Monthly Archives: August 2014

9 Days

9 days until I do something I knew I had to do from day 1.

9 days until my novel republishes with critical revisions to scenes and characters for both clarity and plot.  It wasn’t as if I published before it was ready. I published when it was ready and when I was happy with the little words that could. If 20/20 were hindsight really existed, then I’d be tossing my contacts into the rubbish bin right now.

 

No, my book isn’t rubbish.  I love what I wrote, but what I wrote and then published, suffered from a  translation error.  The error being the inadequacy of the written word versus what exists in my mind. So you see, what I wrote and read in my published novel are just fine because I see/think/feel/hear/smell/taste/know everything about it already.  What was lost in translation was how the outside world would experience the same things…and possibly get a wholly inaccurate picture.  As much as I wish my writing is for everyone, it isn’t. My particular style, word choice, voice, is unique and perhaps only a handful of people can and will appreciate it. That’s okay, that goes with the job of being an author. I know I can’t make everyone happy and I won’t try.  What I will do however, is try to fix what I can to more align it with what I know about my story, to clarify.

So, 9 days left.  Are you ready?

 

THE YOUNGEST IMMORTAL: CHAPTER FIVE

NOTE:  Serial prequel (distant past) to The Unknown Sun which is now published. This work of fiction is not professionally edited and is for entertainment purposes only and I retain full copyrights of the following original material.

P.S….if you haven’t read the prior chapters here you go!

1)   http://wp.me/p4oj70-1B

 2)  http://wp.me/p4oj70-2Y

3)   http://wp.me/p4oj70-3i

4)   https://csmackey77.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-youngest-immortal-chapter-4/

Chapter 5

The stench of charred flesh seared Ivo’s nostrils.

He opened his eyes and blinked up at the inky darkness. For a long moment he didn’t move. Slowly he shifted his legs, arms, and torso to test for injuries. His entire body ached viciously, but seemed able, even if reluctant, to move.

He grimaced as he sat up and jerked his helm free. He dropped it to his left where it clattered to the sandstone ground loudly in the eerily silent night.

“Jaeger!” he turned and reached out his hand, but felt nothing nearby in the night. He clambered to his feet and dragged a hand through his dark hair as fear settled low in his chest. “Jadeth! Emaranthe!”

“Ivo,” Jadeth’s voice echoed faintly on the wind. Ivo spun around, tilting his head to better locate her voice.

“Where are you?” He yelled into the night. A sudden grunt of pain just to his left startled him. He recognized that usually snide sound and moved toward it cautiously. His boot collided with another iron boot, and Jaeger’s familiar voice hissed sarcastically.

“So you’re trying to kill me too?”

Ivo ignored the sarcasm and dropped to one knee at his brother’s side. “Brother, you are alive, thank The Four.” he gripped Jaeger’s arm and heaved him upright. Though unable to see in the darkness, Ivo was certain he was being glared at.

“What the hell happened?” Jaeger grunted as he tugged off his left gauntlet. Even without seeing his hand he knew that it was cut up and bruised badly. “I remember trying to get the skeletons off the women—women! Where are they…are they okay?”

“I don’t know. I thought I heard Jadeth, but she sounded far away. I haven’t found Emaranthe.” Ivo squinted into the darkness but saw nothing.

“Jadeth! Emaranthe!” Jaeger bellowed into the night. Somewhere distant they both heard Jadeth’s voice in the wind. “Where in the hell—“

A neon green glow lit up the night sky.

Squinting, both men stared at the source in mute alarm. High above them, Jadeth crouched on a ledge, holding her hammer high.

“How in the—“Jaeger frowned at the Elf clinging to the cliff face. Jadeth was staring down at them with wide, terrifiedeyes and laid back ears. Her scarlet braids were undone, but other than that she seemed okay.

“I can’t get down!” her voice drifted to them in the sharp wind.

Ivo didn’t hear her; he was staring at the unmoving bundle of fabric at the base of the cliff directly below her. Jaeger felt his brother tense and dropped his gaze too.

“Aw, shit.” Jaeger dragged his helm free, wincing as it glanced over multiple cuts and scrapes and let it fall to the ground. “I’ll get Jadeth, you get her.”

