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Rated: 18+ · Book · Fantasy · #1877630
Orphan-refugee Sigrun's 'pixies' have enemies; guilt and blame bedevil her adventures.
#757933 added June 4, 2015 at 2:07pm
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p1 The Screams and the Silence OldVersion
"Reject this world of Glass: destroy all; trust only what survives."
Shaman-King Kroleth of the urgans: citing the driving philosophy of his empire.

The nightmare of that fateful hour, a decade ago today, haunts me with unspeakable force. Next to it, the tasks before me — even the weight of the quill pressing against parchment — seem distant, other-worldly. Despite the courage to stand in the path of disaster, my voice deserts me. I have, therefore, learned to wield the quill in hope that this manuscript might bear witness to the events that set the mythic 'Lady Sigrun' on the path she walks.

          The hunting call of a shadow raven shook my twelve-year-old spine. Even then, no matter how deep its ghostly claws might reach, I had faith that my friends would spare me. Yet the sound pulled my attention out the window, where a skull-shaped cloud sneered at me.

          At that age, I had yet to give thought to sorting insight from fantasy — a task my mind rejects even more now. I rushed over and pulled at my aunt's sleeve. "Aunt Myrrha, when do Mother and Father come back? Are they nearby? Can we summon them early?" As in, before the trouble comes?.

          "Ah, Sigrun! That would be telling." She shrugged, and wiped her brow, sitting down on a section of log that served as a chair — our house guests had broken all the human-style furniture. "No way to tell. What they do, the danger almost matches the need."

            My poor aunt had no clue that a threat creeped up on her. As I held my tongue, tension built. When I finally spoke, my fear for her strangled my voice and made me sound almost as foolish as I behaved, making random noise like a kitten. "But, it's only urgans up there. If they're so dangerous, then why let Ker in our home?"

          Her voice rang with pride. "Ker's a bandit, not a marauder. Pay him his due, he keeps the others in line. Besides, he's not near so tough as he thinks. Your Uncle and I can handle him."

          "Okay, just a bandit. I get that." The wicked cloud continued to gloat each time I checked. Myrrha would scold me if I told her, but she ignored my hints. "But, why do we live in urgan territory?"

          Myrrha clapped me on the back. Again, she ignored my point. "We don't. These lands belong to our people, mostly."

          With all their complaining about my flights of fantasy, hearing that galled me. Some few of our neighbors could be called human, but none of them lived as humans.  As a freeman, my noble pride demanded the grim truth, not peasant-girl fairytales. Yet, unable to put my complaint into words — at least, words I dared to give voice — I glared at her, hands on my hips. 

          She ruffled my hair, and gave me a smile that would have soothed my mood had my bones not already chilled with foreboding. "Never could pull one over on you. They couldn't have us executed, so they 'granted' us lands and titles that would pit us against his real enemies. And like I said, nobody's going to bother us here, as long as Ker's our friend."

          That seemed terrible, and none of it answered the danger at hand. I gave Myrrha a sour expression.

          "Safer than crawling the mazes below." She laughed, and coughed. "That's your family, even more foolish than brave. What do you want us to do, go hide in the city like a scared peasant?"

          Nobody in my family would ever do that, but I nodded so hard my head ached.

          "You'll get over it. One day, you'll take up the sword and have your own, outlandish adventures." She reached out and pinched my cheek. "I think one day, you might even be a knight."

          I puffed up at the idea that I would follow in Mother's footsteps, until I looked up at the cloud. It taunted me, as if playing a game of chess against me. My eyes traced the burn mark on Myrrha's arm, the one from a "dragon tongue," really just a salamander, roughly a firebreathing horse.  Uncle Mack and Aunt Myrrha had faced many such dangers, yet I ached for them to have help. Or, at least, a weapon. I rummaged through the closet, and pulled out Myrrha's sword.

          "Now, don't play with that." She took it away from me and hung it up, and took a drink from an urgan-beaten steel mug. "One day, when you build up your strength, you'll master your upstroke. Then we'll take you to the swordsmith, and present you with Sigrun's blade."

          I groaned, put my hands on my hips and glared at her again. "I know you think I'm silly, but would you please just wear the sword?"

          "In my own kitchen?" She shook her head, and groaned. "Another one of your omens? You know better, young lady, than to indulge...."

          My stomach clenched, from something other than Myrrha's scolding.

          Myrrha dropped her glass and looked to the north.

