Rites of The Veil – Joining The Warriors Of The Rail

He grumbled as we entered, the automatic lock of our hotel door chiming behind us. It was a quaint room: a single bed, a small TV, and a handful of other amenities such as a bathroom and a unit adhered to the window for cooling.

“And all for little more than a day in working the kitchen.” I promptly plugged my computer and phone into the nearest wall outlet.

The aged man said nothing as he set down his pack and walked over to the kingsize mattress. He pushed down on the pillowy surface then climbed on and allowed himself to melt into the softness.

I giggled in response. “The big bad corporations ain’t so bad now, are they?” I teased.

He sat up promptly but offered no retort. I shrugged and isolated myself to a corner where I could browse, collect information, and create. Remote work was a godsend.

A strong hint of theine overwhelmed my senses. I turned in my seat to see my travel-worn mentor seated on the floor, legs crossed beneath him, an archaic kettle and ethereal flame at his knees. He beckoned me, wordlessly, and began to pour two cups. I joined him.

Curiously, “they’ll kick us out if they find we’re startin’ fires.”

He passed me one of the cups of steaming brew. Thick wisps hung heavy in the air and filled the room with hovering figures whispering in an incoherent tongue.

“Drink and breath in deep. It is time for you joining.” His voice came not from his own but from the air.

I cautiously breathed in and sipped the tea, its warmth washing over me. It burned within and caused all feeling to disappear. My mind pulled away from me and the room faded away revealing a world underneath the one I had known.

“Welcome, Pilgrim, to the Veiled Railway – the road which connects us to all things.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Recite

Word of the Day: theine

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Willy-nilly Tramp (2/4)

Previously

He grinned and stubbed out his fag, “we’s gon’ take from the infamous and give to the worthy.

~~~~~

Night had fallen and I was grateful for the radical change in temperature. Evergreen, as he introduced himself, had convinced me that he had a simple plan and all we needed to do was wait for the miscreants to show up in town. A rambunctious ululating served as our sign. The miscreants came in the tens, riding in on roaring buggies. They carried and armed themselves like bandits and the town washed over with fear and animosity. Most of the bandits made their way toward the saloon, a couple hung back by the buggies, and a few more spread out through the town.

Evergreen took one last drag then snubbed out his recent cig and stored it. He stood up from the fire we had set and dusted himself off. “Right then, off to work.” He grinned and started heading deeper in toward town.

‘Wait,” I stood up to follow. He stopped and glanced over his shoulder. “Seriously now, what’s the plan?”

“Oh, er, yeah. Hm…”

I felt my face deaden at his stammering.

“I need you to distract them. Make a scene. Do that righteous Pilgrim thing y’all do.”

I felt mocked. “That’s not how that works.” I glared.

He shrugged, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Jus’ make somethin’ up’n’wait for my signal. Those boobs’ll be in for a surprise. Promise on my stash.” He patted  the right chest pocket of his long dusty coat.

“If you betray me — ”

“Then you’ll be dead.” He smiled and walked off, waving over his shoulder, “try not to get killed. Jus’ make some time.” He disappeared into the darkness and left me standing there dumbfounded.

I snuffed the fire we had set then proceeded to wrack my brain for ideas, slowly making my way toward the saloon where we had seen the most of the bandits enter. I had not yet decided whether I trusted, or distrusted, Evergreen but that was beside the point. My oaths as a Pilgrim would see me defend the harassed townsfolk…and hopefully earn me something to eat before I withered away and became another wandering Sprite along the Veiled Railroad.

The air around the saloon was a thick haze of smoke, alcohol, and debauchery. I stood outside, a few feet away, staring on at the doors, watching the shadows dance inside and listening to the discordant hooting and laughter and yelling.  Suddenly, the swinging doors burst open and a man stumbled out backward, nearly tripping down the stairs but he kept his footing. When he turned I noticed he was carrying four mugs in his arm, each brimming and spilling with a foamy swill. The bandit, a thick black stripe smeared over his eyes, grinned happily, fumbling his way in my general direction and I watched him, unmoving, wonder how much of the drinks would be left by the time he got to where he was going.

“Hey.” He slowed to a stop a few paces away from me. “be a good sm’aritan and help a fella out, yeah? Grab two ‘o’these.” He requested, stepping closer to me.

Without much thought I took two of the dribbling mugs from him and he thanked me heartily before leading me onward across the main road of town toward where the bandits had parked their buggies and two men lounged nearby, smoking and chatting. They laughed and praised us as we approached.

“You ain’t from ’round here, is ya?” They questioned and sipped their drinks. The man I had helped decided to offer me one for my assistance. Bothersome bandits or not I was not to turn down a free drink.

“I am not.” I spoke honestly and sipped my drink, “in fact, I just arrived. The townsfolk here don’t seem to care much for traveling souls.”

One of the men chuckled. “Yeah, they gave us some trouble too but once we smacked’em’round a little they got the hint. We get what we want here.”

And the man I had helped, “those bastards not treatin’ you right, buddy?”

“Their treatment of me is based off of the fear and prejudice you have instilled in them. I won’t blame them for that.” I stated dryly and took another swig of the swill I had been given.

The group looked between each other and then one of the men began to laugh crudely, the others chuckled along with him. “Kinda sounds like you got a problem with us, there, friend.”

I shrugged nonchalantly. “Well, you all are making it awfully hard for honest men to make a living so yeah I guess you could say that.”

They were glaring now. I could accept that I was getting underneath their skin – maybe I was a little better at this than I had originally thought – but I was not entirely convinced that this classified as a distraction.

I went to take another sip of my drink but just as the glass touched my lips the mug was struck from my hand, the bubbling contents spilling over my arm and onto the ground at my feet where the glass shattered against the hard sand.

“If’n you don’t like it, drifter, you better keep on movin’ or keep yer mouth shut. We don’t take lip from the folks here and we ain’t about to take no lip from you neither.”

The trio was closing in around me now. I took a few cautious steps backward as they advanced on me. Somehow it had only just occurred to me then that I had willingly provoked people that had no qualms about assaulting those that did not agree with them. It also occurred to me that in my few short years as a Pilgrim, I had never had to physically defend myself.

