Long Stories: Rose Knight (3)

Aed and some of his band wait for her in the city, and they find her before she’s made it two streets. Her first inkling is the crossbow bolt as it flies past her nose and embeds itself in the wall next to her. She takes a step out of the alleyway to find the street almost entirely deserted. Aed has three friends now, not simply one, and stares at her. Among his friends he counts two mercenaries with crossbows (one of whom rewinds his) and a man holding a sword easily as large as Rose.

She mentally measures the distance to the nearest unlocked door– the library. With their crossbows and their speed they could catch and kill her before she made it, she’s fairly certain, and they stand between her and the temple district.

Rose sags. “And me, without my armor,” she mutters. “Good day, Aed. You have my attention. Whose did I attract today?” Continue reading

Long Story: Rose Knight (2)

“I’m not well versed in the ways of women, especially not noblewomen,” the smith, whose name is Ith and surname is Sol, says quietly. “And well, Sandrys is a foreigner.”

Rose nods thoughtfully. “She is.”

Truth be told, no one in the city knows exactly where Sandrys was born. Rose knows that she was raised here in the city. A few years back, she’d told Rose that her old home had been horrible. Continue reading

Long Story: Rose Knight (1)

Her sword is strapped to her back, not in a sheath as most knights would carry it. It makes it vulnerable to rust and to rain, to dulling and stains, but to the woman who bears it, it matters little. Despite strapping it to her armor, she has never once drawn it in the months she has worn it. Continue reading

Short Serial Story: Psion (1)

My mind parts the air like a knife.

Sharper than any knife, the tongue I keep in check, as Pyth asks again: “How long?”

I snap myself back from a vision of chaos and swivel in my chair to fix Pyth with a stare. “Twenty five minutes, in theory and undisturbed.”

He winces and folds his arms. “Right. Fine.”

I swivel back and let my mind refocus.

“Why?” comes his voice, jarring me before I’ve even settled in.

Swivel. Stare.

“You really want to know?” I ask, knowing the answer before it leaves his lips.

“I really want to know.”

“She’s being guarded.”

“Shit. How many?”

“Three. Are you going to leave me alone, or are you going to keep pestering me like a child with nothing better to do?”

A pause. I can see him try to think of a retort, but I’m done dealing with his dumb face. I swivel back and try not to let his presence itself distract me as I lose myself in my crystal focus again.

My mind parts the air like a knife. The folds of space expand outward before me and close behind me. The whole of the universe– stars, black holes, pulsars and supernovas and nebulae– stretches out for me.

I smile.

Twenty five minutes is actually twenty four minutes too long. I’m just tired of Pyth whining at me.

Focusing in on Liss’s signal again, I find the barriers surrounding her location and, with a well placed stroke, cut them down. They disintegrate quickly, all three of them, and I withdraw before the enemy psion can figure out what I’ve done. Now I know exactly where she is.

I withdraw and, sighing a little, come back to myself. Pyth is just standing there next to me, waiting for me to open my eyes. I can feel him there.

I open my eyes and swivel around to look at him directly. I beam him the coordinates before hopping off my swivel seat and walking off the bridge. “There you go,” I mutter. “The keys to your girlfriend. Have fun playing the hero and reaping the rewards”

Pretending I’m not bitter doesn’t really work. I storm towards the holo-deck to conjure up the only person on the damn ship I can talk to.

***

“Ysun,” my friend says, in that voice I know means he wants me to pay attention. “You shouldn’t be so hard on Pyth. He’s always been blind.”

I roll my eyes and shrug.

“I’m serious. Among all the humans onboard he’s the only one I know to be completely absent of attraction awareness– I doubt he even knows you like Liss.”

“And that excuses him? I lost my last bond-mate. Liss is the only one of my kind I know, and right after Tiff gets incapacitated he decides ‘Oh, yup, time to ask her out’! The guy goes way beyond ‘insensitive’! Then he had the gall to ask me to find her for him!”

I resist the urge to lash out psionically, if only because doing so while in the holo deck often causes electromagnetic interference which DJINN finds uncomfortable.

The computer shrugs his artificially dimensional shoulders. “I know how badly you want to save her, Ys. But you’ve got to know that he can’t afford to risk you. You’re the only one on our team who can navigate psionic barriers.”

I make a face. “I know that much, DJINN. Still, there’s got to be something I could do to make him see how important she is to me.”

“Have you tried talking to him?” DJINN asks. His voice is a single step away from sarcastic. I know I’m straining even DJINN’s inexhaustible patience algorithms with my constant rants. This is the third time this cycle I’ve been to visit him.

“Several times. Any time I try, he goes on about how touching it is when I care so much about her safety and how beautiful compassion is as a personality trait, how wonderful chaste mind-love between Psions can be.”

DJINN’s hologram winces. “That is… worse than I first suspected. Is Pyth aware that you are a lesbian, Ys?”

“Trying to explain sexuality to Pyth is comparable to stepping off of a moving lift. The impact depends entirely on the height of his mood, and in Pyth’s case, it’s a lift that only ever goes up. Breaking the news to him now? He’s a total flip. You know that better than anyone. He’s been down to see you for counsel.” I sigh and rub my forehead with my fingertips. “He’d probably jump into folded space. It’d be like turning his whole world upside down. You know the first ten cycles out he had a crush on me?

DJINN and I are both silent, lost in our respective thoughts; my thoughts are morose, and his are doubtless optimistic. Eventually he lets out a sigh. It’s impressive for a hologram, with only simulated lungs.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Ys. I’ve never been faced with a problem like this one. Talking to the Captain can do no good, and encouraging him will only end in anguish on your and Liss’s part.”

I blink, at that. “You think Liss will care?”

“Have you been paying attention to the paths her eyes make across your body, Ys? Are you as blind as the Captain?”

