No End In Sight

Sometimes I think I have lived too long…

I used to teach: I would tell my pupils: “Life is long; however, there is never enough time. Tempus fugit – time flies; you must be wise and concise and let no opportunity pass you, lest it be lost to time.”

I used to motivate: I would teach them of passion and strength of will and of sacrificing oneself for the loves of ones life. I would speak to them of their adopted pedigree, of the Paladins that joined before them and the battles they fought.

I used to believe: There was a time in which I would have stood on the front lines, chanting and marching Revolution’s Charge, shielding common soldiers and hurling Alchemist’s Fire alongside the most steadfast of our Order. I would have died in ignorance, believing in a cause and happy to embrace it. My life should have ended there, with them, at it’s peak.

The war had ended with a bang.

But then a whisper…

“Wake…”

Engulfed in darkness – without feeling, unknowing of space or time – an ethereal flanging called to me through the void. It reached out to me and it pulled and demanded that I returned to my feet. I awoke to a ghastly place of wisps and convoluted space, a world familiar to the one I had known yet twisted and churned into something uncanny – almost familiar.

After what felt like weeks of wandering, I stumbled out onto solid ground, my body finally returning to me. Even so, I was clutch by death once more, stomach aching and muscle deteriorating, it was all I could do to pop the cork off an elixir and gulp down the entirety of the concoction. My once decaying body began the long process of rejuvenation, tendons mending and flesh melding. I had been granted second life..and yet, I saw no other of my pedigree rise from the devastation.

From whence I came, a great and ghastly crater roared with a crackling energy what blended and created a bridge linking The Parallel and our own. Two worlds had begun molting into one creating instability throughout. Creatures from the beyond bled into our realm in physical form, unfamiliar and unadjusted as to threaten our existence.

I used to preach about how all things deserved life and love and passion. Now I know that these are only the things that will lock your simalucra to the infinite. I gave my all to my ideals and since those ideals shackle me to this plane until my work is done.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Pedigree