~~~ToBeContined~~~

A Solitarian Council of Transients

We sat in a circular room, twelve chairs creating a circle around a looking glass. Of the twelve proud seats, some of stone and some of wood or bone or made of material composite or sewn, only five were occupied and each of the occupants appeared faded – their essence weak.

We all passed our glances somberly to a chair of stony coral recently abandoned. An oozing creep of aggressive disease had begun to grow and consume the once proud throne.

“We’ve gotta put stop this!” Axecalibur lurched forward and and slammed his tattooed fist on the arm of his chair of dingy bone.

“And what would you have us do? Raise an army?” Kaleidoscope inquired without looking up from the ever-changing orb of light which she fidgeted.

The third voice came as a whisper in each of our ears yet quite clear, “then we risk the very same we toil to negate.” The gentle masculinity of Tonguetied The Weary.

“If we sit idle we risk being negated ourselves.” Magnus Grey offered from her luxurious seat crafted of an assortment of old and new currency. “A world with us at the fore would be an improvement considering this hatred and bigotry we currently endure.”

“Not an army but agents. Shepards of our will. Couriers of our message.” Axe and the Magnus seemed to agree.

Eyes turned to me, the one left unspoken. I rubbed my forehead and sighed heavily. “We can’t do nothing, yet, we can’t afford to be hasty.” I tried to remain the balance and harmony for which I was named. “Axe has an idea which I think has some merit: boots on the Material would help spread our cause.”

Axecalibur grinned and cast his glance about the others proudly.

“So what then,” Kaleidoscope interjected, “we conscript? Shun the no-believers?” she mocked. “Crush those who oppose our way?”

She was interceded by Magnus Grey. “And why shouldn’t we? Better we than they who would see this world burn and lead with ignorance, prejudice, and hate.”

“Because that is not our way.” I interjected. “We will raise no army. We will force no opinion. We will nurture and teach and raise Pilgrims. We will reach out to the transient, those willing to listen and to learn and to tolerate. We will harbor peace, not madness and fanaticism. We will protect. I hereby move for a vote by the Council to redact The Pledge of Requiescence.”

Each of those present voted in kind, the pledge would be redacted and new oaths formed.

I heavy clattering rap against metal shook me from my meditation and I opened my eyes to a room shroud in darkness with a single light pouring in from a small window of a door. A harsh voice barked through the solid wall.

“Grub time, scamp. Back to the wall.” A face appeared in the window and flashed a light through shining on me.

I slowly stood and stepped backward until my skin pressed against porous rock.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Solitary

Word of the Day: confabulate

With Open Arms

The midday sun poured though cumbersome clouds, rain falling in sheets, tapping and splashing against glass, concrete, and ground, creating a melodic cacophony – a curiously dulcet sound.

The Gaffer bid me to sit with him underneath the shaped glass tarp. He offered to play a game and brought drink to compliment, and when I accepted he unfurled a large colorful carpet. He had brought his own pieces and antique board. We set the stage and sat cross-legged on an elevated floor then he passed me a bottle of what he insured was some of his finest brew from the month before.

