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CALAW'S WARRIORS - The Cheetah of Death

Two sisters - one honour bound; the other carefree, one reserved; the other headstrong, one protector; the other assassin, one dead; one lost. 

Liz died two winters ago and Chris being the stubborn, courageous hero, fled into hiding as a dancer, little better than a whore, or at least that’s what she thought. 

When a man she barely remembers walks through the door, all that changes and she must return to the life that ended with her sister’s death, but this time, she must lead. 

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN: 978-1-921240-71-3   
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 175
Genre: Fiction

 

 

Author: Trina
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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About the Author 

Trina was born in Western Australia in 1984. She began writing this, her first book, at the age of fourteen. 

Now, as an industrial chemist, she works on a mine site but still manages to keep writing in her spare time.

1

Strangers from the Past

 

S

he walked slowly across the tin roof. No one could see her; it was so dark. Her eyes were wide pupils as she purred slightly. Turning her head suddenly; her blade-held hand darted out into the darkness, with a speed that was non-human. A leaf blew cross her face. She sighed as her lithe body returned to crouching in silence. From inside, she heard her mother cry out again, as her late-night gentleman caller became rough. Minutes passed as her mother sobbed quietly.

            Then he came swaggering out of the front door. It was her turn to show no mercy as she swooped down and killed the unsuspecting bastard. She saw the fear in his eyes like so many of his predecessors. ‘At least this one was silent and not cowardly enough to scream,’ she thought as she walked into the house, grabbing a rag from her side.

            “Mother, are you alright?” she called as she wiped the new blood from her knife and sheathed it.

            “I’m in here, Chrissy.”

            As she entered the room she saw a blood-lined face. Her mother was bruised and battered from where the late gentleman had become too excited in his passion. Chrissy knelt next to her mother’s figure and started to dab at the drying blood.

            “Chrissy, I’m fine, I promise. Please stop your fussing,” she asked gently.

Chrissy stood up and went into the next room, where she silently changed. Her arms seemed bulky with the throwing knives she always wore. She slumped into her preferred bed of hay and drifted into the repeated nightmare of the death of her sister, Liz, and the gruesome reminder of how much her mother did need her.

 

            Chrissy was pulled from the hell that was her dreams by a creaking sound near the only window in her room. She drew a knife from her arm, even as she opened her eyes and sat upright. She looked out of the window to a dawning sun as she prepared to throw the knife before realizing that it was just a branch scratching the glass. She placed her knife in the empty sheath as she lifted her body off the hay. She walked silently towards a cabinet, which hung upon the far wall, and opened its closed doors.

            Inside were two suits of armour; emerald green in colour and identical in almost every way. Almost, as one had a hole and the other did not. The hole was caused by a knife, between the tanned hides of two plates, plunged through leather into the back of an unsuspecting victim only two winters before. Every weapon still hung in place as they had done since before the last winter.

            Chrissy knelt and meditated for an hour as the sun rose fully above the roofs of the surrounding houses. Then, standing with the grace and balance of a dancer, she removed a sword from its hold and started moving. Her steps held no imperfection as the blade curved artistically through the air. She practised everything she had learnt until her mother’s footsteps awoke her from the deep concentration each move required. She silently replaced the sword as she glided out towards the kitchen.

            After her light meal of fruit and bread, Chrissy changed into one of her finer robes of silk and walked out to the stable that held their only horse. His brown coat was growing lighter each day as he aged slowly. He didn’t look like the strong and brave stallion he had been during that dark time, two winters ago. She wrapped a heavy cloak around her shoulders and placed the hood delicately upon her head. She cursed the fact that she had to ride side-saddle to town, but she had been the one who declined the offer to stay in the army. Chrissy could no longer act as the soldier she had once been.

            The bar was musty as she walked in. She removed her cloak, only to be rewarded with the eyeing look of every male who thought himself worthy of her. Most knew that they weren’t and would never be, but a few new eyes were slowly drifting over her body, absorbing every detail. As she removed her riding boots, she hoped that they would realize soon what everyone else already knew, and if they couldn’t that they could read. There was a sign sitting above the bar, which stated, Any fool who tries to take a dancer can count their lives in seconds, if they can count at all.

            She had killed five men on her first day. They had removed a blade in her presence and her natural instincts had prevailed. Otherwise, she knew, they just wouldn’t take no for an answer. She walked slowly to the front of the room, where a small stage sat slightly above the floor. The musicians had seen her and began a soft melody as she approached. She began to dance and coerce those who were there into buying another drink or two. The day passed slowly, as usual. Men tried to buy her drinks on her breaks, though most backed off when she pulled a knife out of nowhere and absent-mindedly began to clean her nails.

