Slayer - Part 3
I hacked and slashed skillfully at the old oak out back of Cleaver’s hut. My breaths came out in sharp bursts as I swung each strike, imagining a towering opponent before me. Across the clearing Cleaver sat, skinning a rabbit. He looked up from time to time at my progress. Years had passed, and I reckoned I must be over eighteen now. The years had shaped my body into a powerful thing, yet the maturity of womanhood fought against me. My breasts had grown, filling out my top and making sword play that much harder. Cleaver avoided looking at them, and it made me smile to think there was this womanly power.
Sometimes I found myself looking hungrily at Cleaver as he trained himself, his bulging muscles glistening with sweat. The warrior was ancient, but fitter than any man I had ever seen. But there had been no men to see since my time in exile with Cleaver and I found new desires awakening within that I was unsure of. Sometimes when he slept I would watch the gentle rise and fall of his chest and found myself longing to climb into bed with him, to be naked and free together. When that desire hit me, I ran and ran through the forest until I dropped.
There was a wall between us, but I reckoned it was Cleaver who had built it. Never had he uttered a word of affection towards me, or held me in a warm embrace like Pa had once done. There was a cold centre to Cleaver, one that not even I could warm. Suddenly I realised I was staring at him and I blushed, turning back to the tree and my sword play. As I took chunks from the tree, I realised I loved the old man, but doubted he was capable of that same feeling. That angered and frustrated me, because I desired that love more than I desired revenge.
“I think that’s enough training today, little Slayer,” Cleaver said in his gruff voice.
Panting, I turned to face him. “Do you love me?” Didn’t know where those words came from, but they were out and I reckoned I deserved an answer.
Cleaver’s face grew red, his eyes falling away from me. “This is not the talk of a warrior.”
I took a step closer to him, looked him right in the eyes now we were the same height. “Why did you look after me? I love you more than anything in the world, yet you pull away from me. Have you not noticed I am a woman now? I’ve seen the way you take secret glances at me.”
Cleaver locked his eyes with mine. “Such love will make you weaker, little Slayer. I once had a wife and a family, but all things die. Even you.”
For a moment, I caught a glint of a tear in his eye, but it was gone and the hardness returned in his old face. Then I understood him after all these years, but never did I reckon he had a family of his own. “You’re scared to love, aren’t you? Reckon you’ll lose me one day?”
Cleaver turned away from me. “Everyone leaves. Everyone dies.”
I cocked my head to the side as the world became clear. I went to Cleaver, placed a hand on his left cheek and raised my lips to his. We kissed and I weakened in his embrace as he kissed me back hungrily. I pulled away, breathless, but there were tears within Cleaver’s face. “What’s wrong?” I panted, my hands traveling down his body.
Cleaver sighed, pushed me away. “This can never be, little slayer,” he whispered.
Staring at him, I urged him, “It can happen. You want me, I can tell.” Coyly, I started to slip my top down, but Cleaver’s hand caught mine and stopped my undressing before my breasts could spill out. He pulled my top up over my shoulder again. “I want to give myself to you!” The anger made my voice shake. “Everything I have is yours!”
Cleaver shook his head. “If you do indeed love me, then you will understand why this cannot be.”
I pulled away from him, hanging my head in shame as my head cleared from desire. “I’m sorry.”
Cleaver stroked my hair back from my face and gently lifted my chin up. “You are ready to leave, yet you linger here, tied to this old man.”
I smiled. “You are my world.”
Cleaver nodded slowly. “Aye, but there are more worlds out there for you to explore.” He wandered away, once more becoming that emotionless rock I knew and... I guessed I loved. But there would never be the return of love that I sought. ‘Course, I knew the old fool would never allow himself to love. Instead of following him, I sheathed my sword and walked the opposite way, cooling my desires in the breeze. Walking through the forest, I thought upon Cleaver’s rejection of me. Somewhere, I reckoned, there was a loving man. He had buried that person deep down, hiding it from daylight.
Cleaver the Legend. What was his real name? Knew I would never learn the answer to that, and my own name was now a distant memory. Today I had almost brought Cleaver back to life and had felt something between us. He rejected me, but I could tell his body wanted what I had to give. A river crossed my path. I crouched and splashed water on my face, enjoying the coolness as it put my fire out. It hadn’t been my intention to embarrass the old man, but I had. In truth, I was feeling the beginning of guilt and shame. Biting my lip, I remembered his kiss and felt a flush across my face. I splashed water over myself and stood.
As I walked back through the forest, I thought about Cleaver’s words. Was I lingering longer than I needed to? Training hard everyday, I was pushed on by the thought of standing face to face with the dark lord who had killed my Ma and Pa. Now I was more than ready, but I lingered. My love for Cleaver was holding me back. Tonight we would talk about me leaving. Maybe Cleaver could come with me to the nearest city and face the world again. How long had he even been hiding in the forest anyway?
When I came out at the clearing, my eyes locked on a man stood at the centre, a broadsword pushed into the ground before him. Tall and proud, the warrior stood with his bulging arms across a firm chest. When I took a step closer, the man pulled the sword out of the ground and held it out before him.
“Today we will fight and see what kind of warrior you have become,” Cleaver said, his eyes narrowing. “And you must face the truth of what happened all those years ago.”
“Truth?” I asked, taking a cautious step towards Cleaver. There was steel in his eyes, rock in his stance. “The Dark Lord destroyed my village.”
Cleaver’s face was dark. “No, Little Slayer. You know there was no Dark Lord.” Suddenly, Cleaver lunged towards me, swiping down his sword in an overhead blow that I narrowly missed by ducking. When I righted myself, Cleaver’s sword slashed out and I jumped back to a safe distance, drawing my own sword.
“What are you doing?” My mood was not for fighting, but for loving, and I reckoned Cleaver had the desire too. When he spun into another attack, I draw my own sword and deflected the blow skillfully aside, knocking Cleaver off balance. “I don’t want this.”
Cleaver smiled coldly. “You need this. We will fight until you face the truth of what really happened.”
Crouching into a defensive stance, I swung my sword around and held it up. Locking eyes with Cleaver, I could tell he was not playing.