WARRIORS OF THE WAY EPISODES 1 THRU 5
A story started on an online website and working toward it's finish. Populated with the names
and characters of my many online friends...................
WARRIORS OF THE WAY, EPISODE ONE
BY VOO JULY 27, 2005
STARSHINE IS LOST TO ME
I awoke to find a flower crushed underneath my cheek. I had not noticed it when I lay down the night before but then I had been too tired and too grief stricken to notice anything but the aching in my heart. I had walked for many miles, having lost my horse to the bite of a viper on the hillside far behind me. Starshine. Black as midnight with a white star shaped mark on his neck and star shaped sprays of white on his two front legs. A magnificent horse, my childhood companion, my best friend.
His death had come as a great shock and one that I wondered in my loneliness if I would ever overcome. How had I been so careless? How had he? We both had ears and eyes like hawks and had never been attacked unawares in all our years together. Perhaps in our weariness of long journeying we had become fatigued and let down our guards, having taken our protection for granted much too long. How could I ever forgive myself?
The viper had appeared out of nowhere, long and fat and golden hued, like no snake I had ever seen. I had dismounted Starshine and was climbing to the top of a tree to scan the horizon when it happened. The horse made no sound, gave no cry for help, raised no alarm. When I had made my way back down the tree, taking my time and humming a melody I had heard in the last village we had passed through, I jumped down laughing and shouted, "Starshine, my friend! I have spotted a lush green field for thou to graze ......."
And there I saw him, still as death itself, his sweet eyes closed and no breath coming from his nostrils. Lying on his sleek, black rump, there coiled the viper, it's cold, intelligent eyes looking at my expression, almost, it seemed, in mocking amusement. I felt a tremor go through my body as I stood frozen in disbelief and anguish.
"H..h..h.how?" I gasped in a tiny whisper of voice, feeling for the first time in years like a helpless child. The viper stretched out to it's full length and struck Starshine behind his unhearing ear as if to answer then turned his yellow eyes back to me and disappeared from sight. Finding my feet and voice, I sank to my knees beside my faithful friend and sobbed until I could sob no more. I wept until his silky mane was soaked with tears and I had caressed his beautiful face and flanks a thousand times. I had never felt so alone.
I didn't know how to say goodbye. I refused to say goodbye. The morning with it's azure skies and golden sun so full of promise became my heart's saddest day. I hated the tree I had climbed, the hill on which it stood, the land in which it grew. But most of all and more than anything I had ever experienced, I hated that viper! I swore vengeance on the creature and made no apology for it. Fury flowed through my veins like lava, shut down my mind and took my soul on a journey I had never made before: to the dark side of myself.
During that journey, I would learn to distrust, to fear, to question all that I had been taught. To walk alone, to love and to know a different, more terrifying kind of heartbreak. I would lose my faith and find it again in strangers and places I did not know existed. Worst of all, I would learn that I could not trust my own eyes or ears or heart. For, from that day forward, nothing would ever be as it appeared. Nothing. Not even the person that I had always imagined myself to be. Everything changed after the encounter with the snake. Light became dark, the familiar became strange, the tangible, intangible and the road I traveled on, a seemingly never ending quest to find understanding of the mysteries. But the world would never be the same. Everything changed for me at the tree.
WARRIORS OF THE WAY
THE DARK SIDE
I don't know how long I lay there resting my head on my dead horse. I had fallen asleep and gone tumbling down into a mindless, restless realm populated by running horses and children, golden vipers and strange men in white hooded robes. I awoke to find the world still there and Starshine, a lifeless form with no sign of his equine spirit and wisdom. I was totally disheartened. I lay aside all of the equipment that he had carried for us and pondered what pieces I could carry myself and discarded the rest. I could see no way to bury my faithful friend outside of digging his grave with my bare hands and I had no strength for that. I formulated a plan to cover him with stones and began the task to do that, a long and tedious chore that took many hours.
As I looked for stones and carried them, I let myself go to places I should not have gone to in my mind but nevertheless, I could not stop the going. I had experienced many things in my life: death and life, illness and miracle, joy and hope delayed. But being strong of spirit and sure of my calling, I had endured and grown stronger with each setback. I was my Father's daughter. I was independent but totally devoted to him and to doing his will. My course had been set at birth and I had never deviated from that course except during the long months of my sickness. And even that had been ordained to ensure the quietness of my youthful spirit and the teaching of my soul and mind that could not have been achieved had I been awake and well.
But this! This, I could not bear. I had been promised that Starshine would be with me until I did not need him and I could not imagine a future in which that day would occur. He had always been there. His face would appear at my window every morning when I awoke as a child. He would call and laugh his almost human laugh and I would fling myself up and over his neck still in my nightclothes and off we would fly through the courtyard until my Father's servants would scold us into stopping.
The chickens would screech and scatter, fruit baskets would overturn and children would scream in laughter and cheer us on. Those were my earliest memories and my happiest times. Having no brothers or sisters and never having known my mother, Starshine had been my closest companion. And now he was dead. Murdered. By a creature not of this world. That much was certain.
Having journeyed throughout the land for many years, I had seen and known and touched and experienced almost everything that the wild world had to offer and in no place and time had I ever seen a viper such as the one that had struck down my horse. The thought of the thing made the blood boil in my veins, made my hands turn into fists, made my heart give way to hate. The thing my Father had warned me about. Hate. The one thing that could destroy love, he said. Never hate, he warned me. Love only and live peacefully with all things, if that be possible. And having said that, he trained me in every type of warfare and fighting mode and skilled me with sword and bow and dagger and cunning strategy.
