Disclaimer: This is going to be a long story. The longest that either of us have ever written. So if you want a little PWP, you might want to look elsewhere. This story will have violence, sex between consenting adults who just happen to be female, and a few swear words. In Canada this would get you a rating somewhere around 13+, but I think it would get an R rating in the States. We crave feedback. Please send any constructive criticism or just a note to say hi, to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
In the Beginning there was Thanla, the Earth Mother, and Kuthus, the Sky Father.
After a time, they had a son whom they called Korgon.
He was their first-born and was doted upon by both mother and father. After a time, he begged for playthings and his parents created humans for him. Korgon enjoyed their attention, and would appear to them in the shape of a horrible black dragon, demanding their worship. He became known as The Dragon God, feared by even his own followers.
Time passed. Thanla and Kuthus had other children but every time they created playthings for them, Korgon would command his people to destroy what his siblings held dear. He hated his brothers and sisters. He hated that he was not the only offspring anymore.
The other Gods complained to their parents about Korgon but Thanla and Kuthus just nodded and said they would talk to him. But, nothing ever changed. Eventually, Korgon decided he should be the One Supreme God and murdered his parents and banished most of his siblings from the lands he ruled.
The exiled Gods and Goddesses found themselves weak and with out any power. At a loss, they looked to their eldest sister for guidance. She was a tall woman with silver hair who ruled the moon and the stars, holding very little interest in the affairs of the earth. But after a time, she grew weary of her siblings' complaints. She told them she would do what she could and that they must be patient. For the first time, she peered in on her brother's lands and was disgusted and shocked at what she saw. And for the first time, after looking at the poor creatures he so mistreated, the Goddess knew pity and decided to intervene.
A woman being beaten down into the earth caught her attention. This woman, despite all the horrors that Korgon's priests visited upon her, had yet to be broken. Down to her last breaths, she still resisted and the Goddess knew for the first time, pride. Thus it was that Selene became her first Chosen.
With a gasp, Luna woke up to a world gone silent.
Her dreams had been filled with fire, blood and death mixed with a bitter cold. Shuddering with the horror of them, it took the Warrior a few moments to remember where she was and what had happened. The small fire that Torrin had lit had gone out sometime during the night. Cautiously, she shifted, trying to examine the space that she was in without waking the Mercenary. The snowfall had created a roof in the brambles above them, shutting out all light except for a small opening where they had crawled in. Even that was only a few hands across. Thankfully, it had stayed open or they might have suffocated during the night.
It was warmer in the little den then she'd thought possible, but she was still glad for the bedroll and traveling cloak wrapped around her. Tentatively, the Warrior touched the side of her body, probing the sword wound. The skin around it felt hot and dry to the touch, while the wound itself was still sticky. Luna sighed quietly, stretching out on the bedroll as best she could. Her muscles ached, not surprisingly, considering what her body had gone through the day before.
For the first time since the previous dawn, she allowed her mind to reflect on what had happened.
Abnoa Castle had been taken. Now, nothing stood between the Southern Army and the Queen's City. When spring arrived, Khelin would be able lead the army into the heart of the northern tribes and wipe them out, one by one. It was a stark and horrible reality awaiting the North. And it was her fault.
Turning her head to the side, she swallowed against the ache in her throat. She was all that remained of the Warriors, her tribe. Sadness infected her soul; all those dead and yet here she was, alive. She shouldn't be. She had been given the leadership over the Warriors; she should have fallen with her sisters.
I betrayed their trust. Not only did I fail them, I live while my sisters died.
The blonde turned her head to the side, disgraced by the memories of the day before.
After a moment, she pushed the thoughts away and looked around. With only dim light streaming in through the small air hole, Luna couldn't tell what part of the day it was. But it was just enough glow for her to make out her companion in the small hideaway. The sight of the woman next to her only served to underline her dishonor; she had made a deal with a mercenary. A wave of agony washed over her as she pulled the recently scabbed over wound in her side when she tried to sit up. With a gasps of pain, she curled around the wound, squeezing her eyes tightly shut.
Blissfully unaware of the suffering and internal conflict going on with Luna, Torrin softly snored away. Her arm was thrown over her eyes, exposing the mark of the Mistress of Shadows branded into her shoulder. A picture of a snake wrapped around sword. As cold air took over the space that had been occupied by Luna's body, Torrin frowned in her sleep. Squirming slightly with discomfort, she cracked an eye, looking around her. Not seeing any immediate danger she was slow to wake. She sensed dim lighting, cold air, and silence. Sadly, it wasn't a dream; she really was back in the North.
Hearing Luna's moans, Torrin sat up abruptly. As she leaned over her, she gently touched the woman's back to let her know that she was there. "Shhhh, what's wrong?" Her voice was thick with sleep and she blinked rapidly as she took stock of their hiding place. She noted the dead fire and the blanket of snow above them.
