Authors: Melissa Myers
Tags: #romance, #fantasy, #magic, #dark fantasy, #epic fantasy, #socercer
She felt tears welling again and didn’t think
the knot in her stomach would ever go away. Her throat felt thick
as she spoke again and she barely recognized her own voice. “My
momma’s name was Maggie, and if Badger is what you called my daddy
when he was a soldier, he was happy.” She sniffled slightly and
wiped her tears away from her face. “He had tattoos on his arm like
you both do, but he never talked about them. He was happy, though.
We all were.” She fell silent and let the tears come as she stared
down at her hands, wondering if she would ever be happy again.
“What happened?” She asked through the sobs, not really expecting
“The High Lords had a disagreement. Most
often it is the land that suffers when they do. Usually cities.
This time, entire countries, both Merro and Veir, are lost,” Havoc
answered. For the first time since they met, his voice was soft and
gentle. “It isn’t right, and we do what we can to fix it when it
happens, but this time there isn’t much we can do.” There was a
note of disgust in his voice when he fell silent again.
“We can make sure Badger’s daughter is safe.
She is one of ours, and there can be no doubt a higher power led us
to her. There is no other way we could have stumbled across her as
“Agreed, but we can’t take her with us, Vic.
Our path is not fit for a child. So what do we do with her
“I know I’ve given it a bit of thought. The
best I can come up with is an Aspectvar for now.” His tone was
cautious as if he didn’t care much for the thought.
“Priests? You want to leave his daughter with
priests?” Havoc sounded incredulous. He gave a snort of disgust and
shook his head. “He will haunt you for that, I promise you.”
She gave a slight sob at his words and
Victory cast him a sharp look. With a look of chagrin, Havoc gave
her an apologetic shrug. She looked back down at her feet and tried
to ignore them. She didn’t even know what an Aspectvar was and
didn’t care much for the thought of them leaving her anywhere. She
had just lost everything, and even the simple fact that they had
known her father, reassured her.
“His sister was a priestess. I remember her
well. She followed Fortune.”
Havoc gave another snort of disgust. “And
look where that brought her. As I recall, she lived in Merro as
“Damn it, Havoc, show a bit of compassion. We
may be used to loss and the death of friends but the child is not.
That is her family you speak of.” Victory’s voice was as sharp as
his rebuke and silence once again followed.
Jala swallowed heavily and wiped the tears
away again. “My Aunt Carissa was a priestess, she gave me this…”
her voice trailed off as she tugged her tunic down a bit to pull
out the amulet, which wasn’t there. She gave a slight cry as her
hand brushed across her skin and pain flared. Dimly she remembered
the amulet glowing before the flash. She brushed her hand across
the skin winced again at the pain and tried to make sense of it.
Had her amulet burned? And if so, why would it just burn?
“Here, let me see.” Victory had moved to her
side at her cry of pain, and he carefully pulled her hand away. He
studied the skin near her collarbone for a moment and waved Havoc
over. “Here, have a look.” Havoc cast him a skeptical glance and
moved closer, his expression changed as he saw the area Victory
“What’s Fortune playing at?” Havoc asked
Victory shrugged. “I’m not sure. But that’s
about as clear an answer as you can get,” he replied.
“Why? What’s wrong with me?” Jala tried in
vain to look down at the wound they were looking at, but it was at
the wrong place on her chest for her to get a clear look at it.
“You have the mark of Fortune burned into
your skin, child. It’s not a bad burn but the symbol is marked
quite clear,” Victory answered, his expression thoughtful. “So
Fortune claims you, and now all we need is to locate an Aspectvar
“I don’t know what an Aspectvar is, but he
has a Temple near here. Aunt Carissa used to talk of it. It’s by a
village called Bliss,” she said, trying to be helpful, even though
her words condemned her to being left behind.
Victory smiled and leaned back. “An Aspectvar
is what we call a Temple. We ourselves do not believe in gods. We
call them Aspects. As they represent an aspect of life, such as
Justice or Healing or Luck as in the case of Fortune.”
