Disclaimer: traumatic shit

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Ksenia was the second placed huntress in the court of Queen Samodiva. She was ranked right after Lele, the High Elf who had been sent in pursuit of the renegade daughter of the weak Elfqueen Ksenia’s queen had righteously overthrown. Ksenia was also a High Elf and coveted Lele’s position. That was why Ksenia had petitioned to lead the raid on these ragged crows, the lofty Vorona corps, based on the plan submitted by the young and ambitious converts that survived Queen Samodiva’s culling of malcontents. There had been little resistance to the new rule, weak Elves followed weak Elfqueens.

Ksenia couldn’t best Lele in single combat to claim her station and their queen had forbidden them from dueling anyway. The court needed to grow to reclaim more land from the humans, their hateful oppression against all Elfkind, and their blasphemy against nature. Ksenia still hoped that Lele would fall during her mission, another raid on the ugly little town south of the court. Maybe Lele’s story of the terrifying ‘Deaf One’ would prove true enough to remove Ksenia’s rival for her. The raid was avoiding the Grandelf’s territory though, so even if the alpine hag was that dangerous, as a supposedly free Elf what reason would she have to intervene on behalf of the lowly, vulgar humans?

Ksenia had no true reason for the hate she’d inherited from her queen. She hadn’t suffered the abuses that Queen Samodiva and Lele had. In truth, she was motivated by resentment. Eighty years on a farm, bought and sold like farm equipment. Rage at the injustice of being denied the freedoms humans enjoyed. At not being allowed to determine her own fate. So she would take their freedom, put them in chains, and use them as was her right. They’d even come to love their bondage in time. Or she would kill them and that would satisfy her greatly as well.

That was the purpose of the two raids occurring this day. Slaves. The court needed humans to grow, the few consorts loyal to Queen Samodiva were not enough for the court to grow, especially with the disgrace of Hendrick, the queen’s formerly favored consort until the fool allowed Vershnyk’s daughter to escape. The queen should have left his throat open to water the forest, but she hadn’t been aware of his failings at the time and after he was healed… The court needed humans.

Ksenia’s mind returned to the coming battle. Her forces were outnumbered but her foes were almost all unruly, short lived children. The humans assumed this land was safe for them to play their soldier games but the land belonged to the Elves. The Dumb Queen’s failure to extend proper authority over them was why she was nourishing the soil and the more worthy Queen Samodiva sat upon her throne. What fool would be so content in her weakness?

She had some promising growth within her court though, now that they were receiving proper guidance. The three young huntresses who proposed this strategy. Originally Ksenia would be subordinate to Lele as they all hit the village together but taking from these ‘cadets’ would give better slaves and send a more potent message. It was a rather good plan, by Ksenia’s estimation.

As she’d already considered, the humans and their slaves outnumbered the Elven forces but with the land on the side of the Elves they could strike hard from ambush and grow up walls of vegetation to isolate the flank from the main body. Strike with precision and massed fire, eliminate the teacher-slaves and crush any children bold enough to try to rally. Slaughter their slave breeds and vanish with their prizes. The three bold, young huntresses had a special mission in their minds. The fugitive was known to be taken as a slave by one of these humans. If she was to live as a slave she should be returned to the cage she flew from. Linza was the leader of these young warriors, with Daireann and Gerd acting as her subordinates. They knew the tramp princess from their childhoods and were confident they could bring her low.

Their goal wasn’t relevant to Ksenia’s, but it provided a tactical opportunity she’d be a fool to pass up.

Everything was prepared, every one of Ksenia’s warriors was in position. They’d grown up the undergrowth tall and thick to provide cover. They set up right at the bend where they’d be able to hit the flank of these marching fools with a partial surround once their trap was sprung. The seeds were already planted and charged with vibrant energy. The growth only waited for the perfect moment, just as the Elves did. It was nearly here. Ksenia made a hand sign, and the message to prepare the first volley was disseminated through the silently waiting ambushers. Readiness spread like a wave through the forest and then the wave bounced back to communicate everything was set.

