Writing prompt #2 – The forgotten

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Writing prompt #2: A neglected god or goddess attempts to reclaim his or her former glory.

Nadzeya paced around her once glorious palace. She paused and looked at one of the columns. The black marble was cracked and the glittering veins of gold now resembled tarnished copper more than the precious metal.

It was all that Frane’s fault. He’d slipped his priests in to her lands and polluted the minds of her followers. They’d turned against her to join the ranks of his flock. Her temples and shrines were destroyed, the clerics that remained loyal slaughtered, and Frane stepped into her place.

As a result she was trapped in her realm. There were no songs, no souls offering her worship – they had been claimed by Frane as well due to the ancient laws governing the gods – and her power had been diminished to the point where she could barely light the lamps.

She went to her seeing pool, one of the few pieces of magic that still worked for her. She waved her hand over the surface and the world below appeared to her hungry eyes. She watched the various lands, her heart breaking as war after war filled her vision.

She was about to end the spell when she heard soft crying. She frowned and focused the pool in on the sound. It was a woman with several daughters standing beside three graves. The woman was in her elder years. She was clinging to one of her oldest daughters, a plain woman with brown hair and green eyes. She was sobbing as much as her mother. Another of the grown daughters was holding an infant and sobbing as well.

The younger children – Nadzeya realized that some of the youngest most likely belonged to the oldest daughters – were crying and yelling at the graves for their fathers to wake up.

“Mother, where are the gods? Why have they abandoned us?” the daughter with the infant asked. “Why didn’t they save them?”

“Frane abandoned us long ago, when Empress Lilibet made human sacrifice against the law. The priests declared war on her for her heresy. I remember the brutal response from the empress to that. She sent the army in and they ruthlessly slaughtered over half of Frane’s priests. He abandoned us and no other god or goddess has come forward to take his place. We’re cursed by his disapproval as far as they’re concerned and they want nothing to do with his ire.”

Nadzeya smiled slowly. She gathered what was left of her power and reached out to the women. Her spectral form appeared to them. Not all the gods are afraid of him, she said. I will serve the citizens of this land, if you will have me.

“Who are you?” the old woman asked.

I am Nadzeya, Goddess of the Shadows, Nadzeya said. Frane is my mortal enemy and I have no fear of challenging him.

“Goddess, will you help me?” the daughter with the infant asked. She held out her child. He was covered in burns. “He is dying and no healer will do anything.”

Nadzeya knew she had to do something to cement her authority among these women, but she wasn’t sure she had enough strength to do a full healing. She took a deep breath and pulled as much power as she could from the land around her. To her surprise, she was filled with a portion of her former strength. It wasn’t enough for her to fully manifest, but she could do the healing.

She stretched her hands out to the infant. Power flowed from her and surrounded the baby. The blisters vanished and the red bled away from his skin. The child, who’d been whimpering the entire time, fell silent and relaxed. He opened his eyes and smiled at the goddess before closing them again and falling into a peaceful sleep.

He needs rest, but he is healthy again, Nadzeya said with a gentle smile. A hint of excitement filled her. Could this be the start? Would any of these women be her first clerics?

Three of the older girls moved forward and knelt before her. “Goddess, we ask that you accept us into your service,” they said in unison. “We will serve you for the rest of our days and spread your word and deeds to the rest of our community and beyond, if necessary. Your name shall be spoken by every lip in our land and you will be revered by all.”

Nadzeya’s strength increased slightly, giving her enough energy to solidify a little more. It wasn’t enough to bring her full body to the human world, but now she could touch them. She put her hands on each of their heads. When she did, their homespun clothing turned into the gold and white robes of her clerics.

Go forth and spread the word of my gospel, my daughters, she said. I will do what I can to help this land, but I need hands here to aid me. The more you can turn to my service and the more who will join your ranks the more power we can bring against the enemies of your ruler and Frane if he should return.

“It shall be as you say, my Goddess,” all three of the young women said, rising to their feet. They hugged their mother and sisters before heading towards a small house.

Nadzeya figured they were gathering supplies for the first leg of their journey. She smiled at the elderly woman. I will watch and guard your daughters, good woman. I will protect them as much as I am able. I will help them find those to serve as their bodyguards so those who would seek to do them harm find themselves stopped and left to face justice.

