The Stars Fell

There is a scholar. She shadows boneyards and sun rotten battlefields, picking through the dead with gloved hands. Crows call affronted to one another, noting the strange scavenger among them. The thrum of swollen corpse flies drowns them out.

She searches, tossing away red stained bones and soaked cloth. Some choice individuals go into her cart, but most remain offal, useless to her and the world their souls so recently departed.

Long ago she took an oath, to heal, to do no harm. The dead are beyond her aid, and past injury. It makes things simple, and simple in these times is valuable. There are lessons here, amidst the swollen bodies and empty eyes, if someone is willing to find them.

Above the fields the night sky loses more stars. Briefly, she pulls her gaze from the dead at her feet. The scholar watches the light dive behind the mountains, she imagines they hit the great ocean beyond with the hiss of dying fire.

She harvests until her cart is full. Some people die, some don’t, and the stars fall. The scholar seeks to know why.

***

There is a prince. He hovers near the table’s head, and in the modest watchtowers overlooking the ocean’s horizon. Those who pass him in the warm, smoke filled, hallways do not trouble him out of hand. He is assumed to be busy, he usually is.

The wooden battlements are nothing more than short wood walls on which they place guards and the occasional barrell. He walks them nonetheless, exchanging small words with the smiling soldiers who man them. They like him, everyone does, in the way one appreciates a sharp knife or a full sail. It does its job, and without complaint.

In the depths of the night, something anticipatory coils inside his chest. The lantern oil burns low on the prince’s desk. He rests there, fallen in the line of duty over letters, maps, and treatises. A collapsing light hauls him from sleep.

Out past the shore and waves arcs of pale gold fall from the sky, brilliant against the black mass of sky and sea. The prince stands and stares. He does not know what it means, only that the stars are falling again and that he cannot go back to sleep.

***

There is a servant. She slides through gilded hallways and out into stinking pig yards and stables. The night is not young, her shift was long and late, but there is life yet if one looks hard enough. She is willing to brave sore feet and slow wits tomorrow for diversion tonight.

The hostlers smile at her, their teeth obscured behind smoke. She leaves them with only a wave of her fingers. They flick smoldering twists of paper and herb into the mud with long-learned disappointment. She follows the sounds the fire and music down to the sand.

Waves reflect the towering flames and the shadows cast by the young. They lean into each other’s warmth even as they shy from the snapping fire.  Some dance, others walk and drink deep mouthfuls of sweet ale. The servant finds many welcoming arms to linger in.

A hand at her neck, another on the angle of her hip, it is not hard to keep them at bay with wide-eyed words. She turns his focus from her face to the black water. They forget each other.

Pale stars fall from the sky even as the fire’s embers rise upwards to meet them. Both wink out, extinguished by the dark swaths of air and water. The servant gathers her skirts and leaves the other gaping at the sky. She wades into the surf as if she could pluck the lost light from the cold waves.

***

There is a thief. She darts through parlor, and alleyway, and den. Her eyes are blue and rheumy, her eyes are bright black, her eyes are lined and cold. No one knows her behind the stolen eyes, or protests when she walks stolen feet and stolen faces past watchman into stateroom, coffer, and chamber.

She opens her eyes. They are grey and framed by dark lashes. Her body is slight, weak-limbed and shivering. She leaves her room, wrapping wool and silk about her shoulders and neck. The common room raises their eyes to her.

No one calls out in greeting, or invites her to a table. There is no offer of food or drink, she can simply take such things if she wished. They pay their respects instead with silence and quick disregard.  She returns it and moves to the door before the odd loneliness begins to sting.

The spires and lit glass of the capital city dull the sky. Behind the luminescent haze of cloud and polluting light, the stars fall unseen. The thief wonders if the king in his white towers can feel them fall.

Another music challenge, this week I dared Raw Rambles with Emilie Autumn’s Shalott. We both wrote something spawned in some way from the song below, which in turn came from Emilie Autumn’s interpretation of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem.

Legal Theft: Slither

She hunted them by the taste they left in the air. The warm scent drifted in the icy wind and she followed it down over the solid rivers and up pristine slopes. They ran on claws and razored hooves, chests surging with fleeting energy.  Their taste beat in her skull.

