Live To Fight On

by mmrrph

Vin had taken first watch, and when he returned to the camp he became aware of Ezra making noises of distress. Vin unsheathed his knife and crept slowly to the gambler´s side, feeling the vibrations around him for any possible threats. He stopped next to the cardsharp and knelt close, breathing the sleeping man´s name.

“Ez? Wake up Ez.” He shook Ezra gently until lids began to flutter and green eyes looked up to meet his. “Ya okay?” he asked, concern evident in his tone. Ezra let his eyes fall and he looked into the fire, watching the warm colors flicker and dance. Vin let out a short sigh, thinking his question wouldn´t be answered when Ezra spoke.

“A strange dream is all, Vin,” he said, his drawl slow and quiet. “I fear I have been the victim of many since this all began.” Vin nodded his understanding - he too had been visited by bizarre images during his slumber that seemed far too real to just be dreams. Some were of a time that seemed long ago, and others were of a time he couldn´t believe had even happened yet.

“Yes, I feel that too.” Ezra´s voice broke Vin´s thoughts, and though the tracker was surprised by the admission, he wasn´t shocked that it seemed Ezra had answered something he´d only thought, not spoken aloud. “I was in a place with unrecognizable machinery, dwarfed under huge buildings reflecting the sun´s light. We were standing on a very hard surface with lines painted on it, waiting for one of the machines to come and retrieve us, like some sort of iron chariot. We were in danger, Vin.” Emerald eyes met blue. “I did not dream long enough to see if we were able to survive.” Vin had taken one of Ezra´s hands without realizing it, and he tightened his grip at the anguish he saw in those green depths.

“Think we did, Ez, at least that time.” He sucked up his courage enough to confess, “Been having the same dreams - ones a long ago, ones like ya jus´ described. Can almost feel it, being there with ya like ya said I was.” He grinned suddenly. “You were awful mad at Bucklin fer driving that iron chariot o´ yours, thinkin´ he´d crash it inta somethin´ and ruin it. Know that much at least.” Ezra smiled faintly.

“Dovan warned me I would suffer such dreams as these. She said she knew I would when I revealed the waking vision I´d had in the saloon that first day.” Vin nodded encouragingly, a slight frown of worry marring his features. “She also told me you could fall prey to them as well,” Ezra´s finger absently brushed across Vin´s furrowed brow. “She explained that your practicing being within would render you vulnerable, and that your ability to do so and your closeness with me would open you to them.” He looked away again then said on a breath, “I am sorry.”

“Nah, don´t be that Ez, I don´t mind.” Vin clucked, turning the pale face back so he could look into the green eyes again. “Figure it might be somethin´ we need ta see, somethin´ that´ll help us when we need it.” He grinned again and gave the gambler a little pinch. “So pay good attention, hear? Can´t have ya forgettin´ and then getting´ hurt cause of it.” Ezra grunted very slightly at the squeeze and batted Vin´s hand, but then captured it to hold.

“I most certainly will, Mr. Tanner. See you do as well,” Vin´s smile softened.

“Promise Ez. I promise.” He made to leave but Ezra didn´t give up his hold. He looked out into the night and then around for a few moments before finally looking back up to the concerned tracker.

“Stay with me, just a little while?” Vin nodded his assent and tucked the blankets around Ezra´s shoulders, changing his position so he could lean against Ezra´s saddle that was next to the bedroll. Dawn woke before they did and found them as they had been; Vin sleeping against the saddle, Ezra snuggled in his bedroll facing the tracker, their hands entwined.

Chris looked at them and smiled, glad they had been able to get some rest before the coming battle they were facing today. He stood in silent contemplation, his mind running over all the details Dovan had told them of these last few days. The dark creatures they would encounter and how they could be killed, and also how the demons themselves could harm the men in different ways. The different beasts would all have specific duties, the orcs as the infantry, the first wave, and on up as the creatures got stronger and stronger. She told of the leader who had banded the army together, Asmodeus, a powerful entity she described in their terms as an 'arch-devil,' capable of great power and physically without equal. Still can't hardly believe we're on the verge of entering into a fight that is literally good against evil. Seems unreal, yet I know it's the truth. Sure glad I haven't been the one ta have ta explain this all. I never would have made it. To his surprise Ezra´s eyes popped open and he was pinned by a steady, clear gaze. Ezra rolled his eyes to express his displeasure with having to join the waking world at such an hour. He carefully extricated himself from Vin´s grasp and stood, stretching out the kinks from sleeping on the hard earth. He looked at Chris and said,

“Should we survive this madness Mr. Larabee, I would like your solemn oath you will not repeat to anyone my ability to be awake and aware at such an ungodly hour, nor use it against me when assigning patrol.” The green eyes narrowed to mere slits, but Chris could read the teasing glint within them.

