Age of Shadow: Bonds of Blood by Ray Chilensky

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SUMMARY: The second chapter of Age of Shadow. If you rate it, please comment too.

Age of Shadows Chapter two: Bonds Of Blood

The village of Septima was burning. The smell of charred flesh and smoke was thick and smothering. Small humanoid figures could be seen in the skies, held aloft on bat-like wings. The Hellassi had come out of their mountain homes for the time in generations. They had grown bold. Branwen vowed to make them regret their newfound courage.

She urged her horse forward, drew a bow from its place on her saddle, and notched an arrow. Aldari Priestesses were trained in all manner of weapons, but they were renowned for their skill with two in particular, the sword, and the bow. Each new Priestess was given a sword and a bow exactly one year after their birth. Small amounts of their blood would be mixed with the smelted steel as the sword was being forged, and a strand from their first head of hair was woven into the string of the bow. Spells were cast on both weapons that linked them to the new Priestess' life force.

The sword was placed in the child's bed each night until she was old enough to carry it safely, and it did not leave her side from that time onward. The child would be made to string the bow each morning, and unstring it each night, at first with her parent's aid, and them by them selves. When they were of the proper age, they would practice with each weapon for at least five hours a day. The result was that the weapons became part of the Priestess, and part of her magic.

Branwen dismounted and then let and arrow fly, and guiding it with magic. She could not direct an arrow around corners, or radically change its path in flight, but she could guide it subtly as it flew. The arrow struck a Hellassi in the chest and buried itself up to its fletchings. The Hellassi plummeted onto the roof of a burning building and rolled onto the ground burning.

Three Hellassi saw their cohort fall and swooped toward Branwen. With blinding speed she launched two more arrows. Two of the three Hellassi were struck by these arrows, one through its left eye, and the other through the skull. As the third of her attackers neared, Branwen dropped her bow, drew her sword, then dropped to one knee and cut the feet from her attacker as it passed over her. Its screams of agony drew the attention of more Hellassi warriors.

Angered by Branwen's slaying of their kin, more of the Hellassi abandoned thier attack on the village and turned on her, swooping at her in an attempt to rend her with their claws. With dance like grace, Branwen evaded dozens of attacks and dispatched several of her attackers, but the Hellassi were many, and eventually their numbers became telling. An unusually large Hellassi dropped on her from directly above and knocked her off her feet. In an instant, she found herself pinned beneath a dozen or more Hellassi, being clawed and bitten at from all directions. She felt teeth sink into her left shoulder, and a clawed hand was drawing blood from her right thigh.

Branwen blocked the pain from her mind, and concentrated on feeling the ambient magic around her.

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