Posts Tagged With: fantasy

The Shell

One day, a man found a shell on the beach. Neither chip nor scratch marred the gold-and-ivory spiral which shimmered in the sunlight, dazzling his eyes. He knelt as if entranced, gentle fingers embracing this prize of the beach.

Cradling the shell, he turned his back to the ocean, thinking of how he would cherish this picture of unblemished beauty. But as he walked, it slipped from his fingers, seemingly of its own accord. It fell and shattered upon a rock.

The man cried out and fell to his knees. As he looked at the ruined fragments, a form took shape in their midst, sprouting to the size of a woman. The man gasped as she knelt beside him, smiling with downturned eyes. “Hello,” she whispered.

He studied her gray eyes and short hair, frowning. “You came from that shell?”

“Yes.” Her smile broadened. “How glorious and free it is out here!”

“But . . . but now my shell is ruined!”

The smile faded. “Yes, but it was only a shell.”

“It was the most beautiful shell on the beach.”

“Was it?” She turned away. “Very well; by all means, gather up the pieces.” Then she stood and without looking back, strode toward the ocean until she was lost from sight, leaving the man with nothing but the shattered fragments of her shell.

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Withering

Here, in the Deep Desert, life evaporated long ago.

These lands were good and fertile once; so I have heard—choice above all the lands of fair Ileora. Though I cannot imagine them in such a state. From afar, the dunes appear as hills of gold, glimmering in the sun, but do not let this picture seduce you. This gold will sooner blind a man than make him rich, or strangle the unprotected throat with a layer of golden mud.

An hour past sunrise, the dunes already waver in the heat. Dust blows on the wind. I drop at the base of a dune, pulling scarfs and robes closer to keep the sand out. I have walked all night; now, I must rest in open daylight, sleep if possible, yet not so soundly that the shifting sands entomb me. Even as I lie, it feels as if this dead land draws upon my life, sapping me, draining every will to rise again.

Yet, when evening comes, I must. When at last the sun drains itself into the western horizon, I will rise, and take up my journey anew, for such death does not hold sway upon all lands. Not yet.

I will rise, if only such strength is given me to outlast the fullness of The Withering.

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Climbing

I climb one of your paths, pine needles crunching beneath me, eyes drifting to the clouds guarding your peak. I will climb until I reach it, even should my leg muscles snap or blood run from the holes in my shoes. Do not tempt me with guilt, for I refuse to believe that I’m running away. No, I’m running forward. Perhaps up there, balanced between heaven and earth, I’ll find the answers I need.

Stand tall then, and take me heavenward; for who but a mountain could reach so near eternity?

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Sun Shower

A billow of darkness rolls from the west. The bruised sky shadows the land, shading all in a sickly twilight. To the east, a sliver of light battles to hold the horizon; but it can not prevail against the undulating squall.

A silver burst batters the darkness; a roll of unearthly drums shivers each blade of grass. All is still now; the air itself holds its breath.

Then, with a gasp, it unleashes all its pent-up energy with the music of wind and water. The deluge rushes to earth, playing each tree and rock and flower like a symphony. On and on it plays, washing the air with its cleansing melody. On and on, until even the darkness begins to break apart.

And then, shards of sunlight stab earthward, drawing warmth from dampened soil. Still, a moment longer, the droplets shower down as from a fountain, the light painting each a brilliant diamond.

And, as the light strengthens and the diamonds taper off, a sharpness lingers. The fragrance of grass is sweeter, the whistle of birds brighter, and the sunlight smells of a laughing brook at daybreak. All is clean; as the sun sets, a new day begins.

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The Sky

I used to lie in the grass, gazing up at the blue canvas stretched from horizon to horizon. My eyes would swim among the clouds, my imagination running free. I knew, somehow, that even if I stood upon the tallest mountain—that aloof, elusive realm would evade my grasp, laughing at my efforts to reach it.

And yet, there were moments—moments when my heart would swell, and Impossibility itself would crumble around me, and I would stretch my hand toward the heavens. And that endless blue would whisper in my ear . . . “reach but a little higher.”

