Arising

Photo by ardelfin at morgueFile.com

Photo by ardelfin at morgueFile.com

Melody stamped and whinnied, her breath coming in short gasps after our gallop. My father’s armor is a loose fit, but beholding the stone behemoths as they wade through the sea and the wooden ships sailing on the air, I am thankful for its protection. What would the king say about his only daughter going as ambassador to these strangers without consent? Would these outsiders accept my presence?

My heart begins the rhythm of retreat and the clattering of metal echoes as I fight to control my shaking body. When I again am still I become aware these impossible giants moved without sound! As my ears strain to detect even a trace of reverberation, I hear something. Melodic, whimsical strains swirl around me.

For a moment I think it is some ode to their homeland, but no, it is too complex for one song, too many levels for even my father’s musicians to comprehend. Suddenly I understand. The cadence and urgency behind their tones reminds me of my father’s cry to arms. High above me, beings I can’t see are speaking to one another. Calling out orders and readying for something, a battle?

A prayer flies from my heart. Our own army was badly wounded putting down the rebellion in the outer lands of Altrour. This new threat is far more than it had faced when whole. A war with these beings would end before it began, and my homeland would not be victorious—No! This can not happen. There has to be something to be done! My grip tightens on my father’s spear. If I am going to prove my ability to one day rule this kingdom I can’t back away in times of uncertainty. I will find some way for us to fight.

In the distance to the east is the kingdom of Naltra. A two day’s gallop away, and another three until I would return with reinforcements. Could our army hold them until then?

I turn Melody toward the setting sun and urge her into the forest of Pern. The air beneath the trees is thick with the steam of hidden springs and I fight to hold my position on her back as my vision begins to blur. The heat envelops me and radiates within the armor. I slow Melody to a trot and somehow manage to remove the helmet. I’m loathed to stop, but I halt her, extricating myself from the rest of the armor and hiding it. I’ll need more than the chainmail I wear for the battle that awaits my return.

For endless hours my ears are assaulted by the music of the enemy. Were it not for the forest landmarks I pass and the shifting of the moonlight, I’d think I’d not distanced myself from the shore at all. Are they following me? How could they have seen me? Am I drawing them away from Altrour? As I continue on I am certain their music is somehow becoming louder, but I’ve left my enemy behind.

When I leave the forest I stop at a stream and collapse into the shallow water as Melody takes a drink. The chill revives my spirit. I dare not give us more than an hour’s rest. I walk Melody to keep her muscles loose before allowing her to stop and graze while I search for the sweet crin berries my tutors have shown me to eat.

The rest of our journey is much of the same, my heart fearing the battle I know has begun when I hear the music stop. In the light of the setting sun I approach Clorn, the capital of Naltra. As Melody and I canter through the city’s cobblestone streets the colors of my father’s kingdom draw hatred. When I reach the castle the guards hail me.

“What business do you have here, princess?”

“I desire to speak with his highness.”

A guard pulls me to the ground, searching me for weapons before escorting me to the ornate inner chamber of the castle.

I curtsy with all the grace chain-mesh will allow. “Your highness.”

“Why,” a smile curves beneath his thick white mustache, “should I help you?”

“Beg pardon, majesty?”

“I desire honesty, princess. I am aware of the plight your people face. What will you give me for aid?” His eyes speak in silence.

“My father does not know I’m here.” My legs begin to shake. “I cannot consent to marriage without my king’s approval.” I square my shoulders and inwardly beg my father’s forgiveness. “If you will help my kingdom, my father will consent to your terms.”

His twisted teeth show in full, yellowed from years drinking. He comes to me with open arms and embraces me in the stench of the stren he imbibes to numb his mind. “If my son approves of you, my help you will have. Guard! Bring Harcue to us.”

A few moments later the prince strides in and his smile reveals the twisted teeth of his father. He carries two bottles of stren.

“In thanks for your majesty’s great gift.” He hands the king the bottles and bows.

