Caris slept like a log, in three days he had not left her alone. Caris was scared. Every night, after he stopped the band, he would pull her along for a few hours then tie her up before returning hours later. The first time it happened, she had cried as silently as possible and was as scared as she'd ever been. She had nearly pissed herself when he returned with shame and gratitude. They usually returned to camp just before sunrise and he would use her as a pillow until midday when they would be off again. By this pace, they would be out of the mountains in only a four or five more days.
The other women were having a much better time of things. Kaarthen was free and hunted in the mornings with Kassin just because she could. She got the attention she wanted from the man, absolutely zero. Vellina was always underfoot bringing food when they were awake or offering to fill his water. Kassin watched him from a far, on the trail she would always turn back to see what he was up to, and she watched his every move when he was close. Ailli tripped over herself to avoid him.
One day, he was awake and waiting when they all woke up early in the morning. They were camped under a narrow overhang on the other side of a rise from the trail they were taking. The site over looked a hidden valley that had surprised them in the morning with its beauty. It was full of knee-high wild flowers waving in the wind.
"Today we don't need to travel," He said looking at each of them in turn. He had uncovered his face signaling the start of a conversation.
Caris was asleep behind him and next to her was something none had seen him have before. A long bundle with black sticks popping out one side. If it weren't for the weird package, they would have thought he wanted to enjoy the beauty too.
"Have any of you fought with a weapon other than the blades you carry?"
They looked at each other.
"Well, that is actually a problem. Getting in close as that knife forces you to do, makes every fight significantly more dangerous to yourselves than it needs to be. I understand you are fighting for honor and the risk is an important part of that. Nevertheless, why get in your targets range just to make your strike? I happened across some weapons last night. They are what are left after a sad thing happened to a group of men."
He pulled the bundle and rolled it open before himself. Inside were three long cavalry spears with thick black ten-foot long shafts capped with a foot and a half long point of hardened steel. Behind the points were four curved claws that were bladed for a slash effect. A forth spear in the pile was broken and had a shaft six feet long. There were also two pole arms of a design they hadn't seen before.
Their blades measured a hands width and a finger thick. It was two and a half foot long with an S-shaped blade on one side and a straight six-inch on the other. There was no hilt and three feet after the blade was a continuous metal handle that sheathed the shaft. Two feet of exposed worked wood with engravings in elven and human stuck out the bottom. Taken overall, the pole arms screamed magic and death.
"Now, please understand that as cavalry spears they lack a hardened butt spike, so what we can do is shorten them. I need you all to practice with them and remember what you were trained."
They looked from him to the spears and back. Obvious expressions of incredulity swept the faces of the four.
“Why?” Kassin asked simply.
“Because you’re all quite helpless. You could and should be better. It is allowed to use these weapons. I think you need the help.” Marcos said with biting arrogance.
“You’re not worried we’ll kill you?” Kassin continued.
“You can’t in this lifetime. You don’t even have a chance. These spears are the best you could do, and you’re welcome to try.” Marcos replied. He smirked at them and gazed at each in turn.
"What about those two?” Vellina finally asked quizzically, indicating the pole arms.
"They use a different style. Considering they're obviously unique, I would like to concentrate on simple common weapons likely to be found or easily made.” Marcos replied. He was happy the submissive one had led them all down his path.
Kassin and Kaarthen thought looking at the heavy pole arms, "With this I could have a chance."
The man's expression was open. "Perhaps I could give a demonstration? I'm sure you all understand the mental advantages of having distance over your target. Maybe I should demonstrate what I would like to contribute to your learning so we'll have more confidence in each other."
He picked up the shortened spear. "Would anyone be my sparring partner?” Marcos asked with practiced vulnerability and innocence.
Kassin moved forward as though drawn.
Marcos cleared his throat to stop her.
"First let’s see how you do with your blade"
"Let's skip that. I think we know what'll happen.” She said edging closer.
"Fine then, both of you.” He responded stonily, indicating Kaarthen.
Several heartbeats later found Caris roused, and the whole group outside in the sun. Vellina sat among the flowers and she cooed over the beauty. Ailli and Caris stood watching with trepidation, a chance at freedom was close.
Kaarthen told Kassin to follow her lead since she didn't fight in groups. Both let their breathing slow and concentrated on the kill. Across from the two, Marcos was poised gripping the spear in a double overhand, with his backhand near the butt. The point was raised to the level of the average mans throat. His knees were bent almost to where he would be sitting and his feet were slightly more then shoulder width.
The two made their dash with Kaarthen leading. She tried circling around but he always wheeled away keeping one or the other blocked. In frustration, Kassin blocked his blade only to be disarmed by a jerk and twist of its claws. Kaarthen took the opening but he sidestepped to the inside of her thrust placing her body between him and her spear. He struck with his spear butt at the top of the moving knee as it was coming forward, the bottom of the forward wrist, and then swung down into the gut. Kaarthen dropped, with the wind knocked out of her. Her spear continued the thrust flying harmlessly past him.
