There it was, the promise of sanctuary. If he could just get across the bridge he would be home free. But could he make the last hundred yards in his present state? Were there any of the Count’s minions lying in wait? There was only one way to find out, and Cullen pulled tight the belt that held the splint to his broken leg and drew his sword. It was all or nothing now. All that mattered in life was the bridge.
She was a little taller than average, and slender, though she was a bit pear-shaped being wide at the hips. What set her apart was her blue hair, and pierced nose and lip. She had been an unknown quantity in the village, ever since her arrival two years ago, and many thought she was a witch of a mystic, while others just called her “the Painted One,” owing to her multiple tattoos, a practice unfamiliar to the people of the valley.
What they did know was that she spoke the language well, though her accent and word choice was a bit foreign and that she was quite athletic, seemingly never tiring at the everyday tasks like gathering wood or drawing water. Her dress was not outlandish either, and despite her flamboyant hair and tattoos she dresssed in simple earth tones, with no concern for flair or fashion.
She had been seen on several occasions bringing in medium size game, and seemed able to string a bow a easily as any man in the valley. She was seldom seen with a bow, however, but never without the stag-horn hilted dagger on her hip, and a geometrically carved hazel staff. Yes, hazel; her eyes were hazel as well, almond shaped and heavily lashed hazel eyes. If she looked in your direction, you could almost feel those hazel eyes sizing you up, and you became convinced she was reading your inner-most thoughts.
Ariand had run away from her domineering older sister and crossed the peaks in the late winter and arrived in the valley. All she brought with her was her knowledge of herbs, her grandfather’s dagger and her mother’s staff. They had served her well enough on her journey through the mountains, but he little bundle of belongings were hardly the assets needed to start a new life.
The hazel staff was one of a pair, her father’s staff made of yew being considered superior and was thus inherited by Aewand her sister. The ornate carving on the staff was said to be full of mystical meaning. Unfortunately, her parent’s accidental death had occurred before mother could impart all of staff’s meaning to her, but the symbols she did understand she had tattooed to her arms and back. She believed in doing so it would reinforce her link and claim to the “magic” of the staff.
When she arrived in the valley, people gave her a wide berth. A few an interest in this strange newcomer and she was told of a derelict cottage at the edge of the wood that she could move into is she didn’t fear the curse of the place: the last three families who lived there having died.
Two years on, she had repaired the place and was living contentedly enough foraging in the woods and hunting to sustain herself, and occasionaly making a few coins by providing culinary or medicinal herbs to those in need of them.
Aewand could not believe that her sister would desert the guild in the way she had. Not only had she left, but she had taken the hazel staff with her, deminishing her own power by its lack of proximity to the yew staff. She had sent out trackers to find her sister, and to return her or at least the staff but they lost her somewhere in the foothills when a heavy blizzard blew up unexpectedly erasing her tracks and making her pursuers shelter for three days.
That had been two years ago, and Aewand’s control of the guild was slipping because of her deminished power. The return of the hazel staff began to preoccupy her thoughts. This distraction in turn weakened her grip on the guild further.
“Ariand must be found,” she announced at the meeting of the guild’s high council. “I am beside myself with worry. What could have happened to my dear sister?”
There were some sympathetic nods around the table, and her ploy worked wonderfully. The council approved the expenditure of one thousand silver tokens to find and “rescue poor Ariand” who must have fallen into foul hands.
Aewand gave a contented smile as the council departed the chamber. Power would be hers and hers alone! If Mother and Father were not strong enough to stand in her way, who was Ariand to thwart her?
Others will stay home, and watch their television sets
There will be those armed to the teeth
Others will trust the good of humanity,
And that disruption will be brief
Some on the Right will have the their militias
So will the Left, but odds are they will miss ya
The attached photo struck my fancy and gave rise to the idea of what a Liberal militia might be like. Okay, that said, it is rather tongue in cheek as I am generally left of centre in my views, though I am also an 0311 infantryman. So please read it as a bit of fun.