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Author Topic: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread  (Read 5742 times)

Offline xiagan

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[June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« on: June 02, 2014, 04:04:56 PM »

by HKD

Soo... Taboo.

According to wikipedia, it's "a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment."

Great sentence. And lot's of words in there that should let your mind overflow with ideas.
And in the end, taboos will be broken. Either by accident or out of great need. No matter the consequences.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. A taboo must be a relevant part of the story.
3. Ignore this rule, it's not really here.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you pick an already existing piece of your work, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.

Entry will close June 30th 2014 and voting will begin somewhere around July, 1st 2014.*

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website in July 2014.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.

*I seem to never be home around the end of month, so please excuse if I'm not always on time (which is hard in an international contest with all the time zones anyways. ;))
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Giddler

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Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2014, 05:34:55 PM »
The Old Ways.                                                                           1494 words.

Blood trickled from old Ganbatar’s axe, down into the dust. No-one cheered. His reputation, much like his hide, had withered over time. Folk said wasn’t strong enough to respect anymore; that his best days had passed.

Cheers exploded from the crowd as Munokhoi darted in with his sword. White bone peeked through a gash on his shin. Ganbatar back-pedalled away from the younger man. “Kill him, Munokhoi!” shrieked Munokhoi’s woman, Erdene. Ganbatar dropped his guard, looking to bait Munokhoi into a careless attack. Experience had taught him that talent and skill are delicate tools. The deadliest weapons are patience and a strong will. Take these away, he knew, and a man is useless.

“Need to be quicker, lad!” he chided. “I was killing men in this circle before you were old enough to chew your food.”

“Ha! Can you still chew your own food, you toothless coward?” Erdene again, the shrill bitch. Ganbatar frowned as the crowd howled laughter at him. The tribe had never liked him, he knew. Now it looked like they didn’t fear him anymore either.

“Ganbatar! Stop boasting and fight!” Chingiz now, the maggot. “Shut your hole!” he snarled back; Chingiz merely grinned. Others found their courage and started throwing insults; ridiculing him, his bullying victories, his age. He tried to focus on the fight, but even Munokhoi had a knowing smirk on his lips. Acid boiled in Ganbatar’s gut. His patience snapped, and he blundered into the error he’d been waiting for his opponent to make.

Roaring, he leapt in with a furious swing. Munokhoi’s parry knocked his axe from his grip and sent it clattering away. Disarmed, he threw himself forwards, clinching Munokhoi around the waist and tripping them both to the floor. The youth was fast, though, and he slipped from under him like an eel to sit astride Ganbatar’s chest, pinning him.

Ganbatar held on to Munokhoi’s wrists for long seconds. Panic trickled along his spine and his breath came in hoarse gasps as fatigue ate his strength. Suddenly, Munokhoi’s right hand was free. A hard fist slammed into his jaw, and as fog flooded his vision he saw Munokhoi raise his sword. He had time for a final thought. They were right.

He was too old.

—————————————————-

He awoke, squinting into an iron sky. Gloating faces paraded by, glistening with delight and contempt. Or worst of all, pity. Eventually, the gloating crowd moved on. He sat up, his skull throbbing so fiercely that he collapsed back. A shadow blocked the blinding sun. It was Nerqui, the shaman.

“Stay still,” instructed Nerqui, kneeling.

“Get off me!” Ganbatar spat. “Why am I still alive?” Nerqui did not look at him.

“The Hetman ordered Munokhoi to spare your life, out of respect.”

Ganbatar glared at him. “Respect? If he respected me, he would’ve let me die.” He stood, ignoring the grey fog creeping around the edge of his vision. “He’s weak. All of them are. Munokhoi; Attar; Chingiz. None of them could have faced me at my best-”

He tailed off, realising how petulant he sounded. Nerqui merely nodded.

“Aye,” he said, quietly. “The old ways are dying. Soon, the Sky Horse tribe will weaken and die, corrupted by peaceful lives and a lack of strong leadership. Men like you should rule here.”

Ganbatar pointed at the distant crowd. “How did the strongest tribe in memory give life to those weaklings?”

“Our forefathers were strong, aye,” said Nerqui, after a time. “But did you ever hear of the Stone Jackal tribe? They lived long ago.” Ganbatar shook his head. “They had a ritual; a gift they gave their warriors. It was from this practice that they came by their name.”

“How did it work?” grunted Ganbatar.

“On the day they came into manhood, the young initiates would devour, raw, the flesh of a warrior killed in battle. They melded with the warrior’s spirit and gained great strength.” Nerqui replied.

Ganbatar turned to look at Nerqui, curiously. “Could that work?”

Nerqui paused.  “Meet me at the burial caves.” he said, eventually.

————————————

The watchers around the circle wailed as Chingiz fell, hot blood pouring from the gash in his skull. The warrior standing above him looked around, challenging the crowd with his gaze.

The Hetman snapped from his surprised reverie. “Ganbatar wins,” he muttered in shock. The old champion had fought like a wolf; Chingiz had not had long to regret his words of a few weeks before. Ganbatar looked different now; younger and fiercer.

 Munokhoi had not fought today. He stood with Erdene, both their faces ashen with grief. They were mourning their son. The boy had died a week before, dragged off by wolves while he played. The little boy had been found torn to pieces.

He was hungry again. The cloying smell of blood was thick in his nostrils. Something prodded his shoulder, and he spun around, enraged. It was Nerqui. Ganbatar blinked. He had almost attacked the shaman. He forced a deep breath and swallowed the saliva which had filled his mouth. Nerqui walked off, motioning him to follow. They entered the shaman’s tent, and Nerqui slumped next to the ashes of his cooking fire.

“You fed again, despite my instructions,” said Nerqui, without preamble. He leaned over the fire-pit to coax the flame to life. “‘The flesh of warriors’, I said!” He snorted. “I saw what you did in the catacombs. Feeding on the corpses of women! Children! Your gluttony will damn you. If Munokhoi were to find out…”

“There were no warriors buried there.” Ganbatar shrugged. “Anyway, I was hungry.”

Nerqui eyed him in disgust. “The hunger is the price you must pay for the strength! Don’t you understand?”

“I understand all too well, shaman.” Ganbatar loomed over him. “All your talk about the melding of spirit, and passing on of strength; all wrong! When I bit into Altai, his fear strengthened me! His struggles for life gave me vitality!”

Horrified realisation dawned on Nerqui’s face, and suddenly he was scrambling away for exit. Ganbatar grabbed him by the hair.

“Munokhoi’s son! You’ve fed on the living!” whispered Nerqui.

Ganbatar stuck his knife through his throat.


————————————————————————————


Munokhoi slid awkwardly from the saddle with a pained grunt. His shin still ached from Ganbatar’s axe blow years ago, especially in cold weather. The worst pain it brought with it, however, was the memory of that terrible day not long afterward.

In desperation, Munokhoi had gone to Nerqui for counsel regarding his wife. Erdene had been a ghost since the loss of their son. Munokhoi had hoped the shaman would have something, anything, to make her pain go away.

He’d entered the tent, and stumbled onto a scene of horror. Ganbatar was hunched over Nerqui as his life poured from the hole in his neck, gnawing at the skin of his arm.

Munokhoi had stumbled back in disgust, fumbling at his belt for his knife, and had lunged at the madman. Ganbatar had dodged aside quick as a scorpion, slicing his blade across Munokhoi’s belly. Munokhoi had stumbled to his knees in agony. Through a fog of pain, he sensed Ganbatar move up behind him to cut his throat.