“Should we place bets again, or…?” He flashed his roguish grin.

I answered with my own smile and reached into my satchel to place a handsome bet on the table. He lifted his brow and chuckled then matched the bet. We started the game slow and methodical, inching out pieces forward before the first engagement. I had come to understand it as similar to chess, although, the field was hexagonal and capture points were important.

“Someone’s been practicing in her down time, hm?”

“Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not about to get stuck running your errands again.”

“A shame. I was getting used to the extra set of competent hands.” He took his turn and two of my pieces out of play. “So, I suppose you’ll be leaving us then?”

I matched his play and nodded. “Yeah. Now that I’ve got some money, I should be moving on.”

“Guess I’ll just have to make sure I take all your money, then.” He smirked.

The game went on, turn by turn, piece by piece, a push back and forth until we came to an even trade-off that was getting us nowhere. We were both playing defensively. I decided to take the chance.

“Waddaya doin’.” A whisper in my ear, a small bat Sprite floating who had manifested and claimed the town as its home during my extended stay. “Don’t do that, he’s — ”

The Gaffer picked up a cap and threw it at the Sprite, pegging it in the head. “Get outta here ya damned cheat. Nosy little kibitzer.”

The Sprite stuck out its tongue. It said no more but continued to hover. I made my move, the same as planned, but with considerably less confidence than before.

“In truth, we’d prefer if you stayed, Catmint. You’re more than a helping hand to us.”

I twisted my mouth and slowly shook my head, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He somberly nodded and made his next move but it did not end in the glaring defeat I had imagined it would have. My next move backed him into a corner and the game ended in my victory. I smiled at my success and the Gaffer reached across the board to shake hands with me, “not a bad game. Keep practicing and come back to see us.”

The Gaffer slowly stood up, straightening his clothes, “do an old man a favor and clean this up, hm? Bring it back by the house and we’ll have dinner made before you head out.”

I watched him walk off, into the rain, and looked down at the board, unsure of the pain I felt at the thought of leaving that place.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Unfurl

Word of the Day: kibitzer

 

Willy-nilly Tramp (1/4)

I hated the Summer. I had been attempting to make my way northward but the days were too hot and exhausting and trekking through the badlands at night was far too risky. Rashly, I had decided to leave the town where I had steady work and a place to stay, driven by own accursed wanderlust and the nomadic need to relocate once my environment grew to my disliking. I had underestimated the distance and the trials I would face and by the next town I happened upon I was out of food, bordering on dehydration, and had seen the last of my money snatched away by dusty thieves too young for me to hold a grudge.

Many of the townsfolk seemed offended by my arrival. A small few would speak to me, most opting to simply ignore, and no one was willing to offer me work no matter how small the deed or the pay I agreed. Once I had exhausted the most obvious resources, and what little energy I had, I slouched down in what shade I could find beside a barrel pushed against the side of a saloon.

Damned Summers, I muttered to myself, and cursed my lack of forethought. I wiped the sweat dripping from my brow and yanked the brim of my hat down over my face. Slowly, I inhaled and closed my eyes, focusing and stilling my mind to reach beyond myself and search the Veiled Railways for lingering signs or drifting Sprites. A single sign thrummed at the edge of the town – a 2/10 enclosed by triangle with the peak turned straight down. I sighed now knowing full well why the townsfolk scorned my presence: miscreant Tramps had decided to squat there.

Suddenly, I became keenly aware of the faint smell of pine in the air.

“Hey.” A voice nearby. I opened my eyes and lifted my head. No one in sight.

“Up here, man.”

I turned my head to the side and up more to set my eyes on a young man, a bandana tied around his dusty brown mane of hair. He sat cross legged atop the barrel, cigarette in his mouth. His clothes were worn, not dingy but they had seen many travels, and his shoes appeared to be patch up maybe one too many times. He looked down at me, extending a canteen dewy with condensation.

“Thought you was dyin’ of the heatstroke. Just as well, I s’pose. Don’t look like you got much for takin’ anyhow.” He took a drag from his cigarette and let the smoke billow from his nose. “Well, you wan’t the drink’er’not?”

I did. I had been eyeballing it, eyes shifting from the canteen to the man’s half-grinning face. I took the cool bottle into my hands and took a hasty gulp of the refreshing liquid. It tasted sweet, a hint of molasses, and when it hit my stomach a gentle burn followed. The added warmth was not particularly welcome but I was grateful all the same. I extended the canteen back.

