The frigid winds chilled me to the bone. It did not appear the snow would ease soon, so my hands remained shadows in the flurry. My sight was growing worse and Flecks of black floated in my vision. But it did not matter, I had no final destination. The throbbing in my head continued to grow as my body further numbed. Was this the end? No. I would deny it, I will fight with fist, foot, tooth and claw. I will fight to the end to see a better outcome, no matter what they said. Regardless of what happened. Fate is cruel and selfish.
I soon realised I had stopped when I no longer heard the crunching of snow underfoot. My mind had not surrendered, but my body was becoming insensate. A strange noise startled me as it muted the wind, a sound I had not heard in a long time. When I looked down, my chest was convulsing to the long forgotten notes. It was a poor move, my body tilted forwards and the ground soon approached.
With considerable effort I rolled onto my back. I watched the sky for what could have been an Eon, Time was something that had no meaning to me. When the storm finally died, the lights in the heavens only brought me grief. I laid there, my peripheral vision diminishing till I could only see down a tunnel. Hours passed, or was it only minutes? Seconds? The pain in my head continued to grow as my vision diminished. Even recent memories started to fade. But that trill continued to fill the air and drown out the wind.
‘So this is what my choice brought me in the end? And all I can do is laugh. I didn’t believe I could… anymore…’ Something warm leaked from my eyes and trickled down my head. Making the noise grow to a crescendo when I realised. ‘You couldn’t do your own dirty work, it can’t end like this. Was my choice so wrong?’
My eyelids were growing heavy, but they soon opened wide. For a moment I could not breathe from what I saw. My body was numb and felt as though it was sinking. But With all the will I could summon I reached up to her and placed my hand against her cheek. She smiled at me from overhead, appearing as beautiful as the day we first met. Her long silver hair tickling my face as her mouth moved. I knew the words that she spoke to me, but they would not reach me, not now.
The warmth on my face grew and the laughter returned. But it only felt bitter and hollow. ‘So even now you still choose to torment me, even with what you did to me.’ The image of the girl from my memory soon faded, her smile pulling at my frozen heart as she went. Leaving my hand reaching for the heavens instead. My open palm soon curled into a fist as I held it high. ‘It will be a cold day in Tartarus before I die! You hear me?! This is far from over! I… I am coming… for you…’
The stars overhead winked out one by one as the tunnel in my vision grew longer. My body further sank into the cold embrace of the earth. But I didn’t panic. I laughed all the way, continuing until the last star faded and I could no longer hold my arm aloft. I do not fear the abyss, but the denizens of darkness should fear me.
Do I still deserve to be punished?
You sit upon your golden throne while the people starve and suffer. Who are you to lay judgment on others when your own greed clouds your mind? – First Knight Harinhold. The execution of Yilfren the black. – Dragon lord of the northern isles. 200:BL
The northern winds continued to blow, reminding everyone that winter solstice was soon approaching. But no one would be ignorant to the change in season. The fresh powdered snow of the previous night decorated the land in crystalline beauty. And although the sun shone in a clear sky it was far from being a warm morning.
Trundling over the hills was a lone caravan, its large wheels cutting a path in the deep fall. It was a peculiar sight to this country, being Larger and more ornate compared to the norm. Its windows glowed while smoke puffed from the chimney on its roof. And the silhouette of a woman blocked the light on occasion as she went about her business.
Sat at the front was a cloaked figure, steam on occasion escaping its dark cowl. But the mist was soon blown away by the frigid wind. A lone golden braid trailed from the hood down a moulded chest plate. This made it obvious to anyone that the driver was a woman. Her eyes scanned the land while her ears listened for danger. Not even flinching when the hatch behind her opened and her companion sat beside her.
The woman from the caravan blew into her hands while looking to their destination. ‘I didn’t think it would get so cold, I was glad that I packed for any occasion.’ She gripped her colourful winter jacket and tightened it around herself. ‘Will it be long till we reach the next town?’
‘I am unsure, I rarely travel these roads. I prefer to avoid this land.’ The driver spoke in a deep and assertive tone. But she stroked her braid and shook her head when she looked to her companion. ‘I am not fond of this weather, or place, just keep warm and do not concern yourself with my needs.’
The woman chuckled and shook her head, causing her short black hair to ruffle. She jolted then reached for her head. Her shoulders slumping when her hands found her strawberry hairclip was still there. ‘Phew. And of course I am concerned, you are sat here in the cold. Even with that padded leather armour of yours, I can tell you are cold. I know what, I will get something warm to drink.’
