The Lay of Boketai Gan

This is another one of my “origin stories” for one of my role-playing characters. I never just “roll up” a character; I flesh them out, give them a history, and a mission other than just what my GM has in mind, whether it be a quest or a dungeon crawl. I make them real.

The Lay of Boketai Gan

In the years before the Spellplague, a nation of orcs formed and managed to persevere. Named the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, it lies in the North on the borders of Faerûn and the Hordelands of the Taan. Now, the Taan were understandably wary of the orcs of Many-Arrows, for they had spent many decades fighting the savage orc tribes that came down from the mountains. Indeed, one of the reasons for that name was the sheer number of ancient arrows still to be found in the deep grass of the borderlands. Admittedly, another reason was the number of archers the orcs had sent into the Hordelands in that long-ago time…

Nonetheless, the Taan came to realize that the orcs of Many-Arrows were more peaceful-minded than those of the mountains, and eventually the two nations became at first wary trading partners and later allies and friends. The Taan clans whose grazing lands lay nearest the borders became more than friends as well; some of the orcs and half-orcs married into the clans, and some of the Taan married into the orc tribes of Many-Arrows.

One of the Taan border clans was that of the Stormhorse. Its symbol is a dapple-gray steppe horse whose mane is the rain, whose hooves strike lightning from the clouds, and when the Stormhorse neighs, it is the voice of the thunder. The Stormhorse clan was one of the more powerful of the clans for many generations, and for some time profited greatly with the wealth and prestige that came with their new members.

Boketai Gan was a half-orc member of the Taan. She was a daughter of the Stormhorse clan, born to a Taan father and a half-orc mother who had been among the first to profit from the wealth the orcs brought with them. Her parents had recently begun a new breeding program for their horses, selecting for greater size than the small steppe horses of the past and buying tall horses from outsiders to breed into their lines. They reasoned that the new clan members, with their greater size, would need larger horses with greater strength to bear them. And for a time, all went well for them.

But then something changed. The rains no longer fell so often on the Stormhorse grazing lands. The herds grew lean, a bad sign for their survival for the winter to come. The riders had to go further and further afield to graze them, and other clans began to complain that they were encroaching on lands that were not theirs.

It was time to seek an answer—but that answer came in the form of a judgement.

The people went to the shaman of the Stormhorse clan, Ebugen, who prepared for the ritual of the Spirits of the Land. It took many days, and when the shaman came forth he was gaunt and drawn as though the Spirits had fed from his very soul.

The people waited as he came forth from the sweat lodge, more and more concerned as he kept silence. And then he began to walk through the crowd, sniffing like a dog seeking someone, peering up at faces. Their fears grew, and murmurs began to rise among them, until suddenly he gave a shriek that shocked them to silence.

Ebugen stood before three people: Alun Ghoa, the red-haired half-orc woman, Khulan Gan, her husband, and their daughter, Boketai Gan. He shook his staff before them, the bells on the antlers of the great deer skull jangling wildly, and again gave that terrifying shriek.

“Here,” he cried, his voice carrying to all in the clan. “Here are the ones who have transgressed against the Spirits of the Land! Here are the ones who must pay the price!”

Aghast, Alun Ghoa cried out to the shaman. “What have we done? What have we done so wrong that our people should suffer like this?”

“It is the horses,” the shaman replied. “The Stormhorse is angered that you should trifle with the children he gave into your care. The stallions you brought to our mares are too frail to survive our winters, and so the foals will be. It weakens the herd, and offends the Stormhorse who is our guide.”

Appalled, Khulan Gan ventured a question. “What must we do? How can we atone for this? What does the Stormhorse demand of us?”

Death,” the shaman said, and the storm winds sounded in his hollow voice as he pointed his staff at Khulan Gan.

Alun Ghoa cried out in a great wail of grief and flung her arms around her husband in a storm of weeping. Khulan Gan held her close, trying to console her, but she would not be still.

“Ebugen sky-father,” came a quiet voice, and the shaman jerked around to stare at the daughter of Khulan Gan, a girl of sixteen summers. “My father meant only good for the clan and for the Taan. Will the Stormhorse be satisfied if the stallions are sacrificed, and the foals when they are born?”

The shaman stared at her for a long moment, his eyes gone dark as pits into the night sky. He stared so long that she feared for his answer, but she would not look away. She held his gaze so that the Stormhorse would know she was sincere.

