The Ocean’s Grave

The sea swelled in a tunneling wake, then went still. Tristinia peered into the dark, deep blue with her crew. She didn’t like the stillness. She ran to the ropes connected to the main mast. Climbing one of them, she bellowed the oarsmen to turn the boat around and backward, quickly. In the wood and ropes, she felt the vibrations from the sea. “ROW!” She ordered. “ROW FAST! ROW HARD!”

 

A great wave swept them to the side as a giant slimy eel like body, coupled with a head of ugly teeth shot the ocean surface. Spray showered the deck timbers. The yells of horror at the creature rang in her ears. The serpent let out a deep rumbling, gargling hiss. Its body was lined with lights that twinkled like jewels in a night sky that it probably used to navigate the darkness where it lived, even though it was broad daylight. She focused on its head that sported antennae much like a snail. It reared back.

 

The Tiennrod from the deck below caught the wild glint in her eyes. “NOOOO!” He yelled. Tristinia severed the rope with her sword, which caught the breeze, carrying her forward and upward toward the serpents head. Letting go she flew right toward the creature with its ugly mouth gaping. She withdrew her other sword. Swiping she dug her blade in its eye. Digging her other into its flesh as it recoiled from striking, flailing in pain. For a moment she was doused with blood, dark and thick, making it hard to hold on to her weapons. Withdrawing one as the creature crashed into the water.

 

She felt the cleansing cold galvanize her. The beast was diving. She needed to kill it, before it attacked or dove, sending her to her death. She didn’t have time to find its heart, so she stabbed its head again, alternating swords, stabbing as she went, discouraging it from taking them further down. The dim blue filled with roiling bubbles.

 

She stabbed again and again, releasing one sword, digging in with the other, working round to the throat. She felt her ears pressured as water seeped in her mouth. Her eyes so only bubbles and the wrinkled blueish green gray of her opponent and the light of the surface momentarily before things darkened in the water thick with blood.

 

Underwater, she could feel the vibrations of her ship as well as the creature’s weaker movements as she had stabbed its throat. It sagged below, dragging her with it. Withdrawing her sword, she pulled back just in time. The dying head whirled around to face her in the swirls of red. With one last effort, she knocked out a few teeth with her weapon as its face came toward her. She saw the light die from its eyes as it descended and its dark body twinkled no more. With slowing effort, she grabbed two of the long teeth, sticking them securely in her belt and sheathed her sword. Her brain realized she wasn’t able to move but she couldn’t act on that realization. Tristinia felt her lungs descend and gravity’s gentle pull on her body as if she were falling asleep.

 

Above, on ship, the vikings saw the water boil and redden. Several times the serpentine body emerged from the water in its death throws, spattering the ships with blood. Then the sea stilled to reduced ripples. Tiennrod searched, panic strickened, but didn’t see her emerge. He dove into the ocean. Swimming downward, he looked around. A short distance he saw her, limbs akimbo slowly drifting down. As fast as he could he began covering the distance. The beast lashed out in one last attempt to strike at its foe catching Tiennrod’s arm. He twisted her in the water out of the way as the giant head streamed past with blood clouding visibility. Its hateful eyes glowing venomous purple light. Tristinia let out a stream of bubbles in a scream of terror as it sank pulling Tiennrod down with it. She grabbed his shirt with both hands, shaking her head. Water filling her lungs to bursting. “NOOOOOOOO.”

 

One could barely hear her neath the surface. She swam upward with all she had but felt herself as well being pulled down. Tiennrod pushed her with his good arm away from himself toward the golden lit blue. She could not cry in her watery environs. Her mind was slowing at this depth. She would NOT watch him disappear into darkness. She grabbed his dagger from his boot and sawed at his arm lodged in the serpent’s mouth. Its eyes were now flat and turned inside. She felt Teinnrod in pain, felt him grip her arm. She thought her arm would be crushed and heard the final crack of release as his bones separated.

 

Tiennrod went limp. Letting go of the dagger, she swam toward the surface where the sun danced among blue ripples. Air. She thought. Air. Each kick and stroke seemed heavier. No. She had to get them both up. She saw one of the vikings who had jumped in to look for them. The last thing she remembered before all color faded was someone swimming downward to them.He grabbed her shirt, pulling her upward, gasping as he emerged, tasting sweet air. He dragged her limp and sodden form. She wasn’t breathing.

 

The ship had turned toward them broadside. Vikings lowered rope. Grabbing it and twisting it round his wrist, Tiennrod’s brother by choice scaled the side of the ship while the others hauled him aboard. His people helped him as he tumbled over the railing, releasing his precious cargo onto the deck. Pale and limp and wet she lay next to Teinnrod. Taking her head in his hands, calling her name. An elder of the crew rushed over, trying to pump the water from their queen’s lungs by pushing down with both hands on her chest. After several attempts with a hushed crowd gathered round their leader, Tristinia coughed and sputtered sea water. Still weak and near deaf from so long in the water, she felt Tiennrod beside her, limp and breathing shallowly.

