In the Absence of Light

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Chapter 7: Gone with the Grains of Sand on the Wind

They were waiting at the gates. All the priestesses were standing in front of the gates waiting in a line with their hands behind their backs. The head priestesses of the twins stepped forward as one, “You have an hour to leave. Carasa was pardoned and may stay here.”

“Who has the right to say where I may or may not go?” I asked, almost ready to spit fire in anger. My day was getting better and better.

“The Lord of the city has the power to do whatever he wants. He wanted to order your immediate execution, but we convinced him he could not just execute a prior host, so he decided to banish you and those with you. After much haggling we convinced him to pardon Carasa.” It was the light aspect twin’s priestess who spoke with such satisfaction. I hated that woman and her superior attitude.

Suddenly I laughed with the knowledge the Lady gave me, “Don’t blame me for what happens to this city after I have left. Grab Gegarat for me and we will all go and pack.” I could feel Darins anger emanating from behind me and I turned and shook my head, “Darin, please do as I have said. I will explain once we are out of the city.”

He turned and rode off without a word, Tyva clinging tightly behind him. “Oh, and Darin, meet me in two hours here.”

He didn’t seem to hear me, but Chrisin, who was still waiting nodded, “I will pass the message to him.” Then Chrisin spun his horse around and chased after Darin through the crowded streets.

I turned back to look at the gates, only to see that the priestesses were still there, “Gegarat is not yours anymore.”

“What?!” I screeched. “She is mine, and always has been mine. You will give her back to me or I will incinerate all of your worthless hides.”

The light twin laughed, “You gave her to us for two years. You might be breaking your bond and leaving, but she is still ours.”

“She was never yours, and never will be yours. She is mine. I said you could breed her, but that she remained mine. She is mine to withdraw from the breeding program,” I was working hard to keep the buzzing in my brain from exploding, to keep the fire from roaring its ugly head at them.

“She is 8 months with foal. You can’t take her now. You can come back for her later,” this time it was the darker twin, trying to speak sense, but I broke her words off.

“I don’t care. She’s coming with me. Give me Varadill as a saddle horse. You don’t need him anymore,” I ground my teeth in frustration. Stupid stubborn women.

“Lady, you might harm her…”

“Just give her to me,” I shouted at the idiot priestess who had spoken up. I let a small tongue of flame lap my fingertips, and I saw with satisfaction the fear that suddenly leaped into their once satisfied faces.

The priestesses of the twins looked at each other and then back, the dark aspect spoke up, “We accept. Gegarat will be brought forward as well as a pack mule to carry all of your gear, Kyra’s gear, and Gegarat’s tack.

It was more than I hoped for, so I nodded acceptance and kicked Varadill forward. The stupid horse plodded his way forward and through the gate of the complex. I dismounted and passed his reins to a nearby priestess of the Lady Samoraniasa.

I strode off to my room, not bothering to check on Kyra. She was a big girl and could handle her own problems. I entered the dark room and immediately went over to the corner next to my wardrobe where my packs were waiting for the day I would finally leave. I opened the wardrobe and tossed clothing and armor into the packs. I piled the armor onto myself, and realized how little I had to tie me to the city. I broke my bonds when I was chosen for potential insanity and later death. Now, in the life afterwards, I was free. I was a different person than the simple girl I used to be.

I looked in the washing bowl at myself one more time before I left, and I starred at the fierce face framed by the tight pull of black hair. The water rippled, and I realized it was the face the goddess of darkness was given on statues. It was my face, it was her face, and in sudden horror, I threw myself backwards. My simple mind couldn’t handle what I was thinking.

I stepped forward again to look, and caught a glimpse of my face before I quickly turned away. My face was covered in the ceremonial designs. It was something I’d never thought about, and I didn’t plan on lingering on it. I grabbed my packs, and with the packs and weapons I left the room without a backward glance.

I went to the courtyard and found Varadill, Sarak, a mule, and the pregnant Gegarat all ready to go. I stopped by Gegarat and gently rubbed her beautiful nose. I moved on, past the mule to dull stupid Varadill.

I strapped my packs to the back of Varadill’s saddle, and hooked in my excess weapons and kept my quiver strapped to my own back.

