Bunnies don’t have battle magic. It might seem strange, then, that the reputation of the bunny army went before them, and that all respected their skill. But most humans don’t have battle magic either, and you see how well they fight.
So Al-Ysa was unperturbed to fight someone with battle magic. She was too professional to be disdainful, but her nose twitched at Caitlin’s arrogance. In her experience, many relied too heavily on their magic and not enough on skill.
Caitlin lifted her sickles. They glowed with livid orange magic—poison. Al-Ysa backed up, leading Caitlin away from the main battle. Caitlin followed. When Al-Ysa took a quick look over her shoulder, Caitlin lunged.
Smoke spiraled from her chest, enveloping them. Al-Ysa coughed on the smoke, hopping left and right to avoid sickle swipes she couldn’t see.
The fallen Guardian couldn’t see much better, Al-Ysa realized, and she used this. Dropping low, she listened for the sound of Caitlin’s footsteps (hard to distinguish with the sounds of battle all around). She spotted Caitlin. The human was producing more smoke, but it rose into the air faster than she could form it, leaving her booted feet visible.
Keeping low, Al-Ysa moved into position. When the toes turned away, she jumped, hitting Caitlin in the small of her back.
She stabbed with her broken sword, but the human was lucky and twisted away. A sickle scraped her plated shoulder. Magic made the gold ripple and warp but the metal stopped the corruption from reaching her.
Al-Ysa slashed at one hand; Caitlin cried out and dropped her sickle. Al-Ysa kicked it away with one powerful hind leg. Then she called on the magic she did have: nature magic. Without the Seelie king and queen, and this deep in Unseelie territory, she had to nudge and prod the magic into action. But as an animal, her connection was strong, and the tree roots rose up and ensnared Caitlin.
The woman cried out as she was bound flat on her back on the forest floor. She writhed, then tried to spit a spell at Al-Ysa. But the prison was a magical one as well, and no spell could pass the roots. Al-Ysa ripped the other sickle out of Caitlin’s hand.
“Stupid rabbit, you think this will stop me! Kill me now or I will never stop–”
She was cut off by a sound that echoed through the whole forest.
“DAKOTAH,” boomed the voice of the Unseelie Queen.
The prince scrambled to his feet. He rarely thought of himself as different from any fairy (except, of course, by his rank) but at this moment he desperately wanted wings. As it was, he called on his Hero magic, casting himself in the Divine Light.
Queen Samantha hissed like a wild animal, even though they both knew it wouldn’t help him much. Still, it was a powerfully symbolic spell.
Her staff was her power’s anchor, a tool to support her magic since fairy power was waning without a Seelie to match its Unseelie. The prince knew this and struck not for her, but for her staff.
Samantha sprang to the side. He’d shot at her with light magic, an illusion to make it seem like the Divine Light was coming for her. But she knew the ruse and sent his spell up into the sky, and swung back at him when he watched his spell crash into the air.
Lightning streaked by him, burning his shirt, heating his armor. Electricity set his hair straight up. He closed the distance between them. Samantha sent a blast of fire, but the prince snatched at the threads of the spell, bending it to his will and forming a wall of flame on one side of the clearing. He did not trust the Unseelie troops to fight fair and hopefully the fire would deter them.
He threw up his shield just in time to escape a hail of magic. He didn’t know what she’d fired at him, but his shield smoked and the air smelled rotten. With one last dash, he ran right up to the queen. He thrust his sword for her chest. Samantha blocked with her staff. The sword cut deep into the wood. The prince twisted the blade, trying to snap the staff. Instead, he found the weapon trapped. Viscous purple liquid welled out the staff like a wound, sealing his sword to it.
“Now!” the queen ordered.
The prince released his sword and moved–but he was too slow for the Unseelie demons. They seized him. The prince flailed, to no avail. His hands were bound and he was wrapped in a net in moments.
“You are not the one I want,” Samantha snarled. “Where is the Guardian?”
The prince sneered. “Freeing the true king and queen.”
Samantha looked sharply in the direction of her iron tree. “Quickly!” she called to her army. “Follow me!”
She took flight, and the host of Unseelie rose around her on housefly, beetle, and bat wings.
From her vantage in the sky, the queen enhanced her voice, loud enough to fill a stadium. She drew breath and shouted, “DAKOTAH.”
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