Friday, February 6, 2009

Chronicles of Greeves (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Sheri Ward @ her blog, Candid Thought. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Note: I had such fun with this post. I loved the character of Captain Sondra who has been in my head, swimming about for quite some time. There is definitely more to her story than I was able to fit in here this week, if you'd like a part 2, mention it in your comment and I'll post it next week, otherwise, your regularly scheduled randomness shall continue as usual. I've had a story key for several terms, they're in the front, with the story below. Hopefully that should keep things understandable. Oh and a secret? Lorenth's Horse can actually talk...that's why he talks to it. ^_^ Thanks for stopping by-have a great weekend!

Baudlen: creatures that look like trees, they are tall, skinny and the their
skin is made of bark. Their most common weapon is razor-like leaves which are
coated with a waxy poison with deadly side-effects if not treated within hours.
They can travel by uprooting themselves and leaving large ditches in their wake,
this causes immense difficulty to unsuspecting travelers and severely limits
Baulden-hunting, by turning the terrain into a hopeless mess.

Article of the Ancients: Items such as a healing flask, an endlessly sharp
sword, special armor and arrows that always find their mark. They belonged
to a group of eight, anicent warriors who left these special
gifts for their country when they died. Only a certain few can
possess or use them.

The restless murmur rippled through the knights, until it reached the knight commanded herself. She scowled, characteristically and turned to Lorenth, her third in command. “What did he just tell them?”

Lorenth turned his mount, riding to the front of the group to answer her question. She grimaced. “Be you well enough, squire?” Her words were meant for the trembling figure on the dapple gray horse beside her. A shaggy head bobbed. “Good. I’ll be right back.”

She spurred her horse forward, catching up to Lorenth as he spoke to her second, Bri’en. Bri’en had dismounted and was apparently speaking to three older men who had come to greet them. Sondra held back a moment, waiting until Lorenth returned with her answer.

“It’s village elders, Capt’n.” He nodded his head towards them. “And they say no knights from Greeves are welcome in the town.”

Sondra grimaced. “Lovely, friendly folk.” She muttered.

“Orders, captain?” Lorenth asked, quiet.

She shrugged. “Tell Bri’en to tell them that’s fine. The land ‘round the town is public property, we’ll came there, no worries. I was only-” Her gaze flickered briefly over her shoulder. “Never mind. Perhaps I’ll send Layla and Kalliane later, maybe they’ll let them through to purchase a few treats.”

“Treats?” Bri’en interrupted, the sparkle in his green eyes had dulled considerably.

She offered a weak smile. “You’ve all been quite good,” She turned her horse around. “Don’t you deserve a treat?”

Bri’en cracked a weary smile. “Aye. All in favor.” He turned to Lorenth who had already begun backing away. “Not so fast, cousin.” He tilted his head to the side. “Go tell the elders we won’t be troubling them.”

Sondra hid a smile as she slipped away, riding back to the end of the group. Bri’en and Lorenth were a riot, plenty of chatter to keep her amused, but there were other priorities more pressing and a good mood.

Bri’en broke out from the group of riders, leading the way towards the woods to the left. “Riders!” His rich baritone voice floated through the evening air. “This way, ho!”

Sondra found her squire, taking the reins from bruised hands to lead the horse in step. “Just a bit more, Dala.” She murmured. “and then it’ll be all over.”

A soft moan was her answer.

Sondra followed the group, glad Bri’en was taking charge, her mind was a foggy mess at best and she didn’t trust her own judgment to choose a safe space for camp and organizing the night duties between thirty-seven riders.

“Your tent, Captain?” Malachi appeared at her side, seeming to melt out of the new darkness.

Sondra flinched. She could still barely get used to his gift and the unsettling way he carried about him. “Right. Thanks, Malachi.” She handed him the reins, dismounting. Dala was eased from the saddle and carried straight to her tent, the closest to the sputtering fire, in the circle of them all.

A hiss escaped as she laid her squire on the simple bedroll. “Next time I tell you to duck…” She tried to tease, brushing stray wisps of straw-like hair away from her young face.

Dala tried to smile, but grimaced instead. Someone shuffled outside the tent and Sondra stuck her hand through the flap. “Lorenth?” Familiar cool, steel was pressed to her palm. She drew her hand back, a dull flask in hand. “Thank you.”

There was a grunt from the other side, followed by another hand pushing its way through the flaps to offer a bowl, half-filled with water. Sondra took it with a smile. “Thank you.” She murmured once more, setting the bowl on the floor beside Dala. She tested it with one finger. It was lukewarm.

