Editor’s Post: This is the completion of the first story so to speak. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be moving forward with posting up whatever else comes next. I need to take a moment to step back and see how I want to move forward. Do I want to simply wait till I’ve finished all of chapter two? Do I want to tackle this in an entirely different way (a real seasonal format?). We’ll see. If anything, this is more or less a one-shot/prologue/introduction to Deeds of Violence’s main character. 1.5 is my personal favorite chapter because it has a pretty cool action scene and honestly, my favorite thing about this whole short, has just been writing some fun fighting sequences. All that said, if one person ever posted on here and asked me when chapter two was coming out, there’s a strong chance I’d drop whatever I was doing at the time and make it happen then and there.
The inn had been all but emptied. Just a few stragglers remained in one of the building’s dark corners, throwing vilifying glances at the man voraciously laughing at the bar. Brakir slammed a mug down on the table which begged only one reply. The barkeep hesitated but a single glance daring him to object was responded with another mug filled with ale.
“I can’t fathom why you’re all so moody. Another healthy month in Dunefield, you should all be out here celebrating.”
“She’s just a little girl.” The barkeeper’s words come out before he can stop them. Brakir snarls but the barkeep’s eyes quickly refocus on the ground and he starts fiddling with a towel and wiping off beer stains from the wooden bar, too busy to add anything else.
Brakir breaks out another sleazy smile, the edges of his lips drooping, his fingers. “Oh, she’s not that little, Marion.”
The cheap wooden bar collapsed in the single swoop of the bandaged hunk of iron. All Marion can do is back to the very corner of his side of the bar, hands grasping for anything that would help him push back even further. The rest of the stragglers in the inn had already hurried out to the exit. Brakir seemed to be too drunk to immediately absorb what had happened, taking an uninterested glance at the impaled bar just short of his right hand, then to the wielder of the blade, Ahliss. He took another swig of the mug, and once more his eyes hovered towards the impaled bar, and only then did he absorb the full worth of the blade. The ale quickly left its residence, flying across the bar, some of it even staining the barkeep’s drape.
I go through flesh, not wood, Ahliss, at least not this sort of wood. Ahliss rolls her eyes but raises the blade back up.
“That’s the warning, lucky for you shitface, I fight face to shitface.”
He laughs again. Loudly. That laugh that goes on for a second too long but still proceeds.
“You should’ve killed me when you had the chance,” he says.
The blade’s swung again, this time horizontal to the floor, ready to decapitate Brakir in one foul blow. He ducks under it without grace. It’s more like a drunken stumble off the stool, he even trips on a floorboard poking out, and rolls backward past Ahliss. It’s almost disheartening, you’re picking on drunken fools now, Ahliss? Your heart’s too soft. She loses her guard at the display, but then Brakir stands back up at the entrance, and in his hands are claws. The fixed metallic constructs are attached to each wrist and extend into three half-foot blades at each joint. His feet slowly lead him to the outside, though he’s cautious enough to keep his eyes on Ahliss.
“It would give me nothing more than pleasure to tear any of these pitiful villager’s house apart, brick by brick, but Marion’s cozy little inn is almost like a second home to me. I’ll have it left in one piece.”
Ahliss couldn’t give less of a damn. Does this inn even get any more visitors, and do they all end up sold away to Brakir? She snarls and runs forward, faster than she should with the bandaged weapon in her right arm. Brakir lets out a delighted laugh as he hurriedly back steps through the door. By the time she gets to the entrance and sends the blade overhead crashing down with it several mud bricks flying aside, the sole victim of her efforts is the hard sand where he once stood.
“I knew there was something special about you, but those buyers in Bayt Lahm, I’m not sure they’re up for this sort of fun like I am, so we’ll need to kill that spark.”
The sun’s rising, she must’ve slept through most of the night. The commotion’s got villagers stepping through their doors to see someone opposing their own little tyrant.
She doesn’t relent, both hands gripping the blade’s hilt. She swings wildly, diagonally, vertically, and horizontally, but Brakir is agile, and he keeps his distance. Soon enough he’ll have to close in, what with those claws, his reach simply can’t match hers. Release me, Ahliss! The voice hisses but Ahliss doesn’t comply, only Brakir houses her attention. He starts getting more adventurous, clawing at the very edge of the blade, tearing through the bandaged fabric, but never closes in enough to get a scratch on her.
