Episode 18 – Ride of the Dragoon

“What, a Battle Maiden?” Rouya jumped to her feet and hastily redressed. She tapped into the magic to strengthen herself and turned to Evelyn. “Alert Markus and have him meet me there. I’ll be needing his assistance on this one.”

“Very well,” Evelyn said and disappeared from sight.

“Which one is it?”

“We’re not sure, it’s too far away but we assume it may be Azhi,” Palin said. He pointed up at the night sky where a red dot stood but was too small to make out. “We’ll go to the observatory. From there we should be able to get a closer look at who it is.”

“The dragoon,” Rouya said under her breath and immediately felt chills run down her spine. “Ahzi is one of our most dangerous foes. I can only hope you’re wrong.”

Rouya summoned Tassia at her side to help guard her as she followed Palin to the observatory. The equipment there was used to detect habitable planets within the Inner Realm and helping establish routes for realmwalkers to traverse. After a few moments, guards appeared and brought with them the staff running the facility and they readjusted the lenses to focus on the Maiden in the sky.

Palin took the first look and appeared paler when he stepped away. “It’s only one and we have three on our side, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Rouya peered through the glass and caught sight of the Battle Maiden hovering in mid-air on her charcoal black steed. Her long fiery hair billowed in the wind, partially masking the pair of horns protruding from her skull and her expression appeared disinterested in the people beneath her. Her glance flicked up and met Rouya’s glare. She knew she was being watched. Her arms were crossed in front of her golden plate armor with dragon heads adorning her shoulders. Ahzi didn’t need to fear the other Maidens, and it showed.

“She’s not attempting anything,” Rouya began. Markus arrived with Adelaxia and Mitra. “It appears as if Ahzi is scouting us from a distance. Her summoner could be anywhere but we need to find him before it’s too late.”

Markus took a brief glance through the glass and frowned. “I don’t think she’s scouting. She wouldn’t need to reveal herself in such an open position to do that. It’s an open challenge for anyone to come and oppose her.”

“Our combined strength should destroy her.” Rouya summoned Mah in addition to Evelyn and began reinforcing their attack powers.

“Defeating Ahzi wouldn’t serve us anything but it would give her master a glimpse of our abilities,” Markus pointed out. “We need to search for her master and retrieve the Jikka dragon glass from him.”

“I agree. He might be in the hills outside the city. It would give him an overview of the battle while also keeping a safe distance.” Rouya turned to her daeva and looked at each of them in turn. “Start sweeping the city for any trails of magic leading to Ahzi and then proceed outside with caution.”

“She’s getting ready to attack,” Mitra said, readying her bow in her hands.

Both summoners spun around to see Ahzi gathering large amounts of magic. Streams of red energy swirled around her figure, steadily growing in size. Rouya felt the intensity of her strength from over three miles away. The most likely target would be the palace. If she unleashed her full potential, it would destroy a quarter of the city with a single blow. She recalled reading texts from the war and the casualties involved in her father obtaining the dragon glass.

“Mitra,” Markus snapped. “Target her and see if we can interrupt her attack. We need to buy the Maidens some time to locate him.”

“With pleasure,” she said, notching three arrows at once and pulling the string back. A quick spell cast the arrows in darkness and she released the night arrows with the aim of catching Ahzi off-guard and potentially wounding her. The arrows darted across the night sky and vanished from sight. Only the faint glimmer on the horizon let her know that they’d met their target.

Rouya peered back through the looking glass only to find Ahzi undamaged and entering the final phase of her spell. She wove her hands through the air, collecting the magic into her blunderbuss and lowered it at Fort Larcin. A burst snapped and shattered windows. Rouya pressed her palms against her ears but still felt the shock slam into her chest. When she lifted her hands, the silence in her head faded to a throbbing and high pitched ringing.

Markus came into view, moving his lips to words she couldn’t make out. Frustration played in his face as he quickly pulled her to her feet and took her inside the palace.

“What’s going- why didn’t she hit the palace?” Rouya asked, but her mind was still reeling. She swayed to the side and had to support herself against the wall. Evelyn and Tassia drew near to where Ahzi positioned herself but hadn’t yet detected her master.

