It was a glancing blow –no more than a flesh wound– but the sting was enough to bring me back to the moment.
An arrow tip was lodged deep into the bark of the cedar tree, barely missing my ear. Another arrow whistled passed, and I swung out of the way continuing to climb up the trunk of the next tree –charging onward for the scrap of yellow fabric fluttering roughly a yard away.
The exercise wasn’t over yet, and I couldn’t let Fean down.
Slipping on the wet moss of the branch I was balanced on, my cheek scraped against the rough bark causing my teeth to sink into the soft wall of my mouth, drawing the bold taste of iron on my tongue. As I tumbled, instinct threw out my hand to snag the nearest sturdy branch and send myself upwards. Using my momentum I propelled myself into the next tree before pulling myself up two branches and reaching for the sash.
The searing slice of a small three-inch blade pierced the back of my hand as my fingers curled around the fluttering scrap, I tugged. The wound didn’t matter though, my hunter had failed to take me down before I seized the banner.
I had won.
Ribcage heaving I clambered down from the forest canopy. My mind was distracted today, and my performance suffered for it.
“Well done, Bikkea.” Fean came out of the shadows, barely disturbing the dry foliage underfoot; Fean was like a mother to me, with her tea-stain skin and short cropped golden-brown hair she looked more Heer then most of my Sisters. Her position as Second Sister of the Heer meant that I had to excel in whatever challenges were given to me or risk losing her faith. Not being born as one of the Heer had made it difficult for me to keep up with the other girls in my division at first, but thanks to Fean, I was given enough time to catch up and exceed expectations. “...but your reactions were a little slow. You got hit twice and lost your footing more than once. Why?”
I sighed and removed the dagger, wrapping the scrap of fabric around my knuckles to staunch the bleeding. Squeezing my fingers into a fist and feeling the burn I replied, “nothing… atleast nothing worth the breath.”
“All thoughts are ‘worth the breath’.” Fean’s concern was admirable as she pat my shoulder, leading the way back towards the Heer Sanctuary at the heart of the Bleak Boscage.
We strolled along in silence as Fean waited for me to share.
“Fine. It’s Torne’s request for aid.”
“Aid against the Rueman armada?” Fean asks. I nodded and skipped lightly over a tree root with only the soft sound of my foot compressing on the spongy loam to announce my passage. “We’re not blind to the threat a siege would be to Brenaia and the Bleak Boscage in turn. We will not let Rueman take the Bay of Torne. So what troubles you?”
“Rueman.” I grumbled with a dark heavy-browed glare.
“Bikkea,” Fean’s voice was pitched low in warning, “you promised to let go of your claims on Rueman when you took the Heer Oath. You’ve worked hard for sixteen years to put the past behind you, why throw it all away over any of this?”
“I know and–”
“No. You are no longer Keen Rashkin, heirent to the Sunstone Throne of Ruel. You owe nothing to the Ruelian crown.” Fean’s voice held an unfamiliar note of fear, I realised then how against the idea of me ever leaving her side she was. Fean loved me as a mother was supposed to, and I felt blessed for being given a woman like her to raise me, I was right –this hadn't been worth the breath.
“That’s true,” I assure her, “but I do owe it to all of the people who died in the name of the Rashkins fighting against the usurper, Emrich Frége. I should be leaving with the reinforcements.”
“You know only the Sisters can decide that Bikkea. It’s best if you just leave this alone.”
“I’m trying to. But something one of the women said yesterday stuck with me….” Fean stopped in her tracks to lend me some solicitude, “she implied that the Sisters were purposefully keeping me from the fight because of my Rashkin past. If I’m supposed to leave behind those roots and let go of blood-born vengeance, then doesn’t that mean the Sisters have to ignore it too? We all know I’m one of the fastest Heer Recruits of this division, and I’ve proved myself a capable fighter many times, so it makes no sense not to let me go.” That stumped her, and as the uncomfortable tension grew between us, I knew my suspicions were justified.
I sucked my teeth, irritated as I strolled onwards.
I had to let Fean explain herself, but her lack of trust still hurt me enough that I made her chase me.
I wouldn’t wait to long for answers.
Vielen Dank für das Lesen!
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