Open Chronicles Where Angels Do Not Tread

Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
The comforting thump of her axe cleaving through a section of log into the splitting stump soothed the racing thoughts that had haunted her since her dream. It was still early morning,the sun just now climbing over the horizon rather than the dim light of false dawn only so easily seen through because of her elven blood. Edurne’s bark nearby told her that already the sheep were moving about, probably the newborn lambs trying to frolick. She’d laid out in the field with them and woken soaked in dew.

Life near the Spine in spring suited her just fine. The mountains were gorgeous when compared to much of the rest of the lands she had carved her way across, paying lip service to those powerful who hired her while working truly for herself to satisfy the black beast of malice that dug its wicked spurs into her heart. She hated her memories of those days. It was the root and the bulk of the things she most wanted to undo.

Change was a difficult thing for one as dark and hateful as Aless Frostborn. Her longing for peace was as delicate and new as the fresh shooting buds of spring flowers.

It was the price of her old life that had changed her, the incredible cost of friends lost, fed into the fanged maw of War, and the betrayal that ached in her chest still, more vicious than any bodily wound she had ever taken. It seemed to actively resent healing and sent poison coursing through her veins.

Edurne’s bark alerted her to something rare: strangers coming up the path. She was used to relative solitude, a good twenty minutes’ walk from the village. She left the wood but kept the axe as she approached the two figures. The man was clearly a warrior and an experienced one at that, walking beside the waifish woman as her protector. Neither seemed concerned.

“Aless Frostborn?” the young woman called. She wore the vestments of a cleric, but not of a god Aless recognized.

The way the woman spoke her name told Aless that she was ignorant of its significance. “What do you want?” Her tone was brusque, as usual. She didn’t care for strangers disrupting her peace.

“It is said that you are a great warrior,” the young woman said. “We need the help of such a hero.”

Aless’s lips pressed into a thin frown. “There are no heroes here,” she said sharply as she approached with her axe resting against her shoulder.

“Please,” the young woman pleaded. “Our temple is desecrated, dark magic seeping from every crack. It will turn its eyes here soon enough.”

Aless studied her invaders’ expressions. There was more truth there than she felt comfortable with it. The idea of harm coming to her village stirred unfamiliar worry in her chest. “I have sworn to set aside my old life,” she said quietly. “What you ask of me is not done lightly.”

“The fate of many innocents hangs in the balance. Will you go?” the bodyguard asked.

Aless was silent a long moment, weighing her options. Part of her was eager, hoping for blood and fire. The rest tried clinging to fragile hope. “I will see what must be done,” she said finally. “Perhaps a sword will not be required.”

Their relief was obvious. “Good, good. The others are nearby. May that be enough to undertake this task.”

She sighed at the mention of others. Hopefully they would be equal to the task. “Let me grab my kit and horse, then I will greet them,” she said with that same brusqueness. She prayed that this dark mage or two would be reasonable even though she knew better than that.

She was not certain who they might have recruited and brought nearby, but she knew she would be skeptical when she met them. She also needed to speak with Nagar. If she was to leave her home, someone should tend to it and his family could use the extra food.

Aless put her hand on a fence post and looked at her home. She would miss it, repairing the thatch roof, feeding the chickens, tending to the sheep, weeding the garden. It was a sorrow she couldn’t have imagined three years ago.

People were waiting. She needed to get ready and leave.
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
"So what is this job again?" Jaken asked.
"I am not allowed to tell you right now. You want the money or not?" the woman said.
"Fine, fine. No need to be so agressive, you better pay me well." he responded. Jaken was not up for this kind of comapnnions with the job, he usually went alone, mor money for him and less people to allow a screw up.But if the job needed a team, he would suk it up and roll with it. It was the money he was interested in, not the others.
"Sir!!" a man said, running towrds them "Have the recruiters returned?"
"Not yet. We'll keep our eyes open for them."
"Yes sir! By the way, are you sure this will work." he said looking at Jaken "You know... werewolves are not to trust."
"I heard you, stupid head!" Jaken barked.
"Wasn't talking to you!! SIT DOWN DOG!!!"
"THE HELL YOU SAID TO ME!!??" he roared, grabbing the disrespectfull human by his clothes and ready to give the blow at his stupid face
"ENOUGH!! THIS IS NO TIME TO FIGHT!!!" the woman scremed "Soldier, you respect our hired hand. And you." she looked at Jaken "Get over it."
"FINE!! Just remember..." he let the man go "We are far beyond the times when we were your slaves."
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless took one look at the chaotic mess before her and then pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. Even more unprofessional than I thought. If this was their idea of help in a job that would require a level head, tempered application of force, and strength checked by discipline, they had delightedly picked an embodiment of the opposites.