“Only if ya don´t tell anyone I got my ass kicked yesterday by some woman who wasn´t even armed while I had me a poker the size of the great outdoors,” Chris shot back. Ezra stuck out a hand and Chris readily took it.

“Agreed, Mr. Larabee.” There was a shuffling next to them and they turned to see Buck´s grinning face, stroking his moustache thoughtfully.

“Shoot Chris, that ain´t the first time I can remember some lady not bein´ too impressed with yer poker.” His grin drew into a lascivious line while he waggled his eyebrows. Chris snorted. Leave it ta him to find a way ta make things lewd.

“Shut up Buck,” Chris said, tone serious. Buck slapped a knee.

“Awe, c´mon ya old dog! Ain´t nothin´ ta be worried about. We´re all friends here.” At Chris´ continued glare Buck raised his hands in a placating gesture, but he looked less than contrite. “Alright, alright. Not like I´d tell anyone but you guys anyway.” He winked and turned on a heel, muttering something about tracking Dovan down and seeing if she might finally be interested in getting a look at his poker. Ezra shook his head and said with mock severity,

“That poor creature had best savor these last moments he has. She is going to send him into another lifetime.” He sighed theatrically and looked at Chris who´s grin mirrored his own.

“Yup. He´s gonna get his ass kicked too.” Vin chuckled and they looked down at the grinning Texan.

“Ya boys might be safe from each other, and after Bucklin goes off on his little mission there I doubt he´ll ever be able ta speak again, but ya ain´t getting no such promises outta me,” the drawl teased. Chris glared at Vin and Ezra sent a warning vibration along, glaring as well just to be safe, but the lanky tracker just kept on grinning.

“Don´t worry none though. Yer secrets´ll be safe with me long as ya keep it worth my while.” Ezra stuttered a little and Chris just glared harder. Both men noted that Vin had sat up on the saddle, his arms resting on the now bent legs. They exchanged a meaningful glance then pounced, tossing Vin feet-over- head off the back of the saddle.

“Sure thing Cowboy,” Chris drawled right back. “We´ll keep ya wanting ta stay worth while.” Ezra smirked but said nothing. He knew Vin could sense his amusement.

“Gentlemen,” he said with a nod of his head, going off in search of somewhere to complete his morning ablutions, leaving Chris and Vin to their own devices. Vin shot a hand up and said,

“Help me up here old man.” Chris gave him a mighty tug, and Vin bounced up and landed on his feet. “Thanks,” the tracker said, unperturbed by Chris´ show of strength, “got some important things I should be getting to.” The gunslinger rolled his eyes a little but the enormity of what they would be facing today made him suddenly sober. He watched the sharpshooter´s frame as it walked away from him before sighing and making for his own bedroll. He had preparations of his own.

All but Josiah and Nathan were on one side of the canyon, waiting for the other two to make their way around the gorge to their station. It was nearing dusk, the time Dovan had said they would have to confront the enemy. The changing of day into night was when the barrier was closest to both worlds, allowing Ezra the best chance at sealing the breach. They had ridden to a rocky outcropping where they could leave their horses in relative shelter, and made the rest of the way on foot. Before Josiah and Nathan had left, they all said their goodbyes and sentiments of good luck to one another, speaking more with their eyes and gestures than they were able to articulate with their words. Josiah and Nathan had gone about ten paces with the large preacher turned and said in a solemn tone,

“Live to fight on Brothers, Dovan. Live to fight on.” Then he waved and took Nathan by the shoulder, the two of them disappearing from view as they rounded a rocky outcropping and continued on, further away from the others. It was a sentiment shared by all, the words echoing through their hearts after being spoken. Dovan closed her eyes and focused on their energy, waiting to sense when Josiah and Nathan had reached the far side of the canyon. Dovan looked at the remaining men and nodded. She wrapped her long coat tight to her body and made to leave, but JD stopped her.