          Halfway up the stairs, I stopped to consider why I bolted. Did the shadow-raven call repeat? In answer, my gut jerked in an urgan rhythm. Seconds later, I heard the clang of sword and armor coming from the north, and getting closer with each beat. Ker and his raiders had arrived. My feet began to climb the blocky, rough-hewn stairs again.

          "Get up to your room. No matter what happens, stay out of sight."

            On their best behavior, Ker's warriors bashed through everything they touched. Their temper outpaced the hogs their faces resembled, and they rushed about so clumsy that our kitchen table had been resurfaced with iron and reforged three times this year. "Yes'm." I slapped the door shut.

            Most girls my age, at least most homesteading freeman girls, could carry me, one armed, if the need arose. I still struggled to swing a full sized sword. Any pig-nosed, urgan lout would bash me across the room for being too small, like just looking at me might shatter their bones. That's what Mack said, and it's the way they treated our things. Our steel mugs barely survived. The solid wood of our 'chairs' had numerous gashes from their rambunctious parties. It wouldn't do for the urgans to see me, and Mack would be angry, but I needed to see. One of the floorboards came up, where I had wedged a weird spy glass I had taken from one of Ker's leftover loot bags. The knothole view still showed little, but I saw enough.

          Soon, Ker slammed the door against the wall, sending the handle skittering across the floor. Seconds later, Mack slammed the back door open, without damaging anything. One of the warriors dropped a wild boar on the table. Another dropped a large sack of loot. Behind them came the stranger. A weaselly, green urgan with no armor, he chanted to the wounds of the world.

          For no good reason, his face made me long for a warhammer.

          What's wrong with you, Sigrun?  Ker made me want to scream, but I still wished him well. This, on the other hand? Unable to account for my reaction, I shivered with disgust at myself and the stranger.

          Ker stamped up to Mack, rattling the table as he did. "Hail, Mack! Myrrha!"

          "Light the fire, Myrrha!" Mack bellowed, setting his pitchfork down, and rubbing his hands together. "Looks like we've got a pig to roast!"

          A black cloud came from the stranger, and formed around Ker's head. It made Ker twitch, and shake his head.

          Mack and Myrrha showed no sign of seeing anything unusual. Mack walked to the table, and poured himself some water.

          Without warning, Ker squealed with rage. "Back off, thorga!"  Thorga meant 'glass urgans,' the word for humans by a people that found steel fragile. Ker swaggered into Mack's personal space.

        Mack stood his ground. I imagined him pursing his lips, restraining his proper reaction.

        "Me pig. No steal." Sweat glistened off Ker's green skin, and off his yellow tusks. 

          Mack stood a full head taller — a huge man, though still lighter — than Ker. The leather armor he wore looked heroic, his sword ample, though the battle gear in the shed would have been far better. Mack clanged Ker's rusted breastplate with the back of his hand. "This is my house. Mind how you speak, ignorant pig!" Mack grinned. He could have been a diplomat, so ably did he deal with people.

          Ker grunted, and showed his teeth as well.

          I breathed a sigh of relief. The exchange showed respect, that Ker's loyalty might be strong enough to survive a few harsh words. Urgans greet one another with an exchange of insults and jabs, always testing one another. Maybe it will be okay, like always. I'm just imagining things.

          The shaman began to shout; the cloud over Ker darkened.

            When the chanting reached its peak, Ker knocked Mack across the room with an armored fist, and charged forward. His elbows and fists quaked. His voice raised to a scream. "No steal, no thwack. Mack like thorga die. Beg for life!" At last, Ker drew his sword.

          She slipped the meat cleaver under her apron and stood back, preparing for the worst. Ker knew better than to draw a weapon, and that concerned Myrrha, though she had little cause for alarm. A duel would end in Ker's death, and end the battle. The urga would blame Ker for dying.

            Yet, that didn't settle my spirit, either. Don't you see what the little one is doing!           

            "I beg for nothing, Ker. You know that."  He spat in Ker's direction. "Have I not passed your tests? Put away your weapon, and deal with me like men." Mack drew his own sword, and slapped Ker's much larger blade aside.

          Ker's voice scraped and lost volume as he tried to shout louder, making him seem clownish — a bizarre choice. Ker's voice normally boomed, just below its range. No man in Ker's position ever did such a thing. He would never live down the error, and he had to know that. "No touch Ker in face of tribe. Avenge — Blood!"

