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The Old Woman [SEWC]

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posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 06:47 PM
The Old Woman

He looked down toward the valley floor. The sun had sunk past the horizon, but in the light of the Greatmoon he could see the pack of ges'etaaken he had spotted earlier loping around. They had cornered something large, but were not attacking. Either they were toying with it, or it was not a helpless herd animal. Just then he heard a bellow and surmised they were surrounding a torpae. It would be hard going for the lithe creatures to take down such a beast - bloody things were armored, spiked, and in a permanently bad mood. He had seen a wounded torpae destroy a village and kill half of the villagers. He shook his head at the memory. Humanity was failing. Children were lucky if they lived to be parents of even one child themselves.

He was still a day or two out from the garrison. First Moon was setting, and Second Moon would follow shortly. He built a small fire and kept it hidden. These woods were not particularly wild, being so close to the Blackhawks. There were ridgecats and thelpyk up there. The lesser animals had the sense to stay away. The Bastion patrolled through here also, and it was dotted with farm villages and the occasional small town - he thought Besh-jukar even had a log palisade. No, a small fire would take the autumn chill off.

Sitting on a fallen log, he rested the hunting spear on one side and his bow on another. New cadets at the Bastion always made moon-eyes over the longswords the Lanceguard carried, or the dual knives of the Ladysguard. They were useless out here. By the time you got close enough to a ges'etaaken to use either it would have its jaws around your neck or its middle claws were tearing your belly open. Aomm forbid you came across a swarm of aiyuun.

He had the tea steeping - an Iniveran blend that included the petals of some kind of purple flower - and a stew bubbling in a camp pot when the leaves to his right rustled. Wind was from that direction, and he smelled - faintly - vinerose.

"You may as well come out here. I won't hurt you if you return the favor."

A figure emerged into the clearing - an old woman, silver hair tumbling out of a dark woolen hood. She moved slowly but with purpose, using a walking staff but clearly not needing it. Tanned hands with few brown age-spots still showed strength and dexterity as she gently lifted her robes to step over the rough ring of stones. He noticed well-worn boots of soft leather.

"Please sit," he stood up and gestured to the log he sat on. "I have tea and stew, plenty of both."

She glanced at him. Her eyes were a startling pale blue, twinkling with knowledge and...mirth? Now that he could see her face clearly, she seemed almost playful. It made him uncomfortable. What human was joyful, except those who had lost touch with reality? People wore their loss on their faces - those lost to the creatures of this world, killed in useless battles, or who succumbed to bizarre diseases that consumed them from the inside out.

"Thank you, boy. You are unusually generous," she murmured as she sat on the log.

He grunted. "Just courtesy, my lady. It's how I was raised." He strained a cup of tea for her. "Careful, that cup gets hot quickly."

She just smiled mysteriously.

"You have Aavelae on your tongue, boy."

"I am in fact twenty-seven, my lady. I've not been called 'boy' since I was ten."

"Mm," she mocked gently, "so spry for one so ancient." He realized the absurdity - given the creases in her face, she had to have been in her late sixties, maybe even seventies. Something was bizarre about that - hardly anyone lived that long in the capitol, much less out here. This area was patrolled yes, but tame? Lord Aomm in heaven, no. She had no weapon, and barely any supplies with her - just a small leather scrip.

He pulled out a bowl and offered her stew, which she accepted. There was a feminine grace to her movements, and when he studied her face, he saw a vestige of what was once great beauty. Something was strange about her, and yet, so incredibly familiar.

"Why aren't you eating, boy?"

"I eat when the women are done, my lady."

"You're from Avaanse, then, yes? You have a kir?" He bowed his head to her.

"Yes, my lady, I have an a'akirjutama." He pulled aside his traveling cloak to expose the glittering coin-sized jewel embedded into his chest. Like all men with kir over their hearts - some had one in their forehead - his shirts and tunics left it exposed. A small metal ring joined with the gold of the kir's setting.

"Perfectly clear. You must be a good boy," she teased.

"I do as I'm told, my lady. You have no need to worry, you will not need to Correct or Command me."

She snorted, a strangely delicate sound. "I have no need of such a ridiculous and misguided device, boy."

"Ridiculous? Aomm knows all men are savages unless they are restrained. Everyone knows that. Without the kir, humanity would have died out long ago."

"Aomm knows, does he? Why is it that people always think they can say what Aomm knows? Really, what does anyone truly know about God?"

"Aomm knows everything..."

"You are correct there, at least. Now sit down and eat, boy, you've no meat on your bones."

"Yes, my lady," he replied, obediently getting some stew and sitting on the grass.

"I don't bite, boy."

" wouldn't be..."

She arched an eyebrow at him.

"Yes, lady," he said, getting up to sit next to her on the log.

"Now, tell me about your home," she commanded him.

He was shocked. No woman in Avaanse cared two whits about a man's life. Women's lives had much more important things to worry about than what a simple-minded man did or thought. The women administered and commanded. Men obeyed. And died, he thought.

"," he stammered.

"You do have a home, yes?"

"Braeghe Maarke, my lady. I live on the estate on Lake Naonn. Well, now I live at the Bastion in Avaanse, but Braeghe Estate is where I grew up."

"You are a Lanceguard then?"

"Yes my lady."

"You're not telling me the truth, boy. Not all of it, at least." Her eyes twinkled, almost mischievously.

"My Lady?"

