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   Chapter 2 No.2

The Book of Deacon By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5803

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:03

She backed slowly away, dropping the piece she held. Myranda hated death above all else, a fact that had made her life a good deal more miserable than those of the war-hardened villagers who shunned her. They saw death not only as a necessary part of life, but a positive one, a source of glory, respect, and honor. They heaped more praise upon a fallen soldier than the poor man or woman could ever have hoped for in life, a fact that bothered Myranda all the more.

As she moved away from the body, her eyes darted all over. Something caught her panicked gaze and froze her in her tracks. Peeking out from beneath the frost-covered shield was a patch of coarse brown cloth. A pack! One could not live in a time of war and not know what such soldier's packs contained. Money, water--and, best of all, food. The body could not be more than a few days old. In this cold, the rations in his pack would still be edible.

Myranda may have hated death, but if being near to a corpse for a few minutes could save her life, she would not hesitate. She grasped what little of the cloth was visible and pulled with all of her might, but it was no use. The pack was frozen to the ground and pinned beneath the heavy shield. If she wanted to free the pack and its precious contents, she would need something to pry the metal sheet off of it.

Myranda's eyes swept across the cluttered campsite. Surely there must be something she could use, but what? The chest plate from the corpse? It had been partially torn free, but the thought of tearing the piece of armor from the fallen soldier's ice-cold body turned her stomach. Not nearly enough, though, to make her forget how starved she really was. Reluctantly, she locked her cold-numbed fingers around the frost-covered metal and threw her weight against it. After three failed attempts, she kicked the plate in frustration, her other foot slipping on a patch of loose snow. She lost her balance and tumbled to the ground, her head striking something far harder than ice.

The impact dizzied her. As she rolled to her knees, she punched the ground. The food that could keep her alive for another day was mere inches away and she could not get it. It was maddening. Myranda rubbed her sore head and looked up with her blurred vision to see what had delivered the painful blow. The light of the fire danced on a highly polished, almost mirrored surface. Even before her eyes had regained their focus, she knew that this was the object that had led her here.

Standing out of the frozen earth was a sword that was beyond elegant. The hilt was covered with a myriad of different jewels. The blade itself, at first seeming to be a flawless surface, revealed itself to be engraved with an exquisite design, composed of countless lines as thin and delicate as a spider's web. It was a weapon unlike any she'd seen before. The price of a single jewel from the h

ilt could keep food in the bellies and clothes on the backs of an entire family for a year. The sword as a whole could easily provide her with a lifetime of luxury and leisure far greater than she could ever imagine.

The value of the sword did not concern her--at least, not at this moment. Regardless of the price it might fetch in the future, at the moment it represented a far greater find. It was the means to extract the only thing that mattered to her right now, the food that would give her the strength to leave this frozen wasteland. It represented life itself. When her senses at last returned to her in full, she reached out to the lifesaving tool.

The very instant she touched her skin to the ornate handle of the exceptional blade, she felt a crisp, sharp burning. It originated in her palm and shot straight down her arm. She hit the ground hard, agonized and trying desperately to pull her hand from the torturous burning. Her fingers, though, would not obey her. Instead they locked tightly about the source of the torment and would not release. The pain grew to the point that Myranda was certain it would force her into unconsciousness. She was a heartbeat from blacking out when the pain relented, her fingers loosened and her hand came free.

Myranda gasped for breath, cradling the afflicted hand. What was it that had just happened to her? Had she triggered a booby trap? She turned her watering eyes to her left hand, fearful of the state she might find it in. Her survival was unlikely enough without a wound to deal with. Slowly she opened her fingers. To her great relief, the palm was merely red and tender, as though she'd scalded it in hot water. A simple bandage would suffice. Myranda pulled herself back to the fireside to recover.

"This is why I hate weapons. I find a sword and it manages to injure me twice without once being held by its owner, " she said, eying the offending tool angrily.

Myranda touched the tender hand to the lump that had already formed on her head from the first encounter with the blasted weapon. She cursed the blade over and over again in her mind, never once thinking about the fact that if her head had found one of the weapon's cutting edges when she'd fallen, she would not have lived to suffer. When she was through letting her anger pour out at the sword, she stared broodingly into the fire and tore a bit of her inadequate blanket to treat her hand. As she did, light from the flame danced on the ground around her. Slowly her hungry eyes drifted to the sword, then to the pack, then back to the sword. . .

"No! It would take a fool to try to grab that blade again. I have lasted for days without food. One more day will not kill me. Besides, that food is probably rancid. It has been out in the open for at least a number of days. Why risk burning the other hand to free some spoiled food?" she reasoned aloud.

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