“What are you-” but I stop and bite both of my lips. I shake my head and sigh. “So she likes me.”

“She enjoys the attention of both of you, but I can read her vitals, Ys. She would much rather be with you, even if she is not aware of that now.”

I offer the hologram a weak smile. “Thanks, DJINN.”

The computer cavalier bows, smiles back, and vanishes, leaving me in the holodeck. Alone with my thoughts.

***

“Pyth-”

“No.”

“I just want to be able to help!”

“You are too vital to our greater mission to risk boarding the station.”

“I can handle myself!” I snap.

Pyth gazes at me a few more seconds, frowning. “I’m sorry, Ysun. But if I’m killed, you can at least take the remaining crew home. If you are, my crew is stranded– you power both the drives and the shield that surrounds the ship. Before Tiff was…” he trails off and won’t meet my eyes. I know what he’s feeling. “Well, you get the idea,” he finishes lamely.

I struggle to keep my features empty of the swirling anger inside of me. Part of it must filter through to my twin shard, who makes the psionic shield around the craft possible– it flares red with shared rage as I storm away from the bridge. Never mind that I could make another mind-shard set to take the crew home. Never mind that I could predict threats and help counter the enemy psion when we board. I’m just too important to risk.

Fuming, I stalk off to the observation deck.

It’s there I meet Captain Pyth.

Again.

We stand, staring at one another for a few precious seconds. I can’t read his intentions. I can’t see what he will do or would do. It’s just us, staring one another down.

I open my mouth to speak, but he cuts me off. “Pretty, isn’t it?”

I shut my mouth again, staring at him as he gestures out into space. The shield around the ship flares from red to pink. I feel a flush color the tips of my lowermost tendrils.

I glance out across the deck, to the viewscreen showing the depths of the fold around the ship, the fold perpetrated by my mind-shard. I run his last sentence through my head again and struggle to come up with a response.

As I do, he brushes past me and into the hall adjoining the observation deck with the Bridge.

And then it hits me. I just spoke with Pyth. He was on the Bridge. Whoever that was, whoever it may have been or could have been, it was most certainly not Pyth. I can still feel Pyth if I focus for even a second, and he’s still on the Bridge.

I dash back after the imposter, slipping through the hatch as soon as it opens, just in time to watch the fake Captain enter the access code to the Bridge. The doors open for him and then slam closed in lockdown immediately, locking me out. Fields of my mind-shard’s psionic energies slam down over the hatches around me, preventing my escape from the hallway, and a dull alarm blares through the clean white hall.

Intruder lockdown measures.

The Captain can’t be in two places at once. Now he isn’t. He’s in the same room as the imposter.

I slam my foremost tendrils against the barrier, knowing the futility of it. Probing the psionic barriers with my tendrils confirms my own fears. There is no way past my shard’s work– it was built to withstand a full Psion assault, not a fractured one like my own.

I’m trapped, and the Captain will die.

——-

Copyright 2014 Eris (Sam Oliver).

——

I should probably finish the other serials before I start another one. Oh well! As and when the mood hits me, I guess. I’ll try to keep installments under 2000 words, for Psion, and I’ll post them as often as I can (my current situation is not conducive to rapid posting, but it rarely seems to be). I understand how difficult it can be to read big blocks of text.

Enjoy,

-Eris

 

Poem/Story: With Unmatched Fury / Mere-Wife’s Curse

So this one is a doozy. But I wrote it for Lit class. College and stuff has been taking up a lot of my time lately! And with good reason, I expect. Soon I’ll be transferring- just this semester to go and I’ll be off to earn a degree in english and creative writing! Hopefully….

This was my creative option- and the paper was actually due today. (Yes, I did turn it in!)

So enjoy. I hope to have enough time to write more of this type of thing. Yes, those are line numbers next to the poem / story. No, I’m unlikely to do them for all the poems I write.

—–

With Unmatched Fury / Mere-Wife’s Curse

The fists fall swift, battering at the abomination

Her, he lifts, high in the air, squeezing both with his arms

And with the armor that coated him,

Trying in vain to crush the life from his foe.

It is against unmatched fury she squirms free of his hold, (5)

The steel-vice grip of his armor’d hands.

 

The fingers that held and rent at her flesh but moments before bite

No longer,

And her eyes flash fire that dares him to come for her again, (10)

To test his might against her beauty and wonder.

 

Swift, with steps long as shadows,

He tries,

Forward, forward with arms stretched wide

As if to embrace her as any husband would (15)

Again, those arms close around and about her frame

Again they are rebuffed with the slick of her home’s cold fame,

By the slipping and sliding of the water from the mere

Where it drenches her curls and the skin at her sides,

The arms that she ducked made to look like a fool’s. (20)

 

As he steps for her again, Beowulf of Hrothgar’s Halls,

Beowulf the Lord– but not Lord yet,

The warrior who under the lake now is set,

To finish the task that was started with Grendel–

fiercest of all the fighters of hell, heaven and the vice-land (25)

He grasps at her wrist with fingers as those on an ice-man

Tugs her close to him and falls to be sure he can have her

Pinning her down to the ground underneath her,

Snaring her close with the form that needs her,

And has needed her once before he is sure, (30)

Though from where this thought comes his mind can’t lure

As he forces her down to the stone and makes good

On the oath to the Lord of the land- or would

But the mere-wife is slippery and slides from his grasp,

Yet again avoiding her fate and his wrath. (35)

 

He reaches out with hands and digits,

These fingers that fight, fret to finish her now,

Look like her son’s-

Just like the ones

Grendel’s hands had in birth been endowed. (40)

 

And Tall is the Geat who faces her down,

Tall and strong and fast as the wind,

Wild and fierce as the hill-grass wends,

Covered in thorns like the thistles in the fens,

And armor in husk like the beetles that crawl (45)

On the forest floor outside of her watery hall–

In the glade and the grotto where the mere must lie.

