SOW: Chapter Five, Part Three: Fleeing Freedom

Chapter Five, Part Two: [SOW] Chapter Five, Part Two: Bloody Ties

“You let her leave?” Sekhenna’s blood boiled in her veins. Sitting across from her, Jundal, her oldest friend and closest confidant shrugged.

“The little root wished to depart. I would not deny her.”

“You cannot let her leave without you.” The voice of Farrakha crooned into her mind.

“Where did she go?”

Sekhenna strapped her boots, the long leather laces twisted around her calf and came to a knot just below her knee. Across the camp, Rheysan dressed himself, the cold air brushed against his bare, scar laden chest.

“I told her where they likely kept her dragon companion before she was slaughtered.”

Rheysan whipped around.

“Did you tell her that Balshenai is likely dead? There hasn’t been a single captured dragon to make it out of that facility alive. Fumjard Keep is a death pit.”

Jundal nodded, waiting for Sekhenna to say something.

Farrakha growled beneath her thoughts.

“If we don’t go after her, she will be killed by the guards for escaping. If they don’t manage to kill her, the soldiers at Fumjard will.”

Jundal clapped his wooden hands together.

“I suppose then, it is time to get moving.”

She tied her second boot and knelt, rolling her bed mat back to a tight coil.

Rheysan packed his things and joined them before they turned back to Godspine to find the girl.

“Why do you want her?” Sekhenna asked the voice living within.

“I want what I want. It is not for you to understand at this time.”

She grumbled at the response. Another deflection.

“If you tell me why she is so important, I might be more inclined to search her out. As it stands, she is a liability.”

The voice laughed.

“And you are not? You are a tool for me to use as I see fit, Sekhenna. You will do as commanded by your brand. Lest I remove your arm from your body.”

The tines surrounding the inside of the gauntlet quivered, piercing her flesh in places it had barely begun to heal.

She didn’t bother arguing further. Instead, she set her mind to the task at hand, finding Emry before she walked headlong into a hornet’s nest.

Fumjard Keep was an old military bunker, constructed decades ago when Athella made their way into Atla to begin settling it. Since then, it became a laboratory of sorts for the further study of Dragons. The soldiers she’d known who went there didn’t come back normal, if they came back at all.

“You know,” Rheysan began. She prepared to roll her eyes in advance. “Emry is bonded.”

She cocked an eyebrow.

“What do you mean?”

“To the dragon. She’s bonded.”

Jundal glanced at her, likely thinking the same thing she was.

“How do you know?”

“I heard the story she told, I heard what happened that night. I put two and two together. She might be a novice, but she is a Scalebonder. Whether she thinks so or not.”

Jundal lifted a swathe of branches for them to pass.

“And what does that mean for her?”

“I can’t say for sure, we didn’t have a lot of opportunity to ask them, but by my understanding, she is linked with the one she calls Balshenai.”

“So you were listening to us in the evening.” Jundal whispered. “Surprising.”

Sekhenna kept an eye on him as they reached the foot of the wall, a handful of steps from the crack which they’d exited. It had since been patched up with clay and mud.

“The bonders I knew could feel their partner. Like a sensation inside of them. I don’t know how it works, but I do know the bonders can feel their scale leave them when it dies. If she hasn’t felt it yet, it means Balshenai lives. Somewhere.”

“What is it like, then?” Sekhenna questioned. She crouched, listening to him whisper as they rounded toward the sealed crack.

“I’ve heard its painful. It’s supposed to be like having your fingernails torn from you, but all over your body.”

She nodded. “Doesn’t sound like something you’d recover from quickly.”

He shrugged his response and fished a shovel from his pack. “Unfortunately, she knows even less than any of us do. It’ll be impossible for her to tap into the power and use it to help us.”

Jundal launched his fist through the half dried mud, rocketing his stiff arm through the wall and leaving a large hole behind. Sekhenna quickly went to work with her knife, chipping away at the edges of the hole like she’d done countless times before.

Every season a new guard would find the break in the wall and they would patch it up at night only for The Camps to tear it apart the following night. The chipped mud fell to the forest floor until they fashioned a hole large enough for Rheysan’s small frame to slip through.

“Why is she so important?” He asked, focused on the opposite edge of the crack.

“I don’t know. I just feel something telling me to help her.”

“You sure you aren’t bonded to a dragon, Khenna?” He grinned.

