Menardi and Jenna discuss blood, worthiness and the ability to take up a bloody mantle.

I do not own Golden Sun.

Scythes

Menardi is death personified when her scythe swings through the air, for that blade will never be sated. It cleaves limbs and heads as easily as a humble farmer's tool would cut wheat, and Jenna hears the silken, deadly noise it makes as it swoops through the air in her dreams, separating blood from flesh and flesh from bone.

Jenna thinks of her own blood, of Felix, that the three years have softened and hardened him all at once. He is a tangle of childlike desire to please his ill-tempered mentors but at same time a desperate struggle to retain a little humanity within their violently righteous group.

Still, she considers, grimly – as Menardi wheels around and impales a snarling lizard man in the neck, dress flying with the motion – better Felix, weak-willed and uncertain as he is, than Alex. Alex is the opposite to her brother; a stream which runs with calm (apparently) and clear (Jenna doubts it) waters, always running slowly and securely in one direction – though its final destination is anyone's guess. Alex has never once threatened her as certain Mars Adepts have, but the way his blue eyes alight on her sometimes makes her shiver with hatred, for she knows that he is considering her usefulness, her worth to him.

If anything, Jenna prefers Saturos. If Alex is a stream, she decides, then Saturos is smouldering embers; deceptively reasonable, with the charisma and leadership that a Valean priest could only lust after, but at the same time able to burn so fiercely he hurts those around him (inadvertently, Felix is always assuring frantically, though Jenna herself thinks not).

Kraden is her only true ally in the group, but the way that the old man listens to Saturos and Alex makes her heart heavy because she knows she's losing him, even though she tries not to admit it except for under the silver moonlight. She sees him nodding along to Saturos' complex explanations (justifications, more like) and she wants to seize those withering old shoulders and remind, tell, him that these people are their kidnappers and tormentors, not their friends and much less their teachers. Saturos would do anything to keep resistance to a minimum; Jenna is certain that the tall warrior would not hesitate for a second before feeding Kraden some lies to placate him a few more days.

Yet, if Jenna approaches him all she receives in response is the patient hushing of, Not now, Jenna, and then she is dismissed by a wrinkled old hand as Saturos does not even pause in his talk of rifts and decay.

It is then that Jenna rises, for the blackness of the wilderness at night is preferable to being surrounded by these monsters in the making, and stalks off by herself. She pretends that she is not sulking, and that the wetness from her eyes is from the gritty breeze.

The first time she had done this, she had begged Isaac to find her, speaking louder and louder as if he could hear her from wherever he was camped. Now she is silent as she recovers herself because she knows that of the group, one person will notice her absence. That one person takes feverish delight in taunting Jenna if she hears Isaac's name mentioned, and Jenna has learned the worth of not feeding that fire.

"Storming off again, I see," Menardi twirls her scythe around in gleefully graceful savagery as she admires the corpses of the monsters that almost found Jenna before she did. "Foolish child. You should be grateful that we still need your brother healthy, and that he cares enough to forgive you of your repeated acts of stupidity. I certainly wouldn't, if I were him."

Menardi's face is far too beautiful, lit by the dim light of the moon, and Jenna thinks that she looks almost like an ashen sculpture; unreal and cold.

"You came after me." Jenna wishes that she could imitate the way Menardi talks; amused and light and snide all at the same time, but no matter how hard she tries her own voice always seems to sound emotional as it quivers pathetically with impotent anger.

"As I said," Menardi runs a finger down the curved blade of the scythe, testing its sharpness. The finger comes away bloody, though Jenna cannot tell if it is the blood of a Proxian or a monster. Vindictively, she wonders if there's even a difference. "Felix is needed for the Venus Lighthouse. The last thing we want is him being all distraught over his sister dying."

"So you just want to stop me escaping." Jenna says, careful not to phrase it as a question; Menardi's attempts to explain Proxian behaviour make her sick, for she is certain that – no matter how often Felix tries to defend them – they are little better than the monsters they so easily slaughter.

Sharp teeth are bared as Menardi's smile becomes even more inhuman, and yet more of her sculpted beauty is lost to inner cruelty. "You wouldn't even make it to the last bridge, child; we'd be finding chunks of you around here for weeks."

"I've fought monsters before."

"Pathetic Valean monsters, yes," Menardi sneers, looking at Jenna with mocking contempt. "In Prox, we train our warriors on something a little stronger; something that qualifies as more than petty vermin."

