Chapter 10: The Image Shatters
The guard at the command tent, who stood with the new mage general Morolo, was a young sergeant Michael knew from his own legion, a man named called Huff.
“Sorry, sire, but this meeting is for you and the king only, per his orders,” he said. Michael noticed the man’s hand on the hilt of his sword. He looked over to Morolo, who stood tall and plain-faced.
“Stay here, Sharona,” Michael said. “And give me the mirror.”
Sharona shook her head. “No. We can go in and show him together… then I can leave.”
“Just give me the mirror and I’ll show Johan. You’ll be fine here. Nothing’s going to happen to you protected by an entire army.”
“It’s not me I’m afraid for,” Sharona said sternly. She clutched the mirror to her chest.
“What’s gotten into you?” Michael said, stepping away from the command tent a few paces.
“It’s the same feeling. Like waking up from a dream, and you can’t remember the details, but you knew you had a dream. There’s something here I’m supposed to do…” She turned away from Michael. “But what? What is it? Why can’t I remember the dream.”
“You’re acting mad,” Michael said. “Well, madder than usual. Would you just give me the mirror, please? You can trust me, I won’t do anything to it, and neither will Johan. He needs to see. He needs to know.”
Sharona looked into his eyes, her own wet and trembling. Tentatively, with shaking hands she gave Michael the mirror. Michael smiled and nodded as he took it.
“There,” he said. “I’ll be right back. I promise.”
He went back to the command tent, forced another smile to Sharona, and went inside.
His brother was there waiting for him, sitting at the large table with stacks of paper surrounding him.
“You summoned me, Johan.”
“I am your king,” Johan said, looking up.
“Not yet. You know that.”
Johan chuckled softly. “True. But do you hold me as such.”
“Good to hear. I suppose we shall soon know, though.”
Michael approached. “I have uncovered evidence that Queen Alanrae has created or at least participated in the conspiracy to kill our father and your future father-in-law.”
Johan had a strange, empty look on his face as he said, “General Butler.”
“Yes. Queen Alanrae traveled to, or communicated with, the realm where the assassins came from. They are dark elves, and their world, if you wish to call it that, is here but separate and hidden, which allowed them to infiltrate our lines and escape without a trace.”
“Are you sure they were not mages?”
“They might be mages in addition to what they are, but I got a very good look at them… sire. They were not human.”
Johan stood up and paced slowly by the table. “What about Towler.”
“I… might have been wrong about him. Someone did betray us at the battle, I am certain.
“And what evidence do you have of Queen Alanrae’s part in this conspiracy?”
“First, we had testimony that she visited the village of Havara, where lies a needle ash.”
“A special tree. It exists both here and in the realm of the dark elves, and through that connection you can move objects, or perhaps people, between worlds.”
“And you know people can be moved?”
“I believe they can be moved.”
“You don’t know.”
Michael shook his head slowly. “I do not know. I do know objects can move between realms there, and that we, that is the dark elves and my party, could see each other in the vicinity.”
“A good queen may visit many parts of her kingdom.”
“But under the circumstances, it is suspicious.”
“I cannot act on suspicions alone, Michael.”
“I know. That is why we sent an enchanted mirror to the other side, which would allow us to talk to whomever possessed it. Here it is.” Michael put the mirror down on the table. It reflected the candlelight dimly.
“Hello?” Johan said, raising an eyebrow to the mirror. “It merely looks like a dark, poorly made looking glass. Are you sure it talks?”
“It needs to be held by someone on the other side,” Michael said, picking up the mirror. We were waiting for… for the woman to bring it to somebody else. Shadathal.”
“I should know this name?”
“No, but the mirror must still be in transport. We’ll be able to see more in it at some point. Somebody who speaks Common Mid-Verbeian.”
“Have you seen one of these dark elves?”
“I have. Not half an hour ago.”
“Interesting. Still, you must understand Michael, that I cannot-”
“There’s more,” Michael said desperately. “The queen’s perfume. It was on a book detailing the dark elven language.”
“Her perfume. Now the queen puts her perfume on a book?”
“It rubbed off from being held, just like her perfume rubbed off on me, when I kissed her hand.”
Johan stood staring at him, his mouth drawn tight. “I don’t remember her ever wearing perfume.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “I think I understand what is happening, though.”
“I’m trying to protect you.”
