Of the Featherless Tribe

Jul 23, 2013 by

Feather_Study_by_Phoenix_CryVarrok of the Sun Stone, speaker of the Skies was old. He could feel age creep upon him in his hollow bones. Though the sun shone above him and the clouds whispered a sweet day as winds ruffled the long grass of the plains around his gathered people; their moods were sour. Their beaks and eyes dark. He stood upon the stone with the Speaking Staff clutched firmly in his talons. When he raised his foot to tap it to the stone to signify the beginning of his judgement, it was most usually a means to silence the crowd. Today, the sound rolled over the silence of them all and reminded him of the plains thunder before a storm.
“We are one mind, one feather, one flock,” he began, the words so old none could say when they began. They simply where. The crowd solemnly repeated them.
“I have called you today to pass Tarro’kar, judgment upon one of us. One of us has done something that is not Amushor. One of us is no longer part of the flock. He has done unclean things–”
“Father!” A shout from his left and behind him. Wearily he closed his eyes against the image of his son, bright blue feathers with gold trappings stripped being drug by guardtalons. He did not want to see it, but he would.
“Silence when the Speaker sings!’ He cried, hearing his call cut like sharpened stone.
“Father, please! Just listen to me–they’re not evil! Please, father! We love each other! We did nothing wrong–”
“You will be silent or I will have you silenced!” He opened his eyes and swiveled his head around over his back, shouting the words. In threat, he lowered his crest and body to the ground, opening his beak half way to hiss dangerously. His son shut his beak with a soft clack and lowered his head in submission. The guards drug him before the crowd and he shook himself and his feathers back in place as he sent his eyes out over the gathering instead. It hurt less when he did not look at his son.
“For the crime of betraying his flock, his people, for the crime of being with a Featherless One, I reject you.” He intoned. Then, in symbolic rejection, his talons clicked softly on the stone as he turned to present his back to his son. He heard the thousand quiet clicks of his people do the same–turning their back on his son. My son, who should be standing on this stone and not me.
“We do not see you in the skies. We do not hear your song. We do not tap your names in the ringing stones. You are no longer.”
He heard the sound of his son sobbing as they took him away. At first it was loud: as loud as the lack of wind that had suddenly stilled. As loud as the tears of his wife, who buried her head under her wing and tried to muffle it. As loud as his heart, limping away in his chest. Then as he was drug away the sound grew further and further away. He wanted to turn and watch his only hatchling that survived, go. His only child. His only son.
He wanted to take him under wing and preen him. He wanted his wife to no longer weep.
As the sound of his son sobbing faded, so too did his hope for an heir for his people. He cursed his son. He cursed the gods. And he cursed himself.
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Comes a Blue Wolf