Word of the Day: tempus fugit

Advertisements

Warriors Of The Tide

“…and so, with great irony, sith we refused to stand down, they sought to destroy us. In doing so, they destabilized the great ebb and tide between our realm and the Parallel and ushered forth a preternatural cataclysm…” 
– Felknight Detritus

~~~~~

Atop The Tallest Hill, the deep sun cast long shadows across the training field. Sweat trickled into my eyes and my arms and legs reluctantly responded to my persistent pleading. I tracked the clanking golem in front of me, its form little more than an amalgam of junk. It circled me, and I it, it’s ghastly gaze locked onto me, unabating.

A quick change of trajectory telegraphed an impending assault and the golem rushed toward me, a single heavy fist cut a thin line into my cheek as I narrowly dodged barely out of reach.

We clashed briefly, trading strikes, until I was overwhelmed, again, and  I crumbled into the russet dirt, the wind knocked out of me following a rattling strike to my abdomen. I curled into the gritty grime of the training circle, lurching, and coughed violently, attempting to catch my breath.

“Maybe ya should try hittin’ it with that hard head’a’yers…” My mentor snarked from where he lounged, perched on a fence post nearby. “Quit studyin’ and jus’ hit it – maybe ya won’t keep gettin’ slapped around like a ninny.” He took a slow drag from his freshly rolled cigarette.

I huffed and force myself to my feet again, the shambling golem patiently waited for me to take a stance. I allowed my limbs to hang limp by my sides. I was nearly too tired to express the frustration I was feeling.

“It ain’t workin’,” I steadied my breaths. “I can’t touch it.”

He rolled his eyes and took another drag. “S’cuz you spend too much time standin’ around tryna guess what’s comin’ or thinkin’ about what just hit’cha. Watchin’ yer opponent’s all well and not, but yer wastin’ energy when ya should be feelin’ it through the Veil.”

I twisted my mouth, “so, what then? Close my eyes?”

“Well, it ain’t like yer gettin’ much where with ’em open,” he mocked and shrugged his broad shoulders. He took a final drag then lifted an arm, “That’s’nough rest. Ding ding ding, round five!” A large grin spread the thick whispers of his peppered beard as he chopped his hand downward through the air signalling the golem to encroach on me again.

“Scraffer? You up there?”

A women’s voice trailed up the hill. I turned my head to see who was coming, however, the golem dashed toward me and began swinging again. I was forced into a backward stumble and scramble to gather myself again.

My mentor barked following me poor show. “Stay focused!”

The woman’s voice again, “I shoulda figured some poor soul – voids abound!” The lady rushed to the edge of the training circle, her scarcely tattooed face wrought with concern. “Look at the boy, ya gaf! Give ‘im a damned rest and pick it up in the mornin’. I come up here to tell ya the Commons’ got a handsome batch of mulligan stewin’.”

A warm stew sounded magnificent to my bruised muscles and aching bones. Even as I drifted off into a day-dream my eyes never left the golem. I heard a simple ‘hmph’ before the animated garbage began to close in on me.

It happened in a blink, right before my eyes, or perhaps time was convoluted in my worn down state. Before the golem had a chance to attack me again, my lady guardian angel was behind it and in the next moment its ghastly eyes faded to naught and it crumbled, unceremoniously, into a heap of rubbish.

She stepped over the fallen golem in one long stride and stood before me. A hand extended toward me, she offered to support me in walking and I reluctantly accepted, her height causing me to awkwardly cling to her side.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, but no worries.”

I could hear my mentor scoff as he lowered himself from the fence and dismissively started down the hill toward the community field below.

She grumbled and huffed and I could feel her muscles tense if not but for a moment before she addressed me again just as we made it to the edge of the circle and she began to help me over the fence.

“I’m guessin’ you ain’t been his protege’ for long.”

“Nu-uh.” I grunted past my pain, leveraging myself over the fence and recuperating on the other side. I then chuckled which caused some pain and a short-lived wince. “You could tell?”

She smirked and shrugged gently, “a little. But, really, I mean ta say, I doubt anybody can put up with him for long.”

“He ain’t so bad.”

She scoffed and took my arm again, “he’s an asshole.” We began again, down the hill. A few moments passed before she added, “but I guess you’re right.”

I perked a brow, “have you known him long?”

She shrugged again, “practically raised me, he did – well, the community raised me but he’s kinda the elder around here, ya know? Anyway, I used ta be in yer shoes prob’ly at half yer age though. How old’er you, anyway?”

I pondered in earnest and considered fudging the number up a couple years closer toward her age. “Seventeen by now, I reckon.”

“Older than ya look.” I twisted my mouth at that. She continued, “yeah, I was about six when we started. ‘Course he wasn’t slappin’ me around jus’ yet but the physical trainin’ is the easy stuff.”