          Mack slapped Ker in the face with his sword. "This path leads to destruction, Ker. Sheathe your weapon, and prove me like an urgan, or leave this place."

          Ker swung again and again, flinging his sword against Mack's casual movements. "No caring, no talking, must have death! Death! Death!"

          The other urga chanted with Ker, "Death! Death! Death!"

          This isn't right. Ker might try to kill you, to see if it could be done, or to blow off steam, but this? Mack always said if his friend had one saving grace, it would be a failure to understand the need for revenge. This isn't right, at all.

          Dodging, ducking, and parrying Ker's attacks, Mack grabbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. He sighed, and nodded. "I'm sorry, my friend." He stabbed Ker's chest, a killing blow through the heart.

          Yet Ker slapped Mack's hand away from the sword, poking and swinging at him. The black, demon-cloud engulfed Ker's body.

          Myrrha hacked at Ker, and twice buried the cleaver in Ker's shoulder while Mack scrambled for his pitchfork.

          Ker's head lolled limp to one side, but he swung his sword backward at Myrrha, then turned on her, advancing.

          Myrrha dipped beneath the backswing. She backed into the corner, dancing like a carnival swordsman, standing in front of the closet with the sword.

          The stranger. He's doing this. You've got to kill him! I wanted to scream it to her, but duty required me to stay silent, at all cost. Even if it costs them their lives?

          She hadn't specifically told me to let them die, but she meant that. Mack and Myrrha had told me this multiple times. A warrior honors the spirit of the orders, though I could have saved them, and it sickened my stomach. I resigned to watch them.

          Myrrha threw her cleaver at the stranger, who yelped in pain but soon resumed the chant.

          When the stranger ducked, Ker stumbled, only for as long as the strangers words faltered.

          Myrrha pulled at the latch, trying to get her sword, then she screamed in agony and slumped over.

          "This is how you repay me?" Pitchfork in hand, Mack charged, skewering and lifting Ker.

          Even with his lungs punctured by the tines of the fork, Ker hacked away. His insane rage came not from him, but from the shaman's dark magic.

          Finally, I heard Mack groan and fall. Ker fell, still swinging at Mack's body. The other urga clapped and stomped.

          The stranger ceased his chanting, letting the black cloud disperse and Ker fall limp. He stood over Mack, voice ringing with disgust and triumph. In my language, he proclaimed, "Now I rule, how we repay all you glassmaker scum." He kicked Mack's corpse. Everything had gone according to plan.

          As soon as Mack fell, I scrambled into the secret cabinet beneath my bed. My trembling hands, slick with sweat, slipped as I pulled the panel over me.

          Then, the shaman spoke, in urgan: "Now, we commence the search for piglets." They stamped up the stairs as I struggled to pull my hiding hole closed. As the lid clicked into place, the door broke open.

          I heard crashing noises as they hammered my footlocker and wardrobe, then crushed my bed and threw it against the wall. "Look like thorga eat their young."

          The urgans chortled at this.

          The shaman snorted. "Don't be a fool, Vog. Thorga sicken. Their piglets die." A stick cracked against exposed flesh.

          Vog, the joker, squealed. "Stop that, shaman Korog!"

          Footsteps came toward me, and the panel above me bowed under the weight, pressing against my nose. Korog hit Vog once more. The stick rapped against the floor, as if pointing to me. "I am urga; I do as I like. I can make you as thorgabent as Ker."

          I had never heard the word before, but Korog's voice sounded more disgusted with that word, than ever before. "I won't need a man like Mack to take you down. I'll pit you against a piglet." Someone stomped over my panel again. The wood creaked, threatening to give out.

          Vog squealed again, and swore. He voiced his desire to punish and destroy Korog in such poetry that I understood violence as never before: every stroke my sword arm ever made, echoed Vog's thoughts.

          "Excellent. That's what I like to hear." Korog, laughed, and smacked Vog again. "We might make an urga of you yet." He stomped out of the room. The others followed.

          Meanwhile, my aunt had asked me to hide; for Myrrha, I would work to survive. I pushed with all my might against the ceiling, willing my arms to carry the beasts, if the wood could not, though I was too weak to make any difference.

          As the panel rose, and the footsteps faded, I breathed a sigh of relief, then shuddered, as my stomach cramped. Mack and Myrrha lay in the kitchen, dead or worse. How can I be thinking about myself? I curled up in a ball, as best I could, and sobbed and sobbed, muffling myself out of duty. For myself, I no longer cared.

