The Beginning After the End (Vol. 8.5): Amongst the Fallen
The Three Lances (Part 1)
The Three Lances (Part 1)
Dec 16, 2021
"Mica is tired of the Beast Glades," I said, knowing my complaining would irritate the elven Lance. "Mica is bored. B-O-R-E-D, bored."
Aya, who was meditating and refining her core, did not respond.
"Mica and her sisters wouldn't be here if it weren't for that awful boy," I grumbled, picturing the dark-haired Alacryan whose arrival had sealed our fate in Etistin, "with his dark fire and black metal…"
Aya twitched at my reference to her and Varay as my sisters, but didn't respond otherwise.
"Mica was just thinking about when Varay launched an entire glacier at the Scythe. Remember how it lifted up from the bay like it'd been thrown from a giant catapult?" I plucked one of the stone dolls I'd made from my bunk and mimed the glacier crashing into it, breaking the doll in half with my fist. "Mica thought that might do it, but the cursed black flames ate through the glacier like—"
"Like fire through ice?" Aya asked, her eyes still closed.
I fused the two halves of the doll back together. It was an angry, ugly little thing, modeled after one of my teachers at the Earthborn Institute. At least, that's what I'd been trying to mold. It looked more like a frowning, bearded potato.
I tossed the doll back onto my bunk where it rattled against the others, then ignited my core and reversed gravity on myself, causing me to float slowly into the air and hover a couple feet above the ground.
"You elves always have such a way with words. Mica thinks this is perhaps why you were so late in getting to Etistin. Writing poetry, maybe?"
Aya opened one eye to glare at me, then closed it again, shuffling on her behind and returning to her meditation. I drifted a little closer so that the edge of my gravity bubble made her hair float around her head.
"Mica and Varay had the saw-horned Scythe on the ropes until the heartless boy arrived. Had Lance Aya been slightly quicker to reach Etistin, perhaps—"
Aya's normally gentle eyes were cold as ice when they snapped open to glare at me. "If you think I'm going to sit here and listen to this again…Had I not arrived to aid in your escape from Etistin, you would be dead, you daft dwarf."
I raised one eyebrow—or lowered it, maybe, since I had rotated until I was floating upside down—and gave Aya a satisfied smile. "See? Mica said you elves have such a way with words." The purposefully irritating smile slid from my face as I thought of something else. "Hard to believe that Lance Arthur fought off both the Scythe and the dark boy at once."
"Supposedly," Aya replied, her eyes closed again. "Besides, he had a dragon at his side. Perhaps if Arthur and Sylvie had stayed at Etistin like they were supposed to, then things might have ended differently. He might not have died fighting by himself, for one."
I watched Aya carefully. Despite her meditation, the lines of her thin face were tense, her lips pursed so tightly they were white around the edges. Gone was the seductive pout the elven Lance used to distract the world from her strength, replaced by a constant frown. The betrayal of King Eralith and disappearance of Tessia and Virion had been hard on her.
But who would know better of what she'd been through than me?
Reaching out slowly, I poked Aya's nose with the tip of my finger, causing the elf's eyes to flash open. She attempted to unfold from her cross-legged sitting position and recoil simultaneously, resulting in her falling backwards with a grunt.
"What the hell are you doing?" Aya's eyes were wide, her mouth slack with shock.
Shaking my head in exasperation, I said, "Mica is surprised that an elf as pretty as Lance Aya is so unaccustomed to the physical touch of another. Surely Aya has had her share of—"
"Oh shut up," Aya snapped. "Don't be vulgar, Mica. Can't you just leave me alone so I can meditate?"
I only shrugged. "Mica is bored."
Aya turned thunderous as a buildup of angry mana flickered across her pale skin, but the far end of our little cave began to grind and shake, sending down trickles of loose earth from above and distracting us both.
We turned to watch as the dirt-and-rock wall separated and lifted up, revealing Varay against the backdrop of vibrant greens. The human Lance didn't even wait for the door to fully rise before she slipped beneath it so it would reverse course and grind closed again.
When closed, the door was invisible from the outside, and it would only open in the presence of a Lance, a precaution Varay had insisted on. It seemed like overkill to me, considering that we were deep in the Beast Glades, surrounded by vast tracks of unexplored forest full of S- and SS-class mana beasts.
Aya and I were silent as we waited for Varay to report on her scouting excursion, but the human Lance didn't address us immediately. She made her way across our small hideaway and rinsed her hands and face in the narrow spring than ran down the back wall.
The cave was also my creation. Three bunks molded from soft earth lined one wall, while a stone table covered with a rough map of Dicathen occupied the middle of the room. A counter with a sort of natural oven and a stone slab for meal preparation grew out of the far wall.
I'd carved into a natural spring in the back wall, allowing it to fall freely into a shallow basin for collecting drinking water and taking the occasional—very cold—shower. Varay didn't seem to mind this, as an ice-attribute mage, and Aya never complained about it either, but I was a refined dwarven lady and missed the hot mineral baths of Darv.
The war between Dicathen and Alacrya is over and Arthur Leywin has vanished. In the uncertain aftermath of this decisive loss, a few familiar faces navigate peril both political and moral as they are now forced to make a difficult choice: accept life under Vritra rule or keep fighting despite impossible odds? As Dicathen falls, Mica Earthborn, Lilia Helstea, Emily Watsken, and Jasmine Flamesworth must each answer this question for themselves.
NOTE ABOUT READING ORDER: to get the best reading experience, Amongst the Fallen should be read after volume 8 of The Beginning After the End (make sure you've read up to episode 868).