 

She turned over, cupping his face in her hands to elevate his head to breathe easier as she still coughed up ocean water. She looked into his kind and relieved face and the admiration of her crew. He couldn’t speak, but she could see everything he said in his eyes. Her eyes welled up in tears. Even as he was passing away, he squeezed her hand and smiled his eyes dancing in admiration. She was beautiful. Tristinia saw the spark she had come to love so well fade like a torch flicker and slowly fade in the wind. She whimpered, first in disbelief, silent in shock, her hand which was not holding him, still clutching his cold hand. She shivered. Held her husband to her. “Tiennrod?” she said softly. “TIENROOOOD!” She screamed. “TIENNROOOOOD!” Her body lurched with sobs and she wept, holding him, his name now a legend carried on the wind across the vast blue waters as she screamed it, echoing into the vastness. Her crew took off their helms, those who wore them and silently stood in mourning of the loss of their king.

A Moment Of Peace

Note sat inside her cowl as the warmer breezes from the sea sprang upon the shore where she stood of her homeland. Nothing was as she had thought it would be. Nothing was as she imagined nor hoped. She appraised her hands. Her nails were not long and feminine but stubby and her fingers were calloused from her sword though they still possessed some softness. Her crown felt heavy on her head somehow. She felt note peck her on the cheek in his own way telling her to cheer up. She smiled a smile with weary eyes near tears and a wan smile. she stroked note under his chinned beak the way he liked. He kept balance while she picked up something blobby and squishy and jiggly buried in the sand. Wincing at the sting it gave off despite her toughened hands, she drew back her arm he was not perched upon and

threw the object into the ocean, heaving it forward with silent determination. She did this again and again until a little area of the tide line looked churned up but devoid of its buried occupants. It was as if it was something she needed to do. She looked out at the waves rolling in. She contemplated all the lives that had become intertwined with hers, she let herself close her eyes in comfort of the sea’s familiar melody, always the same and let her hands down in the frigid surf cleansing her hands as her boots got soaked, feeling the water dance and pull away. She enjoyed the sanctimonious moments. She was completely alone. There was no danger. Just song of nature, comfort, dance and healing. She sighed a relieved sigh releasing the heaviness of her heart and absorbing beauty, allowing herself to be absolved in the vastness’s protective spherical arms with no thought whatsoever, just attentiveness of the rare calm around her. She was so weary of being untrusted. Here, nature not only trusted but guarded her. She was so tired of the men she had come to love and who had so briefly loved her. None of them stayed. Many times had she asked herself improvements on her own character or reasoned they were not ready or not the one. She longed for something she did not know the taste of but hoped it existed all the same, as time escaped her till it seemed all she would ever taste in romance was its bitter brevity whilst everyone she had ever known knew its longevity.

 

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Tristinia drempt but her dreams seemed so real as if she were living them.  She felt the darkness and emptiness. She braced herself against  the oncoming enemy as they smacked into her shield driving her back inch by inch only to disappear. She pressed onward, straining through them. As if willing herself to dance, she glanced out of their way at the last second, dancing like water slicing the enemy with the edges of her shield and whirling her sword. When would this nightmare be over? Would there be any quiet in her life? Age’s claws seemed to pull her back and down, no matter how she hacked. She sat up, gasping and in cold sweat in the forest, still and peaceful. She. She was the being to keep this peace. This beauty. Far from friends and close to the foe inside and out. She looked to heaven with pleading and weary eyes.

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Tristinia’s eyes fluttered open. It was light. She did not know what day it was, nor how long of it she had slept. Her appetite had left her. She had tasted lips, the sweetness of love, now all she felt was the wound in her back from the dagger he had plunged into her and soft river water washing it away. The sky was cloudless and cool. No longer summer, the bite of the cold went deeper into her bones even though it was still daylight. She shivered. Her hands were blue and red from cold and matted with blood. She wondered if she wanted to let the cold take her away from the world.

She breathed a heavy breath, sending steamy fog into the air from her nostrils. Frost had condensed on her nostrils. She stiffly rolled over crying out as she did. She slowly and stiffly reached down to her side. Amidst her ragged breathing, she was relieved. She still had her sword. She rebuked her anger and kept it in check, tasting bitter things upon her heart. She screamed. She screamed in pain, in agony and anger and loneliness, ache emptiness. She had truly loved him, let him see what no other man had seen. Now she never wanted to let any man see what he had had the privilege of knowing, not even him, knowing full well she would be haunted by knowing love that had been showered on her with kisses and warm embrace. Now, the cold sought to crush her in its own embrace. With tears steaming down her pale pale face, she unsheathed her sword.

Crying ragged sobs of loneliness and grunting with pain in her exertion, she slid the sword out of its scabbard and put it in front of her. Hoisting herself up, using it as a lever, she got to her knees. Cold and dampness caressed her spine and skull with freezing fingers. Tristinia shoved the sword into the earth, placed both hands, one on either side of the hilt and with all her strength, stood. The wound in her felt like heat and cold all at once and she screamed out as more hot tears ran down her cheeks even though her heart felt frozen. In the quiet expanse some startled quail birds fluttered from their hiding place. Sodden but not about to undress herself to the elements or any other eyes watching, she used her sword as a walking stick, walking stiffly and cold into the forest nearby to look for some wood. She tried to gather up branches but fell several times, nearly cutting herself on her own sword.