She adjusted Woe on her back. The old, scarred longsword was at a dull shine, its rayskin wrap a plain black. Its scabbard was just as worn, a few steps short of needing replacement. At her side she wore Solace against the outside of her thigh, the shortsword that had been the finisher of many, many foes who lingered at death’s door. Her armor was little different, covered in innumerable scars from combat, though many were hidden between her unremarkable surcoat.

If she was a warrior, she was one who looked less threatening than she was, at least if one didn’t know what to look for.

After a moment of contemplation, she stepped forward calmly. “You should contain your temper, stranger. People do not pay when you have abused them so.” Her accent placed her unmistakably from Vel Anir, speaking with precision to be better understood.
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
Jaken heard someone telling him about his temper, when he turned around to face the 'good advicer', he encountered a woman, an elf, or at least, thst is how Jaken first saw. He had not encountered many elves, but he knew there were half-elves, however, he still couldn't tell the difference between one and another. She looked young, probably around the mid-twenties, but he wouldn't tell her. There are many creatures who are way older than they look like, maybe this one was centuries old. He wasn't so sure.
"Well, lemme tell ya something." he said "I don't take kindly those who still think that us werewolves are slaves to humans. Or slaves of any kind. I am here to get paid, and if I don't, I might not be as friendly as I was before..." he growled "Who are you? What are you doing here? Haven't seen your face around here."
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless arched an eyebrow at him, still not impressed. Feral, she realized. He would not be as dependable as a real soldier if it came to that.

“My name is Aless,” she brusquely. She didn’t wish to insult him, but that was how she spoke to practically everyone. Her fellow villagers had cracked some of the shell, treating her tenderly. She would miss that. “I am here because there is a temple that needs purification. I assume you are taking coin for the same job?”

There was hope for giving him some training, at least. He looked strong, though his movements were not as graceful as her own, but that was elven and decades of constant war.

Others had taken rests between the wars, peaceful breathers. Aless had not, burning her candle at both ends just for the sake of death and destruction. It was a horrible path and this werewolf seemed in danger of following it.
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
"Jaken." he introduced himslef "Jaken Larsten." he observed up and down her body. Trying to analyze as deeply as he could. How buffed she was, how much stamina she appeared to have, etc Those little details were important to make a conclussion if he should leave her when everything goes south or if she would make for an excellent fighting partner.
"Yes. I am here for the money. They haven't told me a lot of details about the job, maybe because they think I'm their lap dog." he growled "But the price seemed worth it. So... here I am. What's in it for you? Money? Items?" he seemed interested.
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
"Jaken Larsten, your reputation precedes you." From a tree above the gathered and mingling adventurers, a black Raaka with blue eyes floated to the ground beside the pair. He wore naught but a girded waist cloth and belt, on which a thin sword and a dagger were strapped. In his hands were an unstrung bow and a small quiver. Landing with near perfect silence and grace, he continued.

"The Wolf of Alliria. Tell me, is it true what the song says about your siring a dozen clans in the Reach? If so, that is quite the feat."
The Raaka tipped his head and widened his eyes to feign bewilderment, a look he had perfected in the caravans. Then he turned one eye to the Half-Elf.

"Welcome, Aless. You're welcome in our small encampment. The recruiters are still taking a counting of the volunteers, but I'm sure they won't tarry overlong. Poor Jaken here is practically frothing."

He turned to the lycanthropic sellsword, "No offense, Mr. Larsten, but you have drooled a bit."

"But does it seem strange to the two of you that this large of a raid isn't going through the Adventurer's Guild? Makes you wonder who's paying for all this..."
The Raaka trailed off as his mind clearly began to wander; and then without much warning, he snapped back. "Then again, I suppose the reason the Guild exists is so that employers get to have a level of annonimity."

