Elveric tries to defend himself, but it’s too late. Itza has all but killed him. His treachery has failed him. He hasn’t got a prayer of beating her now.
Screaming, he dragged himself from her grasp, but Itza had now the scent of blood and the barbaric nature her people had fought so long to control, had the lust of battle. She could no more control herself than a wind can be pinned down. Roaring like a wild beast, she attacked Elveric. Whirling frenetically, she spun toward him, tail lashing him from all directions at once. Her feet moved with a wild dance of death none of her race had seen in centuries. Claws sang through the air, ripping and tearing Elveric’s unprotected flesh, flaying it from his bones.
Eyes burning blood red, Itza bore down on him in a frenzy of hatred. This was payment for her mother and father, cousins, aunts, uncles, anyone who had fallen prey to the bandits over the years. If she could not punish them all, by the gods and all that was holy, she could devour this beast, rid the world of him!
Elveric screamed, babbled, begged for mercy. Itza couldn’t hear him. The blood pounded in her ears and fury blinded her. She was completely focused on Elveric, but had anyone else gotten into her line of attack, she would probably have killed them too. She was unstoppable, unpredictable, a conflagration of maniacal madness which could only be defused by burning itself completely out, extinguished in blood.
With a final rush, Itza launched herself at Elveric, spinning in a pirouette, claws extended, balancing carefully with her tail whipping around her. A lunge at Elveric ended his cries, claws embedded deeply in his throat. Teeth bared, a roar of victory rent the air, ending in a gurgle as she buried her fangs in Elveric’s throat, ripping his carotid artery. His lifeless body thudded to the ground with Itza still on him, breathless, fury abated.
Without a sound, the bandits dropped their weapons and fled. Whatever Elveric’s plan might have been for revenge, it did not happen. None of them wanted to face the wrath of that insane cat woman! Their flight was short, for closing in on them from the surrounding woods were men from the other villages. No one had noticed their approach in the gloaming. All attention had been focused on the battle.
Pitchforks and hoes do not seem very impressive weapons, but in the hands of men fighting for their lives and protection of their families, they can be insuperable. It was a short conflict and a bloody one. When all was done, not a single bandit survived. Their bodies were tied to horses and dragged through the countryside, left beside the roads—a message to anyone who even considered trespassing their territory again.
Itza did not know any of this. Once the battle rage left her, she fell face first to the ground, completely exhausted. Uncle Brev and Orris stepped forward. With the help of Crex, they carried her home. Aunt Anasafe cleaned her wounds and dressed her in a clean robe.
The evening of the third day, Itza woke, sore but rested. She rose carefully, her ribs and back throbbing painfully. With care, she made her way to the kitchen. No one was there, but she heard voices outside the front door. Slowly, impeded by the protests of her body, she walked across the house and leaned in the open doorway.
Her uncle and brother were working on the damaged porch with Crex and several other former bandits. They stopped speaking when she approached, looking at her silently. She saw a vast mixture of expressions among them. In her uncle’s face, pride. Orris’s held a look of awe. Some of the bandits regarded her stoically, having seen worse in their lives, but others showed her fear, their eyes wide.
A shy smile flickered over her lips, faltering and dying gradually as memories flashed through her mind. She had woken with the vague feeling of surrealism, as if her dreams strove to be real. Nightmarish images had plagued her as she slept and she had hoped to rid herself of them when she woke. There was nothing which could make the dreams go away, they were real. She had killed brutally, barbarically.
Disgusted with herself, Itza stumbled out the door, down the broken steps and across the yard. The ground was still churned and rutted by the volfboar stampede. The distance to the family shrine seemed to increase rather than decrease. Thinking she would never reach it, she redoubled her effort, changing to a clumsy run. Gasping with effort, she dragged herself up the steps, falling heavily to the floor before the shrine. Weeping bitterly, she prayed for forgiveness, vowing never to raise her hand in anger against another.
As she lay there weeping, Aunt Anasafe entered quietly, kneeling beside her once more. Strong, gentle hands helped Itza pull herself upright. Aunt Anasafe held Itza in her arms, rocking her like a child, crooning softly as she vented her sorrow and self-loathing. Hot tears fell from her eyes, soaking her clothing. Anasafe didn’t let go and didn’t leave. Eventually, the tears stopped, replaced by dry, heaving sobs.
“Why?” It was hardly adequate, but it was the only question her mind could frame coherently.
“You know the story of god’s whirlwind?”
Itza nodded, breath coming in shuddering gasps.
God’s whirlwind was a legend among her people. It told of a time when war was common and all races preyed upon one another. One day a god appeared. He was huge, ugly, fearsome. He gave the world a portion of himself, instilling them all with purpose. Rather than end the fighting, he gave them the intelligence and the means to kill one another more efficiently; then he left.
Among her race, there was a girl nearly the same age as she. In a time of terrible peril, she had slain an entire army in a blind rage. Though mortally wounded, she did not stop until all the enemy were dead, their bodies ripped apart. She killed them with her bare hands.
“What has this to do with me?” Itza’s tone was bitter.
“It has everything to do with you, little one,” her aunt used the term fondly. “Did you think it only a legend? For each legend and myth there is a reality. This was the god’s gift to you, something which only a few of our people can do. It has been many years since a girl with god’s whirlwind came along. Use it wisely and well—always to protect, or the gift may leave you.”
She kissed her niece softly on the head and rose to leave. Itza took her aunt’s hand lovingly in her own.
“Thank you, Aunt, you have given me much to think on.”
“Our village is safe because of you, our people everywhere protected by your actions. It will, gods willing, be a long time before we are threatened as we were by Elveric and his ruffians. It is because of you and only you.”
Itza sat quietly as her aunt walked out of the building, heading back to the house to prepare the next meal. Itza sat for some time, knees hugged to her chest, chin resting on them. Quietly, in silent prayer, she lit a stick of incense and sank once more to her knees.
“Thank you,” she whispered, “thank you for the gift you have given me.”
Without another word, she rose and walked slowly back to the house. From that day forth, their village was at peace, their people unharmed by outsiders. Wherever she went, she was honored as the woman upon whom god’s justice lay.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes
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