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Archive for the ‘Sameth’ Category

Different Voices

((An experiment.))

Part One

She focused in silence on the placement of her feet, the careful splay of her toes in the soft-soled sandles as unaccustomed muscles worked uncertainly, gauging the stability of the slab of shale she balanced on. Her lips were thin with concentration, a robed arm lifting to counterbalance before shifting her weight to her foot, drawing a shallow breath-

I am a shadow, the barest ripple beneath the still waters. I am small. I am unnoticed in the dark.

Her foot planted, balancing precariously; the stone felt wobbly, and, moving as precisely as she could, her second foot joined the first in a wide stance, good arm moving to one side. Her other arm rested limply at her side, as if unuseable- she couldn’t bring herself to touch it, to shift it. Couldn’t bear to acknowledge it was a part of her, the tainted limb that ended with a crude, terrible hook.

Still, she was unpracticed. The stone shifted, beginning to slide with a cacaphony of sound as it teetered from its precariously position. A cadre of pebbles and small rocks beneath her began to shift, the dry smell of dust rising even as shale shrieked in the darkness. The small woman clenched her teeth and scrambled with little dignity to try to find stable ground, but her uncertain balance had set off a rockslide that was already encompassing far more than her simple stone.

As long-wrought balances and precarious barriers crashed and fell, she struggled to maintain her upright positioning, no longer careful in her footing- simply scrambling to evade the rockslide. Her sharp hazel eyes caught glance of an ancient tree’s exposed roots and she made a desperate lunge, half running the hill as it shifted sickeningly beneath her.

Her soft fingers, blistered in places from new training, wrapped about the gritty, dirty root and she clung to it, body contorting and twisting as she tried to find a way out of the mess she’d created. The roots of the tree seemed strong enough, deep enough to sustain her weight…

As quickly as it had begun, the shifting rock slowed and settled, rising dust thick in the air. Her heart thundered in her chest, fear making her throat tight. Panic rose in her gullet but she choked it back savagely, jaw gritting and eyes squeezing shut. The shale beneath her was uncertain, the earth above half crumbling rock and eroded, hard packed earth. Below was the newly rearranged shoreline.

It would be easy, you know.

The whisper was quiet, sinuous- a memory of a toneless voice that put cold fear in her belly and sent shudders down her spine.

You are nothing. You wouldn’t be missed.

The night air seemed colder against her cheek, now, the stars more ominous as she lifted her gaze in silent pleading. The taste of thick, choking dust and bitter ocean was heavy on her tongue. Far below, the tide greedily swayed and murmured, creeping and receding in turns.

It hurt, to hold the root so tightly with her blistered, soft fingers. She could feel the tree’s strength digging into her skin.

Weak and soft. You could have been strong.

But she was stronger now than she had been yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that.

She closed her eyes a moment more, shuddering as she uncertainly began to climb astride a new rock. Her limbs felt as if all the strength in them had drained, as if her bones had melted and all that was left were brittle pillars of charcoal, threatening to snap at any moment and lead her to her death.

Slowly, haltingly, she let go of the root, only to shift her grip to a new one. It was painstaking, but, with tiny, careful steps, she began to climb the cliff’s face. Cold sweat beaded her brow.

I don’t listen to whispers and lies. I will be a shadow, invisible- but I will not vanish at the light’s first touch. I am here. I am something. And memories of monsters in the dark cannot take that away from me.

The progress was slow. Pain-staking.

But by the end of the night, Marlbane emerged, filthy and shaken, from the cliff’s edge.

In the moonless night, she turned to stare over the edge, hand gripping the bark of the tree whose roots had saved her. A very faint, but definite, smile curved over her lips. Then pulled a bit wider. Her breathing grew staggered and she began to laugh- a strange sound, a rough and wild and unfamiliar thing. Sinking to her knees, legs suddenly unable or unwilling to hold her upright any longer, she threw back her head and let loose a cacaphony of sound into the cold night air, arm looping about her middle, tears making the world dance and quake in her view.

I am something. I am someone. I live.

Part 2

It was a small, withered looking garden, with scraggly, stubby plants sprouting from thin, gravelly earth, yet the woman looked on it with with a proudly lifted chin and a sense of deep accomplishment.

