Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! And Barbarians. And Elves. Part 9

Part 9

He seemed bored as he followed, his dark Barbarian brows fixed in a dark Barbarian scowl as I danced over the stone path as it rose higher, into the tops of the trees. I felt an answer in each step, a thrum as my foot touched stone and the stone touched me, suspended over the earth. I hummed as I moved, quickly over the stone bridges and through the tunnels of green, where they passed trees. If he was going to be bored then Maybe I could at least increase his stamina in the meanwhile.
“Statue of Stallius, he was notorious for archery and good eyesight. He could see very well, which no doubt helped his archery, to the left, the beautiful statue of… someone beautiful,” I said as we emerged from a long, twisting tunnel that left him blinking when we emerged into the twilight. The beautiful woman was my namesake Haedra, a notable scholar and healer.
I focused on dancing faster, skipping up and kicking my legs before I came down with a bustle and rush of gauze. I spun around and caught the sidelong glance of the gardener. He gazed curiously at me. What was I doing? I hesitated on my next step, stumbling to the base of the one armed Centaurs statue.
My chest rose and fell as I looked at the two, contrasting sharply with each other clearly distinguished in spite of the dim lights that sprung up along the path.
"Gardener, who do you think the Viceroy should meet?"
I cast a glance at the Viceroy who took a position with his muscular arms across his chest, looking like he wanted a mace or something like to embrace. He looked a soldier, patiently waiting for an irritation to dissipate.
“Whoever is willing to meet the Ambassador I suppose, Lady,” the gardener said, reminding me that he didn't approve of the Barbarian, and that I kept using the wrong title.
I frowned fiercely at the gardener, but he simply waited with his arms over his chest, in a similar pose as the Barbarian neither of which seemed remotely repentant. I knew perfectly well that my fame came far more from being a madwoman than a lady. Dancing randomly along the sky stones lacked dignity, but they both had enough dignity for all of us. No one seemed inclined to ensure that I stayed well behaved. 
“Well then, Viceroy, you’re in luck. All the young ladies are certain to want to meet you.  When you dance be careful not to trod on any toes. The toes of our people are very delicate.”
"Ambassador," he grunted, but that was all. Good. Grunting was exactly what one expected of a Barbarian. We continued on our way, passing the statues rising out of darkness in silence.
“I suppose you'll lead the dance,” the Barbarian said as we passed next to an extremely fragrant white blooming tree that smelled too sweet. Sickly sweet. I preferred the grunting.
“Dancing is for young ladies,” I said as primly as I could.
The gardener snorted, and I gave him a glare that he ignored, well, since it was getting dark and my face was veiled it would be hard for him not to ignore it, but it still bothered me. I walked the next hundred feet or so as sedately as a mourner.
“I would prefer not to dance with young ladies.” He sounded grouchy, like a battle hardened captain who’d been sent to go dancing instead of fighting.
I looked over my shoulder at him and caught in a flash of glowlight a frown that looked more concerned than grumpy. I raised my hand as if to brush the frown away then fisted my fingers, forcing myself to behave as a diplomat should.
In the close darkness, the smell of Cinnarron seemed to bloom from the Barbarian like a fragrant crushed herb, pungent and spicy. I felt my heart thump with a beat like a drum, calling the warriors home. When the trail of lights grew closer and closer as we neared the High Palace, I straightened up and adjusted the gauze around my face. Maybe the gardener was right about not springing the Barbarian on the High Precept. I felt reluctant to take the Viceroy in to be passed around by the ladies with their lovely arms. Who was I trying to protect, them or him? I muttered words that not even I could quite make out, a curse or a prayer, maybe the two mingling on my cool breath into the night air.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 8