Ksenia took one more moment to bask in the satisfaction of their, of her, supremacy. She was targetting a teacher-slave who was one of the water turtle breeds. That’s when Ksenia spotted the greatest prize possible in this raid. Neasa was there, right before her. Right at the edge of the flank, right where she could be snatched up and trussed like a bird. Ksenia motioned to Linza and the young Elf’s eyes became wide with recognition. They saw their target. Then their target saw them.

Ksenia hissed as the fugitive Elf turned to shout her warning. She loosed her arrow and all of the other hunting Elves fired their missiles in a ripple that spread from their leader.

“AMBUSH!”

Isaac turned towards the nearest sergeant, Sergeant Skvirtitiyi, for guidance just to see her punctured by five shafts. One in the throat, two in the shoulders, and two shallow penetrations through her shell. The Whoretortle fell to the ground without any semblance of strength and by the time Isaac freed himself of the shock and rushed over to see if he could render aid the sergeant was gone, still as the grave. There’d been five sergeants distributed through the left flank and none of them survived the opening volley. Many of the obvious powerhouse breeds belonging to the cadets were also brought down, though some held onto life enough to be recalled into their pokeballs.

“Isaac, I need to stop this!” Neasa shouted over the explosion of the earth as a wall of brambles rocketed skyward to cut off the panicked cadets attempting to flee to join the main body.

“You can’t stop this you’re only one Elf!”

“This was my plan! I know where they’ll hit us from, they mean to take slaves!”

“Then we’ll all go!”

“No, you can’t fight in the woods like I can, please!”

More arrows, more screams, more death. Cosmina and Symon were on the left flank with him, Vardan and Ostap assigned elsewhere. On the other side of the thorny barrier that was coiling its way around them like a constricting serpent. Symon was not a brave young man, he was as low as he could and his two Ladyba were only high enough off the ground to shield him. Cosmina though, her sense of duty had taken hold and she was shouting into the microphone of her computer. “Left flank under attack, I repeat, left flank under attack. We’re pinned down and becoming surrounded.” Her message was played across every synchronized device.

“Reinforcements inbound left flank. Fortify and hold position.”

Cosmina tore her attention away from the device in her hand. “All ground types, form a berm, we need-” Cosmina’s words were cut off with a wet hrrrk. The shaft of an arrow sprouted from the left side of her neck, angled so that it didn’t hit the spine, maybe missed anything else vital. The young woman’s bright red hair became wet with her crimson blood as she fell, clutching at the missile lodged in her neck.

Isaac ran to her side and bellowed, “NO,” as Marharyta made to tug on the fletching. Neasa darted away, no longer content with seeking permission for her actions. Skirmishers on Ponytaur would be coming at any moment. She had to deny their speed.

The ground shook as the academy forces, desperate for any guidance, followed the mortally imperiled senior cadet’s orders and had any pokegirls among them capable of geomantic manipulation raise a wall to provide them with cover. Isaac shoved the hand of Cosmina’s panicked Domina away. Nerses was deftly intercepting any further arrows with her lashing techniques while Sona had fallen catatonic. Isaac fixed his eyes on Marharyta. “If you pull it out she’ll just bleed more. Put pressure on it.” The Domina whimpered her acknowledgment and pressed against her mistress’ bloody neck with all of her strength. Cosmina was distant, but alive. For now. Maybe not longer. Isaac couldn’t help her, his healing was nowhere near potent enough for a wound like this.

Linza, Daireann and Gerd rode hard. Their mounts were not aware, it was easier to break them as ferals and leave them as such. Better for them to remain beasts than aware and loyal to a man. They selected small, quick steeds to weave between the trees, assisted by their Elvish attunement with the vegetation. Gerd was thrown from the back of her Ponytaur as something grabbed the centaur pokegirl’s forelimb and pulled her to a stop, snapping the leg like a twig as the rest of the horse body flipped over the shoulder for the seized limb.

