The Burning Field, Part 7

The Burning Field, Part 7

Kaitee ladled out two bowls of steaming stew from the stone crock hanging on the crane on the right side. She smiled. It was just right. A ghostly hand touched her shoulder. She turned her hand and the vapor-formed, red-haired warrior clad in hardened leather nodded toward the stew she held in her hands. In the stew she saw lumps of meat changing shapes, forming into her lover and a large dark human battling one another, with knives and magic beside a stream. She dropped the ladle in the crock and it splashed. She stood straight and wide-eyed.

She panicked dropping the bowl. “Meann!”

She ran into the craft room. She donned her rack, grabbed Arc’oevena, and ran down the stairs in the dark. She waved her hand at the stone on the run and it opened. She raced out into the evening light and closed the entrance. The bucket lay in the shallow water and there was no sign of Meann upstream. Downstream she saw movement. She ran along the bank and leaped as quietly as the wind.

She saw them. The man carried a sack over his shoulder and the witch floated beside him. They traveled toward the confluence of the small river and a larger one where Kaitee and Meann gathered bulrush. Kaitee knew it well. She was sure the witch did not. After landing from the leap she took a second to close her eyes and seek out Meann. Her mind could not touch Meann’s mind. The sack was a barrier. The witch enchanted it, warded it against magic getting in or out. She could hear her heart beating in her mind, though, her and her infant. They were alive and well. The witch wanted her alive. It meant one thing. The witch wanted to torture her for her magic. It wouldn’t work.

Kaitee crossed the river and headed south at a fast trot through forest she knew would soon turn to swamp. Meann could describe the process to her all day, unless the power to perform it was within her, knowing the spell was useless. It took Elven magic to make the bubbles and the looking glass. It was useless unless the witch had a way to pull Elven power from Meann, and the act would kill her. She shuddered. It came to her. Killing her was exactly what the witch had planned. Kaitee picked up her pace.

The witch and her man-beast, Prosser, and traveled to the mouth of the river and turned left, east. They avoided the marsh Kaitee now crossed. They would go east along the river until it cut south to the Ohio, and after, cross into Kentucky. At some point, Kaitee knew, she would float the three of them unseen to their destination. The witch must travel undetected by humans. She was not sure the witch had enough power in her to escape all the way to her burning field hiding in some magical cloak. But, Kaitee had to force the moment on her, make her use what she had. She had no choice the witch had to show her hand and Kaitee must make her drain her power.

Kaitee attacked. She leaped to the treetops, above the swamps and jumped from tree to tree until the witch and her man-beast carrying his tote with Meann inside came within range. She was five hundred yards from the sandy bank of the river. She drew Arc’oevena and touched the string. She closed her eyes and spoke to Arc’oevena with her heart. Her lip bottom lip quivered as her heart broke. The love her life was in the sack and she could not make a mistake.

She pulled the string and the ground shook. The witch rose from the ground, looked straight at her. The witch twirled her staff in the air. Her, Prosser, and Meann vanished. Kaitee leaped through the treetops until she stood on the sandy beach near the spot where the witch stood. She sniffed the sand and got a good taste of the essence of her and Prosser.

The air swirled near her and King appeared, head low, feet forward, ready to leap at the nearest enemy. He relaxed when he saw it was only her.

“Shin-shin! You’ve come,” Kaitee said. Her eyes teared at the sight of her friend.

He held his head high and his chest out. “They’re gone,” he said. He trotted to the river and drank. He came up and sniffed. “I can smell them in the air, taste them in the water.”

“Come, sniff the sand. Their feet odor is still here,” Kaitee said. He trotted over, sniffing and wagging his immense tail. He raised his head.

“Got it,” he said. “They’re going east. You up for it?”

“Of course.”

“Put your little arm around my shoulder,” the mighty beast said. The air swirled kicking up sand and debris. They disappeared.

***

He walked crazily as if drunk down the slope of the burned ridge through the embers, half dead from burns, staggering, falling to his knees and somehow finding his feet again. It was late afternoon he figured out, checking the sun. He was a middle-aged half-bald man in a suit and tie, the black suit now burned nearly off him. He fell one last time as he stumbled down the smoking, burnt ridge to the floor of the valley, stumbled to his knees and rolled. His hands broke his fall and the red cinders swirled around them.

It felt good. He smiled. He wanted to melt the ice inside him, swim in the red-hot embers until cozy warm again. He ran to the bank of the stream and marveled at the roaring forest fire on the ridge above. He laughed out loud and fell onto his back and the embers swirled. He made a red-hot fire angel with his arms and legs as he remembered doing as a child. The rest of his clothes caught fire and he laughed.