Johan shook his head. “No. You are being manipulated.”
“That mage of yours.”
“I trust her. So should you.”
“Why do you think I sent her away?”
Michael felt suddenly on the defensive, seeing his brother look at him with his calm, dark eyes. “You sent her away because she helped me at the battle. Just like Angelico.”
“Angelico was discharged for insubordinate speech… but I was hasty with him. I was wrong, but I didn’t discharge him or any of your officers because they fought for you so bravely. I discharged them because they practically threatened a mutiny. They demanded you be reinstated, or they would resign and take their knights home with them. Father likely would have come around in a day, but such actions harden his heart. Your mage was discharged because she spoke dangerously about you. Said she had dreamt of you. Towler told me. We took the appropriate action. I have a duty to protect my blood, Michael.”
“Maybe she’s a bit odd,” Michael said slowly. “But she’s brilliant and loyal-”
“She’s loyal to her desire for you! Do you not see that she’s infatuated with you? That she’s trying to possess you for her own?”
“That’s not possible.”
“I told you not to be naive, Michael, but that it seems will always be your flaw. You trust too willingly. You believe too quickly. This woman has been manipulating you, to make you believe that your betrothed, nothing less than the Queen of Ferralla, is evil and murderous. She is sabotaging peace and a future family of great strength for her own wicked desires.”
Michael shook his head and sighed. “No, brother. The evidence is clear.”
“Clear as this mirror? Tell me, Michael, have you seen this mirror reveal anything outside of her presence?”
Michael thought for a few seconds. “No, but others have seen images in in.”
“That’s not what I asked. Tell me this, do you – do you – remember what the queen’s perfume smelled like?”
“No, it was Sharona who smelled it,” Michael said. He felt suddenly confused.
“Who did you think the traitor was? Honestly.”
“Did Sharona start suggesting it was the Alanrae?”
“Yes,” Michael said.
“Do you see now?” Johan said. “I didn’t believe her capable of this level of manipulation, or I would have had her disposed of before now.”
“What do you mean, before now?” Michael said.
Johan turned his chin up, grim faced. “I have to protect my brother.”
Michael turned to run toward the door, but Marolo and Huff were there, and the sergeant had his sword already drawn.
“Is it done?” Johan said.
“Yes, sire,” Marolo said.
“What did you do?” Michael said, he put his hand on his sword and his right foot forward.
“Don’t worry about her,” Johan said. “She cannot control you anymore. That is what matters.”
Into the tent burst another soldier, sweaty and heaving.
“What is it?” Huff said, not taking his eyes off of Michael or his hand off of his sword hilt.
The soldier took a big breath.“We found them sir, just where it was said. If act quickly…”
“Excellent,” Johan said. Despite his brother’s fighting stance, he approached and laid a hand on his shoulder. “We have been at work, Michael. The queen assisted Marolo in devising a way to track these mages, who are experts at illusion magic. Apparently it leaves traces behind, which another mage can detect, and we have finally picked up their trail.” Johan looked at the soldier. “They were heading to village Lasheri, then, as I thought?”
“Yes, sire,” the soldier said.
“See, Michael?” Johan said. “They were from Structania, to which they now flee.”
“Trying to disrupt the peace process, sire?” Marolo said.
“Countries exhausted by war are good targets for conquest,” Johan said. “Let us go, then, and meet the bastards. I want to take this blood myself.” Johan walked back to the end of the table and began belting on a sword. “Will you come with me to kill these assassins, Michael?”
Michael was still frozen in his fighting stance, but the tension around him had seemed to dissolve. Was Sharona really controlling him, manipulating him, this whole time? He looked at the mirror on the table, which shined as any common one would. Of course, he had said the queen had no reason to kill the king… but Structania was ruled by an old and historically ambitious family, they would have every reason to disrupt peace… Michael thought of Sharona, and her strange face, and her refusal to leave him. She was upset whenever he mentioned Alanrae… of course, how could he be so naive?
“Yes, I’ll go, my crown prince,” Michael said. “I too desire the reckoning, for our father and for our general, loyal to the last.”
“Good,” Johan said. “Is your horse ready?”
“Calot is well-rested, and the best of the best. But what about armor?”
“No use against a mage anyway,” Johan said. “Besides, the steel I need is the killing steel.”
