Tag Archives: Nala’s Story

Nala’s Story, Part Twenty-Four

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[565 words – #3WW]”And you,” Shui retorted. His eyes blazed with anger, and his lips pressed into a grim line. All trace of his lingering affliction had vanished. “I have suspected you of treason and rebellion for a while, Commander.” Shui waved his arm to encompass the Commander’s subdued guards. “But, without hard proof, I never would have overcome the good will you have with the men. But now…”

Shui looked to the guards loyal to him who eyed the Commander’s guards warily. “You!” He declared, and all eyes fell on him. “Men loyal to my title, but not my house.” More than one man nodded in response, as if Shui was had talked directly to him. “You have witnessed the Commander confess his treachery and dishonorable behavior. You have heard his plans to dishonor me and steal my holdings.”

“A trial shall be convened and the Commander will answer for his crimes. I leave his fate to the court conference. The minister of justice will decide between execution or exile.”

Shui turned his back to the Commander. “Take him from my sight immediately!”

The guards bowed slightly and corralled the Commander and his accomplices. The Commander’s guards hung their heads in shame, but the Commander screamed obscenities and struggled against the guards, swearing revenge.

Finally, after the chamber had cleared and the Commander’s expletives faded down the hall, Shui and Nala were alone.

“How are you alive?” she blurted impulsively.

Shui smiled, beads of sweat lined his brow. “You have learned much here, Nala, but you still are not as observant as you think you are.”

Nala pleaded an explanation with her eyes.

Shui strained to widen his smile. “My garden is not filled with just the Cao Wo, but many poisonous flowers and herbs. I have yet to announce my retirement from the Hainan Island tournament, so less honorable men would see to usurp my title with treachery, rather than skill.”

Shui slumped hauntingly, and Nala bore his weight.

“I have ingested trace quantities of every known poison.” Shui coughed and continued. “I’ve endeavored to build up an immunity.” He sat on his bed. “Poison has always been a tool of assassins.” He laid back on the bed. “Now, I really do need to rest.”

Nala watched as he closed his eyes, exhaling the breath that he had held strong. Nala was overcome by a new emotion: pity.
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Nala’s Story, Week 5 Review

There are only a couple of installments left. Nala’s Story has been a fun experiment, and I may do something similar next year. Thanks to the readers at Web Fiction Guide, #WoW555 and my regular blog readers. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and the encouraging emails.

After I write the last installment, I’ll let it marinade for a week or so. Then, I’ll rewrite it so the story flows smoother. Next, I’ll send it off to a trusted friend for her input and re-rewrite. Then I’ll finalize the cover art. I’ve been dealing with two different local artists, but they’ve been silent for about three weeks. If they don’t follow through, I’ll likely commission Joel Cotejar again. He did the 16Sunsets cover and the illustration of “future Nala.” I hope to have this novella published by August or September.

For those of you charting my wordsmithery progress, last week I wrote 2630 words bringing the total to 13,002. It looks like the web rough draft will be about a thousand words short of my 15k goal, but it’s no big deal. I’ll still get to within five percent of my goal with a week less writing.


Nala’s Story, Part Twenty-Three

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[500 words – Inspiration Monday]”Tradition,” Nala heaped as much derision and malice onto the word. She confronted the Commander from a position of strength – She had grown during the time spent with Shui. She could feel bile rising. It threatened to choke her, but she chose to speak her mind, despite the revulsion she felt towards the Commander.

“You lied to me,” she declared, eyes narrowing.

The Commander spread his arms.

“You wanted me to kill him.” The conspiracy formed in her mind. “If I had assassinated him, you would have placed the blame solely on me.”

The Commander’s eyes darted perceptually to the left.

“Then,” she continued, “You would have executed me and seized his holdings.”

“Enough talk,” he sneered. “You failed on your promise to dispatch the Champion Standing.”

“Shui.”

“What?”

“Shui,” she repeated, more forcibly. “His name is Shui,” her voice rising, betraying her anger. “I will not let you hurt him.”

The commander looked left, then right at his guards.

Nala spat at his feet. “Shui’s honor has already been tarnished by a pitiful, dishonorable man.” Her voice rose again. “You do not deserve the loyalty of your men, Commander.” The word was scorned the same as Tradition.

The Commander tilted his head slightly, pursed his lips, and inhaled before he snapped his fingers. His guards withdrew their swords and advanced on Nala.

Nala retreated until her backside bumped against the bed with a sleeping Shui. A weight in her chest dissipated as she watched the guards move slowly towards her.

Shui is innocent, she thought, a smile appearing on her lips. It transformed into a sneer as she sized up the two guards in the lead.

I will die fighting for Shui’s honor, she thought. I can remove at least two of them before they cut me down.

Nala held her dagger to fend off an attack. She felt remarkably limber and light on her feet. She hadn’t remembered feeling this way any of the times she tried to attach Shui.

