Category Archives: Fiction

DeadLife Standstill, Part 10

The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch and her daughters spent the evening eating a meatless pie covered with chasm cow cheese. They talked about the things they’d done and the people they’d met.

Just a candle flick before sunset, as her daughter were clearing the plates and jugs, there was a knock at the door. The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch opened the door. No one was there, but there was a scroll at the threshold. She knew by the markings it was from the matriarchs.

Stoically, she began to unwrap the scroll as she closed the door. The time was short; she skimmed the story to understand its instructions. They were quite bewildering.

She called her daughters. As they arrived before her, she stated “It’s time.” While making a warding sign with her sword, she reminded the girls, “Get your friends to play our cat and mouse game, the secret one from the last War Games. Have them run with you. Go to the lake where we did that War God exercise about quiet minds and where I first told you this was coming. Wait there.”

They ran immediately, and she grabbed her knapsack, stuffed the scroll inside, and departed for the little War Games grove outside of town per the scroll’s instructions. She chopped 30 arrow tree spears, building a fire with the scraps. She searched for the creature described in the scroll; she questioned the existence of animals that tolerate and chase fire.

Her heart hammered in her throat. While the children giggled and skipped out the town gate, she spied a cage in the hollow of a dying moonbird tree. Huge moonbird trees lived for generations longer than recorded time, but bugs ate the wood and weakened older trees.

In the cage were 10 beasts. They were furry, wiggly, and crammed tightly together. They exploded from the cage and circled the fire. The warrior clan matriarch was stunned; no known natural animal acted this way.

They looked like the Chaos God was playing tricks on the War God. They weren’t chasm cats or moon dogs or river rats. They looked like all three creatures melted into one creature.

The fire shouldn’t mesmerize them, and yet it did. She feared they’d never leave the fire. As she lit an arrow tree spear and moved to get some rope, she noticed the group’s confusion as they tried to both follow the torch and circle the fire.

As she rolled in dark mud to conceal her identity after nightfall, she dropped the torch in the mud. She begged the War God to hide her in this realm and the next. Through the War God connection, she was shown how to tie the creatures together so they could be led to the town gate and have the rope burn away. She was shown how to fix torches to the animals’ heads so they would chase the torches when the circle of flame was doused.

She wept silently but the mud was too thick to wash off. She tied all ten animals together, lit just 20 arrow tree torches, and tied the torches together to the heads of the creatures, two torches in different directions for each animal. She glanced at the town gate; for reasons known only to the War God, the gate was open, the Life Spice stalls were closed, and all was quiet.

She lit three more torches and doused the fire. She crept quietly toward the gate, leading the creatures. She prayed for no night watch or at least for the brown-eyed brawler who took Life Spice to be on duty.

When she got just a stone’s throw from the gate, she threw the three torches through the gate and dropped the rope lead. The creatures took off toward the town.

The warrior clan matriarch bolted. She crept through dried gullies toward the lake, glancing back only once to see the smokey orange glow. She tried to ignore the screams of the people she loved as everything she and they knew went up in flames and smoke.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 9

The door burst open as the sun peaked in the sky. Both blue-eyed daughters tumbled in laughing and giggling. The chatter made things feel normal even though life wasn’t. But they stopped suddenly and stared.

Older: Mom-mom, it’s so… empty. It’s like it’s not ours.

Younger: I don’t like it. Not one bit.

As the younger daughter’s shoulders began to quiver with the person equivalent of a grain-pile explosion, the blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch rapidly moved to wrap her arm around the younger and pull her tight. The younger daughter’s eyes began to well with tears.

Matriarch: Remember our lake trip? We don’t know what’s coming. All we know is things will change suddenly. I packed up some of our favorite things into a knapsack; it’s over by the door. We can grab it if my instructions tell us to leave.

Older: Hence the game? Leading the littles away? Is there something you’re not telling us?

Matriarch: You know I didn’t like that you found the acolyte. I was proud of you for what you did, but I felt you were both still littles yet and never should have been involved. And you’ve seen the messengers at all hours disturbing our family life. When I gave up the active warring, I expected a normal life and quiet so you girls wouldn’t have the problems I’ve seen others having.

Older: That’s a non-answer. That’s almost a matriarch trance answer.

Matriarch: It is the answer. It’s just not the answer you want.

The younger did some more deep breaths, crossed her arms across her chest like she’d seen the brown-eyed outlander warrior do when he was home, and stilled her shaking shoulders.