Every fibre of Jenna's soul wills her to remain calm, to not rise to the obvious bait, but her anger seizes control of her tongue and will not relent, "I'm a Mars Adept, aren't I? Why aren't I as good as you?"

"You are somewhat gifted with the most clumsy and basic forms of Mars psynergy." Menardi sniffs, almost reluctantly.

"Exactly." Jenna snaps, tossing her hair over her shoulder premature victory. "Just because I was raised to believe that a scythe is an implement of farming, not war, doesn't enforce your superiority."

Menardi raises and eyebrow, caught between bemusement and amusement, and Jenna mentally braces herself for whatever insult she must bear next.

"Even if you were to take my scythe and wield it as I do now, do you still not see the differences between us?"

Jenna shakes her head, and Menardi sighs in irritation, muttering something no-doubt vulgar under her breath in that harsh Proxian accent. "Here, you foolish thing."

Much to her shame, Jenna flinches back from the curved blade of the scythe – because it is curled like a finger; it beckons to her with all the scornful cruelty of its mistress – when she suddenly finds it inches away from her, proffered by a blood-flecked hand.

When she accepts the wooden shaft, she is far from ready for the imbalanced weight of it, and must plant the end into the ground to prevent the blade swinging down and stabbing her in the foot.

Even with one end firmly rooted, Jenna must clutch it with two white-knuckled hands. She is certain that she can feel it pulse with fiery bloodlust; Saturos once told her that the ancient weapons of alchemy's times carried souls of their own. At the time she'd just assumed such a tale was a mere amusement for the man, to see if he could make her believe something so outlandish.

"You have no battle stance," Menardi sniffs, running the back of her hand along Jenna's taut shoulders. "You are stiff as an icicle, though you call yourself one of Mars' children."

Jenna hates her. She is quite certain that no fire within a person could be this fierce and hot if it is not hate.

"To be a warrior like myself – and many others from Prox – means more than wielding fire and holding a powerful weapon." Not that I would expect you, an ignorant Valean, to understand such a thing. Menardi adds without speaking; she adds it by the sneer pulling at her lips with greedy claws.

"Then tell me what sires greatness, warrior." Jenna tries to spit out all the hate, all the resentment and confusion, in those words, and she knows she fails, because her voice is clumsy like Felix's and her words are blunt, not curved and sharp.

Menardi holds up her finger, and it still shines with dark liquid in the silver light from above. "Blood."

Jenna's eyes lack the intensity of the warrior's scarlet ones, but for once the answer is written in irises defined by what they respect so much. Menardi is silver like the moon; her flesh something less real than the clumsy pink-and-brown of a Valean, but along Menardi's chin and jaw are the dark marks of her clan. Those marks creep along that otherworldly mask like shadows; pulling at her eyes as well as the edges of her face.

With a trembling hand, Jenna touches the blade of the scythe. It is still wet, but cold in the evening's breeze. She lets her finger slide across it until she is certain that the cloying blood of monsters coats it. Only then does she begin the process of carefully daubing marks that match Menardi's onto her own cheeks and jaw, going back for more sticky blood until she is certain that the weak imitations are complete.

If Menardi finds this act defiant or foolish, she does not say. She merely watches with impossibly hidden scarlet eyes until Jenna returns her weapon with a steadier hand.

"I am as you, now, and that happened by blood."

Menardi's triumph is hard to miss, though Jenna cannot see the reasoning behind it. The wind is cool on her face, chilling the places where the blood rests.

Jenna can smell death on her own flesh, but for once she continues to look up to Menardi and does not flinch.

"Would you be my mirror image, little girl?"

Jenna considers; she is short – though she blames that on an apparent Proxian blessing with regards to height rather than a problem of her own – and her maroon hair does not compare to the pale gold locks that Menardi lets fall loose about her body. She shakes her head.

"Would you wield death for the good of Weyard?" In her mind's eye, Jenna sees Felix and all his contradictions and excuses. Helping people, but harming them too. Without Saturos to push their party onwards, would Felix be able to master that role? And without Menardi to be Saturos' fiery conviction and bring added strength to borrow, could Jenna replace that strength with her own? Does she even want to?

Jenna's face is stiff with drying blood as she frowns, and she wants to answer with something as clever as quicksilver but fears the reality is already visible on her face.

"Indecision is the emperor of all evils." Menardi smirks, and turns back towards camp with an elegant stride.

Jenna can only stumble, wordless, after her. Stumble and know that her pale imitation of Menardi will burn scarlet and shameful on her cheeks when they emerge into the firelight and meet their allies. Yet she makes no attempt to wipe the gore away.