A heavy arrow sunk into the equine chest of Daireann’s Ponytaur and that rider and steed went down as well. Linza, recognizing she couldn’t execute the plan with only her mounted, pulled her steed to slow and jumped off her back. The Ponytaur bolted and would find her way back to the herd or die in the wilderness between. Another twang of a bowstring and Linza barely dodged the missile aimed straight for her head, her eyes barely catching glimpse of the bright colored fletching as it flew through the space her face had occupied.

“TRAITORS!”

Linza knew the voice, so she shouted back. “COWARD! We didn’t run! We didn’t abandon the court!” The Elf who had sworn herself to Samodiva ducked under another arrow and reflexively fired back at its point of origin. Neasa’s shots were flying faster than Linza could remember when they would shoot targets together. Daireann and Gerd fired at the same location in the woods.

Neasa’s mind was flooded with memories of learning, playing, and hunting with these three but her hatred for Samodiva and any loyal to the treacherous Elfqueen twisted what she remembered into a weapon to turn against them. They’d been her rivals and mentors and she dreamed of besting them back in peaceful times. She had only nine arrows left, she hadn’t had enough time to craft more. If the trio of huntresses hadn’t changed their methods they’d have more than that apiece. She had to draw their fire. The renegade Elf princess said a prayer to their battleground and dashed to new cover. Three more arrows thudded into the trunks of the trees, and then a fourth into the ground. That would have been Daireann, she was the least disciplined and always took an extra, wild shot. She also always paused for a brief moment whenever she missed. Neasa twisted, knocked, drew, and fired and was rewarded with the pained scream of her former friend. It wasn’t a lethal shot, but it tipped the lopsided battle a little more in her favor.

Another arrow flew while Neasa was still committed to the motion of firing. She couldn’t dodge. It took her in the throat and the Elf fell to the ground filled with terror that her end had come. The wound was shallow though, how had it not been fatal? She rolled to her feet and fled deeper into the woods, away from the cadets. She had to keep them away from the rear of the cadets. She had to keep them away from Isaac.

-

“Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.”

Denys Kohut put his bible down and reflected. He was overcome with a sense of apprehension and restlessness and whenever such a mood descended on him he went to the Word of God. Why had he opened to this passage in the book of Job though?

He’d been sheriff long enough to know something was unusual the past few days. Patrols had been entirely too quiet and the youngsters were complaining that there was nothing for them to catch. Something was coming, or something had already moved in and driven off the small fries. He just didn’t know what. Could it be the Martians? No, this was something from the Earth, not the heavenly realms above.

A digitized trumpet revelry sounded, the sheriff’s ringtone of choice for his phone that took emergency dispatches. Already on edge, Denys snatched it up and was all business as he greeted the caller. “Sheriff Kohut.”

“Denys,” the caller was Demyan Medved, a landowner North of town. “Something’s wrong over at the Zelenko place. There were flashes and sounds of fighting but no one’s answering when I call to check up. I sent one of the girls over but she’s late now and-” Demyan swore loudly away from the phone. Denys’ heart started to hammer in his chest and his nostrils flared with every breath as he heard only chaos and panicked shouting before the line went dead.

The last thing he’d heard was a woman or pokegirl’s voice full of terror. “They’re coming from the woods!”

“Tanya!” Denys’ Rapitaur alpha skidded to a halt once inside the room in response to his bellow, “Get everyone kitted out. Send Martha and the kids to Doc’s. I need Klavdiya. You and Rahela wait for me outside.” The Rapitaur snapped her chin down in a single nod before racing out of Denys’ private study. The sheriff’s Chocoboob and OfficerJenny were soon standing before him. Martha had her rifle resting on its sling.

“Denys, what’s wrong? I haven’t seen you this worked up since the Buzzbreast raid at our old home. Why am I taking the children to Doc’s?”

“Something’s been off these past few days and now an unknown force just hit the Medved place after likely taking out Zelenko’s. They’re heading South, whatever they are.”

“Tanya said you have orders for me,” Klavdiya watched him expectantly and her face wasn’t filled with the same defiance as Martha’s. He’d start with the easiest battle first.

