Sun Forged Oath

Loyalty

Vanguard explains her devotion to Amara

“Why? Her walls have protected me ever since I was a child. Her city was my house, those walls my door. Keeping out the dark monsters that lurked beyond them. They signaled home, riding back in the Red Zone once I became a Scout. Tall, pure, powerful, protective…

We used to play a game as children. We'd sneak out, dare each other to go further and further away. Looking back, we never really went all that far, skittering out from tree to tree, but to us every step felt gigantic. For some of us, it wasn't just about the dare. And for me, at least, it wasn't about proving I was brave. Deep inside, I wanted Them to see me. For Them to see that They couldn't make me hide. That They couldn't make me afraid.

Stupid, yes, I know. But in my defense, I was an actual child at the time. 

As I'm sure you could guess, one day it went poorly. It wasn't even the furthest that we had dared to go. But we were just barely out of sight of the walls when something stepped out of the forest towards us. A half dozen hobgoblins, and something else. Something tall and beautiful and terrible. Which laughed as the first of us to see them screamed, and we all began to run. 

Echo tripped, and I stopped to help him. I yelled for the others to keep going as I pulled him to his feet, certain that we were about to feel spears and blades, but instead we made it back up and started running again. I realized they were playing with us. They’d fired arrows as we ran, I could see blood on on the others, but somehow they were only ever glancing shots, enough to hurt us or make us falter but not to make any of us fall. We couldn't possibly have been outrunning them. It was toying with us, we were a sick game. Not just to terrify us before killing us – no, It meant to let us nearly reach safety, and then kill us in sight of the walls, in full view of the guards, so they’d see it happen. 

‘Eyes on me.’ This was the first time I used that tactic against the enemy, although it wouldn’t be the last – it’s one I've used several times as a Scout. 

I let the others outpace us, and then instead of heading to the nearest gate, I turned to the other side. There wasn't an opening in that direction that we had a hope of reaching, but maybe It wouldn't know that. 

The plan worked. It and the hobgoblins followed the two of us, the others getting safety away and back inside. We reached the wall. I'm not sure Echo realized until then that we weren't getting away. We turned to face them. I remember at some point I grabbed a large stick from the ground. 

They came into view, walking slowly. It drew a blade and I stared, and understood in an instant just how stupid it had been to think I wasn't afraid. I could hear it… screams and wails… the sound swelled and pounded in my brain. My fingers ran cold, and I pushed Echo back, stepped back myself, so our backs were against the wall, and I held up that useless stick in my shaking hands. I forced my eyes off the blade and looked It in the eye, terrified but furious, desperate to not die cowering… 

And then suddenly It was growing smaller, as we went flying up and away. In my fear and focus I hadn't even felt it, but something had reached through the wall and grasped us and was now lifting us up, running us up straight along the wall. I heard shouting again but this time it wasn't in my head, it was soldiers attacking the group. There was a whirlwind of blue and white silk around Echo and I, and a soft but strong voice whispered to us that we were safe now.

I asked her if we could see. Echo shook his head and said he didn't want to, and buried his head in the woman's side. She held him close, let him hide his face against her, but held me in her other and the whirling silken sleeves parted enough that I could peer down. We were floating high up, with her leaning out of the wall itself, and I watched as our soldiers slew some of the hobgoblins and the terrible beautiful creature withdraw and vanish back into the forest. Once it was done, we began flying up again, and she set us down on the rampart walkway. She touched cheeks and smiled, then sank back into the wall and vanished. 

We didn't sneak outside on dares anymore after that. Instead, though, Echo and I began sneaking off to other places. We both would slip off to the temples. And I also slipped off to watch the Scouts as they rode in and out of the gates.

Amara protected me, sheltered me, when I was small and could do nothing for her. And I intend to repay her love and her loyalty now that I'm the one who is larger.

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