Jaeger cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled up to Jadeth, “I’m coming up, hold on!”

He backed up several yards, gauging the distance to the ledge. With a blur of speed he broke into a short run and launched himself into the air. He soared across the narrow gorge and upwards to the ledge, landing hard next to Jadeth with a clatter of armor and slight grunt of pain.

“Thank you…thank you,” Jadeth gasped and clutched both arms around him in evident fear, still holding the unwieldy hammer in a death grip. She was shaking violently. “I am so sorry. I am so sorry.”

Frowning, Jaeger gripped her upper arms and gave her a small shake, forcing her gaze up to his. Horrified blue eyes, vacant with memories long gone, stared at him as if they didn’t recognize him.

“Jadeth! Snap out of it!”

“So many dead. So many. Mother tried to help them. B..b..bodies everywhere…blood,” Jadeth stammered and gasped as she trembled. Jaeger saw in her vacant stare that she was reliving something very very horrible.

“Jadeth, that happened long ago. It’s over now.” Jaeger didn’t dare pull her down from the ledge without calming her down.

“No, no. Mother tried to heal them, but there was too many. Too many.” she choked on a sob. “I watched the…the… demons tear them apart.”

Jaeger shot a quick down but he could see nothing from his position.

“Mother tried to fight them off…she wasn’t a fighter though, she was a healer! She…she…fell…next to the chest I was hiding in.” She gasped and shut her eyes as tears slid in filthy trails down her pale cheeks.

“Jadeth, you don’t have—“Jaeger whispered, but she cut him off.

“—I…I…grabbed her hammer and tried to fight too. They laughed and flew away.” Eyes still closed, she swayed. Jaeger tightened his grip on her arms.

“I followed them, searched for them…for years. My mother’s hammer was the only thing I had left from her.” she whispered into the wind as it dragged streamers of her hair, now unbraided and loose on her narrow shoulders, over her face. “I chased the creatures for decades—”

“Jadeth, that was long ago. Please, we need to get down to help the others.” Jaeger shook her again, gently. Her eyes opened, wide and sad, and she looked directly at him at last.

“I found every demon I could. I chased them all. I did everything I could to…die.” she sucked in an unsteady breath and blinked as the sharp wind whipped her hair wildly. Jaeger stayed silent… her agony was palpable.

“I died at last. I welcomed it. I felt them clawing at me. I felt their claws, their wings that stirred a foul wind…the wind… I wanted the wind to take me,” Jadeth sighed softly. “But I awoke again, in my body, with my mother’s hammer and bearing her gift of healing.”

“You had proven yourself then, Jadeth. The Four chose you because you are the best healer of all!” Jaeger hissed. “You alone healed us through that battle!”

“It wasn’t enough.” Jadeth whimpered. Even in the green glow she could see the myriad of cuts, slashes and bruises on his face and neck. His pale hair was tousled from either helm or wind…and slightly singed looking. “My mother would have been able to heal you all whole. I am a poor excuse—“

“Stop it! You saved us!” Jaeger growled. “Without your abilities, I would have died. Something I vowed to never do again!” he turned and stared far down into the vaguely green-lit blind canyon, but still no movement below. Unable to see directly beneath their position on the ledge, he could only figure Ivo and Emaranthe were still there.

“Come on. Let’s go see if Emaranthe is okay.” Jaeger glanced back at Jadeth and caught her look of utter horror.

“Emaranthe…” Jadeth gasped and switched her hammer into the other hand. “I forgot…”

“Do Elf-Kind still have Last Hope by any chance?” Jaeger watched stark fear tighten her features.

“Yes. I’ve never used it.” Jadeth whispered softly. “I could never make myself fly…like them.”

“Then will you do it for your friends?” Jaeger’s voice pierced through the buffeting wind and echoed in the gorge.

“Yes.” Jadeth closed her eyes and swallowed. Her grip on her hammer tightened as Jaeger tightened his on her waist. She inhaled firmly and the glow of her hammer seemed to intensify. “Now!”

They leaped off the cliff.

A golden aura glowed brightly, joining the eerie green, and giant ethereal wings, seemingly made of nothing but sunlight, erupted from Jadeth’s shoulders as they plunged downward.

