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A Journey Remembered
1999 by Michael Dover

Prologue: Naked Came the Rogue II

At least the sun was coming up. Getting up to get the pebble that Sister Sylverwraithe had sent her to find had restored just enough of Val Halla's circulation to turn kneeling again into about as painful an experience as one could have and not be losing actual blood. The cramp in her thigh flared to angry life again. Her bare feet, which had been peacefully asleep and completely numb for hours, felt like they'd been pierced with icicles and rubbed with broken glass. Also, the small of her back had spontaneously developed the ability to speak in tongues. Unfortunately, all it had to say was something to the effect that she must have been some kind of idiot to have spent all night meditating stark naked on top of a freezing butte at the edge of the Badlands.

According to Sister Sylverwraithe, it was supposed to be a test of perception and of her ability to maintain her focus under adverse conditions. Personally, Val Halla believed that Sylverwraithe was back at Wraithespyre in front of a warm fire having a sadistic laugh at her expense.

Technically, Val Halla had flunked the test when she invoked the Warmth cantrip. She could have simply gotten up and returned to Wraithespyre to take her medicine. So, it came down to a choice between being naked, cold, sore and hungry, or rushing home to bask in Sister Sylverwraithe's harsh assessment of her abilities and character.

Val Halla continued to meditate. Perhaps staying on the butte for the entire allotted time would count in her favor. She was deluding herself and she knew it, but she still wasn't in any hurry to go back. In a few minutes, she'd feel the first sun on her bare skin. That, at least, would make her feel a little better.

The sun's rays spread across the Badlands and spilled over the top of her perch with almost startling speed, changing the landscape from dark gray to shades of rust, yellow, tan, and dun. In the new day's light, Val Halla's keen eyes picked out a speck of caramel-colored flesh on the cliff face across from her.

It was either Tanda or Randa. Val Halla had trouble telling them apart when she was in the same room with them, never mind at several hundred yards distance. Regardless of who it was, Val Halla bet that she could part her hair, even at this distance.

Something whipped by her right ear and startled the slight smile off her face. "That crazy rogue," swore Val Halla. The grabbed her bow off the ground and returned fire. As promised, Val Halla's answering shot neatly entwined itself in the other Sister's hair.

The return shot whistled close enough to Val Halla's left ear to make her shiver. Val Halla returned fire again, forgetting the night's discomforts and disappointments. Fortunately, both participants in the impromptu game of "chicken" were long past the point where either of them had to worry about accidentally getting a bolt through the skull. The down side was that there was a good chance that they'd be at it for hours before one of them yielded.

But then, that was simply fun and games Wild Angel style.

Originally published to December 15, 1999.

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Tales of The and all the stories and text contained herein are 1999 - 2004 by Steven Dong.
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