“Eh, take a few more swigs.” He took the cig from his mouth and tapped off a few centimeters of ash. “I hears yer lookin’ for work.” I finished my second swig and simply nodded. “Same. These people don’t much like us transient folk but if’n they won’t give us a job we just gotta make some work of our own. And I’ve got an idea.”

I lifted an eyebrow and handed the canteen back. I wiped my sleeve across my lips then inquired, “are you with the miscreants who’ve been troubling these people?”

He looked astonished to be accused. “Miscreants? Oh, no, ser. I got more sense then to come around harassin’ good folks just wantin’ to mind their own. Those slack-jawed boobs muddy our good name.”

He was no Pilgrim, I could tell that much, and maybe he was not  a squatting Tramp. “What kind of work?” I pressed.

He grinned and stubbed out his fag, “we’s gon’ take from the infamous and give to the worthy.

~~~ToBeContinued~~~

Daily Prompt: Willy-nilly

Chapter One – Episode Two.0

Episode One.4

———-

“You’ll have to give up everything, so say your goodbyes and and make peace while you can. I cannot promise that you will ever return here nor be welcomed if you do. Return to me, in the morn, at the Spastic Cistern. You will tell no one and you will arrive alone. Follow these rules carefully or don’t bother showing.”

Dense clouds rolled over the mountains. Heavy winds kicked up dirt and rustled the trees, accenting an impending storm. The outlying camps surrounding Eten Viyo were hustling to prepare for the tempest, kinsfolk rushed to and fro setting up weather barriers and migrating the etenpyr to safety within the city. Ceccamun sat isolated, watching the progress from above and kicking her legs at the edge of a desert spire.

Mindlessly, she, stroked Khaliel’s scaled snout and peered into the waning fiery sky. Despite Kaizar Khoriba’s pertinent warnings, Ceccamun had been all too excited with the prospect of a grand adventure. She romanticized the trials: fighting her way through jungle and beast until she reached the Hermit who would first test then accept her. She imagined him teaching her to fly – to harness energy and sunder the very mountains with overwhelming qyorei. She imagined the fear such strength would strike in her foes. Strength she would use to fight back and ensure her dreams never came to pass.

Even so, a nagging sensation clutched at her chest and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she would never see home again; and even if she did, it would not feel like home but instead the masquerading prison that Khoriba declared it to be.

“Shoulda figured.” A voice from behind. She turned her head and watched Aggar emerge, grinning, with Zimyen in tow. The young etenpry bound over to his counterpart to play. With a show of disinterest, Khaliel swat at him with her tail which seemed enough to entertain him for the time being. Aggar joined Ceccamun, crouching down and turning his eyes on the land beyond.

“At first I thought you’nt come back from the Kaizar’s yet but then Zim came up to me, poutin’ n’lookin’ lonely.” He huffed and glanced over at the playful etenpyr before shaking his head, “damned runt won’t even function two seconds without his sister ‘round.”

Khaliel had since turned her full attention unto Zimyen and the pair were swatting and tackling each other making a sport out of attempting to knock the other over the edge.

“So, what’d the Kaizar want with ya?”

Ceccamun twisted her mouth knowing, if anyone, she should tell Aggar but what would normally be a secret between friends would simply turn into him demanding to accompany her and the Kaizar had been clear; besides, she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone anyhow.

“Ya might as well jus’ tell me. Word’s goin’ ‘round he’s gotcha pegged for the Kaizragoons.”

She had not yet thought of a proper goodbye or reasoning for her leaving but it looked like scuttlebutt had gotten the ball rolling for her. Leaving to join the Kaizragoons was an easy falsehood. Under that banner, she could be gone for months and nobody would question it. All she had to do was confirm it. But was she really going to blatantly lie to Aggar’s face?

“I-I’m not really supposed to talk about it…” She muttered.

“So it’s true then? Dammit.” Aggar grunted and stood up, “really? I’ve been bustin’ my ass and I get nothing? You come down with whatever the hell’s been goin’ on with you and what, they decide you’re some special cookie and roll out the damned carpet for ya?” He was riling and tossing his arms around in wide gestures.

Ceccamun furrowed her brow and looked up at her friend. “Look, it ain’t even that, I jus’ can’t talk about it, alright? Calm down.”

He did not. “If it ain’t the Kaizragoons then what is it? Secret trainin’? You gonna be the next Kaizar or somethin’?” and when she didn’t answer immediately, “ya know, everybody runnin’ around treatin’ you like some prodigal child is really startin’ to piss me off!”

“Well, it ain’t like I’m makin’ ‘em do it, Aggar. Why don’t’cha go whine to them about it?”

Their voices had risen along with the tension but not quite to the point of yelling. The enmity of their tone was enough to put a stop to the etenpyrs’ playful quarrel and the two feathered reptiles sat silently watching their masters squabble.

“So, when’re you leavin’?” He inquired, suddenly, and Cec tilted her head. “What, ya can’t at least tell me that?”

“In the morning.” Her voice much lower.

Aggar’s tone only seemed to crescendo,“and what, you’d’ve jus’ disappeared without sayin’ a damn thing – s’Khaliel leavin’ with ya?” She shook her head solemnly and he responded in a vexed grumble, “at least Zim won’t have a complete breakdown. Anything else you allowed to say?”

The romanticised image of her travels had since shattered replaced with a twisting pain and the resentment of a friend. She wanted to apologize but that did not seem right. She wanted to tell him she would be back, that she, Khaliel, Zimyen, and he would be here again and things would be as they’d always been. That seemed worse.