Pure chance had saved him. A babble of voices had approached the tent, and Ganbatar had fled. They had found Munokhoi unconscious, but of Ganbatar there was no sign anywhere in the village. Hunters had tried to track him, but found nothing. A terrible winter was coming, they said. The old man would not survive it.

A few weeks later a child had disappeared. Then, days later, another. This time, a blood trail led the trackers to the cave where the tribe buried their dead. An tentative effort at searching the caves was made, but the infinite web of tunnels that spread from the main cave had not been explored in living memory. Nerqui had said that they ran down into the underworld.

The people had begun to whisper of what Munokhoi had seen. Rumours spread of Ganbatar stalking the tunnels around the catacombs; a ghoul that preyed on the lone or unwary. Finally, the Hetman had relented to Munokhoi’s urging. Men had piled huge rocks, rubble and earth into the cave entrance, sealing it. The disappearances had stopped. 

Now, two years later, the Headman had given in to pressure and opened the catacombs once again. The tribe needs a link to its ancestors, they said, or they will forsake us. Ganbatar is dead, they insisted, fallen down one of the fissures in the caves, straight down to hell.

The last rock was pushed aside, and the cave entrance stood gaping open like the jaw of a predator. Slowly, the people made their way into the catacombs. Munokhoi’s foreboding was drowned by relief as he saw Erdene go in, finally able to grieve for their son. Perhaps she might smile again.

Ten days later, the first child vanished.

Offline TOMunro

Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2014, 09:42:47 PM »
Here it is 1500 words exactly (excluding title)   twitter @tomunro  it is another prequel, but I think it fits the brief quite well.

It is Taboo


“It is taboo!”

“Is not!”

“Is!”

“Isn’t!”

The last exclamation had the additional punctuation of a thump and a yelp which had Corporal Rankin quickening his pace towards the source of the disturbance.  He hurried round the corner of the barracks as fast as age and his dignity would allow.  It was always the same, the little patch of ground where the camp’s children would go to settle their disputes out of sight of any adult interference.  There was another thump and the bawl of a child who suddenly didn’t like this game.  A different voice croaking with the onset of male adolescence declared a foul.  “That wasn’t fair.  You fight like a girl.”

“I am a girl,” came the sharp reply.  “And if this cry baby is fighting like a boy, then I’d rather fight like a girl.”

The last turn brought Rankin in full view of the tableau.  One boy was lying on the ground sobbing one hand on his eye the other protecting between his legs.  Given the age of him, Rankin doubted there was much there needed shielding. 

The older boy was standing, fists raised in threat or possibly defence.  The girl was smaller than either of them, clad in shirt and breeches, with dirty blond hair tied back.  Even though she barely came level with the older boy’s chest she was shaping up to him.  She looked smaller than her eight years. Rankin noted the difference in their stances.  The boy was two footed, square on, leaning in.  The girl stood sideways perfectly balanced, ready to move forward or back.  Her left hand was raised, her right tucked in by her waist curled into a tight fist.  Now where had she learned that?

“Castor,” he barked.  The older boy spun round and shot to attention.  Even the boy on the ground stopped his mewling, shuffling into an upright position.  The girl was more watchful, not relaxing her pose until she was sure the boys were no longer a threat.  Then she stood idly at ease, grinning fearlessly.  After all what had she to fear?

“Attend to your brother.”

“She didn’t fight fair,” the little one bleated as he was helped to his feet.

“I said you was a liar, and I proved it didn’t I?” the girl spat.

“It is taboo! Kicking me in the nuts don’t change that.”

The girl lunged for him so fast that Rankin had to practically fall inbetween them to shield her target from harm.  Castor circled his brother with his arms.  “Get him out of here,” Rankin hissed over his shoulder.

“Yeah, and don’t come back,” the girl shouted, wriggling in the Corporal’s arms.

He held her tight until he was sure it was safe and then set her gently down on the ground.  “Now will you tell me what that was all about?” 

“The little shit’s a liar.”

“That’s a very young tongue to talk so foul, what would your father say?”

“Exactly the same.”  The girl was breathing heavily as the argument revisited her.  “He said girls couldn’t become guard captains, he said they couldn’t become soldiers at all.”

Something in his expression must have caught her attention for she looked at him in a sudden misery of doubt.  “He is lying, isn’t he Ranky?”

Rankin shook his head sadly.  “It is the ruling of Saint Morwena.  Women are not made or meant for warfare.”  A single syllable of despair passed the girl’s lips.  “Come, you will make a fine priestess, your father will be proud.  They have wicked maces, sometimes they have to go to war too.”

“I don’t want a mace,” she wailed.  “I want a sword and a shield and chain mail, just like my dad.”

***

Sergeant Kullick was sweating despite the cold Salician winter.  There were so many places he would prefer to have been, charging single handed at an orc warband, or swimming the ordure laden sewers of Salicia, to name but two of them. The officer door opened and the quartermaster slipped out. “Captain Persaphus will see you now.”

Kullick straightened his jerkin, then straightened it again, tucked his helmet under his arm and did his best quick march coming to a heel clicking salute before the Captain’s desk.  “You wanted to see me, sah!”

The bastard didn’t even acknowledge him.  For a long minute he read through a paper in his desk and then another before at last he graced the Sergeant with a gaze of unscrutable blankness.  “I take it you know what this is about, Sergeant.”

“No, Sah!”  Of course he knew what it was about, but let the bastard work for it.

“Sergeant you are a fine soldier, a great swordsman but a shocking liar. Please don’t take me for a fool or show yourself to be one.”

“Yes… er.. no.. Sah!”

“Well?”

“Is it about, the young lady?” Kullick parted with his information one crumb at a time.

“My daughter is fourteen you know.”

“She’s a fine looking young woman, Sah!” Shit that had come out all wrong.  Kullick felt himself go puce, the Captain’s mouth bent into a humourless smile.

“She seems to be spending a lot of time in your company, Sergeant.”

“The young lady has a keen interest in swords, Sah and other weapons, in which I claim a certain expertise.”  Shit, still wrong and far far too close to the truth.

“My daughter has dreams of being a soldier.”

“She would make a fine soldier, Sah.”  The Captain’s expression darkened the room more thoroughly than had a cloud gone infront of the Sun.  Shit, mouth just stay closed. Say nothing.

“My daughter will grow out of those dreams, and she will do so more quickly if fools like you do not indulge her fancies with mock sword fights and other distractions.”

Kullick waited a long time before deciding that “yes, Sah!” was probably a safe answer.

Another paper on the desk drew the Captain’s attention for an age.  Just when Kullick thought he might have been dismissed, Persaphus spoke.  “I have sought a posting back to the Petred Isle, in Morwencairn.  My daughter and I leave in six weeks.”

Praise be to the Goddess, he was going to get out of this with his balls and his life intact.

“In the meantime, you are to have nothing to do with her.  It is time she learned what it was to be a woman of the Salved people, as her mother would have wished.”

“Yes, Sah!”

***
   
She nursed her drink and watched her quarry.  A drunk lurched against her table. “You looking for company love,” he slurred.
   
“You looking to wear your bollocks as earrings?” she spat back.  He took the hint and she settled again to watch the portly figure at the table across the way.  He didn’t look like much, short of body, stubby of fingers with a hairline that was already beating an epic retreat across the dome of his head.  Still he was the one. The purse at her belt was lighter than it had been.  Full half of her father’s legacy spent on identifying this one man.  Money that Captain Persaphus had left to further her ordination in the service of the Goddess, disbursed in an entirely different cause.  She hoped the fat little man would not be too demanding in his price.

She watched as he drained another glass of that sickly green liqueur.  To add to his manifest physical deformities, she could now add appalling taste.  Still he was her chance and, she hoped, she could be his. 

