Chapter 1 - Hero

The son was hot overhead, and Thom decided he didn't really want to work the field anymore today. Not that he had an option, but the prospect of stopping and going to take a long nap was an enticing one. Several times he found himself almost doing just that.

However every time Ebram saw him pause to look off towards the trees, the man would slip through the fields of corn and snap at him for not working hard enough. This would usually be followed by Ebram following Thom for a while as he picked up the pace, then wandering back to his own row. Which would allow Thom to slow down again and reconsider just how much he wanted to be here.

Thom, Ebram, and twelve other men were working on detasseling corn stalks in the fields just outside Maizetree. They had been out here since just after sunrise and now the sun was well past it's peak. Blazing high and burning down on them, leaving Thom sticky with sweat. Wishing he had a hat like some of the other men did.

Ebram of course didn't wear a hat, but Thom was secretly beginning to wonder whether the man was actually san. Bald as he was surely a hat would keep his scalp from burning up red as usual. Instead the man refused a hat, lest it was raining, that was the only exception. Ebram wondered if maybe he was mad because the sun baked his head all the time. Maybe that was why he was always pushing Thom to work the fields harder. As if the corn was going to pick up and go somewhere if he took his time.

Thom tucked the latest handful of tassels into his pouch and started collecting a fresh handful. He knew a spot right by the stream that ran towards the blue river that was gorgeous and no one would find him if he climbed the tree and sat in the branches.

Glancing around, Thom saw that Ebram was busy calling to one of the other hands, and he grinned. Ducking lower to disappear amongst the stalks, he set off at careful and quiet run. He would go out ahead and-

Raff was there peering down at Thom as he started to try and cross into another row of corn stalks. The big man had his hands on his hips, and a big straw hat shading his head.

"Going somewhere, Thom?" Raff asked and Thom nearly ran in the opposite direction, if he hadn't well known Raff could catch him easily.

"I wasn't gonna- No, Raff. Honest, wasn't going no-"

"Get back to work. If you run off i'll have to do your row to." Raff grumbled in that deep voice of his, pointing.

Reluctantly Thom obeyed and made his way back to the last tassel in line and extracting it and tossing it into the pouch. Beginning to go down the line again, not even looking at the tassles. Scowling down at the ground as he walked.

In the corner of his vision he saw Raff watch him for a while and then the big man went back to work.

Not very long afterwards, Ebram was back again, scowling.

"You're tearing the stalks, Thom. Pay attention." He snapped, moving to show Thom for maybe the seven hundredth time how precisely to pull the tassel in just such a way that it-

Thom felt his foot land on something sturdy and he blinked. Glancing down he yelped when he saw an arm lying between the stalks. Encased in metal.

He cried out and fell back on his behind, scrambling away from the arm. Ebram had seen it to by then, but unlike Thom he had a different reaction. The man crossed to the other side of the row of corn and Ebram heard him shouting.

"We need help over here! Someone's lying in the corn!" He bellowed.

Thom followed the arm back to it's source, and was relieved to find they were at the very least attached to a body. A body that was similarly encased head to foot in silvery grey armour.

"Is he a knight?" Thom asked, looking up as Ebram stepped close, inspecting the body.

"Help me get the helm off." He said and Thom nodded helping lift the head while Ebram found a chinstrap and then carefully removing the scarred steel helmet.

"Well if he is a knight, then he is actually a she." Ebram announced and Thom blinked as he stared at the room.

Dark skinned with black short cropped hair, the woman lay silently. Her eyes closed and Thom could tell she was breathing. She didn't look to be hurt to Thom, and he still had to wonder how she had gotten there. He hadn't seen her a moment before.

"Help us pick her up." Ebram ordered as some of the other farm hands came close, and they obeyed. The pack of them carefully lifting the dark skinned woman in her plate armour down a row back towards the village.

There was a clatter of metal amongst the men, and Thom blinked as he watched a sword fall to the dirt. Sliding free from a scabbard at the woman knight's hip.

Thom had never seen a sword before, well not a real one at any rate. He had played with sticks, and some of the carpenter's sons had carved themselves wooden swords. Somehow those seemed so cheap by comparison to the elegant thing that lay half buried hilt first in the dirt before him.

He scooped down and picked up the weapon, inspecting it curiously. The blade was highly polished silvery steel, with a round pommel at one end and nearly two and a half feet of steel at the other. A long wide cross of steel sprouted from either side of the hilt, which easily had space for both of Thom's hands and maybe two other pairs of hands beside.

The blade glimmered in the noonday sun, a long crease running down from tip to just above the guard, giving the blade a warped look to the metal. Thomm found himself transfixed, watching the way light rippled down the metal in that crevice. It looked like it was made of a different kind of metal there, as if the rest of the weapon had been forged around it. Thom rolled the weapon in his hand, carefully touching the blade, lest he cut himself. The blade had been honed to a razor sharp edge and-

"Thom!" Ebram shouted, snapping Thom out of his study of the weapon. "Run ahead and let the healers know we're on our way. And be careful with that boy!"