And so, Marcos finished in the same position he started only with the spear reversed.
"This is silly," Kassin said, already on her way to grab a heavy pole arm. It was rare for her to be beaten, she knew she was not the best but it still spiked her anger.
Marcos followed knowing what she would take. He dropped the shortened spear in the pile and grabbed a full-length spear. Kaarthen grabbed the remaining pole arm feeling oddly comfortable and familiar. Both Amazons noticed how when moving the weapon’s magic maintained the balance so the weight couldn't be felt.
Kassin could feel the weapon talking to her, repeatedly asking, "Who are you?” It wasn't completely unsettling, the magical weapon must have been ancient. It was just sad the weapon wasn't made for her.
The next demonstration was equally short, and as one sided as the first. Both girls Marcos noted, held the weapon over and underhanded with the backhand forward of the hips gripping the wood. They also bent their knees, but the back leg was straighter making them bend forward.
Marcos noted the obvious offensive posture as identical between them.
When they dashed, Marcos, who killed powerful creatures from giants, ogres, vampires, dragons, to elementals was put on a true defensive by these mortals. Both stopped just before he could strike and vaulted their backhands forward leaning in with everything but coming up short. On either side, the blades came past his forward hand pointing at his head. They both moved the same and were again disturbingly identical.
Marcos was only saved by the length of the ridiculously long spear and knew it. He didn't try an amateur counter. Both appeared open, but that was only if he had speed over them. Marcos knew it would be a wasted motion and would leave him open to one or both, so he simply jumped straight back several paces.
The next attack the two pulled off was near blinding speed for the spectators. Marcos pointed the spear towards Kassin and started to wheel left in reverse away from Kaarthen. Kassin’s blade came up and chopped off the spear point just behind the claws. Kaarthen to his right had come around already and was inside his defense. Her blade cut the shaft in half as he tried to block backing away. Kassin meanwhile, spun caught the tumbling spear point behind her and popped it up over her head. Her hands switched position and her toes planted in the ground as she reversed grip overhead and from eight feet back she brought the blade vertically down caught the butt of the spear point and sent it like a javelin at Marcos' head.
He ducked his head forward but the claws caught the leather of his neck and shoulder as the projectile ripped past. With his head down and balance ruined, he watched as Kaarthen shifted her feet and Kassin closed in.
He was forced to drop both halves of the traitorous spear as both Amazons lunged to thrust with hate in their black little hearts, and naked blood lust in their eyes.
“Fucking Amazons.” Marcos muttered.
Marcos lunged forward using the heels of his palms to stop both points in a feat only an immortal would attempt.
A voice people are only supposed to hear in death spoke to them. It was both a deafening whisper and the abyss made sound.
Ten paces to Marcos' right stood a unique Amazon Huntress. She was almost six and a half feet tall, her arms and legs were hard rippling muscle. Her hair was shifting from stunning white silver to black with the light. It was pulled back in a severe topknot braid with no loose ends. Elfish ears poked out to the sides. Her midriff was bare and was soft and appealingly smooth. Her abs were vague and that only drew more attention to her belly button and flared hips. She wore no loincloth. A chain swung barely above her modesty and rounded her hips dangling trinkets and small skulls. On both ankles were matching circular designed ankle bracelets. Covering her nose and mouth was finely woven mithril chain mail that pool down her front and back covering her huge soft breasts, and left her arms and massive shoulders bare. Mithril anywhere, always shines with the collected light around it. Its shine was near blinding in the pre afternoon light.
Only Marcos could speak. The others had too many unresolved mental hang-ups to do more then stare.
"Greetings Mother, I hope you are pleased.” It was a standard greeting for the Dark Mother, and this was her Death aspect.
**WE ARE IN ALL WAYS PLEASED CHAMPION YOU ARE MY WILL, LOWER MY WEAPONS MY DAUGHTERS**
Kassin and Kaarthen dropped their arms stupefied. The Being walked forward, its movements were smooth and every step left withered and blackened flowers.
**HEAR ME DAUGHTERS**
“We hear only you mother.” Was the response from all, including the gagged Caris.
It turned to the Kaarthen then the others in turn.
**KAARTHEN YOU WILL ACCOMPANY MY CHAMPION, FEAR NOTHING AS HIS COMPANION.**
That news shocked everyone, even Marcos. He would never admit it but he was jaded, and thought he understood the needs of his Host enough to never really be shocked.