 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless didn’t react when Jakken listed off familiar rewards. Once they had held a luster, but these days she found causes more compelling. “I have my reasons,” she said. “This darkness will spread if given the opportunity, and that is good for no one.”

The sight of a Raaka came as a surprise. She had only come across one in her travels, and he had died gruesomely for being a spy, whether he was truly one or not. “Well met,” she said, pushing those thoughts from her head. “Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

One more stranger was welcome, particularly on this journey. She just hoped again that this one would prove both strong snd trustworthy.
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
"Not sure what you have heard buddy." he told to the Raaka "But I can assure I haven't done those things, or else I'd be bloody rich. Pretty sure that taking on a dozen clans would make me rich. Maybe you confused me with some other werewolf, as far as I know, I haven't heard any songs about me. Besides, it'd be awkward..." his mind wandered far beyond his body. Then snapping back when the bird said:

"No offense, Mr. Larsten, but you have drooled a bit."
"Oh what?" he snapped back to reality "God damnit." he whispered, cleaning his mouth "Err, whatever, you haven't seen me when I drool in my werewolf form. This is nothing." he said, exctied to shift into his werewolf form and leaving the human body he had now "Who are you? And why are you here?"
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
As the two each inquired of their own accord, the Raaka spread his wings and tail, then swept his right leg wide for a deep bow to the two, eyes never leaving the pair.

"My friends call me Jahi, and so may you. A pleasure to make your acquaintance!"


He straightened himself out before continuing. "My apologies sir, I had not known you were not the source of the tune. Perhaps a former employer thought to pay for one themselves. Regardless, I am here as all of you are, for the purging of this great evil. I had thought to ply my skills against such a thing." Jahi took note of the worn nature of both companions' equipment. "Alas, I have not had the good fortune to test myself against a blooded opponent. But with luck, that will change with this!"
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
He was careful, she could give Jahi that much. Aless studied him for a long moment, trying to measure him mentally. It was in battle that you really knew a person, in her experience, and that was doubly true the opposing side. “Do you have a mount, Jahi? I expect our companion here can cover a great deal of ground and I have a horse. The temple we seek is a week away in good weather without dangers on the road, and that is on horseback. If not, I think Araxa could accommodate us both, should it please him. He’s strong and fearless, even for a warhorse. But we should be prepared for trouble if this...whatever it is...indeed intend to spread.”

Aless didn’t sound like she relished the task. Her voice, like her face, was calm, serious, and incredibly difficult to read. She had learned long ago not show what she was feeling. It was a poor commander who looked fearful whatever the circumstances, even if they were terrified inside. Her reputation long ago asserted that she was incapable of that emotion, but it was always just wrath burning through whatever fear arose like dragon’s fire through a forest. Her fight or flight response was geared unhealthily towards fight.

“I do not know if others will come or meet us on the road,” Aless said in that measured way of hers. “But we should be careful. If I were a dark magus, I would wish to know all about any approaching threat, real or imagined.”
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
I would wish to know all about any approaching threat, real or imagined.
"Well, I agree with that." he replied "Knowing your allies and opponents are great for planning a strategy of action. The more you know, the better it becomes. And yeah, I could cover big fields on foot, and I run fast in both my forms, But I would like to conserve my energy in need of battle. I'll just throw someone off their horse and ride it. Besides, I don't think you should worry about Jahi, I mean... he IS a bird. Or I don't know..." he looked at Jahi, studying his black wings "Does your flight take a lot of energy?" he asked the Raaka "Maybe it would be usefull to scout any areas of danger." Jaken had to know all abilities of his supposed allies, every detailed was important, after all,, he always asked that before going on an adventure. He then turned back to Aless "Speaking of knowing your allies: what about you? What abilities do you have?"
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
Jahi stepped back and luxuriously drew his wings out to their full spread. Then launching himself into the air, he performed a quaint little flip, the kind of thing that always impressed the landlocked races, and then dove in for a swift landing just outside critical distance for the pair. “To answer your question, Jaken, no. Not much more than walking does. My biggest restriction is weight, not much can be accommodated beyond myself.” He gestured to his minimal clothing and gear. “We Raaka learn to live light at an early age. What you cannot fly with can be lost at a moment’s notice.”