Part 8
Mixed images flitted in front of my mind's eye, screams, blood, a large sky stretched infinitely above me, a bright blue flower trodden under foot. The gardener said something although his words eluded me. When I looked at him, his face may as well have been carved from stone as he looked past me and made a crusty bow.
I’d have to keep an eye on him to make sure the viceroy didn’t wake up dead one morning, no, not viceroy, ambassador.
I turned slowly and felt the gardener's revulsion at the figure walking down the steps. Enemy. I sidestepped away from him and looked up at the sky, irritated by the fabric that kept me from feeling the breeze on my skin. When I realized I was muttering I pressed my lips in a prim line before the Barbarian came close enough to make out the words.
“Viceroy. Excellent timing. I was admiring the make of your boots. Are they this century Barbarian? I seem to recall a similar model back in…” my voice trailed off as he stared over my shoulder, a look of absolute boredom on his face.
"Ambassador," he replied.
I stood for a moment, embarrassment at my mistake warring with shock.
"Are you ready for your Convotion with the High Precept, Ambassador?"
"On my feet the finest leather await the Precept's majesty."
I stared at him. I couldn't remember Barbarian humor sliding towards ludicrous, but they had made me his guide. Perhaps he was trying to adapt to circumstances.
"Indeed. And on my feet..." I trailed off as I realized a smear of dried herbs was all that coated my foot. I shrugged. "Excellent. Shall we go by water or by stone?"
"Water?" he asked with a glint that spoke of a spy assessing the lay of the land.
"You'll be happy to know that a web of waterways connect the river to the High Palace. They are too shallow for a ship of any size, but make transporting supplies very feasible."
"You are too informative," the Barbarian said.
I smiled blandly at the spy. "Not at all."
"By stone," the Barbarian said, shifting to cross black gloves over his chest.
I nodded my agreement and turned to lead him out of the courtyard. Behind me the Barbarian followed shadowed by the gardener where he could keep an eye on both of us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 7

Part 7
Lady Perr, Of High City

I stayed in the kitchen until the gardener procured a crutch from who knew where. I had the unhappy circumstance of being the only elven lady clumsy enough to fall down her own stairs. The gardener seemed a handy fellow, whoever he was. The barbarian diplomat seemed so familiar. Perhaps he was a descendant of Herrin Balthaar, one of the many from his numerous concubines no doubt. I rubbed my sides, still feeling his hands, calloused and rough, catching on the flimsy fabric. He spent a great deal of time working the land, or swinging a sword, instead of the gentle pads accustomed to holding a pen. Of course he was a barbarian. Perhaps he was both.

I hobbled up and down the passageway between the kitchen and the morning room, passing through sunbeams and motes of dust that carried the scent of faraway distant places. The very air had been stirred by the Barbarian's presence. When I realized that I had been focused for hours, not slipping out into the gentle oblivion that was customary to me, I paused, leaning against the cool pale stone wall.

Things were changing. Could it be for the better? Of course not. Nothing to do with Barbarians was good. I knew that much. I frowned and tried to focus on the new pain of my ankle, the sharp bright pain that would keep me from thinking of the old wounds that had never healed, but the gardener had done his work well. I frowned at him as he approached with the graceful, ageless walk of our kind. He seemed so familiar, almost like he’d been here forever, but that wasn’t possible was it? I would remember.

“When is the Convotion? How soon shall we leave?” I asked, testing my ankle with my weight.

"You remember about the Convotion?" he responded.

I frowned at him. "Apparently. What is your name? How long have you worked here?" I studied him as we walked beside him, barely using my crutch.

"I’m the gardener,” he replied, and gave me a slight smile, as mocking as my kind could get. “Is my lady Perr going to the Convotion in her present state of dress?”

His tone was one of complete condescension. At some times in my life that tone would have bothered me. I looked down at my dress, aged and worn, not exactly exalted. I glanced up at him and shrugged. I'd fallen down my own stairs. My dress matched the frame of my mind. “I don’t see why not. Is he ready?”

“He?” the gardener folded his arms over his chest, an overt sign that matched his flared nostrils and bared teeth.

“The Viceroy.”

“I thought he was an Ambassador.”
I frowned, biting my lip. “Yes, of course, the Ambassador. Pardon my error, errors..." I sighed. "Is the Ambassador prepared for the Convotion?"

"It has been moved to two days hence."

"Why?" I asked, stopping to stare at him full in the face.

"After the Ambassador's long journey, they assumed it would befit him to rest in your..."

"Nonsense." I cut him off, brushing past him, leaving my unnecessary crutch against the wall. "He must be greeted immediately by the High Precept unless this entire debacle is nothing but pretense. Why not tar and feather him at once if there is no intention of following protocol? And why in the name of the five magics have I been involved if not to use my experience as an actual guide of the Barbarian?"

"You take this small matter too..."

"Small matter?" I drew myself up to frown at him, wishing that my veils were not so clouded. "We are going to see the High Precept this evening whether they have prepared the Convotion or not. You may not realize the greatness of this slight, but I do. They should have called someone else to the duty if they didn't want it done according to tradition."

He stared at me, seeming at a loss for words. Finally he softly said, "I will inform the High Precept of your intent."