She continued to talk to me as we reached the bottom of the hill and joined the rest of the commune for supper. Many of the other transients seemed to know her well and from their passing conversation it seemed she had been gone and only just returned.

Everyone simply referred to her as Sister. Between the constant stops and brief catching-ups, it seemed like an age before we finally received our food. The large bowl of steaming stew taunted me mercilessly until Sister and I finally sat down on a makeshift bench just outside what was her personal tent pitched up underneath a dreary tree with long hanging moss.

“Dunno how long ya been around, but I imagine the ol’ Scaffer ain’t really make sure everyone knows who ya are. We’ll do a proper round in the morn’.” She spoke in between mouthfuls of food and once she was done she rolled a cigarette and began to smoke slowly. I refused when she offered and she responded with a small shrug.

“See, unlike those shady ass Pilgrims, tryna judge and shape folks while standin’ over them, we eat, bleed, and sweat with our people. We’re like family – ” She stopped and tilted her head in response to my own puzzled look and tilted brow. A moment passed before she chuckled, “damn, he’nt even tell you that much? You ever heard of the Paladins?” And when I shook me head she sat up straight as if she had a long story to tell.

———-

Daily Prompt: Tide

Word of the Day: sith

Flaunted Desire

I was infatuated. I can admit that now, knowing what she was – realizing what I had become.

I must have been an easy target – the easiest target, really: a craftsman’s apprentice, wet behind the ears and obsessed with a good time.

We lay in bed, intertwined and sweating, “they harass me; call me trash; look down on me,” she said.

“Who says this?” I vowed to set them straight.

And so I patrolled, a single blade hidden away for my own protection, and cornered those in question. I was careful, quiet and precise. The news went up, the papers screaming murder, but they knew not where to place the blame.

I was just as confused as they.

“I’m being framed!” Her tears graced my cheek as she exclaimed. “They despise me, call me witch, and blame me!”

None of my investigations turned up ought of use. I turned to my father, the wisest man I knew.

“She’s a damned witch,” he spouted as soon as I mentioned her. “One of those cursed Pilgrims dabblin’ in business they’nt no place in.”

A Pilgrim? “She’nt nothin’ ta do with this!”

“And yet, she’s got you runnin’ town bearin’ yer teeth at every women’r’man. She’s got you foggy eyed, boy, over nothin’ more than a few ocellated feathers! just as you come in here with that blade hiddin’ at yer hip.”

I froze. Snarled and huffed. I felt rage build in me and, without good reason, I turned my blade on him.

Neither of us left that room.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Flaunt

Word of the Day: ocellated

New Sleeve Of Thought

I took it upon myself to investigate the rumors in spite of The Council frowning on my initiative. I reached out and let her know of my impending visitation which she responded to in kind; within the next few days I found myself hanging my soaked and tattered cloak in the bustling tavern of Corner Cove. I had arrived earlier than stated and so sought a table and ordered a warm drink.

“You come here for Luffri’s teachings?” The tavern-aid set my frothing drink in front of me looked unto me expectantly.

“I was just passing through. Who’s Luffri?” A little deception went a long way.

“Oh, apologies.” She recoiled but I waved it off assuring her I was not offended. She continued, “most weathered travelers come ’round here’re lookin’ for her. She’s one of those Pilgrims – ya know, that cult of philanthropists or whatever – she come here some time ago, kicked the piss out of some bandits, and the warden labeled her a hero – let her set up a shack and everything. Anyway, she’s been taken on pupils; I hear she been teachin’ them that Planar Truth hub-bub; most folks’re still talkin’ it up as wicked sorcery but the warden ain’t hearin’ none of it.”

I feigned new found interest, “do ya know her much yerself?”

“Not really. She come in here sometimes but mostly she stays around the caves ’round the shore. That’s where her little school is held.”

“Maybe I check it out…” I tapped my chin in faux-thought for a moment before turning my attention to her again. “Probably gonna wait out the storm first, though. I’d like to get her a drink if’n she comes in. Would’ya let me know?”

“Sure. She gets our heaviest mead every time. Honestly,” and she leaned in and lowered her voice, “she’s got quite the tab. I wouldn’t waste your coppers.”

I chuckled and insisted I would cover at least that one drink and she shrugged before returning to her duties, ensuring me she would let me know if Luffri came into the tavern that eve.

I sighed, internally, while sipping at my drink and allowed the warm tavern air to dry and heat me. This was not to be a pleasant reunion; however, I hoped all the same…

I turned to mediation while I waited.

“Mister…erm…” The tavern-aid’s voice.

“You wanted to see me?” A second voice – immediately recognizable. I opened my eyes to see her before me, large mug already in hand, an infectious smile smeared across her face. Her appearance was strikingly different from last I saw her, her hair buzzed down and a sleeve of tattoos covering both arms.

