Tag Archives: Victorious Maiden 3

Stay Awake

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I used five lines from Chuck Wendig’s challenge. Can you find all five? I also used Stephanie’s prompt as an overarching theme and the title. Here are 550 words:

“A glittering gem is not enough.”

“But, Mi’Lord, surely this emissary bears his shiny fare as a token of his appreciation,” declared a resolute Ekon. He looked from the great ship’s captain to the strange man from the shore.

Leal glared at Ekon. “Do not presume to title me, Sir. The old apple revels in its authority.” Leal turned his back to Ekon and the stranger and watched linesmen secure the great ship to the canal walls. Without turning back, he continued. “You saw the rotten apple and his worm leap over the railing only moments before.”

The stranger stepped forward, the gem still presented. “I fear my intention was not clear; I merely mean the gem as a gift. A token for your daughter, perhaps?”

Leal spun to face the stranger. “What do you know of my daughter?”

“When the victorious maiden brings her kin to the great river, the river stole the gods.”

Leal’s eyes narrowed to slits. He stared at the man. He didn’t even know the man’s name or the strange things he said.

“Not to worry, Captain,” said the man. “I merely quote the chronicles of Akila. I’ve dedicated my life to following the path she laid out for us.”

“Akila?” inquired Ekon.

“The goddess of bounty; the keeper of love; arbiter of wars and oracle of the future and past.”

Leal closed his eyes. What were the odds that a religion worshiped a goddess that shared the name of his late wife? he thought. Leal crossed his arms. “You speak of strange things from a strange land, Sir.”

The man bowed deeply at the waist. “If it pleases you, Sirs, you may call me by my given name, Themba. And I respectfully remind you that we are all strangers in strange lands floating amongst each other in a river of time and thought.” Themba looked to the rising sun. “Lady Akila tells us that the stranger officiates the meal. Hove you eaten your mid-day meal?”

Ekon placed a reassuring hand on Leal’s shoulder. To Themba, he replied, “Tell us more about Lady Akila.” He looked to Leal. “Perhaps at the captain’s table?”

Leal nodded and the trio walked to a wooden hatch leading into the belly of the great ship.
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Quest for Nothing

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Here’s another 1625 words for Victorious Maiden. I used prompts from three word wednesday and Inspiration Monday. It looks as if the running total is 10,965.

* * *

“What do you mean we’re running out of food?”

“I think someone’s hoarding it.”

Ekon’s jovial smile faded and he turned to face Leal. “You believe it is me?”

Leal shook his head. “No, friend, you have admitted to a life of debauchery, but I think you stealing wine would be…” Leal paused, picking his words with care. “Unfruitful,” he finished.

Ekon smiled and clasped Leal by the shoulder. Ekon had missed the comradery he had. He was glad he was no longer ‘Ekon the Builder,’ and simply ‘Ekon.’ “I’m glad my waking dream led me to you and your daughter. I know she’ll do great things.”

Leal frowned. “What do you know of Nichelle’s future?” Leal stepped towards the man who helped save his family. “Or of her past?”

“Past? Future?” Ekon examined his fingernails. “These are but abstracts. Abstracts birthed by man to explain the wilting of flowers; the spoiling of food.” He wiped his hand on his tunic. “We barely understand the world around us.”

“Then tell me, Ekon, tell me of the world around us.”

Instead of answering, Ekon beckoned Leal to follow him below deck. Over his shoulder, Ekon called out, “I’ve kept a secret from you and Nichelle.”

Leal stopped, his hand reaching to the scabbard on his belt.

Ekon shook his head. “It’s not that kind of secret, Leal. I promise, you’ll want to see what I have hidden away in my space.”

Ekon continued down the corridor and Leal was forced to hurry to catch up. They nodded to everyone they passed in the corridors. Some with a smile, others with a hearty handshake. Some even yet, a word or two of thanks or encouragement. When they arrived at Ekon’s berth, he walked to the head of the bed. Ekon reached under the straw mattress and an audible click sounded out.

Leal stepped back as Ekon’s bed dropped and a hidden compartment was revealed. He reached in a retrieved something wrapped in cloth.

“This was given to me by a priestess of Kanoni.”

