I took a break from slugging, er slogging away on the current project to scribble a little bit for Chuck Wendig’s latest Flash Fiction Challenge, “The Present Tense“.
It’s supposed to be epic fantasy.
At least it’s not poetry.
“You…” he whispers, as the life leaves him.
“Yes.” I do not say more than this, for he has already lingered longer than the others who’d come here in the days after.
He is of their kind, they who herded our own away from us. Marched or dragged them up the road and down the hill into the forest before they murdered the trees. Thunderoak, butterberry, waterwillow, martle, none we could see were kept aside from saw or axe or flame or spiked poison. With them died the remembers.
All sad we were, through sun to sun the first day, and smaller hours after, haze crawling into nights of no stars, just smoke and unraveled spirits.
All sad we were. All sad, Nama and Jesa and me. We held together in the mud of the Bayson’s alow and watched what we could. We stared hard, stayed fast until we could not stand, and got up when we should have stayed seated, but when all was done, it was not enough. Jesa and me, our blood was too thin even to keep our own father’s shade to ground. And Nama’s was non … Nama’s was all their blood.
‘Oze, it was square she grudged it. Even if it had put us in the alow, and not forgotten dead beneath the slaughtered wood.
Their lead was a man like a slab of wall, one Teganor. He had known Nama afore. He had known her more than she would let be. I knew this even though I was too young to be told such things.
‘Lady Lisaly,’ he said to her. ‘My men and I are at your service.’
‘How kind of you,’ Nama replied. ‘Now that you have bereft me of mine.’
He smiled at this, and took her pretty chin in his blackened fingers. The mail around them smelled as much of blood as it did ash. Our blood, proper. Father’s char stained her perfect skin.
She did not slap him.
I di … I punched him, hard enough to break his own blood out from the cage of his nose.
And when he was stepping back staggering, clasping his face, I kicked him. And again. And again.
Jesa screamed my name.
The rest, I do not remember.
Perhaps I will, in days to come, days nearer now than they were the day before.
This one had scavenged my other foot from the village ruins. I pluck it from his bag with the hand that the one before him had found, and fit it back where it belongs.
I have a knife, but his is better. I take it, and cut from him enough flesh to cover my bird-cleaned bone. It is darker than what swathes my legs and other foot, but no matter. A skirt and stocking and shoes can hide much.
In time, my pieces will all be fit true beneath this lie of skin, and I will walk wholly as their kind among their holds and hearths.
Those will burn, then, and our trees will grow from their ashes.