[FFML] [Exalted]The Broken Circle 5/5

miashara at deepfriedpuppies.com miashara at deepfriedpuppies.com
Tue Dec 8 14:20:08 PST 2009

Exalted is the creation and property of White Wolf Publishing. No  
infringement is intended. This is a not for profit fan work.

This is it. If you read it, I hope you enjoyed it.

All chapters at ff.nt

Act 5

That run broke me off. We stopped at the few streams we passed to  
rest, drinking deeply of the sweet mountain water while we did. By the  
time we'd left the company of our captors, daylight was waning in the  
early afternoon, leaving us on a timetable. We had to move quickly. At  
first we let Dog set the pace, since we expected him to be tired. Two  
miles later and several thousand feet higher, we forced him to stop so  
the rest of us could catch our breath.

"I keep forgetting you're not a small, bookish kid," Hail admitted  
after plunging his face into a shallow pool. He was speaking to Dog,  
who paced around the clearing, keeping his muscles warm.

"I am a small, bookish kid," Dog countered. "I'm just poor, have no  
books, and like to run. While you're getting your wind back, mind  
explaining to me what happened during your absence?"

Angel did most of the talking. She broke the chain of events down  
quickly, omitting most of the technical details of the fight. Dog did  
ask, "You let him knock you out intentionally?" at one point in her  

Angel shrugged. "It seemed reasonable at the time," was the only  
explanation she offered. After that Hail took over the narrative of  
our capture and reverse interrogation. They agreed that the panther  
had probably let it go on exactly as long as he wanted. The  
coincidence that he had left with his students in tow just as Dog  
arrived was too unlikely to be unintentional. Similarly to Maheka, the  
jungle cat had set the situation so he would gain if we succeeded, but  
lose nothing if we failed. On the other hand, that implied our feline  
friend was at least nominally on our side. Still, we resolved to trust  
him not at all. Paranoia was setting in.

"I'm impressed you managed to get them to fall for the crossfire," Dog  
told us while we were trotting along a game trail.

"They didn't," replied Hail cryptically. After some prompting he  
explained, "The girl, Sky Eyed Vixen, was buying it, but the man was  
ignoring us. I had to force him to start talking."

"You forced him?" probed Dog.

Hail spent several moments looking for words. We were all scrabbling  
for vocabulary to describe our powers. "Do you remember how you threw  
those knives at Beast of the Oak Forest? You didn't just throw them,  
you threw them better?"

"Yes," agreed Dog in a tone that encouraged Hail to continue.

"Well, I did the same thing. I put power behind my words. Normally I  
think Seven Roaring Terrors would just have ignored us when we started  
trying to eek a reaction out of him. But he didn't when I made my  
words-" he stopped, and tried to figure out how to explain it. "-more."

"When I was living in the Imperial City, I once heard Dragon-Blooded  
warriors talking of 'Charms.'" Dog reminisced. We all grew silent,  
surprised he was willingly breaking his silence on his history. "At  
the time I didn't understand what they meant. They talked about them  
like they were tricks, little moves they've figured out which let them  
go past the normal limits. I think that's what we're doing."

"I noticed that too," I agreed. "There were things my old sensei  
taught me to do but never explained why. When I would ask, he just  
told me that it was part of the form. But up until now, I've never  
been able to make the tricks work. Now, they seem easy. The secret to  
them, the 'trick' I was looking for, makes sense now."

"Are these tricks, Charms,  magic?" Hail asked.

"No," replied Dog thoughtfully. "They're close, but I don't think  
they're the same."

"So, how long did you live in the Imperial City?" asked Angel, losing  
the fight against her curiosity.

"Oh, look. The sun's setting. We should pick up the pace," observed  
Dog. He immediately sped up until we couldn't afford to waste any  
breath on speaking. I momentarily hated Angel but soon lost the energy  
for that too.

After that we ran hard. The mountain did indeed suck. By nightfall we  
were crossing terrain we'd already passed, and sheltered for the  
evening in a small glade, near where wild lilies grew in waterfall  
pools. I tried to take watch but succumbed to sleep in the end.

My dreams were simple, like what I'd had before. Ash Maiden was alive  
when I slept. Every time I woke she died. If my body didn't require  
it, I would never close my eyes.

Angel was watching me curiously when I dragged myself from my  
blankets. Without a word she fell in next to me on the way down to the  
stream. While we'd agreed that no one should go off alone for safety's  
sake, I knew that wasn't what this was about.

