Monday, February 25, 2013

Sticky's Destiny (WoE #9 Snowfall/Secret Challenge)

Write at the Merge gave us a snowfall and a revealed secret.

I'm happy to return to Sticky's world. I stumbled across a direction I wanted to take him and his friends and this challenge was an excellent starting point. We last met Sticky and crew pulling off the perfect chocolate caper for the Seeress.

I offer the following in response: Sticky's Destiny

Sticky dragged the satchel of chocolate bells through the Well, “Seeress! I’m back!”

“I know. The Pearl showed me.” The Seeress unfolded herself from the acorn throne gracefully, extending her silvery wings to their fullest length. They showed her age in the delicate patterning of iridescence and size at mantle. In truth, Sticky knew of no one who could remember when she was a hatchling.

He straightened, remembering his sister’s warning not to slouch. “Sellamina insisted I tell you. I, well my friends and me, we ate one.”

Her almond-shaped eyes reflected light like the obsidian glass of the Pearl. “One?”

He chewed his lower lip. “Maybe two? But it’s not our fault,” he added quickly. “The metallic skin peeled off.”

Her laughter chimed in the vacant chamber. She waived him over, excited. “Sticky-tagger, your fetching skills are improving just as I hoped. You’re almost ready.”

He passed her the handle of his satchel. “Ready for what, Seeress?”

“To join the Fetchers.” She withdrew a silver bell from the sack and cradled it lovingly in her arms.

“Me? A Fetcher?” Pride swelled his heart so he thought he’d burst. A Seer’s Fetcher carried great respect and honor in the clans, and there were only ten Fetchers in the Sundial clan.

“Yes, Sticky. I believe you would make an excellent Fetcher someday.” A solemn expression drove her smile away as she returned the chocolate to the bag. “But I must warn you: Fetching is a very serious and dangerous occupation. While it is a critical function for the Well, it carries with it the burden of secrets and responsibilities. Not all Fetchings are glorious. Some tasks will be boring, tedious chores, but they must be done and done well and promptly when assigned.”

“I can do that,” he agreed eagerly. “I can keep secrets for the Well.”

“Even from,” her tone was sly, conspiring, “your sister?”

Sticky never kept a secret from his sister before. He tried once, but Sellamina shot him her withers-butterflies-look and that was that. He scratched his head. “Would I have to? Really?”

“For her safety, you might.” The Seeress looked through him and his skin crawled. “Oh, Sticky-tagger, my favorite-born of the Trin, it would bring me the greatest joy imaginable to keep you sheltered from the ills of the world. If only I could spin you another cocoon, one that could forever protect you, to shield you from your future, your destiny. That would be magic unheard of for a millennia.”

Destiny? Future? Suddenly, becoming a Fetcher was at the bottom of the list of things he wanted to do. “I don’t think I understand Seeress.”

“Your destiny was foretold to me by the Pearl. But it’s a matter for another time, when you’re ready.” Sticky wanted to ask further, but the Pearl seemed to awaken at its name. The Seeress peered into the glow. “Ah, delightful! The weather is changing again. We’ll have snow yet.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Last Homecoming (WoE #8 Philospher/Ballerina Challenge)

Write at the Merge this week gave us a Degas ballerina and the following quote:

It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.
—Ayn Rand

I was not inspired by ballet or dance or art this time, although that isn't surprising. Even as an Irish Ceili dancer, I was never that invested in dance. Ballet bores me. I respect the ballerinas who shape their bodies into instruments of expressive art, but I can't sit through the whole Nutcracker or Swan Lake. And therefore, art that features dancers does little for me.

What caught me this week was the quote itself. While I don't believe that all sacrifices fall under this train of thought, it did make me think of what a government could do to a people made too weak to fight against it. This thought led to our Founding Fathers and the American Revolution. Which led me to Thaddeus. We last saw him at the Battles of Concord and Lexington at the cusp of the Siege of Boston.

I offer the following in response: The Last Homecoming

The entire city was eerily quiet under the King’s Curfew as Thaddeus slipped around the sentry post. Tension gripped the air as if Boston awaited the order to breathe. Using the cover of night, Thaddeus climbed the elder tree and pried open the latch on his bedroom window of his childhood home.

The narrow bedchamber once housed three boys. After tonight, only his younger brother Adam would remain, sleeping the sound sleep of a care-free twelve-year-old boy. Thaddeus fought the urge to wake him to say good-bye. The less his brother knew while the Lobster-backs controlled Boston, the better. As he crept across the floor, his heart hammered in ears. His only thought was to remove evidence he existed at all, not that there was much. A cobbler’s son didn’t have the pistareens to spend on frivolous objects.

A rap at the house door gave him pause and he heard the familiar shuffle of his father’s steps cross from the parlor below him in response. “Mr. John White?”

“Er, yes, I-“

Hinges squealed as the sound of men pushed by his father’s voice. Thaddeus risked the landing outside his bedroom, settling into a shaft of darkness to spy on the proceedings. His heart spiked to his throat at the sight of Regulars – an officer with a small detail - crowding into the entryway. His father, still gripping a candle for light, grumbled objections to the inconsiderate visitors. “The hour is quite late, gentlemen.”

The officer removed his hat and ran a gloved hand through his hair. “I apologize, Mr. White. We have been delayed this e’en with many troubles that I will not bore you with at this time. His Majesty kindly provided more troops for General Gage, unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to house them. City records indicate that you have three bedrooms and a back parlor, yes?”

“Correct, Mr.?”

“Lieutenant Gregg,” he responded. “I have a need for these rooms, or any space you can sacrifice for the sake of the Crown. It should only be for a few days while we fortify Boston’s gates.”

“Of course, Lieutenant. I shall wake my son, there are three beds in his room. And we can use the back parlor for our purposes, if you would like the front rooms.”

“Very generous, my good man.”

“I only ask that your men endeavor to behave like gentlemen during their stay, for my daughter is of an impressionable age.”

Fury erupted within as Thaddeus retreated from the landing. How could his father be so blind, allowing abuses simply because they were asked of him? Would the Regulars compromise his sister's virtue? There was some discussion among the soldiers before Thaddeus heard boots on the staircase. He grabbed his satchel and raced for the open window, sliding from the sill to the tree with the precision of a boyhood’s muscle-memory; muscles that ached with the knowledge that this was the last homecoming of a once-loyal British subject.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Flatwater Sundown (WoE #7: Scent/Elixir Challenge)

Write at the Merge this week asks to merge a scent with an elixir.

The word "elixir" conjures to mind tales of the traveling medicine shows sensationalized in westerns. Snake Oil, genuine Indian remedies, and the like promised to cure every ailment and contained toxic ingredients like opium, cocaine, and ethyl alcohol. Shills were planted in the crowds ready to give "unbiased" testimony and display "miraculous" feats of strength and speed in order to help the salesman generate more sales.

I'd like to return to a character I haven't seen in awhile. We last saw Patience after she learned the Lassiers kidnapped her sister. She just hired Jeb Grayson against her better judgment to help get Charity back.

I offer the following in response: Flatwater at Sundown

They arrived at Flatwater Bend just before sundown. With the dark of night looming in the unfamiliar town, Patience questioned her sanity. What did she know about chasing outlaws and brigands? She hesitated before dismounting her wagon at the livery, investigating the impatient grimace on her companion’s face. What did she know of Mr. Jebediah Grayson?

“C’mon, Girl,” he bellowed, gripping her elbow roughly. “Flatwater ain’t much by way of accommodations, and Miss Louisa’s Boardin’ House won’t be open after dusk.”

She yanked her arm back from his grasp. “I can walk, Mr. Grayson. You will remember I am spoken for, and you will not take such liberties with my person again.”

“Liberties? Oh that’s rich.” His snorting laugh was condescending. “Does Nate Pritchard know he spoke for you?”

Anger burned her cheeks as she prayed for an inspired retort. She felt unarmed against the cad since she stole his horse. “That is none of your business, Mr. Grayson.”
“Thought as much.”

She matched his stride, fighting the urge to scratch the smugness from his face. Flatwater Bend wasn’t a large town; most of its businesses straddled a small stretch of dirt that served as a road. Patience missed the cobblestones of her native Boston, its elegant architecture and early morning fog heavy with the clean scent of seawater. The fog in this frontier was less heavenly, and reeked of manure and musk.

Outside Miss Louisa’s Room and Board, a crowd of about twenty people gathered around a flash-dressed wagon advertising Dr. Addison’s Genuine Elixir in gilt letters. “You there, gentle lady, come here and listen. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!” an older man gestured at her from his makeshift stage. “This is the bona fide article. It’ll cure all your complaints.”

Patience scowled. Her father always said if anything was too good to be true, then generally it was. “Swills and shills,” she heard her companion mutter. “I can get better whiskey from the cathouse.”

“Cretin! Have you no morals, Sir?” she reprimanded.

“Oh git down off your high horse already, Girl. I’m here to help you git your sister back, ain’t I?” He steered her towards the worn front door of the boarding house.

“I suppose that five hundred dollars you want has nothing to do with it.” Patience rapped twice at the door and smoothed the front panel of her skirt.

“God’s teeth, Girl, it’s a boardin' house, not a social call.” He opened the door without invitation and pushed her inside.

She wheeled to strike him but he ducked.

A woman of many curves addressed them in the warmth of the lobby. “Seeking one bed, or two?”

“Just the one, Ma’am.” He added before Patience could protest, “For the girl. I’ll be taking up my room at the saloon.”

“She’ll be in fine hands, Mr. Grayson, don’t you fret.”

“Thank you kindly Miss Louisa.”

His shadow disappeared from the doorway as he abandoned her to the boarding house. Patience was alone.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Week 6: WoE Matyrs Challenge

Write at the Merge gives us a snippet of lyrics from FUN "Some Nights"

"I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am"
and a picture of the stained glass in the church in Domrémy-La-Pucelle titled "Joan of Arc presented to the Virgin Mary and the Infant Christ".

So martyrs this week. It's a heavy topic, no matter which likeness the word embodies. 

I'm returning to Deliverance Redd, recently accused of witchcraft. She is now before the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

I offer this week's response: The Devil's Tactic

Esther took the stand with the stature of a frightened doe. Shackled at attention, Deliverance was forced to listen while her cousin spoke her mind.

“And after your supper had been cleared?” Magistrate Stoddard questioned. Deliverance heard a quill scratching behind her, recording her damnation. She willed her heart still, aware of the hundreds of eyes locked onto her back in judgment. It would not serve her case to yield to her anger.

“My cousin rose like a woman possessed. It was only recently that her adultery was brought to light and I was concerned for her well-being. I felt compelled to follow her.” Esther twisted her handkerchief, as if it was a talisman.

“And where did she go?”

There were tears in Esther’s eyes. “She walked down to the shore.”

“And then?”

Deliverance caught a look. Her accuser blanched. No words sounded from her moving lips. The courtroom air thickened in the silence.

“Mrs. Lovejoy? I understand that it is difficult to image your cousin to be guilty of crimes so heinous, but you must speak for her soul, and for the soul of the unborn baby. What did you witness?”

Her voice echoed. “Deliverance called out to the fiends of Hell to sink her lover’s ship.”

Gasps of horror surged from the gathered crowd. The magistrate pounded his wooden gavel thrice, sending an unexpected shiver through Deliverance’s spine. She closed her eyes against the taste of rising bile at the back of her throat. Lord, God Almighty, grant me the strength of Christ before the cross and bring my cousin to heel before Your Throne.

“And was her lover on the Goodship September? We found the wreckage a few days after the storm.”

Esther frowned, “I do not know, Sir.”

The grim magistrate looked over the rim of his spectacles. “But you said she summoned the storm with a rod and sank her lover’s ship.”

Deliverance felt the climate in the courtroom shift. Doubt flashed in her cousin’s eyes. The magistrate repeated his statement and Esther shook her head, “Never did I say she summoned the storm. I do not know her lover’s name, nor do I know what ship she found him on. Melancholy consumed her so that I feared Satan would twist that, to use her somehow.” She paused to take a breath. “I feared for her immortal soul.”

Shock or anger colored the magistrate’s features. “Without your testimony, all evidence left is merely spectral.”

Discussion erupted among the jury as hope crept into Deliverance’s heart. Magistrate Stoddard applied the gavel again, silencing the courtroom. “What is the recommendation of the court?”

A juror stood. “Put the accused to the question, Magistrate.”

And with that, hope was gone.