“As for your question, Aless. I came with a horse; though not a mighty steed as yours. Hapa is well behaved and could take Jaken; and Araxa could carry the both of us with little difficulty. It is a good plan.”
Then he paused to look at Jaken for a long moment before he continued. “Without the need to steal a horse.”
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless leaned back against wooden support, crossing her legs at the ankles. She moved in armor as if it was not there. “I can handle myself in combat,” she said simply. She was not going to say that she had been in constant war for longer than they both had been alive. That tended to prompt more questions than she cared to answer.

“In addition, while I cannot cast, I am sensitive to the ebbs and flows of magic,” Aless said. That was an ability that had served her well against the more clever ambushing battle mages. It had also told her the split second before the betrayal, the only reason she had survived.

Sometimes she almost wished she hadn’t, but that was not a useful thought, so she discarded it. “I hope to speak with this dark magus. Perhaps he will even listen to what We say. It is a very, very slim chance but a chance all the same.”
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
Jahi showed off his skills flying through the air with ease, he was quick, and his black hair could make for an excellent scouting member at night. He could camouflage with the dark sky. He could be a vital member. "Oh well, you have skills, gonna give you that. I'm impressed." Jahi explained his only disadvantage: weight. "Don't think that might be a problem." he pointed out "Maybe someone around here can carry your stuff while you're flying. On combat, I think you could carry light weapons: knives, arrows. Could be..." Jaken nodded sarcastically to Jahi when he told him that stealing a horse was not necessary. He gave him a smile that said: 'yeah, screw you too'

Aless eplained her abilities, vaguely. Apparently she would do fine in combat, so that was enough for Jaken, if she said she can handle herself in combat, he wouldn't have to be babysitting her every 5 seconds. "So when are we moving out?" he asked "Feels like an eternity over here."
"Calm down wolfy." someone said "We're just preparing the last details." he looked at the small party "Is this everyone? Are you ready?"
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless held up a hand to forestall the newcomer. “I had enough explained to me by the priestess on my way here. It is a good distance’s walk from my farm,” she said calmly. She looked at her two companions thoughtfully for a moment. “I do not know if either of you are familiar. I was not, until enlightened. In the mountains two weeks north of here, up the Path of Prayer, there is a temple that was once dedicated to Marys, the Lord and Lady of Mercy, the god devoted to redemption, sacrifice, rebirth, as the name suggests, mercy. It seems the priests and priestesses who kept the temple were either slain or forced to flee when a warband of marauding orcs ransacked the place for its valuables. That battle went as neither side was anticipating.”

She cleared her throat. “It is said that one of the priests or priestesses saw their temple about to be destroyed and reached out to their deity. Something else answered, offering aid, and when the cleric agreed, it awoke a terrifying dark power that devastated the orcs and priests alike. There are rumors of survivors there, and the priestess who found me wanted as many as possible saved.”

Aless pulled out a sizable pouch of coins and tossed it onto the table, spilling free gold coins. “That is the beginning,” she said solemnly. “If coin is all that stirs your soul to action, so be it. There will be more when we have cleansed the temple and return.”

There was certain irony to her liberating the temple of a god of mercy, but maybe it was to be a sign, some indication that she truly wished to change.
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
"Sounds like they'll need all the help they can get." Jahi rubbed his neck and looked back and forth between the two. "Probably will need more than the three of us."

Jahi's figure was slowly beginning to slump when he noticed and adjusted his posture. His eyes brightened as he continued, "But I'm sure that between the three of us we might be able to dispose of this wayward cleric." Then hearing the exchange on payment he added, "Coin is well and good, but reputation and the experience, in addition to doing some good, are reasons enough to help."
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
Jaken stepped towards the gold coins Aless had left on the table. There were a lot, bt he thought this was her money. Jaken was a bounty hunter, who would only accept a job if he receives nice, gold treats afterwards, but from the people he had been hired, not just some person he worked with. "I appreciate it." he said to Aless "But if this is YOUR money, then take it, I will only accept the one that these people will give me once you are done. I may be a bounty hunter, Aless. But I don't take like that. Besides, I only take once the job is over. I feel like if they pay me in advancemment, they think I'm a crook. Someone that abuses his status and powers." he placed all the coins spilled on the table back to the bag, then made a knot on it and slide it back to Aless "And I'm not that kind of werewolf, ma'am." he grined.

