Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
Features
Series
Archives
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Forum
Flash Writing Challenge
Forum
Dan's Promo Page
   

The Fall Of Rune

by CB Droege




Janus looked around the battlefield for a sign of the enemy's commander, the sorcerer Rune. From the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of light as Zivon reached out with Sagan's gauntlet, and closed his hand, crushing the armor of one of the warriors arrayed against him, trying to disable them without killing. He'd gotten better with that glove lately, better than Sagan ever had been. Perhaps it was time to stop thinking of it as Sagan's, but Janus wasn't willing to let her late lover go so easily. When she turned back to the fray, she saw several of her people flung into the air and heard the faint chuckle of a madman.   

Rune!   

Janus started in the direction of the crashing soldiers, and as the battle thinned around her, she saw him. Rune's face twisted into a harsh sneer of recognition. He was older than he had been last they met, more so than time would account for. She wondered briefly what she looked like to him. Those days, before the war, felt so far away, like someone else's life. She should have killed him that day in the caves. She had wanted to, after what he'd done to that girl - the dead should stay dead - but she hadn't. She had destroyed the sorcerer's skull-topped staff but had let the sorcerer himself go free at Sagan's prompting. Now he was back with a new artifact, and hundreds were dead or enthralled. It was her fault that Rune lived to make this happen.

From behind, Janus heard a war cry as a figure passed her, smiling and spinning a sword. It was Mar'lis. The mercenary captain from the Draklands ran right at Rune, clearly expecting a challenge and planning to relish it.  

Janus screamed, "No, he's too strong!" but Mar'lis either didn't hear or didn't heed the warning. She charged the glowing form of the twisted sorcerer. Rune shifted his gaze toward Mar'lis, her battle yell filling the air.  

He raised his wand, almost casually, and gestured slightly toward the swordswoman. A streak of green light flashed between them, and Mar'lis splashed messily to the grass with almost enough momentum to reach Rune's boots. He looked down, sneering, and took a step back. Mar'lis' armor and sword lie in a deep red, almost purple, streak between them. Janus had never seen so much Draklander blood, and she couldn't help but wonder what this would do to the morale and loyalty of her mercenary company.

She needed to focus.  

Before the sorcerer could take a second aim with his wand, Janus was upon him, knives spinning. She sliced forward, and Rune wasn't there. He reappeared just meters away, and from his wand emitted the same green flash that had liquefied Mar'lis moments before. Without thinking, Janus deflected the power with a blade edge, and then tossed the knife at the wand. Rune raised his free hand, and the knife flew back toward her. Screaming, Janus threw another knife as she caught the returning one. When that one returned, she threw another, and another.  

Feeling the limits of rune's power, having used the wand herself once, Janus threw again and caught again, pushing slightly closer each time. She threw as rapidly as she could grab the blades back out of the air, and soon all four of her knives were in the air between the two, being caught and thrown at a rate Janus herself could not truly believe. Rune showed the first sign of alarm as his magic shield began to shrink around him, and he focused its power in Janus's direction. Shifting his center slightly, he sent one of Janus's knives over her head. She jumped to catch it.   

Rune's form began to flash within his shield, and the rebounding knives began to return faster, and at erratic angles. A scream escaped from Janus as she caught each one and returned it even faster still. Her arms and knives were a blur as she noticed idly that she hadn't yet returned to the ground.  

Rune's face twisted into his own battle cry as he pushed more of his energy into his shield, but Janus stepped up her own force to match, and the sorcerer's shield continued to fail. A noise like the shout of a thousand men blasted the air, and the glow around him disappeared. One knife was in Rune's wrist, and the wand was falling from his hand, another was in a shoulder, a third in his thigh, and the last rested in Janus's hand. Rune's twisted mouth opened in disbelief and protest, but he had no time to speak as the final knife landed in his heart.  

Janus fell hard, a searing pain running through her hip as she struck the ground on her side. She watched as Rune fell backward, as if through syrup. He did not strike the ground. He fell through it, and vanished, leaving his wand and a glass circlet behind on the ground. 

The entire battlefield had stopped and was staring at the scene. Zivon stepped forward and took Rune's wand from the ground in Sagan's Gauntlet, crushing it into splinters of blackened wood, which dissipated as they fell. He stepped over to Janus, and she looked up at him as she felt herself being lifted. 

Janus held tight to the gauntlet as she was carried toward the castle in the distance. For a moment she believed that she could smell Sagan's lavender scent still upon it, but then it was gone. 

Soldiers of both sides began to gather and follow, "What happened?" one asked from behind. 

"You were all under the control of an evil sorcerer," Zivon said simply without turning to look at the man.  

"What of our governor?" Asked a woman from their side.  

Zivon looked at her with pity, "He has been dead these many months."  

"Do you lead us now?" the woman asked. Janus released her grip on the gauntlet, slightly, to turn her head and see this woman who would so easily turn her loyalty to a conquering stranger, like she was a metaphor for the rest of the empire. She was plain looking, neither handsome nor homely. A trickle of blood ran from under her small steel cap. 

"His Honor Alderic Forrest is your governor now," Zivon told them, "He is the rightful successor." 

Janus glanced up at Zivon, seeing mostly chin from her vantage. Did he really believe that? Perhaps he did. Perhaps she did too now. 


THE END


2022 CB Droege

Bio: CB Droege is an author and voice actor from the Queen City living in the Millionendorf. His latest book is Quantum Age Adventures. Short fiction publications include work in Nature Futures, Science Fiction Daily, and dozens of other magazines and anthologies. Learn more at cbdroege.com

E-mail: CB Droege

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.