Sunday, 7 January 2018

Episode II - III Lessons of Restraint

A Cliff-top Duel

Lessons of Restraint
(Full Chapter)

The twin suns beamed their intense light and combined heat down upon the rocky plateau below. Here, on the topmost levels of the canyon city there was no place to run to for shade, so those caught out in the heat had to endure it. The Summer winds were dry and seemed to leech the life out of everything they touched as they blew across the land. The rocky ground was hot enough to burn uninsulated skin as the hours of the unbearably long days stretched on without any darkness to quell the growing heat.

Ghelta sat upon a blanket of furs draped across a large rock that overlooked the cliffs of the canyon city below. She fidgeted with the emerald-hued lenses held in place by a leather strap across her face as the feeling of restrictive clothing always bothered her over-sensitive senses. The world took on a stark green hue beneath the filtering glass. The shadows of the lower buildings and dark areas beneath the earth seemed deeper, while the brilliance of the twin suns light seemed unearthly in their glow.

She looked up at the sky to see the black rings that circled the larger and smaller suns in the sky, where the upper atmosphere was weakest. Wearing the lenses let her see a few stars peeking their light through the black shadows far above. The otherwise blue and orange skies were a mass of green waves flowing overhead with not a single cloud to be seen. She lowered her gaze back to the world around her as she pulled her linen hood over her head and enjoyed the shadows it cast over her face.

She hated the feeling of the harsh, thick clothing on her skin as it seemed to leech the sweat from her skin and trap it against her like a wet towel. Heat and untapped energy roared through her veins with such an intensity that any clothing covering her felt unbearable after a time. Being covered head-to-toe in giant blankets in the outside heat was too much for her, but she knew that to take them off would cost her health during these hot Summer months.

Ylethus had told her before he left that she would have to wear the thick, hooded robes and her leather armor every day that she was outside of their home. He had left her in the care of one of Alsira Thaenat’s most esteemed broden groups. He had said it was for her benefit in getting to meet other children of the city and learn to socialize. He was worried she would end up stunted in her growth if she didn’t get out of the house. Honestly, it was simply because he wanted more glory with his warriors and couldn’t be bothered having to take care of her anymore.

Ghelta stretched her legs over the rock and lifted up her knees as she pressed against them with her chest. She leaned on her heels and wrapped her arms around her legs as she sat. She lifted her shoulders up and sighed long and hard at the situation she found herself in.

As she mulled it over in her mind, she felt that the broden groups were a ridiculous idea. Members of the tribe would give their children, some of very young age or even infants, over to be cared for in groups that were watched over by old women called broden-mothers. Large groups of children would be overseen by assistants called broden-nurses, and each group would also have at least one skaell-father to give them lessons or tell them stories to keep them quiet. The idea of a bunch of children not committed to each other by blood, all of different ages and personalities, being corralled together like livestock was absurd.

Ghelta remembered how Ylethus had mentioned how absurd he had found the tradition from when he grew up. He complained about it often over dinners as he remembered back to what he endured as a child many decades ago. He had said it was all a scheme put in place by fearful members of the local Elder Circles, and the Grand Circle back in Morrthault City, to weaken the potential of the Hoelatha people. She didn’t fully understand all of what he said and who these groups of people were, but Ylethus had been adamant in his hatred of their meddling ideas.

It was hypocritical that Ghelta now found herself cast into the system that her adopted father had hated so much. It was his choice to abandon her here with a group of people that didn’t know her and that she couldn’t be bothered to get to know. She was cast out from her home and had to sleep on cots in communal rooms with the other children who all stunk and snored too loudly. She hated having to be around the other children and despite the chastisements of the broden-mother, she would escape to any quiet place she could to be lost in her thoughts. The activities and lessons given to the simpleton children were beneath her.

There came a sound from over Ghelta’s shoulder that made her tense all of the muscles in her body. Her left hand instinctively shot to the belt around her waist. Her fingers grabbed at the leather and were unable to seize upon what she sought. She sighed once again and curled up into a tighter ball on the rock as she punched the furs beneath her with her left hand.

No weapons were allowed in the broden groups and it had become a source of severe resentment that the broden-mother had taken Ghelta’s klaive. The instincts and training that Ylethus had given her were atrophying as she was expected to while her days away doing chores, learning lessons, and playing idiotic games with the other children. She longed for the security of the blade against her hip. She longed for the days spent running and fighting at the Vhulkovyr barracks on the other side of the city. She missed the days spent at home lost in her own imagination or teaching herself to read the books filled with epic tales and mythology that Ylethus hoarded away.

A dull impact struck Ghelta on the shoulder, snapping her from her thoughts and causing her to tense up for a moment. She curled forward into a roll and sprung back up into a crouch on the rock. She turned to face the source of the impact with her hands held before her and ready to fight. Every muscle in her body was tenses and primed to lunge forward at whatever threat presented itself. She could feel the tails of her hooded robes being lifted up on the hot winds as her eyes darted around the cliff-side around her.

“Whoa, there-” The voice came from an older boy that stepped forward from a mass of children huddled together. He was tall and lean with a small amount of refined muscle around his arms and legs. “No need to get hostile.” The older boy lifted his hands in the air while smiling and chuckling to himself. “I’m sorry that we disturbed you. I’m just going to get the ball, okay?”

Ghelta’s eyes darted from the boy to the mass of other children and then down to the small wooden ball in the sand beneath the rock she was perched atop of. She flexed her fingers and scurried to the edge of the rock. She looked at the ball and then back to the older boy as he took two cautious steps toward her.

“You’re Ghelta, right?” The older boy held his steps and looked Ghelta from face to foot and then back. “I’m Aethel. I’ve seen you in the broden a few times in the last two months.” The older boy lifted his heavily tanned and bare right arm up and over his head. He wore a pleated green tunic and silk pants that billowed in the breeze. “I was just teaching these mongrels how to play Svatcha. Would you like to play?” He scratched at the rakish mess of brown hair atop his head and then raised both of his hands out in supplication.

Ghelta shook her head and continued to watch Aethel as he took one more step closer. She adjusted the emerald goggles around her eyes with one hand as she quickly snatched up the wooden ball with the other. She broke eye contact with Aethel for a moment to look at the red-and-green painted ball in her hand and then quickly locked her gaze on the older boy as he took one more step toward her.

“I can teach you; it’s a pretty easy game and it’s fun.” Aethel closed the distance and stood right in front of Ghelta now. Even with the height given to her by the rock, the older boy was taller than her. If she stood up from her crouch she might only be a few inches taller than him. “You’re the Vhollen’s daughter, right? My father and your’s are old friends. I’m the eldest son of the Chieftain.” Aethel leveled one of his outstretched arms toward Ghelta. His heavily tanned skin was slick with sweat but his hand was covered in sand and dust.

