Domire and Tido stalled. Good-hearted Misolfa spoke up first. “Of course! We would love to let you go first, wouldn’t we, boys? I mean, we will all just be sitting here for the next eight weeks anyway, right? It doesn’t matter so much what order we go in.”

Domire said, “Um, yes, that is fine. Misolfa’s right, there’s no problem.”

“Well,” Tido said, “I guess that’s okay, but can I go next? I mean, if it doesn’t matter so much.” He looked at his siblings.

“Alright, then!” Misolfa said, beaming. “Then Domire and I can just wrestle it out for the third rotation. Or just flip a coin. Maybe we could…”

Valkyr interrupted her. “Okay. Right. If you’ll excuse me, I want to get started right now. I’m sure I’ll find my way about the cavern quickly enough, and somebody can slip me my dinner later.” She turned to go and Aton grabbed her wrist.

“Wait, Valkyr. I admit I feel somewhat down about not beginning my own adventure here, but I am glad for all of you. Good luck, sister, and I’ll see you on the other side.” He offered her an embrace, which she took quickly before turning and heading down the hallway. She turned into the first door she came to on her right and closed the door behind her.

Pascho stepped closer to the group. “…You all look like you’d be interested in a tour of the house. You were all looking every-which-way, so I will go ahead and show it all to you, of course leaving the entrance to the cavern last. Come see the kitchen first.”

Valkyr smiled to herself. She was ready to begin.

Turning to look at the wooden doors, Valkyr paused and thought. She had descended a steep, narrow path in a rocky corridor to arrive in the chamber where she now stood. Three doors waited for her here, lit by several lanterns that did not flicker. She spared the lanterns barely a glance to wonder when they were lit and why they did not flicker as they should, then focused on a long, recessed cavity in the wall. It held four sizeable packages, carefully wrapped and bound in leather and twine.

Valkyr stepped towards one of the bundles, sensing the release of her impatience drawing nigh. This package was clearly hers. It shaped roughly like a bow, though it had a lump in the center. Despite the obvious, these clues were not what told her this was her package. She knew. She could feel it, ever since stepping off the Fassendais. She knew where to find it. It was part of her, and it could not be hidden from her.

After a moment’s pause in anticipation, she reached a hand out and pulled at the twine. As she pulled and unfolded the leather wrapping, Valkyr found her bow. Nearly as tall as she and with a sinuous double recurve, it made her feel her heart racing again. It was beautiful. It appeared to be made of metal, though she couldn’t say what type. It did not even seem to stay the same color as she looked at it. At first it seemed purely colorless, silvery. Then it took on a slightly golden hue. As she stared, she thought it even looked bluish. It was covered in intricate designs, all flowing smoothly from tip to tip. Too intricate to etch or carve, she thought. Most importantly, it was hers.

“Wasp,” Valkyr named it in that moment. With it she could sting from above.

More than eighteen Turns unused—no, that’s not right. Eighteen back on Tasala. Here on Harrval it has been over twenty-two Turns. Either way, seventeen Years, and there is not a speck of rust on it. Valkyr picked up the bow and plucked the shining bowstring. It did not need to be strung or relaxed. It gave a quiet but sharp twang and oscillated, singing its vibrations through the shaft of the bow and into her hand.

Next to where the bow had lain was a quiver filled with arrows. The arrows in the quiver had two different shapes and colors of fletching. Valkyr removed an arrow with golden fletches that curved back in towards the nock at the back of the arrow. It was light, about three feet long, with a flat golden head that curved back to meet the shaft, as the fletches did.

Valkyr started bouncing on the balls of her feet, unable to contain the energy she felt. Quickly she grabbed the quiver and ran the five paces to the three doors on the opposite wall of the chamber. She threw the middle one open and saw a training room filled with dummies for skewering and pummeling. She may return here, but it was not what she sought right now. She opened the door on the left and found a much larger chamber.

The chamber was long and narrow. It was probably some 30 yards from side to side, but it must have stretched some three hundred yards long. It receded into the darkness at the far end, showing hay bales at several points along the way. How long had these chambers been prepared for her and her siblings to come train? No matter.

Valkyr found a table to set her quiver on and brought up the arrow she had in her hand. Deftly she nocked it, drew the bow and aimed, and released. The arrow flew towards the far end and hit the target she had chosen, driving halfway in. This bow was the best she had ever held. She needed more of this feeling. She drew another arrow from the quiver, this time one with silver fletches that pointed back away from the shaft, rather than curving in to meet the nock. Likewise, the head had wicked reverse-pointed barbs that would prevent a wounded enemy from removing the arrow easily. She nocked it, pulled the bowstring, and let the second arrow fly. More.

She grabbed the nock of a third arrow and pulled on it, struggling a little to get it out of the quiver because of the angle; she had not pulled far enough out. Impatiently, she slung the quiver over her shoulder and whipped the third arrow out. She could push the bounds of possibility of accurate speed volleys with this bow and these arrows. At the very least, she would try.


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