Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Red ( Chapter 28 )
Phoenix springs from the shadows, a flash of red shrieking with a battle shout so piercing and sudden, it is enough to sow panic around the room. Her screeching voice echoes off the rocky walls with fury, with venom. Falkor closes his mouth. The Steelfeathers stop in their tracks as the red-haired elf lunges towards Norros, who barely has a moment to turn his head and loosen his grip on the goblin, letting her dead body fall to the floor.
Norros stretches to avoid Phoenix’s violent sword stroke, before thwacking her sword hilt away with his palm, knocking the weapon onto the floor. In a blind chaotic rage, Phoenix punches the leader with spite and hatred, then follows up with another strike, crunching her fist into his temple, knocking him out cold. He is sent sprawling, landing near the injured Steelfeather and the mage, who turns towards Phoenix as she picks her sword up from the floor and growls at him.
The woman beside Django dashes towards Phoenix, followed closely by the Steelfeather with the broken nose, while the other three looking for Falkor turn to one another apprehensively before shuffling over to her with uncertainty. Phoenix continues her attack on the mage. He casts a quick spell which is nullified by Phoenix’s dark iron in her pocket. The ginger elf moves to swipe at the mage, who steps aside. But Phoenix’s jab is a feint, and she instantly returns with a proper strike towards his head. Her rapier goes straight through his left eye and halfway into his head, blood and gunk spurting everywhere. The Steelfeather lets out a bloodcurdling scream, which is cut short as Phoenix removes her rapier from his eye socket and kicks him with her heel square into the wall, before thrusting the sword into his neck and withdrawing forcefully, making sure of his death.
In this moment, Phoenix may well have been Bwonsamdi himself. Death is swirling around the room and the elf is the instigator now. The woman who heavily wounded Django is now upon Phoenix and swings her sword towards the red-haired elf, who is glaring back at her, incandescent with fury. Phoenix parries the blade, but the other three Steelfeathers approach her from behind, while the elf with the broken nose moves into the corner and raises his sword, forming part of a circle that surrounds her.
Everything Django has taught Phoenix, all the training, the advice, the encouragement, comes down to this one moment. She is outnumbered five to one and, even now, so close to her blind rage, knows the odds would usually not be looking good. But she is not alone.
The monster of Draenor, Phoenix’s best friend and outcast of his orcish clan, Seven, stumbles down the steps, breathing heavily and struggling to keep up with the one he loves.
He sees her near the far corner of the room, moving her sword faster than he has ever seen, deflecting blows with ferocity and wounding her assailant with a stab to her arm. The four others around her, while cautious, move to attack too. Phoenix turns at the last moment and instinctively falls to the floor near the injured woman, quickly turning the movement into a cartwheel. She carefully tilts her sword at the last moment to balance along the contours of the floor so it doesn’t drop. She ends up on the other side of the table, near Django’s dying body, creating distance between the five Steelfeathers.
Three of them start to run towards the ladder to approach the other side of the table and cut Phoenix off, but clamber into Seven along the way. He snarls and guts the one closest to him with a mortal strike of his dagger. The other two, startled, step back, but Seven offers no respite, grabbing one and throwing him into the wall with full force, shattering the elf’s bones. The third cowers and steps back.
Seven uses this moment to glance at Phoenix once more, who is now battling with the woman again. Her attacks force Phoenix to deflect them, but the Steelfeather keeps moving forward, forcing Phoenix back towards the other corner, beside Seven’s bed. The elf with the broken nose also advances towards her. Seven leaves the cowering elf and rushes towards his accomplice. As soon as he does so, the elf scampers underneath the table, joining the Steelfeather with the broken leg.
The two Steelfeathers who are advancing on Phoenix are making life difficult for her. The female Steelfeather, adept with the blade, is close to finding an opening. While the redhead shows no signs of tiring, deflecting attack after attack, she is backed into the corner, and is forced to begin dodging and parrying attacks from two fighters, as the elf with the broken nose begins swiping in her direction too. Seven is almost there to give Phoenix backup - but Django is lying on the floor in his path, unable to roll away quickly enough.
Phoenix turns towards her second attacker and cries out in anger, thrusting her sword twice - the first blow is deflected but the second cuts into the elf’s armpit. He screams and releases his sword, falling down, but Phoenix is still facing the man, and in her rage, seems to be becoming less aware of the woman’s incoming attack from her side. At that moment, she has a clear shot of Phoenix’s heart and repositions her centre of gravity before preparing to thrust forward with a mortal strike.
