My first Monday Moment now that I am coming back to my writing is the piece that I’m strongly considering using as the prologue for “Pursuit of Power.” It introduces the reader to the main villain of the story, who as of right now doesn’t enter the story nearly soon enough. That’s one of a long list of things to work on. But for now, hopefully this will be of interest.
They think I’m an animal. Some kind of creature. They come into my home and disrespect me, and they’re offended when I break their necks?
Dressed in tattered clothes, standing in a large patch of desert grass and weeds that were matted down in the center, the “beast” stood over the most recent trespasser. The smell didn’t bother her, but the recent piling up of bodies was troublesome.
The first thing she really remembered was waking up in the sand, with blood all over her hands and clothes. She barely even noticed the bladed weapons at her side. For a while, she was in fact like an animal, with no real thoughts, only acting on instinct. At first, she killed only to eat. Then, somehow, her dwelling began to draw unwelcome attention. Then she had to kill to protect her home.
After a time of being around other humans, for as short of a time as any managed to live, she would hear them speak, and began to remember a past life. One in which she was an assassin, and a highly respected and greatly feared member of a powerful order. She was…
She was nothing now. A creature, a thing to be feared by man as death itself. She didn’t know what had happened to her, but she knew that she would never be the same again.
She kicked the body to the edge of the tall grass and brushed her crimson hair out of her face with a blood-stained hand. The sun would be up soon, and the only way she survived the day was to remove herself from it. She lay down amongst the tangle of grass and weeds and disappeared from sight.
At the same time, deeper out in the desert, three men hurried north, following a man mounted on a horse. The man in the lead, Drune, was leading his men—a Cleric, a Power User, and a Bowman—to the location east of Torreo where the creature was said to live. Their orders were to bring her back, but Drune had a feeling that wouldn’t be possible. He didn’t doubt that the creature was, in fact, his boss’s daughter, but he didn’t think she’d come willingly.
After a few hours of traveling, they could just barely see the lights of Torreo in the distance. Drune held up his hand, and the others stopped. He made a few other gestures, then moved ahead alone, slowly. The Cleric held up his hand and created a Power barrier around himself. When Drune called out a command, the other two men moved forward and stood on either side of him. They were thirty yards away from the nest of grass.
Drune sat silently for a moment, listening to the sounds of the desert around him. The approaching morning should have brought a plethora of animal calls, but all were absent. The only sound he heard now was the buzzing of many flies, a noise that clearly came from that large patch of grass.
“She’s in there.”
“Are you sure?” the Bowman questioned. “She’s a Shadow; she could be anywhere.”
“I’m quite sure.” Drune looked out at the horizon, where the first rays of dawn were chasing away the night. “Very few of the reported sightings and deaths happened during the day. She’s there. Go.”
Despite the command, all three remained still for a minute, as if waiting for something. Then, they stepped forward, positioning themselves around the perimeter of the nest.
The User knew it was his move next, but he hesitated for a moment. Regardless of what Drune had said, he didn’t hold out much hope for finding anything human amongst this graveyard of man and beast alike.
There were bodies, both fresh and in the early stages of decay. When his eyes rested on the small bones of a young girl, as evidenced by the tatters of clothing, he shivered. What could kill so indiscriminately? Would the force they brought be enough?
“Do it!” Drune snapped, obviously agitated at having to remind the User of his job.
The User removed a dagger from his belt and held it out in front of himself in trepidation. Finally, he waved his hand in the air. A bright light flashed around the immediate vicinity like lightning.
Then there, between them, appeared a woman with crimson hair. She was standing, no weapons drawn, but clearly ready to attack the intruders. When she realized she’d been uncovered, she didn’t make a move; she only waited.
The same ability that had removed her cloak, though, had also revealed others. A ring of Shadows stood around her, in line with the other three.
She stood still, only moving her eyes to take in the numbers. These new enemies brought the total who had come to stand against her up to thirteen. Then she looked at the Swordsman, still on his horse, who was moving closer to her. Drune stopped just outside the hedge his men had made.
“You know who I am,” he said.
Of course she did. She hadn’t lost her brain.
“We do not want to hurt you.”
I’d kill you before you could try, her thoughts mocked.
“We only wish to bring you back.”
Back? She cocked her head, communicating the unvoiced question.
“We are still your family; you belong with us.”
He said no more, giving her time to respond. She remained silent; she only stood and waited, empty hands at her sides.
In the growing light, Drune could see her better now, and he could tell something was different. The most obvious was her hair. It used to be black. Her skin was paler, her eyes were darker, and if it was possible, she even seemed taller. As she stared into his eyes, he felt her coldness and endless anger and hatred. She hadn’t exactly been compassionate before, but whatever callousness she possessed then was nothing compared to what he saw in her now.
Then she was gone. The User flashed his light again before Drune had to give the command, but it didn’t reveal her this time. Somehow she had moved fast enough to be out of the range of the light in only a second. In another second, the group’s Cleric grunted as his neck was snapped. She was there, behind him, and as his body fell to the sand, she was gone again.
“Find her!” Drune screamed. He felt his stoicism begin to fade. With every second that she remained hidden, her advantage grew. Fear was not something he was used to, as a man in such a powerful position within the Class of Morano. But he felt the fingers of dread creeping into him, and he did not enjoy the feeling.
There. The User’s light caught her. She was visible, and four men charged at her with weapons drawn. Drune watched as she drew her own weapons and threw each man aside as they came. She spun, kicked, stabbed, and sidestepped as the rest came at her at once. The User began to form a simulated blade in the air in front of him, but she cloaked herself again, appearing in front of him a heartbeat later. She buried a dagger in his chest.
Drune’s team was failing, and fast. But he didn’t move. His job was not to die with his men, and he knew it wouldn’t help anyway. She was like nothing he’d ever seen before. For as much as she scared him, she also intrigued him.
When every one of the dozen men he’d brought was lying in bloody ruins around her, she stood in the middle of them and looked at him again.
His heart began to race as she took slow steps toward him. He could already feel those blades slicing through his body. He wouldn’t die though; he could outrun her if he had to. But he didn’t want to leave.
“You don’t have to be alone out here. Morano can offer you so much if you come back.”
Still she walked towards him. When she was five yards in front of him, she stopped—and was suddenly gone.
He swore as he backed his horse up a few steps.
“Rusalki!” he yelled into the emptiness around him. “Your father wants to see you again. He wants you to come back!”
Nothing. He backed up a bit more, and was a heartbeat away from turning around and running when she suddenly appeared next to him.
Rusalki spoke the first words he or anyone had heard from her throat since she had died.
“I want to see my father.”