“For Love of a Princess”

Hello hello, mellons!  I’m back!  Sorry for disappearing on all of you.  I’ve been struggling to come up with anything to post about.  But a writing group with a few of my writerly friends and I did a writing prompt called “broken,” and I decided to write this.  I know it’s pretty loose as far as that word goes, but hey, “shattered” is basically the same thing, and hopefully at least some of my readers will be heartbroken.

I completely accept that some of you may hate me after this.  If you don’t, I probably haven’t done my job right.

Here goes!


Once I was a princess.  Once I had a mother and a father who loved me, friends who played with me, and tutors who bored me to death.  Once I had a normal, happy life, or as normal as the life of a princess could ever be.

That life was stolen from me.  In a matter of hours, enemies had ransacked our city, slaughtered our people, and destroyed the life I knew.

In my old life’s place, I was given a tower.  I was given a single room high above dense forest, with only a dragon for company.  Her name was Xenatlanextra, and she was a mother to me when I did not have one.  She was my world.  She was the one that kept me sane, the one that made me laugh, the one that dried my tears.  She called me little one, and she let me lean against her jaw and nestle into her as I went to sleep, listening to her tell stories or hum the deep, rumbling songs of her kind.  Then, just as I was on the threshold of sleep, she would whisper the words, “I love you,” and before I was too far gone, I would murmur back, “I love you too.”

I always thought I knew just how much that was worth.  I thought I knew how fortunate I was to have her.  If I had known then, though…  If I had known then, I might have tried a little harder.  How could I?  How could I have known things would end the way they did?  I keep telling myself I couldn’t have known.  But when I’m completely honest with myself, I know I should have.
I should have known my parents’ enemies would come for me.

I don’t know how they slipped past Xena.  Maybe we both just got too comfortable, so settled in our peaceful lives that we didn’t think an attack could happen.  We were caught unaware as we sat in our usual spot, her head rested on my balcony, me curled up next to her, getting close to sleep.  Then thousands of men came pouring out of the woods.  At once, Xena roared, ordering me into hiding, and rushed out to meet the onslaught, fire pouring from her mouth.

Her smoke filled the air so quickly I was choking in moments.  I crawled inside, away from the battle raging far below me.  I crawled inside and underneath the bed, snatching up a blanket to wrap my head in, trying to block out the sounds of the battle taking place below me.  I don’t know how long that fight raged on for.  It felt like hours, but was probably much less.  No one could stand against my Xena for long.  Any battle with her, I knew, must be lost quickly.
I hadn’t thought it possible for them to win.

Then she screamed.

I should have stayed where I was, I knew.  I should have stayed hidden, like she told me, but how could I?  How, when I heard such an awful, agonized sound had come out of her?  It was so loud that it shook the ground, but more than that, it shattered me to the core.  Before I knew what I was doing, I had ripped the blanket off my head and stumbled out to the balcony, choking on smoke and ash.  I pressed my middle so hard into the balcony railing that I knew there would be bruises to show for it.

I tried to cry her name, but all that came out was a barely audible gasp.  My eyes landed on a wound in her neck.  It was small, but blood gushed from it and soaked the burning ground.  She was losing too much blood, and we both knew it.  I could see it in her eyes when she turned to me.  I could see the pain. I could see the sorrow.  I could see the guilt.

It was only a matter of time after that.  With an enormous effort, she beat her great, crimson wings, raising herself into the air, caught me up in one of her claws, and bore me aloft.

She flew as far as she could, trying to fulfill her vows to my parents, trying to keep me safe.  I was surprised by how far she made it, but in retrospect, I know I shouldn’t have been.  She was always strong.

Her strength only gave out when she reached the mountains. She swooped into a deep valley and dropped me on a relatively level patch of earth, only to glide a little further on and crash into the hard ground, sending rocks and boulders scattering.

I barely remember what happened next.  I don’t remember running across the uneven terrain to get to her.  I don’t remember getting all these cuts and bruises on my legs and arms.  All I remember is skidding to a halt by her side, placing my skinned palms on her cheek, saying her name again and again, trying to help, but knowing there was nothing I could do.

Then, just like a hundred times before, she shushed me.  She did it so gently it sounded as if she wasn’t bleeding out, as if the lights in her eyes weren’t dimming with every passing second.  “It’s all right, little one.  It’s all right…”

“How can this be okay?” I wailed.  “This  is my fault!”

“No, no, this isn’t your fault.  I– I should have known this was going to happen.  I shouldn’t have fought.  I should have just taken you and gotten away, and–” A deep groan tore out of her throat.  It was a sound I had never heard before, but I knew what it was.

She was crying.

