(the insomniac brain obsesses over tiny things, I couldn’t get out of my head that this post had never made it online because I’d originally uploaded the wrong file. Time it did.)
Heavy rain beat down on her hood turning it from white and gold to grey, and drummed a muffled rhythm on the precious metal shield wrapped up in sackcloth across her back. It was large enough to cover most of her petite frame, so, at least it was keeping her mostly dry. The torn and missing sleeves however, they meant the young stranger shivered in the dark and the wet. Her robes were soaked, true her leather armour beneath priestly garb kept her dry, but wet robes, hung around her like lead and her shield caught the vicious headwind and felt like an anchor. She had to get off the roads.
Cutting into the woods was harder going but the trees broke up the wind and the rain, and she could see the lights of the town, not much further now. By happy accident this way also took her free and clear of guards at the town gates. Yes, she was an unarmed member of the clergy, It had worked at ever town she’d visited so far, well, except Phandalin, she’d arrived to find the place the scene of a battle, and recently deserted. The fallen Chasm Bridge shed seen a week or so ago hadn’t slowed the hand enough then…
If she did have to deal with guards they’d insist on taking her to the towns church, and while she would welcome the protection of The One’s roof over her head, she’d run out of lies to tell about why a novice from the capital city was now all alone weeks from home and carrying a war-cleric’s shield.
Easier this way.
She climbed over a broken part in the border fence and slipped into the town, it was far enough off the north/south line not to have attracted attention just yet. Still, it was in lock-down enough that she had to slip past a number of guard patrols before she found a deserted old boarding hosuse she could slip into. Everywhere was scared of the Hand now.
Floorboards creaked and the shafts of moonlight that pierced the storm clouds only served to highlight the choking clouds of dust that wafted slowly from the small back-room she’d entered to the larger saloon at the front of the building. She slumped against a wall under a tiny fogged 4-paine window that looked out on an alley beyond. She shivered, hugging her knees close to her chest, fished out the star of The One pendant that rested against her breast, and kissed it, muttering prayer.
“Because I am lovingly devoted to Him,
The One will deliver me;
I will fight for his, because he knows My name.
When He calls out to Me, I will answer Him;”
“You’re sure this is what you want?”
“You want to make me repeat myself?”
“Let’s see your coin purse then”
“I will be with Him in trouble.
He will rescue me and give me honour.
I will satisfy Him with my life”
“Is it all there?”
“You better hope so ‘cause I don’t see you arguing your point”
“and show him My salv….”
“Done, have your poison, much happiness it’ll do ya”
The One’s name! Was that really going on 3 feet beyond the wall she rested her weary back against?! She risked a look out the fogged window at an elderly man wrapped up against the weather accepted an impressive purse of coin, slipping over something small and unseen to the large man clearly not lacking in weaponry. Whatever illicit thing he had purchased this night, he secreted away about his person and turned his back on the man half his size, disinterested as soon as their shady deal was done.
‘The evil that man does, when he thinks The One can’t see him in the dark’ Rose smiled to herself, as she moved from the small room to the larger one. Once this kind of vice would have offended her to her core. Now her core had seen and felt far worse, her perspective of evil had been redrawn in the harshest of lights, she only had one righteous cause to focus on these days.
In the saloon room she fell asleep, curled up on the wooden floorboards by a stone cold iron fireplace. She could have lit it, the fires of heaven where hers to command since she became His weapon, but that would attracted unwanted attention. For now her faith would have to keep her warm.
She dreamt of a soft pink face, dark black hair, two little horns, black eyebrows crowning yellow eyes, and a scowl, she was always scowling, angry at the world. Rose had made her soften, and too soft, they had all died.
She awoke to a shuttered lamp-light sweeping across the room, the creak of floorboard under heavy boot.
The dim flickering light swung her way, she silently breathed a prayer, and vanished across the room, thank The One he blessed her with his perfect grace. The lamp swung again, was put down on the oak bar to reveal the back room, a dark figure made for that direction.
The old house creaked, dust clouded all her senses. A minute seemed to take an age, it was all she could do to stay hidden and not explode out at the stranger with all the power and righteous fury of Heaven, but then, righteous power could only be wielded with just cause, this could be a guard of an innocent citizen.
And then she felt the cold of the blade on her neck.
Her attacker’s breath fell not on her neck but into her short cropped hair. He had a foot on her, and hundred pounds easily.
He tapped her twice on the throat with a slim but wickedly sharp edge. He wanted her to yield. Oh, really.
“gladium caeli” she whispered, and a sound like a match dropped on lamp oil was matched with a brilliant glow that lit the room. It took a moment for her attacker to realise the glow originated between his legs, a burning sword of white gold heavenly radiance extended backward from her right hand backwards pressed against her attacker in a spot he really did not want to feel Heaven’s judgement.
“Come on! What’s this bullshit?! Magic sword? The fuck gets a magic sword they can just ‘fwush’ up? How’s that shit fair?”
She spun away as he removed his blade, she swept her lover’s shield onto her left arm in the same motion, coming up with a short-sword of manifest Heaven’s fury reflecting off a white silver and gold shield. Even as white/gold light played over two slim blades held at her throat.
“Go ahead, steal vs the power of heaven” she said, but her voice trembled along with her faith.
“Fuck this shit”
The swords withdrew, slipped into sheathes, her would be assassin slipped away from the stale mate to her right.
“You heard me, I’m done with this swords and magic, and I’m definitely done with some
“My… what? I’m not a bard…”
“No you’re not, you’re barred, as in this is my pub, get out!”
“This is a… you can do that?”
“Yes, I just bought this shit hole, it’s mine now, gonna be the greatest ale house this side of the barrier, and I’ll not have some little shit turning magic weapons on me in my own bloody bar!”
At this he turned the lamp on her.
“oh, well fuck me….”
Rose just nodded, he had the measure of it, she thought she remembered the battle scared face the lamp revealed.
“Ross isn’t it? Pull up a pew lad.” Her would-be attacked gestured to the old broken bar stools, he pulled a sack he’d dumped by the door behind the bar.
With a flick of her sword hand Ross – Rose, dismissed her heavenly blade.
“First batch, up for a taste? Lad like you can handle an ale I take it?”
Rose smiled, she knew she hadn’t bound her chest in months, her hair was longer, she’d even put on eye makeup last time she’d had to get past some guards. yet Brond respected her as Ross.
“Yeah, pint would be good” Rose said in her own voice, taking a stool and beaming at a man that had once fought alongside the most important person in her life, in the defence of Hommlet. He had met her as Ross, so he was going to share a pint man to man with the young man Ross, and it was as simple as that, and that made her smile.
“This is yours then, you gave up the fight?”
“Oh I think the fight will find me again given enough time, but never fight in a war if you don’t think either side’s going to win… I earnt this.”
And with that he hung his rapiers crossed on the back wall above the dusty bar.
“I suppose you’re looking for them? Some bullshit campaign to pick up where you’re lady friend left off and be some One-damned hero?”
Rose gave a look over her pint, her eyes smoldered it had been awhile since they could shed tears, and the barkeep gave her a slow nod
“Sorry to hear that, vengeance it is then?”
She nodded again, and took a deep draught of ale.
They sat for a while, around a newly built fire, Ross and Brond, two lads, sharing a few beers, and then morning came, and she knew where she needed to go, and Ross and Brond said an agreeable goodbye, Ross, at least, would never see Brond again.
Rose shrugged her shield more comfortably across her back, the road ahead was long, if she was blessed she’d find the heroes she was looking for at the end.