The Burning Field, Part 6

   The Burning Field, Part 6

“Blood of our blood,” They chanted softly in unison. Kaitee and Meann sat with legs crossed in front of the drying rack near the hearth. Both bows stood on the rack, fitted neatly side by side a foot off the floor. The Elves designed them layered with red heartwood and white sinew and with bone grips. The C-shaped bows’ tips canted inward. When strung, the tips would flare out and reveal a shape resembling Elve ears. They placed a wooden bowl underneath each bow.

“Blood of our blood,” they chanted with their eyes closed. They laid their heavily decorated arms on their knees, palms up. They painted their arms from wrists to shoulders with ancient runes. They drew the same runes the length of each bow.

“Blood of our blood,” they said. They swayed together. “Blood of our blood. Blood of our blood. Blood of our blood. Blood of our blood. Blood of our blood! Blood of our BLOOD! BLOOD OF OUR BLOOD! BLOOD OF OUR BLOOD! BLOOD OF OUR BLOOD!

They fell silent.

Droplets of blood formed along the runes on their arms. Droplets of blood formed along the runes on the bows. The droplets floated off their arms toward the bows. Droplets floated off the bows toward their arms. Droplets passed droplets. The droplets from their arms settled on their bows. The droplets from the bows settled on their arms, arms that would hold, arms that would aim and draw. The blood soaked in on both their arms and on their bows into the runes and the runes vanished.

They hummed the tune the Ancestors sang to them. Kaitee put words to the tune and Meann harmonized. Blood ran down each bow and dripped into the bowls underneath. They finished the song and took the bowls. They drank the blood from the bows.

They replaced the bowls and curled in front of the hearth and slept the rest of the night.

Dawn found the two Elves in their canoe at some tar sands in the mouth of a river tributary where it emptied into the Ohio. They gathered some tar and bundles of bulrush and paddled upstream, through two forks, and into their familiar steam into the Enchanted Meadow.

In a short while they enchanted the tar and painted themselves with black stripes angling downward from left to right starting on their faces across their eyes, around themselves to their toes. They tested the camouflage enchantment watching one another walk among the trees. Meann laughed and clapped her hands as Kaitee disappeared among them.

“It’s perfect, my sweet!” Meann said.

“Now for the grand test. Arc’oevena are dried and ready. Today is the day.”

Meann nodded. They popped into their craft room and mounted the bow’s racks on their backs, strapping them to their torsos. They crooked a leg over the tip, bent and strung the bows, strapped on the tiny quiver that held one arrow, and gripped their bows. They stood in front of their hearth with the bone grip in their fists, feeling their power, amazed. They had never felt all the enchantments of the bow. Now that it was in their hands at last, it filled them with strength they did not know they had. It wasn’t the magic, but strength within their own bodies, Elven strength, filling their arms and legs.

Kaitee’s yellow eyes were wide. She looked at her mate. “I feel…”

“Like a god,” Meann said. Kaitee nodded.

“We must draw Arc’oevena, learn its power,” Kaitee said.

“Bond with her,” Meann said.

“Yes, her.”

“We must find a suitable target,” Meann said. They put Arc’oevena on their backs, in the racks, and the bows disappeared as the enchantment meant them to do. The women clasped hands, bent to kiss… but something changed. The instant their hands touched they were there! They were outside the cave on the top of the north ridge overlooking the Enchanted Meadow.

“We don’t need to kiss now?” Meann asked.

Kaitee shrugged. “Even better! Wait, no, I loved our little kisses.”

“Let’s do this,” Meann said. “We will do it the old way when there is time, the new way when we have to hurry.”

“Excellent! I knew I kept you around for some reason.”

“What’s the target?” Meann asked.

“There’s a big dead lightning-struck tree in a clearing the other side of this part of the forest.” Kaitee waved her arms in the air and produced a smoky edged looking glass. “See, there.” The tree was a thousand yards from them to the northeast.

“Nordost… that way,” Meann said pointing.

“Ye,” Kaitee said putting an arm around her lover. “I love you. What will you name her, have you decided?”

Meann smiled and kissed her quickly. “Ul’in.”