She wracked her brain for something to say, anything, but as she pondered Aggar turned his back and waved over his shoulder slowly disappearing into the darkness of the cave, “I guess it’s goodbye, then. Ya should probably get to the city before the storm rolls in, ‘less ya plan on dyin’ before your big vanishin’ act.” Zimyen unenthusiastically followed after his rider but not without a besaddened look back at Ceccamun and Khaliel, his jagged reptilian brow drooping low over his eyes of bright yellow. The deep rumble of coming thunder accented Aggar’s point and Ceccamun began to follow in his wake with Zimyen leading and Khaliel in tow.

———-

Episode Two.1

From One To The Next

I found work where and when I could. This time I had landed a simple yet demanding job making food deliveries in the relatively small town of Port’s Edge. The quiet chef and his surly mentor had been desperate for a food runner since their last had been laid off due to frequent tardiness and shorting orders; even so, they were reluctant to hire a vagabond for a job what was “integral to the continued health and productivity of half the village.” They were less reluctant when I agreed to work for nothing more than two meals a day.

The Mentor had decided it was best for me to familiarize myself with the stops I would be making. I sat in the passenger seat of her sputtering buggy as we bounced and stuttered down the cobbled streets. I did not see any other vehicles on the roads; most people seemed to be content with either walking or riding bikes.

“Gas ain’t cheap, and I need this ol’ girl for when I’m in a real hurry so you’ll be walking the food.” She explained above the rattling of her vehicles and the jingle jangling of her many baubles.

“Ain’t no problem by me, ma’am. I prefer my own two feet, anyhow.”

She turned her gaze on me curiously, “what is it you say you do again?”

“Hard jobs what need doing, ma’am. I let the Spirits guide me where I am needed.”

Her gaze turned skeptical, “right. Well, just remember what we agreed: two meals.” I simply nodded in response. “Where’re you placin’ yer head for the night?”

I shrugged, “hadn’t figured that out yet, ma’am.”

She twisted her mouth, “we’ll see if Norman’ll take ya. He runs a pub out of his home and lets people stay there if’n they’re too fuzzed to make it home.”

Norman’s was a modest home, two stories with a sign hanging outside advertising it simply as a respite. Bells clattering against a hard door preceded our entry. We were greeted by a young girl humming to herself and happily doodling from a high stool sitting behind a podium. Beyond her, beyond the short corridor, the house opened up to a cozy interior with a bar and kitchen at the center.

“Welcome to the Tired Dog,” she chimed as she looked up. Her freckled face carried a bucked smile which only grew wider when she noticed, “auntie Kells!” and launched off of her stool to approach the portly woman.

The Mentor embraced the girl half her height. “Hello, kitten.” After which the girl took a step back and composed herself. She put on a practiced tone.

“Table for two?” She looked between us but her eyes lingered on me.

“Just the bar,” The Mentor responded, “we ain’t dinin’, I just need to talk to your pa.”

The girl nodded her head and made her way back to her stool, her eyes trailing us the entire way.

The bar was busy but not overly packed. We pulled up stools and waited patiently before a man stopped in front of us, his walrus mustache covered his lips.

“Shit.” He glowered as soon as he noticed us. His eyes rested on the Mentor. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened,” she rolled her eyes. “I was wondering if you’d bed up a new employee of mine.”

Norman turned his gaze on me and rose his eyebrows before he spoke again. “I ain’t about to trust a drifter in my home, Kel. No offense, ser. We’ve got enough problems with idiots and savages runnin’ around as it it.”

A yelp exploded from the entry corridor. Half the pub jumped to their feet and Norman was in the doorway in an instant with the Mentor and myself closely behind.

“What’s this I hear, Normy? We ain’t welcome no more?”

A handful of highwaymen stood in the entry, all draped in furs and leathers and light armoring. One of them had the girl gripped by the scruff of her neck. He held her up and far. She thrashed to no avail.

“The Warchief is getting awfully sick of you peasants pretending you –”

I had all the reason I needed. I closed my eyes and I felt everything around me shift. When I opened my eyes again the world was shed in an ethereal nimbus.

I took slow steps forward, passing through those in front of me, until I came to the man and the girl he held. I slammed my palm against his exposed elbow, snapping his arm. Freeing the girl. I carried her from his hands to the ground and lay her there safe from danger. I  stood, between them, the bandits and the town, and scowled. Another shift. Time returned.

The man fell to the ground, his hollers echoed over the silent crowd. Befuddled, his comrades collected him and retreated. I turned back to those I had defended only to meet mixed and twisted faces.

The shaken voice of Norman broke the silence, “th-thank you.”

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Delivery, Organize

Glaring Wounds

Previously

…she reached the incapacitated attacker and began to wail on him. Expletives and rage flew from her tongue.

———-

I gathered myself and shook off the lingering pain of recent. I called out, “Sunny,” but she paid me no mind. I had to pull her off of the man, his face now swollen, her knuckles bruised and bloodied. She screamed.

“Why do you protect him!”

A strained, coughing, chuckle, “because that is his way.”

She gritted her teeth, his voice a trigger, and fought to pass me. I walled her and she glared. Every ounce of me screamed; I was too tired to fight her. “Sunny.”

She stopped and looked away but the deep scowl never left her face.

I pled, “check on Eizak.”

She huffed and pulled away, fuming across the sand to crouch at Eizak’s side. I exhaled and thanked Quriin.

“Enjoy that comfort, Godfather.” The man coughed and grinned, blood spilling from his mouth. I neared him and knelt down. The super-heated slugs had scorched clean through his body and left glaring holes what would have already killed any Human.

His bright eyes searched my own with inquisitive intent. A smirk stretched his lips, “damn meddling kids.” He coughed, blood spittle sprinkling his face.