“What are you going to do?” She had said she would provide distraction while everyone made initial contact with the canyon, covering the disturbance their presence would cause long enough for them all to get into position. A half smile quirked up the side of her mouth, silver eyes dancing a little in anticipation.

“Fear not JD, my plan for diverting their attention will be quite sufficient.” He frowned, the brown eyes showing his concern.

“Not thinking you´ll do a bad job. Just thinking I´m worried about you, and wondering what exactly you´re planning so I can be ready to help if you need it.” A warmth flashed up through Dovan´s chest at his words, the smile now lifting both corners of her lips.

“I will not require assistance for this first stage as I will merely be engaging them in conversation to allow you cover to get where we have discussed.” She clamped a strong hand about his upper arm, her eyes gentling to soft pewter. “I thank you for your concern, JD. It means much to me you feel such, but the best way to ensure you can help when I need it is to continue forward with your duties no matter the events that are happening around you.” She raised her brows in question and JD nodded.

“You can count on me, I´ll be ready.” She smiled and a prickle of sensation shivered across JD´s scalp.

Of course I can…always.

He smiled in return and Dovan released her hold, acknowledging the men with her and wishing them luck, then took off without a backward glance.

“Christ almighty, what is she doing?” Nathan´s whispered voice asked his companion. Josiah grinned, shaking his head and gesturing to indicate he had no better idea. Her form, made small by distance, had run along the ridge´s edge for several yards when suddenly she had leapt into the canyon. They watched her rapid descent into the large rift in the earth, her coat flaring out around her like dark wings. Nathan held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut as she plummeted to the hard surface below swarming with orcs. He was certain the outcome of her decision to jump would not be a good one and wasn´t prepared to watch the results. A low chuckle from Josiah prompted his to open one eye experimentally, and he was shocked to see her in one piece, standing in a low crouch almost on all fours. A look of disbelief passed between them.

Dovan traveled through the bodies of the orc army soundlessly, weaving in and out of their blue-black forms without creating a disturbance. She hugged the ground as she half ran in the crouch position, her head up and eyes alert as she made her way through the heart of the enemy. She came to a tall rock pedestal and stopped, then reaching to a crack she pulled her body up, her legs coming above her head and she levered herself until she was standing on top of the formation. She stood for a moment in silence, the coat billowing only slightly in the stagnant air at the base of the gorge. She searched for and found Asmodeus in the crowd, far across the rocky scar. She threw back her head and let forth a mighty roar, revealing herself to the dark lord and his army.

A shock wave traveled through the mass of bodies and the first reaction was one of utter incredulity. Orcs turned to her from all around, their eyes wide and stunned by her presence, mouths hanging in gapes allowing their thick, oily drool to escape in long threads. She stood waiting, holding the attention of the creatures around her, waiting for Asmodeus to respond. A plume of hatred and rage hit her person like a blow, but she held fast to her position, and a voice boomed in her mind,

“NO!” It came to her in a deafening echo, the ground shuddering slightly from the power. “Dovan!” it screamed as a curse, causing more tremors to rattle the spire she stood upon. The dark lord lifted a hand and pointed out to her lone figure, a tower of flame rising from the ground and traveling as if on a track until it flashed about her feet. She merely blinked at the threat, her calm infuriating the powerful entity even more. “The more lives you have the stupider you become, insolent fool.” She felt more than saw the snarl of the demon´s lips, the anger flashing in the red eyes, the hands gripping as if around her slender neck. “I would have expected you to be a better student of history my beauty. I will never meet defeat from you alone.” Asmodeus grinned and snarled, licking the long teeth now revealed.

“What causes you believe I am alone, Asmodeus?” she asked calmly, not raising her voice. The demon´s eyes flared so she could see the unnatural red light glinting from her position. There was a pause and Dovan felt the beast searching the terrain around him, feeling further out and out, looking for the energies of whomever may have come to stand with her. She smiled in satisfaction when she felt his realization, felt the small rattle of fear about his aura when he knew they had come again. “Who always is with me, dark one? It seems history should have made the superior student of you.”

