September Challenge - Topic:
©2012 AP Castell
‘Come Jaya, we must keep walking.’ Maisen urged his betrothed, taking her hand as he returned to the front of the crowd. She, like many of the tribe were struggling to continue, they were all suffering fatigue and dehydration. Several of the sick and elderly had already perished. No man, woman or child had eaten for more than two sun revolutions.
Fragten and his men had been responsible for that, burning their village to the ground and destroying everything, grain, cured meats, preserves and other provisions they had collected over months, in preparation for this journey. Thankfully, most of the women and children had been at worship. The few that had remained, had been brutally slain, his mother amongst them. When he and the hunting party had returned it had been too late. His anger flared anew consuming his grief. He would avenge each and every one, if it was the last thing he did.
‘It is not much further, my heart,’ he put a hand under her elbow, the endearment familiar to his lips. She was petite. Her flame hair was coming unravelled from her braid.
‘I am fine, do not bother with me, there are many who need help far more. Go, be with your people.’ Jaya smiled gently up at him, her fathomless green eyes large in her small, pale face. Stretching up, she brushed his hair off his cheek and newly acquired scar. The eye-patch concealed the worst of it. Sadness entered her gaze.
Taking her hand in his, he pressed his lips to her knuckles. She was a brushfire that brightened his darkness. After a moment’s hesitation he walked away to tend to his people.
He and his men moved amongst them, assisting where they could, though his strength now waned. For the safety of the migrating populace they must push on. They were exposed like this and under threat of discovery from Fragten’s troops. They did not have man power, nor stamina, to battle Fragten.
The tribe had declined in recent years, its numbers only reaching in excess of a hundred, half of which accounted for the hunting part. They were not soldiers, but husbands, fathers and sons. A peaceable people, before Fragten had begun his campaign of terror. As hunters they were skilled with their weapons, but never had they turned them on another human being. Now however they did what must be done to defend their own.
The woman beside him stumbled. Reaching out a hand he stopped her fall, she was with child. She smiled.
‘Not much further.’ He assured, guiding her to the edge of the crowd he lifted her onto a horse, behind a child.
In an attempt to lift the tribe’s spirits Jaya had suggested he walk alongside them. Sitting before him on the stallion at the time, she had insisting on walking also. Ignoring his words, she had dismounted, offering his stallion to a man with five children, four now sat astride, while the eldest lead the beast. He had instructed his men to do likewise, apart from the hunting party, few others had horses. Fragten’s men had stolen the ones stabled.
‘Look the pinnacle of Asalon, it beckons us.’ A voice in the crowd cried.
As he reached the summit the great stone pillars came into view at the base of the hill. The crowd surged forward as one, eager for the sanctuary of the promised land.
Weaving between bodies he searched for Jaya. When he made the front striding ahead of the mass, he panicked. She was nowhere. Fear rose from within, don’t let her be trampled by the crush.
Relief flooded him, she sat atop a rubble of rocks. He made his way to her, the crowd veered allowing their chief to pass.
‘Jaya, why do you stop when we are so close?’
‘It is my ankle.’ Tears shimmered in her eyes.
He lifted her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck, resting her head against his shoulder. Turning he marched down the hill, quickly closing the distance to the stone gateway.
His people gathered there, waiting for him to lead them into Asalon. He waited until they were all present before he spoke, ‘For too many years we have lived in fear, enduring much turmoil and suffering. Today is the beginning of a better life. Here we shall live in peace, raising our families in harmony, our children will flourish. Let us enter as one.’ Turning, Jaya held against his chest, he lead the way. The view took his breath, lush green hills and valleys interrupted by a sapphire ribbon that wove its way to the sea.
Looking down at Jaya, she smiled back at him. Tears of joy dampened her cheeks.
‘Our new beginning, Jaya.’
August Writing Challenge – Topic: Music & Heat
Save the Last Dance for Me
© 2012 AP Castell
Abbey stared at her reflection in the mirror, blinking several times at the stranger staring back. She had never thought herself beautiful before, the makeup artist had worked a miracle.
