Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shared Curses....

Jun rushed across the polished wood floors, the same ones her mornings are spent bent over on her knees washing, and did the best to quiet her steps as she reached the partition. Back to it she breathed a quick breath to settle herself. Tray held before her she slid the rice paper partition aside and backed into the parlor. On the table there was a scroll unrolled and hanging from. Both sides of the table and the priestess head bowed mutters over the yellowed roll and its inked swirls.

Hair lacquered to a shine as deep as their best serving bowls the priestess had been sitting at the table and reading the scrolls in a low monotone since Jun had finished with the floors before sunrise. The pretty heart shaped face rose and the violet eyes looked through her. Her eyes were shot with red and they pointed to a position on the table away from the roll open on the table. Jun bowed quickly and placed the tea without the usual ceremony even for the devout of the faith. Jun bowed deeply was the violet bloodshot eyes focused not he hiragana of the page and the low breathy mutter returned. Jun backed to the screen and slid it shut with all ceremony.

The hall filled with the sounds drifting in from the outside. Looking to the entrance a cart stacked high with barrels was rolling by and cast a shadow down the short hallway and the bellow for Jun came from the other side of the roadside inn. She ran to the alley side exit and looked to see where her grandmother was standing near a bundle of clothing covered in brown stains. Baba slated at her and merarly pointed with the business side of her pipe and motioned away down the alley while holding her eyes on the girl.

"What obaaasan, I did not..."

She did not even look back just waved the pipe again at the pile and said something about not needing the attention the garbage would bring. Adding "let not one see you with it"

Jun wondered at the importance of a bundle of rags snatching up getta to keep her feet from getting too filthy in taking care of yet another worthless task. Get more scrolls from the temple and bring them, don't look at the soldiers, don't mention the priestess to the villagers, let me sleep, cook, be glad your not a boy, be glad your not pretty." Jun scowled at her grandmother back and crouched to gather the stained pile of fabric.

Damp from the morning dew and the rains of last night she wrung the cottn between her fingers and brownish metallic smelling water dripped from it and something within dropped to the mud. Jun held it away from her body and thought Bitch about her grandmother looking at the mud and grime on her hands.

Their little town was situated beside a fast flowing stream that lead to a river nearby and while leaving by the short Main Street she passed three ashigaru carrying a litter with a fourth with arrows stuck in his writing body. The spears they usually used to kill with had been made into the poles for the litter gleaming metal tips sticking out the ends. The one carrying the for side turned his head towards her his coned helm hiding all bet his mouth and the bottom of his nose from view. Minutes after passing the soldiers who had become so common a sight in the village these last few weeks she got to the wooden bridge crossing the stream and looked at the brownish bundle she held. Jun did not realize she had rubbed it against her yu kata but her hip was now wet, hair was wrapped in the bundle as if someone had cut a away tangled mass. She dropped it into the stream and walked down to the water to rinse her hands.

In her bright robes the priestess was outside the in when Jun returned up the street, the ashigaru were standing around her watching her pray over the still form of their fellow warrior. Samurai did not come into the village with their lackered ornate armor and perfect blades but shed seen lots of the peasant soldiers. One of them held his coned straw helm in his hand head bowed the others just stood heads bowed. At least the guy on the litter was not writhing anymore Jun thought and went to the alley.

She scalded her hands while trying to get the stains from her fingers and under her nails. When she checked on the priestess her grandmother was sitting with the woman who for once in the days seemed quiet if not at pease.

"I'll take it girl" was all baba said and the finer woman looked up to her. Jun caught the red stained lips of the priestess in motion, not done with the jabber just whispering. Jun's baba reached forward and snatched the scroll away from the priestess who's hand caught her quick as a snake. The fingers on that hand were stained with both black squid ink from the pot on the table and from the worlds of the ashigaru she had tried to save outside. The violet eyes pierced through her grandmother and through her. The woman's lips never stopped their motion forming unspoken words.

"Yes, I do have to baba said and tore her arm away from the much younger woman; jun saw redness and scratches on her baba's arm before the yukata she wore fell to cover it. The scroll in her hand now was covered with not writing but a painting in blacks and whites. Jun catches a glimpse of kitsune on the page and something else that may have been hair like the braid she saw in the rags. Her grandmother looks her in the face and scowls. She then kisses her on the forehead pulling the girl down to the level to do it with way more force then Jun had ever known her to use.

Jun slept fitfully that night dreaming of the men fighting in the valley to the south of them, of the samurai and ashigaru standing against a force of decayed and moving deadman who shine in the moonlight. She is one of the men; the one worth the bow and straw helmet she had seen in the town she is he shooting forked arrows into the approaching army of the unliving. Waking with a start as they get within arms reach.

The inn is quiet in the violet pre dawn and there is a short message written in her baba's hand. All it says is sorry granddaughter, go to your aunts to the south. I'm not as strong as the priestess though and her curse is now mine. Hunger is taking me. Run.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Song and Engine

(Flash fiction Friday attempt. Genre Mashing assignment via Chuck Wendig's Terribleminds blog.

