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Old Feb 14th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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Against One's Brother

Alida Cees Janneke, Esimene tütar (First Daughter), stood just nigh of the edge on a high cliff overlooking the Žalioji Sea. She was small and petite as most women of her line and the brisk wind played aggresively with her black hair, splaying it out in a haphazard and sinuous fashion as if the Demon Lamashtu had stolen her soul.

Her father, the Emperor, was dead.

Guntur Eko spoke from behind her right shoulder.

"It would be easy Alida. No," he said calling her by name. A priveledge for few and death for most. "To take one step. To let Goddess take you."

Guntur Eko, the retired Mersan Commander, was a massive man and many whispered that in his blood coursed the seed of giants. He stood 5 cubits tall and almost half again as wide. Only the story of his deeds as First Legion Commander stood taller. Guntur Eko had marched more conquered Kings through the streets of the Mersan capital City, Ardashir, than the number of all the Kings and Emperors of the Ersian Empire since its founding. Alida turn partway to look at him directly. Her blue eyes danced and glittered within her dark olive skin. It started to rain.

"Perhaps," she said, taking half a step backward, gravel spilling over the edge. "You should join me. Your dead just as much as I."

Guntur frowned, but did not move.

"Come away Esimene tütar. I meant no harm. Let us return to the tents before we are drenched."

Alida let both of her heals dangle over the edge and Guntur Eko realized she was barefoot. She held onto life with only her toes. A stillness settled on him like a heavy blanket and his face became expressionless. Alida Cees Janneke had put her dead mother's crown on her head and the bangles of her station as Ishtur's worldly servant glinted darkly on her wrist. She was dressed for the embrace of Death.

Alida let a flicker of a smile settle on her lips. She had finally fooled him, drawn him in amid the chaos of the events, the struggle for her life, and placed herself in command of their never-ending banter and play of words. At sixteen, Guntur Eko would admit that he had met few men or women with such power of presence, wit, or clear sight. She thought for the briefest moment of not pressing her advantage, but it was an extremely fleeting consideration. She looked up into the rain and then returned her eyes to him.

"Answer me one question Commander and I'll consider a delay."

His silence was consent enough.

"Why stay when so many have deserted? When my brother legion outnumbers my forces a score to one and holds position, why not go to him? Why does the last Great Commander saddle himself to certain defeat?"

Silence deepened between them. Eko stared into her deep eyes, rain ran from his face like tears. His voice was hollow and Alida began to doubt her ruse.

"I commanded the twenty legions that sacked the fabled Firdaus and put the regent and his family to sword. I have defeated three quarters of the client kingdoms now part of the Mersan States. Yet I have never succeeded against such odds with a force so ill-suited for victory. I have never took Command under a losing proposition. And thus, I stay. Now, come away from the edge," he finished, his voice hardening.

Alida lost herself in his voice and knew something was missing, such was her talent. To see things others could not. To hear things deaf to others.

"You lie."

Guntur Eko was in his mid-forties and balding. Although fitter and more powerful than most every man, lines of age crisscrossed his face and battled with the scars of war for eminence. And so, he told the truth.

"I can not leave when I can not bear to be parted from your form. I can not desert that which makes me live. If the effort means I shall walk the avenue with the defeated and have my head and hands hacked from my body, then it will be worth it to live my last moments in sight of your face."

Alida momentary looses possession of herself, her heals dipping below the edge which presses frantically against the arch of her foot as if to push her back to ground. She had not expected those words. She had not see him truly as she did now. She had missed it or hidden it from herself. It was a long moment before she remembers where she is and then she tips her chin up and takes one step away from the edge.

"Then it would be poor of me to foil that effort with such a selfish act."

Guntur Eko does nothing as she walks to him and takes his arm, allowing him to guide her to her tents.

"Well played Commander. Your tone was perfect. And the inflection marvelous."

The Great Commander laughs, a sound mixed with warmth and relief. Alida Cees Janneke feels the rain cold on the skin of her neck, but doesn't mind. She knows the truth even if remains unspoken.
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Last edited by GeneT; Feb 14th, 2014 at 09:04 AM.
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Old Feb 14th, 2014, 09:05 AM
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Alida had the dream again.

She woke in the deep night hearing the Rains finger the canvas of her tent. She could smell the dead fires, the horses, blood. The last was far off. A few days to the West. Perhaps an hour yet or was it three. Then it would be fresh. Spilt red on green grass. Circle up. The three legged horse. And a corral of sticks.

She tried to unsee them, bent over, missing hands, feet on backwards. Eyes spewing vitreous trails from languid shadows. Long teeth.

She sat up. Sleepless nights were almost as difficult as walking amidst her men. She could see their dead faces peeking at her from behind still living ones. Some seemed far off, other less so, like the burnt three legged horse. For a girl named Jessicka.

She looked south and west. Eyes turned, glazed over, unfocused. Her brother stood upon a chair. Giggling. The white woman drank blood.

She returned past the lost. West to East. South to North. Over her men waiting until dead. Like a carrion bird circling the dying. And to her tent awake.

