Welcome! Hand of Sorrow is still very much a work in progress, so for the time being I've decided to put up snippets of what I've written throughout the story. You can get a look at the story that's to come, and the characters I hope you'll fall in love with!
All chapters now include a one-line summary, and are arranged in chronological order by story events!
Don't be afraid to leave a comment if there's something you see that I could work on - this is a serious project for me, and I don't aim to take it lightly. Additionally, if you'd like to see more of a certain character, let me know! I'm interested to see who strikes your fancy. For now, I hope you can enjoy a few of the short pieces I've released to help you get to know the guys and gals of Altruain!
Summary: After the battle, it's time to tend to the inevitable wounds.
Genre: Historical Fiction / Adventure / Friendship
Chatacters: Before main timeline - Shinobu, Seiya
Seiya looked up as the quick clattering of hooves and the sharp call of his assumed name signaled the return of his companion. "Shinobu," he greeted with a level nod, even as the dark-haired man leapt from his mount, expression serious, and strode over to him.
Seiya turned his gaze back down to the palamino, fastening the remainder of their belongings to his saddle as he answered, "Rouges."
"Bandits. Thieves. I regret to say I don't know what you would call them," he continued his work after giving the other man an easy, apologetic shrug. "They must surround the outskirts of this entire village. They know nothing of value ever leaves it, but are constantly aware of anything of value that passes through."
"They mistook you for a merchant?"
"Hardly. They have sharper eyes than that. A bag of grains is of little use to them."
"They attempted to rob you." Shinobu realized with sudden clarity. Seiya could not halt the small smile at Shinobu's choice of words. Attempted, indeed.
"It would have been wiser of them not to target you."
Thinking suddenly back to the path out of the village, which Shinobu must have crossed in order reach their sheltering cave in the mountains, he sobered quickly.
"The signs of a struggle were unmistakable. As were the stains leading back here. You did not come back unscathed." When an answer was not forthcoming he continued. "I also saw that you put to rest the spirit of a man that would have seen you dead."
"It was only proper."
A heavy silence followed, broken yet again by Shinobu.
"How badly were you wounded?"
Seiya lifted his head and, perplexingly, seemed to consider the answer to this question for some moments before he replied; "We should have enough time."
"What?" Shinobu despaired repeating himself.
"The others will have noticed he's missing before long," Seiya explained, "Even if none knew of his particular quest, they are certain to meet at a fixed point every day. Judging from the one man alone I can venture that they are a well-assembled group, and as fortune fares, we are the only fresh faces to the village at the present time. They'll figure out what happened, and no doubt come looking for us." His gaze darkened. "You've been into the village. They'll have seen you already."
Recollection trickled back like a stream. "There was a man seated in the cliffs above that took notice of me, but his interest seemed to pass when he saw that I was leaving the village, rather than entering it."
Seiya nodded. "Nothing on your person warranted attention."
"Then what of yours were they seeking?"
He paused. "My sword."
It felt decades ago as the old innkeeper's words wafted back through a fog of memories. 'Having practiced in swordsmanship yourself, surely you've realized that the value, the make of those blades is far superior to anything you've ever seen come in or out of this town, and yours, whether by passerby or fine traders and smiths.' Hatenaka-san's predictions could not have proved truer. The longer he spent with Seiya the more he realized that everything about the man screamed wealth. From the tailoring of his clothes to the fine workmanship of his blades, and even the more enigmatic things, such as his manner of speaking, and that mysterious pocket of coins that had served to purchase all of their travelling supplies thus far. But there was also something that Hatenaka-san had been gravely mistaken about, and of this Shinobu was sure. Seiya was not a worldly man. His knowledge was vast, his skills undeniable, but practiced application of some of the smallest matters would consistently elude him. He did not know how to fish, or cook with limited means, or forage, or hunt. He could not swim, and the weather seemed a constant burden to him. He was the furthest thing from a seasoned traveler.
"You've been avoiding my question."
"Sorry?" The pale-haired man looked up from his equally pale equine companion, frowning softly. Shinobu's recollections had left him time to become lost in his own thoughts.
"I asked how badly you were injured."
Seiya chuffed a quiet laugh. "I did answer. Sort of. Were you able to purchase all we needed from the village?"
"Then it might be best, before we set off, to tend to them. Would it be too much to ask that you bring the supplies over here?" He gestured with a cant of his head to a mostly level rock a few feet to his left, though he made no move to leave the palomino's cover.
By now, Shinobu was certain it was purposeful. Nevertheless, he nodded his assent, much too used to Seiya's enigmatic nature than he wished he was. He turned his back, leading his stallion into the low-overhanging cave and closer to his companion. He unhitched the bag which held all of their medicinal supplies, another growing familiarity, and when he had turned back Seiya was seated upon the very rock he had motioned to moments ago. Amongst those pristine garments were three striking spatterings of red, bound by what little gauze they'd had left in their possession before Shinobu's trip to the markets.
His left shoulder, again, though this time the wound was several inches further down his arm. And his right ankle. Again. These were obviously not direct enemies of his, such as they had encountered before, for that wound, too, was misplaced from the area that had already seen far too much damage. This time the wound was higher up. Again, by several inches. Finally, Seiya's right hand. Shinobu had to take a moment to wonder how those three, of all places, had managed to be injured. From there he had to acknowledge that Seiya's foe had been powerful enough to land three complete strikes before he was overpowered. The reality left a sick feeling in his stomach, and whether it was in poor taste or not, the next words that left his lips had probably been meant to lighten the mood.
