Marked for Death
Part IV: Sword & Sorcery
It wasn’t long after breakfast that Doctor Sij came back to my room. Everyone was already assembled there and Síthmaith was no longer hidden behind her magic.
“I have your discharge papers.” She said. “You don’t have to stay in bed anymore, this means you can head back to the dorm, I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable there.”
“If she’s being released, could we go around the city instead?” Emma asked. “I’m Emma, Annabelle’s twin sister. By the way.”
“I’d noticed.” Doctor Sij answered. “As for your question…” She pondered for a moment. “There is time before we have to leave… I don’t see a reason why you can’t go out so long as you’ll be back to the dorm at six. Don’t try to walk around and nothing tiring, you need to heal. Is that understood? I’ll count on all of you to keep Annabelle compliant.”
“Yes Ma’am!” Emma said before turning toward me. “Come on, I’m famished and it’s my treat.”
I didn’t protest. It wasn’t like there was a difference between staying in the hospital or going out. If anything, the open streets at least wouldn’t be full of immobilized sick people waiting to be caught in the crossfire…
She wheeled me out of the hospital and called a cab to drive us to a shawarma shop she had visited two years ago when her Lacrosse team had visited New York. Rather than sit inside to eat, she insisted we tour central park, to ‘pack as much fun as we can in the time we have.’ After spending a while eating while passing through, I requested we find a quiet spot so I could rest, feeling pretty exhausted from the short amount of sleep I’d had. Amber and Síthmaith skipped ahead to find a place, the latter quickly returning.
“I found us a quiet spot with nobody.” Síthmaith explained before guiding us there. Just off one of the path. As we went there, I noticed some markings on the trees. “Privacy spell bindings. Some lad or lass wanted their own little cranny. Doesn’t work on us magic folk.” She whispered to me and I nodded.
The ensorcelled area wasn’t much, just a small secluded area with a few picnic tables, but it was nice and the ring of trees provided an isolation from the more crowded area of the park.
“Are you alright?” Emma asked once we all sat down around one of the table.
“Yeah, just really tired. Didn’t sleep much last night.”
“You’re not in pain, are you?”
“A little sore on the neck and groin where they put the things from, but that’s all.” As Doctor Sij had predicted, I had massive bruises around both insertion sites that were already turning blue.
Even though what had happened in the morning still lingered in my mind, it was hard to think about it around Emma. She just has that energy and passion for things that you can’t help but be drawn in when she narrated her own little adventures back home the last few weeks or how she’d proudly and playfully nag me by recounting some silly, embarrassing anecdote to Amber and Síthmaith.
“I… I’ll… be right back.” Amber said after a moment, her voice sounding a little too tighter than normal. She got up and started walking toward the woods.
“Amber? Are you alri—” I stopped my sentence as she faded behind the trees. “Is she okay?” I muttered to myself.
“I don’t know…” Emma said. I looked back where Amber had gone. Emma put a hand on my arm, making me jump ever so slightly “You like her, don’t you? I can see it all over you.”
“Are you two…?” Emma asked, leaving her question open.
She gave me a smile.
“Why don’t you go talk to her then?”
“Are you sure, you came all this way for me.”
“I can be alone for five minutes.” She said. Although Síthmaith was still there, she was amazingly good at fading into the background as she was deeply focused on her cellphone. “Heck, I saw an ice cream cart on the way here, I still have some space in my belly. I just hope they have frozen yogurts ‘cause that would be perfect.”
“Get one for me too?”
“I’ll get some for everyone.” She promised before getting her bag and walking down the path to the main road.
I wheeled myself awkwardly to the edge of the area before getting up. I walked a few pace before finding Amber, sitting on the ground, fiddling with a ring attached to a chain around her neck.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked, but she didn’t answer. “You’re not mad I said we were just friend, are you?”
“What? Of course not.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s just you and Emma… You remind me of June and I…” I could see her fist clenching into tight balls. “Fuck I miss her…”
I took a few steps closer, sat down next to her and wrapped my arms around her.
“She’s really like June. That energy and drive. She always knew what she wanted and how to get it. And I was just the opposite, but like you and Emma, she’d always make sure I was along for the ride…”
I pursed my lips, trying to find something for me to say. But I didn’t have time to as I felt a massive chill run down my spine and the revolting odor of sulfur come to my nostrils.
“They’re here!” I got myself to my feet and Amber did the same, having immediately switched to combat mode.
We ran to the clearing only to see a large crimson shimmering rip in space from which a trio of grotesque giants emerged. It wasn’t my first time seeing them; Onis, japanese demons or ogres. The Shigeo-Kai loved to use them. They stood at eight feet tall, with red muscled skin, thick matted black hair and large horns erupting from their foreheads. One of them muttered something in a guttural Japanese as he pointed at me.