He lay there, naked and burning with a smile on his face. He was finally warm, his skin melting from his bones.

Across the ashen field a door opened in the fortress wall, unseen by those without the power to see it and out of the wall a woman appeared. She wore a solid white robe with hood. Under the hood were glowing emerald eyes and long full chestnut brown hair. The woman carried a staff in her right hand, a white staff with a green glowing emerald in a three-pronged setting on the top. She floated a foot off the ground as she approached the burning man.

She smiled. “Majster, daj mi toho muža! Robte ho silným!” She raised her staff and fire leaped from the embers beneath her feet and circled her staff. The flamed turned green. She aimed the roaring green flame at the burning man and sprayed him with it using her staff as a green flame thrower.

The man began to writhe and scream.

“Ó Veľký, tento muž bude počúvať ma a bude môj generál. Vedie moju armádu veriacich.” She bathed him with more green fire. She stopped and let the fire burn. Satisfied, she turned and moved away to watch. She did not have the luxury to leave the Pulling to chance. She had to guide the process however unnatural. Her needs were of paramount importance and time was short.

The Elves would be her undoing. After the one saw her on the beach, the other would seek her out and try to destroy her – if the little Elve knew how. It would learn soon. It would soon learn of the type of bubbles to take the power and the life from a witch. Orinja knew she must deal with them quickly, but she needed more allies. She had moved quickly on the one unsuspecting Elve. She hovered near, invisible, until they let down their guard and she got one. Orinja was proud of herself.

Orinja! Her name! It finally came to her. She found her name. She knew her power was growing. I am the mighty and powerful Orinja!

“Mmmmm, it is gooood, feminine yet strong!” she said to herself in her tongue as she watched her man change.

A noise brought her back to this new man, prone in front of her. His backbone snapped, and she laughed. His shoulder sockets came unhinged and he screamed again and she marveled at how broad he was becoming; how big this man would be. His manhood lengthened and thickened and she raised an eyebrow.

“What fun I will have with it,” she mumbled in her thick Eastern European language. Something raw, a base urge, primal, came up from her nether regions and it whispered in her mind. I’m the only one of my kind, she pondered.

“My loins speak to me as I watch him grow. I am in a state of desperate passion.” The need to reproduce was urgent.

Prosser lumbered out to her and stood with her watching the new beast-man take form. “She is nearly ready, my Queen,” he said. He saw her smiling at the new man and it angered him some. He was her man. She turned and glided back toward the fortress.

“I am Queen Orinja, and I will rule all this land soon,” she said as they traversed the burned meadow.

“Queen Orinja,” he repeated and lowered his head.

“I will tend our prisoner.” The entered the fortress and climbed a flight of circular stairs to a tower room. The wooden floor amplified their footsteps as they approached the raised gurney on which Meann lay, unconscious and naked. A glow globe above her washed her and the gurney with light. The witch pulled the ball of light down closer to Meann’s tummy and through the brightness she could see the pink embryo inside her. The tiny heart thumped strong in the ball of tissue.

“Prepare the hose and suction,” Orinja said. Prosser nodded. He went to a box and brought over a length of rubber hose and a bellows. He put together the apparatus and spread Meann’s legs.

“Not in there, not yet,” she said. “I need something else, first. I don’t want her dead yet, the procedure might kill her. Bring the suction around to her head.”

The witch rolled up a towel and put it behind Meann’s neck, jutting her chin up. She pulled her mouth open and propped it open by padding her jaws with small, rolled strips of cloth.

Meann’s eyes fluttered open. She frowned, looking up at the witch through watery eyes, and suddenly wide with fear. Anger flushed her face. She wiggled her fingers and she flung Orinja across the room and slammed her back against the wall, pinning her there. Meann wiggled her fingers again and her restraints popped off.

She put up her palm and put Prosser in a blue bubble.

She spun on the witch, waved her arms and hands in the air and a black bubble, the bubble Orinja had feared from the start, formed around her and she screamed in horror and clutched her head from pain. It drained her of magic, all magic. She became a normal woman inside the bubble. She crumpled to the floor of the black, transparent bubble.

Two big bubbles floated in the tower room, one blue, one black. Meann dug cloth out of her mouth. The lights went out. She was inside the sack again and she fought against it, kicking and pushing. Hageman, the newly made man, turned Meann upside down and tied the sack. She heard the witch.

