Obligations

Obligations
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

Set a few months after the conclusion of Bewitchments of Love and Hate, this 18-chapter story stars, among others, Swift, and explores themes of Wraeththu family, committment and rites of passage. Also, there’s one heck of an althaia scene.

Characters
Swift, Seel, Ashmael, two main original characters, other original characters.

Spoilers
Containers spoilers for Bewitchments of Love and Hate, Book 2 in the Wraeththu trilogy.

Chapter 1

The forest was dense and shrouded in darkness. Somewhere high above, over the tree tops, the sun shone brightly. Swift squinted into the shadows ahead, looking for a path. Only by following Ashmael, on horseback ahead, could he be sure of his next step.

He glanced over to Seel, mounted on the horse beside him. Before he could even form a question, Seel nodded. “Yes, I’m sure. He knows where we’re going.”

Swift returned his attentions to following the invisible path. An hour earlier he and Seel had been speaking to Ashmael as part of a visit to Fogta, a former Varr outpost, when Ashmael had received an urgent summons via mind message. Two of his soldiers, on a mission to explore the surrounding land, had encountered a situation with which they needed guidance and, just in case, backup support.

In the heart of the forest, with no paths leading to it, the soldiers had stumbled across a small stone cottage. At first they had assumed the home was unoccupied, but as they came around to the front, they saw that curtains hung in the windows. The berry bushes to the left and right of the front door were trimmed and a narrow path ran around to the back.

Curious to learn who might be living in such isolation, the soldiers stepped up to the door to knock. Just as one soldier had his hand poised, both of them were blasted back, stumbling, into the yard by an impressive blast of defensive energy.

“Stay clear, Varr pigs!” a voice screamed from within.

The soldiers were dumbfounded. Inside the house was someone who had enough power to create shields but was afraid of the Varrs — who no longer held any power! Obviously they were dealing with an unusual situation. Hence they had summoned Ashmael.

Personally Swift wasn’t terribly interested in what they might find inside the cottage — until he saw it, a lone stone cottage stood in a small field. He remembered the old human children’s tale of the little boy and girl who had ventured into the forest. Was this the witch’s house? It was quite ordinary, yet at the same time, there hung about it an aura of mystery, something that tempted the imagination into conjuring all manner of strange and secret affairs taking place within its walls.

Following Ashmael’s lead, Swift and Seel rode their horses to the rear yard. As they passed close to the side of the house, Seel, slightly ahead, Swift felt a wave of menace crashed across him. He shivered and avoided turning his head. Who or what were they going to be facing?

The Gelaming soldiers rose from where they’d been seated in the shade of a giant oak. Brushing themselves off, they sauntered over towards the horses.

“Has there been any change?” Ashmael asked, dismounting and taking a stance, hands on hips, facing the back of the house.

“No change, Lord Ashmael,” the taller of the two hara reported. “However, we have received several additional jolts and admonitions to leave.”

“It’s most disconcerting,” the second har added. “Whoever is inside is very angry.”

“Angry?” Seel questioned, by now off his horse, standing beside Ashmael. “It can hardly be a Gelaming then. In fact, I wonder if it is not a human.”

“Seel, you fool yourself — when will you ever learn?” Swift stepped two paces towards the house before stopping and turning. “Gelaming have emotions — anger included — especially when provoked!”

“Ah, Swift, forever keeper of the Varr flame!” Ashmael chided.

“Don’t say that!” Swift shot back hotly. It had only been a few months since he had adopted the customs of the Gelaming, shedding his Varr skin, and yet the name of his tribe was forever being hung over his head. He returned his gaze to the house. “What now?”

“Now we go in,” Ashmael said simply, starting to walk across the field. “Ilga, Troniel, wait here with our horses.”

“But what about the blasts?” Swift asked, feeling apprehensive after what he’d felt a few minutes earlier but following along nonetheless. True, the blasts were only strong Wraeththu thought magic, but unlike the others, Swift hadn’t had years to grow completely accustomed to such phenomena. As a child, practically the only magic he had witnessed had been Cobweb’s. No matter the education he had received during his caste training in Imbrilim, he still felt somewhat intimidated by such forces.