“Thank you my Goddess,” the elderly woman said, bowing. “You have given us hope when we thought there was none less in this world. We never thought that was possible.”

Nadzeya felt the tug on her soul, meaning she needed to return to her world. You will see me again, my children. She returned to her world, tired but exhilarated. She looked around her palace. The gold seemed to be shining a little mo re and some of the cracks were smaller. A new land, new clerics, and a new chance at regaining her former glory. She laughed. Frane wouldn’t know what hit him.

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Writing Prompt #1 – A forger’s painting

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Writing prompt: A counterfeiter’s coins or a forger’s fake works of art have magical properties.

Sophie sat back, eyeing her work critically. She glanced over at the original her client had given her. She smiled. The copy was perfect. She’d even managed to get the faded paint look, which most of those in her line of work seemed to forget. She laughed at the look on the curator’s face when she told him the million dollar Klimt he’d won at a highly overpriced auction was a fake.

Sophie’s legitimate job was assessing and confirming the value of paintings acquired for the Silverman Memorial Art Museum. The curator – Abel Silverman, great-grandson of the man the museum was named after – was good at business but terrible at judging art. That’s why he relied on Sophie to pass judgment on the paintings brought in by his auction hunters. She thought he’d have done better to hire real art collectors to do the auctions. They at least would have a better idea of what was real and what wasn’t, but he’d ignored her suggestion and was paying his nieces and nephews to do the work for him. It was job security for Sophie, since her second job was sporadic and didn’t always pay that well.

Sophie dipped her smallest brush in the antiqued white paint and dabbed it in the center of the eye on the rather lovely woman’s face. As she made this final touch, the woman blinked and yawned. Sophie sighed and set her brush down. It had happened again. The woman looked at her. “Who art thou, and why hast thou disturbed my rest?” she asked in a hollow, melodic voice. Her face twisted in a mask of irritation. “Do not say that thou art a thief of souls, for if that be true, I will call down the wrath of the Holy Father upon thee.”

Sophie pinched the bridge of her nose. “My lady, I am no thief. My purpose is to preserve and facilitate the further spread of the brilliant art of the past. The only way to do that is to make certain that each painting is duplicated so that it may reach other parts of the world. I speak true when I tell thou that I would never steal the spirit of the artist from their works. That would bring the curse of the artist and, as you so spoke, the wrath of the Holy Father upon me and mine household.”

The woman sniffed. “I am not certain I believe thou, but thou hast not said anything to bring me to the conclusion that thou art a liar,” she said. “Where would thou send me?”

“To a distant land, my lady,” Sophie said, glancing at the clock. “An island kingdom filled with the wealthy elite, who have graciously given me a small commission to ensure that thou art sent with haste and well protected from the rigors of such travel to them.”

“What be the name of this kingdom?” the woman asked. “Mayhap I have heard of it before.”

“My lady, this kingdom was discovered long after thy days on this earth were ended,” Sophie said. “However, if thou dost truly wish to know, the land is called Japan.”

The woman yawned and blinked sleepily. “I think I will rest again. See that thou protects me in a most careful and precise manner. I wish to come to no harm upon my long journey.”

“My lady, nothing – not even the worst storm the sea may throw at thee – will harm thee upon thy journey,” Sophie said fervently. The woman smiled vaguely before settling back into her original place. Sophie waited for another fifteen minutes before poking at the now dry paint. There was no reaction.

She ran her fingers through her curls. That was the part she hated about creating the forgeries. Something always came alive when she put the final drop of paint in place. Most of the time the paintings were benign and she just had to wait until they settled down. But there had been a few where the canvas itself was destroyed by the paintings because of what was shown.

Her cell phone rang, playing the theme for Game of Thrones. She giggled and picked it up. “Sophie, it’s John. That damned painting had better be finished,” a surly voice said on the other end.

“I finished it fifteen minutes ago and it’s already dry,” Sophie said. “Send Alphonse to pick it up. He can also take the original back to the client.”

“Make sure you mark which one’s which this time. The last time the client damn near turned us in for giving her the copy instead of the original,” John said.

“I told you which one was the copy. It’s not my fault you didn’t pay attention,” Sophie said. She heard him take a breath. She cut off the rant she knew he was developing before he could speak. “I’ll put a ribbon on the copy so there won’t be any dispute.”