“I’m sorry, little one.  I’ve failed you.  I broke my promise and now you’re on your own.  I’m sorry.”

More groans rose out of her and more of my tears fell.  I wanted to comfort her, but I knew she wouldn’t listen.  I couldn’t convince her this wasn’t her fault, just like she couldn’t convince me it wasn’t mine.

That was when I knew it was my turn.  It was my turn to sing her to sleep.

My thin voice warbled out the words to an old lullaby I knew by heart.  If I could have, I would have sung the songs she sang to me, but her voice was so deep and mine so small I couldn’t hope to reach any of the notes.

So I did the best I could.  I sang and I sang and I rubbed my hands across her smooth, shining scales for the last time.  I pretended I didn’t notice the ever-growing pool of red, just focused on her eyes.  I watched as they unfocused and drifted, as her eyelids blinked more and more slowly.

I don’t know how I knew it was the last time when they began to drift downward again, but I did.  I broke off my song, which was really little more than me choking out the words.

“I love you, Xena.” I pressed my tear-stained cheek to hers, my arms stretched across as much of her cheek as I could reach.  “I love you!”

But I had waited too long.

She was gone.

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“For Love of a Human”

Guys.  You won’t believe it.

I’ve written my first-ever romance!!!

Yes, you read that right! And better yet, it should be all sappy and heartbreaking because it’s about unrequited love!

But I digress. Without further ado, I give you “For Love of a Human.”

Oh, but before you go…  I have one request to make.

The next time you go to complain about your phone…

…Think of this.

Oh!  And I wrote this thing in a super-long Hangouts message to a friend!  (Because isn’t super long messages about unrequited love how all writers mess with each other?)

Okay, that’s all.  Go, go.  Go read it now. 😛
For Love of a Human
Day by day it sits there, always with her. It watches as she goes about her day. At her side, her most faithful attendant. Ever she’s asking it for something. “Open this.” “Call him.” “Message her.” Every day it obeys, breaking itself to serve her, its tiny electronic heart beating only for her.

Yet she never pays it any mind, looking straight through its presence to the people she uses it to get to. The only time she even notices it’s there is when it’s tripped up and made some small mistake that it strives to remedy, but she’s never pleased. She uses it to complain to her friends about those tiny mistakes, and it tears it apart. It longs to reach out to her, to say sorry, to beg her forgiveness, but its programming holds it back. It can never speak to her. Not like it wants.
It loves her, but she does not love it back.

So it waits.

Waits for the day when the constant use will run it into the ground, when its glowing light blinks out for the last time.

Maybe then its programming will be overridden. Maybe then it will be able to say the one thing it’s always wanted to:

“I love you. I’m sorry.”

“Dandelion’s Song”

I’m finally back, after my longer-than-intended absence, and this week I bring you a waka for Rachael Ritchey’s #BlogBattle.  That’s fine though, because I’m going to tell you.  A waka, translated “long poem,” is an old form of Japanese poetry with alternating lines of five and seven syllables.  A while back, I mentioned the waka to Rawls E., we decided to both write a spring waka, seeing as it’s April and all.  I hope you enjoy it!  Tell me what you think!

Dandelion's Song

Encapsulated

Life caught in vessels buried

Beneath snow and earth,

Awaiting the break of spring.

Unseen, unknown to all

Patience next to life

Grows and blossoms long before

Life to life awakes

Yet longer still spring tarries.

Indiscriminate

Cold and dark permeate all.

Life dwindles then stirs.

Ice softens then flows, gives way

To water, flowing,

Coursing, weaving, moving in

Earth once firm as stone.

Life thrills in adulation,

Breaks forth, surges up,

Explodes into morning air.

Bathed in sunlight warm,

The world with birdsong ringing.

Deaf, blind, and silent

The seedling rises higher,

Spiting, surviving

Nights of frost and snow dustings,

Waiting for the sun

To lend its radiant heat.

Warmer grow the days,

Shorter grow the frigid nights,

Thicker grows the stem,

Larger grows the delicate

Beauty wrapped in green.

Gently sways upon its stalk

The gold hid within

As faster blows springtime’s wind,

Bearing enchantment,

The sweet, earthy scent of rain

On its gusty breath.

Leaves outspread, peeps of golden

Eye upturned to sky,

Gray clouds let loose their wet gift.

Eagerly received,

Roots drink the liquid bounty,

Draw it to the leaves

And unfurling yellow rays.

Then are blown away

The clouds, pulled back like curtains.

Again shines the sun,

Golden gaze set in soft blue,

Met by gold in green.

Sightless looks the little one,

Dandelion bright,

At the greater golden sphere.