“Call her by her full name.” Jundal interrupted. 

He’d always been defensive of her nickname. Ever since they’d met and she told him it was reserved for people she trusted. Over the years, she’d grown to trust the bark covered giant, and he refused to call her by her short name. Despite knowing she didn’t mind.

Jundal was always protective, he made his mark on her and most of the folks from the Camps by appointing himself as their stand alone security guard thanks to his need for such little sleep. Until the winter, but even then he could push through a week or two at a time if needed.

“I’m sorry.” Rheysan replied. He jammed his trowel into the heap of clay and pried another large chunk for Jundal to carry away.

Before long, they’d managed to return the hole to the size it had once been. As they slipped back into the city, their return to Godspine bothered her. Not as much, however, as Rheysan’s comment.

She’d not known any dragons before, but she’d also never had a piece of armor give her commands before, and supposed that anything was possible.

The trio slinked through the city before daybreak, careful to remain in alleys and back roads as they wound through the still dim districts of the city.

Smoke still billowed from the depths of Icehold, a sight she admired for a moment, the faces of the terrified guards still fresh in her memory.

The early morning of Godspine felt no different to her than any other day, but something within her stirred. Rheysan’s words bounded through her in consideration of the voice inside. If Farrakha was a dragon, what did she want with Sekehenna, or Emry, for that matter?

She quieted the growing storm in her mind and ducked into an alley behind the market square. Emry wouldn’t know the city well enough to know which districts to avoid. As close as they were to Icehold, the guards were almost certainly on their way to find her. One way or another, she had a feeling, they wouldn’t be walking back out of Godspine.

As if she saw into her own future she led the men to the end of the alley and stopped in her tracks as a grizzled, armor clad man walked with a pair of young soldiers. A man she recognized immediately.

“General Vandruss.” She drew a long breath and raised a hand, pausing Rheysan who hadn’t been paying attention.

“Wait here.” She whispered.

Beside them,  a pile of empty storage crates lined the back of a quaint one story house. Cobwebs gathered across them, with a fresh web tangled in the mix of brittle, dried spider silk. She crouched down and hid behind the boxes.

“Jundal,” She whispered. “Find somewhere to hide.”

Her companion spun in place and slinked down the alley back to a break in the row houses where he shoved his massive frame into the crevice.

“What about me?” Rheysan whispered to her, scowling.

“You aren’t wanted for a jailbreak.” She fired back, holding her hood over her face.

The widower rolled his eyes.

“Act natural.”

“And speaking with empty crates is natural in appearance, then?” He trudged out of the alley and across the street, the sound of his boots popped as Sekhenna traced his movement in her mind. He was approaching the General.

“Morning, sirs!” Rheysan started.

She could picture his exaggerated wave and wide smile as he stepped up to the general, who, she immediately realized, would recognize him.

“Well if it isn’t Rheysan! How are you doing?” Vandruss paused. “I suppose I can’t call you Captain anymore, can I?”

She cocked her head.

“Captain? He was a Captain?”

“Oh, no thank you sir. I was lucky enough to get out. I don’t want to have to come crawling back.”

Vandruss chuckled, the ostensibly jovial old soldier clapped his hands. 

“What brings you to Godspine, Rheysan? Isn’t this a bit far from your home?”

“New ventures, sir.” He replied. Sekhenna could hear the nerves in his voice. “Moved here a few seasons back, we wanted to settle down somewhere a bit more crowded. The plains up north aren’t where I’d want to grow old.”

“Speaking of old,” Vandruss replied. “How big is your little girl now?”

The pause from Rheysan pierced Sekhenna.

“Well, sir, they’re…” His voice fell flat. “They’re dead.”

The General didn’t say anything.

Sekhenna waited briefly, and as time crept on, Vandruss still didn’t reply. She spun, peeking from behind the boxes to get a look at the conversation.

The pair of guards trailing Vandruss stepped away from him, and he held his hand to his mouth, tears brimming in his eyes.

“What do you mean?” He asked through a quivering breath.

“Well, we ran into some unfortunate luck and ended up at the Camps. A few days back some of the King’s Guard showed up and started slaughtering us. They claimed they were making room for more beds. My family were…” Rheysan’s voice broke, finally, as he shed tears of his own.

Vandruss held a hand to stop him.

“I am so sorry, Rheysan. Are you sure they were the King’s Guard? They weren’t impostors?”