Seven, who is milliseconds away from reaching them now, sees the impending attack and realises he is a fraction of a second too late. With Django in his way, he cannot feasibly attack or even delay the woman. His plan to attack her from behind is thwarted, as his dagger would only connect with her body after she has struck Phoenix. Instead, he makes a desperate attempt to launch himself in-between the female Steelfeather and Phoenix in a bid to protect his friend - and deflect the blow at the same time.
Seven dives through the air, over Django, turning to face Phoenix’s assailant and swiping his dagger towards her sword at the same time. Everything is moving so fast, it is nearly impossible to pull the move off successfully.
His dagger barely misses the sword. Seven just about makes it, his body lunging in front of Phoenix to protect her, but the timing is awful - as is his luck. The Steelfeather’s blade aiming at Phoenix’s heart jabs forward, but goes through Seven’s instead, while he is diving in mid-air. The sword becomes lodged in his chest and is pulled from the female Steelfeather’s hand. At the same time, the force of Seven’s dive knocks into Phoenix, whose sword scrapes her friend’s back. Phoenix clatters into the wall on her right; the impact and the sight of Seven shakes away her rage a little and she gains clarity in the fight.
Phoenix properly spots the distracted, unarmed woman and, without hesitating, shoves her sword into her throat, before withdrawing the blood-soaked blade. While she is aware of Seven on the floor beside her, in the heat of the moment she does not look down and does not see his sword wound.
Phoenix easily finishes off the man with the broken nose and armpit wound. She glances around the room for any other survivors, but her attention is grabbed like a moth to the flame when she hears her friend cry out in pain on the floor next to her.
As Seven turns over, he pulls the blade from his chest and groans. His heart collapses. The hole in Seven’s vital organ seeps with deep pain. Seven roars. The sound of his agony wrenches at Phoenix’s heartstrings, immediately snapping her out of her rage, to turn to her friend.
“Seven!” she shrieks, leaning over him.
Her eyes fall to his eyes, to his blood-soaked chest and hands, back to his eyes again, their confused flicker confirming her worst fears. There is a muffled noise in the background but Phoenix cannot hear it. Seven, her best friend, her loyal companion, the only one who truly understands her, is dying.
Phoenix presses his hands with hers, over his chest, desperately trying to stop the lifeblood seeping from his body so quickly and relentlessly. It slows a little but there is so much of it. She is utterly distraught, her face twisted with torture and shock as she looks back up at his eyes. They are calmer now. Gentle. Understanding.
“Phoenix,” he speaks, with effort, in a low growl. “It’s okay.”
It’s not okay. But even now, in his final moments, as he lay dying, he reassures her. Even in death, he wants to bring her comfort. Even with fear, he shows none.
Seven smiles. Phoenix scrunches her face up.
“No, you can’t -” she starts. A lone tear races down her face.
“I love you,” he declares, suddenly, with honesty, with integrity, with purity.
Phoenix barely makes a noise as more tears fall from her eyes, pained with sorrow and disbelief.
“Please, don’t die,” she pleads, desperately. “You can’t… you’re all I have. You-”
“Thanks for all you have shown me,” he interjects, with greater effort. He lets out a hacking, bloody cough, his voice becoming a wheeze. “You are a great warrior. Knowing you are still alive, and that I did all I could to save you… I could not die with a greater honour.”
Phoenix’s heartbeat pumps faster, so fast it might burst, as Seven’s slows. She hears the sound of her own heartbeat in her ears and wishes she could transplant it into his body somehow, to swap places with him, to rescue him as he saved her.
“I love you,” she whispers, as she leans in towards him.
Phoenix and Seven close their eyes together. They kiss for the first, and last, time. As their lips part, Phoenix opens her eyes, but Seven does not open his.
He lays lifeless, unmoving but for the thick blood continuing to pool from his chest to the floor around him.
Phoenix cannot bear to see him in this state. She stands, turns away and cries out almost as loudly as her earlier battle-cry. Her shriek cracks and creaks, long and drawn out, an audible manifestation of the many feelings flooding her mind. Her voice is raw with sorrow, with grief, with confusion, with shock, with anger, with spite, with loathing, with hate. Hatred towards Alexandra, hatred towards the Steelfeathers, hatred towards Thirteen, hatred towards her mother, hatred towards her father, hatred towards Trixie, for sending them on this stupid suicide mission. She sees the goblin’s body at the other end of the room and, feeling so angry at the moment, doesn’t even want to check if she is alive or not. Phoenix’s cry morphs from sorrow to anger and back again, a thousand emotions running through her body, her mind, her soul.
