This is more of an interlude than a chapter, standing at only 700 words, but for now it's a chapter. Also mainly because it takes place in a different character's perspective and a different place.
Anila; to be fair she's got no fixed idea in my head yet what she looks like. She's more like a bundle of ideas and concepts at the moment, but that'll change as I write more with her. Eventually she'll be a proper main character with her own perspective chapters regularly.
For now, please enjoy this!
The wooden dummy rocked as Anila’s fist thumped into it. Strands of hair stuck to her sweat-bathed face and naked chest as she pounded the mannequin, pouring all her frustration into it. Hours had passed, she thought, but it didn’t matter; she had a task to do, a mission, and she would not be found wanting.
Fatigue, though, had been dogging her for hours and was finally winning the battle. Digging deep into her reserves she prepared for one final flurry of blows.
Right fist into stomach, doubling her opponent over. Left elbow rising to meet chin as his face came forward. Double kick to the back of the knee and hip, destroying joints and balance. Spinning kick to the head.
Almost in a daze, Anila straightened up out of her crouch. The echoes of her yell as she had performed the final blow rang around the polished wooden walls and already she could hear footsteps coming to find out what was happening. She concentrated on breathing, then looked up at the dummy. It was taller than her by a head, or had been; her kick had left a splintered beam sticking up out of straw packing. Anila bit her lip; the head was lying in the corner of the room, still rocking gently, and she walked over to pick it up. As she moved she became aware that every joint ached, every muscle was stretched to its ultimate, every part of her lithe body covered in a slick of sweat.
The head of the dummy was a ball of wood, heavy and scarred with many blows. The footsteps were coming closer and she began to worry; what would her father say? Too late she looked around for a place to hide the evidence, but the room was otherwise empty anyway. The door opened and her father walked in.
“Anila,” he began, then stopped and turned away. “Anila, put some clothes on. I don’t know why you insist on training topless.”
“The men all do it, father,” she said, but she moved to the crumpled pile of clothing in the corner. With her loose white shirt and green robe she quickly began to feel the sweat uncomfortably sticking the clothes to her. She walked over and stood in front of her father, looking down.
“Child, the men are men. You are a woman. Would you have them distracted in the heat of battle?” His voice was gentle and she looked up into his blue eyes hopefully.
“If they were warriors, they would not be distracted, father.”
He began to walk around her, hands behind his back. His tightly-cropped beard and hair shone in the torchlight as he moved.
“This is true, Anila. But while they are warriors, they are also men, and we wish for our men to have the correct weapon raised.”
Anila blushed and her father chuckled. “I came here because-”
“I didn’t mean to break it,” Anila blurted out. Her father stopped pacing and raised an eyebrow, then looked carefully around the chamber. His gaze came to rest on the practice dummy, then swung back to Anila.
“Impressive,” he muttered, then resumed pacing. “I came here today to give you your mission. We are to take a fast caravan to Fennica while Rootholme is being rebuilt. The Duke is unwell and requires our guidance in his time of need. There is a certain matter that requires your skills and dedication, though.” Her father stopped in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders. His expression became serious and his eyes seemed to bore into her very soul.
“The night Rootholme was attacked, the great Library of Leaves was attacked as well. This you know. We have discovered, though, that at least one Gargorian has not returned through the mountains, but is instead bound for Fennica, as best as we can tell. We do not know what his purpose is. The Arbour has spoken, and our goal is clear; this vile intruder must be eliminated.”
Anila narrowed her eyes as her father spoke. A chance for revenge, and so soon! She took his hands in hers and smiled grimly.
“When do we leave?”