She’d worked it out.  A year, maybe two.  If she could enlist and spend just that long in the guard service she was sure to reach the rank of Captain, maybe higher.  Then she could show them how worthless had been the taboo laid down by the cursed Saint Morwena.  The taverns had been full of the tales of another assault on Salicia.  The colony would fall unless the Salved people let the best take arms, and by the Goddess, testicles or not, she was the best. 

All it needed was a disguise, a perfect infallible disguise of maleness.  A disguise that only a mage could create and with wizardry being even more ferociously illegal than woman guardsmen, mages were hard and expensive to find.

Her quarry stumbled to his feet and edged out of the tavern.  She rose, abandoning her half-finished drink, ducking beneath the door lintel into the cool air of the alley.  He was waddling to her right, not a care in the world.  After all, this was the safest town in the safest realm in the known world.

She followed him, smooth silent steps as he turned a corner.  Her heart beat quicker.  Her father’s legacy would at last buy her the chance she most craved. She rehearsed the words in her head.  “Hello little wizard.  I am your opportunity to show show your craft as you have always wanted.  My name is Dema.”
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014, 12:53:29 AM by TOMunro »

Offline A.J. Van-Rixtel

Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2014, 07:50:30 PM »
Hi All,

Twitter @FantasyWriter24

Mine is called, Audience. It is 1344 worlds long :) Hope you enjoy.

*Please note it is a bit gory at times*

Amongst the tubes and flasks, Dr Jorrakel infused the ingredients for his latest experiment. The Alchemic apparatus started to hum and clatter, as the ingredients he had put together, began to mould and form a solution. A sudden vibration shattered one of the glass vials. Damn. Dr Jorrakel pushed back his long auburn hair to keep it away from its eyes. With a steady hand, he took out the rare red liquid he had managed to procure from Peru. Red water. He had perfected the recipe over many attempts. He had enough of liquid for this and one more attempt at creating the elixir that would save his world.
   There was no turning back now. He had poured all of his life savings into this. If it failed or if he was too afraid to continue, everything would be lost. He looked at the picture of his wife. She was beautiful in the photo. Now though she was ill and stuck in bed. Half of her left arm missing and her right leg amputated from the hip. Her face scarred. She was to die soon. It has to work it must. I must save her.
   Once he finished pouring his carefully measured red water into the tube, he began to draw on the desk the transmutation circle. First, he drew the eight triangles needed for this. The most any circle contained was six and that was dangerous. When he discovered it needed eight triangles he almost gave up. Once the triangles were drawn, he connected each point of the triangle with precision. The lines began to glow red.
   In a cage to the left of the desk, a rabbit attempted to break out. It wanted to flee. Dr Jorrakel took no notice of it, as he started to draw the five runes needed for the transmutation.
   Dr Jorrakel, after he finished the runes, silently moved over to the cage. He soothed the rabbit, to calm it. ‘It’s okay,’ he said calmly. As he walked over to the desk with the near completed transmutation circle he snapped the rabbits leg. The rabbit howled in pain. It bit him but Dr Jorrakel held it firm in his hands. He placed the rabbit on the table on top of the runes he had drawn. With swift fingers, he restrained the rabbit with invisible bonds. 
   From the draw of the desk, Dr Jorrakel took out a long curved dagger. Its handle decorated ornately, the blade black steel. He opened his free hand and sliced at his flesh with a clean stroke. Blood flowed out of his open wound. He placed the dagger down and with the index finger, he drew a circle to connect all the triangles with one curve, with his blood. The glow from the lines on the transmutation circle intensified. Dr Jorrakel stood back and watched.
   A white light blinded Dr Jorrakel for a moment. Once the light dissipated, he looked at the rabbit. It was unmoving. It was still bound, by the invisible bonds.
   Dr Jorrakel released the bounds and took the rabbit from the desk. He checked the leg he had snapped. There was no break in it. It had been repaired. Dr Jorrakel placed the rabbit back into its cage.
   ‘It worked. It actually worked.’
   Dr Jorrakel felt a sudden wave of tiredness fall over him. He went to sleep. In the morning, he would save his wife.

   ‘Dr Jorrakel, why is it you have summoned the newspapers to your doors this morning,’ a reporter from the Daily Journal asked. The journalist sat on one of the stools Dr Jorrakel had set out. Dr Jorrakel stood tall atop the fifteen steps that lead to his mansion. The chairs and stools sat at the last step. He responded with a smile.
   This is good, they are eager to find out. I better not disappoint. Once all of the journalists and medical professionals had taken a seat, he had an audience of around fifty people now. He would have liked more but he knew not everyone would heed his summons. As he glanced at the audience, he could see all manner of different expressions. Some he could tell were annoyed.
   They were still chattering amongst themselves until Dr Jorrakel lifted his arms above his head. As the signal for silence was received, everyone went quiet.
   ‘Ladies, gentlemen,’ he began, ‘and my fellow colleagues.’
   ‘Speak for yourself, I am no colleague of yours, you experiment on humans with your crazy theories,’ a plump man spoke up. He looked agitated.
   ‘Ah, Dr Colleck, glad you could make it,’ Dr Jorrakel greeted. He ignored the comments and continued on with his speech. ‘You all know me as Dr Jorrakel, a researcher in human genetics. Until recently I had a loving wife, who is now ill and unable to move due to a land mine.’
With a motion of his hand, an invisible force pushed forward a bed with wheels. It revealed his wife. ‘As some of you are aware I was told her condition is irreversible.’ He shot a look at Dr Colleck. ‘She lost an arm, a leg and in all likely hood will never open her eyes again. I was told she is a lost cause.’
   He wheeled the bed onto the drawn transmutation circle, that could not be seen from where the audience sat. With another motion of his hand, a chalkboard wheeled into place. With a picture of the circle.
   ‘This,’ he continued. ‘This is the answer to my wife’s problems. I will be able to save her. With your help.’ A wicked smile developed over his face. The people at the front were able to see it best. They became panicked.
   ‘Wait I know what you are doing,’ Dr Colleck called out. He started up the steps to the mansion but an invisible barrier stopped him and flung him into the others just behind. The chairs scattered, revealing marks on the ground, which were not noticed before. ‘Human transmutation, that is forbidden.’
   ‘My wife was taken from me, that is not fair. You will all help me bring her back. With your lives.’ Dr Jorrakel drew the knife from his belt. The same one he had used the night before. He slashed at his hand.
   The screams from the audience reached his ears. Yes that is how she screamed when the mine blew her up. Feel her pain.
   He smiled.
   Dr Jorrakel began to draw the circle. It was almost completed. A black form shot out of door to the house. Huge and muscular. It careened straight into him and knocked him flying. Its teeth bared. Hideous. Grotesque. Able to just make out the rabbit ears. Dr Jorrakel’s eyes widened as realisation set in. The creature then attacked again. Flinging its self into Dr Jorrakel’s sternum. As his cut arm flailed it landed in the near complete transmutation circle.
   His blood poured and completed the circle. A bright flash blinded the creature and himself. Dr Jorrakel regained his sight before the creature, clearly it was a creature of darkness. That did not like the light. With the blade, he slashed at its throat and cut it down.
   Dazed Dr Jorrakel got up and looked around. Where the audience sat were pools of blood. It dripped off the chairs into the runes.
   No what have I done?
   In the shadows behind him crept a figure. Black as night. It crashed into the table. Disorientated. When he turned around Dr Jorrakel saw his worst nightmare. From its head protruded an arm. The left arm. Its leg, the one that was once missing, was stunted. It groaned. Its right hand reached out. Dr Jorrakel fell to his knees. He cried. This was not meant to happen.
   Dr Jorrakel could hear. A voice.   
   -Death-
   The creature limped over to him. It placed it’s blacken hand around the back of his head, and the other on the top. With a strong twist, it took Dr Jorrakel’s head to face the audience. With a snap his neck broke.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2014, 07:53:48 PM by A.J. Van-Rixtel »

Offline Elfy

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Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2014, 12:47:37 AM »
I've only ever written down a story that I dreamt twice, this is the second time. The first was for a composition in school when I was 8 years old.

