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A King's Bastard: Becoming the Master

Short story By: SerrenaBlaize
Fantasy



Even in the the thick of battle Dern IronWolfe and Redd Starflight cannot stand by and watch the familiar looking slave girl be abused.

Another quick glimpse into the world of the IronWolfe Saga.


Submitted:Jun 13, 2011    Reads: 121    Comments: 4    Likes: 2   


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A King's Bastard

Becoming the Master

"I am telling you, Redd, she is moving differently today." Dern said, his jaw clenching. "You do not get a walk like that from battle wounds and bruises. He has been hurting that girl... at night. I think he has been drinking again."

"We have been fighting these battles for months now, IronWolfe. Many of us need a bit to drink, so we can sleep. He not only fights, but repairs our weapons and shields when they break. The man gets very little sleep, and probably prefers what little he does get to be sound. You can't fault him a drink or two." Redd Starflight said with a tired sigh.

The older man sounded like he could use a stiff drink and a bit of sleep himself, Dern thought. Perhaps, it was a good thing that Dern's sword had broken and Redd had to cover him, while he made his way out of the fray. "We both know that she is doing most of the weapon-smithing. He rarely even touches his tools anymore. And as far as him being in battle, if she were not there by his side he would have long since been dead. Though, I do not know why she saves his hide over and over, as she does." Dern had worked himself nearly into a rage and had to stop for a moment to collect his self, before continuing. "I do not fault the man for needing a drink to get him through. I fault him for what he does to that girl when he is drinking."

"There is nothing we can do about that. I do not like it any more than you do, but she is his property. We can no sooner stop him from doing what he does to that girl than we could stop him from slaughtering his prize pig." Redd said. "And before you say it, I do not like slavery either, but in his land and in this one, it is perfectly legal. I can already see the ideas going through your head. We try to take the girl away and he has both of us arrested for theft of his rightful property, and I do not know about you, but I like my hands where they are attached to my wrists."

"I am about to walk away from all of this. Why should I fight for a land, who allows such things to happen? Not only do they let him own another human being, but allow him to treat her that way." Dern fumed.

"You will not walk away, for the same reason I will not." Redd stated, flatly. "I would rather see this enemy defeated here, than to see them making it past here and into our home lands. I love my wives and children and do not want to see them dead at the hands of these monsters. I feel for the girl too, but now is not the time to take on the slavers. Now is the time to keep the Goblins at bay. One battle at a time, nobleman. One battle at a time."

"Look at her, Redd. You cannot tell me you do not see it! She looks more and more like Felinea the older she gets. Seeing this happen to her, is like watching it happen to my niece. She has to be one of Tameron's bastards. You cannot tell me that your late wife would have wanted you to turn a blind eye to what is happening to a sister of her niece."

Redd glared at Dern for using Tarra's memory against him like that. Of all his wives, Tarra had been the most precious to him. Perhaps it had been because she had given up a life of luxuries among aristocrats to be with him in his little village, devoting herself to him and his family. Perhaps it was because he had only had such a very little bit of time with her before the gods took her away. "You are right, she does look far too much like Felinea to not be one of Tameron's brood. All the more reason to stay out of it and let the King of Sardiac take care of the situation himself."

Dern snorted his disgust at the idea so forcefully that a plumb of his breath condensed in the frigid air, obscuring his face. "King he may be, but Tameron can't even keep up with his legitimate children, much less all the bastards he has. He probably does not even know about this one, and even if he did, he would not raise so much as a royal pinky to help her."

"Calm yourself, IronWolfe. Even if we could help her out, AND she is willing to be helped, you are not going to achieve anything by losing your head." Redd nodded toward the Weapon Smith's to indicate that they were getting close enough for the girl to hear their conversation. If she really was one of the King of Sardiac's offspring, then her feline hearing may have already heard them.

Damn Dern IronWolfe for putting ideas in his head! The closer they got to the girl, working away at the forge, the more he could see how very young she really was. She could not have been much more than sixteen, and who knows how long ago she had been sold into slavery. Marek the Weapon Smith not only got mean when he was drinking, but he talked far too much. Redd knew that the girl was originally bought as a sex slave and only started helping him at the forge and on the battlefield, because he wanted to make sure he got his money's worth out of her. As it turned out, she took to weapon making and repairs like she had been born to do it and very quickly surpassed her master in skill. More people clamored to have Marek as their Smith because of what the girl could do than the old Weapons Master.

