The Demure Hostage

First, an apology, troubles with my computer at work means I have been without access to WordPress for *far* too long… I have writers withdrawal…

 

Act 2 – Part 7

 

King Fendor circled around the demure child, seated silently. Kireina was just slightly younger than his own missing daughter yet appeared far smaller. She watched the fattening King with contempt, understanding perfectly her role as motivation, manipulation to force her Father and Brother to seek out and recover the lost Princess.

Fendor ceased his absent circling to stand over the girl, she was so unusual, with clear delicate skin, as white as a Lilly petal with caramel curls and honey coloured eyes. The King mused over the possibility that maybe Kireina, like her brother held some magical qualities. His gaze was making her feel increasingly uncomfortable, lecherous and intimidating.

The King had changed drastically throughout his thirteen years as Monarch, having ceased to train in any form of combat, the former General had become fat and lazy, gorging himself on fine dining and exotic wines. He had little or nothing to do with his wife, The Queen, since the birth of their son and heir, which secured his bloodline to the throne and in turn condemned her first born son and his children. His obsession was with the Dark Arts, foul demonic magic that he used to maintain fear over his people.

He oozed evil, a thick black aura of corruption emanated from his very soul causing Kireina to feel sick.

“I need to know!” He blurted out suddenly, causing her to near leap from her skin. With surprising swiftness for such a large man, Fendor darted forwards and snatched Kireina by her wrist, yanking her arm up sharply, painfully. He reached into the thick folds of the elaborate robes he wore and drew out a long thin bladed knife. Dark sparks of energy flashed up the length of the wicked blade, which appeared to be made of glass.

Kireina yelped as he jabbed the point into her wrist… “I need to know!” He muttered again, glaring at the child from under a hooded brow. He drew blood and sniffed at the wound, then licked her arm. She cringed as his rough tongue lapped at the running cut. A warm tingle grew in the pit of his tummy and the demons he had within him awoke, lured by the taste of blood. The tingle became static, cloaked shadows surrounded the King, drawn by the power they felt.

She tried to withdraw, her fear mounting as more evil allies emerged to surround them… Some ghost-like, some more tangible, some possessing the guise of rats or more twisted ghouls. It was her blood which they craved, fresh, virginal, magical…

A mere essence of her brothers qualities hidden in her soul, something her Father had picked up on when she was so very young and Kane had encouraged his daughter to learn from the hag, Hera. This training had stirred the magic laying dormant and Kireina started to show potential as a gifted Shaman.

However, this power was now exposed in the face of pure evil and King Fendor concluded that she was no mere demure hostage…

 

Anne Harrison 20.06.17

 

Taking Fate by the Horns

Act 2 – Part 6

 

A strong hand grabbed Sha tightly around his throat, hoisting the young lad off his feet and slamming him hard onto his back in the dust. Blasting air from his lungs, his head spun, dizzy and disorientated from the swift action. Blinking dust from his eyes just in time to see a fist aimed at his face, no time to react, unable to even turn his head for the vice like grip on his throat, stealing his breath. The fist slammed into his nose with a bright flash and  sickening crack. He tasted blood, pain shot through his head, he gasped for breath, struggling, panicking, anticipating a second blow. Sha turned his face aside shortly before a following punch landed heavily on his jaw. He bit his tongue, lip split.

He had to gather his senses, to swallow back his fear and the blinding pain. He knew he needed to remember his training, to recall the correct maneuver before he ran out of air in his lungs and got his head dashed in against the hard earth. The pace of the raining punches were slow, deliberate and forceful, Hi attacker really pulling his fist right back to put as much strength behind each blow that he could. This gave a short period between each punch, yet Sha was struggling now to remain conscious.

Blood filled his eyes, his mouth, his ears rang, muffling sound. His lungs burned… Yet somehow the boy raised his knees towards his chest and kicked upwards with the last fragment of his fading energy to force his attacker backwards kicking the bastard in his ribs, forcing him backwards… Stumbling… the grip on Sha’s neck was released and he gulped in air desperately and rolled out of the way, attempting to stand, fighting nausea, knowing that he had just mere moments before the vicious attack resumed.

