A young berserker stands in the middle of an arena. The bones of her kind make up the walls and caged top, so that she knows her ancestors watch her in this trial. While this all makes it a sacred place to her people, it only means that he fellow clansmen will yell louder for her victory. None of the hoots, hollers, or even the bangs against the cage reach the lass in the arena. She does not hear it, for if she did, she would have already lost her right to enter their brotherhood.
The woman took in a deep breath, her modest, bare chest rising, and falling. Her eyes were only half open with faded irises, the only sign that her soul was not with the active world, but hidden deep within her body. There it sat in calm, until a wolf bloomed into existence within the emptiness. It growled at her, but only received a calm smile in return. All was still as the two spirits sized the other one up, trying to figure out how the other one worked. Once satisfied, she waited, and didn’t even flinch as the beast lunged for her. When the two made contact, both spirits exploded in cascade of greens and reds, reaching out to fill the shell they had retreated within. The girl in the arena, Kat, smiled, and opened her eyes. “Bring me my wolf.”
An older man, cloaked in a robe of fur, smiled with his daughter. He towered over the others in his clan, and wore nothing other than the wolf’s pelt over his shoulders, so as to bring the leader closer to nature, and thus, the canine blood they believed to be pumping through their veins. One glance at a frail man, set to the side, whose wolf had taken his leg and now resided in the war pens, was all that was needed for the Ashamed to throw the lever to the pen within the stadium. A growl came from behind the great door as Kat’s soon to be soul sister, or destroyer, was set free.
Kat looked past her fiery red hair, crouching low as the first step from her sister slammed onto the ground. Her hair rose, goosebumps covering her bare, petite body as adrenaline filled her. It was not fear that ran through her lifestream though, but pure, uncontrollable excitement. A flash of green passed over her left eye, while a similar red glazed over the right. Her tongue slinked out of her mouth, running over her dry lips as the dire wolf stepped into the arena. It’s hulking mass was almost as tall, and definitely larger, than her, but it only made her laugh. Looking back into the beast’s blood red eyes, her grin widened into that of a mad woman. “Want a hug, puppy?”
The beast lunged for her, its large jaws missing her face by mere centimeters. Kat glided along the monstrosity’s side, her body moving at the rhythm of the creature’s. Such feints continued as the two danced. If it spun, she would soon follow, bounding to keep up. A bite would be met by strong hands pulling at its fur, pulling the girl along its body, and away from the jaws. It was while watching the beauty of her soul sister that something shoved its way into her confidence. A spike that wedged itself into her core, and made her hesitate.
A spike of fear.
Those gathered were not aware of the problem occurring within the soon to be barbarian, but instead they shouted and exclaimed to the clan’s leader adoration for his offspring’s abilities. By no means was Kat the first these men had seen to pass the trial though, but to see one so esteemed as her within the clan filled them with great pride and jubilation. Her father was not ready to celebrate though. Not until absolute victory was to be had. He took ina deep breath, wind building up in his lungs, before it was let out, and his shout rang over the arena like a crack of thunder. “Become one with the beast, and finish it!”
Kat stopped at the words, even as the wolf turned to her. Its piercing, red eyes still held a warmth to her. She felt her arms twitch, and her mind imagined her arms wrapped around the dog. The two being able to fight and survive together. They would be strong, brutal, and legendary.
Teeth barreling at her face brought her dream to an end as the canines came but mere millimeters from her nose. She sprang back, putting distance between her and the swiping claw, whose hair flung dirt away that marred the white skin of the barbarian. It lunged again, and Kat barely dove beneath the hulking mass, coming out the other side unscathed still.
However, the fear still would not leave, and she still wished to show the beast mercy. The hollers of her people surrounded her, boxed her in. They all wanted the beast gone, and for her to do it.If she failed them in this, and attempted to allow her soul sister to live, she would certainly be doomed to the halls of the Ashamed, and perhaps even drive her father to lose his position in the clan. She looked up, hoping for some sort of help. One glance into her father’s cold, green eyes, and she knew she would find none. A tear came down her face as the wolf spun around, and her father turned away.
This time when the wolf lunged, Kat did not merely dodge. This time, she stepped to the side, its fangs missing her again, before leaping over its claws, and onto its back. A cheer came from the crowd as she wrapped her arms around the beast’s neck, and her grip became like iron. She pulled on it, tears streaming down her face. She would blame it on exertion, as her arms, despite being so well trained, were in fact screaming in agony, but they were still not the whole reason. She barely breathed, “I’m sorry,” before a sick crack filled the air.
Cries of triumph could be heard for miles as men banged their weapons on the bone cage that covered the pit, and her father was called back. Her clan was happy, like so many times before. Looking back, the events that caused this sort of a riot were amongst some of the happiest in her life. Now, as she awaited her father to come down and name her as a fully realized berserker, a wolven-kin she felt nothing. It had been her dream for so long to join the ranks of the /others. To be a part of their raids, and destroy everything that might stop her family.
she looked down upon her soul sister, and wished for nothing more than to go back to when two souls were dancing with each other, instead of the none that now sat in the arena.