You can tweet me at @ChrisElfy.

This is called Life and Death and it is exactly 1500 words long.

Life and Death

A group of ragged children watched the men toil on the dustbowl that was Old Man Sherman’s field.

A little girl, who by virtue of being the oldest child present, was also the leader, screwed up her courage, and holding tight to her little brother’s hand, dragged him over to a man who stood by supervising the others at their work.

“Mister,” she asked politely.

The man turned around. “Eh?”

“Whatcha doin’?” the girl asked.

The man gave the girl a disarming grin, “Well, little lady. My name is Preacher George an’ me an’ my band,” he waved at a group of four men, sitting on the bed of a truck, “we’re fixin’ to have a mass right here on this very spot tomorrow mornin’.”

“A mass?” the girl echoed. “Like with snakes an’ all?”

“The magic of life, little lady. That’s what Preacher George and his band give to people. Life itself.”

The girl looked up doubtfully.

Preacher George smiled down at her. He reached into the pocket of his threadbare trousers and came out holding a fistful of cheaply printed black and white flyers and a number of plastic wrapped lollipops.

At the sight of the candy the rest of the little tribe of children came running over to the balding man in the grubby white singlet. Each child received a lollipop and a flyer, and left the field clutching their spoils with Preacher George’s exhortations ringing in their ears, “Tell your Mama and Papa, tell everyone. Come to Preacher George’s tent and witness miracles!”

                                                             ****

While George’s abilities as a preacher could be called into doubt, he was definitely an A grade snake oil salesman, and the result of his sales pitch for his tent revival ceremony was that nearly the town’s entire, admittedly small, population found themselves seated on uncomfortable folding chairs, sweating in the musty old tent’s crowded and close interior.

“He don’t even got any snakes,” one teenager muttered to another seated next to him, then yelped as his mother walloped him across the back of the head, hissing, “Hush!”

“My Tammy said you promised her a miracle!” a heavy set man, with weathered features that hinted of long summer days spent toiling outside, shouted from somewhere in the middle of the congregation.

“That I did, good sir!” Preacher George agreed.

“You a healer?” a lady asked in a cracked voice.

Preacher George looked the elderly woman. “What ails you, madam?” he asked. “Is it an ill of the soul or the flesh?”

“I ain’t got nothin’ wrong with me!” the woman asserted indignantly. “Fit as a plough horse.”

“One of the kids said you promised the miracle of life,” a thin voice floated from the back of the tent. “What does that mean?”

Preacher George looked around the tent with a twinkle in his dark eyes, and pointed at his band, who had played at the beginning of the ceremony and in breaks during the man’s sermon, which had been along the line of the travelling hot gospellers who plied their trade up and down the dusty roads that led into and out of the small mid western town.

“My guitarist is a modest man,” he said.

The tall lean man with the thin tattoo covered arms stepped forward and played a few notes on the strings of his guitar.

“There is magic in those fingers and those strings,” Preacher George began. “The magic…nay the miracle of life.”

“What ‘zactly does that mean?” another voice asked.

“He can conquer death itself!” Preacher George thundered dramatically, his fists thrust skyward.

A commotion broke out in the tent. “Aint’ no one can do that!” “Dead is dead!” “Blasphemy!” “Prove it!”

George seized on the final challenge. “Prove it? Did you say prove it, sir? I would be glad to. Does anyone have a body for me to raise?”

An uneasy laughter flickered around the tent and as it died away a small girl stood in the aisle between the seats. In her arms she cradled a small black and white bundle of fur.

Preacher George looked down at the girl, “Yes, child?”

“Mary! Mary!” a couple hissed at her from their seats.

The girl sniffled wetly and it was obvious she had been crying. Tear tracks ran down her face and her eyes were red rimmed and swollen.

“It’s my puppy, sir,” the girl sobbed. “He died. Can you bring him back?”

Eyes turned to the red-faced parents, and someone asked, “Why did you let her bring a dead dog to the service?”

“We didn’t know,” her father tried to explain. “The poor thing passed last night, and Mary hid it. We were plannin’ to bury it after the meeting.”

“Bring him up here, child?” Preacher George invited.

He took the soft bundle of fur from the girl and laid it on a rickety table.

“What is his name, child?” the preacher asked the girl, who had broken into fresh sobs.

“Snoopy,” she managed to get out through her tears.

“A fine name for a dog,” George said.

He placed his hands on the dog’s body, looked directly at the tattooed guitarist and said, “You play Spike. Play for life!”

Impassively the guitarist began to play his instrument, his eyes never left George’s. The preacher’s eyes rolled back in his head and he shook violently. As the guitar notes died on the air, the small dog let out a yap, jumped to its feet and began to gambol around the table. Mary leapt on her pet with a joyful cry of, “Snoopy!” she carried him through the stunned congregation and back to her disbelieving parents, her face being thoroughly licked.

                                                       ****

George was showered with money, crops, food, clothing, anything of value or use. It was not every day that these people saw a dead thing brought back to life. George had a powerful magic at his disposal.

The man was counting his take and the band were packing up, when a young couple approached the preacher.

“Sir. Preacher George?” the young man asked shyly.

“Yes,” George said, those eyes twinkling merrily.

“Do you only do dogs?”

“Excuse me?”

“Is it only dogs you can raise or does the power work on people?”

“Well..I…I….don’t…”

“It’s our little girl,” the wife, a woman in her early twenties, her face aged beyond her years, explained. “She died this week. She was only a baby…and…” she stopped, her body wracked with sobs, holding onto her husband for support.

“I have done a person…once,” George said softly, “but… Well you saw what a puppy took out of me and a person, even a baby…”

“We can pay,” the man said desperately.

“It ain’t just the money,’ George protested. “It’s the notoriety, people start thinkin’ I can raise the dead, they all want me to do it, an’ I can’t say no. That’s a failin’ of mine.”

“We won’t tell no one,” the woman promised, her eyes shining.

“Yeah…well I…”

“Ten thousand,” the man said.

“What?”

“I’ll pay you ten thousand dollars. It’s all we got. My mother left it to us for the farm, but it’s for my little girl.”

“Where is she?”

“Funeral home.”

“I’ll meet you there.”

                                                                  ****

“You said after last time there weren’t going to be any more people!” Spike told his friend. “It’s hard enough with a damn cow!”

“It’s ten thousand dollars, Spike! We’ll be long gone before they figure it out.”

“I wished I’d never found this damn guitar at that crossroads and cut my finger on the string,” the guitarist muttered.

“Pay ol’ Scratch his due,” said George.
                                                             ****

George looked down at the still little body in the tiny coffin. He brushed a golden curl away from the closed eyes, and laid his hands on it. He looked at his guitarist over the lid of the casket. “Look into my eyes, Spike and play what you see.”

                                                           ****

The baby slept peacefully in her mother’s arms. Spike was on his knees being noisily sick into a wastepaper receptacle. George wiped a sheen of sweat from his brow and sucked in a ragged breath. He took a wad of bills from the desperate young farmer.

