Chapter 28: Bye Bye Baromiir

Seres rose early the next morning. Being woken up by the ring and the fear of losing Rowan had given fuel to her own nightmares. They weren’t as bad as Rowan’s, but there was no escaping it after the many years they had spent in the caves. Seres was even convinced that Amran’s nights had to be at least slightly haunted. The anger from how Rowan had been treated certainly didn’t help and it still flowed through her veins as she made her morning preparations.

Seres set out to find Rowan, only stopping quickly at an early morning street vendor to purchase some breakfast for the two of them. Fortunately the young woman was exactly where she’d left her. Still swinging her blade around in her second set of training clothes. She’d even managed to acquire a few observers during the night. Although they were all wisely keeping their distance.

It was clear from the glistening sweat on Rowan’s brow and the non-existent sandals that she had been dancing with her sword all night long. Seres was impressed. Even for an Ardent it had to be quite the feat. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like it had done much to abate Rowan’s rage. She couldn’t see it in her face, but Seres could feel it pushing on her own anger.

“Can I offer you breakfast and a towel Milady?” Seres quipped to get the attention of the dancing girl.

Rowan didn’t say anything in response. She just finished the last few steps of her dance before sheathing her sword in one fluid motion and hopping over to Seres with voracious intent. Some of the nearby spectators fled in her wake; the rest conveniently realised that they had pressing business to attend to.

Seres wasn’t even sure if Rowan ate her breakfast or simply inhaled it. One moment it was there and the next it wasn’t. At least she didn’t try to eat the towel as well.

With the entertainment at an end, the majority of the remaining spectators shuffled over to the guard house to get ready for the morning shift. Thankfully, most of the people entering the building hadn’t stopped by for the unusual show.

“Do you want to change or?” Seres left her question hanging as Rowan simply raised an eyebrow in response. Seres wasn’t exactly surprised by the answer. It would be a tremendous waste of time to go all the way back to the inn just to get changed, considering it was on the opposite side of town. Seres just hoped the silent nature of the answer meant that Rowan just wasn’t in a chatty mood as opposed to being the calm before the storm.

“Just let me do most of the talking, ok?” Seres asked as the duo approached the building. She was afraid of things going incredibly wrong if Rowan was the one taking charge.

Rowan glanced sideways at her. “Why?” she asked.

“I don’t want you burning the precinct down because of someone saying something stupid to you.”

“Fair.”

That was enough confirmation for Seres, though she still had to grimace as Rowan slammed the doors open.

To Seres’ surprise, instead of reacting to a potential threat the guards inside just glanced at the entrance before continuing on with whatever they were doing. The only person to give them any further acknowledgement than that was the guard on desk duty. He greeted them with, “What can I do for you young ladies this morning?” and a disapproving look in his face.

“We’re here to see the guard captain,” Seres answered firmly.

“I’m afraid the captain isn’t accepting visitors at this time. If you wish to file a report, schedule an appointment, or issue a complaint, please fill out the requisite form. We have a scribe available if your reading and writing skills aren’t up to scratch.” 

“You misunderstood me,” Seres replied with some fire, “that wasn’t a request. If you aren’t going to help us, we’ll just have to go looking for him.”

“We can’t let you do that.”

Seres flashed her signet ring and said, “You can’t stop me. Let’s go, Rowan.” For a brief moment, Seres swore she could smell burning as stepped away.

A few guards tried to stop them as they barrelled though the precinct. The smart ones did not. The observant ones were more preoccupied by the smoldering footprints that Rowan had left behind. She wasn’t about to set the precinct on fire in a fit of rage, but that guard had been as obnoxious as fuck.

They eventually found the guard captain’s office in a small, out of the way place at the back of the precinct. In a mirror of how they had entered the building, Seres denied him the courtesy of knocking and slammed the door open. The captain jumped in surprise, probably unaware of the commotion, and knocking over a large pile of paperwork as he landed.

“What in the blazes? Who are you?” Who let you in here?”

Seres gave him a steely look. “We’ve come to complain regarding two of your men.”

“You’re here to waste my time with a measly complaint? We have forms for dealing with matters like that.”

“Ah yes, how silly of me,” Seres replied sardonically, “I should have just let the issue fall to the annals of bureaucracy. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

“I don’t appreciate your tone, Miss.”

Seres stared daggers at him. “And I don’t like being treated like an idiot. This is a serious complaint and it needs to be addressed immediately.”