He nodded. “As clear as day. They wore his marks, carried his flag.”

“What became of them?”

Rheysan took a deep breath.

“Don’t mention me.” Sekhenna stared at him while he formed the words.

“We,” He paused. “We fought back.”

Vandruss nodded, his face twisting from sad to serious.

“You know, I could have you executed for admitting that.”

She gritted her teeth.

“It was his family you coward.”

Rheysan nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“I won’t. Neither will they,” the General glanced to his companions. “I’m sorry it happened, Rheysan. Truly. You know my thoughts on The Camps here, and the other places like it. If you do find yourself in need of anything, I have room and would be more than willing to pull some strings to get you somewhere safer.”

He nodded a thanks.

“Actually, I do have a request.”

“Anything you need, old friend.” Vandruss flashed a short smile.

“I heard about the issue at Icehold, and happened to come across the young girl there, I heard she was connected with the dragon attacks. Thin blonde thing.”

Vandruss nodded and Sekhenna’s heart dropped.

“What are you doing?”

“I saw her on the southern side of town, making her way out of Godspine to the south. If I know anything, I’d assume she was on her way to the river. Thought you might want to know. I’m sure she’s a high priority prisoner.”

Vandruss continued nodding.

“We will investigate the area, thank you, Rheysan.” He turned toward his following soldiers. “Make sure you keep an eye out. Inform the others we pass.” 

Vandruss returned his attention to Rheysan and leaned in close, whispering something low enough Sekhenna couldn’t make out.

With that, the conversation came to a quick close as the General continued on around the far wall of Icehold where Sekhenna had broken it. Rheysan returned to them, wiping tears from his eyes.

“I bought us time.” He muttered, rejoining with them in the alley.

“What did he say to you? At the end.”

Sekhenna barely trusted Rheysan as it was, no more if he was sharing secrets with General Vandruss.

“He told me something we needed to hear.” Rheysan replied, turning to leave the alley. “Are you coming?”

She remained where she stood, Jundal didn’t move either.

“Not until you tell us what Vandruss said to you.”

“He apologized for the murder of my wife and child.” Rheysan stopped in place. He answered her without turning. 

His voice didn’t quiver, his words weren’t forced. Sekhenna narrowed her eyes.

“Please be honest with me, Rheysan. We don’t have the time to squabble over secrets when Emry is in danger.”

“She isn’t.” He answered, making it clear he wouldn’t be sharing further as he marched out of the alley, alone.

Jundal shared a look with her as Sekhenna stretched her knuckles.

“Is there a reason you aren’t helping me interrogate?” She asked. Her friend likely had his own reasons, and she knew as well as he did she wouldn’t do anything to convince him if he wasn’t interested in stirring the pot. But she wanted to make it clear she noticed his silence.

“We all have secrets, Sekhena.”

“I keep hearing that.”

If Rheysan did have something he was keeping from them, she would find out sooner or later, she knew that much.

Without another word about it, she left the alley to follow the man across the opposite side of Icehold. 

The guards patrolling the city all appeared to be new, most of whom younger than she was, and even younger than Rheysan. By the frightened looks on their faces, she assumed they were on their first or second appointment. The same was true for numerous guards pacing the streets of the city. Most of whom weren’t present at Icehold the night she’d made her showing.

What brief feeling of luck she held passed over her when they, once more, crossed paths with General Vandruss. He was instructing a series of privates to their duties near the north guard wall. She and Jundal once more took to the shadows and skulked around, watching for an opportunity to leave the gate through a crowd.

When a sizable group of merchants came shambling through the street with their rickety wagons and covered carriages, Sekhenna wasted little time moving from the cover of the nearby houses to the group. Jundal close behind her, and Rheysan already on the other side of the gate she marched in tandem with the merchant’s who, upon her entrance to their caravan looked taken aback.

“You don’t belong here, lass.” A larger man half-yelled.

Sekhenna flashed the tattoo behind her ear, and he silenced immediately. She turned her attention to the General, who continued to speak with the soldiers after the ruckus of the merchant’s caravan died down. For a moment, she wondered if he noticed her tucked away in the crowd.

She shook the thought and moved through the north gate with Jundal, and once they were sufficiently away from the eyes of the watch tower she split, thanking the merchants with a handful of scales as she snuck out from beneath a covering to reunite with Rheysan.

