"Destiny waits alike for the free man as well as for him
enslaved by another's might" --Aeschylus
Sabre flung the saddle on the back of Gravitt's horse. Adorned
in silver and jewels, the thing weighed nearly as much as she
did, but after all these years, she had mastered moving it around
well enough. The large bay gelding turned his head to look back
at the tiny woman and nuzzled her back as she worked. Smiling,
she gently pushed his nose away and pulled the saddle up onto
his withers. With an expert hand, she unhooked the cinch from
its place on the horn and pushed it over the other side of the
animal, then caught it in one motion as it swung towards her.
She pulled it snug--not tight--since she did not know when they
were leaving and did not want to make the horse uncomfortable
any longer than necessary. She took the bridle she was carrying
on her shoulder and hung it on the saddle horn. Patting the
horse on the neck, she silently wished the good-natured animal
would find a way to unseat his rider this time.
She walked back
into the barn and retrieved her horse--the last of the five
that she had been assigned to prepare for the journey. Her
mare (the only thing she actually owned) was a small dapple
gray with enough energy to work all day and still have enough
spirit to race and win at night. Sabre had named her Matze,
which translated to "chasing the hurricane wind" in her
native tongue. As she approached, the animal threw her head
in a sort of respectful defiance. She looped a lead around
the horse's neck and walked her outside, tying her securely
to a post near the others.
As she regressed back into the barn to get her tack, Brinson approached
her. His dirty blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail, which
swished from side to side as he walked. "Any idea where we are
"You know Gravitt doesn't tell me anything."
He shrugged. "Wherever it is, it must be quite a trek--he
made me pack almost all of his clothes."
Either that or he's just going stay awhile at our undisclosed
destination. She hated traveling with Gravitt, but then
again, it wasn't like she had a choice. Brinson followed her
as she headed back outdoors with saddle and bridle in hand.
"I can do that if you want to go get some things together,"
"I've got it, but thanks."
She looked up at the large manor behind her and wondered if
Gravitt was watching them; he had a 'thing' about her speaking
to other workers--especially Brinson. He liked to remind her
that he owned her, and that no other man was to ever touch her--even
if they could have.
Noticing her discomfort, Brinson walked away, leaving her
with the five horses and the pack mule. Moments later she had
completed her task of readying her horse. Tired and thirsty,
she walked over to the nearby water tub, cupped her hands, took
a refreshing drink and splashed some water on her face. Another
reflection suddenly appearing in the water startled her, and
she stood up and turned to face Gravitt.
He was a large man; at least a head and a half taller than
she and built like an ox. He was handsome, but not in any way
that appealed to her. His dark brown hair was always neatly
arranged on his head; his clothes always in fashion and neatly
pressed. Lately, he had been favoring a tunic, pants and a dark
cape. Around his neck hung his family heirloom--a small gold
crest with a relief of a tower carved onto it.
Looking at him, she was (as usual) drawn the part of him that
disturbed her the most--his silver eyes. He glared at her for
a moment, asserting himself and demeaning her as always, "Good,
I see the horses are ready. Go get that bastard son of yours."
He smirked at her, "I wouldn't want to travel without insurance."
Her blue-green eyes flashed thoughts at him she would have
wanted to say. And three years ago, before her son was born,
she would have said them. Now, afraid for the child's life,
when he told her to do something, she just did it. She never
talked back to him, and she noticed that it drove him insane
to see her so complacent. Probably because he doesn't have
an excuse to thrash me now. She nodded to him as she brushed
back some of her bright red-orange hair and turned in the direction
of the manor. He watched her go, sneering at her the whole time.
She felt his eyes on her, but just continued walking, pretending
he wasn't there.
She looked at the city on the cliff below the manor as she
walked. Briggatt, this city, was not her choice of home, but
she hadn't had a choice of anything in eleven years. Cities
are too confining. She remembered how the city had prospered
under Ziggrat--Gravitt's father--and shook her head as she gazed
down on it now. So much for the jewelry capital of the world.
Where shops and taverns once stood now was home to a few stray
cats and lots of vermin. No one remained in the city; only those
who were living in the Manor stayed after Ziggrat's death, and
none of them had a choice--they were all both servants and compulsory
soldiers in Gravitt's army. She knew why they didn't try to
escape; their ruler was too hateful to just kill them. He would
make them watch as he massacred their loved ones. Such is
the life of a servant...or a slave...
