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Bathsheba of the Moors

(2nd Draft and update)

 

The small cloaked figure moved quickly through the swamp. With ease of practice she stepped in just the right places to keep from being mired in the muck. The trail wasn’t especially wet right now, she had certainly seen it in worse shape than this. As she walked she absorbed the area around her, it was all as she remembered.. the dank odor, the stench of the pools. She had passed this road many times.

As the path emerged from the swamp the moors opened up in front of her. She was amazed once again by the sudden change in scenery. The sun was setting on the horizon now, and the treeless moors shone in pale pink sunlight. Bathsheba slung back the hood on her cloak and let the dying rays of the sun warm her head. As the wind swept off the moor her dark curly hair fluttered around her face and she felt completely at home. She was an attractive halfling and her eyes shone with the blessing of Targos. Her figure was trim yet powerfully muscular, for a halfling at least. It was just a little further now. Two more ridges and she would be home at last. As she walked she thought back upon her life here on these moors.

Her first memory was of her sister Tamar feeding her berries found while playing. Her sister’s brownish green skin shone in the sunlight, and you could see the joy on her face as she shared her find. Bathsheba thought of that face now, and thought it odd, that while so many considered Saurians ugly she could only consider them as beautiful. As a child she had often cursed her own pale skin, longing for scales of her own. She wondered what might have been different, had her parents not died here on the moor. Would she have ever known the life she knew now? She surely doubted it. Having no memory of her parents, she had little regret that the loathsome members of Fate had killed them. She was certainly glad that she had been found and brought back to K’Islaar. That little village hidden on the moors, and the Saurians who lived there, were her family. She could remember no other life.

It was presumed that her parents had been on their way to stock up on supplies at Trollheim. They had been foolish to cross the moor without more protection. Fate had long terrorized that road, spilling more blood than one could even comprehend. Her parents paid for their folly with their lives. She often wondered why she had been left alive. She wondered if the murderer had shown pity on her, or merely overlooked her. Somehow she doubted that, had they realized she was there, they would have had any qualms killing her as well. She was found by a saurian hunting party soon afterward and they took her to the hidden village, K’Islaar, knowing she needed food and provision.

She was two years old then and according to her saurian mother, Sarai, she was quite precocious. She talked endlessly, constantly asking questions. She adjusted quickly to life in the little village. She was well provided for, and very well loved. She followed her sister, Tamar, everywhere. When a few years later her mother had another child, Bathsheba felt she had her very own doll to play with. Khadi, was beautiful as saurians go. Her features were very fine and she had a very sweet spirit. The three sisters were constant companions. They explored the moors, and the nearby swamps. They hunted together, they played together.

As they grew, Bathsheba realized more everyday that she was different. She often heard the other children speak disparagingly of her as "the halfling". Hearing this had always made her wonder. "Halfling they say? Half of what?" She chuckled now as she remembered. She had reached the first ridge, just one more to go, and she would be home. She paused there, feeling the coolness of the evening wind, the fading warmth of the sun, the aching of her feet and the energy that coursed within her.

Her magic was flowing strongly this evening. She had had little use for it this trip. She had hardly seen a beast, much less other people in need of assistance. There had been a few trolls about, but she learned long ago, to ignore them, or throw them some food, since this was their primary interest. As a child she and her sisters had made a game of killing the trolls, they practiced their techniques, and she had even played around with Tamar’s sword on occasion, though she now felt much more comfortable using the hammer she kept strapped at her waist, under her cloak. She thought back to the day she killed her first troll.

She was about 13 years old. She and her sisters had gone exploring. They wandered especially far from the village that day and they only had their daggers with them for protection. They came over a hill and there in a hollow, four trolls sat. Bathsheba was about to turn and run as fast as she could, but Tamar, who was incredibly headstrong and brave (though Bath often wondered if it was just sheer foolishness) rushed at the trolls, dagger in hand and began hacking and slashing at them. Bath hesitated for a minute.. watching the ensuing melee and then, seeing her sister being a bit over powered, she looked sternly at Khadi and said "You stay here". She then shrieked loudly and ran toward the group with her dagger drawn. Tamar killed one.. then another. Bathsheba could tell she was growing tired though. With all her might she stabbed at the nearest troll. The troll growled with annoyance, as her dagger barely penetrated the thick skin on it’s chest. Exasperated, she yanked the dagger out. As she yanked the troll swiped at her, tearing open the flesh on her arm. The pain cleared her head. With enormous concentration, she landed her next blow right at his neck. She gasped in amazement as the trolls body evaporated into mist and some gold fell to the ground. She looked around then, and there was Tam, grinning ear to ear, looking quite pleased with herself and her sister. She had easily killed the last troll, but was also injured. Tam picked up the gold now scattered on the ground, and handed half of it to Bath. "Here, you’ll need it to buy potions to heal up that arm." As they walked back to the village, they laughed as they recounted the skirmish. The pain of their wounds was minimized by the excitement they felt.