His sight was blurred red and Sha saw the beast he opposed… A man… clad in Northern Clan garb, but his head, his head was that of a beast… The beast snorted, steam billowing from flattened wide nose. His boot dragged up the dirt, the beast lowered his head, a circle of vicious sharp horns crowned his forehead. Two longer, sharper, like curved scimitars aimed at Sha’s torso and it charged…

Sha fought the urge to flee, reached for his sword, the scabbard empty upon his hip, the beast narrowed the gap between them howling unnaturally. Sha freed the scabbard from his belt and swung the empty sheath at the creatures eyes by the narrow edge, putting as much strength as he could behind the blow, using the beasts own momentum to add power to the blow.

Cracking violently across the bridge of it’s nose, blinding the creature temporarily. It bellowed in rage, human hands reaching for it’s bull like head… Sha swung the scabbard again and again, aiming at the back of the knees, at its ribs. He wiped blood from his eyes, hammering blows to try and prevent the creature from rising again against him. His scabbard bent and broke apart… Yet the beast was on his knees!

Sha clambered clumsy onto the creatures shoulders, keeping his body behind the giant bull head, he reached round and took hold of the two largest horns to twist the head aside. Though he wasn’t sure of himself, his strength was fast fading and the Minotaur was regaining energy. He was huddled behind the giant head, gripping the horns, riding the thrashing wild monster with little thought of action. He wasn’t strong enough to twist the head, it took all his effort to cling on and he was starting to slip.

As he slipped Sha pulled the two horns apart and there was a slight give… The Minotaur howled… It hurt him… Sha wrenched harder, pulling the two main horns apart with all the strength he could muster. There was a splintering crack, but it wasn’t enough. The bull man bucked and struggled to reach the young lad tugging at its head, however it’s own actions aided Sha the horns gave a little more, as it shook it’s head the sharp bone cut into Sha’s hands, blood causing his grip to slick. He tumbled, fell backwards from the Minotaur’s shoulders.

Landing with a crumpled twist of limbs, his body afire with pain, energy fast leaving his body, darkness threatened to overwhelm his senses. Yet Sha had kept a firm grip on both horns and as he slipped and fell both horns were torn free from the bulls head.

The Minotaur crumpled to his knees gripping its head as blood gushed freely over its fur muzzle it gripped the bleeding stumps and tore its face in half with a fierce tearing of flesh and a desperate cry. Pulling the Bulls head free from his shoulders Kane gasped for breath, letting the torn flesh fall from his hands, running his hands over his face, through blood clotted hair. His human head free from the restraints of the bulls skull.

He turned to face his son, the lad trembled in fear and understanding.

“You killed him!” Sha uttered, spitting blood, backing away from his own Father… “You Killed him… You killed the Guardian!”

Kane lowered his head, ashamed … Yet Sha had already drifted into an exhausted unconsciousness…

 

Anne Harrison 13.06.17

 

Chasing the Minotaur

Act 2 – Part 5

 

When the Mirror Shatters
Then all Hope is Lost

A Fallen God – A Mortals Fight
A Lover’s Loss – A Demons Flight

All Fates are Intertwined

Old Enemies – New Friends
Will Fight Again – To What End

Life from Death
The Sacrifice to a Lost Cause

Snare the Dancing Temptress

The missing Piece of the Puzzle
Holds the Key
To an Uncertain Future

Beware Ignorant People
Beware Demons take Flight

Darkness will Fall upon Thee
When the Mirror Shatters

Leaving Eternal Plight

***

Seizon-sha hung on Hera’s every word, a child enthralled by the Hags tale. Sat crossed legged by the fire-pit in the clearing outside her cottage. Kane paced impatient with this waste of time, yet the handful of guards which accompanied the small party had took it upon themselves to camp down for the night.

Brynn, a constant guest at the cottage, shared mulled wine among the troops. Half listening to the myths and legends the Witch wove by firelight.  Seizon-sha asked for more stories, sitting closer to the old lady he adored.

“Have I ever told you about ‘Chasing the Minotaur’?” She lit her pipe and watched Kane’s reaction as he halted mid-step and turned to interrupt the conversation.

“No… Tell me more?” The child begged, chewing on a length of liquorice root.

***

Lady Vixen Hunter, stepped before Kane and placed her hand on his chest to halt him. “He’s old enough.”

Kane shook his head, “He’s far too young!”

Vixen could feel his heart, thudding wildly under her touch, Kane had been on the very edge of panic since they had left the city. Constantly licking his lips, subconsciously annoyed at a nervous sweat that beaded upon his top lip. Fretting for his daughter, Kireina, taken hostage, fretting for his son, burdened with an impossible task. As a loving father he was consumed with anxiety.

