Part XI – Account by Penny Kearney
“Dana, leave me; it’s too late.” My words poured out in a rush. “Get Percy and Seph out, crown Percy, and keep the Order from dissolving. Ross is counting on the Order becoming weak if I am dead, but you must not let that happen.”
“Over my dead body.” Dana’s voice sounded in my mind as well as my ears, followed by the echoing ring of PathSeeker being withdrawn from its scabbard somewhere down the hall.
With a snarl, Set drew back his sword to strike me. I restrained the urge to shrink back.
“Set!” Dana came into view just outside my cell, sword ready, stance coiled, and gaze intent. “If you kill her…. I will kill you. And you know I can.”
“No!” I cried.
Set stayed his blade. He stared at me for a long moment, then, at the sound of Dana’s footsteps, he stepped forward, grabbed my shoulder, and shoved me to the ground. I landed on my hands and knees as he whirled to face Dana, holding his sword above me.
Dana slowed, stopping a few paces in front of us. His gleaming silver blade contrasted the ebony one hovering over me. Goosebumps prickled my skin.
“Well, Dana,” Set said. “This is a bold move, even for you. Do you really want to do this? For if you’re wrong on your level of skill….” I felt his blade come near my neck. “…I beat you, and she dies anyway.”
I reached up to push the blade back a few inches, but Set pressed it against the back of my neck, forcing me lower further lest the edge sever my skin.
I clenched my fists. “Blast it! Dana, back off!”
“Yes, Dana, save yourself.” Set mocked. “Leave your petty little leader to her decided fate. Go on, I’ll catch up later, don’t worry.”
I closed my eyes. No matter what I hoped, Set’s words as much sealed Dana’s reaction. Whether he would reach Set before—
Set’s blade lifted from my neck, but instead of it sinking into me from above, a rush of footsteps then the resounding clash of steel rang through the chamber instead. Jerking out of the way, towards the side of the cell, I leapt to my feet.
Black and silver met time and again in a blinding flurry of strikes and slashes as the twin enemies maneuvered the duel into the hall, expressions intense, eyes burning with a depth of mutual hatred.
This was a duel to the death. And I had no weapon to stop it. I watched, frozen, thoughts racing futilely, and moved to the entrance.
Dana’s attacks became more aggressive, and, if that were even possible, more powerful. Set gave ground, then in a flash finished a deflection and dodged around Dana to reverse their positions and stand near the cell entrance. I pulled back. Dana recovered in an instant, his momentum intact, and bore down on his foe with still yet renewed energy. This time Set held. Had I had a knife, he’d have been an easy target, caught unawares, and so close in range to me. But had I had a knife, I would not have used it, for doing so would have meant Dana’s death, as well. Assuredly, Set knew this.
A blurring combination from Dana, and Set gave one step. He blocked each attack, but the last one knocked his sword to the side further than Set could help. Dana landed a savage kick to his twin’s chest, knocking him completely onto his back on the stone floor. The black weapon flew from his grasp and skid out of his reach down the hall behind him.
Dana put his foot on Set’s chest to keep him from rising, and jabbed the tip of his weapon against Set’s neck, glaring down at him and breathing hard.
“It…is over, Set.”
He was going to kill him.
Not today, Dana.
I darted from the cell. This caught Dana’s attention enough to postpone his action, and allow me time to snatch up Set’s sword, and use it to whirl and slap Dana’s blade from its threatening position on Set’s throat.
A stutter ran through Dana’s muscles as he, I could tell, restrained a reflexive counter attack. He switched his gaze to me, nearly glaring. “What are you doing?” He hissed, returning his blade to Set’s neck.
The second he did, I deflected it again, and this time followed through with an offensive combination. Dana gave ground under my short onslaught, more out of surprise than any real need for safety against my action. He was the better swordsman, but I knew he would do many things before ever harming me of his own volition.
As he stepped back out of reach at the end of my combination, he retained his guard stance, roiling confusion and near fury in his gaze.
I met it, dead serious about my intent. “You are not allowed to die.”
“I cannot allow him to do anything else to you all.” Some of the edge in his tone evened. “It is better this way, and it is appointed a time for everyone to die. Let me pass. Please.”
“I will not!” I kept Set’s sword ready, listening for movement behind me, also, in case Set decided to get involved in the argument. “We are not cowards; we will find another way, but not one that costs your life. Appoint some other time because unless you go through me, I will not let you kill yourself this day.”
He stared, eyes hard and cold. But I meant every word, and remained as I was to prove it. If he made a move to kill Set again, I would fight him until he either gave up, or took my life.
Footsteps sounded from down both ends of the hall. Guards. Soldiers. Hemming us in. No doubt summoned by the jailer, who wisely decided not to involve himself directly in the altercation. Dana glanced in each direction, at me, then at Set, who I’d heard get up and move to stand a distance behind me. The chance to kill him was disappearing rapidly. I braced myself in case Dana decided to take it.
Suddenly narrowing his eyes, Dana’s gaze flicked back to me. I hesitated, suspicious.
The soldiers came into view around the corner behind Dana, drawing their weapons at sight of the scene before them. They wore both Ross and Campbell uniforms, and the captain – wearing the livery of Ross -- at the head of the group took in the situation with some measure of perplexity creasing his brows as he and his men came to a halt.
“Uh… you two! Drop your weapons!” He motioned threateningly with his own sword.
Biting his lip, Dana caught my gaze, and nodded. I knew that look in his eye. While still frustrated, I could see, he’d sensed another way. I hoped it was a way to get us out of the dungeon, not one to kill Set.
He turned, and I stepped forward. The guards approached and relieved of us our blades. I bumped into Dana as Set brushed roughly past me to address the captain.
“Captain, thank you.” He said, standing beside the man. “Now, if you please, kill the girl. I’ll take the other to Lord Ross.”
The captain shook his head. “Your pardon, Lord Set; Lord Ross wants all the Guardian Knights alive.” He motioned to his guards. “Bind them and bring them both. Lord Ross will be most pleased.”
I could have smirked at Set, giving him a taste of his own smug expression, but I didn’t. The adrenaline coursing through me had finally caused my muscles to quake intermittently, and my heart still thumped at the fact that I’d just crossed swords with one of my closest friends. I had no desire to ever repeat such a scenario, but as I glanced sidelong at him while several guards saw to binding us, I didn’t know if I would be able to avoid it. The image of the pure hatred on both Dana and Set’s faces seared itself in my mind.
The only thing I could think was that I had a lot of thinking to do. Right now, my thoughts were in such an uproar as to prevent me from coming to any logical conclusions. So I stopped trying, and followed our armed escorts down the hall, avoiding any more glances in Dana’s direction and fighting feelings of betrayal.
He’d only been doing what he thought was right. I knew him well enough to know that. But rationality had left me along with my energy, leaving emotions to roil inside, and at the moment, all I could do was try to hold everything back.