January 2014 Competition (Rejection)
RPGX Short Story Contest #47 - January 2014
Submissions & Details Thread
Open to everyone. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will gather all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winner of each month's contest will, in turn, choose the topic for the following month's contest.
Genre: Any Fiction
Topic: Rejection (Any Interpretation or Rephrasal Valid)
Challenge: Somewhere in your story include: an inheritance, a woodshed, and a dead bug
Suggested Word Limit: 500 - 3000 words.
Deadline for entries: February 1st, 2014
There is a maximum of 16 entries total in this contest. If there are more than 16 entries in any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme. This will not necessarily be on a first come, first serve basis.
When posting your story, please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story. And please remember to include your name/username!
If there are any questions, please PM Aethera or use the Coffee Shop. Please do not clog up this thread with questions or comments. This thread is for submissions only.
As of August 1st, 2012 the competition threads are being moderated by the story fairy Aethera. I (Aethera) have no offsite contact with Klazzform, but I'll keep things going.
Thanks and good luck!
Stop by and visit the DnDOG Short Story Competition in the Library. Show your support by voting for the story of the month!
Last edited by Aethera; 01-01-2014 at 03:25 PM.
This is an example of how your submissions should be formatted before posting them for review.
One Last Time by Klazzform [2,329 Words]
He sat in his tent, sheathed in sweat and steel. His squire had left a few moments earlier to ready his horse for the competition. The smell of polished steel hung thick inside the humid canvas dwelling, but he did not seem to notice it as he sat, head down, elbows resting on his knees with hands clasped together in front of him.
“One more time.” He told himself. “Just one more time and you can leave it all behind. Kaolin and the boys can live the lives they deserve and I can sit on the porch and watch the corn grow in the fields.”
Outside the crowd roared as someone took a fall or gained the upper hand on his opponent. Thoughts of his family drifted through his mind as he prayed for the strength to triumph once more. He was getting up in age, nearing his mid forties, and competing against men half his age. The new techniques applied to the art kept him on his toes, but nothing could save him from his failing reflexes. Experience maybe, and pure determination, but even those two things would only take a man so far. Sooner or later there was always someone just a bit faster and just a bit more cunning.
He had been the court favorite for two decades, ever since winning the joust in the Winter Fields Tourney where he had met his wife, Kaolin. He had seen her in the stands there, and as any young knight would have done, he rode over two her and asked her to favor him with a trinket of her support. She had blushed at his attention and if he had not been in love with her before, he fell for her then. He rode the entire tourney with her scarf tied to his arm and he had gone undefeated.
They had been married soon after. The king at that time had awarded him a small piece of land, and with some of the gold he had already managed to squirrel away, they built a small house on top of a hill and lived happily ever after. His first son was born a year later and Kaolin had insisted that he bear his fathers name. It was the proudest moment of his life and even to this day he cannot think of a fonder memory, unless it was the birth of his second son, Tampson.
Both of the boys were home now, taking care of their mother. Cordan was twenty and Tampson was fifteen. He had seen to it that they stayed out of the family business only with threats of physical harm and bribes. Still it had been a hard thing to do, for what man would not aspire to ride gallantly into battle with king and country looking on and cheering his name? It was only after Kaolin had stepped in and put her foot down as well, that Cordan had agreed to go to school and learn the law. He was now working at court, arguing cases with skill that was known throughout the land. He still came home, though, when his father was away and tended to his mother and the farm.
Tampson was the easier of the two, and although he also shared the knightly gene, he had a more scientific mind. He could often be found out in the fields, staring intently at an insect or a plant and cataloging specifics about them in, what now amounted to, a library of notebooks. He would be a great one, Cordan knew. Such men changed the world in which they lived in and he looked forward to the day when his sons name was spoken by the masses.
Outside the tent the crowd was working itself into a frenzy. He knew the two knights who were now battling in the ring. They were good men and nothing serious should befall either of them, but accidents did happen even in this day and time. He had seen more than his share of blood shed in two decades to last him the rest of his life. While the crowd thought of the tourneys as mock battle, the steel was still real and you had to be a little bit insane to ride against another man in the lists. Cordan himself had been struck unconscious on more than one occasion and had the scars of a hundred battles to prove his metal. He had also killed in a man with a lance when he had been young and foolish. It was deemed an accident at the time, and well it had been, but looking back on it with the experience that he now possessed, he knew that things could have gone differently that day.