None of it matters to her in minds eye;

If the fight with this man goes on she will die.

 

“Stay hands, stay arms, husband dear!” cries she, in fear, (50)

About face struck, and body, there, here,

Leaving bruises like those as if done by a bear

Wrestling forgot in the warrior’s despair,

The black heart of rage that seethes from within

Threatens to swallow the mere-wife as it did her kin. (55)

 

As the blows still fall she catches one, then two,

Holding his fists with the strength of ten men.

Beowulf, though, has the strength of twice that,

And grinds her against the stone wall flat,

Slamming her there with a fury in his eyes (60)

That words soothing or pleading cannot from them prize

To this wild man she will strangle or bake

Left to dry in the sun’s bright wake

 

“Curse you to death, kin-slayer,” the mere-wife rasps,

As all life is wrenched away from her grasp. (65)

 

With every moment that he pins her there,

Throat in hands that another time ran through her hair,

The Geat remembers yet more of his past

A daring, youthful time that couldn’t last

The truth of his power is a hidden affair (70)

Both from his mind and the men who yet dare

To call him a hero.

But these cursed words from the man’s rage now snap him,

Catch him and taunt him as his old love lies

As dead and still as dry peat dies. (75)

Here, the wolf of the Geats stares down,

At the form of the wife he meets– now with a frown,

On the blood and skin they shared by vow–

How now can he stand it, indeed- how now?

Cast in doubt by the sight that lingers in his eyes (80)

He staggers to his feet, struggles to rise-

But outpaced is he by the corpse of his son-

Dark is the cave

But still he can see

The vengeance to be wrought on him (85)

Beyond the grave.

Sorrow is writ upon his dead brood’s face,

A matter that is nothing which he wishes to contend,

So, Gods help him and fates forfend,

He reaches out blindly as clawed hands close, (90)

Hands that he helped to create in his woes and the loneliness

He’d found beneath grotto and mere

Where a strange, beautiful wife had once begged him to give her–

For true and for dear–

A child to do combat with the loneliness queer. (95)

A son he’d now killed for fame and reward,

Justice to be done in the name of just Lord

Who presides over the castle that he’d rightfully took,

From a rival long ago,

Whose name is lost in a nook or cranny (100)

Of time.

 

Sobbing, no, weeping, he reaches for the sword,

A sword he’d found buried once where there was no ford,

In the middle of the mere and the depths down fair

In the depths of the grotto where now lurks fear (105)

Or the death he deserves for killing his wife

It is his son who now reaches to stab with a knife

On the ends of each of his cold dead fingers, as black as his hands,

Twisted to claws to meet dark soul’s demands.

 

If truly the father is just like his son, (110)

If truly this work is his to have done,

Then it is Beowulf who reaches and grasps at the sword

That remained the only sign of his kind

The monsters from beyond a time after time,

Ancient with blade as sharp as a grin, (115)

A sword he had lusted after once and again

In the night where treasure glints dangerous as sin

And beckons all men to fights they cannot win.

 

Twice and then thrice he strikes at the body,

Which glistens in the half-light of the cave, (120)

Wherein lurks his wife whom he’d sent to the grave-

But no yet she stirs and he feels an urge-

To strike her down and with a new victory emerge,

To tell a tale that all the world would see.

 

But defeat for the mere-witch who watches him now? (125)

Accusing eyes tell the story, and how!

Surely she couldn’t have meant this to be,

To be slain by the love who’d twice crossed the sea,

In search of adventure and wonder and beauty

Who’d loved her as only a proper man should (130)

When alone he had found her, alone in the wood.

 

As he stares at his wife who gasps for breath on the floor,

He remembers his oath

An oath made in silence beneath the stone cave

An oath made in waters as ancient and grave (135)

As any which touched the lips the gods gave

And had given him strength and power untold

This well and spring deep under earth bold

Now he remembers his disregard

For the oath he had made to this beautiful creature (140)

To drink not once but twice from the depths

Had a curse on him laid- to be kin-slayer

Except-

Now he decides he will never go through

Even as her stare holds hatred in truth (145)

He gazes down at her with sorrow and fear

 

His stare she returns with intensity and life,

The same vibrancy which had drawn him first there,

So long ago, in search of a wife

A pulsing, a rhythm, a strength in the air. (150)

From her, wondrous things, and her silky black hair

A smile as sad, sullied and sobering as the sea

The same one now that on her tired face is free’d

As the Geat turns to walk, to swim away.

 

A woman whose strength glimmers brighter than the sun, (155)

What fault has he for giving her a son?

Only now that he took it away is he sure

That deep down in the depths of black hell

His soul will be taken as soon as he has fell

To blade, arrow, tooth or claw, (160)

And demons there will his essence gnaw.

 

To Beowulf, here in the cave of stone raw,

It is made plain by the water-lapping waves

As they crash

On the rock-gilt floor no one can brave, (165)

That he is a man no god would save.

No one but Beowulf, champion of Hrothgar’s Hall,

Knows the truth of his pact or the truth of his thrall,

Knows he is not really a hero, brave and tall

No, in truth, he knows that he is nothing at all. (170)

 

Nothing at all as he swims towards the surface,

Taking the sword with him and finding his purchase,

In lake and in mere’s side he pulls himself up,

And out onto the bank where he tests his luck

By standing and staggering back towards the hall, (175)

Vowing to speak of his wife not at all.

 

A monster beset him and hall, that’s right,

A monster he knew would come in the night

After the death of his son and hers-

Not knowing the tried and true nature of the beast (180)

He had slain

Is no excuse for this monstrous, morbid feat.

