Tiger, Tiger – Part thirty five

snickering-tiger

Photo via Visual hunt

The beast’s jaws never reached Lilavati. Arrows sprouted from its face like the quills of a porcupine. Frost appeared on its skin. It staggered back, and then fled.

Strong arms held her as the horse was lifted and the saddle removed. Then the straps were unfastened and she was released. Manas held her to his chest. “My dark scholar, what happened? I told you not to leave your guards.”

“My horse was killed and then they rode past as if they did not see me,” Lilavati said, clinging to him. She sobbed into his shoulder. “The preester and your soldiers did not even look behind them as they rode past.”

“Ludger, send one of our riders to catch up with them. I want answers,” Manas snapped. Ludger nodded and went back to the company. Manas scooped Lilavati up and set her on his horse. He climbed up behind her. “My dark scholar. I will never let you out of my sight again.” This was said as a soft growl in her ear.

The company moved on down the road. Lilavati wept softly as they went. Manas continued murmuring quietly into her ear, comforting words that soothed her even as her fears and grief continued to overwhelm her. She wanted to lay down and go to sleep, but that would entail being put in one of the carts. Terror choked off the request as the memory of her dream returned.

It was an hour before Theda and those with her rejoined the group. All of them looked completely embarrassed. “Great Lord, forgive us,” Theda said, bowing her head. “Some dark magician must have charmed us, twisting our minds into believing the Great Lady continued to ride with us. It wasn’t until your messenger caught up with us that we knew she was gone.”

Manas shuddered. The mere mention of a dark magician seemed to cause him pain. Lilavati frowned. She’d seen no one else on the road, and the strange feline inside of her stretched and growled once more before subsiding.

Manas looked down at her. “Did you growl?” he whispered.

“It was what was awakened within me,” Lilavati said.

Manas nodded. He looked at Theda. “Preester, you are supposed to be immune to such things. How is it you were affected as my men were?”

“I don’t know,” Theda said. “The Blessings of the Twelve usually protect me from such things.” She frowned. “I’ll have to ask them for answers later because right now I have none.”

“Great Lord, the saddle is salvageable, but the mare is dead,” Ludger said.

“How did she die?” Lilavati asked.

“Lilavati wants to know how she died,” Manas said.

“There are no marks, but I can feel the presence of dark magic,” Ludger said. His face was grim. He held up his hand. “I know that isn’t a complete answer. I don’t know what else to say, Great Lord. I feel no presence of a dark mage.” He cocked his head to one side. “Not a mage, a cleric. This was done by a fell preester, Great Lord.”

“A cleric from another land?” Theda asked.

Ludger shook his head. “No, this definitely has the touch of the darker side of the Twelve, Preester. No outsider did this.”

Theda scowled. “How do you know the difference between a fell preester and an outsider, Ludger?”

Ludger stood up to his fullest height. “Because Preester, I am not a follower of the Twelve, in spite of all of your attempts to convert me. I have knowledge of more religions than you and your kind are willing to admit exist. So yes, Preester, I’m very certain this is was done by a fell preester since this magic reeks of the presence of the Twelve.”

“Enough, you two,” Manas said, his voice ringing out over theirs. “We don’t have time for this. The beast may return and I doubt we’ll be able to drive it off so quickly again. We ride. Now.”

Riding cradled in Manas’ arms wasn’t comfortable, but Lilavati refused to ask to be moved to a cart. Theda rode up next to them. “Great Lord, wouldn’t it be better for the Great Lady to be -?”

“Do not even attempt to finish that question, Preester,” Manas said coldly, looking over at her. “I’m far better equipped to protect my dark scholar than you seem to think. Also, should that fell preester – or another who practices evil magic – be in the area, I have no desire to leave her so exposed.”

Theda fell back. “She is so protective of me,” Lilavati said. “I have never had so many who cared for my well being.”

Manas kept his eyes on the road. “She’s overprotective, if you ask me. I’d rather she kept her distance if all she’s going to do is question my decisions.”

