The Fall of the Archer

“Unit 4, left flank, Units 1,2, and 3 on me. Lock your shields and brace yourselves. They’ll have spears.” A raucous of metal colliding with metal followed as the shields slid into place. I stepped back, inspecting The Resistance. We were a slightly makeshift army, but our numbers were great. We stood a chance.

I turned and quickly drew my sword as three cloaked figures seemed to appear out of thin air. My face must have been priceless, because the middle figure doubled over laughing uncontrollably. I quickly composed my features into an emotionless mask, annoyed at myself for the slip-up.

“That wasn’t funny Liz, I could have run you through!” I scolded, immediately recognizing my sister by her ‘unique’ laugh and the strands of red hair that were now sticking out of her hood.

“It was worth it for the look on your face,” she replied, removing the dark cloth from her head. “Where do you want us?” She said regaining her composure.

“Wherever they least expect it. Start behind them, it’ll split their forces.” She nodded, “From there, I trust you can improvise?” she nodded again.

“You got it, Sis” she said and before I could say anything, she pulled me into a tight hug.

“Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“ I will, you too.”

“Don’t you dare die.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” With that, she pulled away, gave me a quick smile and sprinted off, the other figures close behind. The Resistance stood quietly, speaking to each other in low murmurs.

A few minutes later a boy of 10 or 11 years came running up the side of the hill.

“The e-enemy approaches ma’am,” he said stumbling up to the front lines and offering an exhausted salute.

“How far?” I asked,

“ Not far, p-perhaps a mile away.”

“Thank you. Stay behind our line and rest, you’ll be safe there.” He nodded appreciatively and disappeared around the mass of soldiers.

The waiting was the worst part. My heart was pumping so fast, I thought I’d die of a heart attack before any of the fighting actually started. I glanced around, seeing clenched jaws, sweaty hands, and nervous tapping, and knowing that all of these soldiers were experiencing the same rush of adrenaline. We watched as the enemy approached, each step bringing them closer and closer.

Finally,  when the two armies were 100 feet apart, the rhythmic march came to a stop. All was silent for several seconds, until…

“ATTACK!”

“4TH, MOVE OUT!” I shouted, “ONE, TWO, AND THREE ON ME. ADVANCE!”

The two groups surged together, spears aiming to penetrate.

Duck, left, jab, right, twist, kick.” the sequences ran through my head arranging and rearranging the order to fit what I needed. I fought like I had never fought before, killing swiftly and moving onto  the the next opponent. I watched as friend and foe alike fell screaming in agony or silently for their soul had already left their body.

A volley of black arrows rose from behind the lines of the enemy, each arrow hitting its mark. Nearly twenty enemy soldiers fell to ground lifeless or severely wounded. A wicked smile stretched across my face as I caught sight of two dozen cloaked figures.

Suddenly, a thick hand grabbed my throat, it’s grip tightening as I fought to breathe.

“You aren’t so untouchable, now are ya?” A low voice rumbled, I looked up searching for a face, but my assailant kept out of my line of sight. “The general will be very pleased if I were the one to kill the leader of The Resistance.” My eyes bulged, my hands clawing weakly at his grip. My vision darkened, rendering the battle a hazy mass of colors. Then, his grip went slack. I stumbled forward, surprised by the sudden release. A mountain of a man lay in the dust behind me, an arrow protruding from the front of his armor. Confused, I glanced around catching a dark cloak and red streaks darting between duels accompanied by a constant thrum of a bow.

“Liz…” I wheezed, struggling to regain my breath. She paused in her attack and grinned, but her expression darkened almost immediately as her gaze fixed on something out of my line of sight. I twisted, searching for what caused her dismay.

I didn’t have much time to look because a black…something… collided with me, forcing me to the ground. Surprised, I quickly retrieved my fallen weapon and climbed to me feet, aiming towards the person that had attacked.

The assailant was not an enemy, in fact he was not an assailant at all. At my feet, lay my sister, a silver dagger lodged in her chest. A few meters away, the owner of the knife fell, his face frozen in a look of surprise as a black arrow sprouted in his armor. I froze, my brain unable to process what had just happened.

My mind still numb, I leaned down over Liz and felt for a pulse. It was there…just barely. Without thinking, I picked her up, careful not to irritate the wound further. Her eyes were cloudy, lacking the life and joy with which they had once been filled.

“Kate…stop.” Liz croaked, her voice a harsh whisper, “Put me down. You’ll die if you carry me.”

“No, shut-up. I’m going to get you out of here.” She was silent for a few minutes. I trudged on, over the corpses, my steps kicking up dust.

“You know I love you, right?” her voice came again over the roar of the battle, weaker this time.

“Yes.”

She fell silent again.

Inside my emotions raged. Why did she take that knife? If she dies, I’m going to kill her.

As if sensing my thoughts, Liz said, “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, if you died.”

“Do you think I’ll be able to?”

“You were always stronger than me.” She let out a pained laugh. “Either way, there’s nothing you can do about it now.”

“What do you mean? Of course I can.” my voice breaking.

“Kate, you can’t fix everything” She grimaced as I set her down. “Promise me you won’t blame yourself for this.”

“Why would I need to? You’re not going anywhere.” I refused to believe anything else.

“I’ll say hello to Mom and Dad for you.” A ghost of her old mischievous smile flitted across her face, her breaths escaping in small gasps.

“No, Liz, don’t you dare….you promised.” Tears streamed freely down my cheeks dripping onto her blood soaked shirt.

“I’m sorry.” Her chest rose shakily and fell. Her head lolled back, resting in the crook of my arm, her eyes wide open, staring emptily at the sky.

“NO!” The scream tore my throat. I pulled her head into my chest, rocking back and forth. “You promised…come back…I can’t do this on my own.” I held her lifeless body for what seemed like hours until I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I spun around, my eyes wild and red. A young man garbed in a dark cloak stood in front of me.

“The Resistance needs you.” He said, “Liz would have wanted you to keep fighting.”

“How would you know?” I snapped coldly, wiping my eyes and standing up. Instead turning away, he replied calmly; “It’s what she tells all of the archers. ‘Fight until your last breath, strike when others have fallen, and never give up.'” He looked at me expectantly. I was silent for a short while.

“What’s your name?” I asked abruptly. He looked surprise by my question.

“Uh…Will, sir…I-I mean ma’am.”

“Well Will, it seems Liz has spoken.” I raised my sword, “For Liz?”

“For Liz.”

-L

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