“Thank you very much, young man.”

“No, thank you,” the farmer said, looking fondly at his wife and child.

                                                                ****

“So you just found it dead in the field?” the vet asked, looking from the dead bull up at the perplexed farmer.

The man nodded. “Yeah. Damndest thing.  Was the healthiest one in the herd, then musta just fell over. We came back from that revivalist meeting and there he was, dead.”

                                                               ****

The paramedic sighed, checked the pulse and the heart, then his watch and filled in the time of death, before pulling the sheet up over the old lady’s eyes.

“And after saying how fit she was at the preacher’s tent,” remarked her neighbor as the body was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the morgue for a coroner’s report.


I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Saraband

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Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2014, 10:26:51 AM »
Decided to try something different this month. Tried using prose to tell this story, but it wasn't coming together that well, so ended up with this.

Hope you like it!

twitter.com/@mgboronha

The Song of Parujin (391 words)

Parujin was his name,
He who turned his leprosy into fame.
Though fate was most unkind,
Parujin found his peace of mind.

When he was but a child,
His disease first struck him blind.
Yet, as always, Parujin smiled,
Certain one day his fortune he’d find.

Every day Parujin got more lame,
Cursing the elements for his fate.
Until his heart was bestirred by flame,
When he met Horazi, his she-mate.

With her he learned to weave and spin,
Almost disremembering the ailment of his skin.
Parujin’s mastery was of utmost perfection,
Growing under Horazi’s protection.

But Parujin’s curse ate more of his skin,
And Horazi was forced away from him.
In his sorrow, a marvellous piece he sought to begin,
Of what he imagined Horazi’s face to be, what a whim!

Day and night he sat on his bench,
Stitching the image of Horazi so fair,
Yet his passion he couldn’t quench,
Moon by moon immersed in greater despair.

Parujin’s entire body ached as his skin fell,
All but his hands escaping the hell.
Only time is crueller than the Gods,
And against Parujin stood all odds.

At last, the use of his hands was lost,
Parujin crying dried tears for the unfinished piece.
His spirit was broken and his body exhaust,
All will to live just about to cease.

Horazi returned to wave farewell,
Bidden to marry a man of strength and wealth.
Alas, Parujin’s fabric must have been woven by spell,
An impossible work for a boy with his health.

Though never had his gaze seen her,
Parujin’s work was as perfect as myrrh.
It reflected the seamless precision of a mirror,
Never had love been made clearer.

Finally, Parujin’s spark was about to cease,
As death came to grant him his deserved peace.
In the last moments, Horazi came near
And whispered softly in his ear:

“The Gods forbid the touch of a leper,
But I would rather have my lips decay,
If I didn’t use them to kiss the man I love better,
Before he is taken away.”

Their lips became united,
Amidst tears of a love so requited.
Thus the boy drew his last breath,
And never had anyone journeyed happier to death.

Parujin was his name,
He who turned his leprosy into fame,
Though fate was most unkind,
Parujin found his peace of mind.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2014, 09:16:46 AM by M. G. Boronha »
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Offline ladygreen

Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2014, 03:19:07 PM »
Only the Wise Wish for Death
Count: 1487
Twitter: @AniAulbach

If she touched it, she would die.  That much was certain.  What kind of death she would suffer was not as clear.  At least, she wasn't sure if she believed what the Wiser had told them about death. Aradia extended a tentative finger, stopping just a hair's breadth away from the glass jar.  The air pulsed and rippled around the aster.  Startled, she snatched her hand away and shuffled back until she was pressed against stone.

"Playing with death is not a game for young girls."  The dry, familiar voice welled up from the blackest corner of the cave.

Caught.  "I - I wasn't...," she began as a hunched figure stepped forward.

"Has the sickness taken you then?" the old woman demanded.  When Aradia didn't answer, she spat and then swept the fallen cloth back over the glass.  The dim blue light that had illuminated the cracks and crevices of the walls disappeared.

Aradia gasped when the Wiser grasped her wrist.  The woman was swift and silent, despite her gnarled limbs.

"I asked you a question girl.  I'll throw you back where you came from if you don't tell me right now. Is the sickness in you?"

"N-no!"

The old woman peered up at her, and seemed to come to a decision.  "Get on with you!" she snapped, releasing Aradia's wrist.

Aradia fled from the dancing caves, stumbling and scraping her hands on the sharp gravel as she made her way up the path and through the moonless night.

When her bedmate shook her awake the next morning, Aradia half hoped that the meeting in the dancing cave had been a dream.  She couldn't be sent away, not now.  The Wisers only took girls once every ten years; if she hadn't been selected, she would have been dead by now.  And not the half death every Wiser sought, but the full death of eternal blackness and loss of self.

At table, the other girls stared at Aradia's scratched and torn hands.  Self-consciously, she tucked them under her napkin as the porridge was doled out.  Only when the others began to eat did she raise her own spoon, taking care to hold her hand in a way so as to conceal her injuries.

The Wiser sat silent and watchful at the head of the table.  She is an ugly woman, Aradia thought as she swallowed her food.  But, she reminded herself, the aster's half death doesn't grant beauty, only power.

"I took a walk last night," the Wiser said, breaking the noise of clinking spoons and glass.  "The aster was glowing bright."

The room fell silent.  Aradia felt her heart begin to pound.

"It seems there is one among you who feels she is ready to take the ultimate vow, to live through the half death."

A collective gasp moved down the table.  Sunlight slanted through the tall beveled windows, casting its hopeful glow over the girls, but all Aradia felt was heat; heat beaming through the glass, slicing into her, laying her open for them all to see.  It was forbidden, absolutely forbidden to consider the half death before permission was given.  And Aradia had no permissions here.  Not yet.

“But it is too early for us, Wiser,” one of the girls finally said.  Her voice trembled.  “Is the sickness here?"

"The sickness," the Wiser agreed, folding her hands beneath her chin.  It was a young gesture, one used by coquettish girls, not old women.  Her eyes glittered.  "In all of history, since the land was first molded and the oceans first poured, no one has touched the aster without the blessing of the previous Wiser."  Her voice was quiet with anger.  “I have given no blessings.”

Aradia shivered.  What had she done?  But she knew; she knew why she had crept through the night to the dancing caves, knew why she had slipped the cover off the aster, and knew why she had almost, almost touched it.

The Wiser's eyes flashed.  "I do not plan to leave this earth today, nor tomorrow, nor the day after that," she continued.  "The full death will not find me for years to come.  But one would give it to me today - last night in fact."  She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "So, what am I to do?"

No one was eating anymore.  All eyes were fixed on the old woman.

"The test, Wiser," answered a girl in a small voice.

The Wiser said nothing and smiled.  Aradia felt dark eyes slide to her face, felt the porridge rise in her throat.  The meal continued in silence.

Aradia worked hard all day, scrubbing the floors of the library and halls, spinning thread until her fingers ached, trying to keep busy, trying to stay unnoticed, trying to keep thoughts of the aster at bay.

The half death would give her power.  The half death would wash away the memories.  The half death could bring her peace.  She believed it now, she realized. Just last night she had not been sure, but the fear and anger in the Wiser's eyes were enough to convince her.

When the Wiser came for her in the night, Aradia was not scared.  She knew she had what they called ‘the sickness’; it was only a matter of time before the Wiser discovered it.

"The sickness," the Wiser began as if reading her thoughts, "takes only the weakest of souls."  She was leading Aradia back down the winding gravel path to the dancing caves.  "It preys on those that have suffered, rots their minds, and draws them to madness and then the full death.  Is that what you want girl?"

