Alexandru's Kiss (Magic, New Mexico #3)(4)

By: S. E. Smith

Unfortunately for Ka’ya, Jorge both feared and desired her. It mattered not to him that she was still a child. He believed if he possessed her, it would give him the power of the Huntress.

A smile curved Ka’ya’s lips when she remembered her father’s response to Jorge’s demands that her family hand her over to the Spiritual Leader. Her father believed slicing Jorge’s blackened heart out of his chest would be the better alternative. The smile faded when she remembered the price her family had paid for defying Jorge’s demands. Days after her father’s banishment for threatening to kill the Spiritual Leader, the Elders of the village had dragged her before the cruel, horrid man.

Ten years before:

* * *

Ka’ya stiffly stood between the two Elders who had brought her to the spiritual leader’s hut. Her nose wrinkled at the foul smell of burning spices. The smoke from it burned her eyes, but she refused to rub them. The woman on her right smothered a cough while the man to her left raised a hand and wiped at the corner of his eye.

She stared at the room with distaste. The dim interior was depressing. It was nothing like the brightly lit interior of her home. The ceiling was covered in soot and made the little light that streamed down through the ceiling look gray and dirty.

The bones of dead animals lay scattered across a long table and on the floor. Bottles of liquids lined several shelves against a wall. Everything looked dirty and unkempt. Ka’ya did not understand how this man could declare himself better than her father. He knew nothing of what it meant to understand the spirit of the land and animals.

“She is here, Spiritual Leader,” the woman called.

Ka’ya watched as Jorge appeared from another room. He was a thin man with beady, almost black eyes. Dark shadows under them made the sockets around his eyes appear larger than they were in reality. His alabaster skin was streaked with smudges of soot from his dirty fingers and made him look older than his thirty years. He wore a dirty, off-white tunic over dark brown pants and boots. His hair was thin on top, with just a few strands of fine hair that made a line and was swept to the side.

He silently returned Ka’ya’s stare, as if willing her to look away first. Instead, she lifted her chin. Her light green eyes bore into his. She could see the circle of light from the open door surrounding the brown irises of each eye, giving them a malevolent glow. In the center, she could see her reflection. Even when he took a step forward and ran his dirty fingers down along her cheek, she didn’t turn away. His eyes narrowed and he gripped her chin hard.

“Do you think to defy me, girl?” he demanded in a reedy voice.

Ka’ya pulled her chin free and glared at him. “Yes,” she replied, biting her tongue to keep from saying anything else.

Jorge gazed down at her. She silently returned his stare. She didn’t flinch when he raised his hand to strike her. The blow never came – thanks to the sounding of the alarms. Jorge glanced up at the man standing next to her and jerked his head toward the door.

“Find out what is happening,” he ordered.

Ka’ya turned slightly when the Elder opened the door. There was a thud that reverberated through her and the Elder stumbled back. In the center of the elder’s chest the long shaft of an arrow protruded. The woman at her side screamed when several more arrows flew through the door. Jorge and the woman fell to the ground. Ka’ya took advantage of the open door and bolted.

Emerging outside, she could see more than two dozen Vikar swarming through the village setting fire to carts of hay and slicing through the men who charged them. Her gaze moved to one of the raiders. He was dragging her mother out of their home. Her mother was holding her newborn brother protectively in her arms.

Ka’ya started forward. Her gaze fixed on her mother and brother; she bent near the body of a fallen guard and pulled the bloody sword from his body. The moment her hand wound around the handle, power exploded through her body and a flood of knowledge swept through her mind. It was as if she had lived through thousands of battles, had hunted the greatest beasts, and knew what needed to be done. She gripped the sword with a strength that belied her tender years, twirled, and sliced through one of the attackers as he reached for her.

As she neared her family’s hut, the raider who had her mother’s arm, lifted the long shaft of his spear to strike her mother dead. Ka’ya pulled her arm back and threw the sword. The blade sank deep in the raider’s chest, driving him back against the stone wall of the hut. Racing forward, Ka’ya knelt and helped her mother to her feet.

“Inside,” she said in a soft urgent tone.