‘I am fine, there is no need for concern.’ The driver sneezed, a high pitched trill more akin to a young girl. ‘Do not look at me like that… I am only here since it is convenient for our situations.’ The driver sniffed and her teeth began chattering. ‘It is disconcerting when you smile like that. I am here to drive, I am not a part of your plans.’
The young woman wore a grin as her eyes narrowed and inspected the driver. ‘Don’t be silly, I still think of you as a friend. Even if we only met a few days ago, now let’s get you some soup. Can’t have you freezing your butt up here.’
The driver reached for her companion but grabbed the reigns when the caravan jolted. The vehicle soon came to a halt as she looked for danger. ‘What in the… what was that?’ she looked to her companion who was staring back. ‘Are you alright? You look a little pale.’
The young woman nodded as her eyes widened. ‘Yeah… I just hope we didn’t lose a wheel, Mother would kill me if I break this caravan.’ She soon slumped and exhaled. ‘Wait here, I will go and see what happened.’ The driver nodded as her companion turned and descended the ladder.
The driver stood and continued scanning the land for danger. She soon drew her sword and jumped to the ground when a high pitched scream drowned out the wind.
A field of violet grass stretched into the distance under an amber sky. The occasional black cloud moved overhead, releasing a fine red mist as they passed. ‘Where am I?’ I sat and looked around, all I could see were rolling pastures and a peculiar forest. ‘Why does this place feel familiar?’ The woodland trees grew tall which was not strange. But their black bark and blue leaves gave them a surreal contrast to their surroundings. It all seemed so strange yet I didn’t feel uncomfortable to be here.
Is this a dream? Yet I feel like I have been here before.
‘Hey! I found you! A high pitched voice called out from the distance, I didn’t understand why but I felt that I knew the owner. ‘I can see you! Stop trying to hide!’ I looked about but did not see anyone. But a weight collided with my back which sent me flying forwards. ‘Now I caught you. There is no escape this time!’ Something wrapped around my chest while the weight on my back held me down. I looked to where the voice came from to see a pair of pink eyes staring back.
I felt warm and my chest tightened when the girl smiled. She started giggling which made her silver hair roll down my face and tickle my nose. Her eyes narrowed and she grinned, but my reflexes soon closed my eyes when I sneezed. That world and all feeling soon vanished.
My body felt heavy, my eyes would not open and I was sure I could hear people talking nearby. With considerable effort I focused on opening one eye. But an agonising pain struck my consciousness which almost made me blackout. My chest and back were burning and my limbs ached with a dull throb. I didn’t know what was happening or how I got here.
The voices grew clearer as the ringing in my ears dulled. But the pain in my head still remained. All I could see were lengths of patterned fabric that hung from the ceiling above me. I went to move but my body would not respond. All I could do was blink and stare at the ceiling as I bared the brunt of the pain.
The creaking of wood soon snapped me out of my panic, the voices were growing louder. I shut my eye and waited. If I was going to find out anything then this would be the moment. ‘Look, it was my decision, we couldn’t leave him out in that weather. So end of.’ It sounded like a young woman, I was unsure how I knew. When I tried to think about it the pain in my head grew worse.
‘His clothes mean he is either a mercenary or a lord’s son. I would rather not take the risk with either.’ The second voice sounded hard and sure of itself, I was certain it was also a woman. ‘But if you insist, then all I can do is warn you. I will batten down for the night then retire.’ The squeal of wood hurt my ears and the following bang made me wince. I could only guess that the younger of the two remained.
I heard a sigh and whatever I was laying on dipped to the side. Something soft brushed my forehead, it felt comforting but I did not understand why. ‘So you still have a temperature, you should feel lucky that we came across you when we did. I don’t think you would have lasted and your hands…’ The weight beside me kept shifting as I heard dripping water. My headache began to dull as something cool and moist was lain on my forehead.
‘I feel terrible, we… are, are you awake?’ I took my time to open my eye. But I was soon staring at the owner of the voice after she forced my eyelids open. Her button nose, slanted green eyes and small mouth surprised me with her cuteness. A red hairclip dangled above her right eye as her hair hung loose to her shoulders. ‘I am so glad that you are alive.’ She let go of my eyelids then leant forwards and hugged me.
My body would not respond. I tried to say something but panicked when my mouth only flapped. The young woman kept holding my head as she muttered to herself. I didn’t know what to do. By sheer willpower I managed to move my eyes to see her smiling with her eyes closed. Her head was resting against the side of my own as she sniffled.
