The master crafted two legendary swords. Reaver and Baroness. One left-handed and one right-handed. Both weapons were wielded by one man, who went on to save the mortal realm. Upon his death, the swords were passed down to his children. Reaver to his right-handed daughter and Baroness to his left-handed son.
Despite his heroic heritage, the son became a farmer, but the daughter sought to become a hero, like her father before her.
Not long after, the daughter went missing, but her sword was recovered in the mountains months later next to a corpse that seemed to have been there for years and a horned baby.
Both the sword and the baby were brought to the son who'd look after the child for the next twenty years. This story- my story starts here.
"Hey uncle Noah, I'm done with my chores!" I called into the house before removing my boots and entering. "You said we'd continue sword practice If I finished early."
"Sure, but did you lock up the sheep?" He called from the kitchen.
"Of course, I did."
"Then why is Millie playing with one in the living room?"
"Because she's a brat." I made my way to the living room to find my little cousin riding on the back of a small sheep, giggling like the little girl she is. "Listen here, pipsqueak. Get off the sheep."
"No!" Her protest was to be expected. "She's not a sheep, she's my horsy." Millie had a habit of stealing away some of the smaller animals to play with when no one was paying attention.
"Oh yeah, where is your horsey taking you, then?"
"On an adventure! Just like grandpa."
"He was an adventurer, wasn't he?" I picked her up and put her on my shoulders. "How about we go on an adventure instead?"
"Yay!" She grabbed onto my horns, and we bolted out of the house together. "What about my horsy?"
"Don't worry, she's right behind us." I turned around and began walking backward. The sheep was close behind. Animals would always follow me wherever I went, but they'd never get too close unless I stuck around them for long enough. Sheep were no exception. At first, I thought it was because they saw me as a vulnerable little girl, but as I grew older, I knew better. It was my horns. Whatever it is about them, they attracted animals of all kinds.
I never got bullied for my horns, but that was probably because I'm the only one who could get the local dogs in town to stop chasing students running late for school.
"The horsy is following us! Yay!" Millie is always excited to see my little trick in play. I took us to the sheep pen and ushered the little sheep in without difficulty.
"Ok, let's get back to the house." After getting into the house, I sat Millie down next to her toys. "Uncle Noah, I put up all the sheep!"
"Did you clean your feet before coming back in?" I looked at my feet. They were caked in dirt with a trail leading to them from outside.
"Damn it," I whispered a curse.
"Language young lady." He was still in the kitchen. How could he hear me?
"How do you always know?"
"I just do."
I went back outside and cleaned my feet with the water hose and found the mop to get the tracks in the house. After finishing, I found Uncle Noah and Millie in the kitchen. Uncle Noah was just chopping up some garlic to add to a boiling pot of venison.
"Smells like deer. Is Aunt Mia coming home today?" My mouth began watering, and I swallowed hard.
"Yay, mommy home, mommy home, yeah!" Millie was excited.
"Yep," said Uncle Noah. "I'm going to pick her up at the town border in a few hours. I'll need you to watch Millie while I'm gone."
"Can-do!" I spied ever closer to the pot.
"Hey, we don't need you jumping the gun on dinner again. Last time, there was barely any left when we got back."
"Hey, I wasn't the only one." I took a quick look at Millie and my uncle looked at me with a frank expression on his face. "Ok, I get it." I sighed. "Stay away from the food until you get back."
"Please?" He tossed the garlic into the pot and covered it with a lid. "I'll be getting the carriage ready." Wiping his hands on a towel, he took off his apron before heading outside.
"Ok Millie, what do you want to do today?" I looked for the toddler to find her missing. A quick search led me to find her in the living room, staring out one of the few windows. "What are you doing?"
"Waiting for mommy and daddy to come home."
"Your dad's not gone yet."
"But he will be and I'm gonna be sad..." She began tearing up. "I don't want daddy to go..."
"Don't worry, he'll be back with your mommy." I rubbed her head.
"No, he won't..."
I looked out the window with her. An hour later, Uncle Noah came back in to check on us and the food before heading out. "What's wrong?" He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Millie and me standing in front of the window.
"Millie is sad that you're leaving, and she says you won't come back." I grabbed her hand and led her to him. He picked her up in his arms.
"Don't worry, sweetie, mommy, and daddy will be back. We always come back."
"Not this time." She began bawling her eyes out and it took all we had to calm her down. She finally calmed down after crying herself to sleep.
