March of the Valentas

Ashayra was taller than Miaken expected. He knew that she was from the South, and like all Southeners was always going to be tall, but he did expect her to have to stoop beneath the wooden beamed ceiling to avoid hitting her head. Even Miaken who was the tallest out of most of the people he knew, had a good hand length to the ceiling.

“Miaken, I presume?” Ashayra said, sitting down at the bar. Her accent was thick with the lilting songlike quality of her homeland.

“Yes,” Miaken replied, “drink?” He kept his adopted accent on his tongue. No need for anyone else to know their history, or Miaken’s origins.

Ashayra nodded, and Miaken gestured at the Barman for two more drinks. The Barman scrunched his face up at Ashayra, but fortunately did not question further. By the end of the evening, no doubt, rumours of the southerner who was meeting the ragged Huntsman would be circulating.

What choice do I have? Miaken thought.

“How was your journey?” he asked.

“Long, fraught,” Ashayra replied, dropping her voice so only Miaken could hear, “some interesting folk along the way.”

“Damn,” Miaken said, “below the Southern border?”

Ashayra shook her head. The Barman returned with their two flagons of north fruit cider.

“Fortunately not,” she said, taking a long drink, “about forty miles north.”

Miaken made a face. That was still further south than they had previously recorded. The Valentas were living up to their namesake. They did not need to sleep or eat, fuelled by magics that had once been thought lost.

“You’d thought they would move slower, for corpses,” Miaken muttered, drinking his cider.

“They don’t tire,” Ashayra said, “the magics mean they can just keep walking and walking.”

Miaken stared into his drink.

“How many did you get?” he asked.

Ashayra smiled.

“Twenty with a sword,” she said.

Miaken raised an eyebrow.

“And with other methods?” he asked. Ashayra pushed up the end of her sleeve to show the torques that were stacked around her wrists. Three of them were the colour of burnt rust, completely spent of all magics. It would probably take a good month to charge them again.

“About two hundred,” Ashayra said, “a full company. They were quite pissed off, you know. I don’t think they were expecting me. They were probably waiting for some fair Hunter to swoop in an annihilate them.”

So the stories had travelled that far south that even Ashayra had heard of the rumours. Miaken made a face.

“So you agree,” he said, “I need help?”

Ashayra elbowed him gently in the arm.

“You have been fighting this fight too long alone, my friend,” she said, “I will join you in this. You never know, we might even win.”

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Lee Aik Soon on Unsplash

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