Five and Actys

It was the last days of Sodom – or so the religious said. What did they know? Really? They walked past ten people a day that could talk to Gods. Real life Gods. But they weren’t the right kind of Gods, so they called them Heathens. We called them Kneelers. Powerful, I guess. One of the Five. Or was it six? No one could make a definitive statement on Actys. On us. On me. 

The night tickled his ears, rain dripping in steady drops to the beat of his footsteps. A dog watched him warily, defensively, over a half rotten pigeon that just lay on the cycle path. Its ears flat against its head, his lips quivered in preparation for a snarl. This was his food. His meal. Gods know he got so few nowadays. The boy walked past, barely noticing the hound. The dog was happy. He tore hungrily at the stringy meat of the dead bird.

 I could hear him. Maybe it. He was about fifteen feet behind me, his feet light on the tarmac – practiced; but so were my ears. Trained to sift through the wind’s whispers and the tap, tap, tap of potential threats. He was bigger than me and must not have known I cups hear him. He’d have fallen back if he thought I was aware of him. A practiced hunter would. Although, perhaps he wasn’t practiced. Not everyone had a dad that made them run apocalypse drills at 5a.m. every morning. Though maybe they should, what with the apocalypse on its way and all. 

His breath quickened, a white mist whipped away by a passing breeze. He felt his stomach churn, the adrenaline like a mint to his fear’s diet coke. A path of amber puddles spilled from long, silver necked flamingos lining the narrow path. They led to a lake of yellow haze, just on the far side of a dark, foreboding overpass that crossed the train line. A pure, heavenly light pierced the unending black on the horizon. Relief swept through the boy, a train was on its way.

Just a few more seconds…

The sparks crackled at his heels, screeching into the night like the dying gasps of beetles beings quashed underfoot. He saw the yellow and green lights dance by his feet but kept his eyes focused on the train and his ears on the Dealer behind him. He knew that if he stopped he’d be dead. No sane Dealer was so open about their craft.

“You not want some of this?” the Dealer said.

He froze. Slowly, every inch of his body fighting his curiosity to turn his ass back around, he turned towards his pursuer.

“You’re a girl,” his voice cracked on the last word.

“Uh-huh. Sound like your one too though, your voice breaking and that. Can’t a girl be a Dealer? No?” she jutted out her hip and flicked her hair in a faux move towards femininity.

She’s so beautiful. Her eyes, they’re purple. Deep and rich like the cloaks of ancient monarchs. And her body…it’s so slender – yet muscular. The way she holds herself, it’s like she was born a Queen and the rest of us don’t know it yet. 

Her fingers twitched as if they itched and she stepped towards him.

“You’re kind of cute,” she said coyly, though he knew it was a ruse. He’d never felt so scared in all his eighteen years. “In a wimpy sort of way.”

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Oh honey, you don’t need to know that. All you need to know is that I’m the Gatekeeper to Heaven and I’m offering you a free ride,” she laughed as she threw her hands up towards him and let her power flow.

Don’t…

He raised his hands, his power forming a rough shield before him. It wavered, just for a second, before throwing her power back at her. Her eyes widened in fury, her body pulsing with anger, she threw another bolt – a syringe of her magical drug – and another and another. Each one he deflected only just in time, as he stumbled backwards. He knew he only had one chance to get away.

Everyone, even the withouts, knew how dangerous Dealers were. All it took was one huge hit of their power on you and you’d be hooked. Day after day, hour after hour, you’d rob, mug, deprave yourself and even murder to get enough money to buy your fix. There was something potent about a Dealer’s power and the boy’s father told him it was because it came with no responsibility. A Dealer got you and it wasn’t your fault. So what you burned down a hospital, it wasn’t your power so it couldn’t be your fault. Nothing was more addictive than freedom. Or remaining inculpable.

Throw her back! Throw her back!

He focused his power the way his father had taught him and hurled it out wide around him. She felt it but couldn’t see it. An invisible wall that stopped her mid-step and stopped her power from reaching him. He knew it wouldn’t last.

I don’t remember my feet ever moving so quickly. Don’t trip. Don’t slip. Don’t let her get you or its over. 