To his wife whom had taught him his warrior’s oath,

Taught him the ways of the sword,

For the mere-wife who lies on that cold cave floor, (185)

Gathering the strength to again form words,

He cannot even weep for leaving her there,

Not out here in the cold, open air

Not with all of his men hanging here

In the shimmering, shining, soulful sun. (190)

 

He vows to her now he will leave her alone,

Vows to return now victorious and stone,

Victorious and stoic and empty of his task,

But truly happy only in mask.

A lie for his Lord and a lie for himself (195)

To keep in his soul on some forgotten shelf.

 

Her curse weighs heavily on mind and in hand,

In the hilt of the sword that burns like a brand,

The sword that he brings back as proof of success,

The sword to remind him of his wife and of home. (200)

Into the hall strides Beowulf the bold, surrounded by men and warriors, young and old,

Demanding the tale of his victory, victory from the Geat who lived ‘cross the sea,

But defeat mires heart, where truth eternal bides,

While from his false lips spring naught but

Lies. (205)

——

©October 2013, Sam Oliver (Eris)

Story Challenge #8: Lion’s Heart

The main gate is so heavily defended I’m certain my father will never get through. It has all manner of knights in that black armor, thralls standing stock still, with battle-axes at the ready, and one or two dark-cloaked vampires. No one could break past it, I feel certain.

My latest conquest lies on the bed, gasping for breath still, while I, wearing naught but a sheet, look down over the forces he deployed. What is this thrill, that rises up in my belly? What is this lovely, wonderful warmth?

Continue reading

Short Story #7: Beast of the Farlands

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was a creature so deadly and terrible that none could ever defeat it in combat. It roared and stamped with claws like iron tillers, its tail a lion’s, long and lashing, its breath was fire, its scales terrible burnished gold, its eyes like rolling, deep dark pits that swallowed the soul of whoever gazed upon them.

 

No man could face it without immediately falling prey to these horrible advantages, no matter what courage they had, its eyes would paralyze them. No matter what weaponry they carried, its scales would turn it aside. No matter what armor they wore, nothing could turn aside flame. It seemed as though the countryside would forever be torn asunder by the terrible paws and claws of this great beast, and decades went by with no true solution. Sacrifices never appeased it. There was no stopping it from taking what it wanted of the fields and the cattle of the people.

 

There came a time when, of his own accord, a champion went out to meet it when all champions were long thought dead. No, to call him a champion would be too generous; though cloaked he was in finest wool, he had with him no apparent weaponry. Though hooded and fair of voice– fair as could be asked of any maiden, even– he seemed to have no assets with which he planned to slay the creature. More like to call this man suicidal.

 

Yet he went out to it, this great savage beast, went out, stood before it as it feasted on caught cattle, and hailed it thus: “Good day!”

 

It ignored him til he had called out thrice more.

 

“Good day! Good day, I say!”

 

Finally it turned to regard him with eyes, eyes that surely would paralyze. The townsfolk that watched, they watched from afar, worried and sure that this man would be gobbled up in an instant. They dared not hope for any better.

 

“Who is it who speaks? Who is it who addresses me so, in so sweet a voice? Another fine human to rend and to eat? Was the last of your kind not enough of a treat?”

 

The cloaked, hooded figure sways not from his course. “It is I who spake thus,” he says, quite plain. “It is I who would talk not once, but again.”

 

“There shall be no ‘again’, you miserable louse. I am the cat, and you are the mouse.”

 

With that the beast pounces and bites and gnaws. At first it seems that it has him in claws, hooked here or there through the parts of his cloak which before seemed imposing, now shred, fabric broke.

 

It leaves but a maiden, standing with earthen hair, her skin shaded first with blue and then red, dyes that run over her skin– even head! Tattoos seem to cover her from head to toe, and bare though she is it doesn’t seem to show.

 

“What manner of human-like witchery is this?” The beast utters first, clearly most miffed. Its eyes dart here, or there over her form.

 

The maiden folds across her chest two lithe arms, gazes back up with eyes like twin storms, of blue and of green, they crackle as she stands.

 

With inner strength bold and courage so bright, she faces down the creature until on comes the night. Her tattoos glow then, even in dark, shining, transfixing until the call of the lark. The beast seems to snap from its cold reverie, shaking its mane once, and then twice.

 

“I could but crush you with the flick of a paw,” it growls down at her, baring its jaw filled with teeth to cut her to shreds. “If you answer falsely I’ll do it, I will, so be still little human while I have my fill- of information from you or your next of kin, should I kill you the same, in a fit.”

 

“Ask away,” she murmurs shyly, her smile so bright. It eclipses her tattoos and turns back the night.

 

“How is it you resist the power of my stare? What drives you to push it all back?”

 

“Not how, dear beast, but what is the answer– and simple I think, for one such as I. I am a witch, empowered and strong, and that is that, true as true- can be. As to what drives me to confront you here– the land here is near to me, near and dear– I’d sooner tear out my own heart in your stead then sit and and suffer with the land and its dead.”

 

“Why have you not come forth before, if exception to my actions you took?” The beast’s voice is soft now, to match the little witch, soft and yet deadly inside. Its eyes search for the source of her power, sure that within her it hides.

 

“I was born but yesterday, out and away in the Mother’s good arms. I took to my own as soon as I could but I still needed time to grow; twice and again I’ve sought you since then and now I’ve come to show you.”

“What will you show?” the beast asks sharply, curious despite its urges- to seize and destroy her with teeth tongue and flame is all that lurks in its head. Without her tattoos it’s sure she would lose, that it would rend her instead.

 

“A simple enough trick, for one such as you- I propose a game.”

 

It scoffs and sighs, but in her eyes the beast reads no sign of jest. “Fine, little witch. Command as you wish, and I shall put it to test.”

 

“Be forewarned that when this game is through, I will have put you to rest.”

