There was of course the aforementioned matter of her having beaten some humility into Crovacus’s own son Halxian, clearly showing that she was far beyond a fledgling martial artist.

All of the above was enough to qualify her as an official beast-slayer, in fact just the fact she was able to use a Captain’s Cleaver qualified her for that. However, it was far from enough to mark her as Prime Slayer material.

No, it was the role she played in exterminating a heavy locust-man infestation that threatened to wipe out not just Willowdale, but the entire valley that the city-state resided in. He had nothing to go on besides the word of a man by the name of Strolvath - a man he trusted with his life that had also taken part in the expedition, and what he said was… Impressive, if not a little concerning.

Crovacus had purposely arranged all her feats in such a way that anything related to lightning was as late as it could be. He knew how enamored the Kargarians were with the idea of a swordsman so fast they can cut lightning from the heavens to wield it for themselves. In fact, he was willing to bet that Arnys’s sword had a lightning-inspired design etched into the blade, even if its handle and sheath were both so plain it stood out.

Indeed, her eyebrow quirked up and she let out a puff of smoke when she reached a particular document. She already knew that Zelsys had “split” a lightning-bolt, but not the details of the feat.

“...I’m fucking sorry, what? And you say this is a trustworthy source?” Arnys questioned, looking up from the paper with disbelief in her eyes.

“You can feel the static if you walk by her,” he added. “The sawteeth on that cleaver can vibrate so violently they cut through black-stone and the edge can get so hot it melts rock. Though I wager this will interest you the most: I’ve seen her throwing ball lightning with my own two eyes.”

“I- What?” sputtered the merchant-woman, her composure visibly dropping with every ridiculous yet entirely true claim that Crovacus made. “Oh come on, ball lightning? It’s hard enough to believe that she took a fuckin’ lightning bolt from the Living Storm, recovered before next morning, and then used it for total body control in the same day!”

He stubbed out his dying cigar and reached out for another one, replying, “You don’t believe me.”

“Of course I don’t! Shit like that is beyond raw talent, that’d take an absolute freak of nature!” Arnys exclaimed. “Even someone good enough to split a normal lightning bolt still gets put out of commission for a while after the first time. That was the case for me, for my daughter, even for the sword saints in my family.”

“In all fairness, ‘freak of nature’ isn’t an overstatement,” nodded the governor, gesturing for a paper that Arnys had only skimmed. The very paper that described Zel’s appearance in detail. “The sketches don’t do her justice, just read the dossier properly. Over two meters tall, built like a brick shithouse, two-tone hair, elven ears and eyes like a monk-noble. I wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest when I said she looked like she walked right off a propaganda poster.”

“I’ll have to see it to believe it,” she said. “But if that truly is the case, she will likely want the old Black Horse Family property. It’s either that place or the old public gymnasium, which I doubt even has equipment worthy of a normal strongman.”

“The place is nearly useless for anyone else, it’s all locked up with soul signature locks. Fortunately for us, the Black Horses intentionally built those locks to open for anyone with attributes beyond a certain threshold and without malicious intentions towards the family. Going by my predecessor’s records the Black Horse Family had a vice grip on slayer qualifications, there were at least three instances of prospective slayers being forced to seek employment halfway across the country just because the local Black Horse representative didn’t like them.”

“That’s all well and good, but if I recall correctly, the Black Horse Family was one of the few families who still had a number of members in the three digits after the war. Can’t any Black Horse survivor in Willowdale just waltz up and claim ownership of the place as per tradition?”

“They could if there were any left, and if they tried it before I the property is assigned a new caretaker. The last known member in Willowdale was uh…” Crovacus trailed off briefly, searching for the right words. He knew how Arnys despised the common usage of slurs in general, even against Pateirians. “Unsubtle in his nationalism to say it nicely, and he paid the price. Turned to racial killings and in turn got cut down himself, by one of his countrymen no less.”

“And how’d you know that?” she asked. Another toke of her pipe. The smell of incense overpowered that of tobacco.

Crovacus didn’t particularly care to conceal mundane information from her, and so just said it plainly.

“I had one of my people run a Deadman’s Eye ritual to pull the last thing he saw. The image was, of course, little more than vague blobs of colour, but the snow-white skin is unmistakable.”

She chuckled, “I didn’t know you had the good judgment to do something that subtle.”

Crovacus brushed it off and did his best to move the conversation along to the actual main subject - an arms deal months in works, intended to supply Willowdale’s militia with the equipment and training it would need to properly defend the city in case of an actual attack.

Armor, weapons, ammunition, even raw materials and numerous exotic imports - the scale of the contract made the venture profitable enough to bring the entire Krishorn Caravan to Willowdale. It would be a huge spectacle of commerce that would enrich both sides, and it would also be the first big trial for the most important of the contract’s subjects.

“So what was so important that you had to request it in person instead of just writing it into the purchase manifest?”


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About the author


Bio: I just write what I would want to read.

I've published the first arc of Sand and Legends as a standalone book on Amazon!


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