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
“Wake up!” Brandt yelled as he threw the covers off of Agnes. There was no warning or concern.
Scared by the sudden jolt, Agnes fell off of the side with a thud to the floor. “Ow!” she whined. She gripped her arm.
“You’re tougher than that,” Brandt groaned as he tossed a small sword onto the bed. “Get up, get dressed. I don’t care if you smell or look like crap, so don’t bother. The short-sword will be your weapon today to practice with. Keep your kodachi in here.” With that he walked out of the room.
Footsteps sounded down the hall then downstairs.
Oh how she hated him in that moment. She felt dejected. Never had she dealt with a waking that rude. She picked herself up trying to push past the aching that her body portrayed. She wanted to be asleep. Practice, training, whatever the heck it was called was not the idea of a good morning.
“Hop to it!” she heard Brandt yell. “We don’t wait for training.”
Guess the break was over. Didn’t he know her parents died?
It was still early morning, too early for even the sun to be making an appearance. She could feel the cold of the outdoors in the room. Heat must’ve been foreign to this home. All that she could think with it was grabbing the blanket and curling back up. Contrary to that desire was the threat of Brandt waiting downstairs and what would happen if she didn’t appear.
Without much more delay, she pulled herself up grabbing the hilt of the sword as she stood. She then sat down on the bed and drew the sword from its sheath. The blade was scratched and gorged in various places. Slipping her finger down the edge of the blade, she realized that it was dull as well. The blade was purposefully given to her because of its condition. She slammed it back in disappointment. Escape was coming to mind. She wondered if she would get far and then decided that she wouldn’t.
Once she was on her feet again she pulled her hair into a loose pony tail and then picked up a crumpled hoodie from the ground putting it on. Taking the sword with her she begrudgingly left the room following Brandt’s path.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she noticed slightly hushed voices coming from the other room. It was Cadence and Brandt.
“I still can’t feel it,” Cadence voiced an obvious concern. “Iliad doesn’t respond to me any more than any weapon would.”
“Stop thinking so much about it. Let go of your fear, Cadence. You need to give it more time,” Brandt urged. His tone was dramatically different from the sternness that Agnes felt he gave to her. It was more nurturing, concerned. She was upset by it. Even though it was often the same tone he did use on her were she to listen.
“I am nearly of age to be released to my own. Shouldn’t I have felt what Agnes did by now? The sword doesn’t talk to me! She’s only just begun her training and she already can bind with my sword!”
Agnes didn’t like it. There was a strong energy of frustration coming from Cadence. She didn’t show quite how frustrated she was with what Agnes had done the day before.
“First off, I understand that your sword is a special weapon, but I have never heard of someone’s soul being grafted onto a blade like this,” he reasoned. “You need to relax. You’ve focused so much energy now on trying to bind with Iliad rather than just allowing the spiritual connection to guide you. If you keep focusing on this, you’ll only set yourself back. Stop thinking so damn much.”
Though Agnes could not see them, Cadence spun around and crossed her arms. “It comes so easy for her and she’s not even of age! Why can’t I do it? Am I even a Sentry?!”
“Are you really asking that? You are among the best swordsmen in history. Krag would have never suggested you were a Sentry were you not one. They DON’T make those mistakes. And I don’t make that mistake.”
“Then what’s wrong with me?!” Cadence sounded desperate. There was a piece of her training that she was missing. Agnes didn’t understand, but could feel the frustration coming from Cadence.
“We’ll figure it out. There is something strange about the young girl. I don’t know if what she felt through this sword is real or not. I can tell you that I cannot feel it even myself. But you show every other strength beyond most everyone else I’ve ever encountered otherwise. And you’ve gone beyond what any sword master could dream of achieving. Right now though, I want you to just concentrate on your swordsmanship. Continue to grow there. The rest will be there. Just don’t let up on that. You will tear yourself apart if you focus only on what you cannot do.”
The room went quiet after hearing a door shut. The sound made Agnes jump as well. She had left the door open not noticing it closed on its own with a loud sound from the latch mechanism. She chose then to creep down and around. She saw Brandt still standing in the kitchen leaning on the counter and head lowered as though he were grappling with a stressful dilemma. He turned in time to see Agnes as she was coming into view.
Cadence left the room at that moment to the outside as well.