She leans her head into the wall and sobs, uncontrollably, as she suddenly contemplates suicide. I should have died here too, she thinks to herself. I should not even have been alive to begin with. She is ready to give up, to end her own life, to relieve herself of her misery.
She hears a muffled noise again. Phoenix turns and sees a Stealfeather trying to sneak up the ladder to escape.
Like a bull antagonised by a matador waving a red cape, the mist instantly descends upon her mind again like flipping a switch. She charges without thought, without noise, without a second’s hesitation, towards the helpless elf. She doesn’t notice Django’s body as she runs past, she only sees her victim - and will not stop until she sees the red of his blood.
He spots her and cries out, trying to clamber up the ladder faster.
Phoenix grabs his leg and almost rips it from its socket, sending him sprawling to the ground. She straddles him and punches him square in the face to stop his squirming, once, twice, again and again and again. And again. Relentlessly. With fury, with hatred, without mercy. This continues for a while after the elf is dead.
At the end of the ordeal, after Phoenix has regained some composure, the Steelfeather’s face looks worse than Chrim’s. But this image does not haunt her - it makes her feel a little better.
Phoenix, out of breath, her fist wringing with pain, rolls off the Steelfeather, her consciousness returning once more. She feels utterly exhausted. As she catches her breath, she hears another muffled sound. Is that… crying?
“Falkor?” she shouts, thinking of the little mage. Thinking of his healing abilities...
“Falkor!” she cries, almost with joy. “Is that you?” she asks, again. “Keep talking to me buddy, where are you? It’s okay it’s me, Phoenix, I’m coming to get you.”
He makes some more groaning noises and Phoenix stands, looking around. She quickly realises he’s hidden outside the room somewhere. She follows the calls of his voice and for the first time notices the caved in section near the beds closest to the entrance. She leans in and, hearing his muffled cries from beneath the rocks, begins pulling up the rubble as fast as she can.
“It’s okay, I’m here, I’m here,” she says, almost trying to reassure herself following the ordeal she’s just been through.
Phoenix begins lifting smaller pieces of rubble aside to try and begin clearing a path towards the young elf, while continuing to talk to him. After a while, she manages to clear the debris to reveal a small gap and pulls a large rock that’s blocking her path into it, creating an opening large enough to peer down. Grabbing a torch, she holds it aloft the hole and sees a couple of ears poking up at her from the shadows and rocks below.
Desperate hope brims inside her. Could it be possible? The thought makes her feel like knives are spinning inside her stomach.
She encourages Falkor to hold up his hand and leans over, being careful not to fall in on top of the boy, hurting him and getting wedged herself.
She leans over with a stretch and reaches her arm out as far as it will allow, her red sleeve tearing against a sharp rock. After a few seconds she feels a small hand in hers and grips it tight, turning her body slightly to try and lift him up, out of the narrow gap. The angle is awkward and it requires great effort, but the boy slowly rises. He uses his other free hand to hoist himself up over the top of the rubble. He regains his balance and Phoenix grabs him with both arms around his waist, lifting him up and out to safety.
Despite being well aware of the death around him, using the Sunwell and his magic to sense the situation and the bodies around him, he looks utterly relieved to be in Phoenix’s presence and freed from the rocks. He smiles widely and innocently and makes a noise of contentment, attempting to look towards Phoenix, holding out his arms again to hug her. While she is pleased he is alive, she cannot think of anyone but Seven right now - and the possibility of bringing him back. She wastes no time, giving Falkor a brief hug and quick peck on the head, before taking his hand and leading him hastily and firmly - almost too forcefully - towards Seven’s body.
As Phoenix guides the blind boy around Harris and Django to avoid their bodies along the way, she hesitates and looks down at them, as more pain, sorrow and disbelief scratch into her mind. Everything has happened so fast in the past few minutes, she hasn’t had time to properly digest the situation and the loss of life all around her. The smell of death makes her feel disgusted, not only that there is so much wasted life around her, but that she herself has cheated death somehow. She pushes her earlier thoughts of suicide away now that she has Falkor again - and with him, a chance. Still, she looks at the bodies beside her. Harris’ burns are horrific, while Django is cut to ribbons with a contorted, broken arm, lying in a heavy pool of blood.
The troll stirs. Phoenix’s eyes widen. He is not dead yet.
She spins around, in shock, looking for any other signs of life. Other than Django’s shuffling, there is no other movement, no sound, save for her own breathing, Falkor’s and the gentle flicker of the torches on the walls.
