This story is by Roger Glass and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sitting on a crate a few feet back from the open window she looked out on the small town down the hill from the abandoned shack she had found when first searching for vantage points. Even though she knew it was not possible for anyone in town to see her this far away and through the trees the caution learned from experience prevailed. I have not come this close to the allow the betrayer to slip away, she thought. Hearing a noise in the woods she tilted her head, just a deer. Her time on the other world after the porting magic had gone awry had refocused her senses. Soon the great fool will pay for his folly… adopted son or not. No one betrays me and lives. Such are the rules!
Watching the town for days to discover if the boy still had his allies or not took patience after his attempt to assassinate her. Through alliance with competing guilds and mages he sought to replace me, really? After saving his life as a child this is the gratitude the human youngling shows? She shook her head in sad amusement hopping down from the crate to check her armor. Opening her saddle bags, retrieving oils to care for the leather and the stones to sharpen her blades. One can never be over prepared in this line of work be it theft of a valuable or magic artifact, the hunting of a target wanted by contract, or the ending of that target’s life… preparation is everything.
Sitting down at the small table in the musty shack before preceding to check each piece of her gear. Her fingers worked each piece without even having to think, verifying the integrity and suppleness, applying the oil with cloth judiciously, assuring the leather would move as silent as ever. Is this really what I left home for all those years ago? To become even more feared and alone than I was as a child? Calmly moving to the next piece, she pictured that seemingly unreal length of time ago when she had been just a young girl feeling completely out of place. Alone, even in her own family. Perhaps part of it was being the only daughter, having three older brothers who taunted and teased her as their life’s work. I suppose that’s what comes from beating an older boy senseless even when he deserved it.
As she ran the oilcloth gently along the leather she could still picture that day in her mind even after all this time. Growing up in the small farming and hunting village was a boring existence and her time swimming naked and free in the river was her one moment of freedom. A moment she always looked forward to and thought of as just hers. Few of the other children felt free enough to swim, fearing some “monster” may get them, something she found amusing but weak about her own people. Maybe that’s another part to why I had to leave, she thought, was I afraid I’d turn out fearful and weak like the other’s in my village? Swimming that day had been wonderful until the boys came along and ruined it.
Deciding to taunt her an older boy, a friend of her brothers’ had approached to the end of the wooden dock to take her dress from where it lay in the sun. He waived it like a trophy hooting and hollering while her brothers laughed as she screamed for the him to put it back. They didn’t laugh long, she thought. Letting out a soft chuckle, remembering how she had baited him to the edge of the water. He thought he was safe, dealing with a small frightened child. Instead, she launched herself out of the water tackling him to the ground and beat his face brutally with small angry fists until blood was everywhere and he lay unconscious.
With the boys screaming and her brothers trying to drag her off, the whole damn village realized something was wrong and came running. They found one small naked girl struggling with anger to put her dress on, and an unconscious beaten and bleeding boy twice her size. Despite explaining everything, her dad dragged her back home by her hair and taken the belt to her for misbehaving. Her brothers demanding him to hit her harder for being such a wretch. I think they were afraid what I was capable of even then, they’d piss themselves if they ran into me now, if they were still alive. She knew they were not, hadn’t been for a very long time.
They didn’t get off either, father took the belt to them for not protecting and defending their little sister. A punishment he never gave them before and another reason for them to resent her as well. There had never been much sibling love between us and what was died that day, so be it, such are the rules of life.
She took one of her daggers from its sheathe, testing the edge before oiling the stone. She began to slide it skillfully along, honing the blade to a wicked razor sharpness, her train of thought undisturbed by action. Three more years of dealing with my brothers and other boys attempting to humiliate and degrade me, to break my spirit, yet they all failed. She remembered the fights, being bloodied by older boys, but always getting her licks in. Making sure they didn’t leave unscathed for their trouble. How every time she fought she got better, faster and more dangerous. Still their pestering her never ended. The people of the village were never on my side. They thought me dangerous and unruly, particularly for a girl.
All but one, she smiled to herself. Aveline, the only female hunter in our dull miserable village saw the fire of spirit deep in me. It was her that first taught me the ways of weapons, bow and daggers. I was far too small then for the short swords of our kind. Gods, was I really that small and weak? Seems impossible now after all I’ve done and been through but there it is, the small girl unwilling to bend for anyone, for any reason… She shook her head slowly. Still unwilling to bend to the will of another, yet one more reason I’ve lived so apart from others even when in the company of hundreds?
Switching to her second dagger beginning to sharpen it as well. I doubt it came as much surprise to anyone the day they woke and I was gone. Surely they must have expected something like that to happen. Only the day before, her mother reminded her that she needed to stop fighting with boys and learn to be a lady. Her mother wanted her to understand one day she would have to marry one of these boys. Have his children and continue the ways of our people. That was never going to happen, none of them were worthy of me. By the time she left, she was adept with both bow and dagger. Sure of herself and her abilities she disappeared from the small village in the middle of the night. Trading the clothes of a young girl for those of a village boy she set off seeking a new life. What was in store for her future, she would never have believed. Would I still have left then if I knew what would become of me? She thought for a moment picturing the years living on the streets of human and elven cities, fighting and stealing for food and shelter. Never trusting or loving anyone, but finding people to teach her new skills she needed or wanted. Trading what she had, her body, her skills as a thief, whatever it took to keep her self sufficient and alive. Yes, yes I’d do it again… better that life than to live and die as some backwater girl, she admitted to herself.
Being isolated and alone, apart from the others walking this land, has been a price willingly paid to gain the skills and powers I now have. Even if it has damn near killed me a hundred times over, she thought. Yet here I am… still standing after it all, and so I shall remain unwavering, unbending, unbreaking. Remembering the first true betrayal in her life long ago by the dark elf who had taught her about magic. How much that still stung even now. Eventually I will find and end him! If he still lives, or perhaps, finally attained the undeath he sought, either way he will pay! Darkness had come at last, her time.
Standing in her black armor, blades sheathed and ready she channeled into them lighting blue runes all over the surface until they faded. She sensed the magic take hold, her protections fortified, strength bolstered, she could fight a small army by herself. She was ready.
“Now my son, you will truly understand your folly. I am Camorra, I am the Black Rose, and I bring death… such are the rules!”
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