She swaggered with a long stride, large hands planted on leathered hips as she strutted her meager plot. Eyes sparrow-bright, she paused at a likely looking patch of leaves and abruptly dropped to a squat, studying the plant intently.

Unflinching, her fingertips moved to stroke the thick stalk, a faint green glow encompassing her digit as she muttered beneath her breath, voice low and rumbling. Her words were barely audible, crooned gently and unintelligible- her curious golden brown eyes slowly shutting as she savored the nearness of green life. The leaves shivered, as if stirred by a breeze, but it was a quiet morning in the small, protected grove; the stocky growth around her remained still.

The woman’s eyes opened after a moment, a silly, pleased smile on her lips.

“At’ll do ye, m’thinkin’…”

With a sudden, savage yank, the plant was ripped from the earth, still twisting with growth and life- and a yield of small, pebbly potatoes was jerked from the loosely packed soil.

The druid crowed aloud, shaking her spoils with a victorious whoop, and rose to caper from her garden into the shabby, derelict cabin she’d called home for some months. Her voice was a loud, braying sing-song, tuneless and unenjoyable, but she didn’t seem to mind her own growling disharmony as she did a mad little jig through the door.

“M’gonnae eat some ‘taters an’ m’gonnae cook ’em good! I grewed m’some po-tate-ers an’ m’gonnae smash ’em intae foods!”

There was no reason or cadence to the spontaneous tune. She threw back her head and cackled delightedly, sounding for all the world like the harvest witch she purported to be, shaking her potatoes wildly and scattering dirt about the cabin- not that she noticed. The little ramshackle home was far from clean or orderly to begin with. The dirt just added to the layers and layers already present.

She set about rinsing them, enthusiastically pumping the hand pump to spill yellowing water into a slightly rusted washbasin. More water was poured into a pot, the hand pump groaning in feeble protest against her continued sing-songing and jigging.

“… an’ m’gonnae make m’taters tha’ I grew m’very self! ‘Cos I’mma best o’ witches an’ witches dinnae get stitches, ah grew ’em m’self an’ m’gonnae eat ’em oop! Baawwwww yis! Taters taters, tasty tubers an’ I’mma boil EM oop!!”

Impatiently, she watched the pot, staring intently into the water as tiny bubbles streamed from the bottom, the water heating slowly, painstakingly slowly…

Her staring didn’t last as she abruptly whooped with laughter and leapt backwards, shuffle-jigging in the small makeshift living room she occupied.

Bits of broken armor and rusty weaponry adorned her walls, brightly colored and whimsical to look at. The furniture was dusty, some of it broken, but it was piled up to one side, as if an attempt to rearrange it all had been abandonned midway through. Her leather boots scuffled and shuffled against the gritty, worn wood boards as she wiggled and twirled over to a chair with a pair of antlers dangling from its spine.

The antlers, cunningly attached to a band of stiff leather, were summarily dropped on her head as she continued to flail and dance about her living space, apparently over the moon over her gardening prowess.

Then again, growing a garden in the dead of winter was, perhaps, something worth crowing about.

It hadn’t taken much poking. Her granmere ha dwarned her against trifling with the Balance overmuch. The winter was unseasonably warm, the frosts barely nipping anything, and she’d only leant the plants a bit of encouragement, egging them on to grow faster, to be fortified against the cold and produce heartily. A green thumb, as it were. It wasn’t as if she was sprouting an orange tree and demanding fruit the next day while snow fell, after all- nothing that Granmere would get shouty about!

As she attempting- and failed magnificently- at a cheerful somersault, the antlers clattered to the floor and she twisted back straight to place them with great dignity on the spine of the chair once more. Her weathered fingertips traced the silky horn, a more reserved smile curving her lips.

That gobbo had it comin’.

The thought was simultaneously her own- and yet, not her own. Something wild shifted within her, and the obnoxiously loud, cheerful woman fell silent for a moment.

“… ye didnae ‘ave ter kill ‘im though.” She grumbled lightly, moving toward the window to peer out the dusty panes.

Tish tosh. He was a threat and you enjoyed it just as much as I did. It’s not as if we ate him… though I could go for something rich and bloody right now.

