant but went ahead and said it anyway. If he could throw her off balance mentally it might give him an opening physically. The two were often linked.
“We are all fools for having allowed ourselves to be tricked by Lavalandinarial. She isn’t the strongest. She has just made us think she is.”
“You’re wrong on that.”
She swiped towards his left leg and then brought the swing up sharply towards his ribs. Plex had already been in motion though and easily moved beyond the strike.
“No,” he responded firmly, for he suddenly realized it was true. She wasn’t as strong as she’d made them all believe for so long. “She’s clever, I’ll give her that. But, I withstood her magic today. If I can, others can as well. And we could overthrow her.”
“That’s not possible.”
She faltered. It was hardly more than a hesitation in her movement but Plex’s sharp eyes picked up. He had once again hit upon something, a weakness in her armor. He made as if he was going to spear her with his sword and she moved to block. Plex shifted into a spin and used the momentum to strike her sword near the hilt and then follow through with a flick of his own wrists. The move worked and the sword flew from her hands.
Then, to his surprise, he found himself not following up with an attack of his own. Instead, he stayed his hand and looked at her. “Yes,” he said. “It is possible.”
She appeared like she was on the verge of saying something before her face contorted in anger. A snarl escaped from her lips as she took a menacing step forward. Plex couldn’t believe his eyes. He held a weapon. She was unarmed. Yet, she still advanced on him anyway. Why would she do that?
The answer came to him almost instantly. It was so obvious. Magic. It had to be magic. Somehow, Lavalandinarial was controlling her Honor Guard magically.
Plex stepped backwards in order to avoid her attempt to grapple with him. He couldn’t kill her, he knew. She wasn’t in control of her actions. It wasn’t right to kill someone because they were forced into doing something that they didn’t want to do. Besides, he had an idea. If he was able to snap her out of the hold Lavalandinarial had on her, maybe he could do it for others as well. Having some of the dragon’s Honor Guard leave her side to join his would help their rebellion out tremendously. Not only would they thin the dragon’s numbers, but they’d also gain skilled fighters.
Plex thought back to what had caused the momentary breaks in the dragon’s hold. The most obvious one, and the one most likely to work, was what he said about Lavalandinarial killing one of her family members. “Who was it?” Plex asked. “Who did the dragon kill? Your mother? Your father? A sibling?”
No answer came. There was no outward sign of emotion either. It wasn’t any of the things he mentioned. If it was, he would have been able to tell. Two other options immediately popped into his head. Plex went with the least horrible of the two to start with. “Your husband or lover?”
This time, she hesitated. Plex was thankful for that. While losing a lover was really bad, his next guess, losing a child, was the worst thing he could imagine. Still, this woman had lost, and he needed to break her free from the dragon’s grip. He asked the question again. She pulled her hands back from trying to grab him and held them in front of her face. Her eyes went back and forth over them as if seeing them for the first time.
Plex took that break in his confrontation to view the fighting around him. He was surprised that none of the other Honor Guards had descended upon him yet. His survey of the battlefield told him why. Gilania and a few of her teammates had rallied the rest of their team and were savagely fending them off. The remainder of Lavalandinarial’s forces gathered together to take them on. They must’ve seen the Gilania’s team as a bigger threat than him on his own.
Plex turned his attention back to the female elf, who was still staring at her hands. “The dragon killed your lover, didn’t she?” he asked again.
She continued to stare at her hands and Plex nearly asked a third time. Then with a sudden flick of her eyes she was staring at him, a fire burning behind her pupils. He knew he still had a battle to fight before she spoke.
“You may have been able to stand against my will, puny little elf. My faithful guards can not.”
“We’ll see,” Plex said as casually as he could. He wanted to project confidence but hearing the dragon’s voice coming from the elf he had been fighting was more than a little troubling. He realized almost immediately, though, that the dragon must have stepped forward because she wasn’t certain if her guard would remain faithful or not. Smiling, Plex added, “I stood up to you. Now I know it is possible and those who will follow me will know it too. Soon, you’ll find it harder and harder to force your will upon any of us.”
The dragon laughed, the sound was unnatural and horrifying coming from the elf she had taken over. “I do not think you’d be able to stand against me a second time. Perhaps we will find out once you are captured and brought before me.”
“I think you are going to be disappointed.”
Plex needed to bend the conversation back to the guard’s lost love, to get her to fight against the dragon and regain control of her body. Then he saw that she already was fighting. Her hands were clenching and unclenching as if the dragon were trying to force her to do something, to reengage most likely, and the elven guard was refusing.
Lavalandinarial had begun laughing again. Plex noticed a hint of unease in the vicious snarling guffaws of the beast. She was having to exert more of her will to keep control of the elf she’d taken over. Lowering his sword, Plex leaned forward and in a near whisper urged the elf to defy the will of the dragon.
“Fight her. Banish her from your mind and body. If you can push her out now, and I believe you can, then think what all of us can do if we stand against her together. No more dead fathers and mothers. No more dead brothers and sisters. No more dead lovers.”
The dragon stopped laughing, the sound cutting off in a harsh scream of anger and frustration. Then, from that scream, the elf’s own voice came piercing forward until it was her voice alone screaming.
“Keep to it. Push her out. Fight her off. For your sake. For the sake of the whole world. For your lover and them alone if that’s what matters most. You can do it. Banish that foul worm now and forever!”
The elf’s scream died away, she swayed uneasily on her feet, blinking her eyes and looking like she was going to fall over. Plex steadied her with his free hand and she turned towards him. For a moment the fire was still there and then it was gone and the elf was entirely herself again.
She smiled at Plex. It was a heartbreaking smile of thanks and sadness. Then she said, “He was to be my husband. We had loved each other for many long years but fate had kept us apart. Then, finally, our chance to wed had come upon us. Lavalandinarial made me kill him the night before our wedding to prove my loyalty.”
Her eyes closed and she would have sunken to the ground if not for Plex holding her upright. Her smile faded as she opened her eyes just wide enough to connect with Plex once more. “Flee while you can. She is coming.”