"You don't sleep very well, do you?" she asked while washing her face  
in the river.

Perched against a tree with my back to her, I was watching the woods  
for signs of an impending assault. She had all the privacy I could  
give, but it also gave me an excuse to hide my reaction. My dreams  
weren't a good topic of conversation.

"I thought we agreed not to talk about this?" I asked.

"So that's why you didn't want to wait in Shogg's woods. You're scared  
of sleeping," Angel surmised.

"Again, this isn't something we need to discuss," I told her.

"I'm not sure of that. Have you considered your bad dreams might not  
be because of simple guilt? We've dealt with a lot of people with more  
than human abilities, including us. Someone could well be influencing  
you." Angel told me over the noises of splashing water.

"I don't have to stay here for this, you know. I'm about to leave," I  

"No, you can't. I'm giving myself a bath, so you have to make sure no  
one looks at me while I'm naked."

"What if I look at you while you're naked?" I countered.

"Please. You'd need to admit to yourself there are girls other than  
Ash Maiden in the world, and I'm pretty sure that part of your brain  
is broken. Both of you are like that," she observed acidly.

"Both of who?"

"You and Hail. You know how impossible it is to try to win a guy who's  
in love with a dead girl, much less my best friend? I can't even  
really try, because I feel like I'm dishonoring her memory." It  
suddenly occurred to me that Angel's acidity wasn't directed at me,  
but at herself. After her admission at the moment we'd come to our  
power, she'd never spoken a word to Hail. I was an idiot for not  
noticing that before.

"Have you talked to Hail about it?" I asked.

"No," she admitted.

"Why not?"


I almost turned around to stare at her. This was the girl who let  
herself get beaten unconscious to hit a giant cat with a volcano. "Of  

"Of him telling me 'no.' Ending, I already know he doesn't feel the  
same way for me. If I push the issue, he'll just have to reject me.  
Maybe in a little while when time's taken the edge of his grief we can  
discuss it. In the mean time I know what he would tell me, and I'm  
scared of hearing it," Angel explained simply. Her words sounded  
practiced, giving the impression she'd rehearsed this speech on  
herself many times. "I wish I'd never had said anything to begin with."

"Then why did you?" I asked. "I mean, when we escaped from jail. Why  
mention it then?"

"Because that was when I first got power," she explained. "This, this,  
whatever this is. I'll ask Dog what it's called. He'd know. But I  
didn't realize how it worked. I thought I was immune to everything,  
but now I realize there's no gift that would let him reject me without  
making me want to cry." She was silent for a moment, and the pool was  
still. The only noises were birds in the trees, and water cascading  
down the falls. "Besides, if something happens, at least he'll know."

"Nothing's going to happen to you," I retorted, bothered she would  
even imply otherwise. "You're the biggest badass we've got."

"We'll see," she replied.

"Have you thought about anyone else?" I asked, hoping to distract her.

"How can you even ask me that?" she whispered. Her voice sounded  
betrayed. "You, of all people."

"Touché," I admitted. "I'm sorry. That was inconsiderate of me."

"Jerk," Angel grumbled in a hurt tone. I heard more splashing noises.  
"Besides, I'm not here to talk about me. I'm here to ask you about  
your dreams."

"Sorry, but this might be a wasted trip for you. I don't want to talk  
about them."

"Well, tough. We're talking about something while I bathe, since I  
can't do this with either of the other two."

"Why not?"

"I'd be embarrassed to be naked around either of them. But if I could  
get you to pull your head out of your butt long enough to even think  
about another girl, I'd feel like it was a worthy sacrifice."

Angel was not given to tact or mincing words, I'd noticed.

"Shouldn't you have feminine modesty or something?" I opined.

"I have plenty. That's why you're looking at the woods, instead of at me."

"No, I'm looking at the woods because I'm worried someone might try to  
kill you while you're naked."

"Don't quibble. Tell me about your dreams, Ending." I was going to  
lose this. I could never beat Angel in a battle of wills.

"Dammit woman. In my dreams she's alive. She's with me, not him. When  
I wake up, she's dead. I couldn't even let her tell me it was over  
without making her cry. Fun memories. It's not complicated. What do  
you want from me?" I snapped, staring angrily at the trees.

"You know, that's not your fault," Angel said quietly.

