Tuesday, January 31, 2012

O is for Outrage

The two baby sylphs lay in Autumn’s arms, peeping happily while the healer gently fed them wisps of Solie’s energy, edible to them now that they’d been brought into the hive.
“They’re so cute!” Solie squealed, overcome by the adorableness of the two while a half dozen other women crowded them and cooed. “How did they get here?”
“Through the gate,” Autumn said. “I dread to think what much have happened to their home hive to let them wander around on their own.”
“But how is it no one noticed them?”
Autumn smiled down at the two, who burbled at her. “Baby sylphs don’t have much of an aura. They’re easy to overlook. We keep them in nurseries inside the hive until they’re much older, to keep them out of trouble.”
“Well, they’re safe now,” Solie smiled. She’d make sure of it. They’d have to be very careful indeed picking masters for these two.
That thought reminded her of something. “How did they even manage to be in this world without masters?”
Autumn looked at her evenly. “Because they hadn’t tried to take any of the energy of this world in, so they weren’t really part of it. If they’d eaten anything, they would have been poisoned and rejected back into their own world. They’re lucky they’re picky eaters.”
Solie smiled and bent over the two. “You’re so clever! Yes, you are! Yes, you are!” The two babies squealed in happiness and she wriggled her nose at them and turned to regard two battle sylphs cowering against each other nearby, both of them covered in dirt and pie filling.
“I can’t believe you were going to kill them!” she snapped. “Thank the stars that Casi was there!” Casi smirked and Blue and Dillon cowered some more.
The Widow reached down to stroke a gnarled finger along the edge of the two’s bodies, her expression soft. “It’s amazing how much they managed to steal.”
Autumn looked down at the two, communicating with them. “It wasn’t them,” she said at last. “A battle sylph came with them. He’s the one who’s been trying to steal food for them.”
Mace had been standing nearby. At Autumn’s words, the big battler stiffened.
Battlers! he sent along the hive line. There is a foreign battle sylph invading our hive!
Roars started up around the Valley, battle sylphs rising in the air to hunt and kill their enemy. Autumn looked at Mace, one eyebrow raised.
“He’s from the same hatching as them,” she said. “Are you seriously going to raise the entire flight to track down and kill a baby less than a day old?”

Mace looked at her and at the other women, all of them glaring at him with thunderous outrage.

Battlers! he sent. Never mind.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Quick notice

O will come tomorrow. It's been a long day. Sorry.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

N is for Nag

(Oy, it was hard to find a word that fit with today. Bleck. I really should focus on something other than baby battler and his sisters, but I'm afraid that someone will hit me if i don't finish his story. :p 

Baby B isn't in this. However, his presence has been noticed at last.)

Blue walked desultorily down the road away from his master’s cottage, his hands shoved into the pockets of his pie-stained uniform. Sympathetic to his mission, his friend Dillon slouched beside him, looking more normal than usual, except for the collection of tails.
“Casi threw the pie at you, didn’t she?” Dillon asked.
Blue sighed. “It’s not my fault. She said ‘bring me my pies.’ Well, I found one of them right away, but was she happy? No.”
“Ah.” Dillon thought about Blue’s master. Given her temperament, he was just as glad that Moreena was his master. She was far more likely to cry than yell. He preferred the crying. Well, not really. There just seemed to be more hugging and less throwing involved with Moreena. “At least you were able to bring it back to her.”
“Yeah, but she wanted it in one piece. With less dirt.”
“Kind of picky, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Blue sighed. He should have known better, he supposed. He loved his Casi, but she was such a nag about some things. “I have to find the other pie. She said she wouldn’t sleep with me if I didn’t.”
Dillon shuddered in sympathetic horror. He couldn’t imagine a fate worse than that.  “Maybe someone’s seen it,” he suggested and called along the hive line to his brothers.
Hey, has anyone seen a pie?
What do you need a pie for? came an immediate response.
I don’t need it, Dillon clarified. Blue does. It’s Casi. It was stolen and she threatened not to sleep with him if he didn’t bring it back.
That’s horrible!
I’m sorry to hear that.
I thought you were still cut off from last month.
Blue hunched into himself. No, she forgave me for the sheets.
Really? Even after what happened with the pink dye and the chicken feathers?
Can we get back to the stolen pie? Blue whined. Casi’s nagging me. I really need to find it.
You know, I’m looking for stolen goods too. A basket of yarn.
You too? I’m hunting for some missing toys.
A whole bunch of lefthand socks here.
I’m looking for a cow.
Suddenly, Mace’s voice silenced them all. How many people are looking for stolen items? he demanded.
A chorous of ‘me’ and ‘I am’ and ‘I wanna blow up a thief too!’ sounded. Dillon and Blue looked at each other. “It’s an epidemic.”
“Why would anyone want to steal socks and cows and toys?” Dillon wondered.
“I dunno. Humans are weird.”
Battle sylphs! Mace boomed. We have a thief in the Valley! We will find them and destroy them! 
Blue sighed as the cheering echoed. “Well, if it’s not just her, do you think Casi will be less angry?”
“It’s Casi. What do you think?”
“You’re right. I’m screwed.”
“I thought the whole threat was in how you weren’t going to be.”
They started trudging again, following the road as it curved around and away from Casi’s cottage. Blue glanced down at his feet and stopped. There was a pie sized drag mark in the dirt, a faint indentation that led away from the cottage, across the road, and away from the town.
Blue felt hope start to bloom in his chest. “Look! That’s got to be the pie!”
“Why would someone drag it?” Dillon wondered as his friend ran ahead, pumping his arms and jumping for joy as he shouted that he was going to get some. Finally, he shrugged. “Humans are weird,” he agreed and hurried after his friend.
Together, Blue and Dillon stared at the little patch of meadow that the town fence ran through. It was filled with spare socks, wood, toys, sacks of grain, manure, ladies undergarments, a bone comb, several stunned cats tangled in the yarn, and a cow.
They looked down at the sadly broken remains of what had once been a perfectly baked pie. The cow had stepped on it.
Um, Casi? Blue sent to his master. I found your pie.
Casi was unimpressed with their success.
“What’s wrong with you?” she screamed at Blue. “It’s a pie! How hard is it to keep someone from stealing a bloody pie?” 
Blue kept his head down, shoulders hunched and apologizing profusely to the love of his life. Dillon kept his own mouth shut and stood back against the fence, trying not to attract her attention.
Something tickled at his senses. There was something hidden in the fence that was trying very hard to avoid his notice. Dillon blinked and hunched down, peering in through a crack to see a small gap where two tiny elemental sylphs huddled, staring at him in silent terror. They weren’t of the hive. Dillon snarled and lifted a hand, his palm glowing with destructive energy.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Casi snapped, distracted from her nagging.
“Couple of baby sylphs in here,” Dillon said. “I’m going to kill them.”
If Dillon had thought to ask him first, Blue could have warned him that using such words as ‘baby’ and ‘kill’ in the same context near Casi was a mistake.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

