“…and so, with great irony, sith we refused to stand down, they sought to destroy us. In doing so, they destabilized the great ebb and tide between our realm and the Parallel and ushered forth a preternatural cataclysm…”
– Felknight Detritus
Atop The Tallest Hill, the deep sun cast long shadows across the training field. Sweat trickled into my eyes and my arms and legs reluctantly responded to my persistent pleading. I tracked the clanking golem in front of me, its form little more than an amalgam of junk. It circled me, and I it, it’s ghastly gaze locked onto me, unabating.
A quick change of trajectory telegraphed an impending assault and the golem rushed toward me, a single heavy fist cut a thin line into my cheek as I narrowly dodged barely out of reach.
We clashed briefly, trading strikes, until I was overwhelmed, again, and I crumbled into the russet dirt, the wind knocked out of me following a rattling strike to my abdomen. I curled into the gritty grime of the training circle, lurching, and coughed violently, attempting to catch my breath.
“Maybe ya should try hittin’ it with that hard head’a’yers…” My mentor snarked from where he lounged, perched on a fence post nearby. “Quit studyin’ and jus’ hit it – maybe ya won’t keep gettin’ slapped around like a ninny.” He took a slow drag from his freshly rolled cigarette.
I huffed and force myself to my feet again, the shambling golem patiently waited for me to take a stance. I allowed my limbs to hang limp by my sides. I was nearly too tired to express the frustration I was feeling.
“It ain’t workin’,” I steadied my breaths. “I can’t touch it.”
He rolled his eyes and took another drag. “S’cuz you spend too much time standin’ around tryna guess what’s comin’ or thinkin’ about what just hit’cha. Watchin’ yer opponent’s all well and not, but yer wastin’ energy when ya should be feelin’ it through the Veil.”
I twisted my mouth, “so, what then? Close my eyes?”
“Well, it ain’t like yer gettin’ much where with ’em open,” he mocked and shrugged his broad shoulders. He took a final drag then lifted an arm, “That’s’nough rest. Ding ding ding, round five!” A large grin spread the thick whispers of his peppered beard as he chopped his hand downward through the air signalling the golem to encroach on me again.
“Scraffer? You up there?”
A women’s voice trailed up the hill. I turned my head to see who was coming, however, the golem dashed toward me and began swinging again. I was forced into a backward stumble and scramble to gather myself again.
My mentor barked following me poor show. “Stay focused!”
The woman’s voice again, “I shoulda figured some poor soul – voids abound!” The lady rushed to the edge of the training circle, her scarcely tattooed face wrought with concern. “Look at the boy, ya gaf! Give ‘im a damned rest and pick it up in the mornin’. I come up here to tell ya the Commons’ got a handsome batch of mulligan stewin’.”
A warm stew sounded magnificent to my bruised muscles and aching bones. Even as I drifted off into a day-dream my eyes never left the golem. I heard a simple ‘hmph’ before the animated garbage began to close in on me.
It happened in a blink, right before my eyes, or perhaps time was convoluted in my worn down state. Before the golem had a chance to attack me again, my lady guardian angel was behind it and in the next moment its ghastly eyes faded to naught and it crumbled, unceremoniously, into a heap of rubbish.
She stepped over the fallen golem in one long stride and stood before me. A hand extended toward me, she offered to support me in walking and I reluctantly accepted, her height causing me to awkwardly cling to her side.
“You’re welcome, but no worries.”
I could hear my mentor scoff as he lowered himself from the fence and dismissively started down the hill toward the community field below.
She grumbled and huffed and I could feel her muscles tense if not but for a moment before she addressed me again just as we made it to the edge of the circle and she began to help me over the fence.
“I’m guessin’ you ain’t been his protege’ for long.”
“Nu-uh.” I grunted past my pain, leveraging myself over the fence and recuperating on the other side. I then chuckled which caused some pain and a short-lived wince. “You could tell?”
She smirked and shrugged gently, “a little. But, really, I mean ta say, I doubt anybody can put up with him for long.”
“He ain’t so bad.”
She scoffed and took my arm again, “he’s an asshole.” We began again, down the hill. A few moments passed before she added, “but I guess you’re right.”
I perked a brow, “have you known him long?”
She shrugged again, “practically raised me, he did – well, the community raised me but he’s kinda the elder around here, ya know? Anyway, I used ta be in yer shoes prob’ly at half yer age though. How old’er you, anyway?”
I pondered in earnest and considered fudging the number up a couple years closer toward her age. “Seventeen by now, I reckon.”
“Older than ya look.” I twisted my mouth at that. She continued, “yeah, I was about six when we started. ‘Course he wasn’t slappin’ me around jus’ yet but the physical trainin’ is the easy stuff.”
She continued to talk to me as we reached the bottom of the hill and joined the rest of the commune for supper. Many of the other transients seemed to know her well and from their passing conversation it seemed she had been gone and only just returned.
Everyone simply referred to her as Sister. Between the constant stops and brief catching-ups, it seemed like an age before we finally received our food. The large bowl of steaming stew taunted me mercilessly until Sister and I finally sat down on a makeshift bench just outside what was her personal tent pitched up underneath a dreary tree with long hanging moss.
“Dunno how long ya been around, but I imagine the ol’ Scaffer ain’t really make sure everyone knows who ya are. We’ll do a proper round in the morn’.” She spoke in between mouthfuls of food and once she was done she rolled a cigarette and began to smoke slowly. I refused when she offered and she responded with a small shrug.
“See, unlike those shady ass Pilgrims, tryna judge and shape folks while standin’ over them, we eat, bleed, and sweat with our people. We’re like family – ” She stopped and tilted her head in response to my own puzzled look and tilted brow. A moment passed before she chuckled, “damn, he’nt even tell you that much? You ever heard of the Paladins?” And when I shook me head she sat up straight as if she had a long story to tell.
Daily Prompt: Tide
Word of the Day: sith