Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Speak Easy #159 - Pyre

Pyre sat cross-legged on the ledge outside the cave at Eagle Peak, trimming the leopard skin that his cousin, Tulie, had gifted him recently in celebration of his last name-day. The fur was thick and the skin supple; Tulie had done a superb job curing the hide. Pyre felt certain he would look very striking draped in the cloak this would make.

Pyre set his flint knife aside, laying the hide in his lap and stared, unseeing, as thoughts of his cousin filled his mind. He thought of Tulie, out in the forest with her band of women, learning survival skills and exulting in a freedom that Pyre could only long for. It hardly seemed fair to him, that Tulie, as Heir to the Rioni tribe, could be free to roam the wilderness for days on end, while he, Heir to the Kuran tribe, must remain ever confined, needed for one task or another; this time to aid his father in planning and storing winter inventories.

"Where are you?" he wondered idly, sending the thought out into the morning air, imagining her lovely face in his mind and forming a connection just like that.

"I'm at the fork of the Tilik river," came the reply, silent except within his mind, "Janna is teaching us how to spear fish." And suddenly Pyre’s mind was filled with images that Tulie must be projecting to him; of four women perched somewhat precariously on rocks jutting out over the river, thrusting and stabbing long spears into the dark, swirling water.

Pyre closed his eyes to allow the images to continue undisturbed; vicariously enjoying the impressions Tulie sent of her friends, unfettered by responsibility and duty. Tulie sent a whoop of joy through the mind-link as one of the younger women struck true; muscling her spear up out of the water with a large, glistening, wriggling fish dangling from the end. Suddenly losing her balance, Breean fell off the rock and into the water. But the river was shallow and she managed to keep the fish on the spear as she splashed her way to the shore, laughing and heedless of the shocking cold. The girl lay the spear down amidst the sand and the rocks, the fish still firmly attached, and they watched, collectively, as it fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still.

"I've got to go, Pyre. I'll need to get Breean out of these wet clothes and you should not be here for that."

"Wait," Pyre sent a thought back through the link, "I can help. Show me your location again." He studied the details she sent into his mind, until he found what he was seeking."There, stop. Hold your sight; yes, just there." He fixed his attention on a small pile of driftwood leaning against an outcropping of stone some distance from the shore.

He opened his mind to the power that lay dormant within his spirit, shaping flame from the spark of his imagination; casting fire through the link he held with his cousin, where it flared into existence and suddenly the driftwood caught and burned brightly with an unnatural intensity.

"Yeah, Pyre!” Tulie exclaimed. “I knew you could call fire, but I didn’t know you could project it like that!"

“I didn’t know you could project images either; it’s what gave me the idea.”

“Well, thanks! This was a big help. I never asked; what are you doing?”

“I’m working on the leopard hide you gave me and wondering what I ever did to deserve such a gift?”

“You gave me that cloak of silver fox fur last summer, don’t you remember?”

Of course he remembered. It had taken three seasons to hunt enough silver foxes to make the cloak. “Nothing but the best between cousins, right?”

“Right! I have to go, cousin. Maybe I’ll see you soon?”

“Probably not before winter sets in. But, you never know.”
He felt the link fade as he opened his eyes and became aware of the weight of the fur in his lap, “Thanks again for the hide, Tulie.”

But she was already gone.

He sighed, and picked up his flint knife again, wishing he could be spear fishing, or hunting silver foxes, instead of waiting for his father to call him to task.

“Pyre!” As if on cue, Aron popped his head out of the cave, “What are you doing? There’s no time for daydreaming. We’re waiting on you in the storeroom. Let’s go”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SpeakEasy #158: Embers

Embers burn slowly
Like underlying resentment
Ready to burst into flame
At the slightest stirring
Of angry winds

For a time it seems
the embers might die
The spark snuffed out
With rain like tears
Or sorrow

But then the embers
reignite and thrive
Smoldering by the fuel
and intensity
Of our Passion

Finally the embers
Merge and flame on
The rightness eclipsed
every mistake
made along the way

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Speakeasy #157 Viva la Resistance

Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold. The night was bitterly cold, as bitter as the hunger and the heartache that plagued most of Paris during this winter of 1943.