M is for Moo

The ungrateful little bitches still weren’t happy!
Half his tentacles shoved in his mouth and the other half flailing around him, the baby squealed in outrage at his sisters, both tucked in and comfortable in a gap inside a fence post. They squealed back at him, demanding he bring them something they could actually eat.
The baby screamed in absolute fury, beat at the outside of the fence post, and turned, racing away from the fence and, yet again, into that stinking, useless town. He’d destroy it. He’d raze it to the ground, burn it to ash, destroy it and everyone in it! Then he’d nap. Then he’d beat up his sisters.
Tired and hungry and frustrated, the baby went in another direction, ducking around and under things and going unnoticed by anyone other than the odd barking dog and a little girl standing beside her mother with her thumb in her mouth.
She sucked her thumb and stared at him.
He sucked his tentacles and stared at her. 
Both their eyes started to cross. Finally, she pulled her thumb out of her mouth and stuck her tongue out at him. Happy with his victory, the baby blew a raspberry at her and continued on his way.
His irregular route took him to a barn. He flitted inside and into the shadows and studied a man seated on a stool and milking a cow. Was that food? The cow chewed contentedly as the man kept milking her while a cat sat nearby, ears up and tail lashing. The baby tensed, ready for more fighting, but the cat ignored him, staring at the man, who pointed a teat at it and squeezed. A squirt of milk leaped out and the cat caught it in its mouth.
Food! Finally, food! He’d take it, he’d bring it to his sisters, he’d get them to shut the hell up for a while, and he’d take a well earned nap.  He was ready to attack, but before he could, the man stood and patted the cow’s side before walking out with the bucket. The cat followed him, hoping to get another taste.
Once they were gone, the baby lunged forward and up to the cow, which watched him with a placid expression. Eager, he grabbed one of its teats and yanked as hard as he could.
The cow, naturally, kicked him.
Bessy was a good cow. 
She was always calm and gentle, always gave milk, and didn’t panic when the battle sylphs did strange things that usually seemed to involve mass destruction or sex. Or both. They didn’t pay any attention to her anyway. Not until now.
Bessy was used to being led around, but not like this. Now she walked slowly at the end of her lead, the other end of which was held by a small black cloud with pinpricks of light flickering in it. It had most of its tentacles jammed into its mouth and was grumbling and blowing raspberries as it towed her along, floating a few feet above the ground.
Bessy really wasn’t sure about this. She was used to humans with warm hands, not whatever this was. Still, being out of the barn meant grass, and when she saw a heavy thatch of green on the side of the road, she tossed her head and trotted towards it.
The baby battler shrieked as he was suddenly thrown up in the air and back, the cow dragging him on the ground behind her as she trotted over to the greenery and happily began to eat.
Flat on the ground behind her, the baby still hung onto the tether with one tentacle, the rest jammed into his mouth, and groaned. This really, really wasn’t worth it.
While the cow ate, he took another nap.

