Horribilis, Pt. 1

Hey, look who’s back.

The wooden staff crashed into the side of Chana’s head with enough force to make the world spin before her eyes. She grunted and stumbled, threw out her arm and caught her fall with her own staff. It was a mistake, of course, and she knew that even as she made it. She was leaving herself woefully open. If another strike came she’d have nothing to parry it with but her other arm, and the force of the blow might very well break it. And even if it didn’t, she’d be even more off-balance, in even more pain. Her attacker could simply pummel her into submission, beat her to death.

Her attacker could stab at her front, piercing her belly with the sharp metal tip of a spear. Or they could stab her with the blunt end instead, knocking the wind from her and forcing her into a coughing fit.

They could sweep her legs, send her tumbling to the ground, and then jump on top of her, like a wildcat pouncing on hapless prey.

What her father did instead was infinitely more painful. He dropped his staff from an actively aggressive posture to one of utter disinterest, one end on the ground and the other in the sky. He sighed and shook his head, his forehead resting in the palm of his free hand. “I thought my daughter was a hunter and a warrior about to celebrate her fourteenth, not an infant incapable of defending herself.”

Heat rose in Chana’s cheeks. Her eyes narrowed to slits and every muscle in her body tensed, and as if her father could read her mind, he swept his staff along the ground. Faster than Chana’s eyes could follow, his staff reached her own and knocked it aside. She collapsed into a heap at the man’s feet, her pride more bruised than her body (and given how much her head ached and now her ribs, that was very bruised indeed.) Somewhere far above her, in aplace she feared she might never reach, she heard her father sigh once more. “We’ll have to stop this for the day. I think that you could use some time to rest, and I must meet with your Tiris. He mentioned this morning that he has seen visions of what became of Wys and his hunting party.”

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