Winter Wars

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Katrina

The sad truth is that I ran away from Ryner after his first lunge.

It’s not like it was unexpected. Hand to hand combat with Jayson was hard, the archery was kinda easy, but the knife fighting is on a different level entirely.

Knives as a weapon of choice are reserved for the quickest and smartest of fighters. There’s almost no reach, you’re at a supreme disadvantage if the opponent is using something with a longer reach, i.e. any—other—weapon. My point being that I have no experience even handling a knife aside from in the kitchen and I was more than a little afraid that I’d screw up and hurt Ryner or myself.

Every time I talk to Marcy, she reminds me more and more of dad. He always knew what to say and how to verbally kick my ass when I really need it. Before she would try to comfort me and attempt to make my cowardly move justified to some extent.

Now she seems to have no tolerance to my weak-willed actions.

Almost dragging me back to where Ryner is waiting is hell on her. I complain and moan and harp the whole way. To my surprise, she’s mostly quiet only saying, “Check your privilege” when I point it out.

Ryner sits crossed legged on the ground leaning on a tree. His eyes are closed. Marcy tugs me along to stand in front of him. When he opens his eyes, they’re stark black, unlike the amber color I had grown used to seeing. When he blinks, his eyes return to normal and I have to wonder if I imagined it.

“So,” he says. “You have returned.”

Marcy nudges my shoulder, urging me to speak. “Yeah,” I kick the ground and avoid looking at him. “Sorry I ran off. I was just kinda scared.”

“It is not unnatural to feel fear.” He says softly. “I only ask that if you are afraid you speak with me and not run away.”

“Sorry again,” I mumble. “I’ll be sure to try harder this time.”

Ryner sighs climbing to his feet. “No. It is clear that knife fighting is not for you. Perhaps tomorrow we will work on something different.”

“I—” My protest dies in my lips. Who am I kidding? Anyone who knows me, and Ryner certainly knows me, knows no matter how often or how much I try to fight, it just isn’t in me. I’m not a fighter and I never will be.

“Okay,” I smile. “Tomorrow then.”

“Hey, if you really want to fight again, I’m always up for it.” Marcy offers, picking up on my disdain.

“No, it’s fine.” I shake my head. “We can get on to the next thing.”

Ryner gives me a look of almost sympathy and says, “You can go shower. We will be leaving the estate for the next training.”

“Cool beans, dude.” Marcy yawns. “Is it possible for me to squeeze in a catnap before we leave?”

Ryner gives her a small smile as though the reference to a feline is funny. “You will have one hour.”

“Awesome, let’s go.” Marcy links arms with me and we walk back to the house. “Trina you don’t have to be upset over it. Ryner’s right, everyone’s entitled to be a little afraid.”

“But I’m a lot afraid.” I bite my lip. “The thought of even hurting someone makes my arms shake.”

We get to the back door before Marcy speaks. “I won’t say that you’ll get used to it because if you did, you wouldn’t be you anymore. I will say that there may come a time that you’ll be able to tolerate the fear that holds you back and use it to drive you forward. That’s what I do, but you aren’t me, so maybe you’ll find another use for it. Until then, don’t push yourself too hard. It’s impossible to be good at something on the first try.”

“If I did I’d be perfect like Ryner.”

“Why does everyone insist he’s perfect?” Marcy stiffens at the sound of Jayson’s voice behind us. I’ll have to question her on that.

“Because he seems to know how to do everything,”

“Everything but talk,” Jayson smiles. “See you in a bit.” I glance at Marcy. She seems more than a little off. I think through the archery practice with Jayson. Lots of talking on his part, adjusting stances, helping shoot… oh. Well, I’m stupid. She must have been super uncomfortable during the lesson. But with archery, touching was necessary, even the slightest bit. And Jayson, well, he did say he was in his element. The mirror movement may have been nothing to him but more uncomfortable than too tight jeans for her.

On the other hand, while Jayson was in his element, he should know that Marcy has a thing with touching. Why would he intentionally do that to her?

I sigh and wave it off. Later, after a shower and a nap (Marcy definitely has the right idea there), I’ll ask him.

