Monday, September 13, 2010


In Their Honor
By Caitlin Jackson

Piercing, green eyes peer over the hovering, twilight fog. In the distance the huntress spots one of the circling argonts. They are wolf-like predators, but their leathery skin, larger size, and sharper canines make them more dangerous. Releasing the tension in her longbow, she skewers the argont’s glowing eye with Elvin precision as the arrow heads deep into the skull. She incapacitates several more with her bow as the pack ventures closer.

Recklessly, one of the more arrogant argont charges her from behind. Anticipating the feeble attack, the trained warrior unsheathes her sword and pushes the blade straight into the beast’s chest cavity. Using her foot, she dislodges the carcass off the weapon, and confronts the rest of the pack.

Pouncing from the left, the deranged carnivore knocks her to the ground. With crazed yellow eyes, and russet fur on end, the hellhounds would turn anybody into a coward, but not this seasoned soldier; not Anya. Without hesitation, Anya drives a dagger into the monster’s stomach, and pounds its head in with the hilt of her sword. Heaving the limp body to one side, she hears the rest of the pack departing in fear. The argonts have decided this meal is not worth the casualties.

Battle complete, and dinner secured, Anya’s inner animal subsides until needed once again. Whistling a high-pitched note into the abyss, she summons her valiant steed Henkee. On cue, he gallops from the campsite, and stops at her side. Choosing the smaller of the deceased argonts, Anya hoists the demon-like creature onto the horse’s back, and calmly walks back to camp.

With a full belly, Anya settles in for the night. The meat from the argont has been taken care of, and the rest of its remains buried so not to attract bigger, hungrier predators. Tethered to a nearby tree, Henkee continues to graze. Shadows, created by the fire, dance cheerfully across its gray coat.

Anya stares into the flickering flames and cannot help but wonder how she evolved into the hardened warrior she now is. Amongst the erratic gold and orange hues, Anya spots a faint image of herself when she was younger, back when everything started, and her family had been taken from her.

* * *

Anya rode hard in pursuit of a band of rogue Northerners. They had destroyed her home and murdered her family; she was out for revenge.

Five long years had passed since Anya had last seen her family. She knew they had disowned her after she defied their orders and joined the military. Everyday her Mom and Dad performed back-breaking labor in the fields, so they could try and provide the best upbringing possible. They were resigned and content with their current lives, but they always hoped one day their children could do better. Anya’s parents wanted her to live the life of a lady fair; to marry a man with a higher station and take care of a family of her own. Anya wanted to be obedient and gain her parents’ approval, but she could not convince herself to do so when the Kingdom was being harassed by unprovoked invaders from the North and was on the brink of war. A natural instinct told her she must protect the Kingdom, so her family could remain safe.

After running away at fifteen, Anya was quickly submersed in the life of a soldier. With constant training and weekly battles along the border, it did not take long for Anya to establish a threatening reputation by becoming one of the most feared, but respected, warriors in the Kingdom.

Thinking the war against the North was over, the soldiers were allowed to go home and recuperate. Deciding five years was long enough, she ventured back to confront her family and hoped they would be proud of what she had done for the Kingdom and ultimately for them. As she reached the crest of the final hill, she was confused as to why her once cheerful home was now engulfed in flames and thick smoke. Jabbing her heels into her horse, she quickened her pace, but by the time she arrived the fire had spread to the crops.

Abandoning her horse, she ran into the burning house to save her family. Once inside, she found her mom, dad, and two sisters bound in the corner. The fire had eaten away their flesh to the point where they were almost unrecognizable. Overcome with grief, Anya flees from the collapsing hut. Standing in the front yard she watched her home turn to ash. Uncontrollable tears etched trails in her soot covered face as a blanket of regrets smothered her. Anya wished she had not been so scared of her parents’ scorn and that she had the courage to see them earlier. She had fought countless battles without any hint of fear, but just the thought of facing their disappointment was unbearable to her. Now she would never see them again

Anya’s good-hearted family did not deserve this fate. Only cold, heartless bastards could be so cowardly as to kill such peaceful people. Judging by the destruction she saw, Anya knew the perpetrators could not have wandered far, and would be weighed down by stolen goods. They needed to be held accountable for their actions, and Anya was going to be the one to make sure justice was served.

Spurred on by her personal vendetta, Anya was able to catch up with the savage villains by the time night had fallen; perfect for a surprise attack. Hiding behind a moss-covered, tree stump, Anya sized up her opponents. All together there were five; four asleep and one on watch. They lay around a small fire-pit with their horses tied to a tree. Bags of food sat close to the horses bearing her family’s brand.

Anya easily crept behind the watchman and silently snapped his neck before he knew she was there. Heading to the next victim, she held her dagger to his throat. About to slice into his neck Anya looked at his resting face and stopped. This man, who had performed countless acts of violence, did not deserve an instant death in the middle of the night by a mystery assailant.

“Murderer!” she cried, and plunged the dagger straight into his heart. Right before impact she relished in her enemy’s terrified expression. A feeling of contentment washed over her. Turning to her left, she confronted the other three Northerners. Still covered in black soot, Anya used this to her advantage. With only her green eyes visible, she became a difficult target as she disappeared in and out of the shadows.

Wielding her sword and dagger, she played with her prey like a cat torturing a mouse. She knew she could kill the fiends at any time, but she wanted to prolong the process and fully enjoy every moment. The remaining three adversaries came from every direction, and she blocked and parried their blows as if dancing in a circle. Each step was graceful and deliberate. Their large, lumbering bodies were no match against Anya’s lithe limbs.

Wanting to inflict pain upon her family’s murderers, she took charge and chopped off the nearest killer’s forearm, and was not even fazed by the blood spurting from his maimed appendage. Swiftly, she ducked to the ground, avoiding a blow from behind. In retaliation, she used her razor sharp sword to cut through the Northern invader’s ankles. Anya left the now fallen brute, to bleed to death as she focused her attention on the final two victims.

Ready to put an end to their miserable lives, she gripped her weapons tightly as she charged. In one fluid motion, she decapitated one assailant, and sliced through the other’s stomach.

As the last body fell, Anya stood in the clearing assessing the carnage around her. Pools of dark blood surrounded the executioner, turning the ground soggy. Satisfied with her work, she sat by the fire and wept over the loss of her family. The slaughter had quelled her anger, but ultimately left her empty. Her vengeful actions did not bring her family back. In fact, her family would have been appalled that she had chosen to honor their memory with such barbarism.

* * *

Opening her tear filled eyes to blinding rays of sunshine; Anya realizes she must have fallen asleep while remembering the past last night. The memories stirred a latent anger in her she wished to keep silenced. Ever since that horrid day, six years ago, a surge of relentless guilt festers deep within each time she thinks of her family. Anya wants to forgive herself and obtain closure, but the military has hardened her heart. The soldier’s only release is through malevolence on the battlefield. Whenever confronted by a Northern invader, a torrent of endless rage consumes her, and she will not stop until they are dead. She wants to guarantee the scum who inflicted irreconcilable pain upon her, will never torture another soul. Her parents would not like the person she has become, but she is dealing with their loss the only way she knows how. Anya still wants to make them proud, and she hopes maybe one day she will.

In deep concentration, Anya gathers her belongings, and prepares to continue her journey. As she packs, she opens one of the previously unused saddle bags. Realizing the bag is already occupied, she empties its contents. To her horror, she finds a severed, ringed hand, covered in dried blood.

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Besides reading and writing, I also enjoy dancing, art, and archery. “In Their Honor,” is the sequel to, “Hand of Time,” and, “Remember the Dead.”


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