“So, it is down to you, and it is down to me,” she snarled. “You killed my parents, left me with the wraith-hunters, ignored me for twenty YEARS! Now you would destroy what life I have left. I tell you, I will not permit it! My life is mine! It’s the only thing I have of any value, and I will kill you before I let you take it!” She hurled herself at him again and knocked him down. A knife appeared in her hand.
Venitus’ eyes widened when he felt the blade being pressed against his throat. “Now, Astriella, are you sure this is wise?”
He closed his eyes. “Can we reach a compromise?”
He sighed resignedly. “Then end it.”
The blade wavered. “What?!”
“If you’re going to kill me, then kill me! I don’t deny you’ve earned the right; all I ask is that you either kill me swiftly or let me go. I assume the latter is out of the question, therefore you must kill me.”
Stella considered for a moment, then slowly let Venitus up. She said heavily, “For all that I am a hunter, I can’t kill a man – even you – in cold blood. May my parents forgive me. I just can’t!” She collapsed to the forest floor, crying uncontrollably. She had a chance to avenge her parents’ death, and failed through soft-heartedness. It was unforgivable.
~ * ~
When she opened her eyes, the first thing Stella saw was Leivos’ concerned face.
“That the fates you’re all right,” he sighed. “The Magus revived me and told me to thank you for him.” He studied her face, his eyes questioning. “What did he mean?”
A single tear ran down her face. “I let him live. By my parents’ souls, I let him live, Leivos! Twenty years of training and searching, and all the memories . . . I had him in my grasp; I could have avenged my parents, and still he lives.” She was sobbing again. “Why? Why did I let him go?”
Leivos pondered for a moment. “You let him go,” he began thoughtfully, “because you are a kind person. Or because you recognized the fact that killing him would bring you to his level. You knew that your parents would not have wanted you to become a killer, perhaps, so . . .” his voice trailed off.
Stella looked at him with pain-filled eyes. “That was a rhetorical question. I know why I failed. He saved himself. If he had remained silent, he would lie dead now and my parents’ spirits would be appeased.” She spoke haltingly. “I could not slit the throat of someone who was looking me straight in the eye. Someone who had been a favorite uncle at one time.”
Leivos became quiet. “He is your uncle?”
She nodded sadly.
“This changes things,” he murmured.
Overcome with grief for her shattered family, Stella’s control snapped. “No it doesn’t, it changes nothing! He was my uncle, so what? He shall still die by my hand.”
What a sweet sentiment, Astriella. A sibilant, hissing whisper entered her mind. I am touched. Unfortunately, you will never get the chance!
Stella gasped. “Venitus!” Then her body was wracked with waves of pain. She screamed and arched off of the ground.
“What? What’s happening?” Leivos knelt swiftly beside her and started looking for a wound.
She managed to choke out, “Magic. Venitus – only known telepath and mage – extremely powerful – doing something – ” before the pain overloaded her brain and she lost consciousness.
A/N: Have you noticed how, when I get bored or can’t continue a plot thread, I knock Stella out? I need to work on that . . .