Shiera awoke very early, disciplined as always, she began her day with exercises designed to strengthen both her body and mind. She was determined to seize every moment life offered for growth. Her job consumed much of her time, leaving only the dark hours before dawn for her to ensure that her body remained in peak condition.
Time flew swiftly, too swiftly. Before she knew it, the light of dawn was illuminating the walls of her room. She abandoned her training to prepare for departure. After all, her mission to protect Jenna was paramount, for now.
She donned her leather armor over her bare skin. The flexibility required for her exercises was something the warrior’s armor of the Crimson Soul clan did not afford. She needed to shield her most vulnerable parts, becoming an entity not easily halted. In this manner, she could focus on offense before defense. Shiera had grown up in the Burning Scale, amidst dragons. She was one of those charged with the care of these towering beasts.
The dragons of the Crimson Soul clan were the only ones that could exist in Eden without being hunted for trophies. Shiera continued to wear her clan’s traditional garb. Her leather armor might deceive the uninformed, but her body was safeguarded against the direct strike of an enemy’s sharp weapon.
Shiera set out in search of her patron, Jenna. She would dare any madness to protect the one who financially contributed to the heavy burden she shouldered. Shiera was a warrior driven by grand ambition. Her home teemed with beautiful women, maidens who saw in Shiera the strength and protection they needed to feel free in the perilous Eden.
Of course, Shiera would dare anything except that which life was about to demand of her. Approaching the door to Jenna’s room, Shiera caught sight of a woman in a black dress, her face concealed by a hood, holding a scepter with a black glowing orb. Could fortune have delivered the Soulless One into her grasp? The woman who defied fate by battling and defeating one of the dragons of the Crimson Soul clan.
Shiera’s hands rose to grasp the handles of the twin axes on her back. Fury took hold of her. The image of a dragon slain by the hand of a slight woman, her face hidden behind a black cloth mask, consumed her thoughts.
“Hey,” Shiera called out, drawing the attention of the woman who might be the Soulless One.
Kasha spun around to confront the towering warrior, an axe in each hand. There was no doubt this was a member of the Crimson Soul clan. It was only a matter of time before they came for her for slaying one of their dragons. The only option was to fight. Kasha raised her scepter, and dark portals opened along the corridor walls, unleashing skeletons clad in black metal armor, wielding swords.
“So you’re the one who brought death to one of Eden’s most magnificent creatures,” Shiera declared before lunging at the skeletons.
Kasha watched as the warrior sliced through the skeletons with ease, closing the distance alarmingly fast. They were in a narrow space, complicating Kasha’s use of her powers without demolishing the entire inn.
Shiera kept on demolishing the skeletons until a light shimmered through the darkness emanating from the Soulless One. Jenna emerged from her room and placed herself between Shiera and the woman who dared slay a dragon.
Shiera halted. “Move,” she commanded.
Jenna raised her hand. “Shiera, I introduce you to my friend Kasha.”
Shiera was staggered by the implications. She was to let go of the grudge harboring in her heart and accept the presence of the Soulless One? Impossible. Shiera’s thoughts drifted to the castle she’d bought, back to the arena of maidens depending on her. She had no choice. Agreeing to become Jenna’s protector was the only way she had finally found peace. Yet her axes ached to be drenched in the blood of the Soulless One.
Seizing the moment, Kasha interjected, “Your clansmen lost control of that dragon. I only did what was necessary to save a kingdom,” she stated.
Shiera envisioned using one of her axes to strike through Jenna and then… the thought was madness. So, Shiera sheathed her axes and turned away from the woman who had killed one of her dragons.
The morning progressed calmly. Shiera watched the two friends converse from a distance. Her mission was to protect Jenna; for that, closeness was not a prerequisite.
Kasha was delighted to hear Jenna’s stories. Life had been kind to her friend. Many from Wasiqa, the small village they had finally escaped from, were forging promising futures. The years away from Jenna and the others from Wasiqa had hollowed out a space in Kasha’s heart. She yearned to recapture lost time and to do it before it was too late.
Jenna reveled in the formidable power her friend had come to wield. Such a brief span had passed since she left behind the village of Wasiqa, such scant time to have grown so much. Jenna harbored a tinge of envy for all that Kasha had achieved, finding herself yearning to cultivate powers that might elevate her to her friend’s level.
Together, they sipped ichor laced with cloud drops, exchanging a tapestry of tales. Both were astonished by the transformation in the other, but eventually, the call of nature beckoned Kasha, necessitating a temporary absence.
Jenna rose to engage the man at the bar for directions, while Shiera remained near the table. Before long, a waitress from the establishment noticed the empty table and began clearing the plates. Shiera eyed the remnants of cloud drops and smiled. It was petty revenge but enough to soothe the inner turmoil she felt.
By the time Kasha returned, Jenna had retreated to her chamber to ready herself for the day’s forthcoming escapades. Kasha approached the table, surprised to find the dishes with the last morsels of cloud drops gone.
Shiera drew near, her pace deliberate. “The kitchen maids took your leftovers,” she said, her lips curling into a smile.
Indignation seized Kasha at the loss of her final bites of cloud drops. She strode directly to the kitchen; there was no time to ponder the ramifications of her impending actions.
Shiera watched the ensuing events, a smirk playing on her face.
Kasha swung open the kitchen door without announcement, confronting four women. Two had emerged to serve the delicacies Kasha and Jenna had enjoyed for breakfast. The others were a different sort; one sliced vegetables with skilled ease, while the other, much taller than her counterparts, stirred the contents of a cauldron with a wooden spoon.
“Who gave you leave to clear my plate before I finished eating?” Kasha demanded. She felt invincible. There were no beings in Eden who could thwart her path, no reason to fear mere cooks. “You must learn to respect your patrons if you expect any to return. I will ensure none of my companions patronize this establishment again.”
Nemesaz, the tallest among the kitchen women, smiled. The other three appeared to comprehend an unspoken signal, each beginning to retrieve ingredients from various shelves of the kitchen.
Nemesaz’s laughter echoed as she liberally sprinkled peculiar powders into the cauldron. The rest of the women continued fetching jars until their concoction was complete.
“Powers from beyond,” intoned Nemesaz, her voice carrying a weight of certainty, “heed my plea.”
The three women stood stock-still, riveted by her words.
“A life in shadows is what some deserve, to cease their exploitation of fortune.”
The cauldron’s warmth seemed to withdraw, giving way to a cloud of steam that cloaked the kitchen’s interior, rendering it obscured to sight.
Meanwhile, Kasha ascended the stairs to return to Jenna’s chamber when, to her astonishment, she stumbled on one of the steps. She dismissed the incident and proceeded, oblivious to the subtle shift that had just occurred.