"Nothing," Luna lied, taking a deep shuddering breath, "nothing." This time her voice was as calm and devoid of emotion as the Warrior could make it. "My parent's place isn't far from here. We could make it if the snow storm has died down," she said, trying to force the conversation onto safer ground.
Torrin frowned at the obvious lie, but thought better of pushing her. There was no point in caring. Luna was only a client. After she led the woman to safety, they would part. She doubted an honorable warrior like Luna would even want to remember this moment of weakness in her life.
"Fine, that sounds like a good plan. Let me check on the storm." She turned away from the Warrior and fumbled with putting on a heavier tunic over her sleep shirt. She crawled over to the small opening and peeked outside. It was white, blindingly white outside. Snow still fell, but not as heavily as the night before. They had been lucky that the winds had kept the snow from building up in drifts. At least they wouldn't have to dig themselves out. Crawling outside a bit more, she looked up at the sky. She wasn't positive, but she thought another storm was coming, maybe by nightfall.
She pulled herself back inside shaking the snow off and brushing her hands roughly through her snow-laden hair. As she sent the wet drops flying on to the bedrolls, she spoke, "I think we can risk moving on."
Not looking over at her, Luna nodded in understanding. She was busily trying to figure out a way to wrap the bedding around her torn and sore feet.
This is the second time you have humiliated me, Khelin. The next time we meet, I will kill you.
Luna looked over at the Mercenary, peering through dirty and tangled blonde hair. "Do you have a dagger?" she said slowly, holding out a hand to Torrin.
"Oh, um, yeah." Looking at the warrior suspiciously, Torrin asked, "Why?"
"I need boots." Luna motioned towards the bedroll she had just slept on.
"Oh, well I got you clothing..." Looking around the enclosure, she found them still piled where she had left them last night, "but I guess I forgot boots."
Luna picked up the clothing, thankful to have more than just the cloak to keep her warm. A small teasing grin formed on the Warrior's face as she looked back at Torrin. "What? You're afraid to give me a dagger?"
Torrin glared back. "Of you? Hardly. The dagger is under my side of the bedroll." Torrin wasn't going to feel guilty for questioning her, Luna was a warrior too, and she would understand paranoia…hopefully.
With a soft snort, Luna reached under Torrin's blankets, arching an eyebrow as she pulled the long dagger out. With a glance towards Torrin, she started cutting up her bedroll.
"The winter snows have finally come. That should keep Khelin and her army stuck at Abnoa for the winter." Using her teeth she helped tear thin strips of cloth off, to use for binding, then kept talking. "We can rest at my parent's place. Then, when I'm healed we can go North, to the Queen's City."
Wincing as she twisted the wrong way, the taller woman started wrapping cloth around her feet as makeshift boots.
"Hold still," Torrin grumbled as she leaned over to help make the boots. "Just so you know, I'm adding a new bedroll to your tab." As she grabbed the cloth, she muttered something under her breath about the 'sheer stubbornness of Northern barbarians'.
Relieved not to be twisting her side, but determined not to show it, Luna let Torrin help. The blonde was worried about how tired that simple act had made her. "Don't worry, the treasure will pay for it," Luna sighed then closed her eyes against a small wave of dizziness.
"It better." Torrin tried to make her voice sound gruff, but she was worried. She could see how much simple actions were hurting the tall warrior.
"There, all done," she gently patted the bundled foot. "I'm not positive, but I believe another storm is coming in, so we should probably get going. I'm worried about the wound on your side. Do your parents have a medical supplies?"
Luna stared at the Mercenary that had just helped wrap up her feet. In that moment it was hard to believe that this small, dark-haired woman was a Southern Mercenary.
"We'd better be going then," Luna said quietly, studying Torrin's face intently.
Torrin's gray eyes slid away, uncomfortable with the scrutiny. "Yeah, we better get going."
She moved over to her pack and started repacking for the hike out. She paused when she reached for her bow.
"How are your hands?
"Fine." Luna tugged on her makeshift boots, trying to make them as comfortable as possible. Her feet were going to hurt enough as it was. Satisfied the boots were as comfortable as she could make them, the Warrior set about doing something to keep her long hair out of her face. Disgusted with the dried blood tangles, she gave up combing it without a bath first.
"Why?" The blue-eyed blonde asked as she used a scrap of leftover cloth to tie it back.
Torrin warred with indecision. Finally, she gave in to common sense and shoved the bow and the quiver of arrows at the woman. Luna would be better suited having it since Northerners were lethal with the weapon.
Luna stared at the bow thrust at her. Her fingers trembled slightly as she reached towards it, and then clenched them into fists. She shook her head, leaving the bow in Torrin's hands.