Ashmael laughed. “What about them? Do you really think they can keep us out? We three are powerful and unless the angry one inside is Nari-Nuri, our magic will be able to overcome his.”

Swift gave Seel a searching look but received only a nod in response. He would have to trust in their judgement.

As they once again passed by the house, Swift her Seel softly gasp.

“Do you feel it?” he asked, taking Seel’s hand and squeezing it.

“Yes,” Seel said. “It’s not anger now. It’s fear.”

The three of them crowded around the small wooden front door.

As soon as Ashmael reached for the handle, they were hit with a violent, invisible force. It wanted to fling them backwards, away into the yard. They resisted and returned with their own power, pushing back the shield until Ashmael had the door handle in his hand. He turned it. The door was locked.

“Out of the way, you two!” Ashmael urged sharply. Here was the military commander taking charge. Seel and Swift stepped to the side as Ashmael delivered a swift, ferocious kick to the door.

“We’re sorry you’re not up for guests at the moment,” Ashmael shouted as delivered another blow, “but we really need to meet our new neighbor!” The door cracked in half.

A moment later, Ashmael had thrust himself half-way through the door and was apparently struggling with the strong arms and legs of the defender. Finally Ashmael beat the figure back.

Moving in with Swift, Seel took the remainder of the door and ripped it away.

There, inside the tiny cottage, stood a har with a look on his face that was absolutely heartrending: defeat. He was tall with wide-set eyes, a soft gray blue, and thick, dreadlocked brown hair.

“You broke through my shields,” he said simply, bewildered as he stared down at where Ashmael held him fast by the arm.

“You are strong,” Ashmael said, “but not that strong. We three are all Ulani, Gelaming.”

“Gelaming?!” the mystery figure gasped.

“Yes,” Seel confirmed. “What did you think we were — Varrs?”

The har nodded nervously and then slowly, tentatively smiled. “This is it then,” he announced, his voice full of wonder, the fear vanishing.

Ashmael released his grip and the har took his hand and ran it across the side of his head, pushing aside the strands of hair that were escaping from the top. “I… I have been waiting so long, years and years,” he explained in a soft voice. “I knew you would be the ones to free me and I even wanted to meet you, but I had to hide. Now I can finally come out.”

He bowed his head slightly for the sake of courtesy. “I am Tarra,” he said simply, extending a hand.

All three Gelaming took the hand and clasped it firmly. Tarra was shaking but obviously greatly relieved that he was — apparently — not about to meet his death.

“So,” Ashmael began. “What made you take to this life of solitude? Were you simply trying to escape the Varrs?”

Tarra nodded uncertainly. Ashmael continued. “I can understand that. The Varrs are gone now, by the way, and we are here only to talk with you, help you, not to harm you. Still, while wresting with you I had a strongest sense that you were protecting something within this house, not only yourself but–”

“Dad?” a voice called suddenly, cutting off Ashmael’s line of questioning. All eyes turned to a curtained off area in the corner of the main room. “Can I come out now — since they’re not Varrs?”

Tarra’s face had frozen and he stared at the three Gelaming before lowering his gaze to the floor. “Yes, Ranat,” he said quietly. “Come out to meet our visitors.”

After a moment the curtains parted and there emerged a young, blond-haired figure who looked almost exactly like Tarra in the face. Swift knew immediately that Ranat was human.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Revelation

Revelation
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

This idea popped into my head as I considered possible plots involving humans and hara interacting, then my fascination with birth, and then another long-standing fascination, which becomes evident as you go along — I’ll let it be surprise up front, however.

Characters
All original characters with concepts, vocabulary, etc., borrowed from Storm Constantine.

Spoilers
No spoilers for any specific book in the Wraeththu trilogy, but it is imagined that this entire storyline takes place sometime around the time period of Fulfilments, as Wraeththu are still ignorant of Kamagrians and there are incepted hara around.