Friday, January 27, 2012

L is for Lift

His sisters were impossible!
He’d brought them food. He had. He’d carried them blades of the green stuff that stuck out of the ground and the hard, splintery stuff that the whatever-they-weres with the two legs cut into pieces, and even the soft brown stuff that the four legged things dropped behind them. But no, none of that was good enough for his stuck up sisters.
Their indignant peeping chasing behind him, the baby battler headed back into the town. He hated this! He should be conquering the world right now! Hungry and frustrated, he shoved a half dozen tentacles into his mouth and sucked on them as he flitted around the cottages and between the slats of various fences. He’d find his sisters food, then he’d beat them to death with it for being annoying, then he’d take a nap, and then he’d take over the world.
His plan fully in mind, he was distracted by something large, black, and familiar appearing in the sky over him, headed rapidly towards the cottage he was approaching. A battle sylph! An enemy! 
The baby raced after him, intent upon battle.
Blue headed eagerly to his master’s cottage. It had been hours since he’d touched her and he could feel Casi’s desire. She lusted desperately for him.
Okay, maybe she didn’t lust desperately for him, but she was filled with desire for his presence.
Okay, maybe she wasn’t filled with desire for him, but it was the lure of her needs that drew him from his duty to be with her.
Okay, maybe she wasn’t filled with desire for him at just this second, but she was never loathe to have a mid afternoon tumble.
Okay, maybe she was loathe, but she’d give in to some heartfelt begging, wouldn’t she?  She had to. He hadn’t had sex since before breakfast!
He dove in through the open window of the kitchen, where she’d just set two pies on the windowsill to cool, and shifted shape to human. There he discovered to his delight that she was in fact willing to accept his advances.
Either that or she figured it was the quickest way to get rid of him for a while, but Blue wasn’t picky.
The baby battler followed Blue to the open window and rose up to peer between the two pies and see Blue and Casi doing something lewd right on top of the kitchen table. It seemed to involve a lot of writhing and moaning.
He had no idea what they were doing.
Well, he couldn’t attack now! Not when the other battler was already involved in combat. He blew a raspberry at them both that went ignored and let his attention drift to the two pies.
Was it food? It was smelly and hot and just the right size to whack a sister with! Ecstatic, the baby grabbed one of them with his tentacles - minus the ones he kept wedged in his mouth - and lifted it mightily off the windowsill.
He promptly plummeted pie first to the ground below.
A raspberry echoed up. Absorbed in each other, Blue and Casi didn’t notice.
Heavily pie stained, the baby floated back up, flaring his aura and sucking his tentacles. He glared at the second pie and braced himself better as he lifted it up and dropped down again. This time, however, he was ready and didn’t end up embedding himself in the middle of the thing. Blowing a raspberry in triumph, he sucked on his tentacles and started to drag the pie, tin and all, across the ground and back to his ungrateful sisters.
“That was wonderful,” Blue sighed, staring up at the ceiling.
“Easy for you to say,” Casi grumbled. “You don’t have a splinter in your butt.”
She didn’t sound mad, so Blue didn’t worry. His Casi was a woman of frequent moods after all. He continued to smile at the ceiling as she sat up on the table, grumbling, and looked towards her fresh baked pies.
Her scream nearly put him straight through the ceiling.
“My pies!” she shrieked. “Someone stole my pies!”
“Um,” Blue said, pretty sure this was about to become his fault.
Casi glared at him. “What kind of battle sylph are you? They stole my pies while you were five feet away!”
“I was distracted?”
Her face turned red with fury and then white in horror. He hadn’t realized a human could change colour that fast. “They...gods, what if they saw us? What if they saw me? I’m naked!”
“I’m sure they were overwhelmed by your beauty,” Blue assured her.
It was the wrong thing to say.  “Get my pies!” she screamed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


There won't be any alphabet soup today as I'm too tired to put a good effort into it. It's been a long week. I've had a tire blow out on the highway, misplaced my wallet, and burned myself fumbling a cup of coffee. I am going to bed.

Tomorrow will be L for Lift and it will star everyone's apparently favourite baby battle sylph, who at least is having a worse day than I am. :p

BTW, I have an author account on Goodreads now. How the hell six sylph books got listed there I have no idea. The sixth one isn't even written!