Ghelta looked Aethel from foot to face and measured him up. She had noticed him several times over the last few months. Despite his lean physique and opulent clothing giving her a bad first impression of him, she had noticed that he was kind and calm when he interacted with the other children. He was the oldest in the broden and had boasted several times that this Summer he was able to be granted his Kollishi Thaulp. There was something about his height and demeanor that attracted Ghelta to him, but she remained distant as he was the most sociable of the boys in the broden.

She realized that Aethel was outstretching his arm for her to take it, it was a common gesture among the children to invite others into their play groups. Ghelta slammed the wooden ball into Aethel’s outstretched palm and pulled her arm away quickly to avoid any more chance of human contact. She pressed her weight on the knuckles of her right hand and took a step back from the older boy.

“Thank you.” Aethel smiled while flicking the wooden ball into the air and snatching it in his dusty hand once more. “I understand you were born in another land.” Aethel gestured to the heavy robes and leather goggles that adorned Ghelta’s body. “I don’t care. You’re welcome here with us. Let this be your home and hopefully one day we can be friends.” The smile on his face broadened and seemed genuine.

Aethel remained in front of Ghelta for a few more moments, but after the realization that she wasn’t budging, he stepped back. He remained facing her for a few more backward steps then gave a sarcastic bow as he turned on his heels and ran back to the group of huddled children nearby. She could hear them all gawking amongst each other about what had happened, but Aethel remained silent. He soon held the wooden ball aloft and commanded the children to follow him back to their play area.

Ghelta let her chest and shoulders slump slightly as she gave a silent breath of relief. She let one of her long legs drape over the hot rock that she sat on and kick at the sand beneath with the toe of her boot. Aethel continued to call out to the children, causing them to follow him like a shepherd. With each more distant shout, the slack-jawed multitude trickled away. She watched each of them as the lack of interest in her dawned over their snot-stained and bleak-minded faces and their short attentions returned to the wooden ball. That is, all of them except for one opulently-dressed boy and two of his friends.

The well-dressed boy looked a lot like Aethel except he was shorter and far more slender. His hair was well-tended with two long braids trailing in front of his ears, while the back of his mane was long and wild with the hair of youth. He stood with his arms crossed over a blue vest and purple silk shirt. His brown eyes were focused into a squint of disapproval while his lips curled to reveal disgust.

Ghelta casually began to flex her fingers and snap her knuckles while sizing up this boy and the other children at his back. With a glance, she realized that she could easily subdue or severely harm this imprudent boy if she needed to. Behind him was a small and fidgety boy with wide eyes and a rough set of clothes that looked more like scrounged bits of fabric and leather than anything else. The final child was one that caused Ghelta concern as she saw this hulking mass of muscle that might be considered a girl, save for the complete lack of feminine qualities. The last child was easily two feet taller than Ghelta and almost three times the weight. She was bald save for a few braids of white hair that tangled in front of her face that was warped in a perpetual scowl.

“Don’t believe what my brother told you.” The opulently dressed boy kept his arms crossed and took a few steps toward Ghelta. He dragged his feet in the sand and had the posture like he owned the whole of the Jolash Plateau. “I’m the son of the chieftain as well, and I know that you’re not wanted here.”

Ghelta remembered seeing the boys face before and knew him as Aesothel; he was the second-born of the chieftain’s children; two years younger than Aethel and six years older than his sister who still lived with her family. Those few times in her younger years when Ylethus had taken her to see the Chieftain, she remembered seeing Aesothel skulking and grimacing from distant points in the high-lodge. He had always been the type to hide in the shadows and hatch dark thoughts. It seems in his older age, his balls had dropped enough that he was willing to confront those that displeased him.

“I know where you’re from. You don’t belong here and no one wants you. Not even your parents wanted you, which is why the Vhollen had to take you in.” Aesothel gave a cruel laugh and reached out an arm to slap the nervous child beside him in the chest. “Aethel has a weakness for exotic girls.” Aesothel took a few more steps forward and allowed his eyes to drop to the sand-strewn rock below his feet. “He also has a weakness for wounded animals. He always brings them home with him, even if they’re mangy.” He raised his eyes and focused them directly on Ghelta.

Ghelta lifted herself slowly to her feet while turning her head to the side and making several slow and steady steps towards Aesothel. She kept him in her periphery as she walked from toe-to-heel in a figure-eight pattern across the rocks. The boy wanted to assert his dominance over someone and he had selected her as weaker than him. She would allow this illusion with carefully selected movements and avoiding eye-contact as she waited for him to build up enough gall to strike.

The primordial dance of predators and prey began as Aesothel stopped moving while holding his right hand under his chin. The wide-eyed and feral child swung behind Aesothel and flanked him while watching Ghelta through a cocked-head and side-ways focus. The hulking girl swung wide and tried to flank Ghelta, mistaking her idle figure-eight movements as exposure.

“No one likes her, Aesothel.” The dry and multi-toned voice of the fidgety boy squeaked from behind. “She keeps to herself well enough. Do we really need to make an example of her?” The boy blinked each eye separately and began hammering on the side of his head with the palm of his hand. He turned away from Ghelta for a moment and then focused his attentions on Aesothel like a cowering dog.

“No one likes her, is right, Paulk.” Aesothel looked Ghelta from toe to head once more. He lifted his hand from his chin to pluck the air in front of him with his fingers; as if this hand was a snake that was snapping at Ghelta with venomous fangs. “Look at her, covered from head to toe in robes. She can’t even handle Dhaulm and Trallt’s blessed light.” Aesothel leaned in toward Ghelta as she passed by him. “They say that beneath all those robes she’s covered in scabs and sores because the gods have forsaken her.”

“The lenses are odd, too.” Paulk careened his neck and looked up at Ghelta. She laughed inside her own mind as she watched him, as he was one to criticize the oddness of another. “Maybe she’s got the eyes of a serpent.” Paulk laughed openly to himself as he began to scratch at his exposed thigh like a dog with fleas.

“Well, then-” Aesothel returned his hand to his chin in a moment of contemplation. “We might as well put the other children’s theories to the test.” He nodded and became resolute in his hatred. “Vhaydra, grab her. Let’s see what’s beneath those robes and those lenses.”