“Fumjard is not far from here. It is near the site of the dragon attacks.” He didn’t wait for her to reply before he started on his way further north.

Sekhenna followed, silently checking over her shoulder every few steps to make sure they weren’t being trailed.

“What do they do at this Keep? Specifically.” Jundal asked.

Rheysan shrugged. “I don’t know much, what I do know is that things die there. Harvested for parts. We need to move to make sure Emry stays in one piece.

Sekhenna nodded.

At least that much, she agreed with.

“He is bothering you, isn’t he?”

Farrakha’s crooning came suddenly enough to spook her.

“He’s irritating, and prideful.”

“So are you.” The voice called back.

“At least I am trustworthy.”

“Sekhenna,” Rheysan called out. “We are here.”

She searched through the treelike, looking for a watchtower or a wall, but found none. Instead, there was only a small outcropping of stones arranged in a circle. It emerged from the earth like a well, complete with a pulley and long steel chain descending into the earth.

“There’s the entrance to the new Fumjard Keep. The personnel entrance.” Rehysan gestured to the well, and as well to the figure hunched over it, peering into the depths.

Sekhenna’s eyes fell upon the thin frame of the girl, her blonde hair wrapped in a loose bundle, bouncing as she swung, braced against the taut chain. 

“Emry!” She called a moment too late as the girl lunged forward with her fists wrapped around the chain and sank into the darkness below.

Sekhenna didn’t think, didn’t consider the watchful eyes of the guards, she just ran.

Whatever force emerged from within her the night before to safeguard the young woman burst forth from within her as she sprinted toward the well and jumped headlong into the opening behind her.

Jundal’s cry from behind for her to wait fell on her deaf ears as she wrapped her fist around the chain and sank below the surface of the forest bed.

Despite its fragile appearance, the chain itself held well, supporting both the weight of Emry and herself with most of her traveling baggage over her shoulders, it wobbled against the strain but did not threaten to shatter.

Their paired descent lasted longer than she’d imagined as the pinhole of light from above dimmed beyond the shadows of Rheysan and jandal calling out to her from above. She hadn’t considered her wooden companion’s frame and his inability to descend alongside her. Rheysan, if he elected to do so, could follow in pursuit of Emry.

“Perhaps,” she considered “If he does, he will reveal his intention.”

The forward demeanor he showed toward the young woman bothered her. Not in a manner that she feared for Emry’s immediate safety, but for something deeper. Some unkindness resting below the surface of the ex-soldier was awakened beside the lost child. 

It had awoken something akin to motherly instinct within Sekhenna, something she’d felt before but knew she wouldn’t understand.

“Ven’alhim aren’t fit for parenthood.” Farraka’s voice whispered, eternally in tune with her thoughts and feelings.

Below, a dim flickering light poked through the darkness as Emry, who either hadn’t noticed the extra weight on the chain, or rather and much more likely, didn’t care about Sekhenna’s pursuit, didn’t say anything as the chain dropped them both into a large open room filled with lockers and benches.

Emry released her grip on the chain and sent it rattling upward as she hopped onto the cold stone, still donned in her prison garb with no coverings on her blistered, scabbed feet. She crouched and began searching through the lockers as Sekhenna descended, carefully stepping onto the stone behind her.

Quiet as she could, she alerted Emry to her presence.

“Do not be alarmed,” She began.

The girl jumped, her blonde hair whipping against the face of a locker, popping the loose door open slightly as she brandished the knife Sekhenna delivered to her two nights prior.

“Don’t come any closer.” She threatened in the most unthreatening manner possible.

Sekhenna raised her hands. There was no doubt Emry could see her well enough to recognize her.

“I am not here to hurt you, Emry. I am here to make sure you leave this place alive.”

Emry blinked once, then twice, and the realization of who she was looking at flushed across her face.

“Sekhenna how did you find me?”

She smirked in the dark, taking hold of one of the lockers to search for clothing more suitable for the girl.

“You are not discreet, that helped.”

Emry stowed her knife and returned to her rummaging.

“I am sorry for abandoning you.” She murmured, the words so soft Sekhenna could barely hear.

“Console her.” Farrakha commanded.

“It is alright, child. I have been where you are now. I don’t blame you.”

