“Song of Wandering Aengus” by WB Yeats Inspires Jen

The Song of Wandering Aengus © Copyright William Butler Yeats, 1899. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.

The Song of Wandering Aengus © Copyright William Butler Yeats, 1899. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the Creative Commons License.

The Hunt

The night of the Hunt we always stole away, Mica and I, just in case. Most stayed with their families to say goodbye in case the glow started, but we stuck together. The elixir lingered on my tongue, heavy and sickly sweet like molasses. My hands shook as I waited for my veins to glow white, or not.

Mica bit into an apple he stole, keen to get the taste of the damning elixir out of his mouth. He tossed the fruit to me. It was crisp and light, one of the best I’d had here. We waited for the glow. It should have only taken a few minutes.

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.

“I always worry.”

“I know, so do I.” His brown eyes were made black by the slivered moon above us. Then he kissed me and I forgot everything, and we ended up a sticky mess of Macintosh nectar and summer heat.

I’ve worried every month since this deal was struck. This was the price we paid for the protection of the Headers. They get to hunt us like dogs once a month, and we get to sleep in the protection of the city away from the demons rising from the ashes outside the untouchable dome of Nacht. They would kill three people tonight, chosen by the elixir we all just drank. Drink the placebo and you can go home, but drink elixir and your veins spark like fireworks. That’s when you start running. It’s a sport.

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Jen’s No Rules Friday

Here’s a little sneak peek at my work in progress:

Everything is still. I am unmoving on the Northshore, watching from the trees. Watching the sky and the sea and the land. The morning, the land, and even the sea is still today, though the wind blows. It’s like the coast is waiting, but for what I don’t know. And then I do.

A girl appears on the Northshore, and nothing inside of me is still, for I recognize her instantly, as anyone would.

Aeryn.

Her face is known throughout this land.  I’ve never seen it so close, though I’m hardly close to her at all. She is all red and white in the dawn, her hair like a muddy chestnut and her skin like tea that’s mostly cream. She is glued to the back of her horse, a mare, like the two of them have been a pair for years. Even from this distance, I can tell her mount is fine. Muscles bunch and stretch under her grey coat and her ears flick back and forth, listening to the girl on her back. Her mouth chews at a snaffle bit, and she is supple and round as she works. Her chest is barely lathered, though they must have run from the palace. She’s a strong mount for a seemingly delicate rider.

Aeryn’s hands let the reins go and her horse slows instantly. She dismounts after many steps, and they way she pats her mare tugs a smile from my mouth. Until I realize I’m smiling at the girl who would harm the flying horses. What is she doing so far from home without guards? I could kill her easily, I’m sure of it. Maybe even before she could scream if my aim was right. My hand reaches for my blade. Without her this ruling family would be half its size and without an heir.

My hand tightens on the hilt of the knife, and I aim for her throat. It’ll be a clean kill if I land my mark. Bloody, but clean. My hand doesn’t shake, for I love the flying horses more than I love my future queen. I take one step to align my target and Aeryn’s head pops up to search out the sound of my footfall. I freeze. Her eyes are so green they dance like clovers in the wind and I feel them on me even though she can’t see me. I’m pinned by those eyes for a second. She turns back to her horse, and I know if I don’t throw it now I never will. Eyes make life, and now I’ve seen hers. I try to find the anger I had a moment ago. I find it and I grab it and steady my arm. The blade will fly true.

I hear her gasp. The sound is one of pain or awe, and I haven’t thrown yet so it must be the latter. And then I feel it.

Sciathan.

I see it dancing on the wind and I pray to God the princess doesn’t have a bow on her. The dark flying horse plays in the eddies of the air and I cannot breathe because he is gorgeous and she will kill him. Onyx. The black Sciathan is nothing but ink and velvet.

If I don’t kill her now, the best of the Sciathan will die by her hand or her will. The king of the flying horses cannot die.

My eyes leave Onyx and search out my target again. I pull my arm back as my eyes find her. The muscles in my forearm flex as I aim to throw. Onyx screams above us, and I check the motion at the last moment.

Her face. It’s all red and white and awe. Not anger or determination or hate. It’s an open mouthed grin and wide eyes. It’s caught breath and frozen muscles. She is awed by the best of the Sciathan, and as he disappears into Carraig’s mist I see her mouth move.

“Beautiful,” falls soft and perfect from her lips.

My blade falls at my feet.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Anne’s No Rules Friday next week.

Happy Cimmerween! From Audrey

Cimmerween!

The Perfect Gift

When the little brass bell over door to the shop rings, it’s usually someone boring: the Midwestern tourist coming to gawk, the professor looking for a rare tome, or the overly-invested boyfriend on a quest for a first edition of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” They all flock like a gaggle of unwanted geese to Dr. Borgen’s Book Shop. But with every dull clanging of that little bell, I hold my breath and my stomach gets that creepy sensation that it’s filled with bugs because it might just be someone with something to sell. And sometimes that something is just a first edition of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” but sometimes it’s a tsantsa from Ecuador or a wild hog with flamingo wings made by a Florida taxidermist.

I’m standing at the old walnut counter running my finger nail into the well-worn grooves, when the door creaks and the bell gives a brassy clang, clang, clang and a gust of October air thrusts into the shop. I glance up quickly, but my guest isn’t a seller. I can tell by the way his eyes widen at the rows of books broken here and there by a specimen jar or dusty glass display case. He pulls his brown corduroy jacket a little closer; it’s cold and dry in here. The pop of my bubble gum makes him jump. I push my obsidian-black hair out of my face and smile a too big grin in a way that makes him glance at the door behind him, but he must really want something because he gives his head a small shake and pushes his shoulders back before walking up to the counter.

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Jen’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

My “To Read” pile is starting to get out of hand, which means it looks like a skyscraper. Sitting at the top of it is the third installment of Ilsa Bick’s Ashes Trilogy, Monsters. Aptly named for the upcoming holiday, Monsters is sure to be just as addictive as the first two books, Ashes and Shadows.

The series follows Alex’s struggle to stay alive after Earth is devastated by an electromagnetic pulse that kills billions, alters the minds of thousands, and wipes out every computer system in existence. Thrown into a world that’s ending gives Alex, a terminal cancer patient, a chance for survival she didn’t have before. But the blast that may have stolen her tumor also changes kids into mindless things that eat the squishy parts of other humans, and kill to do it. Alliances form among monsters and men, and communities are born out of danger, tyranny, and the hope to stay alive long enough to rebuild the world.

Bick’s plot is thick and visceral in emotion and content so that your heart speeds up with her characters as they fight, quite literally, for their lives. She mixes survival story with horror in an unfolding apocalypse that challenges every human instinct. The fight or flight in this novel in tangible and goosebump-inducing. Fast paced, terrifyingly detailed, and just enough zombies and gore to make a surgery assistant (ie: me) unsure of her stomach, the series is perfect for a Halloween read.