Asmodeus´ rage hit her full force, ripping through her like a caustic, stinging wave. She leaned forward to stay upright, struggling to remain on the shaking rocky peak, her coat flying back behind her, the tails tangling about themselves. A whistle broke through her concentration, passing overhead and continuing on, and she watched as one of Vin´s silver arrows buried itself in the demon´s center and he went staggering backwards. She winced when an inarticulate cry of wrathful odium pierced her mind, reverberating with a maddening screech through her person. Asmodeus ripped the arrow from his body and threw it in front of him, his dark blood spurting from the wound before closing on itself. He spit at the arrow and hissed,

“You will have to do better than that lovely Dovan. Is this all you have planned, all you have to offer for conquering me?” A grating laugh shuddered up her spine. She smiled softly, her serene countenance in stark contrast to the wildness of the dark beast opposite her.

“Certainly not dear Asmodeus, it was merely a demonstration of proof your knowledge of them is not an illusion. I would not leave you so disappointed. Now is the time for me to give to you what I have come to offer.” She reached behind her and drew forth the Arrens, twirling them in each hand, the blue teeth reflecting the lowering sun. Asmodeus cried to his army,

“Destroy her! Destroy them all!” A great roar went up from the hordes about her and as one they surged forward, weapons raised and rattling as they came. Dovan turned her head to find Chris and nodded, then somersaulted backwards off the plateau to land on the dusty floor. She had the barest moment to raise her swords when the coming forces hit and broke over her like a merciless riptide.

+ + + + + + +

Chris swallowed once then raised his own weapon and broke cover, heading into the heart of the canyon towards Dovan. The fear for her safety and apprehension over the coming fight had nearly knocked him sideways, and for a moment he thought perhaps he would fail before the battle had even begun. When Dovan had turned to look for him and made contact, her confident nod and reassuring energy washed over him like a balm. The momentary terror gone, Chris bore into the battle, a fearsome vision as he hacked steadily through anything that got in his way. He his let anger, the deep and terrible rage he´d carried with him at the center of his being since the time of his family´s slaying, come to the fore. He wielded his fury along with the Arren, each working in harmony to keep him continuing through the fray, ever and ever closer to Dovan´s side.

He had almost gained his goal when a barrow wight seemed to materialize from nothing before him, and Chris narrowed his eyes and raised the sword, ready for the oncoming attack. The wight was huge, its sinewy body scaly and hanging with decrepit tatters. Its eyes were an unreal green glow, teeth sharp and curved as was its talons. Chris felt the beast was about to spring and he prepared himself, tensing for the first strike. The humming of Arrens buzzed in his ears and he watched as they sliced from either shoulder of the wight in until each sword exited the other side of the demon´s body. It stood completely still for a breath, then the head rolled and fell back and off the body, landing on the canyon floor behind it. The creature´s hands and muscles continued to twitch as the remaining trunk buckled and fell to the side with a crash. He looked up from the dead demon to see Dovan standing there, swords stained by the wight´s blood, a half smile on her face.

“Glad you could make it,” she said, stabbing an attacking orc with a dripping blade. Chris couldn´t help but smile in return and he drawled,

“Hate for you ta show up at the dance unescorted.” Something caught his attention behind him and he twirled, slicing through the body of an orc trying to sneak up on him. She raised a brow.

“You are improving Chris.”

“I tend ta be a quick study. Besides, got some good motivation here.” He walked to her side and without hesitation they combined forces, their energy melding of its own accord, and they turned to face the oncoming demon soldiers as one.

Josiah and Nathan worked steadily at keeping the driving forces back from escaping the canyon, taking out as many orcs as they could from their rocky ledge. The great exodus Dovan had predicted had not yet occurred, but they were ready all the same. Nathan had found with great surprise the herbs and assorted items he´d brought at her urging seemed to whisper to him of their uses, and he was mixing and throwing them into the melee below. Each one caused a slightly different but equally effective manner of destroying the attacking orcs. Josiah had finished piling rocks as a barrier wall between them and the lip of the ledge and was now chanting in a strange tongue, his Arren humming in time as he hewed it into the bodies of the enemies before them. The chanting was something the large man was barely aware of, having come to him as he fought as a way to protect himself and Nathan while simultaneously throwing the dark creatures off balance. Both men fought on with determination, waiting for the time their spirits would truly be tested should Chris and Dovan succeed in their goal.