The wings buffeted and caught the air, slowing their descent until they were gliding smoothly. The wings vanished into the wind as their feet grazed the hard packed dirt and stumbled into a slight run to halt their momentum.

Gasping, wide eyed Jadeth spun around and launched herself at Jaeger, giving him a victorious hug.

“I did it!” she laughed.

Jaeger stood stone still and didn’t react. His blue eyes had scanned the green hued shadows and fallen on the huddled shapes beside the cliff.

Ivo looked up and locked eyes with his brother. Blue eyes stared at the limp, unmoving bundle draped over Ivo’s lap.

“No. No…”Jadeth looked past Jaeger and cried out. She pushed away from him and darted forward, heaving her hammer high as it glowed even brighter.

“It’s too late.” Ivo climbed to his feet, still holding the tiny body. As he walked from the shadows of the cliff, the wind stung his face. It was the wind, he told himself, that made his eyes tear up.

Singed blond streamers drifted in the screaming wind and a small, charred, gloved hand swung freely as he walked heavily past Jaeger and Jadeth into the night.

Jadeth rushed after Ivo. Jaeger followed, pausing to grab both of their helms. They followed Ivo into the night, knowing without asking what he was looking for.

Jadeth lifted her hammer and a dim green light lit up the narrow path before them. Three pairs of eyes frantically searched the shadows between pillars of stone, rock outcroppings, and bushes that leaned into the screaming wind. The path wound steeply, carving through sheer cliffs and rock outcroppings, leaving little space available for what they looked for.

“There must be one here.”Jadeth muttered and glanced up the path—but the light from her hammer only lit up a few yards at best. They did not dare to do anything else or risk attracting the attention of more minions that they knew were out there.

Jaeger worriedly watched his brother walk ahead, his stride stiff with single minded determination. He could see Emaranthe’s arm swinging loosely and a pale ribbon of her hair drifted in the wind over Ivo’s arm. They had to find a Solarium soon. Without the pedestal, a miniature temple to The Four, there would be no concentrated energy to heal Emaranthe…and there would be no coming back for their tiny mage. If they were attacked now…

“Here! Here!” Jadeth’s shriek broke Jaeger’s thoughts and both he and Ivo stumbled and turned.

To their left in a jagged indentation of the cliff, a huge bush jerked and shook as Jadeth grabbed the spiny stems and leaves and yanked. A handful of thorns and small leaves ripped free. She pulled again and several spindly stems gave out. Thorns bit into her fingers and palms but she reached for another handful. Beyond the bush Jaeger and Ivo could just see the small half arched stone and iron pillars that marked it as a Solarium. They were lucky. So many had been destroyed by their enemy over the eons.

Jaeger slid his axe free and pushed Jadeth away. She danced aside just as the blade arced through the air, glinting silver and green in the glow of the hammer, and buried itself in the bush with a brittle crack. Bits of leaves, long willowy stems and thorns spun away on the wind. A second whack. A third.

Jaeger swung the axe a fourth time, sending the rest of the brittle bush stems scattering. Thunder rumbled further ahead of them, shaking the ground. The pedestal was mostly uncovered now, but for a few remnants of spindly, dead cactus that towered over the far side.

Jaeger glanced at Ivo, but looked away as he caught his brother’s tight, pained look. He backed away and shouldered the axe, moving to stand beside Jadeth.

Grim and silent, Ivo moved forward and carefully placed the tiny figure upon the circular, knee high stone pedestal. Emaranthe’s cloak and robes, already overly large for her fragile frame, covered her easily as a death shroud…

“I am so sorry Emaranthe.” Ivo’s whisper vanished on the wind as he backed away. Guilt sat heavy in his chest, tight and painful. A delicate sniff to his left reminded him that he wasn’t the only one there and he walked with pained slowness to stand beside his other two best, and only friends.

“Please work. Please work. Please work.” Jadeth was alternately sniffing and whispering, her jewel bright eyes unashamedly wet. The wind screamed and moaned through the narrow path, dragging her vivid red hair into her face.

Jaeger felt her hair drag across his shoulder guards and snag on the sharp edges. Atypically, he ignored this, but instead his gaze traveled fitfully between the still shape on the pedestal and his brother’s stony face. Without realizing it, his hand had fisted tensely as they waited.