Ghelta turned her head to see the giant girl take a lunge at her. As Vhaydra charged in, Ghelta dropped to a crouch and rolled out of the way. The larger girl spat openly, then roared her anger into the hot and dusty breezes that were whipping up around the children. She toppled forward onto her hands and then lifted herself up to take a swipe at Ghelta with a meaty arm.

Aesothel remained a few yards away from the scuffle and regarded Ghelta and Vhaydra like a general surveying his deployed troops. The look on his face betrayed the realization that Ghelta was far more agile than the larger girl, so he took a step backward and grabbed Paulk by his collar. “Get in there and help her.” He tossed the smaller boy into the fray and took a sideways step to watch.

Paulk fell to the ground, catching himself on his hands and then looked up at Ghelta. His fidgety and cowardly demeanor quickly faded as he grit his teeth and began to foam at the mouth like a rabid animal. He scurried forward on all fours and tried vainly to grab Ghelta by the leg.

Ghelta nimbly pulled her leg from Paulk’s desperate grasp and proceeded to kick him in the face with the top of her foot. She rolled once more to avoid any further grasps by the mongrel boy and put some distance between her and him. She realized she was nearing by the mass of muscle that was Vhaydra, and prepared the muscles in her legs to spring her backward into a leap.

She wasn’t able to do as she planned, as the grotesquely meaty arms of Vhaydra clamped down around her arms and chest. Ghelta kicked from the ground, but the immense weight of Vhaydra and vice-like grip around her center caused her to topple backward and hit her shoulders against the ground. Before she could try to pull her arms free, she felt the scrabbling and sticky hands of Paulk grabbing onto her legs and pinning them down beneath his trifling weight.

“No more than a feral animal.” Aesothel loomed over Ghelta as she struggled against Vhaydra’s pinning arms and the slithering hands of Paulk as he sat on her feet and began pushing up her thigh. “Maybe you have fur under there, or a tail tucked away.”

The thought of a tail seemed to fascinate Paulk as his eyes grew wide and his hands began to grab at Ghelta’s thighs greedily. She managed to get one of her legs free of his squirming and lift it high enough to stomp on his groin. He recoiled and grimaced for a moment and then returned to pinning her with his hands and legs. He snarled like a dog and sunk his jagged teeth into the skin of her leg.

Vhaydra pushed her weight down on the right side of Ghelta’s chest while panting like a dog left out in the sun. The giant girl’s breath was sickly sweet and fetid as she pushed more of her weight down. One of Vhaydra’s large hands reached over Ghelta and began to claw at her face. Ghelta pulled her face away, turning her chin upward at the pawing hand. Vhaydra responded by slapping her meaty fingers against Ghelta’s cheek.

Ghelta struggled and squirmed as Vhaydra finally grasped her sausage-like fingers on her goggles and pulled them from her face. The brilliant roar of the twin sun’s light at noon blinded her for a moment. She shut her eyes closed and continued to work her left hand free from being pinned behind her.

“She winces at exposure to Dhaulm’s cleansing light.” Aesothel continued to loom and observe Ghelta as she struggled against the other two children. He took two steps to look at the lenses that Vhaydra had pulled from Ghelta’s face and tossed onto the ground. He gave a snooty sigh and kicked the goggles with his toe into the air and off the cliff-side. “Vhaydra, do the rest. Let us, and Dhaulm above, see what horrors she hides under there.”

Ghelta opened her eyes just wide enough to see the blurry image of Vhaydra’s rotund face smile down at her. She managed to free her hand from behind her and tore towards that face with a clawed hand. Her fingernails tore into the girl’s pudgy face and as the first rivulets of blood crept up from the stripes, Ghelta returned the smile with fangs barred.

The mass of muscle and fat atop her pulled away for a moment due to the pain and shock. Ghelta’s attention focused on the cool and wet feeling of Paulk drooling on the exposed flesh of her inner thigh. The wretched beast was practically rutting on her as he began to bellow out grunts. She lifted one of her legs and brought the back of her knee to pin his head against the ground. She hiked up her leg, folding it behind her rump to clamp down on his neck and begin choking him out.

She looked up from the gasping face of Paulk to see Vhaydra reaffirm her grip on her other arm and bring her large elbow down hard on Ghelta’s chest. The impact knocked the air from Ghelta’s lungs and with this moment of disorientation, the hulking girl grabbed onto Ghelta’s sleeve and began to pull her arm up and over her. Vhaydra used her free hand to hammer her fist against Ghelta’s stomach, keeping the wind from her lungs, and pulled her torso backward, using the robes as leverage.

Under the strain on her body, Ghelta relented and was rolled on her side as Vhaydra pulled the robes off of her. The movement allowed Paulk to get free of Ghelta’s leg and he scrabbled away on all fours. He got away and then returned to kick Ghelta hard in the side and spit on her.

“How disappointing, she’s human after all.” Aesothel leaned in to survey his prey. He grabbed one of Ghelta’s bare arms and slid his fingers down her flesh. “Incredibly pale, almost like the porcelain sold my merchants from the Alwhedein Empire.” He let go of Ghelta’s arm and sunk his fingers into her hair, grabbing up her head painfully. “Crimson hair; so the rumors are true. She’s a Witchling.”

Ghelta snapped her head back to free herself from Aesothel’s grip. He let go of her hair and stepped far enough back that he was beyond any attempts at an attack against him. Ghelta remained on the ground, half-curled, and feeling exposed in front of these monsters. The heat of the twin suns at their zenith beat down upon her, causing her skin to feel like it was on fire. The only clothing she had to shield her body was that of her old and threadbare tunic and a pair of loose-fitting leather shorts held in place by her old scabbard belt.

“No wonder my brother showed compassion for you.” Aesothel snorted derisively and turned his back on Ghelta while examining something beneath his fingernails. “He’s always been fond of exotic women. I guess his hound-like sense of smell could pierce all those robes and sniff out the strangeness beneath.” He turned over his shoulder to glower down at Ghelta. “I’m not amused by exotic creatures. I find your strangeness repulsive.”

Paulk swung back around on his feet, ambling like a drunkard, and then lunged at Ghelta once more. He was able to get atop her, but not before Ghelta shielded herself with her long legs. She kept him slavering above her as he rested his weight on her legs. His black eyes swayed in his skull and he shook his half-bald head coated in shocks of brown hair, to shake over her like a dog shaking off water. Ghelta responded to the ineffectual actions by punching him square in the nose and pushing him off of her. The crazed boy fell to the ground and then pulled himself up while grasping his bleeding nose with a hand.