“It’s not polite to hang out on the steps listening in on others’ conversations,” he said quietly to her not to alert Cadence that she had been heard by the young girl.
Eyes widened in anger, Agnes tightened her grip on the sword as she followed Brandt into the kitchen. She wanted to hit him. How could he act as though she did it on purpose?!
He didn’t believe she did it on purpose, of course. She’d never understand his humor. If anyone other than him could call it humor.
On the table were several place settings and a pile of food. An assortment of meat, eggs, and various other breakfast foods were there. Angrily, she pulled up her chair. “No,” Brandt immediately said. “Outside.” Agnes looked up with a livid look upon her face as she froze in place awaiting his next move.
She retorted: “I’m hungry.”
Pushing himself off of the table, he stepped over, reaching around Agnes and he picked up the plate in front of her. “Should’ve eaten last night, because you need to be up with Cadence and I to deserve a breakfast today.”
“You’re going to give me nothing?” she snapped. “I need to eat. I’ll starve.”
What could have been called a chuckle left Brandt’s mouth. “Then so you will… unless you can figure out a way to not sleep in beyond us. Now no one will eat until we are done.” Standing still, she concentrated on the anger that was brewing inside of her. “Outside,” repeated Brandt.
Furious, Agnes slammed the chair against the table. A part of the chair broke and flew across the room. Brandt gave no indication that he cared about the outburst as he watched her leave the room.
Once outside, she caught sight of Cadence performing the beginning of a kata. In her hand, Iliad cut the air in graceful, fluid motions. Forgetting anything that was happening, Agnes watched the beauty the connected each of Cadence’s movements. None of the troubles that were heard minutes ago appeared in any evidence of the scene. Cadence was peaceful, calm.
The outside air was cold with a light fog surrounding nearly everything like a blanket too thin for anything but decoration. The only light visible was from the moon which provided enough for their purposes. Only a small sliver of the impending morning began to peak over the horizon. Much of the yard was difficult to determine what was what.
Light scattered as it reflected off of the blade as it moved. Cadence didn’t notice Agnes watching, continuing the kata to its completion. Cadence was deep in concentration, imagining each fluid motion as though she herself were liquid flowing through air. She always felt most comfortable wielding a blade. It felt to her as though she were dancing.
Agnes envied Cadence. She had no idea what to expect or what Brandt was going to do, but she looked forward to possibly being as beautiful as Cadence was at that moment.
“Come on; let’s go,” Brandt said as he nudged Agnes. The unexpected push knocked her somewhat off balance. She shot Brandt a look that was sharper than the blade she carried.
Taking direction from her anger, she swung it at Brandt. Though he was not ready for it, he easily parried. “Good,” he pleasantly urged.
But Agnes was still angry and swung again trying to stab at her master. Again he easily maneuvered around it and nudged her, just enough that she lost her footing and fell over into the dirt.
By then, Cadence had halted her practice and was on her way to help the young girl when Agnes sprung back up lunging at their teacher. He parried and dodged continuously as Agnes tried vehemently to strike him.
“You shouldn’t be pushing her so hard,” Cadence said aloud to Brandt as he and Agnes continued to square off. Agnes’ face was flush, sweating profusely. Each swing was ebbing closer and closer to being purely erratic.
“She’s fine. She needs to get her anger out of her way,” he said parrying another strike.
Agnes growled and grunted trying again and again to best her master. Increasingly though, her body failed her, losing what little control over the blade she begun the duel with. A misstep and she landed with a thud sending a small plume of dust to hang in the air. The early light of dawn shown through it as it swirled.
Cadence leapt down to stop Agnes from getting back up. “You need to stop,” she whispered. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Tears were already streaming down her face turning the dirt on her face into small streaks of mud. Brandt stood over the pair regretfully. “Get her some food,” he said to Cadence. To Agnes, “I am sorry for pushing you this morning.” He shook his head as he walked off without confronting either apprentice. At that point, no matter how justified his actions may or may not have been, his words would not be welcomed by the girls. Meditation was the better option.
“Why is he so mean?” Agnes sniffled past the tears. Her emotions soared from one end to another completely confused and abashed.
“He was trying to work out your anger, Cadence explained as she wiped some of Agnes’ tears away. “I think that you just got carried away.”
“Well, it’s mean.”
“It works though. He does it with me sometimes. He says that swinging a sword at something is the best therapy. I believe he is right.”
