In a city far south of the Vulcano is a place called Windy desert.
The sun is almost always present, but there is little warmth given from the golden rays. This far south, touching the most southern hemisphere, there is only wind and cold savannah. In this harsh environment, only the harsh can survive.
The small villages are scattered around the country close to the sparse placed hills. The houses are built with hard packed mud or dug out from the hills. It’s a easy living, but it’s sufficient. High buildings or tents is simply not possible to raise out in the desert country, it would easily be carried away by the wind.
Despite the wind the inhabitants call some places cities. This one city to the west is called Eyeless and have a man-high mud packed wall formed like an eye around it. Inside live a few hundred households protected from the harshest wind and storms. The houses are yellowish brown, the color from the sandstone they’ve been carved out from.
On top of one of sandstone houses a young woman crouches, her long hair flowing in the wind like a stream of red fire. From the roof she can see far towards the horizon. Nothing but sand in the wind as usual. What is she really looking for day after day? But she knows.
Elthana Bloodrain was the only redhead in the city, until another red haired woman moved into the city five years ago. This woman, Ikana Heartbeat’s face, hair and body have an uncanny resemblance to Elthana’s. It didn’t take many days until she snuck onto Ikanas roof despite her Warders warnings and talk about “you are not allowed” “we forbid you”. Elthana mouthed the words irritatedly into the air.
Ikana is Elthanas blood mother, of this she is sure. As sure as in her skill in dancing in the wind.
Every evening since Elthana and her mother met for the first time, she’d practiced her forms on the roof, balancing in the wind and every day she watched over the desert. She watched for the Gatherings assassins, the White masked. It wasn’t very likely she would notice the assassins arrival, still she watched.
Elthana stood up and let the brown cloaked fabric she usually had veiled around her face and head flow behind her in the wind. The head cloak was typical for all people from her home Eyeless city. Other areas in Windy desert hade other type of fabric wrapped around their head when they went out.Skillfully she spinned her long curved daggers in the air, and put them into two scabbards fastened at each side of her belt. For a moment Elthana let her eyes close and the only feeling was the wind in her hair and her feet holding her firm on the roof. An outlander would have a hard time standing in the wind like this, for her, it was life.
Before slipping down the roof hatch she glanced over at her mother’s house and listened. Only the wind and sand. She and her mother needed to stay away from each other for a while. Questioners from the Blood city had come by two weeks ago and claimed they performed a routine visit to some of the warders. “To make sure the children are treated right” they had lied. Filthy sun shaders lying outright like that. They had questioned her alone later that night, asking about the only other redhaired woman in town. One of them had held a tight grip around Elthanas wrist the whole time, no doubt feeling her pulse for lies. After all questions were asked they’d left without another word. They knew Elthana thought that the other red haired woman was her mother, enough proof for the Gathering to order someone murdered. Elthana had waited for the assassins ever since. She had seen the Questioners lurking around in the village, but no sign of any assassins. Not this day either, maybe tomorrow her time was up.
Elthana gracefully jumped down the roof hatch that served as her door to the freedom of outdoors. When she was young she used to call it the heaven door, because when you opened the hatch and climbed up it looked like you were climbing towards the heaven. Now she closed it behind her without a second glance.
On the floor below she heard her Warders talking with their normal voices, they didn’t know she was back. Spring Sidewind and Elton Sandworm was selected as her wardes after she was taken from her blood parents a month after her birth. Ever since the Great blood war two hundred years ago no parent was allowed to keep the child they gave birth to, their blood child. Instead the Gatherings subordinates came and took the babies away, mixed them up in the Blood city with all the other gathered from that month and then shipped the bundles of small humans out to different houses and villages. If you give birth to a child you get another child. It is the law. Every child is guaranteed one or two warders as replacement for their blood parents. It is the law.
Elthana almost snorted, the law, it’s a joke that’s what it is. Her warders downstairs, her substitute parents, is kind and all but she didn’t like the fact that they forbade her to see her blood mother. Though to them Ikana Heartbeat should only be another woman in the city, but they knew, how could they not. Elthana and Ikana is more alike than any other two persons she’d ever seen.
The Warders voices reached Elthana’s ear.
“She spends too much time on the roof, practicing. I’m sure she only stares after the other one with blood hair” Spring said whilst clattering with the dishes.