“Look at those eyes!” Paulk commented in a nasal voice as he continued to grip his bleeding nose. “I’ve never seen blue eyes before. I swear-” He tried to lean in toward Ghelta once more and got a kick to the side for his troubles. “I swear those orbs glow. They’re glowing at me!” He lowered his hand from the bloody mess of his face and began to laugh like braying goat. He stooped into a crouch and began to stare off into the distance.

Ghelta rolled onto her side and looked up to see Vhaydra standing near the cliff’s edge, holding her robes out with one hand. The wind whipped at the fabric and the hulking girl smiled as she let the breeze carry the robes outward and downward to the city below. Without the robes to protect her from the heat, her skin would turn red and begin to rash. She wasn’t built for these climates; Ylethus had said when she was still a small child that her parents had come from the northern lands where the world was closer to the night’s sky and the temperature was always chill. She had no replacement for those robes until Ylethus came back from his campaign which could be weeks or months away.

“I grow bored of this simpering little bitch.” Aesothel had come to his final realization about Ghelta. “Let her bake out here, and the gods willing, I won’t have to see her again. Vhaydra, Paulk-” He snapped his fingers and pointed to the ground beside his foot. “Come here. Let’s get back to the broden before Mother Kollchen sees us.” Like devoted hounds, both Paulk and the mass of Vhaydra followed after Aesothel as he began his walk away.

With several winces of pain, Ghelta lifted herself back up to her feet. Her eyes were slowly getting used to the severe light of the twin suns above but she could feel the irritation on her pale skin. Fear began to gnaw at the back of her mind and embarrassment made her cheeks hot. She had never felt so vulnerable in her life. She knew that the other children could be cruel and stupid, but she never thought that they could be this ruthless or petty.

She made her way back to the rock she had used as a quiet perch and wrapped her arms around her body as she slumped forward. Tears began to well up in her eyes and she tried to wipe them away with her dust-covered hands. The wounds on her body didn’t hurt as much as her pride. She looked up to see the cliffs of Alsira Thaenat around her and then let her eyes fall to the sandy rocks below her feet. There, in the shadow of the boulder she liked to sit on, she saw the tool that would allow her some redemption; a single fist-sized rock, half-buried in the sand.

Ghelta snatched up the rock in her right hand. She could feel the heft of it in her arm and the sharp crystal deposits coating it with the skin of her palm. The tears in her eyes stopped welling up and she could feel the lightning of rage coursing through her body. She turned on her heels and began running hard towards the retreating children.

Ahead of her, she could see their backs as they slowly made their way back to the wide wooden building called the brodenskappf. They were oblivious to her silent steps as she ran up to them. Once she closed the distance to a half-dozen yards, she wound her right arm back and launched the rock forward with all the strength she could manage.

The rock soared through the air for a few short moments and then as it fell back toward the world, it made contact with the back of Paulk’s skull. A small spurt of blood erupted from the wound and the boy fell forward. His body fell face-first to the ground limply. The boy wasn’t even aware enough to shield himself against the fall. Once his body finally remained motionless on the ground, his right leg began to twitch in the sand.

Vhaydra turned around and began to growl at Ghelta like a beast. The hulking girl let her growl erupt into a howl of rage as she began to charge forward and pick up speed in her run. Ghelta quickly looked to her right to see a nearby boulder sticking up from the ground and began to run sideways toward it. Vhaydra bent her charge in that direction and tried to close the ground between the two of them.

Ghelta was able to get within two feet of the boulder before Vhaydra was almost upon her. The massive girl gave another howl as her bulk tore through the air at Ghelta who lifted her feet into a skid across the ground. Vhaydra reached out to grab Ghelta’s arm in one of her meaty paws but the grab was easy enough to dodge. Ghelta allowed her right foot to lift and drop over her left as she continued sliding on the ground. She spun in the air like a top, barely constrained by the gravity of the world until her left hand sunk into the flesh of the larger girl.

Ghelta stopped her movement with her seizing hand and used the torque in her body to bring her right hand, clenched into an upturned fist, into the side of Vhaydra’s neck. The pressure of her fingers and the palm of her hand struck the base of the giant’s skull and carried into the soft tissue of her neck. Ghelta could see Vhaydra’s eyes glass over and then roll upward into her skull as a crunching feeling came from the impact.

The weight and momentum of the hulking mass continued forward, but Ghelta was able to trip up Vhaydra’s feet with a swipe of her leg. After this, she was able to easily guide the girl’s body to the ground beside the rock. She let Vhaydra’s body hit and roll towards the rock and be pinned underneath some of it. The girl's arms were splayed around her haphazardly and her white eyes began to quiver in their sockets.

Ghelta freed herself from her skid and hiked up one of her legs on the rock for leverage. She lifted herself up two feet into the air and let her other leg drop hard down upon Vhaydra’s neck. As her foot struck bone, she snapped her foot and broke the larger girl’s neck easily. The rage-filled satisfaction roared up through her body as she snapped her eyes back to see Aesothel staring at her some distance away. His jaw was slack and his eyes were wide with a mixture of fear as well as shock.

Aesothel whipped his head away from Ghelta and began running as fast as he could away from her. He almost tripped over his own feet in panic but managed to stagger his way into a full sprint. Ghelta felt a predatory smile creep upon her cracking lips as she tore after him. The thrill of the hunt roared through her veins and focused her mind into a keenly murderous edge.

With each step as Ghelta ran, she could feel an energy building up inside of her. At first, it started as rage, but within a few heartbeats, she realized it was something else inside of her welling up and ready to burst. The rage inside of her seemed to take on a cold and distant personality separate from her own. The feeling was exhilarating and intoxicating as something deeper than her own thoughts boiled up within her consciousness.

The fine hairs on her arms and legs stood on edge as crackling energy coursed through her flesh and nerves. The crimson hair flowing behind her seemed to crackle with energy and the nerves of her scalp screamed as each hair seemed to flex and move like quills. Without thinking she found herself reaching her hands out before her as if to grasp at Aesothel despite is distance from her.

Her legs continued their sprint, pressing against the weight of the world to throw her in leaps and bounds at her prey. The distance between them was closing, but she would not reach him before he got to the brodenskappf. She felt the energy flowing over her in waves and focusing on her fingertips. With one more heartbeat, she could feel a connection between her hands and the back of Aesothel as he ran.

Reacting purely on impulse and instinct, Ghelta reached that energy out to Aesothel and pulled on it. She felt a snap between her fingertips that roared to life inside of her body. She felt the echo of that snap return to her from Aesothel’s body as his legs lifted up from behind him. He clawed at the ground like a scared animal as his legs continued to lift and pull him back toward Ghelta.