I do desperately want a copy of the foreign language ones, even if the covers make no sense to me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

K is for Killer

I didn't actually expect to get back to this little idiot so soon, but the next few letters actually fit.... so here he is again! The Deadliest Battle Sylph of them all (tm) 

     His sisters were hungry. 
     Wedged inside a crack in a thick fence post, the two elemental sylphs peeped demandingly at their brother. The baby battler roared and flailed his tentacles at the outside of the post, but they were insistent. They wanted food. They had no idea what qualified as food, but they still expected him to provide it. He didn’t know what qualified as food. That didn’t seem to matter either. They’d decided it was his duty to feed them and they would be happy with nothing less.
     The baby battler blew a final raspberry at them both and turned, heading out on his quest for something edible. It was annoying. He was a battle sylph, he should be conquering this place, not acting as an errand sylph to a couple of whiners. The fact that he was hungry too was irrelevant. He was strong!
     The baby headed unnoticed along the fence line and into the town, gliding along just above the ground and glaring out of the shadows he passed through at the various humans and animals. Were they food? He passed behind two men labouring to load a cart with sacks of grain, went around a pile of firewood, and behind a heavy barrel.
     There, he came face to face with a beast of evil eye and sharp claw, easily as big as he was. For a second the baby froze, recognizing a fellow killer, and then with a roar of challenge, he hurled himself without hesitation into his very first combat.
     One of the carters lifted his head. “What’s that noise?” he asked.
     The other carter shrugged. “Cat fight.”
     “One of those cats sounds sick.” 
     They kept on loading the cart.
     He was triumphant! Victorious, the baby watched the tomcat leap up onto the barrel and proceed to lick itself as if it hadn’t just been defeated in glorious battle. The baby blew a raspberry at it and continued on his way, confident in his supremacy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

J is for Jeopardy

(This is what I meant to post yesterday. Sort of. I wrote a short story in the Sylph world that I always liked, but I couldn't really sell it because it had spoilers for absolutely everything. Then I thought "Hey, I could chop it up and put some bits in here, cause I'm lazy that way". So I decided to do that, and discovered last night that I can't find the original file. I am pissed. I am also stubborn, so this is a rewrite, because there are parts of this I like.
  If people like my *cough* hero and I find some more letters of the alphabet that are appropriate for his story, I'll put more snippets about him. If not, I'll just pretend today never happened....
 All spoilers have been either removed or obscured to the point that I doubt anyone is really going to go 'hey!')

     The hive was destroyed.
     The walls had been breeched, the defenders slaughtered, the Queen broken out of her chamber and devoured. Fires from the battlers that tried to save it and her burned everywhere, billowing smoke that obscured the ruins and the monsters still scavenging through them.
     Deep in the egg chamber, one sphere that had been overlooked by the hunters rocked back and forth. It wobbled out of the bed that held it and across the floor, fetching up against a rock before a black tentacle burst through the side with a spray of birthing fluid. It stretched out, triumphant and sure, and then flopped down as the owner took a nap.
     While he slept, two more eggs near to it hatched, dropping an infant earth and water sylph to the ground. They lay there, peeping for someone to come and care for them. The only one that heard was the baby battler and with a furious struggle, he forced his way out of his egg and hovered over the two of them as if he hadn’t been sleeping on the job.
     They peeped at him in hopeful hunger. 
     He blew a raspberry back at them.
     Now what? The battler wasn’t sure, being only minutes old and a bit wobbly, but instinct said someone should be here. That obviously wasn’t working out so well and after a minute of staring around at the ruins, he reached the decision that if they just stayed where they were, someone would show up.
     His sisters peeped at him again and shifted hungrily, blinking at their surroundings in growing fear. They started to back away towards a corridor that was less smoke filled and he flailed his tentacles at them, garbling in fury. He was the battler, he was the fearsome one. They would stay where they were because he was in charge.
     Behind him, something reached in through the obscuring smoke and swept up a score of unhatched eggs, pulling them away to be devoured.
     The two elemental sylphs shrieked and turned, fleeing up the corridor.
     The battler blinked and started flailing in outrage. Didn’t they listen? They were staying here! 
     The roof fell in.
     He blinked and turned around, looking at the carnage. He glared at it for a moment, then flailed his tentacles, blew a raspberry, and ran after his sisters.
     He caught up to his sisters halfway up the corridor. Both of them were tiring already and he flailed at their backsides, driving them up the corridor despite their peeping protests. The corridor led to one of the breaches in the side of the hive and out into the flat croplands in front, now burning and destroyed.  The flames were spreading out there and the smoke obscured everything, including the massive hunters that had conspired to bring down the hive.
     The battler was starting to get the idea there was something wrong here. That made him feel afraid, and feeling afraid made him angry. So he flailed and squeaked and broadcast his absolute hatred in a circle a whole foot wide around himself as he chased his sisters across the fields. They peeped in protest and that just made him chase them harder, shrieking as loud as he could. They seemed to want to know where he was taking them.
     How was he supposed to know? Wait, they weren’t supposed to question. He was the battler! He was meant to protect. He wasn’t supposed to get hung up on minor trivialities such as the fact that he couldn’t see anything through all the smoke and flame  except for a glowing circular thing that had no colour he could name, not that he had words for anything.
     There! They would go there! The battler hounded and beat his sisters towards the gate, squeaking and blowing raspberries, his tentacles flapping everywhere so hard that he nearly landed himself in the dirt.
     The hunters heard. Still hungry, they turned towards the sound, feeling blind through the smoke to try and find the morsels, and all unknowing, the three baby sylphs fled for the gate, escaping through it before the closest could get to them. That monster felt through the gate for them, lashing on the other side, and yanked its tentacle back as a blast wave of pure destruction came through and the gate closed.
     In the Summoning Chamber of Sylph Valley, while the humans ran around in a panic at what had almost come through their gate, the baby battler hid underneath a bench in the shadows, lying on top of his sisters, who were already asleep. He looked at  the big battle sylph who’d just poured enough energy through the gate to turn the ground underneath it into glass and blew a raspberry.
     He could take him, he thought.
     Then he took another nap.