“Why the hell’d they send you for me? How’d they know I survived?” I demanded.

“You’re a stain on her reputation.”

My face soured further and I glared, “and why didn’t she come herself?”

“You’re a stain: a nuisance at best.” He grinned, his teeth tinted red. “Besides, compared to The Mother you’d be little more than a pest she’d swat.” His voice was weakening, his inflections gurgled and his tone straining. “When I don’t return, they will know where to find you, and more will come until you lie dead.”

I sighed and stood, finished with his dying rambles. I turned to stop at Eizak’s side, Sunny next to him, his head on her lap. She turned her bright eyes up to me. Eizak’s face was twisted in a grimace but he endured silently.

“His leg is crushed. I was no trained to heal.” She reported then looked past me to the man I had left for dead, “did you end him?”

“He’s on his way out.”

She seemed dissatisfied with this and slowly stood and rested Eizak’s head on the ground. She picked up the weapon he had used to save our lives.

“Sunny…”

She ignored and moved past me and glared down at the dying man. He looked up at her, still grinning even as life faded from him.

“Zero-fourteen. Enjoying you semblance of freedom?”

Her face twisted with a snarl, “Sunny,” and she pulled the trigger. The weapon fizzled. She pulled again, and a third time. The dying man cackled. Sunny screamed, and in a fit of rage she bashed in the man’s skull again and again until I pulled her off of him.

“Get a hold of yerself!” I snatched the blood splattered gun away from her.

“You don’t control me! And no longer will they!”

“I’m not trying to control you.” I huffed and ran fingers through my sand infested hair. I did not want to argue with her – not there. Not that it would have gotten us anywhere. I holstered the weapon and gave one last glance to our mutilated enemy before a heavy sigh escaped me.

“Come on, it’s gunna be a long walk back home.” I moved past her toward the truck overturned smoldering truck. Hopefully we could salvage some supplies.

ToBeContinued

———

Daily Prompt: Glaring

 

The Ever-changing Spices of Travel

I felt weak.  The wind chill had long numbed the tips of my fingers and my nose and was only getting worse as the sun fell. I had stopped having distinctly different pains like hunger or the throbbing of my feet; I felt like fatigue personified, dragging myself through a dense forest and slowly dying alongside the Autumn leaves.

One wrong step and my footing slipped from under me. I stumbled and slid down a shallow incline smacking my head against the hard ground along the way. I didn’t get up immediately, instead I simply laid there happy to be off of my feet momentarily.

The rustling of leaves jolted up to stand again. My vision blurred, my mind swimming, and I stumbled against a tree and reached for my knife unable to make out whatever was approaching.

A whistle came, “you’re aaall jacked up, aren’t’cha, ‘Bo?” The voice was implacable. It echoed in my mind. A Sprite had manifested in that place.

I let go of my weapon and eased myself to stand up straight. My vision slowly cleared and I spotted the friendly phantasm guised as a large ferret nibbling on a rat.

“You like rat?” It offered and I politely declined, mostly for lack of being able to create a fire. “Suit yer self. You’ll die if’n you don’t eat, though.”

“There’s ‘sposed to be a village around. How far off?”

The Ferret Sprite “hmmm’d” in thought and pondered over me as if sizing me up, “not too far…” It trailed. “I could show you buuut, I’d get out fast. Normally, I’d tell ‘Bo’s to keep away. Many dishonest men, even among the officers, and they don’t differentiate between a ‘Bo and a tramp. I’d be ready to defend yourself and stay quiet, hopefully go unnoticed. Most people will rat you out, but there is a good widow I know.” The Sprite offered the run down while scurrying up on my shoulder and pointing in a direction. I slowly began.

Nightfall was upon us by the time we arrived, which, as the Sprite told, was for the better. It guided me along the most quiet paths through the smallish mountain village until we came upon a house somewhat isolate from the rest. We approached the rear door and I reached out a hand but the Sprite scurried along my arm and beat me to knocking. The knocks were rhythmic and intentional.

“Oh, I forgot to mention. She’s, er, got a little flare. Some spice. A lot of flare and spice. Just remember what I said: get out fast.” The Sprite tacked on just before the door eased open a crack.

Haloed in warm flickering light, a woman with a mane of dark hair peered out, her bright blue eyes a contrast and drawing. Her initial glare softened at the sight of me and she pulled the door wider then beckoned me silently. I stepped in without question and reveled in warmth I had not felt for hours.

She pushed the door shut, the howling winds cut abruptly and steadying our dancing coverings. “Where is she!” She rose her voice but it was still a hushed whisper.

I stammered, “I…I’m sorry, who?”

“I think she means me.” My Sprite companion poked her head up over my shoulder.

Our hostess roared and launched herself, arms outstretched toward the Sprite but her body colliding with mine. I was easily knocked off of my feat and she straddled me, preoccupied with chasing the Sprite.

She grasped at air, “I told you to tell me before you brought more here!”

The Ferret defied gravity, squirming and dancing to freedom, “this fellow doesn’t really have the luxury of time. Trust me, I’ve been redirecting as many ‘Bo’s as possible.”

When they finally reached an agreement, I was just glad to sit down. The Widow gave me a room in her two story home, demanded I bath, and encourage me to not come out – dinner and amenities would be provided and brought to me. The spices of her cooking were enough to shake off the mountain cold and I felt rejuvenated all the same.

I had overstayed my welcome.

A knock came to my door and I meandered to the sight of the Widow bare before me. My eyes wondered and my mind explored but I denied her and insisted that I would leave in the morn. Dejected she clothed but offered to stay just the same. We slept, back to back, without word. And in the midst of the night we work to hateful shouting.

