This was an image prompt. I knew a little about the source material – this is an image of a warrior who struggled to pursue her profession against perceptions of her gender. It gave me an idea of why she might be so angry.
This story isn’t about Cisca, but it is about someone in a similar position.
This image is the work and property of user ‘Josu Herniaz’ on Artstation, and is used here with the artist’s permission.
I forced him back. His sword came at me again, heavy and overpowering. I deflected it with my sword, but it wasn’t enough. I leaned the angle of my shoulder into the blow to glance it off my armor and despite all I had done to divert the force of it, my joint complained, something inside burning painfully. Now past his sword, I rammed the hilt of my sword into his throat. He went down like a tree, clawing at his throat, and I leaned over, sword poised to strike. His left eye, steel grey, the target of my sword, filled my vision as the target of my strike.
Continue reading “The Quiet of Rage”
I took a stone from my pocket. It was meaningless, the kind of pretty thing she would have liked. It was also a life. I put the first of many on the shelf upon which we had laid Chuwa’s necklace of stones and shells.
I lifted his head, heedless of the greasy blood matting it, dragging him to the cliff’s edge as he struggled.
“Please! I have done nothing!”
“This isn’t about you!” In my anger, I threw him to the ground, and for a second it looked like he’d go over. He clawed at the rock and managed to hold himself back from the edge. Continue reading “Chuwa’s Judgment”
The request for this prompt was merely “define this character”. I decided that her outward appearance of strength would not be what defined her.
I peeked through the tent flap and caught a glimpse of movement in the distance. A lookout. I shrank back to wait, then peeked out again. They would not stop me, of course, but neither would they leave me to myself. Finally, the way seemed clear. I rushed into the shelter of trees and darkness to the holy spring, the only place that was mine. Any other would be driven mad to walk here, they said. Perhaps it was true.
I looked into the water and beheld myself, painted in the patterns that marked me as the God-Chosen. I did not feel God-Chosen. Paint stained the water as I touched the surface, and it was like it washed the strangeness out of me. Suddenly I had to be clean. I scooped water, scrubbing the paint away. I rubbed my face and neck until my skin felt raw, and the paint bloomed into the water, carried away by the spring’s flow.
Finally, I saw my face reflected in the moonlight. This young girl, who was she? Not the God-Chosen of a tribe. The elder God-Chosen — my mother — said that the gods spoke to me through the spill of runes from my hands. But did they? My hands felt like a girl’s hands, clumsy and unsure. I heard no voices, and I made no promises as she had done. Perhaps it was for the best. The gods were capricious, and had used false words to toy with her before.
I touched the water as if laying my hand upon a friend’s brow, addressing my words to the reflected moon in the night sky. “My name is not Hesralta God-Chosen. I am Sryilla Tusfelt. I am a girl. And I am lonely.”
“Your mother was not lonely, at your age.” Continue reading “The Choosing of the Gods”
You’ve decided it’s time you taught your granddaughter to use a sword.
My granddaughter came up the path, as she did every Monday and Thursday. It warmed me, to still have visitors; the hike into town had grown difficult for my old bones, though perhaps it was just the townsfolk. So many bled for them, and they seemed intent on forgetting it. Not my granddaughter, though. She was blooming into womanhood, but still took the time to visit an old man. She always asked for the old war stories.
Today, though, she came up the walk with a new hairstyle. Over her shoulder, hiding one cheek. It was pretty. But the look on her face was shaken, nervous. Familiar. “Amanda. Always a pleasure.” I hugged her, as always, then brushed her hair behind her ear before she knew what I’d done, showing the bruise on her cheek. “Were we going to talk about this?”
“No.” She was direct. She didn’t argue or make excuses. I liked that about her.
“Well then . . . you like the old stories, right?”
She looked up, hesitating. She knew I rarely told her the real stories. I told her about where we went and the things we achieved there, but not the real grit of it. There were war stories, and there were the ‘old stories’. “Will you tell one?” Continue reading “Young Steel”
Image Prompt: Water by WLOP
Image: Water by WLOP (DeviantArt)
I looked into the water with a sigh, feeling the chill of the water soaking into my shift. The water adhered the fabric to my skin revealingly, though the ripples on the water distorted my form. I crouched closer to look at my shape in the water. It was artistic, nature. This art was the highest and purest kind, born from the interaction of natural principles. Below my reflection fish swam, venturing closer with my stillness.