Monday, January 23, 2012


J has been delayed by virtue of having vanished off my computer and shoving a great big sign saying writer's block in its place. I've had a long day. I'll try and get J and K out tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I is for Ignite

     They’d had to ask the earth sylphs to make the chamber, deep under the ground, and the air sylphs to feed air into it, and even the water sylphs to make sure it stayed dry, but it was theirs. None of them had ever had such a place before. One to call their own.
     Ash followed her sisters down a shaft that let off the corridor near the queen’s throne room. It was only a foot wide, but that was more than they needed, and a dozen little balls of flame tumbled down the shaft, fire sylphs laughing and dancing as they tumbled down deep under the Valley.
    At the bottom of the well was their chamber, that only fire sylphs came to. Ash sighed happily as she fell into it, joining the warmth of other sparks of light already there. Around them, the walls were shiny smooth and black from their heat and overhead were hundreds of openings, not just the one that they used to get in and out.They dotted the rock like mouths, shuttered off with metal plates. 
     The Queen says it’s time, Ash sent. The first storm of the winter is blowing in.
     A miserable thought for the humans, an annoyance for the battlers, something to be avoided or played in by the other elementals, but for them? For the fire sylphs of Sylph Valley? It was time to burn.
     They’d kept their heat low and the shutters closed for the summer, a sweet, quiet enjoyment of each other’s company, but now...
     They came together, laughing still, balls of fire filled with the joy of their purpose, and together they ignited. Together they burned, and in their joy they flooded heat up through the ducts and into pipes underneath the Valley, keeping the entire town warm despite the winter.

Ah, Editing

I was wandering the web and found these pictures. It looks like my red pen edits! Except I have better handwriting...

For those who get hung up on writing because what they write doesn't come out perfectly (I'm staring at YOU, Mia!) This is George Orwell's manuscript for 1984.

I found it on this site.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Some of my art

I've updated the MY ART page on this blog if anyone is interested, and enabled comments at the bottom. Hopefully I won't end up regretting that. :D I have a link to my deviant art site there too, if anyone wants to see the rest of them or these ones at full size.

I've tried to say that some of them are for sale as prints three times and backspaced because it feels pretentious of me. Damn it! Some are up for sale! There, I said it! *hides*

Here, have a tree.

H is for Hatred

(Okay, this one really is a tease....)  

   Thrall had stood at Alcor's side for decades while he waited for him to die.
     Maybe he had another twenty years to be patient, perhaps only ten. It would certainly have been less if he weren't under direct orders to protect the King of Eferem from any direct attack. They came too, for Alcor was not a popular king, and each time they did, Thrall resented having to protect the corpulent waste of skin, just as he resented having to keep silent and not tell his master precisely what he thought of him, in extensive, thorough detail.
     The only thing that he could do with any impunity was hate, and Thrall made of it a work of art. He threaded it into his aura and projected it, and as the years passed, he worked on the subtleties of his hatred, growing and nurturing it with infinite care. It was his masterpiece and Alcor didn't even realize what it was, just as he didn't know what he'd made the grand mistake of trapping all those years ago. Thrall would make sure that he regretted tricking him into coming here. He would make every last soul in Eferem regret it with their last dying breath.
     Because of his hate for his master, he thrilled when the little battler killed the prince and escaped with his woman, for all the infant was weak and not of his hive.  He luxuriated when the king's man turned traitor and joined the enemy. He rejoiced when Alcor's generals were slain and their battlers banished.
     The rage those events flooded Alcor with, the fear and hate they caused him, were what finally gave Thrall his grand idea. He could wait as he had been for Alcor to die, doing nothing more than what he was commanded, or he could cause his master to be destroyed without ever even touching him. The choice was a simple one.
       So Thrall the battle sylph stood at his master's side and overlaid the man with his hate, slowly, subtly, driving Alcor's own paranoia and hatred, patiently remaking his master into a madman bound for war, and Alcor had no idea it was happening. There was no way he could, after all.
     Alcor had no idea what he had in what he thought was just another battle sylph.
     And Thrall had no reason to feel anything other than hatred. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

G is for Grass

(I love the comments, by the way. First thing I do when I wake up is check my mail on my phone and every morning has been a good one. Thank you!)

