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   Chapter 4 No.4

The Book of Deacon By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5434

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:03


"No!" Myranda screamed, opening her eyes. A sliver of light peeked through the flaps of her tent.

It was not real. The horror she had seen was false, a dream. The horror she had felt, though, was real. She took several minutes to catch her breath and steady her pounding heart. Never before had a dream been so vivid. She shook herself in a vain attempt to chase the tormenting images from her mind. The only comforting thought came in the words her mother had spoken to her long ago. Even with the eternity that had passed since she lost her mother, the voice still echoed in her ears. Now memories were all she had left.

"A nightmare is the best kind of dream. The only one that brings happiness when it ends, " she repeated.

The fright had brought her to full wakefulness instantly, with no hope of returning to sleep. She smiled as she wiped a drop of sweat from her brow. How long had it been since she had been too warm? The feeling of sweat trickling down her back was one she'd not felt in weeks--months, even. Of course, once the cold hit her when she left the tent, the novelty would wear thin rather quickly. Carefully, she pulled the flap of the tent aside. A cascade of snow from the previous night's fall assured her that it was at least not dangerously cold, or else the wetness of the snow would have frozen it into a shell of ice. She crawled out of the dilapidated tent, favoring her stricken left hand.

With the light of the morning filling the field where she'd slept, she could finally see the scene she had stumbled through in darkness the night before. It had all been blanketed with several inches of dense snow that elsewhere might have been a terrible storm, but amounted to little more than a light flurry to the people of the Northern Alliance. She waded into the ankle-deep snow and surveyed the campsite.

Where she had thought there was a great mound of rocks the night before could now be seen for what it really was. Even buried beneath the snow, the mound clearly had the shape of a beast. The form indicated a dragon, but it was a bit bulkier than she'd imagined a dragon to be. Of course, she had no interest in finding out if she was correct, particularly because she would have to step into the pool of blackish liquid that stained the snow around the fallen creature. A liquid that was too thin to be pitch, and too black to be blood.

"Well, you killed it and it killed you, " Myranda said, looking at the fallen soldier, its form barely discernible through the snow. She looked to the dragon. "That goes for you too. But why were the two of you here, I wonder? The dragon can come and go as it pleases, but this is awfully far from the front to find a soldier

from either side."

She knelt and brushed the snow from the shield. It was standing nearly straight up after the prying she had done to free the meal the night before. She expected to find the crest of the Northern Alliance, or perhaps that of the southern land of Tressor. Instead she found the same simple crest she'd seen among other marks on the sword and armor. It resembled a smooth, curving letter V, with a rounded bottom and downturned ends, or perhaps a pair of smooth waves with a trough between them. Centered above them was a single point.

"So, you were not of the north or the south. That must be why you were in this forsaken place. You fall into the same lonesome caste as I. Non-supporter of the Perpetual War. You refused to join either side. You should consider it something of a triumph that you had managed to be killed by something other than an angry mob. I know it is no consolation, but the end you came to here prevented my own. I sincerely thank you for it, and I hope that whatever powers pass judgment on you in the great beyond will take that into account. I thank you for the food, the shelter. . . and the sword."

It had not been her intention to take the sword, but even she could not resist such a treasure. Even the most treacherous buyer would be forced to dole out a sizable price for such a weapon, and it was unlikely she'd find a buyer of any other kind. Myranda never even entertained the possibility of being paid a fair price for the piece. These days the shopkeepers were nearly as cutthroat as the soldiers, with barely enough wares to go around. Still, something of such value was sure to at least provide her with the funds to buy a horse, a tent, some food, and perhaps some clothes more befitting of the season.

She rolled the sword in her blanket and took some of the softened biscuit for breakfast. She then transferred the food, as well as the water and the heavy blanket, from the soldier's pack to her own lighter one. If only it had been smaller or she had been stronger, she could have taken the tent with her, but the days of walking would be made difficult enough with her newly-filled pack without a mound of heavy canvas and wooden poles. When all had been prepared, Myranda went on her way.

#

It was surprising how much spring was put into one's step by a decent meal and good night's sleep. Myranda's pace was twice that of the weary trudge of the day before. A trained eye and the clouds overhead told her that it was just past noon when she finally saw something on the horizon. A building with a spire. A church. The sight brought a wide smile to Myranda's face. She'd been turned away by every type of shelter, but never a church.

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