Trist steps out from his house too, she can’t miss him, the lighter complexion, and the blond hair stands out in the pack. And the bloodied, and crooked nose. It had only been right, after what he’d done to her. It should’ve been worse. She’s almost tempted to switch the target of her ire. This was the point in the hero’s life where he gathers the testicular fortitude to defy the oppression and save the princess? But she’d met heroes. He wasn’t one.
The distraction is enough, Brakir nudges in fast, the tip of the claw escaping with drawn blood. He only gets a scratch on her right arm, and steps far back when instinct sends the blade retaliating in his direction.
It happens the way Faur told her, her right arm shrinks, withers down to a hard papery shell of its former self, lifeless. It slumps to the side of her body, only her left arm there to support the blade. It doesn’t hurt, or she tells herself it doesn’t, but there’s a tear running down her eye, and she’s biting her lip to the point of blood seeping down.
“Oh, come now, don’t give up on me already, we were just having fun. Look, let me reassure you, I can’t sell off a broken product. Just drop your blade, we’ll give you some water, and your arm’ll be back to normal, bar an extra scar, and you might lose some of that spunk, but otherwise, entirely normal.”
The sword comes swinging again, nearly hits him the first time too, through sheer surprise more than skill. With her off-hand, the blade’s arch is wide, lacking in precision and absent of its former. Only the first swing comes any close to breaking flesh, he dances behind the rest, often relieving the blade of further pieces of bandage. And each time he swipes, he gets closer and closer to dehydrating another limb, or worse yet. She backs off after one such attempt nearly sees the blade sputter out of her reach.
I’d figured you gave up on being helpless, Ahliss. Stop fucking around and release me. The tears that had formed on her face quickly dried under the brightening sun. Ahliss plants the blade back into the dirt.
“That’s great, Ahliss, it was fun while it lasted but I’m due another drink.” His stance relaxes.
“I don’t need both arms to castrate you.” Her left arm disrobes the hefty blade of its bandage. The blade is more robust than sharp, a truly large hulking construct of iron, weighing an unwieldy amount. Its magnitude only enlarged once relieved of the bandages.
He sighs. “That obsession of yours doesn’t flatter you.”
Brakir darts forward, but the blade is naked, and the sunlight glances off the sleek flat side of the iron construct, beaming into Brakir’s eyes. It’s enough to alter his aim, and in one motion, Ahliss’s left arm grips the blade’s hilt, twirling around his reach and lifting it vertically up before dropping it back down like a heedless guillotine. The piercing scream shatters the calm within the village. It goes on for a near eternity, and just when it seems it might end, it’s reignited. Hands cover youthful eyes, too young to handle the gore, and ears too, too young to handle the death rattle. She rued such innocence, let them revel in the honest truth of life. People die, often they deserve it, and he deserved it, she thinks.
Brakir’s eyes bulge out to the near-point of falling out their sockets, locked on the place where his hands should be. Blood flows down, both from the open wrist and the severed hand. It’s not clean, instead, it looks like someone hacked at it after a failed initial attempt at amputation, and only succeeded on the fifth try. The blade stood planted in the pool of blood, it wouldn’t need to be raised again.
“You’re going to die, Brakir.”
He desperately tries to shove the bloodied wrist into his clothes to stop the blood loss, but it’s pointless, and it only brings him greater pain. All those varied colored cloths are now varied shades of reds, though it’s no less extravagant.
“You would’ve died either way, infection, gradual loss of blood, every villager here wanting your head, but it makes it quick. It’s an Arme too, like yours. It feeds on blood, not water.” She looks at the reducing bloody pond with a hint of disgust, and extends that glance to those claws, still attached to the gloved hands. “Which Smith gave you those?”
He’s too busy crying to even answer.
“Who gave you the Arme!” she yells it out this time, grabs him by the collar with her left hand. The villagers are slowly circling around, Faur and Trist at their leads.