Jul 13, 2013 by

winter_scene_stock_by_wyldraven-d49gs6fWinter howled outside her tent. The winds furiously clawed at brightly dyed, thick walls covered in shamek skins and furs to keep the chill at bay. Her namayah–her servants–had lit many of the braziers for warmth and glow. To Jashiu’, it seemed more ominous than comforting. The golden light was pleasant enough, but the thrashing of the wind outside and the way the tent’s walls undulated in it tossed strange, creeping shadows that looked like unsettled horses running from dark creatures. Her namayah whispered midst themselves quietly, trying not to be over heard. But she knew what they were saying.
Ill omens, they said. A storm of ice and freezing winds on her wedding? Another said. Bad luck. Very bad. Her women were old and superstitious she reminded herself. It didn’t help. She had been dreading this day since she was a child.
The ladies removed her mother’s mother’s, great grandmother’s mother’s traditional head piece from great swaddles of thick leathers and furs. Gold beaten into coins for good fortune, handmade into chains to symbolize unity and strength in marriage and woven with ribbons in red for luck glittered along the head piece. To Jashiu’, it seemed to be laughing at her and her distaste for it was immediate. It would be too heavy for her to move her head at all. It would be too heavy with it on to run if she needed to. But it was already too late for running, wasn’t it?
The man her parents had promised her to be with had come riding on his karaouk not three days earlier as was promised. She had held out hope that he would not come then she would be free to choose her own husband. His arrival early shattered those hopes.
She had no idea who this man was. All that she knew was that he was from a little known tribe of the Blue Wolf, once the most powerful of tribes before the Varanthir invasion. Her people did not–or would not speak to her about what might have happened to them to reduce them to what they were today: more legend than reality.
Ten years ago a messenger had ridden into her father’s camp to negotiate for a marriage contract with the Shaman’s daughter. He agreed. She suspected fear of the unknown and superstition had pushed her father’s hand to agree.
The Namayah placed the head piece onto her hair which had been rubbed with mirrav steeped oil and brushed until it became glossy and bright. They pinned and they propped, turned her head and pinched, pulled, used what felt like unending combs to make sure the piece sat properly on her head. When they were finished, they inspected her with glistening eyes filled of their weddings past and the sighs of old women remembering what it was like to be young. One or two adjusted the thick shamek fur robe dyed in black for wedding colors with silk red vest on the outside, another made sure the bed of furs she lay upon was perfect and sprinkled with spices said to invoke feelings of aruaru in men.
“That’s enough,” she finally snapped when one lady would not leave the edge of her robe alone. The woman jerked her head back, winced and then bowed. She knew what she must have looked like to that poor servant… Often her father had said she had the unwelcoming piercing gaze of the legendary karaouk that the Blue Wolf tribe rode along with the soft face of a stone-mountain and it’s temper to boot. She made a small apologetic sound.
“Thank you. You may go,” she offered in a softer tone. They bowed to her and left her to the belly-ache of fear.
Legends often said the Tribe of Blue Wolf were filled with cannibals. Men and women with teeth so sharp and twisted they did not stay in their mouths. Of horrible disfigurement and skin like bumpy toads. Other’s said they were men with rotting diseases and all their women had died of it–so that is why they all but disappeared to a mere shell of what they used to be. More told tales of men who turned into giant beasts and slaughtered innocents.
She did not believe these things were true. But…she had never seen the man her father had promised her to. He had never told her anything. Her mind flickered horrifying visions of ugly men, twisted men, evil and grotesque men.
The longer she waited, the more her neck grew pained with having to to hold her head up and the more horrifying she imagined her new husbands deformities.

#

Sweat had trickled down the back of her neck to tickle at her shoulder blades. The wind kept howling in time with her simmering temper. How long had she waited here for him? How long would he make her wait? She thought of ways to escape the marriage if he were too deformed; of scratching his eyes out. Of using one of the many pins in her hair to stick in his neck. Her neck began to quiver under the head piece’s weight and several of the braziers had run out of fuel long since.
Perhaps it was her wish of violence or perhaps it was the winter’s wind that finally called him. At the mouth of the tent, she heard the slither of ties being pulled back. She could not turn her head immediately to stare, but had to do so slowly so as not to topple the chunk of heavy history on her head.
By the time she could fully stare he was already inside and her heart rolled up into her mouth.
He was the largest man she had ever seen in her life. For her entire life she had thought her father was, because inside any tent her father’s head towered over any man of their tribe. But this man that was now inside her tent had to bend his neck and head to avoid brushing the very top of the ceiling or thumping his brow into the great wooden supports that held it up. His skin was the color of frozen lakes…A light blue that was pale as crystal. His hair was white and glimmered as fresh as unbroken snow. He wore a blue robe dyed so dark that it seemed like it was black as night, richly embroidered with designs in gold that seemed to writhe along the fabric of the robe her wore.
But that was not what made her lose all of her angry thoughts or air. It was his eyes and his smile. His eyes were as golden as the wolf, and his canines when they were revealed were as deadly sharp.
He removed his gloves and dropped them onto the furs on the ground, then his cloak. She watched, mouth agape as he folded himself beside her and she felt cold come from him.
He flicked his eyes from her face to her hair and back. “Remove that ridiculous thing,” he said in a rumble so deep as to be ice cracking, thunder, or perhaps rocks under a mountain.
She did as she was bade to, but not because he was her husband. But because she could not stop staring.
“My name is Eylrik,” he boomed quietly. “Let us talk of your people and mine, and how we will go to war against the Varathir,” then reached into his furs to remove a scroll of parchment.
Jaishu’, so mesmerized by what he was and what he said and what he proposed, she did not insult or yell at him once.
There would be time enough for that later.
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Aten in the Palm