His squire appeared at the door. He was a young lad, not much older than Tampson.
“Their almost through, Sire.” He said. His face was flushed with the excitement of youth…and ignorance. One day he will learn, Cordan thought. “Sir Flagon has dismounted Sir Lacier and they’re going at it with the blades now! I don’t think Sir Lacier is going to last much longer, Sire. When he was dismounted it was with a wicked blow and he still seems off his guard.”
Grunting with the effort, Sir Cordan rose from his bench and picked up his helmet. “Then shall we see how it plays out?” He did not enjoy dampening the youngsters spirits and indulged his youthful ignorance whenever possible.
“Aye, Sire!” The boy was practically chomping at the bit. “I have General Kenzy saddled and ready to go. He’s right outside…and with a mean look in his eye I might add.”
Cordan smiled. “Then run along and see that you don’t get into too much trouble. And keep yourself handy when it is our turn.”
“Yes Sire!” The boy dashed off so quickly that he left behind a trail of dust.
With one last thought to his family, Cordan stepped from the tent and out into the tourney grounds. All around him were other tents, all of different colors and all flying the flags of the knights that were sponsored within them. In front of the tents was a long arena where hundreds of people were seated, screaming like lunatics and enjoying every minute of it.
Taking General Kenzy’s reigns he led the massive horse around to the starting position where several other knights were standing, watching the battle that was unfolding on the floor of the arena. Sir Flagon did indeed appear to be holding the upper hand as he repeatedly pounded Lacier across the heavy armor that incased his shoulders. Lacier appeared to be badly winded and a giant dint marred the surface of his chest plate. His face was deep red and he was sweating profusely as he attempted to ward off the other knights blows.
Cordan had seen it before. The knights armor was inhibiting his breathing. The dint that had been put there by the blow of a lance was exerting pressure on the mans ribcage and was not allowing him to take a full, deep breath. As he watched Flagon moved in fast, feigning a blow to Lacier’s head and when the knight went to block it, Flagon hooked an armored boot around the back of Lacier’s knee and brought the man to his knees in a cloud of dust.
The roar of the crowd was too loud to hear anything, but Cordan saw Sir Flagon’s lips move as he asked for a yield and Lacier tossed his sword down into the dust. Reaching down to his defeated opponent, Sir Flagon lifted him from the ground and raised both of their fists into the air. The crowd went wild and even Cordan applauded the sportsmanship of the move.
Now there would be a pause as the crowd settled down and the arena was cleared. Several of the knights that had been standing with Cordan clapped him on the shoulders, wishing him luck. Mounting General Kenzy, Cordan placed his helmet on his head and adjusted the leather straps. Looking around he was pleased to see his squire was already there with his lance and he took it from the boy, winking at him through the eye slits.
One more time, he thought and rode out into the arena with his wife’s scarf tied to his arm. The crowd, who had quieted down to a dull murmur, erupted at the sight of their favorite as he made his way into the arena He did a slow circuit around the ring not even bothering to lead the General. The horse knew the way and Cordan would have bet the homestead that the animal loved it even more than fresh oats and young mares. When he came to where the royalty was seated he doffed his faceguard and bowed in the saddle. The king and queen bowed back to him while the princess, with her ladies in waiting, giggled behind concealing hands and blushing cheeks.
His fans appeased and the royalty seated he rode his steed to the starting area and faced his opponent. The list field was nothing more than a circular dirt track about fifty yards long with a wooden fence about four feet high erected down the center. Each opponent started with their shielded right arm closest to the divider and their lances in their left hand. The lances were long, wooden poles, about twelve feet in length and made of soft wood that broke on impact. They were tipped with a blunt end which, in turn, was covered by a small bag of sand. When charging an opponent the lance was crossed across the body and tucked into the pit of the left arm. The object, of course, was to dismount or equally disable your opponent by striking him with the tip of the lance. Once this was accomplished, if the dismounted party did not yield then and there, then both men met on the field to let their blades finish the dispute.