“We need intel. I need Tanya with me and you’re the next fastest. Go get your guns,” she used twin submachine guns when police business called for it, “and see what’s happening. But stay safe. I think I heard projectiles hitting the walls and whatever is attacking, there’s enough to swarm an entire homestead under quick. Call in with what you find and then go get Elena.”

“Yes sir!” The Chocoboob sprinted to the part of the building that held the armory.

Denys turned his attention to Martha. “Tanya should have told you to get the kids and go to Doc’s.”

“Denys, I’m your best shooter and you just said whatever we’re up against took out the two biggest farms to the North. The Zelenko’s have a Denmother. You need me.”

“I need our children,” Denys checked his temper and stood to hold Martha close to him, wrapping his arms around her bulging midsection, “all our children, safe. Take them to Doc’s for me, then raise the alarm. Me and the militia can handle this.” Martha’s obstinance melted from the warmth of her man’s arms and she nodded before pulling away and turning towards the bedrooms.

Denys reached under his desk and pulled out a tactical pump action shotgun. Out here where supply lines weren’t always reliable the ease of preparing new shells, as well as the versatility of ammo, made it the frontiersman's weapon of choice. He peeled out of his jacket and grabbed a flak vest from the closet, quickly donning the armor and then putting his heavy leather coat back over top. He left his boots on throughout the entire day but deftly tugged the laces tight.

Denys was the last surviving Kohut directly related to him. His parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins had all been wiped out by a raiding Buzzbreast hive when he was a much younger man, when he was off playing cop in the city. He’d be damned to the fires of Hell before he let the ferals take the new home he built after all these years.

-

Elena’s ears fidgeted as she sat in deep contemplation. She’d been thinking deeply for a while now; trying to determine how she could make good on her word and secure the knowledge necessary for Neasa to call forth a living weapon. Isaac’s apprehension was what had prompted her, a growing unease and perception of vulnerability. She hated not being able to be there with him so she focused her mind on how she could empower those who were. In shifting so much of her cognitive power towards the task, she wasn’t paying attention to any emotional feedback anymore. Not hers, nor Isaac’s.

She pressed the tip of her tongue to the roof of her mouth just behind her front teeth, sucked on the fleshy appendage, and then pulled it free to break the suction and produce her usual click. She had a trespasser on her property. She focused on the stimuli provided by her vegetative sensor grid. It was Klavdiya. The Terrabird was running at a breakneck speed and her shoulder was bloodied. In fact, as Elena focused on the image she could still see a shaft of wood embedded in the first joint of the arm. The shaft of an arrow.

Elena was instantly in motion, first going to her greenhouse to rouse her living weapon and then down the path connecting her home to the road. It didn’t take long for the galloping Terrabird and awaiting Grandelf to meet. “Elena! Elves, raiding the town! Denys and the militia are holding them off but they’ve already taken humans from the farms! They butchered the pokegirls!”

The wind changed abruptly and tiny flakes of snow started to fall as Elena stared with wide eyes for a long moment as her heart started to hammer before she entombed it in her hateful ice. Klavdiya fought not to shrink away from the uncanny hardness in the Grandelf’s face as Elena approached her. When the Grandelf put one hand at the base of the arrow wound and another on the shaft the terrestrial avian pokegirl realized what she intended and she nodded her consent. With a single tug the arrow was pulled free and Elena poured healing magic into the wound to close it. “You’ll want it checked for any pieces after the fighting is done, but now you can shoot. Get back to your man, tell him I’ll save his people and then I’ll hit the raiders from behind. Hold until then.”

“Y-yes.” Klavdiya shivered from the cold and dangerous light in the Grandelf’s eyes. She had never seen Elena like this. She’d never heard the old folks speak of her ever getting like this.

“Good. Go.” Elena pulled her staff up under her buttocks and shot off into the air.

The Grandelf veteran of the revenge war imposed her will on the unruly foliage surrounding her property, the wild plants that only sometimes acknowledged her dominion. It was nothing but plants and Elena only let them grow wild because she cared not how any individual plant fared. Sickness would be overcome or it would end in death. Death fed new life. It was pointless to extend the energy to keep them under her power and care all the time but on this day they would serve. It didn’t take long to discover her targets.