Phoenix faces a true dilemma. A rare moment in one’s life where every second counts and her actions could make the difference between life and death. Time seems to slow as she considers what to do: ask Falkor to heal the troll, the person who taught her so much, about fate and luck and combat, about self-belief… or to try and bring Seven back to life, her love, her companion, her best friend. What about Trixie? She brought her into this hideout, to the crew, to Seven. She taught her how to survive, how to develop her abilities, grow as a person. At the same time, she can’t help feel like she was used by her. Phoenix’s sudden halt brings Falkor to a stop as she weighs up life and death and the value of her friends.
She looks back at Seven and her heart calls out to her achingly. Her decision has already been made. She steps over the troll, pretending she hasn’t noticed he is still alive, selfishly trying to fool both the boy and somehow even herself.
Phoenix pulls Falkor’s arm towards Seven and leans down to his level. She puts her hands on his shoulders and speaks quickly and firmly.
“Falkor, listen to me,” she starts. “I’m going to ask you to do something now. And I need you to try the hardest you can. We must be quick. Seven has collapsed and I need you to bring him back. Can you heal his wounds, return him to life?”
Falkor stutters and takes a moment to consider this news - and the request. A request so significant, with such meaning, too much for a young boy to bear on his shoulders. He frowns and looks overburdened with the task at hand. He lets out a questioning murmur.
Phoenix shakes him.
“Please, Falkor we don’t have time.”
She guides his hands to Seven’s chest, to the wound, bloodying Falkor’s hands. He flinches and recoils, letting out a disturbed sound.
“Heal him,” Phoenix demands.
Falkor turns to her and starts to make an objecting sound.
“Heal him!” she shrieks, losing her cool in an instant. “Save him, damnit! You have a talent, use it!”
Falkor, scared, turns to Seven, crosses his legs and closes his eyes. He places both palms on the orc’s body and Phoenix begins pacing up and down beside them, doing her best not to look at Django and his small movements as he squirms on to life.
Falkor breathes in deeply and concentrates. After a few moments, he looks tired and makes a sobbing noise. He releases his hands from Seven and places them on him again. He makes another noise and lifts one hand up. Phoenix forces it back down onto the orc.
“Keep going!” she blurts out, before trying to calm herself a bit. “Please.”
Falkor shakes his head and starts to cry, making a noise that she knows Trixie would make sense of.
“Just heal him!” Phoenix starts again, hysterically, and Falkor begins wailing. She joins him, quietly weeping.
Phoenix suddenly turns and flips the table in anger, sending it crashing over onto the floor.
“Give a troll one last request, uh,” Django croaks.
Falkor jumps. Guilt washes over Phoenix as she turns to her dying friend, trying to pretend she didn’t notice him earlier. It is replaced by deep pity and desperation.
“Django!” she blurts out. “I thought you were…”
He chuckles, through the pain. “Not quite yet, my friend. I guess ya get to take back all dat money I won off you after all. Fate… fate can do one, ya know?”
Phoenix would usually smile at such a remark.
“It can,” she says, looking back at Seven slightly. She tenses up and squints.
“Quickly,” she says to both Falkor and Django. The boy elf hurries over, but is met by the troll’s raised hand.
“No,” Django says. “It be too late now mon, don’t fret over me. I cannot be saved - and truth be told I don’t want to. What am I gonna do, become a criminal cripple? Look at me arm, mon!”
He grins and waves his severely deformed and broken arm around like a skeleton doing a funny dance. Phoenix wants to find it funny but cannot. She suddenly feels a huge wave of sadness crash over her, mingled with helplessness and tiredness. She frowns again as her mouth curls down and another tear forms underneath her right eye.
“Don’t cry, mon,” Django says. “I know it be hard but it is my time. Bwonsamdi be near. Fetch me my dust, won’t ya?”
Phoenix wipes a tear from her face and springs up to Django’s top bunk. She has never been up here herself before - rifling through his stuff seems somehow inconsiderate, even though he requested it himself. She finds his tin of drugs and grabs the sack of gold and his long dagger as well, bringing them to him.
Django, still laying down on his side, rolls onto his back before taking the dagger in his left hand and the pouch of gold in his right. He takes out a few coins and spreads them around his body as an offering for the loa of death, giving the pouch back to Phoenix.
Falkor steps towards Django and opens his arms. The troll embraces him. Falkor leans up against Django’s body.
“Here, take some more gold,” Phoenix says, putting her hand into the pouch.
“You keep it,” he says, “I have enough here. A humble amount will suffice.”
Phoenix nods and lifts the tin to Django next. He takes it in both hands and removes the lid, revealing the white powder within.