Chris and Dovan advanced, their position as the head of a spear - they stood shoulder to shoulder, their bodies angled away from the other so their backs were facing each other while their fronts bore ever steadily forward. Through the masses of black bodies they went, each taking as many as was necessary to ensure their continued progress. Orcs fell to either side, some mortally wounded and others maimed enough to not be able to fight on. Chris had come to the point where he no longer noticed the spraying of the vicious, nearly black substance that was their blood hitting him. He was beyond counting how many fell and how many more there were to overcome. He could feel the same grim determinism emanating from his partner. A few times he allowed himself the luxury of looking ahead of them, to the object of their destination. The great beast Dovan had pointed out from the ridge stood atop its rocky capital, shouting commands and leading the melee around him.

The longer Chris held the blade the more confidence he gained with using it. No longer did it feel heavy and awkward in his grip, and his aim with it was becoming as deadly as he was used to having with his gun. He had not quite mastered exacting a single deadly blow, but he was able to quite quickly dispatch of the orcs who got in his way with a few well-placed slices. Already he had learned their weak spots, and images flashed in the back of his mind almost as portents of things to come - the type of armor he could expect, the fact they could be speared from their armpits to the interior of their bodies, the vulnerable point at their ankles -all these things coming to him as if he had learned it before.

Chris felt himself separating from Dovan and he fought to maintain contact but to no avail. It was as when a small leak builds enough force behind it and the great flood gathering finally breaks through its barrier. He watched in desperate futility as a surge of orcs flowed through them, making the distance between them greater and greater. Dovan continued to fight, her face an unreadable mask, the long blades spinning around her at a blinding rate. She had backed herself against a boulder, using the red rock as cover for her vulnerable side. Now that they were separated the orcs were focusing all their energy on Dovan, literally throwing themselves at the battling woman. One after another piled atop her form and valiantly she hewed through them, holding her position among the sea of the attacking monsters. Chris hacked away at the bodies in front of him, no longer even aiming as he fought to get to her again. A prickle in his mind twinged and he felt her. time for can continue...go while I am still standing...they will not fight you if they have the chance to kill me...Asmodeus...

He gritted his teeth in anger, frustrated she would suggest such a thing, and even more so that she may be right. A flicker of a memory of her ordering him to do the very same thing danced before him. He recalled in the barest images a time of him in dark armor, desperately trying to banish the feeling of loss he´d experienced from her passing as she protected him in sacrifice, fighting on to achieve his vital goal and feeling the same loss in Ezra when they´d found one another on the battlefield as they struggled to continue on. He gritted his teeth and moved steadily forward, not yet willing to give in to her plea, not yet willing for history to repeat itself. A chill tickled his spine and his heart lurched into his throat. Behind her raised the otherworldly forms of three barrow wights over the top of the boulder. With so much attention focused on the never-ending tide of orcs and her willingness to give herself so he may continue, he was certain she would not be able to sense their presence at her back. Contrary to reason as it was, he had not feared for her while among the great sea of black bodies. He had every belief no amount of orcs were a threat to her ferocity and skill with the twirling Arrens. But the wights were a different matter. He remembered her words about them, her warnings, but he also knew without knowing the horrible power they wielded. She may not survive an attack by them, let alone an ambush. A terrible fury built in his solar plexus until at last the inferno could not be contained within his person. Chris raised his blade and screamed, a deep penetrating cry in a language he hadn't realized he knew. The effect was terrifying and immediate.