“Fine! On what grounds are you issuing this complaint?”

“That’s simple. They tried to arrest my companion unlawfully whilst also defending a rapist.”

“Do you…”

Seres interrupted him before he could say anything else. “This is a formal complaint from the Crown, by the way.”

“The Crown?”

It was then that the guard captain saw Seres’ signature eyes and the signet ring on her finger.

“Your Highness! We had word of your return, but never in my wildest dreams did I think you would visit our poor town so soon.”

His tone had completely changed from annoyed and condescending to flattering with a hint of fear.

“I’ve been travelling with my friend and companion, Lady Rowan’efrii Alyris Naliir who was almost raped last night and then summarily mocked, harassed, and threatened by your guards. What have you to say about this?”

“Is this regarding the incident with Master Tamris last night?” the guard captain asked hesitantly. “He was brought in last night less than intact.”

“He’s lucky that’s all he lost,” Rowan muttered.

“That’s the one,” Seres confirmed. “Whilst in a heavily inebriated state, he accosted Lady Rowan in the middle of a busy street and tried to rape her when she resisted his advances. Being an Ardent, she was eventually able to break free and defend herself. In doing so she was forced to draw her sword on him to remove the offending item before things escalated any further. I’m sure you can agree that this was a perfectly reasonable response, considering the circumstances.

“Guardsman Ilum and Guardsman Kasta on the other hand, were inclined to disagree. When they arrived, they acted in ways unbecoming of any person, let alone law keeper. They ogled her, accused her of assault, threatened her with charges of public nudity, and not once did they offer her any comfort or even something that she could cover herself with. Instead, they insisted on leaving her 

“It was only when Lady Rowan was pushed over the edge and she revealed her rank and station that they relented. Had been almost anyone else, your guardsman and the rapist would have gotten away with it. This is simply not acceptable. They should have been there to provide aid and comfort for Rowan regardless of her station.

 I demand that they be stripped of their rank and fined with the money going to help other victims. Furthermore, I will be having your precinct investigated thoroughly for other instances of gross misconduct and malpractice. Are we clear?”

“Yes, Your Highness. Completely.”

“Excellent. Is there anything you’d like to add, Rowan?”

“What else is there to add other than making sure that bastard never attacks anyone ever again? Actually, there is one thing. He will need to be treated, correct?”

“To avoid the area being completely sealed, yes.”

“Then let it be while he is awake and without any pain relief.” Rowan’s eyes were fierce as she gave her verdict.

The guard captain paled slightly. “I’m not sure — are you going to ratify that request, Your Highness?”

“I don’t need to,” Seres answered. “Rowan was granted the titles of Ardent Flame and Lady of Fire by my mother and would thus be well within her right to claim the man’s life. Surely you heard the news? This is the written decree if you don’t believe me.”

The guard captain paled even more. He could almost pass for a corpse. “That won’t be necessary. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“I can’t think of anything. How about you, Rowan?”

“Nope.”

With nothing left to be said, they left the terrified guard captain to his duties and the precinct only little less disruptively than they had entered. 

At Rowan’s suggestion, they stopped by the town’s pitifully small Messenger’s Guild to have Seres’ investigation request delivered to the capital. They paid triple to ensure that the message would before Seres was forced to utilise her original plan of using the official Resonance Crystal channels in Feldran. The receptionist told them it would depart either later that day or the next on one of the boats. Seres would still need to check once they arrived in Feldran, but it meant that the investigation would have time to get rolling.

Once the request had been processed, it was back to the inn. There were still a couple of things that they needed to do before they could leave. Namely, Rowan was in dire need of a bath and a change of clothes. 

Seres handled everything else while Rowan made war on all the dust and grime she had picked up while training. It would take considerably more to wash away what had happened last night, she dared not think of how long that would mark her, but it was a start.

Once she was done with the bath, Rowan started slipping into the riding clothes that Seres had put aside. She completed the ensemble by belting a long curved knife to the back of her waist and a smaller dagger to one of her boots. Finally she attached the badge of the Ardent Flame firmly to her belt.

She hadn’t given it much credence until now. That was probably a mistake. At the same time, Queen Elarin hadn’t exactly been clear in it’s purpose. If anything, Rowan was half convinced that she didn’t actually know its full purpose. She had, after all, given it to Rowan in private and then announced it only a few hours later.

