Editor’s Notes: I think I’ve tried to publish this in just about 30 different ways. Amazon, D2D (so basically every other store), Wattpad, JukePop. Here I am again, with another attempt, a very easy attempt. Every week, on Monday, I will post a new chapter of Deeds of Violence. This story has had various transformations but was essentially originally conceived to be alike popular shounen I’ve enjoyed. I can’t draw manga so my route was taking several shounen tropes and turning it into a serial fiction format. The first two chapters were combined much in the same vein that the first chapters of mangas tend to double in regular length which means you can expect subsequent chapters to range at about 1K.
If this ever gains traction, I may be convinced to give it its own domain for those not interested in the rest of the blog. And in further blind ambition, I may add a paypal/ko-fi/patreon option in the future though not too worried about that right now.
As an aside this is personally edited not professionally so if you catch any sort of typo or what have you, don’t worry about posting. In fact, any thoughts you have, I’d be glad to hear it. Not really going to go to overt with marketing it. It’s more a personal thing to have this going up weekly. Without further delay:
The relentless heat and crawling hunger both conspire to give Ahliss a slow and painful death, it’s merely a race as to whom can achieve it first. Her fingers dug into the sand, hardened by years of affectionate boots and paws. The dirt lodges itself between uneven broken nails and splitting skin. Her fingers had gone from the tame olive she used to treasure to a dry, and dusty, white shade thanks to the long torturous death the desert was determined on enacting on her. Whenever she drags herself forward, it elicits a raspy moan. Sandy crust had formed along the edge of her closed eyes, yet the sun still shone through, patches of various hues breaking the otherwise obscured line of sight. The sun shone brighter today than it had in days past, as if chastising her for even daring this venture so unprepared. In her daze, she only hopes she’s still on the main road.
Pat, tap, pat, tap, pat, tap. She can’t miss the rhythmic pattern, the sound of hooves far behind her, of overly large sandals flopping back against near-leathery skin, and of a wooden cane acting as a third leg for the pair of sandals. Then it stops, and she feels the heat diminish, just a tad, but there’s no way she doesn’t notice it. On days like this, when the sun gets overzealous, you notice the tiniest gust of wind, even the ones too weak to displace sand crystals.
Her eyes open, not without struggle.
“Oh, deary me, you don’t look too good.” His voice comes slow, every vowel takes a long second to emerge.
A sympathetic old man, eh? The blade says, fashioning a plot mirroring the one in Ahliss’s own mind. She turns around to get a look at the fellow journeyman but the old man and his companion are mostly shrouded by the resolute light behind them. The sun, too, isn’t keen on letting her regain her sight. Her lips stretch out, skin parting, the dry blood wet by spit and a tinge of fresher blood. She practiced it before, time for the payoff. Her eyelids close again, forced shut, crust part, fall to the sand, and the tiniest drop of a tear falls. It’s the only tear she manages, and that tear burrows deep into the sand a second later. Clearly, you’ve still got work to do. That’s all right. It isn’t all in the tears.
“C-could you…” she breathes heavily between words, stutters too, you’ve gotta really buy into it, “help me? W-water, p-please.” Adds in a look of desperation, a key ingredient, but it comes across broken, like someone’s driven a plank of wood to her face, twice too many times.
The old man takes it all in stride.
“Why, of course!” Fuck yes! Ahliss has to stop herself from grinning, it doesn’t take much effort, it’d hurt anyways. “What do you deal in? Copper, iron, silver… gold, maybe? No, surely not.” He brings his hand to a scraggly beard and massages it. “Now sure, the copper might not be worth much, but I tell ya, melt those suckers down and they’re worth a whole lot more.” The sun can’t stop her from seeing that wide toothy grin etched on his face, each tooth gleaming in the veil.
“What?” The act disappears for a second. “W-what,” she recovers.
“You want to buy water, don’t ya?” Her eyes finally adjust to the old man, his shroud disbarred enough so that she can take the full measure of the old bastard. He’s gleeful as if he’s not staring at a young girl past her best before date.
“I-I don’t have money.”
The old man gives her a look, half-sympathy, half-disappointment.
“Oh, well.” His eyes look past her to her back and he’s smirking again. “Perhaps this, then?” He crouches down, she thinks she hears the sound of bones snapping and wood creaking when he does, but if the old man’s hurting, he doesn’t show it. He points at the hunk of iron bound to her back, taller than her and bandaged up. It’s a defilement of the laws of physics that she’s able to carry it, let alone through the desert, but she does.
