Just as Landon started for the door he heard the man make one last comment and it stopped him dead in his tracks, “Sir?”

The man turned surprised by the question perhaps thinking himself alone, “I only said that the one with the red hair must have roots.  It’s a shame I couldn’t just give her the belt, but I would want the King’s anger on me.” He smiled slightly almost like a question.

“You would have given it to her?”  So unprepared for such generosity Landon lacked his usual candor.

“Yes, it was to be for my daughter, but she died before I could make a gift of it.”  The man’s face closed in with grief but he continued.  “Growing up around this,” the man’s arms swung wide, “I was always pulling wooden swords out of her hands so her mother could wash them.  So, when she was old enough we sent her to the Umbel and their Canna, I’m sure you’ve seen ‘em though I guess the guards usually call them warrior women like they’re another breed.” Exasperation had started to leak into the man’s words which gave the impression that each one drug it’s feet as he uttered it.  “She was so excited to be living with a Canna Mother.  She earned her sword and I started the belt, then everything went wrong; we were told she was dying.”  Landon’s face fell as the man continued.  “It was years ago now, but maybe you’ve heard the story nearly a legend I’d think for the oddness.  She was standing guard at a cutting and a girl child was taken, didn’t even have a name yet,” the shock of hearing the same ludicrous story again told as fact must have registered on Landon’s face because the man stopped to explain.  “That’s right some send their girls like that.  Well when it happened she followed after the bandits and was even with the group that found the girl, she rode the whole way back with the girl-child in the saddle with her.  When she got back she fell into a kind of delirium, we only just made it in time.  Before we got there she had managed to write a letter for us and one for the Phlox, who came and blessed her herself.  All we were ever told was that she had become a prophet by fire.”  The man could clearly see the question on Landon’s mind because he elaborated.  “I know it doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to lose her, but she had scorch marks on her shoulder above her heart and covering her hand so it must have been true.  The story goes the child sat among still live flame and blackened men unhurt except for the tips of her fingers on her right hand.  The girl with the red hair let me find some peace today.”  Here he paused the intensity in his gaze holding Landon in such a way that all else fell a way, “The belt will be here when she has the coin to get it.”

Advertisements