So, as part of my week, I learned how to use publishing software to make an eBook. Then I learned how to open and manage an Etsy shop. I know, I know, it's not exactly high-end technological advancements that I'm talking about, but it was new to me and I'm glad I learned.
Also, check out the rest of my website for info about When it's Not Perfect, the little novel which is the reason I learned eBook-wizarding software and how to use Etsy.
I feel like I didn't get much accomplished this week. However, anxiety only destroyed two of my days, grief only ripped me up to tears a couple times, laundry is as caught up as it can get with two kids, and the house is as clean as it gets with the same two kids. It was actually a really good week (I just screamed that at, and in, my own mind - sometimes I just have to be louder than the anxiety). And I'm getting a blog post out! Yay!
3. Meeting the Bloodline
Alex stopped face to face with the talkative one, inches apart. His arm was still lifted for the strike, his sword above his head and taking advantage of the high-ceilinged chamber. He sputtered as his blind rage turned to confusion. Her reflexes hadn’t diminished over the years. Alex stepped back and planted a foot against the bronze plate covering his chest and stomach as leverage, pulling her sword back slowly so that the steel of the blade scraped loudly against the new holes in his armor. He collapsed to his knees slowly, finally crumpling slightly backwards once his brain registered that his body was dead.
The remaining two attacked her blindly, throwing down their torches and charging, too enraged to think. Sixty years of training sliced through their mad lunges in moments, the scuffle so short that only one sword clang echoed into the tunnel to be answered by a single shout asking what had happened. Alex ignored the call and wiped off the blade of her jian on one of the corpses’ cloaks as she retrieved the torch that was still burning.
The woman, Adellexia, was peering over the top of the casket that Alex assumed held her eldest daughter – her oldest child. Alex held the torch high as she stood and turned to look over at … eyes the same blue as Ixor’s under hair that was a slightly darker blonde than their youngest son’s. As Adellexia stood, Alex could see she was only slightly shorter than Alex – very tall for a woman in these times – and her figure was painfully similar to all the women that Alex shared her bloodlines with. Brasus’s chin, Rishima’s hands, and Tanaquilla’s poise rounded out the familiarity that Alex could see on this young woman. The rest of her features belonged to strangers.
“Calleous?” the voice that had just called a moment ago yelled again. Adellexia winced out of fear, but stayed standing.
“Xia?” the voice belonging to the man who’d been punched earlier called out, the tone nearly panicked. Alex silenced the returned yell she could see forming on Adellexia’s face with a warning glare.
“Calleous!” the question turned to defensive alarm.
“Adellexia!” his voice dropped fully into panic and the sounds of a bare-fisted scuffle began.
Alex gestured with her sword for Adellexia to duck back down and then snuffed out the torch in the pot of sand set by the entrance for that purpose. Without the light in the immediate area, Alex could now see the approaching glow of more torches. She pressed her back to the wall beside the entry and hoped her relative was smart enough to follow simple orders. Heavy footsteps accelerated to a run and four men, all dressed just as finely as the newly made corpses, burst into the room. Their swords were drawn as they raced past where Alex was hidden, two men holding torches and two with shields. Adellexia was out of sight.
“Calleous, brother,” one of the men with a shield dropped beside the first corpse Alex had just made. In the torch light, and with the one who was kneeling showing his face in profile to Alex, he and the dead man could have been twins. A glimpse of movement caught Alex’s eye, down low and between the caskets. The men didn’t notice Adellexia sneaking closer to where Alex was standing.
Alex waited, motionless, until her great-grand-whatever was well past where the men would easily see her. They were much too absorbed in the three bodies to notice almost anything outside of their small group. Alex scoffed condescendingly at them and they all spun to stare at her.
“All of you, standing there like fools, staring at the bodies,” she scolded them quietly. “And none of you looking for what created the corpses. The Legions have degraded significantly.”
“Who are you?” the brother demanded, surging up to his feet to square off with her rather than crouching.
“Callsenius? What happened?” someone further up the tunnel grunted, managing to form words through the effort of still struggling with, likely, the man who was more worried about Adellexia.
