The Karsite Border is Hell, quite literally, at the moment, only recently there were five Herald-Mages attempting to keep back the Priests and their Demons and horrors, now it’s down to one mainly, Herald-Mage Vanyel Ashkevron. He scares me, so much power, some would say too much. Me, I’m happy with being a Journeyman, verging on Master, to be an Adept as powerful as Herald Vanyel would be too much, I don’t think I’d be able to cope with that amount of power.
Mage-Gift or no, I’m still on Courier, Dallian is the fastest of all the Companions, and my Mage-Gift means that I can shield us enough to hide from the Karsite Mages and Priests.
We’re carrying dispatches and spied troops plans of the Karsites from the Valdemaran encampment near White Foal Pass, where Herald-Mage Vanyel is, to the Lord Marshall and the reserves to the east and north. The Karsite Priests are using spells that prevent the Farspeakers and Mages from sending the plans directly to the Heralds and Herald-Mages at the Lord Marshall’s camp, so Dalli and I, and the other Herald-Couriers are the only way of exchanging intelligence fast.
Dalli has been running flat out for two days now, we only stop each night for a brief rest to get our wind back, there will be time enough to rest once we reach the Lord Marshall.
He has to see these plans. The commanders at the Border near White Foal are worried, there don’t seem to be nearly as many Karsite troops there as there should be, and no-one knows where they are. Herald Vanyel also says that the Priests have stepped up their bombardment of the border recently, almost as if they’re trying to distract attention from something else, and there is no way that he can spend the time to Look for whatever it is they’re trying to hide, not without the Karsite Mages getting through his shields and protections and unleashing Demons into Valdemar.
A thought too horrible to comprehend.
So we have to run, Dallian and I, we have to get these plans to the Lord Marshall so the reserves can be mobilised ready for another attack.
The wind is howling past me as I hunch myself over Dalli’s neck and try to present as small an area for the wind to catch on as possible. The countryside, looking grey and washed out in the cold winter air, flashes past us at a blur as my wonderful Dalli carries us on a cresting wave of sound, a thundering cacophony of chiming only audible to us as I strive to keep the tightest shields I can clamped around us, muting sound and blurring vision.
It’s still three days at least before we reach the encampment, but we’re going to make it, we have to make it.
I can sense a sick feeling in the air, in the earth, around us and I fight to keep my balance in the saddle. I know what the feeling is, I’ve felt it before on the Border. Karsite Mages and their pet Demons.
I think they’re hunting us.
Dallian’s ears flatten and his eyes roll slightly, showing the whites. :Can I feel what I think I can?: He asks me, the sending heavily laced with worry, a touch of fear, and the constant exhaustion that has been with all of us since this started.
:Karsite Priests.: I reply with a touch of fear myself. :But there’s something wrong, they don’t feel as if their probes are coming from the South, they feel as if they’re straight ahead of us.:
Dalli can’t spare the breath for a snort of surprise, but he sends me a mental equivalent as his muscles continue unfaltering in their rhythmic surging beneath me. :Ahead? But…we’re running parallel to the Border at the moment, all that’s ahead of us is—: Dalli cuts off his sending abruptly and I stifle down a moan of panic.
The only thing ahead of us is Valdemar.
They must have gotten past the Border defences somehow, and now they’re behind our lines. Karsite Priests and their Demons. This must be what the assaults on White Foal were to distract us from, this is what the plans I’m carrying mean.
:The reserves will be caught off-guard!: I frantically send to my Companion, and feel a corresponding surge of alarm from him.
:Not only that, the other camps, the refugees from the Borderlands, and the villages and towns around here—they won’t stand a chance!: Dallian’s sending has a harsh edge of barely controlled panic to it. :What’s more, no-one will be expecting this, even the Foreseers are being blocked by the damned Karsites!:
Gods. What are we going to do? What can we do?
My mind is running around like a mouse in a barrel, spiralling inwards with panic, looking for a solution, any solution to the imminent catastrophe.
:Wait!: A simple solution, it has to work. I open my mind fully to my Soul-brother and show him what my solution is.