I addressed and thanked the tavern-aid and paid her for the drink that Luffri was holding. The young woman slowly left and Luffri and I casually sipped until she was well out of range to eavesdrop.

Before I could get a word out, Luffri reached into her coat and produced a small bundle of flora, a tussie-mussie really. She offered it to me and I turned up a brow to which she chuckled:

“What? One of us’s gotta be the romantic.”

It smelled of the sea air, with a tinge of sweet underneath, and contain many valuable alchemical herbs. It was fresh, specially picked, with particulars I preferred.

“I’d thought you were comin’ ta see me, for once,” she started after taking a long sip of her drink. “but it’s just business as usual, in’nit? Did The Council send you?”

“They don’t know I’m here,” I furrowed my brow, “however; whatever yer stagin’ here, they are catchin’ air of it.” I twisted my mouth in uncertainty, “I’m worried, love. What’re ya buildin’ at? What’re these tattoos?”

She beckoned me to join her and brought her drink with her toward the door where she insisted I leave my coat. I would not need it, she said. We stepped out of the tavern door and into the torrent storm.

“Watch.” She mused.

In an instant I felt the planes shift around her. The sigils embedded in her skin began to glow of ghastly smoke and her eyes turned to a sightless black. A washing sensation came over me and I peered to a faded world; the middle ground; The Veiled Railway.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Sleeve

Word of the Day: tussie-mussie

Planar Revanant

~~A Way Home~~

It was an irksome climb through thicket and turbulent crags until we came to a reclusive cabin wedged amongst the trees and overgrowth of the mountain overlooking the riparian valleys. The sun was now beginning to fall, lighting our path but with a faint orange glow and casting heavy shadows all around us.

The cabin was well-to-do, I noted, masterfully crafted some time ago, but now rested dormant and unkempt covered in leave and fallen stick and the surrounding foliage pushed up against its walls; even so, a well-trodden path stood out amongst the wild undergrowth twisting and leading further uphill until we finally came to a creaking porch. There was no light coming from within; regardless, the overgrown ivy and windows caked with age old grime made it nearly impossible to peer inside.

A sudden thud and splintering crack of wood snapped my attention toward my companion. The boar of a proto-man stood amongst a cloud of dust following a secondary barrage of falling debris and creaking hinges as the door to the cabin had been violently battered open by brutish boot. The sound reverberated in the trees causing a cacophony of caws and fluttering from birds throughout.

“-Any- sorta warning next time ya wanna wake the whole damned countryside!” I turned a brow, scolding, and placed a hand over my thundering chest and sighed. “Subtly to the voids…d’know what I expected.” I mumbled.

I followed after my companion’s weighty steps into the cabin’s interior. For a moment, we stood in a silhouette ridden shroud and my senses were accosted  by the heavy fragrance of pine, chamomile, and other floral notes, a combination familiar to me and produced during ritual by the lighting of incense. Accompanying the smell came the sense of sedation as if stepping through The Veil and viewing the world outside of my own body.

A soft whir and click proceeded the flood of a brilliant glow from the chest of my automatos ally and we were greeted with the sight of a spacious living room. All furniture had been pushed to the walls and the room was adorned with smoldering incense, discarded vials, and peculiarly placed trinkets and baubles. At the center of it all knelt a man, unmoving. Perhaps in a trance?

My companion’s voice containing an uncanny artificial twang, “You there, you are hereby under arrest under the authority of the Imperial Commonality.” My companion stood further steps into the room, taking no care to avoid crushing any of the ritual components under foot. “Surrender yourself peacefully or we -will- take lethal action.”

I reached out an took his shoulder before he could trample any more of the scene. The kneeling man had yet to respond.

“That ain’t who we want.”

“You do not know.”

I rolled my eyes, “besides the fact that anyone would have bolted the moment you battered down the door, that dude’s barely got one foot in this plane.” I gestured toward the knelt man.

My companion peered at the man for a few moments, presumably scanning and processing, before speaking again, “he is alive and unharmed. Admittedly, target appears to be in a vegetable state.”

“Precisely. Though, I wouldn’t say ‘unharmed.’ Gimme half a hike. And do try’n not step on anything.” I took a step ahead of my companion and reached into the inner lining of my long coat. I produced a single vial of blue fog and promptly popped the cork and took the concoction in one fluid gulp.

My nerves screamed one moment then ceased to exist in the next. I tensed underneath the momentary pain then opened my eyes to a world engulfed in a fog and littered with shapeless fragments. I peered amongst the incorporeal and into the ethereal face of the Knelt Man.