"I don't use a bow anymore," and if there was a strained tone to her voice, Luna told herself it was just because she was wounded.
"What do you mean, you don't use the bow? Torrin asked incredulously. You're a northern type barbarian. You folks pop out of the womb with one of those things in your hand."
Luna's eyes darkened and her face went completely still. "I just don't. Let's get moving." She scooted over to the opening, forcing her way outside.
Torrin clenched her fist in frustration. "Fine," she spat.
She reached over to her pack and the bow and arrows. Leaning over her things, she grumbled to herself, "Should have left her stubborn ass tied up. I must have been suffering from a bout of insanity when I agreed to this."
It wasn't as cold out as Luna had feared. Although, making a quick scan of the sky and taking a few sniffs of the wind, she decided Torrin was right. Another storm was on the way and would probably hit them by nightfall.
The Northerner took a deep breath and immediately winced as she pulled apart the skin of the raw wound in her side.
Dammit! I keep forgetting about that.
After a bit of rummaging around the brush, the warrior managed to find a decent enough stick to use as a cane.
She called back to the hollow. "We better go if we want to make the cabin by nightfall." Luna held no illusions about how fast she could move with her feet in the condition they were in.
The snowstorm had transformed the area around them, turning the pine forest into a world of white. Luna stilled, remembering how she loved the first snowfall of the year as a child. There had always been snowball fights and forts to build. More than a foot of snow had fallen overnight and by the scent on the wind, more was soon on its way.
Torrin grunted, pushing the pack and then herself out of the hideout and into the snow. Standing up, she brushed the flakes off and slung the pack over her back.
She shoved the dagger into Luna's hands. "I hope you'll at least take this and use it if we get in a tight spot."
The dagger shoved into her bare hands startled the warrior from her reminiscences and she scowled at being caught daydreaming.
"I'll think of something, if it comes to that," Luna muttered darkly. After a quick glance about to orient herself, she mumbled, "It's this way" and started to limp northward.
Torrin said nothing and walked next to the taller woman. She grimaced as she tried to make her way across the snow. She knew there was a trick to walking in snow, but it had been too long ago for her. Even with her thinking light thoughts, she still sunk into the drifts causing her to stumble every once in awhile.
She hated being cold. Cold air snuck inside her nose freezing it. Snow was still falling, covering her clothes falling against the skin and melting down her back. Her mood became darker as they traveled and she tried to keep thoughts of her mother and the treasure in her mind.
Even the slow pace set by Torrin began to wear out Luna. Every step became torture to her wounded feet, and the gap in her side burned with the exertion. If she hadn't been injured and exhausted, the trip through the forest might have been pleasant for her. She had often traveled through this very path from the Castle to her parents' home. This time, though, she couldn't wait for it to be over. The Warrior could only pray to the Moon Goddess that she would have the strength to make it.
Several hours after they had left their hiding place, and having exchanged only one or two words the entire time, Luna sat down heavily on an uprooted tree. Her breath came in harsh pants, making small clouds in the cold air. "I have to..." Luna took a deep breath, "take a break."
Torrin stopped, saying nothing, knowing that Luna would not appreciate any comments. Warriors were funny like that.
"You want some..." Oops, she almost had done it, asking if Luna wanted 'help'. "Um, water?" she finished lamely. Torrin stood awkwardly shifting in the snow looking at the tall pine behind them.
Luna glanced up sharply at the Mercenary, her breathing starting to slow down. She kept a hand pressed against the wound in her side. Suspiciously she slowly nodded her head, not sure what it was that Torrin had almost asked, but certain it wasn't water.
Torrin handed her the water skin. "How much farther?" she asked noticing that the snow was picking up a little. She hoped it wasn't much more. She wasn't relishing the idea of carrying the exhausted, taller woman.
Thankfully, the blonde took the water skin, swallowing several gulps of water before wiping off her mouth with the sleeve of her purloined shirt. Wordlessly, Luna pointed ahead of them towards a small hill that seemed to rise upwards. She, too, had noticed the snow beginning to thicken, but she just had to rest. Her feet were now in constant agony.
"How come you left?" She found herself asking the Mercenary in her usual 'subtle' fashion. The question had been bugging her all day.
"Left what?" Torrin echoed, not really paying attention as she took the skin and tilted her head back for a drink.
Luna watched her closely, again noticing the strong resemblance between the woman and the Castle musician, Tyra. "Why did you leave the Castle? Why did you leave your tribe?"
Torrin choked on the water. Coughing, she spit the excess into the snow. "Isn't it obvious? Look at me."
"You were still born into the tribe," Luna said stubbornly, as if that fact settled all arguments or disagreements about where Torrin should have been. As far as she was concerned, it didn't matter what Torrin looked like. So what if she was smaller than any other member of the tribe? Had dark hair, gray eyes and darker skin? She was still the daughter of Tyra of the Air Clan, and by birth, a member of the Earth Clan.