"Yes, it is, and you may as well admit it," I sighed, and realized I  
couldn't avoid explaining this. "You know why she didn't love me? It's  
because I'm a hair shy of being ax crazy, and there's nothing I can do  
about it. Look at how we took it. Hail mourned her and did what she  
would have wanted. I'm trying to get my friends killed while I go find  
someone to murder. You know why she didn't love me? Because of that. I  
can't even blame her for it. Now can we please not talk about this  

Angel finished getting dressed while I ranted, and by the time I  
wasn't snarling any more came up behind me. She wrapped me in a  
sisterly hug, and I could feel her wet hair against my back. I ignored  
her until everything was safely bottled up again.

"Ending, Ash Maiden found the meaning of her name in death. Please  
don't do the same," she whispered softly.

"We'll see," I muttered, throwing her words back in her face.

"You're a pigheaded ass, you know that?" she told me.

"Doesn't anyone in this group know what a bedside manner is?" I asked  
her rhetorically.

"Dog does," Angel informed me. "At least ask him about your dreams, will you?"

"Do you promise to drop the topic?"


"Fine, then. I'll talk to Dog about my dreams. I'll talk to the whole  
world about my dreams, my bad habits, and what I had for lunch  
yesterday if you just stop pestering me," I ranted to the world.

"Good." She gave me a parting squeeze and stood up. "Let's go back to  
the others."

"Hold on." I didn't bother taking off my clothes. Instead I just  
jumped into the pool, scrubbed myself with sand, and rang out  
everything I was wearing when I got out. After that we went back to  
the campsite.

While we were gone, Dog and Hail had foraged successfully, and we came  
back to a collection of fruits, berries, tubers, and plant stems. We  
ate. Angel caught my eye, then sent a meaningful look at Dog and  
grunted at me. I sighed.

"Have either of you been having weird dreams?" I asked, skirting  
around the issue.

Hail thought about it, then shrugged. "I dream of Ash Maiden a lot.  
The way she moved, what her cooking smelled like, that sort of thing.  
They're sweet dreams, but they make waking up hard sometimes."

I mulled over that while asking Dog, "What about you?"

"My dreams are always pretty strange. I try not to pay too much  
attention to them," he replied.

"Strange how?" I asked.

"Last night my dead grandmother attacked me with a frozen weasel, and  
I had to beat her to death with the melody from Little Blue Baby," he  
answered, referring to an old lullaby. "By the time I got her down, a  
flower grew out of her forehead and blossomed into the Scarlet  
Empress, whom offered me a cupcake. The cupcake was full of octopi who  
immediately began eating Nexus. After that my legs turned into the  
color green. Then I woke up."

We all stared at him. Dog shrugged. "Like I said, my dreams are pretty  
weird. They're just dreams though."

I turned to look at Angel, asking her with a glance if she was  
satisfied. She put a tired hand to her forehead, and waved submissively.

"Why?" asked Hail, observing our interplay.

"Nothing at all," I replied evenly.

"Well, if you girls are done whispering, I suggest you head up to the  
ridge line and look towards Nibeldamt," Dog told us.

"Why?" I asked.

"It has begun," he said simply. "Now, I'm going to go wash off."

With that the two of them went down to the stream. Angel and I picked  
our way up the hill until we hit a high spur that carried us to open  
air. The sweep of heaven was undisturbed by the few nosy peaks that  
reached for it, trying to see what went on behind the vault of the  
sky. Ecstatic birds flew below us, winding their way through the vales  
of the Meander mountains. We stared at the world, laid bare at our  
feet by the naked power that made mountains. For a long time we just  
looked. Then slowly our attention swung to the city.

Nibeldamt was framed by two great peaks. They had once been joined by  
a soaring kol, but centuries ago an earthquake had sheared that apart.  
Now their shoulder's reach for each other, ending in cliffs that  
bookended a view of the foundry city. It was under its usual cloud of  
ash. The gloom that had been so pervasive while we were there seemed  
tiny, bottled in by the surrounding peaks. As we watched, the  
smokestacks of First Age iron foundry gouted flames into the sky. The  
city was an unnatural mechanical beast. But as we looked, we became  
away that the fires ripping through the city were not solely confined  
to the foundries. They ripped through the city, burning some of the  
lesser mansions and a garrison on the north side.

"Maheka's making his move," Angel observed. "He must have decided we'd  
weakened Ragara's forces enough."

"He would never have done that if Ragara himself was still fine," I said.

"Then he must not be," Angel replied.