“I should’ve brought my sword.” Amber snarled. “I’ve got the left one, I guess?”
I mostly lost track of what happened next. Fights are chaotic and hard to follow, what the others were doing sort of became a blur as I focused on not getting stabbed or smashed to paste.
“I don’t suppose we can talk about this?” I asked as the largest of the three swung it’s giant mace at me. I dropped to the ground to avoid the sideway swing, scratching my knees on the gravel.
I focused the power in my fingers and unleashed it with my power word, lighting shooting at the Oni and hitting it right in the torso. It didn’t do a damn thing, only making a metal amulet around its neck shine a little. Figures, my only trick was shooting lightning, I wasn’t going to win with that twice…
It raised it’s mace again and was part into its swing down when something rammed into it. It took me a second to realize that something had been Amber who began savaging it with her bare hand. I struggled to my feet, my heart hurting like hell, just in time for the Oni she’d been fighting to come up to us.
She turned around and saw the Oni rising its sword. She threw herself sideway to avoid it but the tip slid against her back, drawing out a splash of blood.
“I’m okay.” She said with a grunt.
She grabbed the picnic table and and swung it off at the standing Oni like a bludgeon, making it drop its weapon in the backlash. She ran to it and grabbed the thing, which was less like a sword and more like an oversized meat cleaver with a sharp end, and drove it right into the creature’s guts, which covered her in demonic entrails. There was something terrifying about Amber fighting, the way she became someone completely different.
I tried to focus my power into shaping a new spell, something other than lightning but the magical energy fizzled between my finger and my head bursting in pain. I lost balance and tumbled down. The next few seconds became an unexplainable blur.
“Annabelle!” I heard Amber shout, the next thing I knew she was right next to me. “What’s wrong?”
“I feel dizzy… But I’m okay, just a little knocked out.” I took a few breaths. “Let me see your back.”
She turned around and I saw her back, a long but shallow cut ran up it, but thankfully it hadn’t touched the spine or anything but flesh. I focused as best I could and ran a hand over it, muttering what few Korean words I knew for healing. The result wasn’t pretty, it’d probably leave a scar, but at least it was sealed. My work done, I collapsed on my back.
“Don’t mind me, but I’m going to need a minute or ten.” I muttered.
“What about Síthmaith’s Oni? It seems kind of frozen…”
I tilted my head and saw her muttering an incantation in front of one of the Oni who had gone limp.
Amber helped me to my feet and supported me as we moved closer. When Síthmaith lowered her hands, The Oni sparked back to life but it didn’t attack us. Instead turning around and going through a portal similar to the one it had come from.
“What just happened?”
“Return to sender.” She explained. “Ought to teach them not to send a dim witted ogre against an enchantress.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. At least it’d probably buy me enough time to head back to the island before they’d try anything else. If they didn’t just decide I was too much to handle, but I doubted that would happen.
“I think we can call this a victory.”
“And I call dibs on my new sword.” Amber declared with a huge grin. She moved the sword around a bit in her hand, looking proud of herself only for the blade to disintegrate into foul smelling smoke, its previous owner along with it. “Oh come on! Really?” She screamed.
“It wasn’t made of real stuff, just the dream stuff of the other worlds like them.” Síthmaith explained.
“That cleaver looked terrible though.” I said, trying to make a joke. “Totally clashed with your style.”
“I guess you’re right….” she sighed.
She helped me back to my wheelchair and we took a second to collect ourselves. That was the moment Emma chose to come back…
“Oh my god…” Emma said. “What the hell is that smell?”
“I don’t know, it just appeared. Probably a garbage truck passed close and the wind brought the smell.” I said. It wasn’t really convincing, but she didn’t argue.
“What the hell happened to the table?” She then shouted. “Oh my god Amber is that blood on—” She stopped right in the middle of her sentence as Síthmaith whispered something and snapped her finger, making Emma face go blank and stare ahead.
“What did you just do?”
“Memory spell. Don’t snap your finger or she’ll wake up.” She then walked over to Amber and whispered another incantation. A second later, Amber looked all clean and pretty, just like she’d done before the Onis had arrived.
“Do you have a spell for every occasion?” She asked.
“Aye. Just but ‘tis just an illusory glamour. Let us go away without attracting attention.”
“Saves us the bother of explaining everything.” I sighed. “I need a thousand naps right now.” My eyes darted to Emma who still had the ice cream cones she’d picked in her hand. “And icecream… Let’s go home okay?”
“Right on.” Amber said.
Síthmaith gently pushed Emma toward the main path and she moved like a robot. We were a minute away when she finally woke her up from the spell, she was a little confused, but my tiredness got her to ignore it.