|A Swordswoman's Tale
Two: Battle Brew(ing)
Level Five Vagrant
HER SWORDARM is weary – already so a good thirty-odd swings ago – but Lena Aaerdan knows giving up is not an option. Not when she is so close to fulfilling the task the elderly Dunkan had asked of her.
"Times were when I would not ask this of anyone, but now I’m too old for this. Would you indulge an old man?" he had asked her earlier in the day.
Were he not a well-respected scholar, Lena would have seen reason to be wary.
"What can one such as I, an uncommon Vagrant at best, do for you?" she asked.
Dunkan smiled, revealing even rows of gleaming white teeth and a prominent jaw line under the beard. He must have been rather charming in his youth.
"Rare it is to find humility in one so young," he said finally. "Perhaps…"
"Old one? I do not understand…"
He looked embarrassed. "Apologies, young one … now, where was I? Ah, yes. I have need of your youthful strength and enthusiasm to procure certain things for me."
"I seek Bluemills … which can only be procured from certain creatures that roam the forests at the fringe of the village," Dunkan said. "Not too far from where we now stand, in fact. Mushpangs, they are called…"
The Vagrant needed to get 25 of these Bluemills from the stronger species of Mushpang. She had collected 24.
More of the Mushpang now swarm into the area. So many of them. Which one would bear the last Bluemill?
Lena gets up slowly, her eyes set on one of the newcomers. That one. Something in the way the Mushpang moves…
She raises her shield and draws her sword back. She can feel the ache.
You should call it a day, the Voice says.
"Just one more," she whispers in response. She advances towards her quarry.
Your swinging arm is weak, the Voice continues. You can barely lift your sword.
"Just one more," Lena repeats. She is almost within striking distance now.
Your footsteps are slow, the Voice points out. And you have run out of healing draughts. If you fall…
The Mushpang notices her. Yes, this is the one. It knows her intentions, and would not sacrifice its treasure without a fight. Lena can see the determination in its eyes.
She quickens her step, almost breaking into a run, as does the Mushpang.
They meet half-way, the creature deftly avoiding the weakened Vagrant’s swordthrust. They dance, her weak blows inflicting numerous cuts on the Mushpang. For her labours she is battered in many places, so many she loses count.
The next few exchanges would be the last.
Lena raises her sword high and brings it down. But she is too slow. The Mushpang appears unconcerned as it sidesteps and strikes her on the left shoulder, eliciting a loud cry from the Vagrant and an audible crack, forcing her to her knees and dropping her shield.
Enough! There is fear in the Voice. You cannot-
"Just … one …more!" she manages as she grips the swordhilt with both hands and swings upwards, nearly cleaving the Mushpang in two.
Lena allows herself a long moment to catch her breath and fashion a crude sling with cloth torn from her skirt.
Then, with a knife and slow, precise cuts she retrieves the last Bluemill.
"Got it," she whispers to the Voice.
The Voice does not respond.