“Ready our troops to aid Altrour!” The king nods to Harcue and leaves us alone, wandering off to enjoy his liquor.

The prince smiles. “I knew you would come.”

“If my kingdom requires aid, I will do what I must.”

“I counted on it, princess.” He caresses my cheek.

“My king will appreciate your aid.” I say, resisting the urge to recoil. “I’m sure he will approve of our marriage.” I feel my heart twist.

Harcue studies me. “Will you ever learn to love me, princess?”

“I will always be grateful for your help. Together we will bring peace to our lands.”

“My plan exactly, Leighahna.” His smile widens. “It’s a pity our fathers will not live to see our wedding.”

I frown, stepping back. “What do you mean?”

“I am the head of my father’s weapons research.” He bows deeply. “Who else, but Naltra, could orchestrate such a mighty attack?”

 

Thank you so much for reading! Is there anything you’d like to ask Princess Leighahna? If so, leave your question in a comment below and you might just get your question asked and answered in my next character interview!(UPDATE! Click the link at the very bottom to read my interview with Princess Leighahna!)

This story is one offering in this weeks selection of Blah Buster short stories on When Readers Write. This week’s theme is Moments of Courage. To read  more, go to http://www.whenreaderswrite.com

I originally started this story in response to a story challenge posted on The Art of Writing. To see the post that started my journey into the world of fantasy writing, go to http://tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/story-challenge-of-the-week-143/

Tweet: http://ctt.ec/Up268+

 

Princess Leighahna’s interview: https://justinaluther.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/ten-questions-for-a-fictional-character-princess-leighahna-of-arising/

 

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43 Responses to Arising

  1. tmastgrave says:

    I like the characterization in this. Harcue seems like a bastard. The writing overall is also good. The sentences flow very well. A lot of it seems a little too easy though. The twist at the end kind of explains this, but it still seems like she would know something is off as soon as the guard just leads her straight in to see the king with no wait, no questions, etc. Especially since, from the tone of the town, it doesn’t seem like Naltra and her own country are on particularly good terms. I think this could work if she noticed though. You might introduce an element of her suspicion over the easy entrance, and then have that deepen throughout the meeting with the king. I also feel like I’m missing a lot of background, though that isn’t surprising in a story this short. I’m assuming that Naltra is an opposed nation, but that the two nations are at peace? That Harcue has wanted to have her as his own for some time? I’m curious whether Harcue is more interested in having her, or in having a legitimate claim to the throne of her country? Also, is he telling her that he’s going to off their parents within earshot of his father?

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  2. Ooh!! I love this short story! My question for Princess Leighahna is: Why did she feel that she had to go seek aid for her kingdom in secret?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was really great. Your prose is lovely 😀 It is hard to pick out any one line that is my favorite because the whole thing was written so well. I didn’t expect the ending. That was a neat twist. You should definitely enter some of these in a literary publication. I think you have a good chance of being published!

    The one thing that I was iffy about were all of the questions. This is a stylistic issue, and I don’t like them. One or two in 1,000 words would be fine, but there were six, and they were close together. It’s not something you necessarily have to change. I’m just not fond of it. I’m not fond of semi-colons either XD

    I guess I’m curious if there is any guy that the protagonist loves. Love triangles are cliché, but they are used so often for a reason XD

    Like

    • Thank you so much for your wonderfully kind words! I would love to published somewhere, but I guess I’ve been to timid/confused to try. So many publications tell you not to submit unless you’ve been published elsewhere!
      Thank you for bringing the questions to my attention. I do tend to write questions in line from time to time, but I suppose that’s because of the way my own mind works. I’ll look into if it really is necessary to the story next time. In this instance I meant for her rapid questions to convey her mood.
      I’ll be sure to ‘ask’ her if she’s interested in anyone in my interview.

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    • Princess Leighahna’s interview is now posted.

      Like

  4. Martha Hammonds says:

    wow! loved this!

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  5. that sounds like a suitor from hell! Great piece Justina. fantastic story till now.