She hurriedly washed her hands, using a piece of scrubbing stone to ensure her fingers would be clean. Unconsciously, she hummed a soft melody beneath her breath. Dala’s breathing evened out when Sondra could finally focus her attention on the bleeding shoulder. She sponged the warm water on the stiff, crude bandage, helping to loosen it for removal.

Dala had been much more than all the other squires, she’d been like the daughter Sondra had known she’d never had. Her stomach heaved at the sight of twisted flesh, but she gritted her teeth, continuing anyway. When the wound was cleaned, she pinched a bit of powdered herbs from a pouch that hung ‘round her neck and dropped it inside the dented flask, swirling it to mix the contents.

“This is going to hurt.” She warned.

Dala smiled wanly. “And the leaves didn’t?” She coughed. “Hurry.”

Sondra wadded up a clean kerchief and moistened one corner with water. “Bite this.” She wedged it gently in Dala’s mouth, and without further warning, poured the herbed water over the entire shoulder.

Another hiss escaped, followed by a gurgled choke. Tears streamed down Dala’s face, her eyes searching rapidly for something to distract her.

“Dala.” Sondra captured her chin with one hand. “Dala, look at me. Don’t fight it! Don’t!” She let go, corking the flask and setting it to the side. Memories of every helpless moment in her knight-career surfaced to torment her as she watched her squire writhe beneath the effects of a anicent healing.

The minutes swelled as if they were hours and when Dala was finally still, she’d fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. Sondra lightly feathered her fingers across the new skin, checking the new healing to be sure it was complete.

It was.

Relief flooded her at once, soothing her hidden, mother’s heart. She extracted the chewed handkerchief and dumped it in the bowl. Tucking the thin blanket securely around Dala’s broad shoulders, Sondra gathered her things, exiting the tent. Several of the men were grouped around the fire nearby, while others huddled close to their own section fires. She threaded her way around them to her pack, which lay on the ground near Bri’en.

“Be there any others?” She asked, holding up the flask. Several blanched at the sight, leaning away from it as if it would bite.

“Two over here.” Malachi murmured, appearing at her elbow.

Sondra stifled the urge to twitch. “Thank you, Malachi.” She made herself say, walking carefully in the direction he’d pointed. He was a valuable asset, yes, with his gift, but his manners. The shudder escaped as she stepped in by the new fire. There were two young men laid close to it, sporting a leg wound and a graze to the neck.

Sympathy flowed freely from her as she bent, asking how they felt and requesting a few strips of clean cloth. “Bite something.” She advised, taking the cloth strips and dipping them inside the flask. “It’s going to hurt worse.” The soggy strips were laid over the angry, red, cuts. Two pairs of hands slapped over the two mouths, stifling the cries that escaped.

The sound of someone throwing up, caused her own stomach to churn once more as Sondra added another pinch of herbal powder to the flask and swished it around once more. She dribbled it carefully over the wounds, relieved to see the healing take place immediately.

“They’ll be fine.” She murmured, corking the flask and shifting to her feet. “If they can keep some food down, go for it.” She offered a smile. “You’re both quite lucky to survive you know.” She cradled the flask in one arm. “Not everyone can say they’ve survived a Baudlen attack.”

They smiled their thanks and Sondra bid them goodnight, returning to her circle and heading for the pack near Bri’en’s feet again. The chatter ceased at once, while their eyes followed her every move, watching as she safely tucked the flask within. “She’s going to be fine.” She announced, turning to face them. “And so will the others.”

A few heads nodded and several smiles showed briefly. Lorenth grunted. “They should’ve given us passage.” He scowled at the flickering lights below the hill, showing the city. “A healer in there could’ve saved her all of that.”

“True.” Sondra settled in a spot near the fire, saved for her. A bowl of stew was handed over and a cup of coffee. She sniffed the stew, inwardly questioning her stomach’s ability to handle food at the moment. “Might I inquire whose handiwork this is?” She nodded towards the stew.

A smattering of laughter sounded around the fire and Lorenth turned a fair shade of red. “Mine, Captain.” He bravely volunteered.

“Ah. Thanks.” Sondra tentatively slurped a mouthful and waited. Her stomach seemed to decide that stew was okay and so she took another mouthful. “Not bad.” She allowed, taking a swig of coffee. “Needs more salt next time.”

Chuckles floated over from the group next to them. “Salt.” Lorenth repeated, the red growing more pronounced. “Of course.”

“How are the others?” Sondra looked to Bri’en, weighing the answer in his eyes against the one going to come out of his mouth.

“They are well.” He allowed. “We are all restless. I do not feel safe here.”