An hour or so later Ryner shakes us awake. Naps are one of the trickiest things in the world. You can wake feeling like you’ve slept eight hours and be refreshed, or you have a headache, a foul temper, and wonder if it’s only been a few minute or a few decades.

Unfortunately for Ryner, me and Marcy both fall into the latter category. Muttering curses worse than any witch or warlock could muster, we get up and shuffle downstairs.

“You two look rather… refreshed.” Ethan says as a sarcastic smile plays on his face. At least someone’s in a good mood, but that means Marcy’s not going to be.

“Shove it where the sun don’t shine,” I grumble rubbing my eyes again. “We don’t have the patience for your sarcasm.”

“And yet my sons have the patience for yours,” He straightens the cuffs of his shirt. “I do believe you can spare some for me.”

“Are we gonna leave or what?” Marcy yawns. Is she always tired or is it just the jetlag?

“Yes,” Ryner says. He nods respectfully to Ethan and leads us out. We take Ethan’s car—thank the lord in heaven. If we had walked to the truck we had driven in here I’d have planted my feet into the ground and refused to move.

The gun range we’re taken to is a Gun Club. It’s an outdoor range a little more than an hour away. The people there already seem to know each other and there’s an air of ease among them. I wonder how long this will last. The U.S. army will be divided and soon soldiers and people will be flocking to their desired side. I only hope this sense of peace can last a little longer.

Marcy woke up a little more and on the way here and is more fascinated by the gun than I am. Every time one sounds I jump a little.

Ryner and Jayson start with handguns. Even if they have no silver bullets, they do have weapons. Maybe the hunters are more of an issue than they let on. We switch back to having our initial trainers. Jayson shows me first by easily picking off a target sheet. When he hands me the gun, I want to get it as far away from me as possible.

“Trina, it won’t hurt you unless you enable it to.” Jayson takes it back and I wipe my hands on my shirt like it’s contaminated. “Guns are tools just like a hammer.”

“I know, but I don’t want to use this tool.”

“It’s not so different from a bow and arrow. Just a little more compact.”

“And a hell a lot more dangerous.”

Jayson’s look is reproachful. “It depends on whose hands they’re in. It won’t hurt you if you do it just like I said to.”

Cautiously I take it again and take up my stance again. When I shoot, I hit the edge of the sheet and the kick from the shot almost knocks it out of my hands. I set the gun down and back up saying, “No, no, no, no, no. I can’t do it. I’ll just leave the fighting to Marcy and you and Ryner and everyone else.”

“Trina,” he sighs. “You may not have to fight but you will have to defend yourself and we don’t want you to be unprotected.”

“I know, but I have an issue with loud weapons. Sounds, in general, really.” I jump again as someone fires a shotgun.

Jayson puts his hand on his hips and says, “What would you do then if you were under gunfire and had the opportunity to take control if you used the gun?

“What kind of scenario is that? When would that even happen to me?” I put my own hands on my hips and glare at him for conjuring up such a stupid and unlikely scenario. When would I ever have to do something like that?

“Trina, I’m not saying it’s likely, I’m only saying it’s a possibility no matter how small.”

“I hope you know you’re acting like a jackass.”

“Thank you for the observation,” he sighs. Rubbing his temples he calms down. “Trina, I only want you to do this because I don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your safety. I know what it’s like to step out of your comfort zone. You know I know what it’s like to do that.” My gaze softens at this. “I hate to fight, but I know how because anything could happen.” He sighs again. “I’d hate for something to happen to you.”

“I know I’m being difficult.” I grumble. “But that’s because I’m not used to this. I’m not used to fighting and needing to protect myself. It’s all new territory for me.”

“Okay, I’ll try to take it slower.” He compromises. “You won’t have to shoot again, just watch me and we can work our way from there.” A sigh of relief escapes me. Thank Jebus Jayson is in charge instead of Ryner. It’s so much easier to talk to him, but Marcy doesn’t seem to be having a hard time. At least when she talks to him he answer even if he is irritated.