She pulled a small pair of trousers and leather greaves from a locker, likely made for a young man, denoted by the crest on this inside of the greaves. Whoever they belonged to had been a scout for the Khallix House, a mining operation disbanded amid the Company Merger.

“I am here to help keep you safe. Jundal and Rheysan are above, looking for another way in.”

She placed the greaves beside Emry who found a leather chest wrap and slid it over herself.

“How did you find this place?”

She shrugged, pulling the straps tight against her side.

“Jundal told me about a merchant you’ve used in the past to get information. I asked them.”

Sekhenna cocked her head. “What did you pay them?”

“Nothing,” Emry grinned. “She felt bad for me.”

She had to stifle a laugh. Merchant Greyorl was hardly the type to give out information for free, but occasionally they would help a lost, confused woods woman, it seemed.

Emry wrapped the greaves around her legs and latched them tight against her body. Sekhenna pulled a waterskin from her pack and took a long gulp from within.

“So, what brings you here, really?”

“Balshenai.” Emry didn’t bother beating around the bush. “If she is alive, and I hope she still is, Rheysan said she would be here.”

Sekhenna growled. “Rheysan.”

“You know, he is an ex soldier. He could be leading you into a trap.”

“So if he is, I will get out. I have before.”

The girl double checked the fit of her fragile armor and stepped into a pair of worn boots.

“You only escaped because of me, I would hardly call that getting out of trouble.”

Emry knotted the laces and met her gaze. “You’re here now, aren’t you?”

At that, she didn’t have anything to say in contest.

While Emry finished donning the cloak and overcoat she’d pilfered from the lockers, Sekhenna took to examining the room and the far hall. Whatever mechanism they’d used to descend into the room was attached to another half which rose upward. Each side of the room attached to the makeshift elevator was decorated with lockers and trunks, most of which were filled with clothing. As far as she could tell through the fading light of the torches there were no weapons to be seen.

The barracks stretched down a long corridor to a single wooden door on one side of the room, which opened to a long hallway stretching perpendicular to the length of the room itself. She pushed the door open a crack, inspecting the hall to find it well lit by sconces, decorated with a myriad of well made rugs. The walls were left bare beside the light fixtures, but the matted fabric of the carpets showed signs of frequent traffic. 

She returned to Emry, who hooked the knife through her belt.

“If this is a laboratory as Rheysan suggested, it is well used. We need to move with care.”

The girl nodded.

“I will protect you as best I can, until we find your friend. Or,” she paused at the notion of Balshenai already having been cut up for parts. She chose not to suggest the possibility.


“Or, we get arrested again.”

Emry grinned. “I’ve done it once.”

Sekhenna couldn’t help but smile in return at the infectious hope bleeding from Emry’s toothy smile.

Perhaps, there was a greater purpose to her contract with Farrakha after all.

Thanks for reading todays episode of Sisters of Westwinter!

Sisters of Westwinter is an episodic fantasy series taking place in a world torn apart by the greed of mortals. Dragons, which populate the world, are considered a pest to be exterminated and harvested for the valuable pearls within their bodies. These pearls power grand machines used by the Merchant Guilds to continue to build up their own empires.

When a young woman named Emry discovers her valley was protected by a great silver dragon, she promises him on his deathbed she will flee from the valley to elude those who wish to seek her harm. She does not know how, or why she matters to the dragon, but she obeys. On her escape with another of the dragons, she is shot down and imprisoned, branded a “witch” for her bond with Balshenai, a fearsome golden scaled dragon.

Locked in prison, she can only think of her family, killed by mysterious men in the night, and Balshenai’s final words to her.

“Seek Westwinter”

Follow the Grimoire of Finality or on Facebook/Instagram to read the weekly releases!

Lifeis+ 2023

All through March, I am releasing short writing series to celebrate my birthday with you! Check back every day to see new content and come celebrate with me. This year, I am telling stories about resilience.

I hope to see you there!

More From Me:

SOW: Chapter Five, Part Five: A Single Spark

The Nail Ward, as they called it, was as miserable as it looked from the outside. The thousands of needles covering the floor and walls made it impossible to relax, and sleep was terribly out of the question. So Kerrick stood in the corner waiting, patiently, for the sunrise.

One Reply to “SOW: Chapter Five, Part Three: Fleeing Freedom”

  1. […] Chapter Five, Part Three: SOW: Chapter Five, Part Three: Fleeing Freedom […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at
%d bloggers like this: