The Rift

The woman set in a dim, barren room. She’s armored and sees me not as I circle round, sniffing. I cannot see her face but I know it well as mine own. A tangled web of hair conceals any thought in which I might have gained clarity from her action. Save. There was one to be found.

When first we met, she’d bent the knee, dealing upon herself a making. She had, emblazoned upon her, from chest to navel, and by her own hand, a flaming blue cross. I had marveled at her devotion to the King, for His enemies were prodigious, and she had now, without knowledge of task nor foe, rushed for the charge, and in so doing, had branded herself for Death.

Such is how I came to be in her room that long night whilst she bent her head to something hidden in her lap. The rider had arrived at dusk some three years ago. Words had spread. She’d been expected. However, her behavior puzzled many, intriguing my self, though why, I could not say. Nothing save her own self mutilation had been remarkable, to be honest. Most bend.

Still, there was something with this particular. She seemed withdrawn to some, but I smelled. This one smelt of restraint. I feared some had underestimated this new champion, and after years of suspicion, I was certain of the fact. She had awakened. There was a stirring.

She’d slept this long night on the barren floor with naught but a stool for company, and not even a candle. Yet, the room was dim. From where came this light I had wondered, and why? The light revealed its source now after so long. I see that it came now from within the woman who remained hunched over lest at any moment a draft might cause extinction. I waited many hours upon many more until at last she had sat upon the stool, and without effort, pulled from her chest, the cross by its hilt.

The hair on my neck stood. She had survived the veil then. Most do not. So it was as I’d suspected from the start. Though of small frame, the woman handled the sword with ease. I heard a sound, soft and delicate, break the long night’s silence. A rustle perhaps, or something a kin. A whisper. An echo. Back and forth it did whisper. She polished the sword with a cloth, her strokes careful. Practiced. Precise.

The fluidity of her movements spoke to the fearlessness I smelled earlier in the evening upon her arrival, but so long did she sleep, I had reason to doubt her ability to aid His cause. I had not doubted her ability Mind, more I was assured of it now. Which is why I had to kill her. Without realizing when or where or how, she’d become my unwitting pawn. Or poppet. Or puppet. And I had grown fond of the creature.

She gave away nothing and yet much. The movement of her hand across the silvery blue water was that of a wave, slow and steady, flowing to the shore and back out across the sea only to return again and again. I felt myself beckoned, lulled by the mutton. She was calm so the blow had come unseen. I reeled, at the prick oozing from me.

She had turned her back to me, unaware of my presence, or so it had seemed. I was deceived. She knew I was here, had known all along. Somehow she knew.  Blood seeped from a fresh prick of her blade. Then again. All the while, she remained calm, still seemingly unaware of my presence. Indifferent. What otherworldly blade she did wield that dawn.

Her blade rested now, perfectly sized to palm, a feather where the sword had been, one which flashed with fury. Back and forth. The hungry things needed to know what was coming for them. The fearless are feared by the hungry things. They would do good to bury her forever, was my opinion on the matter, but the scales now rested firmly on my shoulders. I would handle this creature my self.

As I departed from her presence, she softly bid me goodnight, and would I had had the time, her voice would have frozen me to my core. To hear her speak through the veil, seemingly unaware. But no, it was her final words that chilled my blood.

Soon.

I’d had precious little time to respond to her first vision when her final word spoke its authority. So self-assured. She was letting me leave. Why release a potential threat? And so calm in that fatality, as though she possessed some hidden secret.

A final look at the creature before closing the door, revealed more feathers uniting with the first, drawn to that dim spark that now burned as a solid flame. They would fight her soon. They had too, lest she be their undoing. Her fearlessness. No. It wasn’t that. No, it wasn’t that. What then was the key to her undoing? That was my mission. Who was this creature and what did it seek? Why had it charged curse?

Canandaigua, she whispered in answer, long after I’d departed. The place is chosen. Her intent clearly stated, she was aware of my presence and mind. A new territory, claimed for the King. Then let her take it. Let her try. And even if she were to succeed could she hold it? She needed me to fall.

Fearlessness. Quiet focus. Nothing in between. No victory. No loss. Just polishing. Her presence was a sign.

The Stranger would soon arrive.

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