-

“Please, the children, we don’t have their coats, they’re freezi-” One of Samodiva’s Elves escorting the captured humans back to the court cut off the pleading human mother with a light blow to the abdomen with a cludgel. The cattle would stay with the herd or it’d receive another correction.

“Keep walki-” An entire pine trunk twisted in the air and smashed down on the offending Elf. Boughs snapped violently and the tree began its slow death following the Elf’s swift one. The woman who had suffered the abuse of her captor was held in frozen terror and covered in needles and splintered twigs.

Another Elf was seized by the legs, one root coiling around her ankles to her knees, and she was pulled down underground to be crushed by the soil. A third Elf ducked in among the humans and pushed the children around herself to make a wall of sacrificial human flesh. Her skull was split by a fist sized piece of hail.

Four Elves remained and they finally spotted their opponent. She was flying, seated on her staff like a hag riding her broom. The air around her swirled with sleet and she was well outside the range of any of their bows. She was the Deaf One, and the stories they had assured themselves couldn’t be true had in fact woefully understated her power. With no way to retaliate the slavers abandoned their prizes and fled. A curtain of ice washed over them as Elena shot South. They would die of hypothermia if left alone, but that was none of her concern. They’d chosen the short and easy path that ended in a short and easy death.

-

An arrow splintered against the stone wall right behind where Denys’ head had been. He took one quick shallow breath and then stuck his neck out of the exact same spot, aimed as well as he could without taking any real time to, and squeezed the trigger. It wasn’t a hit but the metal slug would convince the feral bitch to keep her head down more than her missile had convinced him. That’s what they were, ferals. It didn’t matter that their breed went into a coma so there was no way the Elves attacking his people could be under the affliction, any pokegirl threatening humans from the wilds was a feral and a feral that couldn’t be captured was to be put down.

The sheriff, his deputies, and the militia fighting alongside him hadn’t been able to hold the gate. These Elves obviously had a plan and they had obviously been preparing for this. That’s why the usual ferals were all missing the past few days. He should have seen this coming. Now they were right in the heart of town, the defenders forced to use the homes and businesses of their flock to shield themselves against the overwhelming numbers. These were way more Elves than the intelligence from the watcher team assigned to the region reported. You could never rely on league intelligence.

The roads were ruined by the hedgerows the Elves grew up as cover. They’d scaled the walls with ivy and saplings. Entire buildings were being torn down in their wake by trees sprouting up through the roofs and out the windows. Nature, directed with murderous intent, was consuming his community.

The only thing allowing the humans and their pokegirls to hold was the league owned buildings. They were built to serve as shelters in emergencies and so they could suffer far more abuse than anything residential or commercial. But it put the fighting dreadfully close to Doc and Denys’ children and while his handful of fighters were disciplined and motivated, while they had the advantage of holding a choke point, the same was true for the Spartan king Leonidas and his men.

A new body holding a new weapon threw itself against the wall Denys was sheltering behind, a familiar body and weapon. An obscenely large rifle and a rather pregnant OfficerJenny pokewoman. “MARTHA! Get back and protect the kids!”

“I AM PROTECTING THE KIDS DENYS!”

Damn it all he couldn’t argue with her. They were only two doors away. So he popped out of cover and fired another round into the advancing Unseelie raiders. Rahela was on the opposite side of the militia’s line and Tanya and Klavdiya were making use of their speed to hit the flanks of the invaders with automatic gunfire and fiery pokegirl techniques. Denys heard the thundering of his alpha’s hooves and readied for the break in incoming fire as the Elves were forced down by the Rapitaur and Chocoboob.

A tree limb exploded through the mortar holding together the block wall and nearly took off his head. The sheriff fell away backwards and then scrambled back to his feet when an arrow took him in the thigh and forced him back to the ground. He could see the knife eared whore with her bow drawn and his death in her eyes. She let the arrow fly and Denys didn’t have the strength to throw himself out of the way. He steadied his soul and prepared to meet his Lord.

