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Fresh breeze of a spring morning played with my hair. It squeezed itself through my braids and loosened the fold. A rogue curl fell on my nose and forced a loud sneeze out of me.
“I woke the forest,” I said as birds flew from branch to branch, and leaves fell on my head. My horse nodded. He agreed with everything I said. I trained him well.
I’ve been on the road for eight days, traveling from east to south-west. My destination was the Amari Stronghold. That’s right, I came for the Tournament. Three days of cutting and slicing till death. No, not to watch. This year I was all in.
“We should reach the city by afternoon”, said Jozeb picking leaves out of his messy hair. I chuckled at the thought of him having side braids. It would’ve been a lot better than this bird nest. “Laugh all you want, Igrin, your eyes will open when least expected.”
My guardian thought I wasn't ready. I shall prove him wrong. I was more than ready and I came prepared.
“I’m not afraid. I have the greatest teacher I could ask for.” My hands were sweating, nerves perhaps. But I was more excited than nervous because I was raised for this event.
“The crossroad to your destiny,” said my guardian in a serious tone. I rolled my eyes. We reached a crossroad, a real one.
Jozeb led our convoy of three, us two and a dog, Nolly. She didn't bark, ever. She just ran around and smelled everything. From man to horse shit. If she liked you, she wiggled her tail, if she didn’t, then... she tore you in pieces. There was nothing wrong with her, she could make terrifying sounds while chewing on flesh. She just kept to herself, I guess.
“We should put on her mouth guard,” I said as I dismounted my horse. I didn’t wait for an answer, I knew Jozeb would agree, so I headed straight to the bag where he kept Nolly’s guard. I heard her angry breathing behind my back.
“She still hates me.”
I tried to befriend this dog since forever, but even to this day, she grinned at me every time I got close to her.
“It’s not you, it’s your blood,” he jumped off the horse and took the guard out of my hand. Seeing this, Nolly sat her ass on the ground and waited with her tongue out for Jozeb to put it on.
“That doesn’t make sense” I frowned.
“Understand it this way. You carry the same smell like the man who killed your mother,” explained Jozeb as he stepped towards the animal. “I was there too… but she jumped him, and she knew why.”
He was right. Nolly could sense the good and the bad. And not just the petty bad. Living with a witch trained her to smell and see true evil. It made sense. The man who killed my mother was, in fact, my father. I carried his bloodline. Nolly sensed his blood flowing in my veins. Hreya forbade her to hurt me, and she wouldn’t disobey her master. But she still didn’t like me.
I admired Jozeb because he was unstoppable. This man was one-handed. He said he used to wield his sword with his left hand. Sometimes he missed having two, but now he could do everything ten times better using just his right. He fastened that mouth guard with ease, then arranged the fur around the leather so Nolly wouldn’t feel any discomfort.
“I owe my life to her,” he said while stroking her golden hair. I leaned against his horse. The bridle pushed into my back, but I ignored it. He cared for the dog more than Hreya ever did.
“And I to you, and the dog, and to Mama,” I lowered my head, almost in shame. It wasn’t my fault, I knew that, but my mother met her tragic fate by the hand of my father. If it wasn’t for Nolly, Hreya would’ve never found us in time.
“You’re a good girl, Igrin, focus on what you’re here for. You mustn't let your past blind your future.” Jozeb always knew how to console my heart’s ache for revenge.
“When will you tell me his name?”
“When the time comes, Igrin”, we both replied. I knew he would say this, he always did. “Soon”, he added after a short pause.