~~~~~

Daily Prompt: Spicy

Chapter One – Episode One.4

Epidose One.3

———-

“There’s that hair-trigger switch I heard could be flipped.” Kaizar Khoriba chuckled and returned to his seat, seemingly content with his own antics. “The Shahm and Sevajj rave about you, ya know. I’m jealous, really. I don’t think I’ve heard Akmoya say a wholly positive thing about anyone before. Ever. Hell, if it were up to him, he’d still be barking at me in combat drills. Nothing like that with you though; only good things. Hates your choice of friends though.”

Ceccamun chuckled and let out a long, “yeeeah.”

He smiled and sat forward, elbows on the smooth stone table. He titled his head gently and looked on Ceccamun with curious intent. “So, tell me about the dreams you’ve been having.”

Of course they had mentioned it, she twisted her mouth to one side. Had he brought her up here and lathered her with past accomplishment just to then shut her down and bring to light her recent failings?

Ceccamun slouched further in her seat and fidgeted with her hands. “They’re hectic. Violent. Figures – monsters – stand at the door step of The Spire and they’re tearin’ through us like practice dummies.” Her voice had begun to tremble and she bore down at the stone table, her fingers digging into her crossed hands. “It’s a massacre of blood and screams and the mangled corpses of our kin and there ain’t nothing I, nor anyone, can do to stop it. I’ve never felt my hopeless. Just weak.”

