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The Razor: Blood and Snow

By Paul Herrington All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

Blurb

Amanda was called the Razor by friend and foe alike, and was fated to never die in combat. Stricken with an agonizing illness, the only relief from her savage pain was the adrenaline rush associated with equally brutal battle. She had accepted for a long time it was her purpose to kill. Trapped in a hurricane and wounded she seeks absolution from a healer who is willing to listen and chronicle her story. Born of a barbaric people, she recounts a tale of survival and sorrow. In that past, raw forces of the universe collided to shape her destiny and the future of her world. Pushed to the limits of human endurance, the Razor helps guide her peers to survival. From the savage rite of the Wolf Pit, to an encounter with a mighty relic, again and again the Razor is pitted against forces well beyond her control. Through determination to survive she persists, despite meeting an imprisoned demonic entity that tries to manipulate her for it’s release. Fighting a powerful sorceress and her army of foul servants and being confronted by her insidious nemesis, Alabaster Ravenhawk, the Razor must finally face her own regrets to triumph over a diabolic evil.

Chapter 1: The Night Song

She was called the Razor and was fated to never die in combat. Stricken with an agonizing illness, the only relief from her savage pain was the adrenaline rush associated with equally brutal battle. She had accepted for a long time it was her purpose to kill. It was only recently as her affliction grew stronger and her blade harder to wield that she questioned what she had done with her life.

It was midday and the rain pelted her without much care, soaking her long maroon cloak so that it seemed to weigh a thousand pounds on her weary shoulders. As the Razor stumbled down the dock toward the slave ship she tried to tune out the burning in her lungs and focus the blurred edges of her vision. Under her cloak she gripped the hilt of her sword, ignoring the small rivers of water rolling down her face. Her aim was to stay conscious long enough to find her destination. She could feel her shattered lungs becoming agitated and stifled a cough behind her free hand and moved forward, reading the ship names.

When her gray-green eyes saw the proper name through the downpour she altered her direction, tilting her head down to keep the water out of her face. She coughed again once she reached the gang plank but did not break her pace, still keeping one hand on her sword while the other gripped the slick rope. She did not come across the country to slip and fall to be crushed between this ship and it’s dock. The wood of the ship groaned as it bobbed up and down in the angry storm and she took a pause once she made the deck to adjust to the rhythm of the motion.

The deck was deserted because of the storm, and that made it easier for her. With single-minded purpose she made way to one of the cargo hold loading doors set in the deck. The rigging of the sailing ship jingled with the relentless wind, and a flag that had not been properly secured rippled angrily a few feet from the deck. She stopped at the doors, feeling the tingle of white spots on the edge of her vision. She tried to take slower, deeper breaths, and coughed once harshly, covering the sound with the back of her hand. She pulled it back and saw a few drops of blood on it. Under the cloak she scowled, letting the rain wash her dark blood from the back of her wrist.

Before she lost her motivation, she leaned down and pulled the left side of the heavy cargo door up, then got her shoulder under it. With a groan she stood up and pushed with all her strength. The half of the doors she was opening flew loose but in her efforts she lost precious air and then control of her balance. Without much grace she slipped down holding the door’s edge and landed on her thigh opposite where she had her sword hung.

As if the edge of the cargo door was a mountain, she climbed up it, to look over it’s edge to see what was below. She could smell the misery of human waste, fear, and sweat. It was the smell of people crammed into too small a space. Through the haze she could see small faces looking up to her, blinded even by the brighter light of the clouded day above. They were chained to each other, grubby . . . no filthy. . . and they each had the same sort of fearful expectation that the doors had been opened for some terrible purpose. Yet what made her jaw clench and her anger boil was the fact that they were all children.

The Razor climbed to her feet, one hand on her sword under her cloak once again, the other trembling slightly as she used it to balance herself. She turned while she rose from the deck looking toward the aft of the ship. As she had suspected the loud crash of the cargo door opening had attracted the attention of the owners of the ship. One of the first guards plodded toward her in the gray rain unaware that he was marching steadily towards his appointment with death.