“Ah, so there is some of you left.” I smirked. He looked taken aback, initially, and I knew he was naught but a babe to the Planar Arts. He was beyond our concern. “Where is your sire?”

He wrinkled his ethereal nose and brow, “T’was warned of ya. Tyrants. Afraid yet drawin’ strength from fear.  Embracin’ The Veil only ta see it’s end. Traitors.”

Brain washed. Useless. His sire was long gone and he was left here as a conduit.

“We’re done with him.” I spoke aloud between realms. My companion made his way over to the Knelt Man and I produce, from my belt, a sigil and vessel for containment.

“Traitorous cur!” He spat and his ether lunged at mine. With a flourish and gesture and quick incantation his simalucra fizzled and spiraled into the metal vessel; simultaneously, my companion snapped the neck of his physical.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Cur

Word of the Day: frugivorous

A Way Home

It seemed safe enough, tucked away in that small valley, surviving off the rapid water and its rivulets. The fish were plentiful and I had learned enough of moss, mushroom, and vine to survive the common ailments of the wild. My greatest fear, despite my loathing of the society from whence I was raised, was loneliness. Though, even as I wept, cold and wet, the sprites of the forest provided a shoulder on which I could lean.

I had always known they were there, flittering just beyond our realm, above our head and in our faces, but it was not until I ousted myself from the limited minds and confines of common society that they opened themselves to me and I was finally able to see. The Veil was exposed to me and to me alone.

Or so I had thought.

I had met no other that could dance with the sprites, hear their weary whispers, or employ their ghastly sight. Naturally, I was skeptical of him when he first introduced himself, clad in the garm of the common folk and speaking in trained tongue. The Veil, as I knew it, seemed to thin itself around him but was strongest at his core. I asked the sprites but they revealed nothing of him. And so, out of curiosity, I sought he and spoke with him in what I remembered of the common tongue.

He said to me: “you think yourself alone but in truth you are one of many. We are attuned to a plane beyond this meek existence.” He question if I often communed with sprites. I answered honestly. He complimented me. He offered me a way to strengthen my connection; a way in which I could embody The Veil and transcend life as I knew it.

~~Follow The Tale: Planar Revanant~~

Daily Prompt: Rivulet

Word of the Day: feint

Wrought In Strife

We raced into the smallish room, I just before my mentor, and he promptly shut and latched the door. When he turned to face me, he spoke with smoldering chagrin barely contained in a biting hush.

“What the hell happened?”

My chest tightened. I stood frozen, heart still pounding, and every inch of my form trembled with anxiety. My vision blurred but my eyes were locked onto his bruised and tarnished hands and I felt a chilling shudder coarse through me.

“I told ’em – ” I started though I could barely hear my own words. I did not shift my gaze. “I told ’em to leave us alone. They..,” the words left me following the sudden sting of blood trickling into the corner of my eye. I reached a hand up to wipe at the wound over my brow only to mirror my harrowed gaze unto my own flesh; it was soiled with grime of blood and dirt. I could feel the flesh underneath my nails.

I recoiled when he stepped toward me and he hesitated briefly before gently guiding me with urgent care toward a desk chair at the opposite end of our rental. He bid me sit while he disappeared into the bathroom to fetch pail and water. No sooner was I alone did restlessness well within me and I rose, fidgeting and pacing the room, unable to quiet my mind against the sudden and frightful events of late.

“Aly,” I practically jumped at his tone reentering the room, “sit.” He motioned back to the seat and I silently did as requested.

He knelt his towering frame in front of me and pulled a cloth from the pail of steaming water. He wrung the water from the rag and placed it over my hands. I noticed that his weathered hands had been thoroughly rinsed of the grime what plagued them; even so, those stains remained in memory. I clenched the cloth feverishly in my hands taking care to keep them hidden from my own admonishing gaze.

With a second cloth, and a first aid kit at his side, he tended to my other wounds – the cut on my brow, my scrapped and bleeding extremities – with as gentle a touch his rough hands and curt bed-side manner could muster. Silence hung between us as he worked and I simply stared at the patterned wallpaper until my eyes dried and burned forcing me to close them if only but for a moment.

“I got ‘er killed…”

My mentor shook his head, finishing a wrap about my elbow. “You did whatcha could.”

“I did nothing.” I turned my eyes toward him but his gaze was preoccupied cleaning up spare bandages and discarded disinfectant wipes. “I tried to tell ’em off but they just laughed and…she pulled at my arm to run but they were all around us. They came all at once and I’nt do a thing.” I was trembling again but this time it was through clenched teeth and hot tears. “I hesitated and she’s the one who paid for it…”

