Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The King's Challenge #7


The old man gets up and leaves his book. I have the feeling this is an unusual event for him, for he gives the tome quite the look as he rounds his scarred table to come towards me.

“Girl,” he says, “I do not want to know who you are, but I must warn you. Many folk are wary of the two eyes and will stand aside for you, even help you. More will seek to kill you, for fear is better set to rest that way. If you insist on heading further into the marsh, hide your face.”

I smell his sour breath, and it churns my stomach, but as he is being kind I do not allow it to show. “I hear you and thank you, but I must find Damin. What do you know of him?”

Attis, I notice, stands in the doorway as if guarding it from listening ears. The boy, if that is what he is doing, is wise beyond his years.

“Damin Mur has a price on his head, girl. Up there …” The old man gestures at the higher city. “… they call him the Marsh Devil.”

When Attis gasps, I understand this is bad. “What does that mean?” I ask, swallowing.

“Girl, he is the underground leader, a revolutionary stoking others to rise against the authorities. The marsh hides him, for many agree Normur needs change. If you go in asking about him, you will lose your head. Why do you seek him?”

I feel the need to sit. There is no strength in my legs. “He is my betrothed.”

The old man stares at me. “Girl, he has turned his back on all matters relating to Grenmassin. Best for you would be leaving this place.”

I cannot. This is not merely about my future.

79 000+!

Thank you for visiting!


Monday, August 3, 2015

The King's Challenge #6


No doubt the stone the deadhouse is raised from is meant to keep the smell contained. Bodies in a damp environment do not hold integrity long. These stones, though, are saturated with the decay of years and I gag repeatedly as we approach the entrance.

Attis glances at me. “The deadhouse is the only building that survives the water every time.”

I cannot think why. The island is soggy and low. It feels as if the whole will sink below the surface without warning.

We enter and I thank the stars there are no bodies. What there is, is an old man without any hair on his head, bent over a book in the gloom, busy scribbling. Without looking up, he says, “Take the body round back.”

I clear my throat. “I am hoping to look at your list.”

The man slaps his stubby pencil down. “Lists are private,” he snarls, looking up. “You want to see, you go to …” He stops there as he marks my eyes. “And who are you?” he asks more quietly.

“My name is Lyra and I …”

He interrupts. “Where are you from?”

“I have come from Grenmassin to find someone.”

“Grenmassin, the farming commune? You are beyond your reach here, girl.” The old man begins to flip pages, glancing down. “However, when a blue and a green eye asks, it is our task to reveal. This is why someone sent you, not so? Who are you looking for?”

His words have astonished me, but I will examine them later. Now I need what he knows. “He is called Damin Mur.”

A gnarly hand rises to scratch at a hairless head. “He is not in my book.”

My breath almost leaves my body eternally. “Because you know he is alive?”

The old man nods.

Romance of the unusual

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The King's Challenge #5


Damin cannot be dead. I would know if it was so. As I swallow my anger, I begin to wonder if I would know. Perhaps he changed so much here, the connection we once had no longer exists.

“If he is dead, I need to confirm it,” I say to the boy, and even my ears can pick up on how hard it is for me to say those words.

Attis grimaces, but he nods and turns to take to the path again. Over his bony shoulder he throws, “I’ll take you to the deadhouse first. They keep records there. If his name isn’t on a list …” He shrugs then and swipes at his shock of tawny hair as if embarrassed.

It causes me to smile. He is just a boy and does not deserve my anger. “The records are accurate?”

I see him nod decisively.

We negotiate more winding ways until the ground levels into a series of wooden walks crossing the wet of the lowlands. This is marshland. In past days, many were lost to the marshes, and thus our habitable territory was decreed as ended where the plateau stops. It seems, though, when too many seek their fortune in the same place, the laws of the land and of logic no longer apply.

I place my feet carefully on rotting boards, and wonder what happens during the wet season. Surely the lower city floods then? The islands popping from the festering wet are crowded with buildings … and each seems spectacularly unsafe. I note they are crowded with people too. How do they eat? There is a sense of desperation about this place.