She put her face in her hands. And found the fit was perfect.
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Old Feb 14th, 2014, 09:07 AM
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"What is your name?"
"Jakob."
"Why are you here?"
"I have lost my sword. The coin is not enough."
"Where is your sword Legionnaire?"
"The Feet of the Triangle."
A shudder and ragged breath.
"What do they expect?"
Silence.
"What worth is watching us succumb?"
Silence.
Anger.
"I will pay your Fee."
"And who shall pay yours?"
"No-one."
"Then I take Torment."
"That I can not allow Legionnaire."
"It is my choice."
"It will be taken from me regardless of whether you benefit from it."
Silence.
"Return and be Free again."


Alida's eyes open. It is Night. She can smell the remains of Unit fires, the horses and mules, the ground. She can smell the coming Rains.

To the west, she can smell IT. Spreading like mold along rotting wood. Burrowing worms. Carrion birds calling.

Her brother liked cookies shaped like animals. First he would eat the legs off. Little by little. Then the ears and noses. He'd leave the eyes for last so that they would see their own devouring, bit by bit until the end.

IT started inside and ate its way out, nibble by nibble, little bit by little bit, until the husk was all that was left. Black staring out of eyes that saw no color.
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Last edited by GeneT; Feb 14th, 2014 at 09:13 AM.
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Old Feb 14th, 2014, 09:14 AM
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"Mother?"

Ailda speaks but can not hear her own voice.

"The Flood Comes."

"But you are not living. The plague took you from me."

"No. Killed. Taken now wandering."

"Killed?"

Alida's mother was Mercian. Tall and regal, beautiful it is said, she was sold into marriage to solidify Ersian loyalty when the Mercian States suffered lean difficult years before returning to glory. Alida lost her whe she was ten, apparently killed by plague while abroad, although the Emperor and most the entourage somehow survived.

"Find Aleksandr's daughter in the Black Sea. The Flood Comes."

"What does that mean Mother? Stay. Don't leave me again."

Blinking, Alida's eyes clear. The vision is gone. The wet candle wax has cooled in her hand. A rim of redness surrounds the shape it forms between her lifeline and the bracelet line of her wrist. She traces it with a finger, her skin gliding over it, her warmth keeping it slightly soft. She doesn't close her fingers around it, the head of howling wolf, until it is completely cooled.
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Last edited by GeneT; Feb 14th, 2014 at 09:16 AM.
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Old May 20th, 2014, 01:51 PM
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Alida kicked back the rug laying in the center of her tent. She did it quietly in the dark of the night, one eye on Eveynil to insure that the woman did not stir. Using a silver dagger, she cut a square of brown grass from the ground about two hands width in length and height. Reaching under it, she ripped it away in one piece like it was a ceramic tile or brick of a foundation and set it aside. Using a spoon she dug shallow tiny graves in the exposed dirt. The ground was soft, the Rains had already seeped into the land, and Alida had an easy time digging. Once done, she checked Eveynil, but the woman was in deep sleep and did not stir. Satisfied, she fetched a small box made of pale wood from one table. It was poorly made, the lid cracked, the bottom skewed, the hasp hanging by one small sliver of metal, but Alida handled it with reverance, as if the box was the fingernail of a God, the Eye of a Righteous man, or a crucible holding the most dire concoction. Opening the lid, she fetch them and laid them out near the open square she had made.

The dolls were little things, cobbled together with bits of twig and cloth, hair and string, shiny things. The heads were little more than leaf stuff into a thumbfull of folded flannel, the legs knobby sticks, the eyes spots of ink that had spread through the flannel's fibers in squiggly seeking lines. Some of the dolls wore dresses. Some had little swords. One had her hair. This last one did not go into the hole, but all the others did.

She laid them carefully alongside each other, three ranks, head to foot, until all were buried but the one with her hair. That one she set aside. Taking the dirty silver knife, Alida slashed the palm of one hand and let her blood drip upon the dolls and the ground around them. Then, clenching her hand tight, she replaced the square of grass on top of them and sealed them under it but patting the square firmly with her uncut hand.

Her eyes glazed over, her body glowed, her lips danced silently and they were lost to her enemies, each of them; Majas, Crunan, the girl Miakata, Adamah, and the stout Fib. All of them except Eveynil. Cutting a swath of her hair with the silver dagger, Alida wrapped this last doll in her own hair until it was covered by it. Then carefully, gently, she laid it on top of the ground and wove the tall grasses around it to conceal it from sight once her tent had been taken up when the Legion left for Salamis.

Quietly she replaced the rug and then lay next to Eveynil. The other woman's breathing was soft upon her face, warm, pleasent. Alida tipped her forehead against Eveynil shoulder and watched her sleep. She had hidden them all except one. This one.

It would protect some of them and others it would not. Unknown to him, Majas is already alone. Miakata would still suffer. And Fibil Ternfoot. Alida bit back tears but she did not close her eyes. Dreaming of them was worse.

She had done what was left to her. A chance. A meddling of Fate. And clenching her cut hand against sleep, she listened to Eveynil's quiet breathing.
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The forceps of our minds are clumsy things that crush the truth a little in the course of taking hold of it.

Last edited by GeneT; May 20th, 2014 at 01:59 PM.
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