Water still plonked in the distant puddles and reached her in the dimness of the great hall. Crow had pushed into the darkened cavernous room not lit like the hallways because here walls had not crumbled or buckled inwards allowing the cold moonlight inside. The doorway here had even been hung with complete tapestries with great stone figures and of the gods or heroes of the age embroidered upon them, she had stopped to feel the ancient visual texts of the Mages wondering at the meaning they may have had to them.

The shadows in the depths of the great gallery perhaps throne room if there ever was a king of such a place seemed to eat her sight; her hand reached into the pouch at her hip to stroke the Mage engine and calm her as it had the previous night when the wails from the desert winds woke her under the shattered dome. The steady thrum, the humming whispers and the vibrations from the whirling device though remote and ancient had kept her company since splitting with Rhas years back. She stopped padding and her foot fell loud enough for her to hear it as something scraped beneath her heel

It was like that moment in the forests when birds had fallen silent was they often did as she approached or when in the tavers she frequented with Rhas right before someone would throw a punch or sink a dagger into a stranger. Crow pulled it from her hip setting the bone cloak Rhas had given her that she wore as a skirt to clattering filling the space. Crow reached into the pouch grasped the engine bringing and stared at it. It did not warm her chilled hands or give off any of its regular purplish glow. She realized then that the whispers and hums had been silent as was the soft song from the rune carved blade at the small of her back. She spun facing back and wondered when everything had gone quit.

Crow stood like the statutes she had passed in the broken dome. The great faceless shapes that once might have been the great heroes of the golden age of peace worse over time by the winds themselves. In the silence she though glanced around trying to see into the depths of the dark room catching glimpses of more statues here not in pieces but whole and not the massive towering shapes but like herself and just as immobile. Her eyes adjusting to the dark in  the way Rhas said he needed but she never had being made rather then born.

Spinning back the luminance came from deeper in the cavernous area casting shadows from pillars between her and the source. She padded cautiously towards it caressing the motionless engine that allowed her to cast bolts of lightning, call down falls of fire and bring statues to life. It no longer spoke to her, her hand that normally would hold or rest on she song blade stroked the inert stone concentric ringed globe feeling the ridges of the rings that grade up its body. Water plinked closer then in the distance, maybe from unseen cracks in the grand dome she could just make out above.

Crow passed statues in mid motion, one in a run towards the tapestries hanging the entrance, a trio to her right in meditative pose facing one another. The click and clack of the bone cloak rung from the depths of the room behind and around her echoing and she heard the shiver and hum of the jade dagger again...
Rhas has told her the stories of Drossal and the riches taken from it. The fallen city had been of the other side of the wailing desert calling to treasure hunters searching the wonders of the age when magic had been easy. It was the era her Mage engine had been made she thought. She had never shared it with anyone. Before getting knifed in that tavern over an insult she suffered, before bleeding out on that bare wood floor before she leveled the rotted place and everyone in it with the power in her hidden treasure there had been more then just the two of them. Chela had died to the fires of one of the other made people, the lava dweller her green body and leafy crown withering in the heat of its anger. Maxis had been devoured by the swarm of beetles, centipedes and other insects that came out of the tomb where they gathered the jade dagger from. Its song kept her company in the way his songs poems and traveling stories had.
The jade song has changed timber since it returned, it was wobbly and higher in pitch a bit as if it was unsure of the tune for once. Her shoulders tense relaxed as the companionship of her artifacts returned. The gallery must contain something of great power and antiquity to affect them so. The rings of the engine were moving in her hands as she rand her fingers along them. Crow cupped it in her palm holding her other hand over it closed her here and tried to hear its regular vibration and hum along with the blade song that was gaming strength and regularity.
She did no notice as she passed under the broken stone arch that might have been the foundation of a massive ring since she had closed her eyes trying to hear the regular hum. She maneuvered around arches of stone and metal for the clacking of the bones echoes now straining to find the power to cast a simple light spell. Plops of water told here there must actually be some great holes somewhere above was they filled the silence between strains of the warbling song.
Crow opened her eyes was the vibration returned and stared into the flat features of a tall statue, her head just at its shoulders. Its arms were outstretched to the sky as closed in as everywhere here in the dimness up there. She felt the vibration from this figure and places her hand against it seeing the separate rings and silvery core of her engine fall from her hand. This thing had stolen her engine, the power was in this thief. Its torso vibrated with the hum of her engine, her treasure, her power. The song stopped and she snatched the dagger from her back. It was still whole, feeling the runes along its blade they were still there. Had the statue, had this place taken the song too. She slammed her fist against the mans stone body now glowing a violet colour and screamed herself raw pounding against it.
Once the echo of her fury and frustration dies away she was kneeling at the feet of the statue picking up the pieces of her Mage engine, the ones she could find in the light now cast be the form at her back. She turned her hack to the statue and leaned against it. She vaguely felt the gentle hum of her companion. She dropped the blade in her lap and caressed the rings of the tiny artifact.

There was nothing to take here. There was no treasure to steal no artifacts to find and or evils to kill. Crow sat at the feet of a blank faced statue its smooth features seeming to follow her in her motions. Se settled herself against its feet hearing the clack of the bone cloak as the blade song came back again but warbling as catching was if choked by tears, along with the song there was echoes of her weeping. The last echoes of the bone cloak faded fast. The plink of the water and the hum of the song continued though coming from her.