Aradia didn't answer.  Her heart thumped in her chest as she thought of the aster within.  She was not afraid.  She would not die the full death, no matter what the Wiser said.

It was black as pitch inside the cave; Aradia had to listen to the crunching of the Wiser's feet to guide her own.  Down, down they went until the scent of green things disappeared.

We should be there by now, Aradia thought. It wasn't nearly as far last night.

"Stop," instructed the Wiser. 

Aradia halted.  The dark was thick and empty around her.  There was a sharp scratching noise and suddenly the cave was illuminated with yellow firelight.

The Wiser secured the torch and hobbled over to Aradia.  "Come."  She beckoned and turned away, toward the sound of trickling water.

This is not where the aster was kept.  “Aren't you going to give me the test?" Aradia asked.  The Wiser offered no answer, so Aradia scurried after her.

They paused at the edge of an underground stream.  The Wiser turned to look at Aradia, her eyes flickering in the light that still reached them from the torch.

“Do you think I would allow it; you who is new and untried, the last of my girls?”

Stunned, Aradia could only stare.  The Wiser took a step closer.

“Only the very best, the brightest, are chosen.  Only after years of dedication to our craft is a girl permitted to take the test.  Unless…”  She shuffled to Aradia’s side.  “There is one with the sickness.  I see it in you now.”

“Then…then you must let me take the test.” 

A sudden cold swept through the cave.  It swirled around Aradia's arms and legs, whispering as it went.  Another waft, another whisper.  Another, another, another until she was surrounded by voices. The Wiser lifted her arm.  In the dim light, Aradia saw a flash of cold silver.

"The test!" Aradia demanded. Her bravado had left her and she backed slowly away.  "I know I will pass the test!"

“I am not ready, and I will not be followed by one such as you.”  The Wiser held up her sickle shaped blade.  “The Wisers before me will witness this purge; it is my choice, my right.” 

When the Wiser leapt, Aradia dove, rolling away.  The voices screamed and wailed as she dragged herself up and ran.

"Not without permission!" they shrieked.

Aradia fled the torchlight, plunging into darkness.  She turned a corner and then another.  The voices followed her and she felt, rather than saw, the Wiser at her neck. 

She melted into the wind, Aradia thought madly.

She ran into something hard and then there was a loud crash.  The room flooded with blue light, blinding her.  When her eyes cleared, she saw the aster lying on the floor.  Like before, the air pulsed and shimmered around it.

"Never without permission!" the voices screamed.

“It is my choice, it is my right!”  The Wiser flew into the room and flung herself at Aradia.

Aradia dove into the shattered glass, grabbing the aster. There was a brilliant flash and then all went dark.

"Aradia?  Aradia?  Are you alright?"

A hand shook her shoulder.

"Aradia, where is the Wiser?"

The Wiser smiled and opened her eyes for the first time.

Offline Neila

Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2014, 04:41:52 AM »
Word Count: 975
Twitter Handle: @NeilaK20


The Stones
by Sarah "Neila" Elkins

   My eyes hurt but I keep them open. It's a struggle but it is necessary. I must not falter. No one knows I'm here. They would shudder if they did.
   "You're almost done, the spirits are settling," my familiar tells me while flapping about my head, her little rust colored bat body looks like a small flying hamster. I've known her since I was twelve when I learned I was a witch. She taught me everything she could but there is only so much a familiar can teach their witch in five short years.
   There's a low rumble from the earth like a growl from a sick dog. It shakes my heels and bones in my legs. The brilliant red stones around me dim slightly due to the distraction but I redouble my focus. I must seal the fissure in this basement. There can not be another murder here.
   "Marie, you're almost done. It's just the poltergeist being surly. You're stronger than any poltergeist," Vesper is like a fuzzy little cheerleader sometimes but I can hear an unwelcome unease in her high pitched voice as she darts near the ceiling beams in the dusty unfinished basement. She's been so certain of my powers since before I knew I had them so it's unsettling to hear her voice shake like that.
   I keep my hands in front of me as the rumbling grows loud enough to shake the walls and rain dust down on me. The poltergeist in this home is strong, I can feel it as it manifests behind me. I have senses a bit like a bat myself so I don't need to have my eyes open to see it's distorted claws form from the falling dust, its legs rise out of the soft dirt floor, and it's body made of light and sound absorbing shadow meet the limbs in the middle below a horn rimmed skull like head. It's unlike any poltergeist I've ever encountered before, warped by pure hate and possibly at least one sixth demon.
   "Wwwwiiitch," it growls at me. "Your kind has yet to eradicate you, I see."
   "Oh no," I feel Vesper land on my head and crawl into my hair shaking as I've never felt her do before. "You...you're gonna be fine, Marie."
   I run through what I know about witchcraft, which unfortunately is mostly 'self taught' not counting what little instruction Vesper gave me. Most of my craft is lead by my intuition and gut, it's raw and rough. I'd gladly look for a teacher but it's beyond difficult with something so taboo. My parents don't even know I'm a witch. The demon behind me is right, witches have all but been wiped out.
   The cleansing ritual is almost complete, I can feel that and see that as the stones begin to melt into the powder-like floor. The poltergeist has manifested as I've driven it out of the area which means...it's vulnerable. Would a normal attack work on it? I'm save in my circle, it can't touch the salt stones around me. I have an extra couple stones in my jacket pocket.
   "I have been here since before this home was built," the creature behind me continues. "Never has a witch tread on my domain. Do not think that means I have not killed a witch in my time," the demon lifts one massive claw up to brush the ceiling with its knuckles. "My time has been long. I have seen the rise and fall of countless humans in this land long before I came to rest in this puny domicile."
   The stones around me continue to wither to nothing. I can tell the demon is smiling with a hideous smile as I draw my hands down toward my green jacket pockets.
   Vesper crawls toward my ear, "I'm sorry. I didn't know it was a demon. It's old and hid well. If I knew it was a real demon I wouldn't have suggested exorcising it.
   I grip one salt stone in each palm as the last of the stones on the ground. They will be gone in a moment and I will be completely exposed. I will have to time this perfectly.
   "You may have driven me from the earth but I will desanctify the land with your blood," the demon laughs.
   I spin around on the balls of my feet as my salt stones evaporate away and hurl a fresh stone from my right hand at the demon's gaping jaws. The salt shreds its knife like teeth and travels down the monster's throat. Sword like hands reach for the demon's neck as it tries to shriek. The stone begins to glow, fighting the darkness of the demon's body. I hold the second salt stone ready in case the first doesn't do the job but it's unnecessary. The demon falls apart as the light from the stone radiates out to fill the room for a brief moment before the stone falls to the floor and vaporizes.  I can feel the demon no longer. The house is simply a place to live and not somewhere a poltergeist will kill you in your sleep.
   "Vesper, it's gone," I reach into my hair and lightly pet her tiny round bat head with one finger.
   Vesper crawls into my jacket hood, "I knew you could do it."
   "Thanks," I head for the rough wood staircase. I need to be out of this house before the owners realize I'm there. I can't help but think things would have gone smoother if I had a more solid idea of what I'm doing. "Let's get home before Mom and Dad realize I'm gone."
   "Don't for get to do your math homework."
   I sigh as I walk up the steps and whisper, "Okay, okay. I'll do my math homework."

Offline Carter

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Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2014, 04:39:44 PM »
Obsession 1492 words

Prince Alfonso’s heart hammered in his chest.  Crouched in the undergrowth, pine needles pricking and tickling at his skin, the scents of the forest filling his nostrils, he strove for calm as he watched his quarry move through the trees.  It was a challenge not to gasp, not to make some noise of appreciation at its splendour and grace.  Yet if he wanted his prize, silence was crucial.  The slightest warning, the merest hint of his presence, and all would be wasted. 