“I remember that feeling.” The Kaizar sympathized. “I had ’em too, around your age. And others before me. Every generation, a number of kinsfolk start having that dream. Some view it as an omen; others, a conspiracy; still more, a wild tale turned legend, or propaganda to kindle a revolt against the Qaneqaanii.”

Ceccamun sat up in her chair, “the warlords on the other end of the Dune Sea?”

He nodded and began to gradually tell Ceccamun of Qyorei, the cosmic life-force, and, in lifetimes long past, their ancestors soared the skies along side the etenpyr. He explained that, despite their apparent freedoms, they were indentured to the Qaneqaanii and lived under their rule. The Warlords of the Shimmering Sands had stripped away the power of Qyorei from their ancestors and now ensured that it could never be taught nor learned by taking potentials across the Dune Sea to personally serve far from Eten Viyo. Rumours and tales she had heard before but never had she considered them to have basis in truth.

“Generations of Kaizars have carefully guarded this history. Kaizar Corian, in particular, covered up the most spectacular event of recent history: the day a handful of potentials escaped Eten Viyo. That was the same day I first felt the creeping warmth of Qyorei.”

“The Qaneqaanii had come to conscript potentials from my generation. To stand face to face with the creatures we had only imagined in our dreams…we were all frozen with fear while they sorted through us. Everything stopped, however, when the dual suns began to expand growing brighter and brighter until the sky turned white. The entire courtyard shielded their eyes against the dazzling light only for a brilliant and thunderous flash to follow. I remember writhing, blinded, ears ringing, and my senses burning.”

“When the light faded, and the paralysis began to lessen, the courtyard was in dissaray, people were scattered everywhere and fumbling, and nearly all the potentials were gone.”

Ceccamun was familiar with the tale and she filled in, “Yeema Keri tells it they fled to the deep wild, disappeared into the Infinite Oasis, never seen again.”

Khoriba nodded, “yeah, that’s the rumour. But no on really knows how. Anyway,” he picked up the story, “the Qaneqaanii went manic, throwing accusations, interrogating everyone. We didn’t know a damn thing, though.” He chuckled and shook his head. “Kaizar Corian put the entire city on lockdown and ordered Kaizragoons to assist in the following searches and investigations. Nothing came of it though. They were just gone.”

“Wait,” Cec interjected again.

The Kaizar has only been taking a breath to continue but he stopped and rose an eyebrow, “what?”

“But why weren’t you taken with ’em?”

Khoriba shrugged but smiled, “the Qaneqaanii don’t waste time with those with Qyorei that feels weak to them.”

“But — ”

“Let me finish the damned story. You’re ruining my pacing here.”

The Shahm had been right concerning his theatrics.

“Anyway: As it turns out, Corian knew the what and the why of the disappearance. To quell and appease the Qaneqaanii he tells them of a kinsman, a hermit by all respects, who had left Eten Viyo almost a half century prior. The Hermit claimed to have rediscovered the secrets of Qyorei and wanted to smuggle potentials away from the clan to train them. Of course, Kaizar Corian strictly forbade this out of fear when the Qaneqaanii discovered the scheme. To protect the clan after this outrage, Corian publicly exiled the missing potentials and made an outlaw of the Hermit. He told the Qaneqaanii all that he knew and pointed them at the Infinite Oasis. That’s the last anyone’s heard of it.”

A deep scowl of outrage took Ceccamun. The Kaizar went on, “to be fair, we’d’ve lived The Dream that day if he’d done anything less. But maybe it could have been different if he hadn’t’ve let fear guide the future of our clan. We’re only weaker now because of it.”

“But you’re the Kaizar now! You can change this. Un-exile them. Invite the Hermit back.”

Khoriba smiled but shook his head, “not openly but I like where you enthusiasm is going. We don’t know if the Hermit is still alive or if he was captured but we do know that the secrets to Qyorei lie within the Infinite Oasis.”

“For a few years now I’ve been seeking out potentials, searching and feeling out the same energy I felt that day. I needed to have you brought of here to tell for myself.”

“I’ll do it.” Ceccamun stated, confident and standing.

The Kaizar frowned, “hey, you don’t even know what I’m offering.”

“The secret lies in the Infinite Oasis. So, you want me to go there.”

He twisted his mouth, “well, yes, but,” he sighed. “Eh, whatever, you’ve ruined it already. Just know this, the Infinite Oasis is a treacherous place and I can say with no certainty that you will be able to survive, let alone find your way back, once your venture there.”

The thrill of adventure oozed off of her and the Kaizar’s words might as well have been devoured by her elation. She was ready to make a difference.

———-

Episode Two.0