Every Story Ends - Part 2

Eduwiges pulled the dead man up by his smoking shirt in horror and looked in his face, then screamed  'By Bema! This isnt Hawke!” She tossed the body aside and rose, 'Where the fuck is Hawke!' she shouted again.

Confusion reigned on the ground as Gareth rallied the Hounds of Anarion, the air hazy with smoke from the burned carriage now at the base of the cliff below.

The archers who were supporting the Viper and his raiders had moved to a higher vantage point to try to avoid their pursuers, perched and taking aim, firing down into the group of Knights. Many of the riders were forced back, until one close to the center of the group was struck hard, but remained in the saddle. The Rider’s horse took an arrow as well and the dying beast reared, preparing to take flight.

Xanderian suddenly looked up as the Hound was struck, her eyes almost glowing as if an illusion had been ripped away by the violence and the knights grunt of pain. "NO!!!" Fluidly she nocked an arrow, aimed at the wounded Hound, and fired...

The arrow struck the Hound's helmet dead on as the man's injured horse reared again, panicking. The helmet flew away, sparks flying, and nearly sent the rider to the ground. It would have if his hands had not been not bound to the saddle horn. Without his helmet, the rider was revealed to be Hawke, bound and gagged, having been hidden by the helmet and garb that wasn’t his. His eyes were wide with panic as the horse ran wild dangerously close to the cliff edge.

Gareth cursed, gave another order and the front rank of Hounds dropped to one knee, unleashing precise crossbow volleys at the archers, taking them down one by one.

Xandilif shook her head, suddenly it made sense. Gareth, suspecting trouble, had put a decoy in the wagon and hidden the real Hawke with the other Knights. It appeared, however, that the trick was about to backfire and the Champion left the helpless Viper to Nethrida, running downhill towards her sister, who had nocked another arrow.

Xanderian screamed again..."GWAELION".......and making sure of her footing took careful aim at the ropes binding Hawke's wrists...a slow exhale, and she fired...

Xandilif ran faster, holding her breath just as the horse bucked again, Xanderian’s arrow sinking into Hawke's wrist and nicking the ropes binding him, but not enough to sever them. She had missed. Hawke was still trapped in the saddle.

Hawke and his horse careened towards the cliff as all any of them could do was watch. The horse leapt over the edge and seemed to hang there in the sunlight for an eternity. Xanderian locked eyes with Hawke, screaming “NNOOOOOO…GWAELION!!!!” as the spell broke and the horse and rider plummeted downward towards the rocky coast.

For a moment, everything was silent, the enemy defeated, the Knights looking unsure about what had just happened, and the company staring in disbelief. Then the quiet was shattered by the terrible scream of the horse as both it and its helpless rider hit the rocks below.

A crash of waves, and then silence again as Hawke was swallowed by the cold sea of Belfalas.

Xanderian screamed again.....no word managed to form this time, just anguish as she raced towards the cliff edge intending to leap down after Hawke...but Xandilif had gotten there first, blocking her off, a few feet ahead of her "Xanderian!!!...LETHRIL!!!...You can't save him!!!....HE IS GONE...STOP IT!!!”

On the hillside above, Agdarom the Viper laughed while watching the drama, chanting the prophecy behind this horrible spectacle. "To unlock the portal of my Power, draw deep upon the blood of my blood, spilt on Faithful soil by Fools..only then will the deep give up its destiny!"

Xanderian, further enraged by that chant, did not pause. Xandilif was an obstacle between her and following Hawke, so her sister had to be moved. She drew a shaft, nocked, and fired as she ran...the arrow took Xandilif high in the chest, punching through her armor with the point jutting out the other side.

The champion grunted, blood spraying from her mouth, knocked back a few steps by the sheer force of the arrow as Xanderian moved to go around her...but one gauntleted fist from Xandilif hit the archer in the back of the head as she passed, knocking her sprawling, out cold.

Xandilif spat blood..."Dammit Lethril..."..and dropped to one knee. She shook her gauntlets off and reached for the fetching of the shaft, breaking it off near her body with a scream of pain and rage and sheer, utter despair.

Another silence suddenly descended over the company. Disbelief giving way to horror as Gareth slowly rode back to Xandilif. Looking to the stunned Hounds, he gave orders..."Find the prisoner...see if he survived the drop..” He then dropped off his horse and carefully laid Xandilif back on the grass. “Easy, Banshee, you’ve taken worse. Your sister has gained mercy with age…back in the day she would have gone for your head.”

Xandilif almost smiled. “You know you…can’t…kill…me like..that.” Looking up at the sky, hearing the Knights carefully picking their way along the beach below, it all rushed back to her and she closed her eyes. “Elbereth….why?”

The Viper continued to laugh, Nethrida having left him on the hillside to see to Xanderian and lay her bruised head in her lap. However, Calidis finally pulled herself to her feet, drawn by his mocking laughter, and picked up a hunk of crumbled stone nearby. She got her bearings and charged at the Viper while cursing in Quenya, fully intending to bring that stone down on his head and end the monster once and for all. The dark-eyed elf grabbed the Viper by his shoulder and brought the rock down at his confused face, but at the last moment she pulled her blow. The rock struck him senseless as she sank to her knees, tears streaming down her face, her pale features contorted in anger.

Finally one of the Hounds climbed back up the cliff with great effort and saluted Gareth.."Sir...I'm sorry but...just blood on the rocks, any remains have been washed out by the tide already. Nothing could have survived that fall. Nothing.”

The words hung in the air like a thunderclap.

Nethrida stared as she tended the unconcious Xanderian, shocked by the awful finality of that statement as Addie began to weep in rage before going down to the edge of the cliff to search for herself, unwilling to believe another’s word. Eduwiges shook with helpless anger, unsure what to so, finally dropping to one knee and removing the broken arrow from Xandilif as carefully as she could, tossing the blood-stained shaft to the side. The Champion screamed once, spat blood again, and laid still..one hand gripping Eduwiges’ hand, who looked at her in shock.

The knight’s words regarding Hawke’s sure death and Xandilif's condition finally sank into Calidis, who picked up the Viper’s unconscious body, still shedding tears and threw him to the ground near Gareth. "You lowborn cur! Foulest of the Secondborn! I curse you! I curse you for the rest of your days and even unto the point which your fea leaves this sphere! May you not even find peace after your death!"

Calidis stalked past the Viper, not willing to give him any more of her time. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bloodstone, chanting a hymn in the name of Este the Healer. She knealt down beside Eduwiges to help, still crying and trying to see through her tears and pressed the stone gently to Xandilif’s shoulder, flooding the elf with waves of healing, powered by her own energy.

Gareth looked at Calidis in shock, then back down at Xandilif. “Another sister of yours? She has the temperament for it.”

Xandilif shook her head weakly as Calidis took to healing the wound left by the arrow. “Nope..well..yes, I suppose. Adopted. They are ALL adopted now I figure.”

Gareth looked around at the broken company, nodded and rose, whistling for his horse. “I will leave you be then…it seems you have had a death in the family.”

Xandilif turned her head to look out at the endless sea. “Yeah….it seems we have.”