Out of the green hued shadows, symbols and shapes glowed white hot on the stone pedestal. Jadeth’s hammer fell from her startled fingers and the green glow vanished, replaced now by the light of the intricate runes covering the stone. Even the wind buffeted and stilled.

The white runes glowed brighter as Emaranthe’s petite body began to fade.

Ivo swallowed thickly but forced himself to watch as she slowly drifted into nothingness, the bright runes more and more visible through her body as she vanished. At last there was nothing left on the pedestal but the glowing shapes and symbols carved by The Four long ago. The glow gradually intensified.

Shielding her eyes now, Jadeth squinted into the light. A quick glance to her left told her Jaeger was doing likewise. Ivo still stared fully into the white hot light, his mouth tight, his eyes searching

A small, dark shape walked out of the light.

Burning gold eyes glittered in the white light and a small gloved hand curled around a staff. Blond braids trailed in the buffeting wind, dragging the worn hood from her head.

She inhaled heavily and smiled widely at Ivo, Jadeth and Jaeger, as the runes faded behind her, the light flickering and moving oddly— like fire.

“Emaranthe!” Jadeth launched herself at her friend, forgetting for the moment that she towered over the tiny woman, and tackled her to the ground.

Laughing and crying both women hugged while in the background, Ivo and Jaeger traded exasperated looks. Women.

Emaranthe pulled free from Jadeth and stood. Jadeth retrieved her fallen hammer and the green glow once again banished the darkness. Ivo and Jaeger stood uncertainly in the shadows of the cliff.

Gold eyes flicked between the brothers. Ivo’s face was dark with self loathing, his eyes watchful in the dark, as if awaiting reproach. Jaeger, too, looked worried and pained…something he would never admit to in any lifetime.

She halted before Ivo and stared far up at him.

“Thank you.” Emaranthe’s staff clattered to the rocky ground as she wound thin arms around his waist. Ivo froze, startled. He had expected blame and anger, not this.

“You thank me for letting you die?” Ivo rasped. “I should be begging your forgiveness and thanking you for saving us.”

“I didn’t die in vain if it saved you all.” Emaranthe whispered. Ivo closed his eyes as guilt battled with relief of her return. He knew like anyone else, that sometimes there is no return if your soul is too wounded. Their immortality, gifts from desperate gods, was fickle at best. You were counted lucky if you kept your original body for more than a handful of reincarnations, because with each new body all your previous memories were lost.

Ivo wondered if that would be a blessing…and wondered how many bodies, lives, he’d lived unremembered so far. That thought was nothing compared to the thought of losing the friends who had been at his side, loyal and brave, for many years.

Ivo’s iron and chainmail clad arms gingerly returned the hug, even more mindful now just how small and fragile she really was.

Jaeger watched with a tiny, twisted smile, noting how uncomfortable his brother was, as if Ivo wanted her to yell and blame. It wasn’t Ivo’s fault…

Emaranthe let go of Ivo and shot Jaeger a wide, sad smile.

“Oh, no.” Jaeger held up both hands to ward her off. “Uh, no mushy stuff.”

“Hehe. All right.” Emaranthe sighed and bent to retrieve her staff. She caught his eye then and gold studied blue. She nodded her head and smiled. No mushy stuff. Jaeger grinned and returned the acknowledgement.

No mushy stuff indeed.

***

The purple night was graying slightly to the East. The fitful wind dragged around them, then eased as daylight, though still hidden behind thick inky clouds, broke.

Jadeth and Emaranthe huddled in the hollow behind the pedestal and dead cactus, a tiny hovering fire between them, trying to rest. The barely lightened sky was icy and misty with the wind gone and everything was damp.

Ivo and Jaeger stood standing guard side by side, arms crossed—towering sentinels. Both had ganged up to make the women rest, and had earned glares and raised eyebrows from both females. In the end even Jadeth had to acknowledge that Emaranthe needed rest more than anyone and had acquiesced too.

Wide, sad gold eyes watched from the shadowed depths of her hood. They fixed from time to time on each of her friends, a pang of despair twisting in her chest. The thought of losing them had been too much.

