Watching as an unusual enemy lay dying, Arra Sails is reminded of a quality she no longer possesses.
Each of the vampires this commanded had been directed at nodded, their grips on their weapons tightening. This was their first mission, and they had been unlucky enough to end up under the charge of the most formidable of the high-ranking Generals, Arra Sails. The three men and their female captain were standing just within the bounds of a densely wooded forest, about to storm a nearby cave, where they had been told several rogue vampaneze were hiding out.
With a wave of Arra's hand, the four of them began to advance, creeping out of the wood cover and towards the cave. Arra halted, and the three vampires behind her followed her lead and silently stood still as Arra scrunched up her face and cocked her head. Then, sighing contentedly, she looked back at the anxious men before her. "Sounds like five of them," she said calmly, and the three vampires exchanged glances tentatively - they heard nothing. "We'll be fine if you keep your wits about you. You two - " she pointed at the two larger vampires, named Ghodrat and Rambique, "can take whichever two are nearest to the front, Camule and I will finish the rest." Camule seemed to relax a bit upon hearing this, but as Arra's head snapped around to give him a warning look, he straightened up and re-affixed his hold on his sword. She gave a defiant huff, then turned away and started for the cave, her young accomplices following quickly. Several steps before they would go into view of their targets, Arra turned one last time to mouth, "Leave no survivors." Camule, Rambique, and Ghodrat nodded, and without another word, Arra darted forward on the attack.
They had the element of surprise and order working for them. The vampaneze were neither ready for the assault nor able to organize fast enough to properly defend themselves. Before four out of the five could get to their feet, Arra had thrown a knife at the one vampaneze who had stood, a large, authoritative-looking one in the back of the cave, and it had stuck deep in his chest. As soon as their comrade toppled over, the others seemed to be sparked into action, drawing out whatever weapons they could find, and the combat began.
The battle was easy for Arra; within three minutes she had downed two opponents and was stepping back to observe her pupils, ready to jump in if necessary. But they all seemed to be holding their own, it wouldn't be long now. As her eyes traveled through the cavern, she happened to spot something, something small, near the mouth of the cave. She frowned and squinted, curious to see what it could be. It was moving very slowly in lopsided, painstaking steps. Was it an animal? After checking to be sure none of the vampires would be needing her help, she took off after it, determined for some unidentifiable reason to find out what it was. As she neared it, it became apparent to her what it was, and it caused a distant, forgotten feeling in her chest, a sort of pressure or pull, she couldn't quite pinpoint it. In front of her was a small, very small, vampaneze, and though she had never heard of vampaneze blooding such young people, it seemed that the light-purple figure was no more than ten. She was sure she hadn't noticed him when they first entered the cave, and while she had sensed all the other vampaneze, she had had no idea that this child was present. She felt the corner of her mouth twitch as she watched him. In his shoulder was stuck the tip of a spear - she recognized it as Ghodrat's - and his small fingers were pulling at it, trying to tear it out of his skin as he tried to limp to his escape. She winced at the blood that had already poured out down his chest and side and was leaving a trail behind him. A few minutes and he'd die from loss of blood, faster if he succeeded in removing the spearhead. If his wound was sealed and the tip removed now, he could still make it. She could do that, she could spare him from missing out on a life he'd never have if she turned the other way. He was an harmless little boy, he didn't deserve to die so unfairly.
As Rambique's dagger shot through the air, she might have been able to stop it, but she didn't. It wasn't because she didn't want to, because she did, more than she had wanted anything in years, but she seemed fixed to her spot, watching it in slow motion as it traveled straight into the boy's little stomach. He gave a scream as it punctured through his skin, and he fell to the ground. It was too late now. She started forwards to him, reaching a hand out as though trying to offer him some comfort even from that distance. Of course, she didn't get to him in time, but as he took his final breath, his eyes met hers for a second, if that, before they went dark. The look in his eyes broke her more even than the sound of his cry when he was stuck had. It was a look of a hope for the future, and youth, and innocence. Innocence: it was something she hadn't known for a long, long time. And just as hers had once upon a time, his innocence disappeared like a whisper in the wind. Arra wondered if he knew that she hadn't saved him.
She stared at his motionless body for a long while, long after the fighting behind her had finished. Finally, Camule's call of, "Arra?" pulled her away from the bloody little body crumpled on the ground. She spun around to face the vampires , all of whom were standing several feet back, watching her with confusion.
"What?" she asked numbly.
"Is something wrong?" Ghodrat asked. "We did it, we killed the scum, every single one of them!"
Her whole body tightened - how did he say it with such enthusiasm, like he had won some stupid game? Did he not understand that they had just murdered six other living beings? After all, careless slaughter was what they hated the vampaneze for, it seemed cruelly ironic that they would solve the problem by mowing them down as they hid unsuspectingly in this cave.
The vampires were still watching her, wonder in their eyes. "Weren't those your orders?" Rambique asked tentatively.
She looked blankly at them all for several more tense seconds, then, closing her eyes for a fraction of a beat as she turned away, muttered miserably, "Yes, those were my orders." She could hear them begin to celebrate as she walked out of the cave, her shoulders slumped. They had finished their first missions as Generals, of course they were celebrating.
She would remember that they were on her orders till the day she died.