A lana piked up from her bed, her hand reaching for the scimitar. It was quiet in the unfamiliar room and panic crept in while her eyes got used to the dark. A gong sounded out in the distance, ringing in the dawn. She let out a shaky sigh. She was in the Iradescius monastery. She was alive and Bishop Serenos was dead.Falling back onto the pillow, Alana let the sword clang to the ground. She couldn’t resist a slight wince at the abuse of the weapon. But since the Bloody Bishop was vanquished, there wouldn’t be a need for swords anymore. Still flat on her back, she raised her arm and looked at the burn scars that crisscrossed over her palm and up to her elbow. She flexed her fingers that could no longer sew or plant, but worked just fine clenching hilts and punching evil monks. Alana got out of bed and got dressed slowly, cradling her cracked ribs. The door to the monastic cell flew open and she pulled a dagger from her wrist sheath, bracing for battle. The serving girl dropped the pail of water she had been carrying and backed out of the door in fear. “Wait,” Alana said. “Don’t go. I was just leaving.” The girl eyed her warily as Alana sheathed the scimitar into its scabbard. “Your bath, milady?” The girl said, eyes downcast. “Not today,” Alana said. “I need to speak to my Captain.” “Captain James, the handsome one with the mustache?” Alana rolled her eyes, “I suppose.” “He’s the one who sent me to you.” “You? You have our new orders?” “He says you are to have a fresh, hot bath and then to meet him in the garden for breakfast.” She wondered if her shield mates were getting similar treatment. Somehow she doubted they found a brave enough servant to awaken Ox the axe man. Nor did they have a container big enough to fit him in. Alana eyed the brass tub and shook her head. “Is it true you disguised yourself as a man in order to join the rebellion against the Bishop?” The servant girl asked, pausing to catch her breath after fetching the fifth pail of water. “Women aren’t allowed to defend their homes and their families,” Alana wrapped the blanket around her naked body and wished the girl would hurry up and leave her in peace. “You don’t have a home or a family.” The girl cringed under Alana’s look. “At least that’s what the bards say.” She scurried out to bring in more pails. “The bards,” Alana sneered when she returned. “And what else do they say?” “They say you’re half demon and those scars you have are from consorting with your devil brothers.” “Let me guess, these were the Bishop’s bards?” Alana stepped into the steaming tub, reveling in the heat on her frigid feet. She eased her way into a sitting position, soaking the bandages on her ribs and not giving a damn. “Yes,” the girl had the grace to look embarrassed. “So where did you get those burns? How did you survive them?” “Do you believe in magic?” Alana said. “The Bishop said there’s no such thing.” “And now there is no such thing as the Bishop.” The serving girl tripped on her buckets as she scurried out of the room. “You’re going to need to tone down that death glare of yours,” Giana glided into the room. Alana didn’t change expression. “That doesn’t work with me. When you’re a whore you get much nastier looks,” Giana glanced over her shoulder, “And even ruder questions. Want me to scrub your back, Lamb chop?” "You're no more a whore than I am," Alana sunk down to her ears in the tub. Unfortunately, this made the tops of her knees cold. "Yes, well no one centers an attack on the camp followers." Giana said and laid down the mounds of cloth that were in her arms on the bed. "What the hell is that?" Alana asked. "Your clothes," Giana smiled. Alana arched a look, "They don't look like breeches." "No," Giana got up and pirouetted. "You didn't even notice my new things." "I figured you'd wear your mage robes, now that you don't have to dress like a doxy," Alana scrubbed a tenacious patch of dirt on her elbow. "They weren't deemed respectable." Alana snorted, "Neither are you." "Neither are we, my dear." Giana shook out the taffeta nightmare. "Gossip is Captain James is taking the Bishop's commission." "I hadn't figured him a man of the cloth." "He's not. The people are through with theocracy and are ready to accept a government based on a military leader." "Well, good for him. He's worked hard enough and if it's what he wants," Alana shrugged. "Do you think I'm up for a promotion?" "In a way," Giana frowned and waggled the dress at her. "Rumors are abounding that the good Captain will take a wife." "You've got to be joking." "I've always thought he had a penchant for men. I guess you are the best of both worlds." Alana splashed water at Giana. "I'm a soldier." "You're a woman and we're no longer at war." "I'm not marrying him and I'll kick his arse until he gets that through his thick head." "Alana, the militia is being disbanded. The boys are going back to their plows." Alana stepped out of the tub and allowed Giana to cast a healing spell and remove the sogging bandages. "Thanks," she said and rubbed the fresh skin because it itched. Giana handed her a flyer. "Wanted dead or alive: Charles "the butcher" French. Fifty gold pieces." "I could use a good sword arm," Giana said. "Of course, you're going to have to play a man until we build up our reputation. No one is going to hire two women." The gong signifying the first Matins rang out. "Let's go get him," Alana said.
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