The icing on the cake, however, was what she had said about when it was just the two of them. Rowan could, without too much difficulty, summarise the conversation as, “If you have any problems, show this to such and such and they should be able to assist you,” and, “this is a relic from the first Ardent Flame, so keep it safe.” The former was an obvious use for a symbol of rank. The latter, on the other hand, just seemed like “this is old and important and I don’t know why.”

Part of Rowan wondered if the badge would have been useful with the guards, but in the end she realised it was unlikely that they’d have recognised it. While Rowan was sure the announcement and, by extension, relevant descriptions were being distributed across official channels, the two guards likely weren’t in the know. In which case it would probably have just come across as flashing some fancy jewellery. As time went forwards, however, more people would recognise both her and the badge.

There was also the second line which had been Rowan’s primary reason for keeping it in her packs until it was needed. That had been her way of keeping it safe. Again, Queen Elarin hadn’t given her much to work with other than potentially hint that there might be more to the badge. You don’t get to be an ancient relic and not be special. Just look at Elan Fiir. Then again, it didn’t have a flashy name. She’d need to ask Seres if she could see anything strange about it.

That would need to be a question for the road. To ask it now would just keep them in Baromiir, which was not an option Rowan wanted to consider. Fortunately, all the packing was done so there was nothing left keeping them there.

Author’s Notes: So originally this was a significantly shorter segment of a chapter alongside what is now Chapter 29. However, one of my beta readers suggested that I add more detail and split it in two. This is the result so I hope you like it.

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Chapter 27: On the Road III

Content Warning: See the warning here

“I’m surprised they let us in without so much as a question.”

The two girls were getting ready to start their training. Rowan was amazed at how easily they had been granted access to the local garrison’s training grounds. 

“It probably helps them keep an eye on everything. And it’s not like the garrison is large enough for the yard to be of use most of the time.”

Seres was speaking the truth; the garrison was mainly there to serve as a guard station for the protectors of the town and the surrounding areas, instead of the town hosting a full military presence. As such, it didn’t need to be massive, especially as the town’s overly ambitious architect had included fully functioning walls in their design. Granted, the walls failed rather dramatically as a defensive feature for one very specific reason; there was nothing to prevent access to the town via the river. At least they looked intimidating.

Fortunately, the walls had no bearing on the suitability of the training grounds as a place to, well, train. All in all, it had everything  the pair needed, even if it was on the small side.

“Well I’m not going to complain,” Rowan remarked with a slight twist of her lips before asking the all too important question, “Are you ready?”

Seres glanced at her nervously. “I think so.”

“That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.”

“It’s just.” Seres trails off before giving herself a quick look over.

“Yes?”

“Are the clothes really necessary?”

They were wearing knee length tunics with shorts underneath and belted at the waist. Rowan wasn’t exactly sure what the issue was.

“Would you rather be naked?” she asked.

“What? Nooo! It’s just a little bit chilly, is all.”

“Is that it? I thought you were worried about modesty or something.”

“Considering what we were made to wear in the caves, I’m not scared about showing a little skin.”

“Well that’s good at least. Don’t worry about the cold; you’ll warm up quickly enough once we get started. Now stretch!” Rowan shouted the last two words like a Drill Sergeant.

Rowan had to stop herself from laughing to overtly following Seres’ attempts at stretching. Instead she settled with a subtle facepalm, as Seres began to stretch like one might when getting out of bed. Seres, on the other hand, began blushing furiously as she brought her arms down.

“Sorry, I panicked and did the first thing that came to mind.”

“That’s probably on me. I wanted to know how well you would react when surprised and you kinda succeeded. Fancy trying again? I’ll stretch with you.”

After they were fully stretched out, Rowan presented Seres with a buckler and short spear.

“We’ll start with these. The spear should be your go to weapon in most cases, especially when we’re on the road. As for the buckler, it’s easy to carry around so it’s worth practicing with it. Plus, with enough training, you should be able to hold a dagger or a crystal in the same hand.”

“That sounds useful. So how are we doing this?”

Instead of using words to answer, Rowan gave Seres an evil grin and hooked her legs with the butt of a blunted practice spear.

“Ow!” Seres cried out as her backside crashed into the solid ground. “What was that for?”

“Lesson one: proper feet placement. If you don’t stand correctly, a stiff breeze can be enough to destabilise you. Lose your balance and you’re probably dead.”

“Why didn’t you just say that? I could have broken my tail!”