She was being followed. Giselle could feel it in her bones just as surely as she felt the cold. She pulled her scarf tighter around her neck and head, her hand gripped around the note in the pocket as if her very life depended on it. She knew it would cost her life, if the Gestapo caught her with it.

The click of her heels echoed loudly, so as she rounded the corner, Giselle took off her shoes despite the cold, running as fast as she could, barefoot and silent. Zigzagging down streets and alleys in a path meant to confuse; cutting through another alley just ahead and finally into an unlit shopfront where Jean-Pierre met her and closed the door behind them.

"You were followed?" Her brother asked, concern written on his gaunt, brave face, as he led her into the dim interior of the unused shop.

She nodded, catching her breath after the long run. "I can't be sure, but I think I lost him. I never saw who it was." She took the paper from her pocket and handed it to him. "You must wait until morning to deliver this. Don't go out tonight, Jean-Pierre; promise me you will wait." The gaze she fixed on the young man was stern, because she knew he would rather have joined a resistance group that hunted and killed Nazi's rather than this subversive group that seemed only to pass on information.

"There is a doctor," Giselle whispered, "He lives at 11 Avenue Foch. There is a picture in his window, for you to know you are at the right place. It is an unusual drawing, of a baby in a womb. Knock at the door of the apartment where you see this picture and give the note to the boy who answers. His name is Phillip, he is the doctor's son. He will know what to do with this message. I don't know what it is; it's in code. The man who gave it to me thought it best not to know, so that if you are captured and tortured, you can't give anything away."

She shuddered with foreboding and Jean-Pierre's eyes widened as he looked at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand, though they were both young and naive and had no real idea of the danger their involvement would bring.

They sat down in a darkened corner, and she unbuttoned her coat, removing a worn satchel and extracting a stale baguette and a round of cheese, which they shared eagerly.

After a time she stood, retrieving her satchel and covering her auburn hair with the scarf, buttoning her coat over her too thin torso, while Jean-Pierre stuffed the note into an inner pocket and stood with her.

He hugged her fiercely, fearing to be alone again when she left, but too proud to admit it. He was fourteen, after all; too old to be hanging on to the skirts of his older sister.

"Stay here until morning," Giselle warned him again, as he followed her to the shopfront. "Don't go home; don't go find any of your friends. Don't come to the club." She gave him that look again, and he nodded. There was too much fear to allow them to smile, but the look they shared, and the love it embodied, eased their spirits somewhat.

"You'll be safe here," she assured him, though she hugged her brother as though it might be the last she ever gave him. "Promise?"

He nodded again, locking the door behind her as she left, lingering at the window and watching until she disappeared from sight.

The nightclub was quiet tonight, just a few patrons drinking quietly at the bar. There was a fire burning in the stove near the piano, so it was warm as she took off her coat and sat, striking a low, lonely key before signaling the owner for a drink.

She was just finishing a slow love song when the door opened and the enemy in Gestapo uniform entered. Her heart constricted when he sat, menacingly, at the table directly in front of her, blocking her only exit. Giselle launched into the national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Viva la Resistance, she thought, determined to be brave and defiant to the end.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Speakeasy #156: A garden by the lake

"When are you going to let me take you away from this life and make an honest woman out of you?" Sebastian asked Mathilda sulkily, pulling on his pants and removing an uncounted sum of money from his pocket.

"Just as soon as you're ready to bring me home to that nice ranch of yours out by the lake," Mattie answered him as she always did; lazing on the bed half draped with sweat stained sheets and the other half bathed in sunlight streaming in through a high, narrow window.

"Ah, Mattie. Why can't you just agree to be my mistress and let me set you up in a nice little cottage outside of town?"

"And just what do you suppose I would do with myself when you aren't there?" She pouted, wondering why he didn't know how much his proposal tempted her, and how it hurt her even more.

"You could plant a garden and learn how to sew and cook and do other useful things," he suggested.

She laughed in disbelief, hooking the buttons of her dress and looking at her reflection in the faded mirror to make sure the bustle hung just right over her bottom. "Sure, I could just see myself, pullin' weeds and shooin' away the rabbits when they get too close to my vegetables!"

