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Lowenna part 19 (Chapter 22)

Lowenna part 19 (Chapter 22)

Lowenna has survived a Demon-god and the raid, but what does fate have in store for her next.

Chapter 22 THE TEST

Lowenna opened her eyes, the sun was rising, and the early sun's mist had almost completely faded. She was back on her horse, and back in convoy with the others. The dreams had left her disoriented again, was she still dreaming now?

She closed her eyes again, to try to remember everything that she had seen. The image of the temple in the desert was fresh in her mind. That part of the dream had felt the realest, it had been so hot, she had been thirsty, and her skin still felt tingly from too much sun. She could even still taste the sand and grit in her mouth.

Lowenna took one of her water pouches and had a long drink, as the memory of the hot sand overcame her senses. She had walked for a long time under a rising hot sun, only for the dream to end when she had finally got close to the temple. Questions raced through her head, why was the temple so important? Was it from her past, or in her future? Who was the woman in white? And how was she connected to Lowenna? It was like the only purpose of the dream, had been to add more questions to her complicated, missing past.

Rique and Ryna pulled alongside, “Are you all right Lowenna?” Rique asked, after seeing the confused look on Lowenna's face.

“I was dream-stating again,” Lowenna replied, but Rique looked a bit sceptical. “I can prove it!” Lowenna said feeling a little hurt that she had to. She grabbed the bag she had obtained from the market and rummaged around in it till she found the creamy white crystal. “This was given to me by the old woman in the market.” There was a pause before Lowenna continued, "this was in my dream." She removed the bracelet and slotted the gem into the hole, and it fit perfectly. She replaced the bracelet on her arm and smugly smiled. “Watch this!” She said excitedly, as she tapped the stone, but nothing happened.

Rique and Ryna looked at each other, before looking back to Lowenna, confusion on their faces. “Wait,” Lowenna said, as she remembered what she hadn’t done. She touched the white crystal to her pink crystal hanging around her neck and flash of white light followed. Lowenna touched the creamy crystal again and this time beams of light shone outwards forming a shield.

“That is amazing,” Ryna stated as he leaned over trying to touch the edge of the shield, but his hand passed through it. He hadn’t expected that, and neither had Lowenna.

Rique's eyes suddenly lit up. “It’s a light-beam shield, created by the Lowenna. There’s a story about an evil Lowenna, who fought powerful sorcerers. Everyone who faced the Lowenna died until a boy with a slingshot killed her. The stone wasn’t magical and passed through the shield and hit her in the head killing her. The Lowenna had underestimated the boy. The moral of the story was sometimes you don’t need powerful magic to beat evil, sometimes it just takes something small and simple.”

“How come it’s always an evil Lowenna,” Lowenna said with a smile, but she wasn’t thinking about the story. She remembered the two thieves in the alleyway. When she had got over confident and it had nearly cost her life. And how many people had underestimated her, since she had woken on the beach, just a few suns ago? Lowenna tapped the stone at the centre of the shield and it faded away. “This still could be very useful,” she said before she noticed Marchel watching her intently.

Rique was still a little excited by the shield, and the fact, she knew what it was. “I think I saw a picture of the shield in your book. If I'm right, it blocks magic and elements, but not swords or arrows.” Rique added. She was very happy, as she was helping Wenna with problems, which her skills and magic couldn’t solve.

“Horses need a rest.” Marchel suddenly shouted, trying to pretend he wasn't interested in what Lowenna, Rique and Ryna were talking about.

Lowenna gave out a long yawn. The dreams had again left her tired, and needing more sleep. Sometimes the dreams warned her of coming troubles, sometimes glimpses of the past, and sometimes of the future, but she really felt like she needed some sleep. Just one moon without visions would be very welcome.

Lowenna yawned again and looked around. The old dusty track was heading towards some very high hills up ahead. The grassy fields to either side of the track were now looking more barren. Weeds and moss and an almost dead tree were the only plant life Lowenna could see.