As the weeks pass by, I start becoming more and more comfortable with the weapons. By the end of June, I can almost shoot a shot gun without freaking out, I’ve mastered the bow and arrow, and fighting—with and without weapons—has become easier.

Marcy, being Marcy, has all of it down within the first week and attempts to get out of training with Jayson to help me instead. Whatever problem she has with Jayson is starting to affect their relationship outside of training. Whenever he asks her even the smallest question she snaps an answer like he’s just ruined her day. Around her Jayson starts to fidget again.

The thing about Jayson is that once he’s comfortable around you, he smiles more, talks more, makes playful jabs. Honestly, the only person he’s ever nervous around is Ethan and everyone knows why that is. But that’s starting to change.

I love drama and digging into other people’s lives, with Marcy too, and I know where to draw the line with Marcy. But it’s gotten to the point where even Ryner wants to know and he makes it a point never be in any business he isn’t directly involved in.

I should be more worried about my own issues such as the fact that I have to be more and more careful when I touch something. Just the other day I was cleaning Ryner and Jayson’s room (who’d have thought they’d be so unclean?) because just the sight of it made me want to strangle them. I picked up an old necklace from the floor and memories of the last time it was worn, when something memorable happened, flood my mind and I think it’s fair to say that I hate Ethan.

The last time Ryner wore that necklace and something happened was the day after Marcy almost died. Ethan wanted to punish Jayson for incompetence and inability to stand firm against Marcy—his words, not mine. Ryner took the punishment instead and silenced Jayson when he protested. Said punishment left angry red welts on his skin that took their time healing.

While not telling Ryner what I saw seemed like a grand idea, I know that I had to. He took it surprisingly well.

“That is part of the reason I asked you not to enter our room so callously,” he sighs. “It would cease to worry me if no one were to know this. Certainly not Jayson.”

“I-I guess. But shouldn’t Jayson know?”

“How would you feel if it were Marcy in my position?” he questions.

“I’d be pissed off and I’d do something about it.” I don’t know what I would do since I don’t exactly have the physical strength to stop it, but I am smarter than one would think. Those AP classes weren’t all for nothing.

“My point exactly. I cannot let that happen.”

I sigh. “Okay, I promise I won’t say anything.” I kick the ground in frustration. “Soon enough I’m gonna have to lock myself in a box to stop this. How did mom deal with it?”

“She wore gloves.”

I snort and pull my legs onto the bed. There’s not a chance in hell mom would wear gloves when there was a possibility to find out important info. If she had to touch something, gloves would just slow her down and mom was all about efficiency.

Ryner gives me a small smile and changes the topic to something more interesting and present. “Do you understand Marcy’s reluctance to Jayson?”

I shift my weight. “I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe she’s just tired from waking up so early. She’s always hated getting up before the sun.”

“Perhaps she is also having trouble with her gift.” He speculates. “Perhaps she is dwelling on her own speculations too much. Perhaps she has a headache.”

His theory is met with my raised eyebrows. “A headache would make her grumpier than Oscar the Grouch on a bad day?”

“Yes,” he nods. “On occasion, your mother would have headaches that accompanied too frequent dreaming and would make her less than pleasant to be around.”

“But if that was the case she’d—fuckin’ shit.” I cover my mouth as he raises his eyebrows. “Sorry, I just realized what wrong with her.”

“May I know?”

I roll off his bed and hurry to the door to confirm my suspicions. “No. Not right now. Or ever. Maybe. Sorry again.”

If it’s not what I think it is, I’m gonna hope and pray she’s not dying. Flicking on the light of our bathroom, I lift the trashcan lid and sigh. Thank Jebus she’s only on her period.

For one reason or another, she’s got the most irregular cycle known to women. Three months off, one month on. And I do mean an entire month. One thing we both share is the fatigue that comes with it. Mix that with having to wake up early and go to bed late, no wonder she’s like the Wicked Witch of the West.

All the same, I don’t know why she picked Jayson as her stress reliever target. A more suitable candidate would be Ethan since she doesn’t like him and he’s more than willing to go back and forth with her.