The train pulled like a slithering snake into the station. The conductor barely bothered that he was running towards him, the bored middle-aged man chose to flick the switch that shut the carriage doors and promised himself a beer if the boy made it. Inch by inch the door closed more and more, he could feel her on his heels, her fury giving her speed he couldn’t match. All he had was his head start, born from her underestimation that he was anything other than a Without. His chest seized up in panic, his heart aflame behind his ribs. His thighs straining, he threw himself into the air, cussing himself for not trying harder when his father had taught him how to push himself with his power.

If I make it, I’ll try harder.

A Witch in Dundee, Eh?

The town was quiet. Too quiet. A girl in a red polo neck with a heavy crimson jumper pulled over the top sat listening on a bench in front of the Caird Hall. The open courtyard appeared bare, except for the herself and a few benches. The trickle of nearby fountains tinkled like a distant song on the cold December air. A crisp packet rustled enviously by a bin, a harmony it didn’t need.

Whether deceitful, shy or light footed, Mavis MacCallum didn’t know. All she did know was that whatever demon was watching her, it wasn’t here to catch a show.

She pulled the hood of her jumper round her ears, only muffling the night sounds further, in a futile attempt to keep the cold at bay. A drag queen in a black dress, much too big for the man within it, ran by. Wearing a silver Marge Simpson wig that he had to hold onto desperately so it didn’t blow away in the wind, he shouted “Help is on the way dear!” and made for the fork that split the town in two. Down one prong lay a street of pubs, clubs and takeaways, all bright and noisy for the easy distraction of nighttime revelers. On the other – something far darker.

It looked like an ordinary street to most. Phone shops, clothes shops, cafés and deli bars, all sat like squat little sentries for a power they couldn’t sense. A boundary lay between the Disney shop and the plus size woman’s clothing store, a boundary between our world and the demonic realm.

A boundary that wasn’t as secure, as some members of the Sorcerer’s Stasi – as Mavis liked to call them – seemed to insist on their monthly visits.

“Two essays and a heap of mandatory reading,” Mavis spoke to the wisps of white air that came freely from her lips. “That’s what I could be doing if I wasn’t sitting here like a fool.”

For a moment, her face blushed red as she thought the drag queen had heard her. He paused, stood and turned to face her, only to pick up the wig she hadn’t noticed him drop and continue on his merry way.

She heard something then, just a soft thump and a curious chuckle, somewhere there in the square. Hopping down from the wooden table, she closed her eyes and tried to feel out into the night. Something quivered at the thought of her finding them. Joy? No, not quite.  But something. Whatever it was, it thought this was a game.

“Are you OK?” the voice made her jump. A light amber glow filled her hand as she summoned a spell, ready to maul her attacker.

“Jacques?” she dropped her hand by her side as the lanky, smelly drunk leaned in close to her, the smell of whisky hot on his breath.

“That’s me, doll,” he stood back and extended his arms out in a grand ‘Ta-da!’ that  knocked him on his backside.

“Come on, Jacques,” she tried to help him up. He was surprisingly heavy for his gaunt appearance, strong too, and he pulled roughly on the soft flab of her arm, bringing her down with him. As she rolled onto her back, she let a silent scream of frustration wrack her body as she gazed up into the awesome beauty of the night sky above.

She liked the stars more when she was a child. Her mother, a witch like herself, had promised her that the stars were watching her and would look out for her, even when her mother wasn’t around. They twinkled passively, probably basking in their own goddamned brilliance, Mavis thought nastily to herself. Cruel and distant and cold, that was how she saw the stars now. It was all well and dandy being gorgeous, but not worth a grain of salt if there was nothing to back it up.

Right on cue a gaggle of drunk students, one of which Mavis recognized from her philosophy lectures, walked past and began to laugh just a little too loud, no doubt making sure Mavis heard them. She knew what they’d be thinking: “look at that fat bitch, rolling around Caird Square for all to see with a smelly drunk. Suppose, if you looked like that, you’d take what you could get, wouldn’t you?”

What they didn’t know, and she did, was that if Jacques so wanted too, he could eviscerate them all in under a minute and dance in their guts while their hearts still beat a fountain of blood down upon them like rain.

“S-sorry, doll,” he slurred. “I promise its just whisky this time.”

“A hangover is better than a prison sentence. You don’t want to get sent to Bastmount again,” she said as she heaved him to his feet. “That’s it, there we are.”