“Why don’t you believe in gods?” she asked, a
bit dumbfounded at his words. She had never heard such
“Because we are Elder Blood and hold enough
magic to be considered gods ourselves if we wished it. The only
thing that separates us from your god, Fortune, is the path we
choose to walk,” Havoc replied to the question. His voice was mild,
and his manner did not seem that of a braggart. She eyed the two of
them, trying to see the lie, if there was one. Victory simply
nodded his agreement and moved back to the fire to check the meat.
Havoc studied her for another moment, looking steadily at her eyes.
“Did you notice her eyes are violet colored, Vic?”
“I did, and her hair appears to be a dark red
under all that ash. She doesn’t have Badger’s coloring at all, or
Maggie’s if I remember correctly. I only met her once. But she
knows the names and the tattoos, so there can be no doubt.”
“Badger was half-blood, wasn’t he? And Maggie
was commoner, right?” Havoc pressed, still looking her over. He
waved his hand at her and muttered something quietly. She felt her
skin tingle for a moment and looked down at herself in amazement.
She was clean, entirely clean, and not just her, her clothing was
spotless, as well. Her eyes widened, and she looked back up at
Havoc. With a wave of his hand, he worked magic. No fancy spell
casting like in the stories, just a simple wave as if he was
shooing a fly away. “Pretty, too, once you get the dirt off,” he
Victory looked up from the meat thoughtfully.
“Aye, Badger was a half-blood, and you are right about Maggie as
well.” He glanced at her and gave her a smile. “And your
“My point is she doesn’t look mortal. Her
hair is more of a mulberry color than red, with a hint of purple.
Neither are colors I’ve seen on a commoner before. She doesn’t look
half-blood either, if anything she looks pure Elder Blood,” Havoc
spoke quietly. His gaze finally left her as he turned to regard
“Could be a throwback from Badger’s line.
Could be there was more to Maggie than he ever told us. I’m not
sure, Havoc.” He was slicing meat off the skewer now and carefully
handed her a plate. She looked thoughtfully at the food. She knew
she should eat, but her stomach still felt tied in knots. “Doesn’t
change what needs to be done though. Regardless, you are correct,
our path is not fit for a child, and we must make sure she is safe.
Be she Elder Blood, half-blood, or mortal, the Aspectvar is the
best option that I see. And I like the idea of the one at Bliss,
it’s out of the way, and she will likely be the safer for it.” He
handed another plate to Havoc and added in a quieter voice. “Your
observations do bear attention though. I’ll make a report to
Caspian before we leave her and follow through with whatever he
decides. It may be he will want her brought back to the Fortress.
Badger served there for at least twenty years before he retired and
I know Caspian was fond of him. He may want his daughter in sight
and as safe as we can make her.”
Havoc gave a grunt and took a bite of meat.
He chewed a moment before speaking. “Aspectvar is probably better
than the fortress. That place would be worse for a child than
traveling with us. Certainly not fit for a girl.”
“I’d rather go with you two,” she spoke
meekly. She hated the thought of being left with strangers, even if
they were priests. She watched them both closely for a reaction.
Victory’s was obvious remorse. Havoc once again was impossible for
her to read.
“Our road is not a good one, child. We fight
often, and you would always be in danger were you with us,” Victory
“We will check out the Aspectvar close when
we get there. Then make our decision, if the priest isn’t to our
liking or the place doesn’t seem safe, we will find another
option.” Havoc’s words surprised her and Victory as well, by her
guess, if the way his head whipped around to look at his companion
was any indication. Havoc gave him a shrug and took another bite of
meat. “What? Badger was a friend, and I don’t like priests.” He
shook his head, and turned his full attention back to his meal as
if the matter was settled. Victory shook his head and shrugged at
her and began to eat as well.
It was late the next day before they rode
into Bliss. The village was little more than a few scattered houses
sprawled near a crossroad. The Temple was the largest building and
stood out among the houses as a hawk would among sparrows. While
the other buildings had sod roofs, the Temple stood tall and proud
with clay shingles, and seemed a neat, orderly place. She could see
Fortune’s mark on the front of it, standing between two others she
“Love, Luck, and Healing. That’s a good
sign,” Victory said.