And then there were the wings.
Continue reading “Wings of Burden”
The elf queen, hearing that yet another young hero was slain during a heroic monologue, decides she’s had enough. She gives her last magical weapon to the grizzled, no-nonsense human guard and says it’s up to him to slay the great evil.
“Dammit! Damn it all, another man dead while bragging to the enemy! Another blade lost! What do these idiots think dire blades are, Efran?”
I had not moved during her tirade. She would blow herself out and calm down. She never spoke to me, though. She spoke to her guards all the time, but never to Kirin, or Efran. I was surprised that she knew my name. “I don’t know, grace. But really, what are they? They’re not a birthright or a destiny. Just a rare and powerful tool.”
In her frustration, and being alone, she had laid across her throne. Her head laid on one arm, her knees hooked over the other. Now though, she flipped over, kneeling in the seat with her hands on the arm, and her ocean-blue eyes on mine. Her gaze was uncomfortably intense. Continue reading “Dire Gifts”
The Brave Knight has been kidnapped against his will by the Beautiful Princess, now it’s up to the Scary Dragon to go rescue him.
I awoke in bonds, hanging from my wrists. I lifted my head, taking my bearings; the inside of a cabin, perhaps a peasant dwelling. No tapestries, no trophies, no portraits, the furniture all made of unadorned wood. The wood wasn’t local, and though plain, the craftsmanship very good. A silver cross on the wall. Perhaps not a peasant’s home, but a tradesman’s, or a priest’s. Simple, but not poor.
My armor, which I had been wearing while out riding, lay piled on the table along with my sword belt. I twisted to look behind me – I had been tied to a support column, and there were cuffs of metal on my wrists, secured by a tightly fastened bolt. I could cry out, but would anybody hear me? I heard no horses or carriages, no sounds of human civilization.
Best not to alert my captor yet, if I could help it. I crouched, bracing my feet on the floor, and pushed back against the support column as hard as I could; perhaps I could break it. I strained against it with no luck, then lifted away, and slammed my back against it. “Don’t bother dear, the house is very sturdy.” I snapped my head up, and a familiar face came out from deeper within the house.
“Princess Ravencort? Karina? What the hell is going on here? Quickly, get over here and loose these shackles.”
She looked at me, a little surprised, then giggled, a sound like pure crystal. “Oh, Prince. Don’t fear. I kidnapped you.”
Continue reading “Gentle Slayer”
Um, no. How about we don’t, and say we did…
Artwork by Tomislav Jagnjic (ArtStation)
I stared up at the living mountain before us. We rode atop a ridge, and we could look at the spiral emblem on its ‘face’ without craning our necks too far. When we got close, we’d have to climb its body just to attack the top of its toe.
“So . . . that’s the thing, huh?”
Jamon looked on with me, nodding once. “Yup.”
Continue reading “Retirement Plans”
You slay the princess you were trying to save. Instead of being angry, the king thanks you and awards you the dragon that was keeping her in the tower.
“I . . . I have questions.”
“Ask them, human.” I could tell he was trying to whisper. His voice was like the grinding of stone on stone, and I could feel the vibration of it in my bones.
“Okay, look. First, my name is Caliban. And to start . . . who was this witch, that she could fool an entire kingdom into revering her as their adored princess? And how did she put a dragon under her spell? Aren’t dragons supposed to resist magic? And what use was it for her to make the king think he had her as a daughter, and then be awarded like a piece of meat to some knight? And what hold does the king have over you that he can just give you to me?”
The dragon just stared at me balefully, his jaw muscle twitching.
“Do I have to order it? Can I order it? Answer me.”
The dragon winced at the order – it looked like he had to obey me, but he did not have to make it easy for me.
“In order. Her name was Alina. She possessed great artifacts that enhanced her strength, stolen from me. Normally, yes. The king loved his imaginary daughter too much to marry her off, but to inherit the throne she needed a husband that she could control, an idiot knight was ideal. The king . . . holds the eggs of my clutch, and I must obey him for my children’s sake. Yes. And yes. I will not repeat myself.
Continue reading “Dragonkin”