Note: I will be posting a chapter from The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle each day until the book has been fully posted. I am doing this as a way to entertain those who have been coping with the new life of social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine in the world right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once complete, I will hold the book on in full on my site until 1/1/2021. On that day, it’ll no longer be accessible for free.
I ask people to share links freely while the book is available, but please do not copy or do anything else without expressed permission from me, the copyright holder.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook. Enjoy and I hope that you and your family are doing well!
The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle
by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved
After a few hours Brandt returned. The two girls were talking more about each other’s families and their life as Sentries. Agnes appeared generally relieved as though she had forgotten the tragedy that fell unto her. He peeked around a corner watching them quietly for a minute. Peace slipped over him as he imagined that the two girls chatting were just that. That their lives weren’t destined to be difficult and dangerous.
Finally, he returned himself to looking melancholy and entered the room. Immediately Agnes’ smile disappeared while Cadence maintained hers. “How was it?” Cadence asked. “Anything dangerous?”
“Lost soul,” Brandt replied dryly. “Nothing beyond escort work.” He hated the easy missions. Often Sentries are alerted to spirits that cross over by accident and have no malicious intent. They are lost souls or spirits that just needed to be guided back. He called it a huge waste of talent. “I see she’s finally coming out to the world,” he remarked rudely gesturing to Agnes.
“So?” Agnes shot back.
Cadence stood herself between them expecting more of an assault from Agnes than her master. “Can you please leave her alone?” she requested. “She doesn’t need it.”
Brandt looked at his pupil, a bemused grin on his face. “I meant nothing by it. How did you two bond so fast?”
“Well…” Cadence paused for a moment wondering if she would tell her master of the promise to teach each other the strengths when not being trained by Brandt. “We just talked,” she finally said. “You should try it sometime,” she joked.
“Will you listen?” Brandt shot back. His tone was light-hearted. Cadence could tell; Agnes could not.
“Of course not,” Cadence said with a sly grin. She nudged Agnes who finally picked up on the joke, but though she still felt as though she were a little left out, unable to shake the need to combat her new master.
“You know, she’s nicer than you,” Agnes spurted out.
Brandt laughed. “Of course she is. She’s a fellow apprentice and I am the master. You aren’t supposed to like me. Listen,” he said as he leaned into Agnes. “We don’t have to like each other, but we can at least try to get along. Do you think that’s possible?”
Agnes nodded. “I try?” she said as if she had a choice. Cadence smiled wider. Agnes couldn’t quite tell if Cadence was truly pleased by the truce or that she was enjoying the awkward communication between the two.
“Good. We’ll start your training at dusk.”
Agnes’ heart sank. She did not feel that she should be training. After all, she was not nearly of age, and dusk was merely an hour away. “Do we have to?” she asked. “I’m not ready.”
“No one is ever ready,” Brandt answered. “We’ll start you off easy. I want to see what swordsmanship that your parents taught you so far, so we can see from where we’ll begin.”
“I don’t want to do it yet.” Her manner became defensive. She crossed her arms pouting.
“You’ll be fine,” Brandt said as he walked out of the room. “Anyway, I am hungry. We can start after dinner.”
Agnes poked uninterestingly at her potatoes. To say that Brandt was a skilled cook would have been a severe miscalculation of his skillsets. He knew how to make plain meats and basic vegetables and starches. Agnes wasn’t interested in any of it. Cadence never had time to bother learning to do anything having to do with the kitchen. Interest in those skills didn’t exist with her anyway.
Agnes was hungry, but her appetite was swallowed whole by her nervousness about the training to start soon.
“You gonna eat?” Brandt remarked shoveling another helping of potatoes into his mouth followed by a large slice of the steak.
Agnes just shook her head at first before it faded to a half-hearted shrug.
“Oh well,” he shrugged. “Just save it for later.”
Cadence was nearly done her own serving and as soon as the plate was clean, she stood up and nodded to Agnes. “If you don’t want to eat, we can go outside now and get ready for him.”
Agnes smiled out of courtesy. It was the type of smile that wasn’t brought on by any sense of happiness, but rather the illusion of it in the face of anxiety. She obliged, happy at least to be away from the bland meal in front of her.
