By Davida Dean
The slate sky’s dense clouds pushed her down the road. The sound of her boots crunching across the brittle weeds shattering an unwelcome silence, even the birds had flown in fear. She could feel the Battle Witch’s voice grating in her ear, “Kierlana, pick your sword up, damn you girl,” but she hadn’t the strength left.
“Treat your sword like your lover.” The blade scared voice chastised, “Care for it, keep it clean and true and it will not fail you”. Her bloody fingers slipped upon the hilt. The jarring bounce, as the blade glanced off the rocky soil, caused a moan to slip her lips. She knew she should care for the sword better, but she didn’t know why. The memory of the Battle Witch’s voice seemed alien.
The sound of hoof beats echoed down the road and her heart lept in her chest. The fatigue of battle was replaced with a rush of adrenaline and fear. Diving into the thorny bushes she laid, painting, her sister’s blade clasped against her chest.
It was happening again. Just as the sun had risen this morning, a sudden summer storm of steel and death had come out of the trees, taking the small caravan of sick and wounded by surprise. The men died valiantly, but they were far too many of Merloche’s men for them to prevail. Merloche himself had knocked her from her pony. The blow she had taken to her temple began to dully ache. Her pony had reared and thrown her down a ditch, out of sight. It was the only reason she had her life left.
She had awoken hours later to find Kierlana’s body alongside the bodies of the men she had commanded. The horses had been taken, leaving only a sword sheathed deep her sister’s body. Merloche had killed her sister, with her sister’s sword. Darla whimpered and pressed herself deeper into the thorny bushes. Merloche had killed her sister. The demon king and beast with no beginning and no end had knocked her from her pony and killed all in his path.
“Move girl, or die where you lay.” Her sister’s sword master urged her on. She had never met the Battle Witch and Darla wondered why she was hearing her voice.
“The hedge witch is gone. Merloche won’t be pleased,” The riders searched the area and Darla pulled the thorn sticks tighter to her. At last, the horses faded into the distance and Darla freed the breath she hadn’t known was trapped. Holding her sister’s sword tighter, she struggled with the fear clutching at her throat. “Darla, you have to get moving.” Her sister’s voice replaced the sword masters, whispering softly in her mind.
“Oh mother, I’ve lost my mind.” Darla dropped the sword and pressed herself deeper into the brush. The sharp scent of Pauper Peace broke through her fear, the pungent soar scent clearing her mind. Paupers Peace was a thorny piece of nastiness, but the soft downy core was a pain killer and sedative. Darla broke of a few stalks and cracking them open, chewed on the sour white fiber. Highly addictive, Darla was careful to only take a small piece to ease her pain.
She plucked the thorns from her skirts and brushed the mud and filth from her face. She had left her sisters body on the road with Kierlana’s men. She had to get back to camp. Taking stock for the first time since she awoke, she found a gash along her head and her left leg was turning a strange shade of purple just below the ankle. She would need to walk on it for several miles. She gathered another small stalk of the weed for the road.
Looking at her sister’s sword she hesitated, picking it up tenderly. She could not carry her sisters body back, but she would send men to retrieve the lost ones as soon as she could. Her sister had made the sword, crafted it as a rite of passage. Darla was just a simple hedge witch, and had no right to lay claim to a Battle Witch’s sword, but this was her sisters. “Darla, move. The sun goes down and Merloche will return to this area. You must move.” Kierlana whispered as if she stood behind her.
Darla scrambled up the hillside, thankful for the narcotic. The grunt of the rider was all the warning she had, tucking into a ball; she ducked under the swinging blade. Using her momentum, she rolled forward and up back onto her feet. With a muscle memory that wasn’t hers, she pivoted grasping his extended sword hand and jerked down and away from her, her sister’s swords slicing down and severing the riders head from his shoulders. The warm metallic spray hit her face and Darla staggered back, letting go of the arm as the body slumped to the ground. The legs twitched and the hand tightened on his sword for a moment before relaxing.
“Clean my blade Darla, and take his horse. You have to get behind the wards before night fall.” Kierlana’s voice spurred Darla into action, grabbing the halter and swinging herself onto the large beast with an ease she should not possess.
“I don’t understand. Kierlana?” Darla rammed her heals into the horse, pain shooting up her leg, pointing the horse north towards the wards.
“Soul Sword, all battle witches carry a soul sword Darla. I had not found a Battle Witch ready to ride with me. Now sister, I ride with you.” Kierlana guided Darla’s hands on the reins and urged the horse to move faster.
“I’m, I’m not a Battle Witch Kierlana. I’m a healer. I should not be able to use a Soul Sword.”
“You are my sister, and this is my sword. I think…maybe that makes the difference.”
“What does that make me?”
“A warrior, sister. Together, we shall end Merloche and free our people.”
D.B. Dean is a native Californian. She grew up in a small Southern California town, then moved to the big city of San Francisco where she lives with her wonderful husband and three sons. She is an Executive Assistant, herding executives from 9 -5. She enjoys writing and is currently working on several different books.
You can find more of her work on her Blog http://www.theaveragegirlnextdoor.wordpress.com