This week’s flash fic turned out to be another character study for Indigo Tides. I sure hope I don’t end up with more characters than I know what to do with them!
I didn’t have a clue what I was setting out to write at first, but as always the story took shape the more I wrote. (Love it when that happens.) Maybe, paradoxical as it might seem, this is the best cure for writer’s block: to keep writing.
Also, I discovered this amazing dubstep piano piece, which fit perfectly into the mood/setting for Indigo Tides and this short story.
All that drama! All the imagery! It’s impossible not to come up with a story after listening to this.
Repair the Dead
His human hands were useless in a fight.
Tight and scarred, the knuckles red and raw with blisters, they were meant for minute, intricate things like mending and tithing. They were hands that gave and gave, hands that healed and paid the currency of magic. His hands were not meant to wield brute force the weight of a machete.
He identified with the sea children, at least where they employed their strength. Magic took a lot more out of one than a physical fight did, but they produced twice the desired results.
If only they had the sea children’s knowledge. But for ages, from Halcyon to Desolation, his people had been children borne of the air. They had no advanced knowledge of the magical arts and relied on their rigorous training in the war arts instead. Simply put, his people were fighters. Soldiers. Puppets. Pawn.
Dolonit had no idea what to do with a sword when presented with it; he even dropped it when Maldar, his sparring partner in the practice courtyard, delivered a lightning strike to his arm.
The pain that magic required, on the other hand, was visceral – it carved holes in his soul, did damage that was invisible to the naked eye. The pain from an open wound, however, was different from what he was used to. It was present, wicked, and tangible in terms of the blood drawn, the length and depth of the cut, and quantifiable in the number of stitches.
Dolonit scrambled for his sword. His other hand grasped his injured arm, but he was making a mess with his blood all over the concrete stage.
Maldar stooped before him in a display of solidarity meant for their audience, among whom sat the new general, hulking and haw-eyed like a different breed of monster.
“We might have more faith in a pair of hands that can do more than stitching up the weak and repairing the dead,” he said, his voice pressed low against Dolonit’s ear. “Imagine what might have resulted of sending you to the killing fields.”
Dolonit knew the swordsman had never quite forgiven him for being chosen as a Healer, and instead devoted himself to mastering his battle skills so that one day he might prove a more worthy apprentice.
Now’s not the time for petty old vendetta or slippery fingers, Dol, he thought, tightening his grip on his sword and getting to his feet. He swung his sword the way Yuzoff taught him and went at Maldar. You have a job. Do it well. For the sake of those who have died, if not for the Empire.
But the more he thought about those who died, the weaker his grasp became. What were they holding on to, when after all this they had lost way more than they gained? The Emperor had promised a brighter future for every citizen of the Empire, and all they needed was to acquire the sea children’s magic. But all he saw was devastation at the expense of their own people. He had had to mend comrades who turned pale, sweaty and delirious with pain, patch together limbs that had been ripped apart, remove malicious skeins of magic threaded with veins so that the slightest movement agonising pain –
The shriek of steel against steel, and he snapped to attention … only to find Maldar’s sword scraping past his to find his heart. The tip drew tauntingly close – Dolonit’s eyes squeezed shut – before stopping short against him. Dolonit felt the press of ice-cold metal through the fabric, the drumming of his heart, the hungry anticipation of the crowd.
Maldar himself was a terrible picture of malevolence, a sneer of spiteful glee twisting his arrow-like face. “The enemy, my dear Dolonit, has not the same inhibitions as I do now. They will not hesitate to finish off a replacement soldier.” He retracted his blade and straightened.
Getting to his feet, the Healer dropped his sword – or rather, he tossed it aside. The clank of steel against concrete rang louder than he expected it to, but rather than wince, he made sure his voice sounded just as strong.
His gaze sought the general’s in the crowd. Dolonit launched his words forth like stones right into the stillness of the courtyard. “I am not a fighter. This war brings no victory to me, only death. Find better use for these hands.”
At that, the courtyard erupted in sound and fury. Dolonit left it all in his trail and headed back to his chamber, where more dead and ravaged bodies awaited him.