“What occurred here?” Callsenius, the brother, leveled his sword at Alex as he spit the question toward her. She smiled widely at him with a grin she knew was better suited to a nightmare.
“Me,” she stated.
Alex lunged at the men with torches first. As expected, they’d forgotten the second items they were holding were not protective. The other two locked shoulders – like well-trained Legionnaires should – and attempted to progress through a standard attack. Alex created an advantage out of moving quicker than they expected and, instead of outright attacking, she maneuvered them to turn so their backs were toward the caskets. That done, she drew her second sword and pounded them backwards.
Callsenius tripped on one of the raised platforms and fell between two caskets. His friend, however, remained alone with his back pressed to the end of a casket. Alex feinted a low strike, getting him to drop his shield the needed two inches, her second sword following a split second later just above the top of his lowered shield. His head separated from his body cleanly and thumped off the top of the casket to bump and bounce off of Callsenius’s shield. The idiot still hadn’t stood up. Alex simply sliced at his exposed legs, opening one of his arteries on the third strike, and then left him there to bleed out as she cleaned her second sword.
She was picking up one of the dropped torches when she heard him scrambling for purchase. Both had stayed lit this time so she chose the nearest one, then turned back to watch Callsenius try to stand on wounded legs while he was already staggering from blood loss. She had to remind herself that her life had been filled with elite fighters and minds that well surpassed average as she shook her head that this fool was trying to stand up now rather than when being upright could have made a difference.
The fight in the tunnel ended with a wordless yell, a few heavy thumps and surprised grunts, and then footfalls running the short distance into the chamber. He’d been beaten bloody, one green eye was swollen shut, and his hands were tied in front of him with rough ropes, but he was scanning the whole room and just the bodies as he skidded to a stop. He had a thicker build than Verus, something his genetics had picked up along the way, but the similarities to Alex’s brother took her breath away. He was younger than Verus had been when she’d met him, but the arrogance born of confidence was already settled. Verus would be pleased to know his blood ran so strong so many years later, Alex thought.
“Verus!” Adellexia gasped. The wary confusion that was just blossoming in his expression was swept aside by relief as she darted the short distance to throw her arms around him. He shifted slightly as she wrapped him, neatly placing her behind his left shoulder to protect her from the rest of the room, and still keeping both his arms free to move, in one easy motion. Her exuberance snuffed like a candle that he didn’t return the hug and she stepped away from him seconds after running to him.
“How many more are there?” Alex asked before he could start with his own questions.
“Four,” he replied quickly. Alex walked to them and handed the torch to Adellexia.
“I assume you’re with the Legions,” she said as she pulled out her knife and offered the blade for him to cut the ropes on.
“I … am,” he hesitated. There was more to his answer than he was currently willing to say while he was trying to focus on cutting his bonds and not to stare at her armor, collar, and face. The direct view of the mosaic covering the wall opposite where they were standing made that task difficult, but he mostly succeeded. He stooped to pick up a fallen sword and shield once his hands were freed, both made of bronze.
Alex cleared her throat to draw his attention from testing the balance of both. He blinked in surprise, his good eye widening, as his gaze landed on the sword she was offering him. Victoria had made one for each Alex, Ixor, Brasus, and Ennius a few years after she and Verus had started having children. There were only four in existence. The swords had been forged from folded, hardened steel using the same methods Victoria knew for making jians, but had been fabricated to mimic the same style as typical Roman weapons. Ixor, Brasus, and Ennius had all been buried with theirs.
This Verus tossed the bronze weapon and wrapped his hand around the hilt of Alex’s sword. He smiled involuntarily at the blade when Alex released the full weight to him.
“I’ll return in a moment,” he said, his words and gaze aimed at Adellexia.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, not looking up. He swallowed the next words he wanted to say to the woman he was rescuing, bowed formally to Alex as he seemed unable to speak to her easily – or simply didn’t yet know what to say or how to address her – and then turned and jogged into the tunnel. Alex hooked her free hand into Adellexia’s elbow and pulled the younger woman toward the entry.
“Verus said to wait,” Xia protested.
“I’m quite old and quite angry,” Alex retorted, not slowing her strides as Adellexia stumbled to keep up. “Waiting is not something I am currently going to waste time doing.”
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