Suddenly, Redd thought of his daughter Terra and her cousin Felinea, and he knew that this girl, who was a practical stranger to him, was, in truth, family. He cursed Dern again. The younger man had purposely put that seed in Redd's mind, knowing that it would sprout, and knowing how important family was to him and how fiercely he would protect his family. How young must she have been when Marek bought her? How young was she when he started forcing her into his bed? Redd glared at Dern again, but this time Dern smirked knowingly at him. Without saying another word on the subject, both men knew they were going to find a way to help that girl.

Despite the below freezing winter temperatures, the Weapons Master's slave had sweat pouring down her brow and soaking through her clothing. When she saw the two warriors drawing near, she favoured them with a bright smile, setting aside the sword she had been working on and walked over to meet them. She grasp each man, in turn, at the wrist, as any warrior on this field would greet each other, but she did it with downcast subservient eyes. "Broke another one, did you, Mr. IronWolfe? That is the third one in as many days."

"Kitt, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Dern?"

Kitt blushed, a deep crimson, and turned her face away slightly. "It is not my place to be so familiar Mr. IronWolfe." She shifted her attention to the pieces of sword in his hand. "When you break a weapon you really break it. Not even my skill can fix that. You are going to run out of weapons if you keep this up."

The comment about her skill was the closest Dern had ever come to hearing the girl brag about her work, despite the fact that everyone knew she was one of the best there was. "Actually, it is my last one, unless I want to finish the battle with nothing but a dagger. If you do not think it can be repaired…"

"Not and still be worthy to wield," she said.

"Then I am going to have to buy another from you."

She let out a bit of a sigh and worried at her lip. "And you will be buying another from me tomorrow. None of these weapons can handle the force of your blow." She glanced around nervously, then pulled the sword at her side and offered it to him. "Take this one. "

"Isn't that one of your special swords? The ones you make with the indestructability spell woven in? No, I can't take that. You will get into too much trouble." Dern pushed the sword gently back to her. "I will just have to be more careful and use my magic more in battle."

Kitt lowered her voice, glancing up briefly to meet Dern's eyes. "You will burn yourself out if you try to use too much magic on the field. Besides, we all know you are more of a healer than a battle mage, no offense."

"None taken," He said, but folded his arms across his broad chest.

"Marek has been too drunk lately to notice if the sword at my side is this one or a normal one. If he does notice, I will simply tell him I lost this one on the battlefield. You can bring it back to me after all is said and done and say you found it. Please, Dern, take it."

"I cannot, in good conscience, do something that will cause you harm, Kitt. I know Marek will be infuriated if he finds out. Just sell me one of your normal swords. One of your normal swords is a better weapon than the best of most other smiths anyway."

This time when she met his gaze, it was not a brief glance. She looked him dead in the eyes and held them. Her voice was barely a whisper. "I know who I am, Dern, and I know who you are. I know who my father is and I know that your family was the one that took in my sister when the revolt in my father's land endangered her. I know you protected her and raised her. I also know that she is still the eldest legitimate child and has been named as our father's heir to the throne. Someday, she will be the Queen, but thanks to your family she will not be a Queen like our father was King. She will be better. She will be in a position to stop the slavers. She will be able to keep other little girls safe -- so long as she has you to protect her until then."

Kitt pushed the sword toward him again. Dern frowned down at it then looked back at the girl. Her eyes were already downcast again. She knew. She knew who she was, but instead of trying to use her parentage to save herself, she was more concerned with little girls who might have to become slaves like her in the future. This gesture, this giving of her sword, no matter what could happen to her for it, was her way of trying to make a difference in a world that she felt helpless in. Dern nodded and took the sword. No sooner than he had put it in his sheath and she filled her sheath with another sword, then Marek came stumbling around the corner.

"What are you doing standing around chit chatting!" Marek yelled at Kitt. "It is almost nightfall! You have work to get done! Do you think this is a party! Men's lives are at stake here!" The blow to her face was so sudden that even Redd and Dern did not have time to react to stop it. Both men tensed up, but Kitt caught their eyes and gave a slight shake of her head.

Almost as soon as he landed the blow, Marek fell over drooling on the frozen ground. Kitt looked at him with an almost compassionate sympathy. She looked back to the two warriors. "He is drunk. He is not like this when he is not drunk. I will take him to his bed roll, where he will be warm, near the forge, and let him sleep it off. Really it will all be fine. You should go. I am sure they need you back on the field."