“No,” he said at last, the storm winds in his voice once more. “It is not enough.”

“Then take me, not my father.” She stood tall and ignored the cries of her parents behind her. “If the Stormhorse is offended by the offspring of his children, then let the child of those who offended pay the price.”

Again the shaman stared at her with those night-dark eyes, and it seemed to Boketai that something—else—stared out at her from within them. “Yeesssss…” came his answer, and he raised his staff to the sky. Above them the clouds gathered and the sky darkened, the winds whirling around them. The thunder rolled, and the wind wailed and moaned, and lightning crackled from cloud to cloud above them. Around her the people of the clan backed away, distancing themselves from her as from their guilt, but also from fear of what would happen next.

“Do you accept the Stormhorse’s judgement?” the shaman shouted over the wind.

Boketai nodded, and spread her arms wide. “By earth and sky, I do.”

The shaman raised his staff once more, and the lightning streaked down like a spear of light, tangling for a moment in the deer horns. And then the lightning shot across the field and struck Boketai in the chest.

The thunder roared, and the lightning cracked like the whip of the gods, and Boketai was flung back to lie lifeless on the ground.

 

Boketai opened her eyes and sat up carefully, rubbing the place on her chest where the lightning had struck. There was no pain, exactly, just a strange, hollow emptiness that ached to be filled. She looked around herself, and realized this was no place she had ever seen. Around her were long, rolling plains as far as her eyes could see, and when she looked even at the edge of her vision everything was as clear as if it were right at hand. The sky above was clouded like the aftermath of a thunderstorm, and every blade of the long golden grass was edged in light. After a moment she stood up and turned slowly, looking around her, and when she came back to the place she had started there before her was a strong stallion, gray as stormclouds.

“It is well that you gave yourself in sacrifice,” she heard, but the voice was in her head and not her ears. “But now you are no longer mine. You are banished from the clan and from the lands of the Taan. You must make your way in the world outside.”

“As you have said, so shall it be done,” Boketai said, and the ache in her chest opened wide as the valleys below the steppes. “But—what shall I do? Is there more to atone for?”

The stallion shook his head, and rain flew from his mane in torrents. He looked down at the ground between them and pawed at the grass for a moment. Then his head came up again, and he locked his eyes on hers. Deep they were, the soft, gentle eyes of all the horses she had ever known, but with a wisdom far greater than theirs. “Go south,” he said at last. “Seek other gods, for Teylas and Etugan are only for the Taan. Make pact with the powers of the world, the elements that give you life and strength. Use the skills they teach you to help those in need, and to fight those who would harm others. Study well, and learn all you can, for one day you will return to the Hordelands of the Taan in their time of need.” He nodded his head. “Go now, once daughter of the Taan. You take my blessing with you.”

After a moment, Boketai bowed her head in respect, and turned away. But she paused for a moment too long, and the Stormhorse nudged her hard with his nose. She staggered, her arms flung wide for balance, and closed her eyes as a wave of dizziness overwhelmed her.

 

Boketai opened her eyes, and found herself standing supported by her mother and father, the shaman staring at her intently. After a moment he nodded as if satisfied. “You have been given a great honor,” he said. “The Stormhorse has spoken with your soul.” He looked down at her chest, and gestured with one hand. “You bear his mark, now.”

Boketai looked down also, and saw that where the lightning had struck the layers of cloth and leather of her clothes were burned away; some of the edges still smoldered and smoked. But where they had been there was a mark now between her breasts. Not a burn, nor a scar, yet somehow a little of both, in the likeness of a small, sturdy hoofprint like those of the steppe horses she knew.

But beneath it, deep in her heart, there was still an emptiness that cried to be filled.

“You are no longer of the Stormhorse clan, Boketai Gan,” the shaman said, “No longer of the Taan. Gather the things that are yours. You may rest this night in your father’s ger, but in the morning you must leave these lands.”

That night she spent with her parents, speaking of what had happened to her, and asking of what they might know of the lands south of the steppes. At least she would have a plan for the next day. But when she left the ger and whistled for her horse, the shaman stepped between them.

“Take your saddle if you wish, but take no horse that is the child of the Stormhorse.” And before she could ask, he added, “Those horses your father bought are forfeit by your own words, to be sacrificed for the good of the clan. I am sorry, Boketai, but you must walk this path alone until you leave the steppe.”