Introduction

My name is Rev. Within a few days I may be dead or maybe disfigured. They tell me not to worry but I know it’s true, I’m facing a risk. They don’t know for sure what will happen. No one does. I don’t know myself. All I know is that while I am alive, I would at least like to have my story told, especially the story of my beginning. The beginning is probably going to be very closely tied in with my end. Uli and Sara say that’s too fatalistic of me, but they have agreed to help me anyway, by writing out their stories about that day. At the end of their stories I will write my own and then pray. I hope to escape my fate, but I know I really can’t. It is a choice I have made.

Chapter 1: Uli

Rev thinks inception will kill him but I am not so sure. He does not believe me. Instead, he presses this notebook into my hands and says I should write out his “beginning” before he faces the ending. I was a pessimistic child myself, but unlike Rev, I had reasons. When I was his age, the world had gone to hell. Rev has had many advantages I did not. Yet he fears for his life. True, it is not guaranteed that he will survive, given the risks in his case, but having more faith would help him. It is the power of faith, the power of intention, that might help him survive beyond any obstacles he might face from nature.

At any rate, I will do as he has asked. I will return to the beginning, the day of Rev’s birth.

I was working with a new foal on my estemble when I heard the familiar sound of the bell’s on Arzan’s bridle. Arzan was Jana’s pretty quiet mare. Nowadays Jana is a woman but in those days she was still a girl, only ten or eleven, I believe. I looked over to the stable entrance and saw her still mounted. I didn’t even have time to say hello. “The baby is almost here but Sara is having trouble, she wants you to come!” she squealed. Wincing at the hitch-pitched tone, I bellowed back for her to wait while I quickly finished up with the foal and gathered my gear.

Five minutes later we met up outside the stable. Jana was tense, clearly exhausted. “When did the labor start?” I asked as we began to head out. As we rode along, I got a briefing, though we were going at enough speed we had to raise our voices to talk. Jana told me the labor had been going on for two days so far, but really it had only been very bad since sunrise. It was now late afternoon. Jana had stayed up with Sara all night, along with Agatha, the midwife, who was doing her very best. The only one who had slept was Martin, Rev’s father, but now he was awake and very, very worried. Martin had also asked for me. A har could help her now, when she was so tired, wanting to give up but needing to keep it up. She needed strength, she needed healing, and they all knew I could give it, Jana said. I had done it before, for Martin’s birth. Now Martin was fifteen and shortly would be incepted. Such is the way of Gimrah.

When reached the house, tying the horses up in front, and hurried up to the side door, which I knew next to Sara’s bedroom. Although I hadn’t seen attended human births since Martin’s — Jana was adopted, rescued from Megalithica — I recognized at once that Jana was right and the end was coming soon. Sara’s voice gave it all away. She was keening by that point, high-pitched moans punctuated by curses. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I can’t… I can’t… Eeeeeeeeeeeee!”

I stepped through the door and she didn’t even notice. Agatha was sitting in a chair at the end of the bed, positioned between Sara’s legs, spread wide and shaking. The old midwife had her arms outstretched and Sara was clutching them. “Don’t be a fool, you can do this, Sara. If you trained Arlek out of being wild, you can do this. If you lived as a woman this long, you can do this. Come on now, it’s almost here.” I had never met Agatha until the week before, when I’d been invited to meet her. They had sent for her many months before and finally she had arrived, bringing with her a treasure trove of knowledge. In wild parts like these, there are few who have any knowledge of human births.

Faced with the spectacle of a human woman birthing in that time-honored method, I had the same gut reaction I’d had with Martin, only even strong this time — and mixed in with something new. With Martin, I’d thought of it as something amazing, a unique quality of human women — the ability to give birth. I had truly marveled at it. In the years since then, however, things had changed. Now I had a new perspective. Now birth was something we Wraeththu could experience for ourselves. I had borne two pearls of my own and my chesna Cleon had birthed another. Looking at Sara, I knew something of what she felt. Yes, pearls are somewhat smaller than babies and there are no messy body parts or tangled cords to worry about, but the Wraeththu body is not always very accommodating. I have been at that precipice, feeling the thing inside you and with all your being wanting it out.