          Even now, the memory of the blood-soaked urgan song drowns my faith and paints the world in scarlet gloom. The smoke of that infernal roast burned my lungs, even without the thought of loved ones on the pyre. I never imagined crying so much or so hard; I washed the chamber with tears.

**

          In time, the songs grew distant and the smoke from the oven fires cleared. I believed the monsters might have gone from my home. I crept about, sifting through the wreckage. They had left only splinters, nothing worth carrying as a weapon.

          I nudged the door open. Two warriors slept on the stairs. I crept past them. Korog sat against the kitchen cabinet, his wound a trifle. They had looted Myrrha's sword by then, but I found her cleaver laying in a pool of dried blood. I grabbed it with trembling hands. Korog, who planned my family's murder, slept beneath my blade. I looked at his throat, raw and exposed. The arrogant coward wore soft, leather rags. My fingers gripped the handle.

          An urga snorted in his sleep, and I shrunk away, slinking out of the kitchen. I looked up to see Ker's head on Mack's pitchfork, staring at me, above two heads, facing down — human. The white of Mack's hair, and the red of Myrrha's. Pain filled my body and I rushed to Korog in the desperate hope that murder might pass for justice.

          I raised the blade, and took a deep breath.  Assassins have no place among people — no place worth having. For all intents, this act would finish me, even if I somehow got away, which I would not. I needed to make the first strike count.

          A daydream of Mack stood on the stairs above Korog. "Oh, Sigrun! Not like this."

          My mouth dropped open, as I looked up at my imaginary uncle in disbelief. I shook my cleaver at him, and whispered. "I'm not supposed to listen to my imaginary friends, Mack. Remember?" My nerves were getting to me, and I didn't mind that my crazy games began to verge on madness.

            "We had our reasons, chiding you for your imagination, Sigrun, but you've got to listen to me."

            "How can I? After what he's done?"

              "This isn't how justice is done. Not even among them."

              My eyes burned, and my cleaver hand shook. "You're asking me to... spare...?"

              "He did what he thought he had to, right or wrong. Now it falls to you. Real or imagined, you know I speak the truth."

            I dropped my arm to my side. Mack thought of Ker as a friend, thought of those monsters as people. He might really want me to show mercy, even now. I scoffed in disgust, but respected his wishes. Vengeance belonged to them, not me. So, though it worsened the pain, I left Korog. Step by step I dragged myself past that inhuman memorial and into the urgan-infested night.

          Outside, the hills sparkled with campfires. I did not see anybody, had never seen more than fifteen urgans with Ker. Still, I skirted them, keeping to the shadows like a rat in the corner. I gripped Myrrha's cleaver. As I ran, I willed its sharpness into me, until I felt I had become something different, something not human. Fleeing the ruins of the world where little girls belong, I pretended to be one of the monsters. Not big like an urgan, but unseelie: small and sharp like a wicked-clever pixie. A game, yes; but the fantasy gave me strength to continue. Sometimes, madness and wisdom join, handle and blade.

          I continued to thread my way between campfires until my head grew dizzy and I could no longer sense the chill earth below. I wondered if I ran, or flew: had I become the dangerous pixie in truth, or had my feet gone numb from the cold? Then, I tripped in some bushes and disappeared into them, laying face down. I rested, hugging the ground like a pillow. Next thing I knew, the clattering of wagon wheels roused me from slumber.

          Sigrun! Nobody will help an ax-wielding maniac. I watched myself, as I hid the cleaver in my tunic and dusted myself off before I stood to wave at the wagon riders. My sneaky behavior horrified me. I could handle some guilt. After that night, I needed to feel like a monster. But, the strength that came from playing a wicked-pixie felt ominous and creepy as I pretended to be  some kind of helpless, little girl.

          I feared I might hurt my new friends.

          The wagon driver stopped his two red and white ponies. "Hail, little girl." The man had not grown quite so tall as me, and had only the hint of a beard, but seemed friendly and otherwise ordinary. "What madness are you after? Get on back to your family! No place for the young out here."

          My chin dropped a bit in shock. I looked back, toward where the campfires burned, and shook my head.

          "Your family will worry their death, little one!"

          I visualized Ker standing behind me, swearing at the man and his female rider, saying for me what I could not. "You idiot? No huma piglet out roam here without guard. Not take her up and rescue her, you in—"

          The woman beside the wagon rider, looked behind me, at my imaginary urgan. She tugged her companion's shoulder and whispered. "Ben? I don't think she can." Her slanted, leaf-green eyes read me better than his.