Jul 8, 2013 by

egyptian_temple_2_by_magikstock-d4rvw7d

Being queen had its moments. The roar of the crowd as she’d ridden on a chariot formed in gold and lapis lazuli had dazzled her mind. Their cries of her name, their reaching hands, their words had been thunder fit for any god, boiling along her veins. Later, when her husband hunched his groaning way off the chariot, drooling and mumbling she did not even seem to care this time. The crowd was still singing in her blood. The danger and the fire still burning. She dared drop a lotus flower, their signal, and run off breathless as a maid away from her Queen’s guard.
He was there waiting. So tall, so dark with eyes as warm as honey. His beautiful face was a adder in disguise, she knew, but she could not help herself. He was everything her King was not. In his mad embrace for wild moments, in between kisses and hungry hands, they spoke of their love, their lust and…their problems.
“And what, he who gladdens my heart, makes you think that he will believe such things?” In the shade, away from the harsh daylight, none would dare say anything for fear of their death at her bidding. He nibbled on her earlobe, he suckled at her neck then pressed his mouth against her temple before speaking.
“Oh lotus flower, oh sweet sister–” Laughter and desire made his voice warble as a birds. “Are you not Queen of all? Are you not his beautiful companion? Are you not a goddess yourself?”
Before she could grow angry at his daring, his words–he pressed a small trinket to the skin of her breast. She reached up in annoyance to grasp it from him as he laughed in the face of her anger. Too pretty to be smart, she thought in annoyance before glancing down at what was in her palm.
It was a single, small gold disc. Aten, a representative of the sun no bigger than her thumb, scratch free, flawless and polished so well that even in the shadows it somehow found the sun. Clever, clever one, she thought. A smile bloomed as wide as the river.
Akhenatan, and soon, Egypt herself would stand in the shadow of Nefertiti’s brilliance. Neither would be the wiser.
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Bitter Twitch