“You are going to be useless upon this quest if you do not get your act together!” Vixen whispered close to Kane’s ear, her words sharp and stern. She half smiled and reached for the front of his trousers. Pushing him backwards into the darkness of the trees beyond the campfire light. “You need to calm down!” Vixen purred, sinking slowly to her knees…

***

Sha hadn’t noticed their departure, hooked on Hera’s words…

“In days gone by there was always a tradition among potential warriors to ‘Chase the Minotaur’ this was a rite of passage that was performed upon their sixteenth year to prove their worth as loyal Guardians. Some of these fine men and women here would have had to have completed this task to become Royal Guards. Though it is not an essential requirement anymore, some of the older families like to respect this tradition. I believe your Father also went through this trial… Most fail, a few pass, just barely… Then there was one man who excelled… He was known as ‘The Guardian’ and he was a very dear friend of mine. He died.

There is a maze, deep within the mind and within this maze roams a Minotaur, this is the embodiment of your very own fear. I can not tell you how to succeed, for everyone must face their deepest fear alone, by themselves, for themselves, against themselves. Yet to succeed, to conquer the Minotaur, is to conquer fear, to emerge from your own mind free from the boundaries of fear, stronger, wiser a true Guardian of the magic that the Minotaur bestows upon you.

Would you be up for that challenge?”

Seizon-sha blinked rapidly, drinking in the fabled story. Eyes wide with wonder and a hint of fear, trying to grasp the idea of a monster living inside his head. The King had called him ‘the embodiment of The Guardian’ he hadn’t understood this at the time, he understood little other than he had been ordered to find a missing Princess, an impossible task for a child, who had no idea where to start.

He had hoped Hera would be able to guide him and this trial, the challenge to face his fear, to become a true Guardian might give him the inner strength to face this impossible task and give him insight to recover the lost Royal.

 

Hera was waiting for an answer…

Seizon-sha simply nodded…

 

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Anne Harrison 07.06.17

 

Act 2 – Part 3

A Quest for a Child.

 

Kane was utterly livid and beyond frantic when they met up with The Lady Vixen at the City Gates.

“Where’s Kireina?” Her eyes searched the crowd that followed behind them, a mere dozen guards the King had sent with them upon their quest. As the gate was shut and there was still no sign of the child, her hand went to her mouth to stifle a panic stricken gasp. “Kane?” She gripped his arm tightly, he was so tense and shrugged out her grasp.

“My Sister is staying with The King as his guest while we aid his troops seeking the missing Princess Ataraxia.” Sha spoke calmly, with a half truth, knowing that his Father was close to allowing his aggression to over rule his common sense. They were in a difficult situation. The Guards at their heals were security and an added guarantee  that they do not fail in their task. They were also a dead weight and a nuisance.

Vixen blinked as she absorbed his words. “The Princess is missing?” She replied carefully. Kane was muttering under his breath, in his fury he could quite happily turn against all twelve guards just to unleash his aggression, his fists curled tightly at his sides, lip slightly still bleeding.

“Then we have a duty to aid the Royal Family.” Vixen said softly, Sha nodded agreeing with her observation and thumped his Dad in the arm.

Kane reluctantly nodded in accord, though his mind was clearly distracted.

“Now where to start?” Sha pondered aloud, it was a huge world out there and the kidnappers could have fled in any direction, to the mountains beyond the Northern Clan Territories, through DarkWood Forest towards the Wastelands. To the jungles in the East or even by ship out to sea. It was a daunting task for even the Palace Guards to comprehend, even more so for a boy.

Yet there was a connection, there was a sensation that he couldn’t explain, something he had known all his life without really understanding what it was. The girl in his dreams, that whispered secrets into his thoughts. He had believed her to be an angel, a guardian or a figment of his overactive imagination. Now he could trust his instincts more, could tap into that silken voice at the back of his mind. That it was real and the purpose behind his desire to train in combat with his father since a very early age.

“We start in the woods.” He said without hesitation. “We need to talk to Hera.”

 

Anne Harrison 30.05.17

Act 2 – Part 2

What value can you place on the price of freedom?

Fenroux Palace was in uproar when Royal Guards returned with Kane and his family. The Queen hysterical, Guards and Barbarian forces alike tore apart the castle like wild dogs fighting to dig a rabbit from its hole…

Sha stood tall and silent by his father’s side, while Kireina clung to his arm, eyes wide curious and observant. There was no form of outside attack, yet every armed man appeared on edge, sharing some measure of their Queen’s hysteria.

