The frightening thing is, this is attached to nothing. This just came howling out my frontal lobe and splashed itself on the screen and was gone.
Good thing I’m incapable of self-critique, and thus can plaster it here without cringing.
* * *
“Where’s the winter girl?”
“Out there. Bathing in the snow.”
“What?” Onsha could not tell if the soldier was joking or not. “What in the name of Vashtla-Durrur do you mean?”
“Bathing. You know, nude, rubbing herself with the thing.”
“You think there’s anything else out there in the fucking howling waste? Yes, with snow. I don’t make up these northerner ways, I just report them.”
Onsha shivered. “That’s insane.”
“Hey, it keeps you clean. You ask me, screaming cold is worth it if it keeps the crawls away.”
“So this is then why northerners have skins as white and pure as snow.”
“Fuck off, Onsha. It’s not fucking meet for a halfblood like you to go on acting like the worst idiot Bear Cultist. Don’t start ragging on the superiority of the white people; if we were superior we wouldn’t be here behind the Barrier Range where you can’t piss without it tinkling on hitting the snow.”
Onsha took a step back, then one forward full of zeal. “We have a proud history! We are inferior to no-one! And this place we have chosen for ourselves to show our —”
“Quit it.” A hand took hold of Onsha’s raised one by fist, and forced it down. Thawa stepped to her view, fresh from her snow-bath, naked save for her smallclothes and a leather breastplate. There was a dagger at her hip, swinging from a loop in the breastplate’s hem. Her skin was as white and pure as milk, as snow, and made Onsha dizzy just to look at it. Her red hair hung as a wet curtain on the either side of her half-amused, half-disapproving face. “Stop chasing after a better people. All’s as corrupt and as pure as any else. To seek’s good, but sometimes tain’t no more to find and you better live with it.”
She let go of her and walked to the fire to dress. Onsha rubbed her wrist and sighed, then followed her to the fire.
The old soldier snorted, and fished out his pipe. Damn fool youngsters.
Thawa dressed slowly, inspecting every part of her dress, as her life did indeed depend on it.
Already on, the smallclothes and the honey-colored leather breastplate. Then socks and gloves of finest and clingiest silk, up to her elbows and knees, as black as her skin was white. Then over them pants of soft, slick firefoxfur, dyed black, and a shirt of yeti-wool: the combination made her seem like a wet white werewolf that had stood waist-deep in tar.
Over the pants high socks of rough wool, and over them another pair; over them grey wool trousers with suspenders — not particularly feminine, but then again neither was frostbite. Over those, with seemingly endless lacings, plates of soft, boiled honey-colored leather, and indestructible dragonskin boots trimmed with wolf fur, both as blue-grey as bared steel.
On her upper body, over the yeti-wool shirt another, this time of lamb-wool, knit into endless spiral patterns and dyed red and white, so long that it had loops for her thumbs, and went under her legs’ armor to her knees before the lacings trapped it there, sure to not get loose. Then over it a second honey-leather breastplate, this with more scars in it than the first one. Then long black gloves of mountain eel skin, insides soft with white mosswool.
Finally, over all of this, her red dragon-scaled armor of lacquered witchwood: a burst of red scales tied around her waist, supported by her swordbelt; two large scales on her knees, laced there; a cluster round her neck and shoulders, cascading down to her elbows and breasts, and most of the way down her back. Gauntlets of the same covered her arms from elbows to wrists and jutted beyond; and a collar of black wolfpelt protected her neck; that was all.
Twaha then checked her swordbelt was still as it should be, and it was: a shortsword with a manbone hilt, a call-horn, a wound-pouch, a money-pouch, and a bundle of camping gear; and the hooks for the scabbard of her greatsword, which she picked up and pushed to its place next. The blade had no name, but it could very well have deserved one. It was a monstrously wide and long thing, three fourths maybe as long as she, and had a wide, plain, bladeward curving guard of bronzed steel, a black bison-leather grip and a pommel of brass with a blue glass trinket in it; inside the glass there was trapped a butterfly of some kind. The blade itself was long, cold and cruel, gently curving to be wider and weightier towards the leaf-shaped tip; and while the flat had its share of scratches and pits, the cutting edge was as flawless as it had been the day it had been tempered in the forge of Hel, two and a half centuries ago. There was no blood-groove in it, and Twaha knew from experience that when it sang, it spread the blood of its cuts around like a summer rainstorm.
With that pleasant memory in her mind she pushed her crimson hair back, tied her dark-red bandanna in place, making sure its bronze V was in the middle of her forehead, and then stood up. A few moments of shaking her legs and twisting her shoulders told her she was properly dressed and protected, and ready for the world, for all it might throw at her.
It was only then that she noticed that that girl Onsha was there on the other side of the fire, watching her.
“You desire armor this good, girl?” Twaha said.
“I am not a girl”, the girl said.
“Is a girl until until is a killer.”
“I have killed people!” the girl squawked, leaping up and, being a fool on stones after snow, almost falling into the fire. Twaha caught her arm, pulled her around the fire to her, and hugged her, bringing their lips together, and kissing her as hard as she could.
The girl did not quite know what to make of it, but seemed to enjoy it. After a long while Twaha pushed them apart, looked the girl in the eyes, and as patient as she could, explained. “A girl’s a girl as long as kills only from shadows. When goes to war, loses self, kills without a thought, wills to die without a thought if it’s a clean death, when is no longer all human but a blade sheathed in flesh… then is a girl no more, but a woman of the blade. Is not something that all needs desire; better for some, and just as good, be woman, wife, healer, mother, shaman, wise-woman, many other things. To be woman of the blade is cold, lonely, usually short. May hurt, maybe cripple, walking corpse. Always dead in the end. A bright star, but a quick burn. Falls from the skies, hurts a lot, is no more. If all is lost, if desires nothing really, then be like me. Otherwise, if have a reason to live, then live. Remember, all’s as corrupt and as pure as any else. Women of the blade, shamans, mothers, all. Girl not seek after what’s not there to find.”
For some reason the girl thought this sufficient to break down crying, slumping on Twaha’s shoulder, sobbing and shuddering. At least by the mutter of “Thank you” and “Sorry” she had let go of her fool desire.
It was good to be Twaha; but it was good for Twaha only.
* * *
Notes: Firefoxfur comes from firefoxes, which are creatures best known for their vendetta against the brutish Ingriflec Exploders, the unsafest animals that have ever been. What mountain eels are, I don’t have a faintest clue. And if this was a part of anything bigger, the next scene would better have Twaha finding a hat, because being out in the cold without one is a novice mistake.