“No!” She blurts out, suddenly on her knees. “Sorry, I can’t. It’s not up for sale… or trade. Family heirloom.”
You’re damn right I’m not for trade. She elbows it and regrets it the following second. You wish you could. His brows close in to near touch, and his lips compress, whatever thought that comes forth, he dismisses and stands up.
“Good luck, then.” He taps the staff on the ground twice, and the shade starts vanishing. The towering animal he has at his side carrying supplies strapped to his back in between the three humps, restarts its methodical walk.
“Smiths damn you, you old bastard, I’ll die!” The charade ends, the blistering heat comes back in lieu of the shade he provided. It feels like someone’s holding a torch to her face.
“And such is the circle of life, at least the desert dogs won’t bother me or mine for meat.” He laughs a hearty laugh, the only sound for leagues on end in this desert plain.
“Wait!” He stops, but doesn’t turn around. “There’s got to be something else.”
His head peeks back, his toothy smile re-emerging past his ears. Better pray he’s not some sick old pervert. Ahliss shivers at the thought.
“Well, there is something,” he says.
You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, Ahliss, I won’t hold it against you.
That shakes the old bastard’s game, he’s momentarily fearful.
“No, nothing.” She tries a warm smile, but her lips sting, so it’s more a grimace than anything remotely warm. “What do you need?”
He hesitates, still a skeptic, but goes on.
“You know how to use it?” He nods towards the hilt of the bandaged thing.
“Why, you’ve got someone you want dead?” She unstraps it, stabs it into the hard sand, the ground crackles at its weight, and a cloud of sand is ushered from its wake. Watch it! She stands proudly, fingers wrapped around the elongated hilt, head held high. “Course’ I can, I’m a Smith blessed hero.” But she comes across more like a white marble statue, unkempt, broken, and bathed in the dirt than the heroic presence her mind might pretend she exudes. The old man flinches at the drawn sword, then regains his composure, retains that sleazy grin.
“All right, all right.” He ruffles through the pounds of packages attached to the carrier and emerges with a gourd. He swirls it around, pops the cap off and takes a deeply exaggerated whiff.
“Water doesn’t smell!”
He shrugs, but even that demonstration is enough, all the pomp in her stance vanishes.
“My village is just a league off the road, just keep me safe on the way there, little lady, and I’ll make sure you’ve got enough supplies for wherever you’re headed.” She tries to feign thinking about it, like it’s really a negotiation, but he just wiggles the gourd again. Negotiations closed.
The moment she gets her hands on the gourd, her lips wrap around the gourd’s mouth. She drinks it hurriedly, every drop of water she practically inhales, anytime one escapes her lips and crawls down her cheek, an elongated tongue drags it back, sand in tow. And when the gourd’s empty, her tongue’s licking every inch of the gourd as deep down as it can reach.
In between gulps, she manages to say “Thank. You. Old. Man.”
He’s got a mischievous smile on his face she doesn’t entirely notice, “Oh, all in the name of a fair trade, little lady.”
The sun desires every bit of water she just absorbed. Ahliss holds up the bandaged thing over her head like an umbrella, though sweat still drips profusely down her forehead. The old man’s energetic, like he just won the lottery. The cowmel walking next to him, even with the ton of fur and the packages strapped in between its humps, taunts her with periodic grins, daring her to keep keeping up. She returns each grin with a snarl of her own.
“So, how does a little lady find herself all alone in the desert?” He asks while looking on straight ahead. He was smart enough to bring a brimmed straw hat and a cloth wrapped around it and his chin. Not a bead of sweat emerges out of his skin.
“Why does an old man hire a little lady for protection?” She spits back.
He shrugs, tries another question.
“Where’re ya’ headed?”
“Bayt Lahm.” His smiling stupor is interrupted for but a second.
“Bayt Lahm’s a dangerous place for one lonely little lady. You got something to do there?”
“Maybe I just like danger.” She smirks, too-sharp canines peeking through, head bopping up proudly.
“That would not surprise me, little lady, traveling the Great Desert with naught but a giant sword on your back. You’ve got to be either brave or an idiot.” Her cheeks puff out and redden. “For both our sakes, pray to the Smiths it’s bravery.”
Bad timing. The sand rises in the distance. The cowmel bellows out a sound that makes Ahliss smile a stupid smile, she would’ve laughed, loudly too, but every bit of energy’s precious to her.
“What is it, Bayline? What is it, girl?” he says, massaging the creature’s maw.
