Severa from “The Empress” returns in Gwen’s latest story.
Leandra and Gwen
Knives and Snow
The snow fell in fat flakes around Severa, obscuring her vision. Through the trees, she made out ghosts, but she blinked, and they were gone. Her horse pawed at the hard ground and snorted. She shivered beneath her fur cloak and touched the sharp edges of the blades beneath her sleeves- a reminder that she needed to end a life.
She tapped the horse’s sides with her feet. It gladly started through the bare trees. The snow fell harder, turning the world completely white. A branch snapped.
She paused, listening.
Suddenly, she jumped from the horse just as an arrow struck the tree behind her. The horse, in a panic, snorted and galloped into the trees. Severa glanced around but couldn’t see anyone. She heard the twang of a bow string and rolled to the side just as another arrow landed right where she had been crouched.
Shadows appeared between the trees. First one, then two, and then five; she was surrounded. Another twang and she was behind a tree. She reached for her knives. She needed a miracle, or just a way out.
She listened, each breath forcing her to calm her panicked heart and slow her anxious, heavy breathing. Dead leaves crunched under heavy feet.
She readied herself for the kill.
Another loud crunch.
She let out a breath and spun out from behind the tree. The knife whistled through the air as she swung it at her surprised attacker.
An arrow pierced her arm. She hissed at the sudden sharp pain, dropping her knife. Her rhythm was now off, but she swung the other knife, hoping to make the other man bleed.
He bashed her with his shield and shoved her down onto the hard ground. He was on top of her in a second. Fingers like claws, she scratched, aiming for the eyes. He jerked away, and with that bit of extra room, she slid herself free.
Severa didn’t stick around for the others. She could hear her attacker mutter in a language she didn’t understand as she scrambled away. She kept going until his words began to sound like wind, and then, silence.
She wandered then. The world was a bland, unchanging white; she had no idea where she was. More snow fell, and she could have gladly murdered whichever god who thought this terrible country needed more of it.
The sky was growing darker when she heard boots crunching through snow. Her heart leapt to her throat as she hid behind a tree. The boots came closer, stopped, and changed direction. She let out a breath as the sound disappeared.
She waited an extra minute and slowly looked around. Seeing no one, she stepped out.
“Halt in the name of the Legion.”
She froze mid-step and sighed with relief. Thank the gods, it was a Roman. She raised her hands in submission.
His feet crunched through the snow as he approached.
She spun in place, looking him over, just as he did her.
She lowered her hands. Of all people. “Felix.” He was still handsome with gray eyes and brown hair that she knew was curling beneath his helmet.
“Severa, what are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you.” After all, what sort of assassin turned into a legionnaire? He could ruin everything.
“I’ve changed, Severa.”
No doubt of that.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I’m here to bring news to Commodus from his mother.” Not the best lie, but if it got her in…
His hand slipped down to her wrists, to an empty sheath and a bloody dagger. She frowned.
“Let me guess: protection?”
“I was attacked on the way here.” She gestured to the hellish trees. “It’s not like I’m in friendly territory after all.”
He let out a sigh. “Fine. I hope you know what you’re doing.”
She smiled at him then. “You won’t even know I’m here.”
He ignored that last part and gestured for her to follow. Finally, her goal was in reach.