Kyra walked out in white skirt legs with a white tunic. Her hair was skillfully braided around her head with the excess hanging down her back. With her came a bunch of Azirageanlara’s other hosts. They were all crying and begging her not to leave. I heard snatches of their pleading,

“We know nothing of the outside…”

“Are you sure this is the intelligent…”

“Don’t you love us…?”

“Why must you…?”

“We left our partners when we gave…”

“Who cares what the Lord…”

“We will protect you and…”

Suddenly Kyra turned back to the women, some of who carried her packs, “My dear friends, I know this is a hard separation. I know I was meant to live amongst you till the end of my days when I would be given the honored burial of a host of our beloved Lady. I know that I have no memories until after the Lady left. I must help the world though. I have seen the violence, and it scares me, but maybe I can help spread our beloved Lady’s love and end the hatred that prevails in this poor tortured world. Maybe I can even help the dark one who was my partner. I think that this is the right path, and this is the path the goddess meant me to follow. Maybe I have a different destiny, just as my dark partner had a different destiny from all of her dark sisters who died quickly.”

I wanted to laugh at her ridiculous statement and all the very serious nods of the women around her. Slowly, like a procession, they all moved to either Sarak or the mule. I watched in fascination as they carefully packed the mule with bags and Sarak with other bags.

One of the women came up to me, “Do you have anything extra that needs to go on the mule?”

Bemused, I grabbed some of my extra armor and weapons to the woman. She graciously took the offered items and went to tie those things onto the mule as well.

Kyra came over, understanding my confusion, “I asked for their help, and they all agreed. I think they wanted to convince me not to leave with you, but they understand that I must go to help the poor souls who are hurt in this world. If you were kinder and cared for some people, they would treat you well in return and help you when you needed help. But you turned away everyone who dared to try and help you.”

“I do not care much for people, and I am irritated by stupidity. I find myself happier, alone,” I spoke without looking at her, still starring at the women who were helping her simply because they “cared” for her. Even if I cared for someone, I don’t think I would do anything menially stupid like helping them, and a person I hated, pack for banishment.

“We understand that this is your nature of darkness, and we love you for your very hate of everyone. We gift you with our love, though you do not return it,” She spoke softly, as if speaking to a lover.

I turned slightly to look at her in surprise.

“You are my partner, you are the opposite end of the spectrum, and though you do not love me as I am, I love you for who you are.” It was the pity in her eyes that made me understand. She didn’t understand.

I turned my head away for fear of my disdain showing. She loved me because she couldn’t help but love everyone. She was so different from the person I remembered, but I was also different. Maybe it was meant to be this way though. I saw something that she didn’t realize, maybe I would be able to get along with her a little bit. She was slightly smarter than the rest of the sheep that were helping her because she was willing to leave. She was smart enough to see the world out there wouldn’t hurt her. Maybe, I was becoming an idiot.

I noticed one of the women walking up to us, and the other backing away. The woman stepped up to Kyra and reached out her hand, grasping Kyra’s hand in her hand, “My dear sister, we have packed the mule, Tesa, for your journey. There’s a tent that will fit you and your partner, cooking utensils, some fire starting tools, and journey food. Your partner should be able to catch fresh food for you. You herbs and other healing supplies were placed on Sarak as well as your clothing.”

I stopped paying attention as the two sobbed in farewell, “Tesa, whmmm, what an interesting name. Are you a child of war? Who would name you child of war? Well, welcome to the war, Tesa.” I laughed bitterly at the truth that awaited within the mule’s name. Child of war. All of the Dark Lady’s children were children of war. We were the Lady’s children, her precious living war machines.

“Are you ready Kyra?” I turned back to Kyra who was saying farewell. I had no goodbyes to say. Kyra turned to me, her eyes glistening with tears.

“I… I guess,” she stammered, her voice sounded like a child’s voice, unsure of what awaited them and without knowledge of the world. Adults grew into a voice that pretended to be sure, but was no more certain than the child, and Kyra’s voice reflected this.

I gave her a half smile, one corner of my lip upturned, but maybe it seemed like a grimace because I know the smile did not reach my eyes, and did not line my face with any joy. I knew more than was right for any human mind to know, but I understood and thought within the constraints of my mind, and carried the faint memory of what it was to have no constraints on thought and being.

I moved away and mounted my own horse, as Kyra went to her own patient mount and clambered up onto her poor mount.

