Cherry Springs Nature Trail
Amelia crept forward, her bare feet sinking into the cold soil. She wriggled her toes and grimaced as several small clumps of dirt fell between her toes, but didn’t speak a word. One hand resting on her gun holster, she glanced back at Alexandra crouched just behind her.
Rather than take the trail, as Leoffa would expect, the once-king and the agent agreed that moving through the wilderness might at least give them a small measure of the element of surprise. To keep quiet, the pair had discarded their shoes and the tiny woman had shown Van den Broeke how to move through the brush heel to toe and to select her footing. Amelia’s mastery of the technique was far from perfect, but her companion had noted that it would suffice. Alexandra moved through the woods without even so much as a crinkle of a single leaf.
Amy swallowed, staring into the empty clearing before them. She could make out no movement save for the flicker of flame and billowing of smoke. A fire blazed in the center of the clearing, but one the like of which the agent had never seen. It burned with a brilliant violet iridescent intensity. A rod, ten feet tall, crowned with a gleaming crystalline gemstone was perched within its center.
Agent and former warrior-king met one another’s wide-eyed gazes, neither speaking but both certain they’d found that for which they were looking.
The crystal? Amy mouthed the words and arched an eyebrow.
The shorter woman pressed her lips into a thin line, regarded Amelia and shrugged. Amy stared into the other woman’s eyes for several protracted moments before shaking her head and inching forward. As she moved closer to the clearing, she put a hand up to shield her eyes against the glow of the strange fire.
She was less than four feet from the tree line when she spotted movement. A form, enshrouded in a dark robe, blond tresses billowing out from her hood, stood before the amethyst blaze, staff held before her, its gleaming gem shining with violet light, a mirror to that of the fire. Waldere dangled from her back, held there by an improvised scabbard of cloth and rope.
It seemed Leoffa had reverted to her prior form, the one which her shadow had worn during its assault of Brian’s mind.
Amy swallowed, peering back. Her eyes searching for Alexandra, but she caught no sight of the other woman. The agent cursed under her breath and scanned the immediate area. A slender figure, moved toward the unaware form of the sorceress.
Biting back a warning cry, Amelia tensed, squared her jaw and waited for the inevitable. Her eyes never left the once-king as the other woman inched forward. Mere seconds spanned an eternity, and the agent licked her lips, sweat beading down her forehead in rivulets.
Something was wrong… Amelia’s instincts were screaming at her she needed to take action. She opened her mouth to warn the smaller woman, but she was too slow. Alexandra threw out a hand, snatching at the sword, but her fingers passed into it as if moving through thin air and the sorceress’s dark form vanished.
“Shit,” Amelia cursed, lurching forward after the once-king, but it was too late.
Alexandra’s slender form rose, hovering in the open for several long seconds, before shooting across the clearing and slamming into an ancient oak with a flat thump.
The true Leoffa appeared stepping out from a cluster of trees, gem-topped staff glowing a vibrant amethyst, a perfect match for the violet blaze burning less than a dozen feet away. Her eyes were ablaze with the promise of violence as she rushed toward the agent.
A rush of energy shot out from the length of wood, but the agent was already moving. She threw out both of her hands, and luminescent power cascaded from her open palms. The two blasts met exploding out with a flurry of sparks so brilliant it forced both opponents to clench their eyes shut and avert their gazes.
A soft crunch of leaves and foliage sounded from nearby and Amelia lurched aside before her vision had even cleared. She coughed, a wave of heat washing over her, and she breathed in a shower of dirt.
The agent threw her arms out, swinging blindly, and grunted, sucking in air threw her teeth when her elbow connected with soft flesh. There was a yelp of pain and Amy spun toward its source, a shimmering wall of energy forming in front of her in time to deflect a third burst of energy that cascaded toward her in a bright shower of sparks.
Blinking dirt from her eyes, Amy pulled back one hand and reciprocated, waves of telekinetic force rippling through the clearing before her. Though her vision was still blurry, the agent glimpsed the sorceress soaring away. She did not let up. Tree branches snapped, and foliage tumbled away, scattering in every direction.
Leoffa dove forward, staff rearing back, and slammed it into the ground, using it to anchor herself against the agent’s attack. A soft amethyst glow swept across her body, and she stood upright, a smile creeping across her face as she regarded her opponent. Force rippled out from her in the form of a great violet bubble that swept everything aside in its wake. This new onslaught forced aside dirt, grass, rocks and even uprooted trees.
Amy braced herself, power rippling at her fingertips, but when the rippling torrent struck, it impacted her shield and sent her hurtling away. Her barrier scattered, dissolving into nothing and the agent twirled in the air before hitting chest-first with a dull thud. Amelia gasped between gritted teeth, fighting to bring air into her burning lungs and throbbing chest.
“Such power!” The sorceress’s voice rang out, and Amelia gritted her teeth and rolled onto her side.
Leoffa hurtled toward her, stopped just a few feet away, and slammed the end of her staff into the agent’s chest. Amelia’s form flew back through the air, violent throbbing pain rippling through her body. She rolled to the ground, branches jabbing into her sides with a series of sharp stabs and loud thwacks.
“Too bad, you have no idea how to use it.” Leoffa’s voice seethed with hatred as she raised her staff to strike again, but before she could attack there came a schwing of metal.
The sorceress spun around to face a slight figure. Alexandra, blood dripping down her scalp, had drawn Waldere from its sheath and was backing slowly away, eyes never once leaving her former lover. She had little in the way of upper body strength and she dipped the weapon down, dragging it as she inched away.
Leoffa’s lips twisted into a snarl and a pair of clawed hands came up, electrical energy sizzling out from her palms toward the once-king. Amy could do nothing to help her.