Aaron’s Notes: I wrote this short story on my trip to Glacier National Park last year. It was intended to be 7 Episodes, with 1 Episode released via web and mobile every few months. I’m going to release Episode 1 on the blog a section at a time. I’d love to get your feedback as it goes along!
Here’s part 5 of Shattered. Oh, and this is at least PG-13.
A bright blue sky was overhead. A fresh breeze blew in from the south. Birds sang in the trees. The world refused to reflect her black mood. She had held Maximus’ broken body through the night, letting her grief consume her. As the day broke clear and bright, she resolved to put an end to her grief. The first step was to lay his body to rest. She dug a grave beside an old oak tree near the stream where Maximus used to swing from a rope when he played. The physical strain let her burn through the rest of her sorrow. When she finished, she stripped off her blood and dirt stained night gown and threw it into the stream, letting the current carry it away. She waded in, and the snowmelt stream’s icy water stirred anger out of the ashes of her grief. She scrubbed her auburn hair clean and washed the filth from her body.
She emerged minutes later and walked back to the abode. There was a purpose to her stride and a cold, hard gleam in her eye. Water ran from her naked body. She had a long, lithe body of an athlete. The hard, cut lines of her muscles had softened with the long respite from warfare and the years of motherhood. The parts that used to sit high and tight were now a bit lower and looser. The long scar down the back of her leg had faded. She was still beautiful, but no longer looked like she would snap a man in two for taking an unsolicited second look at her.
Reaching her home, she ascended the stairs to the attic, pointedly avoiding the hallway that led to the sleeping quarters. She would not be going down that way again. There was a secret panel in the attic. She moved the crate that triggered the door. It slid open to reveal an alcove, and she moved forward to claim its contents.
She started with the mundane, socks and underwear made of a light material that whisked away moisture. Next she put on her armor, a pure white halter and light blue chain mail that was tighter around her midriff than it used to be.
“I’ve let myself go,” she thought. “They said we had purged the land of evil, and I believed them. Hell, I wanted to believe. I wanted to put aside my weapons and start a family. There has not been a whisper of trouble for years. So I let my guard down. If I had not, this could not have happened. Max would be…” She ruthlessly stopped that train of thought. That was the way to black despair. That was the way to her death. And if that was the way she was going, she was dragging some others with her first.
Next was the pure white battle skirt. Its mithril feathers hung nearly to her knees. She’d taken many a mighty axe strike off of them before and they did not give. Her shins and calves were left unprotected. On her long, left leg she once suffered a sword wound that had almost proven fatal. All that was left now was an old scar.
She pulled on her boots. They too were white, but they were far older than the rest of her outfit. They had been passed down through her family for centuries. A subtle old magic had been infused in them. When worn, the rendered the user silent when walking. They could also change the color and pattern of the armor she wore, thanks to a bit more magic that linked it all together. She was nearly invisible when she triggered the boots’ magic.
Finally, the helmet. It did not match the set, being red with black designs. She had fought a long, hard battle with an evil mage to win that helmet. When she put it on, she felt the protective field envelope her body. Through it, no weapon could pierce, although its protection was finite. A determined attack or lengthy battle could break through the shield. It was a priceless treasure that had brought her safely through perilous situations.
Thus dressed, she returned to the remaining three items. First was an ebony bow. She slung it across her shoulder and gave it a friendly tap. She could drop a songbird on the wing at a hundred paces, not that she would. An arrow of light leapt to the string every time the bow was drawn.
She reached for her sword. It was about three feet long and razor sharp. It still gleamed. She gave the pearl handle a twist with both hands and the sword became two blades. She gave them a practiced flip and the blades hummed through the air.
“I am so rusty.” She chided herself again. She snapped the blades back together and slipped the sword into the white scabbard that she hung at her hip.
Finally she brought out her most prized possession. It was an unassuming metallic square, about a hand’s breadth in length. It strapped to her left forearm. She dropped into a fighting crouch and brought her arm up to ward off an imagined sword cut. The shield flared to life. It gained an inch in thickness and transformed into a tall rectangle two feet by four feet in size.
Quickly she put herself through some practice forms. High, low, and middle she imagined attacks from different weapons and the shield responded by changing the size, shape, and thickness needed to protect against the attack. She stood, panting lightly from her exertions. The shield returned to its natural, unassuming shape.
Her eyes focused and determined, she gathered her supplies and made ready to begin her hunt. It was time to find out how such a crime could happen in this golden era. The life of tranquility that she had coveted over the war torn years was shattered. Brin Heavyshield was out for vengeance.