Uncle Noah took one last look at the food and went to the attic to fetch a pair of wooden swords. One had a red handle, and the other was purple. He tossed me the purple one. Unlike the red one, it was comfortable in my right hand while the other was better suited to my left, but I never had any trouble using either.
As we got into practice, I asked, "Why does it always take so long to prepare the carriage every time?"
"Because it's old. It might break down one day, but it's all we have."
"Why didn't you become an adventurer like grandpa?"
"Adventuring isn't the life for me. I'm not suited for it."
"But then you could afford to fix the carriage or even buy a new one."
"Focus more on defending and less on talking" His foot somehow found itself behind mine and I landed on the floor shortly after. "See?"
Despite crashing to the ground, I still had a question on my mind. "What if I want to be an adventurer?"
"Go ahead, what’s stopping you? I can take you and Millie with me, and I can drop you off when I pick up your aunt."
I sighed. "Never mind." I stood and dusted myself off.
"Why never mind?"
"Just... Never mind." We practiced for a couple of hours, and then Uncle Noah had to go.
Before walking out the door, he paused suddenly, looked me in the eye, and said, "If something does happen to me, remember what I taught you."
"I will. Just stop talking like you won't come back. I had enough of that from Millie."
"Ok." He smiled and closed the door behind him.
I went back to training alone until I tired myself out. All the while trying to figure out how Uncle Noah got his foot behind mine. Afterward, I laid myself down next to Millie in her room. The house was full of the smell of food. It was like torture to my nose, and it angered my stomach, which groaned in discontent.
Suddenly, my eyes opened. I didn't even notice that I fell asleep. Millie was still asleep, so I figured not much time passed. That was until I went to look out a window. The sun was shining from the wrong side of the sky. We slept through night and dawn.
Noticing that the house still smelled of food, I went to the kitchen only to find the pot on the stove with a small fire still burning under it. I uncovered the pot to find the food inside, unburnt, and still covered in broth. Confused, I stood in place and tried to rationalize what was happening. The sun hadn't set yet before I fell asleep, and now it was morning. The food that started cooking a few hours before then was still in the same condition and neither Uncle Noah nor Aunt Mia were anywhere to be found. If they were, they would've woken us up to eat.
I felt a hard smack across my face and awoke. This time, it was for real. The otherwise pitch-black room was barely lit with a lamp, and Millie was crouched over and shaking me vigorously. "Alright, alright. I'm up, I'm up." I sat up and looked around. "It's nighttime. Where's Uncle Noah?"
"They're not coming back." Millie began crying again. "It's nighttime and they're not coming back."
"They'll be here. Maybe the carriage finally broke down."
"They would come back on the horsey..."
"Maybe the horse got sick."
She shook her head and continued to cry silently.
I hugged and patted her on the head before picking her up and sniffing the air. The smell of food in the house now had a slightly burned note to it.
I walked into the kitchen with Millie still in my arms and examined the pot, as I had done in my dream. The broth was close to simmering out completely, and the meat was overcooked as it stood against the sides of the pot.
Blowing out the fire, I found a pair of mitts and removed the pot from the stove. I then reached for a couple of bowls from the cabinets to fill with stew.
"Millie, are you feeling better?" I asked, sitting down and placing the sniffling little girl in my lap.
"Are we going to eat it all like last time?" She looked up at me with glassy eyes.
"Maybe." I smiled.
I sat Millie down on her own chair and poured some stew into both bowls before sitting one in front of her and the other in front of me, each with a spoon. I took a bite and savored the taste of well-cooked venison. It was still good, despite the burned aftertaste.
The little girl only looked down at her bowl and then looked up at me. She opened her mouth to say something, but then we heard a deafening bang come from outside, followed by the subtle sound of fire in the distance.
The sound made me choke on my food and spit it out. Thankfully, my stomach was empty, or else more would have followed.
Wordlessly, I picked up Millie and headed for the attic.
As soon as we got to the attic, I sat the little girl down and told her not to move. Then I reached for the wooden swords. Despite being made of wood, they were undeniably sturdy even when compared to metal farm tools.
Looking around, I only found the purple one. The red one was missing. Uncle Noah must have taken it with him, but I would've noticed. Too many things made too little sense.
I slapped myself, hoping that this, too, was a dream. The pain proved me wrong.
It just registered with me how crazy everything was until now, but I had to act. Even if somehow the explosion was nothing, I couldn't afford to cower when I had a little girl to protect.
