Chapter 1: Staying Inconspicuous
“And whatever you do, don’t brawl everyone on your way to the Temple.” The last words that Hero Haus had told her echoed through her head as she walked of the ship onto the docks of Cillian.
The place was bustling with activity and Artemis tried her best not to be in the way. She’d been trained from birth to fight, dance, and be nimble on her feet; none of which had helped in the busy streets of Cillian.
“I have to make my way to the Temple and avoid fighting. How hard could that be?” she asked herself as she bumped into a large man who was drunk. He bumped back and she felt his hand on her butt. “Excuse me sir, but if you’re looking for my money pouch, you won’t find it back there.”
“Who said I wanted your money pouch?” The hand that had been on her butt was now holding a dagger at her side and the other hand was around her wrist over the only piece of jewelry she owned. The bracelet was a sturdy gold chain given to her by her father before his death.
Pushing the man’s dagger arm away while simultaneously kicking him in his private area was the easy part. Drawing her sword in a crowded street, now that was a challenge.
The man groaned and looked at her with an evil smile, lifting the bracelet and taunting her. He then turned and ran away. “Coward!” she yelled and started to chase him.
He was a thief accustomed to the city, she was a country child who was determined to follow him. The chase didn’t last long. The loss of the bracelet left her in a sour mood and the chase left her completely lost. This was the biggest city she’d ever seen and spanned nearly the entire Island it was on.
It was beautiful in its architecture, but the people were too close together and everything smelled of shit, mostly horse and cow.
“Excuse me,” she asked the closest person. They were too much in a hurry and ignored her.
A food cart passed by and it looked like the large man in the chef’s outfit was pushing it until she saw the cogs and steam engine attached to it, whatever was in that cart smelled heavenly. Some sort of cooked and spiced meat, thought Artemis.
With nothing better to do and no way of finding the Temple without help, she decided she might as well follow her stomach. The cart moved steadily on and people moved out of its way. Slowly the narrow streets gave way to wider roads with trees and benches.
As they turned a corner, Artemis was amazed to see the castle. It was bigger than anything she’d ever seen. It supposedly had its own hanger and landing strip for airships.
There was a crowd of people standing around a stage. The cart stopped and opened for business. She bought two meat pies and went to see what was going on at the stage.
It wasn’t long before a woman stepped onto the stage and started speaking. Artemis choked on a piece of her meat pie. The woman wore an elegant dress that wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale illustration. The dress was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen and the woman managed to be infinitely more beautiful. The dark blue dress contrasted perfectly with the woman’s dark brown skin.
“Wow,” Artemis said, not realizing she said it aloud.
“I know right? Princess Diana is amazing.” said a man next to her. She hadn’t noticed, but the crowd had formed around her. The man who spoke had a strong jawline and ice blue eyes that sparkled. His soft golden skin made her just want to touch it.
“Um… yes. She’s very pretty.” It sounded as awkward as possible and Artemis’s face felt warm. She was in love with both of them. Was that possible?
He hadn’t looked at her yet and when he did, he stammered, “You’re very pretty too. I didn’t me to imply…”
“So are you…” she replied and they both turned away from each other for a moment.
“I’m Ezekiel.” The sandy haired man said.
“I’m…” Artemis froze. “Going to the Temple of the Fighting Monk order of Dumas.”
“Okay. It’s just over there.” He pointed at a tall tower surrounded by small buildings. The entire thing looked ramshackle and not what she expected of a Temple.
“Thank you,” she said and ran away. She’d met attractive people before and even had some that were attracted to her. Not surprising; she was tall, muscled, and had what her father had described as, “a symmetrical elven sort of face.”
But there was something about this man that took her breath away faster than a punch to her stomach. She turned her head as she ran to get another glance at him and saw him limp away from the stage. The mechanism in his left leg, a prosthesis, seemed to have jammed.
Running in a busy city and not paying attention is a quick way to bump into someone and that’s exactly what she did. She collided with a man so hard that they both fell to the ground.
Getting up she held her hand out to the man and he scowled, “Stupid country bumpkin. I’ll teach you what happens when you collide with a Fighting Monk.” The man drew his sword, which crackled with electricity.
“I meant no offence sir, but if it’s a fight you want, I’ll abide.” Smiling Artemis pulled out her own sword.
“Why are you smiling? Are you so daft as think you can win this fight?” The man said as he beat at her sword, testing her defences.
“I’ve had a day where I’ve been off balance for everything. Fighting is something I understand.”
The man smiled in return and they fought. He was absolutely amazing. She hadn’t lost a fight in years, but she knew she was completely out-classed. After a hard couple of minutes, she fell to one knee and placed her sword on the ground, “I yield.”
To her surprise the man laughed and said, “You gave me the best workout I’ve had in months. Thank you and all offences are forgiven.”
She stood and shook his hand. “I was headed to the Temple to train with the monks.”
“You are the most promising fighter I’ve seen. It’s a pity we don’t accept women into the order.”
If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?