*

“You can’t tell me you’ve never been tempted?  After all we’ve done?  After the last time?”

Blaze’s voice rippled with incredulity, his mouth turning upwards into his characteristic wicked, mischievous smile.  Inside Alfonso, revulsion warred with intrigue and excitement.  Could he try something so rare, so ingrained in his family’s history?  But after all he had done, after all the exotic things he had tried, how could he ignore the opportunity?  Just because his family’s crest bore the image?  Just because Blaze said he would have to hunt it himself this time?  Such concerns almost vanished alongside even the prospect of exhilaration.  Before he could open his mouth, Blaze barked a laugh. 

“You really haven’t,” he said. 

“And you have?”

“How do you think I got this?”

He pointed at the puckered, angry scar on his chest.  Alfonso traced it with his finger and felt Blaze’s heart quicken. 

“You said it was a poaching accident.”

Blaze’s smile widened. 

*

Magnificent.

It almost hurt to keep the thought to himself, to remain still.  His hand began to sweat, his grip on his bow becoming slick.  He had to dry it.  Instead, he could only watch.  After days waiting by the stream, it had finally arrived and all he could do was stare wide-eyed and awestruck like a peasant at court.  Like a starved man at a feast.  Like a man in love for the first time. 

*

“What is it?”

Beneath his fingers the shell felt dry, brittle and warm.  When he pulled his hand away, it was covered in fine, black ash.  Blaze’s olive eyes twinkled and the smile Alfonso had grown to spread across his face. 

“Roasted dragon’s egg.”

Alfonso stood speechless.  Even though he had requested something special, he had never expected anything like this.  Dragon eggs were rare and all but impossible to procure.  The cost and danger far exceeded everything Blaze had acquired for him before now.

His mouth became a desert, his tongue awkward as his mind whirred. 

“How much?” he said when he finally found his voice. 

“Call this one a gift.  For both of us.  It’s said to be a powerful aphrodisiac,” said Blaze. 

Alfonso felt the first stirrings begin even as Blaze raised a small hammer.  Even as Blaze’s smile turned keen and lascivious. 

*

Finally he worked up the courage to move.  With pained slowness, he inched his hand away from the bow, wiping it with deliberate care against the fabric of his hose.  If he wanted to do this, then he had to be ready, everything had to perfect.  One thing wrong, one thing even slightly out of place and it could all tumble down. 
As he moved his hand back towards the bow, it raised its head, ears pricked forward and its stance ready to run.  He stopped.  Panic set his heart racing, one mantra repeating in his head. 

Don’t think.  Don’t breathe.  Don’t do anything.

*

“Three hundred.”

 “You said one fifty.  At most.”

Blaze shrugged, for once his expression serious.  And was there the hint of fatigue around his eyes?  Of strain?  Alfonso thought he knew Blaze well enough to recognise such details. 

“It was more difficult to acquire than I thought,” he said. 

The pieces fit together; the tension in his shoulders, the delay in his return, the fact he had not heard from Blaze during his absence.  Suddenly his previous worries and jealousies sloughed off like so much dead skin.  Besides, had he not demanded the meat himself?  Whatever the cost?  Whatever the danger?

“Of course,” he said. 

“Then the selkie is yours,” Blaze said, finally forcing a smile.
 
That smile broke him.  With outstretched arms, Alfonso pulled Blaze into an embrace, hugging him tight.  When their lips met, all he could taste was brine and seaweed. 

*

Its pearlescent hide rippled with tension, everything held in a perfect, nerve-shredding tableau.  In spite of himself, Alfonso’s gaze strayed to its horn.  The intricate spiral mesmerised just as Blaze had warned, the whorls and lines almost reaching out to him, calling to him. 

Look away.  Look away now.  If I don’t, I’ll never get another chance.

Even now, it felt sacrilegious.  The unicorn, the symbol of his house, of his father’s kingship, demanded respect, demanded his awe.  But if he wanted to taste it, if he wanted to experience everything Blaze had promised, then he had to tear his eyes away. 

*

“How can you eat that?”

Alfonso’s stomach churned as Blaze placed another morsel into his mouth.  However tempting it might look, however hungry he might get, Alfonso could never imagine eating a creature of magic.  Thus far in their fledgling relationship he had been able to ignore Blaze’s profession.  Now he had no choice but to face it. 

“It’s only a faun,” Blaze said, chewing away.  “Besides, it’s divine.”

“It’s still magic.  It’s still sacred.”

Blaze put his fork down with deliberate care. 

“It’s a faun,” he said again.  “There are hundreds of them.  Thousands.  More than you can count.  Dumb, wild, and they’re to die for.  Try it.”

His stomach heaved as his eyes were drawn to the plate.  For all its resemblance to lamb, he just could not bring himself to even consider trying it.  It would be like eating a dragon.  Or the unicorn.  Just considering it made him feel dirty and ashamed.  For the first time, he turned his back on Blaze. 

“No,” he said, the finality in his voice surprising him. 

He heard Blaze push his chair back and get to his feet.  Strong arms encircled his waist.  Rigid and tense, he resisted the urge to turn around. 

“Look at me,” Blaze said, his voice cracking.  “Please.”

Not even the first time they had met had Blaze pleaded.  That alone made him turn.  When he did, Blaze’s lips met his.  He opened his mouth almost as a reflex and when he did taste suffused his tongue.  Sensation swept through him, exquisite and overwhelming.  Every nerve tingled, every part of him responded with sweet yearning for more. 

When they parted, Blaze’s smile was wicked. 

*

He focused all his attention on the arrow, on the bow.  His hands were surprisingly steady, every moment slow, every heartbeat an agonising eternity.  The unicorn lowered its head to the stream once more, yet it remained poised to startle at the first opportunity. 

Sucking in a deep breath, he bunched his protesting muscles beneath him. 

One chance.  I’ll only get one chance.

He rose and loosed in once movement, before he could have any second thoughts, before the unicorn could flee.  Even so it almost escaped.  It leapt forward the split second he moved.  Yet he had anticipated its movement, expected it to be skittish. 

Scarlet blossomed on virginal hide. 

*

“What are you doing?”

Alfonso stood over the man, every inch the prince, every part of him regal and insistent.  Or so he thought.  Instead of stopping, instead of turning, the man continued at his task.  Dressed in fine cut leather hunting gear with an exquisite bow by his side, the man’s intent was obvious even without the deer carcass.

“I said, what are you doing?”

“Poaching,” the man said without a hint of remorse or concern. 

“I can have you hanged for that,” he said. 

“You can Prince Alfonso, but why haven’t you called your bodyguards?  Why haven’t you alerted your hunting partners?”

Finally the man turned to face him.  He smiled up at him with a wide mouth and sparkling eyes.  Alfonso’s heart hammered and he stared. 

“My name’s Blaze.” 

*

He unhooked the horn from his belt.  His hands trembled as he held it against the wound to catch the blood.  Blaze had told him how the first blood was the sweetest, the best thing he had ever tasted and now Alfonso could finally try it.  He raised the horn to his lips and drank deeply. 

Acrid and metallic, it burnt down his throat.  He tried to spit, to gag, but his throat refused to obey him.  His fingers seized up and the horn slipped from his grasp.  Beneath him, his legs buckled and he thudded to the ground. 

In the time it took to blink, Blaze stood over him.

“The blood’s a paralytic, you know,” he said.  “I learned that the hard way.”

Why?

He tried to speak but nothing emerged.  Even so Blaze understood and smiled his wicked smile.