When they returned, their mother scolded them for straying so far. Yet, they could see the pride on her face as she took them to the little hut where they bought their supplies. They each bought an azure potion for their wounds and then with the leftover gold they each bought something special. Tamar seemed to know what she wanted. She immediately selected a short sword, which she strapped at her waist with a grin. It was harder for Bathsheba. She didn’t have the sort of blood lust Tam did, and she thought she probably never would, so weapons or the like seemed foolish. However in a dusty corner of the shop, was something she’d had her eye on for a while. She walked over to the shelf and picked up an amulet that radiated with the blessing of Targos. She gently ran her fingers over it’s smooth surface as she asked the shop keeper how much he wanted for it. The old saurian just smiled at her and said, "That’s been collecting dust for ages, you can have it for whatever you’ve got on you. Smiling, Bath dug out the left over gold coins and happily handed them over. She wasn’t really sure what the amulet was, or what it did, but even dusty, the magical energy that seemed to radiate from it caught up her imagination.

Bathsheba fingered the old amulet now. All these years later she still wore it around her neck. It was a tribute to the path she had chosen. That day, she began to realize that fighting held little appeal for her. She was drawn to magic. She wanted to be able to help people, her family especially. The saurians she loved were easy prey for users of magic, she already knew, and she wondered then if she might one day learn the healing magic they so greatly needed. The fact that it had been a targos amulet was purely chance, but Bath thought perhaps it was Targos himself, claiming her as his own.

 

She arrived at the little village just as night was falling. In the center of town she could see several fires burning brightly. She made her way through the wide lane watching the saurians that gathered at the fires from the shadows. She saw many familiar faces and some unfamiliar ones as well. Several of the group were practicing their fighting techniques. She was amazed by the speed and strength with which they used their weapons. The two men who were fighting now danced back and forth, parying the blows. One blow hit it’s mark and one of the men was injured badly. Bath was about to cast a healing spell on the injured man, when she heard the familiar mystical sound that accompanied all healing spells come from the crowd. The man was definitely better, though not fully healed. Bath peered into the crowd wondering who had cast it, but she saw only saurian faces. Puzzled, Bathsheba watched as another spell was cast, healing the man completely.

Bathsheba felt a warm wet tongue run over her cheek. Startled, she jumped suddenly and let out a little shriek. Looking around, she saw no one near by. But the noise had drawn the attention of the gathering. They peered into the shadows and suddenly a young, familiar voice (though it was definitely as not as young and familiar sounding as it had been when she last heard it) yelled, "BATH!" Khadi quickly covered the distance between them, throwing her arms around Bathsheba. Bath smiled and hugged Khadi close. The others gathered around her too and began to drag her into the firelight. As she exchanged hugs, she glanced back to the shadows wondering who had been hiding there.

Khadi asked her excitedly, "Did you see?"

With a puzzled look, Bathsheba asked, "See what Khadi?"

Khadi rolled her eyes and with a youthful exuberance she asked the group, "Any volunteers to show her?" The man who had been injured before, nods to Khadi and beckons the other man to approach. As the second approaches, the first takes a big swing with his sword, planting it squarely in the mans arm. Bathsheba thought she saw a grimace from the injured man, but he hid his pain very well. Again, Bath was about to cast a spell, when Khadi raised her hands and cast one herself healing the mans wounds.

With a stunned look on her face, Bath hugged Khadi again. "Where did you learn that?" She asked excitedly.

Khadi answered with a smile, "A priest was passing through the moors, he ran out of food and I invited him to the village to have dinner with us. When I told him about you, and how much I liked the idea of healing people he taught me this little healing spell. And Bath," she paused, as if about to say something important, "I love it. I really really do. I know I’ll never be as good at healing as you are, but even if I can just be ok at it, it’s what I want to do."

Bathsheba peered into Khadi’s pretty saurian eyes. She smiled and nodded, "I think it’s a perfect fit for you." After a brief pause she asked, "Where’s mother?" Khadi giggled and answered "Oh, Mom’s in bed.. it is dark out after all…" Bathsheba laughed and deciding to let her mother continue sleeping, joined the others in their play and laughter by the fire. As the evening wore on, she worked her way out of the crowd and decided to take a walk through the village. She wanted to see how it had changed since she last saw it, but she was also drawn to the dark shadows. All evening she sensed that whoever had licked her earlier was still there, and was watching her. As she strolled she strained to listen to the shadows, but she heard nothing. She made her way to the end of the main road where the well was, and sat by the well, deciding she would just wait. Patience had always been her best strength, often allowing her to best fighters who were stronger and more skilled than she.

She sat there with her back to the stone well. The days warmth still radiating from the stone onto her back. She drew her legs up against her chest. The night air was cool on her face, she watched the shadows intently, waiting for some sign of someone. The street was quiet though. Her thoughts drifted through her memories of this place. Her weariness from her journey set in and with out even realizing it, she drifted off to sleep.

Warm lips pressed against hers.  She awoke suddenly, startled by the closeness of the saurian face to hers.

"I’ve been waiting a long time to do that," he said as he gently brushed the hair out of her face. She grinned as she recognized him, surprised it had taken her so long to do so. "Sleeper," she said, a smile in her voice, "were you trying to scare me?"