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

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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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