They came with chains and horses, fire and steel. Their horses ran over us, their ululations deafened and frightened and panicked us, and we fled like rabbits before hounds, but where we ran, they galloped.

Where we hid, their arrows descended, and where we made a stand, they cut us down as weeds.

There was nothing to be done for it.

The Protector was not here, and our prayers echoed somewhere up there in the marble halls of his celestial palace, unheard.

What few of us managed to escape could only watch the fires, hear their taunts, witness their butchering of our dead, and cry futile tears of anger as we swallowed our screams and sobs to preserve our own lives.

Save one.

She was off in the woods, alone, before a small fire, invoking the very things we’d accused her of consorting with, mating with. They’d make sacrifices of our livestock, and burned  the unwanted ones born out of covenant, conceived in the darkness of disloyal, unholy lust. Their hellish curse spread like a plague among us, to give The Reaver soldiers for his demonic army.

We’d done all we could to burn her, purge her, cleanse her, and turn her to the Protector.

She only pretended piety, though she pretended well.

I alone saw her sacrificial fire, saw her arms raised with a writhing form in her hands, saw her skin shining, sweaty in the firelight. Dancing as she summoned, her eyes closed, her chanting lips fervently pleading with vile promises of servitude.

I couldn’t turn away.

She fell to her knees, and put her arms into the flames up to her elbows.

The fire flared like a meteor striking the sun. Flames puffed and roiled over her bowed head, consuming what she had but moments ago placed inside of it.

Her arms came back unscathed, as smooth and pale as they’d entered.

One by one, the skins of our enemies sloughed off, and dropped like sacks of muddy sand.

The screams were blood-curdling, and the remnants of our forces laid into the meat of them with renewed fervor, butchering them as they collapsed. They offered no more resistance than spring lambs.

She sensed my eyes, and turned. Her own visage now filled me with revulsion, where before she’d stirred me against my will.

Within my mind, her voice was the raspy whisper of the serpent who’d made an enemy of his creator.

“The heavens are empty now.”

The stars flickered, their power waning, and a sudden downpour of cold rain and ice crystals coated all with a hoary frost, extinguishing the flames of her damnation.

I looked at her again. A solitary tear fell from her eye as she disappeared.

I felt the blade against my chest, closed my eyes before sheathing it into my beating heart, and followed her into the void.

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