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The Beginning

Author’s note: This is my attempt to write a creation story for the universe in which many of the stories on this blog are set. Please, don’t hesitate to comment with any critiques or suggestions–it’s always helpful to hear your thoughts, as readers, on what works and what doesn’t. Thanks and enjoy! 🙂

In the beginning, it is said, the world came into being through the pen of Jaeoril the Storyteller, the Timeless One. Time, space, and all of creation were but pinpricks in the depths of his imagination until they began to take shape in his mind; and as they did, a yearning swelled within him until it filled all his being, as though it would pour from the doors of his heart if he would but open them.

So, taking up a scroll, he stretched it across the void surrounding him, and began to write, for he could not contain the story which unfolded within his mind. The images flowed forth from his pen, translating to words upon the parchment. And the words were perfect, of a language only Jaeoril will ever know, for their power exceeds all creation.

As the tale took form upon the scroll, so it arose about him. A word was written, and light burst forth, leaving darkness behind as it sped through the void of space. Colors of immortal brilliance obeyed every command of his pen, spiraling and glimmering with life. There were clouds of mist, suspended and shapeless. Beings not entirely unlike himself, though less in power, began to walk within the story incarnate. To each he gave a portion of his own power, according to their kind, and the mind and will to govern themselves. Those to whom he gave the keys of life and death, he called the Toriel; the rest, whose abilities pertained to light and darkness, he called the Gadiel.

By and by, a sphere of green and blue took shape in the midst. From it blew warm breezes to graze his face as he wrote, bearing with it the many fragrances of saltwater, mud, grass, leaves, and rock. This sphere he called Aeolarea, and breathed his life upon her. And from deep within her arose beings who, like the Toriel and the Gadiel, possessed no physical forms–though they soon learned to acquire them. These he called the Fyrbein, whose power was of fire; the Aeobein, masters of water; and the Gwynbein, whose strength was the wind.

And after these, many other creatures awoke upon Aeolarea’s surface—creatures as numerous and varied as the lands themselves. The greatest of these were a diverse race called the Dragons, who did not, as the legends say, breathe fire. Many were giants among creation, though some were small; and most possessed an intelligence that rivaled that of the Toriel.

And so the story was written, whether in moments or centuries, none can say. And some believe it continues, that even to this day the Storyteller has not ceased his writing. But, in the beginning, all of creation responded to the musings of his pen–playing out his story as actors upon a living stage.

Alas that free will inevitably breeds dissatisfaction. But therein lies a tale for another time.

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Luwase

At the base of a dune, two children cowered in the scant shade of a black reaper cactus. The little girl’s tears turned the sand to mud as her brother attempted to remove hundreds of spines from her side and back. The only plant in sight, the cactus had appeared a fountain of hope from the dune’s crest; but she had lost her footing on the way down, and the fountain became a curse.

He tore a large strip from an inner fold of his robe, where less sand clung to the coarse cloth. He pressed it to her swollen, discolored skin, knowing his efforts were futile. The demon plant would not spare her. He hadn’t the skill to close black reaper wounds; and even if he had, he hadn’t the medicine to cure the poisoning.

The girl’s dark eyes slid gradually shut as he held her in his lap. Hopelessness threatened to bury her brother alive beneath the burning sand. His eyes pierced every inch of the deserted landscape, grasping for inspiration.

Horse, he thought suddenly, and felt sure the sun must be frying his reason. Horse. He searched his muddled memory. An old man from his village had once taught him to call the horses. . . .

“Ha’ya’hna’hno’ho,” he rasped, then louder: “Ha’ya’hna’hno’ho!”

Agonizing moments passed, and at first he feared he imagined the sound of hoofs galloping over the dunes. Then he saw it, as if flying from a dream: red coat shining in the sun, black mane and tale flashing like ravens in flight. A trail of dust rose up in its wake, and . . . wings! Wings like an eagle’s grew from the beast’s withers, or were his eyes deceiving him?