"So, I was born in Abnoa. Everybody, each day of my life let me know that I didn't belong there," Torrin nearly growled. She didn't like thinking about why she had left, and she didn't like to remember her life at Abnoa. In the ten years she had been gone, she had tried her hardest to forget she had Northern blood.
"Perhaps, but you are still a Northerner," Luna's face twisted into a mockery of a smile, "or a barbarian, as the Southerners call us. Come on, it isn't far."
The Warrior forced herself to her feet, leaning heavily on her cane and set off towards the hill. The wind was beginning to pick up, sucking the heat from them both.
"Yeah, I know I'm still part barbarian. Every time I spend too much time in the sun of the south, my skin reminds me of it," Torrin replied, shaking her head to clear out the dark memories. Then she gave a small smile and said, "Great. I'm glad were almost there because I'd hate to have to carry your ass the rest of the way" as she started to trudge up the hill.
Luna simply smiled and shook her head, too tired to spare any more breath on banter. Instead, she focused on setting one foot in front of another up the hillside.
The cabin wasn't visible until they were practically on top of it. It was cleverly tucked away in the pine trees, built into the side of the hill itself. The snow had covered the sod roof, leaving only a faint outline of it behind. No smoke rose from the simple chimney and the porch had a thick layer of pristine snow on it.
Torrin shifted from foot to foot waiting for the other woman to catch up. The air had a heavy weight to it and it was unusually silent. But after 10 years in the Southern plains, she was more use to noisy marketplaces and crowded towns. She had forgotten how isolated the Northern clans were from each other. As Luna crested the hill, she turned towards her and asked, "So, your folks around?"
Ignoring Torrin's question, the warrior cleared a path to the front door through the drifts of snow.
"Home," Luna said simply, moving down from the top of the hill to the simple wooden porch. The flurries of snow that had pestered them all afternoon was steadily turning into a raging storm as the wind picked up once again. "Come on, let's get inside." After unlatching the door, she shoved it open, revealing the darkness inside the cabin. It wasn't much. A sitting room, a small kitchen area, and two bedrooms that were actually tunnels dug into the side of the hill.
Following Luna inside, the Mercenary asked again. "So, are your folks around?"
Luna shook off her makeshift boots outside the door, shutting it behind them both to keep out the wind and snow. The oil lamp was right where the warrior had left it the last time she had been here. Soon she had the light lit, illuminating the small sitting room. Blue eyes avoided Torrin as she headed towards the small kitchen. "They're dead."
"Oh...I'm...um, this is a real nice place." Torrin shut her mouth before she could add anything else that sounded so stupid.
She set her pack down and shook the snow off her clothes the best she could. Quietly, she followed behind Luna. "I'd like to take a look at that wound in your side. It needs to be drained and cleaned again, maybe even stitched. I would have last night but I wasn't in any shape to be sewing anybody up."
Luna grunted and pulled out the dried rations wrapped in bundles from underneath the washbasin. A thin layer of dust covered everything, paying silent testimony to how long it had been since she had been here. A few movements got the dried wood in the stove burning and water set upon it to boil. "Here," Luna offered a ration bundle to Torrin, "I'd rather have you poking around in my side when you've had something to eat. Can you light a fire in the fireplace?" tilting her head towards the fireplace in the main sitting room.
Torrin floundered at the request, feeling slightly bewildered. By the Moon, what was she doing here? She was... she was insane! She'd been stricken by a bout of noble-ism, run off from the Hawks with half-dead warrior on just the promise of treasure and ... "What? Oh… fire, yeah, I can do that." She stepped forward taking the offered ration bundle. "Uh, thanks," and then shuffled back out of the kitchen still wondering about her sanity. Taking deep breaths to center herself, she muttered as she poked and prodded the fireplace. She added more wood and kindling and then leaned inside of it to check the flue.
Blue eyes watched her leave, glad for the respite from more questions. Quickly, she gathered up a few things, set a pot to boil water for soup, and made a mental note that they would need to visit the nearby well soon. Only when Luna was certain that the Mercenary was still busy with the fireplace, did she crumble against the roughhewn table. Closing her eyes, she struggled to keep her buried feelings from taking control. She had cried enough when they had died. She would not cry again for something she could not change.
Just as the fire began warming the cabin, the tall Warrior emerged into the sitting room with two mugs of tea.
"Here," handing Torrin a mug. Wincing, she sat down in the chair that Fengold had made for her when she was young. Now that they had arrived safely at the cabin, she was at a loss as to what to say or how to act around the Mercenary.