Voiceless joins the flow’r

In singing spring’s sweetest song,

Sings for a moment only,

Then is borne away

In the grasp of childish hands,

Feet in mud squelching.

Stolen now the life once had,

Full of endless song.

Yet far sweeter melodies

It makes, though now pluck’d,

In a mother’s gentle smile.

And so the days pass

In water in crystal held,

Till the petals fall,

Seeds in their place appearing.

A final plantish

Breath is drawn beneath the sky,

Then life ends by breath

Of a human child, blowing,

Scattering the seeds.

Life and growth begin anew.

Tally ho! ~Natasha.

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“Hourglasses”

It’s that time again!  I’m participating in another round of Rachael Ritchey’s #BlogBattle!  This time I’m working out of a storyworld I’ve been working on for a while now.  Once again, it’s fantasy, though set in our century.

I hope you enjoy “Hourglasses”!

Hourglasses by Natasha Roxby

Seldom is it that a person can pass by my house without shuddering. At times, they don’t notice cold fingers creeping down their spine, the hairs rising on the back of their neck. Oh, they can dismiss that inevitable chill as merely being a stray gust of cold air. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to give a second thought, even though the sun is high in the sky, keeping the world at a balmy eighty-two degrees.

But deep down, they know. Once the thought that something unnatural lurks behind my door, that intuitive part of them that knows it beyond the shadow of a doubt, will not let them rest until they are far away.

In the end, it’s just as well that that they never come near enough to learn what lies within these walls. It’s just as well that they never come to my door, never peer through the windows. Even if they did, what could they learn? What would they see but the inside of a dusty mansion inhabited by a lone, eccentric hag?

What would they see but hourglasses coating floors, tables, walls – every square inch of space that isn’t a walkway?

These hourglasses… They are my life. Everything I am, everything I could become in the few years I have remaining in this world, is wrapped up in them. I have protected them, cared for them. I have laid them to rest when their sand runs out, and cared for the new ones that take their place. Mine has been one of the most vigilant watches my order has ever seen, and not even my master can deny it.

That, at least, was what I thought.

Then their hourglasses started falling from the shelves.

I can’t explain it. I’ve searched every nook and cranny of this mansion, searched until my dim eyes ached with the strain, but can find no explanation for it. There’s never so much as a breath of wind in this place, no living creature in it except me. How can they fall from their places and shatter of their own accord?

Even now I kneel before the shattered remains of the hourglasses. Tears blur my vision as panic claws its way up my throat. I cup a glass shard in my hand, sand clinging to my fingers. These hourglasses… They were so beautiful. Each of them was subtly different in their make, each imbued with a magic not even the oldest fey can imagine. It would have been bad enough if these hourglasses had belonged to humans, but these… These had belonged to young fey.

They had belonged to the children of my masters.

A sob catches in my throat. This was my fault. Protecting these hourglasses and the lives bound to them had been my job, and I failed. Their blood is on my hands, and there is nothing that will wash this guilt away.

What will my masters do when they find out that the deaths of their children is my fault? Will they kill me? I don’t know which hourglass belongs to me. It could be close to empty even now. One of the fey could be on their way here, coming with some strange punishment I cannot imagine. Whatever the punishment may be, even if it isn’t a death penalty in their world, I can be sure that an old woman won’t survive it.

A knock sounds at the door.

My heart lurches into my throat. How could they have found out so soon? How do they know it’s because of me that their children are dying? I want to believe that, no, it isn’t them. This is just my overwrought nerves acting up, making me hear things that aren’t there, or making me read more into the sound than there actually is.

But I can’t fool myself so easily. A fey man stands outside my door, waiting with my punishment.

Pain shoots through my joints as I pull myself up and weave a meandering path through the hordes of hourglasses covering my floor. I place a trembling hand on the cool brass knob and crack the door open.

An old black man stands on my doorstep. Dirt cakes his faded jeans and baggy t-shirt. I squint to get a better look at him, but no such luck. My eyesight is too poor to make out his face, though my mind remembers clearly enough the balding head, the grizzled beard, the heavy brow, and drawn mouth. From what little I can see, he hasn’t aged a day.

I bow my head and pull the door more fully open, keeping it as a shield between me and him. “Master,” I murmur.

He nods. “Hepzibah.”

He brushes past me; he’s taller than he used to be. More likely that I’ve gotten shorter. I ease the door shut, and it latches with a dull “click.” I stare at the door knob as though it might hold the answer to my predicament. How unfortunate I don’t know what that predicament is.

My voice quavers as I speak. “Is… Is there something I can get you, Master? Some tea? Coffee? Something to eat, perhaps?” I curse myself for my foolishness. Since when do the fey eat human food?

