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Quicksilver

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Blinding spears of light flash before her, beside her, behind her. Tumbling through the thick undergrowth of the swamp, she flits from side to side, dodging the lights. Her evasions are slowing down, the mud makes her running sluggish. Panic digs into her heart with sharp, black claws; black spots dance before her eyes as she struggles to breathe. But she continues to run.

She knows It is behind her.

Hears Its breath as it comes in ragged gasps of anticipation. Smells the sickly sweet scent of blood and roses as it oozes from Its body in drops of sweat. Feels her skin prickle as it grows closer, closer. Tastes bile as breathing becomes ever more difficult. Sees nothing as the swamp grows thicker.

Soon, she knows, It will catch her. And she could give in and collapse into Its arms, or she could turn and use the meager amount of strength she has left. It is doubtful she will last long, and it would be quick and painless to acquiesce to the fate that clearly awaits her. It would be over in a second.

She draws her sword and turns to fight.

The element of surprise is with her and she slashes upward, merely grazing Its rotting flesh, but startling enough to make it fall backwards. Darkness shrouds it like a cloak, protecting It, she cannot discern exactly what it looks like, but she sees two glowing, yellow eyes with dilated, cat-like pupils. It shrieks, a terrible noise akin to the cawing of a crow, but amplified to the point of deafening. She feels as if she is being barraged by millions of the black birds, and she staggers back, ears ringing.

With the dexterity of a snake, It rushes at her, still screaming. As she fights the urge to clap her hands over her ears, she raises her sword once more. The shield she dropped during the early stages of her flight would be welcome company. Without it, she is as good as naked.

Just before it rams into her, she sidesteps, but It lashes out with Its blackened talons and slices her shoulder open. She bites back the screams trying to escape her throat. No fear.

Warm blood pours from her shoulder and down her arm. The world fades out momentarily, but she shakes away the fatigue and lifts her sword in time to parry yet another blow from those deadly talons. She is grateful the wound is not on her sword arm, but she knows this battle must end soon. Infection and blood loss are just as deadly as the talons, and even if she emerges victorious, she is still in danger.

Thinking quickly, for It is coming at her again, she crouched, sprints, slides beneath Its belly, slicing up as she moves. The sword cuts into Its stomach like butter, and black blood spurts out. It howls in agony, but it is merely angered. It whips around and grabs her by the throat. Pulls her towards Its face. Then she finally sees what It looks like.

Razor sharp, serrated teeth stained with blood jut from Its mouth, which is less like a mouth and more like a jagged tear. Its eyes, the only part of It that she has seen before, are even larger and more yellow up close. They are filled with anger, hate, and malice. But there is something else. Desire. Hunger. It is muscular, huge, and up close the cuts she made look like mere scratches. Black claws protrude from Its toes and fingers, round as sausages, and it is at least eight feet tall. The scent of blood and roses suffocates her as It breathes, face to face with her now as It raises her higher.

She is going to die.

It begins to squeeze her throat, and she struggles, slashing madly at Its arms with her sword. That is when It grins; gurgles, almost as if It is laughing at her. It knows It has her, and she know this too. But she will not give up, not while she is still alive.

Lungs screaming for sustenance, the world around her begins to turn gray, not necessarily an unpleasant change from the murky blackish-green haze of the swamp. Death is not far, and it becomes ever more difficult to lift her arm to poke uselessly at It. As her life begins to fade, It stares into her eyes, intent, inspecting the light inside them. It is curious. It wants to know what her eyes will look like when they are faded and empty. This arouses newfound anger in her, and with one final heave, she rams her sword upward.

And pierces Its skin.

The sword goes completely through Its arm.

It releases her as it screams.

Thick, swamp air has never been so fresh and delicious.

It tries to wrench the sword from Its arm, but It cannot. For some reason, the blade cannot be moved. Then, like mercury, silver liquid pours from the blade and begins to twine around Its arm. Unable to move, she kneels in the mud, awestruck by the scene unfolding before her.

Silver liquid encases Its entire arm, slithers up to Its neck as it screeches and claws at it, panicked, yellow eyes wide and manic. Tendons stand out on Its thick neck as It strains, and she is surprised that they have not burst. Then the liquid begins to glow as if set ablaze, blinding light that spreads across the swamp.

She averts her eyes, but she can still hear Its screams. She holds her hands over her ears, but this is as useful as not covering them at all. Within moments, the screams crescendo into a thunderous, fortissimo howl—and then nothing. Silence. Darkness, but for one thing.

A glowing, silver statue of It stands in the middle of what used to be swamp; now it is all stone, cold and smooth like marble but black like coal. Tendrils of white smoke slink away from the effigy, encircle her stomach like boas, and then vanish. Almost immediately, she feels her strength return. She does not know what to do, what to think; nothing that has just come to pass makes an inkling of sense. But she is not sure if she wants to understand. She has her life, and It is dead, and that is all that matters.

True.

The voice startles her out of her reverie, and she stands. A wave of dizziness nearly sends her back to her knees, but her newfound strength keeps her on her feet. She inspects the clearing, searching for the source of the voice and praying it is not another enemy.

You need not have fear of me, Child, for I am the one who saved you.

“Where are you?” She cries, turning in circles.

You cannot see me, Child, but I am right above you, beside you, and beneath you. I am the Spirit of the Moon, and I have saved you because you serve a greater purpose. It is not your time to pass from the world of the living, Child, and it shall not be your time for a great many years.

She is speechless. Afraid. Wondering if she has gone made. She steals another glance at It, making sure It is still an immobile statue. It is. Fear flees from her body in the form of a relieved sigh, and she lies upon the ground. Fatigue takes over and she smiles, the memory of the odd voice already slipping away.

You will do great things, Ophelia. Now sleep, Child, and be at peace.

When she awakes, the voice is a distant dream. She attempts to remove her sword from the statue’s arm, but it will not budge. Tears dance at the corners of her eyes, but she knows she must leave the blade entrusted to her by her father.

“Thank you for saving my life,” she whispers to the blade.

With a deep breath, she takes the first step of her journey.

When she is gone, the sword begins to shine, and the name engraved on the hilt of the blade glows violet:

Excalibur.



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