We considered the aftereffects of our actions that now plunged the  
city into fighting. We couldn't see individual figures, but knew they  
were moving from street to street, clearing patches of Ragara's  
resistance. The people loyal to him would be driven from their homes.  
Only the continued outbreak of dirty red flames confirmed that it  
wasn't complete already. We watched the city burn for a long time.

"Man. The animal that kills itself," observed a new voice. We glanced  
around and saw her. Between two standing stones in the shadows of the  
morning sun stood a woman in elegant stillness. Angel and I didn't  
need to exchange a look to know we both recognized her. Though having  
only seen her briefly, I never forget a face. (Or a prostitute for  
that matter, but that was part of my old life, like larceny.)  
Underneath her elegant formal wear, Serenading Thrush's hooker was as  
pale as her northern skies. She regarded the distant violence with  
dispassion. Her hand rested lightly on the silk wrapped handle of a  
long broad blade hanging from her belt.

"Ants," countered Angel. "They make war. They'll conduct genocide if  
they can."

"So the murder is part of the natural order? I feel vaguely absolved,"  
the woman replied.

"Defile Perilous?" I presumed.

"Indeed. Let me guess. Fluffy Bunny?" she replied, amused. I smiled.

"Cuddly Kitten," Angel introduced herself.

"Did you kill Ash Maiden?" I asked her.

For a moment Defile Perilous stared at me, like she was debating  
lying. Finally she shrugged. "Yes. I did. Shall we make this a formal  
duel, then?" asked the Icewalker.

"No. We're just going to hack you to pieces," I replied.

She looked at us bemused. "I forget how direct you manlings can be.  
It's quite refreshing after Yu Shan."

Hail shot her in the head. Three feet of fury behind an armor piercing  
needle cast from a bow of light and fire dropped on her from behind,  
perfectly matching the incident angle of the morning sun. The bow had  
no string to vibrate or wood to creak, and the fletching on the arrow  
was pure essence that made not a whistle as it cut the air. Defile  
Perilous had no warning at all. She still parried. After that she  
glowed a soft verdant green for a split second before the time to  
notice such details was over.

Angel and I screamed like lunatics as we blitzed her. Our cries were  
intended to distract her even as Dog and Hail filled the air with  
their second volley. Hail's fingers flew from quiver to bowstring with  
unhesitating speed, hurling arrows until it seemed the sky was falling  
upon her. Every shot missed. Dog threw so many knives that they  
occluded the sky worse than a plague of locusts, and came down on  
Defile Perilous like rain in a winter storm. She parried with her  
sheath. Angel whipped the cloth belt from her waist and snapped it  
outright, where it held its rigid shape and sang like a nightingale as  
it cut the air. The woman severed it with an effortless draw of her  
blade. If Angel's improvised weapon sang like a bird, the murderess's  
sang like an opera star. I just screamed louder and tried to punch her  
in the boob. That did not go well for me.

Needless to say, she blocked. With a flick of her wrist, she drew the  
weapon along my forearm until it leaped to my chest and laid me open  
to the ribcage. Freakishly, that hurt more than it should have. In  
addition I went tumbling backwards down a bluff, bleeding everywhere  
to crash to a halt against a rock. Swearing, I grabbed my chest and  
squeezed it closed, willing the wound to stop bleeding until I could  
go beat that woman to death with my hands. It did. Two steps got me  
into a sprint and I leaped back up the bluff, sailed a dozen yards  
past a scree field, and landed back in the fight, flowing fluidly into  
the motions of my old master. Defile Perilous was before me. For some  
reason there were bears everywhere.

They were big ones too. Ten to twelve foot grizzlies roared and  
swatted at Angel. Each one was about half a ton of muscle and claws,  
furious as a rabid dog, and I noticed upon further observation,  
attacking in infantry tactics of the Su-Hon barbarians. Admittedly,  
the Su-Hon used little more than berserk rages and numbers, so perhaps  
it was a coincidence. Then again, given that I'd returned to find  
several tons worth of rabid grizzlies had managed to sneak up on us,  
and berserk rage was quite the effective tactic for them, perhaps not.