Cordan’s opponent was a knight, newly dubbed by the same king who was now seated in the stands. Cordan did not know him, but he knew the type and unless he was far off his mark, the boy would be out to make a name for himself. It was going to be brutal. Lowering his faceguard, he raised his lance in a salute and the man across the field from him did the same, signaling his readiness.
“Lets do it boy!” Cordan hissed and the General leapt from the starting position, charging like beast of half his years across the field to meet his foe.
When they met in the middle both men scored hits, their lances shattering against the other mans shield. Cordan was staggered and almost went out of his saddle, but managed to hang on and circle around to the starting position again.
His squire was waiting with a fresh lance and he took it from him with some small effort, his ribcage protesting loudly. Once more they charged and once more they struck. This time it was the young knights turn to feel the power of the blow as he was knocked back onto his mounts flanks and barely managed to hang on. He rode back to his starting position clutching his chest and glancing warily at Cordan.
It was on the third charge that disaster struck. Whether it was a faulty lance, or perhaps the young knight wanted the title more than Cordan had believed, no one could tell, but when they met in the center once more and their lances struck, the young knight’s did not break properly. Instead it flexed like a bow, exerting enormous pressure on both riders and when it finally broke it sounded like a cannon shot. The forward piece flew off into the crowd, knocking a spectator unconscious, and the jagged end, angled sharply upward pierced Cordan’s chest plate and embedded in his lung.
He was laying on his back in a cloud of dust. The crowd was screaming and he tasted blood. Get up, he told himself, but something felt wrong and when he tried to rise, his fellow knights were all around, holding him down. One of them removed his helmet and he saw the jagged piece of wood sticking out of his chest. He knew then that this was indeed his last tourney.
He coughed and felt blood rising in his throat. Someone called for a physician and one came, but he only shook his head and made discouraging sounds. The crowd was silent for once and he gestured to his squire who was standing back from it all with an ashen face. When the boy came he knelt by his lord in the dust and Cordan could see tears in his eyes.
“No tears for me boy.” He said, clasping the youngsters hand in his own. “You’ve been a good lad and I’ll not have you wasting tears on some old fool that didn’t know when to quit.” He smiled. “There’s a chest in the tent and a key in my pocket. Take the contents to my family and tell them that I love them. Take a bit for yourself as well, or stay on with them if you like. You couldn’t do any better, I can promise you that.”
The darkness was falling now. He knew it for what it was and he did not fear it. Only sadness pierced his thoughts at the end and as his life flashed before him in the last moment, it was Kaolin who was there at the last.
The squire rose to his feet when the old knight was gone and walked to the tent. Opening the chest he withdrew the gold that he knew was there and loaded it onto General Kenzy. Without looking back they walked away to a far off place and a house on a hill.
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Last edited by Aethera; 11-02-2013 at 01:52 PM.
Death's Embrace (1104 Words)
Light stabbed through the holes and crevices of the woodshed’s warped boards, shafts of brilliance in the dark interior like the rays of the sun through fissures in dense dark clouds. In that light dust danced and floated lazy courses determined by the movement of air, back and forth as if the woodshed breathed, lived; a thinker’s breathing, chin on fist, slow and haphazard, punctuated by forgetful unnatural pauses brought about by the chasing of dreams. Josua joined the woodshed, one deep breath and a pause, and then blew it through pursed lips. The dust agitated and swirled counterclockwise as if an invisible tornado was born in that small space, infinite pieces spun in and out of the light, occasionally flaring, reflecting that brilliance until pushed into the dark and lost. It took some time before he could smell the burning of the main house. Josua huddled between two stacks of wood and he knew they would find him.
Next week was his twelfth birthday, his coming of age, and his mother had made plans for just the two of them. But now she lay burning in the fire they had set upon the main house. He knew that to be true just as he knew which stars to look upon for Guidance, that the East Wind’s words were mean in spirit, the South Wind lazy, the West Wind lies, and the North Wind cold truth. She had taught him those things. Taught him how to hold power and when to let it die. That joy was in planting seeds in black earth with your hands and watering them every day rather than making them sprout and seem to live when they should not. That careful care beat forced success, or success bought through power alone. She had taught him these things not because he had power she did not, but because he was hers. A life she had brought into being with her own body, without Rune, or Number, or Word.