In any case, I did not stand and stare, but came over to the side of the bed. Behind Sara, Martin was kneeling, looking frightened and ill as he braced her shoulders. I gave him a slow smile and sent him calming energy, hoping he would pick up on it. Then I turned to Sara, just as she turned to me. “Give me strength,” she said. Her face was red and sweating, her eyes bloodshot. “I know you can do it, please help me,” she begged. She turned away and closed her eyes, inviting me to begin. No more screams. She trusted me.

It did not take all that long. For twenty minutes I worked with her, feeding her strength, messages of calm, and offering her visualizations, stroking her arms along with her belly. Having birthed pearls myself was helping me. Agatha was helping me as well. Sharp old woman. Worth her weight in gold. Together we coached Sara along as she did all the work and finally, there was the top of the head, black hair like Martin’s. I told the boy to go around to meet his baby. All the blood and fluids were bothering him, but soon he’d been facing the unpleasantness of inception and he’d have to get used to it. Was this so different than helping the foals be born?

After only a few pushes, Rev shot out with a gush of fluid. Agatha caught him in a cloth turned receiving blanket, and after quickly rubbing his red face, immediately wrapped him and brought him to Sara’s chest. Sara couldn’t believe he was hers, just as I couldn’t believe my pearls were mine either. She stared at the little face. “You look like your father,” she cooed. Martin was shying away but Agatha made him come and see. His eyes were filled with wonder. “Wow,” he said. “Looks like I’m a father.” At that Rev let out a lusty, ear-splitting cry. Sara was crying too, but with happiness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Moon and Son

Moon and Son
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

This story is a sequel to Garden of the Moon, my story of the deaf albino boy rescued by Thiede, turned into a shaman, and then finaly chosen for a very special duty. In this story, we catch up with him as well as Vaysh, a character I’d wanted to explore for quite a while. I hope all the original fans of this story enjoy it. Please do let me know what you think.

Characters
Vaysh, Moon (original character from Garden of the Moon), another original character (to be named later), Pell, Cal, Rue, Thiede.

Spoilers
Containers spoilers for entire Wraeththu trilogy.

Chapter 1

It was the eyes that first caught his attention.

Vaysh later wondered what would have happened if he hadn’t seen them, if he hadn’t been wandering about Immanion that particular afternoon, standing at that particular market stall, looking up at that particular moment. Would the outcome have been the same? His logical mind told him yes — after all, he wasn’t the only individual involved, and eventually matters would probably have come together on their own. Still, his heart told him no. Such a powerful moment it had been, that first glimpse, seeing those amber eyes. Perhaps without the first domino falling, Vaysh felt, the rest of it might not have followed.

It happened in the year ai-cara 30. Months had passed since the momentous Ascension, and in those months Vaysh had gained more and more opportunity — and desire — to leave the palace Phaonica and mingle amidst the common crowds of the city. Not that the populace of Immanion could be considered remotely common in a general sense, but the lives and attitudes of such hara certainly contrasted with those living in the palace. In Phaonica, the game was never-ending, hara trading and squabbling over power, status, love, and every move mad behind the veneer of high-caste virtue. While Vaysh was an expert at the palace game, the more he went out, the more he drew pleasure from watching hara outside the palace walls, who put less effort into disguising their petty motivations and machinations. Not that Vaysh himself opened up himself, but he did enjoy watching.

In any case, going about the city was something to do now that he was no longer in such demand. In comparison to the past three decades, Pellaz had far less free time to spend chatting with his friend. He and his Calanthe, together with Caeru, were busy healing one another and managing affairs of state, and Vaysh had been pushed to the periphery. The bonds they had once shared so strongly seemed to have weakened, with Pellaz no longer suffering the pain he had felt all those years and Thiede gone to a place where he no longer tormented or controlled the lives of either of them. As for those nights of mutual pleasure they had once shared, they had gone as well.