She crawled around on all fours, sweeping the sticks and stones she found nearby on the forest floor into a pile and put the rocks around it. Striking a flint, the tinder yielded to a small curl of smoke. Weary eyed and desperate and concentrated, she willed the flame with her hope and gentle, ever so gentle breath, trying to keep patience, fire! She blinked a relieved blink. She was wounded, cold and wet but she would soon have warmth. Her teeth chattered and she yawned. her hands shook but the small flame grew and spread and warmth with its friendly nature calmed her fingertips, up into her palms and her cheeks. She cried silently in relief. she gathered more branches, hacking some off trees nearby and though her back and side ached and needed tending and care, she first needed fire for warmth. soon the fire was larger and it smiled as it worked its way through the dampened clothing, drying away the cruelty, the wet, the cold deeper and deeper into her chest and legs and arms and head.

She smiled a tearful grateful smile at the fire and thanked the Deity as tears of rejection poured down her face. She hated being alone. Being now someone with a secret. She had not gone all the way but had known wonders and pleasure, and given pleasure and love in return. She looked around at the icicles hanging from the trees and thought how her dreams like icicles had shattered and melted like the ice and snow. Her muscles and bones were beginning to age. She was not the young fiery warrioress she used to be. Days and years had gone by. She was now a myth just like the others that were disappearing from the world that was changing to a new and rotten and unbelieving, unimaginative age she did not wish to live in and found no part.

Now on top of everything, the man she had started to get to know and love had declared her a liar, a cheat, and did not even bother to find out the truth of who she was. Tears melted from the fire’s warmth. Her eyes stared into the flames in the gathering dusk flooded with tears and halls of beautiful precious memories. Tired and hungry, she took off her clothing and placed it a safe distance from any stray spark. She took her two looking glasses to check her wound. It wasn’t as deep as it felt. The dagger had just scraped her.

Not being able to stitch it as it was on her back, she took up her sword, kneeling, taking several deep preparing breathes as she dipped her sword blade in the fire for just long enough to get it very hot swung it around her shoulder and pressed the flat of the hot blade against her back. She let out the scream like that of a wildcat or an eagle, but kept the blade firm as she fell, placing it back on there. Her naked skin burned and boiled blood and singed but the heat would cleanse it. Fortunately no puss. she fell back in the snow, shocking herself again, the breath driven from her. She scrambled back to the fire and repeated the action several times. She pulled the other clean outfit she had taken from her wet satchel to put on, including a cloak, nice and warm.

She hadn’t the strength to find food at the moment, though her belly rumbled with hunger. She huddled as near as she dared to the fire to sleep for a while. Her dozy eyes dry and soul weary and lonesome followed sleepily the dance of the element that was keeping her alive as she melted like the snow into unconsciousness once again in the vastness alone with no family, no friends, and now no love except the mercy of the fire keeping her warm. Her dreams and hopes drifted like the smoke to the night sky to somewhere above where maybe the Deity would still grant some beautiful longer lasting things she could not right now imagine, feel or know.

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Over the following days, Tristinia regained strength. The night was warm next to the fire, but her heart felt a roil. Her dreams were plagued. She recalled the sweetness of her name upon his lips, the gentleness of his tongue, the comfort of his arms as he held her. Visions flashed and danced through her dreams, never truly touching her, mocking her, not staying, no matter how she cried and groped to hold on. The warmth of such and the fire keeping her body from the winter tortured her poor heart. Yet she had no one to blame. And yet love was not a mistake. The morning chill awoke her as the fire had died. The words “you are my queen.” echoed in her lonely soul. For a moment, she had truly been a queen. Not a self proclaimed queen. Not a queen of royal blood or birthright, but what she had hoped and desired most, a queen of the heart of someone special and to have a king who had professed at least she was unlike any woman he had known.

She crawled that day to back to the river and caught some fish. The blood of women was with her so after that, she only found the strength to go back to camp, hang the fish, gather close by branches and keep the fire going. For several days she stayed there, recollecting, reflecting, resting, eating, keeping the fire. In a daze, she just sat watching the fire, not caring whether she lived nor died out here. How could her head and shoulders feel so heavy now that she was crown-less, a nobody. She had coin in her purse from her ancestry and faraway relatives, but her hopes and prayers for the reuniting of her tribe had been dashed. Time had taken so much. And time would only take more. For a brief time, time had given her itself and love and knowledge and something precious, but a monster she, the dragon fighter, the conqueror of evil, a warrioress could not defeat had taken residence in the heart of her king whom she desired, adored and loved and longed to serve.

She imagined going back to the bridge she had narrowly escaped from as he had put it to flame. Her resigned and lonely heart, used to being a lone wanderer as now she had become prayed to the Diety not knowing what lay ahead but prayed her king would somehow someday come back to her. She had given a precious gift and gifts, she had been raised, were never demanded return. For a long time the third day or so, she stared at where she had come from in the wan warmth of the winter sun through the trees, heavy-hearted with grief and ache, she realized she could not sit here. She could not love the monster her beloved had taken in. She cried in the forest alone with only the trees as witness of her curled up into a ball praying healing words that hung on the frosty air like fog. “All I have dreamed has come to ruin and all I hoped for goes un-promised or is snatched. Tristinia cried to the Deity she had known.