Martha threw him out of the way and the arrow took her in the gut instead. Blood seeped through the front of her maternity blouse instantly and completely. Denys reacted without thought to recall her as one of the other fighting men dragged Denys back behind cover. The sheriff’s will to fight was broken, his mind wasn’t processing anything as the other human shoved him back away from the fighting and towards the medics at the pokecenter. He was overwhelmed with a sense of defeat and hopelessness when he saw the cloud rolling in.

It was a dark and vengeful cloud of a winter storm and it fell on the raiding Elves like a sledgehammer. Denys Kohut couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing but on some level he knew; Elena had arrived. The flow of battle changed instantly and the militia was able to advance on the routed attackers, so Denys let himself be ushered into the pokecenter to receive healing.

When Martha was released from the healing cycle it was immediately obvious. What had once been a living and growing thing had just been a mass of foreign, dead matter to the machine. “Denys…” She looked at him with hysteria building in her eyes. “Denys the baby. Denys I’m so sorry the baby, the baby Denys oh my God I’m so sorry-”

He pulled her into his arms and buried her face into her scalp so that the men wouldn’t see his tears. “No, Martha no. It’s not your fault… No…” He just kept saying it over and over hoping she could accept it as truth.

They were still in the grip of their raw, agonized mourning when Elena made her way to the pokecenter. The Grandelf’s work was done and now there was only the matter of surveying the carnage. She fought against the contagious grief emanating from the sheriff and his pokewoman and as she combated her emotions she finally picked up on those from across the delta bond. She cursed herself for coming to the aid of these humans now.

Isaac was in mortal peril.

-

Neasa’s breathing was ragged, the muscles in her diaphragm were becoming exhausted. She had to keep breathing, had to keep fighting. She was out of arrows and reduced to answering the shots from her enemies, her former friends, with razor leaf attacks. The heavier bow she’d been given by Ivka had given her an advantage in range but now that table had been turned on her. Fortunately Daireann couldn’t shoot anymore.

When Neasa’s mother reigned, she and her chief magus, Golloriell were the two best healers. Samodiva had slain Queen Vershnyk and… removed… Golloriell as well, leaving the usurping Elfqueen as the only member of the court that could use healing magic. It was part of her methodology for controlling them. It meant that the best the injured Elf huntress could do for the arrow to her shoulder, though, was crush a great grape over the wound. This hadn’t restored Daireann’s mobility and strength enough to use her bow, so she was providing her arrows to Linza and Gerd.

There hadn’t been a new shot for quite a while though. That was why Neasa was cautiously creeping through the undergrowth while trying to pull in as much air to provide relief to her burning muscles. She couldn’t tell what the tactical situation was with the cadets fighting against the other raiders beyond nothing had concluded. The fighting was still happening. She could still occasionally hear the unnatural machine noises of Oleksandra’s energy weapons so based on that she assumed Isaac was still alive. She was trying to think how this plan, this horrible plan she helped devise, would play out without the cavalry breaking the rear line of the cadets. She didn’t have very much time to consider.

The forest was apparently on Neasa’s side. Linza’s footstep was betrayed by the rustle of a low lying shrub. A scrape against a branch gave away Gerd and with how they were positioned the exiled princess quickly guessed and confirmed that Daireann was approaching from a third position to get Neasa in a surround. They were advancing with thorn cutlasses in hand, their quivers and bows discarded. They knew where she was though, there was no mistaking their approach.

Neasa drew herself up to her full unimpressive height and took one last deep, steadying breath. Her enemies weren’t hiding their exhaustion. She’d have the psychological advantage if she could mask hers. She beseeched the forest for a weapon and the grass under her feet responded by growing a pillar of vegetation from the Lance technique. She’d been learning staff fighting from Ivka, the Amazon suggested Neasa adopt the fending weapon to overcome her small reach. Neasa would still form a dagger if things got close, but that would be a very desperate time. She kicked the base of the bamboo-like shoot and it broke off from its roots. Neasa flourished the springy green staff and then took a ready stance.

