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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.