She may have only been a teenage girl, but years of working as a Weapon Smith and going into battle with her Master had made Kitt strong enough that she lifted the man as if he weighed no more than a child and carried him back to their stall.

Dern moved like he was going to stop her, but Redd reached out and held him back. "Let her take care of him, Dern. Tomorrow is another day and we will need every man on the field. Once she has him sobered up he can head back into battle and, well…" Redd's voice took on an edge that said, listen close to what I am saying, "…anything could happen in the heat of battle. With as cold as it is, everyone is bundled up so much; it is hard to tell man from Goblin. We need him on the field with us."

Dern nodded. It was the older man's turn to have planted a seed in the mind of the younger.

They did not get the chance to do anything on the battle field the next day. That night the enemy pulled out. There was a larger force gathering to advance on one of the major cities in the area and their opponents had been ordered to retreat to join them. It did not take long before the army was in pursuit of them, but Kitt and Marek had to follow after the rest of the troops. The forge took time to cool down enough to be moved. By the time they caught up, the army was already set up outside of the city, joined by other armies. The enemy was posturing on the outskirts, but had not made moves toward the city yet.

Dern and Redd could not help by notice, as the Weapon Smith and his slave rode up, that the only dirt on Marek was what would be expected during hard travel, but Kitt was covered in gore and blood.

"He not only lets her do all the work, now, but she fights all the battles, too?" Dern seethed.

"Bide your time, IronWolfe." Redd advised. "You get yourself too distracted by that girl and you will find yourself dead in the heat of the battle. Keep your head where it needs to be."

Dern watched Marek and Kitt, until they disappeared around a corner, before turning to his companion. "I am on patrol tonight. I am going to get something to eat, before I have to report. You coming with?"

Redd shook his head. "I think I will get in some practice, warm up the muscles a bit. I do not think we will be seeing another night without action, after this one. Those goblins have been waiting for something, or they would have already attacked. I have a feeling we are going to see what it is soon."

The two men parted company and for a little while they both forgot all about the slave girl. Dern stayed out on patrol, secretly watching the enemy, until the sub -zero night became too much for him to bear. He had been a healer long enough to recognize the beginnings of hypothermia, and knew if he did not get himself warmed up soon, or he would be trying to heal himself in his medic's tent, and would be no good to anyone.

Night had nearly passed, by the time he made his way back to their camp and was working his way to his tent. It was only by chance that he happened by at just the moment that she let out the tiniest of whimpers. As faint as it was, he knew who it was as soon as he heard it and began to search for her.

He found her outside of Marek's tent, shivering and curled in a ball. It took him a few minutes to realize that she was naked. Almost every inch of her flesh from face to feet was covered in bruises and welts so dark and so swollen, she was almost not recognizable. She was racked with shivers so violent that her body thrashed with them. Despite how horrible the convulsions of her body were Dern knew that if she was still shivering, then her body was still fighting to stay alive, trying to warm up. He leaned down and lifted her up. She let out another whimper and tears streamed down her face, freezing before they got far from her eyes, but she kept mostly silent. She had years of knowing she had to stay silent, no matter how much pain she was in. It was not until he had her in his tent, on the cot, examining her wounds that he saw the blood flowing from between her legs. Dern IronWolfe, hardened warrior, experienced battle healer, had to walk away and compose himself. The man had beat the girl within inches of her life, raped her so violently she was hemorrhaging, and threw her out into the frozen night. Marek would die for this. He took a deep breath. But first Dern needed to save Kitt's life.

Dern was still carefully watching Kitt breathing, praying to any god that would listen that they would let this one live, when the call to arms sounded. Redd Starflight stuck his head in the tent and opened his mouth to speak, saw the girl and closed it again. He looked at Dern. "By the gods! What did he do to her?"

"I fear more than it is within my ability to heal. I have done everything I can. She is in more powerful hands than mine, now." Dern said.

"Well, we will all be in more powerful hands, if we do not get moving. The enemy is charging," Redd said. "And they have a Behemoth."

Dern took one last look at the girl before running out of the tent after his companion.

It could not have happened more perfectly, if Dern had planned it. It was mere coincidence that brought him and Redd within feet of where Marek was fighting. It was divine fortune that brought the behemoth into close enough proximity to them that everyone was distracted enough for Dern to bring his powerful swing back, Kitt's magically enhanced sword in hand, sending Marek's head flying from his body. Redd Starflight met Dern's eyes, just long enough to nod, before they both moved to join others in trying to bring the behemoth down.

