The Nightblade broke cover and charged into Sela; Sela caught her on swords point, but the woman ignored the damage, trapped Sela's blade, and then cut Sela in return. Sela's world went gray, and she stumbled, but as she fell she saw...
"Jorie?" Sela forced out. "Is that you?"
The Nightblade's eyes narrowed to slits, and then went wide. "Sela?" she said; her voice was an odd, gutteral croak; Jorie's voice had always been beautifully musical. "Little sister?" The Nightblade closed her eyes tightly and shook her head; the muscles of her jaw worked. The knife in her right hand began to dance and spin around her hand. "Jorie," she said at last. "Yes, I was Jorie." The knife kept dancing.
"Jorie, what happened to you? You were so dedicated..."
The Nightblade smiled, sheathed her knife, and rolled down the top of her left boot; a single scar circled the leg just above her knee. "When you lose," she rasped, "You spend a night as rape-bait for the Stallkers and the Seethers. If you don't TRY to fight, you spend a week." She disconnected the strap that ran from her breast bone to her navel, and revealed a collection of ladder tracked scars. "Two disembowelments." She flipped a latch that let her separate her breast cups, and revealed a mass of scar tissue on her breastbone. "I've had steel in my heart three times." She reached to the back of her neck and released her dog collar. "But this," she said as she pulled the dog collar away, "Is the one that took my voice." There was a scar that circled her neck.
Sela stared in horror while the Nightblade readjusted her clothing, then used the dog collar to hang Sela's sword from her own belt. When she was done, she drew her knife and it began to dance again. "You have a choice, 'Little Sister'," she croaked. "You can swear to me that you will go home and never set foot on another battlefield..." The knife suddenly stopped dancing, and Sela could feel its point against her throat. "...Or you can come 'home' with me." The knife point moved, and Sela knew that it was drawing blood.
"I swear by the Goddess that I will forsake war and never walk a battle field again."
"Good," the Nightblade croaked. She helped Sela to her feet. "Now go." The Nightblade turned Sela roughly to face the Elementalist camp, and gave her a shove; when Sela regained her balance and looked back, she was gone.
Sela walked back to camp as quickly as her wounds would allow; she dropped her hand to steady her empty scabbard, and found that it wasn't empty; the Nightblade's dancing dagger had been forced into the sheath. Sela stopped for breath, leaned against a tree, and examined the knife. Engraved on the base of the blade, next to the guard, was the name, "Jorie". Sela clutched the knife to her chest, sobbed once, and continued walking.
All rights reserved.