"You bleed more than any man I've ever known."
"Thank you?" Seiya replied hesitantly.
"Not sure what I meant by that," Shinobu admitted with a weak blush.
Seiya smiled. "I can tend to them myself, you know," he nodded towards the bag Shinobu was still clutching.
"Hell no." Shinobu replied with vehemence. "Once I hand this over you're not going to let me have one look at those wounds. Don't even bother to deny it. We both know it's true."
"But you can't deny that I'm capable of tending to these particular injuries myself."
That had been the wrong thing to say. He knew it from the second it had left his lips. A second too late. Seiya's expression was both hurt and betrayed. And then worse, it became defiant. This was the Seiya that would abandon him in a heartbeat. Leave the horses behind, and all belongings that were not his own, and simply continue on his own. Shinobu could see it all, so clearly, in his eyes. The only thing he wondered at was whether Seiya would take rations for himself. He seriously doubted he would do even that. Seiya's companionship was like treading the edge of a cliff. If ever he pushed too hard, Seiya might just fall off of it completely. Whatever cause it was that drove him, it had taken a mountain of effort for Shinobu to become included, even while he was still being kept completely in the dark. Seiya had never once promised him answers. He had never even assured that Shinobu could accompany him to his journey's end. Every step of the way had been a cautious tred at gaining the reserved man's trust, and Seiya had outright refused it the day he had allowed 'Seiya' to become the only name he would ever answer to. The truth was, all along, that Shinobu knew he had no claim to accompany this man. Seiya had his freedom. If he ever wished to leave, there was nothing Shinobu could do to stop him. That thought frightened him to no end.
Shinobu bowed his head, not even certain why he was doing so, and apologized. "I'm sorry."
A moment of absolute silence passed.
When Shinobu looked up he saw that Seiya's left hand, the uninjured one, was extended toward the bag of medicine. His heart leapt. This wasn't going to be the moment where Seiya left him after all. Knowing that, and knowing that it would have to be enough, he handed over the supplies.
"I'll finish packing up the camp."
Seiya hesitated before repeating himself. "Thank you."
Another ten minutes and all signs of their presence at the camp had been removed, save for the bloodshed Seiya had brought along with him, though Shinobu had erased as much of its presence as possible. The dark-haired man had chanced glances at his companion while he had been tending to his own wounds. What he'd seen had been worse than he had expected, but explained away why so much blood had been shed both here and on the original battlefield. Both Seiya's arm and leg had taken straight thrusts from a blade, too clean to have been accidental. The way he was treating them, and the fact that he had hidden from Shinobu's sight when he had moved made him suspect they were quite deep. Remembering the scene of the battle he had walked through and the bloodstains where they had been he was left with the horrifying association that when Seiya had been overpowered, he had been forcibly pinned to the earth by multiple blades. He had not seen the state of Seiya's injured hand, but he could picture now the full width of a sword torn through his palm. If it were truly that serious, he may never have proper use of his hand again. And what did he have to gain from hiding such an injury from him!? Frustration was welling up inside of him once again, ready to boil over when suddenly Seiya's gentle voice caught him off guard.
Shinobu quickly caught his gaze, ready again to have it out, but as he watched he saw liquid pools of determination settle like a still lake in blue eyes, and he realized this was another battle he would do best not to take part in. Not now, at least. He gave a nod, leading their horses out into the sunshine. "Let's go."
Author's Note: (Do you want to see how Seiya injured his ankle? Do you want to know why his shoulder was previously injured? Please drop me a comment! I absolutely adore these two, and have plenty of writings on them that I would love to share with you!)
Summary: Masami's thoughts as she first sets eyes on Tsukasa.
Genre: Historical Fiction / Adventure / Romance
Characters: Before main timeline - Masami, Tsukasa, Anna, Unnamed Captain of the Guard
I'd never seen someone like him before.
It wasn't that I hadn't seen other boys my age around the castle, or even in the outer markets. There were a few, and on the rare occasions that our paths would cross we'd even spend some time talking. But there was something different about him, something that made me stop in my tracks, forgetting to care that I had obligations and schooling to attend to.
He came into the corridor with the sweet, elderly Anna pressed closely against his right side, and the Captain of the Guards himself vigilantly attending to his left. They'd boxed him in rather spectacularly, and while the Captain was known for taking dear Anna home after the sun had set, I'd never seen them in any light other than the quiet friends they appeared to have always been. Watching the two practically carrying out a mission before my eyes was one of the strangest things I could have imagined. Of course, I'll admit to my judgement having possibly been impaired, for as they turned I caught a rather clear view of him.
Healer's instincts. Time and again I have considered this the only possible answer for my daze, for he was already in the hands of those perfectly capable of tending to him. I was merely an apprentice, this must simply be an urge, a desire to help the wounded. He bore a patch over his right eye, and the edges of a wrap crept above his shoulder on the left side of a ratty tunic. His right wrist was completely bound. Broken, if I had had to guess.
The startling thing about him was that despite this grimy garb and the dirt staining his hair a color more brown than blonde, his features were still quite striking. Strong shoulders and a high brow, yet his eyes were a gentle cobalt blue, soft and grateful for the company that surrounded him. His expression was kind, thankful. It didn't fit at all with the looks of someone who had just gotten out of a brawl, and it left me wondering.
Who was this stranger that even I upon first sight felt the need to protect?