I’m terribly sorry I’m posting the redlines at this time. I had exams week and was busy studying/drinking coffee and it seems the critiques slipped my mind completely. I remembered about them earlier today, after finally waking up. Better late than never, so here they are. Also, thank you for the redline on my fragment :)
Death. Once again the thought had taken a hold over Marasia´s thoughts. It was like a knife tearing at the fabric of her quietude, preventing her from thinking clearly. She could not explain it. A growing sense of dread and danger. The question once again nested in her mind as a chill ran down her spine. Whose?
Marasia walked down the empty streets in the creeping darkness. Empty and dead, as if some foul creature had snatched its heart away. It made her feel on edge to walk within the cold shadow that veiled Sethides amidst its unnatural sleep, but this was her only chance to meet with Ducrat alone, without Prince Nansa and his bodyguard. How can we trust him when he’s willing to slay his mother and take her place?
They had been planning for days now, always meeting at the crumbling shack that had once been The Blazing Forge. However, she was still unsure about taking action. A wrong move and Gamalarn’s soldiers would march against the Empire. A wrong move and she would fail her uncle.
She stopped to look back; a black corridor stretched behind her, making it impossible to see anything beyond a couple of metres. For a moment, she felt like a defenceless child wandering lost in the dark. Although she could not tell why, Marasia despised places devoid of light; but whenever she tried to remember the reason, she winded-up in an alley full of questions and lacking in answers. There was a shroud in her memories as deep and unsettling as the one crawling across the Gamar capital.
Now is not the time, she told herself. There was a more pressing matter than her past. Ducrat held the Emperor’s trust, perhaps even to a higher extent than Marasia did. It could not be a coincidence that both had been sent to the city at the same time. Her uncle had taught her never to believe in coincidences. Fate will play us all puppets if we willingly permit it, he constantly told her.
It didn’t take long for her to reach her destination in the outer section of the city. Marasia took a few steps inside. Due to the poor visibility, she could not distinguish any forms in the darkness.
“Ducrat,” she called and the name echoed throughout the building. There was no reply. “Are you there?”
“I’m afraid he’s not.”
Rapidly, Marasia extended her left hand, now holding a golden orb of light strong enough to pierce the blinding curtain in front of her. A man in crimson armour stood straight across the room.
“The Knight,” she said. Her heart pulsed, but she kept her voice under control. “Where is Ducrat?”
“Most likely on his way here.” He approached Marasia slowly.
“Do not take one more step.” Marasia took her right hand to the sword’s hilt on her waist; swiftly unsheathing her weapon.
“You would do best leaving that fiery temper to these Gamar brutes. That’s a conduct suitable for blood-lusting dogs.”
“Strange way of referring to the people of Gamalarn, as if you weren’t one of them.” The Knight resumed his approach towards her. “Back down!” She yelled, extending her blade-arm as far as she could. Marasia noticed his armour was stained with blood. Fresh blood.
“I know of your strength, Seraf-Magister. Power and skill on par with the Laégelian Empress they say. However...” The Knight disappeared from her view. “... I wasn’t fooling when I claimed you had no power here.” The orb of light withered in her hand. “This city has been swallowed by shadows; the shadows I command.” The Knight materialised behind her, forcing Marasia to retreat while aiming her sword’s tip at him once again. “The spark has been lit. It will soon begin. You are powerless to stop me here.”
“Do not underestimate me.”
“It has already been done,” he affirmed, extending his left-hand glove towards her. Droplets of blood ran down his hand. “These drops will soon turn into rivers. It is inevitable.”
Marasia ran her fingers across the length of her blade. The runes inscribed in the metal began to shine with an ethereal red glow, defying the darkness around her. It soon resembled a sword crafted out of fire and lightning.
“You insist on fighting?”
“Fate will play us all puppets if we willingly permit it.”
“Curious words, coming from the Emperor’s own marionette.”
“He is like my father.”
“I wonder if he thinks the same of you.”
“He does,” Marasia instantly replied.
“Have it your way then.” He snapped his fingers and the building’s walls were set aflame.
Marasia swung her weapon a couple of times. Bursts of fire, lightning, and wind came out with every swipe, but the Knight managed to block them with ease. A cracking noise ripped through the room as the ceiling began to crumble under Marasia’s relentless assault.
“Your Excellency!” Ducrat yelled, breaking through the remains of the wooden door. The general rushed to Marasia’s side, weapon at the ready. “Your Excellency, you must leave this place. Return to the capital.”
“There’s no time, you must hurry. I shall deal with the Knight.”
Impossible. The Knight was no ordinary opponent. “You can’t beat him.” He will kill you, she had meant to say.
“Trust me, Your Excellency. I, too, have a task to fulfil to the Emperor. Until then, be assured I shall remain alive and well.”
Marasia hesitantly nodded. “Thank you, Ducrat.” Goodbye. The word raced through her mind before vanishing in a shimmer of red light. There was a deep feeling she would never see him again.
The Gamar palace was no less agitated. Instead of the usual cheering, singing, and fighting, there were bur cries of frustration and anger. They were running wildly from one side to the other, rushing as if a volley of arrows already rained down upon them.
Then she heard it and understood the haste in Ducrat’s voice.
“Revenge!” they roared in unison. “The King has been murdered. Death to Sylenvia!”