She nodded sadly, then stepped around him to stroke the nose of the sturdy little mare she had raised herself. Then she turned to go, but was stopped by the members of her erstwhile clan. The Mother of the Clan took her hand and folded it around a small leather bag, and as she did Boketai could feel the shifting of coins within it. Before she could speak, the Mother laid a finger on her lips, and she was still.

“You have sacrificed yourself for us, Boketai Gan,” the Mother said, “and it will not be forgotten. You will not be forgotten. You gave the gift of yourself, of your family and friends, that you have now lost. In its place we can only give you this. It is enough and more to buy a horse when you reach the southlands below the steppe.” And then she leaned forward and placed a kiss on Boketai’s forehead. “Take my blessing, and the blessing of the Clan. May you find help when you are in need, as you gave it to us.”

Boketai clasped the woman’s hands, then did the same to her mother and father. Lastly, she made the gesture of respect to the shaman. He stared hard into her eyes, and she paused, confused. In her mind she heard his voice: “The Stormhorse has said that you are not banished for all time, Strong Steel. A time will come when you must return. You will know when that time has come.” For a long moment she stared back at him, and then at last she bowed her head in acceptance. Then she leaned down and picked up her pack and her saddle and bridle, nodded to them all, then turned her back on all she had known and walked away.

# # #

The way down from the steppe was hard and long, but Boketai was a strong and sturdy youth. She walked all that day and well into the night, the full moon lighting her steps, and halted only when the ground became too steep for safety. She rolled out her blankets and lay down to sleep, using her saddle for a pillow.

The next morning she woke with the sun in her eyes and the world around her glittering with tiny jewels everywhere. Never before had she seen dew on the grass, beads of fire on spiderwebs, even stars on her own eyelashes! All around her was a sea of cloud, foaming and boiling up the mountainside in a cool fog.

Out of the mist came a pip! pip! peeWIT! and a tiny bird like a finch fluttered up to land on a twig not far from her bedazzled eyes. It fluttered its wings and flirted its tail, uttering pip! with every flash of its feathers. Where it perched in the shadow of the bush it was a rusty brown, but then the sun rose just that bit further and turned them into a fiery copper. Very slowly Boketai put her fingers into her pouch and pulled out some crumbs of waybread, and gently scattered them on the ground. The copper finch cocked its head at her, looking at her with one beady eye and then down at the crumbs.

“Yes, little sister, those are for you,” Boketai said softly. At that, the copper finch fluttered down and pecked up all the crumbs. Then it sat and waited, hoping for more. Carefully, Boketai moved to sit up, and the finch hopped back a few feet to give her room. As she rose, some strands of her hair caught in the silver ornaments on her saddle and pulled free from her braid. They fluttered free, catching the light, and the little finch dove forward to snatch them up in her beak and flew away.

In exchange, a long copper tail feather floated down to land in Boketai’s hand, and she smiled. “Thank you, little sister,” she said.

She cupped her hands around some of the pale flowers that grew around her, wetting her hands and washing her face in the fragrant dew. Then she stood and stretched to loosen her muscles, and sang her morning prayers to the Sun. When she was done, she sat again with her back against her saddle, and once again looked around her. The ledge where she had slept was broad and wide, with a deep overhang that would shelter her from the worst of the early spring weather, and she decided that this was a good place for a Spirit journey.

From her pack she took out a small drum and drumstick, a little silver bell, a dish, and a stick of incense. Into the dish she poured a bit of ayrag, the fermented mares’ milk of her people, and set it out in front of her. Then she took her flint and steel and a bit of goat-hair fluff, and struck a spark to the fluff. She touched the incense to the tiny flame, and when it began to scent the air with its perfume she pushed one end of the stick into the ground. The burning fluff she snuffed out with her fingers, and when it was cold she placed it back into the pouch with her flint and steel. Then she rang the little bell three times to the four directions, and set it aside. Finally, she picked up the drum and began to tap out an intricate rhythm.

She began to hum along with the beat, her eyes closed against the sunlight, going deeper and deeper into the place inside herself where her soul dwelled. As she did, the beat became simpler and simpler, until at last it was an echo of her slow heartbeat. And at last she prayed to the Spirits of this place.