They were all she had left.

Somewhere thunder rumbled. Emaranthe closed her eyes as the ground beneath her trembled. The thunder drifted off and she realized that she was what was trembling, not the earth…

The Youngest Immortal: Chapter Four

NOTE:  Serial prequel (distant past) to The Unknown Sun which is now published. This work of fiction is for entertainment purposes only and I retain full copyrights of the following original material.

P.S….if you haven’t read the prior chapters here you go!

http://wp.me/p4oj70-1B

http://wp.me/p4oj70-2Y

http://wp.me/p4oj70-3i

Chapter 4

 

“Stop!” Jadeth hissed as she slid into a crouch behind a pillar of rock.

The rest slipped behind her and ducked into the shadows. Jewel bright eyes narrowed and focused on a distant movement far down the winding trail beyond several towering red rock formations. Lightning forked the inky sky and shadows jerked and danced.

“What do you see?” Ivo shifted his position until his back was to the stone beside her. His eyes never left the trail behind them.

“Hmm. Movement. It’s in the shadows of a cliff and blends in too well. I cannot see what it is from here.” Jadeth frowned back at Emaranthe, catching and holding her gold eyes steadily. “I’m moving closer, stay here.”

Gold eyes blinked in consent, then vanished as Emaranthe tugged the worn hood back over her hair. Both men made to protest, but a vivid sapphire glare sharper than a dagger stopped them cold.

Hissing and muttering, beneath his breath, Jaeger jammed his axe back into its holster and Ivo’s glare remained on the lithe Elf as she slipped from the shadows and darted into the open, scarlet braids flapping behind her long narrow ears.

“She’s being foolish.” Jaeger said flatly.

“She’s doing what she feels she needs to,” Emaranthe hissed softly. “She hates not being able to contribute more.”

“What?” Jaeger frowned down at Emaranthe but couldn’t catch her eyes beneath the hood. “She keeps us alive. Well, more or less. If you can call us alive.”

“She wishes she could fight.” Ivo sighed heavily, still keeping keen watch over her rapidly vanishing form.

“She never told me that,” Jaeger glanced at his older brother, then back down to Emaranthe. “Why? She was reborn as a Healer.”

“I was reborn to burn with fire, to own it and make it mine, it lives in me.” Emaranthe whispered as a sharp, cold wind snagged the hood and whipped it free from her fair braids. Emptiness burned in her eyes. “But it was fire that killed me, in the end.”

Gold eyes flicked up and locked on Jaeger’s pale blue and then Ivo’s clear green and held their gazes without blinking.

“So I must love what killed me, you see.”

Both men flinched as their memories stirred dark thoughts. Thoughts they’d never wanted to remember.

“So Jadeth both loves and hates her calling. She told me her story once. Long ago.” Emaranthe whispered as a peal of thunder shook the stones around them. Lightning, white hot and very close cracked all around. Shadows jerked and danced wildly in the light.

The inky sky settled again and Jadeth reappeared silently beside the two men just as the last leaping shadows vanished.

“Gah! Will you stop that?” Jaeger snapped, startled, as he casually looked to his left. Stifling a grin, Jadeth threw Emaranthe a sly wink before dropping into a cautious crouch. The others followed suit and the foursome traded worried looks.

“What did you find?” Ivo struggled to keep his voice down. The wind was picking up again, making whispering difficult.

“It was a villager,” Jadeth caught three pairs of startled eyes, two of which immediately narrowed suspiciously. “I’d not seen him before, but he was…” she swallowed thickly, and her long ears folded against her red braids in grief. “…too wounded for me to save.”

The suspicion fled and turned to sorrow.

“Ah. I’m sorry Jadeth.” Jaeger sighed and shot the purple sky a reproachful look.

“You did your best, don’t let the sorrow get to you.” Emaranthe smiled in the gloom and braced herself as another gust of wind whipped her cloak about her shoulders.

“We need to move. It is getting worse out here.” Ivo shifted to his feet smoothly for someone wearing several layers of heavy armor.

“The way is clear until…the body.” Jadeth swallowed again. “I saw nothing else.”

Lightning forked the sky and simultaneously thunder rumbled and echoed all around. Above them, unnaturally purple clouds shrouded the plateau in a gloomy haze.