It was as if a great stone had been thrown into black waters, for a shockwave passed through the attacking army, felling those closest to him and unbalancing those further away. He advanced, body rigid with his fury and intention to keep her from mortal harm. Through the wall of flesh he pushed, his body becoming more and more weighted with their clinging fluids and innards as he hacked into them. He fought on while he struggled out of his duster and let it fall to the ground in a wet, hissing heap. Chris had nearly reached Dovan when the wights dropped from the rock. Green eyes narrowed and flashed, Chris' great fury now all-consuming. He lifted the sword and cried again, cursing the demons and warning them death had come for them, and he was ready.

The arrival of the wights caused the orcs to scatter, dropping their weapons and fleeing in all directions. Wights were not discriminatory - they would happily kill an orc as anyone else present on the battlefield. A few of the less agile beasts had already been captured and were screaming in their guttural syllables of the agony being inflicted. Chris watched as the life energy literally drained from the imprisoned forms, being pulled into the wights' bodies as if on a string. Then the wights would grin with demonic pleasure and rend the orcs with their teeth, creating gaping holes in the wriggling bodies before tossing them aside. At Chris' threat they abandoned the remaining orcs and closed in on Dovan.

She had her swords raised and stood in a low crouch, preparing for what was to come. Chris ran forward, the sword held to his side as he opted for speed over being ready to defend. He was still several feet from Dovan's position but did not have to fight his way to her now that the orcs had been driven away. One of the wights let its head fall back and it cackled, the screeching sound like claws through his nerves. This show of bravado was the wight's last action. Dovan sprung up and planted her left foot on the rock face, pushing off with her right so she propelled forward with a spinning movement. This allowed her to be at head level with the wight, and as she began her descent she lifted the blades above her head, poised for attack. She overshot the wight and twirled the blades so they were behind her in two great arches, burying them almost to the hilt into its shoulder blades and held on. The wight screamed in a rage and flailed out with its clawed hands as it fell backwards. Still Dovan clung to the grips of the weapons, allowing herself to come under the great body of the wounded beast as it crashed into the ground. Chris watched as the sword tips penetrated then split the clavicles of the wight as it twisted and screamed. Dovan appeared on the wight's chest and she reached around its head for the handles of the swords. With a mighty roar of her own she pulled each weapon towards her, the great blue teeth sawing through the neck of the beast from opposite directions until it was decapitated. Her anchor gone, Dovan fell back onto the lifeless body of the wight, weapons slipping from her hold and left slightly dazed from contact with the fluids that had spurted onto her from the corpse. Even in death the wight's ability to drain energy was a threat, like the wasp that continues to sting after being killed. Chris accessed the scene and the two remaining wights before him. He growled at the demon closest to him.

"Pitiful human," it said in a voice that was a wraithlike rasp, its mouth and the sounds it made not in syncopation with the other. Chris just grinned ferally. It really didn't matter what this monster had to say to him, nor did he care what insult was thrown his way. He figured the best way to prove that point and shut it up was to kill it. He raised the sword and held the pommel in both hands, his grin growing with the thought of vanquishing this thing that would dare to threaten them. Around each other they circled, the wight clenching its fists while Chris held steady to the Arren. A few times Chris was able to step into the wight's kinosphere and he would slash at the thick flesh, drawing long, black lines that would pucker and ooze. The creature seemed oblivious to the wounds. A bare tremor of apprehension rose in him at this. The cuts he made were superficial at best, and they had only come after exerting great force and speed. He wondered at his ability to cut through it to kill as he'd watched Dovan do.

All thoughts fled as in a flash the wight attacked, coming for Chris and knocking him off his feet. Chris flew backwards until meeting forcibly with a nearby rock, his body cracking against it and he sunk to the ground. The wight laughed and continued forward slowly, in no hurry to end this new and pleasing game. Chris wished he had been able to master what Dovan had been teaching Vin and Ez about being where something already was. Maybe then I could have just asked this damn rock ta share with me instead of slamming into it. He rolled onto his shoulder but didn't rise. Maybe better ta jus' play opossum...let that wight take care of itself. He let his eyes close even though his mind screamed to keep attention on the advancing monster. He concentrated instead on the sound it made as it traveled through the air, the slight displacement he could sense from its being. He also worked at stilling his own energy to a bare vibration. Jus' a little closer ya mother fucker...that's it. C'mon over here and somethin' for ya.

