“Unless you better yourself, a worm like you does not deserve to exist in my presence.”
The woman’s voice was thick with loathing, and the man being forced to kneel before her snarled. He rose suddenly, mauling the two guards holding him down, and grabbed the sword out of one of their sheathes.
With a rapid whirl, the man’s newly-acquired blade soared through the air and was barely blocked by the woman’s own sword. With a forceful push, the woman sprung backward and landed in a defensive stance.
“Never… Belittle those… less powerful… than you.” The man’s voice was trembling with rage, and he sprung forward, swinging his arm downward in a powerful crushing blow. Instead of foolishly trying to block it, the woman sprung to the side and swung at the man, but he handily dodged it and swung at her with a masterful diagonal strike.
“You think that just because you have a high station you deserve the slavish devotion of all those around you? YOU’RE A FOOL!” He twirled his stolen sword in a flurry of strikes that the woman could barely stay ahead of. She was an adept swordswoman, and this disrespectful drunkard was keeping her on the edge of defeat.
Infuriated, the woman parried his strike and countered it with a jab and several artful slashes of her own. Then disaster struck. As she chopped downward, he sidestepped and the point of her sword bit into the ground. With a swift swing, searing pain bit through her left arm. She heard a snap, and a thud. Her left hand was no longer joined to her body.
Shock pulsed through her, and for one critical moment, she froze. A boot collided with her gut, sending her sprawling. The man’s sword point lightly touched the woman’s throat, and she began to cry despite herself.
“I could kill you right now. Know this. Acknowledge it. But instead, I prefer to teach you a lesson. There is always someone more powerful than you, but just because you possess greater power does not give you the right to belittle those around you. Remember that.”
The man threw the sword to the ground and staggered away, returning to the tavern from whence he had come. The woman struggled to rise. How… She had been so foolish! She had forgotten what she was meant to be, and what she had wanted when she was young.
She struggled into the temple. As the healers began their work, she instructed them implicitly
“Do not return my hand.”
Terrance shook her head. The memory came and went unbidden, without sign of trigger or any indication of what brought it on. Despite the distance of fifteen years between that day and the one she was currently in, the memory was still as clear as though she had just experienced it.
She had learned how to fight without a hand, she had learned to get by, and she had learned humility. She sighed and poured herself a cup of water. It had been one day since Aja Whiteshield and Orijen had left to get whatever they needed, and Terrance was on edge: waiting before an operation was always the hardest part. She propped a book on the stand she had had made and opened it to her place.
She would always remember.