I gave no thought to my callous intent, my airs of maturity and stoicism. I ran, letting the cigarette fall in the dirt, ran to the house, to where some of the company had come outside to smoke and take the air after dining, through the door, to where others yet sat at the board and ate and drank our brandy, ignoring the screams. At my bursting in they stood, drew weapons, but I ran heedless and burst into the back room from whence the screams came and there two of the men held my mother down upon the bed and tore at her bright blue robes while she screamed.
I told you I was a big lad; my arms were thick and heavy for a boy of fourteen. With a flailing, thoughtless blow I struck the nearest man and the force of it threw him off her. He lurched down, against the earthen wall and the floor. A crack issued from him, the sound of a stew-bone buckling between your teeth. He convulsed but I seized the other man, lifted him, threw him. He stumbled but did not fall and I stood there, beside my weeping, wailing mother who covered herself and her eyes and pulled her torn robes. I looked back at the door while a man convulsed, unable to breathe or move or speak, on the ground beside me. My breath heaved out of me. Tears blurred my vision, rage and fear and through them the doorway filled with angered soldiers, cruel, tall, shouting. They came in and I readied myself to fight.
Shall I tell you I beat them? Chased them out? How a strength of rage came upon me, or a divine will bent to aid me, or how a latent and hidden destiny manifested itself in flame and thunder? That I drove them off, though they left me near-dead?
As I said, I am too old for fabrications. Likewise, I am too old to dwell on some things overmuch.
They hurt me. They came and took my arms as if I was a child, and indeed I was, and I was helpless and weak and could do nothing, nothing but bear what they did to me after, to teach me, to show me my error. I knew at the time I could not bear it and yet I did and I am still alive. Shall I tell you of the shame that haunted me at my violation? I think you’d rather I did not.
I killed one of theirs, made him suffer, and so I was made to suffer likewise. They violated my mother next, saying it was my fault, and then beat my father and my siblings, and before it was over they brought us outside. They dragged me, for I could not walk and I could scarcely see through my tears.
“Killed one of ours,” the commander in white and gold said. He spoke in his slippery, lazy accent, and without his helm and visor he was thin faced, with a gold mustache and neat beard as he looked down on me. A small scar notched the top of his mustache, beside his nose. My father and mother and siblings were in the dirt beside me. “Killed a soldier. Does that make you a soldier? A warrior, eh boy? Do you feel like a warrior?” His men laughed. I don’t recall what I did, but at that time I thought all my tears were spent. I was wrong.
“You’ll be a soldier,” he said. “I’m short by one man, now. You’ll have to do.” The others chuckled again. “But first, Weckar has need of something.” He seized Punam’s arm, my youngest sister, the little one, and dragged her screaming from my mother. His men knocked her down and threw down my brother and Navat, and meanwhile my father lay face-down in the dirt like a dog and begged and did nothing else. I arose. I didn’t think I could and all I was was pain, but they knocked me in the dirt again.
Weckar. It was not a Lonireilian name. It had no music. I could not guess who me meant, but immediately I knew. The lacquer-faced woman, with her red mouth and black eyes, drew signs in the air with her hands. She invoked Skertah theurgy, the summoning art. She spoke words I couldn’t understand, words in Lonireilan. They coiled through the air, roiling and winding, then jabbing with sharp consonants before subsiding again into lazy, careless curls only to stab out again syllables later. To this day, the sound of Lonireilan pierces the back of my neck.
Weckar, the lacquer-faced woman, took a thin knife from her belt. She seized my young sister from the captain. She killed her, and while I found new stores of tears, the wind howled around the demon called Weckar in a voice of knives. She called up the knife wind. It was her, and, as I later discovered, others like her. She called it from the realm of spirits and commanded it.
This is how it began. I have told no one this part of the tale, save the woman who will kill me when my telling is done, the woman who is known the world over as Green Skive.
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