The Lord King Fendor was alone in his calm resignation,  for he alone knew the truth.

“This is your boy? This is the lad Seizon-sha?” The King mused, hunched over a desk of scrolls and tomes. Black books of hidden powers, cryptic runes etched into thin metal pages… Dark, questionable magic oozed across the surface of the desk. Kireina clung to her father’s arm even tighter, uneasy with the diabolical chaotic power.

“I am Seizon-sha.” The boy replied. “Your Highness.”

“Ahh… Kane, he is tall, strong a lot like you my Captain.”

“What is this about Fendor?” Kane skipped over the formalities

“My daughter has been taken,  snatched in the night on this day, the day of her thirteenth birthday…”

“And just how does this relate to my family?  Why have you summoned us here?” Though Kane already feared he understood the nature of the summons, the unspoken connection that linked their children by sorcery.

“The boy,  Kane, your boy… he is the embodiment of The Guardian… born from magic, the same magic that granted my daughter breath… their connection exists beyond this realm. He can find her, seek out her location and liberate her from the beast which has snatched her from her warm bed…”

“He is a child Sire.”

“So is my girl,  a mere few months separate their ages. Yet I see the man he will become,  I see a strong warrior such as his father.”

“Such flattery.” Kane replied with sarcasm.

“Let’s skip through this pointless debate … we are wasting time!” King Fendor uttered strong magical words under his breath, summoning a crimson cloud that enveloped Kireina, holding her immobile in a magical grasp.

“How much do you value the freedom of your daughter Kane?”

Kane swore under his breath, his hand reaching for the hilt of his sword, fury overwhelming his respect… Yet Sha halted his father’s arm, before Kane did anything regretful.

“I will go.” The young teenager spoke softly, standing between the two man. “I want no harm to befall my sister, but I can’t venue upon this quest alone. I need my father.”

“So be it… find my daughter and I shall release yours…”

The thick red cloud encircling Kireina slowly dispersed, the girl vanishing into the mist.

Kane bit his lip so hard he drew blood… Sha hit his arm… ” Let’s not waste any more time Father…”

King Fendor smirked smugly as they left upon their impossible quest…

Anne Harrison 29.05.17

Act 2 – Part 1

Prelude – The Last Diary Entry…

 

I can’t sleep tonight, so I thought I would write. Yet my thoughts are muddled and I don’t know how to make sense of what is troubling me when nothing is troubling me. I keep having odd dreams about a girl near my age, someone I have never met but I think I should know. Not my sister, but like my sister.

I can hear her voice, I can describe her clearly. She speaks to me at night and yet I don’t know her. In my dreams I see her wrapped in darkness, yellow eyes haunting…

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Seizon-sha scribbled out the description in frustration, unable to focus on the dream swiftly escaping his mind. He closed the diary with a thwack the pencil skipping off the bed and rolling across the floor and laid back to stare at the ceiling flustered and wide awake. The night felt still, humid and uncomfortable, crickets filled the air beyond the open window and the moon hung low, tired looking.

Sleep continued to escape him with a gnawing feeling of anticipation, so he ambled to the kitchens to get some milk… His sister, Kireina, was already sat by the dwindling embers of the fire with two glasses of milk and their Dad’s cat curled up on her knee.

“You’re unable to sleep again?” She said with a half smile handing her brother the glass. He simply nodded sipping the drink and taking a seat by her side.

“Same dreams again?” Kireina leaned against his shoulder… Again he nodded, he trusted his sister without question and their late night conversations were not uncommon.

“You know she is going to need your help…”

“How Kireina? I’m just a kid…”

“You’re not *Just* anything!” She swiftly replied before he could cast doubt upon himself and his abilities. The cat raised her head… A moment later the children heard laughter from a few rooms down.

“Ah… the Lady Vixen Hunter is visiting!” Seizon-sha chuckled into his glass of milk.

“Sha… You know that’s not her real name!” Though she shared his giggle, the nickname had stuck and though neither of them knew the actual name of the whore that visited their Father, the name Vixen suited her, a wild red head with long legs and a sharp tongue. They were known to fight as savagely as they played, she never even pretended that there was a relationship, displayed no shame at her profession and treated both children with respect and kindness. She was a gypsy and would often vanish for weeks at a time, always returning with unusual books for them. The cat, however, hated her…

“Do you see the Demon in your dreams?” Kireina returned the conversation back to matters that drew them to the kitchen in the night…

Yellow… Eyes… Haunting…

Sha blinked, trying to get the image clear in his mind, they were the last words he had wrote in his diary… “I’m not sure… There is something… A shadow, gloom?”