"Indeed," I said, stepping out of the hall and into the garden.

"The Barbarian is hardly likely to be here as an ambassador. Spy is more like," he said coolly.

"Obviously," I returned. "However, if we wish to be above Barbarians, we must treat them as we know we ought, instead of stooping to their level."

"Do you know their level? Do you realize how close we are to complete destruction?" His voice came out cold, emotionless, but when I looked in his eyes, I felt fear, his fear.

"Things that come into existence must pass out of it."

"I know the name, Belthaar, a general who leads his men fearlessly against us, knowing all our ways the better to destroy us. They say that he's killed so many Elves, he's taken on our immortality, which would explain how he's lived so long, spreading death and terror in an endless red parade. We should kill him while he is in our power."

I blanched at his easy sentence to one I'd been assigned guide. "If an execution order comes, you may take him away. Until then, we proceed with our guest according to custom. If you are uncomfortable with the Barbarian's presence, I will ask the High Precept to release you from your duty.”

"And leave you alone with the calloused murderer?"

I lifted my chin. "I am hardly defenseless."

He had the temerity to laugh. Elven laughter should hold joy and spread like a flame to those around us. His laughter tasted of acid, eating away at all it touched.

He bowed, one hand on his heart. When he straightened, the laughter had gone, replaced by elven calm.

"My Lady Perr has spoken."

"So, she has," I nodded, passing him to the fountain. His words seemed to echo in my ears. Murderer. Destruction. Hadn't there been a prophecy about that?

"How long have you been my gardener?” I smiled pleasantly, glad for a change of subject.

"Ever since I came from the hermitage up north. You know the Olbase.”

I nodded, frowning. The Olbase housed injured Elves, coaxing them back to full health. The gardener seemed too young and mentally whole to be a retired soldier. I’d hate to be in his way when he carried his pruning shears, if he had one of the enormous swords that the Rasha carried... I shuddered.

I could almost see him with a sword, dust rising around him as he smiled, sharp glistening teeth before he spun and brought the sword down. I blinked and the sound of metal clashing and men screaming, the smell of blood and dirt, sweat and fear was replaced by the sound of the fountain in the courtyard where the gardener stood calmly gazing into the distance.
I rubbed my temples, willing the scenes far away. I'd been asked to guide the Barbarian. So I would as long as the High Precept needed me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 6

Fun stuff, but editing is taking up time. Imagine that. Feel free to insert five paragraphs of description. 

Part 6
The pungent smell of humanity, toiling in the hot sun, filled the courtyard while shouts rang through the air, echoing off the tall earthen walls surrounding the market.
I escorted the Elven girl through the narrow stalls, blocking the malevolent glares and the evil signs with my body, signs she never noticed even as she fiercely defended them.
I'd been assigned her, an assignment I'd quickly dismissed as beneath me, but had grown to accept and almost enjoy. Her naivete and innocence came with a shocking breadth of knowledge and intelligence while her eyes, shifting between amethyst and sapphire mesmerized me. I'd been wary of her using her magics on me, been warned by the Emperor's own speaker, but so far she hadn't done anything other than argue eloquently for a cause other than her own.
I smiled at her while the slaves in her periphery shifted, taking aggressive stances. I barely paid attention to my own words as I waited for unpleasantness. “The slave plays his part in the great order as does every other creature. We are all creatures with greater or lesser levels of development, but deep down we’re simple animals. Without society there is no meaning to the individual.”
“I'd be more convinced of your sincerity if you did not occupy one of the highest levels of administration.” She slanted her eyes down to peer directly into mine, focusing on me in a way our modest women would not do, frank, naked appeal in her amethyst eyes.
The voices behind me, the hissed curses came before the flung fruit. I leaned into her, close enough to smell the delicate scent of her skin, while I felt the sting and thud on my armored back with flecks splashing up my neck.
So close, I only had to whisper. “Unlike you? Daughter of an Empire? Ambassador of the High City?”
She turned away from me, from the threat behind me, never seeing it. Her vulnerability stirred something, envy maybe for a creature who had lived without the need to anticipate violence.
She faced a seller behind a stall who froze with wide eyes and slack mouth as she spoke to me. “As you know, we have no slaves. Each house has its order, but within the order there is choice. I chose diplomacy over the ranks of the Rasha. My interest in linguistics over small magics or armaments brought me to my current position.”
The Rasha were the silver soldiers who fought like lightning. The idea that my young friend could choose a life of fear and rage when she didn't even notice an attack made my stomach clench. I covered the plum in her hand, a plum with purple streaks that matched her eyes.
"You speak of magic and choice in the same breath. Your magic, your religion would call your position destiny. Is relying on fate so much better than depending on state?”
She smiled unconsciously as I took the fruit, filling her mouth with its flavor as I took her arm, too intimate a gesture, but those behind me had not stopped their hissing. I led the way past the fruit seller, throwing more coin than the plum was worth to the seller. The man, a merchant who knew who oiled his cart, wheeled his wares into the space behind us, blocking the slaves and leaving us to exit the market without  her knowing how close she'd come to tasting the slaves' hatred.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 5

