Raveena, Avenger of Penendrunebyronde©
At dawn, the sentry in the North watchtower of Pelendrune spied horsemen silhouetted against the black-purple sky. He gasped in panic as line after line of warriors slowly crested the crop-covered hills surrounding the city. “There be thousands”, he exclaimed to himself. As he touched his fingertips to his forehead, the sentry mumbled a prayer, “Mother Saluria, save us, save us all.” He turned and gave the alarm to the slowly waking city.
Raveena never saw the ranks of mounted warriors. She was shaken from her sleep, jerked to her feet and carried down into the sewer opening not far from her house. Her father had given the order to “Stay here and stay quiet.”, and promised to return for her when the battle was won. All that day, she stood in the filth and stink of the sewer and listened to the thunder of hooves and the screams of men dying in agony. When night fell, the screams were replaced by the terrified shrieks and cries of women being raped and slaughtered. Raveena leaned against the wall of the sewer and shook through the few quiet intervals of time. Often she perceived shadows passing the entrance to the foul tube hewn into the soft sandstone, and expected to be taken at any moment. Raveena was shaken to near hysteria by the triumphant shouts of the Zandalin warriors looting what little of value the city held. Thirst, hunger, and the soft brush of unseen things that scurried over her head and hands made the sanctuary one of pain and fright, but she dared not leave the safety of the hiding place. Not until the second night did she venture out, and then only under the cloak of shadows cast by the full moon. Her bare feet made no sound as she traveled through the streets by taking a few steps, stopping to listen, and then inching forward again.
She crept through the shadows to her home and saw no living person, but the dead were all around. At the door to the house, Raveena found her father. His heart had been pierced by a pike, and the broken shaft still protruded from his chest. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she touched his cold, lifeless face. She rose and entered the house, and through tear-blurred eyes, saw a woman’s body. Raveena had thought her mother beautiful, but the butchered horror before her bore no resemblance to the blond-haired women who had nursed a baby Raveena at her breast. The girl turned away from the naked body lying spread-eagled on the floor and searched with hoping heart around the rest of the moonlit room. She found no person other than herself and the bloody corpse. Her gaze came full circle, she walked closer to the body, and cried out when she discovered the small dark pink birthmark on the woman’s right breast. The mark matched the one on her own chest, although at the age of thirteen, she had barely begun to blossom with the curves of womanhood. Raveena sank to her knees and wept until she could weep no more. As the first rays of dawn pierced the blood spattered windows, her grief became the rage of lost innocence, and Raveena swore a vow to Mother Saluria.
The silent hunter crouched in the cover of the forest undergrowth and watched two Zandalin warriors settle down by their fire. Soon, quiet breathing was replaced by intermittent snoring. The night creatures and insects resumed the soft song of the forest as they went about their way in search of food and mates. When the snoring became deep and regular, the lithe form crept silently over the soft carpet of decaying leaves and grasses. A flare of flames silenced the night creatures as the heat burst some pocket of resin deep inside one of the logs, and the hunter flattened to the ground. For a few moments, the blaze lit the small clearing, but to even the sharpest eye, only the suggestion of motion would have been seen; a careful look at the site of the supposed movement would have revealed nothing but the normal forest floor. The shape had disappeared into the invisibility afforded by the mottled brown garments and the low, flickering light.
The flames died away to dim, red, glowing coals, the trees once again retreated into the night, and the hunter crept forward on all fours. The cat-like movements slowed to barely perceptible. A soft “shhh” sound marked the dagger being withdrawn from it’s sheath. The hunter was so close to the sleeping warrior as to smell the stench of months on the march without benefit of bathing, and, had the fire burned brighter, a small nose would have been seen to pinch against the odor. As quickly as the viper strikes the mouse, the stalker reached out with one hand and covered the mouth of the sleeper. The other slashed the dagger across his bearded throat. The warrior attempted to struggle, but the silent hunter flattened upon his body until the flow of life blood slowed to a trickle. The form release the grip and crept toward the other sleeper. The warrior stirred, and the hunter leaped high to land with knees in the warrior’s leather clad belly. The sudden compression of the sleeper’s gut expelled all air from his lungs, and caused an involuntary contraction that kept him from inhaling. As he gasped for air, the dagger slipped under his rib cage and thrust into the depths of his chest. The figure made a three quick swishes of the dagger handle and the warriors heart was shredded. He died staring into blue eyes that flared with a fire of murderous intent.