The troll takes deep snort and sighs. He takes another. And another. Phoenix starts to say something - and stops herself.
“Oh, dat be good mon,” Django says. “I needed that. I be thankin’ ya.”
“It’s nothing,” Phoenix responds. “Django I want to thank you for everything you have taught me,” she adds, fighting back more tears. He smiles wearily.
She fumbles inside her pocket and pulls out the old lucky coin Django gave to her, returning it to him.
“Stop giving me stuff mon,” he says, shaking his head. “I gave you dis, it is yours now. Plus, it worked didn’t it?” he winks at her.
“Thank you,” Phoenix repeats, placing the coin back in her pocket.
“I need ta give ya somethin’ else,” Django continues. “Dere is somethin’ you should know. Take da key to da boat from Trixie’s room and read the letters in the drawer there. One of the rooms on the boat has something that belongs to you. Promise me, you will find it and take it.”
“I… promise,” Phoenix answers, her curiosity piqued.
Django curls his finger up and down, beckoning Phoenix closer. She leans in and he whispers in her ear: “Those scum aren’t all dead, ya know.”
“I know,” she responds, speaking low. “Norros is only knocked out.”
Django shakes his head once.
“Your boy unda da table, he be fakin’ it,” he whispers. “Dese three here, dey be darted. Dey will wake in a few hours. Have fun girl, you into the grey now.”
Django’s eyelids flutter and Phoenix shoves the tin back towards him helplessly. The troll takes a couple of sniffs, and his eyes roll back as his head slumps onto the floor.
Falkor continues cuddling his friend, as if he were still alive, as if he’s just sleeping peacefully.
Phoenix rises. Very, very slowly. She wants to hit someone, very hard, and very fast.
Her panic, her sorrow, her adrenaline, all begin to fade. Hatred flickers like the torches on the wall. A longing, an aching for revenge, forces its way into her mind. Anger is not there - yet. It is the calm before the storm.
Knowing that five enemies are still alive around her does not scare her one jot. She cannot possibly go any lower than she feels now. Her disdain and carelessness for those around her breeds an arrogant kind of courage.
Silence spreads throughout the cave once more, the torches barely making a sound. Phoenix rests her left hand on Heart, her sword, and looks under the table, staring coldly at the Steelfeather that lies there. He is face down, his knee a bloody mess, the bone protruding from his flesh.
She steps a little closer, barely making a sound, looking closely at the elf’s back and frame to see if he is breathing. It is moving very slightly. Phoenix sneers. Django’s last words echo in her mind. Sod the grey - what the Steelfeathers have done is enough to push her right into the black. Like them.
Her blank, fearless stare at the injured coward beneath the table is broken as she turns back to Falkor. He has been through enough and does not need to hear anything more. Phoenix grabs some food and water nearby and places them into her pack. She leans down to Falkor and strokes his back, gently. She’ll return here and finish the job once he’s out of here.
“Come on, little one,” she says. “It’s time to go. My mother is back upstairs, she would love to meet you.”
Falkor, silently crying, lingers by Django’s body a little longer. He then leans up to Phoenix. She quickly wipes the blood from her sword on the duvet of a nearby bed, then wraps her arms around Falkor and carries him across the room. They step over the myriad bodies, her and Falkor the only movement of life among the dead and sleeping. She carefully climbs the ladder with him and upon reaching the top, introduces Falkor to Amelia. The hawkstriders are still there, outside the shack.
“Take a hawkstrider and move along the shore, east, away from this shack,” Phoenix says, barely allowing the two to get to know one another. “Alexandra may return. I want you to head to safety, away from prying eyes. At the edge of the village nearby, there’s a cave, you’ll be safe there.”
Amelia looks puzzled and distraught as Phoenix runs through the directions, staring at the blood on her clothes and the eye-less boy with deep concern.
“You’re coming with us?,” Amelia says, half a request, half an instruction.
“Yes,” Phoenix responds. “But I have something to do first. I will find you in an hour or so. Here’s some food, water and blankets. Get some rest, wash the boy, let him heal your burns. I will find you both soon.”
Amelia takes the provisions with uncertainty and places the boy’s hand in hers.
“What if they find us first?” Amelia asks.
“There’s only Alexandra left, stay off the paths and away from this shack, you’ll be fine,” Phoenix says with confidence.
There is a pause. The wind from the choppy sea whips Phoenix’s hair and her mother’s; the sky is awash with pink and red again.
“Where is your friend?” Amelia asks.
Phoenix ignores the question and turns away.
She heads down the ladder once more, glancing at Emile’s body, a mild rage burning inside her.