Death’s Boon (Quest)
Part 63 of Quest
Part 11 of A Quest Special Event:
& Part 11 of Irene’s Solo Quest: A Game of Death
(Previously in Quest —the goddess of fate (Fay) sent Irene to the past to discover the Undeem Queen’s making. She was tricked into playing chess against Prince Death; the game ended with the Battlecrow’s scream. A student had leeched the Battlecrow’s power. Irene released the Battlecrow; the Battlecrow flew off with Irene. Prince Death went to claim the leech.)
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pierced her releasing a scream
swallowed by wind shear.
Irene clung to the claws that grasped her around her midsection and clamped her mouth closed against the scream building in her throat. Don’t scream. Focus on something else. That giant crow is saving your life… It didn’t help. The scream expanded, forcing her jaws apart to lose a banshee’s howl.
The twisting flight path her avian savior took spiraled higher giving her a good view of the collapsing tower. Masonry crumbled and showered down kicking up plumes of dust. Squinting against the setting sun, she scanned the dust cloud for the silhouettes of survivors. There had to be some. Someone must have made it out before gravity got overzealous. Yet she saw not a single student or teacher of the Academie de Magica stumble out.
The Battlecrow swung round in a wide arc before banking and beginning her descent. A meadow rushed up to meet Irene. She screamed until the massive crow back winged and landed on a single claw. She released Irene.
Bending at the waist and engaging in some deep breathing exercises dredged up from her long ago student days helped. It slowed her heart rate from hypertensive jackrabbit to a pace outside heart attack territory. Her knees quaked still but she stayed on her feet. No way would she face one of Death’s aspects on her rear.
After finger combing her hair out of her face, she turned and froze. The tower listed to one side at a sharp enough angle that it should have toppled completely. Yet it hadn’t. Something or someone more powerful then her held it up. She swallowed and then coughed as the wind changed and she received a nostril full of dust and the metallic scent of blood.
“Is that your brother’s doing?” Irene pointed with a shaky finger at the tower’s remains.
The Battlecrow cocked her head to one side and considered before nodding.
“Prince Death’s doing, yes, I recognize his signature.”
melted into plate armor
Death removed her helm.
Then Battlecrow’s feathers melted into plate armor; she removed her helm revealing a plain face of mixed racial heritage. Her hair had been cropped boy-short and fit her angular face and direct manor.
“I owe you a boon for freeing me. A boon owed by Death is no small thing.”
The Battlecrow grinned and amusement at the very idea of an aspect of Death owing anyone a favor made stars blossom in her eyes. The sight should have chilled Irene but it didn’t. Despite the armor and the dark aura, the Battlecrow was more human than Prince Death.
In fact where had that creep gone now? The tower’s roof lay in ruins on the ground a hundred yards away and the entire structure sagged as if an invisible giant leaned hard against it. No screams punctuated the quiet that fell with the last stones. Could he still be inside?
Irene took a step forward towards the tower to search for survivors and stopped. First she had to finish things with the Battlecrow. Those trapped lives would keep for a few minutes and she had no real aid to offer anyway other than to tie a bandage.
Magic rose like smoke around the tower. It turned dark and whipped into a cyclone. It had to be cast by the trapped mages inside. Perhaps it would lift off whatever blocked their egress. Perhaps the survivors didn’t need her help after all. Its column spread engulfing their position and it felt wrong. Something about the magic fueling it felt unnatural–not like blood magic but it had a similar taste–bitter and desperate. The whole working disintegrated a breath later. Maybe she should offer some assistance.
Irene turned to face the Battlecrow. “Thank you for getting me out of there,” Irene said as more magic licked over her skin. Not death’s black magic–was it a spell of some kind spilling over from those still trapped? She kept her gaze fixed on the armored woman as her senses ranged out seeking the source of the magic twining around her legs like an impatient dog.
The Battlecrow inclined her head; she held her helm in the crook of one arm, her gaze steady. She felt no magic at work but then she wouldn’t. The Battlecrow was Death the Avenger, the Chooser of the Slain, the Merciful Blade; she had no truck with magic, just blades.
“Hold out your hands.”
In Death’s hands a boon
layers of nacre applied,
smoothed the irritant
a mortal’s aid created
formed a black pearl she offered.
Irene laid one palm over the other as if taking communion and offered her hands. The Battlecrow’s gaze never wavered as she held a back pearl between her gauntleted thumb and forefinger.
“If ever you have need of me, call me and I will come.” She laid the pearl on Irene’s palm and folded Irene’s fingers around its cold circumference. Her eyes held Irene’s for a long moment and they reflected her solemn oath.
Then the Battlecrow released Irene’s hands and stepped back, nodding her approval of whatever she had read in Irene. Replacing her helm, the Battlecrow loped away, throwing her arms out mid-stride as her body reformed into a supersized crow. Gold-tipped claws bounded once, twice and then launched her sleek black body skywards. A scream tore free full of exhilaration as she soared, banking west back to the battlefield she had left to come here.
Irene held the pearl as a third magic grabbed her around the waist and flung her forwards to her proper place in the timeline. Everything spun as time twisted and jerked, spasmed and wheezed like old man running a marathon. If he–assuming that time was a he–dropped dead from strain, would she be stuck in this place out of time forever?
Pain lanced her heart at the thought. She’d never see Istan if that happened. Never have a chance to fix what she’d put wrong all those long years ago. She sent her thoughts out hoping he would hear them.
Can you read my mind?
I’m lost in a timeless void
Wait for me my love.
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Irene’s Quest continues in Awaiting Fate.
Quest is now mobile!