TEVERIUS - A Strange Child
“I’ve run these woods. Moving with the wolves, to get closer to you. Through the darkness of Ardae to get to you…It was all for you.”
-Serdephe said to Teverius one moonlit night before the glitter of the Netherlands.
Gilwynn Village, Netherlands (exiled for eight years)
Teverius swung his hatchets expertly. Moving both in a blur as he turned rapidly one way before, without warning, switching directions. Kicking as he turned. But the young man training with him had perfect footing and matched his movements. Only a hairsbreadth slower.
Still able to duck when needed. Dodge kicks and maneuver from the reach of hatchets. Sweeping toward Tev in-between and just missing as Tev twisted from his blades expertly. Light blue eyes glowing in the dim forest clearing. Long white hair catching light and making a heavy distraction to his movements.
Still the other man moved well. Fast. Very fast.
Because I’ve trained him since he was a child. Tev was proud of the warrior the starved boy had become.
He decided to outmaneuver him, and up the challenge. When he stepped to the side and turned to kneel. Zierno expertly caught his hair. Jerking it back and forcing Tev to a stop.
I hate that.
Tev swung his hand back and the hatchet moved behind him rapidly but Zierno was able to block it with a hatchet against the handle. Clacking as they stopped each other.
Tev tossed his other one up and heard Zierno shout an objection as Tev lurched backwards against him and his foot shot up to kick the hatchet. Forcing the blade to whiz past Zierno at such a speed that it brushed Zierno’s cheek as he ducked to the side.
“That one could’ve killed me.” He let Teverius’ long white hair go. “What the Hell?” He touched fingertips to his cheek and eyed the blood there.
“Perhaps you should not be so slow.”
“For a man that spent so many years training me I’d not guessed you intended to kill me all along.”
“That nearly took my head off.” Zierno pointed at the offending hatchet buried in the trunk of a tree.
“If I’d intended it to take your head off, it would’ve.” Tev turned and strode over to rip it out of the tree. Tucking it back into his waist band at his back with the other one.
“You truly are an evil Dread.”
Tev’s blue eyes hardened. “If I was evil, I wouldn’t have fed you for years.” He pointed in Zierno’s face.
“But you haven’t for years now.” Zierno defended.
“Because I taught you to hunt.” Tev strode over to rip his ax from the tree stump he kept it in.
Zierno grunted. Having no argument to beat that.
“You’re only still fast now, because I kept you well-honed over the years.”
“Oh, you mean your attempt to sneak up on me.” Tev gestured behind him. “It was a poor attempt and you know I can smell you coming.”
“I don’t stink.”
“I can smell a long way.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what you are?”
“You’re a horse’s ass.”
“I didn’t raise you to speak like that.”
“You didn’t raise me at all.” Zierno’s eyes narrowed.
“That’s probably true.” Zierno acknowledged. Walking to him. “Another fight well done, anyhow.” He held up his hand and Tev gripped it giving it a solid squeeze. “You know I’m thankful to you.”
“I know this.” Tev dismissed. Putting up a log to halve it. “Let’s not have a woman’s moment.”
“You’re so amiable a man.”
“That is why I’ve buried myself in the Netherlands.”
“I doubt that.” Zierno said shrewdly.
Don’t go probing now, Boy.
“Go find your warriors, Starved Boy.” Tev sent him away. His head shooting up.
“What do you hear?”
“I don’t. I smell. I told you.”
“What do you smell?”
“Someone on the road.”
“From Gilwynn?” Zierno asked.
Zierno looked baffled. “Who’d be this far out?”
“If I knew that,” Tev shot him a withering glower. “Would my face have looked so shocked?”
“I thought that was how it always seemed.” Zierno shrugged and walked away.
Tev hefted a sliver of log and hucked it at the back of Zierno’s head.
He spun instantly and cut it in the air.
Faster than any other human. I’m certain. Tev thought proudly.
Zierno straightened with a dirty look. “I’m going to find my Mist Mare.”
The fabled creature he’s been hunting for years.
Teverius nodded absentmindedly. Still focused on the foreign scent on the road. He sat down the axe and decided to wander closer to the road to check it out.
Teverius was not one who succumbed to compassion often. Since the day he’d failed to protect the map he’d isolated himself from the others by retreating to the Netherlands. His heart hardening over time. The isolation of the Netherlands was peaceful. And he guarded the border of Battling to keep Firoque from filtering into Grier.
For a few fortnights now, he’d caught the haunting laughter of a child during his moonlit walks. What in Ardae is a child doing at this border? He wondered.
This must be her. He was careful to keep his distance as he walked within the treeline parallel to the road where she strolled. He wove soundlessly through the trunks.
