In the East, they called her, “The Beast of Siraffa.” In the southern reaches, she was known as, “The Unforgiven.” In the most frozen corners of the northern hinterland, she was called, “The Black Hell.” No matter where, or when, she plied her trade, she was known for the destruction that lay in her wake. Here in this western village, called Springwine, she pondered what they would name her.
However, those thoughts were better left for another day. As the gate closed behind her, she turned to face a long, arched tunnel. At its end, she could see the warm glow of sunlight. This was expected, but remained a curiosity, since the sky outside was overcast with dark and pregnant clouds.
She pressed forward. Her bare feet silently feeling the cool stone beneath. A pleasant warmth rose around her. The scent of orchards, apple, perhaps pear, filled her senses. The Fang felt a golden peace set its roots within her. It was an internal thing, not some sorcerous machination.
It felt clean and good and she stepped into the beautiful light. Her eyes quickly adjusted to the it and she saw a trail twist out before her, winding its way through a beautiful sight.
It was an orchard, indeed. Green leaves and wild color splashed all around her. She recognized much of the flora, but some was unknown to her. Each tree bore ripe fruit, free from the marks of greedy worms and insects. She noted that none of the trees’ offerings lay on the ground beneath. The lush grass and wildflowers were untrodden.
The feeling of peace became complete as she walked forward. It soothed the hard things in her mind. It was a balm for the seeping claw-marks in her memory. Its warmth permitted her to see through the rage, the anger, and the hopelessness that drove her forward. It gave her truth.
She walked slowly and tears of comfort touched the corners of eyes. She felt whole again. The burning mind’s eye that earned her such an evil reputation, saw all things clearly in that moment.
The Fang paused. She was overcome with the power of such beautiful things. That she could feel this peace was almost unbearable to the wounded, hidden corners of her soul. She had ever-longed for respite and here, she found it. Forcing herself on, she quietly wept the purest, cleansing tears of regret. She was safe here and she knew that, so she allowed herself this introspection, and the blackness oozed out.
In short order, she found herself in a clearing. At its center, a fountain bubbled, carved from a monolithic slab of white stone. Glimmering, green veins wove their way through its hardness. Between her and its cool waters, sat a bench carved from the same. The Fang made note of the fountain’s brass placard and moved closer to read it.
Here flows the Springwine.
She knew better than to drink, but she did rest on the bench while a cool breeze misted her face. She felt the watery beads form on her horned brow. It replaced the water of her tears and soothed her chapped lips.
Her brow furrowed as she resolved to complete her mission. She stood, dried her face with a sleeve, and pressed on. Just beyond the fountain, she found what she sought. Perhaps it was a crypt, or small mausoleum, as its style evoked such comparisons in her mind. Its stone matched the fountain and bench. It had a door that matched the wood of the exterior gate.
There was no lock.
Placing her hand on the cold handle, she opened the door. Inside the dim chamber, a single plinth rose from the center. A copper-clad chest, not longer than her forearm, sat atop.
The Keep’s external gate creaked open and The Fang stepped out. Under her right arm was the copper chest. The black-bearded captain waited for her and met her gaze. He saw the familiar depth. He saw the churning sea of madness behind her eyes and felt an equally-familiar sorrow and helplessness fill his heart.
His commander flicked her hand-sign orders and set out in the direction of the command tent.
Her captain relayed those orders in his deep, barking manner. Once he had completed his task, he turned to follow The Fang. His torment raged within as he longed for a way to help his beloved leader find the peace she deserved.
© CGT, 2017.