It was late spring in the valley when Dern rode into the small village. Several people called to him and waved as he went by, but he did not stop to exchange pleasantries as he would normally do, on a visit to the tribe. He had not even fully dismounted from his wagon, in front of Redd's house, before an ebony-haired, teenage girl, with emerald green cat-slitted eyes, bounded out of the house. Kitt stopped just short of him, bouncing slightly up and down. He put his arms out to her, and she threw herself into them.

"Thank you," she said, as they pulled away from the embrace. "Thank you for coming to help me move."

"Are you sure you really want to leave the village? You seem to be doing so well here." Dern said. "Redd and his family do not seem too happy that you have decided to go."

"The Starflights have been positively wonderful to me. Terra has become my best friend! I never would have dreamed that I could have had all of this in my life." Kitt said smiling brightly. "But some of the other tribe members are getting a little annoyed at all of the strangers seeking me out to make weapons for them, wandering into the village. These people have been so good to me; I really do not want to be a bother to them and their way of life. Since I can't control the ones trying to find me, I will have to change the location they can find me. Since you and Redd had me declared a free woman, I can now do small work, until I can find a Master Weapons Smith to take me on and continue my training. If I work hard enough and really study hard, in eight to ten years I could even become a Master myself."

Dern shook his head solemnly. "I am afraid your eight to ten year plan is just not going to happen, babygirl." He pulled a letter out of one of his saddle bags and handed it over to her sadly. "The Guild has been paying close attention to you, since the battle that killed Marek. They have heard a lot of tales about you taking over his forge as the battle smith. They know, despite your own injuries, you stayed on to fight in the war, until the enemy's final retreat, when, as a slave, you should have been turned over, as soon as your master was killed. They know that you have been making weapons for people, since you have been here, and they have been inspecting much of what you have been producing. Redd did not want to worry you, but both he and I were called in to be questioned."

She looked down at the letter, with its neatly printed letters, spelling out, "Kitt Starr." Her hand was shaking with nervousness. She looked back up at Dern, worrying her lower lip.

He nodded at her. "Open it."

"I-I can't." She said nearly in tears.

"Then I will do it," Terra said, as she walked up beside them, taking the letter from Kitt. Before Kitt could say anything, the blonde had the seal broke and was reading the letter. After a few moments she grinned. "And after careful evaluation, we have decided to bestow upon one Kitt Starr the title of Master Weapons Smith."

Kitt grabbed the letter back from her and stared at it in disbelief. "This is impossible! Most people my age cannot even be approved for their journeyman. I am too young to be a Master!"

"You are the youngest one ever," Dern stated with a smile. "And you have earned every bit of skill you have that got you that Master, too. The Guild council said they have seen Masters that have honed their skills for many years that are not at your level."

Terra squealed and gave the stunned Kitt a big hug. Dern let out a joyful laugh and said, "Let's get your stuff packed up, so I can have some of the Starflight home cooking. I have been looking forward to one of their meals for the entire trip."

Kitt was not looking happy. She was staring at the letter, her brow furrowed. "Dern." She hesitated, as if she was afraid to say what was on her mind. Her eyes remained downcast, a habit that was going to take her a long time to break. "You have done so much for me, I hate to ask you for anything else."

"Ask," Dern said. "I will do what I can to help you."

She shuffled her feet, before looking up to meet his eyes. "I want to find my sister."

"Which one?" He asked. "Tameron made you several of them."

Kitt was stunned by his statement. She knew who her father was, but it never occurred to her that she might actually have a chance to meet any of her other siblings by him.

"I think she means, Katt," said a voice from the wagon. "Tameron had two children with Kitt's mother."

Kitt had not even noticed that there was someone else in the wagon, until the ebony-haired, elegant young woman, with the emerald green cat-slitted eyes, hopped out and walked over to them. Terra moved around Kitt to greet the new arrival.

"It is good to see you again, Felinea."

"I have missed you, Cousin." Felinea said, hugging Terra. Once she broke the embrace with Terra, Felinea turned to Kitt. Opening her arms, just has Dern had done, she waited for Kitt to come to her.

Kitt stared at her, hesitantly. It was all too overwhelming. She did not know what to say, what to do. Luckily, her body knew exactly what to do, because before she even realized that she was moving, she was wrapped in Felinea's arms.

"Welcome to the family, Sister," Felinea whispered in her ear, and Kitt was overcome with the feeling that she was coming home at last.

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