Josua started crying, the tears giant upon his face until they coalesced and ran toward his chin. He could see her eyes as she pushed him out the back door and told him to run just minutes before they had arrived. But he couldn’t go far. He hadn’t the strength. He could see what her eyes said. How much she loved him even as his teenage boyhood had fought and rejected the passing of her bloodline to him, that he should listen more closely than believe he was right because of the greatness of power he could bring into being. He tried not to sob. He tried.
Brushing away the tears, he found a small ladybug at his feet, three spots upon its back, two on the left and one on the right. Three was his Number, born the Third Day of the Third Month of a Third Cycle. Picking it up, he could tell it was dead, legs curled up upon it in those last moments as if trying to be small and hide, perhaps thinking Death would overlook it. He remembered bringing things back. First it was small things, spiders and frogs. He was too young to see, too young to notice how those things he brought back moved, how they were not the same. How it was wrong. His mother would find him, breathing hard, and nervously ask him what he had done. Power like that makes a loud sound to any with the ears to hear it.
The dead do not like to return.
You’ll find out.
Touching the ladybug, Josua disobeyed his Mother’s warning once again. He had done the same yesterday, rejecting his Mother’s advice and sending his invisible mark high into the sky by performing all his chores at once with but two words, his power like the finale of a 4th of July fireworks. The ladybug stirred in his hand, flipping over after a few tries. Josua bent close and whispered to it, apologizing for his need, and asking forgiveness. In response, the ladybug unfurled black gossamer wings from under its red carapace and lifted into the air. It careened through the small space of the woodshed like a school bus weaving through traffic and then out through the sliver of air between sprung boards, three white spots upon a red background glinting in the rays of light. Josua held his breath and the woodshed obliged. He knew what bringing the ladybug back to life would feel like, how loud it would call those that hunted through the burning house for him.
His eyes were closed when she returned to him, settled upon the curve of his upper ear, her antennae brushing his skin revealing what she had seen. Josua gently took her in his hand and let her go. The ladybug curled up upon itself and rolled over, legs bent, as if finding a comfortable position to rest, glad to be dead again. By then, the smoke was thick inside the woodshed as he stood and blew it apart, obliterated it completely. He had no choice. Thirteen stood around the shed in a circle at perfect intervals, men and women wearing lettered jackets; FBI, CIA, DEA. The hunters had people in all organizations. It allowed them to more easily find and become aware of people like Josua and his mother. It made it easier to kill them and rid the earth of their existence.
Others would come when these first thirteen did not report in, uncertain after no contact. They would find the bones of these original hunters in the exact positions they had occupied, arranged in a circle in thirteen perfect intervals, stacked up neatly as if the flesh had been stripped from them where they had stood. Josua left his footprints burned into the grass, the mica in the soil turned to glass. One doesn’t think of such things in moments like this. Not when they’re twelve.
He staggered into the forest behind the house. It took him months to make it out while his pursuers had become hopelessly lost trying to follow and end him. The forest has a mind and will of its own. By then he preferred the darkness of covering trees and understood why the things he brought back were not the same. Returning to life after the comfort of its ending, they found the bright light of life’s memories too painful, the agony of life remembered after the dark warm waters of death had washed them away and one was at peace.
Regret is something the living carry Josua.
The dead have no need of it.
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Last edited by GeneT; 01-13-2014 at 11:52 PM.
Running down the back lane between old wooden buildings, a teenage girl pelts past in the humid night. She has a box under her arm. It is small, heavy, and it slows her so. The scritch-scratching sound of her driving footsteps echoes off the walls. To her they sound impossibly loud. Deep shadow aside a building ahead grabs her attention.
An addition of some sort?
It beckons. She slides into the dark corner and drops prone on her stomach, raising a small cloud of dust. Listening hard she leans her head left and right, straining. She tries to locate the pursuer but can only hear the wheezing bellow of her own lungs in the still night air.
Many minutes pass, there is no sound and her breathing slows. The small cloud of dust she kicked up settles with impossible slowness as she waits. Clearly visible in the moonlight, it floats on gentle eddies and thins, this way and that, curling, and thins again, fading by degrees until it is no more. Everything is finally still again, just her pounding pulse distracts her now and she listens again.
A rock is digging into her ribs.
It’s time to move.
She slowly pushes against her palms, preparing to rise. SHE STOPS!
There. Just where the dust was settling.