Sebastian's throaty laugh thrilled Mathilda, "That would be a sight to see! Two young hares, rump to rump like dueling pistols, crouched by the gate."

"You would have to teach me to shoot," Mattie suggested, wistfully thinking that maybe then she could challenge his wife to a duel. Mattie didn't speak that last thought out loud, but Sebastian read it in her face and he pulled her into his arms for a long, lingering embrace.

"Someday," he fisted his fingers into her thick, blond hair, whispering the unspoken promise in her ear; and she tried not to let her heart believe him, though it had been lost so very long ago.

She smiled her best unassuming smile and pushed him out the door. She was still dreaming about a garden overlooking the lake, blooming with a thousand flowers, when the next knock came at her door.

Monday, April 7, 2014


Etha followed Madra and the others into the dimly lit cave, moving slowly, allowing their eyes to adjust to the darkness and giving their senses time to become aware of their surroundings before they could no longer see those surroundings. They traversed down a narrow hallway to a large open area, filing in with Madra in the lead, followed by Etha and the four other novices behind. It was dark, but not so dark that Etha couldn't make out the shapes of the others nearby, or sense the distance to the walls or the opening through which they had come.

As the girls settled to a sitting position, Etha sought to still her nerves; she was slightly irritated at the irreverent whispers of the girls around her, and struggling with feelings of anticipation and fear. Etha was normally very confident and self assured, but now she felt only trepidation and uncertainty.

"Let us begin," Madra spoke quietly, pausing for a moment to ensure she had the girls attention. "I chose you for this lesson because you have all shown an affinity for Gaea, an awareness of the Earth Mother and her many aspects. I brought you to this place to have you try to open yourself to Gaea's senses and hear if she might speak to you."

Madra's voice was soft and muted, as though the very walls tried to absorb and swallow her words. "Lie back with your eyes closed, listen to my words and tune out all other thoughts in your mind. Slow the rhythm of your breathing, and just listen to that rhythm. Breath in... Breath out... Breath in... Breath out. Let the rhythm of your breathing match the rhythm of earth's pulse, and let yourself become aware..."

Madra's words quieted, and Etha opened her senses to her surroundings. She could feel the coldness emanating into the darkness of the room, felt the pressure of the earth weighing down upon her spirit as her consciousness moved beyond the boundaries of the cave until it felt as though she were sinking. Down, down into the depths she sank, becoming aware of the presence and the pulse of Gaea's lifeblood and it seemed as though she were becoming absorbed within the earth. Etha tried not to panic as she became attuned to a pulse outside her own and knew the very moment when her own lifeblood merged with something far bigger and more powerful that she had ever imagined.

Gaea's rhythm was slow and ponderous, and Etha lost all sense of self and time as she traced Gaea’s lifeblood, beating with a rhythm that radiated slowly, sluggishly. It pulsed with a steady beat, pushing, seeking; burrowing outwards through dark heaviness and slowly, slowly reaching upwards, searching, seeking until finally it found and infused a network of roots and tendrils and life.

Etha's consciousness expanded, twisting and twining, pulsing and surging outwards, upwards, further and further until Etha felt herself stretched beyond her capacity to comprehend; as though she might lose herself in the infinite being that was Gaea. She sensed power calling to her, nourishing her lifeblood as surely as it had infused the network of living plants and Etha hungered for this power more surely than she hungered for food. It frightened her, for she didn't understand it. This was so far beyond her scope of understanding, but the more she tried, the more panicked she became. In alarm, Etha began to struggle against the weight and the presence of Gaea, closing her senses to all but her own panic and forcing her thoughts back into the confines of her own body, lying on the cold, hard floor of the cave.

Her eyes snapped open and she sat up. Her heart was racing and her body was covered with a light sweat.

"Where are the others?" She asked Madra, seeing that she was alone with the Spiritual Leader.

"I sent them away," Madra replied, a hint of exasperation in voice. "They were not able to remain still enough to reach a trance state like you did."

Etha nodded, disoriented and unsettled. "How long have we been here?" She asked.

"Quite a while. The meal bell has rung twice since we began. Are you ready to speak of your experience? Did Gaea speak to you?”