Deep in the night, moonlight resurrected the day. Glittering motes drifted down to melt against her scales as she glided up bright snow banks. Only the trees were dark, shadowed beneath the white that weighed their branches.

This vivid night would give way to a brighter dawn. They would fall, bodies heaving from the hours of borrowed time, breath reaching towards the fading moon. Exhausted and numb from the craze, those young misguided creatures would sleep.

Her advance made no more sound than a knife’s edge through silk. Like spilled ink , she passed through the blanketed forest, tasting the air and following their warmth.

These consequences, the hunter thought leaving a sinuous trail of melted snow through the black trees, were a long time coming. But the hunter was patient, and the liquid muscles beneath her glossy skin were tireless.

A slither in the brilliant dark, she pressed forward after her prey.

Another successful heist for me. This week I’ve stolen a scene that, and I quote “involves someone running away”. And who did I steal it from? None other than the Librarian who watches over The Gate in the Wood.

A Deep Breath

“Remember to have a little fun, alright?” He clapped his son on the shoulder and pulled him into a hug. Around them, others said goodbye to their fledglings. Some students sighed and put up with the parental displays, others cried and clung. Cole broke from the hug and gave a stiff jawed nod, his eyes a little too wide.

He knew his son, cautious and ever serious for his age. College was a big transition, and Cole had ambitiously chosen a university far across the country from their hometown. It was brave, even if his son seemed to be regretting the decision at the moment. “I’m proud of you Cole. We’re only a phone call away, you know that.”

A nod again, as if Cole didn’t trust himself to speak at first,  but a twitch of a smile too. “Yah.”

“See you at Thanksgiving.” He said with another quick hug to ease the pang beneath his breastbone. Cole was their first to do this. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” Cole managed with stoic panic.

Taxis lined the curb waiting. Cole carried his father’s suitcase and slid it into the taxi’s trunk. The back windows tinted glass cut off Cole’s view, he waved anyway. The taxi pulled away from the university steps and towards the gates.

Cole stared after it, until he realized he was alone amidst the other students still with their parents. After a deep breath he squared his shoulders and turned back into the dorms where his roommate was probably still blaring music.

Legal Theft: A Little Pang

“Four months? You said two.” He whined. My feet shuffled cold sand as he tugged me towards him. The sun had yet to rise and warm the beaches, but we were sailing with the tide and could not wait for it. Despite the unattractive pout ruining Ano’s normally handsome features, I slipped into his arms and looked up at him.

“Its not like I knew how long voyages take.” I lied and tossed my hair over my shoulder. The wind off the waves caught it almost painfully, snapping it back around my face like a black sail.

Ano frowned and helped tuck it behind my ears, keeping his hands there. “Then just tell them you don’t want to go.” He implored, face close to mine.

“I promised.” In truth I’d asked, then cajoled when Captain Kelani had initially refused. My persistence, and the Captain’s growing annoyance, had eventually won out.

He huffed and stepped away. “This is unfair, what am I supposed to do while your gone? You don’t even like sailing.”

It was hard not sigh and feel a little pang. Even with the spoiled curl of his lip, his tawny hair and broad chest were always something to look at. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, I doubted Ano would be lonely for long. “There’s always Nohea.”

His eyes widened like a child caught stealing a sweet. “Look whatever she said–”

Well that answered that. I’d caught him looking before, but apparently I hadn’t caught everything.

“Goodbye Ano.” I left him on the beach and made my way to the waiting ship.  Captain Kelani greeted me with a jut of his round chin. I grinned and took my place against the rail, ready to watch my home vanish into the glowing horizon. And now, there was one less thing to miss.

This weeks Legal Theft comes from Bekah, who asked us to steal a new experience. 

Warm Sheets and Cold Skin

Alone when he woke, the blinds cut the morning light into pieces across the empty sheets. The fabric was warm, but only from the sun. She had left hours before, taking her warmth with her. He turned over under the cloth.

There were no strange clothes, or even a stray hair pin. Some of his friends claimed women left things, intending to return for them with questions of commitment. Apparently last night’s company, with her strong legs and unsettling intensity, did not intend to come back.

Her absence lay abrasive against his ego. The discomfort woke him fully.

The bedroom floor was still cold. His feet twitched as he shuffled across the hardwood, searching for his own discarded clothes. A shirt rumpled over the chair, socks in separate corners, briefs across the dresser top.

