Ely froze, her mind refusing to compute the looming, nightmare creatures that materialised before her. Through the shock, her body responded automatically, pivoting neatly to one side to avoid a stabbing spear. The momentum of its thrust brought an eagle-headed monster closer and Ely took full advantage, plunging one dagger into its armpit even as the other buried itself in the feather covered throat. Both blades slid easily out of their temporary homes and she watched the form crumple.
A quick glance showed the whole area was in an uproar; a confusion of shouts, screams, clashing weapons, and intermittent flashes of Power. Ely vaguely recalled hearing at the Citadel that the men's channeling had limitations. Given all the work they'd done this day, she had to assume they were holding themselves in abeyance until they were sure they could make a significant impact. If they became over tired, their Power would be useless. It was strategically sound thinking and occasional assistance was better than nothing. A couple of Wolfbrothers were providing the channelers with additional cover.
For a heartbeat, Ely was torn. She wasn't happy about leaving Arinth with nobody to watch his back. That was the reason she gave herself for her reluctance anyway. But he was an adult, a trained soldier, capable of taking care of himself and surrounded with not only Band folk but also several quite lethal asha'man. Tris wasn't any of those things. Ely wasn't sure precisely why she'd assumed any responsibility for that reprobate, but she had. Maybe Tris wasn't alone. Maybe the child was with some of the 'kin. It didn't matter. Ely couldn't trust in strangers. She had to be certain no harm came to the youngster because she was the one who'd sent Tris away from the protection of the Band and, although it had been a perfectly sensible action at the time, it didn't change the result now. Tris was one of their own and it was Ely's job to ensure she got home safely.
Besides, despite all the damage she could do with her daggers, she wouldn't be able to sustain the speed and style of fighting they required against these kinds of opponents. Nor was taking their weapons an option. She didn't have the strength to wield such weight. No, she needed her own sword and it was in the Lodge.
Choice made and logic satisfied, Ely set her jaw and was off, weaving her way with grim determination across the intervening ground. It was no easy feat to navigate the heaving press of bodies but there was no time to skirt the fighting. She simply made a beeline for the steps. She was working on the premise that it was harder to hit a moving target, falling into a rhythm of ducking, deflecting and dodging blows as her nostrils clogged up with the smells of sweat, blood and something rancid that clung to these foreign beasts. It seemed as though hours passed while she forged herself a path, although in reality it was mere minutes before she broke free and ran up the long steps into the Lodge.
"Tris?" her voice hung harshly in the empty silence of the main room. No response. Ely moved quickly to the weapon stand, retrieving her own sword and purloining a spare as she called again. "Tris! Where in the Light are you?! Answer me!" Still nothing. The entire place had been vacated. She was wasting her time hanging about there. Hopeful that the Sages had simply taken the child with them, Ely ran back out to the top of the steps. Where was Arinth? Despite the extra height the steps provided, she couldn't see him. Fierce eyes scanned the scene, flicking from one section of the fighting to another. Searching.
She spotted the Sergeant embroiled in a stand-off with a bear faced behemoth. A second later he took an axe to the temple that threw him several yards and slammed him against the Lodge wall. He landed in an unmoving heap, a single trickle of blood seeping out of his ear. Lifeless.
She couldn't get to him, there were too many enemies between them and, even if she could, it would have been futile. It was too late for the man. Anger burned through Ely's blood at the sight, filling her with a violent need for retribution. She launched herself off the steps and back into the thick of the action... accompanied by the not-so-distant sound of wolves howling.
Time ceased to mean anything. She existed solely from one encounter to the next. She had come to the aid of a scout who was being sorely pressed, slicing through his protagonist's spine, and then fought briefly back to back with an unfamiliar infantryman until they dispatched their respective foes. Looking for her next target, she found herself accosted by a meaty fist swinging inexorably towards her and she twisted away. Not fast enough. The thought registered faintly as pain blossomed across her shoulders, doubling her over and making her stagger a few steps.
She refocused as best she could, balancing her weight, and launching a flurry of hacking feints and rapid strikes at the abomination that had dared touch her. It wasn't pretty. Sword play wasn't ever pretty in the middle of battle. It was vicious, and messy, and savage. Satisfying, Ely called it. These things were hurting her people.
There was no denying that she was tiring though. Heaping emotional upheaval, a forced run and physical labour on top of her already tender state from the previous night hadn't left her in a battle ready condition. Ely could feel the muscles in her arms protesting and the trauma to her shoulders had bruised the bone. She swallowed the pain as best she could, circling the owner of the damage inducing fist. It lunged at her again, and in its haste slipped on the blood slick grass, landing on its face. Never one to miss an opportunity, Ely slammed her sword down across the back of its neck, decapitating it.
She straightened slowly, disengaging the blade from bone and sinew, noting the notches that would need to be worked out of it later, and wiped the metal clean on the creature's apparel. The adrenaline was draining out of her system at an alarming rate and she could feel every cut, every bruise. She had to move. Light, the blasted man better not be hurt. He disturbed her peace as nobody else ever had and the Creator help her but she wanted him in one piece until she figured out why!
Coming back to awareness of her surroundings, Ely saw that there were only a few pockets of fighting left. Reinforcements had arrived at last and, though hard fought, the day was all but won. Oddly she hadn't progressed far from the Lodge steps, all the back and forth of combat had disoriented her. She spun sharply on her heel, intent on locating Arinth, only to hear his voice calling her name. Pleasure washed over her at the sound, raising the hairs on the back of her neck.
She swiped the back of one hand across her eyes to clear the miasma of dust and blood, trying to identify where the call had come from. Her frame was taut with the tension of waiting for him to come into her line of sight. Maybe it had been a figment of her imagination after all conjured up by want rather than reality. She could hear her heartbeat thrumming ever more loudly through her over sensitive skull.
"Ely!" This time the shout came from her left. A higher pitched voice.
"Tris?" Ely turned slightly to see Tris wriggling out from behind a loose plank, revealing a small crawl space underneath the far end of the Lodge. Clever kid. A weight that she hadn't even been aware of lifted at the knowledge that Tris too was alive and safe but no sooner had she registered that than Tris screamed her name a second time.
Ely's brows knit together and she took a quick step in Tris' direction. It was a step which, she would acknowledge later, probably saved her life. A sharp, agonizing pain scored its way across her lower back and hip as an unseen blade bit deeply into flesh leaving nothing but fire in its wake. She tried to twist round, to bring her own sword up to block any further attack, but her body refused to co-operate. She felt her knees hit the mercifully soft ground before the fog descended and she knew nothing more.