Taking up the purple sword, I looked out the window in the living room. There was a large, black object the size of a house around ten meters away, surrounded by flames so hot I could feel it through the window.
Realizing that the danger wasn't immediate, I returned to the attic. On the way, I couldn't seem to ignore the growing heat that seemed to follow close behind.
By the time I got back to the attic, I was sweating, and the heat felt as if it was riding on my shoulders.
"Why is it so hot?" Millie was curled into the fetal position in the middle of the floor.
"There's a fire. We have to go." I picked her up.
"So, mommy and daddy are really not coming home, are they?" Her puffy eyes and red cheeks were all cried out.
"I don't know," I said, honestly.
"My head hurts." She complained as we exited the back door.
"You'll be fine" I kissed her forehead.
"Not there." She brushed her hand across her temple on both sides. "Here."
I leaned in to kiss the spots she motioned to, but instead of soft hair, something hard brushed against my lips. I parted her hair and there was a small, prismatic nub where there wasn't one before.
The sight of Millie with horns made me question many things I never thought I would.
"Millie, how did you know that your parents weren't coming home?" I asked, shaking, afraid of what the answer might be.
"I dunno. I just saw it." She gave me a blank stare. "Mommy was on fire and daddy was under a big rock. I saw it and it made me sad."
"A big rock..." I sat Millie down. "Stay here and yell if something happens, ok?"
"Ok." She nodded.
I turned around and went towards the black object coated in flames. The closer I got, the more I recognized it to be a boulder of black rock. The flames weren't natural either. They parted as I approached. I wasn't alarmed, as they stayed at a distance I was used to. That thought made me reach up and touch one of my horns. Could this thing really be an animal?
I searched around the rocky creature before the flames could get too comfortable and start closing in. Amidst the flames and debris stood the red sword. Despite being made of wood, it braved the flames without faltering.
Next to it were some charred partial remains. All I could tell of them was that they were human. I didn't dare look closer as I grabbed the sword and sprinted back to Millie.
"Ok, let's go." I picked her up mid-stride and continued until we reached the woods, where I stopped to take a breath.
"Are you ok?" The previously crying child was worried about me. She began rubbing my cheeks.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just catching my breath before we keep going."
"Then, why are you crying?" I touched my face and learned that she was rubbing away my tears.
"I'm not crying, my eyes are just sweating." I shook my head.
"Liar." She saw right through me.
"Ok, let's get going again."
I reached for her to pick her up, but she looked at me and said, "What's that on your shoulder?"
I reached onto my shoulder and felt fur. Under normal circumstances, I might've thought it to be a cat that wandered close, but not now.
"That took longer than anticipated." A high but distinctly male voice approached my ear on the same side where the creature was.
Instinctively, I reacted by striking at my shoulder with the back edge of the red sword still in my hand. The creature jumped off my shoulder and began floating in front of us.
It looked much like a cat with long red ears that yellowed near the tips, a long, skinny, red tail that ended with a tuft of flame, and big, black eyes.
"Not so fast, you won't get rid of me so quickly." It danced around in the air for a second. "Ah, yes. Straight chromatic horns that change color depending on the light. They look as red as your namesake, Scarlet."
"How do you know my name?" I asked, taking a stance with both swords. I made sure to get between it and Millie.
"How do I put this?" It danced around some more. "I'm borrowing the body of your familiar to speak with you."
"I don't have a familiar."
"True, but your mother did, and it was passed down to you."
"My mother?" I got into a striking position.
"Ah, your mother. She was a true adventurer. Too bad she was born in the hero's bloodline." It began dancing again, but I interrupted it by bashing its skull in with the purple sword.
It fell limply to the ground and stopped moving. Immediately after, my head felt like it split in two. The pain caused me to fall to the ground, and the shock left me motionless.
"You shouldn't have done that." The voice returned, but I couldn't tell where it was coming from. "Remember when I said it was your familiar?" The voice giggled.
Millie began frantically shaking me, trying to get me to move while I lay motionless. She was saying something, but I couldn't hear her over the pulsing of blood in my head and the voice.
"It's too late to take those old horns, but I can take these new ones." Millie began floating upwards as she tried to hold on to me for dear life but couldn't. "You can keep the swords; I'll be back for those in person. Or maybe you'll come to me."
I still lay motionless, watching this happen as the world slowly began fading to black.
Merci pour la lecture!
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