Nala crouched into the lian bing qi, a stance and fighting style she had practiced while attempting to defeat Shui, her dagger glinted in the dim light.
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Nala’s Story, Part Twenty-Two

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[505 words – Word-A-Week]”How could you purchase us from the market and bring us here?” she hissed, anger rising. “Why did you save me? Why did you bring me here?”

To satisfy himself with the flesh of slaves.

“How dare you ignore my outburst and dismiss me as nothing?” Her voice rose an octave. “Why did you force me into this story-telling deal with you? Why must you anger me util assassination is the only end?”

He mocked you each night, dodging your attacks.

“You made me the fool, pretending to be unaware, but you knew of my intention to attack you.” She stared at the ceiling before continuing. “Why? Why did you do something so infuriating and foolish?”

He intruded in the flower garden.

“Why did you go there? Why couldn’t you have left me alone?”

A peripatetic existence. How dare he?

Nala’s rage built with each screech, each question unanswered, each humiliation suffered at the hands of wealthy men like Shui. She grabbed his collar and shook him, the dagger lying forgotten on the bed.

“Why are you like this?” She shook Shui again.

….you need to rest…

“Why are you a villain?” Tears clouded her vision.

My name, you have never asked. Not that anyone ever does.

“Why do you make me feel this way?” There was an ache in her heart that she couldn’t explain.

If this is damnation, then I do not wish for salvation.

Her eyes stung and she could no longer see his face. She felt pathetic. The knowledge of what she had felt and vehemently denied could no longer be contained by a façade of anger and bitterness.

“Why do I believe you to be innocent, Shui?”

In response, the doors burst open, the sound absent from her egress resonating in the chamber. Nala dropped Shui, seized her dagger and spun to confront the intrusion. The commander led a dozen guards to Nala.

“You,” he snarled, eyes narrowed. “I knew a harem slave could not be trusted.”

“You are mistaken,” Nala replied, choosing to ignore the insult. “This man has not murdered anyone, there has to be another explanation.”

His thin lips curved, and he bared his teeth. “I know that.”
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Nala’s Story, Part Twenty-One

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[535 words – #WoW555]Nala sat next to Shui, and tried to recall the meeting that made her late for her nightly rendezvous. The memory, scant minutes old, refused to coalesce in her mind, but she clung to fragments of it, as if it were her salvation. She remembered through the overwhelming numbness.

We have diluted his wine with extract from the Cao Wo petal. Not too much to alert him that something is amiss. It should already be affecting him when you answer his summons. Do not reveal this to anyone.

Nala’s ear lingered near his mouth, and observed the rise and fall of his chest. His breath was shallow, almost nonexistent.

The Cao Wo extract may not kill him right away. He is after all our greatest warrior, but you will be able to drive your dagger into his chest while he succumbs to the poison.

Nala pulled the dagger from the sash wrapped around her waist. The silk was of the finest quality, as was the instrument of Shui’s impending death. It gleamed in the dim candlelight of Shui’s bedchamber, and cast surreal reflections across her face.

Avenge your friend, Nala, and hundreds of other women who have died at his hands. You are not special to him. Your plight is carried out again and again by men like him. You will never have another opportunity like this. Do not waste it.

Nala looked down at her dagger. Has it always been so heavy? she thought as she hefted it. It does not matter. She ran her fingers along the metal and rubbed the sharp edge with her thumb. My body does not feel like it belongs to me, she thought, her head swimming in a thick fog.

We will position guards loyal to our cause outside his door. You will not be disturbed when you carry out justice. You need not fear execution, for we, the righteous, shall seize his holdings and condemn the Champion Standing for his crimes.

“Champion Standing,” Nala recalled the phrasing. She looked at Shui’s prostrate form. “They call you by your title. Do they know your name?”

The damned always perish for their wicked ways. It is the same in Nubian society as well as in the Han Dynasty. All great peoples know this natural law.

“You are wicked.” Nala didn’t know if she was telling him or straining to convince herself. “You killed Fabia. You killed all those women who had been enslaved here through no fault of their own.”

Get angry, Nala commanded herself. Feel the righteous fury. Think of all the horrible things he has done. You have been waiting for this.

She looked at his blank face, imagining the evil behind a mask of innocent sleep. “You have encouraged the trading of women like ordinary market commodities, subjected them to horrible atrocities.”
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Nala’s Story, Part Twenty

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[565 words – Sunday Scribblings 2]”Nala?”

Nala looked up to the guard who addressed her.

“The commander has summoned you.”

“What?” Her eyes narrowed. “The commander?”

Panic enveloped her – it was as if she were staring down a precipice. Had they discovered her arrangement with Shui? she pondered. Had he finally come to his senses and informed them that I was determined to assassinate their Champion Standing?

A single thought chimed in response to her unspoken questions. She ignored it and chastised herself for even entertaining it at all, but it was persistent: He would not do those things.

“The commander does not wait when he summons.” The guard reiterated in a stern voice, deeming her hesitation to be a sign of potential rebellion.

Nala looked to Hazina, laughing with Baba as they chose what foods to eat.

Whatever happens to me, she willed Baba, keep her safe. Baba looked up, as if she had heard Nala’s silent plea.

Nala returned her gaze to the guard, his impatience beginning to show as he clenched his fists and tapped his foot restlessly. Nala bowed slightly and followed the guard down the corridor.

* * *

“You have arrived.”

Nala looked down the corridor and closed the doors to Shui’s bedchamber. Each time before, they’d close with sound echoing their joining, announcing her presence. This time, however, they closed silently, as if they shielded her presence.

“I wondered if you had decided to dissolve our arrangement.” Shui lay on his back, eyes downcast. “I do not feel well this night.”

I know, thought Nala.

“Is something from my evening meal disagreeing with me?”

No, not your meal.

“I must not have performed my calisthenics today.”

That is not it either.

“I will rest my eyes. You may sit here and continue your story.” He managed a small smile, but it was a pale shadow of the one she yearned for. “You were telling me of the great Nubian Sphinx.”

Nala’s throat was dry. She feared something would betray her actions. “Yes,” she managed to croak.

He closed his eyes, and covered them with his arm. “Continue, then.”

Nala padded silently towards his bed, she sat next to his sleeping form. As the room was silent, she felt numb inside. This is it, she thought. She held her breath. This will end today.
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Nala’s Story, Part Nineteen

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[525 words – SM Cadman]Nala had had a life of strife. Some slaves were worse off than she, her strong will both her savior and the bane of her existence. The love she had for her sister, and the desire to protect her drove her to be the young woman she was. Never, however, had she ever wanted to give up and end it all. The luxury she was now afforded allowed her the scant time to consider her life. No longer was it all about protecting her sister, and her thoughts and fears weighed heavily upon her soul. The absurdity of her agreement with the Han Champion Standing; the reoccurring recollection of her murdered father; the loss of her friends over the years. These and other themes conspired to darken her soul.

Why fight? she wondered. I do not know, she silently answered herself. Why live at all? She blinked back tears of sorrow; tears of remembrance. It would be so easy to end it all and join father. Why bother living in a world dominated by murderers, assassins, corrupt men, >and complete strangers?

Nala’s home had been destroyed years ago by the domination of men she so despised. I do not know where I belong, she thought.

She wanted to go back, she realized. She longed to return to the world where her father and friends were still alive. Where she had a family that cared for her and a home to belong. A place where cruelty didn’t exist, where she and Hazina could be happy…

Hazina, she thought.

As sudden as her tears overwhelmed her, she blinked into nothingness. No longer could she see her life that could’ve been. No longer did I do not know matter. She embraced nothingness. There was no akonai field, no father, and no breeze. Nala sat motionless, a state of deja vu. She had returned to her childhood garden. Identical evenings and situations hit her with the force of a camel kick, and she was powerless to stem the tears.

She withdrew her hand. It had started aching, and she hadn’t realized it in her trance. The ache within her remained. It was a reminder that the pain of losing her father had never truly been hidden behind the strength she had built over the years. Her strength was built like a foreboding wall, but the pain lingered; it was the bedrock on her mountain of strength had been built. She was aware of the sudden realization that her pain was both the origin of, and the driving force behind her strength.

She also realized that Shui was still watching her.

He suddenly looked older, mature and beyond his years. The same eyes her father had aimed at her in her formative years. Shui’s eyes gazed with such intensity that she felt he were looking right through her, seeing the lies she told herself to keep going.

He looked away, eyes scanning the darkening horizon. “I understand,” he whispered, he placed his hand on her shoulder – the tender display at odds with his prior actions, but not with his character.

He stood and strode away to leave Nala to her thoughts and her tears.

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Nala’s Story, Week 4 Review

Another week gone, and another five installments of Nala’s Story. I had some difficulties this week transitioning from act two to the final act. (Actually, Tuesday will be the change from act II to act III) The way the story is going, it looks as if there’s only a week and change until the conclusion.

I was considering doing this sort of thing again next year and write some more backstory. Perhaps do one for Fabia and another for the Mang Sisters. Maybe get some omnibus action once I have two or three of these stories. I have a loose mental outline for Champion Rising, and of course about four chapters written. I have an idea for the overarching theme in a third book, but hey, planning out book three is kind of silly since there is no book two, or a lot of interest in book one.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to finishing Nala’s Story and moving on to other stuff. The last four weeks have definitely been a learning experience, and I feel I’m a better writer for trying this experiment. Last week I showed an illustration of “future Nala” by Joel Cotejar, so here’s an illustration of “future Shui” by Sun Yi Ming:

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Nala’s Story, Part Eighteen

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[575 words – #WoW555]Nala resisted the urge let loose a tirade of Han swear words that would, without equivocation, have established what sort of consort she was. Instead she returned her attention to the flowering Akonai.

She had so completely ignored Shui, that her next awareness of him was when the grass beside her rustled and to her horror, Shui sat on his haunches beside her. He studied the flowers with genuine interest. When his shoulder touched Nala’s, she froze perceptually before moving away.

He shifted his gaze from the flowers to Nala and frowned. “Do you loathe me that much?”

“Absolutely. I hate you.”

“Such conviction,” he nodded, “you mean it.”

“Your point, Mi’Lord?”

Why am I so angry? she thought.

The last few days had been calm. She still tried killing him at any opportunity that presented itself, and he avoided each attempt. They still traded insults. Well, Admitted Nala, I still insulted him. He would wave her away in a nonchalant manner that infuriated her. She hadn’t been this angry in a while.

Why have I not been angry?

The answer, Nala refused to accept. If she accepted it, then a well of repressed feeling might surface, and Nala was not prepared to deal with that. She shook her head as if the action were punctuation to her thoughts, and looked to Shui, who still studied her.

Did nothing bother this man?

“Do you like the Cao Wo flower?”

The question surprised her, but she replied with her default derision. “My opinion of the Akonai flower is not your concern.”

He sighed. “Back to where we began.”

She wanted to tell him that they had begun nothing, but he turned back to the Akonai and asked, “These flowers are poisonous, why do you like them?”

“It matters not that they are poisonous. The Akonai flowers are beautiful. The poison protects them. It saves them from the selfishness of man who is eager to destroy every perfection they find.”

She turned to stare at the tended Akonai, gently blowing in the afternoon breeze. The sun was sinking below the horizon, it’s orange colors contrasting the field of violet flowers. The sight stole her breath as she stared wide-eyed at the unencumbered vista.

A sensation of having witnessed the same scene under a different sky at a different time consumed her. An otherworldly numbness overcame her. The afternoon breeze carried a voice on it she had not heard in years, but reverberated in her mind every night in an attempt to hold on to the faded memory. His deep baritone; a tone that had put her at ease.
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Nala’s Story, Part Seventeen

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[555 words – #3WW]Nala had always loved the Cao Wo flower. She reminded herself that the Han people called it Cao Wo, but she knew it as Akonai, named after the village that harvested the deep violet flower. Legend told of a great chasm in the ground, the entrance to Hades. The portal to Hell was guarded by a multi-headed hound. Nala knew of the beast as the Hound of Akonai, but the Han referred to it by its Roman name: Kerberos.

Nala smiled and brushed her fingers along the bottoms of the petals, feeling the heat climb her fingers. Most people would call her love of the flower an odd preference, given the poisonous nature of the beautiful flowers. Ingesting the flowers or stems was not the only thing that could kill. The nectar was just a deadly, and it clung to any who handled the flower.

The elders in her village would instruct the children, the naive and utterly disinterested children, stories of how the Akonai flowers and seeds would be crushed to produce poison of the finest quality and slip it in drinks for one purpose – assassination. The bitter nectar was refined and applied to the arrows of Nubian warriors, their renown accuracy with the bow overshadowed by their use of Akonai nectar. Young warriors of the Mariandynoi poeple would ingest small quantities to prove their manhood. If they survived, they were considered adult warriors. Nala knew of no other plant as deadly.

Nor one so glorious, she thought.

The violet petals would grow almost anywhere. Despite the poison flowing within, the inexorable, almost intrinsic nature they were created with was a testament to Gods and Goddesses the world over. The Akonai bloomed so brilliant, with an incredible radiance beguiling passersby rapt in joy as they saw the beauty. How could anyone not enjoy the flower so poisonous, that prolonged contact would deliver a sleep so deep…

“Nala!”

The voice shattered her reverie. Reverie wasn’t the word to best describe what she felt. The heat of each touch. A numb sensation raced up her arm and settled in her shoulder. The pulsating in her temples and a brow drenched in sweat was how she knew she was still alive.

“Nala!”

She took a deep breath, stumbling through the fog she swam in, and turned to glare at the offender that broke her trance. An unapologetic Shui looked at her with a curiosity of a man who, as far as Nala was concerned, had no business being there.

Even though it is his garden and you are the intruder, a voice intoned from the recesses of her psyche.

She ignored the voice. “What are you doing here?” she demanded, annoyance dripping from her tongue. It was late in the afternoon and she admired the vast gardens of Shui’s estate. It was a rare moment in the day that she had a singular moment to herself. No Baba or Hazina or the other girls demanding her attention.

She loved Hazina more than any living soul, but she needed some time alone. She wasn’t required to entertain Shui for another hour or two.
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