Whisp whipped around, glaring at each corner of the tavern.
Her sight was lined with fear, tinged with red. The noise dulled to a roar, and
it seemed as if everyone moved in slow motion, laughing seeming high and forced.
Where was Raishre? Whisp had put her in danger…
It wasn't hard to find her. The cloak lay forgotten
on the ground, but even so, no one recognized this white Aisha as Princess Raishre.
She glared at the ring of Kyriis surrounding her with all the independence and
self-sufficiency she could muster, but it was to no avail -- they knew she was
helpless. For the moment.
As quick and deadly as a striking rattlesnake,
the thin, muscled Krawkess dipped in the circle, preparing a fighting stance.
Darkenbringer whipped out of the scabbard easily, and Whisp was whole again.
Steely eyes flashed mercilessly at the now silent crowd. The whole tavern was
noiseless - staring at the commotion. It was obvious there was going to be trouble.
"Stay away from her," Whisp snapped darkly,
voice tense with the hatred that built her very soul. Raishre gazed with astonishment
at this now transformed fighter, whom she had begun to think of as her best
friend. Now she was different -- her savior.
The Kyrii were not stupid; they could sense
a very experienced fighter when they saw one. Sneering at Whisp as a whole,
they smirked and left, the door of the tavern swinging shut. Whispers broke
out, but that was all. Everyone stared at the Krawk and Aisha who had caused
Raishre pulled the cloak over her head and followed
"You never leave my sight," she raged angrily.
She had almost lost a beloved sister, and this made her more frightened than
she ever had before. "The world may seem less dangerous than it is, Raishre,
but in truth it is a deadly thing. You leave my meager protection, and you might
as well be dead."
Raishre was silent. She knew she had let Whisp
down terribly, and did not want to make it worse. However, once they had snuck
back inside the royal castle, it was just as it had always been. They were two
parts of a whole, each balancing out the other.
* * *
Several days later, Raishre surprised Whisp by asking her to teach her the
art of swordsmanship. Whisp was astonished but this soon turned to an ecstatic
pride. She had never taught anyone before, and was not sure how good a teacher
she would be, but was pleased nonetheless.
Grinning to each other, they fell into their
usual sneakiness, dodging past palace guards to get what they wanted -- a sword
for Raishre. However, this time was different.
Turning a corner, Whisp saw something that astonished
her so much that she almost collapsed.
The sandy colored Draik that had been in her
dream stood at the opposite side of the corridor.
Her jaw dropped. She had never known that the
mysterious entity in her dream was an employee of the king. Instantly, as if
that vision closed something that was unfinished, she felt the most complete
mistrust she had ever felt. There was just something about him that didn't fit.
As soon as she realized this, he left -- gone as quickly as a mere wraith.
"Who was that?" she demanded to Raishre, who
was startled in this sudden change in her friend.
"Erytasne is his name," she said slowly. "He
has been a palace employee for months as a mage."
Whisp had never trusted those types -- wielders
"Just forgot it," the Krawk sighed, putting
on a fake, reassuring smile. Raishre wasn't fooled, but didn't press.
Entering the armory, Whisp grinned broadly.
This was exactly what they were looking for. Shields weren't necessary -- if
you could handle a sword well enough they could act as a shield in itself.
Raishre picked one that seemed a desirable height
and width -- beautiful in its simplicity yet practical. She named it Lightbringer.
"We should go outside to teach you, in the palace
grounds," Whisp suggested. "That way the clanging won't be heard from inside."
"Shouldn't we start with wooden swords?" Raishre
said nervously, flitting a gaze towards Darkenbringer.
"I won't hurt you," Whisp murmured with confidence,
as they made their way a decent distance from the palace, but while still on
palace grounds. This had to be secret -- Whisp would be kicked out in the streets
if the king ever found that his willful daughter was learning to fight with
swords. Whisp loved the danger, the secrecy.
The hot sun beat down upon their bare backs,
but Whisp did not take notice of the heat or blinding light. Raishre did. "The
first thing you must do is draw a fighting circle," she said crisply, drawing
a circle in the sand a fair distance around them both. "Its procedure. The second
thing is," she continued, noticing Raishre's frantic squinting, "To ignore the
sun. We can't do it in the shade because most fights will be in the sun. Learn
to trust your blade completely -- it is your life's defender. If you don't trust
in it, you will lose.
"Start like this," she continued, showing Raishre
the typical fighting stance. "Now, come at me."
The fight turned into slow motion, Whisp saw
every gesture, every movement of Raishre's almost before she made them. The
sun was an eternity away; all that mattered was the bond between her and Darkenbringer.
Nothing else was relevant.
Raishre made a clumsy advance at Whisp, and
Whisp knocked the blade from her paws almost before she drew a breath.
"You cannot let your enemy knock your sword
away. If you do, you have lost the fight and are dead. Hold onto it and feel
the bond between you and your blade."
Ever persistent, Raishre continued. The length
of time between the start of the fight and when the blade was reduced to spinning
from her paws and spitting up sand was lengthening with each try.