 

A thundering at the main gates startled both children and the cat shot off into the night… There was loud shouting, a clattering of horses hooves and cries for help in the darkness Kireina and Sha looked at each other in fear and understanding, this was the point everything changed and their lives would never be the same again…

 

Anne Harrison 25.05.17

Intermission #4

The Pact

 

Ambition, no matter how carefully planned, can sometimes come with a high price and sometimes that ambition may cross lines, cost lives, divide family and turn best friends into bitter enemies.

Driven by desire a passionate lust to rule, to grasp the ultimate power of The Child of Prophecy. Fendor had killed and betrayed. He had turned against a King he had been loyal to for all of his life. He had faked alcoholism while planning assassinations. He had turned to black magic, got an innocent woman pregnant and then carelessly discarded her for another woman, stealing that child and raising her along side his new son.

A master manipulator who had taken some extreme measures to secure the throne. One such action was a Pact with a hell-spawn Demon many years ago to create this deception and guide him along his path to success.

The Beast with no name was a higher demon, reigning over several realms of chaos, powerful, magnificent, alluring, ancient. He was attracted to Fendor’s desire by his promise to deliver to the demon the Child of Prophecy. It was a high price to pay, the girl would need to be reincarnated into a pure virginal body and handed over to The Beast upon her thirteenth year.

When Fendor and his wife  conceived the boy he had desired and the little girl was a sweet six years old… The beast with no name attended the celebrations at Fenroux Palace.

Clad in a suit of sapphire coloured crushed velvet, tall and hansom, dark hair slicked back and clipped at the nape of his neck, his human persona caused heads to turn among the women (and some men) in the court. His eyes flared with a rich amber light, pupils horizontal, such as a goats. Behind his smile was hidden several rows of sharp needle pointed teeth. Fendor knew as soon as he sighted the stranger among the celebrants who he was as the beast drew closer to bid blessings upon the Prince.

By the crib the petite half sister, Ataraxia stood in a dainty dress, she also knew the true nature of The beast as he stepped forth and shuffled to hide herself behind her Step-Mothers legs, clinging to the layers of her dress, watching the stranger with fear and awe.

“What are you doing here?” Fendor whispered harshly under his breath.

“Your son, he is the final part of our pact.” The Demon reminded Fendor, speaking softly, so only The King could hear his words.

“You said thirteen years, it has been six!” Desperation crept into his tone.

“I am not here to collect any price Your Highness, not for another seven years. I am here with a humble request…” He purred softly.

“What is it?” Fendor spoke urgently.

“I want to name your son, he has breath because of my magic, your bride is well beyond child baring age, my power has granted you your Prince, I want to grant him his name.”

“How will I get my wife to accept that?”

“Not my problem, how you handle your woman is your business Fendor. I merely desire to name the boy.” The Demon handed over lavish gifts, as any other guest.

“What? What is his name to be?” The King graciously accepted the hamper.

“Ataxia.” The Beast replied, glancing at Ataraxia.

The tiny girl hid her face from the goat-like stare of the stranger in blue.

Reluctantly Fendor agreed…

The Beast with no Name bowed low, respectfully to the Royal Family and turned to merge into the celebrations, instantly surrounded by exotic curious ladies drawn to his beauty, giggling behind their fans. The Beast decided he was going to enjoy himself at this party, determined to make the most of his few hours upon the mortal realm…

 

Anne Harrison 24.05.17

 

Intermission #3

The day the Order was Issued…

 

Kane awoke with a start, roughly shaking the images of the nightmare from his mind… The loud hammering at his door was desperately urgent, it was still dark outside and the cat resting at the foot of his bed glared at having her rest disturbed, hopped down and slipped through the open french doors vanishing into the night as Kane pulled on garments in a rush… A thousand thoughts flooded his mind, panic, annoyance and curiosity… He flung open the door to be greeted by a nervous looking maid accompanied by two guards in Regal uniform.

“You are summoned to the Royal Palace.” The taller guard spoke firmly. “At Once.”

“Dad?” A young six year old lad rubbed sleep from his eyes, standing at his doorway down the hall… “What’s happening?”