Her hand gently stroked the fur of her friend as the gates opened to let the others in. She took in one more breath, and let a single tear fall as she closed the wolf’s eyes. She nuzzled against it, before whispering, “Goodbye, my friend.” It was only after this final ritual that she forced a smile onto her face, and stood up. The grin stayed for her father welcoming her to the pack. She couldn’t show them how destroyed she was. Not when they were all so happy, and she had become a berserker, just like so many of them. To be a monster. To be one who could kill their own blood, if they absolutely must to win.
All of this she buried deep as she followed her clan, and joined in on their cheers.
Thank you to my friend Fuzzy for having worked on the design of the cover. After a mishap with the commissioned piece, I almost wasn’t able to publish this, but with his help, he was able to make it to a quality I could proudly publish with, and is the one you see now.
As for myself, my name is Michael Hudson, and I would like to personally thank you for reading this short about the barbaric half of my lovely couple, Diane and Kat. To do so though, I believe an extra treat is required. You may have noticed that this book is not quite done yet, and you would be wise to do so, for soon these two fine woman shall be working together, though not for the first time by any means, in their own story! So, I would like to share with you now, Diane and Kat: The Bound Bands’s first chapter. If you like it, please consider remembering about August Sixth, for its release.
If you’re worried about missing it though, feel free to follow me on social media. You can do this through Twitter @MDHWrites, or on my facebook page, Michael Hudson’s Writings. Now, enough of me rambling, onto the sample!
Diane looked up from the map of the sewer system, raising an eyebrow as her shorter companion, Kat, was pulling at something. She lowered the map further, watching the frantic attempts to get what was probably some sticky sludge off with a bemused smile. Of course, she probably would have panicked too if something had latched onto her. Diane smirked as her dear companion straightened. Now that they were facing each other, she could see the crablike creature that had decided that the other woman’s face would be a good home.
“Kat, stop playing with the local wildlife.”
The red-headed girl waved her arms as another muffled scream escaped her. Diane just rolled her eyes, stepping forward, her black dress sliding along the pavement sidewalk, before she pointed two fingers at the shellfish’s back. A small, black pulse ran over the crab and it became still, just before two lines bisected it. It then split into fourths as the force cracked its hard exterior, and sent the pieces flying against the walls.
For Kat, the spell felt like a wall was slamming into her face. Her arms flailed desperately, an ill fated attempt to get her balance back before falling off of the walkway. Where this led was the place all sewers led, the shallow, disgusting green water below. She gasped for air as she resurfaced, and then stood in the shallow muck, twitching a few times before barfing.
“Are you okay?”
Kat looked up at Diane’s small smirk with a furious glare. “I have other people’s crap where nothing is supposed to go!”
“So you’re fine?”
Kat gritted her teeth and grabbed ahold of her companion’s leg, before pulling her down. A muffled curse escaped Diane before she was forced all the way off down, and even past the knight with how much force was put behind what should have just been a playful tug. As she forced her way out of the gunk, her black robe drenched in the same sludge that her companion was, she hissed, “Do you know how long it will take to get the stench out of this? You have spares!”
Kat rolled her eyes as she pulled herself back up to the walkway and helped the other woman back to dry land. “I told you you should have put on my old barbarian stuff. This kind of place just isn’t right for silk.”
Diane huffed, before focusing for a moment. A ripple ran through her clothes, and while it was still freezing cold water, at least now it was clean and could get rid of some of the gunk on herself.. She was going to be cold now no matter what, but she could be at least a bit cleaner down here. “Look, can we just go now? We still have a job to get done.”
Kat groaned and began to walk as she took a rag from Diane’s shoulder bag and wet it with her canteen. While her chainmail wouldn’t be a problem with the crud on it, the straps and buckles on her breastplate would start to chafe if she didn’t clean them out. “I hate doing stuff like this. I mean, we’re big, tough adventurers, so why are we doing city maintenance?”
A light sigh came from Diane as the sound of their steps bounced off the walls. “I have told you many times before that while our expeditions are fun, they require capital, and these are the best types of jobs to get that capital with.”
Kat turned back to the taller woman with a scowl on. “Don’t you mean the most degrading?”
