The battle raged around Commander Al-Ysa. She’d been in dire situations before, but this fight had a tenor unlike any she’d experienced. Her side, the rabbit army and the Seelie fey, fought with desperation. The Unseelie were wickedly gleeful. They had the greater numbers but fought without any coordination in a great melee. Sometimes they helped each other, other times they cared not where their blows landed.
She and Nel, the Seelie prince’s head guard (and now general) had planned for this. Soldiers worked in teams to separate and take down Unseelie fey in small groups. She raced between the chaos, calling orders and fighting when necessary.
The voice cracked across the battle and she whirled to see Caitlin, the Unseelie Queen’s right hand woman. A human, Caitlin had painted her face with long black streaks. The black ran into her hair, slicking it back. Her outfit was fey, black as well and decorated in sprays of feathers that almost disguised the blackened chain mail underneath. She looked crow-like, holding two sickles like talons.
Al-Ysa’s nostrils flared. She turned the point of her short sword toward Caitlin.
“You’ve chosen the wrong side, rabbit!” Caitlin called.
The bunny commander was too much of a professional to respond. She leapt for Caitlin. The two clashed. Caitlin’s sickles scraped her blade. Al-Ysa disengaged and thrust for a weak point in Caitlin’s armor. Caitlin blocked, then jumped out of the way as an oily-black Unseelie-rhinoceros fey charged through them. Al-Ysa jumped forward again, using the distraction. She slid between Caitlin’s legs and before the human could turn around, sliced her throat.
Al-Ysa’s blade snapped on the side of Caitlin’s neck. The reverberation went up her arm and she took a step back, clasping a hilt and broken blade.
Caitlin tipped her head back and barked a laugh. “It will take more than that!” The blue-black protection magic shone at her neck. “Come to fight the Unseelie without a shred of magic, Al-Ysa?”
“You dare speak that way to me, when all your powers are stolen?” the commander cried.
The former Guardian’s mouth opened, but not to respond. Between her teeth formed a swirling ball of magic. She thrust her chin at Al-Ysa, and the ball sailed toward the bunny.
She hopped out of the way just in time, for the ball hit the ground and exploded. Debris from the forest floor showered them both. Al-Ysa’s ears twitched, trying to regain her hearing.
“I’ve upgraded!” Caitlin shouted.
The Seelie prince dodged Unseelie whenever he could. He had one objective: to find the devil-queen. He preferred to do that on his terms, not captured and thrown at her feet. The Unseelie didn’t recognize him, or if they did, they were having too much fun battling to pursue him.
If he could just get to Samantha unscathed, he felt certain he could distract her. She was Unseelie at heart, surely she’d want to gloat.
Soon he was so far into the forest now that Seelie troops had not penetrated this far. Unseelie swooped at him at every turn until he was hemmed in on all sides.
The prince, like all humans in a fey court, had magic only as a gift from the fairies. With the Seelie Queen and King captured, he was not at full power. He threw his magical reserves into a shield and shouted, “Touch me not, dark ones! I come for Samantha!”
Giggling maniacally, they stepped back. A great mass of them followed him as he continued, leering and shouting curses. They knew watching their queen take on the prince would be a show to see.
With this wild entourage he made it to Samantha. The Unseelie Queen stood waiting in front of a grove of skinny trees, their bark black.
“Devil-queen!” the prince called. “You have upset the balance of the fey world and taken a place in fairy not meant for you! I challenge you to a duel.”
He was used to her terrifying visage, having seen it more than once in his youth and now during the protracted war. For the prince, the fight had never ended.
Samantha laughed, and all the Unseelie laughed in sharp echoes. Her teeth were pointed. “Little prince, you are not the human I am concerned with. You brought the Guardian from his Sanctuary, away from the only power strong enough to resist me. Where is Dakotah?”
“Fairy will face fairy!” the prince said.
Samantha’s eyes blazed. “YOU are not fairy, changeling! You are foolish enough to challenge me? The only reason you stand before me is because I could not be bothered to stamp you out earlier.”
“If you are not afraid, then fight!” With these words, the prince blasted magic toward the queen.
In one swift movement, Samantha snatched up the staff at her side. A wave of the staff caught the magic and sent it back toward the prince. He was not quick enough, and the blast blew him off his feet.
“Still dare to face me, prince?” she crowed.
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