"I... No. I’m sorry” Etha shivered as her sense of self slowly returned even as she yearned to return to that state of selflessness; so at odds with the fear of being consumed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Karl and Stefan

Todays writing prompt is to write a scene about the first time your father saw your mother. In this case, I decided to write about Tulie's father and mother, one of my characters from "visions of the past"

It was high summer and the gathering was coming to an end. This year only five tribes had gathered, and there had been a great celebration for all the boys, like Karl and Stefan, who had attained the status of manhood this summer. The celebrations were over now and the tribes were starting to return to their homes, but Terell of Riana had insisted that her tribe linger, in order to provide additional spiritual guidance and testing.

Karl and Stefan had been friends for as long as Karl could remember. As heirs of two of Kakaesian tribal leaders, they had often spent time in each other’s company at summer gatherings and Exchanges. Over the years they had formed a strong friendship based on common interests and goals.

Earlier that day, the Kakaesian Spiritual Leader had gathered the newly-marked men for testing and training, and Karl had soon become bored with the whole process. He was actually somewhat relieved when Terell had discovered no trace of the skills or abilities that she sought.

She had tested Karl and Stefan together, and Stefan had shown a certain ability to receive thoughts, though he couldn't mind-speak directly; no matter how hard he had tried to send his thoughts out to others no one heard him but himself.

Karl, on the other hand, had shown no trace of spiritual ability, his spirit didn't seem to extend beyond his own physical body and mind; he could neither mind-speak nor project his sight beyond that which his own eyes could see.

They left the tent that had been erected for the testing, Stefan prattling on about his excitement about the prospect of traveling to the Riana valley this winter for training.

It had been dark in the tent and Karl's eyes were still adjusting to the brightness of the day, when suddenly someone came bounding around the corner of the tent and ran right into him with such force that he lost his balance and fell to his knees.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, I wasn't paying any attention to where I was going. I'm so sorry. Here let me help you up."

Karl eyed the tall, gangly, dark haired girl as she put her hands around his arm and tried to hoist him up; but Karl was so mesmerized by her impish features that he just sat there, stunned and immovable.

"Madra? Where did you come from?" Stefan asked, his expression as perplexed as Karl imagined his own to be. "And why haven't we seen you at all during the gathering?"

"Oh, I just arrived. Mother wanted me to spend some time at Elbrus; but now that she's almost ready to go home, she wanted me to join her here so I could travel with her when she leaves."

Could this really be Terell's daughter? Karl wondered. "The last time I saw you, you were just a little girl throwing rocks at me for calling you names."

Laughter lit her golden eyes. "And now here I am, knocking you down into the dirt. What an ill-mannered child you must think me!"


Terell's voice emerged from behind them, and before Karl could think of a reply to her last statement, the girl had dropped his arm and rushed forward to greet her mother with a warm embrace.

“You made excellent timing getting here,” Terell said, with a note of pride in her voice, turning the girl towards the tent. “I’m glad, as there is much to do. We still have a few more boys to test and you can help with that, and then I’ll want you to help with the packing for our return.”

“Oh, Mother, I just got here. Can’t I at least rest for a while?” the girl complained, but went willingly enough with the older woman, turning back to Karl and Stefan with a quick grin and a wave.

Stefen let out a low whistle of appreciation as she disappeared into the tent with her mother. “Maybe she’ll get to help with my training this winter,” he said.

A sense of jealousy flickered towards his friend, and Karl found himself wishing he hadn’t yet been tested, for he had felt a definite spark within his spirit when this girl had locked her golden eyes on his, and it was like nothing he had ever felt before.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Survival skills

Without a word, she dropped to the ground. Quietly, she crept forward, creeping slowly past the tree she’d been hiding in and pouncing suddenly upon the three women who were supposed to be stalking her; causing them to screech in surprise and dismay.

“Ah, Tulie!” Mara exclaimed. “Where in Gaea’s name did you come from? We’ve been searching for you forever.”

“You’re supposed to be learning survival skills,” Tulie admonished the women. “If I had been a leopard, you would have been its meal.”

“There hasn’t been any sign of big cats in the area,” Mara protested.

“That’s not the point,” Tulie retorted, “You didn’t even know I was near.”

“That’s not fair, Tulie,” Janna complained, “you only told us that you would be hiding, you didn’t tell us you were going to be hunting us yourself.”