While he was certainly busy with his role as official advisor and counselor, which he fulfilled for with both Tigrons as well as the Tigrina, after the initial rush of activity, Vaysh found that his schedule left him hours to fill her had never had. Or maybe he had just never thought to do anything with those hours beyond working extra hours, reading, lying in bed drinking. These days he was less inclined to such reclusive, melancholy activities; going to the city for shopping, or at least observing, had become a favorite pass time.

For many years Vaysh had disdained the common crowd or, more truly, any crowds at all. The Ascension had changed all that. Like many hara, in the moment when at last Cal had joined with Pell, Vaysh had felt a change within himself. Although it was not something many had noticed, he felt more alive than he had in years. He couldn’t be described as fun-loving or particularly social or convivial, but he knew that in relative terms, he had indeed become so. The ice, as Pell might have said, if he had noticed, was beginning to melt. It would take time. Time and, as Vaysh learned, the proper trigger.

Before he saw the eyes, Vaysh first heard the voice or rather a word, overheard across a market stall: “Thiede.”

Vaysh had been absorbed comparing hair products, of all things, and examining a tin of pomade, he’d felt a a prickling feeling run down his spine. So much had changed in his life, and yet that single word still had the power to curdle his blood, or so it seemed.

Vaysh was glad that for the most part the name was no longer used. No, these days “Thiede” had become “the Aghama,” his role as the first of Wraeththu common knowledge, the root of the Gelaming religion. Most hara did not speak of Thiede, even if they had known him in flesh in blood.

It was for this reason, and for what the har was saying, that Vaysh looked up. This har spoke of Thiede without the usual reverence. Speaking with the vendor in a low tone, obviously aiming at discretion, he was asking if Thiede ever granted audiences! Would it be possible to speak with him? While Vaysh was astonished at the question, the vendor laughed, for while the Aghama was worshipped in prayer and the Triad spoke to him within the walls of the Sanctum, Thiede did not act the role of overlord. The Aghama did not exist to hear petitions or solve the petty problems of everyday hara.

Vaysh saw only the har’s back, a view which gave away nothing, not even the har’s haircolor, as his entire head was covered over with pale yellow linen. It was only when the har turned to follow the vendor to the counter that Vaysh saw it was not only the head but the entire face that was covered — or nearly. The eyes were there for all to see.

The har’s headgear matched fashion among certain tribes who dwelt in the desert, and above the yellow linen the eyes twinkled with a light all too familiar to Vaysh: Thiede’s. Unusual, the color, although of course it had only been appropriate, the fiery father of the flaming hair, with two eyes that glowed like polished amber.

How strange to be thinking of that when the desert har had just brought up Thiede himself. Thiede’s name, Thiede’s eyes, and Vaysh had been Thiede’s once as well. His creation. His servant. Now he was supposed to be his worshipper, a role with which he still was not comfortable.

Vaysh, who tended to act in an extremely premeditated fashion, was surprised at the idea that came into his head then. Maybe, just for the afternoon, he could take on a new role: Thiede’s spy. The stranger was buying a tin of pomade just like the one Vaysh had in his hand. As the vendor took the money and wrapped up the container, the eyes were still there, the headgear was still there, and now, Vaysh sensed, power was there as well. Even shielded, as Vaysh habitually was, he could feel that pulse of power. More shadows of Thiede.

The strange har finally took his purchase and headed out of the stall, aparently oblivious to Vaysh’s observation. Quickly going to the counter to make his own purchase, Vaysh watched the offender moved two stalls over. He was so tall he had to stoop under the awning, and standing next to a bookseller, he appeared outsized, disproportionate to his environment. Vaysh wondered which corner the world the har had come from and whether indeed he was a member of a desert tribe.

Extending his senses, Vaysh heard the har once again asking questions about Thiede. Vaysh’s mind quickly filled with questions. Who was this tall unknown, to be calling Thiede by his name and asking about gaining an audience with him? Obviously he was new to the city, but didn’t hara almost everywhere now know the truth? Was it possible that this har had once known Thiede? The idea made Vaysh shiver, especially since it was was indeed quite possible.