          I waited for Ben to respond.

          The woman gave up on him. "Let's take her with us."

          "Corielle, you and your ideas. Ooh!" Ben faked a shiver and winked at her. "You know how the constabulary feels about, what do they call it — 'kind-napping'?"

          "She'll talk later. If the urgans find us, you will wish they were law men."

          "Don't know." He shook his head. "You ever seen raiders in this territory? Besides, a man sleeps better after skewering bandits than dusting up constables. So I hear."

        When Corielle didn't answer, he pushed back his black, stove-pipe hat, and looked down at me. "Why do you wander alone?"

          I opened my mouth to speak, but only managed a little whine. My face burned with shame. A twelve-year-old freeman girl should be able to answer a simple question.

          Corielle nodded. "Get up here, little one."

          Ben reached out his hand, and I climbed up, grateful for the warm softness of his hands. "We're not going anywhere until you tell me why you're traveling alone."

          "She'll answer your questions later. For now, she's under my aegis." She shook her robes like they meant something, and faced forward like that settled the conversation.

          "Och! You know you canna grant sanctuary out here."

          Corielle grabbed the reigns, starting the horses. "No matter. My declaration of sanctuary will turn the constables from you."

          He sighed and chuckled. "Ah, that it will."

          My face wanted to glare as I worked out what they meant.

          He ruffled my hair, and winked at me. "She is a sweet little human thing. Suren she'll be no trouble 'tall."

          The sign of affection felt so foreign that my stomach threatened to erupt as the wagon lurched about.

**

          We rode half a day, finding our own way, ignoring the path that served as a road. At last, the sun hit the horizon and turned the sky red and purple, prompting Ben to stop beneath the violet leaves of a fey elm. He pulled a metal drum from the wagon, and scraped a red-tipped twig against the metal. It flared by magic, and when he dropped it in, fire filled the barrel.

          Corielle took a cone-shaped pan and a magic bubble-bag that opened with a whooshing noise. She poured the contents into the cone and began to cook.

          Then Ben picked up his mandolin. He reached up his hand. "You going to stay up there?"

          I took his hand and slid off, and walked over to the fire barrel. It not only hid the light, it also held in the heat. Creatures of the night would have no way to see the fire. I smiled at their cleverness, and shivered at the late-autumn breeze.

          While we girls stood at our little kitchen, Ben sat against a boulder and began to play. The music reached into me, softening and washing things away for the moment. When he saw my face soften, he began to tell a ghost story.

            He told of Erinos the Lost, who wandered for years in a maze, haunted by visions of the people he had known in life. Each time he would flee in terror, fearing some punishment about to fall. Finally, seeing Medregor, his greatest enemy, he surrendered. "I am sorry," Erinos said. "I have done you terrible wrong. You above all deserve vengeance upon me."

          Medregor laughed, and took Erinos in his arms. "I leave vengeance to the living. We come to take you home." And Medregor and Erinos flew off together into the heavens.

          At that, Ben looked at me, raising his eyebrows.

          We waited a few seconds. When I said nothing, Corielle brushed the hair out of my eyes. "Little one, you can tell us. Why do you travel alone?"

          Ben and Corielle faded from my vision. I stood in Myrrha's kitchen, watching Ker butcher the only family I ever knew. I opened my mouth to speak, to tell her about the swords and the blood and the black cloud and Korog's throat and the roast and Mack telling me to hold my cleaver. All that came out at once, in a babbling whine.

          Corielle put her fingertip on my brow, washing away the nightmare. Her face filled my vision. Her eyes smiled at me as her lips trembled like mine. "Be at ease, little warrior. All wounds heal."

          Ben's gentle voice teased. "You are mad, Corielle. You know this will bring trouble."

          "That's our stock in trade, no?" She nodded to him, and looked into my eyes. "This closes the matter. If you'd any family, you'd be with them."

          Ben shrugged, and continued playing.

          What I heard then stabbed me in the gut. I scrambled back into the wagon, to hide among the supplies. A terrible rhythm, not Ker's men, but urgan warriors if ever I heard them.

          Ben threw his mandolin back on the wagon and pulled a sword, while Corielle grabbed a staff from the seat. This band of urgans, strangers all, probably couldn't even speak Krolesh. They'd kill us and raid us, and my shivering form drummed against their loot.