“We stop for a rest as soon as we hit the pass,” Kia shouted, back to Marchel, from up ahead. Lowenna thought that was a good idea as she had just realised that her lower half was still asleep, and she really needed to stretch her legs.

As soon as she was off the horse, Lowenna had a very long stretch and paced around trying to get the blood pumping in her legs. Her body did not like riding, but she had more important things to think about. Rique came over, and Lowenna took out the red leather bound book.

“There,” Rique said as Lowenna turned another page. The picture showed a man with a shiny shield, and on the next page, was a line drawing of the Lattice, which the beams of light formed the shield from. There was writing underneath.

“I haven’t seen that kind of writing since I was a boy,” Kia said from behind Lowenna and Rique, surprising them both.

“Can you read it, father?” Rique asked him, handing him the open book.

“It’s been a long time. It has a name, the Shield of light, created by… draws power from souls. I’m sorry there’s a lot I can’t make out, but I’m confident I would be able to translate given some time.” Kia said as he tried to read it.

“Which we don’t have right now,” Marchel called over to them, interrupting Kia's train of thought.

“He’s right,” Lowenna added, taking the book from Kia. “For another time,” and with that she closed the book and put it away.

A few moments of calm passed. Lowenna was watching everyone else, wondering what they would be doing if she had never entered their lives. Reath was arguing with Grilk, again. Marchel was checking the horses but kept throwing angry looks at Kia and Lowenna. Vorn had walked over to Rique and had started talking to her. Lowenna had noticed they had been talking a lot, but now Kia had noticed too and did not look too happy about it.

Rique was giggling, and Lowenna could see her face was slightly flushed. Vorn had a big smile on his face and had removed his top showing his muscular frame off. “I’m going to keep an eye on him,” Kia said quietly to Lowenna, who smiled and nodded back.

Lowenna had to admit to herself that she was a little jealous. Both Reath and Vorn, though young, were handsome. Lowenna had caught herself staring at the Vorn a few times, thinking Rique might be a little young for him, but Mavens aged slower so maybe he was too young for her. Was it wrong to feel jealous of a friend with an attractive man? And did age really matter?

“Kia?” Lowenna asked after a few moments thinking, “How old do you think I am?”

Kia looked a little apprehensive, “Well not as old as me that is for sure.” He laughed at his comment but continued almost immediately. “The Lowenna, as far as I have been told, have longevity, but they don’t live as long as Mavens.”

Lowenna sadly nodded, it was just one more thing she didn’t know. Just for once she would have liked something simple in her life.

Kia noticed Lowenna's mood had changed, so tried to answer the question. “It looks like you came of age a few seasons ago. If you were a normal human I would say you were around eighteen harvests, but as a Lowenna that could be up to thirty or even more. I'm afraid there is no way to know for sure, but you look around the same age as Vorn and Reath.”

Lowenna tried to smile. There had been so much going on that she hadn't had any time to think about being a young woman. Just staying alive and trying to make sense of magic and visions had preoccupied most of her thoughts. She looked over at Rique and Vorn. They seemed to be laughing again, and he was very handsome, and he had a brother.

“Practise” Grilk suddenly shouted killing the quietness of the moment. Ryna and Reath went to grab their swords, but both Rique and Vorn looked reluctant. “Now!” Grilk shouted in their direction. Lowenna smiled, and nodded at Kia before drawing her dagger and walked over to Grilk.

“I’ll spar with each of them in turn. Grilk, you watch them and tell them what they need to improve on.” Lowenna said to the old orc. She could see that the two sets of siblings did not like this idea at all. in fact Rique looked downright terrified.

“Rique you first. Come at me with everything you got, don’t hold back. That goes for all of you,” Lowenna said, throwing her dagger into the ground and grabbing a bamboo reed from the side of the track.

Rique rushed at Lowenna, sword in hand, still looking scared. Lowenna waited till the last moment, before side-stepping, tripping Rique up. Lowenna thought that would be it, but Rique rolled through and ending on her feet and came at Lowenna once more. This time, she was more determined. Lowenna dodged left and hit Rique’s arm with the bamboo. She could tell it stung, but Rique didn’t falter swinging her sword forcing Lowenna back. Rique came at her again, this time Lowenna used her bamboo to try and block the sword, but this was a big mistake. The sword cut straight through it and caught Lowenna on her upper arm.