Belthaar General of Barrabas army and current ambassador/spy

My introduction to the High City was not at all as expected. The city itself was breathtakingly beautiful, rising from the river in waves of white broken by the green of trees and ivy. That wasn’t what surprised me, the reception I received did. I had expected cold looks, suspicion and barely veiled contempt. I was ready for rotten fruit to be thrown down on me, not flowers.
The long slender arms that stretched towards me were pale, tinted blue or pink, with silver nails. Their faces, their eyes, glowed with unnatural light not of this world, with smiles showing teeth made for ripping. And yet they smiled instead of ripped.
I forced a smile of my own, but knew it looked more like a grimace. I'd seen enough elves dripping silver blood off the end of my sword, watched the light fade from their eyes as they cursed me. I hadn't seen beauty in their features for a very long time. For a moment it seemed a woman gazed on me with eyes like amethyst, but instead, the purple fragmented into a pink gaze. I stared at her while she gazed back at me, warm and welcoming, an alien stranger.
I forced my heart to slow its beating. This mission may be my personal curse, but the Emperor's will was my own. I nodded to myself and straightened my shoulders, longing for the weight of my sword across my back. I had to use my long ago training as an acolyte to the Emperor before I'd taken up the sword. I could not think of these creatures as beauty, as anything other than those who would pass beneath the Emperor's way.  
I gave up smiling as I walked, ignoring the ladies that hung above me from their windows, tried to block out the sound of their greetings, the song of their voices intertwining into a complicated melody that made my chest ache.
I walked unarmed into the heart of the Elven city, where magic seeped through the cracks in the stones beneath my feet, magic that I knew more than a Barbarian should know. Some said the Barbarians ignorance was their greatest strength, but since I'd led the soldiers, it was my acceptance of the Elves and their twisting of the fabric that had helped me turn the tide against them.
I wanted to be there, on the field instead of involved in a complicated infiltration to discover their weak points for the offensive to come, tentatively, in spring. I disliked the welcoming creatures whose blood would flow into these stones, cursing me eternally.
I shrugged. I'd lived with a curse for a hundred years. My very age was its own curse. I sweated more than I should have been beneath the cool canopy of trees. It bothered me that anyone who brushed up near me would catch my scent of fear, bad enough to smell it on myself.
I’d fought enough of the tall ones to know that while you could dismiss their ‘magics’ they still had inhuman senses and could fill you with irrational fear if they got the chance to look in your eyes. To have spent most of a century with a sword on the field made the change to viceroy a bitter blow. It didn’t feel honorable. I liked to look at them as the enemy, as simplistic as that was.   
When we neared the house where I would reside, I looked back and realized that we were on the edge of the city. Most of my tall escort had abandoned me leaving only a few silent elves bearing my luggage, but their very silence seemed mocking.
I took a moment to grab the end of a trunk causing the bearer to raise an eyebrow in amusement at me. I grinned at him, nearly snarling. I was a barbarian after all. I'd be expected to have common manners like wanting to carry my own luggage. Of course, I couldn't carry it all, not the long train of trunks and cases, some filled with gifts, others with ridiculous outfits to wear in my performance as diplomat. I belonged on the field. I didn’t need a distraction like this at a time when my men would be preparing for the largest assault of their short lives; likely rendered shorter under someone else’s command.
I looked around the courtyard we finally entered, at the simple fountain tinkling musically, for the sight of the females so I could keep my distance. Oddly enough the only person was a gardener who didn’t look up for some time after I entered as the bearers stacked my luggage in piles behind me.
The gardener glanced at me then rose slowly only after the other elves had dispersed. I didn’t like the way he looked at me, like he knew me better than I knew myself. I gave him my most polite smile from my days as acolyte to the Emperor.
He didn’t act like a servant. He stood like a god, his silvery eyes giving me one last final look before he turned towards the house. The enormous, overpowering manse had a presence that demanded attention. I glanced up at the spiraling tower and elaborate stonework before I turned to the gardener.
He gestured me to follow him as he walked through a large passageway into the dim interior.
Inside it was darker, cool, and I felt myself sweating harder. They hadn't told me a great deal about my host, my interpreter, simply brought me to this ancient estate on the edge of the city. When my eyes adjusted and I walked towards the grand stairs, following  the gardener's lead.
I stood at attention for some time before the creature graced me with her presence. It was a she, probably, but none of the other ladies of the city had so much as their arms covered much less the entire face, head and body like this creature swathed in white.
She was covered like one of the ladies of my country as if she was trying to respect my customs, but my mouth twitched at how badly she’d carried it out. Her eyed were completely obscuredso I had no idea how she traversed the stairs in safety.
She moved like a dream. I stared, entranced each time her foot touched a step. She descended with the ethereal grace none of my people would ever come near. It reminded me of amethyst eyes.
I thought I could see purple reflected behind the billowy gauze when she reached a few steps from me before she tripped falling into my arms with a solidity that belied her apparent weightlessness. She felt cold, like a bird hanging onto the last of its life after striking glass, heart thumping delicately in its feeble frame. Her eyes, amethyst, stared at me, half veiled through the mists of gauze.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Barbarian and Elves Part 4