Something was wrong, a new shadow, or a deeper one at least.
A FOOT! Hovering an inch of the ground.
Now that she recognizes the foot, the rest can be traced with her eye. A leg, knee, a torso, neck and finally… his face. That long lean face, the stubbly cheeks and the subtle shine of his black silk cloak. Uncle.
He doesn’t see her... Yet.
"I can smell your perfume Corelle." He muses. "Give me the stone and you can go free."
He waits…Listening. "Eh Corelle? What are you going to do? Resurrect bunnies in the forest? Please, I can do much good with it."
More waiting, she was starting to sweat.
"Come now, I’ll even pay you for it. A hundred thousand…Eh Corelle? How’s a hundred thousand sound?"
He tilts his head listening a moment more, and then floats further down the alley. The girl gets up silently.
It is then that she notices the door around the back side. It’s not an addition, it’s a separate structure, pressed close. She tries the handle and the door swings inward silently. The smell of fresh cut wood, Cedar and Tamarack assault her nostrils.
The perimeter of the shed is stacked to the roof with fresh split wood. Cords and cords of it. In the corner on the floor is a small collection of sealed glass jars. Perhaps six, but she has not time to investigate further. On the far wall, framed by the wood stacks, is a small, dirty window which looks out into the alley. She puts the heavy box quietly on the floorboards, and tiptoeing, she flits across and peers out.
Nothing is moving.
Straining to see further down the alley she leans her head to the edge of the glass and looks hard left along the wall outside. Her heart stops as she looks straight into a lean pale face, straight into Uncle’s eyes!
Yanking back she drops and plasters herself against the woodpile beneath the window. Seconds later his hand deftly lifts the window and he crouches to look through the small opening, trying to penetrate the darkness without much success.
"Please Corelle! Please."
"It’s MY inheritance." She shrieks back, breaking her silence.
"So it IS you in there my love." He answered coolly.
Slowly he reaches through the window. His open hand palm up and his large ruby ring flashing in a shaft of moonlight.
"GIVE ME the Phoenix Stone Corelle." He ordered, a hint of anger now leaking into his voice.
The young teen rolled away from the window, she scrambled to the corner with the jars, knocking them alarmingly askance in a rolling, clinking, cacophony. She lifted one up to the light and smiled wickedly.
Boys will be boys.
The savage expression is off-putting on such an innocent face. Crouched in the darkness she started to chant quickly and rhythmically. The man heard her voice, he felt the energy roll through the ground. It warmed his toes. He yanked his hand from the window and took a step back. He knew her ability, the one spell she could manage. But manage it she could, and it was something to behold.
"What are you doing my niece? "He half grated, rising to finish in a half yell.
She chanted faster holding the jar to the light so she could watch her pet transform. In the glowing sliver of moonlight she watched the centipede race around the bottom of the jar. Nearing the climax of her spell she unscrewed the perforated lid and opened the jar. There was a loud bubbling and a painful clicking screech as the centipede grew exponentially, exploding out of the jar. Fattening and elongating it doubled again, and again, and again, until it was five feet long. A powerful, hideous, nightmare creeper. Her uncle outside the window could not see the monster as it crouched low on its hundred legs below the window. Crouched and waiting for Corelle’s direction. It raged against Corelle’s hold but to no avail, it was hers now, until she released it. It had grown so fast, it’s body was starved for energy. Wracked with pain it wanted only one thing, the one thing that dominated its mind utterly. To eat.
There was a long moment when no one spoke. Not the Uncle. Not the niece.
…The uncle broke it first.
"This was your choice my Corelle." He uttered angrily.
Outstretching his arm the ruby ring flared to life. Fire appeared at his fingertips, and spreading quickly it licked around his hand growing in intensity until the hand was white hot. Corelle didn't see the light through the window until it was almost too late.
"GOOOO! "She screamed at the centipede.
With blinding speed the insect raced up the wood pile to the window. It was met on the sill by a concentrated cone of searing fire which incinerated the racing monstrosity as fast as it raced out the window. The heat blurred the world and Corelle screamed, cowering from the furnace. The wall of the shed was ablaze and the window glass sagged, slumped and then flopped melting from the now ashen pane. The molten glass fell onto the floor of the woodshed with a heavy splash. Inside Corelle screamed in pain wiping a sizzling glob from her shin along with a blistering strip of skin. And then, with a sizzling *POP*. The fire stopped. The heat stopped and the back end of the centipede fell back into the now burning shack, legs snapping into crunchy burnt pieces.