“You’d better,” John said. “Alphonse will be there in half an hour.” The phone went dead.

“Asshole,” Sophie muttered. She slid the copy into a crate and, as promised, wrapped a long strip of red ribbon around it several times. She tied it off, and then glued the ribbon to the crate so it wouldn’t fall off. She went to the original and put it back in its crate. She set both of them near the front door and grabbed the next crate. She put a new canvas up on her easel. The next painting was waiting and she didn’t have time to waste.

Medical update

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It’s been a long time since I did one of these. I know a lot of you are more interested in my fiction rather than my reality, but this blog isn’t just about my writing. It’s about me, my life, and everything I do outside the writing.

I’m due to go to the vascular surgeon next month to discuss a surgery to reduce swelling on my left leg. My right leg, which is always swollen, is ineligible for the same surgery because I had a DVT (blood clot) in the main vein when I was in my late teens, early 20s. How I didn’t notice – and survived it – I don’t know. But there is scarring in the vein to prove it was there. The surgery basically shuts down the main vein, leaving a lesser vein in charge of blood flow. This reduces the swelling. Because of the DVT scarring, it’s too dangerous to do the surgery on the right leg.

As a result of the swelling, I’m stuck wearing compression pantyhose for the rest of my life. I’m not going into the gritty details, but I actually had to put my surgery consultation off for an extra three months because I kept getting shitty compression hose from Ames Walker (an online medical supply store). I left multiple poor reviews on their site as well as other places online and finally got a halfway decent pair…that ended up with a huge whole in the butt within a week. The legs are in good repair, so I’m still wearing them. I can’t afford to get more. The really good ones run $150+, and that is WAY above my financial abilities right now.

The reason for the three month wait is because Medicare requires three months in the compression hose before they’ll pay for the surgery. It’s the wonderful bureaucracy being arseholes again. But I go see them next month, and we’ll find out when the surgery is and how long the recovery is. And what the recovery will be like.

I’m on a blood thinner now because of a history of blood clots. We did a DNA test and I have the genetic marker for a hereditary clotting disorder. My dad has the same thing. Both of us are on the same blood thinner, which is a newer one that doesn’t require constant blood tests and doesn’t have the dietary restrictions that Warfarin (Coumadin) does. I like it because I’m on a maintenance dose for now. I’ll check in with my hematologist in a year and we’ll go from there.

I’m still dealing with my seizures, but I haven’t had one in almost a year. I’m going to talk to my neurologist about reducing my meds the next time I see him…which is in March, I think. My seizures didn’t start until I got put on the Zyprexa, which has a side effect of seizures. I’m off that med now, and have been for about a year. So now I’m wondering if that was the source of my seizures since I’d never had one before that time.

Going to the mental health side of things, a lot of things have changed there. My original counselor moved to Canada, so I switched to a new one closer to home. I like my new counselor because she specializes in trauma and PTSD. I’ve only seen her a few times, but she’s already been a big help. I also have a new med manager – again, one closer to home – which makes me happy. This is mostly because she’s closer to me. But it’s also because the bitch in Newport wouldn’t listen to me and has caused me no end of trouble. She’s been reported to the state numerous times, and I don’t know if something’s being done now about all of the infractions that were leveled against her.

Between my counselor and my med manager, we’re beginning to wonder if I’m actually bipolar. We tossed around borderline personality disorder, but I didn’t fit the symptoms for that either. One of the things both Adriana and Patricia pointed out was the fact that PTSD could be misdiagnosed as bipolar.

I was 16 when I was first diagnosed, and right in the middle of the worst childhood ever. (Abusive mother, distant father, violent older sister, oblivious older sister, disinterested older brother, and a younger sister that needed constant protection with me being her only protector.) The counselor we went to called my mom in with me so I couldn’t tell him anything about what was really going on. Not that I would have at that point. I was too scared.

He decided I was bipolar II rapid cycling, and put me on lithium. That was the most horrific medication I’ve ever taken. Then he added Depakote. Talk about zombie. I eventually took myself off those meds and my life was chaos for many years. I finally got things sorted out and was put on all sorts of different meds over the years. Finally they settled on Prozac and my anti-seizure meds. They turned me half numb and I had a hard time with some emotions.