The woman’s cheerful smile vanished entirely, leathered foot stomping on the floor. “OH NO YE DINNAE, Y’MANGY CUR! I grew them potaters fair an’ square an’ I ain’ wastin’ ’em jes cos ye get all peckish and blood-thirsty inna mornin’, y’jest shut yer trap an’ dinnae say another word!”

Images of running deer flickered over her mind’s eye. She could feel her mouth growing moist, stomach growling.

Potatoes smell like dirt. Deer, on the other hand…

“Fock ye an’ yer deer, s’wasteful ter hunt th’region dry an’ we’re eatin’ taters fer brekkist or m’name’s not Maggie!”

You introduce yourself as Ashtivar, do you not…?

“S’cos I am Ashtivar ye– HOY! Dinnae try tha’ bloody feral trickery on me, y’lousy good fer nothin’ layabout! We’re eatin’ taters fer brekky an’ tha’s th’last of it, y’hear me?!”

Her voice was loud in the morning quiet. Not that there was anyone there to hear it but herself, and she didn’t seem to mind how very loud she was.

Deeeeeer…

“That’s bloody IT! I’mma take a fockin’ fork an’ scrape it onna pan and we’re both gonnae listen ter the sound it makes until y’shut yer damn face y’blood thirsty mongrel!”

She marched to the cupboard and rummaged a bit before finding a tin pan and a slightly bend fork. With a wince, she turned her head away and began to trail the tines down the surface of the pan, eliciting a terrible squeal as she applied unnecessary force to the task.

It didn’t take long for the quiet, persistant visions of deer- frolicking, meat-rich, edible deer!- to stop cavorting through her head. The wilderness in her mind receded; her more feral thoughts fell silent, for the time.

Shaking her head and grumbling, the thick-waisted woman turned her attention to the task of draining the water from her potatoes.

“… fock’n bloody Curse, blood-thirsty mongrel… wot kind’o person argues wi’ herself alla damn time? Folk’d think m’crazy if they knew…”

Part 3

He could feel his breath growing short and labored, sense the sudden inability of his lungs to take in sufficient air, could hear his pulse echoing erratically and his legs giving way. It should have concerned him, but all he felt was resignation as he crumpled to the ground, robes too-heavy on his skin as the world danced and faded into darkness.

It was the rain that woke him. Big, heavy drops, falling warm against his cheek, slowly rolling down the hollows of his face to navigate the tidily kept beard at his chin. The earth beneath his ear was cold and damp, the smell rich and heady. It made him smile, just a bit, though the muscles of his face felt stiff and unsure. Time. Do I have enough time…?

He was lucky, and he knew it.

Beyond the obvious dangers of collapsing on the weaving paths through the jungles of Stranglethorn, he’d lived years past what the surgeons had said. Sameth had no intention of dying just yet. There was still too much to be done.

He could still feel his arms, his legs- his body responded, if sluggishly, if unwilling. But unwilling was better than unable. He still had time left.

It took too long, for his limbs to reawaken, for the pins and needles to recede enough to allow motion. The stale scent of weakness, of something sick and dying, had attracted attention, as he had known it would. It took too long, for him to find strength in his spindly fingertips, for his fists to close about the staff.

He didn’t have time to rise and fight. Didn’t have time to drive away the attacker before the fight could begin, was simply too infirm to rise to a stand and prove his strength.

The small, stealthfully stalking beast flung herself on him from a cluster of leaves, her lithe form rippling as she pounced, yellow toothed maw opening to seize the priest by the neck, to overcome him by force and strangle the breath from his body, spill his soft blood into the earth–

His body lacked strength, still recovering – slowly, too slowly – from the long-battled curse that was systematically destroying him. He knew he didn’t have enough time left.

But what he lacked in strength he made up for in cleverness and mental reflex. A golden bright burst of Holy light shuddered from his form at a hoarse shout, the Light blinding him and startling his attacker. Heavy paws struck him down from where he had risen to almost a crouch; his frail form fell forward again, chin striking dirt, but the sudden emergence of loud noises and too-bright light had sufficiently startled the cat.

Tigers, even in Stranglethorn, preferred to hunt that which could not fight back. He wouldn’t have long to rest here, in the dirt. But it would be enough.

It would have to be enough. He didn’t have time to die.

Not yet.

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