Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Buenisimo Day



This work  is inspired by the Kate Rusby song Bonnie House of Airlie. Side note: this is set in the same universe as my current work in progress, Minor Characters. Look for more information about the story soon.


It fell on a buenisimo day--a perfect day--when the corn grew green and yellow in the deep, black furrows the farmers cut into the mesa-top. The sun soared high above the great hacienda and the pueblo surrounding it. Señor John and his wife had gone with the Azul Guard and a gaggle of servants off to meet with the Emperor, leaving Lady Josephina to entertain herself until Sunday next. Mass had been given. Lunch had been served. The air shimmered. The pueblo went still as everyone settled in for a siesta.

Lady Josephina lay upon sweet scented pillows, drowsing, letting the coolness of her dim chamber seep away the heat. Slowly, a strange and continuous crackle and rattle drew her from her slumber. She lay listening, wondering what the sounds could be. It seemed to be getting louder. 

Then she heard the screams.

Josephina leapt out of her vast bed and tore her dressing gown, and rapier from the peg beside the door. The sounds were of guns and swords she realized. She hesitated at the door and instant before yanking it open and racing down the long hall, her bare feet slapping rhythmically against the tile floor. The guards and servants that should have been in the long passage were absent. She reached the great double doors at the end of the hall and, despite the sound of combat on the other side, opened it.

Her world exploded into fire and death.

Airlie was burning. The meager contingent of the Azul Guard, in their proud blue tartan, lay still in pools of their own dark blood. Servants and villagers too lay where they had been cut or shot down. And the pueblo--the fair pueblo of her cousin--burned. Flames and grey kilted Dunkel soldiers gutted the village, both destroying with the same wild abandon. Soldiers swarmed past her into the hacienda, she could hear the crash of splintering wood as the raiders set to work within. She raised her sword but they ignored her, stepping wide of her bright blade.
 
“My lady!” a deep voice roared. Josephina realized it had been shouting at her for some time. She looked and there at the foot of the blood-slick stairs ascending to the hacienda stood the Great Adolfo. He had not changed from when last she'd seen him years ago, a towering brute of a man with a thick black beard, clad in a black chain mail and a green and grey kilt. A broad sash of the same tartan was thrown over one of his shoulders. A coyote tail hung from his bright helm. He leaned casually upon his massive two handed sword and smiled at her as if he was not bathed in sweat and gore nor surrounded by burning and death. Behind him his leering commanders looked up at her with amusement in their dark eyes.

“Come down, lady Josephina. My but you have grown into a splendor of womanhood. Come down and greet your godfather. Give me a kiss.”

“You are not my godfather! And I will never kiss you again!”

“Come down, lady,” the Great Adolpho called again almost gently, but Josephina could hear the edge of warning in his voice. 

"My cousin will come back. Señor John will come back and he will kill you."

"Perhaps. But his hacienda will already be gone, his servants killed, his crops burned and treasures stolen, just as mine were." 

"Señor John did not do that."

"No. But because of him they were, so I will take my revenge as I see fit. What do you think, lady? You think, Señor John shall appreciate my efforts?"

Adolpho gestured to the carnage with his great sword and she could not help but see what had happened. She saw the burned fields, the broken buildings, the dead farmers and servants and swarming the Dunkel soldiers who yipped and howled like coyotes as they looted. Adolpho was right. If Senior John had been at home with his brave Azul Guard things might have been different. But they were gone. The deed was done.

Her heart broke. Her rapier fell, clattering down the steps. Unnoticed tears coursed down her fair face. Her feet carried her down to the courtyard. She stopped before the towering Adolfo, her head hung in despair.
“Take me away,” she whispered. “So I do not have to see this. Please.”

“Ah but, mi chiquita bonita, we are not yet done. My message to Señor John is not quite complete." His huge hand patted her slender shoulder.

She tensed under his touch.

“No, no! Do not fear, my lady, you will be unharmed. I gave very strict orders. I am no monster. I am your godfather," the Great Adolpho said and smiled. "But you will watch as I utterly destroy this place. You will watch until no stone is left standing of Airlie. Then we will leave you in peace. You will carry my message to Senior John, a flor perfecta amidst all this ruin. He will know I could have taken everything from him but I did not, and he will fear me all the more.”

~SJA

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PEN PALS



Celine had to admit, it was brilliant. In the keep the guardians were limited to communication with just two other people, the guardian who woke you and the other whom you woke. One could not simply leave a note for another guardian. Paper would deteriorate or be misplaced or altered long before the recipient woke. A verbal message would become too distorted. Then the boy called wrote a message across his hand and pressed it against the wall of his glass obelisk before he went to sleep. “Hello, my name is Seventy-six. What’s your name?” The message was perfectly preserved, unalterable and impossible to lose. 

Most everyone tried to respond. But every cycle the message on Seventy-six’s hand remained the same. Other guardians struck up their own conversations, one sentence at a time, every hundred years. 