It began as it always did since she had touched the artifact’s power and received her curse: a slight tingle at the back of her neck. She referred to it as the “Rage” as if it was an old unwanted pet. It seemed to have a life of it’s own, and when battle neared it started in her neck and moved out, a tingle at first. Then it warmed her and tickled her instincts, making her ready for the combat that was coming. Then the pain went away, the sickness temporarily forgotten and dead, and along with it any other wound or fatigue was washed away like sand on a beach.

“You there! Intruder!”

She pushed her maroon cloak off her sword arm and the garment slipped to one side as a cat might dodge behind an owner’s leg to get out of the way. Under the cloak she was dressed in tight leather armor died the color of blood. Her dirty blonde hair was just long enough for a tight inch-long pony tail in the back. Her skin was the pale color of sickness and the scowl on her face was unpleasant.

“Bring me the keys to the chains,” she commanded sternly.

The guard saw her sheathed weapon and the seriousness of her face and decided to pull his own sword out to deal with the threat. In the back ground she could see three or four others coming now, apparently aware she was armed and not where she was supposed to be.

The Razor’s bad feelings slowly bubbled inside her, often making her hands shake ever so slightly at first. Then the bad feelings; fear, anger, envy, hatred, and anxiety; merged as one and became a power. That power leveled out in her hands and senses as she saw everything with incredible detail as the world around her decelerated. The Razor’s motions did not slow, only those things around her slowed while the Rage was with her.

The guard had not listened to her and was raising his sword in a threatening manner. She could see the drops of water on his stubble- covered chin, the dirt under his fingernails. The thump of his pulse in his neck was visible to her as well as the stern and confident look in his eyes. Maybe he was just someone caught up in something beyond his control, or maybe he was aware of his role in enslaving these children. Whatever the case, he was about to answer for the choices that brought him here.

The rain that had been coming down so hard and fast was suddenly just slow moving huge drops in her vision. Her short blade, no more then two and a half feet long with a slight curve, came from it’s sheath when the lightning strike on the dark gray-blue sky began. On what seemed a painter’s backdrop the ardent silvery bolt ripped silently over the clouds echoed by the glimmer of her arching steel anger.

The Razor’s blade curved under his raised sword, the keen edge hitting him just behind the thick of his wrist. The crimson splash of his blood contrasted with the angry sky behind him as dozens of droplets filled the air rendering the rain invisible with contrast. The lightning caught up with it’s destination and thunder competed with the guard’s shrill cry of pain as his severed hand smacked the ship’s deck with his unused sword.

“I said ‘Bring me the key to the chains’!”

Her voice was no longer filled with the shredded sound of illness, it was much clearer when she spoke to him a second time. And as three of his companions came forth brushing past him, the Rage took over and pushed any semblance of the illness away. Perhaps they saw the pallor of her skin, or maybe they thought because she was a woman she could be handled. Possibly they even considered their numbers an advantage, but what ever it was that made the guards perceive they could win, it would not be enough.

She let the first charging victim’s momentum do the work. She rotated the blade in her hand and raised it. She could have impaled his torso with it, but she would need it for the others and did not want her sword stuck in the brute. Instead she let the tip pierce the edge of his neck. He could not stop his bull rush, and she pushed her arm forward until the victim ran the length of the angled weapon. The closer he came to the hilt the deeper the honed edge sliced into his neck. An inch from the hilt she felt the steel meet the bones in his neck and push between the cartilage there. A fountain of blood splashed over the side of her face and she knew the man would be dead about the time he hit the wooden deck. She rolled to the left using the first attacker’s body as a shield while she started her first swing against the remaining two.

The Razor took the next man’s ear off in her swing, and while the sudden and sharp pain distracted him she followed up with a wide arch that removed his leg at the knee. Blood mixed with rain and she dodged the last victim’s spearing thrust. Unable to get a good swing on his torso, and her blade still pointed down she made a quick hack at his ankle sending him sprawling backward. She ducked his next wild swing and opted to raise her weapon and then sheath her sword between two of his ribs. When the combination of the victim’s weight and her thrust made the hilt meet bone the Razor pivoted back on one leg and pushed him off her blade with her free hand and her knee.

