Instead of a poem this week, I'm going to post a fragment of fiction (not to be confused with a snippet, which gets posted on Fridays and come from my WIP that I'm currently Sweating with Sven over (said snippets are listed on the list o'links to the left should anyone be interested). This is what I am thinking of working on next. Does this sound like something you would like to read? Sorry if this is too long, blog comments aside, I don't write short.
The Stone Gods
The Stone Gods
Tani clutched at the tree’s sturdy trunk, hidden from view by its leaves and branches, her attention focuses wholly on the young man about to ride unsuspecting into a trap. The target was a well dressed young man, slumped in the saddle. The palfrey he was riding, though tired and sweaty, was obviously well-bred and well cared for. The young man’s purse, the tired thief thought with a grin, should be ripe for the taking.
The young man sat on the horse easily, using only the lightest of touches on the reins to control his mount. His cloak was of thickly woven wool and his hat of crushed velvet. Looking warily at the gathering clouds, Tani thought enviously that both would go a long way toward fighting the cold and damp this winter.
Silently unsheathing the sword, Tani crouched on the branch and cursing the Stone Gods for making this necessary, jumped down on the young man as he passed beneath her. Unseated, they both fell off the palfrey’s back as it bolted in fear.
Even surprised, the young man reacted quickly. Drawing his sword, he turned and faced Tani, easily blocking the young thief’s thrusts with his own parries, making Tani twist and turn to avoid his blade. “Well boy,” the young man teased, “Now that you have my attention, what are you going to do with it?”
Tani grinned, outward arrogance masking profound relief that the thief’s disguise had passed. Her life would be forfeit if she were caught dressed as a boy, and Tani had no desire to be stoned to death.
“I may have your attention, Sir, but I would gladly return it in exchange for your wallet.” The smile Tani pasted on was the same one that had been worn by the soldiers as they held her mother’s arms for the King’s pleasure. The young man looked to be the same age as those soldiers. Too bad he wasn’t one of them, Tani thought, if she had to kill someone, she wanted it to be one of them.
“I’m terribly sorry, boy. I don’t have my wallet on me. I do have a piece of some of the finest steel in the land. Shall I give it you?”
“It is a fine sword indeed,” Tani agreed, circling the young man warily, trying to keep the sun in his eyes or keep him off balance in the rising wind. The young man’s grip on the sword was casual, almost negligent, but Tani knew that his fighting skills and his reactions were both finely honed. But still, adding to goad the young man, “Such beautiful steel would be a fitting ransom for your attention.”
The young man laughed, and for the first time, Tani doubted her own purpose. This young man’s laugh was divine, being equal parts joy and a delighted amusement. The young man was enthusiastically enjoying both the sword play and the verbal jousting. But Tani knew that for all its intricacy, their sword play was just that: play. Which would end the second her opponent found out Tani was a girl.
The two combatants were so focused on their dueling that a crash of thunder caught them by surprise. The young man had frozen in a two-handed attack position, scanning the sky to try and guess how soon the storm would strike. Tani also froze to look for the storm, crouched in a resting position but ready to defend herself.
The wind, which had been blowing fitfully, gusted suddenly, snatching the hat from the man’s head, revealing a regal mane of flame-colored curls. Tani’s impression of her opponent was shattered on the evidence before her eyes and then crystallized into a terrifying whole. Tani bowed her head, sinking to one knee in a gesture of profound obeisance.
The Queen stood motionless before her opponent, stunned by the sight of a boy child showing respect to any woman especially one dressed as a man, unaware that she had caught the attention of a greater foe.
Tani felt the change in the air and reacted without thinking: throwing herself at the Queen. The impact knocked the sword from the queen’s hand and carried them both out of the clearing. Tani covered the queen’s body with her own just as the lightning bolt sliced through the air, through the finely forged steel, and into the ground at the precise spot on which the queen had been standing. Momentarily blinded and deafened by the thunder that had followed, Tani could only lie there stunned.
Alizarin the Queen lay stunned as well by the events that had unfolded. This brave child who had sought to rob her, thinking her a man, had shown her respect and even saved her life once the truth had been revealed. But in doing so, the child had revealed her own secret. For the body resting in a state of shock atop hers was clearly female, from the small breasts pressing into the queen’s ribs to the leg nestled familiarly between the queen’s own.
Tani came to, feeling a hand tenderly stroking her hair, brushing it off her forehead and away from her face, “What is you name, child?” The whispered voice was neither regal nor commanding, giving Tani hope that she might actually survive the day.
“Tani,” she answered breathlessly.
“Well, Tani, dear child. We must find shelter and get out of this rain. I owe you my life, it would hardly be fitting payment if I let you get soaked and catch your death now would it?” It was as if the Queen had read her mind, and looking into her eyes, Tani knew that she had understood Tani’s fear and sought to reassure her.
At that moment, the clouds burst and the rain, which had been easing up, became a pounding deluge that put out the smoldering fire the lightning had started and turned everything else into a sea of mud. Grabbing the Queen’s hand, Tani pulled both of them off the wet ground and began dashing through the rain.