“Why had she been born? Born to this life, if one could call it life, to people around her who did not change and to whom she made or did not see that she made any difference, so why had she been born? Why had she been born who she was?”

Someone else may have decided to take back their own life and end existence and yet she was cursed it felt though people called the gifts she had blessings, the will to fight, to be a sword, justice, gentleness, kindness? her back hurt, her heart ached beyond imagination and the one who had felt her pain and known her heart’s sweetness could now not feel her. She was alone in the snow and the woods in a land somewhere where she was not a queen, she had no one around who really took time to know her.

Breathing deeply, she rose and gathered her things, putting the fire out and trying her best to snuff her heart’s flame, she stepped onward through the trees into the unknown and alone, like she was used to, not knowing when she might leave this lonesome life, if spring would ever come or she would know longer summers and springs. Knowing she did not want to know or be touched again but by her king if he would ever come again for her and maybe just maybe time wouldn’t be so cruel to her in the future. She longed for her home she had been promised by those whose faith seemed surer than her own of the truth of a home where time did not exist and existence was with the Kind and Wonderful Deity full of things she could not even imagine so wonderful. That at least gave her steps some strength as she journeyed on to find a town where she might find a little place for herself to work and have a roof over her head and live simply and contentedly. No kingdom, no tribe, no king. Be a no body. Cold air filled her lungs as she breathed in and trod on.

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Tristinia had come upon a small village and in the week following found shelter in the upper room of a two story building. She sat listlessly, alone on the meager furnishing. Her eyes were glazed dully and glassy fixated on travelling to moments she wished to hold on to and from those hungry and tired windows welled up tears fell unbidden down her lovely though weary countenance. The sounds outside her dwelling changed hour after hour. Hustle bustle of the town folk in the streets below selling goods or calling out to a familiar face, making her aware painfully of the familiar face she longed to see. The daylight slipped away, as did the noises of life, as evening, like the snow, fell to blanket emotion in darkness. Tristinia rose from her seat, deciding a walk might do her some good. She donned her forest green velvet cape around her and descended the walnut marbled steps. Reaching the bottom, she turned to head toward the forest. She stopped in shock. Her king was running from the woods in full haste at the town, alone. No crown donned his head except his lengthy wheat-gold locks. She froze, rooted to the spot, unsure whether to run to him or from him. Trembling, she stayed. He advanced up the road, walking to her with an apprehensive look upon his face, gentle. As they spoke, she saw beyond her own painful perspective and fear and assumption and saw that he was as well. Her heart doubled over within her at how much pain she had caused him. Her eyes squeezed shut. She had no words. She covered her mouth with her hands, afraid of the power of her voice and not wanting whatever monster had sought to come between them get hold of her tongue, even though she wanted to let out all the emotion, embrace him, kiss him, all she could do was stand there and feel awful, crushed in her own desire’s wooden, icy, perilizing grip. She saw him take a step forward. He put his arms round her and her heart blossomed and warmed to be in his embrace. The wood, the fear, the paralyzation melted away. She moved her hands from her face to round to his back and let the warmth of her soul entwine with his. No man had ever come for her, chased her. She had never felt so special. That night, the fire crackled in the hearth as she held him gently close to her, her heart crying tears like a fountain and her silent heart, breaking the dam like water, longing with gratitude to hold him so tight, to squeeze him, to let him know how wonderful a king she had beside her.

The Palace Of The SeaHawk

Tristinia turned the ship toward the palace by the seashore. It had a enormously wide staircase that acted as a docking place for seafarers. On either side of this staircase stood each a massive twin marble hewn statue of a seahawk, wings outspread, beak open and feathers frowning over its eyes in ferocity as it outstretched its claws to comers. Fighting had erupted on board. The opposing ship positioned threateningly. Enemies came aboard, crawling like insects. Clanking of metal ensued as blades crossed and sung their deadly symphony. She had made it to a place where she knew family once more. Not just someone who acted and treated. But who was bound by blood. Her comrades and herself fought bravely. The enemy threw their swords which whooshed by her as she  flew through the air on rope, using movement to her advantage. Suddenly, one of the men had her champion with his blade to her throat. For a moment, her others stood still, the blood draining from their faces, but Triss took full advantage. She twisted the rope to her leg deftly notching an arrow to her bow, and let it loose. The arrow struck him through the shoulder straight into his heart.

The Sword That Holds Answers

Tristinia could hear her feet in the silence of the sandy cave. Light and shadows curved the walls and passages from the ravine above, serpentine and forbidding like the coloration twisted into the rock of reddish browns and golds. the silence wasn’t eerie but sacred. The ghosts presences of emptiness felt so ancient here that their voices were as silent as the rock faces. An unknown history. Undocumented by drawings as other cultures would have, only written in the intriguing silence that drew her onward. The man of faith, ?, and ? followed her. She stopped. There was a dip in the path downward. “Stay here” she said. She ducked down and continued. Something throbbed within her heart, like she belonged here. Her steps carried her quickly and confidently toward the slivered light beam she saw ahead.