Others were coming, but she directed a deadly stare down to the first who clutched the bloody stump that used to be his hand. He had slipped and fallen on the bloody and rain drenched deck among the others who lay dead or dying. As she had seen countless times his eyes were filled with fearful remorse for misjudging what the Razor was capable of doing.

“The keys. This is the last time I tell you.”

She turned her sights back to the next attacker, blocking his sword with ease, punching his nose with her free hand and sending him stumbling back. The next tried to grab her from behind and for his efforts he received her elbow in his face. She pivoted slightly pushing the man at her rear to her right flank and used him as a shield against the third that had charged with a harpoon. The harpoon impaled the second attacker while the Razor twirled her blocking sword from the man whose nose she had broken. She ducked the hard swing of a fourth attacker who instead hit the second man who had tried to grab her from behind, finishing him off.

With a silvery flash she drew her dagger with her free hand and slashed it in a short curve hitting the jugular of the man with the broken nose. The man with the harpoon let go of his weapon to draw a sword. The Razor shouldered into the dead man and made a sweeping motion with all her might. She decapitated the harpoon user, and took her sword in a full one hundred and eighty degree swing while she went into a crouch. She hit the fourth man’s shoulder in that swing, and shoved the dagger high, entering the soft spot between two ribs and hitting his heart.

She glared over to the man she had deemed to be the one who would fetch the keys to the slave’s chains. He began crawling backward on his elbows to escape her glare, his arms slipping frantically in the blood covered deck the rain seemed not to be able to wash away. It had been less than a minute and seven of his comrades were laying in a circle of dead or dismembered. The bodies were piled around the Razor as if she was some vortex of death.

Other attackers were coming for her, but she could see the initial man’s face knew what was going to happen. His eyes held the knowledge that no one on the ship was going to stop her and those that did attempt that would be quickly and efficiently dealt with. The Razor could see in his eyes his main concern had shifted now: if he was going to live through this he needed to find and get her the keys to the chains.

The pain in her chest was a blurred afterthought as she jerked her head to the right quickly and made her neck pop before the next would-be assailant arrived. She realized they would think they could win by numbers and that negotiation and parley was a wasted effort. So she gave into the Rage and let it overtake her.

Seven, maybe eight, slaver guards attacked her. Her blade went more rapidly than even the Razor could have hoped for, and after a blurred two minutes they were all dead. The deck of the ship was covered in a deluge of gore and the circle of bodies around the red dressed figure had grown even deeper. The fight was so fast the Razor could only vaguely remember performing a decapitation and three amputations in her symphonic sweep of death.

It was taking too long for the keys, so she grit her teeth and marched toward the direction where the one handed messenger had fled to find them. On the way to the aft castle a door popped open and a man with a crossbow fired a shot at her. She didn’t flinch as the felt the bolt pass through her long wet cloak, missing her body. The guard dropped the crossbow and tried for a sword on his hip but as she walked casually past him she thrust her blood-drenched blade into his abdomen, sending him to a slow slide to the floor.

The Rage directed her to find another opponent and she did not wait long. The first door she opened was of an empty cabin. Turning to go to the next door she found two more guards. She swept from left to right sending a geyser of maroon into the air. She planted the dagger under the chin of the second man until the hilt shut his shocked mouth. The dagger stuck there but she let it fall to retrieve later.

The second door yielded results, and she ascertained the situation quickly. The one handed messenger was holding his stump, talking to another man wearing only pants. The bed was tossed and upon it was a girl of no more than twelve seasons. The young girl’s hands were chained together, her dress unbuttoned and in a bunch to her hip on one side. She looked frightened and scared, her concern not with the Razor but of the two men. As she took a step back her dress fell back into place.

The girl glanced up to the intruder with bloody weapons. Her black eye spoke of resistance and beyond fear. A look of dirty shame spoke of being a victim. She crossed her arms over her still girlish chest and tried to be invisible. The victimization of the girl-child urged the Razor on, anger and furry boiling over to a place few had ever seen.

The one handed man pulled a dagger from his belt with his good hand. He had managed to tie off his stump to slow the bleeding, but now he acted a fool again. Cornered and afraid he did what any animal would do: he charged the threat because he had no place else to run.