Matriarch: Good girl. That is nice quieting.

Younger: You know I need to know what’s happening and when. How will I know?

Matriarch: Little, the times are such I can’t do what we usually do. You’ll know when I know, and I’ll pray the War God gives you what you need. It’ll work.

The younger sighed and pouted. The older looked at the ceiling with an uninterested move of her head. The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch knew that neither child would tolerate much more, so she decided to change the direction for the day.

Matriarch: You ladies hungry?

Both: Yes!

Matriarch: How about I make our big meal for a few candle flickers before sunset? We’ll eat together and then you’ll be free for the evening.

Older: Sounds good.

Younger: What are you going to make?

Matriarch: It’s a surprise. You both go read or play some music. Hang out around our quarters.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 8

As the moon and sun traded places the next morning, the blue-eyed matriarch looked around her quarters. It was quiet because the girls were gone.

She felt anxious. It had been years since she felt this anxious, long before she was a warrior or matriarch or War God lover.

She had learned to always travel light so her hands and body were free to fight. So it didn’t surprise her at all how so many moon cycles had passed and she had collected so few mementos compared to other townswomen.

She did have the union furs her brown-eyed outlander had given her the night they came together at the lake.

She also had the two dedication gowns for her blue-eyed daughters; although she followed the War God and dedication could only be given by an adult after the first moon cycle, she knew that she might have to foster them with Goddess of Peace followers, so she chose to follow that custom. No one liked or appreciated it, but it was her duty to ensure they would be okay if she failed in battle.

It was foolish, but she’d also kept a small wooden plaque that was given by an old teacher at her failed first union. After that union dissolved, it had hurt to see the plaque, but the old teacher was a beloved creator of art and music. Art and music often were better medicine, so she kept the plaque. Eventually, the pain dissolved.

Her younger daughter had a few scrolls because she always had a scroll plastered to her nose. She also had a reed flute and a strange shiny music pipe. The older daughter just had a small pouch filled with little pictures drawn by the towns children in the classes at the Temple of Peace.

Her eyes welled up with tears. She pulled all the items together into one large knapsack and set it by the door. The matriarchs didn’t say she couldn’t take a bit with her.

She looked around her quarters. They weren’t home any longer.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 7

As the night wore on, the blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch grew restless. She pulled out her secret dagger, wrapped scroll and charcoal stick around it, and shifted her travel skirt, attaching the dagger to her inner thigh above the knee. Her daughters were out, so she scribbled a note letting them know she was out. As she rose dropping the skirt piece, she posted the note on the doorpost, and closed and locked the living quarters door.

She wandered the old stone paths through town. She passed the Temple of Peace and several food stalls; she averted her gaze when trysting lovers hid in dark corners never touched by moonlight.  After a time, she found the narrow streets of the older section. The stones turned to dust, and she was on the town line.

She could smell the Life Spice in the very last stall long before she arrived. Unlike her last visit, the place was dead and quiet. She picked a back table. As she jiggled the scroll and charcoal from under her skirt with her left hand, she motioned with her right hand for the stall favorite drink.

The stall keeper was amazing. He was chance touched, not birth touched. Tales says he’d been doing farm work when a moon hawk dove for a field fluff. The moon hawk missed and hit his head; only blazing white vision remained.

She didn’t buy the tales, but she wasn’t cruel enough to push. He’d always just delivered everyone’s drink even without seeing the sign. Each drink was perfectly prepared just in time. He never fell or spilled.

The house recipe’s odor exploded, indicating more Life Spice than usual. She gulped anyway. It burned all the way down, like she’d swallowed an arrow tree torch.

She sighed; battle-damaged hands steadied the charcoal. She continued to sip the draught as she shared what she felt and perceived.

Lover,

I was so thrilled when I saw your scroll and mark on the doorpost. I devour your every letter, and sometimes I trace the lines and curves like the littles at the Temple of Peace.

I wish the DeadLife Nightmare fight was more encouraging. The information reeks of confusion. It might be different alchemy potions or the unseen realms making chaos stew.

The matriarchs have communicated with me. I hear your gasp from here. I wish I could dump everything on you, but you know how these things go.

If you hear odd tales from home, true or false, think of me. They may involve animals or elements. Whatever you hear, remember that night at the lake, our first. The moon rose and the fog started crawling across the lake. You told wild and wonderful tales that won my mind as well as my heart. I curled at your feet under the furs and slept like a clover crawler. Think of me that way, not the way I am or am becoming.