The one immediately before me bellowed as it swatted at my head. I  
stepped forward, blocked to the inside, and punched it in the guts  
with all my strength. I gave it the extra effort. My fist smashed into  
its hide and sent shockwaves through its fur before flinging twelve  
hundred pounds of pissed off bear off the other side of the mountain.  
I juked under the next claw, darted up the back of one distracted by  
my sword-goddess, and leaped after Defile Perilous, glowing like the  

She pivoted to block my foot with her sword, even as her hands glowed  
brilliant crimson that flashed up the blade. Wild fire red streamed  
behind her weapon as it describe an artistic arc, whipping around to  
my head. This time I was ready for it and caught the blade between my  
palms. Like Hail had described, I put power into catching the weapon.  
For a moment transfixed on the tip of her weapon, with my feet  
dangling above the ground, she seemed perplexed by this until she  
whipped the blade around again and beat me against the ground.

This was distracting her from Hail's hail of arrows, which would have  
been the point were I thinking clearly. She weaved back and forth  
among them, taking cover behind her ursine shock troops and letting  
them absorb the leaf headed stings. Finally getting her weapon out of  
my capturing hands, she turned to attack Angel who was cutting a swath  
towards her. I staggered upright to interfere, but a brown bear batted  
my head downwards, compressing my spine and blinding me while the  
blood pooled at the top of my head. A thrown meat cleaver the size of  
a barge oar took it in the head then, and I regained my wits long  
enough to punt it over backwards. The bear back flipped and crashed  
into one of his comrades. Angel had seized one of the Kodiaks by the  
guts, had managed to get it airborne in the most staggering O-goshi  
hip toss ever, and was parrying Defile Perilous's terrible counter  
attack with the thick, ursine skull.

Implacably the swordswoman feinted once and went for Angel's knees,  
trying to slip her vast singing blade under the baffled bear where  
it's huge bulk would conceal the strike. I interrupted by leaping at  
her back, shrieking something about coiling dragons, and latched onto  
her shoulders. When a grizzly behind me smashed me into the ground, I  
took her with me. We ate dirt together.

Angel flung the Kodiak she had a handle on away and snatched one of  
Dog's flying knives from the air. It was one of the few he was hurling  
that wasn't formed of solid shadows and light. Defile Perilous  
performed a shoulder toss on me that was simply impossible given  
position and leverage, but nonetheless delivered me to the furious  
offices of an enraged ursus majoris. It had an open injury on its  
belly that looked remarkably like my fist. I think it remembered me.

The bear snatched my leg from the air with its teeth as I went by.  
That really stung. But it also put its head in a still position.  
Dumping enough essence into my elbow to raise Atlantis, I smashed my  
forearm into its snout, cutting the bear's jaws in half. I dropped to  
the ground with teeth still in my leg while the baffled grizzly tried  
to figure out why it couldn't feel its face any more. The opening  
provided a perfect avenue past its thick skull for my fist. As the  
thing toppled and its head turned to a fine pink mist, I tried to  
figure out what was happening to Angel.

The ladies were going toe-to-toe with reckless abandon. Unfortunately,  
my girl was losing, and the horde was blocking my avenue to her.  
Fortunately, Dog stopped his onslaught on the bitch long enough to  
sling a flurry of knives my way. They were broad and slow spinning,  
providing a perfect series of aerial stairs I darted up, hurled over  
the shaggy heads, and came down all knees and elbows on my lesser  
favorite of the girls. She didn't have time to parry my body with the  
pointy parts of her sword and merely smashed me from the sky with the  
pommel. Still, that finally distracted her enough for Angel to use the  
techniques of "Rock to Face" style martial arts. One of the older  
styles, many people don't have the respect for it that it warrants,  
especially considering Angel could cut glass with a  dull pebble, and  
the one she was using outweighed me.

Defile Perilous went down hard a second time. The side of her face had  
been laid open to the bones of her skull. Were it not for the sudden  
rush of her bears we would have finished it then, but they overwhelmed  
us, forcing us back. For the first we noticed that bear carcasses lay  
everywhere with arrows sticking out of their eyes and nostrils, mute  
testimony to Hail's efforts. More of them kept coming, rushing around  
rocks that could barely conceal a bird. There seemed an infinite  
supply, which was quite likely if Shogg the Forest God was bending his  
effort to it. We had no idea the extent of his power. That being said,  
we were prepared to deal with a nigh limitless supply of targets on  
our way to finishing the fight.

"Ending, get me a weapon!" snapped Angel as the tidal wave of fur  
tried to overwhelm her. She wasn't quite as mobile as me, lacking my  
penchant for acrobatic nonsense. Currently engaged by five great  
shaggy beasts she was holding them at bay, but couldn't direct enough  
attention to anyone to finish it. I got pincered by two mammoth  
Kodiaks, roaring to deafen the heavens. Dodging claws, I bounded off  
the immense girth of one, spring boarded from the snout of another,  
and danced across the heads of the furious horde.

