From an early age Luvata demonstrated certain personality traits that were worrisome to her parents and the other adults of her village. Children are expected to demonstrate a certain degree of selfishness: they will argue over toys or sweets, fight for a while, reconcile and resume their previous relationship as though nothing has happened. It's the way of things.
Luvata did not follow this cycle in the manner expected of children. She lacked the selfish rage of a child in response to the others wanting her things. Instead she lashed out, sometimes causing real harm, then carried on as though she felt she had done nothing wrong. This was what caused her parents concern.
Being on the eastern coast as it was, Luvata's village was accustomed to trade with the Yutak. One such trader was particularly well-known for his regular visits, able to carry on reasonably intelligible conversations in his broken common. He was something of a family friend by the time Luvata turned five, which was why her parents turned to him with an unusual request: that he take their daughter back to his village with him to raise as his own. After all, if anyone could teach a child generosity and good spirit, who better than the Yutak?
The details of their arrangement are unimportant, save to say that nothing unsavory was mentioned in their dealings.
Life in the Yutak village was not so different from life at home at its foundation. The language barrier was difficult, however. For the first year Luvata hardly understood anyone around her on the best of days and not at all at other times. She was socially isolated in whole. To do much of anything she was forced to reach outside her comfort zone, to ask for help, to be taught, to learn what she could from anyone willing to provide. Fortunately, everyone was. Nothing in the Yutak village was "hers" the way it had been from home, even as a child she understood that much, and it was only through the giving of the villagers that she continued to survive. It was a long, slow, painful process getting her to accept that giving should be a part of taking. And a successful one.
Luvata was fifteen years old when she returned to her home village, rowing her own kayak alongside that of the trader who had so graciously taken her in. She spent days sharing all that she'd learned from the Yutak: how they taught her to weave nets, the way they crossed ice without falling or cracking it underfoot, how they could hide in the snow in seconds and wait without freezing, eagerly unloading anything and everything she could think of. Much of it her parents already knew how to do well enough themselves; they listened with rapt attention anyway, overjoyed at what an energetic, helpful young lady their daughter had become. It was better than they'd ever hoped.
The Yutak trader left during this little family celebration of theirs to let his family know their adopted daughter would be leaving them. Luvata herself left two days later to gather what few possessions she had at the Yutak village, fully intending to return home for good thereafter.
The fog was thick. Though not yet full winter it was close enough for the chill, bits of frost gathering on the fur of her collar as she rowed onward. There were shapes she didn't recognize in the water. Not ice. Definitely not seals. She simply couldn't be sure without hooking one closer to inspect without fog cover, but she had been taught better than to go harpooning the unknown while out alone on the water. That was a good way to end up in the water yourself. She had to keep going without knowing what was gradually clogging more and more of the water along the coast near the Yutak village. Suffice to say she was more than a little surprised by the body pinned to the ground alongside a few smoking umiak hulls on the water.
Through the gray she could still make out the shapes of the village structures, such as they were. Most were collapsed at least in part, some still smoking, others chopped open and sagging. Bodies were hacked apart. She moved toward an ambiguous pile until she was close enough to identify its contents: all the children younger than four. Nothing left in the village still breathed; the only survivors appeared to be middling children, those growing large enough to be used for work but still too young to offer resistance. They were missing.
Luvata did not go back home.
There are a number of dangers to hunting in snowed over territory. Exposure and temperature control, obviously. Low visibility. Fatigue, and so on. Tracking, however, is not one of these. The raiders left a trail wide enough for twenty men, at least, fresh snow still filling in their heavy prints. Every few hours two or three would break away from the main group, scouting for more targets perhaps, then reunite an hour or so later. When she had caught up enough that she estimated she was only twenty minutes behind the trailmakers Luvata followed one of those deviations. Three men in hardened leather, griping to one another about the cold, weapons strapped to their bodies seemingly at random. Luvata had never seen outlaws such as these before; she had no real point of reference for cause to fear them. With their heavy stride crushing the snow underfoot and their own complaints coloring the air around them the men never heard her rush toward them out of the fog.
Afterward her arms were numb. She could tell from the way her glove was ill-shaped she had broken something in her hand but there was no pain. The cold was holding it off, the cold and shock. There was no way she could chase down the rest of the group like this, much less kill them. She had to be patient. That was fine. She had been well taught how to hunt; she could bide her time if it was necessary. The hunt would go as long as it needed to go.
Twelve years. Twelve years
before she finally tracked down the last of the lost children. Their captors had been easy enough to locate and destroy, but not until long after the children had been sold off to various buyers. She'd found them in mines and on ships, in noble houses and slum brothels, all of them passed around like so many dolls for the fun of their new owners.
The last was a house slave in Ghastenhall, made to do the cooking and cleaning of his keepers. When he returned from an assigned errand to find Luvata there, newly finished in completing his freedom from this life-long burden, the boy - a man now in truth, sixteen, seventeen - was speechless, utterly at a loss for words while he came to terms with the enormity this change meant for the rest of his life, his future once again his own at last.
When he finally found his voice again, he said, "What have you done?"
"I came for you," she'd told him. "I've set you free."
"You -- She was only six!
She did not hold the condemnation in his voice against him. She understood; he simply couldn't comprehend what had happened yet. She let him peel the body away from her sticky hands to let his confused joy escape him in weeping above the girl's head. Luvata rest her hand upon him, red streaks left behind in his hair clinging together in clumps, then turned and walked outside. Her task, the one that had been the focus of her life for nearly half its length, was over.
No doubt the commotion was the reason for such a large group of soldiers waiting outside upon her emergence, arms wet and red to the elbows. She had always kept things quiet before, but not that day, not so close to the end of her mission. It didn't matter. Surely they would understand what had taken place that day, why she had had to do what she had done.
They did not.
No. No, they wouldn't, would they? After all, she'd only been forced into this line of action because of them, because of their inaction. If they had done what they were supposed to do, what was expected of them, these vile creatures would never have been so successful in their pillaging. These soldiers, these artifacts of protective law, they hadn't simply failed in their duties. They hadn't even tried. Not once had she ever seen another in pursuit of her prey as she tracked them down; they were as good as innocent in the eyes of this corrupt system Albion called their law. Where had they been when they were needed? Who were they to judge her now for picking up their slack?
you, you bastards?"
In the end there was only so much she could hope to accomplish against armored soldiers. She fled. Not far outside the city they caught up with her again and brought her down. She had learned many things, grown strong and fast over the years; she could outrun armored men on foot with ease.
But not on their horses.