G is for Grass
     “Why can’t we put down anything pretty?” Shore asked. Her voice was a watery burble, so soft even her master could barely hear her.
     With anyone else, Loren would have snapped for them to speak up, she wasn’t deaf. She smiled down at her little water sylph instead, even if the expression was a bit forced.
     “I know. I’d rather be working on a real garden too, but it’s Solie’s orders.” She gave an exaggerated sigh, which the small sylph echoed.
      She really would have preferred to be working on the gardens in the middle of the town. They were among the greatest in the world, a combination of her creativity and Shore’s abilities, and already people were coming to the Valley just to see them. She had so many ideas for how to make them even greater, but instead she was here, standing on the edge of a dead landscape of shale and dust that stretched to the horizon.
      “I hate it out here,” she grumbled.
      “Me too,” Shore said loyally.
      Loren sighed again. There was no point in going back until she made at least a token effort. Solie would be asking, and for all she was so quiet and demure, the woman could make a person feel guilty beyond belief with just a disappointed look. Loren reached into one of the pouches on her belt and pulled out a single seed, so small that she had to squint to see it clearly. Shore looked up at her while she stared at it, her form shimmering water but otherwise exactly like a younger, smaller version of her master.
      “Life to life,” Loren whispered to it, an incantation for only her and Shore’s ears. She tossed the seed down and Shore spread her hands in the air above it. Water flowed into the earth, dampening the grey soil and churning it, feeding it with Shore’s pattern while it pulled the seed down. Loren pulled some fertilizer out of a large sack she’d brought and threw it down to join the mix.
      “Sprout to grow,” she said.
      “Green is growth,” Shore squeaked.
      “We make it so,” Loren returned.
      “Live the earth,” Shore said.
      “Love the soil,” Loren added.
      “Grant here birth,” from Shore.
      “Sweat of toil,” Loren finished
      A hint of green pushed up through the dirt. Both of them bent down to examine it. A tiny, spring green blade of grass, barely poking up. It was the first greenery to touch the Shale Plains in centuries beyond count.
      “One down,” Loren sighed and looked out towards the heavens. “Who knows how many billions to go.”
      Shore grinned at her.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