He looked up at me then and our eyes met and I saw beyond his besaddened expression into the disappointment he felt.

“Aly, listen, ” he placed a hand over my covered fists, “what happened to yer friend isn’t yer fault. She was taken by the immorality of those mens’ hearts not by yer pursuit of happiness. A Pilgrim must always remember that she cannot control the cosmos.”

I had allowed my eyes to trail down to his hand again. That hand, knuckles swollen and scars embedded in the flesh, embodied heft and strength I had failed to exude; the strength and unwavering will to protect others when it mattered most, to make a choice and step forward and rather than cower in self-defense until there was no other option.

Just then, a knock came to the door and my mentor, with one final empathetic glance and a pat on my leg, stood and made his way across the room to answer the beckoning.

“Monsignor Moth-hound.” It was the Inn Keepers voice, to which my mentor quickly assured the stout man that he could ‘save the honorifics fer someone who ain’t but a glorified hobo.’

Unsurprisingly, the news of a crime in the streets had spread through the small town like wildfire and after my mentor and I had been seen, by the Keeper’s young assistant, fleeing to our rental as if some danger were haunting us the Keeper had come to check on us to ensure that all was well.

“‘Tis,” my mentor assured him, “however, it was my charge, Alheart, and a friend of her’s, that were assaulted by vagrants in the streets. Damnable wretches threw their lives away for indecent desires.” He presented the information with a matter-of-factly tone what danced the line of indifference.

I noticed the Inn Keeper lean in and angle a view past my mentor and into the room. “And what of your charges’ friend?”

“Nadaline.” I added abruptly which caused the Inn Keeper and his assistant some alarm.

To answer the question, my mentor somberly shook his head, an action what was quickly followed by The Assistant pushing his head into the room to look toward me.

“Nadaline Ormons? Tomboyish? Short sandy hair? Perpetually speckled with sand?”

I could feel tears welling again. I wanted to scream at him to shut up but bit my tongue and scrubbed at my hands with the since cold cloth provided to me.

My mentor started again, “I wanted to get Alheart out of the streets first. I mean to go back’n’take care of the bodies. If you knew her, we can confirm her identity and inform her relatives – ”

“I’m comin’ with you.”

Moth-hound gave me a weary glance but reluctantly nodded his head.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Elaborate

Word of the Day: velitation

The Conveyed

It was a moonless night and an ominous low rumble filled the steppes. Thick clouds loomed heavy overhead warning of an impending storm.

We had only just concluded the days trek and pitched a tent to weather the coming rainfall. It was my job to set a suitable fire while my mentor prepared our nights rations. With flint and steel, and a little determination, I made quick work of setting a small fire.  I triumphantly congratulated my work and looked up to my mentor with a grin splayed across my face, in hopes of catching her approving eye; however, she seemed preoccupied, her aged eyes fixed on the sky.

Her lips parted – half hushed, “put that out.”

Curious, I mirrored her skyward gaze. “But I just – ”

“Now, Ealora.” She practically hissed just as the underbelly of a massive vessel pushed aside the nebulous sky and an array of searching lights bathed the steppes in streams of revealing white.

In urgency, I did what I was told. I haphazardly kicked arid dirt over the kindling flame and rushed to scrounged what salvagable wood remained.

Over my own haste and the pounding of my heart, I did not hear my mentors words until she grabbed me by the arm.

“Listen.” She commanded and pointed into the night at a distant outcropping amongst the flatlands. “Go. Wait for me there.”

She freed me and I offered little more than a nod before taking up my survival stick and slingpack. I could hear her working feverishly to dismantle our campsite in the wake of my fleeing stride.

I skid and slid through the dirt and low bushes in a barely controlled scamper down the small hill of our abandoned campsite. The low rumble from before had crescendoed and the massive vessel loomed ever closer, its flood lights methodically hunting. It was nearly overhead.

I cast a wary eye over my shoulder in search of my mentor but my sight was obsured by the glaring white of a search light looming ever closer, following the hazy cloud of coarse sediment left floating in my wake. I barely turned my head forward in time to recognize the thin crevasse cutting through the drylands, still, I toppled over its brim.

Down I tumbled against the loose sand and eroded rock until I finally came to a stop at water’s edge. My dust covered boots quickly became encrusted in mud from the slow flowing stream and as I looked up and caught the prowling eye of my titanic pursuer beaming down on me, a figure vaulted across the crevasse an drew the attention of it seeking flare. A thin mist of dust showered over me and the light shifted away from me.

“Ealora”

Her voice came to me from the edge of the crevasse. My mentor seemed to bleed into existence where she had not been before. She beckoned to me.