Thinking back, she knew exactly the last time she had made
a choice on her own--eleven years ago. It was decision inspired
by a feeling--nothing else--to walk outside that tent and let
herself be captured. She knew it was she that had they wanted--the
Death Child. She hated that name, but those who gave it to her
were correct--she could kill a man just with a touch of her
hand. She looked down at the thick leather gloves she was required
to wear--a curse, not a Gift.
Gravitt had forced her to use her ability time and time again
to take out his rivals. Many people had tried to usurp his rule
of cruelty and terror (in both Briggatt and other states he
had conquered and destroyed), and rather than fight them in
battle (for that was too risky and far too honorable) he made
her do his dirty work. To ensure the job was done to his satisfaction,
he would hold the life of her child over her head. Not once
did she want to commit murder, but she always did it in the
most humane way she could; thoughts of sadness, which would
cause her victim to sleep and never wake up. Still, even after
all of the people she had killed in Gravitt's name, the deaths
affected her in the same way as the first had--she always threw
up, even if she had not eaten anything all day--and she knew
it was not just from the drain on her life-force.
Now she entered the room where her son was...her son...and
Gravitt's. She hated how he referred to the child as 'your bastard
son' when in he knew damn well he was the father. "The ruler
of Briggatt--the jewelry capital of the world--in a scandal
with a tribal tramp! Oh what would the people say?" He had said
to her when the boy was born. But most of his staff knew the
truth; only someone like Gravitt--someone immune to the direct
and indirect effects of magic--could have slept with her and
survived. Slept my ass... She grimaced at the memory
of that night; she would have killed him, had she been strong
enough. But she was not, and that fact galled her.
Gently, she nudged the small child. At three years old, he
was already starting to show signs of her Gift. Fortunately,
he did not look like Gravitt at all, but more resembled her
father--large, kindly brown eyes and soft auburn hair. She had
not told him who his father was--Gravitt had forbidden it, just
as he had forbidden her naming the child in the style of her
people or teaching him anything about the Prairie Tribes. But,
true to his nature, he always kept the boy close enough to him
to get her to do his bidding. He had accomplished this by creating
a relationship with the boy and telling him that he was a friend
of his deceased father; even going as far as to make up stories
about himself and this figment of his imagination to tell the
child as bedtime stories. As if I would ever admit a friendship
The child awoke, staring at his mother and smiling. "We gonna
"Where we going, Mommy?"
"On an adventure," she replied as she looked around for a
hat for him. She produced one from a drawer--a dark green one
that brought out the color of his eyes. She put it on his head,
tying it gently below his chin.
She nodded. Brinson (although always kept at a distance out
of fear for his life and hers) was the closest thing she had
to a friend, and the closest thing her son had to a father.
She knew her son had taken a liking to the blonde-haired man,
more so than he had to his so-called good-natured protector.
Probably because of the tone Gravitt uses with me... even
a child could not ignore that.
She took her sword off the wall near her bed and fastened
it to her back. Although she was only five foot two and weighed
about a hundred pounds soaking wet, she had somehow been able
to find a sword light enough for her to use effectively. Gravitt
had forbidden her to carry a bow from day one--she was too good
a shot and it would have been far too easy for her to pick him
off when his back was turned.
She picked him up, but he struggled. "Mommy, I can walk. I
don't wanna be a baby. I wanna walk like a big boy."
Laughing a little, she put him down and took his hand--also
bound in black leather gloves. "All right. Let's hurry, Darian."
When Sabre returned to the tying posts with her son, the others
had already mounted up, and Gravitt waved her towards him. She
knew exactly what he was going to say--it was the routine when
they traveled. "Your son will ride with me. Mount your horse
and draw your sword. You're riding scout." Wordlessly, she lifted
the boy up to Gravitt. She looked at Brinson, Philip and Marcus--Gravitt's
other "bodyguards". Slaves would be more the correct term.
Without a wasted motion, she swung her small frame onto the
back of Matze, who pranced impatiently as her rider drew her
Riding scout was probably the biggest tease to Sabre; she
would ride on ahead for a moment of freedom, but then return
to the group and report back any upcoming enemies or rough terrain.
She knew Gravitt didn't give her these moments of glory for
the most sensible reason--her horse was the fastest--but because
with him holding Darian, she was assured to not try and take
As she rode, her sword in one hand and the reins in the other,
she tried not to look back, but her concern for her son was
always in the front of her mind. While she would gallop on ahead,
the others rode at a brisk trot; trying to make time but not
tire the horses too much. Philip and Marcus flanked Gravitt,
their swords drawn, and Brinson was assigned to bring up the
rear and lead the pack mule. He isn't much of a fighter anyway.