            Two men walked in at two hours past midday. While one gawked at her beautiful figure the other, who seemed somehow familiar, only nodded once in respect towards her and took a seat at a table. As Chrissy wondered at the thought of a male showing her respect, the melody finished. She nodded back to him, curtsied and signalled for him to follow her. He said something to his slightly younger partner as he stood up and followed her outside. She timed his footsteps by the length of time it took the echo to reach her and therefore knew that he had caught up to her by the time she was at the back kitchen door. As she stepped outside she withdrew a knife and, in one fluid motion, turned and had it at his throat, ready to question his past.

            At least it would have been his throat, had he not taken a step backwards.

            “I see you haven’t become rusty with age.”

            “Excuse me?” Chrissy lowered her knife, but she didn’t put it away. Something about him intrigued her.

            “Oh, I meant no offence. It’s good you haven’t lost your touch. You see we are in need of your ... expertise once more.”

            The intrigue faded.

            “We! Who’s we? And what do you mean, ‘haven’t lost your touch’? What bloody touch?”

            “I see you still have a temper too. Oh don’t tell me you don’t remember me? Your favourite man.”

            Chrissy frowned; suspicious, “I’ve known a lot of men, few who I actually like. Enlighten me a bit.”

            “I’m hurt. You don’t remember me after only four seasons? After I did all your dirty work on the field? After I always argued with you? After you had to continually prove me wrong?”

            “No way! Tom?”

            He nodded.

            “Sergeant Tom? It’s good to see you again!”

            “Actually, it’s captain now. I was your replacement. They really should have given you more money.”

            Chrissy put the knife away, “More money? For what? Besides, what would I spend it on anyway? Pretty men to spend the night with?”

            “Well, they should have tried something to keep you in the army. They didn’t realize how much you did, until of course, you left.”

            “I think you didn’t realise what a captain did until I left. Besides, I didn’t do that much, I think you just want me to buy you a drink.”

            “One would be nice,” he said, getting sidetracked. “Hey, what do you mean ‘not bloody much’? You were the best spy we had. And you managed to stop that many problems by your secret ... assassin work,” he said in almost a whisper.

            “Yeah, and in the meantime, my sister was killed, my mother – all but, and all because I wasn’t there to protect them.”

            Tom put his hand on Chrissy’s shoulder, “You aren’t to blame for your sister’s death and you know that.”

            “I know. If only I’d not been so bloody cocky. I should have known that spies would be able to slip into such a large force. If only I’d thought … it should’ve been me!” she said in regret.

            “I know.”

            “It was my name all over the platoon, not hers. I was the one in charge.”

            “Yeah, but you were so ... identical. Even I had trouble sometimes.”

            “So who’s that guy in there?” Chrissy asked, as if the last few minutes of conversation had never occurred.

            “That would be William, the Duke’s son.”

            “I wonder why he’s here?” Chrissy asked aloud; her intrigue getting the better of her, again.

            “To beg you to rejoin.”

            “No way. I’m not thinking of glory above responsibility again. I made that mistake last time.”

            “Yeah I know, but we really need you.”

            “How about we just get drunk and reminisce for a while?”

Tom shook his head, knowing that she hadn’t changed, “Yeah, okay. Your shout.”

            He knew that she was avoiding the inevitable decision of saying no to him, but the thought of a free drink was just too nice to decline.

            As they walked back inside, they heard the sounds of a fight. Since it was an inn, they took no notice of it until they saw who the two fighters were. One was obviously a strong man, covered in weapons not noticeable to the normal eye. The other, the one who was being beaten rather badly, was William.

            “Damned mercenaries,” Chrissy breathed, referring to the stronger man. Without thinking, she jumped onto the bar and began to climb across the rafters, while Tom began to navigate his way through the growing crowd.

            Chrissy dropped from a rafter that was above the two men and landed right between them. The mercenary was in the process of punching William in the face. Chrissy grabbed his hand in a blocking motion and pushed him backwards. Then she turned to help William up as the man regained his footing. He went to charge her, but she turned on him with a knife already drawn. This man didn’t know Chrissy’s dirty tricks as Tom did. She slowly applied a little pressure, so he could feel the cold steel upon his neck, but not enough to cut, yet. She knew he was just some bully and probably a coward. He knew that he had stepped too far, so with wounded pride, he stepped back into the crowd.

            As Chrissy replaced her knife and returned to helping William up, Tom managed to arrive at their sides.

            “Who do you think you are? Stepping into the middle of a duel like that, wench!”

            That was the one remark Chrissy didn’t need. She was tired of males treating her like dirt and she’d had a very long day. She forgot the fact that she was just a dancer, as she punched him in the face. William wasn’t used to the rough handling and he fell to the ground unconscious.

            “You shouldn’t have done that, Chris.”

            “He shouldn’t have said what he said,” she returned. “Now, do you want to drink and let him wake up in his own time? Or ... would you rather take this boy home and explain to his father why the soldier he was sent to beg to, with regards to rejoining the army, decided to beat him up instead?”

            “You sure know how to ignore a problem.”

