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And Itza Danced coverNot everyone agrees with Itza’s mercy. In not killing Elveric, they fear that they have made a very powerful enemy. Itza stands by her decision, honoring the deal.

“Mistake, that was! You’ll see!” An old woman called to Itza as she turned to walk back to her house.

Uncle Brev walked up next to her, taking her arm. “You did well, little one. That was some fight. My heart beat wildly there for awhile. I thought he might actually take you.”

“Had he been himself and not injured, it might have turned out differently. I am ashamed, I took unfair advantage of his wound to beat him.”

“When you fight for your life and all you hold dear, there is no unfair advantage. He’d have killed you and not thought twice about it, like as not.”

“You did great, Itza!” Her brother ran up next to her, taking her hand and gazing with affection and pride into her eyes.

Where Itza was a light golden color, Orris was a deep russet. Bastia was the most beautiful of them all; pure white with brilliant blue eyes. Uncle Brev was striped like a tiger in bands of black and brown with a white blaze on his powerful chest.

Looking at her family, Itza’s heart filled with pride. She knew she had done the right thing, for their safety and that of her village were the most important things in her life. She could not have watched them die at the hands of the bandits.

“Come, it’s dinner, you three!” Brev’s wife Anasafe, their mother’s sister, called from the house. “Wash up, then! You’re filthy, lass, have you been playing in the dirt?”

Brev and Itza threw back their heads, laughing heartily. Orris and Bastia giggled and danced in circles around their aunt.

“Trust you, Ana, to be the one person in the village not to know what’s just transpired. Our Itza has saved us all!”

“That well may be, Brev, but she’s still filthy! Go wash, I tell you! Dinner’s like to be cold as stone already!”

Laughing and chatting happily, they went to the kitchen and washed their hands and faces. After dinner, a small group of men, including the bandit Crex and some of his friends, stopped by to see Itza and her uncle.

“I’d advise ye to post guards this night, miss,” Crex cautioned. “Elveric’s right mad. He’ll want yer hide and there’s no doubt.” The others nodded their agreement. “He’s got pride and a temper. To be shown up by a little mite of a thing like ye be, he’s in a tizzy.”

“I’ll take care of that, Crex,” Brev told him. “There’s a few of us used to serve in the militia, we’ve not forgotten all we knew.”

“The boys and me will be keeping a weather eye as well. We’ve no love lost betwixt Elveric and us, mark my words. Well, night, miss, sir.” They bobbed their heads in brief respect and left to different ends of the village.

Brev set out right after them and saw to guards. Itza decided to call it an early night and went to her bed, falling instantly asleep.

Itza sat up in bed, a scream rending the peaceful night. It had been outside, not one of her people, more like an animal. She heard nothing else, but in a moment several people were moving around outside. She heard snatches of conversation. Dressing quickly, she grabbed her father’s armor and threw it on. The stiff leather was far too big, but it made her feel better wearing it. His sword hung on the wall. Itza had never used it before, but she cleaned and sharpened it regularly. She belted it on as she dashed out of the house, looking around. All seemed quiet except over by the animal pens.

Running over quickly, she saw what the trouble was. All the animals in the pen had their throats cut. The scream she’d heard was the dying cry of their sheep. They had no livestock left. If Elveric had wanted them to die, why didn’t he attack them outright and not make them slowly die from lack of food? True, the meat could be salvaged, smoked and stored, but no longer had they wool to trade. She hung her head sadly, knowing this was her fault.

“So he wants it this way, does he?” Brev said solemnly. “You should have killed him when you had the chance,” he told Itza. “It’s the only thing a man like him understands.”

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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