Supposedly, the Keeper was a hero.
She had everything it took. A proud companion, Trinzel the hyena, her teeth bared as she prowled by the Keeper's side. A reputation for cleansing the minds of those animals controlled by the Bile. A steely determination that never wavered in the face of any danger; an instinct to protect the innocents before herself. The ability to fight, and to win most battles.
But this time, she couldn't do it.
There was no noble way to say it, no heroic way out of this predicament. The army that she had been running from for days had finally arrived. Even fighting her hardest, there was no way to win this battle. For every person she could knock down, three more would attack. Her bow was at her side, dipping to meet the ground, the string brushing against the sandy plains. It would do no good, not at this range. She was out of arrows, anyway. An empty quiver was slung over her shoulder; another useless weapon.
With trembling hands, she pulled her knives from her belt. This was it, this was the end. Soon enough, the Keeper would be another legend as well, something that mothers told their children when they tried to put them to bed. The story would be told, most likely warped and twisted by Zerif. How the Keeper had died as she had lived, trying to run, trying to find another person to sacrifice in her place.
How her friends had abandoned her at the last moment, and turned against her. She spared another glance at the approaching army. Their eyes were dark and empty, devoid of thought, devoid of any feeling as they stared her down. She had promised to find a cure for those who were controlled; now, someone else would have to. Someone else, who was smarter, faster, stronger, better at what they did then the Keeper was. Maybe they would have a chance. Maybe they would be the one of whom songs were sung, stories were told, and festivals were held for. Perhaps they woul be a hero.
She made no move to run, no move to get out of the way as the tide continued to advance. Behind her, she knew what awaited. A small village of grass and mud huts, filled with terrified villagers. She would fight for them, if not for herself. She would go down fighting, making sure she could take as many of the enemy with her as she could. Give the villagers a bit more time, if only a few seconds. Maybe they could save themselves, because she wouldn't be able to.
The Keeper couldn't say she hadn't imagined it would end like this. She knew she would eventually die, meet an opponent that she couldn't defeat. She had wondered many times what it would feel like. She hoped it was like falling asleep, or going into a trance. She didn't want it to be painful, or drawn out. Yes, best to get it over with as soon as possible.
Her existence was coming closer and closer to the end with every second she spent here, long hair whipping in the breeze, cape blowing in the hot desert wind.
Her muscles felt like lead, every footstep dragging her down. And yet she forced herself to walk. She forced herself to walk closer, every footfall as loud as thunder (at least in her mind), every second seeming to go by as slowly as if it were an hour.
And then, time sped up.
Before she knew it, she was leaping, jumping into the air to somersault and land on the shoulders of two Greencloaks. One of them was knocked to the ground, while the other staggered, barely managing to keep his balance. His sword moved up as in slow motion, but the Keeper was already moving, darting out of the way, kicking the blade out of his hands, before landing a foot on his chest and kicking him over. He stumbled, toppling over backwards. Sorry, Keith.
Trinzel was digging her claws into the capes of other Greencloaks, moving as a brown, furry blur and pulling people over. They fell, taking those behind and around them with them to the ground. The Keeper sank a knife into the shoulder of a controlled hawk that swooped down upon her; it gave a pitiful caw and fell, plummeting like a bullet to the ground.
She was a lightning bolt; no, that was much too slow for whatever she was experiencing. In a split second, she was kicking over two archers, snapping their bows, tossing their quivers away, and landing a punch on the jaw of one of them. A roundhouse kick took care of the other, and she was already backflipping out of the way of the daggers that tried to lash at her in retaliation.
She was not exhilarated, not panting for breath, or tired in any way. She was a tornado, instead, whirling through the ranks of the enemy and knocking weapons out of their hands, kicking and punching and slicing and jabbing, knocking the enemy's spirit animals out of the way, her spirit animal leaping onto the others, knocking them over, sinking bites into a few, and clawing others.
A few of the villagers were trying to join the fray, with makeshift weapons of spears or rocks. "Get out of the way!" the Keeper shouted, gesturing wildly towards the huts. "Get everyone away!"
She can't hold the enemy off forever, but she can cover the villagers' retreat. The energy flash is seeping out of her body, leaving her already aching. She continues fighting, not in the strategies and positions that she had been taught at Greenhaven, but in wild lashes and kicks. It seems to be working better then any other strategy against the mindless puppets.
The villagers are running, leaping onto the backs of donkeys and horses, picking up children and babies who can't run as quickly. The Keeper was distracted for a second by their retreat, and that is all it takes for her to not see the flash of silver knife coming towards her.
Trinzel turns, tries to leap to intercept the dagger, but it's too late; the blade is already buried up to the hilt in the Keeper's stomach. The Keeper glances down, in surprise; already, a red stain, shockingly bright against the forest greens of her tunic, is spreading. Her knives clatter to the ground.
Time seems to stand still; her vision is blurring, and suddenly there's a burning pain in her ribs where a few seconds ago, they seemed to have been numb. Someone is letting out a scream, a scream as if they're being tortured; is that her? She's already sinking to the ground, falling onto her back.
Her eyes are open, finding the eyes of her faithful spirit animal. "Get them, Trinzel," she gasps out, a shaking hand reaching up to rest on the hyena's fur. "Get them."
Her eyes reflected something else for a moment, seeming to look far away, before her hand dropped, she took a last, shuddering breath, and then didn't take another.
The Keeper, hero of Erdas, champion of the good, healer of the Bile, lays there herself, finally defeated.
Our hope is lost. The Keeper is dead.