 

“We shall see,” it growls and swishes that lion’s tail it has. The witch then smiles, as if sure of her wiles, and holds a hand up to her head. She mutters a phrase, cold as black days, and changes to the Dragon Father’s child.

Her form is great, as great as the sea, with scales at least half as blue. Her grin razor sharp, she laughs in the dark as the clouds spill into the sky

to shroud it.

 

The beast unimpressed, stretches and yawns, grinning back with eyes cold as space. “You frighten me not, maiden fair as you were, for the Father of Dragons is agape. Take back your shape if your hide you do value, or soon he shall come and be wroth– vengeance then wrought, he’ll nail what you sought out of spite for those you now seek

To protect.”

 

With a rumbling, the maid sways not, she stares it back down with a snort of cold flame, lips peeled back to reveal, unashamed, her teeth like daggers. “I fear not the father of worms such as you, or the shape that I take or the threat of a scaly stew! I ask you once and ask no more: take a form greater or leave this tilled floor

Alone.”

 

The beast laughs out loud, a hideous sound, snaps its foreclaws and in a flash is all bound up in fiery chains that snap and obscure its devilish form from sight. When they again lift its form is in shift, growing massive, greater even than the maiden’s new height.

“How do you find me?” its breath is a roar, its voice thunders forth in such force that it doubles and redoubles o’er the world, bouncing, echoing and rumbling again

and again.

The maid seems afraid as she looks, up at its devilish features. The burnished gold scales of its twin writhing tails and the fur that line their tips look like spines now so large is the beast before her. She seems to tremble–

–but lets out a giggle

a giggle that turns into a full-throated laugh. The maid-dragon sighs and in a flash dries the earth all ‘round her to ash. Magic bursts forth, wild and terrible, covering her head toes and claws. Her body rolls and rocks and shifts, squirms and writhes and grows to a size ne’er broached before. Now it is the beast’s turn, small as a kitten by comparison to a tiger, sitting before her and mewling in a whisper, a whimper of a voice before her. From the maiden’s eyes comes a pitiless glare that paralyzes the creature where it stands.

 

The villagers shout! Is victory not near? Surely she’s beaten this terrible beast! With the creature struck down and its influence profoundly

driven away

they will prosper again.

 

Abruptly it ends, this victory cry. What is she doing now? The maiden in size shrinks down to her former self, her body loses all of its scales. Tattoos dot her again, covering her head to toe. Her eyes are calm though the village can’t see it, her eyes are as calm as the sea.

She smiles as the creature reaches down to swipe for her, and stops its paw with a hand, effortlessly.

“Come now beast,” she whispers soft. “Is this all you truly can muster?”

It roars its frustration and drawing in breath, lets it out in thunder

clouds

of black rolling

smoky

thunder.

Fire leaps high, high towards the sky as the plains around her catch fire, but the maid just laughs, laughs and laughs, welcoming the heat with a smile. Her eyes are bright and burning ash gleams in her grin, on her teeth and on those razor thin lips of hers.

 

The beast stares down at her, paw raised once more, as if to dash her to pieces,

but the maid will not move

she will not move

she does not move

anymore.

she stands where she is, her palm held out

to block a second roar

it never comes

no the beast never roars

again in anger or spite

it sits there instead

to be walked or led

about town under cover of night.

 

Under cover of night, the maid leads it forth

To the center of the town square.

 

To the villagers around as the morning is crowned

With the sun’s bright beams so gay

Her eyes flash gold and, with her story told

A party they do array

When celebration ends and the night descends

They fall over themselves

in bidding this maid to stay

 

“On one condition will I stay here with you,”

She says to them before the sun fully sets

“To guard forever and always. Let my husband be

This beast you see

Who set fire to your fields but previously

A day, or less ago.”

 

The villagers are distraught

At first

Then confused

This beast she means not to slay?

Its terror struck even the bravest of men!

Its breath was unweatherable! Its rage terrorized the village– all villages!– for miles upon miles while the nobles did nothing!

 

Now such a strumpet says it must live?

 

But the villagers know should she wish she could grow, she could tower above them and strike them to ash, each and every one with but the threat of a glance.

 

So silent they are, as silent as they can, their eyes all wide as she makes clear her demand.

 

“I wish there be room for this beast to sleep; for the first six days and more we shall bed, and then I shall release it to the wild instead. Tamed and mine in heart and soul, the beast will guard you, brave and bold. Let me have this or I shall go, and the things  I have done will mean

nothing.”

 

They don’t dare refuse her, so the beast then stays, and in a stable the pair of them sleep.

 

The first of the days the beast wakes up in ways it never imagined before. The maid by its side, its thick golden hide is replaced by skin of the same hue, but soft and comfortable to lie in and on.

 

Its mouth opens and shuts, and the maid she does stir, so it thinks better of attempting escape. What has this girl done to its scales so sweet, to the metal that once covered it in sheets? It does not know but cares not to find out, and in its head it hatches plans of retreat. It’ll dart off in the night as it sure must be right, to find some more knights to eat. It’ll grow a new hide to polish its stride and assist in protecting its skin.

 

The chance never comes as the day goes by, the maid leads it everywhere you see– she has fashioned a lead made from leather and reed and tied it to the edges and frays

of its mane.

 

“Such a strange girl,” a villager says, to another standing by the main way. “Where are her thoughts of marriage and devoted

fertility–

instead there are tattoos

of war?”

“She is the one who tamed the Calthrax and I’ll bet she has spellbound its heart; no earthly magic could sunder the will the way that she has done with this one. I’ll wager divinity lurks in her step, in her stride hides the will of the gods.”

“Foolish talk! A tramp who sleeps with beasts,

to make them stop their attacks

what honor is there in this woman

what honor is there in that?

The voice rings out at last from the crowd who parted to let her through, and up stands a man garbed all in silk, his eyes a ruddy red hue.