"So we are talking about dark magic and those things?" he cahnged the theme to the missions 'lore' "Well, maybe there is a disadvantage here. Dark magic is very open. There are a lot of spells, and many consequences when becoming in contact with it. I'm not sure I know all variations of dark magic. If there are survivors in there, well, I guess they won't be the exact same as they were befre the dark magic took over the place. Dark magic tend to change people into something monstrous."
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
“Three is a small group for this kind of mission, agreed,” Aless said. “If there are to be others, we would likely have to find them along the road. We’ll be on a trade route for a week before diverting to the Path of Prayer.”

Her expression was grim when she looked at Jaken. “You are correct, the term dark magic spans a great many traditions of magic. I’ve encountered it many times before, the desperate resorting to anything to survive. We will have to be careful if it truly is as contaminating as it sounded. My advice is to take that coin and buy everything you think you will need, whether horse or camping supplies. We will not have another opportunity between here and there to resupply.”

She wasn’t certain what to expect, but she knew it wouldn’t be pleasant. Whatever was waiting at that temple was a powerful foe.
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
"I will defer to the two of you, as far as the dark arts are concerned. I have honestly had no experiences with them yet, but I like to think myself a quick learner." Jahi glanced towards the supplier. "Perhaps I shall check the wares. Call to me when you lot are ready to depart. Us Raaka pack light."
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
"Well. To be honest, I don't know a lot of methods to protect yourself against it. I don't know if those medallions or tattoos will protect you from those things. However, if we are going to run into some survivors, which may or may not be hostile, we would need weapons. I'm covered, I dunno about you." something caught his attention. There was a weapon on a table that could be usefull if someone gets caught while scouting "Ey Jahi." he said as he approached to weapon "I don't know if you are into killing. but this might help you. Range attack, can carry and shoot anything with a pointy spike. And it's light. Might help ya." he trhew the wrist crossbow that caught his attention to the bird "In any case things go south while scouting, that might help you out taking out whoever saw you."

Jaken returned to the table full of weapons: heavy, light, small, big. But all the weapons he needed were on his bag: his scoped crossbow, his arrows, and knives were kept safe, but something there seemed usefull "Smoke bombs." he whispered "Yeah, might help me disappear. Uh, poisinous bombs." he grabbed some "If big groups need to be taken out at the same time..." he packed three of each on his pockets.

"And I think I'm ready." he concluded "Get off!" he said to a man on a horse, climbing in his place "I dunno if you offered me a horse Jahi, but I'll go with this one." he patted the brown horse.
 
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless stepped last out of the inn, coming to face an angry, distraught man she very well recognized. She grabbed him with both hands as Jaken moved on, stopping him from pursuing the beast who had stolen his family’s horse. The mare in question was in its middle-years, quite sturdy, though it pulled a cart far more than it bore a rider. “Easy, Stefan,” she said through the ice she could feel building in her throat.

“He stole our horse!” the man shouted. He turned to Aless. The man had lost many things this year, and he seemed about ready to fall apart at the loss of a big part of his livelihood. “Aless, please, please, you were once a warrior. My family needs that horse. Please—”

“I will see to that one,” Aless said, nodding after Jaken. She turned to face her neighbor and rested her hand on his shoulder. “This will not replace your mare, but I hope you will accept it as recompense while I attempt to retrieve her.” She handed him the pouch of coin.

Stefan opened it and she almost saw his heart lodge in his throat. He looked up at her, mute for a moment from the sheer overwhelming whiplash of emotions. It was more gold than most in their village would see in a year, if not longer.

Aless steadied him. “Close that pouch quietly and go straight home,” she ordered softly. “The village is safe, but the road brings travelers as it brought that one. Open it tomorrow and buy yourself another horse. Do what you like with what remains.”

“Thank you. I hope someday I will be able to repay you,” Stefan said. He took a deep breath and nodded, turning and walking towards his home. It would be a long walk, but that was enough coin for a horse and a good many other things.

Aless just found herself immensely grateful that the coin had gone to a better home than the werewolf horse-thief. She stepped up into the stirrup of her powerful destrier, swinging herself gracefully into the saddle. After so many years, her armor was an afterthought when she was in motion.