The wight leaned in close and sniffed at Chris. It tilted its head to the side considering the limp form. It kicked out once, the blow lifting the human from the ground and slamming it again into the rock. There was no response. The wight snarled in frustration and leaned further in, intent on venting some of that frustration by mutilating the body of the worthless opponent it had just destroyed. Green eyes popped open and an enraged cry ripped through the mind of the wight. It staggered a little in reaction, hands coming automatically to its ears to try and cease the din that was rattling around in its mind. Then a great and searing pain shot through its body and the wight screamed.

Chris kept pushing at the Arren until he could make it go no further and watched with satisfaction as the wight listed then fell onto its side. He leaped at it, aiming for the sword and landed on it, the force of his body sending the weapon almost clear through the wight's center. Terrible cries of anger and pain were coming from the wight but Chris pressed on. He grappled with the flailing legs until he had both wrapped with his arms and lifted, straining to upend the great beast until the scaly body flopped to its other side. Chris let go and made another flying kick at the protruding sword, sending the tip in a piercing blow through the base of the wight's skull. The screams continued so he kicked and kicked at the sword in a sideways motion, causing it to exit one wound and deepen the other. The anger inside flooded his eyes until he saw only a curtain of red, his motions automatic and unrelenting. is enough.

Hearing the faint whisper inside he came to from his rage and noticed the silence; broken only by his ragged breathing and the light hiss the wight's blood made as it hit the desert floor. He carefully extracted the Arren from the puddled mass that used to be the wight's head. Chris leaned forward, hands on knees, and sucked in air. He staggered ahead after a moment, eyes squinted and searching for Dovan.

The third wight was nowhere to be seen, and Chris hoped it had abandoned the fight, though he doubted it. His entire body ached from the effort of killing the wight and the punishment it had taken against the boulder. He limped slightly and that annoyed him, so he stopped for a moment and gave his leg a great shake then continued forward, ignoring the protestations from his wounds. He could see Dovan now. She was standing to the side of the boulder, the body of the wight she had killed between them. He could not tell if she was injured, but she lifted a hand in a slight wave and met his gaze. Suddenly she tensed and was turning, and the whole world seemed to slow to the point that it was barely moving.

Chris yelled again and ran forward, his feet feeling heavy and useless as he tried to make it to her in time. Dovan too had noticed the presence of the remaining wight and was moving away from it, but he could see it would not be fast enough. She let one Arren fall and brought the other around in a protective position. Chris could still hear his yell hovering in the air around him, the slow quality drawing out the words even though he had finished speaking them moments ago. The wight raised its arms over its head and it screamed, bringing the great, curved talons down towards her. Chris tried to push through with one last burst, stumbling forward, eyes never leaving the wight as it prepared to strike. Dammit. Dammit! Too slow...too goddamm slow. A whistling creased the air and the wight's head snapped violently, its whole body shuddering while it let forth a final piercing cry. It fell backwards, dust rising in lazy clouds away from the corpse after it had landed, then all was silent. A long silver arrow was buried deep in the center of the wight's forehead. Chris heaved a great sigh of relief and turned, scanning the ridge for a familiar form. He more felt than saw Vin's slow wink and two-fingered salute. Then he heard him.

Stop wastin' time you two...doncha have a mite bigger fish ta fry here?

Chris growled at the barb while Dovan's husky laugh washed over him. He shook his head and made a dismissive gesture in the general direction of Vin's position and turned, picking his way to Dovan's side. She waved up at Vin and Chris was certain the sharpshooter could feel her smile and amusement at his chiding. He looked over her anxiously, wondering at her state. When he'd stopped and met her shining eyes again he smiled a little, realizing she'd just done the same to him.

"We are close now. That is why the wights came to attack in a group. Asmodeus must have sent them to slow our progress." Chris just nodded in agreement. "Do you require any attention before we continue on?" her silver eyes narrowed as she regarded him. Chris figured asking for a whole new body before facing the demon lord was probably too tall an order, even for her, so he just sucked it up and shook his head.

"Feel fine. Let's get a move on." The faint smile was back and he cursed, knowing she wasn't fooled for a minute. But she didn't question his decision; instead she retrieved her fallen Arren and gestured for him to precede her up the rocky path ahead of them.


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