The Razor shifted the sword in her hand and took it with both hands and with all her might swung. Behind it the put the force of her anger at the slavers who were also apparently child molesters. She hit one-hand just below the right knee and cleanly sliced through it until she hit the left knee, which slowed her swing until she went through. The one handed man, now legless, tumbled to the deck in a twist of agonized screams of torment.

Footsteps behind the angel of death alerted her to arriving help for the remaining slaver. She stepped to the left in time for a bolt from another crossbow to pass her and hit the shirtless man in the upper thigh. Irritated at the interruption she pulled another dagger and flung it at the crossbow man piercing him through the left eye. She went back to her primary task.

The shirtless man was reaching for a weapon, but the Razor was upon him as a whisper of mortality. She flashed her weapon, and removed his right eye, and in her return sweep caught the back of his bare heel cutting the tendons there and rendering him cripple. He tumbled to the ground alternately clutching the leg, then his eye, forgetting about the bolt in his leg.

The Razor glared at the young girl, “we’re leaving.”

The shirtless man managed to calm himself and try and salvage the situation, beginning with, “Who. . . ?”

“Silence. Give me the master key to the slave chains,” came the chilly reply.

“This is my ship and. . .”

The blood soaked intruder viciously planted her sword tip in the meat of his uninjured thigh and twisted, bringing his words to a sudden halt if for nothing but to allow him to cry out incoherently.

“This is no longer your ship. It is mine, and I want the keys, now,” she commanded, the emphasis on her last word.

“Go to Hell! I won’t. . .”

She snarled and hit him in the opposite thigh beside the bolt stuck there, this time deeper and with a stronger twist. The man again yelled out in agony, his eyes rolling to the back of his head for a moment. When she pulled her blade from him the bolt came out as well, along with a pitiful whimper of tired pain from the shirtless child molester. The realization this could be more painful and protracted apparently crossed his mind.

“I am not a chained little girl. Now, the keys or . . . again,” she gestured with her blade. Frightened he looked over toward the dresser. The ring lay there waiting, and she picked it up with the tip of her blade and tossed it across the bed to the girl.

“Unlock yourself. We need to free the others and leave.”

The girl removed the chains and stood. She glanced over to her former captor, and then after brief consideration she hit him in the head with the chain and shackle. The Razor dared him to respond to the girl’s attack, but he was smart enough to know better than that. The young girl spit on him once for good measure.

“Now, where is Albaster?”

“I don’t know who. . .”

The flat of her sword made a thunderous pop on the side of his head.

“Where!?!”

“The old keep on the north side of town. The one with the damaged tower,” he explained quickly. Blood from the one handed and legless companion pooled around the shirtless man as he lay sweating and panting in pain.

The Razor leaned on her sword hilt and drove the blade through his heart. He twitched as she removed it, and the girl looked on the sight with shock. She had been one moment captive and the next free in the most unlikely manner. Sensing indecision, the Razor reminded her, “the others need to be freed. Let us go to the cargo hold, can you help?”

“Yes,” the girl said, and began to move. The Razor took the lead and stalked back out into the rainstorm, stopping only to gather her two daggers from her victims.

If there were any more guards on the ship they were in hiding. She stepped over the bodies and dismembered pieces careful not to slip in the gory water every now and then glancing back to the young girl to make sure she was still following.

The Rage was subsiding now and here was where the Razor would pay the price. Her breathing became more gasping, and the lack of air in her diseased lungs brought white spots to the edges of her vision. The sword was sheathed before she dropped it, for it was suddenly very heavy. Her muscles cried out in protesting cramps at being used so vigorously.

She paused at a mast and leaned on it, coughing furiously. She felt the bloody pulp that was the remains of her lungs come up into her mouth. Unceremoniously she spit the tart and metallic mass out and much of it hung on her chin and she struggled to breath.

The slave girl asked, “You are wounded?”

The Razor waved the question off with one hand, unable to push enough air to her voice. She coughed again and felt the burn from her throat down to her belly and her hands felt numb. Straining to focus, the Razor took a deep drag of air and used the shear force of her will to speak and not cough up more blood.