Dream of me, and the War God may reunite us soon.

Snowcat

 

She looked over every word, every line. Her hurting heart knew there might be no home for him to come to. She prayed the War God would send him to the lake. When she was satisfied, she folded the letter, sealed it with some free wax and her mark, and traced a War God warding sign on the outside.

She finished the last swallow and carried the flask and her sealed scroll to the stall keeper’s table. She placed the flask on the dirty stack. She clinked a few coins down within arm’s reach of the keep.

“Here’s some moontide metal. Please, I’m placing a scroll that needs to be sent. Make sure it gets there like you usually do.”

She slipped out quickly before he could respond. She wound her way back to their living quarters. The door was unlocked and the note was gone, so she assumed her daughters were safe. As she went to her sleeping quarters, the trail of dirty garments at each door confirmed her assumption. She crawled into her empty bed and let sleep overtake her.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 6

As she returned at the very end of moon rise, the blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch wept with delight when she saw the scroll hanging on her door. The sealing wax pattern showed the scroll to be from her brown-eyed outlander warrior and not the matriarchs. He’d probably sent the scroll with a local merchant.

She slipped the scroll off the hook and opened the door. She could read that letter anywhere in the silent living quarters, but she sank onto the divan where they’d had their last union. She broke the seal with joyful anticipation.

Lover,

The borders are so wild. We’re seeing more of that DeadNight Lifemare stuff you’ve been writing about. It’s just awful. I worry for you and the girls.

Sometimes the people fed that mess get really weird, almost like they have a War God connection, but it’s not orderly and logical like yours. They mutter gibberish, horrific gibberish, opposite stuff of what you get with your War God connection.

I have no words for the last few nights. Some of the victims talk about our town like they’ve been there when they haven’t. And the things they want to do… I’m not usually uptight, but the things sound so disgusting and perverted and wretched.

Your letters lately have been so terse. You okay? Is something up with that War God of yours? Ever since you started that movement or campaign or whatever, it’s like you’re not with us anymore and I won’t find you when I come home. I know it’s not true, but in the lonely nights I can’t fight the feelings.

It is what it is. I can’t change it. I know you’ll do whatever He asks. There are days I wish I added Him to my deity collection, but then there are days when you share what you’ve done and I’m content to wait for a bit. Just be sure to let me know where to find you when all this is over.

I’m almost glad I’m not there. I picked you because you’re wild and free and loving, but those very same characteristics scare me so… and get me heckled by the merchants.

I can’t wait until we meet again. I want to scoop you into my arms and tame the wild child. I’ll start with your neck, and see what happens.

You’re always in my heart (and trousers),

Your warrior

She giggled as her fingers traced every word on every line. She needed that hug and more, but she took comfort in knowing he knew her, he loved her, and he was doing what he loved. She prayed silently to the War God to watch her brown-eyed lover; surely something could be arranged since he was a warrior even if he didn’t directly serve Him. Then she began to open her War God connection to review the disturbing pieces of information. She suspected the unseen realms were involved based on the way the matriarchs had chided her for forgetting the unseen realms in her dealings with the acolyte. She sickened at the thought of losing the place she found happiness and peace. Getting only silent love from the War God, she rested. She needed to be ready whenever the scroll arrived.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 5

The matriarch pulled out the fruit and the water jug.

Younger: Mom-mom, this is where your big gathering was, wasn’t it? And that’s when you taught us to quiet our minds, isn’t it? Are we doing those exercises again?

Older: Please. I hope not. Those exercises were useless. Too much time sitting, not enough time doing stuff.

Matriarch: Let’s sit and eat. Then we’ll talk. I have very hard things I need to share and ask.

This time, the older girl disgustedly crinkled her face while the younger dutifully sat down and began eating the fruit. Eventually, the older ate too.

The matriarch set her food aside and stared at the opposite shore. She wished her brown-eyed outlander warrior were here; he told amazing stories and she was thinking of one with a flat quarters made of wood that let you cross water. The faithful rocking of the waves would sooth her heart. As they finished eating, she began speaking.

Matriarch: We’ve had some hard times. The acolyte and her baby brought us into a place of knowing about DeadLife Nightmare. We’ve had to learn all kinds of wicked, evil things not done in our culture.

Younger: Is it over?

Matriarch: No, my little. It’s only just beginning, and it’s getting harder.

She sighed, preparing to tell an untruth. She hated to not tell the truth as that was prized by the War God, but she knew the girls had no tolerance for war’s secrecy.