He was accounted for. But she’d vanished. The number he’d entered on his phone, the pictures he’d taken while she turned away shyly, those were gone too. Anger eased the sting of abandonment for the moment, what else had she left with?

His wallet was intact and full. As were his keys left on the floor of the hallway, dropped in his clumsy rush to get them both into the bedroom. Hunkered beneath the second floor, the bottom of his townhouse received no morning. He slipped into his kitchen.

Once the smell of coffee filled the downstairs, he leaned against a granite countertop and took stock. There was no imagining last night, his own body remembered the taut skin and smooth muscles it’d touched, even if now he could find no evidence of her. It remembered the shiver as her odd eyes met his.

A similar, not entirely pleasant, thrill dashed up his spin and into his ears. He shook himself, and stopped looking for signs of her.

Raw Rambles’ music challenge is responsible for this week’s post. Per her challenge, the song and video below inspired this post.  Posts will continue to be short as I am still getting settled in the Pacific Northwest and starting PhD work over the next couple weeks.

Legal Theft: Fire facing Water

The pathetic thing sunk a little more into bay, water sloshing over the ship’s rail. Its inhabitants wailed. Their cries eroded under the afternoon squall. She watched them flounder from the rotted wood of a tall empty dock. It was unclear what was wrong with the small vessel, but somewhere something had broken and the little party was sinking into the turbulent bay.

At another time, her chest might have ached for the plight of the ship and its foolish passengers. Another place, her ribs would have swollen with power. But she was a thing of fire-scorched earth. A being of sand and blistered thorn now far from home. The soaked wind and waves did not tug against her heart, and she could not push and pull them in turn.

This was not her place. These strangers, swiftly to be lost under the water they’d sought to challenge aboard pearl-encrusted wood, were not her people. And she was not so unwise. The ship splintered and dragged the hapless under the dark water.

Right from Apprentice, Never Master‘s pockets, a broken ship. The theft is late, but here it is. 

Legal Theft: Commit to a Theme.

Ruby specks glittered in the burning lichen light. They emerged on tiny legs from the balled silver thread, gemstone spiderlings bursting from their tinny egg pouch.

Ahvia turned the earring over under her fingers with a sour expression. The rough settings caught her skin. Cheap and ugly. She pocketed them all the same, along with a web-motif bracelet and two spiderleg rings. Say what they would about her people, Ahvia thought with a soft exit of breath, but we can commit to a theme.

The acolyte dormitories were completely empty, the fifth sacrifice cycle was upon them and no sane priestess would miss the ceremonies lest they become part of the sixth cycle. It was the perfect time for the faithless and opportunistic to help the acolytes free up space in their trunks.

With full pockets Ahvia padded towards the exit. Her skirts ruffled awkwardly over her pointed boots. The web embroidered garment didn’t fit right, made for someone taller than she, and the added weight had the fabric slipping off her narrow hips.

Her steps made no sound against the stone hallway. So when clicking footfalls echoed from around the corner Ahvia froze and clutched her skirts to keep them from falling off. A half-naked priestess in the corridors might elicit a pause.

The small pack of lithe acolytes eyed her badly tailored robes as they passed her on their way into the dormitories. Most made no comment except to giggle and arch eyebrows but one tall acolyte paused, letting the others go ahead.

“Those–are my skirts.” The acolyte leaned forward, fingers twitching to what Ahvia could guess was a knife.

“Are you blind? These are mine.” Ahvia crossed her arms over her chest and looked up haughtily, gambling that the stolen skirts would not fall off and turn this deadly situation into an embarrassing one.

The acolyte’s crimson eyes narrowed. “No, the web motif–”

Ahvia spoke up again before her opponent could settle entirely on the conclusion. “What? Every tablecloth, curtain, and dress here is covered in them. You’d think any want-to-be priestess of the spider goddess would have noticed that.”

Ahvia whirled, knowing full well that a turned back invited daggers. Though her spine itched with the acolyte’s glare, no attack came and Ahvia made it to the steps of the temple. She looked back once with a blooming grin and then hitched up her falling skirts and hurried away.

Thievery abounds, and all thanks to More than 1/2 Mad and her Legal Theft Challenge this week. Another pull from my Dungeons and Dragons game and my character there.