The passage opened its mouth to its end: a vaulted cave with one thin passageway from the heavens. In its warm friendly glow was a massive boulder and in the boulder was stuck a sword whose hilt was covered in the long dried and crusted shells of some sea creatures that had lived. Tristinia looked around the cave from her place in front of the boulder. In the shadows were skeletons in the rock walls. Giant skeletons of people, larger than her. She approached one of them, looking upward at it, in wonderment, knowing it would give her no answers. She walked around, passing her hand gently over the walls and their bones whose story she would never know and yet she knew, deep down somehow she was of their lineage.

The stories that the man of faith told her of the flood that had covered the world and left 8 people on a large ship, the days that boasted in his book of the men of renown, when angelic beings and humans produced. Resolve and knowledge and strength pulsed into her it seemed from the very air as her heart beat seemed to drum in her very ears. The silence seemed to encourage her, draw her to the sword, picking her, choosing her, righting her to its task that awaited her in her land so far away. She climbed the worn poor steps in the rock to the top, placing her hands on the hilt. The shells crunched and crumbled in her grip as her hands dribbled blood from the scratches. She strained, pulling it upward, wiggling it slightly. Tristinia clenched her teeth and her groan of determination echoed in the chamber.

? &? jumped up but the man of faith ordered them, “Sit.” They looked at one another, then at the path downward further in and obeyed hesitantly, hands to their weapons. Tristinia heard the friction of metal scraping the stone as it ascended its grave. The metal had deep sea things crusted latticed over it but she was able to see the metal was made of something ancient and strong, shiny and sharp and blessed. Alone on-looked by her long gone and silent voiceless ancestry in a place of her answered questions, she bellowed a warriors cry that rose from the inner most parts of her beating heart to her lungs and out her mouth, terrible and tremendous, royal that repelled death by its very reverberations. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

It echoed around the walls and down passages and ascended the single shaft where light was permitted. She raised the sword aloft, admiring it in the light. She saw her reflection and knew…the bravery inside her heart and confidence that came from above the sky was the answer to her land and her people. This sword was merely a blessed vessel, a symbol of her right, of her lineage, a bridge to where she came from and where she would go. She took it in both her hands to feel the weight and swung it in several moves ? had taught her. She wondered what metal it was borne of momentarily. She listened to its wind as she danced with it. She descended the boulder steps out of the cave and back up the sloping way to where her friends waited, standing weapons ready and wary as they heard footsteps in the sand. Emerging from the dimness glinted a sword lattice crusted but undamaged as if it were made from stars from the heavens. and then Tristinia.

 

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She lay there imagining what it would be like to be beside some special man, pale and peaceful, breathing softly, eyes closed, head resting on her hands as she lay on her side facing him. His eyes drinking in her slender curves and soft skin as her long hair tumbled down and over her. Maybe he would stroke her cheek with the back of his hand.

New Land

Tristinia rowed into the dark night with the sea gently licking the timbers. She had with her her husband’s neck crown made of gold, a small jar of the blue substance that comes from the northlands. She could not live married off to the brother of her husband. She wondered how her father and brother would have responded to the duty of a people who looked up to you but only second in command. Was it really desertion? He would rule anyway. Not her.

 

She had been someones and he had been hers, though they had only begun to discover that path. She lay down in grief, praying to mercy as she drifted forth to adventure or death. Above her the stars strewed the sky like dust moats due in the sunlight, clear and hopeful. She closed her eyes which were heavy having not slept but cried. Maybe he was watching over her from the heavens and walking along the star paths. She drifted off in a dreamless deep rest.

 

Tristinia heard the waves and felt the warm water reach out around her, pleasantly. She moved her hands, her eyes still shut, feeling the sand around her. It was fine, not course and chunky. She opened her eyes. Above her, gold of the sun star and blue sky. Beside her, her boat, which made hollow music from the waves. She rolled over. The ground was white powder, but not cold like her homeland. Not feathery, but grainy of texture. It sifted. It didn’t stick. The temperature where she had landed was warmer than she could ever remember living. Not unbearably so, however. Merely different. Quite different. Once again. She was in a strange land. She knew no one. She did not know her location. She had no allies. No enemies. Just the unfamiliar and the path of adventure. She stood, expending a looong heavy sigh from her chest. Would she ever see home again? Would she ever know what home was? Ever have someone to love and be loved by again? The momentary overwhelming of losses rolled off her back as practicality and immediacy of needs came forefront to her mind.

 

She looked up then down the beach. Her lone predatory bird screeched in the sky. What was this place? What sort of people lived here? What was edible? “Come on boots.” She said to the only thing she had to talk to that seemed within the bounds of reason when it came to inanimate objects in the lack of human company. The seal boots Tiennrod had made for her. And so, Tristinia gathered her preserved food satchel from her seacraft and the flask of blue clay and grease and headed down the shoreline eastward where her inner compass fancied and tugged for a yet unknown reason, her boots making soft sifting noises as she traversed.