Before we go to the range to practice with shotguns, and by practice I mean Marcy makes sarcastic remarks about my aim and Jayson tries to stay as far away from her as possible, I try to corner her. Marcy has other ideas.

She’s in Ethan’s office looking more than a little irritated.

“Why can’t you just let me help? I want to do something.” She leans forward on the desk the heel of her palms facing Ethan and her nails digging into the underside. “You’re acting like I’m incapable of doing something productive.”

“It is not that I do not think you are incapable of being productive, I think that you are in capable of following orders and are therefore of no use of value to me.” Ethan turns his gaze to me. “While her abilities are not as accurate or polished as yours, your sister is a far better suited to help. Not only that, you have a… womanly issue that would hinder your abilities.”

If he expects her to be embarrassed he’s disappointed. “My womanly issue is of little concern to you. It doesn’t—” Her sentence breaks off as she winces like she’s heard something high pitched. “—doesn’t hinder my performance in any way.”

“Yes, perhaps that is not what I am seeing,” He draws his eyebrows together. “What are you hearing that causes you such pain?” If not for the knowledge he hates Marcy, his look might be mistaken for concern, not sadistic curiosity.

“Nothing is—” She tries to hide her wince again. “Nothing is bothering me. I’m fine. I just can’t sleep.”

“Too frequent dreaming,” I murmur to myself. Maybe Ryner was right. If she has too many dreams, she’d just cut out sleep, that’s just how she is. And headaches come with sleep deprivation so she’s probably just standing based on will alone.

Walking over to Marcy, I take the plunge and touch her shoulder before she can even think about saying anything in protest.

You know that feeling you get when you’re in the pool, having fun and everything, and suddenly there’s water up your nose? Try that feeling times one thousand and then some.

Having no discipline with pain and having a very low tolerance to it, I almost black out. And then there are the spikes. The spikes are worse than just the headache. Not only are they worse, they’re accompanied by brief flashes of what seem to be the future. A battlefield full of bodies. Cells of a prison. A map of mini flags. Fire raging through cities. A dark haired woman crawling through a forest; a dark figure calling her name.

Shoving the pain to the back of my mind and focusing on the present—which isn’t that far from the current past—is more than a chore. How she’s still standing is beyond me.

“Trina, you’re such an idiot.” She mutters as I let go. A ghost of her headache still pounds in my temples.

“We have to go now.” I say. I frown as they come out slurred. “To the forest, there’s a woman who needs our help.”

“What’s she look like? Was she okay?” Marcy drags me to my feet and I lean against the desk. Ethan watches us with mild interest.

“Dark hair, green eyes, there was something wrong with her back. It was glittery. Blacktail,” The name comes to me. “Her name is Blacktail.”

“Shit,” she groans. “That was my nurse. The woman who gave me that potion for Jayson.”

“My, my,” Ethan says absently. “There is a woman less intelligent than you. If you truly wish to help her I would go. Do not expect help from us.”

“Whatever,” I say. “Let’s just go, she’s being chased.”

“How do you know?” she asks.

“I saw it. Maybe you’re too used to blocking it out to notice. Blacktail is in this forest.”

“The forest? Let’s go.” Marcy leads the way downstairs zooming past everyone so fast they have to do double takes to make sure they didn’t imagine it.

Taking off into the forest the sun soon disappears and I’m amazed at how soundless we are. Not a twig snaps, barely a leaf rustles.

It’s to consciously dilate my eyes to adjust to the darkness and this proves nothing short of vital following Marcy as she switches direction, rounds trees, and jumps over logs without so much as a glance back.

Just like what I had seen, a dark haired woman is on the ground clawing and scooting with one hand. One arm is broken and limp at her side, her legs are bloodied and torn like they’ve been bitten. The glittery black things I saw on her back look like twisted wings and she covered with sweat.

Marcy kneels down to her and Blacktail looks at her with pleading eyes. “Help… me.” She gasps then faints.

“I have to take her back,” Marcy says. “I can carry her by myself.”

“What am I gonna do?” I ask.

Marcy looks me in the eye and says, “You have to fight for me.”

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