Accepting his purchase from the vendor, Vaysh issued a perfunctorary thank you, his mind primarily focused on keeping the tall stranger in sight. As he headed into the market, concealing his movements was not an issue. The har was in no hurry and Vaysh could easily pretend to be lingering at the various stalls. He could also disguise himself by making himself invisible, not literally, but by wielding his powers to keep others from noticing him. In this way he followed the har through the marketplace and then half-way across the city.

After about a half an hour, the har had apparently reached his destination. They were in one of the poorer districts of the city, which was not to say that it was not a lovely area, but that it was not the quarter for diplomats or high-ranking hara. This quarter, with its less pretentious inns and guesthouses, was mainly frequented by traveling merchants, come into Immanion on business. As Vaysh watched the stranger proceed down a side alley to what was apparently a guest house, he wondered if he could be one of these merchants. Although he didn’t have the common manner or appearance of such hara, who were normally gregarious and ostentatious, one never knew.

Finally the stranger entered the front yard of the guesthouse through a metal gate. Vaysh sidled up the alley and planted himself behind the high hedges that blocked out one side of the yard. Probably there would be nothing further to see, as the har would no doubt go inside the house, but for some reason Vaysh felt the need to keep him in his sights as long as possible. Later he realized this drive had been based on more than mere impulse, but at the time, it seemed like a simple act of self-indulgence, just like the half hour of spying that had preceded it. If he’d already wasted the time of following this har, he told himself, then he might as well spend a few moments more.

It was only a moment or two later, after gaining a view of the yard through the bushes, that Vaysh found that he had been wrong. The stranger had not gone inside, but instead was pacing out in front, as if he were composing himself for a speech or presentation. Vaysh was just beginning to wonder what was going on when out the front door of the guesthouse emerged a second har, even more intriguing than the first.

This har, Vaysh recognized at once, was an albino. Whether he was an incepted har or pureborn was impossible to tell, but certainly he was an anomaly, as Vaysh in all his travels had never seen a har with the peculiarly striking white skin and hair he glimpsed now. Quite exotic he was, even by Wraeththu standards, with short hair spiked up in bunches, ears loaded with silver earrings. Within a few moments, Vaysh felt sure the albino was a shaman; even shielding, he could feel a strong vibration of power.

In the meantime it seemed the first har was delivering his report, or at least his hand gestures indicated as much. For words, there were none. These hara were both communicating solely by mindtouch and no lips were moving. This was definitely not a meeting of ordinary merchants. Probably both of them were shamen from a faraway tribe. Vaysh was sorely tempted to unshield himself and attempt to listen in on the conversation, but he didn’t want to risk the exposure.

Instead he watched the two hara go back and forth, the first har obviously delivering information, the second questioning him. The albino did not use his hands nearly as much as the taller har, appearing serene. When the albino finally did react, it was to step forward and embrace his companion, patting him on the back. The expression on both of them showed slight disappointment. What news had the har been collecting in the city? Reports on Thiede?

Vaysh didn’t have the opportunity to consider these questions for more than a moment before something occurred which changed everything. The two hara separated and then the first har, glancing casually over his shoulder, tugged on the linen head wrapping. It was the hair that came into view first, a tangle of bright red. A pale cheek and chin were revealed, then a mouth, a nose. Then it was something Vaysh never thought he would see again: The face of Thiede.

Read the rest of this entry »

Garden of the Moon

Garden of the Moon
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

his story started out as an exploration of how becoming har might truly change the life of a deaf person and from there blossomed into something bigger than that and finally into an unlikely friendship/romance story.

Characters
Original character and one canon character as yet to be named.

Spoilers
Containers spoilers for Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, Book 1 in the Wraeththu trilogy, plus hints of the other books.

Sequels
Once this story was over, many people asked me “What happened next?” that I decided to do a sequel, catching up with Moon and his pearl many years later: Moon and Son.