          The pounding burned in my stomach, but not the fire of fear. As small and soft as Ben and Corielle seemed, they stood tall. I guessed that meant they had lost their family as well. It would be good to go out with friends. My hands and legs shook so much they would be useless, but this time, I stood up.

          One of the urgans called out, "Huma! Prepare die!" He spoke in broken Krolesh. "Resist, we roast your cores."

          Ben waved his sword above his head. "I would like to see you try!"

          The speaker roared, and charged. "Thorga not like this!"

          Ben lowered his sword, and stood still, until the last second. Then he pivoted and leaned out of the way. Ben's chest moved, missing the sharp end of the spear by the width of a thumb.  He brought the sword up under the urgan's arm, drawing a spatter of blood down his side.

            As the Urgan ran by, Corielle struck his knees, sweeping him off his feet and sending him face down.

          His armor fended off the greater part of their attack, but he limped back to battle.

          The other urga marched onward, unconcerned about their fellows or the two little thorga that faced them. From behind I heard one call out, in a strange dialect of urgan, "Save little one for last! They make the greatest stew."

          "We eat well tonight!"

          Ben and Corielle failed to react to the words as they bobbed and weaved and struck, most likely unable to understand the urgan babble. Corielle struck an urgan helmet with each end of her staff while Ben stabbed one in the chest.

          "I'd no idea they were so thorgabent," one urgan commented, kicking aside a bleeding fellow. "I'd have killed them myself."

          His partner swung his ax at the place Corielle had been. "You'd have died trying."

          Corielle broke the necks of those two. Corielle and Ben each struck a killing blow for every wild strike dodged. Yet, for every enemy that fell, two more trampled their friends to get at us. In time, the urgans would swarm and overpower my heroes, and our heads would decorate an urgan spear.

            Death felt like an old friend — I looked forward to meeting him — but I could not watch him steal Ben and Corielle like my Aunt and Uncle. The fire inside me grew small and I felt like Ker, chief among beasts. I leaped down from the wagon, and swaggered toward them, raising my empty hands toward them. In the tone of voice Ker used to silence his men, I called out to them. "Tho! Ha mek thorgabent!" "Fools," I had said. "I'll make you thorgabent." The madness of my bold faced bluff tickled me, and I bent over, cackling.

          The urgans froze, their faces puzzled by my antics.

          Ben and Corielle seized the chance to strike down several urgans, reducing their number to half what it had been.

          One of the urgans turned and ran, leaving his ax behind him. Seconds later, two more ran.

          Then, one of them screamed, "Shaman! She'll burn us all!"

          At that, the entire group stampeded away.

          Tears flooded my eyes and laughter squeezed my lungs. Arms wrapped around me, lifting me into the wagon. Hysterics still gripped me like a giant snake and drove the air from me until everything went black.

**

          The next thing I knew, my head lay in Corielle's lap as we rode toward the sun rising over the gates of Balthispeare. The soaring marble arches of the town wall passed over the wagon as we drove into town. My friends sat beside me, safe and well, whether I had saved them or they, me. I reflected on how much I needed such help. With the shadow of the gate, a feeling swept over me, like ants and spiders crawling over every inch of my skin.

          As I left behind the wilds and entered this haven of my people, the 'glassmakers,' I thought of how fate had spared Ben and Corielle — for now. I had to get away, as fast as possible, before death came and took them. That's my family, crazy brave: Myrrha told me that. Nothing you could do to us, could make us back down. At that moment, I knew how my parents felt, why mother and father had run away from me, chosen war over parenthood.

            Death lay ahead for everybody. Once you accept fate, nobody can threaten you. I punched the hole in their armor, put the chink in their courage.  Mother and Father could face armies on their own, go to the grave with a song on their lips, yet the thought of watching me suffer, terrified them.

         As it should. If I had it to do over again, I would stand, bare-handed and helpless in Ker's path. If Ker and Korog truly intended to destroy life, I would force them to kill me first. Nothing could be worse than watching people struck down. 

         Since I couldn't do that, I did what I could, to evade a torture beyond my twelve-year-old imagining. A horror I cannot speak of now, a decade later.

         I fled.

        I slipped off the wagon. As soon as my knees touched dirt, I sprinted like a pickpocket into the city, stealing lonely sanctuary for myself. An instant later, I heard them calling for a lost little girl. They did not know the name of the orphan that faced destiny with them. Alone, perhaps I could once again feel safe.


Read More!  "Part 2. That's not the Way

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