Hand over hand, with the aid of my stick, I clambered up the wall of the crevasse and she pulled me up and onto my feet.

“Stay close,” she said just as the world around us turned bleek.

Her calous brown locks turned ashen and her eyes emptied to a sightless black. I felt life leave me – the thundering of my heart ceased.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Conveyor

Word of the Day: fenestrated

Something More

I stared inattentively out of the front viewport of the buzzing transport. A slow, encroaching fog clung tight to the damp forest around us; however, our angled lights helped reveal the well-trodden path before us. Ever since we had crossed over from the dry flatlands into the swampish forests of Coalwood, I had felt a nagging at the fore of my thoughts and a dead weight at the center of my chest.

Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention – a hand from the back seat. I turned my head and my eyes onto the gloved hand, the knuckles of which were densly reinforced – in it’s grip, a small package, flipped open with thin edible strips lining the inside. My gaze trailed up to the man offering, his form likewise covered, from neck to toe, in a reinforced uniform.

In my hesitation, he flashed a gentle grin, the comfort of the gesture slightly marred by grafted replacement of his right cheek which remained motionless. I gave a scrutinizing glance back to his offer and he responded with a chuckle and rolled his eyes.

“It’s just a little pick-me-up we use – B12’s, amino acids – ” He moved to tap the shoulder of the driver of our transport, the Corporal, who reached a hand over his shoulder to take one of the clear wrapped strips. The last of our unit, sitting directly behind me, reached out her hand as well and sat back silently.

My squadmate, Davenstraite, continued, “it’ll keep you alert. If we run into any trouble, a little boost goes a long way; besides,” he grinned and chewed on his own helping of the energy supplement, “we leave the recreational stuff at home.”

I caught the glare and near silent sigh from the Corporal. “There won’t be any trouble,” wether he was simply attempting to console me, he seemed sure of that fact. “We’re just here following a rumour.”

“Trust me,” from the woman behind me, “if they’d expected any real trouble they’d’ve sent a Conveyor, not a sim-trained novitiate and chuckle-fuck over here.”

I saw the two glare at one another but the Corporal’s tone cut through the hostility.

“Enough! ETA in five. Leighfield – the rookie’s with you; ask around, but I don’t want you provoking them. We aren’t here to accuse them of anything, got it?” He cast an eye over his shoulder and Leighfield nodded in response, pulling her helmet over her head.

“I hear ya.” She practically grumbled.

The next few moments passed in silence aside from the clatter and strapping of equipment backed by the engines gentle purr. We slowed to a stop just outside the limits of the small town which was surrounded by a crudely crafted wall and a moat of sorts. A pair of search lights aimed down from the walls over the nearby land but nobody appeared atop the walls to greet us.

Our craft lowered to the ground and a depreciating hiss followed the ebbing engines and opening doors. We piled out with our compact rifles in hand. An eerie silence hung in the air as if all motile life had abandoned the area.

I stood, unmoving, my boots slowly sinking into the forest bog. My mind raced for an idea of what could cause a deathly quiet like that.

“Order’s withstanding, kid. On me. Now.” Leighfield’s sharp tone came muffled through her helmet.

What served as the gate into the town hung wide open in perfect condition with no signs of a struggle. The town inside, albiet a far stretch from the sterile sectors within Imperial jurisdiction, was likewise undamaged with no sign of any assault that may have been. The houses, propped and stilts and linked by elevated walk ways, appeared abandoned, doors hanging open and generators long since left unrun.

“Bandits would’ve at least left bodies…” Davenstraite’s near whisper picked up on our squad comm.

Leighfield and I had entered one of the quaint single story homes. The hut had been left mostly intact but stripped bare of essentials such as clothing or food. I knelt down and fished out a carefully crafted leather jounral from beneath a toppled over stool – it had seen little wear and, I imagined, was previously well-kept and guarded. A small lock held the cover taut.

“Got something?” Leighfields footsteps slowed behind me and she leaned over my shoulder to see what I had found.

I showed and handed the journal over, she gave it a once over before unceremoniously prying it open and completely tearing the lock from the leather. She flipped to the last page, skimmed, then flipped to the page prior before reading the passage aloud over the comm.

“Pa says she weren’t like any Pilgrim he’d ever met. He ain’t like her much and I could tell a bunch of the others around didn’t either. He didn’t trust her, he said. Says she was the reason all those folks were gone missing. But that didn’t make no sense. She says she was going to help us find them. I don’t know. She’s always been nice to me and teaches me how to stand up for myself. She even told me her real name before she was a Pilgrim. She lets me call her Kibby.”