I blinked as the gardener pulled me upright, away from the Barbarian's warmth. I shivered and wrapped my arms around myself, barely noticing the throb in my ankle. The ludicrous idea that I should host Barbarians should never have occurred to the High Precept. Memories like that, memories that felt real enough to taste shouldn't happen to me. Maybe it hadn't been a memory but a fantasy. Of course that must have been it. I'd been an ambassador over a century ago. Everyone from that visit would be dead and buried by now. That knowledge should have filled me with satisfaction, but instead my heart throbbed with pain. The barbarians were many things; long lived wasn’t one of them.
“Lady Perr?” the Barbarian said, reaching for me with his sun darkened hands.
I took a breath that sounded more like a gasp, glad for the pain that shot through my ankle when it touched the ground. I trembled as I leaned heavily on the gardener. Who had told him my name?
“Welcome to the House of Perr, Belthaar. Pardon my clumsiness.” I hobbled off, but not quickly enough to miss the look of puzzlement and slight anger cross his face.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the kitchen with my ankle wrapped and iced, no break, only a sprain, that the garden took my hand in his, squeezing my fingers painfully until I looked up at him.
"You called him Belthaar. Are you familiar with the Barbarian?"
I quickly shook my head, frowning to myself. "Of course not. All the Barbarians I knew would be dead by now. Why are you crushing my fingers?" I asked, looking closely at him. He seemed so familiar. A name trembled on the tip of my tongue before he relaxed his grip and turned away.
I frowned down at my bare foot, smeared with the brown potion the gardener had applied to my nearly blue pale skin. I touched the stuff, feeling the coarsely crushed herbs, grainy in my fingers. His dark skin had been close to that hue. The warm color matched his warm skin. Maybe if I painted myself pink or orange, I wouldn't be so cold all the time. Why had I called him Belthaar? It seemed a strangely elemental name for a Barbarian.
Maybe I'd only imagined the dusky smell of Cimmaron.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 3

Last night I had such a great hot chocolate outing with my friend. She let me sketch her and out came this Elven madwoman.
This is starting to be a really fun series! Hello inspiration. 