“If you are a brainless twit. Give me
Protection, War, and Healing, and I’ll feel the better for it,
knowing that at least one in the building knows how to use a
blade,” Havoc replied, his tone dry.
“For a child, I think love would be better
than swords, don’t you?” Victory replied mildly.
“Depends on the love, I’ll have a good look
at this priest before we ride off. If he so much as looks at her
the wrong way, he’ll be a head shorter.” Havoc pulled his horse up
in front of the Temple and dismounted.
“Bad luck to kill a priest, you know,
especially when it’s a priest of Luck.” Victory smirked as he
dismounted. Turning, he lifted Jala down from the horse as
“If I kill him, I have a reason. And if
Fortune has a problem with my reason, he can bloody well take it up
with me in person.”
Jala watched the two of them silently and
followed Victory up the stairs to the Temple door. Although made of
solid dark wood, the Temple door looked worn. There were faint
images on it, as if it had once been carved, but they had faded
past recognition, and she couldn’t tell what it had been a picture
“How about you let me judge his character.
I’m not quite as harsh of a critic as you are and chances are I’ll
find fewer reasons to dislike him. You have gotten rather
protective in a single night. It’s really not like you at all,
Havoc,” Victory said with a glance toward the Firym before pushing
the door open.
“Kid has had it rough enough. You asked me
for compassion and you are getting it. Why are you complaining?”
Havoc asked, with an annoyed look.
She followed them wordlessly into the
Temple’s dim interior, quietly hoping Havoc didn’t like the priest.
Not enough to kill him, but enough that he wouldn’t leave her
“I’m not complaining. I’m simply not used to
your caring about such matters,” Victory clarified.
“I care, just not as much other times,” Havoc
objected. He looked around the main room and back to Victory.
“Should be a bit more attentive toward their own Temple, shouldn’t
they? How are they going to keep track of a small child when they
don’t even notice when people have entered the building?”
“Patience, Havoc!” Victory chided with a bit
The door in the back of the hall pushed open
as he spoke and an older man made his way through it. He was
dressed in old, but tidy robes, and his hair was gone to white with
age. He moved slowly and his expression seemed kind as he
“Oh he will never keep up with her,” Havoc
scoffed as he watched the man approach. The Firym looked ready to
leave at just the sight of the priest.
Victory elbowed him into silence and smiled
to the approaching priest. “Greetings, Father,” he called.
“And a warm welcome to you, Son. How may our
Temple be of help to you and yours?” The old man replied.
She thought she heard Havoc mutter something
but couldn’t make out the words. Moving closer, she stood beside
him and gazed up, hoping he would pick her up and leave this place.
It wasn’t that the Temple looked like a bad place. She simply
didn’t want them to leave her. They had known her father, and that
made them more than strangers.
“I would have a word in private with you, if
there is no objection,” Victory replied smoothly. She saw Havoc’s
mouth fall open to object, but a simple look from Victory kept him
silent. The old priest nodded, and she watched him and Victory
disappear back through the door.
Havoc gave a sigh and dropped heavily onto a
pew and looked to her. “You know he did that so I couldn’t find
something wrong with him, right?” He asked with another sigh. She
nodded and sat down on the pew opposite of him. She split her gaze
between Havoc and the door and folded her hands in her lap. She
still silently prayed that they wouldn’t leave her here. “You are
tough, kid, I’ll give you that. Most would be wailing right now.”
He stretched his feet out in front of him and crossed them and
leaned fully back on the bench.
“I think I ran out of tears. I still feel
like crying, but they just ran out,” she replied quietly. In truth,
her head ached from all of her tears the day before. Her stomach
felt wrong, and her throat still felt tight. She didn’t think she
had ever felt this miserable.
He looked at her and nodded. “I’ve had days
like that, a lot of them lately. Seems like the world will never be
right again. It will be though. You can’t have the light without
the dark. And while it may seem the darkest right now, kid, you
will see light again. If you are Badger’s girl, you will be tough
enough to see it through. He never gave up, and always kept
fighting, no matter how dark it was.”