The hunter calmly watched the death throes before searching for the water container they must have carried. After finding the dried ox stomach, the figure began disrobing. The soft glow of the coals lit the smooth, muscular form when the soft, pigskin clothing fell to the ground. Legs corded with muscle and sinew blended into tight hips and a firm belly cloaked with pale blonde curls. The graceful movements caused the blood-streaked, well-formed breasts to sway gently, and were any observer to study the face, he would have found it beautiful in spite of the black smudges and blood that dotted the high cheeks. Upon the removal of the leather hat, a shining, blonde mane fell about her shoulders. She began washing at the blood, and as the gore was sluiced away, a small, dark pink birthmark became visible on the figure’s rounded right breast. After completing her toilet, the young woman cleansed her leather garments and then dressed. The short skirt covered little of her muscular thighs and the lacing of the shirt held her full breasts so tightly as to push them up and over the low neckline. She pulled on high boots and tied the straps at her knees.
After carefully searching the bodies, she rummaged through the packs and weapons of the dead warriors and took what interested her. The noises of the forest commenced, and the lone survivor of the razing of Pelendrune sat beside the fire and ate of the warrior’s rations. Her appetite was soon sated, and Raveena carried the broadswords, shields, and the few garments and trinkets to her camp in the hidden canyon. The breaking rays of dawn found her astride the chestnut stallion called Tanadar as he loped over the plain. Raveena relaxed on his strong back, and breathed deeply of the fresh, morning air. The speed of the running steed matched the flag of her long blonde hair to his creamy yellow, flying mane and tail.
Raveena’s reason for traveling in this direction was to trade in the markets of Axanroth. Axanroth was a lawless bordertown filled with thieves, murderers, and concubines as well as traders. It sat on the edge of Reigran, the country in which she was born, and was near the large kingdom of Goyrona. Although the town was filled with danger, the traders had goods from far and wide, and asked no questions as to the origin of anything offered as barter. In return, it was understood that no inquiry would be made about the former owner of the trader’s goods. The arrangement suited Raveena well, for although her purpose in life was the elimination of the Zandalin warrior class, she had need of food and clothing in her quest. She laughed at the irony; the strength to kill Zandalins was fed by their own possessions.
The hazy blue afternoon sky waned into the orange-purple clouds of evening as Raveena rode up to the opening of a small, secluded valley. This valley was off the traveled paths to Axanroth, and she felt relatively secure, but still dismounted at the entrance and carefully searched the ground for signs of trespass to her secret retreat. After satisfying herself that nothing had been disturbed, she located the hidden cave, and added her trophies to the collection of six month’s hunting. She rearranged the foliage of the bushes that hid the entrance, loosed Tanadar to graze, and made her way to a thicket of willows. As she stepped through the close-grown saplings that guarded the small, quiet pool from view, the young girl stopped and again looked for signs of any intruder. Nothing seemed out of place, and she walked the short way down the shore to the place where the soapwort grew. After selecting a few of the cleansing plants and crushing them on the rocks, she removed her clothing and waded into the cool, spring-fed water.
Since that fateful day in Pelendrune, Raveena had been obsessed with the cleanliness of her body. It was as if the two days of standing in the black, odorous muck that slowly flowed to the nearby river had stained her skin to an unreachable depth, and the stain had remained in her mind if not on her body. She bathed daily, if possible, and if need be, as it was on the night before, she washed again to remove the residue of her work. This obsession did not stay Raveena from her vow of taking revenge on the Zandalin warriors, but she never let herself remain soiled for longer then required to finish the immediate task.
