It must have been a sharp blade. It slid in like her thigh was made of butter, and came out even more easily. Deep, it was deep. She felt it move, felt it break her skin, and she could have sworn...she heard it. Wet, it was a wet sound. Really, it was all a simple affair. In and out, quick and painless for a moment. Roan reached around her, shoving her out of the way like a pesky animal. It would have hit him, she had saved him, but he didn't care. This was war, and he pushed her down without a thought. Her helmet had been ill fitting to began with, and it flew through the air, freeing her dark curls, letting her feel the ground beneath her cheek as she landed in a pathetic heap. It was muddy, damp, and it smelled of blood. It was instinct to roll onto her back, instinct to gasp at the fire that ripped through her leg. Agony. White, blinding agony. Her hands were wet, soaking wet, and a sound escaped her...the sound of a dying animal. Somewhere between a grunt and a scream, her breathing grew ragged and quick with panic and disbelief. It was so intense she feared she might be sick, and in a moment of strange clarity, Mirra saw it all...
She was seventeen going on eighteen, pretty enough but never wealthy enough. Her father was in love with his ale, her mother was in love with her children...all seven of them. Mirra was the oldest, and that meant she'd watched their family fall from comfort to poverty. Maybe it had always been poverty, but poverty with seven children was a different circle of hell. They cried because stomachs their stomachs were never full, reached up their pale little arms to be cradled and love. But how could she pick them up while she was working? Her mother worked her to the bone, there was no other choice. Sewing, laundry, anything they could do. Mirra went hungry so there would be fewer tears after supper, and rummaged through her father's coat any time he decided to come home, stinking of the town's famous brew. Sometimes there was a coin or two, but more often then not, there was nothing.
Some girls dreaded marriage, but Mirra had been waiting for it her whole life. If she could find someone wealthy enough, their troubles would be over. If not...well, then at least she could escape herself. But fortune seemed to be in her favor, because Roan was everything she could have ever hoped for. Just barely older than she was, the son of a wealthy merchant. He was charming, handsome, daring, and he had a smile that seemed to be only for her. He sought her out at the village dances, and eventually started waiting outside for her morning trips to the well. Every morning she'd pinch her cheeks, pray she didn't look so thin, pin up her hair with care, and run out to meet him. That was where they'd fallen in love, that was where the promises started.
It was shameful for them to be alone like that, but what they did was even more shameful. She never let him take her, Mirra knew full well she'd be worthless if she did, but that didn't mean she didn't let him run his hands over her. He was hungry, Roan, and full of promises. "I'll take you away, Mirra." He would whisper, slipping his tongue between her lips every time he got the chance. "I'll take care of your family, and then you and I will go see the world. We'll stay in the best inns, eat the best food, and every night..." he didn't have to finish. His actions spoke louder than words. She would remind him every chance she got "You have to marry me, Roan. That's the only way. Now...now is the right time, don't you think?" They were the right age, the right everything. But he always had an excuse. "I have to buy a ring." or "I have to wait until after my mum's birthday, darling." or "my father just needs a little convincing. We'll talk tonight.". And then one day it all changed. "I'm going off to war, Mirra."
Her jaw went slack, hands trembling at the words. "What? Why?" He grinned down at her with excitement. "To slay the elves! Vile creatures. It's time to remind them where their rightful place it." She wasn't one to cry, she was harder than that, but at his words the tears came freely. "But you're coming back?" He had to. He had to, he was her future. Roan only shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. It's war, sugar." War. A word she would come to fear, a word she didn't understand at the time. "But...we're going to get married. You promise, Roan. You promised me." She was panicking, falling to pieced, pulling at her dress, gasping for breath. Roan looked a little scared, but he put a hand on her shoulder anyways.
"Hey! It's alright. Stop crying. Mirra, stop it, we're going to get married, ok? When I get back."
His kissed were enough to stop her tears, but he didn't stick around that day. She went back home feeling empty and hopeless, with a sick feeling in her stomach that he might not come back. And as she lay awake that night, all sorts of horrible possibilities played out in her head. He could be killed. He could be killed, and she would be alone. No one had ever wanted her, no one had ever loved her the way he had. And then, suddenly, it all became simple. He'd asked her once how far she would travel, if he'd asked her to. "Days? Months? What if we weren't in a carriage, what if we were on foot the whole way? What if there were all sorts of dangers, and bitter cold? Would you still come?" Her fingers had threaded in his auburn hair, green eyes looking up into his with the utmost devotion. "I'd follow you anywhere."
And so, she would.
It was her grandfather's armor she war, if it could even be called that. Chain male over a tunic, trousers and boots, and an ill fitting helmet. It was the best she could do, the only thing she could do to keep from looking out of place. She joined the ranks as they marched out, keeping her helmet on and her head down. The sword was heavy, and it's belt would leave bruises on her hips. At first she panicked as the walked on, wondering if she'd made a grave mistake, wondering if she would lose her life long before he lost his. They weren't well fed or well rested, but when she finally found Roan none of that mattered. Watching him from a distance was enough to give her strength, watching him laugh and joke with his friends. But the battle came with little to no warning, as with the realization that they were surrounded. Her sword was drawn but she hardly fought. Elves were better, quicker, and she could do little but block and stumble her way along, searching for Roan. In the mean time, she began to see true horror. The heads of men with wives, mothers, children at home...cleaved clean off. They would bounce on the ground, only to be stepped on by one of their own. Bodies fell one by one, and the ground was covered in corpses. It was a miracle she lived, an absolutely miracle. And then...she saw him. He was losing the fight, that was clear. Stumbling backwards, barely holding his ground. The elf was vast, vicious, relentless.
There was no choice. The constriction in her chest as the thought of his death was enough to drive her forward, to send her sprinting towards his attacker. Roan stumbled back, the elf prepared to stab. She jumped in the way, sword raised, pushing his down so it wouldn't run through the both of them. The harsh clang of metal made her wrists ache on impact, and for a moment she thought she had deflected the blow. No. No, she'd only re positioned his aim.
It all seemed to sad, as she lay there, panting. There was a body next to hers, a man with a beard, eyes wide and staring. She turned away, only to come face to face with an elf. It was easily more beautiful, but just as horrific. But it was the truth. They were all the same when they were dead, another body forgotten, another corpse to rot. Her tale had found no happy ending, and now...would she die like this? In agony? Mirra prayed but it felt flat, meaningless compared to the fire in her leg.