“No, not again,” he sobered up a little at the thought of returning to that hell hole. “I don’t see the problem, it’s just a wee sniff.”

Jacques was actually a Jacqual, a creature that got its jollies off of smelling the sick. The worse the diagnosis for the patient, the greater the smell for Jacques, resulting in a much stronger inebriation. Although not harmful, they still made difficult times that much worse by stalking cancer patients and the terminally ill, sniffing the air they left behind.

“Those wee sniffs got you banned from Ninewells. You lost your job, Jacques.”

“Awk, job schmob,” he threw his hands in front of him, almost toppling himself again, in a faux show of blasé bravado. “What are you doing here anyway? Dogging class.” He laughed at his own joke. “Its nighttime, see. That’s why it’s funny. Who has class at nighttime?” Another round of self-gratifying, uproarious laughter.

“Just…watching.”

“Aw come on now, Mavy. Enough of this. The boundary is f-fine,” he slurred. “Absolutely, peckingly fabulously. F. I. N. E. Nothing’s getting through that, not anymore.”

But Mavis knew better.

She’d listened, when those prissy bitches at the campus coven had not, to the signs in the air. She’d smelled the waves of distortion around that area of town. She could see as plain as day the type of people that congregated around it, for no discernible reason, and she knew what it all meant.

She’d hoped Sarah, her friend from back home, would have taken her seriously. But she’d been too swept up in coven politics to even bother. No, instead of watching for demons bursting through a hole in reality, she’d rather charm her instagram photos to get more likes and curse chain texts that would truly bring about whatever burden they promised if you didn’t follow their instructions.

“Why do you bother with potions and crystals,” Ashley, the coven leader, had laughed when Mavis had followed Sarah tentatively to that first year meeting with the coven. “This isn’t, like, the fourteenth century, you know. Salem was a long time ago.”

“Salem happened in the seventeenth century,” Mavis had kindly corrected. And that was all it had taken to shatter a friendship that had been forged since they were six years old. Sarah was in, Mavis wasn’t. All hail Queen Ashley.

The curious chuckle from before came roaring through the square like the hooves of a hundred cavalry rushing for the throes of war. But Mavis heard it for what it was this time. It wasn’t curious at all, it was mocking.

“What was that?” Jacques was sobering up quickly, deliberately filtering his blood at a faster rate.

“I told you,” Mavis shouldn’t have said anything, her pride getting in the way, as the voice began to whisper something.

“Shhh,” Jacques tried to figure out where the sound was coming from.

More muffled whispers echoed throughout the square.

“Mavis, leave. Go,” Jacques pushed her towards the shopping centre nearby. “You have to leave. This isn’t normal.”

“Wa…ha, ha,” the voice was getting louder.

“I’m not leaving you. You can’t defend yourself properly,” Mavis insisted as Jacques roughly pushed her away, his hands bruising the skin on her shoulders.

“This isn’t some low level Snarker or Pulliwill, Mavy. I think you’re right, I think the boundary has been brea…” and then his hands were gone.

“Jacques?” something was breathing down her neck. Her blood turned ice cold as t savaged her veins, her breath not daring to leave the safety of her chest. “Jacques?”

She turned and the night was still once again. Silence reigned like a tyrannical monarch and Mavis was in the square alone.

The stars turned away, leaving the sky a black canvas of endless night.

“Jacques?”

A letter from the Lilliey Bird

Brother,

I hear you just missed out on capturing your little toy. Clever, clever, clever, clever brother for looking where there is nothing to see. It’s a shame you cant fly, fly, fly, fly like me. You got the looks, my little stone brother and I? Oh, well I got a hooked nose and a feathered back. How you teased, do you remember? How you used to squawk and squawk? Well, now I squawk, and they talk and do you know what they say, my little stone brother? The say, “Beware the Lilliey Bird.” How. Very. Funny. No? Hahahahahahaa, you never could crack a chuckle.

I bet you wish you could squawk now, I bet you wish you could fly, fly, fly, high in the sky, sky, sky. Maybe you’d have outrun the old man, his beard a flow of silver and his legs that crack with age. But no, I hear you lost your little prize. A boy of wealth and power. How delicious he will be now that you won’t be able to decide to save him for me.