The cool water lapped at her hips as she walked over the sandy bottom, and she stopped only when the small waves created by her motion tapped at dark nipples made rigid by the chill. She shivered at the water against her bare skin, took a deep breath, and bent at the knees until the water closed over her head. This first immersion was a favorite with Raveena; the cool water exchanged her weight for buoyant bliss, and she remained in the squatting position until her lungs screamed for air. As her body broke the surface, she threw back her head, and the water-darkened mane of blonde swept the air with a cascade of diamond-glitter droplets. Her hands slicked the hair back from her face, and then began working the soapwort into a rich lather. The blonde tresses came first, and soon were thick with foam. After another immersion served to rinse them clean, she carefully squeezed out the water.
Raveena waded to less depth to expose her body. Her hands scrubbed gently at her face and slender neck and then over the soft shoulders. The slippery feeling of the soapwort was enjoyable, as was the caress of her own hands on her skin. As her palms softly rubbed the full, rounded contours of her breasts, and then brushed over the still hardened nipples, she caught her breath. The feeling bade her touch linger at the taut nubs. The girl gently squeezed the warm globes, and then worked her palms down her sides and back. As the swell below her slender waist felt the caressing fingers, a tingle floated up her spine and she shivered. Her hands traced the outline of her hips, stopping to squeeze and slip between the soft cheeks, and then slowly moved around to the gentle curve of her belly.
Raveena ran her lathered hands over her feet, calves and thighs. Spreading her stance wide, she worked more soapwort into a frothy lather, and washed the golden curls at the base of her belly. Her fingers worked the lather down, down, down, and over the soft lips that formed the portal of her childbed. The fingers slipped between the lips and rubbed gently, and the familiar tightening sensation began deep inside her. She worked more lather from the remaining plants, and pushed her fingers inside the passage. The flicker of warmth in her belly became a raging flame. Her slippery thumb sought and found the growing button of flesh that now protruded from between the lips, and began to massage it. Her other hand slid over her breasts, first moving to cup and caress the underside, and then squeezed. The lather caused the breast to slowly slip from between her fingers until she was left holding the erect nipple in a tight grip. She pulled gently, and her knees became weak as the shooting sensations collided with the ripples in her belly. Raveena cried out and her fingers and thumb moved more quickly. She stretched and lifted the breast by the nipple, released it to bounce softly against her chest, and grasped the other. As she lifted this one by the taught tip, the tingle again shot through her body, and she felt the always incredible tension building. Her hips rocked against her hand, faster and faster until, at last, with a tiny cry, her body spasmed and she fell to her knees with gasping breath and pounding heart. After a few moments, Raveena waded out to her chin, plunged under the water, then rose and walked back to the shore.
She dried her body with a soft fur from her pack, dressed in fresh leather garments, and began combing her hair. Raveena was proud of the hand-carved tortoise shell comb. It was a trophy from a warrior she had killed some time before, and since his hair showed no sign of ever being washed, she was certain the comb was not for him. She surmised it was a gift for some concubine in Mallindor where the garrison was based. Raveena had heard of the whores of Mallindor and considered them to be on an equal level with bitch dogs, so she had no qualm about relieving the corpse of this small trinket. She worked quickly but was careful to separate the tangles, and in an hour, the yellow-gold mane was dry and full. A plaited leather headband served to hold the sides from her face, and Raveena felt clean again.
No fire would she have this night, for though the valley was secluded, it was safer to remain undiscovered. The deeds done in the pursuit of her quest would cause no great consternation among the local populace, for the Zandalin’s showed no prejudice in the targets of their frequent raids. Many were the families broken asunder by the stroke of a Zandalin sword, and most would have rejoiced at the death of the last warrior. She did not fear the hunters of the night, for she had trained herself to mimic their movement, and would be forewarned by the familiar, tiny sounds of their passage. Her caution was against the human wolves who sought out those stopping for the night before commencing trade in Axanroth. Morning would find the unwary traveler beaten and robbed at the least; more often than not, the sun’s rays would cast bright light on dull, dead eyes. A little parched grain, received compliments of her last two victims, would serve to quell her hunger. After removing all traces of her presence, Raveena climbed to the comfortable crotch in the oak tree that she had discovered on a past journey to the city.