Jul 3, 2013 by

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Town ain’t big enough f’the both of us,” Tomas-the-Twitch ground out around a half-chewed unlit cigar. His beard had more life in it than a saloon at midnight and his beady little eyes belied the lack of a single spark of intelligence.
I rolled my eyes. “Tommy, you have any idea how many damn times I hear that on any given day?” You don’t get creativity and imagination being a sheriff for a two-bit mining town like this one. We had one watering hole, seven whores and six houses. But the trouble rolled in and out faster than I could say tumbleweed.
“Don’t rightly care, sheriff,” Tommy grunted. I watched him roll his eyes toward Irene and then settle back on me, narrowed.
For her part, Irene didn’t give a flick of an eye his way. Bright red curls as sweet as fire and eyes like dark earth after the rain; I’d known her since we were kids in this town. I knew her when her Pa used to beat her and promised I’d never let a man lay a hand on her again. I knew her when her Ma left her thanks to consumption and a bad love for the whiskey. I tried to stop knowing her when she took up with The Saddle n’ Spurs whorehouse and she did tried not-knowing me, too. Wouldn’t give me the time of day and was real careful not to look me in the eye after she started working there. Like it was something to be ashamed of to desperately want to live.
She did what she had to do back then and I came to terms with it a long time ago.
And I made god damn sure no man ever laid a hand on her again like her Pa did, because I grew up and became the law in this shit-end town and by god I kept it and I kept it good.
Until Tommy. Until Tommy got a hold of Irene.
She was lookin’ right at me then as we stood on either end of the street, her black eye was a screamin’ notice of my failure. Nobody hit their women folk when they was in this town. And nobody sure in hell wasn’t going to be hitting the women folk of this town while I was around. Yet there Irene stood with the girls around her, bruised eye a testament to the fact I’d slipped up.
No way, no how I was going to let word of that walk out of this place. Not for the town. Not for me. Not for Irene.
“Figure then we might as well get on with this, don’tcha think?” I asked.
Tommy spat out his cigar and grinned.
That’s all the warning I got really, before I learned quick why Tommy was named the Twitch. His hand ticked out faster than I’d ever seen in my life. I had a split second to realize that the thunder-crack of my gun boomed later than his–then all I had was dirt in my mouth and a view of the earth meeting the sky forever. Somehow upright, suddenly flopped on my belly sadder than a fish out of water.
It was Irene’s hair I saw first. Couldn’t hear shit all because of the ringing in my ears. I saw her curls and the frill of her worn skirt and saw the fear on her face. Didn’t hear her screaming but I could see my name on her lips and I felt my lips twitch up in a smile: she hadn’t called my name in years. Makes a man glad to hear a woman say your name after being mad at you for so long.
The sound of the world came crashing in soon after. Someone was crying, someone was shouting. Someone was laughing.
“Oh Jesus,” I heard Irene say. “Oh dear Jesus, Johnny, don’t you leave me! Don’t you go and damn well leave me on this earth all alone, y’hear? Johnny! Sweet God, Johnny I love you….You listening? I love you. Please don’t leave me alone. Please!”
I tucked that right up. Tucked those words right up in my heart before the darkness took me and I thought I’d died.

#

When I woke up in my own jail cell, feeling like I’d been kicked several times by a rabid Donkey, I remember seeing Irene standing outside my cell. Irene looking miserable and sad and happy at the same time. Tommy’s arm around her waist and holding her prisoner real tight against him as he grinned, wearing my badge too like he was a man who had a right to any of these things.
Could never walk right after that. Could never find the strength to fight back against Tommy’s reign of terror after.
I grew old and miserable and bitter and Irene grew thin and sick and empty. Ain’t never talked to her again. Couldn’t even make it to the graveyard where they buried her.
The things you can hide in a bullet wound.

What is FF month?

July is Flash Fiction month, where authors and writers attempt to write a 55 – 1000 word story a day for the month of July. Fate and a Gun is the first Flash Fiction for July, inspired by Flash Fiction Month deviantart’s group; where text, visual and audio prompts are given to inspire fellow writers. Join in and visit Flash Fiction Month here: http://flash-fic-month.deviantart.com/
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Crow

Jun 29, 2013 by

SONY DSC“I can see why they named you Crow,” said, while he reached with sticky hands to smooth back her black hair. Straight, glossy-clean, soft as things he had no names for (because in his world, soft was not a part of it.)
“Though you didn’t caw in time to save any buffalo, did you? No, not even once to save yourself,” chewing thoughtfully, he pulled a small bone from between his teeth and gestured with it as he spoke.
“Do you know that legend?” He tossed the gnawed bone over his shoulder and waited. “The legend of how Crow came to be black?” She didn’t answer; dark brown eyes stared past him. It wormed in his belly a moment to become a small fire of anger–women and their eyes. They always had a talent for cutting you with them in a single, dismissive rake.
He leaned forward and shoved the tip of his thumb between bone and lower lid. A sharp small movement with enough force that prised the eyeball out of her socket in wet, squishing—pop– release. He raised it, twisting it right as well as left to stare at it thoughtfully.
“Perhaps if you are a good girl, I’ll tell you one day.” He grinned, slipping her eye between smiling lips.
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