“She’s making a statement.” Rouya heard the words come from Markus but it sounded as if he were speaking from underwater with her. “That she can defeat us at any time. We should consider going into hiding on my world. There are plenty of safe zones in the mountains from where we can launch attacks against the other summoners.”

”I’m not going to abandon the people of Aequilla and leave them to their fates!”

“Staying is only going to draw their attention here in the first place.”

Rouya felt her skin prickle at the build up of magical energy again. She raced to the window and gasped as she realized Ahzi was preparing to unleash her ultimate strike again. For a brief moment she wondered just how far Ahzi would go and how much magic her summoner could channel to her.

Another shock wave washed over the city, shaking the foundations of the structure. Paintings fell off walls and furniture tossed over.

Rouya steadied herself and moved to the window. Orange light flickered across her face. None of the attacks destroyed the palace. A single attack would have been enough to seriously damage it and the second to flatten it entirely. Large dust clouds billowed up on the horizon from around the Maiden and the outskirts of the city caught fire. Ahzi was playing with her, a fact which raised more questions Rouya hoped she’d get answers to soon.

Evelyn and Tassia drew closer to Ahzi.

“She definitely got up on the wrong foot today!” Tassia cried, bracing herself against the explosion.

Evelyn dug the butt of her glaive into the ground and held on tight as dirt and debris struck her armor. Even with Evelyn moving as she did, Ahzi wouldn’t have missed by such a large margin. It raised her suspicions that Ahzi wasn’t targeting her in the first place.

But why waste so much magic on a miss?

“Look out,” Evelyn cried as the storm cleared and she caught sight of the Maiden hovering above them. She began to collect magic again and would release it upon them anew. It was then that Evelyn noticed the giant crater where Fort Larcin once stood. “See if you can take a shot and distract her. We need to discover the trail of magic and pinpoint her master.”

Tassia agreed and held up her hands to the skies, letting out thin rays of light and having them burst on impact against Ahzi. The dragoon didn’t take kindly to their interference and spurred her horse into a gallop. She didn’t get very far before she unleashed the second shot out of her blunderbuss. The shot burst through the air and struck against the crater, cracking the earth and sending chunks of rock out their way. Tassia had to destroy three of the larger ones to prevent herself from being knocked out.

Evelyn weaved in and out to avoid the boulders coming her way as she raced to follow Ahzi. “She’s trying to get away. See if you can take out the horse. That’ll annoy her!”

Tassia specialized in long range combat while Ahzi was a close to mid-range fighter and had a great deal of mobility with her horse.

Evelyn, on the other hand, could only rely on the reach of her glaive and the strength of her own legs to get her where she needed to. She drew upon more magic from Rouya and diverted it to her legs to increase her speed as the distance between her and the steed slowly diminished. The nerves on her neck prickled in warning and she instinctively raised her glaive up in a defensive stance.

Two curved blades slammed against the shaft where she would have been a moment later. The weapon in her hand rattled as she forced herself to hold back against the strength of the blow. A pair of narrowed eyes peered deeply into Evelyn’s and forced her on edge. She quickly spun her glaive around, attempting to knock the blades out of Cemri’s hands and lunge at her exposed gut but Cemri went along with the movement, allowing herself to be spun, only to take the initiative in the final moment and bring her arm down in a strike.

Evelyn didn’t have the time to block her attack and was forced to leap back, ceding ground to the nimble warrior. “You’re interrupting me. Can’t you see I was in the middle of something. Why don’t you just go and wait your turn? Give me a minute and I’ll make it worth your while.”

“I’m not going to wait for you. I still have a bone to pick and I’m going to rip it out of your ribs!” Cemri gave Evelyn a wicked grin. The moon crested blades in Cemri’s hands were excellent weapons in offense and allowed her to strike from any pose. Cemri didn’t wear plate armor and relied only on thin strips of leather to protect her chest and legs while giving herself enough flexibility to maneuver swiftly.

“That’s not a very lady-like thing for you to say. I’m going to have to teach you some manners.”

While Evelyn faced off against her new opponent, Ahzi and Tassia were coloring the horizon in a storm of hues as they each launched deadly volleys at one another and laid complete waste to farmland outside the city.

Thanks for reading Summoners’ Rift thus far. I’m making changes and aligning elements within the Battle Maidens universe in the meantime and apologize for the delay.

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