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Art by Kim Sokol

A failure. That’s what she was, Arianna knew. Yesterday, everything had seemed so clear to her as she lined up with the other volunteers. It hadn’t seemed to matter that her armour was crude and her sword a hand-me-down from her father, their mission was clear and simple. Protect the town from the army that was coming across the land. But now that same army streamed past Arianna as she dragged her broken body into the safety of the church.

The first report had come in a few days ago, carried by the Mackenzie boys on a nearly dead horse. They talked about a great wave of black crashing over the countryside, leaving flames in their wake. The youngest boy even talked about goblins and demons in their midst. It sounded like bedtime stories to Arianna at the time, and she’d completely dismissed it as such. Her father had told stories of armies passing before, and the destruction they could cause while looking for food and supplies. Discourage them, he urged, but don’t give them cause to attack. The mayor had called for a volunteer army to defend the town, and come they had, armed with family heirlooms and farm equipment. They just need to look intimidating, and with much luck, the army would leave. Arianna regretted that she had ignored the boy now as she stared at the red glow filtering in through the broken church windows.

The reports had changed as more refugees came in, more talk of demons with small, twisted bodies. Some people had run, fearing the rumours, but the Captain of the guard was confident as he walked up and down the lines of his new army. He told them they were strong, and army was weak. They would soon leave to easier conquests, leaving the town intact. But now Arianna watched the town burn through the church window as she dragged her broken leg to a bench, blood streaming from her arm. A failure, through and through.

She could hear screams behind her as the the demons hauled another person into the streets. Was that Ms Grayson from the schoolhouse? She wasn’t sure any more, the screams were all starting to sound the same. She pulled her broken sword into her lap and stared up at the church’s ceiling.

“Well God, now what?” she asked plainly, watching bright spots swim past her eyes. The church air hung silently in response, at odds with the screams from outside.

“NOW WHAT?!” She yelled into the heavy air, clenching her fist around the hilt of her shattered sword, hastily shoved back in it’s scabbard. “You’re supposed to be good. You’re supposed to love us! Is this how you show love, with an army of demons?” Her cries echoed off the altar, bouncing back to her as twisted as the army.

“An army of demons,” the echo said mockingly. A scream from outside pierced the echo, and Arianna’s vision blurred beneath tears. Her head throbbed as she broke down, her anger fading to a whisper.

“They’re killing my family, and here I am. A failure to the end. I’m sorry.” She hung her head as the bright spots swam in her vision, growing wings as they danced through the dust motes. She watched the bright doves frolic through the empty church, struggling to make sense of them through a haze of pain. Their glow slowly faded as their message became clear, and the three doves flew out the church door just as the first goblin came in.

Arianna stood up to meet them. Gone was the pain of her leg, gone was the uncertainty. She walked forward to meet the demons proudly, drawing her whole and glowing sword from its scabbard. Now they would taste her fury.