Matriarch: I have some secret instructions I am going to get. I don’t know what they are, so I can’t tell you what they are. But life will change suddenly. When the scroll comes, you both need to do something very hard.

Both girls stopped chewing with eyes growing wide. The younger gulped while the older swallowed some water. Both waited.

Matriarch: I will say a phrase, probably, “It’s time.” Then I will draw in the air with my sword. You go outside and get as many of your friends together to play cat and mouse. Chase them out of town and here to the lake. You must do it quickly.

Younger: Why? How? What if they don’t come?

Older: What about their parents?

Matriarch: The only answer I have is I don’t know. Take the ones you can and go. No matter what you hear, don’t look back, don’t stop.

Younger: What if we don’t know what to do?

Matriarch: Little, I have it on good authority the War God will help.

Younger: I don’t know if I believe in him. What if he doesn’t?

Matriarch: Child, the times are such He won’t care who you serve; He’ll help.

Both girls were deeply troubled into complete silence for a few candle flickers. The screeching of a moon hawk as it splashed the surface to try to get a lake wiggle broke the spell.

Matriarch: Go bury the fruit remains. I’ll pack our journey sack with the cloaks and water jug.

The girls took off, and the matriarch refolded the cloaks into the journey sack. Setting the empty jug on top of the cloaks, she sealed the sack with cord. When the girls returned, they all grabbed branches and scratched paths into and around their picnic area. No one knew why this custom persisted, but everyone did it anyway.

They started back toward town. As the moon was rising, the family left the gully the way they entered.

Younger: I’m going to go sing with the minstrels in the bazaar stalls on the other side of town.

Older: I’m heading to the Temple of Peace to sing with the littles while their parents do whatever it is they do.

Matriarch: Remember: no words and secret.

Both girls took off like chasm hares. The warrior clan matriarch trudged silently and wearily past the Life Spice stalls. She just wanted to rest.

DeadLife Standstill, Part 4

Author’s Note: Some of these episodes are going to have more dialogue. I’ve opted to print them in script form to save words and space. You as my readers will have to let me know whether it works in the episodes in which I use the device.

As the moon was setting, the warrior clan matriarch woke up and threw some fruit and a water jug in a journey sack. She added a blanket and a few cloaks, then settled into the divan to wait for her daughters to wake up.

The girls usually woke up close together. The younger would bound like a chasm lizard while the older meandered lazily like a water beast. The stirring sounds increased.

Matriarch: Dress for a long walk with a cool, damp destination. We’re out for the day.

The girls came out. The younger was layered in about five layers, and the older wore the summer swelter shift she’d gotten for her birthing moon. The matriarch smiled and pondered: Too hot and too cold, never in between.

Matriarch: Hmmm. Make sure what you’re wearing is proper. Neither of you will make it where we’re going. Cool and damp is the target.

Both girls sighed. The younger stomped back to her quarters while the older pounded the wall back to hers. Within a few moments, the older had acquired two layers and the younger lost three.

Older: How long will we be gone? I have temple service tonight.

Younger: Where are we going? Will anyone come with us? Do I have to speak? Can I bring my flute?

Matriarch: I don’t know how long we’ll be gone, and it’s just us. I’m not telling you where we’re going until we get there. I would rather travel in silence and practice stealth moves. So, since this isn’t a minstrel show, the flute stays here.

They headed out the door in silence. They walked through their courtyard and passed the Temple of Peace. The younger one wrinkled her nose and snorted in disgust as they passed the Life Spice stalls on the edge of town.

As they left the town, the blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch scanned the horizon for the familiar peaks that surrounded the lake. She saw the secret entry to a dry season gully that went most of the distance to the lake.

Younger: The lake, mom-mom. Are we going to the lake?

Matriarch: Yes, but I want to go in silence. I want you both to use your eyes. Remember the path and all the sights. Try to learn it so you could do it with your eyes closed and lots of noise. I know you both are very close to knowing the way.

The little family walked on in silence as the sun climbed into the sky. Mentally, the warrior clan matriarch tried to figure out how long it would take a group of kids to run to the lake; the numbers weren’t promising.

They arrived at the lake just as the sun made it to the highest point in the morning sky. The chilly air tumbled down the mountains and across the lake; the water in the lake could make it feel like arrows were hitting your face.

The blue-eyed warrior clan matriarch dropped the journey sack and began to arrange the cloaks in a circle on the ground.

Matriarch: Let’s sit and rest a bit while I prepare our meal.