By Lydia S. Gray
In the clearing beneath the ash tree Thana lifted her sword for the last time, and moved through the stances of the fighter: thrust, quarter, feint, and strike. With the ease of long practice she found the last position and, as she held the terminal pose, the ghosts of those she had killed passed before her. Friends and familiars, dead beneath the blade.
She slashed through a finishing stroke designed to sever the cord binding her to her bloody past. From this moment, she was newborn. From this day she would not recall.
Her requiem danced, Thana wrapped the sword into her bedroll, transforming the weapon at her side into the burden on her back. As she walked away, her cropped hair shone silver in the sun, her hawk’s face lined and grieving.
The sun fell slowly to the horizon, bloodying the sky and throwing her grey shadow ahead of her. Finally, she reached the stone walls that surrounded the convent. The Vespers bell clanged through a death knell. She dropped to her knees before the gate.
They found her there, a crumpled form in the shape of a woman, no longer young, but hard and corded with muscle.
“Child,” the Mother Abbess said, raising her up with a gentle hand. “Kneel not to us nor to this gate, but to the Lady whom we praise. Do you seek admittance here?”
Thana’s hollow eyes stared emptily. “My name is Thana and my hands are red with blood. Death upon death weights my soul. I seek penance if you will admit me.”
The Mother took her hands in her own and turned them, examining the callused palms, the bitten nails. “You may bring no weapon into this place.”
Thana nodded. She took the sword from her back, and the knife from her waist. She unhooked the double-bladed axe from her belt and slid the tiny, deadly dagger from its place in her boot. As she placed the last one down, she rolled her shoulders and sighed.
The Mother Abbess smiled, gathering the weapons as casually as cord-wood. “It is good to lay down the burdens of life. Now, come and be welcome.”
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Reviews to date:
Thana, a female warrior wants to do penance for her murders in Lydia S. Gray’s “The Passing-Bell,” but in the convent Thana encounters an involuntarily cloistered young woman who desires to be exactly like Thana, despite Thana’s discouragement. – Trent Walters, SF Site.
“The Passing-Bell” takes place in an abbey, where Thana, a warrior and assassin, comes to move on to a different life. But another one of the women there, Marien, sees her differently. Marien grew up in the abbey and longs for a different life, one that has the adventures that Thana is so tired of. Lydia S. Gray portrays a woman who feels tired and in need of making peace with herself, and the interaction between Thana and Marien rings very true. – Chuck Rothman, Tangent Online.
What do you think? We were sucked into this story from the very first scene. A wonderful character-driven fantasy.