She remained there for a time but before letting go. ‘I am just glad you are alive. You were lucky that we came across you. But I should go, you need your rest.’ She continued to look at me before she looked up at the ceiling. ‘Or should I stay? What do you think? It might be better for someone to keep an eye on you.’ I tried to speak again but she placed a finger over my mouth. ‘No complaints, you are in no shape to argue with your carer.’ She grinned, stood, turned around then started giggling. I had to look away when her colourful robe fell to the floor revealing the smooth skin of her back.
I kept my eyes shut as her chortling continued. What I now assumed was my bed dipped to the side and the ceiling above me started to creak. What is this girl up to? I opened my eyes and saw her looking at me from the side of the ceiling. ‘What? Did you think I was sleeping with you? It’s a bunk bed silly.’ She snickered then started giggling again. Her head soon disappeared as the ceiling above me creaked some more. ‘Well, nighty night.’ She yawned and the noises soon faded. I guessed I was safe for now, so closed my eyes and soon drifted off.
My sleep was peaceful and by the time I woke the girl was gone. The bed felt as though it was shifting and vibrating. Bottles rattled and objects hanging from the ceiling rocked. I guessed we were moving although I did not know the destination. But I kept getting blinding headaches when I tried remembering where I was heading.
The young woman checked on me at times, but they left me alone for most of the day. I started to gain some movement but my body still felt weak. The pain in my chest and back had dulled to a throb. But my speech had still not returned. I could only muster a few garbled syllables as I looked around the room I was in.
It was quaint and felt like a home, various drawers and cupboards lined the wooden walls. A few of the small worktops had bottles or fabrics on them. The patterns and colours were nice on the eye and as extravagant as the young woman’s robe. I laid there and wondered what had happened to me. Most of my memory from the past few days was missing or blurred, it was disconcerting.
‘Hey? Are you alright?’ I had not noticed her enter, the young woman was standing next to me while frowning. She was holding a tray that was filling the room with a delicious smell. My stomach grumbled and I looked away, she chuckled then sat on the bedside. ‘Here, It’s for you, you need your strength if you are going to get better.’ I shifted my arms which caused her to step back, but I didn’t have the strength to sit myself up.
‘Wait, wait, wait! I will help.’ She fumbled about and rushed to secure the tray on one of the worktops before returning to me. ‘Here, let me help.’ With her aid I was soon sat with my blanket over me. ‘It would be best if I feed you. Since you can’t move, no other reason.’ She blushed and looked away. Her hand was still holding my own under the blanket. She closed her eyes, sighed and then raised it into the air. ‘I should check on… Eh? What? What is this?’
She stared wide eyed at my hand while her mouth hung open. She tilted her head and inspected it while moving the digits on occasion. ‘This… is very strange. I was sure you had…’ I simply looked at her, I didn’t know what she was talking about. My hand looked no worse than the rest of my body. A little flushed and sore, her rough handling of my finger didn’t help.
With a sigh she put my hand onto my lap then retrieved the tray. I didn’t notice it yesterday but her heart shaped face was very cute. Her button nose even wiggled as she talked. But one thing still bothered me about her. Whenever she smiled it seemed mischievous and her eyes appeared to twinkle. ‘Kimiko Kamifuku. Don’t look at me like that, I am not speaking Zinpan. It’s my name. Kimiko meaning “child without equal.” Since I am going to be the best you see.’ She winked and giggled. ‘Kamifuku is my family name, it means “Gods fortune.” A lucky name for what our family does.’
After a brief history lesson about her great-great-grandfather winning the name in a bet. Against a feudal lord which she had to keep emphasising. She began feeding me, the act itself made my cheeks feel hot. But she talked about her distant home which helped me relax.
‘Mother is a great woman, she started from nothing and soon had a flourishing business. Her strawberries are sold all across the land, my older sister’s even work for her.’ She looked out of the window while smiling, then held up a fist and winked at me. ‘But you see, being the youngest I want to show them up by starting my own trade routes. So I packed a caravan with a variety of things to test the water.’
The caravan stopped shaking and kimiko looked out of the window while smiling. ‘Ah, we have arrived.’ She chuckled then looked back at me with the same grin on her face. ‘So, now you know a bit about me, how about you? Care to tell me your name considering I saved you?’ She smiled again and her green eyes twinkled. I wanted to reply but froze, it was on the tip of my tongue, my mouth moved but nothing came out. I kept thinking it over; what was my name? How could I forget it? Where am I from? Why am I here? How did I end up in the snow? Who am I? The last thought caused my chest to tighten.