Lowenna vaulted backwards using her good arm. “Don’t stop!” She shouted at Rique who suddenly looked terrified again as if drawing blood was very dangerous and would anger Lowenna. Knowing full well Lowenna could easily kill her if she wanted to. Grilk and the others cheered, but Lowenna was ready to end this. She darted forward, as Rique took another swing. Lowenna blocked the sword with her arm guard, and then grabbed Rique’s wrist with her other arm. She smacked it into her knee, forcing Rique to drop the sword, much like Marchel had done to her. Lowenna then elbowed Rique in the stomach, just hard enough to stun her for a moment, and swinging herself around while still holding Rique’s wrist, twisting it, forcing her to the floor.

“That was very good,” Lowenna said, sliding her finger down her crystal before healing her wounded arm, showing a little discomfort. “You were quick although a little wild with your sword swings. Don’t rush in, when you don’t have the advantage, that’s how I swept you.” Rique nodded holding onto her sore wrist, which Lowenna had twisted just moments before.

“Who next?” Grilk shouted. He was enjoying watching Lowenna fight.

Kia and Marchel were both watching from the top of the field. “Your daughter has really improved.”

“Yes, she picks things up quickly and is quite nimble.”

Marchel turned and looked straight at Kia, “Let’s hope she doesn’t hesitate when she has an advantage over one of the real enemies.” Kia glanced back at Marchel, before returning his gaze to the sparring.

“My children have never killed. Nor did I ever want them to, but I can’t keep them safe forever. My wife died violently and I don’t wish the same for Rique or Ryna. I thought I could keep them safe in Penbirth, and everything would be fine. But the raid showed me they have to be ready to defend themselves. The Angelus help me and protect them.”

Marchel threw Kia a look of curiosity, “Which of the Angelus do you pray to?” Marchel asked. “Not that it matters Maven. I’ve seen holy men and demon worshippers all die, the Angelus and the Demon-gods don’t protect anyone. Swords, shields, magic and luck, that’s what’s kept me alive this long. When my luck runs out I will die, that’s how the world works.”

Kia was silent. He was watching Reath lying on the floor and Grilk moaning that he hadn’t listened to him. “Lowenna would kill you easy," he shouted at the boy. "Raiders would kill you easy. Must block, not just attack. You small, you fast, use speed.” Reath looked miserable. Lowenna bent over and offered her hand to help him up, but Reath refused the help and got up himself, not looking at her.

“You said you hunted, try thinking the enemy is dangerous prey. What weapon did you use for hunting?” Lowenna asked trying to help, but Reath did not answer.

“My turn,” Ryna shouted, as he ran at Lowenna. She readied herself to trip him much as she had done to his sister, but Ryna slowed and took a stance that Grilk had shown him, which Lowenna had not seen before. Suddenly Ryna darted forward jabbing his short sword at her. Lowenna sidestepped blocking it with ease, but Ryna had spun off the block and caught the edge of his shield on Lowenna’s arm, before coming at her with the sword again.

Lowenna jumped backwards, but Ryna had thrown his sword at her. She again blocked it with her arm-guard. She was about to say how foolish it was to throw away his weapon when she realised it wasn’t the main attack. Before she had a chance to react Ryna had dropped his shield and drew his bow releasing an arrow, which passed through Lowenna's hair. “STOP!” Grilk bellowed at them, but neither Lowenna nor Ryna wanted to. Lowenna tapped her pink crystal as another arrow was fired at her, it bounced off her arm like it was nothing as Lowenna ran at Ryna. He managed to load another arrow before Lowenna clattered into him, forcing him to go sprawling across the ground. “ENOUGH!” Grilk screamed forcing them both to look at him.