“Because it’s a lesson you need to learn quickly. Trust me, I know it hurts, but the pain will reinforce the lesson better than anything else. Besides, I got bruised all the time when I used to practice.”

“But not anymore?” It was asked with only the hint of a question, as well as a single raised eyebrow, but it was still there.

“Depends on the training, and who I’m doing it with, probably. Now let’s get you up and standing in a good posture. Good. Now you want to start by keeping your feet a shoulder’s width apart and your knees bent slightly. Make sure you have a good bounce to your step. Right, now take the buckler and keep it in front of you.”

Rowan went through the basics step by step to give her a solid foundation. Some further corrections needed to be made once Seres had moved onto learning to thrust and defend against attacks. She had unfortunately taken “always keep your buckler in front of you” to mean block everything, as opposed to parry and deflect.

“You need to remember that you are almost guaranteed to be smaller and lighter than your opponents, so blocking is next to useless. The buckler has the same issue. Instead, you want to try and intercept or catch the opponent’s weapon and deflect it. That way you are using all the energy that your opponent puts into the attack to defend against it. Of course this changes when you have a larger shield…”

Fortunately, Seres was a quick study. She had spent hours upon hours, days upon days, watching people train in the caves. So all she needed was a guiding hand and proper explanations. 

Part of that included the very important lesson of “Do as Rowan says and not as she does.” Rowan’s fighting style was, after all, extremely detached from anything a normal person would typically use, due to it being highly augmented by her nature as an Ardent.

After practicing with the spear for a while, Rowan decided they should also try the saber, then the dagger and finally the bow. Out of the four weapons, the last was by far the hardest for Seres. She struggled even though the bow had a relatively light draw weight. Why? Simply because she had absolutely no experience using her back muscles like that, so she tried to do everything with her arms. The vicious sting of the bow string on exposed flesh didn’t help matters either.

Rowan’s solution to the archery problem was simple, she instructed Seres to loose three arrows while engaging the proper muscles in her back. Rowan corrected the princesses stance as she went to prevent the girl from hurting herself. Though everything Seres made a noticeable mistake, she had to start from the beginning. 

By the time Seres managed to fire the third arrow, she was exhausted and Rowan was disappointed. Not in Seres, mind, but rather in the fact that she had been unable to do any of her own training whilst teaching Seres. She was overflowing with energy as a result and wanted to do something! Anything to relieve the tension in her body, be it training, dancing, fighting, singing, anything. For now, however, she had to tend to her charge.

Maybe I can come back later once Seres is sleeping.

That sounded like a plan. First step, get Seres back to the inn and fed. Going by how much Seres had been sweating, a bath was also very much required; Rowan could smell her from a couple of paces away. At least it wasn’t as bad as it had been in the caves.

It took much longer to get back to the inn than it had to get to the training ground, with Seres ambling along seemingly half asleep and sore. When they finally made it back to the inn, Seres was so exhausted that Rowan had to convince her to take a bath. 

The fact that Seres didn’t dive straight into the bath as soon as they arrived was a particularly terrifying thought, especially as the private bathroom was one of the main selling points of the suite. Rowan was actually afraid that Seres would fall asleep in the bath and drown. Fortunately her fears were alleviated somewhat when Seres was slightly reinvigorated by the water.

*****

After the bath, Seres had a quick bite to eat and promptly passed out, leaving Rowan to her own devices. It was late, but she was still adamant about doing something to tire her body. With that in mind, she left the inn and made her way back to the training grounds, taking only a dagger and Elan Fiir.

It didn’t take long, perhaps ten minutes, for Rowan to catch the pungent aroma of alcohol from somewhere behind her. She dearly hoped the drunk person had something more interesting than her to focus on.

“Hey there, pretty lady!” a male voice with a slight slur called out from behind her.

Rowan ignored them and carried on walking, her hopes shattering.

“Hey, sexy, I’m talking to you.”

This time, the owner of the voice grabbed onto Rowan’s shoulder with his massive hands. and pulled. Having not believed the man would be so bold after being blatantly and deliberately ignored, she hadn’t been braced for it, and she was spun around to face the drunk. He was a giant of a man. Although he was perhaps six feet tall, he was easily two, maybe even three times her weight. He also reeked of ale and stale sweat.

“That’s more like it,” he belched in her face.

Rowan looked him in the eye. “Please let go of me, sir.”

“Now why in the world would I do that, sweet tits? Come on, let me show you a good time. You’ll enjoy it I promise.”