Part 3
When he came in, he blinked thick lashes that framed large eyes, pretty eyes that seemed rational and considerate as he glanced around the room. He wasn’t as broad shouldered as most, a diplomat instead of a warrior.
I hesitated in my position atop the steps. Barbarians were bred to be alike in their brutality, their simpleness, except for the very elite, a few of which I'd met when I’d served my term. I swallowed and lifted my chin slightly. I started down the steps, lifting my skirt as I walked, dignity forced into each step.
It was three steps from the bottom where he waited as still as the statue of Callus when I looked up, and caught his gaze directly, or as directly as I could with my head swathed in clouds of net. His eyes caught and held me as surely as if he'd used a small magic on me. I stumbled as my shoe caught on the hem of my dead aunt's dress. Falling forwards, I reached up and caught him around the neck, while his hands circled my waist, arresting my fall.
He smelled of Cinamarron. Time stopped as I stared at him, into those eyes that didn't belong to a Barbarian.
We stood in the Capital's plaza, voicing the same argument we always came to. The sun shone on unwashed bodies filling the air with a raw flavor I'd taken time to adapt to. It added fervor to my voice.
“Being a slave is ennobling? Perhaps to nobles, but I don’t hear many slaves arguing your point.” My voice, passionate, slurred some of the Barrabas consonants.
He smiled at me, showing his even white teeth, brighter in his tan face. “The slave plays his part in the great order as does every other creature. We are all creatures with greater or lesser levels of development, but deep down we’re simple animals. Without society there is no meaning to the individual.”
 “I'd be more convinced of your sincerity if you did not occupy one of the highest levels of administration.”
He leaned close to me, closer than he'd ever come before, breaking the unspoken rules of etiquette. I could smell the Cinamarron on his bronze  skin as he whispered, “Unlike you? Daughter of an Empire? Ambassador of the High City?”
I turned away, fighting down the heat that rose to my cheeks that had nothing to do with the harsh sun or our heated argument. I plucked a plum from the pile of ripe fruit heaped in a cart, rolling the purple orb in my still pale hands. The seller looked at me smiling a gapped-tooth smile.
“As you know, we have no slaves. Each house has its order, but within the order there is choice. I chose diplomacy over the ranks of the Rasha. My interest in linguistics over small magics or armaments brought me to my current position.”
My smile matched his as he studied me until he covered the fruit in my palm with his own larger and darker hand.
“You speak of magic and choice in the same breath. Your magic, your religion would call your position destiny. Is relying on fate so much better than depending on state?” His smile widened as he held up his hand, and slid the plum in my open mouth, cutting off my response with the warm and sweet fruit. He took my arm and guided me away from the stall as he threw a coin to the seller.
I didn't think to resist, not with the taste of ripe plum and the smell of Cinamarron filling my senses.

More coming soon! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Barbarians and Elves Part 2

This has been so much fun to dig out of one of my old notebooks. I don't usually do straight-up fantasy, and I'm sure you can see why. It is not my best genre. All the same, I enjoyed the reread.

