Face OffMature

Sage and Zero, landed gracefully outside of the stables. Though, that wasn't her preferred method of travel, they had gotten to Galvenston in five terror induced minutes.

“Thanks... I guess,” Sage muttered. It was a given, that she hadn't cared too much for Zero, the kid was blunt and impulsive, even more so than Sage had been a couple years ago. He always showed up at the oddest times. She was leery of him, and his connections to Drakmor, which in turn made her weary of Drakmor, himself. How much did she really know about these men?

Zero arched an eyebrow and threw her a skeptical look, before flying off to God knows where. Sage stopped at the stable. The heavy door was left ajar. “Pierson?” she called out. She hadn't received in answer in return. Pierson was usually so meticulous, with his duties, he must have been rushed over something and forgotten to close the door.

Sage entered the stable, picking an apple from the basket by the door to give to Nera.  On her way to Nera's stall she noticed the other horses were antsy. Did Pierson forget to exercise them today? Her curiosity over the current state of the stables, increased when she neared Nera's stall.

Nera's head wasn't poking up over the stall greedily awaiting her apple like it should have been this time of day. Sage turned to look for Nera out in the pasture, but was stopped, by a dark red liquid, pooling under her boots. Breathlessly Sage turned back towards the stall, where the blood was coming from. She opened the door. The apple fell from her hands.

Bedded down in the straw was Nera. Cut open and dead.

Sage shook her head, trying to deny what she saw. She moved closer to examine the corpse of her favorite horse. She had brutally been stabbed in several places. Her death wasn't a hasty one, but the suffering was drawn out. Helplessly, Sage wept silently.

 “What happened?” She asked herself while grasping at Nera's coarse mane.

-“I'm sorry, was that beast yours?”

Sage turned towards the voice. In the corner of the stall, a man stood, where a moment ago there was nobody. His arms were crossed, and the look on his face told her he wasn't really all that sorry.

Sage stood up. She was defenseless this time. She had no weapons on her whatsoever. She backed out of the stall, without taking her eyes off the man. Something sharp and silver, caught her attention. It was a dagger covered in Nera's blood.

Something inside of Sage broke. Her despair and shock froze her in her tracks. She studied the man's face. It's angles were sharp, making his wide black eyes stand out like spilled ink on a blank piece of parchment. His black hair was tied back illuminating the pale and flawless skin and bone structure. Demitrius, Emperor of Syria. He was evil embodied in the form of a man. The one person she truly feared.

Breathe, she reminded herself. Evil fed off of fear, at least the kind of evil that the Syrain's possessed. She remembered how to move her feet, and every step backwards she took was mimicked by Demitrius taking a step forwards.

In a quick movement Sage reached for something on the wall. The one advantage she had over him in here was that she knew where everything was. She reached for her father's old riding crop, or whip. A cord of leather bound to a long stick. It was meant to be used in riding to motivate slow horses. She never used it as such herself. It was a cruel device.

Demitrius gave her a questioning look. In response she lunged the whip forward. The cord lashed out at his face. His taught skin cracked open, and he howled out in pain. He was a vain man, she remembered. To have such a flaw marring his face, was as unbearable as the physical pain. His lip curled up in a snarl. She lashed out at him again. This time she snagged the cord around the neck. She yanked it tighter.

Demitrius's hands went for the cord coiled around his neck. Quickly it was cutting off his oxygen supply. Sage gnashed her teeth together pulling the cord tighter. Demitrius's eyes closed. His lips moved rapidly. At first she had mistaken that as him struggling for air. He may very well have been, but his lips were moving, whispering an incantation.

A moment later the shriek of something ghostly caused Sage to drop the whip. Demitrius's eyes shot open again. He freed himself of the coils from the whip as Sage became preoccupied with the new presences.

The translucent spirits of men, women and even children began to swarm around her. Tugging at her and clothes. They were just teasing her. Waiting for the command to rip her apart.

Demitrius threw the crop to the ground. “Now!” he commanded.

****

Baron and Saffron were gearing up to go with Darroll and his men, when they heard a familiar scream from the stables. Baron shut his eyes. When he opened them he was standing in the entrance way of the stables.