Briefly tearing her eyes away from the dancing flames, Torrin took the mug without comment. Sipping it slowly, she sat for a while longer, but soon began to fidget. It was too quiet for her. Just the stillness and the quiet popping of the fire, no sounds of loud drunken women, nickering of horses or quiet conversations among her Pack mates.
She waited a moment for Luna to say something to end the silence, but soon gave up. "So, that wound in your side... I should... ah, are there any medical supplies here? I have some, but not a lot." Dammit! She was a mercenary, by the Goddess! She was silent and deadly killer. Her mere presence caused fear in most women, but here, surrounded by silence, trapped in a tiny cottage, she was a stuttering idiot.
Luna jerked in surprise at the sudden break in the quietness. There for a second, she had forgotten she wasn't alone. Tired blue eyes looked up from the flames to meet Torrin's gray eyes.
"In the back store room, next to my mo ..." her voice cracked slightly, "my mother's armor." Standing up, she winced as she put weight on her feet once more. "Can you see if there are boots in there, too? I think I left a pair."
She hefted the dried rations. "I'll get us some soup to go along with these."
Happy to be doing something, Torrin shot up to her feet.
"Yeah, no problem, be right back."
Luna's eyes strayed towards the long bow hanging above the mantle of the fireplace. The dark wood of the bow shimmered the dim light. The Warrior stared at it, entranced. With a sudden shake of her head, she hurried away towards the kitchen.
Torrin found the back storeroom easily. Noting the slightly dusty, yet spotless Ranger boots hanging on a nearby peg, Torrin surmised that these were the boots Luna had mentioned. Looking around, she saw the pristine armor, extra clothing and packs that obviously had belonged to Luna's mothers. She had heard the grief in Luna's voice when discussing her parents and knew it must still be hard for the Warrior to accept their passing.
As she rooted around for the medical supplies, she reflected on the death of Quinn. She could honestly say she wasn't sad about something she had wanted all her life. But strangely, she wasn't overcome with joy from it, either. Just relieved and a bit stunned that the all powerful, highly decorated and skilled Warrior leader could be killed.
Fumbling inside her pocket, she pulled out her mother's torque, the silver dragon representing the Air Clan. It glinted in dull light and Torrin swallowed a lump in her throat. If something had happened to her mother... Her eyes widened. By the Goddess, what would she say her mother if she actually found her? "Yes, mother. I'm a mercenary and I helped bring down the Castle of Abnoa." Her mother would hate her just as much as Quinn had! Pushing down her escalating emotions, she quickly grabbed the medical supplies and boots and hurried back to the main room.
Grabbing whatever was still edible from the rations, Luna dumped them into the slowly simmering water. The cabin's only window was above the washbasin and she could see the white sheets of snow falling heavily. They'd have to start melting snow for more water if the snow kept falling like this. They would never get to the well and back safely. Leaving the soup to boil, she limped back to her seat by the fireplace. Gingerly, she started to pull off her shirt, exposing her wounded side. Curling her lips in pain, Luna stared at the blood-soaked, pus-encrusted bandage covering it.
"Well, that looks nasty," Torrin blurted out as she came back into the room.
Luna jerked in surprise, grabbing in reflex for the non-existent sword at her side.
"By the Goddess, you move silently!" the warrior snapped, surprised and slightly ashamed that she hadn't heard Torrin coming. Then, without a shred of self-consciousness, she removed her shirt completely and threw the soiled bandage in the fire.
"Of course, I move silently. If I didn't, I'd be out of a job," Torrin snorted in amusement then schooled her features as she examined the ragged hole.
The wound looked nasty, but she'd seen worse. In reality, the freezing cold air probably had helped to keep the infection under control. However, she could see flushed spots on the woman's cheeks indicating some fever was there. " It needs to be re-opened. I should boil some water and flushed the wound out. I'm impressed, Northerner. Most of my Pack would have been blubbering like a babies traveling with a wound like that, but you take stoicism to a new level." Softly whistling a Southern jig, she set the boots and supplies down and moved to the kitchen.
Using the dagger that Torrin had handed her earlier, Luna started undoing the wrappings around her feet. "You know us barbarians…" she muttered, peeling the used bedroll away and tossing the ruined scraps into the fireplace. For now, she left her feet bare so the sores could air out.
Returning, Torrin said, "Yeah, I do know you barbarians." Setting down the pot of hot water, she sat and picked up Luna's left foot. Whistling another tune she began to gently clean the wounds.
Despite the surprisingly gentle treatment, Luna winced as her injuries were cleaned. She hadn't expected such care from the Mercenary and her surprise showed on her face as she studied the woman tending her wounds.
"Your feet don't look too bad. After we do this easy stuff, we'll move on to that monster in your side. There are still some medical herbs in the sack with the other supplies and I'll make you a bit to drink. It will taste like Rock Wolf shit but it will help with the infection and pain."
