I stared out at the forest, wondering at my rejection. I had gone to everyone I know, Freidan, my mother, even a librarian who had lent me an elvish sword fighting book, but they all cringed. My story spread faster than I had expected it to and only one person had anything to say other than "That's nice, go away!" A crazy gypsy healer had soaked my hand in something that had numbed it and then wrapped it in a cloth smelling of lavender and rosemary, that had long since faded. She had given me straps for the swords that I had used in the fight so they would cross over my back. She listened to my story quietly and told me that she could give me a map that lead me to somewhere that is nowhere.
I took the map and it had led me out far into the uncharted forests of pine. It seemed a fitting place for a person who had marched out of the school for soldiers, a place where no one cared what you did, what you wore, how you fought. I had begun to feel the sensual adjustment that many hunters described, noises seemed amplified and colours seemed brighter around me. My smell was most shocking of all; I could smell the plants, coming wind and even a storm. I had noticed forms following me, making no noise at all, as they waiting for me to do something. Their appearances had become more and more frequent, until it was almost natural for me to feel that I was being followed. As I stood debating about camping for the night a shape appeared so close I could make out her form even through the night's gloom under the canopy.
The cloak covered her entirely, but it was discernable from how she stood and her light form that she had to be female. Only the lower half of her face was visible, her slightly pointed chin and full lips almost contrasting with her pale skin. I could see that she carried a quiver with some handled weapons hidden in her quiver. I drew out my swords as if I was just going to practice as I had made my practice in the evenings, but I kept her in my peripheral vision. Half way through a lunge, I dived for her form.
She had vanished, leaping into the clearing, clearly knowing that she could either fight or run faster from this open space. I spun to face her and she executed a perfect front tuck over my head, and as if from habit I made a mental note to learn how to battle the acrobat. When I caught up with her in position I saw she had drawn two long knives and was in a side position, defense. I lunged and met a whirlwind of flashing metal and black fabric. I knew I had to make this about strength to get anywhere, because she was faster than me by any standard. I went for a crossed thrust, aiming high so she would either meet it or slide off it. What I did not expect was the thrust kick to my stomach I received, no conduct fine. I switched both swords to one hand, blessing my foresight in grabbing swords with no hand guards and grabbing her wrist. She twisted, slashing at me as I pulled her in front of me and put my swords to her neck.
"Will you surrender, or do I have to cut your throat?"
Her laughter was mocking and I felt pressure on my gut, her other knife. "Shall it be a draw, swordsman?"
I released her and she spun away, facing me and bowing slightly. "You fight well, I must now take my leave. The wild calls."
I could hear a slight growling from the trees, but I needed a guide more. "You know your way through the woods? Will you take me to the camp of the unknown warriors?"
She paused at the edge of the clearing and turned, gesturing to the woods. "The Unknown Warriors? Why do you seek them?"
As she spoke a graceful cat strolled out of the woods, the almost silver fur with spots shining even though there was almost no light. The snow leopard settled itself at the feet of the still cloaked girl. I decided honesty was the best way to win her support for my search.
"I had my hand punctured at a school for soldiers and a gypsy gave me a map that she said lead to somewhere that is nowhere, so I assumed she meant to camp of the Unknown Warriors."
She turned around at last and threw off her hood. "You are more perceptive than the last one, I might lead you there."
Her face took my breath away. Her ice blue, almond shaped eyes stood out against her pale skin in her heart shaped face. Her silky, blue-black hair fell in wavy tresses all the way down her back, framing her high-cheek boned face beautifully. On the left side of her face were a series of delicate, deep blue tattoos. I scanned them carefully, looking for clues to her identity. I could almost discern the runes for accuracy, speed, agility, and tracking in the spiraling design. There was a continuing silver thread down her face tracing lines that seemed to somehow symbolize the wondrous cat that lay at her feet. I took a deep breath to fortify myself as she stood before me, telling me she might take me to the Unknown Warriors.
I replaced my swords in their sheaths on my back just for something to distract me from the haunting face of the tracker before me. She turned back to the forest, hiding her raven feather locks beneath her hood once more as she left the clearing followed by the snow leopard. I hurried after her because I knew I would get lost if I did not, she was my line to the world where I hoped I would belong.
We traveled through the night, my steps becoming more hushed as I crept after her silhouette. In a grove of dense white pines she halted and I almost ran into her silent form.
"Before we go on to the camp, I will tell you my story. You need to know what to expect."
I sat, glad of the chance for rest as she crouched before me. She uncurled her fist and revealed a fistful of flame giving off a flickering light. She gazed into the flames infinite depths before she began her story.
"I was tracked down and taken by the Warriors at four years old, the last person to be actively sought. They tried to train me, but I was continually missing from swords sessions and lessons I did not consider important. I snuck into the woods and taught myself the art of the knives and bow. I discovered the uses of plants and learned to speak the language of animals. I became the ultimate huntress, I even learned several instruments and I learned to play in harmony with the wind and water." She paused to set the flame on a small tinder pile she had been assembling so she could concentrate. "The currant