To the edge of the large field she strode, the coiled lilies bursting open to her graceful, measured steps ahead. Dozens of blooms tickled the air with a natural splendor, spreading her pure white cape with every step until even the dying, dissolving trees colored their bark with breath. Their welcome flourished with her focus and spun the wind in a multitude of singing spindles that danced off sacrificial blades and petals with small, natural plucks that rang like laughter. The meadow celebrated her presence, which echoed as high as clouds and as far as the jagged mountains in the distance.
She beheld nothing new in this display. Hundreds of wide and narrow battlefields had sprung to attention with her firm pace and forward focus, and thousands still had whispered her name in awe. She’d never failed to live up to the expectations of strangers, never failed to bring them a swelling peace at her ceaseless advancements through enemy lines that sharpened the very senses of thousands. The joy of the battlefield – of battle itself – followed Lady Radost, commander of the fallen Pythons, and spread with titanic rapport that carved victory in a multitude of unseen ways before a shot was ever fired.
Lady Radost stood upright and facing into the laughing breeze, her hands full as alpha and omega of war: one for the past and one for the future. First, she rose her left from beneath her weatherproof cloak with the Iron Locket, loaded with the last present she had for this land, and adjusted the sights to the far-off location she had in mind for a signal flare to Russia. Multis clocks began to tick away in her head, each towards an inevitable stop and only one she could barely contain her joy to see done.
She then tensed her grip around The Gambit: her elusive weapon that had never felt another hand around its grip nor missed its mark. The bullets at her hip were ready to obey as her soldiers in twin cylinders with numbers enough to destroy anything less armored than a tank. Her hands were ready for what was next, deadlier than bullets or nukes and no less fast than the former. The bridge of The Gambit rose to meet her sharp nose and rounded forehead as her eyes focused to bore through the black metal, her loose strands of blonde hair kicking in the laughter as it rose. Her tools were ready, yet….
The meadow suddenly froze, the joyous singing and laughing ceasing to an abrupt vacuum that hung from a splintered thought. A single sliver of desire to meet Tom, himself bringing destiny in more ways than one, bare…no, to bare herself before him. To…just try to explain what was happening unbeknownst to him. The voice in her mind was solitary and hopelessly forlorn, often finding her logic and patriotism to be insurmountable surroundings for the survival of hope. This time, she let the thought simmer; she let herself picture her grand mission lain out in her own voice and to see that look of conflict in his eyes evaporate to…to…what?
To failure. There’s no such thing as too late nor too early; if Tom ever did find out, it couldn’t be from her. The voice relented and the thought receded like a mist with her right arm back to her side, her focus coming back with such a force that the winds became hysterical, taking the leaves from the trees for yards away.
The smell of diesel fuel ran towards her senses, signalling Tom was encroaching – a few hundred yards away at most. The surroundings calmed as she moved to take position, feeling the scar along her torso writhe despite her coverings. She felt it almost pull at the fabric of her white suit, nibbling along its curve at her buckles and heavy weave. Radost came to the edge of the trees with her plan rearranging in her head, making room for the only concession she could give Tom. It was, perhaps, not all that she owed him, and not all she would give in any other circumstance, but it would have to be enough.
The Iron Locket was aimed by time she saw him carelessly enter the field. After a few steps, she fired, obliterating a smaller mountain top far from their position and sending Tom off his footing. Above the mushroom cloud some miles from them formed a single python’s head with depressed sockets watching over the scene. Radost couldn’t help but admonish him in her mind, timing his recovery while she stepped out, the meadow revealing her broken joy in diminished spirits where her former student would never think to look. Tom knew that she had soldiers that couldn’t speak, tools that would never let her down, and her legendary focus. What he didn’t know was that all she was concerned about was facing her final clock, and that he was the last minutes of her life personified.