“Let me speak,” the fair maiden says as he makes his intrusion. “Let me speak and I shall clear your head of all confusion.”

The man’s silk robes flow in the wind as upon her form he stares, then he laughs and throws back his head, laughs as a man with airs.

“Foolish girl,” he says with a sigh, still chuckling to his own little tune. “Your charms won’t work on a wizard as old as I. Go back to your vale in the cool and the pale where the shadows and monsters lie– return to your grove little nymph, little witch, I’ll have no truck with you- not here in this village that the beast tried to pillage while away on a trip I was due.”

“Due what?” she asks, unperturbed by his voice, staring him down once more. The beast behind her makes a low little rumble, a sound both of the magi ignore. “Trip where o’ wizard, who hails from the city out away by his estate? I came and I saw and I saved your town, and in return you treat me with hate?

“Equate not dislike for you and your ilk for ingratitude, little witch. I am indebted despite all I’ve said and I mean to repay by the stitch. But when I have paid and the debt is then gone I demand that you are gone also; every moment you stay here defies my will and the look of you strains me

moreso.”

“Flee I’ll do when I’m dead, old man, if for you my image is grating- I bid you away or turn quick your head, for my stay will never be abating. This village I claim as my own new vale, I can never return where I was. Away with you, wizard, your ways do not scare me, away and be done with your threats! This village is not yours to do with as you please, no matter your papers- or hateful epithets.”

“Little witch,” says he, the wizard so-called, with a start and a step forward sharp. “You cut me so, to say to me

What you do.

I ask again and again now only,

Go home to the grove you once knew.

The patience I have, while boundless at heart

Will bear not the tone

Of your wily whim or the fear

A fight

Would start.”

A pause and then, with manner wrought of silk and spiderwebs, the maiden answers the wizard and in her heart

there seems to be

dread.

“So this is how

A wizard doth truly

Repay all

His debts,” The maiden fair says, quietly and lowly as the smallest of mice might squeak.

Her eyes are downcast, manner demure as she stares then down at her feet. Whatever rage or fire within her seems to have reached a peak

Or a crest

Or a boiling pitch

And fallen back down on itself.

The wizard and his smile

Filled up with guile,

Stand there waiting for her

To leave.

When she does not he grows impatient, stamping his own foot.

“When will thou go?” he snaps in rage, those eyes of his they flare.

“Never did I say I would leave!” she cries, plainly surprised at his tone. “When will I go? When won’t I go? Ask me that then fair wizard! Should not a maid do just as she pleases and go where she should in her mind? If thou art so sure that thy own self is pure, I tell thee to cast all thy stones. Hurl thy magic and smite me down, if thy pointy shoes are so clean!”

The wizard on his pointy shoes doth rise, fire in his eyes now, fire in his eyes.

“The cheek!” he roars, and rolls up his sleeves. “Take thy place, girl, on your knees.”

The last word with magic inside doth seethe, it rolls forward and out and plays to keep,

the maiden on her toes, lashing here and lashing there, like fire, like a whip that snaps, aims to snare.

The maiden is on her toes, she dances ‘round once,

she dances ‘round again, avoiding that word like a plague

or a spark

laughing like lightning

laughing in sparks and flames

that twirl

and dance through the air

in her eyes

in her heart

 

The beast behind her snorts and rears, barely containing itself

Its baleful gaze descends

on wizard and witch

both

 

“What ill will bear you to me

What terrible thing have I done?”

 

The words, out of place on the witch’s lips seem

But the words voice curiosity

Shared by

Everyone.

 

“Stand still and die, little witch, little nymph. You do not deserve to know! I will not, shall not, cannot tell you

and there’s nothing for me to show to you

but hatred.”

 

Sickened at heart

With eyes still aflame

The maid turns once

and turns yet again, whirling in place to let fly with vines that snake from her arms in ink and in lines

Traced from tattoos that writhe on her skin, alive and snake-like and seeking their kin

in the veins of the wizard who gasps in rage and flings forth his power to send to the grave

this nymph who defies him, who taunts his thoughts

who lingers in his heart

and has hooks inside him

whose snakes bite and strike– he snaps out.

The power snaps out and lashes a side– the Beast who in anger between them did stride, ignoring the collar closed tight ‘round its neck, ignoring the pain from the blow it’d been struck, ignoring the pain that inside it is stuck, rebound and coiling ‘tween skin and scale, where insides and nerves and organs do quail.

Never in all of its life has a pain

Like this one been dealt to it

and in a vain

a terrible

a monstrous

moment of rage, its tail whips forth

to break the wizard

in twain.

 

Its tail rebounds from a shield of some make

Of force and of magic and frail hope– which breaks

as the wizard’s power fails as he stumbles on back, as he looks on aghast at the beast’s spiny back

at the monster before him

at the spines and the skin

the golden and bronze

the golden skin.

 

The wizard snaps out at the nymph yet again, lashing with power drawn from no ken

of man or of beast, both would have died

but the creature before him impeding the stride

of his magic

is in waves

upon the ground

and breaking

the earth

around.

 

A quake in the village builds as the creature lashes out in time

Each writhing twisting, flailing limb

dredging up swaths of the earth

and rime from the mist

clinging

to the ground.

Tormented stone and cobbles break

The wizard and nymph alike are pelted

Their forms aghast with fright as the form of the creature

is melted

 

It falls away, disappearing

Like morning mist

In a breeze

Leaving

Scared

and weak

and terrified

A woman

on her knees.

 

Mortified

By turns yet curious

The both of them are

Wizard and nymph stand side by side

To regard the girl from afar

 

Both of them move

At once and in unison

Both of them move right away

The nymph to comfort

The wizard to study

But both sure to have their way.

