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Dreams of Flesh and Blood

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Liselle hadn't known a war was ongoing until the red tide of it had passed, Terreille's Blood nearly all dead in one overwhelming strike. But of course, it was only the death of the Blood that had made the carnage a war: landen deaths were merely the natural order of the world. Landen, after all, were the most enjoyable of animals to hunt, their two legs and upright form pleasingly close to that of the Blood, hunting landen men and women who screamed and plead in fear deliciously like tearing apart a forbidden Warlord or witch. She had seen friends and enemies both carelessly disposed of in such ways, others dying from slow starvation and disease as the Blood's treasured Queens neglected the villages and territories and realms in favor of court politics, games of sex and domination weighted over the yearly harvest and clean wells, pleasure and power over lives.

When the Blood fell around her in the village, reaped as easily as the sickle collects grain, her fear grew to anticipation and then a fierce joy as she waited for them to rise, demon-dead, and saw instead how they lay there, as broken and as weak as she had always known them to be.

*

She stood in the back of halls and homes as the remaining villagers talked through their options, adding her voice to the crowd as a few of the most hardened and the scarred hurt urged them to take back their lands and their rights in this moment of weakness, and in the days to come she learned blade and arrow and nails and teeth, studying how to hurt them in all the ways they had hurt her and her own for so many eons.

Once, she had heard some of the Blood tell, once they were the guardians of the lands and its people, and she had scoffed at the self-serving notion that fed their urge to rule and pillage. She had never seen any living landen repeat this, only found brief mention of the philosophy in the oldest of the oldest books, and even then the Blood's nature had made itself clear—landen writings were nearly impossible to find after so many centuries of neglect and damage.

No matter how they readied themselves and prepared, no matter how many of the Blood had already fallen, she knew there was no way to repair that loss, to weave the few remnants of landen cultures into anything other than stray threads, more empty space than cloth. But at least there was the faintest of hopes now, shimmering like a will 'o wisp in the darkest heart of the forest.

*

The remaining Blood of Dena Nehele called it an uprising, never foreseeing that the downtrodden, ignoble landen might have their own hopes too, even if they were not beloved enough of the land to have their own dreams made flesh.

Liselle smiled viciously as she stabbed another Warlord and watched the light in his Jewels fade; if none would watch over the landen, they would have to carve their own dreams out in flesh and blood.