I also had issues (THIS MAY BE TOO TMI FOR SOME) with my libido. As in I didn’t have one. Sex happened maybe once or twice a month, not for a lack of trying by my husband. It either hurt or I was so disinterested that he couldn’t get me to even want to try to get in the mood.

Finally, my new med manager decided that maybe – just maybe – I was just suffering from PTSD and that I wasn’t bipolar and didn’t have borderline personality disorder. She thinks that with dedicated therapy a lot of my mood issues will vanish. To that end, she took me off the Prozac I’ve been on for years and put me on Effexor, a drug that takes the edge off of the anxiety that comes part and parcel with PTSD.

It took a few weeks, but a whole new world opened up to me. I could feel again in every situation. I now like to laugh, to play, to move. Walks are more enjoyable. I’m happy again. I’m more active. I have a real desire to improve my health, lose weight, and make myself look better. I want nice clothes (like dresses, skirts, blouses, jackets, etc.), which I haven’t wanted for years. I’ve had a whole personality shift once I was off the Prozac.

Another thing that’s happened (again, this might be too much TMI) is my libido has kicked back in. I’m not nearly as active as I used to be. I’m not in my 20s anymore. But I’ve been enjoying my husband’s company again. That’s another thing that’s changed. My husband and I are getting along better. We fight less, talk more, and can understand each other’s emotions.

The downside to being on the Effexor instead of the Prozac is I’m feeling again and don’t know how to deal with some of these emotions. I lash out when I shouldn’t, I get really snippy at times for no reason whatsoever, and I act impulsively when I’m agitated. I’m having to learn how to deal with all of this stuff again. It’s hard, but worth it because I’m enjoying life even more now.

I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder with a long, fancy name that boils down to “we don’t know what the fuck you have so we’re just giving you a general narcolepsy disorder.” I tend to fall asleep whenever I feel tired, which is usually all day and all night. I’m getting used to it though and I’m finding ways of getting more sleep and/or staying awake during the day.

I’m dealing with a lot of pain these days, but I use pot from time to time to deal with it when I just can’t ignore it. I don’t take pain pills of any kind. The damage OTC pain pills can do to you is astounding and very dangerous. I also won’t take opioids because of the risk of addiction. Speaking of addictions, the pot is actually killing my desire for alcohol too. As a recovering alcoholic I find that to be a highly useful side benefit. I hate smoking, so that’s my last resort for imbibing in the pot. I make cannabutter from one of our crops and make edibles. Those are my preferred method of partaking in cannabis.

I think that’s it for now. I’ll update you when I have my vascular appointment.

Hugs to you all, and may the rest of your week and the weekend be amazing and full of life and laughter.

Writing & publishing schedule update

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Hi everyone! Normally I publish at 8 AM. I know this. And I’ll get back to publishing at that time soon. I’m just trying to sort out my daily schedule right now so bear with me. I’ve got a lot of stuff to get done during the day so I need to work out how I’m going to do it all.

As the title suggests, I’m altering a few things with my writing projects for this year. First, before I start working on any of my serious novel work, I’m going to do little fifteen minute writing exercises. Just random little drabbles, maybe set in the worlds of the stories and maybe not. But they will be in the genres I write – fantasy and science fiction. I’ll be posting those here on the blog, very similar to what I was posting before I started putting Tiger, Tiger up here.

Now, I do still plan on self publishing a book in June and one in December. Tiger, Tiger will be published in June and Into the Flames will be published in December. I was trying to work on the two stories in alternate months, but it’s just not working. So I’m devoting all my time and attention during my writing times – except for the writing warm up exercises of course – to Lilavati and Manas. I’ve got a lot of work to do and five and a half weeks to do it in. I know I can do it in, but I’m going to be working really hard.

Once I’m happy with Tiger, Tiger – and get it beta read and edited – I’ll get back to work on Into the Flames. I’m struggling with it right now anyway, so restarting it probably isn’t a bad idea.

I’ve also decided to work as a plantser for Tiger, Tiger. I’m going to read through what I’ve got, pick out the main plot and the subplots and post index cards on my wall. Once I do that, I’m going to figure out how I want to address each plot point and just set up some vague notes on how I want to work those points in and weave them together. I’m also going to keep notes on the foreign words I use and the names of places/the meanings of the words because I kept forgetting the name of Lilavati’s home. 😀

So keep your eyes open here for further updates, and watch for Wattpad links. I’d like feedback on the new format and chapters as I post them there, so please leave me comments when I do a link post here.

