“They’re coming,” Markus shouted as he stormed out of the room and nearly collided with Rouya. “More of Kalim’s soldiers are marching on the castle. We have to escape from here at once.”
Rouya reached for the sword at her hip when a storm of boots echoed down the corridors. Infantry cut off both exits, folding their shields together to form a steel wall.
“Looks like they’ve come to finish me off,” Rouya said. She raised her arm and pointed to the shield wall. “Evelyn, break through their pitiful defense.”
The glaive appeared in Evelyn’s hand as she raced ahead. Sections of the shield wall pulled away with crossbows peering out from within. The arrows loosed, sizzling through the corridor but Evelyn struck aside any that might have touched her.
Rouya snatched Markus and leaped back into her father’s study, narrowly avoiding the steel tips. They huddled on the floor with their hands on their heads. Evelyn crashed into the wall and from the sound of it was causing quite a stir followed by the cries of those unfortunate enough to be in the path of her blade.
Mitra flew overhead, loosing a volley of arrows as she joined in the fight.
Rouya felt the connection she shared with Evelyn being strained as the Maiden demanded an increasing amount of magic from her. She could almost sense Evelyn’s every movement, the way she spun about knocking back men and slicing through the armor of others. They continued to fight but were overwhelmed by her superiority and not even their numbers could tip the balance to gain an edge from which to strike.
Kalim had either been foolish enough to send his forces against a Battle Maiden or was as yet unaware of her situation. Whatever the case, she couldn’t count on any more easy victories.
Once the fighting was over, Rouya rose and joined the two Maidens. Neither of them had so much as a scratch and even their weapons and armor were in pristine condition.
“It’s been a while since I had to fight more than one opponent,” Evelyn said with a grin. “We need to move out of here. The other summoners will know something has gone wrong.”
Mitra nodded. “We should attack the weakest of them now while they are separated. It would be impossible for us to win against a united front.”
“We can’t just go and attack anyone,” Markus said, resting his hand on the khanjar. “Kalim’s still got Adelaxia. I’m not going to put her life at risk.”
“I want to get her back safely as much as you do but I can’t let the vultures snip away at my father’s legacy.”
“Do you feel that?” Mitra said, notching another arrow.
Rouya focused on her senses, trying to hear and feel what she might mean. A gentle tingling of the skin. A simple caressing of the wind were it not made of magic.
“Show yourself, Attia,” Evelyn said.
“You had to go and spoil all the fun.” A figure merged out of the shadows leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. She flicked her eyes opened and glared right at Rouya. Her target. The bronze-skinned woman moved closer, brushing her long hair back over her shoulder.
Rouya knew better than to underestimate her and readied herself, taking on a defensive stance with her sword. Attia was her father’s assassin used to eliminate threats before they became a nuisance.
Even if they were to kill Attia, it would be nothing but a setback for Kalim who could simply summon her back to him. The only way to win was by gaining control of the relic or by taking out the summoner possessing it.
Markus and herself would therefore be the obvious targets to take out early in a fight. As for Kalim, she saw him leave through a portal. He could be anywhere in the palace or in the safety of his own home for all she knew.
“This isn’t between us,” Rouya said, raising her blade. “It’s between me and Kalim. Where is he or is he too cowardly to come and face me as well?”
Attia grinned, glancing at each of them in turn. “You’re right about one thing; it’s not between us but between Evelyn and myself.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Mitra added, tapping her bow.
“You stay out of this. Our final encounter was inconclusive. It’s about time I set the record straight.”
Evelyn placed herself between Attia and Rouya, hefting the pole against her back and aligning her weight for a charge. “We already know how it ended. What makes you think this time will be any different?”
“You’ll find I’ve learned a few things over the years,” she said, her grin widening. “Why don’t we take this outside? I’d hate to lay waste to the place after all the fond memories I’ve collected here.”
Despite her better judgment, Rouya went out into the courtyard with them. A part of her wanted to remain in relative safety but the other wanted to stay close to Evelyn and be there to help her.
“Don’t play her games,” Markus said in a low voice. “She’ll be testing your strength just as much as that of Evelyn’s.”
“I’m not going to back down. You saw what they did to my family!”
The two women stood opposite each other while Rouya drew up some spells enhancing Evelyn’s abilities. She collected as much magic as possible for her to channel it to Evelyn when the time came. It didn’t only take magic to summon but also to keep a summon in the physical world and the more power they used the stronger the drain on magic.
The aura of their power continued to grow in opposition to one another without either of them attacking. Rouya stood with clenched fists bracing herself against the pressure building in front of her. The tug on her magic by Evelyn grew and it became increasingly difficult for her to naturally channel magic from the Shadow Realm to the Maiden. Her skin prickled as she raised her hands and reached into the Shadow Realm, drawing upon the fresh sources of magic stored there. Raw and untamed the magic seeped through her body electrifying and sending her heart into a frenzy.
Even with her additional magic, Attia could still match Evelyn’s strength and began pushing back against her aura.
Meanwhile, Mitra stood on the sidelines watching the competition between them with a bemused look on her face.
Rouya reached deeper, sinking her entire arm into the Shadow Realm. The power surging through her took its toll. She’d never required as much magic before in her life and felt her muscles twitch under the duress. A pair of hands grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her away from the breach.
Attia overcame Evelyn’s defense in an instant, snapping her off the ground and hurling her across the courtyard until she slammed against the wall with a thud.
“Are you insane tapping into that much magic? It was going to devour you,” Markus said, holding her in his arms. “Mitra, get rid of her.”
“With pleasure,” she said raising her bow.
“A minor victory for the time being. It’s the small things in life that are worth the most,” Attia said, strolling away from them. “I’ll see you soon and then we can get around to playing dirty.”
Mitra’s arrow pierced the grinning form as she vanished into thin air.
Next time on Battle Maidens …
Episode 7 – A Host of Emotions