If looks could kill, Rowan would be burning away the man’s soul with the infernal stare of damnation she was directing at him. He was really starting to piss her off. Rowan liked it when people found her attractive. However, she did not like this, nor would she stand for it.

“Let go of me, sir. I won’t ask again.”

“And what are you going to do about it? You must be freezing dressed like that, wearing practically nothing. It can’t be good for a beauty like yourself, so come here and let me warm you up.”

“I’m warm enough, thank you.”

I’m an instant, Rowan grabbed his arm and let the anger burn. The man roared in pain or perhaps, anger. 

“You bitch!”

He grabbed Rowan by the collar with his other hand and picked her up before immediately slamming her to the ground. She was so angry that she had failed to immediately realise she was being attacked, delaying her own reactions and counter. 

She hit the ground hard, her head cracking against the paved stone floor, giving her a slight concussion as her thoughts clouded over and became sluggish.

He was on top of her in seconds. The full weight of hips bore painfully down on her thighs, just below her crotch as his legs hooked under to lock her in place. With the same hand that he had used to slam Rowan down, he took hold of both of Rowan’s arms and forced them above her head, adjusting his weight so there was a lot of pressure pinning them. With his other hand he started ripping off her clothes. All while Rowan couldn’t focus.

As the concussion faded and Rowan came to her senses, fear joined her anger as she did everything she could to stoke the fires of her rage into a blazing inferno. Unfortunately, terror was also seeping in, making it difficult to focus on her rage as it started to overwhelm her mind. What made it even worse was it was clear he wouldn’t even bother trying to move her off the middle of the road before raping her, in full view of the dozen or so people currently passing by. If he would just get off her she could overpower him. 

What if she couldn’t fight back? She could barely move, her muscles were failing and she was painfully aware of everything he was doing and that everyone else on the street was just watching. Despite being surrounded, she was alone with this man.

Where are you Rina?

That was unfair. Her sister didn’t need to suffer alongside Rowan. Her cries were probably bad enough as it was. Rowan knew that Rina could hear them, the emotional bridge between them was too strong.

Of course, none of that mattered to the man. Neither did he care or even seem to notice that Rowan was burning his hand; she could see it in his eyes. Like her, he was a vehicle for rage, only his was fueled by lust, alcohol, and adrenaline. The difference was he was allowing his rage to consume him, unlike Rowan who was faltering from fear.

He’s too strong.

It was only as he started groping and licking her that the people in the background finally started shouting for the guard. Although that was all they did. No-one dared to involve themselves further. And Rowan feared it was too little too late. There was no way that the guards would arrive in time to help her. 

The man worked his way down Rowan’s body, right up until he arrived at her shorts. He wasted no time tearing them off with horrifying intent before immediately shoving his fingers inside her.

It hurts!

Rowan was crying. There was nothing she could do. Even the heat of her anger wasn’t enough to faze him in the face of the adrenaline surging through his veins, washing away all sense of pain and rational thought.

As he shifted his weight to pull his member out, and got into position, Rowan saw her chance and hope started to overwhelm her fear. Her legs were free’d and as he focused on licking his fingers for a brief second of perverted pleasure. She pulled her knees to her chest, leaving her completely exposed to everyone watching, but granting her the leverage she needed. As he leaned into her and she felt his head press against her, she pushed her shins against his chest and extended her legs with all her might, flipping him over his head.

Free of his immense weight pinning her down, Rowan was able to flip up onto her feet. In one smooth motion she drew Elan Fiir and cut down the solitary tree that was his manhood.

Rowan was panting from the exertion. Her head was killing her and she could feel a slight trickle of blood running down her legs from his jagged nails. He had completely destroyed her clothes. No-one had come to her aid. They only stood there and watched. Horrified.

“Stop right there!”

Two guards were rushing onto the scene with their spears pointed at Rowan. Apparently they saw a woman with a sword and not the victim of an attempted rape.

“Drop the weapon, Miss, you’re under arrest.”

Rowan stared at them incredulously. “Are you fucking serious?” she said, her fear finally fading completely as anger once again became raging inferno fueled by shame and disgust.

“As you have been caught in the act of clearly assaulting Master Tamris with a lethal weapon, yes.”

“The fucker tried to rape me you dick-addled, cock munching, thunder cunts.”

“If you were being raped, how did you manage to draw your sword then?”