 

Tristinia wandered in the lonely and wild deciduous landscape. The wind whistled an augment but understood melody to her heart. She belonged here. Some got lost amidst crowds of people but people would not leave her alone. So she must get lost away from humanity and their societal culture. No one saw nor understood the wind nor his song. They didnt hear songs from him. Only whining and howls. She gathered her velvet cloak about her, dark violet with feathers of black and blue barring as trim. The only soft thing amidst the rough, monochromatic decor.

 

She looked up at the heavy laden clouds. She curled up by a pool, sitting, staring at her relfection. She stuck her tongue out at it. “Stupid” She said to the flitting, rippling image the wind played with. She disliked herself. She disliked her nose, her face, she critisized along with the voices of her past had blemishes, though in truth, her peachy smooth complexion was quite lovely.

 

She listed all the faults of her character until they cluttered her heart like stacks of books with heavy binding and hard covers, their titles branded, embedded, embossed, indented by hot irons. She traced the titles with her fingers as she sat on the rock, one finger on the waters surface. She hated herself. She hated being too strong. Was she really meant to be alone in life?

 

Elsewhere it was a burden to feel as if she was meant for that. Here in the forest with the wind and the criss crossing of the branches it didn’t seem so lonely. She was too strong. But it was excused as not a bad thing. But it was a bad thing! It was horrible to her. She felt able to be touched but could never express herself or touch people around her as she hoped or truly wanted. Here, the wind, who no one could ever touch, was her friend. She leaned her head against a tree with a relieved sigh as the rain began to patter down softly and wipe away a hot frustrated tear from her cheek. She looked around for shelter.

 

Across the pool there was a rather large tree with a hollow down amidst the roots. In the gathering gloom it looked dry and welcoming. She walked around to it and crawled inside watching the rain dance and bounce on the green leaves. It made her think of home and the dancers of her tribe, though the images in her memory had faded in hues of vividness. Home. She wondered if she could say that word again. If she had finally found a home. Where she belonged away from the world. It was lonely to be strong. She hurt those around her and it didn’t allow them to be who they were meant to be or some such. She could not figure out in entirety because strengths burden was just too much. But she also could not bear weakness. Her soul abhorred it. She was born to live…and to die however and whenever time prescribed. Her mind and tongue, like the sword she carried with her were sharp and only cut those she cared about.

 

She wished more people were stronger. She couldn’t stand weakness, yet so many did not live, did not behave as she did. Life chastised her and she felt useless and unwanted. But not here. She settled down and let the relieved tears run down, warming her face as she closed her eyes and curled up to sleep until she decided to wake. The wind played a gentle lullaby outside.

What Tristinia did not know, and had she known, she would have run with all her will, was someone was tracking her in the forest. He was tall and thin but sinewy. A quieter heart, whose pale and smooth countenance sported the fine palette knived strokes of longer maple hair creating noble sweeps and shorter fine strokes of well kempt mustache and closely trimmed border beard. His dark earthen eyes remained clear and clean amidst the drizzled landscape, searching it intently. She had come this way. Bending down to investigate the bent bush, he saw the muddy tracks, filling with rain. She had to be close. These were fresh, and deep. Whatever pretty lass had made them trod slow and wearily, as if burdened. He tucked the feather he held into his satchel, wondering what this maid looked like.

The Selfless Decision

The terrain had a new feel to it, not only in stark contrast to the environment she had been, but it had an ancient forgotten sort of stillness in which many things hung unseen. She didn’t know what or who lived there, what danger or adventure awaited, so she kept up her vigil, always alert, always listening. Being here reminded her of the feeling she had being around the henge of stones back in her own country, unsure if what you cannot see but sense will turn out friendly or try to kill you. She stopped beside a brook. As she searched into the bottom of her pack for the last ration of bread, her peripheral vision caught a reflective speck on the moving stream. Munching, she leaned to get a closer look. Tricky. At first it looked like a bug skimming on the surface, but no, it was in the sky. Too high almost for her to follow except by watching the stream. She couldn’t tell what it was, but she melted back noiselessy into the shade. So there were things living here.

 

She continued on into the terrain following the stream, careful to stay out of sight. Now late afternoon, she kept a lookout for a safe crevice or somewhere to spend the night. The trees had changed now; taller like monuments with scatterings of plants and barren ground. Long shadows stretching the voids. Suddenly she heard a sound. It was like a wind stirring but the forest remained as eeire and still as ever. It drew closer. She hid in a cluster of trees that grew close together. Suddenly the whole air seemed a whir as the wind got increasingly louder. She looked around. Glancing up, her eyes went wide in amazement. it was a horse, with wings! Like those drawn on stones long ago. She ran renewed with strength and determination. She ran right out of the forest to a short grassy plain that dropped to cliffs. Running nearly to the edge, she stopped, panting for breath.

 

Above her were too many to count. She stood, watching as one, bigger than the rest and the color of flame swooped and descended toward her, not having to seem any idea of stopping. Alarmed, she backed up several paces. The majestic creature spread its wings to slow, letting out a fierce sound of its kind. It was much taller than her and three times so when it reared up.