Attis turns sharply left to follow another path through the marsh. Ahead I see a stone building, the only one amid a morass of wood.

Listening paper

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The King's Challenge #4


The streets wind downward from the road I entered Normur from. Where we as civilisation live is a plateau, and Normur perches at the end of high ground. The larger part of this city sits safe from the lowlands, and then the sprawl of time and people takes over. It begins to descend into the marsh.

My view of the lights revealed to me only the upper city. Now the true size is uncovered as we go downhill via winding paths. Also, there is a curious lack of organisation about it, as if the city grew according to need, not planning. No doubt this was the way of it.

“Who you looking for?” Attis asks.

He is agile and jumps the sudden curves in the paths to land on lower sections, therefore I find myself almost running to keep up. Breathless, I respond, “Damin.”

“Never heard of him,” the boy shrugs dismissively. “Why is he here? Normur is the end of the road. Nowhere else to go from here.”

“Unless you go back,” I mutter, but he does not hear me. Louder, I say, “He sought to learn a trade.”

“Here?” Attis is clearly astonished. “You don’t learn stuff here. You come here knowing stuff and hope to make a fortune.”

His statement fills me with anxiety. Surely Damin would have realised such a state of affairs quickly; why did he stay if there is nothing here for him? He promised to return when qualified. That was five years ago.

Attis is looking at me and has come to halt on the path. “Maybe he is dead,” he says.

He tries to prepare me, I understand, for death must be familiar to a city dweller, particularly of Normur, but his words, offered quietly and with compassion, fill me with rage.

Justine's Journal #50

52 Weeks 500 Words

This is how it began: Justine (not her real name) decided to write 500 words (or as near as), anything goes, per week for 52 weeks. She would then submit it for anonymous posting, via me, her friend. Perhaps a pattern will emerge from her words, but at this stage it’s more an experiment I have agreed to share in. I’ll attempt to draw conclusions at the end of this. Stay tuned if this resonates with you.

Week 50

"Do you know this one? Due to the drama caused by certain members of your family, you choose to walk away. You cut them out of your life, because your sanity is more important to you than always ‘coping’ with the latest drama.

Yes? Many of us eventually reach this point where staying away is the better option, don’t we?

And then something happens that could change it. In this instance, a friend walked away from family … and now someone has fallen ill, seriously ill. To make peace, she would like to visit, but there is so much added stuff that comes with doing this, she is now in quite a bind. On the one hand, she will feel terribly guilty if she stays away, but on the other hand she must expect havoc to re-enter her life once more if she steps into that ring again.

I don’t know how to advise her. My family is sparse, but I have had friends I now no longer have contact with. So I understand, but family, of course, is not quite the same as a friend you no longer see. What wold you do? Which is the better choice?

Why do so many of us function only when there is drama in our lives? We say we don’t need it and yet seek it out and sometimes even cause it. Why? If we sought peace first, my friend would make her way to the hospital in ease and visit without the expectations of doom now hanging over her.

Unfortunately, this is the negative side in all of us. This is how we get our energy. Without it we feel drained and have no sense of place. Right? But hold on here, is it not also true that at the end of a long day of drama we feel drained and without direction? It stands to reason then, the energy we think we get is in fact the wrong energy. It may bolster us through the day (or so we think) but at the end of it we have lost ourselves, rather than gained.

There is no easy answer, other than to suggest toning down the drama. Concentrate on peace. This is what my friend did, of course, in staying away … so what now? I would say pay that visit and make your peace and then step away again, even if it means putting your phone off for a week or two until the others involved get the message. Maybe that’s being rude and stubborn, but we have to take care of ourselves first.

Good luck, my friend. My door is open if you need to unload, know that!"

Coffee and a book


Friday, July 31, 2015

The King's Challenge #3


The boy who brought my meal last night sits on the step outside as I leave the inn. He grins at me, which is a marked change from his previous reaction. I ask if he knows how to get to the lower city.