"No mere townsfolk bought that jewel for your kir. In fact, there are only a few Houses in Aavelae that could manage it, which means you're a Braeghe yourself, not just some servant. Since you are obviously not Lady Lura, you must be Gaalen, Lord Captain of Braeghe Color, yes?"

Caught, he dipped his head.

"Why are you here?"

He looked away into the forest. "I...visit here, sometimes." Something compelled truth from him, even though she had not Commanded him. He thought back years. A foolish patrol, a fresh new cadet. So much blood.

"It wasn't your fault, Gaalen."

"What...what did you say?" His head whipped around. The scars on his back pulled and burned. Suddenly, he noticed. The hoots of the ges'etaaken and the braying of the dying torpae had disappeared. The forest had gone silent, and his senses all kicked into high gear and he shot to his feet.


posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 06:47 PM

Buzzing. From back along the ridge. Bloody Abyss! Aiyuun, here! Not a swarm, but there was more than one. He didn't have much time. He grabbed the bow and spear and pointed.

"Go, now! Toward the rocks!" She moved quickly for an elderly woman. Just as they reached the granite he spun to see dark forms flowing over the trees. Five? Six? He could hardly tell.

The insect-like creatures wasted no time and headed straight for them. He launched two arrows, each hitting its mark. He knew a Bastion longbow couldn't pierce through an aiyuun's chitinous plates. Even if you downed it by hitting the base of the wing joint, the blasted things were as big as two men and wickedly fast on the ground. Put an arrow through an eye or just between its chelicerae, that would stop it, though. If you hit the central nerve bundle they would drop like a rock.

After the arrows he brought the spear to bear and tried to fend off the remaining three. He had to kill them all or they would slice both he and the woman to shreds. He took wounds though - their legs ended in knife-sharp talons as long as his forearm. The smell of his blood maddened their attack.

Another fell, this time to the long bladed spear, as fatigue began to set in. Spinning, he clubbed one more and it dropped too. They seemed to leave the woman alone and focus on him, so he pressed forward from the rocks to draw them away and keep her safe.

This proved to be a terrible mistake. The one he had clubbed popped back up and flanked him faster than he could respond. Its knife-blade shiny black talon burst forth from his chest, right next to his kir. Another pierced his middle, and the aiyuun in front of him stabbed him in the other shoulder as he fell. He began to drift, as his lungs seemed to not work like they should.

Dimly he saw the old woman seem to float, as he was.

"Now that's enough of that. Begone with you," she made a shooing motion. The talons pulled out of his flesh and the buzzing gave way to a peaceful silence. He lay on his back, life draining out of the holes in his body, staring at the stars in the dark part of the sky. The Great Road in the sky seemed to get closer, and he could feel the spinning of the ground beneath him.

The face of a young woman, stunning to behold, appeared before him. Shockingly pale blue eyes considered him.

"You are a dear child, boy," she said musically, gently wiping the blood from his cheek. "You have work to do yet." Cool fingers slipped inside his clothes at each of his wounds to touch his skin. The spinning slowed as she stood and turned to walk away.

"Who are you?" He croaked, only managing to turn his head in her direction.

Turning, she pulled her hood back, smiling winsomely at him. She chuckled lightly, sweetly.

"Really, what does anyone know about God?"
edit on 9-9-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: ...

edit on 9-9-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: Fixed a couple typos.

edit on 9-9-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: one more typo and a grammar fix

edit on 9-9-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: fix incorrect word

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 06:54 PM
This is a scene inspired by a larger work of fiction I have been plodding away at for some time.

Note Bene: A quick note on pronunciation - the apostrophe mark in some of the italicized terms is actually pronounced. It is a guttural "g" sound - like a hard g but deep in the throat. Therefore, a name like "ges'etaaken" is pronounced phonetically "gess-geh-TALK-en".
edit on 9-9-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: fixing bbcode tag

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 07:06 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

That was great!👍

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 07:32 PM
a reply to: Quantum12
Thanks Quantum12! I've been enjoying your writings, so coming from you that means a lot!
Confession: When I first considered putting an entry in, I read a couple of yours and thought, "Prairie, they are way out of your league, buddy."

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 07:43 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

You are a kind person!

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 07:43 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

I love this, what a beautiful story! Thankyou for sharing.

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 07:44 PM
a reply to: awareness10

I agree 100%

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 08:15 PM
a reply to: awareness10

Wow! Thanks awareness10! It's my pleasure - honestly, hardly anyone has ever read this stuff that I've written, so the positive feedback makes me feel a lot less nervous.

posted on Sep, 10 2016 @ 11:06 AM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd

This is a good Tale! Very Good Indeed!! VERY Well done!!! Be nervous no more!
(I predict to see 'Writer' under Your userName after this contest!!!)

posted on Sep, 11 2016 @ 09:25 AM
a reply to: SyxPak

Wow, thanks SyxPak! I'm humbled!

posted on Oct, 7 2016 @ 07:08 AM
I enjoyed this! A very interesting take...



posted on Oct, 7 2016 @ 02:32 PM
a reply to: AboveBoard

Thank you AboveBoard! I'm glad you liked it!

posted on Oct, 7 2016 @ 02:32 PM
Whoops! DP!
edit on 10-7-2016 by PrairieShepherd because: Double post

posted on Oct, 13 2016 @ 12:48 PM
a reply to: PrairieShepherd
Thank you for sharing your writing with us. This was a superb little story and I thoroughly enjoyed its subtleties.

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