The horse stopped beside them, shading them, and knelt and nuzzled the little girl. The lad wanted to weep for joy. He stood, legs trembling as his own weakened state at last began to manifest. He lay his sister atop the horse’s back, then pulled himself up behind her. “Please,” he whispered, stroking the black mane. “We need food and water . . . and a healer.”

The horse nickered softly, tossed its head, then took off at a gallop.

The lad gripped its sides with his knees, clutching the mane with one hand, his other arm wrapped around his sister. The desert flew by in a blur; not even the undulating dunes could slow the beast. And yet, he had never known a horse who galloped so smoothly. He felt the lack of food and water, and fear for his sister, crashing over him, and the horse’s gentle gallop rocking him to sleep. He last remembered the black wings beating in time with the legs, carrying them through the barren land.

He awoke lying atop soft white sheets, staring at a grass roof. He sat up, looking frantically about the small room.

“Have no fear, lad,” a kind voice came from the doorway. “She is sleeping in the other room.”

His eyes followed the voice to a tall man with graying dark hair. “She’s alive?”

“Alive and out of danger now.”

The lad relaxed a little, his exhaustion returning. “The horse . . . ?”

“He lingered long enough to assure you two would be okay. Then he galloped off as though called back to the wilderness.”

“He saved us.”

“Yes, he has saved many. He is called Luwase, and he bears the strength of the wind. He answers to no mortal master; yet a few in this forsaken world have known the blessing of his acquaintance.”

“I didn’t even remember to thank him.” the lad sighed. “Could I see my sister? I’ll have quite a tale to tell her when she awakes.”

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Books

What if I told you a horse could fly?

If I spoke of the heroes who slayed the great monsters, or swordmaidens riding to battle? If I claimed a river could speak your own tongue, that a star could take human form . . . what would you say? If a ring or a key held the fate of all, what then?

What if I showed you the hope in a raindrop, the love in a heartbeat, the courage in stone? What if dragons and centaurs and talking animals could restore your faith in humanity?

Open my pages, and I will show you.

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Desert Flower

The dampness of a gray predawn awoke me. Low on the eastern horizon, a narrow strip of sky glowed the color of heated iron. I had slept too long.
Taking my pack camel by the rein, I trudged untrodden sand toward the growing light, a sense of urgency pressing me into a trot.
But as I feared, the sun soon overtook me. Uninhibited, its unforgiving rays rained upon the sand, stifling any tender sprouts the morning dew might have coaxed from it. The light reflected by the pale sand blinded my eyes and convinced me I had walked into a forge.
I collapsed beneath the shade of my camel, questing the rolling sands through squinting eyes. Why had I not arisen early, before the sun? The power of the Deep Desert in daytime could evaporate strength like dew.
The green shoot caught my vision like the North Star on a moonless night. I crawled for it, uncaring as the sand burned my hands. A single cactus-colored stalk stood unbending from a clump of green, smooth as the shaft of an arrow. A many-petaled flower, blue with a heart of white, crowned the stalk.
The flower basked in the sun as if drawing strength from its heat. Carefully, I broke it off near the earth. Then I drank the cool liquid from the stem, and tasted the sugar of each petal as it melted upon my tongue.
I felt my heart pounding anew. The tightness in my legs began to loosen. I stood and led my camel deeper into the desert.
Reason would insist I encountered a mirage. But I never knew a mirage could taste so sweet.

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Bitter Rain

For a fortnight, the sun had beaten ruthlessly upon the land; but this morning, turbulent clouds overtook the sky. Though they offered relief and softened the glare of the sand, a sense of unease grew upon the band of travelers. Something felt wrong; it seemed as though the very air held its breath.

Suddenly, a field of bones rolled out before them, lying not as scattered remains of an unearthed grave, but as complete skeletons stripped of skin and muscle.

The leader of the party, a man called Amnor, stood from observing the nearest corpse, which lay sprawled upon the road as though struck in the midst of fleeing. “Only dry bones remain,” he said, gripping an unscathed rib bone, “and not one is broken or cracked.” He pressed the rib against his thigh, snapping it only after an effort. The center was still red with marrow.

