The Mercenary's Trust Chapter 1: Jungle

Cursing steadily, Rine hacked her way resolutely through the twisted jungle of plants blocking her path. The thick, vine-like greenery was dulling the once razor-sharp blade of her sword, and the mercenary's patience was wearing as thin as her blade.

"Political tensions and rogue Mages I can handle," muttered Rine, "but he never said a thing about these"-slice-"cursed"-whack-"plants!" Breathing heavily, Rine leaned on her sword and surveyed the damage- or lack thereof- she had inflicted on the greenery.

"I suppose a king couldn't be bothered to mention such a trifle as a huge jungle sitting right in the middle of the road," she grumbled in disgust. "They have servants and underlings to take care of that sort of thing." She snorted, muttering as she straightened so she could test her sword's edge. "Couldn't he have found someone else to fetch his precious duke of a cousin? I don't see what's so important about the deposition of some stupid will anyway, that he couldn't send his own men. So the Duke's upset about not getting crowned and his men keep ambushing the king's messengers. So send a big group of 'em that can't be ambushed! A mercenary should be fighting wars, not nursing some spoiled brat of a noble along through Mage- infested forests." She sliced in anger at a particularly stubborn plant that stood in her way. "Anyway, isn't he supposed to be a Mage, too?" she argued with herself. "Couldn't he protect his own party? If I didn't need the money. . . ."

She sighed and stopped slicing, contemplating the narrow path she had hacked through the bushes. She pressed the edge of her sword against her thumb- it was completely dull.

"Swords," she informed the humid and silent air, "are simply not meant for hacking at overgrown shrubs. But I do feel much better," she continued. "Nothing like a little tough manual labor for clearing the mind."

Deciding she was now calm and focused enough to do things the easy way, Rine centered her thoughts on the blade's edge. Imagining the razor- sharp edge she wanted it to have, she gathered her power and focused on forcing the dull metal to thin and sharpen. The metal glowed red for a moment, then the glow faded, leaving the blade as sharp as it had been before she had begun hacking at the cursed plants.

Sheathing the sword, she rolled up her sleeves and extended one arm towards the mass of green in front of her. Aiming the thought of intense, focused destruction at the thick jungle, she concentrated on the build-up of power inside of her, willing it to grow, expand until she almost couldn't hold it back. Just as the tremendous destructive energy threatened to burst free, uncontrolled and devastating, she said simply, "Clear!" and released it, focused through her fingers, bent to her will. With a loud snap and a whoosh of air, the viney plants in front of her snapped and broke, clearing a wide path about a half a mile long through the jungle.

Smiling in smug satisfaction, Rine continued on her way, a new bounce in her step and a jaunty tune whistling its way through her lips. "That wasn't so bad," she thought to herself. "This is going to be easy."

Several hours later, though finally clear of the horrible plants, Rine's thoughts were decidedly more negative. It had begun to rain almost as soon as she had emerged from the thick, sheltering jungle, a light, cold drizzle that slid down her neck under her tunic and matted her hair to her head, just generally making conditions more miserable.

The dark bump on the horizon, which she had presumed to be the duchy's capital of Trezna, was much larger by now and clearly a walled city. "Another half a day should get me there," the mercenary judged as the cloud-diffused sunlight faded. Deciding to give up trudging through the endless rain, she prepared to stop for the night.

"I really need to find another source of income," she muttered to herself, dashing rainwater from her eyes, "so that I don't have to accept these stupid errands. Give me a nice cozy war close to home. I'm much better at killing people than I am at protecting them."

A/N: Yay for first chapters! Let me know what you think, please! I always review for my reviewers!