“Hurry.” Emaranthe said as she jerked her hood up against the screaming wind. “We must hurry.”

As one, they darted from the shelter of the outcropping and moved at a smooth, ground eating trot up the narrow path, all eyes wide and wary. The couple of miles to the body of the unfortunate villager were a blur of thunder, lightning and howling wind.

They slowed to a wary halt at the edge of the shadows and paused to bow respectfully to the dead, their right hand over their hearts.

“Be at peace, friend, may The Four bless you and keep you at their side.” Ivo sighed wearily and turned, jamming his helm back on his head with a gauntleted hand.

“I wish I was.”

 

 

 

Ducking into the howling wind, they moved up the narrow path. The inky clouds now stretched over the entire valley, leaving only a small patch of red gold sunlight to filter through on the far western rim of the ravine. The shafts of orange light from the setting sun mixed with acrid purple. The waning daylight made the unnatural purple sky even more sinister as they wound their way up the steep path.

“We’re going to have to find shelter. It’s no use to fight in this unnatural storm and darkness.” Ivo grunted and shot the roiling clouds and vanishing sun a glare. Emaranthe frowned, but said nothing. He was right.

“Here, try this way!” Jaeger stopped as they rounded a bend and found a faint trail leading into a narrow gorge. “Stay wary.” He gripped his axe with both hands and led the way.

“I don’t like this.” Ivo frowned and let the women go first. He preferred to watch their backs.

“I wonder what is down here,” Jadeth slung her hammer over her left shoulder and tipped her head to stare far up the sheer walls. “This whole place is larger than it looks.”

Emaranthe followed silently, her staff held loosely in her left hand as gleaming gold eyes searched the shadows of the cliffs.   Like, Ivo she didn’t like this one bit.

The narrow ravine ended abruptly at another sheer wall and the four stood in silent contemplations of their options. Though the wind still howled furiously, it didn’t quite reach so deep into the blind canyon.

“We must stay here. There is little choice with the sun setting.” Emaranthe slid the hood off her head and sighed as she scanned the slightly oval shaped dead end. “It could be worse; we could be in the open.”

Ivo grunted and stowed his swords as Jaeger did likewise with his axe. They had nothing with them, so setting up camp was as easy as sinking to the ground, which both men did with pained, weary grunts.

Jaeger leaned against the crumbling sandstone wall and closed his eyes, feeling a weariness he hadn’t felt in a long time. Behind his eyelids a small, flickering glow lit up the dark. He didn’t bother opening them.

Emaranthe cupped her hand beneath the tiny hovering flame and held it aloft like a lamp. It shivered and twisted in the sharp wind, but burned steady, casting a golden puddle of light on the four friends sitting in a circle.

“Why haven’t we seen more of the Dro Aconi?” Jadeth spoke to no one in particular and for a long moment no one answered. She too closed her eyes and leaned back against the cliff wall.

“Because they are waiting for the right moment.” Emaranthe stared at the tiny fire-lamp in her gloved hand. “They know we are here.”

“What are they doing? Mining the ore doesn’t need an entire invasion. Those skeletons were puppets, our people whose bodies were severed from their Souls.” Jaeger opened his eyes and frowned at the now pitch black sky. “There must be something else going on.”

“What else is here?” Jadeth sighed and dragged a scarlet braid over her left shoulder. She chewed on the tail of the braid, her long ears flattened back as she thought.

“Not much. These villagers lead a simple life. The ore was all they had and even then they never truly knew its value.” Emaranthe lowered her hand and let the fire writhe and flicker out of her hand until it hovered above the bare stone floor. She sat back and pulled her knees to her chest, her cloak and robes bunching about her legs. Propping her narrow chin on her knees, pale braids dragging into the dirt, she watched the floating flame with wide, enigmatic eyes.

Ivo stared at her, noting that she looked more like a young child than ever. He knew better however, knew that the decades of battle and death had hardened her, perhaps more so than either he or Jaeger had been. Something about dying, repeatedly, made one grow up awful fast.

Abruptly Jadeth dropped her hair and her ears shot up. Emaranthe, too sat up, her head tilted as she listened to the howling wind.