She called them to her, the spirits of the land; the spirits of life, of earth and wind, of rain and lightning. Of cold, and fire, and thunder. She called them to witness and told them her story, and begged them to guide her in this new land. And she asked them to give her power, that she might do as the Stormhorse had commanded her: to help those in need, and to fight those who would harm others.

And as the sun rose, they answered her.

To those below, it seemed there was a small storm on the heights, a storm lit by fiery lightning and frozen rain, and thunder that rolled down the mountain like stones, and the people who saw made warding gestures against the spirits, fearing their wrath. What the spirits told Boketai, and what they asked of her, she never told; indeed, sometimes it seemed she did not know herself. But after that day the empty space in her heart was filled, and her soul was steady in its course.

And within the curve of the hoofprint on her breast were strange symbols, the signs of the elements with whom she made her pact.

The next day, she came down from the hills and entered the town. There she bought a sturdy horse, and had enough coin left over to fill her pack with provisions. And on the day that followed she rode away, and never looked back.

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How Tokai Redwing Got Her Name

Reading through the Flash Fiction posts over on Chuck Wendig’s blog reminded me of another story I wrote about a meeting with a god. It’s somewhat less than 1000 words, and is a lead-in to another of the books I’m gonna write someday. Here ’tis.

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Red-winged Starling (Onychognathus_morio) 8

How Tokai Redwing Got Her Name

Among my people it is believed that the gods and the etirru, the fae, walk among us in the form of men. I know this to be true, for I have met one such, and it is he whose rule I now follow.

This is how it was.

I and a friend, Halimon, were searching the caves above Loukha valley. It was rumored that in older times papyrus scrolls were stored there because the caves were so dry. We had found a cache of ancient scrolls that day, and Halimon was loading them on our horses while I searched one more cave. But it seemed that Halimon had grown greedy, for he betrayed me. He struck me down from behind, and caused a rockfall.

I was fortunate; I was only stunned and already beginning to rise when I heard the rocks falling. I lunged forward and so was only caught by the edge of the fall—but that still buried me from my hips down to my feet, and one of the rocks tumbled and struck my head again.

I do not know how long I lay unconscious, but I think it was no more than an hour; when I woke, all the dust from the fall had settled. I lay mostly prone, my right arm pinned beneath me. I was unable to roll over onto my back, nor could I even turn onto my side to free my arm. So I worked with my left hand, pulling stones and rocks one at a time and shoving them away. It was slow work, and I had no way to know how it was proceeding.

Every once in a while I pulled enough rocks away that more would come down in a cascade, and at last yet one more stone bounded down and struck my face, cutting deep above my eye. It hurt badly, and it bled badly, and I was so angry, and frustrated, and frightened that I cried out, “Is there no-one in this blesséd darkness that can help me free?”

And from the darkness a voice answered me.

Now I had explored this cave, and I knew that there was no entrance but that from which I had come. I thought then it must be one of the earth fae.

The voice said, “What would you?”

“To be freed from these rocks and safe out of this cave,” I said.

“And for this aid, what recompense?” he replied.

“My hand in friendship now, and my promise of aid in your time of need,” I answered. I vow to you, I could not hear him move, and yet I heard him freeze in startlement.

“That is a great gift…” he said in wondering tones. “Done.” And somehow I could see his hand reach out for mine. I reached up my hand, and he took it, and suddenly the rocks were gone, and I was standing, and the entrance to the cave was as clear as if the rockfall had never been.

“Sir,” I said, “Who am I to thank for this rescue?”

“You know who I am,” he said, and stepped a little forward toward the cave entranceso that the light fell on him. I could see him then—a young man in his prime, in dark robes of fine cloth. His hair was glossy black, and his complexion olive like my own. But his dark eyes reflected silver in the dimness, and as he stepped further forward I saw at his temples the locks of hair that were rusty red like the marks on a starling’s wing.

“Emeris!” I gasped, and started back. But his hand tightened on mine, and he would not let me pull away.

“You offered your hand in friendship when you knew me not,” the god said. “Would you deny it now that you do?”

“No, my lord, but—”

“What is your name?” he asked. I told him, though I had a different name, then. He saw the blood on my face, then, and brushed his thumb across the wound. It stopped bleeding, though I still have the scar.