F is for Forever

(F came REALLY close to stand for f*$%&^ing writer’s block, but I finally decided to throw this up. It’s a piece I wrote a while ago. It doesn’t fit anywhere and I wrote it for myself, but I thought someone might like it.)
Leon was dying.
It was the best time to accept it.  After all, life in the Valley was good.  Their lives were peaceful, their trade agreements with their neighbours both solid and lucrative.  They’d expanded their borders, spreading from the original Valley and far out into the Shale Plains, replacing the dead ground that used to exist with rich, living farmlands.  Humans and sylphs happily worked together, no one caring if a person was a man, a woman, or a sylph.
Eighty-one years old and tired, Leon Petrule looked up as the door to his office opened.  He’d been working on reports, a half finished mug of willow tea steaming beside him.  Five years or so earlier, he’d needed the tea only once a week.  Now, as his hands cramped painfully around his writing quill, he needed to sip it all the time.  He’d hidden the arthritis from his family, though he suspected Betha knew and he was pretty sure Lizzy did, if only because there was one person he couldn’t hide it from at all, and he would have told her.
 His battle sylph Ril came in, glaring at his master while he did.  Ril knew about Leon’s pain.  He knew about the weakness and the weariness, the recurring pains in his chest and his arm.  There was simply no way for Leon to hide it from him, but neither of them had spoken about it.  If anything, the battle sylph had begun avoiding his master, though distance hadn’t been enough to stop Leon from feeling his tumult of emotions, both the rage and the worry.  Forty-two years it had been since Ril was freed, another fifteen before that since Leon became his master, and even after fifty-seven years in the world, Ril looked the same as he had the day he first took human form.  For him, looking at Leon must have been a constant reminder that his master’s health was failing.  Leon missed having him around, but he hadn’t been surprised.  Sylphs handled the mortality of their masters poorly and Ril needed to come to grips with the reality of Leon’s eventual passing on his own. Besides, Leon had known that Ril would come to him again when he was ready.
He’d also suspected that Ril wouldn’t come alone when he did, and Leon smiled, setting down his pen as the battler was followed by another sylph, this one female, her hair short against her head, her body beautiful and sleek.  Where Ril was dressed in his formal uniform, she was garbed like any normal woman, choosing a dress with an embroidered apron over it.
"Good morning, Autumn," Leon said to her, rising painfully to greet the healer sylph.  He couldn’t hide the pain he felt from her any more than he could from Ril, but he could stop himself from wincing when it hit him, crawling though his joints and up his left arm to his chest.  "It's good to see you again.  I'm afraid I don't have much time to give you today though.  I'm quite busy." 
"I cleared your schedule," Ril told him.  "No one's coming." 
Leon blinked, turning to him.  Bringing the healer wasn’t a surprise, but Leon didn’t think it would take that long for her to block his pain.  He’d seen her do it for others and in fact should have gone to her himself, if he hadn’t been so stubborn, as well as worried it would get back to his wife Betha.  Autumn’s master Gabralina was a bit of a gossip and she often spent time at the house with Leon’s wife.  More, on a very real level, Leon hadn’t wanted to see the healer.  He knew he was dying.  He didn’t need the look in Autumn’s eyes to confirm it.  Nor did he want the temptation to ask her how long he had left.  "You did?" 
Ril nodded and started clearing away the items on Leon's desk, setting them on one of the side tables. 
"What are you doing?" Leon asked.  His battler’s emotions felt angry now, tense with fear.  Ril moved a half dozen items, but when Leon took a step towards him, his hips throbbing from the arthritis, Ril snarled and swept the rest of them off the dark wood, letting them crash to the ground.  The mug Leon had been sipping from shattered, spraying liquid everywhere.  "Ril!" 
"I need you to sleep now, Chancellor." 
Leon had put Autumn out of his mind when Ril started clearing his desk.  Once she spoke, he spun back towards her in surprise, just in time for her to lay her hand against his bearded cheek. 
His legs went out from under him.  His head sagged, his arms suddenly dead weights, and Leon fell towards the ground, only to feel Ril catch him, his arms warm around his body.  "It's okay, Leon," Ril whispered.  "Just let go." 
Leon really didn't want to do that.  His first thought was to tell them to stop whatever they were doing, but he couldn’t get an order out, desperately though he tried.  He’d been hit too fast to do anything, and he realized that stopping him from giving an order had been part of their plan.  All of the anger and stress Ril had been feeling over the last few weeks turned into sudden contentment and a very real sense of relief. Leon certainly didn’t share the emotion.  His body was completely limp and his vision blurred, his mind fuzzing into sleep. He fought it desperately, using all of his fading will to hang onto consciousness, even as his battle sylph put his arms underneath him and lifted him up, cradling him as gently as a child before he laid him down on his own desk and Autumn started unbuttoning his tunic.   
"Go to sleep," Ril whispered.  "Trust me." 
Skin was bared, Autumn laying her hands on his chest, and where she touched him, Leon started to burn.  He still couldn't move, only a thread of consciousness hanging on, terrified and struggling, but Ril was still whispering for him to let go, massaging his temples now, and he felt the battle sylph lean over and kiss his forehead just before Leon gave in and did what he wanted. 
Leon slept. 
A long, dreamless time later, Leon woke up lying on the padded bench in the corner of his office, Ril's coat rolled up under his head and a blanket laid over him.  His boots had been taken off and his feet rested on top of the arm.  
He felt weak, barely able to open his eyes and sore everywhere.  He felt in fact as if someone had been beating him and it took a long minute to remember what happened.  Before he could, Ril was there, whispering reassurances as he lifted him up enough to sit behind him.  Leon found himself elevated, his upper body resting against Ril's chest while the battler held a mug of lukewarm soup to his mouth.  "Drink this." 
Leon did, swallowing the soup in tiny sips.  It was bland but good, mild in a mouth that seemed to have been shocked to absolute dryness.  Never had Leon been so utterly exhausted and his eyes slid shut again while he drank, his hands lax in his lap. 
"It was as hard as she said it would be," Ril groused.  "You’re too old.  Lizzy only took two hours.  She had to work on you for more than sixteen.  She says you'll be tired for a while."  He paused, both of them realizing he was babbling.  "We'll have to tell Betha you came down sick or something." 