“Ohhh! It means…”

“Brave sister,” they said in unison.

“I made her a lineage bracelet for firstday.”

“That could not be more perfect.”

“I have to fire this bow, or I’ll pee myself,” Kaitee said.

Meann laughed. “Let’s do it.”

Below then, across the Meadow at Tani’s cottage were guests. Di and King had come. Di was in a terrible state. Tani tried to calm her. Di, it seemed, could not live with the Wood Sprites any longer. She fed from some branches and it turned out to be one of the creature’s hair standing beside a tree. The three of them were in a lively discussion when the commotion began on top the ridge. One of the twins screamed a war cry.

They didn’t see her because of the camouflage. Kaitee ran a few yards to get speed then leaped. She had never leaped so high! The new strength in her legs carried her high above the treetops. She drew back on Arc’oevena and the ground trembled beneath her.

“Get inside the cottage!” King shouted. Di and Tani darted inside.

Kaitee’s bent her legs, and the small Elve drew with all her strength. Blood began to drip from the end of the bow. As she held her pull to aim, trees, parted beneath her. She steadied her aim and fired.

She screamed. “AZAAAAAA!”

KAFOOM! The arrow careened over treetops and they bent low in the wake as it passed. It gained speed as it flew! BOOM! It broke the sound barrier. The arrowhead enlarged into a broad head a foot wide and became white hot. It struck the target, exploded, and sent a shower of white hot shrapnel in a plume. Kaitee landed at a trot and slowed. Meann ran to her and they hugged. The arrow reappeared in Kaitee’s quiver.

Meann leaned back from their hug. “How did you get it to do that?”

“It’s in your blood and your heart, remember? What does your heart want it to do?”

Meann snorted. She turned and trotted back to the start position and ran toward Kaitee. She leaped.

“AZAAAAAA!”

Blood poured from the end of her bow in a steam and wet the ground. The ground shook hard and Kaitee dropped to her knees. Dirt and leaves jumped up. The water in the stream danced. Mean fired her arrow and uprooted a couple small trees. The arrow became so hot it set the tips of some trees on fire. Fins sprouted on the arrow shaft. It became a missile. When it hit the target a great ball of fire erupted and vaporized the dead tree. When the fireball burned out, there was nothing left.

Kaitee walked to where Meann stood and made a looking glass. They surveyed the damage.

“Humans say something.”

“Fuck!”

“Yes, that and something else.”

“Fuck me to tears.”

Meann burst out laughing. That surprised her. It wasn’t what she had in mind. “Where did you hear that?”

“I don’t remember.” They laughed for a moment and let their hearts soak in the all that had happened. Kaitee turned her mate and said, “Na’ryl.”

“Ancient or wise hunter. That is a strong name, my heart. She will grow strong and proud,” Meann said.

Air swirled around them. Leaves, pine needles, and debris caught up in the swirling. They felt the enchantment. “Vers, the Elves said in unison. The great Dire Wolf appeared in front of them. The hackles rose on his back and he barred his teeth. Kaitee circled her hand and put him inside a large blue transparent bubble floating a foot off the ground. King lunged forward, the bubble stretched a tiny bit and would not give. He tried again with all his massive strength and got the same result. He tried his magic inside the bubble. The air swirled in there, but nothing happened.

“What? How! How did this happen? I was bringing the both of you to me. How did you do this? How did you trap me so easily?” King asked.

“Your magic is like a baby slapping its mother, compared to us. You must learn it completely, grow in it, live it and breathe it to make it stronger,” Kaitee said.

“We can see your blue tendrils come from your eyes and turn them on you,” Meann said. “Release him, Kaitee.” She did, and the bubble dissipated. He stood before them. “We like you, shin-shin. We want to be friends with you. We love that you have magic. We want to help you grow in your magic because a war is coming, and it will pull you into it no matter if you ally with us or not.”

“I see your war paint. I see your seriousness. You tested your terrible weapons. The women are still so frightened.” He paused and took on a grave expression. “There is a witch, am I correct?”

“Ye, shin-shin.” Meann reached up and put her arm around the great beast’s shoulders. “If we do not fight as a team, we will perish from the earth. Your kind, our kind, will cease to exist.”