Kane simply tilted his head to one side and the Guards parted to allow him to attend to the boy. “I need to work.” He knelt by the lad. “You need to guard your sister while I’m away…” Kane glanced at the awaiting soldiers “…You know what to do.” He added. The boy nodded, slipping back into his room silently pondering over the secret command.

***

At Fenroux Palace in the centre of the Capital City, known as the Northern Heart. The streets were filled with celebration and wonder. It was mid-morning by The time Kane arrived from the Clan Territories and the city was buzzing with a party spirit. Queen Roux had given birth to a healthy bright baby boy, a Royal Prince and Heir.

That news alone gave Kane the understanding of his summons, he wasn’t a fool and he knew this day would come. For near seven years he had held, in secret upon his estate three ‘guests’ three legal Royal Heirs who, in all intent and purpose were already dead publicly. They had only survived these last few years in seclusion upon the whim of Queen Roux, who had personally halted the death sentence upon her only son and two grandchildren. Now, with a new Prince born to the legal King… Jago, who should have been ruler, and his twins Kol and Indigo were insignificant. The traditional order of the throne had been manipulated to suit Fendor’s ambition.

Kane was kept waiting, while Nobles and Knights arrived in mass to congratulate the Royal couple and hope for a glimpse of the tiny Prince. Finally it was Lord Darkfire who greeted Kane in a silent side room. The giant barbarian leader eyed Kane distastefully, clad in traditional clan garb, a tan tunic and dark blue kilt, Kane had adopted the ways of the land he ruled instead of dressing like an outsider. To Lord Darkfire the kilt was offensive and he openly mocked the older, yet smaller man. Kane ignored the remarks.

“Are you going to get to the point?” He shrugged off any insult.

“The Order has been Issued…” Lord Darkfire confirmed Kane’s speculations.

“Very well.” Kane stood to leave.

“Where are you going?”

“Home, I have arrangements to make.”

“I shall be accompanying you!”

“Really?”

“Do you think the King trusts a lackey in a dress?”

Kane stepped right up to the Barbarian, standing chest to physically belly, as Lord Darkfire towered over him. “Do you want to try your luck?” Kane spoke softly, hand resting comfortably upon the hilt of his sword.

There was an uncomfortable silence until the larger man simply took a step backwards.

“You know it would have been easier to have simply sent the order with the Royal Guards instead of dragging me all the way here to the palace.” Kane sighed, bored with the waste of time.

Lord Darkfire grinned then half chuckled as he spoke “We needed you away from your home, to make some security arrangements. To ensure you go through with the order without any resistance.”

Kane kept his expression calm, his mind calculating the amount of time it would take to return home and a thousand more racing thoughts, yet he could not afford to dwell on the threat… “Do you doubt my loyalty to The King, one of my oldest, closest friends?” He spoke without hesitation. “I am perfectly aware of my duty when it was issued to me six years ago. My only concern is why it took so long to act?”

“For the Queen to conceive?” The Barbarian let slip what Kane had guessed.

“Ahhh… What do we know about the cycles of a ladies body?!” Kane grinned slapping the barbarian on the arm then… “Shall we go get this nasty business dealt with? I see no purpose in hesitation, it will be dusk by the time we return. We can get this done this day and break open some spiced wine to celebrate the babes birth.”

He marched past Lord Darkfire, causing the larger man to trot along to keep up. He was spluttering details of his orders as they headed to the courtyard and awaiting transportation. Kane was hardly listening, his mind was tumbling over the empty threat that hung in the air and he pondered over what could possibly await him at home…

 

Anne Harrison 24.05.17

Intermission #2

Out in the Wilds

 

“Something has been killing my sheep!” Brynn pursed her lips in a defiant pout as she expressed her concerns to Hera. They were reclined around the fire-pit in the clearing outside Hera’s den, secluded in the wilds of the Deep-Wood Forest. They shared a sweet mead as Brynn continued to recount her drama.

“So I decided to lay in wait, I’m not a bad shot with my cross bow and any beastie, I thought I could ward away. Now wolves I can deal with, naughty wild cats can sometimes take down a sheep, alas tis five of my flock I’ve lost… All slaughtered, all torn apart, viciously gutted. I was thinkin’ me foe to be a bear, but no grizzlies venture this far north. Perplexed I was, sat on guard, cold and sleepy. When I’s hear this frightful cry, like a shrill howl, but laced with more pain than ever a beast could hold in its soul. Even the wolves yelped and fled at the sound. Why, I could hardly hold by bow straight for trembling with utter fear!” Brynn paused to sip her mead.