I saw the sun again today, as I soared above the clouds. So grey and boring from beneath but so white and glimmering from up high. An ugly angel. Hahahahaha! Oh how I wish you could hear me laugh again. Trapped beneath those vulgar clouds, not even the boy to make you proud.

But, oh yes little stone brother, I will listen for the beat, beat, beat of your precious little treat, treat, treat, and, oh how delicious he will be to eat, eat, eat. Of course, there is always another option? You could come and see your sister. A Grotesque, just like you. Poison on my talon tips and wit upon my pretty lips, the Lilliey Bird, most famous of all, the feathered woman who can fly higher than a mountain can grow tall.

They consider themselves above the mortals, brother. Call them finites, as if they last forever themselves. But, what is a century or three to monsters like us? Like you and me? Nothing, not even a blink, we can wait longer than they can think. Oooooohhh yesss. Hahahahahahaa, you don’t have time, do you little brother. The clock goes tick tock, tick tock, tick tock for my brother and his little plot. Never enough, never enough, never enough a Grotesque was for you. A family above Deamhans, above witchcraft, above all but a few, but that was never enough for you. Hahahhaa. What a shame, your ego bruises so easily, little stone brother. I can only revel in the darkness that must be licking you. That must be touching you. That must be fucking you.

Do you know what Gargoyles are for? Hmmmm? Of course you do, I’ve told you before. And what are you? If nothing more?

Such a long time not have spoken, I miss you. Not from love, neither of us are capable of that, but from habit. We were so close for so long and now … well now I have to spy on you and lurk high in the sky. I see our other brother, I see, see, see him. Do you know where he is? I do. Meet me and I’ll tell.

We will get him, little stone brother, the boy with more than a soul. We will wait, as we do, and he will leave that wretched bubble, and, when he does …

The Grotesque’s will feed on prey worthy of their name and once again, the world will never be the same.

Beware the Lilliey Bird.

And the little stone brother too.

Yakobe Cranewind

I’d like to share the first chapter of a book I am working on until the writer’s block subsides on “Conniption”. Let me know what you think!

He ran through the forest as the light began to fade, his heels only narrowly avoiding the advancing darkness. His heart beat so fast and so loud that he could hear it in his ears. His face was whiter than chalk and his hands so slick with sweat that the numerous tiny cuts along his palms were stinging from the salt. Deep lacerations parted the skin on his forearms and the blood weeping from them stained his already filthy clothes. The blonde tint of his muddy brown hair was all but invisible in the now black forest. The sun had set and so had all Yakobe’s hopes of finding his mother tonight.

The plumes of smoke from the village he had just fled from marred the darkening sky and gave the still night an ominous smell. Even here, at least a mile away, Yakobe could still taste the flames that were licking the remnants of his once happy home. Or what had been his home, anyway. Small, barely audible, shrieks danced their way to his ears and clouded his eyes with tears. Not seeing where his foot was going, Yakobe tripped on the protruding root of a Being Tree and fell face first into its majestic cream bark. Stunned and without realizing, he touched his fingers to his cheek and winced as he felt the sting of the grazes now stretching from chin to ear. Wanting to curse but trying desperately to stay quiet, Yakobe shook his entire 6ft frame with soundless sobs and rested his back against the Being Tree’s trunk.

The root that had tripped him was but one vein, one connection, between the Being Tree and the rest of her forest. She was the mother core, the first blossom and the forests heart. Being Trees sprang up from nowhere many moons before man ever walked the Earth and covered the land in green and brown. Now only a few Being Trees remained. Some said that every Being Tree was connected to the other and spawned from one soul somewhere but no one had ever found it. The Mother Soul, as man called it now, was a myth amongst the fairytales.

Yakobe Cranewind took out a soft lavender scarf from his shirt pocket and pressed it against his dirty nose. Inhaling deeply, the warm smell of memory doused the bitter scent of fire and the feeling of his mothers arm around him again relieved his heart.

If only for a second.

Yakobe’s ears pricked, as only a Listener can, at the sound of a twig snapping under a trampling foot. As quickly as it emerged, the scarf was gone and Yakobe struggled to his feet. The strain in his thighs required a good nights sleep and a few days rest but he couldn’t afford that, not now. He had to find her.