“Are you certain it is not you who has become overprotective?” Lilavati asked. She felt Manas stiffen but he said nothing. “My love, I am too fragile to be in conflict with you. I cannot debate what I think and feel with any sense of clarity. I also do not wish to anger you. I have never known what it meant to be protected, until the night before you came to claim me. Even then, I was only guarded because my father did not wish to return the great treasures you paid him.”

“I’m the one who got the greatest treasure out of the bargain,” Manas said.

“My love, listen,” Lilavati said. Manas sighed. “You have given me guards, Ludger has used both magic and medicine to protect me, and even the preester has done what she can to be certain I am safe. Yet still I have suffered more harm in the days I have been outside the borders of my own lands than I ever did inside them.”

“Do you blame me for this?” Manas asked through clenched teeth.

“Of course not, my love,” Lilavati said. She leaned back against him, feeling the powerful muscles in his chest shift as he adjusted his position to accommodate her. “I blame whatever force it is that seeks to destroy us both.”

“You don’t believe that you’re the only target of this,” Manas said.

“No.” Lilavati knew he heard her when the low growl rumbled through his chest but did not escape his lips.

to be continued…

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It’s that time of year again!

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

Every year since I discovered it back in 2003, I’ve at least attempted to write a minimum of 50k words in 30 days in November for NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. It’s actually international, but NaNoWriMo works better for an acronym. 🙂

For those that don’t know anything about this fun – though stressful – event, it starts at midnight on November 1st and runs to 11:59 PM (in your time zone for both of those) November 30th. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Not an insurmountable task, but it can be difficult if you don’t schedule out the time to do it.

As I said, I’ve been doing it since 2003. Guess what, I didn’t finish in 2003. Hell, I barely got a week in. Of course, 2003 is also the year my oldest daughter was born, so you can kind of guess why I didn’t get my 50k that year. XD

I’ve “lost” six of the past fourteen years I’ve participated. I only say “lost” because I didn’t manage to write the 50k words required to get the cute little certificate you can print out. I actually won because I wrote words in November, more words than I’d had to begin with.

I’ve set up this year’s project on the site, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll actually participate. Tiger, Tiger is far more complex than I thought it would be and I don’t know if I’ll finish by the end of October. I hope so, because I’d love to participate in NaNo this year. I started last year, but other deadlines took me out of the running for the validation check mark.

There are official rules to follow, but you can throw them out the window and do just about anything you want, though counting what you wrote before November 1st is still considered “cheating.” You’d just be cheating yourself by not being honest, but it’s still not considered the thing to do.

There’s a program – called the Young Writers’ Program – for children and teens. There are many schools all across the world who use it to promote learning, creativity, and writing skills. It’s actually a very interesting program and you can learn more about it by going through the main NaNo site.

You have forums where you can ask questions, visit with people writing in your genre, talk to people in your own age group, and play little time wasting games when you should be writing. You can discover so many new and different things too. It’s just a lot of fun.

I’m sharing the link to my profile, just so you can see what a NaNoWriMo profile looks like – and so if you decide you want to join up you can become one of my “writing buddies” there. 😉

NaNoWriMo can be a lot of fun, and if you’re curious or just want to challenge yourself, come give it a try. Here I am!

Tiger, Tiger – Part eighteen

tiger-stripe

Photo via Visual hunt

Theda looked intrigued. “I’ll exchange one story of our gods for a tale of the way your people look at spirituality,” she said. “We can go on this way until we make camp.”

“I will agree to that, so long as you do not let anyone else call you from my side,” Lilavati said. The latter half of the comment was barely heard, but Theda nodded.

“Then I’ll begin,” Theda said. “And what better place to start than with the creation of our world?”

Lilavati moved unconsciously to allow herself to match the movement of her horse as she turned her attention to the preester. “How do your people say how it was formed?”