I pressed slightly with my legs, and received no response from my horse with dead sides. I sighed and kicked his side gently; still no response. I growled slightly, slammed my legs into his sides, and finally got him to trudge forward. By this time Kyra had Sarak up beside us. Gegarat’s lead rein tugged on her slightly before she happily stepped out. Kyra had the Tesa’s lead rein clipped to her saddle.

Darin, Chrisin, and Tyva were all waiting at the gate. This time though, Tyva had her own horse, and was perched among many bags. I was surprised to see they’de wrangled any horses out of the city and temple, especially since they were being banished with kyra and me.

“Surprised?” Darin laughed slighty. “People happen to like Chrisin, Tysin, and I. We were allowed to keep our horses, and a horse was even provided for Tysin.”

I growled, “Come on, let’s get out of this stupid city.”

“Are you in a hurry to leave or something? I would have thought you would be recalcitrant to leave.” I could hear the teasing note in his voice, but I didn’t care for the games of others.

“Let’s just get out of this talving city before I strangle someone. Someone namely being you.” I growled again, allowing my impatience to hang onto my tongue.

“Violent much?” He laughed again, and I moved Varadill close to him, and slapped him upside the head, laughing slightly as I moved away.

“Oh no you don’t” he growled, all of the teasing in his voice gone as he tried to get me in return. I blocked his feeble attempts to return my slap, and I moved Varadill toward the gate. He gave up, and I was tempted to laugh at the pout that graced his face.

It was as he turned away from me to say something to Chrisin that I realized he was wearing double blades on his back.

“Do you favor fighting with the double blades?” He pulled his attention back to me.

“They fight smoother and allow for double the offensive. Using a shield is cumbersome and can only act defensively. The second blade can fight offensive and defensive…”

“All I asked was a simple question; you don’t need to verify yourself to me. I know everyone has a different style; I’ve trained all the styles. I was simply curious if it was your main style,” I stopped him before he could give me a lecture.

He took a breath, as if to say more, and then let it out. I could see the vein on his neck throb for a second before he relaxed, realizing I meant no harm, “I’m just so used to people laughing at my choice. They don’t understand how useful two blades are, and they aren’t coordinated enough to use two blades.”

“I prefer a sword and dagger combination. Everyone has a preference, and I think a lot of people choose a sword a shield simply because they feel safer behind a shield. If you can fight without one though, I think you are better for that,” I realized I sounded as if I was lecturing. “I think we are disagreeing on a subject we actually agree on.”

He laughed suddenly, surprising me, “I think you are learning to get along better with people.”

Now he was the crazy one. I glared at him and turned away, “I don’t get along with people, end of story. I am a heartless crazy bitch who has learned how to interact, but I don’t get along with people.”

We rode in silence, Darin knowing better than to bother me. I could hear Kyra chatting away with Chrisin, alerting any potential robbers to our presence as we left the plane that the city was on and entered the low mountains.

Tyva suddenly trotted up next to me, “Will we finish today’s ride soon?”

“About another hour and we can make camp,” I didn’t consult any of the others. I had planned out this trip long ago, and I knew how long our trip would last, how many hours we had to ride each day, and the general resting location of the Bears mercenary unit.

“Do you know where we are going, and aren’t we just riding till were tired, and eventually until we find a unit to join?” It was Darin, who had no clue about my plan.

“We are joining up with a mercenary unit called the Bears. My mother was a member of them, and they were a good unit back then. I know some basic facts on how to get there, how long it will take, and at least how long we have to ride each day. We have to ride at least another hour, if not longer,” I stared straight ahead, at the road. Something felt wrong. I turned, not hearing what Darin replied, my focus on the quiet woods.

“Quiet!” I hissed, and everyone fell silent. I could see the terror in Chisin and Kyra’s eyes. Determination shown in Darin’s eyes, and Tyva looked nervous, clutching at a small short sword with wobbly unsure hands. I pulled out my bow, closing my eyes, and searching the mountain woods for my prey.