Tonight was the annual, Mid-Summer Nights Dance. The whole town turned out for the event.
Adjusting the elasticised edge of her new peasant style red dress, she twirled experimentally. The skirt flared, revealing far too much. Definitely no spinning! She laughed ironically. That shouldn’t be a problem. If previous years were anything to go by, she wouldn’t be dancing. A blush stole across her cheeks. That wasn’t entirely true; for the last six years she danced one dance, the last dance with Lachlan Coburn. It was tradition to close the Dance with, Save the Last Dance for me, and though Merv and the Mechanics did a fair rendition, they were not The Drifters.
Abbey left the dance floor for the first time since arriving, making a beeline for the refreshments table. Flushed and over-heated she accepted a glass of punch from old Miss Davis, she drank gratefully. Over the rim she spotted the only man she had ever loved emerging from the crowd. Tall and broad shouldered he was easily visible as he made his way toward her, a determined look on his handsome face. It looked as if he had dragged a hand through his dark hair, which he habitually did.
As he drew near, she looked away not wanting to appear like some love sick teenager.
“Damn it Abbey, are you trying to drive me insane?”
She turned in confusion and he continued; his beautiful blue eyes dark with annoyance. “You must have danced with every male here from five to a hundred and five.” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
She smiled. “I haven’t danced with Mr Watkins and he is only 93. Can you see him? I wouldn’t want to offend.” she teased, unsure where this new found confidence had come from.
He relaxed, giving her one of his knee weakening smiles. “Sorry, jealousy is a new emotion for me.”
Stunned, she just stared mutely at him, her confidence disintegrating.
He moved closer, their bodies touching. Cupping her chin in his hand, his thumb caressed along her cheek. “You look hot Abbey.”
“Ah, yes that’s because I have been dancing,” she whispered breathlessly.
He laughed huskily, “Yes I know, what I mean is, you look stunning.” He lowered his head, her eyes fluttered closed, the noise and confusion of the hall faded away. There was just the two of them. With his lips a mere breathe from hers he murmured, “You have always been beautiful”. His warm lips brushed hers.
“Folks, we’ve got an unusual request so if you can bear with us, we will be breaking with tradition. This song is for Abbey and Lachlan.” The room filled with the strains of, Save the Last Dance for Me.
Lachlan groaned, reluctantly ending the kiss. Face flushed, he took her hand leading her onto the dance floor.
July Writing Challenge –Topic: The Storm
©AP Castell’s The Storm
The wind roared and howled, rain lashed horizontally. Trees were uprooted. Branches, sheets of metal, newspapers and other, unrecognizable debris flew through the churning night sky, slamming into stationary objects, before being snatched up once more. Growing in velocity, it throbbed with a dark and menacing energy, striking out indiscriminately, wrecking havoc and fear upon the earth.
On a static charged flash of light, a tall masculine silhouette appeared out of the night, striding purposefully down the road, a twister following closely at his heels. Projectiles shot in every direction and yet he was not struck. He seemed unaffected by the wild storm, the cloak he wore lay still at his back. It was as if he were encapsulated within an invisible cocoon. Suddenly he turned his head. An all mighty, clap of thunder vibrated under foot, and he was lost to the darkness.
Maddy jumped up from the window seat, her heart pounding. Dear god! For an instant, when he had turned, it had felt as if he stared directly at her and then the house had shaken violently from the force of the thunder. She shivered wrapping her arms around herself, rubbing at the goose bumps there. Had she really seen a man? She craned her neck, straining to see out the window, but her own wide eyed reflection stared back at her, from the dark. She frowned. It made no sense. It must have been a trick of the light. No one would survive out there tonight. She shook her head at her wild imaginings and drew the blind over the window. The flame on the candle nearest her flickered. She had lit several earlier when she lost power; they cast eerie shadows around the room. Suddenly the wind ceased, after the deafening roar, the silence seemed unnaturally quite.
The room plunged into darkness, a knock came at the door!