Sondra coughed. “I can’t say that I do, but we needed to stop.” She spooned another mouthful, chewing deliberately. “You’ve arranged an all-night guard, good. Weapons are being checked and cleaned, good. There’s a few practicing, good.” She ticked them off inside her head. “Something must have scared them you know.” Her gaze settled on the flickering lights, surprised when the lights suddenly went out. “Strange.”

“What?” Bri’en was at her side at once, following her line of vision. He squinted. “The village…” His voice trailed off.

“I don’t hear anything.” Lorenth produced a spyglass from his pack and beckoned his horse, Dwynn, closer. He mounted quickly. “Don’t you dare dump me, Dwynn or I’ll make sure we’re all out of apples for your next stroke of brilliance.” He threatened. Dwynn snorted, standing still as Lorenth slowly stood up. He put the glass to his eyes and his lips pursed as he searched.

“Well?” Bri’en demanded, impatient. “What do you see?”

Lorenth slowly sat down, then slid off. “Thanks, Dwynn.” He murmured, rewarding his mount with a brief scratch behind the ears. “I don’t see anything.” He tossed the spyglass to Bri’en. “I don’t hear anything either…I don’t like it.”

“You and me both.” Sondra muttered, standing up, empty bowl and cup in hand. “But we’re not moving until those three are well enough to travel.

“Can’t we fashion a few things to carry them in?” The whispery question came from Raul, a near giant as his shadow fell over the flickering flames. “Begging the captain’s pardon.” He grudgingly added.

Sondra shrugged. “Hard to travel with the kind of healing they’ve just gotten.” Her eyes narrowed. “Nothing a good nights’ sleep can’t cure. We’ll be moving by first morn’s light.”

Raul wordlessly reached over and took the dirty dishes from her hands. “As the captain wishes.” He offered a tip of his head, retreating the way he’d come.

“Sondra?” Bri’en stood beside her, one hand on her shoulder.

It was nice and warm, freezing the frozen fog in her mind. She offered a smile. “Perhaps you ought to check on…” her voice trailed off.

“I’ll speak to them.” Bri’en was gone at once.

After murmuring a few pleasantries, Sondra retreated to her tent where she settled down to a restless sleep of her own. She heard the cry for morning’s light, dragging herself upwards with a groan.

Dala was still fast asleep and she didn’t have the heart to wake her. With a grimace, she shook out a fresh tunic from her clothes pack and changed, grateful for the fresh soaped-scent that had survived the weeks of travel. It lifted her spirits considerably and when she finally had donned her flexible armor, the noise had awakened her squire. “Morning.” Sondra twisted her ratty ponytail into messy bun and wrapped a spiked cord around it. “We’ve got to get moving.”

Dala nodded, slowly sitting up and testing her shoulder. “How much further?” She rolled upwards to her feet, biting her lip to deal with the aches and stiffness.

“About another two day’s worth.” Sondra folded the dirty tunic and crammed it back into her clothes pack. “We’ll be there soon.”

“Good.” Dala began rummaging through her own pack. “I wish we were there already.”

“That makes two of us.”

“Are you happy for it?” Dala ducked her head, pretending to be very interested in her pack.

Sondra was quiet for a moment, reading the real question behind the words. “Yes and no. Glad to see my old friends again, glad to be able to use the gift I have, glad to be able help in any way I can, yes. Our country is at war, we fight creatures that spread destruction without remorse and even though our laws allow women to fight, in the far regions where we’ve traveled, the receptions have been poor at best. They believe women have no place in combat.” She shook her head. “That, I am unhappy for, if that is what you ask. Yet, they are all blind. They do not understand that the articles of the ancients can only be used by women.”

“That’s why you let Bri’en take charge?”

“Bri’en’s got a good head on his shoulders.” Sondra skirted the question. “and he works best with Lorenth.”

“The others?” Dala tugged fresh leggings out.

“They are restless. They trust my judgement, but it makes them nervous to be near the woods.”

Dala suppressed a shudder. “It makes me nervous to think of woods.”

“Then don’t think about it.” Sondra patted her head. “Get dressed and moving. I’d best be running my rounds. We’ll ride through the city on our way out…something happened there last night and I think it best we at least see what it was.”

“We have to?”

“Yes, squire. We do.” Sondra hid a smile as she ducked through the tent flap and out into the bustling camp. She was glad to see things in motion. Lorenth was at her side within seconds and Bri’en joined him moments later, her breakfast in hand.

“Morning, Capt’n.” He offered the food. “No alarms during the night, but smoke from the city…we didn’t see it last night.”

Sondra grimaced, taking the food and moving to a quieter corner to eat. “A bandit raid or an attack from Ylyander, himself?”

“I want to say bandits…” Lorenth hesitated. “but I can’t be certain, if it had been, surely we would have seen the smoke.”