Thom nodded, abashed, and started off at a dead run. Carefully holding the sword with both hands so as to not trip and fall on it. Passing the men again, nearly tripping on the uneven ground even with all his care slowing to stare at the limp woman before a shout from Ebram got him moving once more.

He ran to the village and by the time the rest of the men had arrived, the village elder was already waiting for them. Ushering the men towards the lone two story brick building in town, the inn.

Inside the village healer, Milithid, had already cleared the chairs about a table and laid out fabric on the table. Nearby Thom had set the woman's sword, unsure of what else to do with it. The moment the men had set the woman in plate down Milithid was shooing them away. Her assistants, all young woman about Thom's own age, assisting her as she began to remove the woman's armour.

Outside thom stood staring at the Inn, still rather dumbfounded, as he only half listened to Ebram and the village elder talking brusquely off to the side. It was clear they were talking about the woman, and how she had gotten out there in the field. They occasionally would glance over at Thom himself, only to return to their discussion.

The crowd of farmhands slowly dispersed, Ebram dismissing them for the day while this situation was being handled. Thom remained however, watching the door to the inn thoughtfully. Trying to puzzle it all out, and besides it wasn't like he really had anywhere else to be.

The idea of that tree by the stream came to mind and briefly Thom entertained the idea of wandering out there for the rest of the day. He was just about to go do that when he heard a shout from within the inn. A clattering of metal and the sounds of struggle that reached them even out here.

Both Ebram and the village elder spun in surprise at the sounds, and nearly fell flat on their behinds when the door sprang open. Banging against the wall and nearly tearing from it's hinges.

The woman with the dark skin, who had moments before been unconscious and encased in armour, charged forward. Eyes wild, briefly pausing on the men before scanning the rest of the village around her. Clenched in a bare dark fist was the same silvery sword that had fallen from it's scabbard, and the woman brandished it readily. Searching for a threat.

The whole effect was at once terrifying. Both for the fact the woman had a sword and seemed ready to use it on everyone standing there, and for the fact that she was largely naked. Wearing only a pair of dark trousers, and a single boot on one foot.

Thom's face went red as the harvest moon, even as he felt his heart pounding in his chest with alarm

"You!" The woman shouted, blade pointing straight at him as she stalked forward, eyes full of fury. The blood drained from Thom's face, and he decided the half-naked woman with the sword was not someone he should be caught staring at. At least not at this present time.

"Where is Shireen?" The woman demanded, closing the distance between him with entirely too much grace for someone only wearing a single boot.

"Who?" Thom asked, blinking dumbly at the woman as she approached him. She was about to retort when movement caught her eye.

Ebram threw up his hands as he stepped between the woman and Thom, a pleading gesture.

"Just hang on a second, miss. He don't know who you're talkin' 'bout. Frankly I don't either but that's no need to stick us with that there sword."

The woman's brow furrowed at the man, blade held in both hands now as she glanced from him, and then suspiciously she scowled over her shoulder at the Elder, who had rushed to the door of the inn. Likely out of concern for Milithid, his wife, who he found standing in the doorway, doubled over.

At first Thom thought the woman had struck the aged healer with her sword, but he did not see any blood and she waved off the elder's attempts to help her.

"You are safe, girl." Milithid called, her voice pained but it still rang with some authority. "Put down your sword."

The woman didn't seem to hear Milithid. Instead she spun back to face Ebram, blade still raised and pointed at him.

"Where is Shireen." She repeated, her voice low and dangerous.

"Miss, I don't know any woman named Shireen."

"Liar!" The woman snapped, edging closer. The elder lurched forward, looking as if he wanted to grab the woman and haul her back, but Milithid stopped him.

"This lad here found you in our fields," Ebram continued hands still raised, "we thought you were unwell brought you back to our village. We want no trouble."

"You were looting my body." The woman snapped, but there was the faintest glint of uncertainty there. She glanced back towards Milithid as the latter spoke.

"I was trying to see what might have happened to you, sun burnt fool. There was no blood so I worried I would find bruises, or infection."

"I feel fine." The woman growled.

"So I gathered." Milithid snapped back. "If you want to get dress and be on your way, you're welcome to it. Now could you stop threatening to run my son through?" She demanded, indicated Ebram who still had his hands raised. Sweat beading on his forehead.

The woman hesitated, breathing heavily as she glanced from Milithid and back to Ebram. The flush had returned to Thom's face as he watched her consider before sighing and allowing the sword point to drop to the dirt.

"Damn." She growled, her voice full of anger. Finally she reared back with sword in hand, and at first Thom was worried she planned to strike someone. Only to watch as she let out a furious scream and flung the weapon point first into the dirt with such power the blade sank nearly half its length into the dirt. Flexing back and forth as she spun. Hands clenched into fists as she marched back into the inn. Cursing in ways that Thom decided to catalogue for later before slamming the door to the inn behind her. Leaving Milithid and her assistants, the elder, Ebram, and Thom himself to stare at the Inn in a dumbstruck silence.

"Well..." Ebram harrumphed as he finally lowered his hands and glanced over his shoulder at Thom.

"You sure have a knack for finding trouble, boy."