Everyone have a wonderful day and I’ll see you when I get the next post written. (Hopefully tomorrow…and hopefully it’ll post at 8. XD)

Tiger, Tiger – Part eighty nine

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Manas charged the tiikeri closest to Lilavati. It was thrown back several feet. He whirled around faster than the other could anticipate and slammed into it. The beast flew back to land next to its partner.

Manas moved over next to Lilavati. He rumbled at her and nudged her with his paw. She grabbed onto his fur and pulled herself up. Leaning against him, she turned to face her mother. “I have no sister-soul. This is true. As I said, I have something far more precious to me than a tiikeri female that would eventually abandon me in favor of producing cubs and leave me to find another partner. I have a husband, a soulbond, a lifemate who will never leave me. He will protect me when he can, give me aid and shelter when it’s available, and love me unconditionally for the rest of our lives. He is cursed, but living with him and his curse are worth every minute of the joy we feel when we’re together.”

Foolish child, Upsana spat. If you wish to be with him so much, you’ll share his curse. Can you abide by that? Be human by day and tiikeri by night?

Manas growled and whimpered, nudging Lilavati with his nose. She wrapped her arms around his neck, breathing in deep the scent of his fur and his musk. Could she do it? Could she accept the same curse he had? The pain would be intense. That she knew. Any child she bore him could be tainted the same way they were. Would it be worth that risk?

Katali, can you hear me? His voice was soft, a mere whisper in her mind.

Sikha? How is this possible? she asked.

Only here have the Grey of the Twelve granted me this gift, Manas said. What does she offer if you don’t take the curse?

Death, Lilavati said. Or a lifetime of servitude to one of these tiikeri. I wish neither of those, for my life is with you and Magda.

Don’t make this choice lightly, katali, Manas said. You don’t know how agonizing it is to shift from human to beast. You don’t know how lonely it is to carry the curse within you and yet walk alone among the world.

Yet I wouldn’t be alone, would I? Lilavati asked. I’d have you.

There was silence for a few heartbeats. You would, he said finally, a hint of something in his voice she couldn’t quite identify. As I have you.

Lilavati turned to her mother. “If I must become a cursed tiikeri by night and a human by day to stay with my beloved, to be the mother to my daughter, then I’ll do it. I’ll take on the curse.” She paused. “Curses can still be broken, mother. My beloved and I will never stop looking for a way to end this.”

Search all you want. You’ll search in vain, Upsana sneered. If your precious husband hasn’t found a way to break it, with all his years of trying, how do you think you’ll be able to do it?

“He didn’t have me to help him,” Lilavati said, smiling fondly at her husband. He was growling at the other two tiikeri who were drawing closer to Lilavati again. “Together the two of us will accomplish great things.”

So be it, Upsana said. She and her tiikeri disappeared.

Pain beyond anything Lilavati had ever felt ripped through her. Every bone in her body cracked and broke as joints separated and reformed. Fur the color of snow erupted from her skin. Stripes the color of her hair spread across her body. She became a saphaida tiikeri, one of the rarest of all. When she finished the change, she was the same size as Manas.

She flopped to the ground, barely able to breathe. Manas waited for her to stand again and the two of them walked towards the exit. They knew they couldn’t leave until they resumed their human forms, so they waited.

Dawn came and once again the agony returned, but Lilavati was prepared for it this time. Once they were in human form, they retrieved their cloaks – the only clothing to withstand the change – and stepped through the portal.

“Ama’ana! Father!.” Magda threw herself off the horse she was sharing with Christel and ran across the distance to them. Lilavati turned slightly so no one could see she was naked and scooped Magda into her arms. “You came back.”

“Of course we did,” Manas said. “Didn’t we promise we would?” His voice was gravelly and judging from the wounds on his body, he too had fought battles against the creatures in the mist.

“Great Lord, Great Lady, we’ll give you a few minutes of privacy,” Ludger said, a sad look in his eyes. “Then we must be on the road. The gate to Phiri Hu won’t remain open for long.”

Lilavati turned to look where he pointed. A great rectangular section of the bleak landscape was gone. In its place was a beautiful green and blue land with a shimmering white castle in the distance.

Manas sighed happily. “That’s home, katali. That’s Phiri Hu.”