“If you listen close you’d hear her move, and I’ve seen her practice her forms up there” Elton said with a softer voice. Spring snorted loudly and Elthana wanted to snort back.
“Sure she does, but for how long? You know she’s been seeing that forsworn behind the wind.” Elton hushed his heart loudly.
“Watch what you’re saying my heart, the wind carries the word even indoors.”
Elthana couldn’t take it anymore, it’s the same talk every night. What she should or shouldn’t do. What to work with. Whom to see, whom not to see. She was over it already. If she hadn’t already tried to join the sworn assassins at the Blood city and been harshly denied she wouldn’t be here anymore. Humiliated and alone she had no choice. No true occupation, no escape from the Warders. Apparently the Blood city didn’t accept any assassins with red hair. One of them had slipped out “too close to the blood line”, but only the wind know what that meant. Her hands rested on the hilt of her daggers. She should put them down and go to bed. She should, but something didn’t feel right. It was quiet outside, very quiet.
“I’m going to sleep” she shouted from where she stood beside her bed.
“No need to shout Elthana, we hear you. I hope your forms flowed right in the wind, see you for breakfast” Elton shouted almost as loudly back. Really there was no need for shouting in the small hour. Her room and storage in the loft, and two rooms at ground level.
“Don’t encourage her to continue with those silly things” Spring hissed in a low voice and Elthana closed the door maybe a little too hard than needed.
One of many things Elthana prided herself with was her stealth techniques. She could almost pass by people on the open savannah or in broad daylight without them noticing if they had their cloaks up. Though it was far easier at night with shadows to hide in.
Elthana looked out of the thin vertical window. Everything seemed as usual but her stomach told her something wasn’t right. Call it the sixth sense or woman’s intuition, but it was something. An uncanny feeling of silent whispers in the wind. This was not a night to stay in and sleep quietly. She blew out the lonely candle and wrapped the head cloak around her head, her torso and tucked it in under her belt. Without getting noticed she slipped down the stairs and out into the narrow streets. She needed to move as soundless as the stars shone.
With light steps she moved in the shadows, two houses away she dared to peek out to view her own house. She’d been right. Something was definitely not as usual. On top of her roof three black cloaked and white masked figures stood crouched. One felt on something on the roof. The roof hatchet. They were going to break in. Elthana heart started to beat faster and she could feel her muscles fill with adrenalin. Her thought and breathing remained calm. “All events follow Thalassadors movements, to keep up you must flow with the wind”, Elthana recited to herself.
If they broke in and didn’t find Elthana on the top floor, they would go down to find her Warders. Spring and Elton would end up with her fate – dead as stones. Elthana felt her stomach turn, realizing that maybe this was one of the reasons her Warders forbade her to see her Blood mother. If they died, it was her fault. Now was not the time to feel guilt, only time to act.
As one with the shadows she moved closer the her house. From a small space between two houses she could see them clearly. Holding herself up with the legs in the four foot wide space she juggled a small rock in her hand and then threw it up high. Seconds passed by, one of the masked assassins opened the hatchet, and the stone made a barely audible thump on the roof on the other side. Her heart thumped harder than the stone, she hadn’t actually killed anyone before. No time to think, only time to act. The assassins all shifted their attention towards the sound from the stone and as their heads swung Elthana pushed herself up on the ledge of the roof and leaped forward over the two men long distance to her house.
In the air one knife flew towards the assassin to the right. As the knife hit home in the assassin’s throat Elthana got two pair of sharp eyes on her. Before they had time to react more Elthana landed behind the one that still stood almost turned away from her. She rounded her curved knife around the assassins throat. With the gurgled sound of blood in one’s trachea/throat she crouched to dodge the third assassins thin, arm long sword and let her other curved dagger slide in under the end of the assassins protection leather up towards the heart. The white mask made no sound but the had time to grab Elthana’s arms desperately before the body became dead weight. Elthana lowered the body down quietly as the second body with half a throat fell with a thump.
With the pulse pounding in her ears she had no idea how much sound she’d made. The first two bodies probably made sound as they fell. Blazing sun, the bodies! Elthana stood crouched over the third assassin and looked at the bodies and then over the moonlit rooftops.
Blazing sun, what had she done? What should she do now?