Eventually, everyone gave up on communicating with Seventy-six. He was forgotten largely, except by Celine who observed the boy’s unchanging message century after century. The thought that perhaps the lean, dark haired boy was waiting for her to respond intrigued her. She’d never written anyone, she didn’t know what to say. Besides, why would he want to know her name? .

Her shift ended. She used her key to wake Kane. As her own chamber prepared itself, she walked the boy through the regular transition period. On the third day she yielded her role as guardian and entered her glass obelisk, this time with a simple message scrawled across her palm.

“I’m Celine”

Then she slept.

It would take just three years for Seventy-six to read her message but it would be another ninety-seven before she would get any response from him. The entire time she would sleep. 

The years glided past in a gray haze of dreams and muffled half-heard sounds. 

Mathias woke her and, in his proper time, went to sleep. Celine avoided the pillar hall at first, irrationally nervous that Seventy-six might not have written her back, that he had not been waiting for her at all. But eventually her duties brought her into the long curving hall. She counted off the pillars as she passed them. Seventy-one. Seventy-two. Seventy-three. Her heart beat faster. Her footsteps slowed.

“I’m glad you wrote. Your name is perfect,” read his hand. 

Celine laughed and clapped in delight. It could have been to anyone but she knew it was for her. 

The rest of the year, she could hardly focus. Every spare moment was filled with carefully planning her next message. She decided to take a cue from Seventy-six and make her message generic enough that it could be for anyone. She knew he would recognize it as being for him. 

After a year she had determined the perfect response.

“Why did you write?”

She slept again and woke again. This time she fairly ran to the pillar hall once Mathias had gone to sleep. There were a dozen responses to her message but Seventy-six’s made time stop for her.

“I had to. I think I love you.”

Celine stared at the message for a long time, her hand pressed over her mouth, a riot of emotion swirling within her. It was absurd. They were separated by ninety-seven years and six inches of unbreakable crystal. They would never speak. Never touch. Never even make eye contact. It was sad, stupid and useless but Celine could not help but smile and blush. 

She reached out her hand and touched it to the glass that separated his hand from hers. Her smile grew. She already knew what her next message would be.

~SJA

Liked this? Be sure to check out part one, GIRL IN THE GLASS and part three, WAKING.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

NAMES


In celebration of my novel Terra Soul winning Debut Novel of 2016 don't forget to stop by my Contest Page for a chance at winning some cool prizes all August.
 

At first there was nothing. Nothing at all.

Then the light appeared and with it a flurry of language. Light. Dark. Pain. Eyes. Body. Cavern. The words spiraled into being down through my mind like a chain of Christmas lights flaring to life one after another.

Christmas? What was that?

The ground seemed to move beneath me and I emerged from the cave blinking in the thin sunlight of an unknown world. And yet, as I looked across the new place I found that while the sights were new, the words and things he recognized. Sand. Lake. Trees. Desert. Oasis. People. Thousands of other words, an entire language seemingly, came crashing into my brain with enough force to make me sit down on the sandy ground at the mouth of the cave.

I looked down at my hands and found them both familiar and strange. Something was missing.

“Hello.”

“Hello.” The word came out before I knew what it meant. I looked up at the speaker and found myself looking into a face without worry. The old face was smooth and the eyes clearer than they should have been. The old man helped me to my feet.

“I am Oldest. Welcome to the Oasis.”

“Oldest?”

“I have been at the Oasis longest of all those here,” the man said as he lead the way to the oasis. Our sandaled feet padded in the powdery sand that was the same dull white as the long, high collared smocks we wore. It took only a few moments for us to pass beneath the shade of the trees and reach the lake’s edge. It rippled and flashed under the brittle sunlight. I could see others gathered beneath awnings of bright yellow, young, old, men, women.

“You are called Oldest, but what’s your name?” I stopped. “What is my name?”

The old man looked at me with his vacant, worry-free eyes.

“None of us have names here.”

A corkscrew (corkscrew?) of emotion twisted in my guts, searing hot one moment, icy cold the next. Rage. Terror. Horror. That was what was missing. My name and with it my power. Someone had taken it from me. I did not know how I knew it but I did. Someone had taken my name, stolen it, taken away the essence of who I am and left behind… what? 

What am I without a name?
 
I turned away from the oasis and looked out through the thin screen of trees and bushes at the endless tracks of the dunes. I glanced in the opposite direction. On every horizon there was nothing but dunes. Oldest spoke but I did not hear. I chose a direction at random and strode out into the desert. I would tear the world apart to find my name and when I got it back… I did not have the words to say what I would do.

“Where are you going?” Oldest called. “What are you doing?”

“I am going to find my name!” I shouted scrambling up the shifting slope of the nearest dune.

“But… no one…”

“I am going to find my name.”

“How will you know it even if you find it?”

I paused at the crest of the dune and looked back down at the blissful old man. “I will know my name when it is called again!”

~SJA