the talisman

Talisman by Sarrah Nussbaumer

Mace ran a finger over its smooth surface. His symbol, his luck, his talisman. The first bounty he’d ever taken from a raid. He grinned and turned back to his current prisoner, a girl about eighteen, chestnut brown hair, slim build, dark brown eyes that burned with hatred toward him.

Her name was Brissa. She’d gone to his school, they’d known each other a little. Enough that he’d remembered her the moment the others mentioned her. She was an idealist. One who thought that utopia could be achieved and war stopped forever, if only the two sides would talk and settle their differences.

Bah, talk. It was a woman’s idea. Talk didn’t belong in war. No matter how despicable war was, humans were greedy, always seeking more. Land, money, power. War would exist until the end of time because humans would always fight and no amount of talk could change that.

But Brissa had never understood that. She still thought her utopia could exist. Dumb girl. She’d learn the lesson now. She could have had respect, if she hadn’t turned traitor, gone to play peacemaker ‘carrying messages’ on both sides. Her precious cause would be extinguished without second thought and she’d shut up then.

He turned to his comrade, a fellow young soldier, “Go get yourself a drink. This one couldn’t escape me if I had one hand tied behind my back.”

Brissa glared at him, with that same angry passion she used to get while she tried to save a dying animal, while they were kids. Mace shook his head. Age hadn’t changed her a bit. She might be a woman now, but she was still that same fiery tempered tomboy on the inside.

His comrade hadn’t noticed the glaring, too happy going to help himself to the ale. A chance to drink instead of being on duty? A dream come true.

Spinning on his heel, Mace turned back to Brissa. One finger lifted her chin as he forced himself to carelessly inspect her face. There had been a time when her features were more familiar to him than the back of his own hand, but he hadn’t seen her in three years, and those years had changed her greatly.

“Tell me,” he began flippantly, as if torturing an old friend was something he did every day, “why would you throw your life away, just to end up here?”

She jerked her chin away, “Because I would rather die for something that has meaning, than live in pointless luxury.”

He grinned, so like Brissa. Of course she would. “Ah, so die saving a small child, why would you betray your own people, knowing you would end up being tortured? You knew. There was more to your decision than that.”

Her eyes shifted away but she didn’t answer.

Mace frowned, he’d hoped he could get her to talk about nothing important, so that when he had to ask the harder questions, the names of her comrades, she might list them off without forcing him to do what his commander required of him.

He gripped her chin between his index finger and thumb, tilting her face up at him, “Brissa let me make it abundantly clear, you are here because you have information. Information that you *will* tell me. Whether you tell me willingly or not I will report to my commander with what he asks for, or this will be incredibly painful for you, got it?”

She glanced at the floor. Of course she got it, he thought, she bore the scars. She wasn’t a new prisoner. Every one of these sessions had driven that fact into her mind. He sighed and rubbed his talisman again.

“You still carry that…..thing.” She noted, glancing at the twisted piece of metal. It had once been something, made of silver or white gold, but during the raid it had been melted down in a fire, leaving a twisted object with the shape of an incredibly small wishbone, but at the very top was a small hole. He’d put it on a chain around his neck. He never took it off.

He ignored her subject-change and turned off his feelings. The emotions that ran through him, pity, regret, anticipation. All blocked out. He had to be cruel.

He turned around, “Have you ever felt like glass, so easy to break, but trying so hard to appear solid?”

Now it was Brissa’s turn to hesitate, and Mace got his answer immediately. She’d already been broken in a way. There was nothing left that could ruin her. Her family was dead, he knew that personally, and she’d already withstood enough pain, they couldn’t hurt her worse without killing her.

He pounded the table angrily. Why did he have to get assigned to her? Of all the prisoners there, why her?

“Yes Mace.” He jumped at her whisper, “Of course I feel like glass. Only I don’t feel like the glass that is unbroken, and trying hard to remain so. I’m the shattered glass. Broken beyond repair. I know what fate awaits me.”

He nodded and pulled off his talisman, running his hands across the surface. Of course she knew. But he had to begin, because if he didn’t, they would know and she would only be hurt worse in the long run. He scanned his orders once more and pulled the iron from the fire. As he approached her, he murmured, “I’m sorry.”

She looked at him, not with fire in her eyes, but with compassion and sadness, “I know.”

He pressed the talisman in her scarred hands, then did what he had to do.

The above piece was a combination entry to Inspiration Monday, and Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press. Thanks to both of you. =)

And as a disclaimer, I did not choose to end it like I did, it was just the only thing that fit the story and the characters. I wanted him to let her go.


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