Lilavati dressed quickly and took Magda up in front of her on the horse. She told herself it was to make the child happy. In truth it was to give herself something familiar to cling to. “It is unlike anything I have ever seen,” she said, reverting back to the language of the north.

“It’s going to be unlike anything you’ve ever dealt with too,” Manas said. “You’ll shake things up and we’ll find ways to compromise. I expect you’ll bring some of your ways to my keep, and we’ll teach you ours so you can become who you’re meant to be.”

Who she was meant to be. It would be interesting to find out just what that meant. She nudged her horse forward through the magical opening. The strong smell of sulfur and rust was replaced by one of wildflowers and fresh bread. “We’re home,” Magda said with a laugh. “We’re home.”

The End….for now

Oops! My apologies

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I know I posted that post that said Tiger, Tiger was finished and then I realized something. WordPress ate the final chapter. So I’ll post the final chapter tomorrow. I’m so sorry about that. I got locked out of my blog for some reason and it’s taken me this long to get back in. Again, my apologies and we’ll get you to the end of Lilavati and Manas’ story very soon.

*bows her head in shame*

PHEW!

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Holy Hannah in a handbasket…that took way longer than I expected it to. For those of you who are curious, Tiger, Tiger comes in at around 90k words as a first draft. *falls over dead* Thanks for sticking around to the end (if you have) and what a way to end the writing year.

Also, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson – I am NOT going to do another novel on my blog. Well, maybe not “never,” but not for a long time. That was exhausting. And this is a reminder for those of you who might want to scream at me about continuity errors at the end – if there are any, which I’m sure there are – this is a FIRST DRAFT. Completely unedited, and I didn’t go back and read anything I’d already written, except perhaps the last couple paragraphs just to see where I’d left off if I needed a reminder. I treated it a little like NaNoWriMo – get it done without dithering.

If you want a more coherent collection of chapters in the story, I have them on my DeviantArt account. At somewhere around 3k-4k a pop for the chapter lengths, there are twenty nine chapters. I’ll toss the link up at the end of this.

What I’ve learned from this is that yes, it is possible for me to write a novel without going back and editing the crap out of it as I go. That’s been one of my biggest downfalls when writing a novel is I never finish them because I’m always editing instead of writing.

By this point I’m working on (if I haven’t already finished it) the new first draft of Into the Flames…and the chapters may even be going up on DeviantArt. I’m considering using that as a tool to keep me from editing as I go. I have a deadline to get my chapters up (self imposed) because I have a bunch of followers who want the next story, the next chapter, the next tale. If I do that, then I won’t have to worry about keeping them entertained. I won’t have to worry about wanting to edit as I go.

So, we’ll see how my little experiment goes. Wish me luck!

And here is my DeviantArt account – you’ll find lots of stuff here.

Tiger, Tiger – Part eighty eight

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Lilavati didn’t want to fight her mother. Lilavati didn’t even remember Upsana and now this was the fate the Twelve had forced upon them. The two tiikeri snarled and moved towards her, each coming in from a different angle.

Lilavati didn’t know what to do. She was unarmed, with no defender to aid her. She felt her tiikeri snarl in response to their presence. She used her to cry out for Manas, but she didn’t think he’d actually come.

The first of the beasts lunged at her. She dove to one side, and came face to face with a paw full of claws as the second one moved in for the kill. Twisting with the flexibility and grace of the feline inside of her, she slipped beneath it.

You’ve learned well, I see, Upsana said. She still stood in the same place she’d been sitting. Your sister-soul lives deep inside you. She gave you her life when she died so as to preserve your gift and your life. How interesting. I never knew that was possible.

“She’s done more than that,” Lilavati said, maneuvering out of the way of the giant cats once more. “She’s helped me protect those I love, help keep my beloved sane, and given me the ability to survive those things that would have killed those without my gift.”

Yet you have no combat skills, Upsana said.

“Had I a bow in my hands, I’d show you what I can do,” Lilavati said. “But with a blade? You’re right. I was never taught. I have a feeling it’s for the same reason father never let me develop my powers as inkosi tiikeri. He didn’t want me to become like you.”

Yes, and he succeeded. You’re nothing like me. You’re a weakling. A cub with no teeth and no claws, Upsana said. You have no future. You’re a drain on the gesin. You have no place with us.