 

She wasn’t used to screaming, being raised in a barbarous land but this she didn’t know how to communicate she wasn’t an enemy, and having never seen one, especially when its hooves could smash her skull without effort, she screamed. Unbenownst to her, someone heard her cry. He came running out of the forest, his feet speeding across the space, his wind making the grass dance in wake. He place himself in front of her, speaking soothingly, showing no fear. The huge equine with the dazzling coat and large dark eyes, pawed the earth with its front hoof, calming slowly out of its frenzy. Breathing like a bellows, it lowered its massive head toward the stranger.

 

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Tristinia watched as the grey prince of the elves ascended on his ebony stallion flapping toward the sky in the sacred grove. The grove began to glow cooly flooding from the grass and leaves of the circle of rhododendrons began to blossom. The haggard old soothwitch hissed at her like a serpant as she circled Tristinia. Tristinia held out the dirk in front of her. The blade began to sing the song of water. She had climbed and dove for this in the cave of ancient secrets. She recalled the wisdoms and warnings that still echoed in her ears from the waterfall.

 

Her heart struggled with love and selfishness. She had never held someones love and life and fate in her hands. Now, all that depended on what she would do with the blade. She had always been chosen. She had never had to make such a choice for someone else’s joy and path. She had tried to rescue her husband, the only she had known, if only for a short time as a royal decision. She had only woven her heart to his as he passed from here, and what they could have been she now had chance to share with someone she loved, but deep down past self deception, she knew in his eyes, he considered another more precious. Her love had gone from this world.

 

In that moment she connected with his heart. She knew how he felt. Breathing heavily with cluttered mind yet sharp eyes, she dodged several times the strikes of the old hag who was growing long nails and transforming into the hideous creature she had wounded in its attack on the village. The soothwitch grinned triumphantly seeing the battle in her opponents eyes.

 

“Look at how handsome he is,” she caressed her thoughts. “he would learn to love you. What can this mystery maiden you know nothing of do to make him happy? He doesn’t know she has changed. She wouldn’t love someone after so long.”

 

Their eyes met, locked. That was a mistake. Tristinias anger boiled and bore into the soothwitch’s eyes. Looking past her at Nefel on the boulder, his soul pleading her to release his love.

 

The soothwitch lunged at her, teeth tranforming. She knocked Tristinia down and they tussled. The soothwitch now grabbed her by the throat, squeezing the beautfully scented air from her lungs. Her nose was overwhelmed by the stench of her enemy. She still had strength in her arm. The enemy sensed her movement and grabbed at her wrist with the dirk to defend herself. Tristinia leaned her weight forward pushing with all her might, slowly feeling the strength of her enemy’s grip transfer off her neck and to her arm, allowing her to breath.

 

Her head clearing from the shock of near stranglement, she pulled back unexpectedly in a burst of energy her enemy did not anticipate, releasing the grip she had on the weapon momentarily as she shifted, landing it in her opposite hand as she jumped backwards, the ugly countenance with its teeth bared coming at her, her free hand now having the dirk shot forward slashing across the creatures throat as black blood spewed forth.

 

A raspy noise emanated as the whole grove seemed to lose all color in the lights glow which strengthened. Tristinia knew she had done right. She let a war cry out of her lungs, her eyes afire with determination. The soothwitch looked up at her pleading mercy from human eyes but Tristinia knew the truth. There was nothing human left of this creature. Only torment. She plunged the knife down with force deep into the demonic chest, to the hilt.

 

The light of the grove was now blinding as the key of the story of love turned in the light and a beautiful pale elven beauty stood in the middle of the grove as the light melted the dark creature into oblivion and the dirk shattered in a explosive shower of sparkles. The lovely woman encased in ice moved her fingers as the ice peeled away, puddling into the lawn. Quickly her body was free. Nefel came running toward his love and Tristinia was able to escape in the overpowering light, pulling into the forest as it changed to head south east.

Kalsh

Kalsh was tall and pale with piercing diurnal eyes as if the sky had frozen over but laughed and sang in such a way that drew people in. He had strong arms and long bony fingers. He was graced with silky, light, golden-brown hair, fine, tied back in a strand as it fell about his shoulders. Champion of the tree people, the last of few hidden colonial pocket kingdoms in the rising of men. He had lived with the tree folk since infanthood. His mother and father survived men’s own savagery and had brought their son to live here. He befriended the Tree prince and since they were boys they had been inseparable cohorts in mischief, advocates of study from the great library where books were made of the trees that had passed on as a way to make legacies and history sacred, and in battle of the hidden forest and its tree house castle, comrades.

But today Kalsh had decided to take solitude to hunt, as it was the observances of etiquette living among the tree folk. Clad in light linen peasant shirt of grassen gold, Jerkin vest of sage hue and pants of brown, he blended into his environs quite well. Barefoot and silent in the paths in the tall grass Kalsh followed the bird. It had iridescent shiny feathers and was almost too beautiful to kill. It didn’t seem to have noticed him, as it hopped among the tops of the grass puffs above like a game to entertain itself.

Suddenly the bird stopped. Kalsh stopped, hardly daring to breath. He stretched an arrow on his bow, fixing his quarry in his sight. The bird let out two chirps, Kalsh loosed the shaft and the bird darted just quickly enough that its life be spared, winging away to the riverbank whilst letting out a loud chortle of indignance and shock. Kalsh frowned. Still determined, he followed the path silently toward the river 40 paces away. A whistle answered the bird. But it didn’t sound like a bird. Someone was there.