Cimmerii stalking me might see her as a snack. He worried.
He trailed her step to Gilwynn Village. He’d intended to go today anyway, to get his favorite sustenance.
Honey. And bread from the baker. His mouth watered at the idea.
He was so focused on the treat, he realized he’d lost her. She’s incredibly quick and quiet for a child. He noted
He jogged to catch up. Spotting her purple hair rounding a bend in the road.
As he neared, he heard children laughing. A malicious sound that made his stomach coil. He’d heard that, when he was a child. Often.
He’d been outcast for his strangely slender build amongst the shorter, broader bunch common in the Upperlands where he’d grown.
I’d all but forgotten that. He grimaced at the memory.
That laughter echoed in his ears now.
He ran around the corner. Jerking to a stop when he saw the purple haired girl get shoved into a pool of mud. She already had several clumps matted in her hair. And a purpling bruise on her cheek. They were throwing mud and rocks at her.
He shifted his weight. Feeling his back ripple with the urge to change into a beast and chase off the tiny bullies.
But she was already shouting at them from the puddle they’d pushed her into. “Why are you picking on me?”
“Cause ye’re a Dread Witch. Look at ye! Me da says ever’un knows yer mum is the old crone. She sells potions. And…” He trailed off and they all started laughing robustly.
She leapt to her feet, angrily. Stomping in the puddle.
“Look at ye!” One of the boys was uproarious. “Pathe’ic as a drown rat!”
Tev already stalked toward where they clustered on the dirt road. But as he neared, he glimpsed her strange eyes glowing with turquoise light. Her pupil outlined in electrical currents.
The water around her feet swirled in a whirlpool which rose around her legs. She lifted her hand and muddied water separated into four strands. When she waved in a circle around her, those strands reached to smatter the faces of each of the boys.
Tev jolted to a stop and smothered a laugh at the loud objections of the dancing boys, who now tried to shake the mud off.
She threw her head back and laughed wickedly. “Come play with me another time. I’ve had great fun!” She waved a hand away from her and mud pried loose from her skirts to smatter the boys. Pebbles and all.
They cried out at the onslaught and fled.
Tev backed away, grinning and shaking his head as he dissolved back into the trees. No ordinary child, apparently.
He laughed as he passed her and headed into the village for his bread.
Tev ripped off chunks of one of his loaves as he waited for the girl to return to the road, guessing she needed to return to wherever she came from.
She appeared and he walked aside her, in the trees. Savoring the sweet softness of the bread.
He glanced up and found the road empty. Where’d she go?
He looked back then forward. Ill-equipped to bump into the child directly.
She peered up at him with impossible violet eyes.
She looks faintly familiar. He dismissed the ridiculous idea. The only little girls he’d known had been the watcher girls. And they’re all dead now.
And none of them had purple hair.
Clearing his throat and glowering at her, he moved to go around her.
But the impudent child stepped back into his path. “Who are you?” Her commanding voice sounded more the clarity of an adult rather a child. “I always see you on this path.”
“I used to find it peaceful.” His tone was scathing as he scowled at her.
“But now I’m on it, you don’t?” She challenged his rudeness.
“Who are you?” She demanded as if he were intruding on her path.
“I’m one who prefers the peace of Dread Country to the bother of children!”
“Your hair is strange.” She eyed the white mass down his back. “It glows in the dark.”
“Nearly.” He acknowledged acidly. “Your hair is strange. I’ve never seen such odd purple hair.”
“You’re in Netherland Country now.” She shrugged. “Does your white hair help you blend with the sorcerers?” She probed. “You know Dread Hideout is near…”
“Sometimes.” He moved to go around her again.
This time she let him. “I feel you on this road.” She said to his back. “All the time.”
He turned on his heel, head lowered dangerously. “What in Ardae, do you mean?”
“I know when you’re out here. That’s why I came out today. I know your energy. It wakes me. You’re meant to know me.”
I certainly am not! And I’m not going to.
“You think you know much for one so small.”
“I know many things.” She said sagely. “You’re supposed to be protecting me.”
The Hell if I am.
“How do you figure that?” He gritted his teeth, making no effort to conceal his derision.
“Well somebody is supposed to be, and it certainly ain’t her.” The girl gestured to the shack. “So, it’s you.”
“Ha!” He laughed coldly. “I protect no one but myself child. Move along.” He gave her a dismissive wave toward the path. He spun, boots crunching over twigs as he aimed for his hut. Prepared to give her a severe dressing down if she tried to follow.
He felt the girl’s eyes boreing into his back.
Rude whelp. He was nearly snarling. His earlier impressment extinguished with annoyance.