Leal wore a mask of skepticism. Many had claimed to have located the resting place of Kanoni – most were attempting to sell something. Ekon unwrapped the package slowly, carefully peeling pack each fold. Each layer, revealed a glow from within. With each layer, the glow intensified until finally, Leal was unable to look at Ekon’s hand directly.

Ekon continued. “I’ve been resolute in keeping this from those unworthy.”

Through fingers covering his eyes, Leal squinted and saw a gear. His eyes teared and the gear was blurry, but it appeared to be the most magnificent workmanship Leal’s overtaxed eyes had ever seen.

“Hold out your hand,” commanded Ekon.
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Flutter By

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Leal peered over the cliff. The ocean had risen in the last weeks. The rain hadn’t stopped and lower lying areas were already flooded. The great ship Ekon the Builder had helped them construct stood in defiance to the rising ocean. Friends and neighbors who had initially mocked their project now bustled to and fro, making preparations for the impending disaster. Livestock, food and tools filled the lower holds. Everyone feared the rising ocean and scrambled for space on the great boat. All that is, except Ekon.

“Ekon!” Leal yelled when he glimpsed the hunched form of the designer of the monstrosity they created. “Ekon the Builder!”

Ekon looked to Leal and stood as straight and tall as he could, but due to his bowed back, it made for quite the sad spectacle.

“Ekon, there doesn’t appear to be a place for your tools. We’ll need you to help build a new life after the flood.”

“I’ll not be with you. I deserve neither your praise nor my own salvation.”

Leal gripped him by the shoulders. “How can you say this? It was by providence’s hand you came to us when you did.” Leal waved his arm towards the single tree, the tree that adorned his wife’s grave. “How could that solitary tree provide enough wood for this? The copper and tin we smelted for nails has yielded more material than possible. You are a miracle worker and the stories of your prowess are not exaggerated.”

Ekon shook his head. “I was a great builder. The last few years I have cared more for the drink than the craft.”

“None of us would begrudge you for imbibing. The enormity of this project is…” Leal turned and took in the enormity of the structure. “….astounding.”

Ekon stared into Leal’s eyes when the man turned back to him. “Wine ferments in my mouth. It is but bitter vinegar. I have subsisted on scraps of bread. I’ve lived a life of debauchery and privilege, I have no place on your boat.”

Leal opened his mouth to try to convince Ekon to change his mind, but was interrupted by a rare sight: A butterfly appeared in the fog, wafting lazily in the thick mist. Both men looked to the butterfly with wings of brilliant red. The wings appeared as if they were frocked on the edges with pure gold. Dodging drops of water, the butterfly struggled against the rain and landed on Ekon’s head.

The butterfly paused only long enough to rest and then it fluttered toward the boat. It landed on the prow and then moments later, it continued its journey over the ocean. Ekon stood taller, retrieved his tools and strode confidently towards the boat ramp.

Lean smiled and waved to Nichelle to follow. The trio that began the endeavor stood in respectful silence at the end of the ramp. The boat was ready and those who wished to sail away were already aboard. The trio nodded to one another and started up the ramp.

Next: Quest for Nothing


Ekon the Builder

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861 more words for Victorious Maiden:

Ekon sat alone in the dark of his home. He rubbed his calloused and cracked hands across the smooth table. Satisfied with the smoothness of the table, he reached for a bottle and emptied its contents into a glass. He swirled the amber liquid in his glass and a few drops splashed on the floor.

A smooth, well-built floor, he thought as he regarded his handiwork. He placed his glass on the table and stood to retrieve a towel to wipe away the liquid soaking into the wood. He stumbled and steadied himself by gripping the back of the chair he just vacated.

I’ve drunk more than I should’ve.

The shadow of the glass falls across this hand. Knees shaking, he steps toward a closet. He looks over his shoulder at the glass.

One more after… He paused and retrieved a towel from the stacks. He walks to and kneels by the spill. Wiping the blemish away, he looks up to the glass. He reaches and loses his balance, landing on his back. The air in his lungs escapes with a grunt.

What have I become? He closes his eyes and his mind answers the rhetorical question. A drunkard. A failure.

Ekon opens his eyes and his vision is fuzzy on the edges. My head hurts! He reached to rub his temples.

