Chronicles of a Pagan
Chapter One (Official)
-The Traitor’s Road-
Her bare feet were cut and blistering from stumbling down the dusty, overgrown and ancient road. It was dark and she couldn’t see anything in the moonless night, but she could sense it. The dirt was different here. It didn’t feel like home. It was stony, rough, and hateful; there were rocks in the middle of the path and great drops into steep and impassable valleys from which she could feel no escape. If she fell down into the gullies, there would be no crawling out and her magic didn’t work here.
She could call herself home, but it wasn’t her home anymore. They would kill her now if she went back. After what she had done, she would be lucky if they weren’t riding out after her. But they didn’t know this road. This road was lost; no one knew this road anymore, except her. She knew this road; it had called out to her.
Her hand reached up and she wiped the blood from her lip. Not her blood. His blood. She still had it splattered on her face and hair. She had stripped her armor and left it behind. She had left everything behind. Even Calamus. Calamus. A smile played on her lips.
“You’ll be fine.” She whispered into the wind again. “Go be feral. Go back to your sisters.”
It was the seventh time she had uttered that into the wind. She was sure Calamus had gone back. The great leopard had come to her out of the wild, she would surely return to it willingly. She was sure of it.
She stumbled on the dark strange earth. Her palms scraped the jagged rocks of the path. Her arms shook a little and a strand of blonde hair fell out of her neatly tucked bun. She couldn’t wander into their land like this. They’d know as soon as they looked at her. She was unwanted by them; they would kill her. She was a traitor if she went back; they would kill her too. There was no country for someone like her.
She stared into the blackness as she knelt there on her hands and knees. She could go on, past the borderlands into their land, but what was there for her there? She couldn’t go back, she knew that. Not after what she did.
His steel-toe boots stepped up to her. It was the first thing she saw of him, the glint of the starlight against the silver of his steel walkers. Slowly her eyes looked up. He was probably jeering down at her. She was going to be an easy kill, just another notch on his ax-handle.
He wasn’t jeering. She could barely see his face but his brow was furrowed slightly in confusion and his lips were drawn tight.
“Get up.” He growled at her roughly. She didn’t answer at first. He poked her with tip of his club. “I said get up!” His voice rose a little. She lowered her eyes again and dropped her head between her arms.
She heard the air hiss as his angry heavy weapon swung up through it. Here it was. Her ending happened here. At least, she could say, it happened in the borderlands. She heard steal clink and suddenly there was a hard and heavy metal grip on her arm. She was being jerked up to her feet and shaken.
“What’s wrong with you mage!” He growled at her. “Are you broken?”
“Just kill me already.” She whispered softly. He tossed her back and she stumbled, crumpling and falling onto her hip.
“There’s no point in killing something that’s already dead.” He growled softly and she looked up quickly in surprise. She saw his silhouette against the stars as he reached back up and took the club from his back. He was turning away. He was going to leave her there, let her live.
She shook her head slowly and collapsed to the ground. He was right. She was dead already. She was dead inside.
“Mastidon!” A young Vail’s voice cried out and she felt the oracle’s feet pat through the dirt. This dirt felt so different then home. “Mastidon, where did you… Oh! Oh! You got another one! Try sneaking into our town, you little…” Her feet were running towards her, but they were stopped suddenly. “Ow! Mastidon?”
“Let the dead thing alone.” He growled softly. She was being dragged, her heels scraping the dusty path.
“Ow! Hey! Let me go you half-breed Ogre!” She was crying out. She struggled loose of his grip and her feet were running back towards her.
“Scryren! I said leave it!” Mastidon shouted angrily.
“But it’s still alive.” Scryren’s voice pouted as she bent over her. Mastidon scoffed loudly.
“There are different levels of dead, baby girl.” He grumbled under his breath. His heavy steps came back towards her. She saw Scryren’s soft boots step up by her face. Then her strange dark eyes, lit by the glimmer of starlight were visible to her.
“Are you dead? Like he says?” She asked her softly. Her breath caught up in her throat. She was so much like Okasa. Oh goddess, she even waited to see, just like that stupid little girl would. Mastidon came up behind her quickly and their silhouettes blurred together. He was grabbing her by the arm and dragging her off again.
The very tip of the crescent waxing moon was just barely cresting the mountain ridge. Life was pouring into her. She felt so weird. The moon never felt like this back home. It was the sun that gave her strength back home, but here, here moon gave her power.
Scryren broke loose of Mastidon’s grip again and came running back to her. She knelt down by her face again and looked down at her.
“Do you have a name?” She asked.
“Do not make friends with it!” Mastidon shouted angrily.
“Well you’re the one letting it live!” Scryren screamed back at him. She wasn’t listening to their argument, though it continued. Her name. What was her name? She had forgotten. Her name had been stolen from her lips by the trees. The trees that saw what she had done. What name would she give them?
They were all dead. She had driven the dagger into his throat and pulled it out again. They were all dead. There was only one of them who had known what she was doing and who had given her permission. She had understood. Oh goddess bless, she had known and she had let her do it. She had known. She wouldn’t be angry with her, she knew that, she was sure of it. She was never angry with her; ever, even when she had failed.
“Come on, stop you’re crying. Everyone’s alright, that’s all that matters. You’ll do better next time.” The memory of her crooked smile and rusted, misfit armor flooded in uninvited. She had been the best friend a mage could have ever had.
“Well, let’s give it a shot!” She was saying, tightening her gauntlets. “What’re you afraid of? I’ll be right here in case it goes south, okay?” She was drawing her heavy two-handed blade. “Believe in me. I believe in you.”
No, no she wouldn’t mind if she used her name. In fact, it might make her a little proud. It seemed like the sort of backward, underdog thing she always loved. She was her hero... in a strange way. Her poor, broke down, rusted, hero.
“Ontibile.” She managed softly. “My name… is Ontibile.” Their arguing stopped immediately. Mastidon leaned over her, towering like a wall.
“Ontibile is a fighter and a human.” He said quietly. “I knew this name on the
The battlefield? Ontibile had never mentioned being in battle. What other secrets had that old girl kept?
“I am… using that name.” She said slowly. Mastidon knelt down slowly and grabbed her by the arms again, picking her up to hold her face close to his. This close, she could see the outline of a horrible scar running through his left eye. He stood up with her like that and set her on her feet.
“If you’re going to use that name, you better live up to it.” He growled as he released her. Scryren put out her hand to steady her and frowned up at Mastidon.
“Who is Ontibile? You never mentioned her.” She pestered softly. Mastidon didn’t answer. He reached out a hand and roughly patted her shoulder hard enough to hurt then grabbed a fistful of her plain tunic and turned to walk up the steep mountain road. She was dragged along and Scryren followed them curiously.
“Come on,” He growled as he dragged her after him. “You stay out here and you’ll die by the spiders alone.”
“Wait!” Scryren cried in the background. “Who is Ontibile?”
“I am.” She said softly, her bare feet stumbling on the rocky, overgrown and ancient path.