Aesothel turned his body to look up and back at Ghelta as threads of ephemeral energy built up, crackled, then dissipated between his body and hers. He continued to be pulled backward as she closed the distance between them. His eyes were afire with fear and his mouth gaped to draw in sharp breaths.

With one last snap of energy, Ghelta’s legs pushed against the ground and sent her soaring up and forward into a massive lunge. The wind whipped against her crimson hair behind her and her ice-blue eyes glowed with unhallowed energy. Aesothel continued to claw at the ground behind him as he remained with his back on the ground, looking up in horror.

Ghelta’s legs impacted the earth and sundered the rock on both sides of Aesothel’s body. The cracking rock roared like thunder and in response, the panicked boy pissed himself. The soaked silk of his pants clung to his body and turned a yellow tinge. Ghelta remained unphased by this as she crouched over him and reached her hands towards his face.

The coursing energy in Ghelta’s body erupted forth once more from her fingertips toward Aesothel’s screaming face. Indigo tendrils bled forth from Ghelta’s eyes like slithering snakes and then leaped into the boy’s sockets. Blood began to erupt from his eyes and boil up from the pores of his face as the dark energy drank his life away and imparted Ghelta with portions of his essence.

Ghelta no longer felt like herself; she was more a passenger in her body as something dark had taken complete control. She could see and feel what was happening, but she was removed to some shadowed corner of her mind. The exhilaration of it all made her feel drunk on pleasures she had never before experienced. The power erupting from her and funneling through her was more than she could have ever dreamed. She was now a supreme predator beyond the concerns of moral or physical limitations.

There was something ancient about the darkness that was taking control of her. This darkness was comforting and frightening in equal measure. It seemed to draw straight from her blood, from her soul, from something tethered to her that was stronger than her mere existence. It filled her with an ancestral pride like one would have for a family, yet she had never grown up with such a connection.

Some distant part of her was frightened at this unholy power coursing through her, but she hadn’t any capability to fight it. She was stuck in a storm of maddening feelings and she was unable to ascertain which belonged to her and which belonged to this dark intelligence. The vindication of having such immense power inside of her made her want to surrender completely to it. The darkness was like an unhallowed, indigo flame and she was merely a moth being consumed by it.

The face of Aesothel began to contort as the tendrils of energy tore through him. His flesh grew pale and taut, his hair began to fade to a white color, and the stark brown color of his eyes began to fade to a dull gray. It was like she was draining the very life from his body, but it was something more. She was stealing away his strengths and adding them to her own.

Her eyes began to clear from the glare of the noon-day suns. The irritation on her pale skin from the heat and light gave way to a soothing feeling like parched skin being doused in cool water. More than this soared into her body from the boy she drained. Years of life were added to her own mortal existence as well as latent mental capabilities roaring to life as talents and knowledge flowed into her. The blood inside of her welled up with energy as well as the strength in her muscles regrowing to accommodate more strength and flexibility. She wasn’t just stealing his life, she was stealing away everything of worth he had.

She could feel his energy ebbing now as the tendrils pulled on the last dregs of his life. Something in her wanted to stop, but just as much of her wanted to see what would happen when she finally drank him dry. She wondered what his stained and atrophied little soul might taste like. She wanted to experience his death through his own eyes and drink in the primal fear that tore through him once Olthenna embraced him.

Just as she curled her fingers, feeling them stretch out to inhuman lengths, seeing the flesh of her hands turn almost transparent, something heavy and hard struck her in the back of the head. The impact was sudden and sent her consciousness reeling into an internal void. The beast within her separated itself just before her vision went dark and she slumped down to Aesothel’s body beneath her.

* * *

Ghelta opened her eyes into darkness and the feeling of immense pain tearing through her body. Every square inch of her flesh felt like it was on fire. Through gritted teeth, she tried to stifle back a scream, but it eventually got free as a series of whimpers and howls.

Once some of her wits returned, she could feel wet earth and cold stone beneath her rump and legs. She pulled back to feel the same against her shoulders and a tug against the sore flesh of her wrists. She pulled her arms to her chest, feeling the weight of shackles around her and the drag on her movements from rattling chains.

She tried to get to her feet and hit her head on stone just a few inches above her head. She slumped back to the ground and noticed the same shackles were around her ankles as well. She pulled on the chains around her wrists and after a give of several inches, she felt the tug come from her feet. Letting go of the chains, she ran her fingers across the low roof of this room she was in. She could feel hard stone just above her head, and a square of rusted metal a few feet wide on each side in the middle of ceiling.

The room was completely dark; she couldn’t see her own hand waving in front of her face, nor the full dimensions of the room she was in. She tried to slide from side to side to feel the walls of the place which were only two feet tall and no more than two yards to a side. She tried to lay down on her back but the chains on her wrists and ankles were suspended from bolts in the ceiling which tugged both sets of her limbs upward.

She felt a dry hoarseness in her throat and the taste of blood in her mouth. Despite the dryness and her cracking voice, she tried to yell out for someone beyond the confines of this prison. She shouted several times and waited, but no one responded. She shouted again and began to hit her hands on the metal in the center of the ceiling. She could feel and hear the echoes of her impacts resounding through a space above her, yet no one responded.

After several minutes of trying and her voice giving out, Ghelta slumped against the cool rock of one of the walls and sat in the dark. Her mind went over the strangeness of what had happened near the brodenskappf. She didn’t know how long ago the events had happened, but the memories were still sharp in her mind. Perhaps this was the ultimate punishment for what she had done, but she did not know who had put her here or for how long.

She went over the situation several times in her head, combing through the details to try and make sense of it all. She remembered wanting to be left alone to mope on the cliff-side as she usually did. She remembered the resentment she had for the other children in the broden group and how she longed to be back home with her adopted father. She wanted to be mad at Ylethus, to blame all of this on him and his neglect for her while he was on campaign. She couldn’t place the blame on him though, he had duties to perform and he couldn’t leave her completely alone at home, she was too young.

She remembered the unwanted kindness that Aethel had shown to her in retrieving his ball. He wasn’t someone that she wanted to associate with, even if she knew how, but he was nice enough. The possibility that she could belong with the other children and that Aethel would champion her was a warming though. She quickly dismissed it by shaking the idea out of her head. She wasn’t one of the broden, she didn’t belong with the children, and she had no place here.

The words and actions of Aesothel proved that she didn’t belong here and wasn’t welcome with the other Alsiran people. She remembered his cruelty, his harsh words and the cowardly way he commanded the other two children to bully her. She remembered the vulnerability and fearful exposure she felt being revealed in front of him. She remembered that sadistic curl to his lips as she watched her being beaten and her robe pulled off. She could see sharply in her mind’s eye the look he held like he was examining an animal being put to the slaughter for his amusement.