“Come here, man, pull me from this black hell,” The newly-made, man-beast tromped to the black bubble and looked it over. He reached inside it and grabbed her arm.

“Pull my arm into the light,” she said. He did. As soon as light touched her arm, her power returned and the black bubble, and the blue one, burst into smithereens.

Outside the tower, outside the in the burning field, came a song. It was a singing so light and delicate, beautiful in its simplicity even the man-beasts smiled. The witch smiled.

“Where is the pretty music coming from?” the witch asked.

Inside the rough burlap sack, Meann sang with the music, harmonizing. Their voices harmonized perfectly, delicately, and delightfully. They grew confident in their song and opened their mouths wide and sang from their hearts!

The song brought rain! Enchanted healing rain! Outside, Kaitee turned her head to the sky and smiled as she sang. The enchanted rain extinguished the high dome of the witch’s wards like blowing out tiny match fires. As it fell, it smacked and spattered ash, and embers hissed and steamed. It sprinkled at first, rained harder, and increased to a downpour drenching the entire burned valley. Steam rose everywhere. In the tower, panic spread across the witch’s face.

“Noooooo!” she said. She ran down the spiral staircase, but stopped, frozen with fear. “Prosser, Hageman! Get out there and kill the Elve!”

They ran past her down the steps. Prosser bolted out the door first. Prosser stopped in his tracks. He looked down at his torso and two huge black jaws clamped down on him, two yellow eyes full of malice glared up at him. King snatched him off the ground and shook him, tearing out ribs and innards. King slung him down dead and turned on Hageman, but was too late. Hageman was already in a blue bubble.

The song continued, ever louder and the rain poured down ever stronger.

Above them she screamed. The witch opened a window high in her tower and took flight out of it, arms splayed wide with her staff in front. A few yards from the tower, she disappeared. The two Elves ended their song and the rain stopped. The meadow was a thick mush of steamy ash and water.

Kaitee ran inside, up the steps, and into tower to the sack. She flipped out her obsidian knife and freed her mate and lover. They embraced, kissed, and embraced more. Pieces began to break off the tower in sticks and fly away.

“Come, my love. The fortress is crumbling around us. We must hurry.”

“Ye, Kaitee, but I will take back what she took from me.” Meann held out her left hand and her obsidian knife and sheath appeared in it as well as her two-piece outfit. “Now we can go.”

They ran down the stairs and out the door.

“Shin-shin!” Meann said, and hugged King.

“Oh, good grief,” King said. They laughed, and he licked her face with a wide tongue. She closed her eyes and let him lick. He turned his head as Meann quickly donned her clothes. They back-pedaled and watched the fortress dismantle itself. The walls returned as sticks and limbs to the burned forest.

“This burned and blighted land will heal now by the enchanted rain. In time, it will grow anew,” Kaitee said. They both turned in the pouring rain and hugged the massive black Dire Wolf. The air swirled around them and he brought them home, a distance of two hundred and twenty miles.

That night, after a long warm bath together in their new lavatory in their bedroom, the two lay on the stone outcropping overlooking the Enchanted Meadow. Two hikers came over the ridge in the dark with flashlights. Like all humans they made no effort to stay quiet. They were women, and they panted heavily as they talked coming down the east ridge into the valley. Steam rose from them from the exertion of the hike. They settled on bank, dropping their packs.

One of the women was taller than the other, or maybe she was normal and the other one petite. Kaitee and Meann did not know. Their curiosity piqued, they left the outcropping and backtracked to the top of the north ridge and circled the couple, stealthily moving down the slope to their front, coming within yards of them without detection.

The two women lay on the grass and were soon asleep. Tani came from her cottage to a place in the Meadow near them, sat on her hoofs, and began playing a tune on her flute. Kaitee and Meann hopped the creek and joined her. They sat beside her and waited, soon the two Fairies, Beezip and Feedleboo came and rested on Tani’s shoulders. She smiled at them and continued to play.

During the night, the two women undressed, as expected, and soon they began to moan. Nothing so far was out of the ordinary during this Pulling. The women stretched and screamed. Their bodies shrank, backs broke, and they screamed more. Still, nothing extraordinary. It was odd to the Elves to think of this wonderous thing, this terrible physical and mental changing, as a normal occurrence.

They watched the women transform. It was both awful and awe inspiring. Near the end, Kaitee and Meann jumped and ran to the two women. They could not believe what they saw. The two long-eared women got to their knees and stood, wobbly at first, but they stood. Kaitee and Meann were both speechless and breathless. Before them were two more Elves!

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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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