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The Fall of Marza

by Kit Olsen about a year ago in Fantasy
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An excerpt from a longer work in progress

The Fall of Marza
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

The light on the horizon was not sunlight.

Arturo had run down the rocky coastline towards the sea from the watchtowers as the ships came in. Not one, not two. A whole damn fleet.

Markos and Aranna were already on the shore, sword in his hand, bow held in hers. He ran towards them now, hand on this hilt of his sword.

No, the light on the horizon was not sunlight. It was a flame. The ships appeared alight, wreathed in illusory tongues of smokeless fire, which obscured the flags and blurred their origin. But the war drums echoing, reverberating violently against the hillside declared their source. The Crescent had arrived.

“We don’t have enough.” Markos’ voice shook. “There’s no way we last the night.”

“How many do we have?” Arturo asked.

“It doesn’t fucking matter!”

“How many?”

Aranna gripped her sword tightly. “A dozen of us, if we’re all lucky. We’re not going up against a fucking armada.”

“We don’t have to go up against a fucking armada, we just need a shot at the lead ship.”

“You’re insane.”

“Vivienne’s there. She’s always there.” Arturo grit his teeth. “All the stories and songs say so. ‘The first of the ships on the water, the last sight of men on the land.’”

“We have a dozen men to our name, we’re not going up against them. We need to surrender.”

“If she takes Marza, Ambrickeria’s next. We end her. Here and now.”

Markos stared at him blankly. “How exactly do you plan on doing that?”

“I need a diversion.”

Aranna turned, staring up at the watchtowers, and gestured. “Smash the alchemicals. Set it ablaze. It’ll warn the mainland.”

Markos tried stammering out a response but Arturo turned him around and sent him running. “Aranna, with me.”

The two of them sheathed their swords and ran towards the cliffside. The world seemed to spin, adrenaline coursing through them. The paths were known only to the watchmen of Marza, and these paths would not be crossed by any outside of them. Arturo led the way, scaling upwards, invisible against the rock face. The outcropping held them both steady as they waited for the ships to pass by underneath.

The watchtower above exploded with light. Greenish flames coated the structure, sparks dripping from it. In the light of it, Aranna and Arturo watched from above, as the first ship drew close. Their crew stared at the sudden light. All except one woman, standing at the helm, dark hair illumined in the illusory flames of her ship. It was her. It had to be.

Arturo motioned. Aranna let the shot fly.

It flew wide.

The arrow sank into Vivienne’s hand, into the ship’s wheel. She barely flinched, her keen eyes turning towards the source of the shot.

Arturo cursed, turning to Aranna. “Whatever you do, don’t stop firing.” The ship was underneath them now. He leapt from the outcropping towards the ship, towards the sails, knife drawn. He slammed into the first sail on the foremast, force knocking the air out of his lungs. He was falling, falling, too fast. He changed grip on the knife, stabbing into the fabric. It tore, slowing his fall. Slowing him down enough that he wouldn’t slam into the cross beam. He landed, caught his breath. A volley of arrows flew up towards the outcropping, and the figure of Aranna fell from the cliff.

Arturo ran, trying to keep balance as he pushed towards the rigging. Staring down, trying to find the conquering queen, he ran for the ropes and started rushing down. No one else had seen him. He tossed the knife aside and drew his sword.

The first archer along the side fell without struggle. The second realized what was happening too late to stop it. Arturo swung wide at the third and found his attack stopped by a sword, not his target’s. A bleeding hand held the hilt unwaveringly.

“You’re brave. Stupid. But brave.”

The archers turned around, many leveling their bows at him. Arturo’s heart matched the pounding of the war drums.

He met her eyes, their swords still crossed. Her eyes were keen, staring at him as if she could see into the core of his being. He pulled back, preparing for the attack. The bitch tilted her head, the bows withdrew.

“You were charged with the defense of Marza, I take it?”

Arturo made no answer. The two circled each other.

“There is no shame in defeat. There is no indignity in surrender. You know who I am, you know my reputation. There cannot be more than… what. Ten? Fifteen among these spires?”

He lunged, she deflected. They returned to circling.

“I offer you your lives. Reckless bravery has its place. With the right commander--”

“Fuck you.”

He rushed her. She stepped aside, her sword swinging at him with precision. The flat of the blade slapped against his arm. They matched, step for step, farther from the archers, towards the center of the ship.

“Do not test my mercies again, Watchman. The next, I will strike true. So now I ask, do you surrender and spare the lives of you and your men, or will it be blood?”

He stopped, standing still on the swaying deck of the ship, mind rushing. The greenish glow of the watchtower stood behind her, illuminating the dark waves of her hair like a halo around her head. The illusory flames of the sails glowed in her eyes. The sword swung in a figure eight as she awaited his response. He stared at her, words failing him for a moment. Vivienne smiled, and it was cruel.

“There’s the fear.” The smile didn’t fade, as she tilted her head. “I would have your answer.”

He swallowed, tightening his grip on his sword. “Death first.”

The arrows sank into him one by one, blood gurgled out of his mouth. He sank to his knees before her.

“Then may you die as bravely and foolishly as you lived, Watchman.”

The sword swung true, and Arturo’s head fell to the deck of the ship, staining the already stained wood red with blood.

Queen Vivienne turned to face her men, dropping the sword to the deck, tearing fabric from her shirt, and wrapping it rapidly around her shaking hand, now dripping blood. “Drop anchor. Hunt down the watchmen. Kill them all.” She stared at the prone form in front of her. “He’s sealed their fate. Marza is ours.”

The men let out a cheer and the war drums echoed into the night.

The light on the horizon was sunlight.

None of the Watchmen had lived to see it.

----

Hi all. If you've read this far, thank you so much. I've been out of the Vocal game for a while now, but thought the time had come to stretch my writing muscles once again. If you liked this, feel free to check out a few of the other stories and poems I have on my profile! Some of them might suit your fancy. Thanks again for reading.

Fantasy

About the author

Kit Olsen

Queer poet, short fiction author, and long-time storyteller of all varieties. Feel free to stick around and see if anything catches your fancy!

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