Chapter 1

They found me at the bottom of a trash heap. Well, not literally but that’s the way I always tell it because it’s actually quite close to the truth, if not the actual truth. The actual truth is that they found be living on a trash heap, specifically an old city dump.

It wasn’t in the main part of the city, but on an outskirt, close enough to the dead metropolis that I could see the forlorn, abandoned towers but far enough away that the squatters and fighters of the inner city wouldn’t bother me. The dump had gone from being a place of waste to a land of plenty. It was my garden.

There is a bit of irony in this, but I was living off society’s refuse and if irony would keep me fed, so be it. I wasn’t eating leftover food, mind you, but the products of that leftover food and leftover compost dumped years before — the tomatoes that had grown into full-fledged tomato plants, the squash and strawberries and peas that had come up from the rotten produce tossed into garbage bags or mixed in with the compost. Years before I arrived, they had grown up out of the dump and gone wild.

On that fateful day, I had been in residence for probably about three years, serving as their keeper, the gardener of the dump. It was late spring and I was tending to the tomato plants, pulling out the weeds that had inevitably begun to choke up the soil. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. All the weeds were piling up in an old plastic crate I had taken from the dump and in fact I was about to call it quits, as by then it was mid-day and the sun was high, my stomach just beginning to growl.

I didn’t know it, but I was very fortunate to be living the way I was. When I was hungry, I always had food, lots of it, fresh at hand, at least in the warmer months. Winters were harder but even so, I’d made it through, living on foods I had prepared and stored myself as well as food I’d extracted from the dump — canned vegetables, canned fruit, even a jar of honey I’d once found. For lunch I was going to eat some of the sweet green vines for which I still have no name. From experimenting the year before, I’d learned they weren’t poisonous and were eminently digestible. Eaten with the squirrel I’d trapped and killed that morning, it would be a filling meal.

With that in mind, I tossed the last weed to the top of the heap and picked up the crate to take it across to where I kept my own compost pile or, really, weed dump. The sun was bright and even with the visor I wore over my eyes, it made me squint. The sky was too clear for me and walking with the crate, I wished as usual for overcast skies. You see, my eyes have always been a problem — just like the rest of me. Pale, pale eyes I have, pinkish, and they are very sensitive to light. I’ve since read that often my condition causes poor eyesight, but luckily with me that had never been the case. Just as I could see the distant city skyline, I could see the vegetable plants and flowers around me. And I could see the strangers who had arrived. I was about to backtrack into explaining my condition, but now that I’ve mentioned the strangers, I’ve come to the point of this writing anyway, which is to explain how I went from being a lone gardener in a trash heap to being what I am today!

There I was, carrying my weeds, and there they were, a group of three… individuals… standing at the periphery of the dump watching me. I can imagine what they saw and so I’ll tell you now: A boy, about 14 years old, medium-height, wrapped from head to toe in faded old clothes and rags. I had a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, a pair of old boots, and a hat with a visor in front for my eyes. Only my hands and face were uncovered — that and my hair, by then grown clear to my waist.

I wasn’t covered up for vanity. In fact, even in the somewhat chilly temperatures of late spring I was hot. Still, covering up wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Without covering up, I would be burnt — badly. I wouldn’t get a burn and then tan either, I would simply burn. My mother had learned the hard way this way the case, watching me as a young child burn bright red until on several occasions I had become feverish, overheated. Finally she had learned that were there concessions that had to be made for my condition. You see, I’m an albino. My skin isn’t quite pure white, but it’s pale and pinkish, translucent in places, and my long hair was pure white, from the day I was born until today. I’m a child of the moon, not a child of the sun.

It was because of this that I was living in the garbage dump. I suppose really it was lucky, as I was never really hungry and I had found shelter and safety, but what had driven me out there wasn’t luck, it was desperation. I had no one to protect me anymore. My mother didn’t exactly reject me, but she couldn’t care for me, not with the world going the way it was. And not after they arrived in the city, whoever they were. People were dying of sicknesses, attacks, of madness. Women seemed to be particularly vulnerable. She had to hide, she told me, she had to run. She left me behind.