“This is true,” Lilavati said, panting a little as she continued dodging the huge felines. “I don’t have a place with your gesin. I have my own that I need to get back to. I promised my daughter I’d return to her, and I won’t break my word. She’s had too much sorrow and despair in her young life and I won’t be the cause of more.”

You don’t have a choice,  Upsana said. You’re going to die here, defenseless and alone. You’ll have a broken promise dragging down on your soul. You’ll be an oathbreaker. The gods will bind you here as they did me.

“Why are you here, mother? I don’t see you as an oathbreaker, or something evil that needs to be punished,” Lilavati said. A stitch was forming in her side. She wasn’t fast enough to dodge one tiikeri and it managed to get a strike on her. She stumbled, blood seeping out of the shallow wound on her thigh.

I am here because of your thrice cursed father, Upsana said. Anup took the two of you home and called a healer-priest to make certain you survived. Now I know he also had your memories damaged in some way. He came out looking for me. I was still alive, Ishana. I was hurt badly, like I am now. But this was still something a good healer-priest could remedy. Instead he had a death-priest curse me in the afterlife to never-ending anguish and pain for what I’d inflicted on him for giving him a daughter with my same gift.

“I’m not Ishana anymore, mother. Ishana is dead. Ishana died when father stole the last of her childhood,” Lilavati said. A heavy paw slammed into her ribs. She was knocked to the ground. Lilavati gasped for breath. She tried to get back to her feet. “I am Lilavati now. Being graceful was the only worth I had to him, as I was too ugly with these scars to become a bride until my beloved came along.”

You lie, Upsana snarled. You are still my Ishana. You’re simply trapped in the body of a half crippled adult woman with no memory of her true childhood. I’d give you a few reminders, but you’re not interested in taking your place with me so you have to die. It would be pointless to tell you anything.”

“Tell me one thing, mother. Is it true that you tried to forcibly link to the male who attacked us? So that he would leave? And did that damage your bond with your sister-soul?” Lilavati asked.

Upsana jerked back a step. I thought you had no memories of those events, she screamed.

“I’ve had visions, mother. Vague memories that have surfaced in pain and fear induced dreams,” Lilavati said. The two tiikeri closed in. “I saw the male approach. I heard you tell father to take me and Nikitha back to the city. I know the male got away from you and attacked me. Then you tried again, and it confused him enough for your sister-soul to attack. Father came back for me and then everything went black.”

I had to order your father to come back for you, Upsana said. He was going to leave you to be devoured by the tiikeri. He is an evil man and will find himself a place here when he reaches the end of his life.

“You won’t hear me argue that point, mother,” Lilavati said. She laid on the cracked path. She couldn’t get up. She was sure she had a couple broken ribs and her leg was bleeding profusely. There was no longer any purpose to getting back up. Her life was over. Magda, she whispered to herself. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. She closed her eyes and waited for the final blow.

A new roar cut through the silence, a sound she was intimately familiar with. She opened her eyes and looked to her right.

to be continued…

Tiger, Tiger – Part eighty seven

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More spirits of those who died in her service appeared. The last to arrive was Vera, the arrow still sticking out of her chest. “I do not regret taking your life,” Lilavati said. “I never will. Nor will I forgive you for murdering Odilie.”

You’re a fool, Vera said. Do you really think you’re going to be able to pass Magda off as a legitimate child of the Great Lord?

“We will make every attempt to do so,” Lilavati said. “I will fight for her until I am no longer able to, even if it means I must go to the king of these lands and demand he name her my beloved’s trueborn child.”

You care for that sniveling little brat that much? Vera asked. She seemed surprised.

“I love her as if I had birthed her myself,” Lilavati said. “Why do you find it so hard to believe that someone could love that beautiful, intelligent, loving child?”

She is none of those, Vera spat. She is a lying, sneaking little manipulator who claims to have visions to force people to do what she says.

“She has proven to us both that she does have visions, Vera,” Lilavati said. “She knows far more than a child of her age has a right to, and has articulated what she has seen in a way that we can understand while using what vocabulary she has learned.”

Vera blinked. My sister, she said, glowering. That stupid bitch. She swore that she’d come back to help Magda, just not in any way I’d recognize.

“Go back to whatever hell the Twelve decreed for you, Vera,” Lilavati said. “I have no more time to waste on you.”