“It’s a she?” Ahliss bends over. “Not a very pretty she.”
Bayline’s lips curl back revealing thick square teeth, and she bellows out again. The sand fades enough to see the men on cowmelback.
For once the old man’s nervous, bites his bottom lip. “Little lady, let me handle this, you just stay next to Bayline and keep quiet, eh?”
Ahliss already has her hands on the palm of her blade.
“You hired me to protect you, old man.”
“Please, little lady.” He’s pleading, he doesn’t think she can fight. Or if he does, he thinks four is too much. It might be.
They arrive on leaner versions of Bayline, with smaller humps, not exactly meant to carry packages or supplies, instead they’re carrying men. The old man’s making a silent prayer to the Smith that they move on, but the thing on her back thinks differently, she can hear it salivate, growl like a starved fat man in front of a feast. Ahliss drowns the edge of the bandaged blade into the hard sand. What the fuck, Ahliss. Ahliss snarls; to the sword, to the cowmelmen, to the old man stopping her. She concedes, the old man’s already got a friendly welcoming smile. The animals slow to a halt, two of them continue past them, then turn around and stop. She doesn’t spare them much of a glance, but enough to know where the four-legged creatures and their companions stand. They all dress the same, full body white cloths covering everything but their faces, and even then, their eyes are the only things not left to the imagination. They sit perfectly straight, how can’t you on the back of those animals. They’re also, with the exception of one, mostly thin, the sun having burned every calorie above what’s necessary for survival.
When they come to a stop, she can’t miss the leather scabbards, and scimitars at their hips. Hell, it’s the first thing her eyes track. That and the bow on one of the men behind her, a fatter, plump man who doesn’t really belong in the pack, but he’s there anyways.
It isn’t hard to see who’s in charge of the four cowmelman, they all look expectantly at the man to her left, and he responds by removing his head wrap.
“Sun’s brighter than usual,” he says, squinting at the sky. “Bad day for a stroll, eh, old man?”
Ahliss gives the old man credit, he keeps a jovial smile on his face, like he’s not fazed, but a stream of sweat down the side of his head betrays him.
“Not for me, I’ve been here over sixty years, I’ve seen hundreds of hotter days. Once, I swear I lost my entire belly in one morning, not that I minded, all the ladies were crawlin’ after me, I tell ya’, and I filled that sucker right back up with more wine th-”
“You’re a pretty girl now aren’t ya?” The leader interrupts, his attention shifts to Ahliss, starving eyes strip her down.
Her muscles tense, knuckles whitening further, as if possible. “Fu-”
“You gentleman haven’t been to a village in a while, have ya’? My little lady, pretty? Pah!” He laughs loudly, the one in charge turns back to him with a snarl. The old man doesn’t notice, or pretends not to notice. “She’s my granddaughter, last in the family.” They don’t look much alike, the silent one to the right contemplates it, eyes hopping between the two.
“I could make sure the lineage continues,” the leader adds.
You really gonna’ take that, Ahliss? That’s blatant disrespect. Her hands tighten up further, she feels the sides of her nails digging deeper into the cracked skin.
“Don’t you worry about that. You’re a striking young man, I’m sure there are better women out there for you. You wouldn’t want my little girl.” Another bead of sweat.
“Perhaps not, but I’ve seen the look in her eyes before, it’d be a crime for me to let her go on heartbroken like this. And maybe you can give us that beast too, as a gesture of good will. And we’ll take that thing, what’s that you’re holding?”
He points towards the blade.
The man gives out an exaggerated laugh. “Good one.” He chuckles some more, the two at the back join up, the fat one laughs like a squealing pig. His partner isn’t so sure. “Look, if you need a sword you can actually lift, I’ve got one right here.” He gestures towards his crotch, even tries to stretch out the cloth but there’re so many folds, he’s just fumbling through.
“I gave you two fucking chances, you just had to push it!”
Ball-Chopper emerges through the cracks along with her words, even as it weighs as much as Ahliss, she swings it with the same vigor a grown fit man would swing a broadsword: there’s straining, her veins emerge, her muscles bulging, but that’s as much effort as she needs to expel. None of them expect it, mouths drop as the cloths extend the covered faces of the desert men. The leader has to blink twice to understand what he’s seeing. The second glance is a mistake. Ahliss drags the hunk of bandaged iron across the ground, kicking up sand. It billows forward like a small sandstorm, the masked one only has to bring up the cloth to cover himself, but the leader doesn’t such luck. He desperately rubs the sand out of his eyes, falling off the cowmel, and unable to get it back once it gallops away.
