Fan fiction:Fulcrum/Chapter 6

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Fulcrum is a fan fiction piece by Anyee, originally posted in 2003 on the original The Dark Library website. Reposted in the Fan Fiction Forum by silentwater. This story was started on January 12th 2006.


Chapter 6[edit source]

Our entrance into town was less spectacular than earlier today, but we were still in less than fighting form. Paige was covered in bruises and scrapes, while my skin looked like a sorceress's dinner just after she learns to breathe fire, but we were both moving under our own power. The camp was in the process of changing watches, so few noticed the addition of two more injured and tired females into the mass.

I knew that I needed Akara's ministrations, and soon, before infection settled into my cracked and blistered skin. However, my armor and weapons would interfere with the healer's work and needed to be removed. That might prove tricky given my current state of injury. 'Paige, I need you.' I said, as I walked slowly over to the fire pit. The warmth was unpleasant against my burnt skin and I wanted more than ever to get out of this ring mail and into something that would not chafe as much. I tossed the gold and charm into my stash and then followed my assistant.

She had already gone into a nearby tent, one of the crude barracks fashioned from canvas and sticks for the remaining rogue fighters. I walked in and noticed that she had removed her leather armor and the simple headpiece I had bought for her earlier. They lay in a pile nearby, clearly worn from even the single day of fighting. She stood, inspecting the large cuts on her arms and stomach in a polished mica mirror, and called back to me 'Yes, Assassin,' as she probed an especially deep one on her torso.

'I need some assistance in removing my equipment. I will not ask Akara to undress me yet again; it is enough she provides me with healing. As my assistant-' I gasped as she unfastened my right blade without saying a word and the strap pulled tiny pieces of burnt flesh away from my upper arms. I stood there, trembling with pain and anticipation of pain, as her surprisingly strong fingers coaxed apart the leather knots and removed both wrist weapons, laying them gently on one of the nearby cots. She unfastened the skullcap, but it cracked in two from the heavy abuse it had taken from one too many clubs. We exchanged a wry grin as she tossed it outside, where it hit an angrily squawking chicken. My belt, with its potions still inside, was removed to the same area as my blades.

'Are you ready for me to help me with your gloves and mail?' she asked, with a gentleness I hadn't yet heard in this strange land. I nodded, an action that cracked more skin at the base of my neck, and prepared myself for the slow agony that was to follow. She peeled the leather gloves off of my brutally burned hands as I closed my eyes and used every ounce of control to avoid pushing her away from me. 'There, that's done,' she whispered and I looked down. The gloves had served their purpose, as my skin was a clear unblemished white up until my wrists, where it turned into a patchwork of charred black and lightly seared red. 'Now, for your chain mail.'

I held up an arm, indicating that she should wait, and dropped slowly to the floor. I removed first one, then the other boot and tossed them over to the side. My ankles had swelled to twice their normal size and I knew I would soon need care before my heart failed altogether. I knelt in front of Paige and told her, 'You are too short to do this while standing. This will be easier.' She bent down and grabbed the edge of the worked metal. Slowly, she eased it up over my battered body, tugging gently where it clung to either my bloodied hide or my leather underclothes, as I dug my fingernails into my palms and bit my tongue to suppress the screams my body was asking me to let free.

After what seemed like an eternity of pulling, the garment finally cleared my head and Paige let it drop to the floor with a crunch. I was riveted to the spot, rendered so exhausted by pain, my injuries, and the stress of the day that I could not stand. I eased myself forward, hitting the ground with the heels of my palms, and rested there on all fours. My skin was pulsing, still burning from the outside down to my bones, even though I had long since escaped that demon's cursed fire. I crawled over to one of the tent supports and grabbed the sanded wood in my callused hands. I heard Paige move nearby, but I halted her with a tired barked, 'Stop.' I felt her watch me as I pulled myself up the pole to an approximation of standing, my damaged body rebelling this new position with wave after wave of vertigo.

I remained in the tent, leaning against the pole, until the ground stopped rippling. Paige had crept behind me and placed a steadying hand on a small portion of undamaged skin near my back. We walked over to the healer's tent, where she glanced at me with a shrewd, well-taught eye. 'Sit here, Assassin. Paige, take those buckets and fill them from the well. Elena!' At the Priestess' command, a tall brown haired girl bounded over from the supply carriage and stood before me. 'Move that basin over here and then help Paige get water. She needs to be submerged NOW.' As she went to follow her priestess' orders, Akara turned to me. 'Are you embarrassed to be naked in front of the camp? I cannot fit the tub in my tent nor do not have time to set up screens, and we need to bring your body temperature down as quickly as possible.' Her tone was clipped and compassionate at the same time. I said nothing, instead taking off all my jewelry except for the Phoenix blood, the rising sorely and pulling my shift and leggings off.

As I did this, the two young rogues had begun filling a massive oak tub with water from the well near the edge of camp. They had enlisted two others to assist them in their task and soon the tub was full of the icy liquid. Paige and Elena came back to Akara and awaited their further instruction, with Paige trying not to look at my bare and decimated form while Elena openly gawked at this unfamiliar shape that I presented. Akara motioned to Elena, who walked over to me and lifted me easily in both arms as if I were a child. She stood by the edge of the basin and slowly lowered me into the healing bath. The surface of the water steamed and boiled as it touched my livid skin, but I felt no pain as the healer began rapidly murmuring words of restoration and spreading her magic over the waters. I watched as Paige took the rest of my clothing and put it with my armor in her tent.