Standing deathly still, he closed his eyes and listened to the wind around him. The leaves rustled pleasantly as the lingering cries of a barkfox tried to distract him. As soon as this thought crossed his mind, the wind began to pick up and howls and whines of forest animals everywhere began to call in unison. The screech of a burrow-owl mixed with the whinny of a baby thorse. The pitter-patter of the thorse’s hooves was overtaken by the sinister hiss of a hive of bee-snakes. Not listening anymore, Yakobe darted away from the Being Tree and deeper into the forest.

He couldn’t believe his own stupidity; he knew the threat to the Being Trees caused the forest to defend it. If he hadn’t been so tired and hungry he might have remembered. The night had just begun but Yakobe knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep his eyes open much longer. The cold bite of the coming autumn perked him up slightly, but he knew that would only last a short while. He needed shelter and he knew it but the hiss of the bee-snakes had unsettled him greatly. There was no hide from them if they chose to attack you, and being within a million miles of them seemed too close still. Suddenly, and without warning, the moon and its shine spilled forth through a crack in the forests canopy. He hadn’t noticed how thick it had gotten as he had plunged deeper into the undergrowth. He had been too focused on his feet and not tripping. But now that the moon was out, a clear path was trodden along into the mud and Yakobe knew, without truly understanding why, that he was supposed to follow it.

The bright white of the path ahead turned to mud as he walked – too tired to run now – along its length. Like mist, you couldn’t see what lurked within it but when you were far enough inside, you couldn’t see what you had left behind. Pausing for a breath, Yakobe looked at the path he had just taken and saw it was as ghostly white as that that was in front of him. Only where he stood did the mud look brown. He was too tried to see the metaphor.

Just as he was about to give up on his ‘celestial path’ and put his naivety down to how weak he was, he came across an open field with a run down barn sitting not too far from where he was. Half-running half-stumbling, his bare feet trod the cold ground and pushed him head first through a door almost off its hinges.

The barn looked cavernous from the inside. The ground floor was strewn with hay from above and loosely littered with rusted farming equipment. Several pitchforks, a few trowels and even a horse drawn harvester hung like corpses from the walls. Not caring whether abandoned or not, Yakobe pulled himself up a creaking ladder and threw himself into a pile of hay. The freshness of the hay amongst the decrepit foundations of the barn did not puzzle or even alarm Yakobe, the sleepiness had all but engulfed him.

The moon was still able to watch the poor boy, still lost in the woods, through a broken slat in the barns roof. The pale white fingers glistened off the boy’s wet cheeks as he sobbed in his dreams. His nest of hay was cozy enough to keep him safe from the night’s brutal cold but not strong enough to keep the boy safe from his feelings inside. As the tears streaked the filth on his cheeks, his hand groped drowsily for the scarf in his pocket. Wiping his eyes, he would never remember to thank the moon for watching over him. Nor did he realize that it was not the moon alone setting its gaze on his sleeping body.

Two eyes, filled with nothing but the shiny black of pupil, peaked through several strands of hay. Creeping forward, its soft hands felt the splintery wood of the barn beneath it and crawled towards the warmth of Yakobe Cranewind.

Sister’s in War – A Flame in Shining Armour.

**For added enjoyment, please read the first two blog entries I have posted of this Short Series. They can be found in the archives to the right of this story. Thank you.**

 

 

            The old woman’s words rang in my ears day and night on the initial stage of our march westward.

            The scarlet tents of the King’s Cavalry were warm and comfortable on the hard lands of Neharica. Rugged hills and tight knit forests blocked most of the approaches from horses and cannon. Only the light infantry could weave their way amongst the thickets and undergrowth. The men that dared to venture between those trunks said that the canopy was so thick and impenetrable that even the noon sun couldn’t pierce it. The wood reminded them more of caves than of a forest.

            On the fourth day of the march we passed a small wooden sign that marked out an unremarkable village up ahead. Silla, I could just about make out even though the sign had nearly rotted away.

            The woman hadn’t even told me the boy’s name, how did she expect me to find him? I gripped my thighs together and spurred my horse; I hadn’t bothered naming it, forward at a quicker pace. I passed the faces of the servants and slaves that heaved the large cannons at the rear of the train. I was fourth in command of artillery and seeing the shining metal and forged weapons of war always sent a chill up my spine. Ever since I had been a boy, on my family’s estate near the coast, I had loved watching things being destroyed.

