On the first page of our story
The future seemed so bright
Then this thing turned out so evil
I don’t know why I’m still surprised
Even angels have their wicked schemes
And you take that to new extremes
But you’ll always be my hero
Even though you’ve lost your mind.
Lynse sat alone and isolated—but that was the way she liked it. A shower had done some good; it had cleared her mind and, now, she was able to better think what it was she was getting herself into. Her body ached in places that it never had before and she was hungrier than she could remember being since she had come to Lithmore City those few months past. Already a Reeve, already training.
‘And,’ she accused herself as she studied the dagger she slowly turned in her hands, ‘already lying.’ Nothing else was new to her. Sometimes she thought that it was all she had ever known.
The blade was notched and worn, the wooden handle showed the memory of a fire that she had never seen. She hadn’t bought it—it had come to her, and now she owned it as much as it owned her. When she had burned the clothes she had travelled in she had been unable to separate herself from the weapon. She had never even considered it.
“Is that yours?” The man’s voice cut through the pleasant silence of the Reeves Barracks where so many other Cadets stayed. She couldn’t bring herself to sleep in a place like this, in a place where people could watch her sleep and judge her dreams themselves. Viciously she looked up, hands instinctively shielding the dagger from sight. But it was just Barroc, whose questioning face now just looked confused.
Lynse smiled—she had always been good at smiling, when she tried, and she looked back down to the long-bladed knife. “Yes,” is what she said; ‘It belongs to a different woman, to one who sometimes wears my skin,’ is what she thought. “Well, my father’s.” The lie came as easy as a breath, she didn’t even have the decency to blush. At times she hated herself, but what other option did she have? She thumbed the blade as if doing it for the first time and not the hundredth, as if she had not held this dagger and remembered the blood on it every night for the past season. “His first, when he was only a Squire.”
Barroc would believe her, she knew. People trusted other people, and that was the way of things. They trusted that a woman would not feel a chill that belonged to nothing Holy creep down her spine when she looked up and saw all five moons hanging in the night sky next to each other. Most would make a chalice sign at the sight and roll over. Most would trust their neighbor to do the same, or to trust that the woman they traveled with would not rise like a midnight specter to open each throat to the chilly air.
Barroc did believe her, she saw that on his face. He grinned and moved closer, obviously seeing her response to him as an invitation for more. She wished he would go away but he did not. She felt her shoulders tensing when he stood before her and she did not look up to meet his eyes. “Well look at that, then,” he said. They all knew that her father was a Knight; some of them held similar lineages, though none of them could claim the dearth of ability that she held. “You’ll need somebody to teach you to use it.”
‘How hard could it be?’ she wanted to say. Certainly more so when the assailant was more prepared, when it was not a gentyman’s daughter they hoped to hold for ransom. She had felt like a passenger in her own body; she had been terrified, and still she was. It was not her who had grabbed the guard’s arm, had slid the iron from his belt, and had given him a new grin to wear for as long as he lived. ‘Not hard at all.’ Not hard at all. She did not know what she has said, then, to the guards but she could still feel the syllables against her tongue like the taste of iron on her lips. “I will, yes,” she said now, and her voice held nothing of the memory.
She thought she could see Barroc’s smile even though she pointedly stared at her lap. “I could help—“ “—NO.” She brought her head back up and there was something in her expression that startled and then scared the Lithmorran boy. He stepped back, eyes wide. “Okay, okay,” he said as his offering of forgiveness, and then he was gone. The Vavardi woman sighed and stood herself; she tucked the dagger away not in her belt but hidden in a satchel, wrapped around a towel, where none would see. Where there would be no further questions.
Eleven lives. Nine men and two women, highwaymen who had captured her and her retinue on the road. In the morning when she had returned awake to the horror around her and the blood across her arms she had put a torch to the entire site, hoping that when the group was found that this would be attributed to a campfire out of control, that the skin would be blistered and unrecognizable and the clean cuts across each of them unknown. That her crimes would be buried, and buried all the more deeply beneath the eye-embossed cloak that she now possessed.
One day she would have answers. She could still feel the strange draw of the moons when she saw them in the sky, and so she tried not to look up when it was she had to move about past dusk. She tried not to be out at night at all, but of course she remembered. She had felt so powerful, so safe and strong, when she had torn the throats open of those bandits; the air had felt as light as a sugarsweet for her, and they had moved as if clumsy and confused. She refused to consider the ramifications of what would come of that, not until she had those answers; not that she was looking for them.
But until then, she would love the way she would lie.