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Saturday, March 23, 2013

XIII - The Hunter's Skill

“I’m not here to play your game,” Fen snarled, her free hand tightening into a fist.
That is a shame,” Hircine replied. “For you will play it anyway. You have escaped my hounds and beaten back the other challengers.” The Daedra chuckled. “I had rather expected the giant to prevail. But he was beaten by the smallest competitor. Ah, but no matter. You have proven yourself a worthy hunter, and you have earned the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon a mortal.

“Which is what, exactly?” Fen asked, dreading the answer.
You are to be my prey. We have little time – the Bloodmoon sinks low in the sky.” Hircine slammed his spear down upon the ground. “Prepare yourself, mortal, for now you are the Hunted.
Quite suddenly, Hircine’s spear was hurtling toward her, its point sharp and quick. Fen rolled out of the way and the spear slammed into the ground, cracking the stone. She mustered her remaining magicka and let of a barrage of fire spells, forcing the god to stumble slightly. Hircine regained himself quickly and swung the spear around again as Fen ducked behind a pillar. The spear sliced off the top of the pillar as if it were made of bread, and Fen had to quickly roll out of the way to avoid being crushed. She sent another round of fire at him, and the air was thick with the smell of burning hair. He moved toward her again, his steps making the chamber shake, and Fen dashed around him, striking in vain at his legs with Trueflame. Hircine swung the spear around and nearly took off her leg before she managed to duck out of the way again.
Panicking, Fen cast an invisibility spell and ducked behind a pillar on the other side of the room, trying to stifle her heavy breathing. She had never been in a worse condition in a fight – she was tired and wounded, with Trueflame as her only weapon and barely any magicka left, facing a Daedric prince with a spear whose tip was longer than her torso. I need help, she thought desperately, but there was no one to offer it. Teleportation magic did not work in the maze, and she had no amulets or scrolls to recall her. She glanced down at her finger, where Julan’s dark, still telepathy ring rested beneath Moon-and-Star. And as she watched, time seemed to slow. The sound was gone from the chamber, and Hircine’s earth-shattering footfalls and gloating taunts had faded into nothingness. Fen looked down at the ring again. The green stone had begun to dance with familiar light, and the metal grew hot around her finger.
Hardly daring to believe it, Fen raised her eyes and, sure enough, he was there, standing mere metres away, his face worn.
“I’m a mess,” she said at once, and a smile flickered onto his face.
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
“I’m about to die,” Fen said crossly, annoyed at his cheeriness.
“What makes you think that?”
“I’ve no magicka left, I can’t hit him with Trueflame, I’m tired…” she shook her head. “I’m going to die.”
“If you’re going to die, why did you call me?” Fen frowned.
“I didn’t...”
“You needed help. So I came to give you help.”
“But you’re…you’re…”
“I know. But I can still help you.” Fen shook her head.
“I don’t understand.”
“Fen, I’ve seen you. You’ve been so close to giving up so many times since the Clockwork City.”
“I…I just…”
“If you give up, then that means I died for nothing, okay? Do you want me to have died for nothing?” Fen closed her eyes, leaning heavily on the pillar. Julan was right, she knew it. She had known it, for the past two and a half years.
“But how –?” Fen opened her eyes again, and suddenly everything felt very real – the air was cold and Hircine was moving toward her again. Julan’s ring was dark upon her finger. She glanced out from behind the pillar then looked down at her hands and a sudden feeling of strength coursed through her. She felt renewed, as if she had slept and woken up and had energy to spare. Fen closed her eyes and, for the first time in nearly three years, a genuine smile touched her lips. Thank you, Julan.
Fen sprang out from behind the pillar and sent three spells of God’s Fire, one after the other, straight at Hircine, feeling more in control than she ever had as the blistering heat seared loose from her palms. She heard Hircine stumble and roar, and before he could regain his balance she summoned a myriad of creatures and sent them swarming toward him. The distraction gave her a chance to get a clear aim at him to throw every destruction spell she could think of in his direction. Hircine roared in frustration and, with one smooth swipe of his spear, cleared all of Fen’s summons from existence. He swung the butt of his spear around and hit her in the chest, sending her flying across the room to land, heavily winded.
Fen regained her breath with surprising speed and sprang to her feet, shoving the Daedra back with still more spells.
Enough, mortal!” he screamed, sweeping aside her spells, his hair blackened and burned, his voice twisted with frustration. “This ends!” Fen darted around to one side of him, using his size to her advantage to pepper him with spells from all angles. Hircine was quick though, and the point of his spear stabbed all around her, cracking the stone and sending ice and rock flying. Fen was sure she was about to finish him off with a well-placed God’s Fire when his spear struck the ground right beside her, cracking the earth and making her stumble.
Fen slipped and fell onto her back, and Hircine raised his spear high above her. The sight changed suddenly, and Hircine was Almalexia, his spear Hopesfire, and Fen lay on the ground of the Clockwork City, about to die. And then Julan came darting in, as he had a million times in her dreams, and as the blade cut through his middle he turned to smoke and then Fen was in the cavern again and Hircine was reeling away from her, screeching in pure, unbridled rage, his spear abandoned upon the ground.
Fen knew in a second what she had to do. Mustering up every bit of remaining magicka she had, Fen lifted the spear telekinetically, her arms raised high above her head. She felt sweat beading along her brow despite the cold and her arms shook with the effort of magically lifting the massive spear. As Hircine turned to face her, she threw her arms forward with all her might, and the spear shot forward and buried itself deep into Hircine’s chest.
The Daedra let out a maddening, wolf-like howl, and he collapsed to his knees, ice and stone raining down from the ceiling. Fen, too, stumbled and fell, panting heavily as she watched Hircine slowly turn to dust to be swept away by some invisible wind. The portal activated suddenly, and Fen quickly sprang to her feet, seizing Trueflame from where she had dropped it and sprinting through the falling ice and rock toward the gate. She closed her eyes and dashed the last few metres, and just as the entire structure began to crack and come apart, she felt herself bursting through the portal, and all the noise was deadened and silenced as Fen was engulfed in cool, blue fire.

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