            Once, when I was no more than eight years old, I accompanied my father as he went to tear down a house he owned in the village just beyond our castle walls.

            “They haven’t paid their rent in four moons,” he said in his gruff voice through the bronze hair that composed the beard that dominated from his nose down passed his neck. “What have I always told you?”

            “Give a man an inch and he will demand you give three more,” I repeated the message that he had told me morning, noon and night every day for as far back as I could remember. “Why have you given this man this long?”

            “It’s no man,” he said impatiently, “It’s time I taught you something else. Give a woman an inch and there is no limit to how much more she will claim.” He spat on the ground as he said it.

            “Why did you give this woman an inch then, m’lord father?”

            “Because her husband died for this village six months ago in a fire in the caves along the cliffs. She has three children and I’m no monster,” his pride bristled through his silver plated armour.

            I watched as he sent his men into the house he claimed and they wrenched the woman and her children from within. They didn’t have time to grab anything and came out into the morning sun with only the clothes on their backs. In seconds, the small straw roofed hut – it was ridiculous to claim it as a house – was ablaze before the family my father had just evicted.

            “Whatever survives the flames you can salvage,” he spoke to the woman, the fire burned in her eyes, as she no doubt thought of her fallen love. “But I want you out of this village by sun down or I’ll have you locked up in the Castle as a scullery maid.”

            His words were harsh but I barely noticed them. I was too consumed with watching the increasingly violent flames ferociously lick and scorch everything they touched.

            I was pulled from my memories by the sound of a cannon falling from a wagon.

            “Fools,” I shouted at a boy no older than thirteen, as he desperately tried to stop the cannon rolling into a ditch. “Help him,” I commanded three strong lads near by.

            “Do you know what that is?” I demanded of them as they huffed and heaved the black steel that was as long as any tree trunk yet twice as thick.

            “No, sir,” the youngest boy spoke as the beads of sweat began to peer through his forehead’s pores. “That is a weapon of extreme volatility. It breathes fire better than a dragon and shoots further than any long bowman would dare to dream. Does that sound to you like something that should be treated so carelessly?”

            “No, sir,” he squeaked as it was loaded back onto the wagon it had tumbled from.

            “No, indeed,” I breathed as I galloped further ahead.

            They called me The Knight of Flames to my face, and a sadistic arsonist behind my back. But I had not a care for the thoughts of my peers. For one, I was three times as cunning as any of them and for two; I was ten times as rich.

            The barrel was of my own design. Long and thick it could handle even the hottest of hell fire and had a range greater than any other cannon ever had. Its primary use was for the King’s ships, as the flames would only burn and tease the walls of any stronghold worth capturing. But this was to be an open battle, and if they enemy thought we were riding dragons to war, most of them would no doubt scarper.

            I could see the outer rim of the tiny village now. A plow sat in a half harvested field as the farmer was running down the length of his farm to his home. Everyone seemed to be running actually, every door was barred and every shop shut tight as we passed through the one main street that was wide enough, only for four men to walk a breast. I took the insult but knew that now was not the time to teach manners – especially not so close to battle.

            As we marched through the hamlet of closed shutters I saw a handsome, yet dirty, young man standing by the side of a water well. He would be making sure that none of my men took a piss in it for fun as we passed through. Though what he would be able to do if one of my soldiers tried to fight his way to his own humor I did not know.

            “What’s you name, man?” I asked as I pulled up beside him. He eyed the horse warily as he looked up at my face.

            “Nothing that would befit a man of your stature, sir,” he said mockingly. His eyes shone with defiance and I very much wanted to belt the cocky bastard.

            “Well, no name, would you pass on a message for me?” I feigned politeness.

            “Yes, sir,” he replied, his eyes still insolent.

            “Would you tell a boy, any boy that is from the City, to return to his mother. She’s a haggard, drunk whore but she asked me to tell her son to come home to her,” I finished.

            “You pass on the messages of Streetwalkers?” he raised an eyebrow quizzically. Making fun of me yet again. “In any case, sir, no one in this village has been further away from it than that field you just passed. Her boy’s not here.”