“I didn’t tell you I would stay hidden in one place, did I?” Tulie asked the flustered girls. “I just said that you should find me. You walked right past me and didn’t even sense that I was there.”

“Where were you?” asked Luann, “we searched this entire area, twice.”

“I know! I watched you, looking behind every bush and rock, even behind the trees, but you never once thought to look up, did you?” Tulie scoffed. “ I was right there the whole time!” She pointed to the large tree where she had been perched, nestled in the lowest branch. “That should have been the first place you looked.

“Come on, then. Let’s go back to camp and we’ll try this again in the morning.” As Tulie led the women back to their base camp, she thought about other lessons she could teach them. She’d already taught them to scout out the safest areas for making camp, to provide shelter and fire for themselves, to find and replenish provisions as needed.

Her goal was to prepare them to journey, undetected and alone; to be able to travel between and among the various tribes within the region. To observe and report the activities of those tribes to Madra, the Riannan leader, who was the spiritual leader of the region, and Tulie’s mother as well.

These women were the daughters of the Kakaesian tribal leaders, chosen to be the Appointed among the tribes; though they’d not be assigned to their own tribe, for their loyalty must be to Madra. They had been chosen, not just because they were the daughters of the leaders, but also because they had shown signs of possessing the skills necessary to be Appointed; the primary skill being able to mind-speak across distances. Perhaps, Tulie considered, this might be what she should practice next.

“Tonight, we’ll spend the night in silence,” Tulie spoke within their minds, for she not only had the ability to mind-speak, but she could link their thoughts together so they could hear each other and not just one another. “Speak only through the link, and only the thoughts you want to share.”

“What, you don’t want to hear Janna’s thoughts about bedding Ronnald?” Mara quipped, “or Luann’s longing for home?”

“Probably not,” Tulie laughed, “and I don’t want to hear your thoughts about how hungry you are, either Mara, unless it is to tell us what you will prepare for us to eat.”

Tulie fetched her water skin and filled it from a nearby stream, all the while being plagued with an odd sensation of being watched, though her scrutiny of the surroundings didn’t show anything unusual or particularly dangerous. Through the link, she warned the girls to be especially aware, even as she heightened her own senses, loosening her spear from its place on her belt and bringing it to hand.

A strong, musky scent was the only warning Tulie had, drawing her eyes upward into the tree directly ahead, where she saw the leopard just as it sprang with powerful momentum in the same moment Tulie flung her spear with all her strength and speed. Tulie felt shock and fear within the link as they waited for the impact to come.

And then a silence descended within the link, as the women pondered what had just occurred, eventually they busied themselves with their chosen chores. Mara was the designated cook, and she sent thoughts to the group about starting the fire, while Luann offered to find some tubers if Mara would make a stew; and Janna sighed and thought about Ronnald, much to the amusement of all, while Tulie set about skinning the cat.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The tree

Write everything you know about your favorite tree

Jolene lay, surrounded by rock and short grass, under an ancient tree; peering up through thick, wide needles and gnarled limbs that seemed to spiral up and up and up. The canopy of this tree was wide and glorious, spreading out in a maze of branches for birds to nest and perch upon. The web of branches were so thick that Jolene could hardly see the sky above, except through small pockets of light where she could see soft clouds and brilliant sunlight, streaking down through the branches and the needles.

Before she had lain down in the grass, her twin brother, Josef, had left her to go lay on the other side of the tree, but the trunk was so massive she could no longer see him at all.

She only knew he was there because she could feel the wonder in his thoughts, linked to hers across the distance.

“It seems so real,” Jolene heard his thoughts in her mind, “like I could actually touch it if I wanted!”

In reality, they weren’t anywhere near the tree, for they did not know where it stood, except within this memory. The memory had passed to Jolene from her mother, Shanidar, who had passed it to her daughter along with the ancestral memories that her mother had passed on to her when she had died. These ancestral memories were as old as the tree, and perhaps as difficult to follow as the gnarled maze of the branches twisting above. But the memory was as real and solid as was the tree, and one day Jolene knew that someone would find it, and would touch the tree as she now saw Josef touching it in her thoughts.