“Unlock them all, tell them to run from here,” she managed. The Razor grabbed her new comrade’s elbow and used it to keep from falling down while steering the girl toward the cargo hold. A few more minutes is all she needed to finish the task at hand. Then she could rest before finding Alabaster.

“You must be bleeding, your face is so pale,” she commented. She reached out and touched the Razor’s side and pulled away her hand covered in blood, somewhat startled.

“Worry not child, it is not mine,” the Razor assured her. She gestured to the access door where the woman-child obediently disappeared with the keys. Below deck the voices of the children began as a low tide then picked up in volume and frantic chatter. It was only moments later they came as a heard of wild animals from the hold.

From the large loading doors and the service door the children ran, and for their lives. There was no pause to look at the dead bodies or ask silly questions. They brushed past the pale woman with a maroon armor, tattered cloak and gray-green eyes. The Razor was a ghost, unable to offer any more help now. Her mind was slowed down by a lack of air and she was caught frozen in mid-thought, a grain of sand in the sea of children.

She stumbled away toward the gangplank after they disappeared, rasping and coughing. Her ears rang, and the oldest of her healed wounds ached from long ago. It was the disease that wore her down making her weaker and weaker every time she had to fight.

Despite the rain, which still came in torrents, the Razor lurched forward. She did not know how far she had traveled, only that she was off the docks and into the town again. She told herself she could keep on if she did not slow her pace. . she was moving steady. She laughed at herself. . . it wasn’t steady, it was really barely walking. The low laughter brought the first of what she expected.

She began coughing and blood erupted like a fountain from her mouth as she gagged and choked on it, fighting for air that her lungs would suddenly not accept. The unnatural feeling of drowning in open air panicked her and she clawed at the air with one hand and her chest with the other. The rim of her vision was filled with white spots over a growing blackness.

She jerked awake, realizing she had passed out. She was on the ground, in the gutter in a heap like used up garbage. The humility of it made her cry softly as she urged her muscles to begin moving. Cold rainwater had pierced her armor and soaked her to what she thought was her very bones.

She tried to get up but her own body might as well have been a mountain. Her neck burning, she let her head fall into the ground. The right side of her face lay on the ground, her nose and mouth just above the draining water. She considered how pitiful that the world’s foremost warrior was laying in the gutter to die like some abandon and wounded animal.

The prophecy of her curse was fulfilled: she had not died in battle. She was to die after battle, a used up and empty husk. A foot note of history, she was no longer needed because she could fight for only a few minutes and then she was useless for days. She cried, not from the pain of her shattered body, but at the frustration of being damned in this way.

There was nothing more for her here, and so the Razor tilted her face and let it slip under the cold water. If she was to die, so be it, she was too tired to deal with it anymore. The burning started, but she held fast, thinking her lack of strength might allow it to all end if her instinct to live would yield. She feared only that she had failed in her life.

Never give up!

Use the fear like a knife!

The distant words from a long ago far place tiptoed across her consciousness. In her mind she could see the swirls of past memories blurred out by her self imposed drowning. The thought that was clear was that she did have unfinished business.

Alabaster Ravenhawk.

The Razor lifted her head and coughed up the rainwater mixed with her blood. It occurred to her that her nemesis would very much enjoy the idea of her being dead in a gutter. He would be disappointed, she could not give him that sort of victory. So she used the fear like a knife, the fear of unfinished business prodded her. She made it to hands and knees. Minutes went buy as she coughed up the dead tissue and spat it out. Yet with the thought of the unfinished business she became patient and waited for it to subside.

She sat up, knees planted, and swept her hand across her forehead to slick back the loose strands of her dirty blond hair. Then the Razor looked about to appraise where she was in the town. It was a small market square, empty at the moment due to the weather. Across the way a stone rimmed well offered her the possibility of cleaner water to drink.

After a few minutes she forced herself to get up. A few muddling steps forward and she found her pace, really more like a falling forward in a controlled manner. She landed on the well’s edge bracing herself with her palms. She hacked again and spit to the side.

The Razor could call to her beloved horse and he would find her, but she did not have the breath for a call, or even his trained whistle. She pondered that travel would be better if she could ride him to her next destination.