 

“Gentler, fool, she’s been through much,” the nymph hisses over shoulder and bareness of back.

“You’ll break her with your cold tack,” she snaps.

“Break her? Hardly! My lust for knowledge

Knows well its bounds.

I merely think an enchantment so steep

Must be studied and kept, so to speak

Too dangerous outside where that ‘chantment

Might ride

Another soul

Near to its peak.”

The wizard is cool and calm and collected, for all that inside terror burns. What great magic forced a girl to wear a form like that? This, then, a shadow confirms.

A shadow so great, so colossally huge, that it blots out the sun from the sky. Wings stretch out mightily, a monster shakes a head

like a cave, with jaws open wide.

The silhouette fades with a tremendous crash, with a shriek like the sun cleaved in twain. The King of all Dragons, his honor besmirched, comes only to avenge

the dishonor done.

A fear drives through her, the maid and the girl, as they stare up to the creature above. Its eyes are stars and its breath is fire

hot enough

to burn

underwater.

The wizard himself seems unafraid, unabashed, as he stands there brazen as day.

The Dragon King, his grin–

like the surface

of the sun–

would never

let him have

his way.

 

“SO THESE ARE THE MORTALS WHO DARE DEFY ME!” 

The Terrible King doth roar.

“A NYMPH, A WIZARD, A BROKEN LITTLE GIRL MAKES THREE. IS A HUNDRED LESS OR MORE?”

The nymph responds not, the girl frozen as well, her whole form rigid with fear. The wizard, clever and crafty as ever, is the one to talk now, and it’s the effort in his voice that’s near

to courage.

Any can see that his legs quake and shake, any can see how afraid he must be.

He opens his palms in a gesture of peace, and makes quick with what he needs

must say.

 

“Great Dragon King, we wished you no harm, though yesterday the nymph stole your form. Pray take from us anything just, and leave our lives to their norm. With all respect due we can pay back in time, for the pride of the King of all wyrms. Please, o lord, leave us our bodies that the debt to be paid is fair.”

“WHAT COULD BE FAIRER THAN LIFE FOR LIFE? YOU STOLE A PORTION OF MINE; IF WHEN, IN PAYING, I TAKE ONE OF YOURS, SHOULD NOT THAT BE IN GOOD TIME,

AND GOOD PLACE?

HERE AND NOW, I SAY, AND ‘JUST’ AS JUST CAN BE– GIVE ME THE NYMPH, THE BLESSED LITTLE WITCH, AND I SWEAR I SHALL LEAVE YOU ALL AS YOU ARE,

AND ALL AS YOU BE.”

The wizard steps aside, but the beast steps up, in the form of the girl as she is. She shakes and shivers, plainly confused about what

and where she is.

Still she speaks, once and again, as around her the world dims and blurs. The attention on her is too much, not enough, and her eyes are filled with tears

she doesn’t

understand.

“You-!” she calls, unsure and unright with the way that her words fall out. “You can’t take her, she’s mine to keep! I fought and for her as well! If beaten in combat by any but me, these feelings I’d never be able

to quell.

Back to your lair, lord o’ the wyrms! Back and trouble me no more! Show your tail, turn and run, leave this place like the one

that you found

before ire

found you.”

The King of the Dragons, with massive, great snout, with a lazy and terrible grin, says one thing in response to the girl-from-beast, says one thing nice and slow:

NO. STEP ASIDE LITTLE GIRL, UNLESS YOU WISH AS WELL TO BE

A MEAL IN MY LAIR 

OR A SNACK

BETWEEN MY TEETH.”

The girl shakes and whimpers where she stands between the two, the maiden who challenged her beast-self and the Dragon who defies her desire.

Still uncowed, amazed of herself, she stands strong before the nymph who beat her, glaring up at her foe, arms spread wide.

“Breathe your flames or

Make your threats

I shall not stand aside.

She is mine and mine alone

To eat-

Or keep

As I like!”

The Dragon King, old as the sky, stares down at the defiant beast turned girl, and laughs

laughs

laughs.

A heartbeat passes, many, many more.

The Dragon King rears onto his haunches all at once,

his eyes flashing red like the heart of the sun

his scales flashing blue like the deepest of seas

the groaning of dragonskin

scraping together

is the only sound heard

apart from the shaking

of mortal knees.

YOUR DEVOTION IS TOUCHING,” he says with a smile, a serpentine grin.

BUT STILL I WILL WIN. IF YOU WON’T STEP ASIDE YOU’LL BE LOST IN THE DIN

OF MY FLAMES.”

The thought of the fiery, terrible breath turning them all to ash

still does not

put the beast in her place

still does not

make her step

to one side

or the other. Her eyes are determined and her stance is strong

though her body shakes like the leaves

in a storm

on trees

too young to weather

it.

A hand on her shoulder makes her stop and turn,

a hand makes her turn in her place

to regard the nymph

with a pale

ashen face

and a quivering form,

her eyes flashing anger

and weary

pain.

“Why do you suffer all this for me, beast I beat and struck aside? Why do you move to help? Let me go with him and meet my own fate- you’re nothing more than a whelp.”

“‘Please yourself’ is what I would say, if I thought I could push it aside. You thwarted me though, you struck me down, and it is for this reason

I will not hide.

I will not save you for any new oath

but the one which i lay down:

if anyone eats you

maid of the grove

it’ll be me, not some

Dragon-like mound.”

The beast shrugs off the nymph’s placating hand, shrugs it off and stares with intent

at the leader of all flying wyrms.

“Go home, scaled one,” she says with a flat

but true steel edge to her voice. “I’m not frightened of you or the things you might do

I fear not the touch of your fire. Fly free and fast, away from this place, or suffer the might of my ire.”

As the King of Dragons’s eyes turn sharp, as they narrow with sudden hate,

the beast of the farlands shrugs off her curse,

her human form starts to abate.

