Regret had always been my lover.
I remember Orchard Hill. The grass stubby, sparse, and barely green underneath the three large apple trees. I would sit there, digging my hand mindlessly through the dirty moss until the inescapable shadow of my home would smother the hill with its evening stillness. Not even the birds would stay then.
Sometimes, I have only a feverish ardor to sit on that Hill, and taste the sweet flesh of brown speckled apples that had laid too long in the sun. I could never bring myself to take them from the branches, as if it was some secret sin. I had never gone to the Hill armed; my sword could not weigh me down if I did not carry it.
I carried it now.
There was a way, by forcing my very frame, that I could swing my old enemy with such speed that my next attack began just before the supple steel struck its mark. It had been three years since I had last been at this level.
Three was a grim number.
So I swung and twisted and stepped and broke and ran. Throughout it all, I knew two things. Everything had its place and I could not forget to breath. That is how three became two, the first dead one did not know either fact.
My left elbow was a painful, ringing buzz. My payment for the zeal in the exploitation of the first dead one's flagging defense. It had been too simple a move, and I had swung far too hard to break and sever his second hand mail, and the reverberations punished my arm.
Anger had been my friend for so long. It was an easier companion to please than any other feeling. It only wanted one thing and always felt the same. That is why Ried had commissioned ‘fury,' in the old Acronic lettering, on my blood-blade when I was made Sentinel.
"With the righteous fury that is your constant whore, you shall never want for glory of battle," he had said after the feast, before the obligatory dance with the ignorant, effervescent women of High Court, underneath the stained-glass epicenter of my existence.
I saw her eyes then, just above the dirty bone white knuckles that squeezed the heavy oak bars of the wagon. Two eyes shaking in reverent, hopeful fear. She did not really know me, or she would never have asked.
One of the soldiers must have thought I had seen something strange as he torqued his body to keep both his new phantasm and I in sight. That was an easy, basic quartatta, stepping to his rear as fury bored into his thin, sinewy neck. I used to always slip the blade sideways on a killing thrust; now I do not now why I took the time.
I had met Alyiss, on the Hill; about the time my home became a prison. I remember so little of our days together. She had been so quick, out-thinking all my clever games, and seeing right through my umbrage formed shell. She wasn't special to anyone, and she could not even speak the formal style, yet I languished all my afternoons with her, underneath those sickly, sweet-laden branches.
Ried was moving now. I knew him well enough to feel his indecision. He so badly wanted to fetch his roan stallion, tethered to the front of the wagon, angrily stomping the dust.