She pushed the bucket over into the well and heard a distant splash. With a very careful and shallow sigh she began hauling the bucket back up slowly with the crank arm. While it came she thought about the next fight.

She needed the horse for certain, for she could probably do the job with her old and trusted hunting bow. It would be less stress on her body to pull a bowstring until she was forced to fight hand to hand. Perhaps then the aftermath would not be so harsh?

She considered this while turning the crank, and measured the shaking in her hands. It troubled her slightly to contemplate if she would be good enough to fight, but wasn’t that a given? She was, after all, the Razor, destine to never meet her end in battle. And, like many times she mulled over the possibility that she may not die in battle, but that did not secure a victory either.

She peered into the bucket once she pulled it to the edge. She saw a ghostly pale woman with purple rings under her eyes and bloody ichor smeared on her chin. A while back she would have kept her chin clean, but she gave that up until the tremors of her Rage ceased otherwise she would rub her chin raw.

Feeling the burning had abated, she took a bit of the clean water in her cupped hands and washed off the gritty dirt and blood. She tucked an unruly lock of hair behind her ear and grasped the edges of the bucket with both hands firmly, slowly letting her strength build back up. . .at least she hoped it would build back up. She closed her eyes and searched her memory for pleasant thoughts to clam her beating heart and soul.

So many of her memories were clouded with death, battle, and betrayals. She pushed past them and found bitterness that she had little else in her life aside from fighting. Just as she thought she should stop because such considerations made her heart beat faster and her breathing more shallow, she found a happy memory. She was about to embrace it when a voice interrupted her.

“The Emperor endeavors to locate you and ascertain your current intentions,” he articulated perfectly in her native language.

She opened her eyes and stared across the open well to the . . . being that stood opposite her. He appeared to be around five and a half feet tall, his basic body size concealed in elaborate black robes that fluttered silently in the wind. His skin was an inky black, his short hair silver and his eyes so pale blue they looked almost completely white. The lines upon his face spoke of an age not measure in years or decades, but centuries.

“I should have guessed it was you by the stale smell,” she uttered rudely in the common tongue of the land, refusing to honor him with her native language.

“Your sojourn to the countryside has done nothing to abate your contemptuous temperament,” the frowning counterpart replied in the common tongue. She regarded him with a grunt of disapproval, taking more water and cleaning her chin off.

The inky counterpart countered with, “now that our gregarious regards have been exchanged, perhaps you can instruct me as to what I may tell the Emperor of you current quest?”

“Tell him anything you want,” she coughed.

With one eyebrow arched he asked, “how would that be an accurate account of what you are doing here?”

“Since when did accuracy mean anything to you?”

“It would be pertinent to know the truth before I bend it to my will,” he intoned sarcastically.

“Honesty from you? I’m truly impressed,” she said flatly. She pulled out the first of two daggers she had used in the battle and began to polish the blood from it with a cloth she kept for such an occasion. The shadow remained, saying nothing more. Slowly she replaced the first dagger and removed the second, cleaning it as well. When the ancient creature before her did not show any sign of leaving she decided to answer.

“Tell him I’m freeing slaves,” she offered with no further explanation. She replaced the dagger and made a rattling cough, turning her head and spitting.

“His Majesty would suggest to you that slavers can be dealt with by local authorities,” he told the Razor.

She drew her sword and laid it on the edge of the well. Then she began cleaning it as well, trying to take her mind from her burning chest. She glanced up and saw the pale eyes were still patiently staring at her, awaiting a response. She was irked to have to make explanation for her actions.

“Silverwind, I have my reasons for being here,” she told him.

“The Emperor is only concerned with your health,” he uttered.

“I have been ill for a very long time, this is no different.”

“Why not argue with him regarding this matter?”

“I don’t want to argue with anyone. I just want to finish the business I have here and then. . .” she let it trail off while she turned the sword over and cleaned the other side.

“You have not been this agitated in some time,” Silverwind stated.

The Razor sheathed the cleaned off sword, saying, “Two firsts today...honesty and now genuine concern for me. I am truly impressed, you may well yet convince me you actually care for me.”

“Please don’t let the terrible secret be discovered by just anyone,” he countered, “your well being does have an important function in the Emperor’s inner circle.”