“Incoming!” Jadeth bolted to her feet just as a louder, more audible wail echoed down the long, narrow gorge. Her hammer sang as she swung it high over her head, the green glow instantly casting all in an eerie light. “More minions, I think. I hear their bones.”

Ivo hurtled to his feet, his heavy armor clattering as he slid his shield and sword free. He crouched, shifting agilely on the balls of his feet. Fury darkened his face and even Jaeger kept his mouth shut as he moved into a defensive position if front of the women.

Emaranthe’s tiny fire guttered and blew out as the wind strengthened and the wailing and clattering bones grew louder. She too pulled her staff free and moved to stand beside Jadeth. Vivid blue eyes met with sad golden ones and both women smiled wearily at each other.

There was no rest for the immortal.

Emaranthe closed her eyes and let the heat rise from within her. She felt it curl, writhe, and slither from somewhere deep in her soul. Flames erupted and swirled at her feet in a macabre dance. They continued to hover and circle her in an endless writhing motion at knee height.

Burning gold eyes slammed open. She was ready.

Jadeth felt the heat emanate from her tiny friend and despite the approaching danger, she couldn’t pull her eyes from the mesmerizing sight, and emboldened she tightened her grip on her hammer and turned to face the approaching horde.

Forced to march in a tighter formation by the narrow ravine walls, they appeared around the final bend in rows of 4 abreast. This time, however, there were more than skeletal minions.

Zombies, basically no more than skeletons with still attached half decayed flesh and marginally higher intelligence, shambled disjointedly behind the first few rows of minions.

Ivo snarled and clanged sword to shield before dropping into a deeper crouch. Seeing this, Jaeger moved to stand close behind, his great axe ready.

With a roar, Ivo launched through the air, sword swinging. He cleared the thirty foot distance to the front line of minions with ease and landed amidst them with an earth shaking rumble that shook rock and dirt from the cliffs above. Skeletons and zombies crunched, scattered and screamed beneath the force of his leap.

Jaeger reached the front lines at nearly the same time, having darted into action at the same time as Ivo. His great axe swung wide and bits of bone scattered and rained all around.

Still growling in fury, Ivo spun about, his swords flashing and gleaming in the distant green glow of Jadeth’s hammer. The skeletal minions fell quickly, but the Zombies posed a slight difficulty as dismembered limbs had the disturbing ability to continue to fight.

Emaranthe saw a mini horde of body-less forearms and hands scratching and clawing across the ground, intent on attacking the men. She plucked a large ball of fire from the miasma still dancing furiously about her legs and hurled it at them. It hit dead on, exploding and scattering even more flesh and bone and setting other skeletons and Zombies afire. Infuriated, a group of skeletons detached from the mass and turned toward the women, disjointed jaws wide in ear splitting screeches.

Jadeth swung her hammer over her head and the green light intensified, bathing the whole gorge in a sickening green glow. Electric blue eyes wavered between the rapidly approaching skeletons and the two men fighting furiously amid a sea of decay, bone and screams. She swallowed and focused on the men. They needed her more.

Emaranthe raised her staff and a pulse of fire, like a living vine, swept out in a fiery arc. It swept aside the first few in a blast of heat and flame, sending bits of flesh splattering into the sandstone walls.

“Get away from them!” Jaeger’s cry drifted from somewhere in the approaching mob and as the women watched, a large bloodied axe rose above the moldering heads and sheared through most of them with a single blow. “Why. Don’t. You. Die!”

Without warning he staggered and fell, his roar of pain nearly drowned out by the wind.

“No!” Jadeth screamed. She leaped forward and swung the hammer in a blaze of green.

Emaranthe sucked in a breath as he vanished beneath a gruesome dog pile of skeletons. She could hear their bony fingers scratching and clawing at his armor.

“Ivo! Help!” Emaranthe cried out and rushed toward the horrible sight, her terrified scream nearly lost in the ghoulish howls of the minions attacking Jaeger. She didn’t dare launch fire at them without risking his life and as much as he could be reborn, each time an Immortal died, a piece of their soul was irreparably wounded.

Ivo turned and took in the scene with a single horrified look. All he could see of his little brother was a blood streaked iron boot.