She remembered the rage boiling up in her, which soon took her over as she sought revenge against her harassers. The hollow thud of the rock against Paulk’s skull, the satisfying crunch of Vhaydra’s neck as she stopped on it, and the inhuman strangeness of her almost ripping Aesothel’s very soul from his body. She didn’t know what had possessed her in that moment; it was something dark, primal, and truly ancient. The presence felt like one of the gods had rushed into her body and used her as an instrument of wrath. The feelings and even just the mere memories were intoxicating as she mulled them over.

Perhaps the reason she was imprisoned now was because she had killed all three of those children in her rage. If that was true, then why wasn’t she given a proper trial or executed for her crimes. Ylethus had always taught her that the warrior’s sense of justice was based on a life for a life; a wound for a wound. Maybe it wasn’t justice that led her to this place but fear. Many in Alsira Thaenat called her ‘the Witchling’ and with the strange powers she had called upon previously, they might be right after all.

Ghelta continued to run through the thoughts in her head, going over and over the events that led her here and the fear that the others of the tribe must have for her. The more she focused on it all, the more she realized that she was a monster. The other children were right, the old women who used to spit on her and mark signs over their chests to ward off her evil were right, and the warriors who talked in hushed tones about her when Ylethus wasn’t looking were right. She didn’t belong here, she didn’t deserve to live. She wanted to be a warrior to slay the monsters of the world, but she was the monster, and maybe it would be best if she died here in the dark.

She began to sob openly, feeling the water from her eyes flow over her cheeks and patter on the stone below her. In between bouts of crying she would thrash against her chains or pound her fists against the walls. As the emotions mounted, she even began to tear at the flesh of her face and arms with her hands, desiring to spill her own blood like it might be some paltry penance for the lives she took or the evil the lived inside of her.

It was hard to gauge time in this place of utter darkness, but her sobbing and thrashing eventually took its toll on her constitution. She tried to lay down or curl up into a ball near the center of the small room. She pulled the chains over her head to get enough slack to lay down fully. She continued to sob until the merciful peace of sleep overtook her.

She opened her eyes as the sound of grating metal erupted throughout the room she was in. She looked at the ceiling to see a small slat in the metal cover slide to the side. Beyond that opening was flickering candlelight and a hand that dropped several pieces of stale bread through the hole. Behind these bits of food, they dropped some pieces of fetid meat and a stick of tolsen weed. The motion stilled for a moment as Ghelta heard a rustling of metal on metal from above. The hand returned, lifting a silver pitcher over the hole and then pouring cool water through the hole and down upon Ghelta’s face. She was only able to grab a few droplets before the water stopped.

“You won’t get more until tomorrow.” The voice was male, gravely, and devoid of any emotion. The man beyond the prison hammered his fist twice on the metal ceiling and then pulled the sliding metal slat back into place with a rusty squeal.

Ghelta pushed the pieces of food to the corner of the small room with her hand. She didn’t deserve food after what she had done. Maybe if she didn’t eat and refused to drink the water poured in, she might die and save the whole tribe her continued existence. She began to cry once more, this time withholding her fits of anger, and within a few more moments she was asleep again.

Time seemed to have no purchase in this dark place. Moments seemed like hours, and days seemed like lifetimes. The only measurement she had was her bouts of consciousness between crying herself to sleep or the rusty squeal that signaled more food and water would be wasted on her.

She continued to avoid the food and water for two more visits from the man above, but eventually, she gave in and began to drink the water he poured through the grate. After the fourth visit, she began to eat the food as well. The pain of dehydration and hunger were more than the pain she felt for her deeds. She would get mad at herself for her weakness and cry herself back to sleep soon after.

It wasn’t long for her to spend enough time exploring the extents of her dark confines and set up a system for herself to survive. She had found that although all the walls at first seemed the same, there was a small metal trough at one corner of the room that sloped down to a metal pipe. At first she didn’t understand what this was for, that is until the first time she had to relieve herself, then she knew why it was there. Some days the man above would drop a piece of soap through the grate and pour extra water through the hole. She realized after the second time this happened that this was her chance to wash herself as best able.

She thought she had worked out all the patterns to keep herself alive for a little bit longer, but eventually, her plans all fell apart around the sixth visit from the man above. Shortly after his visit that day, she began to feel extreme pains in her lower abdomen. At first, she wondered if the man above had given her bad food or was trying to poison her. She felt it was fitting that she might be poisoned as punishment for what she had done, but surely dragging her off to have her head liberated from her neck would be more efficient.

The pain started as a dull and persistent ache, but after a few more visits from the man above, the pain was intolerable. Eventually, during one bout of sobbing and clutching her stomach, she felt something warm dribble down her inner thighs. She dabbed at it with her fingers and sniffed it to find it smelled of blood. She didn’t know what was causing this pain and her constant bleeding. She didn’t know if she was being poisoned or if the monster that had crawled into her earlier had left some of its evil within her and this was the cost.

The next visit from the man above, she was able to request more water from him and she used that to clean up her nether regions. At first, it seemed to go away, but as soon as the grate above was closed, the pain came back as well as the blood. She spent the rest of that day screaming and clawing at her stomach, desperately wanting whatever demon was inside of her to finally emerge and devour her. She had constant nightmares of what the beast inside of her might look like and what her doom might be when it finally came into the world using her body as a vessel.

She awoke from a particularly vicious nightmare to the sound of rusted metal squealing against itself once more. As her eyes opened, she wondered what scraps of food she might be fed this day, or whether or not it was time for her to clean herself. She lifted her tired head up and looked at the hole in the ceiling. She could see the flickering candlelight above, but this time was different. She could hear the breathing of the man above, but also hear the scuffing of two other people’s feet on the stones next to the metal ceiling.

“The Vhollen is here, it’s time for you to be released.” The familiar and gravely voice of the man above had the same unemotional tone to it as always. It took several moments for Ghelta to understand what he said, but the words struck home when she heard a lock being opened and several chains being fed through bolts on the other side of the metal ceiling.

The metal above her groaned and then lifted away into the candlelit darkness above. Ghelta tried to lift herself up and grab at one of the metal edges of the doorway, but she fell back down to the stone below. Her arms and legs felt like dead weight, robbed of the strength to lift herself. As soon as she fell back on her rump, four arms reached into the pit and snatched up her arms. Two men groaned as they lifted her from the oubliette.