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  6. katherinejlegry says:

    Well, I could give you an assortment of technical advice should you be interested. I’ve helped edit fiction and poetry for years and where my own creative writing still needs a lot of work from my point of view, I have a pretty good talent for helping others with what stands out as potential trouble in their work… I won’t bog you down however… with a real story critique… which would involve a back and forth with you and a lot of questions so you can hear how it sounds, as well as a list of what was awkward. I am serious in “writing workshop” when quite often people feel contented with their stories and desire only praise. I don’t think I’m “mean” when I give feedback, but I am very honest and that can feel savage to a writer’s ego. So, that being said, I will approach you as a reader and not as an “editor”… and I hope that this short story is not done, and that this daughter under her typical king father, promised to wed for the peace of yet another kingdom in history manages to rise up and out of the traditional battles and wage war on behalf of her own female powers! May she grow into her father’s armor and make it her own and say to hell with marrying yellow toothed alcoholics! 🙂 Keep writing Justina! You have a passion for it and so should pursue that whole heartedly. I liked the cerebral nature of your first person narrative and felt it had a rhythmic sense as she rode on a horse named Melody. That effect was really kind of sweet. Thanks again for coming by my blog the other day. All my best. -KJ

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    • I thank you for your comment. This while the ‘short story’ is done, the princess’s story is not. I will post an interview with her character next week. A writing mentor of mine encouraged me to join critique groups, so I suppose now would be as good a time as any for a critique, as long as I don’t have to pay, that’s not in the budget. I’m fine with critiques as long as they are professional and directed toward the work and not myself. I appreciate your not offering editorial advice until it is solicited. This shows a great deal of grace and respect, so for that I am thankful. Would there be a way for us not to post the critique in the comments, though? I’d rather not everyone see it. ha

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Sometimes I’ve jumped in and offered my critique Justina… and probably lacked grace entirely… although I try to be respectful… I can be brusque at times. I even often allow misunderstandings as misperceptions of me have manifested… but each situation is different. My sincerity, however will not vary, and you can trust that I will be as clear as possible and also abide by your wishes on your blog and in critique as we are on your turf. I will not go after a writer personally. It’s always about the work. Writing should express without censorship and so those voices should be seen from an objective and not a subjective vantage. I am not blogging to make money off of the young people, so when I offer critique it is because I think you deserve real feedback as a writer. By allowing me this dialogue about writing, you are teaching me about writing too. As I told you on my blog, I literally read 300 some pages of my past work which can only be called CRAP and which assured me that I am far from being the writer I want to be. But…It’s good to be able to let go of that much work, actually. So, my advice in the end, should only be something you consider and nothing in stone. I also break a lot of “writing rules” on purpose in my own work. So in our process I will let you know what I hear and I will be as constructive as possible… without telling you “how” to write. I can’t tell you “how”… I can only be a listener and tell you where I get stuck or stalled. I will be able to point out what doesn’t seem clear enough and I can tell you if there are redundancies to tighten a sentence. If this interests you, I’m certainly open to it. And if at any point this process doesn’t suit your needs, we can agree to stop amicably. I will not take that personally and you won’t owe me for the time. I might not be the fastest response, but I will be thorough. I have a busy schedule, but I like meaningful writing discussions and “editing” or critiquing opportunities. I heard most writers will say read, read, read… to become a better writer. Bird by Bird is a pretty good book on the writing process by Anne Lamott, that might interest you if you have not already read it. My email for fiction/&art is for your purposes of privacy. 🙂 You are already a brave writer for being so open to workshop and perhaps to my direct manner! Contact me at your convenience and or best wishes on your writing path. -KJ

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      • Thank you so much! I will try to contact you soon. Your critiquing style sounds exactly like what I handle fairly well. Is there a charge for this critiquing?