No one spoke as they continued along their path, alert to the surrounding wilderness.

Far overhead the boiling clouds took on a color of sickness. Jeb and Halian, two young members of the group, continuously glanced skyward; Amnor and a strange armed woman, Mairi, kept their eyes ahead, faces betraying perplexity and perhaps fear. Avasa, Amnor’s sister and the youngest of the group, glanced nervously between each of her compatriots. Rain had not graced these lands in their lifetimes, Amnor had said. Dread not entirely from the mystery of the bones tightened iron fingers on the girl’s heart.

At length, they came upon what might once have been a village. Partially decayed stone blocks stacked atop each other produced the outline of homes, walls, a well, irrigation canals. Withered crops and shrubs poked from the sand. Nothing stirred within the ruin, not a lizard or a sand spider. A pale dust, like smoke or miniscule sand particles, drifted upon the air.

They followed a once-paved pathway into the village and noted a sudden increase of bones. They cluttered the streets, the fields, the interiors of roofless buildings. A foul stench lay upon the place, whether of rotted flesh or something else, they could not say.

Avasa poked her head inside the first crumbling home. Nothing less durable than stone remained; and even that was pocked with holes. All appeared in one stage or another of decay.

She felt as though she had stepped into the past and now explored some ancient ruin; yet the crops, the stench, and the marrow in the bones confirmed this town had lived not long ago.

A queer mood came upon her then. Each step she took suffocated in utter silence. The dry mist dampened her sight. Her feet began to stumble and her eyelids grew heavy, though dusk was still hours away. She felt a grip upon her arm, and somewhere in the depths of her mind, Mairi’s words languished without meaning: “Avasa, you must stay awake. It’s taking her, Amnor!”

Her consciousness then plunged into turmoil. She struggled against it, though she knew not what she battled or why. She saw Mairi running, felt her pulling Avasa along. Everything looked stood up on its side, as though she ran sideways along the wall. Her vision faded to black, and she heard many fell voices speaking at once in a language she did not understand. Terror pierced every part of her, yet she felt paralyzed. She could not run from it or fight it or cry out. Images of fire burned across the blackness, and a pouring rain which fed the fire. A voice screamed somewhere far away. The voices of her companions, shouting to each other, cut through all else.

Her body slammed to the floor, and her sight returned. She gagged on the stench of burning and decay. Voices cried out in pain, and from some unknown distance Amnor was shouting, “Under the table!”

Above all there was a noise like rushing wind, or an approaching sandstorm. But when she looked, she saw rain. She gazed out in wonder upon the liquid deluge she recognized only from legend; but a sense of death remained. The rain bore the same sickly green as the clouds from which it fell.

As more and more she returned to herself, she saw she sat beneath a slab of stone, perhaps a table. Mairi hissed from beside her, tearing open what appeared a burned hole in one leg of her trousers. The skin underneath had acquired a deep pink-black wound, charred so it could not bleed. “What happened?” Avasa asked, reaching by instinct for one of the medicines in her pack.

“The rain. It burns like fire. Some new devilry,” she added through clenched teeth. “Are you well?”

“I suppose I am now.”

As if in answer to Avasa’s unasked question, the older woman indicated the exposed interior of the house and the village outside. The rain had already ceased. “The dust still hangs in the air,” said Mairi. “Here on the floor we are beneath its reach, but we must find the others. Cover your face. Do not breathe it in. I fear it is of the same source as the rain.”

They found the men inside neighboring houses, emerging from beneath stone tables. They sat on the floor, bowing beneath the dust, and Avasa and Mairi tended their wounds. Then they stood, pulling scarves across their faces, and ran until the village was but a dune of stones far behind them. The clouds rolled away, the bright desert seemingly returned to itself. They rested only for a moment. “Come,” Amnor said. “We must put behind us as many miles as possible before nightfall.”

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