She had loved to travel once in her life, but those days were
past her now. Now she was just cannon fodder for a man she hated--a
man she would have killed had she been strong enough. She knew
he loved to watch her suffer, and she always tried to hide her
pain just out of spite. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
She wished she could turn the tables on him--just once.
As she rode ahead of the men, her horse willing yet frustrated
at having to slow to trot when returning to the group, pictures
of her life seemed to impress themselves into her mind. She
had been a happy child--she'd had a mother and father who loved
her, and a twin brother who she was always in competition with.
Their good-natured contempt always seemed to the catalyst for
their learning; each wanting to out perform the other. But no
matter how hard she tried, she could not match his skill with
a bow, and he could not come close to the almost natural talent
she had for riding.
Her brother and she--in those days when they were together--would
always go on riding adventures. Their parents had encouraged
this since they were going to need to these skills to survive
someday. Armed with their bows and astride two of the most well
broke horses, they would venture out into the forests around
wherever their tribe had camped. He never managed to acquire
the best balance for staying on a horse, and she remembered
him falling off continuously. She would laugh at him and call
him names--but only after making sure he was all right. Sometimes
he would retaliate by throwing a tuft of dirt at her horse,
trying to spook it. It never worked because their parents only
let them ride the quietest of horses when unsupervised. She
knew this frustrated him to no end.
One day, while trying to keep up with her (and yelling at
her to slow down) he took a particularly nasty fall. Landing
unceremoniously in a mud puddle, he cursed at her as she laughed
at him, making her horse dance in the mud to splash him even
more. Enraged, he used his Gift to call a clasp of thunder.
The noise made her horse rear and then spring forward into a
dead run, throwing her forward on its neck, causing her to drop
her reins and leaving her to grip the animal's mane to stay
on--screaming for dear life.
When their parents heard the thunder and the commotion, they
both raced out into the woods to find him still angered and
muddy and her clinging to her horse's neck in paralyzed fear
as it galloped through the forest, her reins still dangling.
Her father ran his horse ahead of hers and reached down to grab
her horse's bridle, forcing the animal to stop. Her brother
had gotten in quite a bit of trouble for that stunt, but later
she said to him, "That was the best ride. I was flying! Ashu!
Flying!" She begged him to do it again and again, and promised
not to tell. Sometimes he would oblige her, and sometimes he
would not. "I don't want to see you get hurt, Sabre," he had
said. Always the practical one, she thought. Happy memories
like this were the only things that kept her going these days--that
As she rode back to the group with the latest report of 'all
clear,' Gravitt whistled, the party's signal to turn around
and face him. She rode into the circle of them, brushing wisps
of her copper hair out of her face as he spoke. "I am guessing
you are wondering where we are going." She scowled. Well
yes, that information would help, asshole. Especially when I'm
He seemed to read her mind, and shot her a dirty look, but
continued. "We are heading north, approximately one more day
to Vane. I have received an invitation to attend the Re-Opening
Ceremony for the Magic Guild." Oh there's irony--the man
who is immune to magic going to the center for mages and wizards
everywhere. "We will ride through the night and arrive tomorrow
afternoon. First of all, remove any insignia of your pathetic
and conquered tribes." Silently, all four of his companions
pulled out their plaits, and forlornly dropped their colored
ribbons to the ground.
"Now that we have that annoying detail out of the way, we
need to establish associations, since I don't think I would
be made welcome riding into such an educated town with our respective
He nodded to Brinson, Philip and Marcus. "You three are my
trusted business associates and friends. We are all jewelry
traders who live and work in Briggatt. We will be allies in
public at all times." The three men looked between each other
and nodded in a submissive understanding. He will have to
treat them as equals now!
Sabre's momentary elation was crushed in a second when he
said to her, his eyes flashing steel behind them, "And you,
my little flare-haired wench...you are my sister-in-law. Your
husband is dead and I am, in my infinite good nature, a caring
for you and your child." Son of a bitch... I will never claim
you as blood!
Her reaction must have carried too well across her face, for
he sneered at her and gently ran a finger under the child's
chin. Turning her horse and fighting her tears, she took her
place at the front of the party.
In silence, they continued riding to the north as the Blue
Star rose into the dark sky, giving a small amount of sinister
light to their path.
Click Here to Continue