I can’t move! A wave of fear washes over him like the ocean erodes the shore. Biting, pulling. He feels a drop land on his cheek. His eyes snap open in time to see the glass strike him in the face, followed by darkness.

* * *

“Wake up!”

Ekon felt a strike across his cheek.

“I said, ‘Wake up!’”

His cheek stings again.

Stop! Leave me be!

“To what end? I’m ashamed at what you’ve become.”

Ekon’s eyes snap open, but he still only saw darkness. Had I said that aloud?

A chuckle was the only response. It was akin to a little girl while the voice was definitely a woman’s. “I hear all. You need not put your thoughts into words.”

I can’t see! Am I dead?

“Had I wished you dead, you most certainly would be.” She paused, “I am merciful.”

I want to see! Although Ekon didn’t speak this aloud, his mind’s eye saw his intonation, his anger.

“You’ve seen all your life. What have you done?”

Ekon cleared his throat. “I’ve built great things.”
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Final Farewell

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Here’s the 956 word continuation of Victorious Maiden:

Leal stepped out from the protection of the ramshackle home he shared first with his wife, then his family. He followed Akila. It wasn’t difficult, green grass sprouted up in the shape of petite footprints. He matched her steps, ignoring the grass his bare feet crushed under each stride. He was experiencing the touch of the blades of grass for the first time.

Akila stood staring down at the disturbed grave. The tree adorning the cliff was in full bloom. Akila had never spoken to him in his dreams. She was always a ghostly feeling more than someone he could interact with. Leal stared, in awe of his wife’s beauty. A flower was tucked behind her ear, brighter than he had ever seen a flower be. Her dress billowed as a breeze wafted in from the ocean. She turned and looked into his eyes.

Leal stopped mid stride, fear rose in his gut. I’m dreaming no longer, he thought as he beheld the beauty of his wife. She spoke and the words echoed on his psyche.

“I can hide no longer. I’ve revealed myself to Nichelle. Her destiny begins this day.”

Leal fell to his knees. Dust and grime puffed away at the impact. His vision blurred and tears created shiny gullies as they moved through the grime. He mustered his strength and cried out. “Beloved!”

“This world is dying. Men multiply and consume. Wickedness and hate abound. Toiling in the dirt is not my daughter’s fate.”

Leal crawled through the dirt and reached out to touch his wife’s feet. When his hands found them, he buried his face in them, wailing. “Don’t leave me again!”

Akila knelt by her husband. She reached down and caressed his neck. “I will be with you always. The life you and I created only fifteen years ago. She is a part of me as she is a part of you.”

Leal felt the sadness dissipate. He looked up and Akila continued.

“I must leave now. You and the children will be safe. Trust in Nichelle, for she will be your salvation. I love you.”

Through teary eyes, Leal squinted against the brilliant light. The aches in his bones were gone. Grass grew everywhere and everything was awash with Akila’s brilliance. Leal wept openly. At that moment he knew he’d never see his wife again. She tilted her head slightly and bit her fist before she turned and walked off the cliff. Her radiance grew and he covered his eyes with his hands. Despite the pain of the bright light, he watched as she became a pillar of pure white light. The brightness was overpowering and he was forced to look away. When he looked back, all he saw was the endless ocean.

You died fifteen years ago, but now you are truly gone.

Leal rose and brushed the grime from his nightshirt. He walked slowly back to the house he shared with his family. Nichelle and his adopted children stood just inside the door. They had seen the events unfold and marveled at the tree in full bloom. Jahia ventured out and touched the green grass with her bare foot. A squeal escaped her lips as she danced with an imaginary partner. Leal smiled and pondered the wooden construct that housed his family.

It’s the same structure that held grief for so long. Now, it holds hope for a better future.
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Waking Dreams

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Regular readers of my blog will recognize this from forever ago. I’ve rewritten this and Victorious Maiden will be a short story, 5000 – 10000 words. I’m posting each chapter here and you all can give any feedback you can think of. You all will have a hand in creating this story. I have an idea on where this story’s going, but you all can steer the prose. Let’s see what we can create here! Here’s an additional 908 words:

 

Leal closed his eyes and imagined happier times. Happier is not really the word to describe it, it was better than now, but not as good as years gone by. Leal felt fortunate, if one could consider all that has happened and his survival fortuitous. Happy wasn’t a word that described much these days.