I lay floating in that tub, gazing up at the brilliant night sky that deepened and shone over the course of many hours. The camp had settled in for the night, with the sounds of dining, talking, and laughing coming over from the middle of the circle. I listened as they told stories about the old days of the rogues, with Charsi playfully making Kashya self-conscious of her many exploits and the older rogue grumbling about experience not being respected. I opened my mind to the mixed emotions flowing from that group, relaxing and replenishing my drained energy with the strength of their bond. I remembered my own clan, the collection of strong and independent women that forged a common bond in the blood of the corrupt and the damned.

Akara glided over to where I was resting and inquired as to my well being. My skin had long since mended and my sore limbs were a fading memory. It was time for me to emerge from the bath. I turned over and pushed myself up on the rim of the basin, muscles taut as I swing myself onto the ground. My skin glistened in the moonlight, gleaming bleached bone white next to Akara's darker, worn flesh. She offered me a simple white robe, which I took and wrapped about my body, mimicking the dresses worn by the people of my native lands. It was revealing, but would limit the stares from the older men-and women-in this camp.

We walked to the circle, where a place had been laid for me. I sat on one of the logs and hungrily devoured the slight rations left from the meal, eating most of the meat in a single bite. My ravenousness did not go unnoticed by my dining companions. 'How can one so small,' began Charsi with a grin, 'eat so much food in such a short amount of time?' The camp laughed as I looked up and arched an eyebrow at the round-faced blacksmith, who returned the glare with a benevolent smile. I shook my head and finished eating as those around me began cleaning up and readying for bed.

The meal having been finished, I gathered up my armor from the shared tent and brought it to Charsi, who had returned to her forge for a few more hours of work. 'I have some items to identify and bring to you later,' I said as I plunked my gear down on a table, 'but first I need to speak with Akara and Kashya.' 'We'll take care of this in the morning,' yawned Charsi, still hammering. 'I need sleep and I don't feel like haggling over price right now. Good night, little Assassin.' I rolled my eyes and went back to tent barracks.

I shut the flaps of the tent and moved the candle inside near the middle. I stood in front of the mirror that Paige had used before and dropped my robe to the ground, inspecting the remains of my injuries. The icicle thin scar on my left cheek was close to vanishing, as were the tiny blister marks all over my face. My left shoulder was a sheet of healing flesh, nearly obscuring the black tattoos adorning my upper back. Both arms still bore their spiral initiation rites, scars which none but the head of my clan, the Master of Shadows, the Seeker of the Blade, the one who brought me back from the abyss of the burning wasteland, could remove. The teardrop of amber blood lay at my neck, glowing as bright as the candle and throwing shadows across my reddened chest. A single, clean ribbon of knotted scar stretched across my abdomen, flanked on either side by brands in the ancient language of the Vizerji. My thighs were light purple, my shins a fading green, but I knew that by morning I'd have healed those bruises as well. I turned around to inspect my back. My 'dragon scales,' which had already been pulling and fading with time had softened significantly under Akara's expert healing; in time, they would dissolve altogether and I would be ready to undertake my Masters training. The massive tattoo that adorned most of my back was riddled with minute nicks and cuts, which a Blade Mistress would repair when I next saw my home. Whenever that would be-if that would be-

I rubbed one of the brands on my stomach, absently tracing the inscription burned therein. 'Del nas quon healt, des nein-I give thee this, my own-' I must have been speaking aloud, because something in the room gasped when the skin below my fingertips began to self-illuminate. I looked up, annoyed that I had not detected the intruder's presence. 'Show yourself,' I barked as I slowly bent down to retrieve my robe. Shame and embarrassment related to appearance, sexuality, and nudity have never been taught to any Assassin, as we know that we need to go to all and any lengths to obtain a clean kill, no matter how morally repugnant others may find it. However, I garbed myself to minimize the chill of the now slightly open tent and the discomfort of the backlit rogue before me.

'Pardon, Assassin. I did not know.' Paige looked greatly distressed, as a child would if she stumbled upon a cache of birthday gifts. She turned her head downwards and made a shuffling motion with her feet, tracing patterns in the dirt floor. 'I was, I mean, I needed-I was going to-' She was stumbling over her words, blushing furiously, reminding me of the father of my child, a memory that provided me with some amusement and comfort in the midst of my physical discomfort. She heaved a sigh and blurted out the words, 'Kashya and Akara request our presence at the evening's debriefing and I came in here to see if you were ready,' at which point she realized her double entendre and looked as if she wanted to sink into the ground to fertilize the shrubs.

I let out a loud rolling laugh that greatly relieved both my tension and a tiny bit of her embarrassment. Immediately, I wished I hadn't as the muscle contractions aggravated my still healing wounds. I bent over for a moment and leaned a hand on the tent pole. 'Are you okay,' worried Paige coming towards me, but I waved her back and straightened myself. 'I am fine. That was much needed. Thank you.' I smiled at her and she smiled a sort of sheepish grin, one of the first genuine smiles I had seen her crack these two days. I tied the robe shut once more and said, 'First time seeing the glory that is the Assassin's charge and training?' Paige nodded assent. 'I'll explain those markings at another time. Now go outside and tell Kashya that I am ready to debrief her.' I raised a single eyebrow and then began laughing again as Paige nearly fell over and darted outside...

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