Michael nodded, and Johan followed Huff, Marolo, and the tired soldier out into the night. Michael hesitated a moment, then grabbed the mirror off of the table, compelled by a strange pang.
Michael looked around, but he saw no Sharona and no sign of struggle. Maybe she slipped away. She’s clever, he thought, surprised at himself for wishing her to be free and unharmed. He felt a small tug on his heart of worry, but pushed it away.
They rode into the wind, heading south toward the village of Lasheri, which was at the edge of the plain, two days’ walk or more from Forgoroto, but still distant from the border with the kingdom of Structania. The moon was high and full, illuminating their horses as they galloped over the endless grass.
Michael felt an odd sense about the ride. It felt good, in a way, to be atop Galot with an eye for battle, but the expedition still seemed odd. His thoughts strayed to Sharona and the fearful looks she gave him just hours prior, the fear she held in her dark eyes.
She was merely afraid of being found out, he told himself.
After midnight the party, made up of Michael, Johan, Marolo, a group of mounted battlemages, and a mixed cavalry troop, was spread out in a wide line. They slowed as they approached a tree-lined river. Drooping willows and hemlocks swayed in the wind as they came nearer, and Johan called a break to water and rest the horses for the final push to Lasheri.
Michael slowed Calot to a walk, patting his heaving neck, while he watched the stars, bright and clear.. The wind calmed down, and without it rushing in his ears, and the pounding of hooves, Michael could hear at last the men around him talking to each other. As he entered the deep shade of the willow trees, he notices something. The leaves and drooping branches around him were lit softly from below. He looked around and realized he was alone, but he could hear still the other knights.
He saw after a moment the source of the light: his saddlebag. Twisting around, he opened it and pulled out the mirror. It was, in the deep dark under the trees, glowing brightly with an image of several dark elves, all talking in their strange language.
“Hello?” Michael said, casting a glance around. About thirty yards away he could see two knights that were dismounted and leading their horses to a wide, moonlit stream.
“I see you now,” said an elf sitting close to the mirror. His features were sharp and pronounced, with a high prominent brow ridge and long ears. His face was clean shaven, and his jaw, though slighter than a man’s, was square.
“Are you real?” Michael said. “Shadathal?”
The elf laughed and looked to another sitting near at hand. Michael could see they sat in ornate chairs of carved beechwood, and were in a stone building of some sort. “Yes. Should we not ask you the same thing? Are you real, or merely a clever a bit of magic?”
“I thought… “ Michael said, trailing off. Sharona isn’t here. She can’t be enchanting this mirror. This is all real. So what about the queen? Is that real too?
“I was told this was important, not merely a bauble for our amusement.”
“Yes,” Michael said, turning back to the mirror. “Three nights past two of your people assassinated two men.” Michael watched the face of the elf go slack. “The escaped back into your realm. I sought them, for…”
“To exact your revenge?” Shadathal said.
Michael hesitated. “To bring justice.”
Shadathal looked to the other elves around him, two males looking to be of equal stature and age. They talked quickly in their language. Shadathal turned back. “What else do you have to add?”
Michael thought for a moment. “Did you see a woman, a human woman, who either passed into your realm or else talked to you the way we are now? Her name was Alanrae.”
The elves talked for a moment. Shadathal said, “We do not aim to meddle in human affairs.”
“You meddled when your assassins killed my… my king.”
“We ordered none to do this,” Shadathal said, his eyes curiously looked to his companions. “But we know who might have. We will deal with this affair on our own, with our own justice for such acts.”
Michael breathed quickly. Beneath him, Calot moved, sensing the tension in his heels. “Can you tell me about the woman, for our justice? I believe she hired these assassins. If not, who did? Whoever did so would have to have appeared in your realm in some form.”
“Describe the woman.”
“She has long, dark hair that curls, and wears fine dresses. Her eyes are blue. She’s very beautiful, and a powerful mage.”
“I know this woman. She is not known as Alanrae here. Does that satisfy you?”
Michael hesitated. “Tell me one more thing. Did she wear perfume?”
Shadathal chuckled. “Yes, actually. She smelled like a stag’s sex glands. We have remarked over it in the past, that humans must have dull senses to pile on and tolerate such strange stenches, though we would not say that to her face. Saying something would offend our own sensibilities.”
“Thank you, Shadathal,” Michael said. “I appreciate your candor and your honesty. These are virtues to men.”
