Ciltaise sprinted across the field toward a group of pale tents in the distance. Her long silvery hair trailed behind her like elegant wisps of smoke as the wind buffeted her body and screamed in her ear. Her battle garments were sweat soaked and her skin lightly reflected what little light was left before the sunrise. She began every morning like this whenever she and her band of mercenaries weren't marching to some new destination by some new deadline. Sometimes they were wonderful places, bustling with activity, commerce, and life. Sometimes they were realms of nightmares, the charred remnants of shelter and an honest day's work of farmers and weavers. |
Two weeks ago, a battered, nearly broken sign swayed back and forth like a pendulum, quietly screeching a haunting dirge for the people lost to fire or steel. They had most likely taken shelter and were smoked out, only to be cut down like sheep and left to decay and rot during the humid days and rainy nights. She had seen bodies with that pallor, their twisted bodies picked apart by?
Ciltaise shoved the memory from her mind, knowing it would trigger more. Misery loved company, as they say.That was two weeks ago. This was now.
Her daily morning workouts, just as the sun's light peeked over the horizon, kept her memories from breaking her spirit. Sometimes the other men and women would join her, but Ciltaise never missed a day. This was all she had left to her now. And the hard work paid off. She easily outstripped every soldier and citizen in contests of physical ability she came across. She had always lasted longer in a fight, was skilled in every weapon, and was as keen as the edge of a knife. Her band of warriors rallied around her whenever her ferocious blade whistled its battle hymn, slicing through anything in its path. Her will was as iron, and her resolve, her destiny, was clear at those times.
But the spirit of a warrior was more vulnerable than her body. What about the rest of the time when there was no short-lived battle to fight? No adversary to quell and bring to heel? A helm and armor of the finest metal could only protect a warrior's body, but never her spirit.
Panting heavily as the constricting pain in her chest died down, Ciltaise reached the end of her dash and moved to begin her strength routine. The sun's rays began to spread over the land, bathing it in an eerie, ruby veil that made her think of a sweeping mist of blood. Shaking her head, she couldn't keep thoughts from across her lifetime from playing along the edge of her consciousness, toying with her motivation. The blood veil would be gone in just a few moments; her spirit, her sense of her destiny, would pass another daily trial.
Was this the remainder of her destiny? What was clear to her during battle always seemed to be cloaked during peace. A hero finding her destiny was what the songs and stories regaled children and parents about, and upon learning it they did their heroic deed... but there the story stopped. The songs and stories always had happy or tragic endings, but they never shared the story of the hero afterward.
What was left to her now? What was her destiny? She had had a lord who had lauded her cunning mercenaries that played a pivotal role in saving an army and a nation, but now they had no liege. They had had a banner of the finest silk that reflected their spirit, but now they had no banner. They had had a purpose, a destiny, as clear as the light of day, but now they had a purpose and destiny lost in a bleak brume. All they had left was hunting down bandits and the fighting remnants of a violent, defeated army. Was this really destiny? Her destiny? Or had her destiny, her purpose, simply moved on to a new hero?
The sun was finally shining as it lifted from the distant horizon as she walked into camp. It was once again time to bitterly waltz to destiny's perpetually mindless and mocking melody.