            “I go to war with a clean conscience then,” was all I said as I rode off once more.

            “I never said I did not have name,” I thought I heard him mutter as I trotted off and he suddenly abandoned the well.

A Moonlit Knight

A Moonlit Knight.

From the orange light of the setting sun a man walks along a beach with a heart filled with greed.
His hand rests in the pockets of his deep blue robes. The glint of the gold stitching along the book he wears around his waist signaled the final rays of the now gone sun.
A hue of power shrouded the dark warrior. It was palpable in the air around him, even from a distance his energy would intimidate. Yet, he is walking along a beach, far from the walls of any sovereignty, far from the halls of great men and vast learning; he walks along a beach on solitude.
The farther along the beach he walked, the more indents in the wet sand he left. He walked along the cusp of the far-reaching ocean; the small waves lapped at the bare toes that wriggled in the icy waters.
He stopped as the moon began to brighten. His hands splayed as anticipation grew around him. From nowhere, or so it seemed, a puff of black smoke marred the beaches clear view, and a kneeling man become visible.
“I have what you asked for,” the man said as he placed his hands in the sand to steady himself, no hint of a greeting on his lips.
The robed figure nodded and placed his own hand out to receive the parcel that was tied to the kneeling man’s back. Instead of waiting for it to be offered, he tore it from its resting place and knocked the teleporter from his knees.
He looked within the bag and seemed pleased with what was inside. It was so small that it looked to contain barely anything but the robed man’s grin confirmed that there was something within the jute sack he held in his powerful hands.
Like thunder a noise rumbled through the night skies silence. A blast of yellow energy crackled from the standing man’s fingertips and only narrowly missed striking the courier. Had he not rolled into the ocean then he would surely have been struck.
“What are you-“ he was cut off as another mustard bolt was fired in his direction. This time he was more capable and raised his own hand in defence. A glorious bubble seemed to have been erected around him as the onslaught dissipated around it.
“Please, please stop this! I wont tell,” he pleaded to no avail.
The man who had appeared from nowhere was now sodden with the salt water he was crouching in. The red of his own robes was now maroon and a deep scar along his neck was now visible in the shine of starlight that had begun to truly illuminate the beach.
The barefoot man began walking backwards from the sea’s touch, deeper inland onto the still dry sand. He seemed taken slightly off guard as a flurry of silver sparks struck his chest and knocked him onto his back.
“Don’t make me fight you,” the, now, attacker warned, “I have no problem with your kind. I’ve done my task; it’s time for me to leave.”
As he looked on the verge of vanishing out of the situation he had not created, a violet beam of light was fired from the hands of the man with the book around his waist. He leapt onto his feet and fired a second one from his left hand. The two streams of violet magic bore into the bubble of protection that the teleporter had created around himself. It was clear from the consternation on his face that it was taking all he had to keep himself safe from the murderous attacks of the powerful sorcerer. There was no concentraion left to spirit him away.
With a powerful pulse outwards, the bubble shattered at the moment he pushed it from him. The violet rays splintered and struck several points along the sand. The grains exploded up from their resting place and left large holes along the beach.
“To the death?” was all the teleporter could say.
In answer to his question, a trunk of magnificent light blue witchcraft sprouted from the palms of the silent sorcerer; joining a few feet away from him and carving a path through the salt air directly at the courier’s chest. It was met, only feet away from the red robes, with a column of titian coloured flames.
No matter how hard he pushed or how focused he became, his ability simply wasn’t enough to overcome the strength of the deep blue warrior. With a finality reserved only for those who are certain of death; a peace descended on his face as the battle paused for just a moment.
“I did nothing wrong,” he whispered, barely audible over the rush of the waves around them.
“I know,” the deep voice of the Moonlit Knight conceded.
In a second, and while the defeated man’s mouth opened to speak once again, a flash of brilliant shining light consumed him – committing his remains to the water.
The victor turned and grasped the bag from the sandy groove it was in. Not even bothering to reach in and check what he had received once more, he slung the bag on his back while walking away, a silhouette against the horizon.
He was a robed warrior against the seaside sky. The sun was gone but his heart was not; for tonight he would forge his destiny.
Tonight he would establish his dominance.