:Yes!: His sending is harsh, with the fear being drowned out by the red of anger. :We can do it, we’ll show those damn Karsites!:
Dalli slows his pace and looks back at me, there’s no need for breakneck speed now. :How close are they?: He asks.
:Close.: I send back, they are close, and my skin is crawling at the proximity of the Abyssal Plane creatures that the infiltrating groups of Karsite Priests and their guard have with them.
:We shall charge them then.: Dalli says it matter-of-factly. :Can you try to Send whilst I run?:
:As long as you help me, my love, I’m going to need your strength to break the damping spells on distance Mindspeech.:
:With you all the way my Myri.: Dalli opens himself to me and breaks into a menacing and deliberate gallop, not the headlong dash of before, as I take his strength and combine it with my Mage-Gift and my Mindspeech. Then I check that my lines to the local ley lines are intact and I Reach and push outwards with my mind, straining to break the insidious steel-strong gossamer net of damping spells all around us.
I push and push, and just as I think that I’m about to tear in two, I feel the edge of an aura I recognise. Carlyn, one of my best friends, and the Lord Marshall’s Herald.
:Lyn!: I call her, as loudly as I can and I feel a start of surprise as she thins her shields and extends a probe.
:Wha—who—Myri?!: But there’s no time, no time, Dalli and I are running up the side of a hill, and just over the top are the Karsites, and there’s no time.
I take all of my knowledge about the troop movements, and the hidden group of Karsites and shove it forcefully into her mind, causing her to yelp, both physically and mentally in pain. :Myri? What are you—Oh, Gods!:
I can feel her frantically shouting for the Lord Marshall, for the commanders, for someone, anyone, now.
Dalli is cresting the hill, we can both see the gold and black of the hated, hated Karsite Priests but a few furlongs below us and I drop all my glamours and Dalli’s thundering hoof-beats reverberate through the icy air, and now they see us, and there is shouting in their harsh tongue and the bodyguards with them are hastily readying weapons as the Priests goad their monsters into action with incantations.
I open myself fully to the ley lines and I feel the power rush to fill both me and Dalli. Somehow, Lyn is still hanging on and I Feel a flood of panic and despair as she senses what I am doing, what I am about to do.
:Myri—: Her sending is a wail of just realised grief.
:Goodbye my soul-sister.: I send to her and cut the connection. She does not want to be around for what we are about to do.
We have reached the outermost edges of the Karsite group, and several soldiers try to stop us, their hastily shot arrows shattering on my physical shields, as they are dashed beneath Dalli’s silver hooves, and then, we’re upon the mages, but I want the lead one, the Adept, and Dallian writhes around the others and charges for the Black Robed Priest, who stares at us in shock, Demon forgotten as we crash to a halt before him.
He flings up one arm as if to ward us off, or to fling a levinbolt at us as Dalli, my beautiful Dalli, writhes around sideways.
I reach down and grab hold of his outstretched arm and yank him in close to Dallian’s side, as Dalli twists his head around and sinks his teeth into the man’s other arm.
“For Valdemar and the King!” I scream into his face, echoing the cry in Mindspeech as I drop all of my shields and Reach for not only the ley lines that I’m tied to, but for the node that feeds them and the Priest’s face dissolves into fear as he realises, too late, what we plan to do.
Everything around us vanishes into a glare of harsh actinic blue-white light and heat and somewhere there is screaming as the men and the Priests and their monsters are burned up by the power that is roaring through me, too bright to look at, but at the same time compelling and hypnotic. I can see the Demons tattering into shadows around us as the Karsite spell lose their grip on their essence and they are burned by the power and flung back to the Hells.
The sensations are beyond pain, and it seems to last forever and for no time at all, Dalli and I are the light, we become the power, and all around us the screams has ceased and all we can see are rigid, frozen statues of powdery darkness that used to be the guards and the soldiers, and blazing pyres of fire that were the mages.
Everything starts to fade to black, not just the black of a smoky afterimage on the eye after you stare at a too-bright light, but the essence of black, a blackness and peace that is so profound I could never ever explain it fully.
Dallian and I, Herald-Courier Myri give ourselves up to the darkness and everything drifts away…