She tried to back out of the surround but the trio of Elves facing her were coordinated and held the formation as they closed. They hesitated just outside of her striking range. Neasa focused on Linza. She was always the leader, always the strongest. It meant that Gerd and Daireann were both behind her, but she could hear if they moved for an attack better if they were only slightly behind her and to her sides than if she faced two of them and exposed her back. Neasa’s eyes bored into Linza. “You don’t need to do this. You don’t need to serve her.”

“We have no choice. We swore an oath. You think we want to get strung up on the Dumb Queen’s trinket tree?” Neasa’s heart was gripped with fury. How dare she use that name for her mother? How dare she remind her of that horrible image, that evil, perpetual image Samodiva created to cow her mother’s people? Leaves trembled along with Neasa’s grip as her anger permeated the foliage around them. The rage burned away the exhaustion like a summer wildfire. More shoots from the Lance technique burst from the ground, cutting off Gerd and Daireann as Neasa lunged for the Elf who was once the subject of her childish admiration.

Linza smirked, knowing that no matter what, the spoiled little princess’ temper would always give way.

-

The cone of flames washed over the charging Elf. She was stupid to try to come over the berm. Jin watched with fascination as the fires consumed the plant type. They started with the skin, it dried and blackened and peeled and cracked to lift away. In some places it bubbled. Then the proteins in the flesh denatured and the fats melted before combusting. It reminded her a little of a lit candle wick or a gas range on a stove. Definitely more like a candle because of the melting and dripping. Then the smell and the… well Jin supposed it was a scream, hit her and Jin fired a Mystic Bolt into the Elf’s head as the Witch was overcome with instinctive revulsion. She wouldn’t want to be left to die like that.

Isaac hadn’t seen Jin’s episode of murderous pyromania. Well he did but to him, now, in his current state of mind it was just one enemy dealt with, who cared about the methods. Oleksandra was holding an entire quadrant of the field of battle without much oversight, the Battle template tri-barrels mowing down any Elf foolish enough to break cover. That reduced the area his attention was needed. The arrows were flying much less frequently. The attacking Unseelie were starting to conserve. Were they going to hold out? He had to keep paying attention. Why weren’t they retreating? Why were they even attacking? Where were they going to try to hit next?

He couldn’t understand how he was doing this. How he was seeing so much of the battle. He knew where all the cadets were, he knew where the assailing Elves were. He knew where Neasa had charged off to and he knew she needed to in order to prevent a game winning maneuver from their foes. He knew where the rest of the academy forces were trying to break through the hedgerow of brambles that the Elves were continually growing up to cut the left flank off. Everything he saw, everything he heard, everything he felt was pouring into his consciousness and processed into the entire field of battle in his mind’s eye. It wasn’t all of the details, he didn’t see the spilled blood or the despair and rage. He didn’t see the desperation that was gripping his fellow cadets. He only saw low resolution representations of them, fighting. Losing. So he called out what he saw into his pokedex radio and hoped his desperate allies, the beleaguered cadets and their pokegirls, would react.

Something touched his mind through one of the delta bonds and then he felt the other end of the delta bond instantly relocate to much closer to his position. She was racing through the air towards him.

‘Sixty seconds Isaac!’ The telepathic message was colored by fear, but the fear was a bold and bright scribble on top of an entire canvas primed by a thirst for blood.

Jin yelped and jumped away as the corpse of the Elf she had slain exploded into a mess of roots and branches. The pine shrubs dug into the berm and started to pull the earthen barricade down. Jin tried to destroy the plants with her Burning Palms spell but healthy, green plants were much more difficult to burn than one might expect and the species of pine was one that dropped its seeds when burned. The animated foliage continued its sapping efforts in spite of the flames.

Because of his frame, Isaac could really bellow when his subconsciousness recognized the need. “JIN! WARD LEKSYA!” Jin left the shrub to its dismantling and the Witch layered every protective enchantment she knew on the Battle Battle Angel.

“Leksya, help’s on its way but they’re massing up to try to break us. I need you to hold the line. Suppressing fire on the entire field, now!”

“Neasa is on the field, she may be-”

“Just do it! Neasa is deep in the woods to the left, there!”