“I-I found it off a corpse, in the Great Desert,” but then he’s screaming again, she knows why. Sees his skin withering, not unlike Ahliss’s right arm, his body so covered in cloths, he did not notice. He doesn’t say another word, and his screams eventually subside only substituted for the wailing of scarred children. She releases the collar and Brakir falls to the hard sand. No one notices the bloody pool progressively vanishing within the confines of the iron blade.
Ahliss was of half-a-mind to simply walk out of Dunefield then and there and make her way to Bayt Lahm, but Faur had convinced her to wait for supplies, it was the least they could do he insisted. She took advantage and got that shower she’d been waiting for. Her hair now regained its dark purple hue, having lost all the dirt that rendered it a filthy dark brown. Even her skin lost the pallor it’d earned in the desert, though free of all that dirt, several worn out scars were far clearer to the eyes. Those around her hands were fresh, but it was the ones she traced along her back that still ached to this day. She chose to retain the clothes she’d journeyed with, the full body outerwear these villagers wore didn’t do much for a fight.
Trist hadn’t said a word to her, in fact, she hadn’t seen him since the sunrise, though Faur maintained his amicable glamor even under intent glares. She chose to leave midday with time enough to arrive in Bayt Lahm before the sun’s fall.
“There’s enough water, bread, and even ale if that suits your fancy little lady, for a week at the very least.” The supplies proved robust enough to be encumbering.
“Do you know how to get to Bayt Lahm?” Trist stepped through a deeper room within the house, though he did not meet her eyes.
“I’ll figure it out.”
Ahliss had to drag the bag alongside the weight of her blade.
“Wait, little lady, I had something else for you, a parting gift.”
She gritted her teeth.
“You should save your gratitude for those whom could not fight, Faur, they kept you alive long enough for me to save you.”
He shrugged the jab aside. “Nevertheless little lady, Bayline would ease your journey.” The cowmel stood outside the house, that Smith damned grin etched on her face again, daring Ahliss to say no.
“Fine, old man.”
“And another thing. Trist.” He said Trist in a guttural whisper.
Even Bayline seemed to urge him on, a hoof dropping on Trist’s foot hard enough to cause a fracture. Because of that or simply finding humility within himself, he bent forward.
“I’m sorry, thank you for saving us.” The words came out rushed so as to emerge as a single word.
Part of her wanted to shy away, only a small part, most of her wanted to give him more than a mere crooked nose.
“Trist will be going to Bayt Lahm too, to find his mother. He’d like to accompany you there, he knows the way.”
“I saved your damned village, old bastard, now you want me to protect your grandson for you?”
He laughs, the hearty laugh he had when they first met.
“Little lady, if I wanted Trist safe, you’re the last person he’d be with.”
“I do not trust him.”
“You don’t know how to reach Bayt Lahm, Ahliss. He’ll be your guide, another showing of our gratitude, then you two can part ways as of Bayt Lahm. He’s not there for protection, he’s there to guide you.”
She clenched her fist, and a frustrated sigh followed. “If he fucks up again, I will send you his Smith damned head, Faur. I have no sympathy for you and your people.”
“You should be directing your threats to me, Ahliss.” Trist’s arms were folded, he frowned, challenging her, all ounce of humility gone.
Ahliss tried to swing out the blade in one swift, cool motion, but it dropped to the floor in her desperate attempt at instilling fear. Unfortunately, smoothly unstrapping a blade from her back was near impossible, particularly a blade of its size. Though hooking it to her waist proved a far more arduous task. Still, undeterred by her failure, Ahliss quickly grabbed the sword from the ground and brought it inches from Trist’s neck. Real smooth.
“If you fuck up again, I will send your Smith damned head to Faur. We get to Bayt Lahm, and we part ways, that’s it. And you can carry the fucking bag.”
Trist stood his ground at least, though his legs did seem to buckle for a second, his face showed no signs of faltering. Ahliss strapped the blade across her back.
“Thank you, Ahliss,” Faur whispered, but she’d already started walking.
You will simply disappoint him, Ahliss. The last one in his family. You know the fate of those who remain around you. They all die. Eventually.
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