The air was cool and the light setting over the rows of trees giving a strange orange glow over the atmosphere. Everything about the air looked surreal, as though it were made with strokes of a brush rather than coming directly from nature. From her view up from the window earlier, she had been unable to determine the details of the yard as she could now. Before her was a labyrinth of various plants, hedges, and wooden structures. Each appeared with intended purpose. There were small statues of things that looked nearly humanoid. Others looked like traps, obstacles, and the like. In part it looked like a complex obstacle course and part knight’s training ground.
Cadence walked over to a small shed as Agnes walked from structure to structure examining all of the details. All of it seemed deeply intimidating. She felt as though she had to learn it all right then. It wasn’t the case. “Come here,” Cadence called.
Agnes did so. As she reached Cadence she saw a rack of various weapons within the now opened shed. Each of them looked as though they were well kept, but had seen many years of use. Upon placing her hand on the rack, she could sense no energy from any of them.
“These are some of the practice weapons. Brandt keeps the powerful objects in a secret room below the house, much like any Sentry would really.”
“Why have these?” Agnes asked.
“Technique,” Brandt answered from behind. “Can’t be distracted by the energies of the weapons when you’re first learning to wield them. And sometimes it’s just nice to use instead of needlessly dulling out a good weapon. Here,” Cadence said as she tossed Agnes a sheathed Scottish broad sword. Despite her reflexes, Agnes dropped the sword.
“You’ve gotta be quick around here,” Cadence said as she snickered.
Brandt stepped up and pulled out a scimitar while Cadence grabbed a broadsword similar in size to Brandt’s estoc.
“We’re going to take it easy on you tonight just to see where you are,” Brandt said. He tried to remind Agnes of that fact as she resembled a puppy frightened of the mess it made.
“That doesn’t make me feel better,” Agnes remarked under her breath. Though the two others heard it, they ignored the statement.
“I know your parents already taught you a lot. They told me that you were always impatient though. I want, no wait, you need to be patient. We’ll start with basic attack postures.”
“Shouldn’t we use fake swords?” Agnes reasoned as she unsheathed the broad sword. It was much lighter than she expected, though the balance was off.
“That’s a waste of time. You learn with the things you use out in the field. Attack.” Brandt took a defensive stance with the scimitar in one hand. His free hand was held open at waist level in front of him.
Agnes stared at him blankly. Her confusion now rivaled her nerves. Like the air around her, the scene was surreal. She held the sword loosely while trying to figure out if Brandt was trying to pull a prank on her.
“Attack,” he repeated. When he didn’t get a response, he took the scimitar and nudged Agnes firmly on her hip. Cadence gasped silently while placing her one hand over her mouth almost gleefully awaiting Agnes to jump in Anger.
“OW!” Agnes yelled. “That hurt!”
“Attack me. Or block me. Do something,” he urged. When she still didn’t respond he hit her again with his weapon adding more force to the hit this time. Cadence remained wide-eyed as she watched Agnes’ face become similar in color to her hair.
“OW! Stop that!”
“Not until you attack!”
“I don’t want to!”
Another slap came across her thigh with the scimitar. Agnes immediately screamed as she wielded the broad sword with incredible speed swinging wildly at her master. Brandt smiled as he nearly was cut with the first swing until he caught the rhythm and easily dodged each successive slice.
Cadence watched in amazement trying to keep up with the two fighters. Agnes became more controlled in her actions as the fighting continued, and as she did so, Brandt had to work harder to keep the sword’s blade from reaching his flesh. Metal clanged as Brandt brought the scimitar up to block a close blow. Agnes realized what she had done and was shocked. Her grip loosened on the hilt of the sword. It dropped to the ground.
“That was surprising,” Brandt said trying to catch his breath. “You have a lot of work to do, but it looks like they actually gave you a good foundation.”
Agnes became solemn in her demeanor as memories of her parents rushed into her mind like the sudden torrent of rain in a thunderstorm. She fought to push them back. Still too soon. Memories would jump into her mind with no warning just from the simplest of motions.
Seeing the change in her look Brandt furrowed his brow. He wanted to say something to the young girl that would snap her out of it, but there was nothing that he could muster. Instead he looked up to realize that the sun had nearly set giving the yard an eerie darkness to it. Just at that moment he became uneasy. Something felt like the darkness was an omen. There was something else in the air. They needed to be inside.
“Let’s just get inside. We’ve done enough for tonight,” he said.
Although confused, the others followed.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook.