Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wednesday Briefs: Sealed in Stone #4

Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. 

I’m continuing the story of Willem and Torrey, who are being torn from each other on an alien world. This week I used one of the picture prompts. Never could resist a good sunset!


Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sealed in Stone #4


“You will want Her.” Torrey shook his head, but his mother’s calloused hand cupped his skull, threading through the strands of his hair. “Her chemistry will command it and your body will obey. This has happened before and—”

“It didn’t just happen! You wanted it! You put me before Her… you did. You showed me to Her Voice already, didn’t you? You knew it would happen and you didn’t tell me—” Of course she hadn’t. While he still hoped, he would not try to run away.

“Yes.” Sadness lay upon the word like rust on iron. “Because you are not just the prettiest—you are the brightest, you have the best mind, Torrey. Cyrrhi may want a beauty in her bed, but we want… we need… to put a man there, someone strong. She chose as we wished.”

She pronounced his fate with a plural that sealed his doom. It wasn’t just her. The kumbh leadership had decided. They’d decided he would be the best one to put in her bed, where he would be expected to advance the kumbh’s interests… and also protect the lives of all humans as well. They’d decided he could be trusted to retain his loyalties.

How not, when Willem would always be here, among those Torrey was charged to protect? The kumbh would take care of Willem, see to it he had a good life. At least he could make sure of that.

He spoke through cold, set lips. “Willem gets to be with whomever he wants. He stays in this kumbh. No breeding exchanges of any kind, no alliances. No marriage unless he wants it. And I will write to him, as often as She allows. And when I do, I want Willem to write back. Not you or some scribe. I know his handwriting.”

Jayn nodded. Her eyes bored into his, telling him she understood his feelings and would honor them. Only time would reveal if her agreement could be trusted. For years he and Willem had exchanged notes using an alphabet of their own devising. He suspected the kumbh had learned of it. But no one else would know the code words they’d whispered in the night.

Rafters, needles, belly, game
Our third arm, your bright flame
And I to keep your blanket warm.

What hurt most was knowing he would never hear Willem’s voice again.

* * * *

The Queen’s Voice arrived by curtained palanquin. A frame of gilded wood hung with panels of crimson silk swayed above the shoulders of eight squat workers. An escort of twelve hands of bronze-hued nomari warriors preceded the litter. Twelve hands more followed. They moved with  a bizarre, beautiful precision, their spears held upright and bearing the ceremonial banners of the Pesht’s Queen. The blades glinted red gold with the strong sun of the day.

Willem stood among the hundreds crowding the kumbh’s forward rampart. It was torture watching the nomari contingent progress along the road leading from Pesht’s yawning Mouth—carved in the shapes of giant cave crawlers, those fearsome predators of the mountain deeps—to the bridge dividing the nom from Pesht Dasa and the kumbhs. And then they crossed. The sight of so many pouring over the bridge had the power to sink his stomach, even though the nomari had not swarmed the kumbhs since the death of the last Queen, during the years of his grandfathers.

“Love a show, damn them.” Bayorn Tek’s bushy brows had lowered to a formidable awning above his sharp gray eyes. Hands rough from decades of working stone gripped the time-polished top of the rampart wall.

“I haven’t seen so many since—” He didn’t say the rest.

“We need the influence. Keeps us from having to farm out too many.”

Willem wetted his lips. Damn dry mountain air. But it was really fear that stole the moisture from his mouth and lungs. “When will we know? Will it take Her Voice long to choose?”

Bayorn placed an arm over his shoulders. “She’s already chosen. It’s a formality, lad, don’t you see? It’s all done days before Her Voice brings the gifts and the chosen male gets feted like a visiting Kumbharana.”

The nomari had reached the strong outer gate of the Kumbh’Bhesarim, and it opened to receive the boat-sized palanquin. Only a small number of warriors entered along with it. The rest remained outside in neat ranks. They looked mostly human and unlike any other creature with whom humans shared the world: two legs, two arms, one head atop lithe torsos roped with strong muscle, sharp humanish faces crowned by cropped pale blond hair. Two eyes. Willem couldn’t see those eyes from here but he knew what they looked like. Yellow, tinged with orange, maybe gold. Never dark brown, or green, or blue, or gray. Eyes that looked at a human but never into a human. From childhood he had been taught they were nothing but killing machines.

“The Voice won’t be presented with candidates?” His mind raced but found only dead ends.

“She already saw the candidates during the negotiations. They don’t tell ‘em they’re being looked at. If they know, might try to scuttle the choosing. Might fake illness or pinch themselves to a rash or feign madness, even.” Bayorn sighed. “I know because I loved one of them, too. Davi was Her Chosen before Arton.” He reached to prevent Willem from pulling away. “You can’t warn him. You can’t save him, if that’s his lot. You want to send him away with the memory of seeing you dismembered by nomari spears?”

“He needs to know!”

“Ah, lad. If he’s the one, he knows already.”

Willem ripped away from Bayorn’s hold on him and ran with desperate speed toward the stairs. But there were too many bodies, too many people making their way down to the courtyard where the gold painted palanquin stood with its sunset curtains open.

Waiting to swallow the sun.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more fun, free fiction, use the links below to visit the blogs of the other Wednesday Briefers.

3 comments:

  1. Love the line - sadness lay on the word......
    Great chapter - waiting to know what happens next.
    Tweeted.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh no, this is so sad. So poignant. My heart is breaking for them both :(

    ReplyDelete