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Despite the devastation wrought after 196 years of battling trolls – killing two-thirds of the Commonwealth – the united army of Liraehne cleared the lands. The great Fanaal Emperor Tian’Tal pushed the trolls to the edge of the Frontier, making a stand at the outpost of Tarn, but it was the leadership of Queen Kalynn Wytestarr who led the final victory within the Crax. Of those who went to war, many would never return home, some not because death claimed them but because their wounds made travel impossible, and the outpost swelled into a city.

As Tarn grew, with farmers and families restoring a sense of normal after so much loss, the great heroes and leaders began to pass into legend and new powers began to arise to fill the voids left behind. 

This is the story of one of them.

Author Chuck Sperati Writing Distracted Logo
Onvical
Ambyr Valry
Cariss Mesila
Torgin
Elis Rhees
Elis Rhees

Part Eleven: Time to Go

The cleaver hit the wooden table with a chunk, cutting away another chunk of meat. With no symmetry among the six pieces, Delwin felt sweat trickle down his back.

Standing in front of him, her arms crossed over her chest, the woman warrior blew out a breath.

“You are a butcher, right?” Cariss asked, her brow dipping further. Sitting alone in the hut Onvical provided, her anger had blossomed into an outright rage that left furniture turned over and a chest of drawers splintered.

Nodding, the young man ran the back of his hand across his forehead and gulped, forcing the building bile down his throat.

“Are you sure? I’ve seen vultures tear flesh better than you.”

“I-I’ll slice em into strips to salt and dry easy.”

Grunting an okay, she glanced back over her shoulder at the door. Behind her, the cleaver chunked again. “I don’t suppose you happen to know where I can pick up dried fruits. That Maren or Marflin with the stand in the market only puts it in honey, and those jars get heavy fast.”

“Magilyn.”

“What?”

“Her name is Magilyn. Sh-she makes good jams.”

Stepping forward, Cariss slammed a fist down on the wooden table. “Who cares? I need some dried fruit cause Ambyr is picky about the food she travels with, and I don’t want to listen to her complain. You people in this flaming town are so damn slow. It’s a wonder you survive out here.”

It had been a few years since Delwin needed his Mom for anything. These days, he more took care of her, but at the moment, it would have been a greater comfort to have her in the back room here rather than recovering back at their house. Specifically looking down at the meat rather than the warrior woman standing far too close, his breath caught in his throat as he looked up. “Travel? Wait. Are you leaving town?” The moment the words were out, he wished they had sounded less hopeful and hoped that she had not heard it in his tone.

“Eager to be rid of me?”

Looking down at the meat again, he shook his head. “Not you.”

Her laugh did not sound malicious, unlike everything else about her. “I’m getting Ambyr back out on the trail, but I doubt he’s going anywhere.”

They both knew to whom she referred.

Moving away from the table, Cariss went to the door while Delwin continued to chop and then slice. Lying the strips out, he chipped salt from the block and rubbed the pieces together above them, making sure to coat them properly for drying. Finally, he packed them into her leather pouch. Normally, he’d ask for payment before handing the small bag of meat over, but her leaving felt like it might be payment enough.

“Good travels,” he muttered, trying to mean it as he held out the pouch.

Returning, she tossed a small purse onto the table. The clink of it on the wood told Delwin that it held far too many coins.

Taking the pouch out of his hand, she turned to leave.

“I think this is too much,” he called after her, gazing at the coins in the purse.

“Keep them,” she stated, thinking about how those coins sounded clunking down in front of her while she sat on her knees, unable to breathe, with Onvical’s cold hand gripping her jaw. Starting out the door, she hesitated and turned. “You’re Iola’s boy, right?”

Nodding, Delwin pulled his hand away from the purse and put the other on the handle of the cleaver.

Her grin told him that the action didn’t go unnoticed and didn’t concern the warrior woman in the slightest.

“That heifer that kicked your Ma. Onvical did that.”

“What?” The boy’s hand closed around the handle of the cleaver, his knuckles going white.

“He was tired of her going to the council all the time, and so arranged an accident. It was supposed to kick her in the head.” The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “I thought you might want to know.”

*              *              *

With the sun dipping below the horizon, Ambyr Valry approached a couple walking hand in hand towards her. Young farmers by the look of them, each wearing a grin of fresh infatuation. Feeling an urge to purposely walk between and break their link, she thought she might take the girl’s hand and lead her away. It would be amusing to see the boy’s reaction.

The moment passed as her attention shifted to the two packed horses in front of her hut.

Given the option, she would have preferred more trees around her home, even a temporary home. From what she’d seen of Tarn, that would never be an option. These people had no concept of living in harmony with nature—they destroyed and remade it to suit their needs.

Undisciplined savages.

Of course, none of that had anything to do with the horses in front of her hut. It existed as yet another in the long list of grievances she held against the race of men.

Picking out details easily despite the twilight, she recognized several of her packs strapped to one of the horses. Drawing a long dagger, she gripped it in a way that allowed the blade to rest against her forearm and strode up to the open door.

“Cariss.” The warrior woman stood in the middle of the room with several articles of Ambyr’s clothes draped over her forearm, her mouth turning up in a grin as she glanced towards the door. “What are you doing?”

“I got us a job.”

“We have a job.”

“No. A real job that will take us up to Calidon. We’re wasting our time here. Caraklin’s treasures are in the north, and that’s where we need to go.” She watched as Ambyr’s golden flesh brightened, reflecting the lamplight. That happened when the elfen’s enthusiasm rose, much the way her own cheeks flushed with excitement at knowing they would soon be leaving Tarn forever.

Moving inside, Ambyr pushed the door closed and tossed her long knife onto the bed. “That’s the thing. We don’t have to look for Caraklin’s treasures anymore.”

The grin Cariss had worn since leaving the butcher fell away. “I don’t like the sound of this.”

“I told you I had a good feeling about Onvical. We confronted that Elis guy in the forge. That pendant he’s wearing, he got it from Caraklin’s lair. He knows where it is, and Onvical is going to make him tell us.”

Feeling her legs go weak, Cariss lumbered forward. Sitting hard on the edge of the bed, she dropped her face into her hands.

“I know. I could barely believe it either.”

“No.”

Pacing, Ambyr’s voice rose to an almost painful pitch, lamplight reflecting off her features like a mirror. “Yeah. After five years of searching, no more fake maps. No more idiots tromping on old trails. No more exaggerated stories. After all that searching, we’re finally gonna find it for ourselves, and all we have to do is go along with this Magis for a little while longer.”

“But I found dried fruit for you.”

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