“Why do you want to go there?” he asks. “Folk get killed there.”

He eyes my pack, which I have slung forward to hang from my shoulders against my stomach. The traveller I met on the road suggested I do so. Safer, he said. Pickpockets will clean you out from the back. It is a decent pack, of quality leather and shiny clasps. My brother made it and suggested I use it. Weatherproof, he said, and strong enough to handle any travel. Clearly the boy sees it has value and obviously he now wonders why I need to enter the lower city. I seem to have coin, in his mind; why leave this inn unless I am to take to my travels again.

“I am looking for someone,” I tell him.

The boy nods as if he is life’s greatest sage. “I can take you,” he says. “A silver for my troubles.”

The phrase sounds like something he heard someone else use, for it is too adult. I smile at him. “Two bronze. One now and one when we arrive.”

He squints against the grey light. “Fine.” He holds his hand out.

I find a bronze and hand it over. “What is your name?”

“Attis,” he mumbles as he gets to his feet.

He is scruffy in the sense that his clothes need mending, but he is clean and well fed. Working at an inn has its advantages, I assume. Perhaps he is the son of the owner.

“Let’s go,” he says and steps into the cobbled street. I follow.

9 Woes of the Writing Life

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The King's Challenge #2


After spending the night restless upon a hard bed and enduring dark hours punctuated with too much noise, I am up with the first of dawn’s light. It is overcast out, but a country girl knows when the new day has arrived.

Opening the shutters I closed the night before to shut out the intrusive lights from the city, I gaze into a dreary landscape. It occurs to me the lights of night make this place pretty, for by day it is ugly. Buildings many storeys high create alleys of only shadow, and the grey, filthy stone has little appeal. Roof tiles are all encrusted with decades of grime. Smoke weaves out from chimneys to choke oxygen from the air.

The spread of this place is even larger than the lights had me believe. A maze of alleys and streets lie before me, and so many buildings I have never seen together in one space. How do these people all eat? There must be many thousands.

It will be hard to find Damin in this cesspit of humanity.

I do have a clue, though. This inn was recommended to me by a traveller I met on the road four days ago. Thank the stars, for upon looking down I realise how hard it will be to make informed choices here. What do I know about cities? The traveller also told me to start my search for someone lost in the lower city. Apparently all newcomers land up there, for rent is cheap while one waits for employment. Where this lower part is, though, I cannot say.

Today I need to talk to people or I go exactly nowhere. It is my hope I do not frighten them off. Most folk are wary of a girl with a blue and a green eye.

Books are beautiful, reading is inspiring

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The King's Challenge #1


Night’s city lights have removed the stars from clear view and I am saddened by this. I miss the countryside with its silver spangles and cosmic spirals. Out there in the silence I am able to know myself; here I feel lost.

This is my choice, though, for duty has summoned me to this press of people. Somewhere out there I will find him. He came here to lose himself deliberately, I know this, but the time for selfishness has now passed. He needs to come home, as I need to return there. Together we can convince the others of escape, for I cannot do so alone. They do not listen to me, but they will at least come to hear his words and I may then speak through him. The trouble now is trying to convince him of my words when I do find him.

By the light of stars, I hope the others will hear also. Our time is now short.

Hearing the door open behind me, I turn. My meal has arrived. Striding forward to pay, I search for my purse in my pocket. I think my forceful actions scares the boy, for he steps back swiftly, his eyes growing bigger. Mother always said I need to control my movements, because I tend to frighten people with my personality. Too much like a man, Lyra, use your femininity more! Already they think you strange; don’t give them more reason to whisper about you behind your back.

Slowing my movements, I smile at the boy as I hand over the required coin, with an extra one for him. He swallows, nods, and makes himself rapidly scarce. Sighing, I sit to eat.

Potatoes coated in spice, with slivers of venison. Damin would love it. How do I find him?