Where were they… Ah, they were. Thirteen brigands waiting on a the slope of a mountain, waiting to jump out and get us. I snatched the surprise from the, quickly taking out their archer before he could take me out. I opened my eyes to the surprised looks of my companions, and grimaced. “Darin, take the right, I’ve got the left. Tyva, stay with Chrisin and Kyra. You’ve got any that get through…”

They came out screaming. I only earned us a second, but the warning allowed us to be organized. I focused on my side, forcing the slow Varadill toward them. Varadill didn’t want to fight, and was almost a hindrance as the first of the screaming emaciated men came upon me on the right. I parried the thrusts of the man’s rusty blade. His blade moved back to strike again, but I moved in and cut his neck, his blood spattering across me.

I blocked a long sword with my dagger on the left, and felt the sword run of my dagger, scrapping its tip along Varadill’s side. The sarg horse jumped and screamed in pain, making it a difficult to stop another blow on my right. I threw my dagger at a man on the left, making sure to pierce his throat and kill him quickly. I pulled out a second dagger while blocking the red headed man on my right again. I threw the next dagger, hitting another man in the eye.

Apparently when Varadill was hurt, the dumb gelding began to fight. Someone tried to hit out his back legs, and the gelding started thrashing and kicking, finally helping me out. I disarmed the red headed man, and lost track of him as I grabbed a sword on my belt with me left hand, spurred Varadill forward, and felt Varadill trample a man with his sudden jump. Both sword slashed forward, taking out two men on my right and one on my left. My attackers were gone. I felt with my senses, and saw noticed one man with his hands up in the air. The person I had hit in the eye was dying, and turned out to be a woman. After being hit in the eyes, she’s stumbled near Gegarat and had gotten kicked. She was definitely unconscious, but her body was still giving death throes.

Darin had taken care of his attackers, and Tyva had stopped one attacker with Gegarat’s help. I turned toward the red headed man again, “Stay there or my companion Darin will kill you.”

I dismounted off of Varadil and quickly walked over to where the woman’s twitching body lay. I yanked out my dagger and cut a line quickly across the throat, the still pulsing blood spraying onto me some as my dagger parted the skin, and then slowed to an ooze as the woman’s body stopped twitching. I yanked my dagger out of the woman’s eye. I heard puking, and looked up grimly. Tyva was puking in the bushes, and Chrisin was holding a sobbing Kyra. For a second I felt light headed, strange.

I had Zedigrivikonola’s memories of killing, but my body had never actually killed someone before. My hand was trembling slightly, and my human weakness showed. I sternly told my hand to stop trembling, but it continued, and I forced myself to focus on the scene again. I would not let my body give in and puke. I would not look weak. I was the leader. I was the Lady of Death, the heartless cold bitch. I had no feelings. It was simply my weak body.

I turned, my eyes narrowing slightly. The person Kyra took down was still alive. I stretched my senses more and realized it was another woman. I looked at her, and realized she was looking up at me with blind fear, trying to slow her breathing. I looked at her, and noticed that she had a wound on her side along her ribs and a kick to her gut where her intestines had burst through the skin’s walls and she was desperately trying to hold them in her body. I sighed and grabbed lifted my dagger to give her a mercy cut like the other woman, when suddenly Chrisin was there gripping my hand.

“There’s been enough killing for one day. Let Kyra and me try to heal her first. Go talk to your prisoner and see if there are any others, and if they have any extra provisions. We will need more provisions if we are taking along these bandits, and personally I don’t fancy leaving them here.

I nodded and stood up. I walked over to Varadill, and checked on the gelding first. He had a lot of minor scrapes, but only the one slightly more serious wound on his side. He should be fine. I left him ground tied where he was and I walked over to the dead man who I killed by throwing my dagger at his neck. I picked up the dagger, wiped it down, and placed it back in its sheath. I cleaned my other two daggers, and then my sword; carefully making sure they were spotless before putting them away. I didn’t need rusty weaponry.

Then I finally looked up at the red headed prisoner. He was so bright I would have expected him to be a healer, but he obviously preferred fighting, strangely enough.

“They are gone, like grains of sand on the wind,” his voice sounded hoarse, and it was hard to tell how it normally sounded, or maybe he always sounded hoarse.

“We all dry up and float away like grains of sand on the wind one day. Until that day though, we live our lives to the fullest always hoping for the best, fighting for what we believe in, or what we don’t believe in. But death is not something to worry about. After death it is not that bad. Do not fear death, or your life will be eaten away by death before you even learn to live,” I turned slightly, fiddling with my hands, wondering if I would have to be old before I was welcomed Zedigrivikonola’s kingdom.

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