“If I tell you my speculations will you leave me be?”

“I can report them to the Emperor but I will not vow that he will not dispatch me to find you again,” he articulated.

“I have often wondered if all you dark elves are so dour and stubborn,” the warrior observed.

“Most of us are,” Silverwind replied with the shrug on one shoulder.

“I believe Alabaster Ravenhawk is behind the slaver network,” she let out suddenly. If there was any shock to her statement it did not register on Silverwind’s deadpan visage.

She slid to a sitting position, her back to the well, the sword in it’s sheath over her crossed legs. She kneaded her calve and ankle, the oldest of her long healed wounds that still ached on occasion. The short lip of the roof over of the well kept the rain off her while she waited for her strength to return to a level in which she could continue.

“Alabaster Ravenhawk died some time ago,” her companion finally replied.

“I did not kill him myself, and I never saw his body,” she said softly, her mind distant.

The dark elf circled around the well to stand at her side, and said nothing for a few minutes, as if waiting for her to go on.

Presently she added, “I have a cousin who says he saw Alabaster a few weeks ago near the city of Bulu. I have been following the trail since.”

“What evidence do you have that leads you to follow a trail?”

“The ship I just boarded and freed slaves from was called the Night Song. That was the name of the ship that lead the remains of his army away,” the Razor explained, looking into the distant past, remembering.

“The Night Song and the fleet it lead was destroyed in a hurricane,” Silverwind recalled.

“Like I said before, I did not kill him, and I did not see a body. A stack of ship wreckage washed up on a beach is not proof,” she defended.

“And?”

“Alabaster was fond of slavery as a means of power.”

The wavering dark shadow asked, “you speculate he would not adjust the designation of his vessel if he did reappear?”

“That’s why I believe it is him. It would be his style to be so haughty and think we would not notice,” she explained.

“Did you encounter him aboard the vessel?” Silverwind inquired, gesturing toward her bloody clothing with his long dark fingers. He knew the answer already, but the Razor was aware he would ask to prod the conversation forward.

“No. But I asked the captain politely where Ravenhawk was hiding,” she murmured as old thoughts came and went in her mind.

“Politely?”

Her answer was to look up at him without showing emotion.

“Do you believe the captain conveyed what you desired to hear out of apprehension?”

“He was afraid, but he spoke the truth and told me a location,” she revealed, “once more he used the old dialect when he talked which is another clue.”

“Your capacity for deduction is very logical,” he asserted with the tilting nod of his head.

“A compliment?”

“An observation.”

“I will deal with this myself,” she said, swaying back to the subject.

“I will advise the Emperor but that decision to intervene is his, not mine,” he reported.

“I really don’t like you sometimes,” she admitted with a scowl.

“You really don’t like me at all.”

“True,” she gave with a quick open palm wave of her hand. Then she closed her eyes and ran the same hand through her hair, holding her bangs off her forehead. She was still light headed but at least the brutal coughing episode had stopped for now.

“Is the Emperor still sick?”

After a minute she opened her eyes when Silverwind did not answer. He had vanished as he always seemed to do. It irked her that he had pried the information he needed from her but somehow managed to escape before she could ask a few questions of her own. Such was the way with the old warlock, and she did not know why she fell for it after all these years.

She closed her eyes once more and listened to the rain, dozing in and out of consciousness. Images of the battle flashed before her mind’s eye and she twitched every so often and came back towards being awake. She tried desperately to remember that happy time and place but it was lost now in a sea of the memories of battle and her planning of the assault on the keep with the ruined tower.

She would call her horse in a few minutes, and prepare. She just needed to rest. The Razor’s hand loosened on the grip of the sword in her hand and her head rolled softly back to the well wall. All the Razor needed was a few more minutes to catch her breath. Until then she craved some calming thoughts to level her breathing for the task ahead.

The thoughts she managed to come up with were of being warm and safe and carefree. They were of a time and place a distant thirty five seasons ago. . . when she was but a child. She remembered the cold air of her homeland, and the warm blankets that brought her comfort and peace. And with that, the Razor slipped into a deeper sleep, dreaming that place and time. . .

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