Sondra looked from the food to him and thrust the plate into his surprised hands, downing the coffee instead. “Then we ride now.” She growled. “Dala!” She strode back to the tent.

Her squire appeared a half-second later and took one look her face before scrambling to attention. “Yes Master?”

“We ride, now.” There was an edge to her voice. “Give me that flask.”

Dala disappeared inside the tent and returned with her pack, offering it cautiously. Sondra snatched it, rifling through the contents to find the flask. It was heavy again, having refilled itself during the night. She grimaced, then uncorked it and took a large swallow. There was collective gasp as she clenched her hands into fists, focusing on the pain in her palms instead of the fire burning down her throat. The flames melted away when it reached her stomach and energy flooded through her tired limbs. She opened her eyes and corked the flask, now tying it tight to her waist, before turning to take her horse from Malachi who had magically appeared beside her again.

“Morning, Captain.” He held the horse steady.

Sondra grunted, mounting up and taking Lorenth’s proffered spyglass. She could see the smoke plainly without it, but her concerns were more on the city and what was happening within the walls.

“We’re ready, Captain.” Bri’en was at her side once more, Dala riding just behind him and Lorenth ready on her left.

The daily dose of stubbornness ran through her and she lifted her chin. “Good. Then let us pay the city a little visit.”

The visit turned out to be a near horror show. The smoke was thick and sweet as if some strange flame had burned during the night.

“Where were you last night?” A ragged man screamed at them as they rode through the main street in a silent procession.

The men shifted behind and Sondra knew they’d shifted to put Dala in the middle, out of sight’s way. “We were at camp, on the hill.” Bri’en spoke evenly. “What happened here?”

“Can’t tha see?” He shrieked. “Can’t tha see?”

“Father, please!” A young woman darted into the street, grabbing at his bony arms. “Oh , please, Father, please, come inside, do not trouble them, please!” She turned to them at once. “He didn’t mean any harm, he didn’t!”

“I know that.” Bri’en nodded towards the smoking ruins. “What happened here?”

“I shouldna say.” She backed away, following her father towards their crumbling house. “And you shoulda ask!”

“You mean to tell us, you were not a part of this?” The lofty voice from the corner of the alley belonged to one of the pompous robed figures from the night before.

Sondra grimaced. Bri’en shifted enough to shield her from view. “We asked to spend the night and were refused. We camped in the hills.” His scowl surfaced. “Your trouble is none of our concern, unless you speak of this as work by Ylyander.”

A gasp went up from the motley crowd that had slowly gathered around. “You would dark speak such a wicked name before the women?” The elder raged, eyes bulging. “You impertinent-”

“Shut up!” Sondra snapped, shifting into view as she coaxed her horse several steps forward. She glared down at the wrinkled face and dyed beard. “We are a traveling party for a holder with an artifact.” She waited, satisfied to see the color drain from his already pale face. “We sought a healer here, in asking to camp. We were refused.” She struggled to keep her voice steady. “And now, we are here and you still treat us as if-”

“You are a woman.” The statement fell from his lips. He backed away. “Greeves has fallen indeed if it is women now parading themselves in the guise of a warrior-”

“I will thank you to speak politely in the presence of our captain.” Bri’en was at her side again. “We are sorry to intrude upon your grief.”

Sondra shook her head. “We could have helped you.” She forced the words out, unable to keep them inside. “We could have. But you didn’t want that.” Her eyes settled on the horizon. “Bandits?” She asked Lorenth.

“Quite a group.” He answered. “At least twenty of them.”

“Not Ylyander?”

“No, Captain.”

“Thank you, Lorenth.” Sondra turned in the saddle to survey the grim faces behind her. “We are ahead of him yet.” Her voice rang out in the cool morning air. “We ride!”

Copyright 2009 Sara Harricharan


Hoomi said...

A continuation next week would be good. Of course, your randomness is good, too. Your imagination dances in a wide variety of styles.

Shelley Ledfors said...

Nice! I like fantasy. I'm with Rick...I'd be happy to read whatever you post next week. The next part of this, or anything else of your choosing. Thanks for sharing!

Joanne Sher said...

I'm with the others - continuation would be great, as would something new and random. This is fascinating storytelling, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Off topic of your post, I was looking for advice. I have some poems I wanted to post to the internet but have been concerned about having them copyrighted--is that necessary online so no one steals them? Can you point me in the right direction?

Any help is much appreciated!


Sherri Ward said...

You are a very gifted story teller!

S.C.(S.Harricharan) said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments, perhaps Sondra may make a second appearance, we shall see.

Gene-yes, it is good to have your work copyrighted. check out
You'll probably find the answers you're looking for there.