Middy’s hair looked like spun gold. It was tightly curled and framed her face. She had a long scar running across her cheek, not a marking of servitude, but a scar earned in battle. The imperfection of it somehow managed to make her face more beautiful.
Varick drew his hunting knife and spun towards Taysha. She avoided his attack with such a casual grace that Varick was on the fringes of being offended. She even dared to offer up a dazzling smile. Her heart shaped face and dark blonde hair reminded him of Lea.
A sorrow filled his heart. It replaced the fear. With Lea gone, was there much worth fighting for? Falling to two Shadowmen in battle was an honourable death. A brave death. His ancestors would be proud.
What of progeny? The voice was unmistakable. A heavily accented whisper that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.
‘What’s he doing, Taysha? Why’s he looking up at the trees?’
‘I think he’s cracked. Look at his eyes. All wide and wild.’
Varick kicked low then high at Middy. As soon as his second kick missed the mark, he flung himself into a cartwheel and slashed at Taysha. He was rewarded with the sound of a kukri cutting though leather armour.
Both women made simultaneous gasping noises. ‘He almost cut me! You know what, I think we should…’
The banter of the women was drowned out by another voice. You. A man as stern as rock. As cold as steel,the voice was musical and careless. Little more than a whisper, yet commanding. The phrasing was clumsy and confusing. Like that of a scholar having to forgo her native tongue – a rich and complex language – and come to grips with communicating through grunts and groans.
The unmistakable smell of lemons filled the air.
While he could not hear the women talking, he could see them mounting an attack. Varick dodged to the right and then threw himself into a forward roll. He spun himself around and struck out with both blades. Both Shadowmen were now standing in front of him.
Talking to a doe. Talking of wife and son. Talking of life and loss, the voice paused briefly as though considering it’s next choice of words. Talking for the span of many words. I did this thing. Stern and cold must not forget what it once was.
Thank you, Varick thought tentatively. If I’m going mad, could I please have some quiet while I fight? Varick spun and slashed his blades wildly. He had managed to cut Taysha a second time and she was furious. She now tested his defences regularly. Violently.
Middy seemed amused that her sister had been cut. That said, her attacks also lost their playfulness and took on a more sinister edge. He managed to accumulate a vast number of cuts, scrapes and bruises in a terrifyingly short amount of time. It was all that Varick could do to escape the more mortal of wounds.
Of manners and madness. One yes, the other not. Be still. No longer a whisper, the voice show Varick to his core. He felt it reverberate in the base of his skull.
You. And You. A woman as pretty as a tiger. As lovely as a snake. Stop.
Taysha and Middy froze. Their blades poised and their muscles straining against the invisible bonds that held them.
‘Yix cut out my heart and feed it to me,’ wailed Taysha.
‘What in Rhea’s Blade is this? No one told me he could command Aether,’ raged Middy.
Varick stood as still as a statue. Paralysed. Not by a disembodied voice nor the magic it possessed. Rather, it was because he sighted a bright blue light floating up into a nearby tree.
‘What can you smell, Middy?’ Taysha’s voice broke near the end of her question.
‘Smell? Grapefruit. Blood orange…Oh,’ she make a choking noise. He mouth worked at a word, but her voice had left her.
‘Fairy,’ Taysha helped. ‘Mischief daemon,’ the terror in her voice was unmistakable.
No to one. Not nice to the other, the blue light settled on a branch. Suddenly there was a hiss and smell of citrus fruit intensified. The shapeless light turned into a tortoise, a bear cub and finally a horned raccoon with grey blue fur. Fae. That is me. Kahini. That you shall call me by.
CW SY 2013