"Weapons!" I shrieked into the distance. Hail must have heard me for  
his fusillade stopped for the first time. It took several stomps to  
get a faction of the terrorizing bears enraged with me, and then I  
lead them towards Angel. Still bellowing they swarmed over their own  
comrades in pursuit, breaking up the unified assault on Angel. Out of  
the chaotic maelstrom of bears she leaped, unharmed, and glowing like  
the war goddesses of heresy.

"I still need a weapon," she snapped as we went for Defile Perilous  
over shaggy heads, forsaking the ground entirely.

"Coming!" called Dog.

We glanced right. At first we though he was flying, until noticing  
that the wiry little man was riding two of Hail's arrows and clutching  
a third for balance. With whatever bow Hail was using he'd shot Dog at  
us in our moment of need. I caught him and carried him along, for his  
feet hadn't learned the trick of ignoring the ground. But as our  
target got her feet under her and climbed upright through shock and  
anger, Angel grabbed Dog's open hand and clawed a blinding saber of  
glorious light from nothing. The women met again, this time equally  
armed, and made savage war on each other with a viciousness that only  
comes to enraged women. I chucked Dog back the way he had come, and he  
sailed into the distance flinging knives like an edged hailstorm.

When Ash Maiden's murderer had hit me the first time, flaying my chest  
open, I'd lost track of self restraint. When I dove at her again, she  
smashed me in forehead with her pommel stone. It must have hit  
pressure points on my head, for suddenly I ceased to care about the  
woman I fought beside, and lost all manner of thought save my  
cancerous obsession with killing the pale demon with the starmetal  

The melee that took place on that mountain top was perfect. We three  
ascended through combat to divine bloodlust, not just intent on  
killing but destroying. Like a gray mist the intruding minions of  
Shogg, Lord of the Forest, faded away as Hail and Dog came to  
understand the nature of murdering them. Carcasses dropped around us,  
outside the island that was our little world.

The problem was that she was better than both of us combined. Angel  
got tagged across the arm then a leg. I took another to the gut. Every  
strike separated us from who we were. Soon we weren't teaming up, but  
trying to overwhelm her with our respective savageries. We became  
iconic forces, but in the depths of that soulless murder, I suddenly  
accepted that I wasn't going to win. That let me understand that  
winning was less important to me than Defile Perilous dying. Then  
everything became very simple.

The glittering starmetal daiklave was rising, casting aside Angel's  
stroke. It traced a brilliant passage through the air, coming back  
around towards her for a riposte when I set my foot on Angel's hip and  
pushed down, throwing myself into the air. Soon the weapon and I were  
alone in space, coming inexorably together. Angel's body was shoved  
down, shoving against the ground, which pushed back against her even  
harder. Angel took that strength and threw it behind her. She lunged  
at Defile Perilous, who tried to retreat but had already committed to  
attacking me. I captured her blade between my hands while Angel drove  
her own sword through the icewalker's chest.

My heart exploded in pain. Suddenly Angel was beside me, and though  
I'd seen her strike home, her blade was buried to the hilt in my ribs.  
In shock my grip on the blade weakened, letting it pass between my  
hands. Defile Perilous cut me from shoulder to hip, and in gentle slow  
motion my body fell into two pieces.

Angel lost her mind. She landed and lunged, and Defile swept her  
weapon around to parry and kill as she should have done so easily now  
that she could focus all her attention on Angel. Yet the starmetal  
weapon twisted slowly, and cleft the air where Angel had been. With a  
crunch it bit into rock and stopped.

Defile Perilous looked down and saw Angel still. She saw the glorious  
hilt of the saber driven to her sternum, nestling between her breasts.  
Curiously she looked at her own weapon, wondering why it had failed  
her, and only then saw half my bloody body trailing the ornate handle.  
My arm had spasmed shut when the nerves connecting it to my spinal  
column had been severed. It had thrown her balance off just enough.

"I lost?" Defile Perilous asked, confused, before Angel swept her own  
weapon upwards, taking her head. An alchemical signal glittered on her  
forehead and began to fade.

Dog and Hail arrived as Angel turned to me. My blood had stopped  
gushing and now just trickled out.  All that was left was my head, an  
arm, and about half my chest. With three friends clustered around me,   
I tried to smile as the last bits of strength faded from me. Life was  
good, I decided. Then I died.

The End(ing)

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