“No!” Ivo howled and spun, leaping into flight across the gorge, shield and blade ready. He landed at the edge of the mass, and swept his shield across the nearest few, sending them flying. Another bone crunching swipe unburied the lower half of Jaeger. His legs arched and kicked valiantly, seeking to fight his way free. Blood streamed from jagged gashes around the gaps of his armor.

Both women reached the still struggling mass of zombies and skeletons at the same time and Jadeth, tears streaming much like Jaeger’s blood, hovered at the fringe, dancing carelessly away from scrabbling skeletons in a frantic effort to heal him. Her hammer glowed even brighter as she neared him and the flow of blood slowed measurably and then began to reverse flow and slid back up toward his numerous wounds.

Hands glowing with white hot fire, Emaranthe too struggled past scrabbling, boney fingers to reach him. Each time her hands touched a flailing, defleshed body part it burst into flame and broke away with howls of terror. She flung half a dozen burning zombies and skeletons away before she reached his bloodied upper torso.

“No. Come on.” Emaranthe gasped and dropped beside him even as Jadeth flung herself beneath a Zombie’s outstretched arm and hovered her hammer over his barely moving body.

Ivo couldn’t stop his assault to see if his brother lived, but kept it swingly wildly as more and more skeletons ambled and shuffled closer, decrepit hands and moldy fingers grasping and clawing.

“Ivo, quick! Come here!” Jadeth screamed over the screeching horde, her hammer glowing furiously green. Ivo spared a frantic look and saw his brother draped over Emaranthe’s lap, his body so dark with blood he couldn’t see flesh. Jadeth’s hammer kept glowing, but the wounds seemed to hardly move to repair now.

Heat burned deep inside Emaranthe as a cold burning fury built. Her eyes, already glinting with fear and anguish, darkened into molten gold and began to glow in the darkness.

Ivo saw and threw himself toward the huddled, bloodied group just as a wave of heat began to burn and writhe. The fire enveloped all four, encasing them with flame. Shielded in impenetrable heat and fire Ivo dragged Jadeth closer and shot Emaranthe a worried look.

Her eyes glowed white hot and both Ivo and Jadeth huddled closer over Jaeger to better shield him from the still advancing horde. Bony hands that touched the living fire shield immediately burst into flame and crumbled into ash.

“I can’t stop Ivo,” Emaranthe whispered, her voice echoing oddly within the fiery dome. “I can’t hold it back any more. Stay close, don’t move.”

Her fiery eyes slammed shut and her arms flung wide, staff aloft.

Fire exploded from her tiny body in a violent, raging super nova.

 

 

Persona Poetry

My favorite flavor of poetry is what is called Persona Poetry. It’s essentially a first person form of poetry where the reader becomes the orator. Here is a favorite of mine I wrote years ago based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Enjoy!

A Shield Maiden I once Was

By CM

I am their lady, yet a pauper still
I wander among them, I see those empty eyes
A wraith among them, as weary as they are,
Above us the trumpets of war,
Reverberate among the caves
Resonant rumbles of horse clash with men and steel,
Darkness, damp and cold settles in the bones
I stumble now over withered man,
My golden robes tangle on bony limb,
I fumble for a skeletal hand,
For strength and patience, I beseech
I huddle at my people’s feet, I wince
At every wail the women moan
Above us in the open sky
Our sons, fathers, brothers,
Bleed in brutal agony and die upon the walls,
As arrows of the enemy pierce their very souls,
I long to be among them, I wish for my sword,
A shield maiden I once was, a princess now I am,
Of those weeping at my feet,
Silenced by the fear of death that comes so readily.
Above us now the sounds begin to fail,
How the battle goes I know not,
The darkness of the caves press in, as fires die at last,
A sudden roar, a resounding rumble, the cave shakes around us
I leap to my feet, my heart pounds, I feel the thunder
Of a thousand more men
The horn of Helm the Hammerhand is sounded,
Around me cries of victory, sobs of agony
The battle is not lost to us, our loved ones rally anew,
Spirits unbroken above, as I wander among my people
Whose eyes are no longer empty
And fingers clutch not in sorrow at my robes,
But grasp now with hope,
As the end of the battle above us unfolds.