**YOU FOUR HAVE DONE WELL FOR YOUR SELVES DESPITE LACK OF ABILITY, LEADERSHIP, TRAINING, AND LUCK. YOUR HUNT IS OVER. DO NOT SEEK AN ENCLAVE ONE SHALL BE MADE OF YOUR BLOOD HERE AND NOW. YOURS WILL BE A HARDER LIFE HERE AND ALL THE SISTER MUST BE ONE IN THIS WILDERNESS. TRAIN YOUR HUNTRESSES AS PRIESTESSES AND PRIESTESSES AS HUNTRESSES. THE SISTERS OF THIS PLACE MUST BE ABLE TO DO ALL THINGS. THEY WILL BE NEITHER HUNTRESS NOR PREISTESS. THIS WILL BE THE ENCLAVE OF THE DIVINE SPEAR MISTRESS, KNOW THIS TRUTH AND I WILL ALWAYS LISTEN.**
"Yes Mother," No one so much as blinked, starting an enclave was not to be taken lightly.
Marcos remembered a country that had 'spear mistresses' they were really armored female paladins who used halberd and spears. They were quite good and used varieties of magic as boosts and weapons, but their order simply vanished. If they were still around in these times, they could go toe to toe with the heavy infantry or perhaps the heavy assault.
**THE ELVES OF THESE MOUNTAINS HAVE FORSAKEN ME. YOUR SISTERS AND DAUGHTERS WILL HARVEST THEM AND SPREAD THE GOSPEL OF DEATH TO THOSE WHO THINK THEMSELVES IMMORTAL. RID THE MOUNTAINS OF THEM FROM HERE TO THE NORTHERN SEA **
"Yes Mother," was again the reply.
**ONE SISTER MUST TRAVEL TO MAVVUS AND HAVE THE NAME OF THE ENCLAVE WRITTEN IN THE BOOK UNDER MY STATUE IN THE RED TEMPLE. DECIDE AMONG YOUR SELVES WHO IT WILL BE**
Vellina noticeably perked.
The Being walked over to Kaarthen. Side by side, the similarities were too much for coincidence. In the light, the skin and even the hair matched in color, just not style. The identical impossible curves of their forms were also obvious despite the difference in the divine and mundane clothing.
The Being dipped and raised the weapon she held. The metal visibly darkened until it was black as iron as the point where the Being touched it glowed black and deep purple. Designs that were the language of gods appeared along the blade and shaft in blood red writing.
Kaarthen foolishly looked up at the Being that was so close. What she saw in the Beings eyes she would never forget. If Kaarthen could have moved willingly, she would have fainted or voided her bowels. If she had heard that to look into those eyes was to break ones mind as it had countless others, she would have believed it. Its eyes had no whites just black, an abyss with all the abominations and swirling shapeless things that lived in it. The Being’s pupils were just floating on top like an afterthought for appearances. Its pupils were metallic liquid like mercury and silver swimming together. Its irises were split like a vicious predator.
The things in those eyes ripped, knocked down walls, and open doors in her mind. She wished she could scream or close her eyes or just move. Those eyes pulled her into staring deep, she felt like some thing was swapped between the two in the chaos she felt, and for a second she saw her own ghastly haunted expression from its eyes.
**THOSE BLADES HAVE KNOWN MANY GREAT HUNTRESSES BUT ALWAYS THE SAME BLOODLINE. THEY HAVE TOGETHER KILLED AS MANY AS MY CHAMPION**
Breaking the spell, it then turned to Kassin. It bent slightly to touch the blade and a green and gold glow appeared as the weapon tinted an elaborate golden bronze with bright green oxidation written along the shaft and blade.
**BE SURE THE HEAD SISTER OF THIS ENCLAVE KNOWS TO HOLD THIS. IT WILL HELP THEM TO KNOW AND REMEMBER ALL FIGHT OR ALL DIE**
It then walked to the three women.
**I WILL CARVE THE ENCLAVE FOR YOU. WHILE YOU MAY NOT ALL HARVEST, ALL MUST FIGHT. KNOW THAT WE AWAIT YOU IN THE HEREAFTER**
A stiff wind blew and the Being was instantly gone like so much dust. Behind them and all around more powder blew away from the rocks surrounding them. Boulders turned to statues of the Being they saw, others more traditional images of the Dark Mother and legendary sisters who came before. Rocks tumbled from the etched valley walls dissolving in the air releasing waterfalls, others landed and became outbuildings. Water wandered through the temple and around buildings cutting several bridges before spreading to a few inches deep over flat rocks as wide as houses. It uncovered crystallized pillars of rock salt before straightening. The whimsical flow then made a beautiful stepped waterfall that made a pool before running out a cracked boulder.
To Marcos' practiced eye, there were enough wards and seals that nothing would get in even other gods couldn't break in or even see in here. He wondered cheekily if the rain would be stopped too. He would have to discuss his Hosts reasons for that later. He looked at the female 'Kaarthen' again. The Goddess obviously has had a guiding hand as of late.