Servants rushed around the house until I retreated to the library to get away, to focus and write a list, or at least stare at the paper and the words swirling around on the page. When I saw ‘death’ ‘ending’ and ‘nothing’ I crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it onto the rug, a rich amber and maroon pattern that would have meant something to me at another time. Or would it?
I retreated to my chambers to find something to wear. I came out dressed in clothing that made several servants giggle. Well I was glad someone was amused. I wore a combination of my long departed great Aunt Mathilda’s formerly white gown, long sleeved with billowing layers, and uncle Oldwell’s bee tending hat. It was the best I could do at short notice. It wouldn’t have been short notice, it had been weeks since Head Precinct had delivered his ‘honor’, but I’d been too busy trying not to think about it. 
My house, the formerly glorious house of Perr was one of the crumbling manses along the river, but outfitted with so many servants for this important occasion it was attaining an honorable visage, instead of simply a decrepit one. That should have made me happy, to see the old ruined garden pruned into order, the tattered drapes carefully cleaned and mended, but all I could do is wish I belonged to any other family. 
“Lady Perr,” the melodic voice of the now gardener interrupted my musings. I glared at him, but the irritation got lost beneath the billows of net. “Your gloves, left in the garden.”
I took them, quickly putting them on; one more layer couldn’t possibly hurt. The teal with brown trim wasn’t exactly a match for the rest of my yellowed white ensemble. What did it matter? Fashion was something young girls cared about. My duty to act the part of host to the barbarian warred with my instincts. If I had to host the viceroy, he'd get as little of me as possible.
I heard the trumpets blowing from the dock, only a few miles up the river, and wandered out to the patio that overlooked the water. I stepped carefully towards the edge although the stone balustrade looked quite sturdy after the masons had finished with it. As I leaned on my elbows, it felt almost like an apology the High Precept had offered. It wasn’t enough. It would never be enough.
 I leaned over, relaxing against the sun warmed stone, idly watching the boat upriver tying at the dock, unloading its cargo. It felt like a world ago when I’d boarded a vessel so much like it, eager to find my fate in a new world. It was supposed to be an adventure like the stories my uncles would tell me after they’d returned from new lands. Of course one by one they hadn’t returned, but I had, stripped of the hopes and innocence I'd had when I'd left.
I’d been the finest linguist High City had ever seen. I’d mastered more than basics in most fields, so smart, so clever and passably beautiful. I’d been nearly as beautiful as the other noble daughters, none of whom ever bothered with tedium such as school.  They were busy preparing their dowries and learning the small mystics.
I couldn’t help but smile as I leaned against the stone and Called to the world below. The water felt cool as it slipped around me, the world growing darker as I sank. A fish slipped against me, a silver finned trout. It followed me and the song I sang as I rose towards the light, and burst into the sun as I opened my eyes and looked down at the beautiful fish where it danced on the surface of the water. One last spinning jump and it was gone. My smile faded as I glanced back to the boat and adjusted the still-dry gauze around my face. No more small mystics for as long as I hosted. The mystics appeared an illusion to the Barbarians. I hadn't actually been in the water with my skin, therefore to them, it hadn't happened. They did not understand the world that lay beyond the skin. The servants would not perform mystics either. No tricks, no games, for as long as a Barabas was under the roof. It had been years since any Barabas had been invited to the High City, considering how sincerely the Emperor wished us decimated. No mystics, large or small. Rules were rules. Most people were better at following rules than I was, but not even I would break or even bend this one, and not only because I couldn’t. 
I rubbed my chest absently as I listened to the wind, trying to lose myself, distract from the sound of the procession as the viceroy approached. It did no good. The wind, usually more than willing to transport me away from memories was adamant about bringing the sound of shouts as they neared.  It had been years since a Barbaras had walked through the streets of High City. He certainly caused a stir in a city that preferred to remain motionless, barely breathing as it passed through time.
I could almost see the ladies leaning out of windows, leaning far over to catch a glimpse of the stranger walking over the pale path below. Tan skinned, brown eyes and hair as well as the way he moved would make him different. Barbaric. Exciting, dangerous, and something they might not see again for another hundred years.
“One can hope,” I muttered, and shook my head. I’d spoken Arrabas out loud instead of the smooth cadences of High tongue. I shrugged and itched my neck where the lace came up tight under my chin. I may as well get used to it. I would have to serve as translator to the barbarian. The lace on my sleeves and neck got itchier as I heard the barbarian approach. I forced my hands to still and walked inside, down the hall to the top of the steps where I could watch his approach and look somewhat dignified as I welcomed him. It would force him to wait for me to welcome him instead of him doing all the moving. 

Barbarians disliked waiting. 

More to come! Read anything good lately? Tell me about it in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Barbarians and Elves: Fantasy with a twist of insanity

So, this is a story where the main character is mad. Yes, you always wanted to read something from a crazy person's POV, and now is your chance! Lucky you. Here you are.

  I ached, but I told myself it wasn’t too bad. I winced. Okay, too bad.  I had to stop thinking about it. I forced myself to focus on the whiny nasally voice of precinct head Claudius, and repeated every word over in my head.
“If there isn’t something done to stop them they’ll run right over us. As long as the barbarians are on the borders making threats to outlying towns, building schools,” his voice broke as he sputtered on the word, “to civilize us,” he was breathing hard from sheer revulsion. This was not a subject to divert my thoughts. I shifted my attention to the pear blossoms, the insects chasing the delectable notes floating through the air, lost myself for a few indefinable moments between the scent of the sun and the flowers. When someone jerked on my sleeve, I blinked blearily at the boy, sandy haired, destined to be something someday, but I couldn’t remember what.
“Head Precept requests your presence lady,” he said nervously. Funny, I couldn’t remember him being nervous before.
I bowed to the others; there were more than I remembered, and I followed him down the wide steps, marble, pale, golden veins sparkling under the sun.  The city was beautiful; it struck me, as it did every time. I forced myself to move more quickly after the boy who was nearly jogging down the path beneath the trees, studded with majestic statuary, well, now crumbling, but formerly majestic. The smell of rich hyacinths, slowed me down, and I watched the boy’s form retreat as I held back.
I was crouched in front of a flower, the hue particularly striking, a blue that fell straight from the sky, when a shadow threw the blue in darkness.
I knew at once who it was, the High Precept, he let off a smell like power that had burnt a long time and was coming near its end.
“Haedra,” the voice was still power and I stood so that I could perform my obeisance properly.
“How may I serve the people?” my voice came out thin, like a note played on a reed pipe improperly cured. I frowned and was going to ask again, but he started walking after grasping my arm firmly in his hand to keep up my pace.
“The people call you as host to the viceroy of Barbaras. It’s a high honor, and I know you must be wondering why such glory should be bestowed to the humble house of Perr.” His voice stopped at the same time my feet did. I didn’t mean to, it was a reflex for me to glare into his eyes while I bared my teeth at him. He studied me, and then nodded slightly. “I see you understand the honor.”
Oh yes. I understood perfectly what it meant, but I didn’t see why me. “Surely there are more worthy…” I bit my lip to keep it from trembling along with my voice. “I have served the people well in my time, surely…” Couldn’t I finish a sentence? “There must be someone else.” There. Not much I could do about the desperation in my voice.
“Haedra of Perr, who else shall I ask? You are the only soul with experience. The only others I could ask, the Perr elders…”
I didn’t mean to cut him off, but it was just as well. “I’m the last of my line for a reason. If it weren’t so devastating for my family to serve then there would be others of us. You ask too much.”
“I suppose I could take him with me to the temple, to stay in the heart of the city,”
“He could stay by himself in one of the crumbling manse along the river. Hopefully it would collapse on him as he slept.” My voice was loud this time, too loud, and bitter. The high precept looked at me with eyes that glowed a blue green that matched mine.
“Haedra, you are the best chance.” His voice was gentle, and for some reason I thought of all the other daughters of the city, as enticing and gentle as his voice. Who could resist those pearly pointed teeth, and soft pointed ears, the wrists, so thin and breakable? I glanced down at my own wrists, covered in my long sleeves the color of a robin’s egg. Unseen but not unfelt. The scars would never completely fade, the memory of the hands, made my eyes fill with tears.
“Then there is no chance.” I heard my voice, only a whisper, but it was a whisper of defeat. If I was what stood between my people and the barbarians, so be it. I would stand as well as I could.