            “I’ve had a lot of practice.”

 

            They were on their third round of ale when William decided to return to the land of the living.

            “What’s she still doing here?” he demanded as he started to rub at his head.

            “I would stop being such an arsehole if I were you. Otherwise I might have to give you a better headache next time.”

            William held his head as he started to realize what he had done, “I am sorry for my rude behaviour earlier,” he said into his lap. He looked up as he continued, “But you must understand how bad it looked, when I was saved by a ... a girl.”

            “Oh I’m sorry, I’ll let the next guy bash you to death, if you want?”

            “Let me guess, this is Chris?” William asked Tom.

            “No, I’m just some wench. Some girl, remember?”

            “I did say I’m sorry.”

            “Sorry!” She returned the apology. “I become annoyed at men who think they’re better than I am, just because they have something extra in-between the legs. It only makes them easier to slap around.”

            Tom could only chuckle.

            “I think I’d better go and freshen up,” Chris said with a fake smile as she turned and waltzed out of the room.

            “I was expecting a man!” sulked William.

            “Well, we forget that she’s a woman.”

            They fell into silent thinking until William asked, “I wonder what she thinks of me?”

            “Why? Do you want me?” came a voice from behind. William blushed as Tom explained.

            “I suppose I should’ve warned you. Chris was ... more than a solider in your father’s army.”

            “Oh, really?” William spat sarcastically.

            “Yeah, I was a bit of a spy and an assassin and, well, I did a lot of behind the scenes work.”

            “Oh.” His voice lost its sarcastic tone as he realized what sort of person this woman really was. “I was rather rude before. Maybe I could make it up to you? Say, dinner at my place with all of the family?”

            “Oh, that would be smashing,” she said in a very posh voice. “But unfortunately I must dash, I can’t keep Mumsy waiting.”

            William had to laugh at that. She sounded like his late mother; Kellenna, except she was playing and his mother would’ve been serious. “At least let me be your escort home. Father would kill me if I didn’t act like a proper gentleman.”

 

            The three of them walked home in a talkative mood.

            “I remember how your sister insisted on using those silly code names,” Tom said.

            “I can’t even remember what they were,” Chris responded as she stumbled a bit.

            “I can. Father told me the stories of Lakesia Laskie and the Cheetah of Death! Though I always thought that they were the same person?” he said, inviting Chris to tell him more.

            “That’s right, Lakesia Laskie, the protective cat of the high jungles that escapes death. We had the different names, so people like Tom here,” she slapped Tom on the shoulder, “would know if they had to repeat themselves. People thought that we, or should I say I, was supernatural. She was always better though.” Chris stated, losing the drunken act, “I guess I can’t call her the Cheetah of Death though. She didn’t cheat death, just prolonged the inevitable for a while.” They walked on in silence.

 

            They reached her house when the night air started to drift in and dusk was falling. Chris knew something wasn’t right as soon as she reached the front door; it was open. Her mother had always made sure it was shut. Chris’s sudden change of mood signalled that something was amiss.

            “What’s wrong?” asked Tom, as he became serious too.

            “I don’t know. Wait here a minute,” Chris said handing him the reins of her horse. It was basically a commoner giving an order to people of rank, but they followed it anyway.

            She walked inside as she called, “Mother?” She expected her mother to answer and was worried when she didn’t. She stepped into her mother’s room and saw why. A pool of blood was slowly seeping into the wooden floorboards about a limp body. She ran over to her mother, her knees dropped into the still-warm blood. She started to sob. It was something she had not done in a long time. Tom heard her and walked inside. He bent down beside her and inspected the body. The fatal wound on her neck was produced through the use of a short dagger. Tom held Chris as she wept for the death of her mother.

            Then suddenly, she violently pushed him aside. William had just come to the bedroom’s doorway, having tied the horse, but he had the good grace to step back when he saw the anger and hatred in Chris’s eyes. She wanted revenge. She drew a dagger from her boot and it was that moment when William wondered how many blades were actually on this girl. She ran outside and sniffed the ground around her like a starving wolf. Then she ran off in the direction of the alley that ran alongside her house. Tom and William followed her from a distance. A man was smoking a pipe in the back alley. She called to him in a near scream, “You killed my mother, you bastard! For that your life is sacrificed.” The sight of this mad girl made him cringe with fear. The pipe fell from his loose lips. He turned with a coward’s scream as he began to run.

            William reached the alley in time to see her release the dagger. It flew, cutting through all that was in its path until it struck the far wall of the alley. Blood started to dribble down the wall as the man let out his last gasp of breath. Tom saw the shock in William’s eyes. It was the shock he had experienced when he had first seen Chris kill. The mad hatred that had driven her started to fade as she dropped to her knees. “My revenge is fulfilled, Mother,” she said in a low voice, now strangely calm. “May Calaw guide you on your journey and life in the afterworld,” she finished. 

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