“Well, Hera, well… when the creature came into sight I was stricken with dread… Twelve foot high I would say and near as wide, black as the depths of the well pit and covered in matted hair… I tried to get a shot off, I screamed, my flock scattered, the beast howled… What can I say Hera… I’ve never been so frightened, t’weren’t natural I’m telling ye!”

Hera refilled the shepherdess’s glass, half amused by Brynn’s dramatic rendition of events… Brynn sipped the mead grateful.

“An idea jumped to mind and I dashed towards the old well, screaming as I ran, the thing blundering after me, I swear I could feel it’s foul breath down me neck… At the last moment I sprang and cleared the mouth of the well in pure desperation… The thing at my heels, tripped, stumbling over the low crumbling bricks and fell with a mighty crash down the old pit, splashing into the stagnant water!” She drained her glass with triumph!

“Is this creature still down the well?” Hera asked bemused…

“Why yes, yes it is, it growled and howled and sobbed. Yet I threw over the old lid and weighted it down with bricks from the old wall. Then I came straight here, I needed to calm my nerves!”

“Shall we go and see what kind of beast you have caught?” The Witch took a burning fagot from the camp fire and, with a very nervous Brynn at her heels, lead the way through the forest to the deserted well, where soft mourning sounds echoed within.

The ladies carefully pulled back the weighted lid to peer within holding the brand aloft to shine into darkness.

Within a man glanced upwards towards the fire light, a large man granted, but no shaggy beast, naked and covered in slime and grime. He trembled, hugging himself…

“I know that face!” Hera gasped, He glanced towards the sound of her voice. A rough beard half obscured his features, but the Lord of the Barbarians was distinctively recognizable.

“Grave? You’re supposed to be dead?”

 

 

Anne Harrison 18.05.17

 

Intermission #1

*Even-longer-not-so-short-short-story*

There hereby follows a series of stand alone chapters, these mark significant events following the Coronation which occur throughout the years between Act 1 and Act 2 (which will be set 14 years hence) 

***

One Year Later…

 

Indigo pushed Kane onto his bed and took the quarter drained bottle of whisky from his blood slick fingers. Resting him backwards against the soft mattress, he shuffled reaching for the bottle, only to have his hand slapped away.

She pinned him down by his shoulders, even though her hands had been washed of all blood the cuffs of her tunic were still stained red. Kane murmured a half-hearted protest, yet Indigo simply pulled the warm furs up around his chin. He was exhausted, still clad in yesterdays clothes, the iron stench unavoidable.

Indigo shared his exhaustion, yet unlike Kane, she had not reached for the bottle so swiftly to cope with the sudden shock. In fact she poured the whisky away, ignoring his slurred insults. He had already drained several beers before turning to something stronger to drown his sorrows. Indigo forcefully ceased his drinking before it took hold and now sat on the edge of the bed.

She brushed his hair from his face, his skin clammy and hot, he simply starred at the empty bottle.

“I hate you.” He mumbled, but made no move against her tender touch.

“No you don’t Kane, you hate fate…” She signed softly.

“Fate didn’t pour away my drink!”

Indigo took his chin firmly in her grasp and tilted his head to face him… “Listen Kane, I shall grant you this moment and this moment only to drown yourself in pity, but in the morning, when you wake up, no matter how sore your head is. You will have to face the truth that you are now a single father, with two young babies to care for. You can not and you will not sink into the bottom of a bottle. For your life  belongs to your children now and your responsibility is to them.”

He blinked rapidly, her words cutting through the drink hazed fog in his mind. She released her grip. “I will help you Kane I am your friend, but I am not going to be a mother to your children and neither will I babysit your drunken ass!” She slapped his forehead.

Kane finally let tears flow.

“You actually loved her didn’t you?” There was honest surprise in her voice.

He simply nodded.

“Yet you never told her?”

Again he nodded.

“You’re an idiot Kane.” She sighed sadly and stood to draw the heavy curtains, shutting the night out and putting an end to a tragic day.

“Get some sleep Kane… But promise me this, do not let a day pass that you fail to express your love for your children. They are going to have to grow up without their Mother, do not deny them your love.”

She turned to leave then, taking the empty bottle with her…

 

 

Anne Harrison 16.05.17