“You are tokai,” he said, the word meaning strong, with the feminine ending that made it a name. When I told my sister the story, she took to calling me that when we were alone. “You are safe now, tokai. Go. The redwings will watch over you.”

And it was so. On the long walk home nothing and no-one came near to me, save for the redwing starlings that flitted across the path in the lowering light.

And when I arrived home I heard that Halimon had been found, gutted like a fish. There was no trace of the papyrus scrolls. It seemed my betrayer had himself been betrayed by his greed.

So it is that I now follow Emeris of the Red Wings, Lord of Shadows. Some call him the god of thieves, but they forget he is also the god of secrets and of hidden lore—and of safety in darkness.

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Check out the other posts for the challenge at: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/03/17/flash-fiction-challenge-to-behold-the-divine/#comments

Sya and The Ladies

Chuck Wendig put out a new flash challenge this week: To Behold the Divine. The challenge: write about gods and goddesses. Any genre, any point of view, under 2k words. Figured now would be a good time to introduce some more characters from my WIP, House of the Black Dog. Seven-year old Sya, Heir to the House, takes two of the Powers to task for their lack of action on behalf of their Champion, my MC Ari Dillon, who Sya has dubbed her “Red Lion.”

Check out the other posts for the challenge at: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/03/17/flash-fiction-challenge-to-behold-the-divine/#comments

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SYA 1 Sandhya Mauroskyli - enhanced light

Month 4, day 30 – 150 days on Thanah

the House of the Black Dog; elsewhere

It was the garden in the temenos, the holy ground at the heart of the House where the little temples were for all the gods. It was evening, she thought, still early; the torches weren’t lit yet, though the slanting light coming over the wall had gone a deep, clear gold. The little girl picked her way along the path, kicking the leaves just to hear the skittering sound they made across the stones. She wasn’t supposed to be out alone, never without a guard, but here beyond the Gates of Dreams she knew she was always safe.

And the two Ladies were here, and no one would dare try to harm her while They were present. She was as safe as if her Red Lion was with her.

But at thought of her Red Lion, the little girl’s heart twisted inside her. The White Man had hurt her, this time; really hurt her. Hurt her badly, hurt her soul, not just her body. Abruptly the little girl lifted her head, searching the garden around her for the Ladies.

She was only a little girl, but she was also Heir to a House, and she knew her duty to her Household. The Red Lion was hers; her protector, hers to protect. Chosen to save her and her City almost before she was born, it wasn’t right for her to be so hurt and have no one to help her! The little girl marched along the path now, her little feet thumping determinedly on the stones, angry now with an anger well beyond her years.

The Ladies were sitting on the stone benches by the fountain at the center of the temenos, both frowning slightly as they conversed. At their feet lay the Dark Lady’s big dog. It lifted one of its heads, watching her approach, and gave a woof of greeting, tail thumping the stones in happiness before getting up and shaking itself all over. The Dark Lady laid a hand on the dog’s head and gave a soft command, and the dog sat, but its teeth gleamed in a doggy grin and its tail still swept the leaves away beneath the bench.

The gray-eyed Lady, her Lady, looked up at her and smiled. Her long spear lay at her feet, and her great shield leaned against the old olive tree, the serpent-haired woman’s face turned away. Up in the tree, the little brown owl hooted once and ruffled its feathers at her, but the little girl would not be diverted.

“Oh, dear,” the Dark Lady said, and raised a hand to hide her smile.

The little girl marched right up to them, ignoring the soft whuffling of the dog as it leaned forward to sniff her arm. “He hurt her!” she said, sharp and accusing. “She’s doing what you want, why won’t you help her?” The Dark Lady looked down as her dog whined, hearing the little girl’s upset, and her face was sad. She soothed the dog, rubbing its ears with gentle fingers. Her dark eyes were veiled by long lashes and a fall of night-dark hair that tumbled past her shoulders.

The gray-eyed Lady sighed and leaned forward to speak to the girl. “Even such as we have our constraints, child. Though we have set the task, the doing is up to her. It is not our choice, it is our moira, our fate. We may not yet interfere, and we cannot help her unless she asks—and it has been long and long since that one asked for help.”

“But you helped her before!” This time she turned to the Dark Lady, pleading.

