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Eskarne the Oathkeeper

“Do not talk to me,” she said, closing her hand on my shoulder and moving me aside. She was alarmingly strong for her size, but all things said, it was a gentle push. I was a tall man, and not at all used to being pushed, but I restrained my irritation. I remembered why I was there. I followed her, and repeated my plea:

“Please, I have spent years learning the spear, and you are the only master whom I have not faced. I beg you for a match,” she did not respond, just continued to walk. I followed her.

Every so often I repeated my plea, and she continued ignoring me. We walked for two days. She did not stop at night, pausing only once to drink from a stream. Finally, sometime during the second night, with the moon veiled behind a thick fog, she stopped. I was exhausted at the time, but overjoyed. Would she grant me my request? I thought that surely, I’d proved my dedication.

It was then that three dark figures emerged from the trees. I remained silent.

“How did you know?” one of them asked. A man’s voice.

“That one is afraid,” she said, nodding to the man on the left, “and you all smell terrible.”

“You killed my son,” the same man accused.

“I was aiming for you.”

“…You’d have spared him, if I had fallen?” his voice shook on the verge of anguish.

“No,” Eskarne said, “I would not have. These two are of no relevance, they may leave.”

“The nerve of this one,” another man said. There was a rasp of steel as two swords and an axe were drawn, “you’ve killed enough men, you monster.”

“I wish that were true. When I have killed you, there is another…” she cocked her head, “two days east from here who I must end. We should get started, he is moving.”

“Why?” the last man asked, his voice disgusted as much as inquisitive. The others ceased their advance, awaiting to hear the answer themselves. Eskarne remained motionless. Her hair was wet in the mist, and water dripped from her pointed ears like dew sometimes does from leaves.

That moment of silence stretched an eternity.

“I don’t know,” she eventually said, “I think I’ve forgotten. Some days I can remember. Some days I can’t. I am confident that it is the right thing to do, though. Does that make it better?”

“Hardly,” the first man said, and the three broke into a charge.

I counted eight of my own furious heartbeats, and the fight was over. She had not moved her legs. Her spear flicked like a painter’s brush, and the men died. I watched as she stood over them. It had begun to rain. She turned back, and looked at me where I knelt. There was a bit of blood on her face, but it ran off in the downpour.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Go home, and do not play with spears,” she told me. And so I went. I made it perhaps a mile before I collapsed. I awoke, bleary and sore to daylight, and a clear sky. From that day on, I followed the woman no more…

I saw her again, two days ago, I am an old man now, but she looks the same. She recognized me, and asked me if I was still playing with spears.

“No,” I said, “I have a family now.” She did not smile, but nodded.

“That is better,” she affirmed, “it is better to have a family.”

“Have you finished playing with spears?” I asked, as a joke. She looked at me for a moment, and cocked her head.

“No,” she murmured, “there is a man I must kill in Ruvia. I am going there now.”

She began to walk away. “And what then?” I called out.

“Then there will be another. There is always another,” and she left without another word, walking down the road towards the Capital.

-The memoires of Cesare of Kimbleton, Master of the Spear in Jenoesa

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