King dipped his head. “You are with child.”

Meann touched her belly. “Your sensitive nose.”

“Yes, your odors have changed, both of you,” King said nodding. He looked at their young faces with love, and a little fear in his eyes. “The witch, she wants you two.” The Elves nodded. “We must speak with the others, and the Dwarven King, Dolgarth.”

The two Elves looked at one another with surprise. Dolgarth did not mention he was a King. King turned his head toward the cottage. Meann smiled at him, touched Kaitee and they were there. He shook himself all over as canines do. The suddenness upset him.

“Damn! That was nauseating!” He sat and scratched behind his ear. Di ran out of the cottage, became wide-eyed at the sight of the Elves behind King, and skid to a stop. She darted back inside, her hooves kicking up turf.

“Sorry, friends, she’s gotten a bit timid. The Wood Sprites scared the shit out of her.”

“And then us,” Kaitee said.

“Diana!” King said. “Come on out! It’s okay. The Elves are our friends.” The door opened and Tani tugged and pulled her out by her hand. “Di, it’s okay. No one will hurt you.” Her eyes were big and dark as she stepped out beside King and touched his back.

“I tell myself I should not be so afraid, but things keep happening here that are far beyond imagining, things I don’t understand.”

“Tells us of a thing and we will help you understand,” Kaitee said.

“Well, there’s this,” she said and held out her left hand. A bow appeared in her hand. It sparkled white and glistened and gave off its own light, glowing, and lit her arm and face. “It gets brighter as I pull the string, and this happens,” she said. She pulled on the string and an arrow appeared. The head of the arrow also sparkled white and gave off its own light.

Di looked around and she had grown to ten feet tall. King and Tani ran away. The Elves stayed near her. They pointed toward the sky. She looked up and above her was a constellation of stars that looked like a woman holding a bow. She eased the bow down, she shrunk down to her normal size and the bow went away. King and Tani returned.

“What did I become?” Di asked.

“We will dream and speak to the Ancestors,” Meann said. They looked to one another and nodded. “We don’t want to guess, but you looked like a goddess, not unlike Pan.”

King stood looking at Diana with his mouth open.

She stood up straight and stretched her neck as if some pride returned to her stature, “Hmm,” she said.

“Oh, shit,” King said. “There’ll be no living with her now.”

The Elves laughed.

“Hey, Diana and I are off to find King Dolgarth. We will tell him about the witch. We were on our way there when we stopped in here. We need him to find us a better lair anyway. “Come my Queen, or Goddess, or whatever,” he said, and they walked south behind the cottage and climbed the ridge toward the caves.

Feedleboo flew to Kaitee. “The Bee Queen, Bzizizlz, is very happy with deal we struck. Her workers surveyed the field you enchanted, and the clover is lovely. They will fill your honeypot as set in the terms, a half stone twice per year. Queen Bzizizlz is so delighted I think she wanted to kiss you.”

“Good work, Feedleboo. Fly to her tomorrow and tell her that we will need to speak to her of this terrible witch. We will need her support. If the witch takes this land, she will burn or blight all the fields, and the bee queendom will perish.”

“I will tell the Fairy King and Queen as well. They will want to talk to you, I’m sure.”

Kaitee and Meann said goodbye to Tani and crossed the stream at the southern end where it widened into a small river. They had another task before going in and having dinner. Here, at the bottom of the steep ridge was a collection of large boulders. One had a tall, smooth white face. It was in direct line with their cave lair. They had pondered if that stone could be the end of their small cave system, so they sat in front of it and sang. Soon, they learned the stone and they stood. Kaitee passed her hand over it and the huge stone face opened revealing another set of stairs leading up.

“We knew it was there,” Meann said. Kaitee nodded, waved her hand again and shut the entrance. The smooth stone face returned, undisturbed. Meann went to the river bank and pulled the canoe to the stone. She waved her hand over the stone and opened the door. They drug the canoe inside and closed it behind them. They were in an undiscovered part of their home.

“It’s pitch dark, even with our yellow eyes,” Kaitee said. Meann made a round orb of light in her hand, Kaitee followed suit, and they walked up the steps into their craft room. “It was as we thought, my love. Those steep dark stairs that led to nowhere, actually lead to somewhere.” She laughed.

