Part One: Silence
I looked at my reflection in the bronze mirror: short hair, oval face, and eyes the shade of olives. My other self touched the collar, slowly moving down the low kaftan with my hands. Light blue, the color of the Tur'ean sky, before the Two-Heads destroyed it and made it theirs.
The breast bands kept my chest flat. I look like a boy now. Relief flooded my being, filled me with an odd joy.
The sword gleamed beside the bronze mirror, shimmers of light along its long graceful edges. It was made for a lady a long time ago. I held it in my hands and it sang my name. Torin. Torin. Torin.
I sang its name back: Claritas.
Interweaving our lives together.
I grabbed the handle firmly with two hands and lifted it up in the traditional en-garde position, my body sliding automatically into the battle-ready stance.
The Two-Head reared up in front of me, a baleful shadow come to life. Two horse-heads with hate-filled eyes, on top of a thin body, black-furred and clawed. It wantedo crush the life out of me, moving and sounding like an enraged earth-stallion, snorting and whinnying. What kind of Beast are you? I think, blocking its strike with Claritas.
The shock of the impact ran my arms and I grounded it, just as Nikas had taught me. Immediately, I stepped away swiftly, the Two-Head shrieking its defiance. It lunged and I found myself blocking another strike. More shocks - my arms were starting to ache. I held onto Claritas, its blade shining brightly against the malevolent oil slick of the Beast like a protective talisman.
Then the Two-Head made a mistake, falling back and trying to catch itself from falling. With a cry of rage, I plunged Claritas right in, stabbing its dark heart.
Blood spurted out, spraying me with its foul stench. The Two-Head screamed, clawing at its wound, its two mouths open in pain and anger. I could see sharp teeth. They are not horses.
It turned around and ran on all fours, more like a canid than an equine. I stood, breathing hard, Claritas green with the Beast's blood. It will be back. With its kind.
Posta di Donna.
The woman's post. Nikas said with a smile, but he was determined to make me learn. I felt angry and disappointed with myself. Why am I not flowing with the drills? I was awkward, clumsy, like a wooden marionette.
He put me through another grueling exercise, rapping at errant limbs with a long stick. My sword arm trembled, agony in my elbow. I hated my hair and longed to cut it off. One day, I promised myself. One day.
The Two-Heads attacked the farm later that evening, razing it to the ground. Nikas died defending me. His blood was on my arms, staining my fingers. Hush, don't struggle, I said to him, desperate to save him. I was only fourteen and he was my mentor. Take Claritas, he breathed and his eyes rolled skywards. For a long time, I didn't move and it was only when the blood had cooled, I woke from my daze. I kissed his cold lips and buried him under the trumpet flower tree. We used to have so much joy under its abundant pink blossoms. The wilted flowers covered the earth in a sickly pink carpet when I walked away.
I traveled light these days. Claritas is my constant companion, my sword-bond. I had my haversack and a change of clothes. Nikas taught me foraging and I hunt my own food, harvest my own wild greens. The small creek I had just visited has ferns with delectable young fiddle-heads, delicious tossed with wild garlic. Silvertrout provided the protein and added texture.
Back when Tur'ean was peaceful, Nikas brought me on walks where he taught me all about the plants and the animals. Those were the happiest days of my life. Now I wander alone.
I was heading towards the Main City where the stark-ships ply their trade. Perhaps they will have use of a sword-fighter.
That's a pretty sword, the man appraised me with a curious eye. A lady's sword. But you are obviously not a lady. The scruffy men behind him snickered. Girly boy.
My master's gift, I answered, hoping I sound like a boy with his voice unbroken. Ah, the man is tall, looking like Nikas, with a hooked nose and a steady gaze. Captain Dellos here. Yours?