Vera smirked. You’ll wish you continued to banter with me when you see what’s up ahead, inkosi tiikeri. With that, she vanished.

Lilavati couldn’t move. How had the woman known those words? She was fairly certain no one but Theda, Ludger, and Manas knew them. Not even Ariane had heard them, unless Theda told her. Shaking, she started forward, her steps dragging as she moved along the cracked black path.

Two tigers, as immense as Manas when he was in his cursed form, lay on each side of the pathway. Sitting on the ground in between them, was a woman so manged by claw and fang, Lilavati couldn’t identify her at first. Then it finally came together with a sudden rush of insight.

“Upsana,” she said. “Ama’ana.

I haven’t heard that word since the day I died protecting your worthless father and the two of you girls, Upsana said. Though there was nothing left of her face and throat, her words came out clear and strong. Lilavati clung to the sound, as she did the beauty of her people’s language. I’m sure the others told you to fear me.

“I was told I’d face the greatest sorrow I’ve ever known when I came here,” Lilavati said. “It’s you, isn’t it? Or you have something to do with it.”

I do, Upsana said. You are inkosi tiikeri, as I was. But you were never meant to leave Pasir Naik. Your sister-soul waited in the sands for you for many years until she died of a broken heart. It wasn’t your fault, my Ishani. Anup broke his word to me. He knew what the marks on your face meant, your unnatural grace, the way the tiikeri were drawn to you as they’d been to me.

“Why would he keep me away from them then, if he knew I was destined to be with them?” Lilavati asked.

He hated my power, Upsana said. Hated and feared them. He’d lost his own twin sister to a tiikeri. He didn’t want anything to do with them, yet his father forced him to wed an inkosi tiikeri since it both carried a great deal of prestige as well as wealth since my father was one of the wealthiest men in the city at that time.

Lilavati felt a pang of sorrow, and a strong desire to know what would have been had she joined with her sister-soul instead of coming to the northlands. She shook her head. “I may have been destined for a soul-sister in Pasir Naik,” she said. “But here I’ve found more than just a piece of my soul. I’ve found someone who also makes my mind and heart whole.”

Upsana shook her head. Ishani, you can’t stay with him. You belong in the sands. I know you’ve bonded to him, and it’s going to be hard to break it. Especially since you claim to love him and that little cub he sired. But you don’t have a choice. You will take your sister-soul, who waits here with me, and return to Pasir Naik.

“How can I do that? I’ll be killed as soon as I set foot in the city,” Lilavati said. “Father was paid the highest bride price for a daughter not of noble blood. He won’t take it well to find me back on his doorstep – especially with a tiikeri at my side.”

It isn’t to him you must go, Upsana said. It’s to my father and brother. Hasn’t Anup introduced you to my family at all?

“No. He remarried, a woman who’s the epitome of spite and petty evil,” Lilavati said. “I’ve only ever known her as my mother since I believe he used some rogue sorcerer or one of the priests to either eradicate or at the very least block my memories of you and the way I got these scars.” She touched her face.

Upsana shifted her position. That thrice cursed son of a sandworm and a slime crawler,  she snarled, sounding very much like the tiikeri that surely lived inside of her as Lilavati’s did in her. He’s destroyed you, Ishani. He’s taken away the very things that made you special in the eyes of our people.

“Has he?” Lilavati said. She started pacing, something that disturbed the two very large tiikeri next to her mother. “It’s true he refused my bond to my soul-sister. That’s one of the cruelest things he could have done, to both of us. I would rather have bonded to her than anything else. However, I was given an education as no female child was ever allowed. I learned to read, write, and speak seven languages. I learned history and folklore for five different lands. I studied mathematics, science, and the stars. Up until I reached my adulthood, I was allowed to be a scholar. After I took my adult name, I was denied all of that. I was made useless, obsolete, a burden on the family as I waited for a proposal that would never come.” She smiled. “Then my beloved came and freed me.”

He’s imprisoned you, Upsana shouted. If you can’t see that now, then I must force you to, Ishani.

“I am not Ishani any longer, mother,” Lilavati said. “My name is Lilavati. I am a free woman, I am bonded to my tiikeri, cursed though he may be, and I will not give him up.”

So be it, Upsana said. She rose to her feet, as did the two tiikeri beside her. Now it’s time for you to die.

to be continued…

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