She contemplated what Cadence was saying. Though it felt cruel, she was feeling less connected to her anger, as though she unclogged a drain now allowed to flow freely. The hurt and confusion remained despite it. As a whole, she was still confused.
“Let’s just get you in to get some food.”
“OK,” Agnes agreed as the two girls stood and walked back into the house.
Brandt was nowhere to be found in the house as they entered. Through the kitchen, through the halls, there was no sign of him. Cadence expected that it would be the case. She knew where he was.
Once Agnes was settled in at the kitchen table and eating the hoard of leftover food, Cadence quietly snuck away to find her master. As expected, he was on the front porch of the house as he had been so many times before.
“Is it was too soon to pull that on her?” she said interrupting Brandt’s concentration.
“Her head is too crowded with pain and anger,” he replied as plainly as could be said from another person. “She needs to clear that from her mind before she’s ready.”
“Maybe if you would just talk to her?”
“If it would be that easy. She needs something to lash out at. She won’t budge unless she’s push.” Nothing in his tone was changing. Cadence felt as though he were already off elsewhere and not fully taking heed of their conversation.
“I trust you, Master, but she doesn’t need pushed like you think. She’ll come around.” Cadence tried to sound more confident in her statement than she truly felt.
Appearing to change the topic, Brandt interrupted, “what was it that you saw the other night?”
Cadence became guarded. She didn’t want to have a repeat of the arguments about what she did or didn’t see. “I didn’t see anything.”
A sigh escaped Brandt’s mouth. “You saw something. Real or imaginary, you saw something. Tell me what it was again.”
Confused was a good description of what those words did to her. She was unsure whether to relent and speak of the memory or run back into the house. Neither option felt like a winning situation. She decided just telling him was the better option. “When she saw the house starting to catch fire, she started screaming. I felt it. I felt the power that was coming through her. And when I looked at the house, the demon was being pushed back…” she let the last words hang out for him to grasp onto. He said nothing. “Why do you want me to tell you this again?”
Brandt said nothing for a moment making Cadence wonder if she was even heard. “I didn’t give you the courtesy before to just listen. Nothing else.”
It was odd. When she was satisfied that her master would say nothing else, she gladly ducked inside.
Brandt threw open the door to a small chamber deep below his house. There were a couple of hidden doors that he passed through to get there. Each was designed to confound anyone who followed. He didn’t want to be followed. It was best that the girls didn’t hear him.
It was dark. He had to light several lanterns before anything cut through the dark. The floor was covered in a thin layer of sand covering a stone slab. On the slab was carved a pentagram. At the points of the star were symbols representing the five deities. The stone had once been ceremonial in use. Brandt had extracted the energies from it long ago however. It was now just a pretty stone.
Apart from the chamber opening, the walls were made of wood slats tightly fit together with every few slats having a lantern hanging. Above was plaster supported by thick beams that ran across the ceiling.
“Trolls!” he called out to the conduits. “I need to speak to you!”
Inside his mind he concentrated on the beacon, a spiritual signal of sorts meant to draw the conduit to a Sentry in need.
A snap filled the air and Krag appeared. “Strange you request presence,” squeaked the little goblin-like creature.
“What is Agnes?” Brandt said plainly.
“Don’t be coy with me, Troll. There is something off about her. I didn’t realize it at first, but I just dueled with her and I could feel her energy. She is too quick, too young. She shouldn’t be able to do any of that yet.”
“Made her angry?”
Brandt punched the wall. A dull cracked accompanied a plume of dust billowing from the area around his fist. “Dammit, Krag,” he yelled. “She shouldn’t be that strong yet. I was just testing her skills with the blade and she was pushing her energies outward at me as though I were a demon. How she was doing it shouldn’t even be possible in a fully realized Sentry!”
“You must help her control.”
“What is she? You said before you think she is the Apex. Speak.”
“She is a Sentry.”
“Stop! You’ve said before you thought she was the Apex. What in the hells does that mean? She’s something more than that and I think you trolls know what is going on.”
“We know of nothing of the girl. Help her control.” And with that the little creature was gone with a little whistle of a sound.
Brandt screamed angrily as he punched the wall again. As the flesh met the wood, the area shuttered and the light from the lanterns went dark.
“Dammit,” he said as he realized he’d need to fumble his way to find the matches.
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.