“To all free people such are virtues, though your memory of them be but an image of what once was.”
“I’m going to put you away now, but can you keep the mirror near? The new king will want to see you, if you are willing.”
“I suppose I am,” Shadathal said. “This is the turn in which we reflect with our friends.”
“Very well… sir.”
Shadathal smiled and nodded. Carefully, Michael put the mirror in his lap and rode over to where he saw the knights assembling, looking for his brother, but as he milled through the men, he could not find him.
“It should have been much simpler, Michael. If only you had stayed home, like you were supposed to.”
Michael looked up and saw, on the other side of the river, Johan flanked by a number of dragoons, crossbows in hand.
Michael picked up the mirror and held it up, letting the image shine outward. “I have it, Johan! They will confirm that it was the queen. I don’t know who we’re chasing, but it’s not the true assassins. Where did you ford the river? Let me come over and show you.”
Time seemed to slow as Michael watched the dragoons raise their crossbows and fire, a wave of bolts flying toward him. Calot reared and the volley struck the horse, thudding into his flesh like hailstones on a canvas tent. The beast did not cry out in his death-throws, but collapsed down onto his knees, allowing Michael to dive off. With horror, Michael watched Calot roll over, pierced with more than a dozen bolts.
In a heartbeat, Michael was up, his sword drawn. The knights on his side of the river were running toward him or attempting to mount up, clearly not expecting Michael to have survived the volley of crossbow bolts. Everyone was shouting.
Why? Michael thought as he ran for the cover of the willow trees behind him, hoping to avoid another volley. Johan is trying to kill me!
A knight jumped over a fallen log and brought down his longsword in a stab. Michael, lacking any other impediment, pushed the tip to his side using the back of the mirror. The sword slid past Michael’s body and into the stump of a tree. The knight continued his forward momentum. Michael turned the tip of his own bastard sword up. It bounced off the kight’s vambrace and Michael pushed hard. The tip found purchase in the gorget, and with a sicking pop broke the mail there and slid up into flesh, biting the inside of the knight’s jaw and skull. Blood poured out of the wound as Michael rolled back, allowing the knight to fall to the ground, gurgling.
Michael leapt to his feet to face another attacker. Quickly finding his feet, he pivoted his hips and leaned forward, bringing the mirror up near his right hand as a buckler. The knight attacked and Michael quickly knocked away the blow and countered, driving his sharp point into the man’s thigh where his chauses, meant for riding, hung awkwardly to the outside of the leg. The man collapsed to one knee, and Michael leapt away, diving through branches as he felt more bolts hit all around him.
He could hear the pounding of hooves, but knew there was nowhere to hide. He needed to get to another horse and flee – it was his only chance. He ran for the next cluster of brush, thinking he could make the men dismount and fight him.
“What it is going on there?” came the voice of an elf. Michael turned over the mirror to see the face of Shadathal staring back. “I’m being attacked.”
“Do you know any connection lightweaves?”
“Do you know linking magic? You can use the mirror to pull yourself to this realm.”
“I’m not a mage.” Michael ducked under a sword swing as a knight rode past. Hastily, he stabbed the horse’s back leg, causing it to falter and throw the rider, it’s leg suddenly without strength.
“How did you enchant this mirror?”
“I didn’t!” Michael attacked the knight from the horse even as he was struggling to pull himself upright, hindered by his plate armor. Half-swording as best he could while holding the mirror, he thrust into the man’s groin. The tip slid through mail and jack easily, and Michael jumped back to avoid a countering sword-swing, knowing the wound would keep the knight from running after him.
He was almost at the next heap of brush and fallen trees, but stopped as two mounted knights pulled in front of him, lowering their spears. Michael dropped into a fighting stance, knowing he could do nothing against the lances but unwilling to die.
He started and fell backwards as a huge wall of dirt erupted around the horses, knocking one along with his rider down to the ground. The other spooked and bolted, carrying the rider with it.
Seeing the fallen knight struggling to get his horse back up, Michael attacked. The man was distracted and off-guard, his lance forgotten, but he was was still quick enough to draw his own sword. Taking a forward-leaning stance again, Michael edged in on the man deflecting a few longsword blows while trying to cut again into the man’s groin.
“Fire!” Michael and knight were temporarily distracted by the order. They looked to find the dragoons on the other side of the river firing another crossbolt volley, but this time the river was twenty yards or more away, and the troop still on the far side of it. They could see the mass of deadly bolts shooting towards them at immense speed.