She said?  Who?  What?  "What did you do to me?" Leon gasped.  The rest of the words sank in and he struggled to sit up.  "What did you do to Lizzy?"   
Ril's free arm looped around him, holding him firm against the battler while he lifted the mug to his lips again.  "Drink." 
Leon drank, unable to resist, and a bit more strength flowed into him. He was remembering now, remembering Autumn and his own battle sylph attacking him. 
"What have you done?" he demanded, with more than just a hint of command in his voice.  A feeling of betrayal flickered in the back of his heart and Ril's arm tightened around him. 
"I did what I had to," the battler told him.  "Autumn's been studying humans for decades now.  She started with her own master, wanting to keep her alive as long as she could.”  He paused.  “She’s made it so you won't get older.  She can even make all the old parts get younger again, to a degree.  It’s not easy and I don’t think a healer who isn’t half queen could manage it.  She had to exhaust herself for you, you old idiot." 
Leon froze, the implications of that too great for him to absorb yet as more than a sudden panic.  Ril waited him out, holding the soup ready.  "She can make everyone live forever?" 
"Not everyone," Ril told him.  "She won’t.  Says it will mess up the balance.  The queen agrees.  But she did it for you, and for Lizzy.  A few of the other sylph masters too.  The ones who were young enough for her to be able to and who had souls flexible enough to accept the change, and where Autumn was worried the bond was too strong and their sylph wouldn't be able to deal with them... with them dying."  He barely said the last word. 
Leon's mind reeled again at the realization of just how worried his battler had been and Ril took the opportunity to feed him a bit more of the soup.  Leon didn't even taste it.  Why had he never sat the creature down and talked about this?  He'd known he'd be outlived by Ril and his increasing pain during the last few months had only made it obvious that his life was slowing to an end.  Yet they'd never talked about it and the feeling of betrayal vanished into the horror at the thought of how Ril would take losing him, especially if Autumn was willing to go to these lengths to prevent it.  "Am I going to live forever?" he whispered. 
"No."  Ril sounded resentful.  "We don't know yet how long any of you will live."  He hesitated.  "You didn't have enough time left for us to find out first." 
Leon groaned, pain starting to stab through his back, and Ril adjusted himself behind him.  Leon forced his eyes to open and stared at the pattern on the blanket covering him.  He felt as if he’d been pummeled, but his joints no longer ached and his heart beat strongly and well.  The reality of that hit him.  He was going to live a lot longer than he’d thought when he dragged himself out of bed this morning.  Would it be for decades?  Centuries?  Longer? 
Betha! his mind screamed. 
"How many," he swallowed.  "How many are like this?" 
"A dozen.  Maybe a few more.  Autumn only felt she knew enough to actually do it recently, but as I said, she won’t do many.  It took a long time to convince her to save both you and Lizzy.  Lizzy yes, but I had to fight for you.  Your soul is flexible enough, but she was afraid you were already too old."  He sounded like he felt a certain amount of resentment towards the healer for that.  “Gabralina finally had to order her to do it.”
His eldest daughter would live.  Leon felt joy at that, but what about his other daughters?  Their children?  His beautiful wife Betha?  Was he supposed to watch them all grow old and die?  "Why didn't you ask me?" he whispered, his eyes stinging and already knowing the answer.  Why knock him out and just do it without even giving him the chance to protest?  Why?  Because if they hadn’t, he wouldn't have given up his human life.  He wouldn't have agreed.  He would have loved Ril to his dying breath, and he would have wanted to die in his arms, but he still would have died.  Humans weren't meant to be immortal. 
Ril was quiet for a moment before he set the soup down, and when he brought his hand back up, he wiped away the tears Leon hadn't realized he was shedding. 
"You killed my queen," he said, and Leon shuddered as he deliberately tore an old wound wide open, flooding them both with an ancient pain.  It came from both of them, born in the memory of a terrified young woman, tied down to an altar and staring up pleadingly at Leon before he plunged a dagger deep into her heart.  Leon had thought that old regret long since put to rest, but it wasn't.  Not for either of them.  "You made her helpless and you killed her to force me to be your slave." 
"I'm so sorry," he whispered. 
"You owe me a life," Ril told him.  "Hers is gone, so I take yours.  As much life as I can wring out of you, and I’ll keep you with me forever, until the stars fall out of the sky and this whole world dies around us both!" 
Leon was crying, too weak to lift his hands to cover his face.  He'd known battlers were possessive, for decades he'd known... 
"Never leave me," Ril whispered in his ear, his breath tickling hair that had been thinning but would eventually regain its thickness and colour.  "You and Lizzy both.  I belong to you." 
Just as Leon belonged to him, and yes, he did owe him a life.  He’d owed him for a very long time now, and given the man he’d become, the only life he could ever consent to give in payment for his crimes was his own. 
“It’ll be all right,” Ril told him.  “I promise you it will.”
Ril carried him home then, wrapped in the blanket and going down back streets in the darkness so that no one in the Valley would see the Chancellor being carried in his battle sylph's arms and weeping most of the way like a child.   
Betha was there when Ril carried him into the house, of course, and he proclaimed in the face of her dismay that Leon was sick and needed to rest.  Both Betha and their youngest daughter Mia had been worried, frantically preparing the master bedroom for him while Ril carried him upstairs, but Lizzy had been there as well, so ageless and beautiful – as she always would be now -  and she'd smiled knowingly at her father before he'd needed to close his eyes, too tired to speak.   
Ril laid him down, brushing his lips over his forehead again when Betha wasn’t looking and straightening up, calm and collected once more, his aura happy.  Of course he was.  He didn't have to worry now about his oldest master leaving him.  He nodded and left. 
Betha bent over Leon, muttering to herself as she got his shirt and pants off and helped him into a pair of pajamas.  "Foolish man," she told him.  "If you felt yourself getting sick, why didn't you come home sooner?  You're going to work yourself to death!" 
She was still so beautiful, even with her face covered in wrinkles and her hair a pale grey.  Leon reached up to cup her cheek and then pull her to him, wrapping her in a hug.   
"What?" she gasped. 
"Just let me hold you for a while," he whispered and after a moment she relented, lying down on the bed beside him and patiently letting him hold her for as long as he could.