"Rock Wolf shit?" The warrior murmured, slowly relaxing as the fire warmed the cabin.
Torrin gave a small grin, "Yeah, Rock Wolf shit. They are small beasts that live in the rocky hills beyond the town of Thulis, but before the Drakemore plains of the Horse Clans. They eat anything they can get into their mouths. They're like a living waste dump. They're easy to avoid because you can smell their shit from a mile away."
Bending to her task, she took the other foot gently in her hand and began to wash the raw flesh. The wounds were mostly superficial and would heal without problem. Putting down the foot she asked, "Why didn't you retreat? Abandon the castle?"
In the flickering firelight, Torrin's Southern heritage was obvious in her profile.
"Retreat where? Abnoa is our home. It's also the gateway to the North. When spring comes, Khelin can move supplies up the river Anduira, to re-supply her army. Then she can march straight to the Queen's City in the northern reaches. How could we not try to stop her here?"
"Because it was suicide," Torrin said quietly then went back to humming a tune, this one slower.
"We could have held them for days if they hadn't managed to open the gates," Luna murmured, answering Torrin's point with one of her own.
Torrin stared at the filthy water and then abruptly stood up, went to the door with it, and quickly tossed the water outside. She scooped up some snow into the pot and brought it back to the fireplace.
"We'll have to wait for a few minutes for the water to heat, then we'll start on the one on your side," she asked brusquely. "You have any woolies for your feet here?"
Nodding, Luna reached under her seat and found the wooly socks Mezzarna had knit her the winter before. Grimacing with pain, she pulled them up over the cleaned red cuts on her feet.
"I don't know if I want you to touch the wound in my side." Luna warned, sweating slightly at the thought of additional discomfort.
Torrin went silent and then in a quiet voice asked, " Khelin's army had you vastly outnumbered. There was no way you could have held out that long." She turned back to the melting snow. She bit her lip in thought. She would not feel guilty. Mercenaries did not feel bad or good, what they did had nothing to do with morality, just with money.
Luna stretched her feet towards the fireplace, reveling in the warmth on her feet. Quietly, she explained, "With my archers I could have whittled her forces down. We would have held the Castle until the night at least. Then the snow would have slowed her down. Granted, she would have taken us eventually, but she would have paid dearly for it. Khelin might not have even had enough warriors left to invade north of here." Closing her eyes, she sighed. "It doesn't matter anyway. We lost Abnoa."
Torrin, not sure how to feel, dealt with things as she always did, she let her emotions bleed out until she was cold inside. Picking up the now hot water, she moved towards Luna and briskly said, "Now for that wound on your side." She set the pot down and went to get her pack. She pulled out her small kit and brought it over with the other one. Inspecting both of them, she put together what she thought she might need. She then resumed cleaning the wound.
Luna hissed in pain at the slightest pressure, jerking away from Torrin's touch. "By the abyss, that hurts! How about we don't touch it?" The warrior protectively tried to curl an arm around the wound trying to guard it from the short, dark-haired woman.
"Yeah, then you'll get an serious infection and die from blood poisoning, and I won't get paid and I'll be a laughing stock at the Mercenary meetings," Torrin said with a straight face. Leaning over the medicine supplies, she looked through them until she found the ointment she wanted.
Luna watched her warily, "Forgive me if you being a laughing stock of a mercenary meeting doesn't worry me too much."
She knew Torrin was right about the infection, but that didn't help much with the pain she knew would be coming.
"Okay," Torrin started with a gentle tone, "this should numb the skin. I don't think we need to stitch it but it definitely has to be cleaned out. I'm fairly certain that yellow, oozing pus is bad."
Despite herself, Luna let Torrin draw her arm away from the wound.
"So you're a healer, too?"
She gave a small grin as she spread the ointment around the offered skin. "Yeah," she nodded. "I know you honorable warriors have a hard time being concerned about us Mercs, but we get hurt, too. I had to become a healer. The armies that pay for our services often won't treat us or charge us hefty prices to use their healers. We aren't part of the real army so we don't get perks like food and healers unless negotiated ahead of time." She finished applying the salve. "Let me know when you can't feel the skin on your side."
Sitting back, Torrin pulled her own heavy tunic off leaving her in a lighter under tunic that was popular in the South. She inwardly grinned, knowing her fellow Hawks were probably freezing their asses off right now since they were not use to dressing for the colder climate. Unwrapping the dirty bandage from her own arm, she poked at the slightly red wound and saw where the stitching had come loose.
"Now should be good." Luna said softly.
It had worked quickly. Luna had to give the ointment that. Whatever it was managed to dull the agony in her side quickly, turning the painful heat into a welcome cool numbness. The Warrior glanced away from the ugly wound, not liking the sight at all. Instead she concentrated on another subject.
"How long have you been a mercenary?"