The knight shrieked. Michael, in shock, stood silent, watching them. A bright light erupted and the bolts were suddenly on fire, falling in different directions as they burned. One struck the knight in his leg, and one his the horse in the flank, but none seemed to find Michael.
Michael turned about to see Sharona, atop Rabble-Rouser, stomp through the brush. Michael scrambled on the back of the horse and she snapped the reigns, pushing the beast through branches and mud and out into the open. Michael looked back to see more of the cavalry assembling, moving outside the ragged treeline.
“We’ll never outrun them with two on this horse,” Michael said. “Head for that river bend. We might be able to lose them in the crossing.”
“Are you hurt?” Sharona said.
“Just some scratches.”
“Are you still there?” came a voice from the mirror.
“Yes,” Michael said.
“Did you hear what I said about the mirror?”
“No,” Michael said.
“I said if you can weave the right connection, you can use the mirror on this side to pull you in. I can do the correct weave on this side. ”
“I can’t lightweave,” Sharona said to the mirror. “Whoever you are. Is there any other way?”
They both ducked as they heard the whistle of bolts being unleashed from behind them, falling wide. Michael looked off to their left and saw horsemen fording the river and charging up a gap in the bank.
“The only other way is to have an object of permanence from this realm,” Shadathal said. “And to have a deep command over it’s nature.”
“Damnit,” Michael said. “We’re going to get cut off. Head to the right there. Toward where the river dips down.”
“Michael, do you still have the coin?” Sharona said. “The coin the girl gave us?”
Michael reached into his pocket and felt the smooth, mirror-like surface of the large coin there. “Yes, it’s here.”
“I’ll have to try it. Here!” She turned Rabble-rouser to the left again, galloping toward the closest trees. The sound of pounding hooves grew louder. More bolts flew – wide, again, though Michael could feel some hit the ground around the horse.
The pair ducked under some branches and Sharona reigned in rabble rouser.
“Quickly, give me the coin,” she said, turning back.
Michael reached in his pocket and found the coin. As he handed it to Sharona, the horse bucked, frightened by a bolt of fire slamming into a nearby tree. Michael fumbled the coin and it fell into the brush below.
“Damn it, I forgot about the mages,” Michael said.
“Give me the coin,” Sharona said emphatically.
“I dropped it,” Michael said, already sliding off the saddle and dropping into the long grass below.
Frantically, he searched through the long blades and small shrubs below the trees, but couldn’t locate the coin. Sharona threw her hand out above him and turned back what looked to be a large ball of fire.
“Find it, hurry!”
Michael jumped backward and Sharona dismounted. She raised a hand and instantly the grass in front of them leapt into blue-green flame. The grass twisted and curled as it burned in the magic fire. Amidst the flames, Michael saw a flashing of light.
“There it is,” Michael said. He threw his leather-gloved hand into the flames and picked up the coin, which was burning hot. Sharona held out her hand, but Michael held back the coin. “It’s too hot, wait a moment.”
Michael feld a dull thud in his ribs, followed by a terrible pain, and suddenly his breath was gone. He reached to put a hand under himself as he felt his legs give way.
“Michael!!” Sharona screamed. She reached into his hand and took the hot coin, crying in agony as she did so. She held tight onto Michael as she repeated strange words.
With a strange bloom, their surroundings changed. The grasslands were replaced by rich trees, the willows changing to ashes and yews, the hemlocks to tall pines. Michael saw his pursuers, close at hand, fade into shades.
One knight, close at hand, suddenly burst into clarity, appearing as if made of mist. He thrust a lance downward and Michael, summoning what strength he could, popped himself off of the ground and dodged the point, which landed just under his aching ribs and caught in the dirt. He abandoned it and drew his sword as he edged his horse around.
Sharona screamed in pain again, and as she did, the knight faltered, his horse bucking. Soon his screams and Sharonas were mingled, and he fell off the horse, scratching at his body like a man possessed.
Michael rolled over, feeling the arrow in his ribs catch against the ground, struggle against flesh and bone, then break. The knights continued screaming and pulled his helmet off. He started scratching at his face and the jack hood he wore. Michael got to one knee and dove forward, thrusting the point of his sword at the man’s neck. It landed, then after a moment of resistance, plunged inward. Michael collapsed again, panting, as the man died.