The Dark Lady looked at the little girl; her eyes were dark from lid to lid, and little sparks shone in them like stars in the night sky. “She cried out for help, then, though it was not to me she called. Would that she had called on me sooner, both then and now, little one. But until she does, we needs must stay our hands.” Her voice was soft and rich and dark, and sorrow shimmered in its depths.

The little girl looked up at her, into those eyes as dark as a night of stars and sad as an ocean of tears, and bowed her head. “But it isn’t fair,” she said, her voice plaintive.

“No, it isn’t,” the Dark Lady replied. She reached out and drew the little girl close, pulling her up into her lap. “It isn’t fair, but it is what must be.”

The little girl snuggled into her arms, then looked up into her face. “Can I ask for you to help her?”

“Oh, child…” the Dark Lady sighed, “I cannot. But I promise you this; whenever she calls, I will hear her however far she be, and I will give whatever aid I can—though it may not be the help she expects.” She stroked back the little girl’s curls, nearly as dark as her own, and at last the little girl smiled.

“What’s your name, Lady?”

The Dark Lady smiled, and it was as if the stars shone in her eyes. “I have a great many names, little one. But your Red Lion calls me Mother Night.”

“Mother Night,” the little girl whispered, and tucked herself deeper into the Dark Lady’s arms. She sighed, and moments later she was asleep.

The gray-eyed Lady gazed down on the little girl with eyes both fond and sad, and leaned forward a little to brush her cheek with gentle fingers. “What must be, must be,” she said. “Until she admits of all the truths she has hidden from herself, she will not be free for us to reach her.”

The Dark Lady nodded, and when she spoke, her voice ached with remembered pain, frustration, and a deep, abiding anger. “I cannot give the help she needs. I cannot stop what he does. I could only hope to give her the strength to bear it.”

“You did, dear friend,” her companion said, her voice filled with compassion and her gray eyes warm with sympathy. “She is wounded, true; wounded in body and soul, yet she lives, she is whole. And she is growing stronger for it, though she knows it not.” The gray-eyed Lady reached out once more and laid her fingers on the other’s arm, the only comfort she could give. “Be at peace; the time is drawing near.”

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Whiskey

Reading someone’s blog about Flash Fiction, and figured I should post something myself. So here’s something I wrote a while back. What it actually is is the backstory for one of my Role Playing characters, but it made a nice little story in and of itself. It’s a little over the 1000 words, but hey, this is my blog and I’ll do what I want, right? Write.

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whiskey pour - cropped

Once upon a time there was a very unhappy young woman. She was so very unhappy that she left her home and her family, and set off across America. She took on odd jobs as she went; waitin’ tables in greasy diners and dirty bars, stayin’ wherever she could find a bed. And she did what she had to do to survive.

One night, there she was, sittin’ in a little bar in some podunk town in the middle of America, nursin’ a beer, when the door opened and in walked this long drink of water in jeans and boots and leathers. He had on a black t-shirt that fit him just fine, and a long skinny rat-tail of a braid hangin’ all the way down to his ass. When she raised her head and looked up, there he stood in the doorway, lookin’ right back at her. Lookin’ her right in the eyes.

And he just kinda smiled.

Now he coulda sat anywhere he wanted in that bar, but he come over and sat on the stool right next to her, back up against the rail and his elbows on the bar. He looked over at her and smiled, looked down at the bottle in her hand and said, “Whatcha drinkin’?”

She looked over at him, looked at her beer, looked back, and said, “Whiskey.”

Well, he smiled, kinda lazy like, and then he leaned his head back over the bar and said, “Bartender—let’s have some whiskey f’me an’ the lady.” Bartender came over, set up two shots and poured, and wandered off. Biker sat up a little, picked up a shot and knocked it back, and then he reached over and took that beer right out of her hand, and drank down just exactly half. Then he put it back in her hand, and waited.

She looked him up and down, and nodded kinda slow. She took the other shot, tossed it back, and set the glass back down on the bar. Then she picked up the beer, and drank the rest. And the whole time she looked him right straight in the eye.

And he just kinda smiled.

Door opened again, and in come two more men in braids and jeans and boots and leather. First one looked over and said, “Hey, Matt!”

Matt tipped his head and said, “Hey, Tommy. Hey, Billy Lee.”

Other one grinned and said, “Hey, Matt! Who you got there?”

Matt said, “This my new girl, Whiskey.”