Torrin stopped poking at her own wound, "Um..." She frowned thinking, "four years give or take."
Moving back to look at Luna's wound, she stared at it thoughtfully. "Um, close your eyes. You can squeeze my shoulder if you want. It shouldn't hurt but it can still be unpleasant." Picking up a small knife she moved it over the wound, a hot cloth in her other hand.
She continued her explanation, "Actually being one of Rya's Hawks is an honor. I'm pretty happy she, and not some other band, bought me from the Mistress's Temple."
Luna's hand squeezed painfully down on Torrin's shoulder, more from the words than from any discomfort in her side.
"What? What do you mean 'bought'?"
Blue eyes narrowed as she watched Torrin as the Mercenary concentrated on the wound in her side.
Torrin frowned as pus began to ooze out of the wound as she reopened it. "What do you know about the Mistress of Shadows?"
Relaxing her grip slightly, Luna looked away from the disgusting excretion that erupted rather than oozed from her wound. The stench was bad enough.
"Only what I learned when I visited the South." Her tone was dismissive and vaguely disgusted by the memories of that trip. "They're some sort of Thieves Guild, right?"
After putting warm, damp cloth strips on the now oozing wound to draw out the infection, she nodded. "Sort of. She's the Goddess of Thieves, Murderers and Assassins, the Goddess of the Dark Heart. In her Temples, priests find those they think to be worthy and train them. At the end of your training, if you are found unworthy they sell you. Since, by then, all you know how to do is sneak and kill, it's mostly Mercenary bands or perhaps a noble looking for a bodyguard that buys you. When I ran away I..." She blew out a breath, "They thought I had potential, but I didn't."
She set down the cloth and picked up two new ones, soaking one in the water. Then she went back to the wound and pressed down on it with the wet rag.
Sweat beaded on Luna's face as she struggled not to move. There was no pain but the discomfort was enough to keep the Warrior agitated.
"They train Assassins?"
A priesthood that did nothing but train Assassins? The thought alone caused Luna's blood to run cold. How could her people stand against such a ruthless people?
"I never heard about that when I was in Thulis."
Wincing, she closed her eyes as more pus oozed out of the wound, followed by healthy red blood.
"Yeah, they train Assassins."
Happy that the wound was bleeding clear, Torrin patted it with the dry cloth and then reached down for a different ointment.
"People don't talk about the Mistress, afraid that it will bring her attention on them, I guess. I don't know why, though, compared to the Hounds of War, she's a minor Goddess. Maybe it's 'cause the priests are all big with the secrets."
Gently she rubbed ointment into the wound to combat infection and then began to wrap it. "There, all done. I'll check it again tomorrow."
Frowning at the pile of soiled cloths and bandages, she set them near the fire to burn later. Sitting back down, she picked at her arrow wound some more before putting ointment on it.
"You could have been a healer," the warrior murmured, watching the Mercenary as she worked. "Here, let me do that."
Quietly she reached over and picked up a clean bandage, wrapping it around the cut on Torrin's arm. With fingers calloused by countless hours of sword practice, she wrapped the wound and tied off the bandage.
"You've been gone for almost ten years. What did you do before you became a Mercenary? Were you in this Temple of the Shadows all that time?"
Torrin frowned but let the woman wrap her wound. "I..." She let out a heavy breath, "What were you doing in Thulis? That's a long ways from the forests of Abnoa." She picked at the white bandage around her arm.
"Answer my question and I'll answer yours," the Warrior retorted and leaned back in the wooden rocking chair, thankful that the injury cleansings were over. She felt slightly feverish, but still was hungry enough to nibble on some of the dried rations. "The soup should be getting ready by now if you want some."
Torrin's stomach rumbled slightly. "Soup sounds good. I'll go get it."
Getting up, grabbed the water pot and moved into the kitchen. Looking around she spotted a few wooden bowls. As she dished the soup, she figured she must have cabin fever. Torrin couldn't remember the last time she had spoken so much. Maybe it was the common connection of being back to her homeland. A homeland she had been gone from so long ago.
'Business, Torrin, get back to business', she chastised herself. Luna might act liked she was concerned now, but once Torrin had her safely with one of the other clans, the Warrior would want nothing to do with her.
Coming back into the room, she handed Luna a bowl then sat down staring at the fire. "Where do you want me to take you after the storm breaks? I think the Southern Army will stay camped until the spring thaw comes. They are unprepared for the cold and snow. But Khelin is so insane, I wouldn't put it past her to have the Hawks and her troops out looking for us once the storm passes. I'd like to get paid before they find us."
Luna sighed, reminded again that the Mercenary was just that, a mercenary, in it only for the money.
The Warrior took the offered wooden bowl of soup and brought it to her lips, sipping from it carefully. She was desperately thirsty and hungry, both, she knew, due to the wounds and the battle. The soup disappeared quickly, so did much of the rations she'd brought out. Edible once they were soaked in the soup.