“The chieftain said she was supposed to be in there for several more months.” The gravel-voiced man was covered in black, leather robes and had his back facing Ghelta. He held a hand forward in supplication to a towering shadow in the dark. “A few scant days doesn’t seem justice enough for what she did, but if the chieftain said to release her now, so be it.” The man jingled a ring of iron keys with his other hand and clipped them to a leather belt around his waist. He stepped to the side as the large shadow moved closer.

“Look at you.” The voice was familiar and made Ghelta’s eyes well up with tears. “I leave for war, and I come home to find you in prison.” The shadow neared the flickering candlelight and was revealed to be Ylethus. He towered over the gravel-voiced man and the other two who held her aloft.

Ghelta lowered her face from her father in shame, she refused to make contact with his sky-blue eyes that took her in. The two men grasping onto each of her arms lifted her over the oubliette and held her above the floor. Her legs couldn’t hold her up, so they continued to strain to keep her standing.

“You look like shit.” Ylethus ran one of his hands through Ghelta’s matted and filth-clogged hair. He let his hand linger on her cheek and turned his gaze from her to the man who held the keys. “You couldn’t have put her in a proper cell, with proper food? The gods old and new, you treated her like an animal.” He turned back to Ghelta and let his hand fall. He looked her from head to toe, examining the stains on her flesh and the shackles still on her wrists and ankles.

Ghelta could see the muscles in Ylethus’ jaw tighten which made his beard quiver for a moment. She always knew this would lead to him exploding in anger over something. She lowered her eyes and prepared herself for the rage that would soon wash over her.

Ylethus turned and stomped toward the gravel-voiced man and without so much as a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed the man by the neck with his left hand and slammed him against a nearby stone wall. The man struggled against the mighty fingers of the giant, but he his panicked clawing was in vain. He was lifted from the ground like a straw doll, and the air was being crushed from his neck with only a slight shift of Ylethus’ tremendous weight.

“You think I wouldn’t notice that she was raped?” Ylethus leaned into the key-master’s face. He tightened two of his fingers which made the man’s eyes bulge out of their sockets. “Was it you that did the deed?” Ylethus quickly flicked over his shoulder with his right hand and liberated one of his jhulken-blades. He swung it back over his shoulder and pointed the curved blade at the two men holding Ghelta. He turned away to stare rage at the men. “Or was it you two?”

The two men let go of Ghelta’s arms in a panic, letting her fall to the stone floor in a heap. She looked from Ylethus to the key-master, and then to the two men on either side of her. She looked down at her legs beneath her, seeing that the tattered shirt she wore barely made it to her waist. She could see long stains of blood and grime trailing around her inner thighs up to her crotch.

“It matters not. You dare treat my daughter in such a way. You dare exploit her innocence in this place.” Ylethus’ voice was building into a howl as he began to froth between his teeth. His eyes were wide with murderous intent. “You dare do such a thing to a girl.” He took two sharp breaths and squeezed harder on the key-master’s neck until his body went limp. “You dare do this to my girl!”

Ghelta teetered back and forth while sitting on the cold and damp floor. She looked up at Ylethus and then to another shadow that emerged behind him. It took a few moments for her eyes to focus, but as the figure neared, she could make out the familiar shape of Grandmaster Toulam in the flickering light of some nearby candles.

Toulam pulled his hood from his face and leaned down to Ghelta. He steadied himself with his metal staff and placed one of his withered hands on her head. He leaned further down and placed his hand on her thigh and pulled her leg to the side. He looked back up into her eyes and patted her cheek lightly like he used to do when she was younger.

“Don’t kill him, Ylethus. He’s done no wrong.” Toulam got back up to his height with some groans and snaps from his aged body. He gave shuffling steps towards to the side and looked up at the rage-filled warrior. “Ghelta’s virtue wasn’t taken. She was merely visited by Celanna, the goddess in blood. I think this is her first bleeding and it won’t be her last.” He gave a chortle and shuffled a few more steps to the side.

Ylethus released his grip on the key-master and let his body slump to the ground. He lowered his blade ever-so-slightly and turned to look at the aged oracle. From his side, the key-master sucked in two breaths and choked himself back to consciousness.

“You’re certain. I don’t want to let these scoundrels live if there is any doubt. I’ll kill the entire prison-guard retinue if I need to.” He looked at Toulam who smiled and nodded. He lifted his blade over his shoulder and sheathed it once more. He lowered his head slightly and made his way with just two striding steps to Ghelta.

“Grab her, my friend. Bring her home where she belongs. I’ll give her a once over, get her cleaned up, and give her some exilirs to restore her health.” The Grandmaster lifted his hood over his head once more, covering up the scraggly white hair that adorned his leathery head. “I’ll have Vhoggli fetch some clean clothes and a hot bath for her. It’s about time that little bastard got off his rump and did something of value.” Toulam cackled and tottered off into the darkness.

Ylethus looked to the old oracle as he wandered off and then back to Ghelta. She looked up at him with tears streaming down her face and a faint smile. He reached down and with only the strength in his arms, he snapped the chains around her wrists and ankles. He lifted her gingerly in his hands and draped her over his shoulder. He looked up and noticed her bare bottom and with a faint-hearted chuckle he pulled his cape of station from his shoulders and draped it over her. She snatched up the edge and tucked it around herself.

“I swear, by the old gods and the new, you’ll be the death of me, girl.” He began to walk away from the two stunned prison-keepers and over the wheezing body of the key-master. “If you don’t cause me to murder the whole world before that.” He continued off down the darkened hallway and towards a metal door ahead.

“You should put me back in that hole.” Ghelta’s voice was faint and parched. She felt the warmth coming up from Ylethus’ leather armor and could feel the hairs of his beard tickling her toes. She looked back to the candlelit section of the hall and the prison she was confined to. “I murdered three people in cold blood. I deserve to be punished.”

“You didn’t murder three people, you guilt-ridden slob.” Ylethus shifted her on his shoulder and tightened the grip he had on her side. “Well-” He paused for a moment of contemplation. “You did kill that fat one. That was stupid, but thankfully she was an orphan from the Vollti tribe. No one will miss her, but I had to pay quite a large wergeldt for her life to the broden-mother. The dumb and squirrelly one survived, although his eyes will never be straight again.” Ylethus laughed heartily which caused Ghelta to jump up and down on his shoulder. “As for that conniving little shit, Aesothel, he’s still alive.”

“I tried to eat his soul.” Ghelta slumped against Ylethus’ back as the words escaped her lips.