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Sorry if my last response wasn’t clear on the “not making money on young people” So that’s…Nope. No charge for critique. This would be a simple writer feedback session free of charge. If what you share ends up being more work than I can take on in my schedule I’d let you know… but I do this once in a while with all levels and ages of writer-people.
        If you ever embark on a professional editor you can prepare to pay about $1000.00 (U.S. dollars) for a novel length manuscript. (This is a price quote from another aspiring writer that I read stories for and that has shared experiences along the way to publishing). Anyhow, I look forward to future stories and discussions with you. 🙂 -KJ

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      • Thanks for the clarification. I’ll be emailing you as soon as I can.

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    • Princess Leighahna’s interview is now posted. (Sorry I haven’t emailed you yet. I’ve been insanely busy.)

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Thanks for letting me know! I look forward to reading your new work very soon. No worries on not emailing. There is no rush and it’s only if you end up wanting to. I’ve been busy too and simply able to work on some blogging in between plumbers that are bidding on my latest plumbing problems. I’ve decided I should write a series of plumber stories because, Justina… A good plumber is hard to find! 🙂 Anyhow, happy writing to you! And best of luck with your busy schedule.

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      • Thank you! Best of luck with your plumbing.

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Thank you too. I’ll need it. 🙂

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Hi Justina. Hey I wondered if you could edit/remove my email address from my comment? You can still use it if you ever need to, but I’m getting a few “submissions” for writing from other people. I’m not ready for a full on writers-group-critique-onslaught and shouldn’t set myself up for that kind of work among hopefuls. Regrettably,I just don’t have the time. 🙂 I’m actually reconsidering my own blog altogether and what works I might prefer to present if any….
        Thank you! And on that note, best to you and your writing endeavors always. -KJ

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      • Taken care of! I’d still like to work together at some point, but I’ve been just as swamped. All the best to you and your work

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      • katherinejlegry says:

        Thank you.
        I was actually honored people considered me for reading with their work which can be a vulnerable and precious feeling, so I hope people understand I am not really rejecting anyone, I’m just not in a position at this time to keep up with so much extra reading.
        Certainly you and I can connect in future regarding your work if you make it out of your proverbial work load swamp. 🙂 I’ll be interested if and when the time is right.

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      • Thank you. I really appreciate that!

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  7. I finally found some time to come online and read your blog and I’m not disappointed! This is brilliant, you are a very skilled writer. I toppled into the story, immediately becoming immersed in it and its characters.
    I’d love it if you could give me some tips on my own writing, because I really enjoyed your writing style.
    Keep up the good work, and I hope to read some continuation of this story soon!

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Lucyhannah! You are very kind. I have a follow-up interview with Princess Leighahna if you’re interested. It just posted today. I’m always happy to help a fellow writer so I’ll stop by your blog tomorrow. Thank you very much for the follow. I’m trying to build a readership for when I publish the novel I’m working on, so everyone counts!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. mudpilewood says:

    A neat story. I got pulled into it. I liked Princess Leighahna. I would love to see a map of their kingdoms. The only suggestion I have is you get her to use her sense’s a little more: the offensive smell of Harcue might make us pity her more and hate him deeper, the feel of his rough hand on her soft skin,.. etc.
    But I will be back for more.
    Maria

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Callie Smith says:

    Intrigue…I like it! Also, I like the concept of the musical “call to arms” by the giants. Creative and eerie.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog.

    Like

    • You’re welcome. I like your work.
      Thank you. (-: i always try to write in a way that’s a little different. I have a follow-up character interview with Princess Leighahna, if you’re interested. It’s posted on my blog as well. Thanks so much for visiting, commenting, and reading.

      Like

  10. S.C. Hickman says:

    Looks like so many people have commented on the storyline already. I think my only thought is that in High Fantasy I love the detail descriptions of the landscapes, the people, the cities, villages; their habits, how they work, love, play…. the things that make it come alive like a an old Flemish painting I which the whole life of the village is on display with all the intricate details. I remember Tolkien once describing that for him the landscape was the story, the tale was an afterthought… for him it was the language of describing the scenery that became a character in itself.

    Either way I enjoyed your story so far!

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