Thank you Mathew X. Gomez for the character. If you would like to see other challenge stories -terrible minds flash-fiction-challenge-pick-a-character-and-go
Luísa de la Cruz walked into her home with her face slick with tears. She was the last to leave her mother's funeral. In the village of Crocus, the dead were pushed out to sea after the reed boat was set a fire. When Luísa couldn’t see her mother nor the flame, she stayed and watched the world darken.
The tears started when she passed by all the familiarity of her life as she walked home. Today was the end of her happy childhood of mock battles with her band of friends. Tonight, she would set out on her own to avenge her father’s death.
Luísa ran her hand over her face and yelled into the darkness of the crumbling cottage, “Damn it all to hell.”
She grabbed a match stick and went to the fireplace, lighting it on the smoldering embers. When the whale oil lantern shone dimly, she went to the floorboard her mother spoke of with her last breath. First she pried at it with her fingers. Then, taking the knife that hung off her belt, she got the floorboard free.
Not wanting to stick her hand into a dark hole fearing snakes or worse spiders, she put the lantern down the hole and inspected it. The space was clean. There wasn’t a speck of dust nor any signs of cobwebs. A cloth laid over a rectangular shape which was beautifully embroidered with red flowers and vines.
Luísa pulled the cloth off and smelled. The smell of her mother’s hair filled her nostrils and she almost started to cry again. She put down the lantern and folded the cloth with care and put it on the chair nearby.
She went to the small end of the hole and lifted and then drug the long rectangular box out of its keeping place. The length of it astonished her. Her mother had told her it was her father’s sword. She had seen swords draped across the backs of warriors. Finally, the box was free from its keeping place and she lifted the lid.
Picking up the lantern, she looked at the hilt and touched it. The plane pumel was dented but polished. The hilt was wrapped with leather which looked like it had been carefully oiled through the years just as the brass scabbard looked like it had been polished. Luísa wondered how much time her mother had spent taking care of her father’s only piece of inheritance.
“Mother,” she whispered and brought the cloth to her nose again. “I will avenge the death of my father. I am strong and am practiced in the ways of combat. You did not know it, but I watched the King Basil’s guard killed my father. I remember their faces. You should not have had this measly life of mending other’s clothes for a pittance. We should have been granted a fiefdom to rule for my father’s role in acquiring Basil a kingdom. I hear the whispering in the village. I know what is rightfully my inheritance as the only child of Warrior Falerin.”
With her oath spoken over the sword, she went to work preparing for the five-day journey to the king’s castle. She left her home predawn with her father’s sword strapped diagonally across her back to accommodate its length along her small stature. Slung in the other direction was a sac carrying what little food that was left in the house.
When dawn changed the inky blackness to a golden glow, Luísa was in a field at the edge of the forest. Staying at the edge of the forest would take her longer but traveling across the Moor of Bitter, was dangerous and the sun would bake her. She cursed herself for the bad timing. If she had reached the moor, pre-dusk she could cross it in the cover of darkness though it would still be dangerous.
One of her favorite times in the village was to sit out of site at the Fatted Pig and listen to the stories of the travelers. Her favorite stories were told by warriors and their tales of conquering. She was pondering one story about the Moor of Bitter when she heard a twig snapped beneath a careless placing of a foot.
Luísa's hand reached for the hilt of the sword.
"A pipsqueak like you can't possibly handle that sword's length."
She relaxed, just a little. There was only one person who called her pipsqueak.
"Thistle!" She exclaimed as she turned. "You're not following me are you?"
Thistle leaned against a tree. "You're not leaving Crocus without saying goodbye, are you?"
"Well, I... Don't follow me. I don't want... I want to be alone." She ducked behind a tree a walked with as much purpose as she could handle. She was surprised and a little thrilled that Thistle had followed her. "Your parents need you." She mumbled when she had walked far enough where he couldn't hear her though he had followed her.
"I think," started Thistle.
Luísa jumped realizing he was right behind her.
Thistle reached out and grabbed her arm. "Luísa, I think you need me more."
"What?" She turned and placed a hand on his chest. She had to look up to see his face. Last year, she could look at his face without crooking her neck. She felt pissed he had followed her. She wanted to be alone. "What? You must've thought that kiss meant something. Well, it didn't. You can be home before lunch if you leave now. I suggest you do."
"Can you even lift that sword above your head? What are you going to do for food, shelter, anything?"
"I'll make do." She turned and walked away from Thistle.
"We've always made good partners. We work well together."
It was true she thought, every mock battle in which they were on the same team ended with them on top. They always won when they worked together.
Thistle smiled. "That kiss was nice. But, well. I'm done with the village and fishing with my family. I don't want to mend nets all my life. I followed you because I know you would leave and it was time for me to leave. Let's travel together for awhile and if our path diverges that will be that. Agree?"
She stopped looked at the hunk of flesh Thistle had become in the last year. The weight of the sword pulled heavily on her back. She had already eaten most of her food and he was as good at snaring a rabbit as catching fish.
"Fine, tag along. On one condition, you work with me on getting my skills equal to this sword on my back. And, you carry it half the time. And, you find food. And..."
"Wait a minute, that's a lot of ands."
"Well? Are you agreed?" She tried to look tough and had placed her hands on her hips while giving her best tough face.
Thistle laughed. "Alright, hand over that pig sticker. I'll carry it awhile."
They walked along the edge of the forest. She would look at him once in awhile. He would look at her though not a word passed between them.
Two hours of trudging and the sun was already making the edge of the forest hot.
"It's time to stop for a bit, Luísa. My stomach says it's time."
"We can't be stopping every time your stomach has a hankering." Luísa stopped though and plunked down on what she hoped was a soft spot of ground. She pulled off her sack and look at the last morsel it contained.
Thistle stood, not moving. And then in a flash pulled the sword. Then, she heard the rustling in the forest to the right of them. She pulled her knife from her belt.
A man on a horse galloped along the edge of the forest. It would be Thistle's first time to kill a human. They now had a horse, two swords, and a pouch of King Basil coins.
Luísa decided that being alone was a poor idea. She hugged Thistle after she found a hunk of cheese in the satchel slung behind the saddle on the horse. And, then she handed him the cheese. Thistle broke it in half. They laugh. It was a new level of friendship that would make them warriors against the evils of King Basil's empire.