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The Queen Rat

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Like a stray dog cornered in an alley, Ysayle could feel the fear in her breast.

It was meant to be a routine raid on a small Ishgardian outpost. They would go in, steal some supplies and be gone. Minimal bloodshed, if any at all. There was only about fifteen heretics all together, and even then they had come lightly geared (even more so than usual). They hadn’t expected a visiting inquisitor, least of all him.

 

But as Ysayle peered around the corner of a hall in the basement of the fortress, there could be no mistaking this was the man they’d heard so much about. Pinning a young lancer in rusted armor to the wall with a red hot fire poker was none other than Charibert. The boy’s screams pierced through Ysayle’s ears, echoing through the stone halls around them.

 

“It appears my trip to this hole wasn’t a complete waste. I’ve caught myself a rat.” Charibert sneered, and Ysayle saw the rod of the poker once more flare red as it heated. “Has a mischief found its home here? Filling these halls with their filth?”

 

The lancer’s sobs of pain were apparently an unsatisfactory response, as the Inquisitor twisted the poker slowly to the left. He spoke calmly over the screams.

 

“Oh? Won’t you tell me all about your disgusting little friends?”

 

Ysayle could take no more, her hand clasped at the scepter on her hip. It was obvious the man would continue indefinitely if allowed. She summoned her courage and pushed herself from the corner to stand in the center of the hall. With practiced motions she conjured and flung a ball of snow and ice at the Inquisitor before her.

 

It found its mark, splashing out across Charibert’s cheek and hissing as splashes of ice water flecked onto the poker. He dropped his hand, flicking the remaining slush from his cheek with a slender finger.

 

“Ah~ The queen rat. Truly the further from the city the more the land festers.” Icy blue eyes met and held fast. The poker drooped in the lancer’s shoulder and he whimpered in pain.

 

Ysayle clenched her fists to keep her hands from shaking. Charibert didn’t seem to share the sentiment. He grinned wide and cruel and she saw his hand move for his staff. The words were out of her mouth before she could register them, and conjured ice flew at the Inquisitor’s face once more.

 

“Run!“

 

This time Charibert was ready, and the ice melted into nothing more than steam before it was even halfway to the mage. It was just enough though, enough time for Ysayle to turn on her heel and sprint as fast as she could back the way she came, enough of a nuisance for Charibert’s attention to be on her. She could only hope the others would find their companion down here. If she could get him to follow her, if she could hold his attention just long enough for the others to escape…

 

A ball of fire slammed into the wall where her head had been just moments before, leaving charred stone behind. She rounded a corner and the scent of burning hair filled her nose as a stream of heat singed the ends of her silver hair.

 

“Squirm as much as you like, it’s a rat’s fate to be exterminated.” Charibert’s voice carried down the hall, calm and clear over the sound of her heart beat in her ears. It was only slightly further to the outside, if she could just move a bit faster! She bounded up a staircase, feeling the heat behind her as Charibert mercilessly sent flame after flame after his quarry.

 

Ysayle near tackled the wooden door, momentarily blinded by the morning sun on the endless snow.

 

“My lady!” a familiar voice rang out from the nearby trees, but she could not make out the face. She tried to scream in warning, but found herself too out of breath. They had to pull back, there was no hope for a victory as they were.

 

A rush of heat from her side, and it no longer mattered who she tried to warn. The flames engulfed the brush in a vibrant burst, a moment later there was nothing left.

 

“Won’t you throw another snowball~?” his cruel tone made it clear Charibert was having fun. “I’d love to tell the others what a pathetic fight the queen of the rats put up~”

 

Her lungs burned, and her chest heaved. If she could get into the trees she could get away, they knew the terrain better than any pampered Inquisitor from Ishgard. She would never be fast enough though, even now Charibert ran delicate fingers along the top of his staff. He would ready a spell at any moment, staring her down like a child waiting to smash a snowman.

 

She needed cover, and a lot of it. There was no way she’d be able to conjure anything of use in her exhaustion, but manipulation might not be out of the question. She steeled herself, thinking of all those depending on her, of the dream that would die should she fall. She clutched her scepter tightly, knuckles white as she swung her arm in an arc in front of her. the snow at Charibert’s feet surged upward like a geyser with the motion, whipping his robes and face and blocking his vision like a blizzard.

 

Ysayle made for the trees, abandoning the charred crate of supplies next to where her comrade had been. She reminded herself that some things were more important than individuals, that sacrifice was a necessary part of war.
Her thoughts turned to the young lancer, to the handful of others that might not escape the Inquisitor’s wrath. She tried to believe their sacrifice meant something. That one day it would be worth it all.

The tears that streamed down her face felt as cold as ice.