I was probably around ten years old at the time she left me. I want to say that being abandoned what a traumatic experience for me but really it wasn’t as bad as you might think. After all, I’d always felt it was up to me to take care of myself and I wouldn’t be able to really rely on anyone else. I couldn’t connect with anyone either, make friends. Nobody ever seemed to understand me. My mother had understood me, but others didn’t.

It wasn’t just how I looked, which was enough to make everyone stay away from me. It was something else, something I haven’t mentioned although it’s very important.

Quite simply, I was deaf — and in fact I still am. That day in my garden, in my whole life I had never spoken and had never heard a sound. To a certain extent this had made me vulnerable in the inner city, but eventually I had learned to make up for that deficit by keeping my eyes wide and exercise street sense. Finally, however, after too many close calls, people and other creeping up on me when I couldn’t hear, I decided I need to escape the city. I’d made my away out to the dump and there I lived alone, where being deaf was no disadvantage at all. In fact, living alone, I didn’t have much cause to even notice my deafness; there was no one there to try to talk to me.

So that was me, a deaf albino boy living in a dump, tending a garden while swathed in old clothes and rags. And then they came. And that changed everything.

Read the rest of this entry »

On The Cards

On The Cards
A Collaborative Effort

Story Notes

Created as a round-robin in 2001.

On The Cards

In the city of Immanion, no single event is so anticipated, so talked about and so dissected after the fact than the annual Tigron’s Cup race meeting. The elite of Wraeththu society go to great lengths to assure their presence, to compete for most elegant pavilion, to gossip over whom is wearing what and who is escorting who, while outside the members’ area, the lucky citizens who have managed to buy a ticket, spend their day watching the watchers. For the most part, the actual racing is secondary to the social shenanigans except, of course, when the racing becomes part of the show. The horses that race are not the legendary companions of the Gelaming, but ordinary steeds, without magical powers.

There was the incident two years ago, where it rained right before the flag fell on the Phaconian Two Year Old Handicap and the brown shoe polish on one of the entrants began to run, but no one cares to remember that, especially not the horse’s owner, a Gelaming har named Enron, who was mustered out of the Tigron’s guard and stripped of his rank.

But mostly, the ordinary citizens of Phaconia place their bets, drink their betica and wine and watch the goings-on in the filmy pavilions of the famous, or infamous, as the case may be. They comment over the arrival or non-arrival of certain prominent hara from the provinces and territories, discuss what they are wearing and whose tent is closer to the Tigron’s this year than it was last.

***

The day dawned bright and breezy. Flags and banners on the pavilions danced in the gentle eddies and the air was redolent of flowers, spice and all good things. Servants scurried about, filling ice buckets, washing strawberries and generally making certain that everything that was meant to be there, was there.

In the stables, the horses were being washed down, curry-combed and braided. Their wrappings were checked, their saddles oiled and their handlers had stopped for a quick breakfast before the owners arrived.

The crowds had begun to gather at the gates as soon as the sun rose, determined to get the best picnic spots beneath the perfectly trimmed trees that ringed the course. By mid-morning, most of the guests had arrived at the pavilions. . .

Most of the pavilions were flung wide open, so the little hara could have a good look at the goings-on among the great and famous (what joy is there in being a celebrity if you’re not stared at by the hoi polloi?), but one of the tents drew conspicuous glances by the mere fact that it was tightly closed. Something more important than mere society seemed to be going on in there, from the intermittent shouts that emerged from the closed flap.”Can you do it, you barbarian sorcerer, or can’t you? Or won’t you?” a grating voice was screaming inside. This was Fireblossom the Dark, Colurastes consort to one of Phaonica’s most highly-placed generals. “YOU told me to throw my lot in with the option that sounded least feasible – so I put all my money on that miserable beast, and now you tell me that you DIDN’T MEAN IT THAT WAY???”

“Ahem. I meant it more as general spiritual advice”, a glum voice with the most horrendous Thaine accent conceded.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries