Ananke hadn’t expected the voice that echoed through her mind – hadn’t expected proof that Finn wasn’t victim of a raging madness, and that she hadn’t cursed her fellow companions for nothing.
She also wasn’t expecting to find the source of that voice under a desecrated corpse – which she’d careless thrown over her shoulder at the wretched wraith behind her – and certainly hadn’t expected the source to be a sword that came to life in her hand.
As the sword blazed, wreathed in fire and light, Ananke felt renewed with strength and purpose – as elated to have found the sword, as the sword was to have been found. She knew she held in her hand the power to cut down the wraith that threatened them, and didn’t hesitate to attack.
Though her specialty had always been two-handed weapons, the weight of the sword felt nonetheless familiar, and Ananke wielded it with unerring accuracy. She dealt the wraith several powerful blows – but at a price. The wraith struck back in ferocious fury, slicing through Ananke’s core with deadly magical force.
The pain was blinding – Ananke’s whole body burned with cold; her limbs shook beyond her control; her diaphragm spasmed, making it impossible to draw breath; the edges of her vision started to go dark…
She saw the wraith surge forward to attack once more, and in that moment Ananke knew death was coming – knew she’d let down her companions, and her clan. She felt sick with shame and remorse – for not being better, stronger, faster. But she was determined to meet death head on, and stared the wraith down as it came screaming upon her.
Then there was a light – and for a moment, everything stood still. Ananke watched as Finn flung himself between her and the wraith, summoned his power, and held the wraith at bay. From what seemed so far away, Ananke heard the wraith scream in abject fury, tearing and clawing at the shield Finn had summoned.
Finn – the Elfborn who had been so flippantly despondent – was standing between her and certain death. Trying to save her, when all other sense and reason would say not to. Had Ront’s kindness not been proof enough, it was in this moment Ananke knew with certainty that one need not be family to be clan. But she also knew there were limits to Finn’s power, knew that the sword needed to be someone else’s burden to bear if the rest were to make it out alive.
It was then that she saw him, waivering in the corner of her ever-blurring vision – Sudeiman; a truly divine warrior for whom Ananke had great respect. She knew, with his divine might, Sudeiman could wield the sword and kill the wraith.
He called to her, but she couldn’t make out his words over the roaring in her head – though she guessed at his intent well enough; and praying to whichever Gods may have been watching, threw the sword to him with what little strength and coordination she had left.
And in that moment, Finn’s shield fell, and Ananke collapsed.
Everything went dark, and it was everything for Ananke to simply breath in… breath out…
Sounds swirled around her – some reminding her of home, her forge, her clan – others distinct to pain, and misery, and death.
She struggled to focus her eyes, and with a great tightening in her chest, recognized the un-moving form in front of her as Sudeiman. The wraith had struck him down, and was turning its focus to the one left holding the sword… Ash.
Panic filled Ananke, enough that she was almost able to overcome the pain and the cold and the blackness, was almost able to stand up, to draw the wraith’s attention away from the small girl, to tell Ash to run… but Ananke’s body failed her. She collapsed in a crumbled heap next to Sudeiman’s prone, seemingly lifeless form.
Ananke’s gut twisted painfully at the sight of Ash – an incredibly passionate free-spirit, with so much energy and gumption – Ananke wanted nothing more than to spirit her away from here, to where Ash would be safe. Instead, much to Ananke’s terrible shame, Ash stood alone, holding onto the sword for dear life – but, she was standing her ground, determined to see through to the end the destiny that had quite literally been thrust upon her.
Grasping Sudeiman’s frigidly cold hand, Ananke prayed, ‘Divines, don’t leave us yet…’
And in that moment, Ash drew the sword high above her and attacked the wraith with deadly precision. The room exploded in bright white light, the wraith screamed an ungodly scream that devolved into a shock wave that tore the wraith apart, and sent anything still standing to the ground.
Ananke focused what little of her sight remained on the bent, and heavily breathing form of Ash. Ananke smiled, what little she could, with great fondness and respect – Ash was unharmed, and rightfully exhilarated with what she’d accomplished. And she still held the sword. Ash, and the rest of the companions were safe.
Ananke stopped fighting the tremors running through her body and laid her head on the ground next to Sudeiman’s, still holding his hand.
‘Divines willing, Sudeiman – stay with us,’ Ananke breathed.
’You’re not gone yet… stay with us.’
And then the world went dark.