Diane took in a deep breath as she forced herself to stay calm. Even after almost three years of adventuring together, Kat still couldn’t help but complain unless they were actually dungeoneering. She turned back, her hands on her hips. “Look, I’ve been planning this next expedition for almost two months. You were the one who broke their weapon, so stop complai-”
Time almost seemed to slow for Kat as the sound of a loud slam echoed through the large, sewer tunnels. She watched as Diane just barely began to turn towards the sound before a short, wooden shaft slammed into her shoulder. The drops of blood hadn’t even hit the cement before the short warrior had her broadsword, before cursing at the empty scabbard, and instead pulling out her knife. As another bolt scratched the stones beside her, she slammed her shoulder onto the wall beside the open intersection. Her breath was coming in short, raspy gasps as she could feel a howl echo through her bones. She shut her eyes for a moment and stopped them from dilating before looking past the corner. Her concentration almost shattered though as the other crossbowmen fired a bolt at the stone next to her head.
“Fucking bandit! Okay, let’s see how well you can track through this.” She reached into her belt. While Diane held onto most of their dungeoneering tools, the sorceress had made Kat a few things to help her with ranged opponents. “Just in case.” Two silver balls rolled around in her hands, slowly getting warmer as they gained friction. She clenched them tight as they almost began to burn, before rolling them around the corner.
Diane smiled from knee deep in the sewage as she saw the harsh light come from the corridor. It would take her almost an hour to recharge them at camp, but it was better then whenever Kat thought she could dodge arrows. She sat up before stiffening and gritting her teeth, the pain of the crossbow bolt being very real. She knew she should just ignore it, instead of trying to pull it out like most adventurers might. Treating a wound in combat usually just led to more being made, and it had been her folly for not checking around the corner before scolding Kat, so she now needed to make sure neither paid for that further.
The bandits were only just getting their sight back when the first felt cold steel being thrust into him. Kat slammed her left fist into his cheek to free her blade and saw the two crossbowmen almost jump at seeing her. A small smirk crossed her face as she crouched and charged at the one on her level. The other was on top of the makeshift barricade that they had been instructed to get rid of, along with two other meatheads, but she knew better than to worry about them. The panic in the archer’s eyes had guaranteed the miss that he now made while the other tried calming himself so he could actually make his shot, and the other two were slower to recover..
It was too late though, as Kat rolled forward, making the misfire all the more certain, before she sprang up, her sword cleaving through most of his abdomen. She could hear the other two bandits fall onto the concrete, screaming at her to stop, but that only made her chuckle. She had a job, and they’d already made a fatal mistake.
Diane had watched all of this from the cover of the sewer way, even if it meant getting coated in the shallow filth, and saw her companion freeze. She held her good arm out, aimed straight for the remaining crossbowmen. Her magic flowed from her chest, into her arm, before down onto her fingertips to crackle outwards with yellow energy. The bandit had just reloaded, but she knew she was faster.
The crack of thunder rang through the sewers as the spell’s sound bounced off the stone walls. The bandit it was aimed at though, heard nothing as his weapon was splintered by pure electricity. Electricity that then shot through him. He looked down at his smoking chest, his head twitching as his breathing stopped, and he fell back onto the other side of the barrier with a splash.
Kat blinked a few times to try to get her world to stop spinning as she made her way towards the last two. She could tell that one had two knives in his hands, while the other wielded a short sword and a shield. Child’s play to her, especially when the sword was swung at her. She stepped back and let it hit the wood before grabbing the shield, pushing it out of the way, and thrusting forward into the bandit’s chest.
The other watched as his partner in crime fell, before looking into Kat’s eyes. The once green eyes had an odd red added to them as she pulled her blade free. She ran a tongue over her mouth before shutting those eyes and breathing deeply. She heard the daggers drop to the ground and looked back to see the bandit running.
“Are you okay?”
Kat looked back at Diane, who was only now pulling out the crossbow bolt while also grabbing some bandages. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
Diane rolled her eyes. “It’s by far not the worst thing I’ve been hit by. It definitely isn’t worth your bloodlust, even if it caught you by surprise.”
Kat kept eye contact with Diane for a few more moments, before blushing slightly and turning away. “You saw that, did you?”
“Yes, and,” pausing to help the sorceress up while she pecked her on the cheek, “it was very sweet of you.” She then smacked the warrior upside the head. “It was also very stupid. If you’re going into it, either stop it without stopping everything else, or focus on the fight. You could have gotten yourself killed.”
Kat chuckled a little as she patted just below Diane’s shoulder. “Oh yeah, because we both were great about that today.”
The sorceress bit into her cheek, before shaking her head and sighing, despite there being a smile on her face. “Alright, you have a point. I’ll be more careful next time.”
Kat grinned wide. “Ah, sweet music to my ears. Now,”she said with a crack of her knuckles, “let’s get rid of this, shall we?”
Diane’s eyes widened as Kat slammed her fist through a support beam on the ramshackle dam. No warning, no hesitation, had just gone ahead and broken the dam. All she could do was spin a protective bubble around herself, but she didn’t have time to get one around Kat before the structure collapsed.
Kat looked down as brown liquid started making its way down through the now crumbling wood. “Oh shi-”
It would be almost an hour before the ‘water’logged knight was fished out, safe, but humiliated.