More to come of this stunning tale. Have a great Monday! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wilds: House of Slide

I'm excited to announce a new baby, due soon, no not flesh and blood, but ink and parchment.

This is the pretty I placed in chapter on this site earlier this year, but couldn't keep up the fervor and speed.

I don't know about fervor and speed. I don't  know about writing at all sometimes. My baby fell asleep with his hand clutching my hair. Tangled with children, stuck, sticky, enthralling children, the writing fades into the background. But Lewis won't let me stop until his story is done. He keeps whispering to me, tipping his white top hat to the crowd while sending me a half smile. Fictional characters can do all those things at once. Me, I have a four hour delay from the time I leave out the chicken to when I remember to put it away. I blame Lewis and his whispers, his intent gaze before he glances furtively over his shoulder, ready for them when they come, the mob with their torches, or the pounding of the three-year-old on the bathroom door, whichever comes first.

I have so many interests, I don't think that I am very interesting. Writing a blog feels pretentious and overwhelming, that I have something to say about what I say, that my daily triviality is worth the space of words, even digital words take up space. Don't they? Even my struggles seem small. Except when they're too much and consume. Sometimes there are no words.

I am not verbal. I found this interesting. When I am emotionally overwrought, I have no words, only space and gesture. I need space to find words for the feeling. I cannot explain while I act. I must stop and explain then restart the motion. If only I were a fictional character with accompanying dialogue, wardrober, director.

Sometimes the freedom stifles. Fashion. The running around to find rules to follow because there's too much space, too much free fall without someone to yell when to pull the ripcord. No ripcord. I've decided on my personal style. It's traditional. I'm so bored by my own style statement. I don't have the beautiful extravagance of bright pink/purple/green hair. I'm practical. Efficient. Distracted. I mean, stable. I mean, I'm busy creating, I don't have time to fuss over impractical touch-ups. I see cute girls with pink hair and I think, "how often do they have to touch-up?" What percentage of their time is used in matching those vintage gems?

The movie about Steve Jobs left me less than enthusiastic about him as a person, but he knew how to focus. He created systems to support his work. He had dozens of the same exact thing that he wore every day. Mindless functionality. That's what your home should be, what your closet and refrigerator should be. Or mine, anyway. Sometimes boring is all you have time for, particularly when you're busy chasing too many butterflies.

About the baby. It's a prequel. Everyone is leery about prequels. It's not that kind of prequel. It's the kind of prequel that explains things I don't have room for in the Lewis/Dariana drama.

I'm presenting the prequel as three parts that I'll publish over time, hopefully ending the prequel at the same time I end the original Hotblood saga. Saga, drama, fictional characters are so pretentious. I love them all.