Baron's eyes sought out Sage. She hadn't noticed his presence. She was too busy fighting off a swarm of barley visible spirits. As it was, she was having a hard time breathing. The spirits knocked her down. Her body began to tremor violently as they tried to posses her.

Baron took off in a jog towards her. He was thrown backwards when he collided with an invisible barrier. He tried to shatter it with his own powers, but the outcome was a jolt of energy shocking his nerves. A moment later Saffron was besides him. He too tried to break the barrier. “It's useless,” he told Saffron.

“Sage!' Baron beckoned trying to catch her attention. She glimpsed at him briefly as her hands went for her throat. She was trying to fend off the spirits with her humanity.

“Use your powers!” he instructed.

Sage was lifted off the ground and thrown into the back of the wall. In spite of her pain, she wouldn't resort to accessing Athena's or Drakmor's powers. The last time she had, she hurt Drakmor. Baron was shouting at her repeatedly trying to convince her otherwise.

A spirit, a man, became all to real, as he clutched her arm in his. His grip was like a vise. Sage threw a punch at him with her other first, but it went right through him. How was it that she could feel him, but he couldn't feel her? She wondered.

Baron pounded on the barrier with his fists, causing sparks of magic. He couldn't bare to watch her die. He had watched his fiance suffer a horrible fate, as the God's sucked the life out of her. He was helpless against the cause. The situation was similar to what he was witnessing now. Saffron ran against the barrier one more time, beating himself up over it.

-“Use your powers!”

Sage shook her head, defiantly.

Baron was conflicted with emotions. He wanted nothing more than to save his friend, but he was so furious with Sage for not listening to him, that if she came out of this alive, he would have to resist the temptation to harm her himself. If she was going to be stubborn about this, he would have to provoke her into using the power.

“You never listen to anyone Sage! Look where it's gotten you!”

Sage didn't look up at him, but he knew she could hear her. Slowly the life was being taken out of her. Her breath became more shallow. Demitrius threw the bloodied dagger in the air. A ghostly hand shot up and retrieved it.

Baron kicked the barrier hard, causing another big spark. ““Why stop fighting now, your a heartless women remember? You murdered your own father. You've killed others as well. Your Empire, is in damn near pieces, poverty stricken it is. Your main defense is freed criminals. It's probably best that you won't take a suitor, after all who would want to be with the likes of you, confined to this personal hell?”

Sage felt her heart stop for a moment, her eyes began to shut. Baron's words seem to cut her deeper than the ghost who held Demitrius's dagger, that had just began to pierce her arm. Fury and anger surged through her body. Did Baron think he was perfect? The demigod had faults of his own. What kind of thing was that to say to someone as they were dieing. He had called her a murderer.

Something inside of her woke up, Athena's or even Drakmor's magic welled up inside her and propelled the spirits off of her. The barrier's magic failed and it became concrete, nothing more than a shield of glass that shattered as Baron kicked it.

Demitrius and his spirits had vanished, into thin air. Sage took a moment to recover, letting oxygen fill her lungs. Baron and Saffron rushed over to her.

Baron saw the open stall, and the dead horse. Saffron lowered his gaze. Sage forgot that she was angry with Baron for his rotten words and she let him gather her in his arms as he knelt down towards her. He held her like a small child as she wept over Nera. He stroked her hair whispering reassurances, but in truth she couldn't be reassured anymore.

She stole herself away from Baron to look up at his face. “Where did they go?”

Baron shook his head, he truly couldn't say.

“How were the barriers around Galvenston broken?” she asked.

- “I'm not sure it's near impossible to break them from the outside. They could only be broken by someone on the inside, which would mean....” Purposefully he let his voice trail.

“Traitor,'” Saffron whispered unnecessarily.

Baron nodded solemnly, he glanced down at Sage. He had never seen her so vulnerable before, not even after she faced down her father. Distant and isolated, but never vulnerable. She pressed closer to him. He didn't mind comforting her. That's what friends did, well that's what they did. The thought of Baron comforting Saffron or any of his other friends in this manner was laughable.

After a few minutes Sage withdrew from the warm solstice of Baron's arms. He looked up at her. “You have to get ready to go with Darroll.” She reminded him.

Reluctantly Baron stood up, and turned to leave. “Stay in the castle with Calla. We won't be too long,” he promised.

The End

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