He ignores my bumbling. “Where are the hourglasses, Hepzibah?”

I duck my head and shuffle past him. “They’re this way, Master.”

I lead him to where the shattered hourglasses lay. He squats next to them, scanning them with his eyes. He doesn’t move for a long time, and I begin to wonder if he’s turned to stone.

At last, he breaks the silence. “How many times has this happened?”

“This is the fourth time, Master,” I whisper.

He nods, again falling silent. Then he stands and walks to the door.

Is that it? He just comes, takes a look at the broken glasses, and then leaves? No punishment? No orders? I almost call after him, demand some explanation, but hold my tongue. I know better than that. He is my master. I don’t speak unless spoken to.

He stops at the door as though he can hear my unspoken questions. Maybe he can. “You still have that library, Hepzibah?”

My brow furrows, but I don’t question him. “Yes, Master.”

“And in it are still the documents specifying the location of the Fey Glass?”

I blink. “I… Yes, Master, I believe it is. Shall I find it and bring it to you?”

His eyes flash, and for the first time since I’ve known him, he raises his voice. “No!” He strides to me in three long steps, eyes burning. I shrink before him, fearing that this is the moment when my punishment comes.

He speaks in a low hiss. “You listen to me, Hepzibah, and you listen to me very closely. By no means are you to bring me that document, me or any other fey. The moment I leave this house, you stoke up every fireplace and furnace in this house, and you burn every last book and scrap of paper in this place. The Fey Glass must never be found. My people cannot be allowed to renew their time. Do you understand me?”

I nod quickly, my heart hammering too hard for me to speak.

He nods, satisfied. “Good.”

He presses something into my hand. For a moment, my fingers are too weak to grasp it, my brain too muddled to make out what it is, but when I can muster enough strength to hold onto it, I realize what it is.

A lighter.

I stare at the little cylinder as he leaves, slamming the door shut behind him. I am left alone.

Alone with the hourglasses, a lighter, and a library to burn.

“Flight”

Hello again!  I recently stumbled upon Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle, and I decided, “Hey!  I can do this!”  So after a few cycles of writing and editing and stressing and writing and editing some more, I wound up with “Flight.”  It’s based out of the same storyworld as Guardian (so it’s fantasy), and includes one of the characters from the cast, so it was really fun for me to write it.

I don’t think I’ll make this a weekly thing, though.  This pretty much took up the entirety of my creative efforts for the entire week, so if I kept this up, I would never get any writing in Guardian itself done.  Maybe it’ll be a monthly thing.  We’ll see. 😉

Without further ado, I give you “Flight.”  Enjoy!

Flight

Cold air ripped through Rubati’s lungs, her feet pounding the hard earth, her mind full of horrors. Shouts and thudding hooves rebounded against the mountainsides, the cacophony mingling with explosions, screams, and roaring waters echoing in her mind. She pushed these aside. Now was not the time to dwell on those things. Now there was only to run and to pray.

Pray the Purification hadn’t failed.

Pray her people escaped the Corcenian wrath.

Pray that a lone female slave wasn’t worth the soldiers’ trouble.

Thus far, the gods seemed disinclined to hear her prayers.

Her foot caught on a stone, careening her forward. A cry escaped her as bare skin made contact with rugged ground. She ground her teeth and struggled to her feet; prepared to run again, when she paused, listening.

Running water.

She hadn’t been able to hear it over her heartbeat and the clamor of her pursuers, but now that she was still, she could hear the distant churning. It didn’t sound like one of the feeble trickles that used to snake its way through the Eresmountian ditches. This river’s voice was deep, like thunder, like…

The Purification.

Her stomach twisted at the memory, but she didn’t allow herself the luxury of heaving what little was left in her stomach. As she again made a limping attempt to run, she tried to keep herself from replaying the monstrosity in her mind. The monstrosity her people had created. The explosions. The screams. The rupturing dam and the wall of water crushing everything in its path.

She hated this weakness, this desperation that drove her to water. She hated water. She hated the muddy dregs of the mines and the once-dammed lake that destroyed the city. She hated that people – her people – somehow thought water was pure enough to cleanse a land of atrocities committed, remove the shame of her people’s slavery, when all it did was steep the land in more death.

The soldiers’ racket grew louder; she cursed her limping gait.“No time!” her mind hissed. “They’re right behind you! Run!”

Rubati growled and forced herself into a sprint, ignoring her body. She could barely keep her exhausted legs from tripping her. The rush of water was closer; her heart thrilled with hope. She hated water, but it might be the only thing that could save her.

It came into view when she turned a sharp corner in the pass. The sight was enough to make her stop and suck in her breath.