The man stepped again to the window opening. With a wave of his hand the flames extinguished and he looked in, spotting the shaking girl instantly. He held out his hand.
"The Phoenix Stone Corelle. "He repeated.
Trembling she crawled to the box and opened the lid. A glittering sapphire shone coolly back.
NOW! He demanded.
She plucked out the gemstone and felt its cool power run through her. The red angry skin of her right side seemed so much worse by comparison, and the blistered mess of her shin was throbbing, almost unbearable. But. She had an idea. The resurgence of light behind her got her attention though and she turned to see her uncle staring back at her, his hand ablaze once more.
"Don’t. "He warned, searching her eyes for motive.
She could not meet the gaze and she looked at the floor. Slowly, shaking and whimpering, she crawled back towards the window. The floor was hot, covered in charred remains and she forced herself to stand. Head bowed, she held out her hands, one atop the other, as if presenting a holy artifact to the heavens.
The man held out his other hand and kept the blazing one trained on her. She looked up into the man’s eyes and held them. Just for a moment. And then she placed her hands over his and opened them. The glowing gem fell heavily into the man’s palm and so… did something else. Something she had been holding in the other hand, hidden. A tiny piece of burnt debris. The man felt it but thought it only dirt, the possibility never even registered. Stepping back from the window he squeezed the gem tight in his grasp, felt its cool rush of power and marvelled in triumph
"FINALLY. Its MINE."
There was a crackle of blue light from between his fingers and he laughed again in triumph. Louder now. For the world to hear.
He looked back at his niece, wobbling unsteady in the woodshed, and raised his glowing hand.
"Sorry Love. "
No! Can’t trust ANYONE.
Aiming down his raised his arm he stopped. His fingers, the ones holding the gem were shaking, were prying apart. Uncle held fast. Confused. And then... He realized what was happening.
The charred piece was a sliver of a foot. A centipede foot. With gruesome force his hands were peeled back, the Phoenix Stone dropped on the gravel of the lane and from that sliver of foot it grew. The creature grew much as it did before, explosively and grotesquely. It wrapped its sinuous body around the man. She did nothing to stop it. Hundreds of gripping hook like feet scratching and clawing as the pinchers took fist sized bites with blinding speed. His screams split the night and Corelle watched in horror, repulsed yet fascinated, as the monster devoured her uncle, head first. A wicked grin split her face as she bent and picked up more charred remains. Yelping she clambered painfully through the window. She had to hurry.
"Stop." She ordered her pet.
It took a final savage bite and slithered off the body. Corelle limped gingerly over and picked up the glowing blue stone. She placed another piece of charred centipede in her hand with the stone…and squeezed.
Minutes later she limped out of the alley mouth and headed for the forest with seven giant centipedes racing along beside her. Up the buildings, under benches, and around tree trunks they followed. Racing from shadow to shadow just like their former little predator selves, but now bigger and far more terrible. The sounds of the watch could be heard in the distance.
They found the body.
Come my pets. She beckoned disappearing into the tree line.
No one is EVER going to lay a hand on me again.
Last edited by Tongue; 01-17-2014 at 06:29 PM. Reason: punctuation
Colus sat on an outcrop of mountain that overlooked the Unending Green, well above the tops of the tallest pines that cast long shadows over their shorter kin during the sunset. The animal-skinned tents were adorned with paint from blue dye and strings of stones hanging from the doorframes, said as they were to ward off the ghosts that danced in the Unending. But it seemed as though the fetishes were not infalible.
R'fa had been sitting on a grassy boulder, looking out to where the green faded into the gold on the horizon. For a man of his tribe he was not unusual: leather and wool leggings, a cloak of wolf fur to cover his bare chest and symbolize his warrior status. His young face was aged with grief that cut lines into his tanned face, more insidiously that the scars left by the former owner of his cloak. Eyes that looked out over the land saw further, and yet nowhere at all.