The stallion’s scream made her eyes fly open only to shut against the bright sunlight. Raveena shaded her brow with her hand and searched in the direction of the sound. Tanadar was rearing against three ropes which bound him to the saddles of three Zandalin warriors. As the riders pulled the ropes, they rode nearer and nearer to the plunging, rearing horse until he was trapped. One of the riders threw a band of leather over Tanadar’s eyes and quickly tied it. Tanadar quieted immediately, and the three led their prize toward the entrance to the valley.
Raveena was on the ground almost before the echoes of Tanadar’s scream died away against the valley walls. She ran toward the protective willows with the full intention of killing all three warriors and retrieving the stallion. Just how she would accomplish this deed, since she was armed only with the dagger, and had a great distance to run, was not of concern to the enraged woman. Had the heavily muscled arm not appeared from behind a clump of saplings to circle her waist, Raveena would have raced to the stallion’s side, and her fate would have rested with the Mother. In a heartbeat, she was lifted from her feet, a strong hand clamped over her lips, and her back was crushed into a massive, naked chest. With the strength of a cornered animal, she fought against this human obstruction that handled her so easily, flailed at the body behind her with fists and feet, and bit the hand until she tasted the salty flavor of blood.
“You’re teeth are sharp and painful, but I will not release you until you halt your struggle.” The deep voice caused her to pause and her quick mind began formulating a plan for escape. She quickly relaxed her legs and became dead weight in the grip of the hands.
“Ah, so you yield quickly, do you? You must think me a fool to believe the woman who was ready to defend a mere horse against three armed warriors would so quickly place herself at the mercy of just one. I will allow you to speak, but I will not yet release you.”
The hand moved from her mouth, and she saw the two half-moon impressions of her teeth. Her voice was quiet, but seethed with rage.
“Who are you, bastard son of a diseased whore? I would have killed the three and had Tanadar back if you had not stopped me. I would kill you if you would only release me.” Raveena again began pummeling the man who held her. The arm tightened around her waist until she could not breathe. The deep voice chuckled.
“I think not, my pretty little captive with the mouth of an ox driver. You have spirit, that is true, but I think you need judgment to temper the fire. I can hold this grip long after you have feinted, and will do so unless you behave. I leave the choice to you; stop that irritating kicking or turn the color of the sky. It matters not to me.”
Raveena relaxed again, if only to gain thinking time. It was useless to resist; his superior strength would always win out. The compression of her waist loosened somewhat, and her lungs sucked deeply at the fresh air they craved.
“Had I let you go, you might have been mercifully killed, but it is likely the three would have taken their pleasure with you before ending your life, and your horse would still be tied to their saddles. I’d have been forced to stay my quest in order to bury your body away from the wolves and hawks.”
“What quest?”, she grunted.
“Hmmm...if I tell you, and you manage to escape me, you could sell my knowledge to the first trader you meet. I think I will keep that to myself, for the moment. I could help you get your horse back if he means that much to you. He looked to be big enough for two of you, but if you like him that much.... That is, if you are willing to help me. Are you done fighting me for a while?”
At her nod, he sat her easily on her feet. She turned and saw her captor for the first time. Had she been the normal timorous woman of her time, the tall stranger would have been intimidating. He towered over her head, and it was understandable that she was so helpless against his strength. So heavily muscled was his chest and shoulders, they looked ready to burst from his open leather shirt. The eyes under the shock of black hair were wily but with a sparkle, and the smile appeared genuinely friendly.
“I am Kaldor, son of Rellav, and king of Zandalin. And you are?”
“Raveena of Pelendrune, and you’re a liar. There is no king in Zandalin. There is only the evil queen.”
“I will be king, someday, mark my words. It is you who strays from the truth. Pelendrune was razed many years ago, and the city is only a moldering ruin. All it’s people were killed.”
“All but one. I am the last, and I am their avenger.”
Kaldor threw back his head and bellowed in laughter.
“You don’t look much like an avenger. You’re just a girl. You’re a pretty girl, but still, just a girl.”