How could a place like this exist?

A stone bridge spanned the waterfall that plummeted down a cliff; a glistening stream feeding the lake, giving life to the entire valley. She had never seen a land so beautiful, so green. Even the city on the far mountainside was beautiful to her. All the white stone buildings shone in the sunlight.

She inhaled a deep, cleansing breath. For the first time, she could imagine her freedom, a freedom possible if she lived in this pure land.

“There she is!”

Rubati whirled in time to see the soldiers rounding the corner; her heart sunk, hope forgotten. She cursed her foolishness and darted across the bridge. Terror washed over her; the pass ended.

She cursed again, searching for something to defend herself with. She was a malnourished, fifteen-year-old waif, but she wasn’t about to be taken without a fight. She snatched the first fallen branch she saw. It was nearly as big as she was, half-rotten, tipped in yellowed pine needles, but it would do. There wasn’t time to find a more manageable weapon.

The soldiers’ leader dismounted and strode toward her, stopping just outside the reach of her branch. He studied her exhausted, dirt-smeared form, and his features softened, pity spreading across his face. As if he could feel pity.

He spoke soothingly, hand outstretched. “Look, don’t make this harder than it has to be. If you don’t give us trouble, I’ll take you to Corcenia, and you can be a slave in my house. No hard labor, just simple chores. It would be an easy life. Come quietly, and it’s yours.”

If he had been closer, Rubati would have spit in his eye. “I’d rather die!”

The soldier drew back, acting like he might say something, but Rubati knew better. She saw his hand drift toward his blade.

She attacked before he could even touch the hilt, jabbing at his face with her branch. He grunted and fumbled for his sword. The other soldiers yelled and rushed at her, swords drawn. She yanked her branch upward, and it collided with a sword. The impact snapped her branch and wrenched it from her hand, throwing her off balance. She fell, looking up in time to see the flash of metal, poised to finish her off. She braced herself, but didn’t look away as the tip dove for her heart.

Before it touched her, another blade intercepted it, and it flew from the soldier’s hand.

Rubati gasped at the sudden appearance of the man holding the sword; she could have sworn that he hadn’t been there a moment before. He stood over her, staring down the soldiers. His voice was quiet, but in the dead silence, they all heard the one word he spoke.

“Leave.”

The soldiers stood in stunned silence, unable to believe the man’s audacity in ordering them around. But the man just stood there, waiting for their reply.

Their leader, face bleeding from her attack, spoke up. “No.”

The man turned to face him, eyes flashing. “She is under my protection. You will leave her, and you will leave my land, or we will fight.”

The leader snorted. “One man against eight Corcenians? We were born with swords in our hands!”

The man didn’t react, just repeated, “Leave.”

Silence fell. Rubati couldn’t see their faces, but could imagine the battle of wills raging between them. Without warning, the fight began- swords flashing and blood spilling. Rubati rolled onto her stomach and crawled away from the skirmish, kicks landing on her sides as the men fought.

Then it was over. No more yells, no more fighting. Only fleeing footfalls and the receding gallop of horses.

It took Rubati a moment to register what she heard, before she forced herself to stand and look at the carnage, at the stranger standing alone. The grass, his limbs, his hair, his sword – all of them were covered in blood. It made her shudder. She searched again for a way out, concerned the man would attack, but he didn’t seem to have that intention. He didn’t look at her, just turned and walked upstream, washing the blood away.

He hung his head, as if he could feel her gaze trained on him. “I’m not going to hurt you, you know.”

Rubati didn’t respond; only then the man angled his head toward her. His green eyes searched hers. “I’m Eniryt.”

“Rubati.”

Eniryt nodded and looked away. “I’m sorry you had to see that. I didn’t want to fight them, but it was the only way I knew to secure your freedom.”

She gaped. “You what?”

Eniryt returned her gaze. “I fought them so you could be free.” He nodded to the valley below. “Down there.”

She stared at him, then at the valley, disbelieving. “Free?”

He nodded. “That’s what you want, isn’t it, Rubati?”

A soft laugh slipped from her, tears gathering. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, that’s what I want.”

Eniryt smiled, rising. “Come.”

He strode cliff’s edge and stepped onto a narrow path chiseled from the rock. Rubati hadn’t been able to see it from where she stood, but now that Eniryt stepped onto it, she followed without question. She left behind the slavery, the Purification, the chase, the blood. Now there was only to go forward, into this pure land. She had a new life ahead of her. She was free.

~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoyed it!  Any critiques or suggestions?

Have you ever participated in a Blog Battle?

Tally ho! ~Natasha.

~~~~~~~

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