Theda’s face grew solemn. “In the beginning, there was the Void.” Lilavati shivered. “Then Bolorrma, Mother of the Darkness, and Ikeena, Father of the Light, joined together and created the sun, the stars, and the moons. They pushed the Void back and sealed it away behind a barrier of light and shadow. Now, there was light in the universe, and some substance, but still no life. So Bolorrma and Ikeena created this world and set upon it twelve beings of the purest form. They gave the care and governing of this newly formed creation into their hands.”

“So those twelve beings are your gods?” Lilavati asked.

“They are. We believe that, when they saw how barren and empty this new world was, they decided to give it life. They covered it with everything they could think of to make it perfect for their children, and then spun our races out of their own essence. They were  young gods, so their creations were imperfect, but in their eyes that made us interesting to watch,” Theda said. “So they watched.”

“If they are so pure, why do they allow such things as wars, famine, and disease to kill so many?” Lilavati asked.

“A very good question, and one I asked many times when I first entered my training,” Theda said. “I was told to seek the answer myself and I would find it.” She smiled gently. “I won’t ask you to do the same thing, as you aren’t a preester with access to all the things I did.” Her face grew serious again. “Great Lady, the reason the Twelve let such terrible things happen to us is the fact that they made us mortal. We can die where they cannot. We are also not a peaceful people. By our very nature, we must fight. We’re made up of weak flesh rather than pure form, and our bodies are vulnerable to such things as disease and hunger. They let these things happen so we can be free of our frail flesh and rejoin them as beings of pure form.”

“Why not simply give all people a certain length of time they have to live and in the end let them go in peace?” Lilavati asked.

“Another thing they have given us, Great Lady, is the freedom of choice,” Theda said. “We aren’t mindless creatures, strictly following the orders of divine beings – though they have given us some guidelines. We get to be who we want to be. Unfortunately those who choose the wrong path can cause suffering for others. It’s not fair, it’s not what those who suffer choose, but it’s the way of life. Things aren’t meant to be fair either, Great Lady. I see that question in your face. But the pendulum of power swings always and things balance themselves out in the end.”

“An interesting idea,” Lilavati said.

“So, tell me a bit about your people and what they believe,” Theda said.

“I cannot say much about the Thousand, not because I do not wish to but because I do not know,” Lilavati said. “I was taught little about them, other than their laws and what I am forbidden – as a woman – to do. Many women chafe under these laws, but as the men prefer it as it stands, nothing will change because there are not enough of us who wish to challenge the laws.”

“I’d think there would be many,” Theda said.

Lilavati shrugged. “Perhaps the way we are taught drives all thought of resistance out of their minds. Our spirituality though comes out of our ties to our home.” She fell silent for a moment. “Each day is new to us, with the spirit of the world speaking to us in whispers of what wonders it could hold as we wake. We listen and make our plans. Water plays a very big part in our ceremonies, whether the little ones we do as part of our daily rituals or the great ones to celebrate the turning of the seasons, ancient festivals celebrating events we no longer even have records of. They are traditional parts of our lives, and we must follow the never ending cycle of our lives until they end.”

“That doesn’t sound very spiritual to me,” Theda said. “It sounds more like a forced tradition that you’ve been taught is spirituality.”

“You may be right,” Lilavati said. “But that is the way I view things.” She closed her eyes. “I do not know how much longer I can stand this.”

Manas rejoined them. “Ludger says there’s a good spot another eight spans up the road where we can camp. He’s muttering about how it’s too early, but I told him the life of my dark scholar is more important to me than our progress. We’ll still get to Phiri Hu with plenty of time to spare before it gets too hard to get through the passes.”

Theda nodded. “I’ll continue riding with you for a little longer, Great Lord, if you don’t mind. I think I’m needed to steady the Great Lady.”

Lilavati opened her eyes and nodded. “Please Manas. Let her stay.”

“Of course, Lilavati,” Manas said, using her name for the first time since the exchange that ultimately freed her from her father. “Be calm. Ludger says we’re almost through this area. We’ll be on to a flat stretch known as the Barrier, and then we’ll be good. Can you hold on that long?”

“What’s the Barrier?” Theda asked.

“Somewhere that’s going to be hard on my dark scholar,” Manas said grimly.

to be continued…