They both nodded their heads and said, “Hey, Whiskey,” and she looked back and said, “Hey, Tommy. Hey, Billy Lee.”

And she rode with them nigh on ten years, and they always treated her like a friend, and they never treated her other than like a lady.

Till one night they’re sittin’ in a little bar in some podunk town in the middle of America. Matt and Tommy were playin’ pool, and Tommy’s girl Carly was watchin’, leanin’ against the wall sippin’ a beer. Billy Lee and his girl Francie were sittin’ at a table, and Whiskey was waitin’ at the bar for their drinks.

Down the other end of the bar was a skinny little man, looked like a salesman, wearin’ a shiny suit. He’s sittin’ there all hunched together like he was afraid all them big, bad bikers were gonna jump him, watchin’ ‘em scared in the mirror behind the bar.

Whiskey was sittin’ there at the bar when the door opened and in walked this dude. Big dude. Hair might’ve been blond, but it was hard to tell; it was cut shorter’n peach fuzz. Whiskey turned a little, lookin’ at him, all muscle and mean, and knew she was lookin’ at trouble.

There he stood in the doorway, lookin’ round the bar. He saw Matt and Tommy, saw Carly, and Francie, and Billy Lee, and then he looked right at that skinny little man in the shiny suit. Now he coulda sat anywhere he wanted in that bar, but he come over and sat on the stool right next to that skinny little man, so close he knocked into him, spilled his beer all over the bar. That skinny little man jumped up off his stool, startin’ to holler; got a look at the dude and started to apologize.

Big dude got off his stool, reached out, and grabbed that little man by the collar of his shirt, lifted him right off his feet and pinned him against the wall.

Matt put down his pool cue with a snap, and stood up straight. “Hey, man,” he said, friendly like, “It’s all good. How ‘bout you let me buy you a beer?”

Big dude never moved a muscle holdin’ the skinny guy, just turned his head real, real slow to look at Matt. “Fuck you,” he said, clear and hard and cold.

Matt started walkin’ forward, slow and easy like, and Tommy followed after, bein’ cool. “Yeah, man,” Matt said, “but hey, he didn’t mean nothin’ by it. C’mon, I’ll buy you two beers.”

Big dude just stared at him for a minute, eyes all cold and hard, and then he turned his head back around, lookin’ at the skinny guy. He set him down gentle, let go his collar, and smoothed it down like to get the wrinkles out, and patted him on the chest like he was sayin’ he was sorry. It was all real slow, everybody movin’ real slow and gentle, no hurry.

And then everything got fast.

That big dude, he moved; moved fast, real fast, reachin’ for Matt and Tommy, and wood was breakin’ and Carly screamin’. Billy Lee shoved his chair back so hard it fell over, and Francie ran for the wall. Bartender slid down the bar, grabbin’ for the phone and somethin’ underneath, and the skinny guy was out the door like he wasn’t ever there.

Next thing Whiskey remembered, she’s sittin’ on the floor with Matt’s head in her lap, and the big dude lyin’ next to him, dead. She was strokin’ Matt’s hair and cryin’, tryin’ to keep the blood out of his eyes. He looked up at her and kinda smiled, and he said, “I love you, Whiskey.”

She said, “I love you, Matt,” but he was already gone.

Whiskey never did remember what all happened that night. All she remembered was how it all happened so fast.

But in my dreams… in my dreams, I feel that pool cue in my hands. I see that big dude standin’ there laughin, crazy.

And I wake up when I feel the shock run up my arms when that pool cue breaks his skull.

* * *

Off the Grid and Lost – Danny Ryder

I figure it’s time you meet someone else on Thanah – one of the Gathered, Danny Ryder. He starts out as a bad boy – an ex-con, one with a desperate need to belong to something, a gang, whatever. So long as they’ll have his back, he’ll have theirs. But things don’t work out the way he planned… and he realizes there’s someone he wants to protect.

Month 5, day 26 – 186 days on Thanah

somewhere in the House

Nobody seemed to know where Ryder was lately, not his bad-ass homeboys, nor the Ouroi. He showed up for his work shift every day, looking rougher than usual but doing his job with a dogged focus. Just sort of keeping his head down, like he was thinking hard while doing something else. Shift done, he’d ghost over to the dining hall and eat—and then disappear off the House radar. Since in general no-one was much interested in looking for him, no-one much missed him either. His pack could care less—Roach was still pissed at him over the stupid kid, and the others found it safer to follow Roach’s lead rather than risk crossing him anyway. Still, even Roach wondered every once in a while where Ryder’d got to, in an annoyed, sort of missing-having-a-whipping-boy kind of way.