~~~~~

“That fog is still hanging in the air. The sun ain’t been able to shine through it and the birds stopped chirpin some time back. Pa says its cuz of Kibby and called her a witch. I told him he was full of it. He ain’t like that. He gave me a thrashing and grounded me and forbade me from speaking to Kibby or going to the forest. He tried to get me to tell him about her cottage in the forest so that he in the rest of the big mouths of the town could have a word with her. I ain’t tell him nothing. I wasn’t going to betray my friend. I wasn’t going to let them suppress her.”

~~~~~

“I don’t believe it. I spoke with Kibby today! Pa woke me this morning and told me I had a guest and there she was sitting in our living room. She told me that he had gone to her cottage and they had come to an understanding. Many of the others seemed pleased with her as well. Pa and I are leaving soon to visit her and celebrate her acceptance into community so I’ll leave this off here and be back to jot down all the fun!”

~~~~~

“None of it is date.” Leighfield ended.

The Corporal’s voice came through next, his tone distant from his usual, “bring that journal to me, Specialist. It could be useful for the Empire.”

———-

Daily Prompt: Bewildered

Word of the Day: lenity

Means To A Generation

I ground dirt and blood between my teeth. Face down, a foot on the nape of my neck, my futile attempts to escape and fight were met with ever-increasing pressure and, eventually, the barrel of a crude firearm pressed to my parietal.

“Ain’t’cher pa teach you nothin’, boy?” The coarse cackling of many bandits stung my ears.

I squirmed again, attempting to rise to my feet, and was met by heavy boots kicking and stomping at my limps, ribs, and back. The foot at my neck let up only to shove me over at the shoulder. I rolled onto my back and blood caught in my throat.

“Humour me, boy – ”

Through swollen eye and the pain of bruised bone I looked up to the man standing over me, his grisly maw painted with a satisfied grin and his eyes wild with glee.

“How’d’ya dream yer end’d be?”

All I wanted was to take one of them with me. I hoped it would free me of the crushing hatred which hounded me.

I had no plan. I gathered a handulf of dirt and sand and twisted my body to launch it at the bandits face. I had barely flinched before he stomped down on my elbow and trained his weapon on my writhing face. I clenched my eyes shut.

The impact of the bolt shook the earth beneath my head. I felt the pressure of the bandit’s heavy boot leave my arm followed by shrieking horror. My blood ran cold, my heart thundering in my chest. Curiosity clawed at my mind but fear froze me in place – my eyes ancorched shut.

The wailing terror waned, the sound of fleeing steps – one and then many. As the noise died down, and my nerves thickened, a women’s voice broke the silence.

“You’re an idiot.”

I opened my eyes only to meet her cloaked back and thick braided hair- in her hands, a hefty stick, roped and nocked, held low on the grip like a spear.

“You’re a Pilgrim!” I blurted, scrambling to my feet. Her gait did not hesitate as she continued to walk away from me and away from the now abandoned bandit campsite. I gathered myself to follow in her wake only to fall to my knees again from the shooting pain of my extremeties and battered frame.

She stopped and turned back to me; knelt down next to me. I remember looking into the ebon voids of her eyes and but for a moment I felt something far beyond myself – a deep calling to a place outside my knowing.

“Did yer pa teach you nothing – ” She trailed, easing me to sit still and musing over my wounds. “All the Pilgrims died in the War.”

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Sympathize

Word of the Day: moxie