Rowan couldn’t believe a thing they were saying.. “Is that the only thing you can see, are you completely blind to everything else or just stupid?”

“We’re trying to be respectful by not looking at anything else you’re displaying, Miss.”

“I should also mention that public nudity is agaisn’t the law and another charge you will have to answer for.”

It was clear that they knew nothing of respect and were bullshitting for all they were worth from the way their wandering eyes studied her every nook and cranny.

“For fucks sake, you eejits. My clothes are in ruins because that bastard ripped them off of me.”

“Do you have any means of corroborating that story, Miss?”

The guards sickened Rowan almost as much as the drunk. They made her feel ashamed with their questions and their obviously artificial doubts, trying to paint their friend as the victim. As well as disgusted by how they were clearly ogling her despite their excuses. 

Rowan wanted to both cry and let her fists take her anger out on them because of how they were treating her. All the while they refused to even offer her anything to preserve her dignity, but the tears didn’t come. Her pain and sorrow, while immense, could not compete with the blazing sun inside her.

“You mean other than the tattered remains of my clothes, any number of witnesses, or the fact that he had his dick out? Or perhaps you don’t think rape is a crime?”

“Of course not, Miss. However, if no-one is willing to speak up on your behalf, we’ll still need to bring you in for questioning.” Guard number one told me while guard number two tried to sneakily narrow his eyes and glare at each witness without my noticing. Before wiping his head back to face me at my next words.

“So that you can have a go yourselves? You should be glad I haven’t dishonourably discharged both of you right where you stand.”

“You can’t do that.”

Rowan looked at the second, quieter guard as he spoke with fire in his eyes.

“Can’t I now?”

“No, Miss. Only a superior officer, the lord or lady of the land, a Lord or Lady of Fire, or a member of the royal family can do that.”

“And there’s no way someone like that would be flaunting her stuff in…”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP OR, GODDESS HELP ME, I’LL RIP YOUR THROATS OUT! I AM ROWAN’EFRII ALYRIS NALIIR, ARDENT FLAME OF MIDIRIS AND LADY OF FIRE BY DECREE OF QUEEN ELARIN!”

As if to punctuate her booming voice, Rowan’s infernal rage finally exploded out of her, igniting the very air surrounding her. The two guards and everyone else paled in the light of her fury.

“Now that I have your attention, I demand both of your names so that I can lodge a formal complaint with your commanding officer. I’ll present him with my badge of office and the written decree from her majesty. Until then, arrest this man.”

Not caring to see any further reactions, Rowan strode past the guards and made her way back to the inn. People were staring at her the entire time. She ignored them and the radiating heat of her anger kept them away. It was only when Seres came running down the street that she finally started to calm down..

“Rowan!” she called.

Rowan looked at her, somewhat confused. “Seres? What are you doing here?”

“My ring woke me up. When I noticed you’d gone out I panicked and came running as fast I could.”

“While I’m glad someone thought to come to my aid, you really shouldn’t be running into danger.”

“What happened to you? Does it have anything to do with the state your clothes are in?” Seres asked with a look of rage on her face.

“A drunk guy wanted to have sex with me,” Rowan spat, before she recounted in detail what had just happened to her sister in all but blood.

Rowan was crying as she recalled what happened, the tears evaporating quickly from the embers of her anger. 

“I managed to throw him off of me just in time and then I drew my sword on him. He may now be missing a body part. When the guards arrived, they attempted to blame me for everything and tried to arrest me. They refused to acknowledge the truth in front of their faces and were throwing excuses at me the entire time as they ogled me.”

“That’s — I’m going to have those guards stripped of their rank and the man hanged.”

“We can deal with them tomorrow. And death is too good for that bastard. Let him live without his cock instead. Can we go back to the inn now, please? I need to get some fresh clothes so that I can work some of this stress away while training.”

“Of course.”

Rowan didn’t sleep that night. She dared not risk the nightmares. Not after what had happened. Instead she danced with Elan Fiir until her body ached. After that, she sang a hollow lament for everyone that had suffered and continued to do so.

Author’s Note: The first half of this chapter was really easy and fun to write. The second part? Not so much. It is an extremely painful subject matter for me. At the same time, I needed to show that Rowan isn’t invincible. Even with her incredible powers, she can still be taken down, especially when she’s caught by surprise. I might have been able to do it differently, but it wouldn’t have had the same weight. With that said, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter in spite of the dark subject matter.

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