“’I’ve always wondered what prince tasted like.”

Offline LisaElle

Re: [June 2014] - Taboos! - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2014, 06:18:07 PM »
1500 words apart from this note and the title. Hope you enjoy it :)

Meyara's Fire

"I won't do it."

"Why not?"

"Because it's not my fight, Haedrin. It's the never-ending conflict between dragons and humans that concerns me, not your father's conquest of his neighbour's lands."

Haedrin frowned as he listened to the woman who rested against him. He stayed quiet, watching their campfire lick at the air, a blaze she'd conjured to warm them as sunlight faded. He passed his fingers through it, enjoying the novel gift of a dragon's love. Meyara's fire was the only kind that he could touch without fear of burning himself.

"But don't you see how this could help us?" He persisted. "If you fought for us it would mean certain victory for Yarenduir's king. You know my father has great influence – this is our chance to prove that you're his ally. He can help foster peace between humans and dragons. I know it's not ideal Mey but we can make this work for us."

Meyara lifted her head to look at Haedrin. Her eyes, rich with the iridescence of her dragon heritage, glittered like malachite in the gathering dusk. "King Garrad might favour me after I fight for him but how would it look to dragonkind if I was to get caught up in the battles between men?"

"I'm sure you wouldn't be the first."

"No... But it's rare, and when it happens our aim is to make things worse for humans, not to make friends with them. My kindred enjoy your peoples' unrest. They hope you'll destroy yourselves one day and save them the trouble."

"Maybe we will."

"Don't say that, that includes you too!"

Haedrin smirked. "I'm too stubborn to be destroyed."

Meyara grinned and shook her head. She laid a hand on his arm. "Please just try talking to him again. We could arrange a meeting for the three of us, apart from this battle."

Haedrin massaged his neck in recollection of this fruitless tactic. "I've tried that several times love. He won't listen. He doesn't agree with our kind mixing in the same room, never mind what we're doing. It's unspeakable to him. The whole court knows about us but the merest whisper of my love for a dragon is taboo. It's hard to tell who our supporters are." His eyes returned to Meyara's and he lifted a hand to stroke her cheek. "You'd win my father's respect if you fought for us. He can't keep dismissing how we feel about each other when he sees how you can help him."
 
Meyara sighed, taking the prince's hand and resting it down. She rose, her boots scuffing the sand as she circled the clearing with folded arms. "Many lives will pay the price of your father's favor.” She glanced reproachfully at him. “Who are these neighbours? I take it you've never been close to them."

Haedrin folded his arms across his knees, gazing at Meyara over her fire's flames. "No. The king of the Andarites threatens my father's throne. Our king has ambitions to take Andar, it's true, but they've always marched on us first. It's time we ended this. The tribesmen of Darkling Pass are the Andarite's new allies so we'll need all the help we can get. My uncle promised support but it's likely he'll fail us.”

Meyara came to a gap in the clearing's trees. She gazed west, admiring the gilded vista of the setting sun. In the distance the towers of Castle Yarenduir rose above the tree line to bathe in the dwindling light. Haedrin came to stand beside her. "That castle will be yours one day as much as mine." He smiled as he wrapped an arm around her waist. "Those towers will stand as a monument for great change. We will rule there over a land where humans and dragons will be united."
   
Meyara smiled. "And because you've promised it will be mine, you're cajoling me into helping you protect it."

Haedrin winked to her. "Is it working?"

The dragon gazed at the towers. She imagined perching on those lofty heights as her kindred coasted through the skies, loved and admired by every human beneath. "I'm coming around to it."



"Where the hell are they?"

"They're not coming father," Haedrin said as they patrolled the front line of Yarenduir's army. "You knew that Coban wouldn't be here. He fails you every time."

"Coban's my brother! He won't abandon me to this horde of barbarians." The Andar lines were a mile off across open ground, awaiting the imminent light of dawn before they attacked.

"Another ally will join us today, one that we can depend on. With Meyara on our side the Andarite's don't stand a chance."

The king's brows drew together like thunderclouds in a storm. "Meyara who?"

"Meyara Dragonkin. The future queen of Yarenduir."

King Garrad barked a humourless laugh. "That creature will never rule Yarenduir. Call her off, damn you! I'll have no dragons on my battlefield."

Haedrin glanced east as sunlight breached the horizon. "It's too late for that now. You'll thank me later." He turned to face the army behind him. "A dragon for Yarenduir!" The prince brandished his sword and the men hollered approval, oblivious to his meaning. The men of Andar answered with their own battle cry. A behemoth rose into the sky as they cheered, commanding silence with its unexpected presence. Wing beats like the thumping of a war drum carried the dragon Meyara into battle.

Screams of horror signaled the collapse of the enemy ranks as the dragon swooped towards them. The Andar lines heaved in their struggle to escape while vast tides of fire washed over them. Shrieks of agony rent the air as the soldiers burned. When all was chaos on the other side, the dragon alighted in the middle of the field and turned to be received by Yarenduir's army.

Fury ruddied King Garrad's cheeks. He raised his sword and roared to his troops, "Bring me it's head!"

Haedrin spun to face the ranks of men charging forward at their king's command. "No!" He raged, but the soldiers flowed around him, loosing arrows on the dragon from all sides. Meyara backed away, baring her fangs to ward them off. Surviving tribesmen rallied on the Andar side and also advanced, casting their grappling hooks to bind her to the earth. Haedrin battled through the rush of troops to reach his father. He grasped the king's leather vest and dragged him backwards. Garrad jerked free, rounding on his son with his sword drawn. "Kill the dragon!" The king persisted with his wrathful mantra. Haedrin smashed his sword into his father's again and again, driving him backwards. A gout of flame exploded from Meyara's jaws and everything was dazzling whiteness and searing heat.



Haedrin awoke to the the reek of burnt flesh and a steel-grey sky of raucous crows. He sat up to the glint of a familiar helm. His fingers, blackened by soot, reached for it with dreamy lethargy. The crest of Yarenduir's king adorned the crown. He lifted it from the ground and nothing but ash and blackened bone fell from inside it. The prince dropped it in horror. His eyes ranged over the battlefield. For a mile on every side the husks of fallen men littered the earth. Nothing moved but the birds that came to devour what remained. Haedrin staggered upright and picked his way through the dead, the skulls of his men crushed to ash under his boots. "Meyara!" He called raggedly. "Meyara!" The name burst from him like something painful caught in his throat, only now torn loose. A figure rose and turned to him. She was grim with sorrow, her battle garb stained with soot and blood. She jogged towards him and they clung to each other, mute with grief.

"They're dead," Haedrin finally said. "They're all burned."

Meyara pulled away to study his face. She frowned. "They attacked me Haedrin. Your father wanted me slain."

"You could have flown," Haedrin forced out. "The Andarites were broken. We'd already won."

Meyara winced and shook her head. "So you would just have me dismissed when I'd killed hundreds for you? Driven from your sight by your own soldiers like I was some mad beast instead of their friend?”

"No! They didn't understand. They weren't to blame! Do you have no control when you're shaped as a dragon? Do you have no sense in that monstrous head? Just look around. You've destroyed everyone!"

Meyara stepped back from Haedrin, stung by his words. They stared at each other as if they were strangers.

"Your father would never have loved me," she hissed. "You didn't know him as you thought you did. Run back to your loyal subjects, your majesty."

Meyara turned to stalk away from Haedrin. He let her leave, dropping his eyes to the ground where some embers still glowed. The prince knelt, raking his fingers through them. He clutched his fist around Meyara's fire, even as it burned him for the first time.
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov