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

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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.

Racing the Wind, Part 6

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Photo via Visual Hunt

The skies were gray, but Angharad didn’t care. It had taken three long months but the day had finally come. Her mother fastened the lace covered gown and ran a brush through her daughter’s golden curls.

“You look beautiful, Angharad,” Lady Moirea said. “I think this is the first time I have seen you in anything so fine.”

“Yes, and unless my husband insists I go to court I won’t wear anything like this again,” Angharad said. “This is too easily damaged.”

“You are too rough and wild,” Lady Moirea said. “Your father did you no favors by letting you run free.”

“Mother, you’ve been saying that for years. Nothing will change the past, and I now have a husband who loves me for my spirit and will let me be who I am,” Angharad said. She turned and smiled at her mother. “You’re a wonderful chatelaine and absolutely brilliant when it comes to solving problems for the tenant farmers. I can only hope that, when the time comes, Eridan and I will be able to do half as good as you and father.”

Lady Moirea laughed and hugged her daughter, keeping an eye on the dress. “You two will rule in your own way, and do a good job. You work well together and know how to compromise, though sometimes you don’t right now.”

Angharad smiled ruefully. She and Eridan had their fair share of arguments over the past few months, mostly because both were equally as stubborn and when one got an idea in their head they didn’t want to give it up.

There was a knock on the door. Lord Idwal poked his head in. “Moirea, I need Angharad. She has one last custom she must fulfill before the ceremony. Eridan is already outside.”

“What does she have to do?” Moirea asked, puzzled.

“The Heir’s Climb,” Angharad said.

“Not the pyre,” Moirea said, her face aghast. “She’ll destroy her dress and injure herself. She could die.”

“If I’m careful I won’t,” Angharad said. “I can do this, Mother.” Lady Moirea still looked doubtful but followed when Idwal led his daughter out of the room.

Eridan stood not far from the huge pile of wood. “Your father told me about the custom. Are you sure you can do this?” he asked.

“It’s not as hard as it looks,” Angharad said. “I’ve scaled this thing dozens of times, even though I wasn’t supposed to. I knew my day would come and I wanted to be prepared.”

“Yes, but you weren’t constricted by a gown with a long, flowing skirt,” Eridan said. He gripped Angharad’s shoulders. “Please don’t make me watch another person I care about burn to death.” This was whispered in her ear.

“I won’t,” Angharad promised.

Angharad joined her father at the edge of the towering pile of wood. “Are you ready for this?” Lord Idwal asked in a low voice. Angharad just shrugged. Lord Idwal cleared his throat. “Angharad, daughter of Idwal, granddaughter of Oran, it is time to take your place as the inheritor of these lands.” He handed her a lit torch. “Climb as high as you can and light the fire.”

Angharad stared at the oil soaked wood. She looked down at her skirt and train. She reached down and looped the delicate lace over the arm that wasn’t on the side with the torch and began to climb.

Eridan had been right. It was much harder with the dress than her usual outfit. She didn’t get very far up before she realized if she went any higher she would tear something. She paused and then dropped her skirt. She let everything flow around her. “I am Angharad, daughter of Idwal, granddaughter of Oran. I claim Heir’s Rights as proclaimed by the ancient Laws of Blood.” She took a deep breath and hurled the torch as high as she could. It struck the wood and lit it immediately.

Angharad grabbed her skirt again and started climbing down. She moved as fast as she could, but between her gown and her more fragile shoes she was slowed more than she’d expected. She felt the heat as it got closer. She looked up and saw the flames were crawling closer to her outstretched hand.

She increased her speed, trying not to tangle herself in her skirt. Though she hadn’t climbed as high as she’d planned, the branches snagged at the fabric and she had to work it loose. It was slowing her descent just enough that the fire was catching up to her. The roar was drowning out everything below her.

She paused to untangle her skirt for the hundredth time when her upper hand erupted in pain. She screamed and yanked it down, forgetting her skirt in an attempt to brace herself. Her hand was badly burned. It wouldn’t hold her weight anymore.

She looked up. The flames were coming for her like an eager monster seeking to devour her. She glanced down, saw Eridan’s stricken face, the horror on her mother’s, the glee on her brother’s, the pain on her father’s. She gauged the distance to the ground. Taking a deep breath she let go of the wood and jumped.

She struck the ground and rolled. Eridan was at her side in a moment. “Angharad, Angharad, answer me,” he said.

Angharad dragged herself to her feet. “I’m alive,” she said, holding her hand against her chest. She took a moment to assess the rest of the damage to her body. “I’ve been burned badly, and I’ll be a lovely shade of purple in several places, but that’s it,” she said, leaning against Eridan as he held her.

“Let me see the hand,” the house mage said. Angharad held it out while Eridan only shifted his position enough to let her do it. The mage held his hands over it and muttered some strange words under his breath. The pain faded and as she watched the angry red color vanished. The blisters sank back into her skin, though they left behind terrible scarring. When the mage pulled his hands back, the only sign of the burn was the severe scars. “I can’t get rid of the scars. You’re stuck with them for life. But now the wedding can continue as planned.”

“After that fall? Angharad needs to rest. We have to postpone the ceremony until tomorrow,” Lady Moirea protested.

“If we do that, she’ll have to do this again,” Lord Idwal said. “She might not survive.”

“I’m fine, Mother,” Angharad said. “I want to go through with this.”

“All right,” Lady Moirea said.

Eridan wrapped one arm around her waist and held out his other so she could brace herself on it. “You’re hurt worse than you’re saying,” he whispered.

“I am, but as father says, I’d have to do this tomorrow and I don’t want to risk my life two days in a row,” Angharad said.

“Then let’s get this over with so I can get you to the healers,” Eridan said.

“That sounds like a great idea,” Angharad said. She rested most of her weight on her almost-husband and smiled. The gods had finally answered her prayers, though they’d tried to claim her life as their payment. Life with her beloved would be interesting, but it would definitely be worth every moment.

 

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