A strange little orb of the glossy material that protected the Battle Angel’s face appeared on the tip of Oleksandra’s left ear and a toneless, mechanical voice emanated from the Battle template’s armor. “I have her commander, Heavy Arms deploying.”

Oleksandra’s two heavier weapons retreated into her body and her tri-barrels ballooned out to triple in size. Two more identical weapon systems sprouted from over her shoulders. She lifted off on her anti-gravity systems and arrows broke on Jin’s ward or glanced off the Battle Angel’s armor. The four plasma gatling cannons roared for ten full seconds until all twelve barrels glowed cherry red. The plasma charged techniques tore up the ground and chewed through all of the natural landscape between the line of trees and the berm. For the briefest moment all sounds of fighting died as Oleksandra fell to the ground. Isaac suffered burns on his arm trying to check on his tech pokegirl when he accidentally touched the armor protecting one of her ears. She’d bought them enough time though.

-

Ksenia cursed to herself. This was supposed to be a smash and grab with the three young Elves on Ponytaur-back breaking the rear of the cadets with their shock assault. They’d volunteered and Ksenia didn’t feel it prudent to inform them their strategy was likely suicide. Someone had to be the first to charge, why not let the young and deluded throw their lives away in the pursuit of glory?

Now it was descending into a quagmire of two entrenched forces. The Elves had the element of surprise. The Elves had greater discipline. The Elves had greater range but that had been partially denied to them because of that red haired slut calling for the wall of dirt. Ksenia wished she’d have had a better opening to ensure her arrow landed true. It was her role to eliminate any uppity cadets who thought they could rally their comrades. The leader would contend with the leader. Who was leading them now though? Someone had to be directing them, these children were not as panicked and desperate as they should be. And that rabbit thing was an unholy, unnatural abomination.

There was a crushing gust of wind and a thunderous thud that shook even the legs of the nimble raiding Elves. It felt like something had landed in the center of them but there hadn’t been anything. No sight, no sound, not even a scent in the air of something passing. Samodiva’s second High Elf huntress captain pulled a rookie back onto her feet. She was considering if it was possible the attack had come from a pokegirl digging under the ground when the barrier between reality and nightmare opened its mouth in a wide yawn, taller and wider than she could keep in the field of her view from this close.

As Astoreth roared her old warcry she poured ghostly energy through her throat to activate the multitude of fear-inducing sonic pokegirl techniques she had mastered. Simultaneously. The layers of her voice inverted, each syllable was chased by a chorus of screams caught on the wind. It was a dead language as far as she knew, but it was the one her batch had been programmed to scream in when charging into battle. That first battle, there had been thousands of her sisters screaming with her. There had been hundreds the second.

“DEMI INA NEFISI!” She was showered in blood as she threw the bisected halves of the former High Elf hunt leader to the sides, her hands armed in massive, terrifying black metal articulated claws. “KE’INEH GARI WEDE SI’ OLI NA!” The two pieces of the carcass were pulled into the Doorway to the Abyss technique she had unleashed at the same time she dropped out of invisibility and struck physically. One Elf who had the presence of mind to fire an arrow was rewarded for her exceptionalism with the sight of it passing through the infernal’s Phased body as if the missile had never existed. Then chains burning with infernal energy snaked around her body and pulled her onto the extended claws of Astoreth with a mighty jerk from her opposite hand.

The treeline obstructed the view and broke apart the waves of sound so none of the firsthand terror reached the cadets in a discernible way. Many still nearly broke from the pure horror they saw gripping Samodiva's Elves as they routed, scattering in every direction. Some were completely heedless of their lesser foes or what attacks were still directed at them. Only those that fled back straight towards Samodiva’s territory avoided being run down and captured by the academy sergeants who were outside the initial killzone of the ambush.

(-[|]-) End 11.1 (-[|]-)


‘demi ina nefisi!’ (ደም እና ነፍስ!) “Blood and Soul!” Amharic
‘ke’inē gari wede sī’oli na’ (ከእኔ ጋር ወደ ሲኦል ና) “Come to Hell with me!” Amharic