“Little lady, I hope you know what you’re doing,” the old man whispers, he leaves no room for the courage he might have had as he backs away to Bayline.
She doesn’t pay the old bastard any attention. Ahliss turns around, towards the fat man and his friend, and forces the blade onto the hard sand once more. The fat man’s arrows fly into the bandaged iron like a bird into refined glass, it sputters to the floor without leaving any imprint of it having been there. The other cowmelman unstraps the scimitar from his waist and doesn’t waste time charging forward, barking a humble war cry. But cowmel’s aren’t really made for cavalry tactics, they’re slow and clumsy. Ahliss lets go of Ball-Chopper, bends backward as far as her lithe body allows. The scimitar splits the wind a few inches above her, her eyes follow the blade’s parallel journey, and as soon as it’s past, she’s back up. Her hand reaches out, barely catches a shred of loosened cloth, but it’s enough, she pulls with strength inappropriate for her size, the man flies back, dropping to the hard sand skull first. The cowmel doesn’t wait around for him to recuperate, it hurries away for freedom.
Ahliss doesn’t forget the bowman, his fingers are too thick to draw, notch, hold, aim and fire in time, and she doesn’t know why he’s the one with the bow on the crew. Then again, he probably wouldn’t be too effective with a blade either. He notches another, but Ahliss already has Ball-Chopper in hand, he aims, she swings the blade like an axe-man chopping a tree, he lets loose the arrow, and the thin side of the blade and the arrowhead collide. It’s nothing as graceful as the arrowhead being cleaved in half, instead it’s simply crushed, the blade even tears through the cheap wooden bow held out by the fat bowman like a twig, but it stops just short of the man’s face. The wooden bow ensures that splinters stab through the cheap fabric covering his lower visage. I can practically taste the blood. Release me. The man’s sweating a lot, the white cloth darkening in all the wrong places. Ball-Chopper rotates ninety degrees, and the flat end collides with the bandit’s face, hard enough to cause a nosebleed, and maybe break it. The blade makes a sound like tongue licking lips, only she hears it. Release me, Ahliss! But Ahliss ignores the demand. The fat man’s feet gets caught in the cowmel’s leash, and so when it runs, it’s an awkward bumpy stumble trying to haul the extra two hundred pounds with it.
The faint sandstorm behind her clears a second too soon.
“Little lady!” The old man’s warning is on time.
Instinct kicks in, and she rolls forward fast enough, a blade tears through the back of her top, vertically over her shoulder blade, but only leaves a paper thin cut. He doesn’t get a second swing, her leg darts up fast, and he doubles over just as fast, eyes watering, hands helplessly trying to hold his precious sword, and hoping his pelvis hasn’t been shattered to millions of pieces. The leader falls to the ground, squirming and crying.
The man who missed with his scimitar takes a glance at the leader, and another at Ahliss’s daring eyes, and he routs, runs as fast as he can, probably fast enough to catch up to his cowmel.
The last one, the one who stood by the leader hasn’t made a move. She dares him to try. Holds Ball-Chopper in both hands in front of her and spits to the side. He raises two open palms, and he doesn’t have any weapons she can see. He slowly removes the head wrap covering his own face. He’s not from here, far from like his friend, not a man of the desert. He’s pale, naturally pale, his hair a light blue, not unlike his eyes.
“I mean no harm,” he says. Doesn’t sound like a man of the desert either.
“Then fuck off.”
“But of course, a man must know when he is beaten. Beforehand, I must enquire as to your name, and in fair exchange, I give you mine, my friends call me Levante.” He’s got a confident smile on his face, like he didn’t witness his companions nearly torn apart in such a short span.
Her eyes narrow, stripping away his cloth not unlike his leader stripped away hers. Though less from lust more to discern his intentions.
“Ahliss.” It’s all she says.
He nods. “Then, till our paths cross again, Ahliss.”
“I don’t give second chances.”
The cowmel he rides slowly approaches her, she never loses her guard, but he stops just short at the leader’s feet. He bends over and lifts the writhing man up onto the cowmel’s hump.
“I’m hoping it’ll be under differing circumstances.” And then rides away into the sunset with a final nod, to the sound of the leader fearing that he’s bleeding.
“Little lady, what if he was lying about his name and was only hoping for yours for vengeance’s sake?”
Ahliss’s head drops.
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