In the beginning, there was darkness...
She spotted a savage from the top of the Lumina Chapel, and the hunt began. The hooded figure was scurrying down the Butcher’s Row towards the city walls, menacing at her line of sight. Rayla sprinted down slippery stairs straight into the guts of the Lower Town, cutting through the crowd faster than the Healing Maiden ripped through flesh and bone. Her bleached bone armour clenched around her chest and her throat tightened. The burn built up in her ribs as she bolted along the St Barbarus Close tearing through the scores of merchants; smashing the jugs of wine and oil; trampling everything and everyone in her way. She reached to her collar, gripping the vial of Light, certain her lungs were going to burst.
He was close. So close she could taste it.
Rayla clenched her fists and sprinted even faster.
Praised be the Light, in all its glory, she whizzed, sacred be its name. The electric potion had cracked before it disappeared into her mouth. But don’t ever forgive us our sins, nor our mistakes, so we learn not to repeat them. Her senses sharpened, and the bitter taste sent a charge down her spine. And lead us not to surrender, but to revenge, so we can repay those who trespass against us. For thine is the kingdom, she chanted as her heart beat slowed, the power and the glory when we shed a tear for a tear and blood for blood.
The savage tripped over a stone and smashed against the cobbles, splattering the paved street with blood. He picked himself up and limped towards the city walls, leaving a crimson trail behind him, hissing as his torn feet pounded the ground. The Light rushed through Rayla’s veins. She lowered her head and sprinted, swallowing the distance in quick leaps.
‘Lift the bridge!’ she roared, darting towards the bridge house, and the earth vibrated. ‘Stop the savage!’ All eyes rested on her, and the peasants parted like the Red Sea.
‘Savage!’ A boy echoed her, following in her steps.
More voices screeched as the villagers joined her in pursuit.
Rayla leaned forward and forced herself to run even faster. The pain in her chest subsided, and the tiredness gave way to power. Backed by the growing mob, she darted past the peasants, carts, horses and cabbage stalls as the market slid into chaos.
A stone swished by her ear, missing the savage, and a window to her right exploded. Another one bounced off the man’s shoulder, smashing a sign on one of the shops. Rayla watched a stray rock bruise her arm, oblivious to the pain it had caused her.
A cart loaded with turnips wheeled onto the street, immediately surrounded by the grey mass of children who rummaged through it as if it held the bones of the Founding Father. The savage squeezed through and rushed along the narrowing lane. Rayla’s muscles tensed. Her fist still clenched, she flexed swishing over the heaps of turnips which rolled around like severed heads. Frightened by the clang of her shoes, the children scattered. Hopeless against her speed, she flew over the cart and crashed against the cobbles.
The world exploded in starbursts, and the pain flooded her. She ignored it and jumped back onto her feet, as the Light made her blood boil. Rayla rushed down the South Street, towards the city gate drilling the man with her eyes.
The guards by the bridge house yelled. The bells tolled, the wood creaked, and the metal chains groaned. Slowly, the bridge began to lift. The savage dashed through the crowd, pounding the streets with his bleeding feet.
He pushed through the gatekeepers and sprang up the wooden stairs, trudging over two or three steps at a time. At the top of the city walls, the guards were pulling at the largest iron wheel Rayla had ever seen lifting the bridge inch by inch. The savage hesitated. Then, he jumped onto the moving deck trying to keep his balance.
Rayla followed him and leaped onto the bridge, welcomed by the infinite abyss of the Adler Ravine. The world swirled around her, and her heart thudded. Nothing ever helped with her fear of heights. Even the Light Almighty.
A gust of raw wind cut through her bone armour. The bridge shook. Her hands shot to the sides and she regained her balance. Carefully, she trod across the shaking wooden structure. The wind lashed again, followed by a roar of the crowd.
The savage stopped at the edge of the bridge, glancing down. His hood slipped, revealing his face. Rayla expected it to be angry, hateful and distorted, but the man’s expression surprised her. Fear. Shaking uncontrollably, the savage was crying.
‘We will heal you.’ Rayla whispered in Old Speak, reaching her hand towards the savage. ‘We will make you pure.’ The man’s eyes widened, and he groaned. Behind her, the mob responded with a howl, thirsty for blood.
‘Rip his skin off!’ The crowd showered the sky with rocks, cabbage, and rotten turnips. The bridge swung. The savage cowered, clasping at his chest. Rayla edged her way along the wooden beams until he was within her reach. The savage threw her a panicked glance and drew a kitchen knife. Clumsily, he stabbed the air in front of him, nearly losing his balance. Then, he threw the knife at her. It plummeted down the ravine, causing her no harm. The savage groaned again.
‘Inquisitor Brennan, we are behind you!’ someone yelled, and she immediately recognised Sindre Storstrand. Six years younger. Two ranks above her. He jumped onto the bridge landing as light as the new snow, drew his cat-o-tail and whirled it around his fingers so fast that it became blurry.
‘In the name of the Light, surrender yourself!’ he bellowed, baring his teeth at the man. Prowling as confident as justice, he passed Rayla without losing his balance even once. ‘There is no way out!’
Sindre cracked his weapon against the wooden surface. The savage whimpered. His eyes jumped from Rayla to the mob, then to back Sindre. Another fierce gust of wind whipped across the bridge sinking its teeth into Rayla’s flesh. The wood creaked, swayed and rattled. Shivering, the savage moved closer to the edge.
Everything slowed down. Sindre leaped towards the man growling with fury. The savage looked at Rayla, and their eyes met. His face revealed fear, but also something else, something she could not name.
Then, he stepped off the bridge.
Rayla closed her eyes. The earth thudded, and the mob cheered.
‘Lower the bridge!’ Sindre bellowed. The metal wheel groaned, and the bridge sank a few inches. The world swirled. Blood drained from Rayla’s face. Sindre turned back and calmly paraded towards her. Then, he reached out his hand, and his face lightened up with a smile. Rayla grasped his palm, holding it for comfort, feeling the Light wear off.
‘You ran as fast as the wind, my lord.’ One of the guards bowed to Sindre. ‘Praised be the Light.’
‘Praised be the Light.’ Rayla mouthed, still feeling the burn in her legs.
Sindre laughed at the sight of her pale face. ‘Justice has been done. Tear for a tear and blood for blood.’