“Arlyle, the Scourge of Darrenfell, and my best friend…stop it!”

“What?” Arlyle looked at Bethany, questioning. “What’s wrong?”

“You know very well what’s wrong, and you should stop it this instant!”

“It” was currently chasing Bergsten and his cohorts across the Meadows. A pair of old bears, dark forest green and covered in strange runes, lolling across the ground on their great legs.

Bergsten and his crew had laughed at the bears. Even tried to shoo them away. But it wasn’t until their second attempt at casting spells fell flat that they realized they were really five children up against two very perturbed mother bears. That was when Arlyle got to enjoy the show.

The goddess herself was enjoying her tea, with some lovely biscuits that she partook alongside Thelonius Bricklebook. The badger nibbled alongside, trying unsuccessfully to hide the unadulterated glee on his face as the bears swiped a claw a mite too close to one of the children.

Clissandra sat in the stone spire. Waiting, perhaps, or preparing a spell of her own. Who could tell?

And Bethany? Bethany was dismayed. “This is not how we solve our problems, Ari!”

Arlyle pointed at the children. “They were unruly, disgusting little snots that were going to set a witch ablaze for being different. Now they are enjoying a change of character.”

“You set a pack of bears on them!”

Arlyle shrugged. “I’ve learned that mauling builds character.”

“It does not, and you know it!” Bethany shouted.

As if to demonstrate her point, Erovin managed to escape long enough to cast a spell. Seeing the argument between girl and goddess, and deducing that Bethany held power, he tried to conjure a cage of fire around the girl. That was most likely the last straw.

Arlyle dispelled the conjuring with a glance. A snap of her fingers had the boy bound in chains, and a harsh word felled the other four, who were soon gazing upward at roaring bears.

“Look at them, Bethany.” Arlyle glared balefully at each child in turn. “They do not understand compassion, or reason, or logic. They have enjoyed the bounties of life, and have used them to further grind their heels into the necks of those they would deem unworthy of life. If we seek to merely punish, or distract, let alone reason with, they will respond with force and destruction.”

With a wave Arlyle brought the children forward. She glowed with a dark light, her skin a soft green, as dark flames manifested, licking around her and her prey.

“Well, look upon a true power, little specks. Look upon someone who will not forgive, or excuse, or make amends for your chaos. I am the Scourge of Darrenfell, the death goddess of vengeance that made the gods quake in fear. I am back, and I do not suffer those who slight me.”

She held a ball of green flame aloft, ready to find her first victim.

“Who shall it be?”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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