Kalsh crept up to the sand, hidden by his grass screen. there by the river was a woman, most natural, tall and slender. Beautiful. She was glad in a lengthy white shirt with long sleeves, simple and donning pants of some brown foreign material. She wrapped a belt of checkered fabric around her sodden form and tied a smaller band around her forehead. She possessed green eyes that looked like mined jewels framed by delicate eyelashes and fine shaped eyebrows with a regally hewn nose and full lips of soft pastel violet pink of sunsets. Her dripping wavy dark brown hair cascaded down her shoulders. The bird Kalsh had shot at hopped excitedly on the ground in front of Tristinia, warbling agitatedly and making a harsh sound pointed at the reeds. Kalsh quietly stepped back a foot or two, eyes still on this beautiful woman.

“What is it Note?” Triss asked her alarmed friend.

When Note had uttered harsh short messages looking at the grasses, Tristinia deftly swept Note into her large leather satchel with one hand whist ducking down, drawing her dagger out of her boot, standing in attack stance facing the grass.

“Who are you?” the woman demanded. “How many? I dont want trouble. Im just passing through.”

Kalsh tossed his bow from him as a distraction. He watched her eyes dart to his bows movement unseen, skipping/skimming the tops of the grass as he stepped out onto the sand, hands up near his head in defense if she tossed her dagger or to grab it should she toss at his chest.

A handsome stranger stood before her, intense eyes made from sky. She looked him up and down then back at the reeds.

“There is no one else.” He said, “I hunt alone.” He looked fierce but kind and handsome.

“What is your name, hunter?” Triss said with a hint of irritation in her voice, “and why were you hunting my bird and I?”

“They call me Kalsh and I wasn’t hunting you. I am sorry. I did not know the bird was your friend.”

Tristinia shifted her weight, looking consideringly at the stranger named Kalsh. “I have some bread and if its meat you want, I slew one of the creatures that live in the swamp few days back journey. Dried the meat. Its a bit chewy but fairly tasty.”

She flung her dagger down in the sand. Kalsh lowered his arms now that he was no longer a threat and strode forward, sitting himself across from her as she knelt down, reaching in her sack and letting her bird come out.

The bird promptly hopped behind Triss, letting out three loud chirps to announce its dislike of his company.

A smart bird Kalsh thought, an amused smile playing on his lips. “So what do they call you?” He asked.

“My name is Tristinia.” She said, handing him a handful of dried strips of meat. He let her take the first bite since it was her hunt. He took a mouthful, chewed the savory salty meat. It wasn’t bad. A woman who could hunt and so beautiful, femininely aloof but friendly. How interesting. He liked her.

“So,” she said, looking at him interestedly, “Can you tell me a bit more about yourself, Kalsh?”

“You can ask me anything and I tell you,” Kalsh replied “and you can tell me anything you wish to share as well.”

Her eyes smiled. he could tell she had not been asked about herself in a while. She agreed to share her story as he took her to the great tree house castle of the druids. She liked how he described his home. She had done enough wandering about the wilds of the world. She had no kingdom anymore, her love had been killed, other travelers left her or she had parted ways with them because they had found their place, or A place. The place Kalsh spoke of sounded like a haven of rest where she could stay and find her niche, rest and possibly abandon her quests of avengeance and grandeur.

The castle was even more beautiful than Kalsh had described. More of a wooden palace amidst and ancient grove surrounded by plains where the people grew their harvests. Some people were half druid and percentaged on down from intermixing with the natives. some were simply just people like Kalsh who lived among them, taken in to live and settle in a peaceful spot. Druids had leaves wrapped around their thick and wild though kempt hair like some tribes might decorate strands of their own with beads or yarn for colorful decoration and had hair of different green or streaks of green. Some had rough skin, some smooth. The Palace’s planks and pillars had loving sheen and crafted carved designs, tall thin double arched windows and spiraling staircases, long halls for all the villagers, like a great long house amidst huts that peppered it all around, ascending into various trees with more stairs. It was surely one of the wonders of this world which was passing into a new era. Tristinia stopped, head following the palace to its height in the ancient elms to where library and other buildings branched off from the palace, her mouth agape in wonder of its splendor.

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Tristinia drempt she stood in the short grass by the waterfall in the courtyard of a palace, lying side by side in the cheery sunshine, content with having lunched and in the good of some handsome man’s company. Tris turned her face to look at him, smiling. Her eyes changed to question when he looked at her in return, propping himself on his side. Her eyes registered understanding. He leaned over her, his eyes never leaving hers, even as her eyes lowered in submission and acceptance of his advance. He kissed her slowly, longingly. Her lips met his. Wrapped in golden warmth and romance, they kissed at length, mouth to mouth cooly, yet hearts full of warmth. She had closed her eyes and as he pulled from the kiss, he reveled in the content in her countenance as she sighed smilingly, eyes still shut, preserving the dream she had just had come true. He stroked her cheek with his hand