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Green Butterflies

The sky was dark, heavy with the threat of rain, a chilling wind rolled across the darkened and ragged battlefield stained crimson and dotted with discarded weapons and bodies.

Above, in the shadow of the mountainside, stands a figure dressed in silver armor, her earthen hair billowing around her shoulders. A frown is etched across her sun-kissed skin, green eyes dulled by the horrors that had come before, and those she would face come morning light.

The sky begins to lighten as she stands sentinel. Below, her fellow warriors roam, stumbling from their posts, reclaiming newly-mended armor. Some eat, forcing down rations, praying for a bleak spark of energy to see them through the next day. Others sharpen their weapons, gather arrows and shields, moving with a weariness that had little to do with a lack of real sleep, or the weight of so much protective metal.

Green eyes flicker across the encampment, catching weeping men and women off by the healer’s tents, her own heart pulsing with empathetic agony. Her gaze burns, but she sheds no tears, mourning would have to wait.

She feels, more than sees the light begin to paint over the battlefield, and she clenches her fists, power beginning to swell in her breast. With the light, came the butterflies.

Down, she climbs, the emerald creatures flocking to her side, wings fluttering with gentle light. She marches, cape flowing behind her. Her fellows bow their heads as she passes, rising and burying themselves behind cold masks and metal, following like a rush of water.

She stops at the edge, head held high as her compatriots fall without a word into formation. The butterflies settle in her hair, forming a crown above her pointed ears and across her steeled brow, more still rest upon her stiff shoulders.

As light falls across her back, she speaks, ancient words falling from her lips as she draws a thin blade gleaming with ethereal light. The woman’s eyes sharpen as she take a deep breath, eyes fluttering shut, but only for a moment. She steps forward, turns to her fellows, and speaks again. Casting words of protection and victory as she slashes her blade across the dirt, a line drawn across the soil.

They go no further.

She screams and her followers answer, a roar of voices, angry and manic and determined. She spins on her heel, the emerald butterflies rising like a wave, and runs.

It ends today, she swears as she cuts down her opponents with her magic-infused blade, spinning as her creatures tear through the opposing force, crimson dotting sharp emerald. Her eyes flash, bright and divine.

We will be victorious. She swears. Eyes burning, jaw locked, she arcs her blade, and the waves of emerald consume the front-lines of the opposing army. With gentle flaps, the creatures rise again, leaving behind cracked metal and crimson soaked bones.

From the corner of her eye, her fellow warriors falter, and she watches as they bury their fear, their revulsion. Those who had once so firmly reject the butterflies have either silenced themselves, or been swallowed by the horde.

She cries out, pivots and rushes back into the fray, emerald sword gleaming, burning as she cuts down her opponents. The butterflies flutter above, and the woman watches in horror as iron arrows tear through fragile wings. Several butterflies fall, and the woman screams. A terrible sound that rings in the cages of her rival soldiers chest, and then the wave pushes even harder, swirling past her and tearing through the masses even faster.

They fight long into the day, and with one last gasp of horror, it is over. As promised, the woman who commanded the butterflies has brought them victory.

The woman stands, chest heaving, sword sizzling at her side as the men and woman she led drop their weapons, cries of joy rising like a bitter tidal wave. With the sun beating down, the warriors cheer, some dropping to their knees, clutching each other.

Once more, the butterflies settle on her shoulders, tangle in her earthen hair. The woman sighs, and begins the trek back to camp, emerald sword once more sheathed at her side. No one reaches out or calls for her.

By the time she makes it back and finishes her report to the leaders of the encampment, night has fallen. She leaves the tent, and makes for the healers. Her injures are mild, and she pays no mind to the crimson splattered across her silver armor and ragged cloak, she goes for a different purpose.

The battle is over, this war is won. So she is no longer needed.

The healers grant her no more than a passing glance and a jerk of their heads. She makes her way through the large enclosure, eyes glossing over the patients, pausing only briefly upon the ones draped in white, muttering a quick prayer before she moves on.

Behind the tent, lay the soon-to-be-buried. Under the gentle glow of the moon, she mutters words of rest and safe travels, before settling between two bodies near the back of the group. Her hands tremble as she lifts the sheets, and chokes as she sees through a blurry gaze the bloodied faces of her older brother and sister.

Now, she mourns.

The young elven woman sobs, head bowed, ancient words unknown to man falling from her trembling lips. She places a hand upon the two corpses, and with a few sweet notes, there are twin flashes of light. The sheets fall, and from their depths emerge two emerald butterflies. She smiles, cradling the fragile creatures in her hands, then rises. The two flutter up onto her shoulders, wings brushing gently across her burning cheeks.

Then, she turns on her heel, and marches into the shadowed woods, disappearing in the blink of an eye. She returns home, and prays this battle will be her last.

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