“Yeah, something like that. I don’t know what in Gehemol you did, but you’re not allowed to do that anymore. I’ve talked with Toulam and he’s going to do some rituals to stop that kind of fucked up shit from happening ever again.” Ylethus lifted one of his hands and threw the metal doors open before him. Evening’s light filtered in from outside, as well as the first breaths of fresh air Ghelta, had in what felt like a small eternity. “That pecker-head was the chieftain’s son, you know.”

“I gathered as much from his bad attitude, poor choice in clothes, and the fact he pissed himself when I almost killed him.”

“Well, the chieftain doesn’t take kindly to people using unholy powers on his children. Even if they are ball-less little twits. That’s why you were thrown in the oubliette.” Ylethus continued into the open air beyond the prison. He passed into courtyard that was surrounded by other metal doors that led to other criminals trapped behind bars in one form or another. “Aesothel is alive, but he’ll end up with a care-giver for the rest of that miserable life. Whatever you did turned his hair white, made him blind in one eye, caused him to walk with a limp, and apparently his health is dismal.”

“Like I said, papa, I tried to eat his soul.” Ghelta lifted one of her hands over Ylethus’ shoulder and began to fiddle with the hilt of his jhulken-blade. “I don’t want to go back to the broden.”

“You won’t. The broden-mother is scared shit-less of you; thinks you’re some spawn of blood-haired devil or some-such. The chieftain doesn’t want you anywhere near his children, especially Aethel, his oldest.” Ylethus gave a belabored sigh and pushed open a large metal gate that serves as the entrance to the prison. “I’m never letting you out of my sight, again. I made a mistake in leaving you with the broden. You’re not just some child to be shuffled off onto caregivers. You’re my kid. You’re my responsibility. From now on, your place is at my side, no matter what.”

Ghelta felt the tears welling up her eyes again. She was surprised her body hadn’t run out of them after all these days. She began to sob openly for the first time in presence of her father.

“I got your klaive back from the broden-mother. It’s waiting for you at home.” Ylethus patted Ghelta’s backside in hopes to stop her tears. “Don’t ever let someone take that blade from you again, you hear?” He lifted Ghelta up and held her in front of him for a moment as he walked. “Next time someone disrespects you like that, don’t use any of that strange magick shit to try and eat their soul. You take your blade that I gave you, and you slit their gods-damned throat.” He smiled at her and lifted her to his other shoulder. “No one disrespects the daughter of the Vhollen. Warriors don’t suffer cowards and bullies to live. Remember that.”

“I will, papa.” Ghelta reached around Ylethus’ neck and embraced him. She felt his beard flow over her like a warm blanket. The braids of coarse hair soaked up her tears.

* * *

“-And this is why it’s important to always measure your strength with restraint. Honor doesn’t come from a warrior blindly showing power over others, but rather the temperance a warrior has with their heart.” Ylethus flourished his great sword in several figure-eight swivels at his sides. He was growing tired and lifted his hand from his hilt. “Quell!”

Ghelta immediately stopped her barrage of quick attacks with her klaive and lowered her blade. She stepped back and gathered what air she could in hard puffs. The old man wasn’t as proficient with large swords as he was with his favored jhulken-blades. He endured the swordplay because it allowed her to perfect her strikes with her klaive.

Ylethus struck the tip of his sword into the stone of the cliff-side and leaned down on the guard while he caught his breath. He lifted his right arm out to his side and flexed his fingers while stretching out the strained muscles with some flowing movements. He looked over to Ghelta and lifted his bushy brow up in a dance.

“Tolesh’s brilliant fuck, girl, I told you before we left the barracks to wear your damned armor!” Ylethus rolled his eyes and slumped his shoulders. “What in Gehemol is wrong with you?”

“I’m wearing my armor, what are you talking about?” Ghelta tossed the hilt of her klaive from her left hand to her right hand and back. She looked down at herself and then back to Ylethus. She gripped her blade in her left hand and pointed to the fur-trimmed shoulder plates with her right hand. She leaned forward and swiveled her head to the sides. “I’m wearing it, ghah!”

Ylethus lifted himself from his blade and brought it up to slap the flat of his immense sword on Ghelta’s exposed midriff. He then let the tip of the blade trail down her hip and slap the exposed flesh of her thighs. His eyebrows continued their slow dance on his face.

“There is armor for these parts. They’re also the parts of your body an enemy will take full advantage of.” He leveled his sword at her and swung it from side to side while stepping toward her. “Maybe you want to get disemboweled or have the artery in your thighs severed to bleed out in mere moments.”

Ghelta reacted by stepping backward and then lunging into a back-flip from the oncoming blade. Once her feet were secure on the ground, she began to flick her klaive at the edge of Ylethus’ sword, making light contacts playfully. She looked to his eyes and shook her head.

“They limit my movement. It’s only leather armor anyway. Someone with a big enough weapon could penetrate it just as easily as my flesh.” She exposed her stomach at the tip of Ylethus’ swinging blade and then pulled back at the last second. “I’m better being quicker. I’m not a lumbering hulk like you.”

“This lumbering hulk has disemboweled his fair share of stupid idiots that didn’t wear all of their damned armor.” Ylethus lunged forward and lifted his sword into a high swing. “Besides that fact, I’m your Vhollen, you little git. When I command you to wear the armor I paid for you to wear, you will bloody-well wear the damn thing. Got it?”

Ghelta ducked under the blade and squatted on the ground like a gargoyle. She stuck her tongue out for a brief moment and then managed to parry another attack.

“Fine. Next time I’ll wear the damned armor you paid for me to damn-well wear.” She jumped into the air and grabbed the tip of Ylethus’ sword with her free hand, pushing it down and striking at the old warrior’s face with her klaive.

Ylethus dodged the attack by pivoting his head. “Okay, now that you realize you’re a dolt who won't live very long on the battlefield.” He paused and lifted his blade back up into a guarding stance. “Let’s move on to the next lesson.”

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1 comment:

  1. A nice and meaty chapter, rife with awesome detail and scenes.

    I was already figuring out what would occur when Ghelta was left with the broden, but even I was a little taken aback at the savagery of children. Still, considering how she was brought up, it's no surprise she quite nearly killed all of them, and in the end certainly killed one.

    I think the best scene was when Ylethus picked her up in the prison. His fatherly side came out in all his rage, and I wouldn't have been surprised to see him kill the entire ptrison retinue all by himself. It was amusing that he forbid her from using her powers further, but it was completely fine that she kill anyone with her sword if they disrespected her.

    Seeing Grandmaster Toulam in the flesh finally was cool too, and seeing the mention of the sole survivor Vhoggli as the echoes of the original part still drum in my mind.

    I'm curious to see where the plot will go now that we have these new characters to follow along, and as stated, this appears to be the true main story.