Intended Length: Novel or Novella
Genre: Medieval Fantasy Romance & Adventure
Narrative Mode: Third Person Limited Omniscient
This writing is fiction. Names, characters, settings and events are either used fictitiously or are products of the writers' imaginations. Any resemblance to real events, settings or people, dead or alive, is coincidental unless stated otherwise.
You never were and you never will... be mine.
The forest was quiet. The incessant chirping of birds in the morning had since ceased, and the silence was only broken periodically by the rantings of a squirrel or the complaints of a chipmunk. The wild, windy weather above the trees could not faze the forest floor.
A wide path wound through the woods, dotted with piles of droppings from both horse-steeds and human-travelers. However, the trees stretched over the path and shielded it from the wrath of the summer sun. It was wide enough for two caravans. And none came at this time.
You never will. You never will again.
Alone, a young woman was walking along the side of the path, at the forest's edge. She had no steed, and walked slowly as if without a sense of direction. The breeze that stirred the bright leaves and conifer needles above dared not descend to play with her messy bun of brown hair, nor the blue, thin cape that fell behind her shoulders. Something glinted upon her arm.
Eyes watched her from behind the trees. A silent figure, off the trail, stalking the wandering, vagrant woman. They saw riches upon her. The iron of a hilt and the scintillation of a gem. And the indigo fabrics that embraced the leather armour. Rich. Want rich. Shiny.
Then came the familiar clip-clop of a horse's hooves in the distance, and she turned her pale face to look behind her. A middle-aged man with a scruffy beard came riding by on a well-saddled brown horse, without a word to the pedestrian.
Good, not a slaver come to knock me unconscious and take me upon the back of his horse, she thought. Then cautiously, she removed her hand from the hilt of her sheathed rapier, and adjusted her light pack below her cape. Quickening her pace, she kept walking.
And looking up, in wonder, at the strong sunlight beaming through the light-green canopy of leafy branches, her thoughts were fresh with youth and ardor. Idly, she wondered, Have I lost my love to the fame of troubadouring?
Want shiny riches, the pair of gloomy eyes behind the trees kept watching her, greedily. Gem! Want gem.
Has he joined the ranks of great bards at the capital? Has he truly forgotten the promise we made to each other? She rubbed with her left hand at the bracelet. Is this but a meaningless bauble?
And a stray beam of light fell between branches and twinkled upon her bracelet. It was the only piece of jewelery she wore. A coppery gold ring around her freckled wrist, with a single shining diamond.
Gem shiny! Want shiny. Want shiny... want take.
And with these dissonant ponderings, she clung her fingers around the bracelet, ready to toss it idly into the woods. And she stopped herself, Don't give up hope. I may find him yet.
Then the creature that had been watching her, its gaze intently fixed upon the shining diamond, leaped out at her. The woman was tackled by the dirty stranger, and they rolled onto the road with arms at each other's throats.
It was a diminutive, starved creature. She knew not what manner of creature, but it seemed remotely human. It had soiled her cape. And they now lay upon each other, inches from a large horse dropping yet to be shoveled into the forest.
"Yooou!" it hissed, "Give that shiny!"
What in the name of the Qurystal is this thing?
It was androgynous, chest clothed in rags above a low-hanging loincloth. Its raspy voice was between tenor and alto. A scaly tail curled between its legs. And its dirty, bulbous face was asymmetric.
Ugly. she dug her nails into its neck, threateningly.
The tangy stench of aged horse manure.
"Are you of woman's womb or magician's magic?" she asked the creature, as she loosened her grip upon its neck.
"Hhhssssh! Shiny! Give the shiny!" with one thick hand, it tried unsuccessfully to strangle her, and with the other it reached for the bracelet.
Stealing my betrothal, eh? Her grip tightened around its neck, as it groped hers with stubby arms. She began to strangle it. If I am to part with it, I will part with his promise willingly.
"Shiny... give shiny. Arr-rg-gh!"
She kept her grip tight, muting the creature. For a long moment, she stared into its ugly reddish brown eyes, larger than any human eyes. They swallowed her gaze, each an abyss of longing.
She blinked, refocused.
Its head swelled unnaturally, tumescent. And it contorted, as if an unseen hand were twisting its sweaty facial features like wet clay.
The leaves above, and their shadows below, stirred with the wild winds of the waning morning. Noon was here to simmer the waters and calm the winds.
Each eye, bloodshot and desperate.
Is this how love dies?
And it shook then, without breath, and fell apart, cracking, into a pile of ashes - as all unnatural things do in this land. Its wispy white hair disintegrated in the wind.
Will you ever be mine again?
Even its large eyes seemed to shatter. All, leaving dust in a pile as tall as the woman.
"Magician's magic," she pronounced, dusting herself off, and awkwardly shaking her cape. The Lakelands are rough with monsters. Even the animals have a hard time, so they say. And it is here my love comes to sing his songs?
And then came the clip-clop, again, numerous, as the hooves of many horses pulled a caravan down the path. And she stood to the way side, so as not to be trampled.
The great beasts slowed, and came to a stop beside her. Powerful stallions, breath hot upon the stirred dirt of the path. And she looked up, between the shiny-coated horses to see the driver beneath the beige-tarped framework of the caravan.