Sisters in War: An Old Maids Concern

**Hit a bit of writer’s block and wanted to belt something out before I gave up hope entirely. Hoping to make this a regular series.**

 

I gripped the polished metal of the horses armour and tried not to notice how old and twisted my face had become. Even now, in my most desperate hour, the loss of my beauty still dominated my thoughts whenever I saw my reflection.

 

I had saved for years in the slums of Neharica for a small looking glass. It was made from poor quality glass and the metal that framed it had rusted and weakened over time but it was mine and that’s all that mattered. I know longer had to just stare at the rippled reflection sent back by the bath I managed to scrape for once a month.

 

            How horrible we live in a world where the poor cant even see themselves.

 

“Take your hands from my horse beggarwoman!” the knight above me shouted, interrupting my reverie.

 

“Please, please listen to me,” I begged, “on your way to battle you will pass a village called Silla. My son is there, please send him home.”

 

“I’m on my way to war and you want me to play message giver?” he sneered, clearly offended.

 

“Please,” I began to cry, “He’s all I have left, please send him home.”

 

The knight paused for a moment, his horse breathing heavily under the weight of its armour. The knight seemed to be making a decision.

 

I pleaded with my eyes, beseeching his altruism to come to the forefront of his mind.

 

“I won’t make any promises,” was all he said as he spurred his horse forward, my finger getting caught in the binds holding the metal to the stallion’s body and tearing at my skin.

I took my bloody finger to my mouth and watched as the Knight rode from the city walls.

 

I turned towards the castle that dominated the city centre and stared up at the marble balcony our queen stood on. Her golden hair shone in the sunlight as she looked on in pride as her husband’s men marched to war against her sister.

 

            Bitch, I thought nastily as I took myself off the main road to the gate and stumbled up an alleyway, my bloodied finger still in my mouth.

 

I remembered back t when she first came to the city. A nobody from the south. A ‘princess’ from some back water city that made tapestries or some other such blasé method of income.

 

She had shone with confidence even then stepping into my fathers grand hallway. I had been a Lady of the Land, a young, but powerful woman in, not just Neharica, but also all of Skirtia. Obviously I wasn’t as rich or as powerful as the ladies of Athuria but I could still command respect. This little ‘princess’ had caused me no concern at the time other than whether she would steal the silver.

 

That had been many years, thousands of bottles and a hundred empty bank vaults ago. I had squandered and wasted my fortune beyond recognition after my first son had died. Nothing seemed worth it and by the time I had realized all I was losing I was too far-gone to stop it.

 

Now I live in the slums my father had built for the poor. I’ve lost the beauty that had garnered the attention of princes for years and abandoned the only son that I have left.

 

            Please send him home to me Great One, I begged staring at the sky.

 

I may be nothing more than a drunken whore on the streets now but I was no fool. I knew the coming war would not be a clean cut for our glorious Queen.

We had all heard the stories of her sister’s accomplishments on the battlefield, her husband naught more than an armchair general at best. The ‘Warrior Queen’ as she had become known was a ferocious and bold attacker. Her pattern was plain to see to anyone that would pay attention to all the pieces of the puzzle – but the old men of Neharica’s war council were too arrogant to notice.

 

My only concern was getting my son back here as soon as possible. We would leave the city and claim asylum in Athuria or anywhere really. We would travel away from this horrible part of the world and live in peace somewhere else.

 

            That’s one good thing about having nothing to my name, I laughed, no one will miss me when I’m gone.

 

And I had to go soon.

 

I knew it wouldn’t be long until the Warrior Queen was banging at the gates and ready to take over. She would be stealthy but lightening fast. We had to get away now.

 

I thought about the option I had left to me if the Knight failed to find my boy.

 

I shuddered as the realization I would have to beg for the ‘kindness’ of The Coven slammed its weight onto my chest.

 

I couldn’t – shouldn’t – even entertain the idea of toying with darkness but I knew I was desperate. There was no way to tell the retribution that would be demanded by an army who was fought so tirelessly to take such a rich city. A good commander knows when to reign in their men and when to turn a blind eye. I feared any land belonging to Neharica would be considered ‘blind eye’ territory.

And my son was so far away – yet still within the grasp of pillaging soldiers.

I had to get him away. I owed him that at least.