Leal opened his eyes and saw it. A rounded stone, inscribed with his wife’s name. Born; Died. Mother; Wife. The tombstone was atop a cliff next to his home. The children watered flowers on the grave with what water they could spare. Somehow the tree over his wife’s final resting place never seemed to shed its leaves. Leal told his children it was due to their consummate care, but in the silence and darkness of his thoughts, he knew the truth. It was a truth he’d kept from the world for so long, but now…

I wonder…

Leal felt a shudder as a cold wind blew in from the ocean. Kneeling there, the cold was the first thing he noticed. The smell was the second. All around him everything was dying. He stared out at the endless ocean before he removed his mask and gloves to wipe away the tears. The coating of grime scratched his cheek. When he returned, he knew his daughter would scold him for removing the protective gear.

Again he looked past the tree and saw the unbroken pane of water, smooth like polished glass. He took a deep breath, savoring the only clean smell on the wretched rock he called home. He closed his eyes again.

I miss you so much…

“Father, come inside. It’s not safe out here.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Despite the layers of protection, he knew it was Nichelle.

How does she tolerate my behavior? He thought, she doesn’t know…

“I’ll be in in a moment, pumpkin,” he said aloud.

Nichelle squeezed her father’s shoulder and he could hear her footsteps recede on the packed ground. Sighing, he picked up a wilted flower and placed it tenderly on the grave. Although he’d seen it hundreds of times, it still amazed him to see life return to it. The petals of his wife’s favorite flower got brighter; the leaves turned a much deeper green. The yellow, purple and green made him smile, but that happiness was short lived. Standing, he grabbed the flower and crushed it in his hands. Tossing it over the cliff, he saw the leaves and petals wilt once again.

No, the world is not ready for you…

With his bare hand he touched the rounded stone and felt warmth. It flowed up his arm and radiated filling him with hope. He sniffled, wiped away another grimy tear and whispered, “I love you.”
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Reoccurring Dreams

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960 words for Sunday Photo Fiction:

“Happy Birthday, Father.” Nichelle handed her father a toy with metal balls strung to a shining frame. The reflection of his face reflected off the metal balls and he brushed his fingers against the letters spelling his name: Leal.

“Thank you, Nichelle.” Leal regarded her sternly. “Perhaps when I named you, I set into motion your fate.” He lifted one of the metal balls and watched it slam into the row. “Much like these metal balls…”

Nichelle rolled her eyes. The argument never changes, she thought. Aloud, she replied, “Just because my name means ‘maiden,’ this does not guide my fate.” She looked up to her father and their eyes locked. “It doesn’t guide your faith either,” she whispered.

Leal’s smile revealed lines of perfect teeth. “I do not remarry or take a woman to bed not because my name means ‘faithful,’ but because I have no interest in such things.”

Nichelle looked away from her father, covering her mouth with her fist. Closing her eyes, she allowed her lips to part and her teeth to touch her fist. Leal waited, patiently. This argument was equally as old.

Nichelle stepped to her father, wrapping her arms around his large frame. The scratchy fabric he wore felt familiar on her cheek. She inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of her father. A hug from Leal filled her with a sense of belonging. That sense filled her, emboldening her resolve.

“Mother has gone to the great beyond many years ago.” She sniffled. “She wouldn’t want you to remain sad on her account.”

“Child,” Leal embraced his daughter at arm’s length, “sadness is not what I feel.” He wiped away her tear with his calloused thumb. “When you were gifted to your mother and I, we knew you’d be destined to do great things. We’d been told by the finest healers the empire had, we would not conceive.” He sat on a bench and pulled Nichelle down to sit next to him.

“Tell me, Father.” She had heard the story many times, but she cherished it, for it was a tale of a mother she never knew. She rested her head on his shoulder.

“We had a fight the night prior. Your mother wanted to adopt orphans and I was so engrossed in my work…” Leal looked down at his lap. Nichelle squeezed his hand, encouraging him to continue. “I acted selfishly, shamefully. That the goddess bestowed her grace on us is testament to her mercy and love.”

“That night, as I slumbered, I had a vivid dream of a woman that I knew was my wife. She surveyed a ruined planet. In my heart, I knew I was seeing her beyond death.”

“What did she look like?” Nichelle whispered.
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