"Good!" Whisp commended as the sun started to
dip below the horizon, marking the end of the day. "You made excellent progress
and have more potential than anyone could have imagined."
Raishre scowled. "How can you tell when you
are always knocking away my sword?"
Whisp dodged the question. "Patience…" she said
mysteriously, as they retired for the night.
* * *
"Do it again," Whisp sighed as again, Lightbringer sailed through the air
to land on the sand. Raishre was getting better, but she had a long way to go.
As she determinedly picked up her sword, metal glinting in the scorching sunlight,
she sighed furiously. Raishre hadn't expected it to be this hard -- but she
was getting stronger. This morning she had woken up with every inch of her aching
-- and it felt good. Grinning in an encouraging way, Whisp prepared herself
yet again -- it had seemed to be the hundredth time, yet surely it hadn't been
greater than twenty. This time however, she was going to try a new tactic. Letting
Again the white, panting Aisha advanced, and
instead of easily knocking the blade out of her paws, Whisp merely parried and
stepped to the side, feeling the unreality already pulling over her as if she
were in a dream and watching someone else now wield Darkenbringer. This was
why Whisp was such a good fighter. The sun and heat melted away. She could see
every second click by as if from an eternity. Every straining hair on Raishre's
face was clearly seen and defined.
Unearthly flexibility served Whisp well as she
pulled easily away from Lightbringer's clumsy swings. After much of this however,
she noticed how tired Raishre was becoming. Her muscles were failing; exhaustion
was showing on her face. Whisp grew complacent and cocky, knowing she could
win at any time.
However, Raishre knew she was going to lose
-- she could feel it. She had to do something quickly to surprise Whisp. Mustering
the results of tattered strength, she suddenly reared and struck with all her
strength at Darkenbringer. The ebony blade swung through the air, parting from
Whisp's nerveless claws. And then, Raishre experienced something incredible.
The slow swings and twisting of the sword through
the air was as if it was in slow motion -- each second ticking by as Raishre
chose it to. She had never experienced anything like it before. She was instantly
aware of the bond between Lightbringer and her, and her beaten, shocked enemy
before her. Every line of astonishment on Whisp's face was seen as clearly and
instantly familiar to Raishre as was her own paw.
Breath coming quickly and yet slowly to both,
Whisp dropped to one knee as was customary.
"Dost thou accept the defeat?" Raishre questioned,
her own voice unfamiliar to even herself. Whisp smiled in beaten exhaustion,
and replied huskily, "Yes, Princess." The term of inferior to superior was clearly
tangible to Raishre, and she winced.
Standing again, both creatures gazed at each
other -- Raishre with wonder and Whisp with the utmost pride and respect. Whisp
knew Raishre had gained something she never would have otherwise -- confidence.
She knew she had then graduated from girl to woman. Whisp dipped her head and
shut her glowing grey eyes in a gesture of respect, for she had learned something
that day. Never underestimate an enemy.
* * *
Despite Raishre's win, Whisp knew that she had a long way to go in endurance
and technique, and so continued to secretly coach her. They also went out at
least once a week to visit Renah, whom Raishre had taken a liking to. Years
passed like this, years that Whisp was coming to regard as the best years of
her life. All the isolation and coldness had been filled and soothed by Raishre's
love and admiration. The two were so close it was as if they had grown up together.
One night, they crawled out the window of Raishre's
"playroom" to gaze at the clear night sky. Stars played across the dusk horizon,
twinkling and dancing in the dark void as if teasing the two that watched them
so intently. The night was punctuated by no noise, since the roof was far too
high to catch the sounds of the night loving folk who bustled below in taverns
The silence was overwhelming, yet Whisp loved
it -- it spoke volumes and she simply contented in being there with Raishre.
At one moment however, she remembered something.
"It's my birthday today," she voiced suddenly,
vocals soft and less harsh than they had been so many years before.
"I know," said Raishre smugly. "I made you this."
She pulled out something that immediately caught Whisp's eye -- a single golden
earring, a large yet practical loop. It was clear to Whisp that it had been
formed from the best palace gold, which was ever rare. As she took it in an
ebony paw, grinning broadly, she noticed that carved in the smallest, slightly
clumsy script, were the words, 'I LOVE YOU, WHISP'.
"Thank you," she managed, barely able to speak
but a whisper. Immediately, Whisp applied it to the base of her left ear, the
hoop swinging as Whisp shifted. She loved it -- there were no other words. Both
went to bed happy that night.
* * *
In the morning however, it was vastly different. When Whisp woke, she heard
the collective screaming of many. The gentle palace aura had been changed from
peaceful to deadly -- there was something very wrong.
Whisp bolted out of bed, barely grabbing Darkenbringer
on her way out. Palace guards and maids crowded around Raishre's room, frantically
darting from the corridor, getting others and supplies. Everyone was upset,
and it had to do with Raishre.
Dipping away and slipping between the thick
knot of people, Whisp finally was in the position to at least see inside Raishre's
room. What she saw broke her heart, caused the noise and screaming to fade to
a dull roar inside her astonished, panic-stricken mind. Raishre was dead.
To be continued...