‘Hey? Are you alright?’ I felt something warm and soft against my cheek. Kimiko was looking at me with a furrowed brow. She rubbed my cheek with her thumb and continued to hold the side of my face. ‘What happened to you? Can’t you remember?’ I looked down but she made me look at her again. She tapped me on the nose then started smiling. ‘Don’t worry, you just need more rest. I will be back later, I have business to take care of. Time to go trade!’
Kimiko ruffled my hair and then left the room. I didn’t know what was worse; the way she looked at me, or the thoughts that were wracking me. So I resigned myself to my situation. Maybe I need a few days of rest to clear my head? But it was still unnerving. With nothing better to do I focused my mind on moving my limbs. I needed to do something and it was better than dwelling on my problem.
The rest of the day passed at a crawl, moving my body was far harder than I expected. But I managed to regain some movement in my arms and legs if I focused. Even if they were weak, it was still progress. I inspected myself as I trained, my body still matched the memories that remained. Although there was a palm thick red mark across my chest which burned when I touched it. My hands were still flushed and sore. I went to check my feet but had to lay back when the burning in my chest became too intense.
When I lifted the blanket, black flakes covered the bed where my hands rested. I went to pick one up but it crumbled when I touched it, leaving a fine streak of ash on my fingertips. ‘I wun… der…’ I jumped at the voice I heard and looked around the room. But I was the only person there. Was that my own voice? How could I forget what I sound like? ‘hel… lo…’ My jaw and tongue still felt numb, but it was an improvement which perked my hopes.
With a sigh I looked out of the window. Kimiko’s stall was between a few others, separated by waist-high walls of colourful fabric. Various items hung from strings or were place on table tops beside the caravan. It seemed like a busy day as a number of unknown faces inspected the items on show. But a familiar bob of hair rushed amongst the throng.
It made me smile when I saw Kimiko sneaking up on various people. So I guessed she was enjoying herself. She seems to have a way with words since the people she talked with were buying her wares. ‘itsh… nais…’ I had to duck out of the way when she noticed me. Kimiko started smiling and waving while hopping on the spot. It was completely different to the way she looked at me before. Her eyes shone and her cheeks glowed, even her teeth made a slight appearance. My chest convulsed for a moment which filled the room with an odd noise, but it soon passed.
I thought it would be a good idea to rest for a while, I felt exhausted from my training. So I laid down with care and shut my eyes, but the peaceful atmosphere did not last. Screams and shouts came from outside along with the sound of splintering wood. Oh shit. When I looked outside, Kimiko’s stall was laying in ruins. The other traders were not faring any better. But I froze when I saw a man holding the tip of his sword to Kimiko’s throat.
I needed to do something, even if my body was slow to respond. She needed my help since I couldn’t see the other woman with her. The bandit started shouting at her, demanding her gold. But she stood with a straight face and kept telling him she only had the little amount she gave him. He kept on though, his blade pressing against her. His hand pointing at the caravan as he made his demands
As I looked around the room for a weapon it dawned on me that I had no idea how to use one. But I needed to do something. Above the window was a long pole the curtains hung from, it was at least as thick as the length of my thumb. For some reason I knew it would be perfect against his sword and to use as a support. So I reached up and pulled it from its mounting then removed the fabric from it. Standing was easier than expected when using the pole. I knew the hardest part was still to come, so I went over possible plans as I hobbled to the door.
‘Just give me the fucking gold already! I know you have more in that mobile palace of yours!’ When I looked around the corner of the caravan, I could see the man with his back to me. The fabric that Kimiko used as walls for her stall blocked the doorway from sight. ‘I am not asking you again little lady, unless you want a hole in you, get the gold now!’ He pressed his sword into her throat which made her yelp. Causing a single streak of crimson to dribble down her neck from the blades tip.
‘I already told you, all the coin I have went into stock, I don’t have any more gold than what I gave you.’ Kimiko remained calm which surprised me, considering her situation. She seemed like a different person as she stared the bandit in the eye. Not even flinching when he drew a dagger from his belt. ‘This is pointless, you are wasting your time if you want gold.’ But the blood soon drained from her face when she looked at the dagger he was holding.
