By instinct, I flattened myself against the ground when the shot rang out. I turned my head to see Lindal drop to her knees. Her mouth was slightly open in what I wanted to think was mute rage, but looked only like faint surprise. Blood seeped from the bottom of her armour plate and she fell to the ground, empty eyes staring at me.
I stayed low, searching for cover. I glanced back at Lindal, gaping hole in her back tinged with red. Then I remembered that we were the only side with rifles.
"All clear!" a voice cried out from the edge of the clearing.
Another voice said, "Centurion Glassfire, is that you?"
I got up slowly, watching a familiar figure appear out of the trees, sunlight illuminating his weathered, chestnut-hued face.
"Why? Why did you have to kill her?" I shouted at Sergeant Stonehewer.
"Next time I'll let her cut your throat. Centurion."
He stepped close to Lindal, rifle aimed at her head and nudged the body over with his foot.
"Blood of the martyrs," he said. "They start them young. More of them down at the bottom. We found the rest of the reconnaissance team there, too. It's a mess." He wiped the sweat off his brow.
"I know. It was my fault. I dropped my guard, wasn't communing, so I only sensed them when it was too late."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Centurion. Last time I fought the treeclimbers, my platoon got cut up bad when we outpaced our big guns. Tough sons of whores, er, daughter in this case."
I knelt by the tree and sighed, patting down the soil. Stonehewer shrugged. To him, I would always be one of those, my hereditary connection with nature an excuse for eccentricity.
I looked up toward the sky. The dark oblong shapes of the aerial flotilla loomed, their steam engines belching smoky clouds as they passed over us toward the Great Old Forest. Soon the sky would glow red and green with chemical fire as the land of Lindal's god was obliterated by the bombardment.
A soldier from the pioneer section came huffing and puffing with a heavy pack into the clearing.
"We have some incendiary charges ready, Centurion," he said. "Should we burn this place down, in case more treeclimbers try to hide here?"
I went over to Lindal, crossing her arms on her chest. I closed her eyes and looked at the sapling we planted.
"No, there's no one else here," I said.
"But intel says they get their power from the trees."
"I said leave it be. Let's get out of here. We've done our job."
I hope you enjoyed reading "A New Kind of Warrior." Please let me know in the comments what you think.
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A New Kind of WarriorFantasy
Lindal has been chosen by her god to be the lone girl among her people's caste of divine warriors, giving her the power to sense and shape the natural world around her. Now fate leaves the last chance of salvation for her people in her hands. She mu...