Most of his kin respected his need for solitude, so few were outside of their tents this evening. When he heard the scuffle of knees and foot on dirt, he knew that it was the apprentices leaving his own abode, which he shared with his wife. With no great passion, he hefted himself from his perch and passed the robed ones as they filtered out.
Inside, a small ring of fire surrounding a cooking stone illuminate his bride, as she lay wasting away on her bed. The scent of the shaman's medicines mixed with that of uncleaness. So different from the honey and flower aroma that used to dominate that spring, and now those plants that coloured the room in violet and white were now withered and brown, an apt mirror of how things had come to be. The shaman's cloak was of feather and wool, and in her tattooed hand she held the woman's face, and a half-empty concoction of desicated insects and crushed moss in the other. She turned to R'fa, not immediately, only once the man had knelt with him.
"It did not work. The medicine flowed through D'rii, but the flower remained. It will not stop it's eating of her ."
A flower, of all of the things. Some flowers were good for dyeing, some were sugary and could be eaten. Unfortunately, his wife had unknowingly strayed too far into the Unending, past the shelter where timber was left to dry. She'd discovered an enticing bud, fiery and alive, and in her folly swallowed the thing. It would not leave her belly, and her body could not absorb it. Nothing that belonged to the Unending belonged to a man of Colus.
From under a cowl, the shaman continued quietly, "You will need to say goodbye, soon."
R'fa's face turned inward in anger. "D'rii is my love. She will not die."
"Will alone will not cure her of this. One way or another, there is no time left."
Sadly, the feathered woman rose and moved to the door. Before she disappeared outside, she said "However you decide, I shall have my children bring her to the stones," and then made the usual farewell that consisted of the wishing of luck and thanks; a common word amongst their tribe to thank the host for allowing them to share their tent. Then R'fa was alone again, with the comatose form of his wife lying before him.
Truly she was thin. Bone pressed through stretched skin. It would only be time before the flower would take her heart.
Kissing her once, that was his farewell. Before it was one way, or the other.
Outside once more, he sat upon the stone that itself sat on the edge of the outcrop. Wind brushed the tufts of long grass on his legs, but now it was his body that experienced nothing only. His eyes pierced the horizon once more, but this time he saw everything about the land as the sun slowly hid behind mountains and coated the forests in shadow. The Unending. It was not a place that a man could ever own, as it had it's own mind. Many of one. An anti-thesis of what it was be human.
The question that played through his head, was how much was that worth?
When the stars lit the dark sky R'fa knew that there was indeed no more time. But it was not until he took his last, halting step into the ring of mighty standing stones that his mind was decided. The shaman was there, wearing a mask of wood to protect her soul. Her apprentices, her "children", were similarly attired, as well as holding aloft a pair of torches. In the centre of the ring, D'rii lay surrounded by the same angry red flower which had caused her ailment. Potentially, this was also her pyre.
With a slight tilt to her head, the shaman asked: "You have decided the way?"
R'fa nodded. "She cannot accept the flower. It is Unending. But I will, because I can. It will pass to me."
With that, he set aside the axe he kept at his side; unclasped his cloak and let it fall to ground where he stood; removed everything and place his axe and cloak atop of the pile. Fully bare, he knelt before the stone and prostrated himself.
The shaman knew the words. The warrior barely heard them. All he could see was the withering of the flowers as their pollen ebbed out like smoke, the cloud floating above D'rii but thankfully not touching her. He hoped he saw the pollen escaping her nostrels as well, but the moment held his eyes to the cloud. He felt suddenly the scruteny of the ring of stones that surrounded them: how they too judged as part of that known as the Unending. A note beyond his hearing chimed.
And like a snake, the cloud ribboned around him.
When vision returned to the spiritmongers, they saw that the warrior was brushing his fallen hair from his skin... his jet black skin. No more were his eyes brown. Now they shone white. Not a folicle was left on his body. But even if one could overlook those features, or cover them up, the anti-thesis of human nature remained like an unnerving pressence around he who was once R'fa.
There was no place for the Unending in Colus.
And R'fa knew it too. He saw it in the disturbed eyes of the apprentices behind the masks. Man could not cope around what he was now. He could, because he had given up his humanity to the Unending, and it had not left him with the slightest bit of it.
He stood, and without looking once at his former wife, or thinking of what he had given up, made the walk down into the forest, and beyond to that faded horizon at sunset.