The cartwheel bumped over a stone in the dirt road, a little boy of no more than three looked up from playing with the hay on the cart floor. his mother a fat lady with hair the same colors as the straw sat watching him intently. Occasional she would glance as Sasha with worried eyes. Maybe she had seen many female warriors she thought. A bigger stone rocked the cart wildly, and a hooded old man at Sasha side groaned. Now and then he would cough a great racking thing and clutch at his rib cage. She didn’t know what ailed him and generally wouldn’t care but something about the old man’s sad gray eyes reminded her of Barlia.
Her childhood home sat on the fringe of the Dreamlands and was bottle necked by the iron coast, travelers going north or south had no choice but to stop in Barlia, and as such, it became a hub for merchants and adventurers. The Dreamlands to the east was a vast desert that had claimed many unwary wanders, some who had the fortune to return had said that it must be uncrossable and also that they had felt a malevolent presence that sapped their strength.
Sasha had left Barlia after one fateful night.
A band of the king’s soldiers from Dracia had entered her parent’s tavern. After consuming copious amounts of her fathers strong amber liqueur, they had started a fight with some local thugs. Not content on just beating them, a soldier had drawn his sword and slashed at one of the men. Her mother had been cowering against a table as the man staggered back avoiding the blow. The soldier then thrust the sword through the man’s chest and into her mother. The soldier pulled free the blade and glanced down at the bodies without remorse. Sasha’s father hadn’t the means to fight with such well-equipped men and had hidden like the frightened child he was. Sasha hadn’t. She had lunged for the soldier with intent to kill him. The soldiers had grabbed her and together pulled her outside and down an alleyway where there took turns on her. As the guard who took her mother leaned in to kiss her mouth, she turned her head and bit off the top of his ear. He had taken her even more roughly after that, but she had given him something for her to remember him by.
The next day she had taken all the gold from her father’s tavern and set out to find a warrior to teach her how to wield a sword. She had found her mentor in Bulrick the black. A battle scarred Minotaur from Rothinn, the Minotaur capital. Ironically, Bulric had killed one of his kind in a bar fight and had subsequently found himself banished from his homeland.
After years of traveling and training, she had set out on her own with a thirst for vengeance, seeking the one who had killed her mother. She heard whispers of his description in dark taverns where girls like her were subjected to his depravity. After tracking him for many months, coincidence had found him stationed at a walled outpost ten leagues south of Dracia, the human capital of the land of Kaikaria. She had taken her time punishing him and treated him just as roughly as he had treated her that night. Until bruised and bloody he begged her for death.
Another bump in the road shook her from her revive. As she glanced up, she met the pale gray eyes of the man next to her. A small smile played at the corner of his white beard. She smiled back and looked away.
A short time later the reign man hauled the mule’s to a stop, a cloud of reddish dust wafted on the horizon, and the faint sound of thundering horses tickled their ears. He sat back down and clicked his tongue at the mules, they gently bumped down off the road and waited as the figures on horse back grew closer.
Eventually, eight horsemen in dusty black leggings covered with plate armor and black jackets with the king’s blood red Hawk insignia over the right breast, reigned in next to Sasha’s sorry group.
“You there,” the captain of the small unit stood in his stirrups and pointed at Sasha.
“Where do you come from?”
Sasha glanced over her shoulder and pointed at herself in mock confusion. She dislodged her sword from under her chair. The cloth wrapping made no sound as it hit the straw floor.
“Yes you, you are wearing armor like a mercenary, where is your unit or are you a deserter?”
Sasha un rolled the sword with her foot as she looked into the guard’s eyes. She saw no fear within the man only disgust as he looked over the occupancy of the cart. The old man at her side coughed loudly and hunched over. He reached out and pulled the cloth back to reveal her sword, bringing a finger to his lip in silence he winked and continued to cough. Some of the soldiers shied away as if they didn’t want to catch the infectious disease. The captain nudged his mount closer and pulled back the old man’s hood. His long white hair cascaded down the side of his face and met an equally long beard that fell into his lap. Sasha bit her lip as the guard kicked the old man in the back sending him tumbling into the mother and child that had been whimpering since the guard’s arrival. Her shrieks reached a new high as she swatted at the old man in terror.
“Well, what is it? are you a deserter, because if you are, the king doesn’t take lightly to your kind.”
Sasha stood up and gently pulled the old man to his feet. A small gasp escaped her lip as the old man looked up at her, his sad gray eyes shone vivid blue and seemed to look straight into her soul. Aramis the Great turned to the captain of the unit and was glad to see a fraction of shock register on his face before he concealed it.
“What is it that you want with her captain?” Aramis voice crackled like an old sheet of parchment. However, the underline defiance stood plainly for all to hear.
“That is not your concern old man; I suggest you move a side or share her place.”
“Alas, she is most defiantly my concern.”
The captain’s face had turned purple with outrage, but Aramis just shook his head sadly and mutter something under his breath, his long white beard swayed in unison. The captain turned his attention back to Sasha and drew his sword.
“This is your last chance girly, where have you come from?”
The horses snorted, and a few of the soldiers begun having a hard time trying to keep their mounts under control. The captain’s horse buck and shook its head as Amaris held out a glowing hand toward the small unit. Everyone in the cart gasped as a bright flash of blue light covered the guards excepted Sasha as she darted for her sword. When Sasha could see, she let her sword fall to her side and burst out laughing. The horses milled about in confusion with the stunned guards sat in their saddles. Each was as naked as the day their mothers had birthed them into the world. The Captian’s fat belly jiggled as he kicked his horse in the side and raced back up the road with his small unit of naked warriors trailing in his dust behind him.
Sasha stopped laughing and turned to Aramis with a smile, she brushed her short brown hair out of eyes and dropped back to the seat. The old wizard sat opposite her as she twirled the sword on its point. A white blood stained ragged tried at the handle as a token of her mother’s death flapped in the breeze. Aramis stroked his long beard and reached into his pocket pulling forth a pebble. Sasha glanced at the offering and plucked it from his palm.
“It’s a funny thing revenge, once gone you feel as empty as when you started.”
Sasha shrugged and turned the small pebble in her fingers. A tiny dragon etched on the side seemed to dance as veins of green flecked the surface.
“Who are you wizard and what do you want with me?”
“Ah.” Aramis held up a shaking finger.
“Who I am is an old man and what I want is for you to join me and a few select others, war is coming, and we are in need of a warrior.”
“What war? I’ve traveled the land for the last two years, and I haven’t heard of no war.”
Sasha eyed the wizard quizzically and offered the pebble back to him. Aramis gently shook his head and closed her finger over the stone.
Picture credit to Voyage_of_Roadkill
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