It took her no time at all to match Jaken’s newly-stolen mount. “You know, in this part of the world, the punishment for theft of such value as that man’s horse is the loss of a limb,” Aless said coolly. Her saddle was not a normal riding saddle, carved so that she could fight from horseback whether with sword or lance with little fear of being unseated. “Here, as in many places, theft is a cancer that destroys the lives of the common people who barely manage a living by long, hard toil. The horse you are riding cost much, if not all, of a harvest’s value for a family.”

She had never really seen the value of cutting off a thief’s hand in her days as a commander. Her punishment had been far more draconian: without a head, one would never think of stealing again. But this wasn’t that life, Jaken wasn’t under her command, and she wasn’t that kind of woman anymore.

Her own horse shifted under her, responding to the familiar calm in her voice. Araxa was tall for a destrier, though not near a draft-horse’s bulk. His muscle was lean, but dense. His breed were meant for war and war alone, capable of generating the kind of power and speed needed to smash through an enemy line or pursue routing flanks. He could easily outpace and outlast many other horses, as anything out of the insanity of a battlefield was peace.

He hadn’t taken to the pasture well, no more than Aless had. They trained together every day to ease it. He was a better friend to the half-elf than any other she had made, always willing to listen without judgment.

Hopefully his patience would shore up her own. She stopped at the edge of the market stalls, waving to Jahi to signal that it was time to go.
 

Jahi

Member
Messages
18
Character Biography
Link
As Jaken tossed him the wonderful little device , Jahi immediately took to it. “This is marvelous! I wonder...it likely would be good against unarmored targets at a short range.” He presented his find to the shopkeep, and his face dropped as the initial price was given. “Oh...I suppose I’ll have to get one on my return. A most excellent design though! Very sleek.”

“I don’t know if you offered me a horse Jahi, but I’ll take this one.”

“Why yes, I believe Aless had offered me a position on hers...what?”
Jahi turned just in time to see the sputtering man issue his complaint with Aless as Jaken rode a bit up the road. “Oh...oh no.” He quickly gathered the rations and waterskins he had set out to purchase, along with the rope and pitons, then tossed a small coin purse onto the counter. “Keep the change! So sorry! Jaken! Aless! Wait!”
 

Adriwolf

Member
Messages
164
“You know, in this part of the world, the punishment for theft of such value as that man’s horse is the loss of a limb,”
He laughed "Listen lady. Did I ever said I'd KEEP the horse for myself? No, I said that I'd GO for this one. KEEP and GO or not the same thing, in this context, at least. And by the way." he jumped down the horse "If you dare try to cut off one of my limbs." he growled "You might lose something else... I'm told that elf heart is juicy and very nutritious." he climbed back on the horse "When the adventure is over, just give me the adress of the owner, and I will PERSONALLY give it back, and MAYBE an apology, if you want, I can give you a free ticket in the front row of the event." he said sarcastically "Give the horse back, apology, but nothing else, so don't push it when I give it back. I am not a thief. Just saw the horse and liked it, besides, I like having a horse all by myself, more space to move and I don't have to share the bags the horse carry with someone else. How people interpret it is not my problem."

Jahi had bought the wrist crosbow he told him about, and Aless waving that is time to go, he felt relieved. "Finally, I was getting bored out of my tail. Shall we start moving?"
 
Last edited:
Messages
48
Character Biography
Link
Aless didn’t flinch or look away at the threat. She felt the cold growing at the center of her chest, becoming indifference all too quickly. “Spoken as a thief would. You took what was not yours without consent of those you wronged. I am familiar with the line of thought. You stole and no words will undo that, just as a murderer cannot undo his act by apologizing,” she said with dangerous calm. “I am not an agent of justice or enforcer of the law, so I am not inclined to cut off your arm for the offense. I just prefer honesty.”

She helped Jahi up behind her when he arrived, leaning low in her saddle and practically scooping the raaka up from the ground. Aless had deceptive strength, wiry rather than bulky.

Her final thought was a blunt honesty. “If that is how you treat your allies, werewolf, it is no wonder that you have none. I have extended you every courtesy, but if you treat me with the sarcasm and snapping threats of a beast, I will treat you like one. I suggest you consider what lies ahead, what redemption and sacrifice mean. They say the Path knows the hearts of those who walk it, and the darker yours, the harder it becomes.”

Aless knew well that her walk would be perhaps unbearable in suffering if the legends were true, but she had a chance. Everyone had a chance.