I am alive. I am of a somewhat sound mind. And I am concocting the most intricate project I’ve ever bothered myself to endure. My newest tale smacks of my admiration for mythology, petty gods and those pesky fire-breathers of old. Found the pulse to my creativity again and full-on went for it. So without further adieu, I introduce Issa. Do not be alarmed. If she seems off-putting, well, she’s much worse than you assume. Haha, just kidding. [dramatic pause] Or am I?
She had never been a stranger to patience. Even at the age where her teeth loosened and new boots were needed too often to have been convenient for anyone aside from a god to provide. On the plane where the fragile existed, those lacking claw and fang, their flesh malleable and their loyalties easily bought, she’d spent days in conditions the dead shouldn’t be subjected to. Torrential downpours, grand shows of thunder and lightning, enduring the soggy cow hide on her back and mud stiffened socks with naught but quiet determination.
For what was a general, a captain, a leader too afraid to endure the very environment they demanded their soldiers abide? Nothing. Such a man, such a woman, such a god, was nothing. The tides of mutiny were easy enough to control if you earned respect as opposed to just fear. However, Issa had come to learn that fear was a useful tool when yielded properly. Emotional outbursts simply had you labeled as insane, but silence—composure—in the face of blatant disrespect made brows sweaty and breaths shallow far faster. In these instances, patience was key. Because terror’s scent thickened on the tongue, stuttered words nearly sounded like the harmonious melodies that her men could often be heard singing ‘round the scattered fires of their camp at night. So now she waited to make her presence known. Her temporary home was a shadow, her ears twitching with each new strike of noise that greeted her.
And then, “Woman!” a voice lashed as a door opened and slammed with enough force to take it from the hinges. “Where are yah?!”
Issa stiffened, counting the heavy footfalls before they reached the kitchen, grumbles coming from the giant figure that stopped in the doorway, swaying slightly, his broad back to her. “Lenora!” the ogre barked. “Don’t you hear me calling you, girl?!”
“Lenora’s out at the moment,” she softly informed him, watching as he stumbled to turn and face the intruder in his home. “Left me here to have a little chat with you, dear Shamus.”
His eyes slit in his face, bloodshot and beady. He stank of ale and discontent with his existence. Even at a distance, it made her wrinkle her nose. “And who in the fuck are you?”
Issa took her propped up feet off the table and sat forward, lazily twirling a dagger in her hand. “A friend of your wife’s. Lovely woman she is. Do you know what she told me today as she limped alongside me through the marketplace, an arm in a sling and her head half covered to hide her bruises?”
The ogre placed both hands on the threshold, slurring a hummed, “Knew I shouldn’t have sent her out alone. She dawdles. Told her so many times how much I hate that she dawdles.” He looked off. “Think she does it on purpose just to get under me skin.”
“Or to escape getting her head bashed in for allowing air to pass through her lips too fast in your presence,” Issa replied mildly enough.
His smirk was self-satisfied. “Oh, my beautiful Lenora. Making up silly tales. Crying ‘er eyes out to perfect strangers. And all for what? Because we had a bit of a disagreement?”
“Disagreements usually end with raised voices, maybe a smashed piece of pottery if one is so moved,” she mentioned. “Not broken bones. Not scars.”
“What’d she do?” he jeered with a swing of his arm. “Hmm? Send yah here to scare old Shamus? Tell me I shouldn’t be so mean? You a peacekeeper with nothing better to do than stick your nose into petty squabbles between common folk?”
“No,” Issa answered after a stretch of nothing. Lithely standing, she strolled up to the lout. The hand that had been turning over the blade struck out with an unnatural swiftness and those beady slits widened exponentially. The giant was a giant no more as he toppled to his knees with a scream that raised the hair on her spine, cradling his now fingerless left hand to his chest.
Issa’s head canted to the right as she watched him register the sudden loss of all five digits, his barreled chest fast in its panicked movements. She licked her lips and bent at the waist to whisper to him, “She sent me to kill you.”
He lifted his head, glare blazing now and shouted, “Fucking cunt!”
“That’s Lady Fucking Cunt to you, my good man,” she mocked, cleaning the blade with a quick wipe right across the rough sleeve of his shirt. “Shall we start with the other hand now?”
Oh, still here are you? You’ve survived it then? Mozel tov! Now wipe the sweat from your brow and prepare yourself because I think you should know that excerpt only came from chapter two. [Home Alone cheek smack] Whatever shall you do now? Of Gods and Monsters coming to a reading device near you soon!