I twitched to try and seize the chance his distraction gave me. But he saw me clearly now, with the wane light from outside. Ratsic quickly pointed his knife Agatha’s way, the threat implicit. If I moved, I’d have to be faster than he was at throwing his knife.
“The gods have their own reasons,” Macthal said. Regardless of how stupid or petty those reasons might be, he thought. Though he couldn’t say it all, for some reason he felt he needed to say something. He didn’t like Lora talking badly about herself. Lora frowned though, dropping her hands from her figure and looking out at the Veil again. Maybe past it.
“There are always costs Macthal….”
“Stop!” Little Agatha screamed, her hands holding the slightly too big crown of antlers her father had made for her. As the group of boys tried to pull it from her head, her curls were yanked, helping her keep the druid crown. But only at the cost of pained yelps for the boys’ mischievous glee.
“You lost that fight, my woodsman. Your father’s armor still loose on you. That axe oversized compared to you. You lost.” Lora paused and Macthal remembered how his fight with Five-Eyes had not been the first time his other self had short changed him of his strength. “You were bleeding all over.” She touched his nose, his cheeks, and the side of his head. All where scars or long healed wounds lay from that fight. That first test of hers. “But even when Bonebriar’s ivory spear was over your bruised face, your scowl never went away. It never changed. You would have killed him, if your body could have still moved. If you’d had anything left.”
Lora put on a more stern look before turning to face the mortals, though her body language was ever playful. Her abundant hips swayed in a way men would find hard to ignore and her dress, made of blooming silver flowers, hugged all her curves alluringly. She had the look of a noble maiden, save for her impossibly perfect skin, her Vault like eyes, and her long silver hair.
“Well,” Macthal urged. The girl started weeping. “Hurry,” Macthal went on, removing his mask to crouch and whisper in her right ear. “A ghost, in these woods, haunts the last thing it sees,” he lied. “Unless it fears that sight.” Her sobs stopped, fear making her hold her eyes opened to meet Bor’s fading gaze. “You need to kill him.” The axe lifted a little from the man’s neck. It shook. It dripped. Then, when it raised to almost over her head, Lidia paused again.
“Don’t begrudge a woman’s timing, dear boy,” old Emma had said. Then I went and gave the goddess the raven’s finger, rushing head long into a battle with a clan chief who was trading in cursed metal! I felt like an idiot. Maybe I was.
The hammer struck. It tore through the curtain of wavering Stain and shot bands of coursing light everywhere that my Sight could glean.
I took a breath as deep as my burning lungs could handle and let the blood in my ears wash out Galdaya’s warnings and advice. Slowly, all I felt around me was the bubbling Stain of the ingot, those incessantly growing whispers that could break through the Haze I was building, and the weight of the hammer in my hands.