Lowenna walked over and picked up the arrow. She noticed a few long red hairs on the ground, which the arrow had obviously cut when passing through her hair. She walked back to the silent Ryna and offered it to him with a serious look, but Ryna did not take it. “You told us not to hold back,” Ryna said, stating his defence.

“And you didn’t, and I was caught unprepared.” You will need that sort of cunning and skill if you are going to fight the raiders." Lowenna replied, still offering him the arrow back.

“What wrong with you Ruggnuk!” Grilk suddenly shouted angrily, pulling a face at Ryna that made him smile. Ruggnuk was obviously an insult, which Ryna had heard before. “You could have killed Wenna.”

“I missed her, it went through her hair,” Ryna replied.

“Not Point, it sword practise,” Grilk shouted pushing Lowenna to one side and towering over Ryna spraying him with saliva.

“Did you mean to do that?," Lowenna asked, interrupting Grilk’s chastising, "The arrow pass through my hair?”

“Yes,” Ryna answered, “I didn’t want to hurt you just show you how good I am with the bow.”

Lowenna had been caught by surprise, and now it sounded like he could have killed her. "So you did hold back? You could have shot me in the chest?”

“Yes,” Ryna answered slowly looking more scared of Lowenna than the angry orc who was towering over him. Grilk's drool was dripping onto his arm.

Lowenna smiled, “Leave him Grilk, he’s ready. Ryna?”

“Yes?” Ryna answered for the third time in a row.

“Good job. Don’t hold back against anyone who is trying to kill you or attempting to kill anyone you care for.” Ryna nodded, as Lowenna walked off towards Kia and Marchel.

“So the mighty Lowenna could have been killed by a mere boy,” Marchel said, laughing to himself, as Lowenna got close.

Kia started to apologise, “I’m sorry Lowenna…” but Lowenna stopped him.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for. Ryna did what he was supposed to and if he hadn’t held back he might have killed me. My fault not his.” Lowenna explained. “We need them all ready to fight. Just in case we get in serious trouble and I believe Ryna is ready. And Rique is definitely improving.” Lowenna changed her look to Marchel, “Are the horses ready to depart?” She asked him, as she wanted to catch the raiders as soon as possible.

Marchel huffed before answering. “Give the horses a little longer, I’ll try to get them to have another drink, then we will be ready to leave,” he replied in his rough, angry voice.

“We should make the river Nort before moon fall, but the horses will need a long rest,” Kia added, “I still believe they are heading for the canyon, and hopefully we will catch them next moon time.”

“That’s good. We may be able to free the prisoners after sundown and get out of there before anyone knows," Lowenna replied. This quick plan had been rattling around her head since they had stopped and no other ideas had come to her. It seemed like a good idea, the biggest problem was she didn't know how many raiders there were. So avoiding a confrontation seemed sensible.

“You scared Lowenna?” Marchel asked

“No,” Lowenna lied, “but our objective is to save the hostages and get them home, not avenge the people who died, and if possible not die ourselves. If we can do a moon time raid with three archers who can see in the dark covering us, I would think that the Angelus would agree that would be fair. Especially after what they did to Penbirth and its residents.”

Marchel huffed again as he left Lowenna talking to Kia, but he did think it was a good plan, simple but good. They also might need a distraction, and Marchel had an idea for that. He walked over to the party’s mounts to give them another drink and make them ready for the ride ahead.

The trail started easy enough, but after a while, it split in two. “They would have gone left with the wagon, but we can go right. It’s a lot shorter but starts with a narrow walkway.” Kia said as he dismounted to check the trail.

Marchel quickly dismounted. “I agree the right track would be a better choice, the horses are tired, and the walk would be easier for them,” he added, as he patted his horse to calm it.

“You both openly agreeing with each other, that’s a first” Lowenna said, while smiling at the pair, but only Grilk showed any amusement. Vorn and Reath were tired and cranky, and Lowenna had to admit to herself, she could have done with some more sleep and fewer visions. Every one else dismounted their rides, and Marchel started tying the horses back together, getting ready for the long walk.