Chewing on another mouthful of salted venison, Luna swallowed before answering, "Help me get to the Queen's City, then I can give you the treasure."
Torrin reflected on what she had heard of the Queen's City. It was relic of a lost age when all the Clans of the North had been united under one ruling power. Rumors abounded about it being haunted with ghosts and monsters. At least that's what the kids told each other while playing.
"The Queen's City? Isn't it just a empty place in the Wild's?"
"The Wind Walker tribe still inhabits it. I'm surprised you've forgotten that." The Warrior polished off the last of the dry rations and set them aside, loathe to move from her comfortable spot. This was the first time in days that she felt full, relatively content, and above all, warm.
"Tyra might have gone to joined them there. Aren't they your mother's old tribe?"
Torrin stared at the fire confused. She was happy that she might see her mother again but another part was worried. Maybe her mother wouldn't love her anymore. Torrin was far different from the little girl who had run away. The Mercenary grabbed the empty dishes and headed to the kitchen.
"My mother never talked much about her tribe."
Luna watched the smaller woman thoughtfully as she left the room, then sighed, looking back towards the fireplace. It was strange being here with someone other than her mothers. Luna was quickly finding out that she didn't understand Torrin at all. Shouldn't the Mercenary be happy to hear that they might find her mother at the Queen's City?
Shaking her head in puzzlement, she then called out, "You never answered my question about what you did before you went into this Shadow Mistress's Temple."
True to her stoic heritage, Luna stubbornly wasn't about to let a question go unanswered.
"Vladlin's Hounds!" Torrin yelped as she poured hot water onto her hand at Luna's question. Glaring at the woman, she came back out of the kitchen with two mugs.
"Has it occurred to you that it is none of your business?"
Luna grinned and shook her head.
Handing her a mug full of hot tea, Torrin sat down and sipped her own. After a moment of silence she spoke. "I wandered for a bit. I thought that the South would be friendlier. It was, but only barely. The plains are a harsh place, full of Horse Lords who wander around with their herds. I saw lots of amazing things and I saw alot of horrible stuff. The cities are huge, dirty and full of noise and people. Which, I might add, was a big shock for someone from the North."
She sipped some more tea. "I was always small, and living in Abnoa made me quick and silent. Better that no one noticed me and if they did, I needed to be quick to get to one of my hiding spots. So I started picking pockets, it was either that or join a pleasure house. One day, some acrobats were giving a performance in City Square. Let me tell you, if you're watching a show or circus hold onto your purse, they always have someone working the crowd."
Luna's mouth twitched into a wry smile at that, but she didn't interrupt Torrin's rare moment of freely divulging information about her past.
Torrin gave a chuckle. "The sneak thief they had working the crowd picked the same pocket I was going for and in a seconds the whole place was in chaos. I started sprinting away but somebody caught me by the scruff of the neck. I thought it was over, but nope, it was one of the acrobats. She had a business proposition. That, or prison time. So I joined up with them and eventually, because of my size, started training to be an acrobat." Her forehead wrinkled. She had been happy with Kess and her sister Krystal, as well as the others. Unfortunately, that action stirred the interest of the Temple of the Mistress of Shadows.
"Fair is fair, I suppose," Luna said after the silence stretched for a little while. It was obvious that Torrin wasn't going to say any more.
"When I finished my training as a Border Ranger, I was asked by Leariel, the head of the Rangers, to go to the South and find out more about one of their new leaders. Her name was Khelin and she had just come to power in Thulis. I walked in through the front doors of her palace and announced myself as the..." Luna coughed, trying to cover over her embarrassment with her previous actions, "Emissary from the North."
"Uh, huh," Torrin grinned. " And she snowed you, didn't she? Got you to think she was all sane and stuff." Torrin shivered, having seen first hand, the rapid mental decline of the South's new leader.
Luna turned her face away from Torrin, the color in her pale cheeks having little to do with fever. "She made me feel special."
Surprised and embarrassed that she had said that out loud, the Warrior abruptly stood up, wavering only slightly on her feet. "Good night." Tossing another few logs onto the fire the tall blonde headed towards the back of the cabin, and her old room.
"Maybe it's 'cause I've seen into the black fire burning in the Mistress's Temples, but that woman is darker than any assassin that has walked through the black fire," Torrin muttered to herself.
Sighing at the woman's retreating back, she could only imagine how Khelin had made Luna feel special and she felt bad for the woman. Standing up, she threw the rags into the fire and picked up the mugs.
Sitting down in the chair that Luna had abandoned, she stared into the fire, one hand rubbing the brand on her shoulder. Suddenly feeling cold, she looked around for a blanket.
Return to the Academy