Descent Into Darkness Chapter 4

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Okay guys, I know it's a bit past Saturday, but I was busy damnit! Lol. And please, I know it's short, no need to rub it in. Vote, comment, fan, you know the deal. Thanks for reading!

Spedro leaped forward in a flash, much too fast for Ember’s eyes to follow. When she finally caught sight of him, his hand was raised into the air, the leader’s neck closed in his fist. The man’s feet dangled in the air, and his fingers scrabbled at Spedro’s knuckles. “We did not kill your healer. If I wanted to, I could kill you all within seconds, and suffer no injury.” he said, and then threw the man on the ground at his feet. “I do not believe in killing innocents, and was simply searching the man’s house for survivors when it caved in.”

The man coughed, and it took a moment for him to regain his breath. When he could finally stand with the help of the villagers with him, he rubbed his now bruised throat and tried to speak, but Ember had to pull the wind to her so it carried his now hoarse whisper. “I am sorry. But we cannot allow you to leave until we know what has happened here. Please, follow us back to our village and we will sort this out, peacefully.”

Spedro inclined his chin at the smaller man before him and reluctantly agreed. The men turned back for their village, while Spedro made his way back to the women, a small limp now visible in his gait. Ember flew forward when he was but ten feet from her, wrapping her arms around his large frame, her fingers coming nowhere near meeting at his back. “My love, I thought I’d lost you.”

Spedro dipped his head to kiss the top of hers. “While there is still air in my lungs, you will never be without me, come what may.”

Lindani’s voice broke into the moment, and Ember turned her head from nuzzling into Spedro’s shoulder to see her distraught look. “What happened in there?” she asked, resting her hand on her brothers shoulder.

Spedro sighed, and clutched his ribs a moment after. Both women started, but he waved them off. “I heard the supports give way. She,” he said, nodding to Ember, “didn’t move, so I guessed she didn’t hear it. I knew there was only one way to save her, which was to throw her out of the window.”

They nodded and he continued. “After I knew she was okay, I tried burrowing into the ground beneath the house, but I was almost too slow. The walls fell on me, while I was still halfway above ground. That’s what hurt my ribs, and when I twisted from the pain, I pulled on my ankle.”

Both women helped him to his horse, shooting looks at one another, and Ember voiced their concerns to Spedro in a whisper, so the men waiting for them didn’t hear. “We know it was Phoenix who did this, but they think it was we three. We cannot tell them he did it, because they will send men after him, and we cannot admit to it or they will attempt to harm us.”

Spedro looked back to the waiting men, and then to the women. “Give me some time to think. I will think of something.”

“Be sure that you do,” Lindani said, pulling the stirrup closer to his foot and helping him into the saddle. “Or we will be forced to defend ourselves from them, and that will not end well.”

Phoenix checked into the inn of the small village, drawing looks of suspicion from the few town folk in the streets. He paid his nights stay and left the inn, heading for the blacksmiths hut. Black smoke billowed into the sky from the buildings chimney, so he did not need directions from the locals, and the less he had to talk to them, the better. He did not want one of them to figure out who he was and alert the soldiers, or even to consider him a hero. Though the time when they would worship at his feet was fast approaching, that time was not now. He came to the blacksmith’s, and pushed the door open, expecting to find a man of large stature hammering away at bits of metal. Instead he found a slim, raven haired woman working the bellows, a sheen of sweat on her brow as she moved the large handles up and down, fanning the blazing fire. The wall of heat within the building washed over him and he instantly felt refreshed and rejuvenated. As though the heat woke up a part of him that he’d forgotten in Yaag, being near the blazing fire, next to Lindani as the firelight danced over her olive skin.

Mentally berating himself, he pushed the thought of her from his mind. She had no place in his new world, and he did not need to dwell on her. The woman noticed he had entered, and wiped her small hands on her leather apron before coming to greet him. “My name’s Jade. How can I help you?”

Phoenix did not offer his name, but simply stated his wish. “I need armor.”

The woman cocked her head to the left and raised an eyebrow. “What kind of trouble will you be getting into?”

Phoenix broiled inside. Who was she to ask his intentions? He could burn this city to the ground, along with every soul in it in a matter of seconds. He did not say this, but simply said, “my business is my own.”

“Not from around here, are you?” the woman laughed, turning from him and going back to the bellows.

He followed her, glancing at the tools hanging from hooks on the walls. Tongs, pliers, hammers of all shapes and sizes, and many others he did not recognize. He grabbed one, working its small lever, making the hook on the end spin slowly. “So can you help me or not?”

The woman grasped the handles of the bellows, and pushed them closed with a grunt of exertion. “I can,” she breathed. “But the question is, do you want a female blacksmith to make the very thing that will save your life?”

“Male or female matters not,” Phoenix said, still working the small lever. “Armor made correctly is still armor.” When Jade did not respond, he looked up to notice the woman had stopped working the bellows, staring at him quizzicly. “What?” he asked.

“Most in this city, and others who pass through, do not trust the workings of a woman. To place your life in my hands, woman’s hands, would be folly to some people in this village.”

“I used to fight alongside a woman,” Phoenix replied. “And she was the fiercest warrior I know of.”

Jade left the bellows once the fire was high, and grabbed the tool from his hand, hanging it back on the wall. “We women are an underestimated species.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow of his own. “Not by me.”

Pulling a flexible ruler from the workbench, she strode back to him. “If you say so stranger. Now, raise your arms and turn around.”