‘Well then, I guess I have nothing else to gain from you.’ He withdrew his sword and lifted the odd looking blade above his head. He held it in a reverse grip so the blade faced down, a dark liquid dripped from its tip as he grinned. ‘Any last words before I send you back to hell?’ Time slowed as he lowered the blade, Kimiko’s screams rang in my ears as I ran.
I lunged the pole into the bandit’s side which sent him flying. My second wind ended when my legs gave way, causing me to collapse at Kimiko’s feet. The strange dagger pirouetted in the air then landed a fingers width from the tip of my nose. Its blade digging into the soil. I jolted back when the grass around it started to turn black and flake away into ash.
The shouting around the market and the sound of ringing metal grew. Something splashed my cheek. When turned to face kimiko, she was holding her hands to her face while looking down at me. ‘kim… i… ko…?’
She sniffled then started laughing before kneeling behind me. ‘Thank you… I was so scared.’ She took my hand then held it to her cheek. ‘I didn’t know what to do when he…’ Kimiko paled before a boot kicked her in the head sending her sprawling back. Something hit me in the head which caused me to blackout for a moment. When my sight returned specks of white started floating in my vision.
‘Well look at this fucking hero. You looking to die here too? Might as well off the lot of you.’ I rolled onto my back and saw the man standing above me with his sword raised. Kimiko was holding her head and staring wide eyed at the bandit. ‘How about I kill you slow? Would be fun, especially for your lady friend here.’ The man grinned at me then licked his lips.
It felt as though my shoulder was on fire as his sword dug into me. Even if my body was numb and slow to move, the pain blurred my sight. ‘How you like that? Surprised you still with us.’ He started cackling then ripped the sword from my body causing my breath to catch. I laid there gasping while Kimiko cried and her body shook. ‘Might as well finish you off then.’ The world around me was already fading as he raised his sword.
The shouting and ringing grew louder as a strong wind started to blow. I was sure I could hear Kimiko laughing as the bandit’s sword swung down. The bandit disappeared when a golden blur passed over me. It seemed to bring the wind with it. Kimiko’s face appeared in front of mine, her eyes still watering as she smiled down at me. ‘Kim… I… ko?’
‘Please, stay still. Just… Just call me Kim if it’s easier.’ She started laughing as she brushed my hair. Another figure with a sword drawn appeared behind Kim. But I relaxed when I saw a golden braid hanging from within a darkened hood.
Kim’s companion had returned. She lent down and pulled the dagger from the ground. Then rolled it over a few times before wrapping it in a piece of cloth and pocketing it. ‘We need to leave now. They are not bandits.’ She grabbed Kim’s shoulder then shook her. ‘We need to leave now!’
‘Help him… Please help him.’ Kim turned to her companion who then kneeled next to me. I almost caught a glimpse of her face when she leaned in close. ‘Help him… I need to pack things.’ Her companion sat me up then lifted me over her shoulder.
‘No! We need to go now! Your life is more important than your stock!’ The last thing I saw was Kim struggling to grab what she could as her companion pulled her along. Then the darkness took me.
The violet grass spread around me. I was alone in the field again, looking up while the clouds passed by. The sky had started turning red not long ago and the sound of night birds began to fill the air. I closed my eyes and sighed. I don’t think she will be coming to watch the stars tonight.
My eyes sprung open but I didn’t expect what I saw. Kim’s companion was sat next to me, the same dagger that I remember in her hand. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, her face was still obscured by her darkened cowl. I jumped when she reached forwards, but relaxed when she placed her hand against my head. It felt cool and refreshing. ‘You have a fever still.’ She had the same gruff and stern voice from before.
‘You were lucky to have survived, as you may have guessed, this is no ordinary blade. It amazes me that you came away with your life after it cut your nose.’ she rolled the dagger again before sheathing it. ‘But that is a matter for another day.’
I looked down at my legs since they felt heavy and saw kim resting on them. It appeared that she was asleep with a smile on her face. ‘Kim… i… ko?’
‘Do not worry for her, she is hardier than she appears.’ Kim’s companion leant forwards and lifted Kimiko’s blanket till it covered her shoulders. ‘She has been by your side for the past three days. When your heart stopped she kept on trying till she revived you.’ Kim’s companion stood and then twisted a gem on the wall, causing the room to darken. ‘You should rest for now. It still surprises me that you live.’ She almost sounded feminine as her voice trailed off. She turned away and the rattling of the door closing soon confirmed her departure.
But even though my body ached and my head still hurt, I soon found myself drifting off to sleep.16571 Views