Where he was, was lost. Something—or someone—had poked him in a place he’d thought long dead, and now he was trying to figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing. It had been a very long time since he’d thought about anyone but himself, and now he couldn’t seem to think about anyone else but her.

He didn’t really know why yet, hadn’t figured it out, but ever since he’d talked to the redhead in the back hall she’d been sort of there in the back of his mind. How she’d given him his space, coming on him like that. How she’d listened, really listened, to what he’d said; had seemed to believe him. How she’d caught on so quick that he had to cover himself, caught the ball and didn’t fumble. There was something to her that stuck in his mind like a sandbur and wouldn’t let go.

There was something going on with her, too, something big, something that when he thought about it set his teeth on edge like biting into a piece of tinfoil. She didn’t dress or act like a skank or a ho, but there was still the rumor in the House that she had some guy outside, real rough trade. But it didn’t fit with what he saw of her, and he couldn’t figure how anyone else could believe that. So something was going down, and she was deep in the middle of it.

Jimmy Spitz, a young kid he’d met in the House that was also from Brooklyn, he worked in the gym and he said she was in there like three-four hours every day, working out like a crazy person with some guy Arvanis and that security guy, Sinclair. Said they were teaching her all sorts of stuff he’d never seen before—not just karate stuff but wrestling and boxing and like that.

He’d learned she went out every two weeks with the Keeper, Kanti, but then Kanti came back alone every time and the redhead came back hours later all beat to shit and looking like she’d been run over flat by a garbage truck. Now maybe the word was true and she had some rough trade going—but those hours in the gym said something else to Ryder. That kind of drive said obsession to him, that there was something so big in her mind that was worth taking that kind of punishment.

He remembered back to that day in the dining hall when she’d laid the smackdown on him. She’d been beat all to shit like they said, and looked like she’d been through six kinds of hell. She’d hit him like a piledriver, looking crazy, freakin’ like she was on drugs. Now he was thinking it was something else—something worse, something sick. He knew a girl who’d been gang-raped, back home. She’d had that same look in her eyes, got the same freak on if somebody touched her when she didn’t see it coming. He’d heard she’d walked off a subway platform in front of an inbound.

The redhead, though—she was taking it the other way, fighting it, trying to make herself stronger, strong enough to take whoever was doing—whatever—to her.

The only thing he couldn’t figure out was why. There had to be a reason why someone would go out on purpose to take that kind of shit, and keep going back.

Maybe if he could figure out why, he could get her out of his skull and get back to his damn life.

* * *

ENODIA

Enodia is one of the titles of Hekátē, the Lady I call Mother Night. It means “of the Ways,” and means that She is the protector of the paths, whether of the physical means of travel or of the choices we make that determine the course of our life. Hekátē is the patron of Choices. and the one who shows us the way.

 

Hekátē
You of the crossroads
Hekátē
Bringer of light-in-darkness
Show me the way.
Maiden of mysteries
Mother of choices
Mistress of wisdom
Torchbearer,
You, who lights the way
From the past to the choice
And the path not taken.
Guide my path
When I have lost my way;
Lend me your wisdom
To make the best choice.
May my destiny and my goal
Be one and the same.

9/30/13; completed 10/31/13

Once again, time got away from me. I looked at my blog and realized that my last post was MONTHS ago. How does it get to be months? It was only just Christmas, and I still haven’t mailed my gifts to my brother and sister-in-law!

This time around, I’m setting up a new category: Prayers. Pretty much self-explanatory, there. The prayers are addressed to those Powers I look to: Hekátē, Athēna, and Hermēs, as well as others of Divine Nature.

Just for clarity’s sake, let me say this: I believe GOD (the Divine, the Highest Power, whatever you conceive that to be) has two natures and ten thousand names. Our human minds are too limited to perceive that Power in its entirety, and so we create  a persona that fits what we need. Call it an Aspect, an Avatar, whatever; it is what we can relate to in the moment of our need.

Enough late night babbling.