“We need those enchanted sconces the Ancestors showed us on the wall to light the way,” Meann said. “We have a secret way in and out.”

“Our hearth friend has been keeping our morning stew warm for us and I’m starving,” Kaitee said.

“We could ask King to kill us a boar later, in a few days when this meat is cured.”

“Mmm, don’t tempt me. He’s big enough to kill a bear. I wonder what the Dwarves eat?”

“Rock?” They giggled. “Our fresh water bucket is low, my love, I’ll go down to the stream, down our new way, and fill it,” Meann said.

“Thank you, my love.”

Meann went to the stairs in the back of the craft room with the wooden bucket, mad a light orb and trotted down the stairs. She got to the stone and opened it with a wave of her hand. As she stepped out of the cave, she noticed the setting sun cast a large shadow over Tani’s cottage to the east. Soon it would be across the entire Meadow. She closed the stone behind her and stepped to the riverbank, knelt, and tipped the bucket in the clear water.

A shadow fell over her. She dropped the bucket and leaped sideways. An open sack missed her by inches. She rolled and came up with her obsidian blade in her hand. In front of her was the biggest human man she had ever seen.

She shouted for her lover, crouched and prepared for an attack. “Kaitee! Help!”

The man’s skin was ashen black, his eyes glowed red like fire, and his hands large, like paws with long sharp claws. He snatched up the sack. He looked this way and that for her.

He can’t see me very well! The tar paint! Mean circled him to her left. She watched his eyes. He was muscular, with a big square jaw and flat abdomen. He glanced away, and she waved her hands making a blue bubble envelop him.

She heard laughter, the witch’s laughter, and it came from above her. The blue bubble dissipated and sprinkled to the ground. Kaitee rolled to her left in anticipation of the witch’s attack and she was right. Sparks from the staff hit the ground where she had been crouching. They weren’t meant to kill, she realized, just incapacitate.

“Kaitee! I need you now!” Meann shouted.

The man came at her with the sack and Meann lunged at him with her knife. She knew instinctively that the best time to counter is during an attack, use the enemy’s forward motion as opportunity. But instead of finding flesh with her blade, she froze in midair. The witch laughed while the green stone on the end of her staff glowed. The man stopped, turned, and slipped the enchanted sack over her easily. He threw Meann over his shoulder.

“Good job, Prosser! We have one of them. Let us be gone before her mate arrives, or that big bad wolf.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” Prosser said. The witch, with her flowing chestnut hair, green eyes, and brilliant white robe, moved along the bank downstream in the Enchanted Meadow. The burnt and bestial Prosser lumbered behind her. Meann kicked and yelled, her magic useless in the enchanted sack.

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New Story, The Rule

Anonymous wrote this about The Rule. There are some spoilers:

Hi Tom,

Your title grabbed me. It told too little to guess anything about the story, and it was too intriguing to ignore. It’s a good title. You could say the rule is what gets Kelly killed.

(…) skipping spoilers

Your writing is to-the-point, and you don’t shy away from difficult topics or scenes. It’s something I appreciate… The story is sad indeed, in the “this needs to be written about” kind of sad. What I mean is that this story could have happened, and maybe did (though I hope not).

Kelly’s character is described in precise strokes, in how he speaks, what he wears, the feelings he has for Devin. I think the name “Kelly” is feminine too, is it not? At any rate, his characterisation is excellent, and there is just too much to it for me to quote all bits that make me imagine him so clearly. I feel bad for him, that his life ended the way it did. He may have been a transgender, but we’ll never know.

You addressed the issue of guilt, of who has the fault. I’m glad you did, because it’s a question with no answer, but the story would have felt incomplete without it. It gets the reader to think, as well. We still have discrimination nowadays, although in most countries it has gotten much better.

Your story is not only sad, but revolting. The contrast between the peace and love attitude, and Kelly having to abide by the rule of not showing his feelings, not following his heart, is striking. I enjoyed reading it for the way you handle the words and craft the story, but the thematic left a lump in my throat.

Well done.

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