Grilk let out a loud yawn and had a good stretch before he took a flask from his bag and poured a lumpy green stinky brew into a large tin mug. It looked like swamp water, with lumps. Grilk took a mouthful and forced himself to swallow.

“What is that?” Ryna asked.

“This orc elixir of war. Gives you energy. No need sleep,” Grilk replied. “ You want some?”

Ryna shook his head like it would kill him, but Lowenna was a little curious, “What’s in it?” She asked.

“Secret Orc Potion. Err... me no know. Given to me by Crock. Told it was her last. Taste not so good, but works good. Made by orc shaman.” Grilk had a second mouth full, which took even longer to go down, and the way he looked, it was trying to come back up. Grilk handed the mug, with the last bit in it, to Lowenna. Everyone was watching her.

Lowenna touched the green liquid. It was slimy and smelt rancid now it was close. Lowenna held her nose and started to drink, but it tasted worse than it smelled. The first gulp went down, the second followed, but the third had no chance. Rather than be sick Lowenna spat it out, shaking her head. Then she grabbed her water pouch and had a long drink. Almost everyone else was laughing at her and even Marchel was showing amusement. “That’s disgusting!” Lowenna shouted before having another drink, still feeling sick.

Grilk was laughing so hard, he was trying to hold back tears, “Me no say it taste nice," he finally said, while wiping his eyes. "It keep you awake and you no need sleep.” Lowenna did see the funny side and would properly have laughed if her mouth were not completely dried out by the disgusting potion.

Lowenna felt that the taste would never go away, and it was tainting everything else she ate and drank. The elixir had also dried her mouth out. No matter how much she drank, her mouth stayed dry. She had even spat on the ground trying to re-hydrate her mouth, but nothing worked. "Not very ladylike," she had thought as she looked around, but no one else seemed to be paying attention to her.

Marchel had all of the horses tied together, and Grilk had hold of the rope while the warg was off to one side tied to Grilk's other arm. Kia and Ryna were already ahead, checking the trail and Rique was again talking to Vorn. Both were giggling and enjoying each others company. Reath, however, was just sitting on a rock, showing his discontent for the trip on his face, throwing his brother dirty looks, so Lowenna walked over to join him.

“You good Reath? We haven’t had much time to talk,” Reath threw Lowenna a quick look, before going back to looking at his brother and Rique. “You jealous?” Lowenna asked.

“No” he answered, but he was obviously lying. Lowenna smiled and sat down beside him. “Look at them," Reath said, sounding slightly angry. "Back in Penbirth he was too shy to talk to any girl. Last time he tried to talk to Rique he couldn’t even string two words together.”

“Well it’s good that they are getting along,” Lowenna replied. “So you knew Rique before this sun?”

“Yea, since she came to Penbirth” Reath replied. “We lived above the bakery near Vlad’s, and we got on fine. Though I’m sure Vorn only wanted to come because she was coming with you, he’s always liked Rique.”

Lowenna looked over at Rique and Vorn, “They seem to make a cute couple,” she said which made Reath huff, showing his annoyance that she had chosen his brother and not him. Lowenna decided to try and cheer him up, “so… you have a girl back in Penbirth?”

Reath turned his head, and a cheeky smile appeared on his face, “Not at the moment, but I have no problems when it comes to girls,” he cockily stated while looking Lowenna up and down. He stopped his gaze on her breasts, forgetting about his brother for the moment and making her feel a little uncomfortable.

“Are we going?” Marchel shouted in Lowenna’s direction.

Lowenna jumped up, quickly, “Yes! Heading out now,” she shouted back. She offered her hand to Reath to help him up, which he accepted this time, but he didn’t let go right away, once up. “Don’t forget your sword, and jacket,” she said to him, which was lying on the floor by the rock they had been sitting on.

“Don’t worry I’ll be ready to fight by your side,” Reath said, smiling at her.

Lowenna flashed him a quick smile, before heading off after the party. She was not completely sure what had just happened. Reath soon caught her, nudging her in her side as he came to walk right beside her, grinning from ear to ear.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © 2015 by Robert Stevens All Rights Reserved

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