“Sharona,” he said, feeling a pain so intense in the left side of his ribs and back he could barely tolerate taking a breath. “Sharona, where are you? Are you alright?”
“I’m here, Michael,” She panted, crawling over to him. He saw her face above him, stained with dust and tears.
“Thank the gods.” He felt her arms wrap about him, and heard her sobbing, shuddering. It made the breaths hurt worse.
“I’ve failed you again,” she said.
“Let go, Sharona,” Michael said. She pushed herself up, then gasped as she saw the arrow wound in his ribs.
“You’re hurt,” she said.
“Pretty bad,” Michael choked out. “I think… it got past the ribs… and… maybe not the lung, though.”
“Let me see if I can get it out,” Sharona said, trying to pull the cloth of his jacket away from the stub of the arrow.
“No,” he said. “If you just pull it out, it’ll…. break the seal of my diaphragm… I won’t be able to breathe.”
“You already can’t breathe.” Sharona began to sob again. “It’s just like the dream, gods help me…”
“Get… a grip. I’ll… tell you what to do. Just… get me on my side.”
Sharona nodded and rolled Michael onto his good side, wincing as he groaned with the pain.
“That’s better,” Michael said. He looked off into a wide, verdant forest. The trees, he realized, glowed of their own soft, comforting light.
“Just as second.” Sharona pulled off her own coat and rolled it up. She placed it in the small of Michael’s back. “Is that better?”
“Yes. The arrow has to come out, but something else will have to go in. At least… until we can get to a proper Nosteran Cleric. Otherwise, the barb will just work its way deeper.”
“Alright,” Sharona said, wiping her cheeks with the sleeves of her dress. “What do I need to do?”
“Get a firm piece of cloth, something as tightly woven as possible. Or leather from a waterskin, if you can manage.”
“I have one of these cloths,” she said, holding up one of the dusty handkerchiefs from the library.
“It’ll do in a pinch. You have any paper to wad up in it?”
“Yes, hold on.” Sharona stood up and returned with the library book, which she ripped a page from.
Michael nodded. “Wad it up and wrap it with the cloth. Try to make a nice little long log of cloth and paper. When you pull the arrow out, shove that in. That’ll stint the bleeding and we’ll be able to get it out later when it’s time to cauterize the wound.”
Sharona took a knife from her belt and cut away the jacket and Michael’s shirt, revealing his bloody ribs. She grabbed the arrow and pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. Michael twisted and groaned.
“Use your boot.”
“Are you sure?” Sharona said.
Sharona stood up and put her boot on Michael’s ribs by the arrow stump. She pulled up with all her might and the arrow came free. A fresh rush of blood came out. She grabbed the little cloth bundle, but stopped as Michael grasped her hand and rolled forward. More blood came out, staining the green grass underneath. Michael coughed, then nodded.
Sharona pushed the cloth up against the wound, but it wouldn’t go in. She rolled it tighter and tried again, pushing hard with her thumb until it went into the wound. Michael writhed a little, but didn’t scream as it went in.
Then, he took a deep breath and screamed through gritted teeth. He took a few more ragged breaths.
“So much better,” he said.
“Really?” Sharona said. “You lost so much blood.”
“The space between my ribs and lungs was filling with it. It was getting hard to breathe. I’ll be better now, but we have to get the wound cleaned and closed in the next day.” He rolled back on his side and put a hand out onto Sharona’s leg. She grasped it in both of hers and started sobbing again.
“I’m sorry, Michael.”
“You saved me. Don’t apologize for that.” He took a breath. “I thought you were dead or captured.”
“By whom?” Sharona said.
“I ran away as soon as you went in the tent. I knew right away they wanted something with me.”
“Johan… It was always Johan. He convinced me so easily… How could I have doubted myself so? I’m sorry Sharona, I betrayed you.”
“How, exactly, did you betray me?” she said.
“I betrayed you in my heart. I chose not to believe what was true. I chose… I chose to believe a man without honor, knowingly.” Michael frowned. “Someone is approaching.”
Sharona picked up Michael’s sword and turned, her eyes blazing and ready for a fight.
This post is part of a project to write and publish a book in a month, as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you enjoy this story, consider buying my other fantasy novel The Water of Awakening, of which this book is a companion or sequel.