Golden in skin, sleek as a tiger, larger than mountains could warrant,

she grows to a height to match one she’d taken

when battling the nymph of the grove.

Her claws launch forth and out from her fingers, she stands on four and then six legs at once. Her eyes blaze in fire, her heart with desire

for victory?

the spoils?

even she

couldn’t say.

this beast from the farlands

drives humanity

away

from herself.

It sheds in a cloud of sparkling fire, it rushes away in a wave. With a ripple and a sigh, she stands higher than high, an equal

to the King

of the Dragons.

Crouched cat-like

in her tiger’d shape

with claws extended and threatening

she stares at the Dragon King

where his teeth

form a smile

and his wings form a gale

as they beat once

and twice.

“GO HOME, WYRM,” her voice lashes out, terrible to hear, terrible to behold.

“GOLD SKINNED BEAST, COME AND FIGHT FOR YOUR FEAST!”

The Dragon King replies as his laughter dies, caught in a throat filled now

with rage.

 

With a leap and a snarl

that hurls earth like blood

into the air

to cloud it so thickly

the beast from the farlands

meets the king of serpentkind

in a blur

of tooth

and of claw.

“Blood and b-brimstone!” the wizard stammers out, staggering back from the force

of their clash. “What madness

solvable easily

by sacrifice!

One maiden, for this

is the world to end?”

 

Claws rend scales.

Teeth rend skin. Fire washes over and glows through

everything

as blood like molten

bronze flows down

over gold and blueish

skin and scales.

 

Titans push and twist and writhe– the beast’s lashing tail draws furrows in the ground, the dragon’s sharp claws carve tracks.

with every tremendous

terrible

crash

scales

and skin

and fire within

patter

and spatter the torn

and rent earth.

 

thunder sounds

as scales wrenched apart

make noises like dying

stars.

the nymph stands rapt

her heart in her throat

to see

both of them clash

and fight

to see the beast-turned-girl-turned-beast

claw

and bleed

and stagger and twist

and writhe

with the king of wyrms

 

no clear victor arises from the mess

of scales and ragged

strips of gold flesh

no clear winning stumbles away

on that fateful day

that red day

that raw and red and bloody day

not until

that is

with guile, the dragon king rises

laughing all the while

a hideous

choking

coughing noise

from a throat that seems to be patched

or comprised

of naught but scale

bone

and blood

that runs thick and green

down his sides.

VICTORY!” he snarls, then chokes again

and again, coughing blood to the ground

to soak the already

muddy

earth.

 

He rears back his head, so soaked in his own

blood

and draws in a ragged, shuddering breath. His intent is plain– to incinerate the remains

of the village his thrashing

had demolished.

 

A claw

like blood and nightmares

both

bursts forth from the dragon king’s

throat like lightning

like blood red lightning

that patters the ground

in a flood or a torrent

and silence

reigns

supreme.

Over the lord of the wyrms and the drakes

over the lord of the sleeping and wake

over the king of the dragons

over those who watch him

over the beast, who slams him down

snout-first

into

the dust.

 

Poised over

the great dragon’s body

dragonflames still licking her form

the beast of the farlands stands firm in her place

staring down at the fallen wyrm.

Its shape still twists

and turns

and writhes

feebly

helplessly now

 

the beast from the farlands turns to the nymph

and in her eyes

shines something dark

 

rather than shy

away from her fate

she rushes to meet it head on

the maid running up to the great beast’s

side

tucking herself close as can be

 

for a moment

heard stark in silence

is a growl that might be a purr

 

emanating forth

from the beast where it stands

then this too fades

and all that is left

 

is the sound

of the beast’s breathing

is the sound

of the maid’s breathing

and the beast-turned-girl, who stands on two legs instead of four, who wraps torn arms around the maiden- tight

who holds her close

two and one

as blood

thickens

clots

flows

on golden skin

and fire

burning once bright

and now softly

fades behind mischief-worn eyes

 

the beast

her heart slowing,

her breath coming short

holds the nymph as best she can

and held in those arms

she dies.

 

or does she truly?

though breath stops

it is her voice that lifts

to wake the beast from tragedy

as the beautiful grieving creature of the nymph

between her ragged sobs of confused

pain

or perhaps

relief

raises her head

she sees that once more life beats

in the breast

of the girl

who was once

a beast.

No grievous wounds are openly running

with blood like crimson tears.

no terrible flames crack skin like scales

open to the freezing airs

no, all of them close like magic

proposed

by the thoughts of a nymph

distraught.

 

They embrace and more

in sight of the mage

who stands with both arms crossed

and mouth set firmly

agape

 

“Shame upon both of you,” says he who sat back during all of the attack, says the wizard with eyes glowing red. “Shame and more shame! Truly the devils of sickness have caught you-

To touch another woman

as you might touch a man

to feel familiarity of that sort

with all but those

of a manly nature

is nothing more than foolishness

or dalliance

at best.”

 

The nymph flicks a hand

and the wizard is covered

strand by silken

strand

wrapped from head to toe

in vines and roots that grow

from the ground around his feet

before he utters but a word

in defense

he is but meat

angry meat

with eyebrows arched

and face so white with rage

but just meat

and bone

and blood

and skin

without a spell

or a chance to win

his way free

 

he fumes there

silently

while the beast girl and nymph

standing one with the other

tamed

and tamer than

the wild, shadow’d sky

(though not by much)

gaze into one another’s eyes

as like they just met

or

as like they had known one another

would know one another

the rest

of their beautiful

lives.

——-

 

©2013 Sam Oliver (Eris)

——

 

So how long does a poem story hafta be before it’s considered an epic? Longer than this, right? I don’t care. Enjoy, guys. It took me simply FOREVER, but it’s done.

<3s,

Eris