But now all his teaching dissolved in me as I explored this new emotion and let it turn me in it's tide. As I covered the still form in a mound of stones and hid it with branches, I wondered what I might do now that I had no one to talk to and no one to help me bear the burdens. Until this day, I had ever looked forward to tomorrow and hardly known a confusion or misdirection or loss of insight. My life now seemed like a blank slate, cleared of all mission and purpose.
I completed the task of hiding Starshine's body and picked up the items I thought most needed and started down the hill, refusing to look back. For the first time in my life, I could not connect with Starshine's thoughts in my mind and I could not feel his spirit walking with me. He was gone and I was abandoned and that's all I knew.
I walked for miles until I came to a brook flowing with crystal waters and shaded by willow trees and gray boulders and hanging full of berries and strange fruit. I had no appetite but drank gratefully of the water and lay exhausted upon the soft grass staring into the changing sky, my face darkening with sun and anger. Then I began to question. And I began to twist within my mind all of the promises that had been made to me and I began to doubt. And with the doubt, I began to lose all sense of direction and with that, last of all, I began to lose hope.
WARRIORS OF THE WAY
DAY BREAKS ON A HARDENED HEART
The sun fell out of the sky like a dying bird and crashed into the west with a sudden darkness that chilled me to the bone. I arranged my belongings around me and threw a blanket down upon the grass under a low hanging tree that provided a sort of shelter. Pulling off my knee high boots, I threw them onto the jumble of assorted treasures that had traveled with me for seeming decades now and rubbed away the pain in my toes. I ran a hand through my long dark mass of curls and caught it in a tangle. Thinking I should do something about it, I looked into a deerskin bag for a brush and then threw it aside violently. "Who cares?" I asked the growing darkness. "I don't care! There is no one here to care anymore!"
Loneliness gripped my heart and I threw myself down upon the blanket and covered myself with another and fell into a dreamless sleep that seemed to last for days and yet only for minutes. My last thought before sleep had been, "Let this day be only a dream!" But that wish was not to be granted. A strange and beautiful white bird awakened me with an eerie song as it sat in the tree opposite mine and watched me warily with unreadable eyes. I lay there not moving and watched it watching me until it suddenly took flight and seemed to wave back at me in an approving farewell gesture.
I frowned and hid a smile behind my hand and turned my head as though I had not seen. I didn't want to smile. I did not plan to ever smile again. Smiling belonged to yesterday and Starshine and with the wilding joy of childhood. Today was another day. Today I would become the warrior I had been trained to be, determined and hardened and heartless! (That was the plan anyway.)
Looking down at the sparkling water in the brook, I dipped my fingers to test it's warmth and quickly decided a bath was in order. Slipping off my garments, I plunged into it's cool depth, gasped and swam swiftly to the other side to acclimate my body. Pearl white stones lay all along the bottom of the stream and I dove down and collected a few and brought them to the surface. Like fragile bird's eggs, they were and cool and soothing to the touch. I had never seen the like. What strange stones!
I hurried out of the water and threw them down upon the blanket and reached for the fragrant soap I had purchased somewhere along my travels. Washing my hair, I remembered the woman who had cared for me as a child and spoke to me oft times in a foreign tongue that I could not understand but always her soft voice had comforted me and made me long for my mother.
I stood for a few moments in the sun on the banks of the brook and let the breeze dry away the drops of water. It never occurred to me that anyone might see me. I had not seen another human for many days nor did I care to. People always seemed to stare at me with strange looks and shocked expressions. I never understood why. When I had asked my father, he said to me, "Because you are beautiful. And special and they love you." That explanation never satisfied me, neither did it make me question further because deep inside my heart I had always heard a voice that said softly to me, "Someday you will know." But that day had never come.
I dressed quickly in fresh garments of soft deerskin and velvet, my preferred fabrics, not the preference of the royal house to which I was born but comfortable and luxurious to me. The deerskin tunic fell to my knees and was topped with a garnet cloak of velvet, hooded and tied about my throat. A garnet belt circled my waist and it's fringes came to the hem of the tunic. I pulled on my deerskin boots and the finger-less gloves that ran halfway to my shoulders. Brushing the tangles from my dark hair, I tied it up with strings of garnet and leather and let it fall down my back in uncontrollable curls. Starshine had loved to pull my hair when I had dared to walk in front of him and snorted in amusement when I protested and pulled his own black mane.
The memory of it brought tears to my eyes but I brushed them away and clasped my father's gift around my neck, the golden necklace that matched the golden circlets in my ears. I had worn it for so long that I felt bare without it and it's smoothness gave me solace.
Sitting upon the blanket, I looked around me at the marvelous berries hanging from the vines and bushes and I grew hungry and my mouth watered at the sight. Breakfast beckoned, but first I sought to examine the pearl white stones I had collected at the bottom of the brook. I held three of them in my hands and turned them round and round then threw them up into the air in a juggling motion and let them fall down into my lap. "You're a child!" I told myself and threw them down upon the blanket in frustration.
There was a cracking sound and I looked in amazement to see that two of them had been damaged. Picking them up, I saw that each stone had broken in half and hidden inside one half was an object so shiny and dazzling that it hurt my eyes. "What magic is this?" I muttered and attempted to look at the objects through my upheld fingers. My surroundings suddenly went silent. Not a sound was heard, not a bird's voice, not a wild beast's call. Silence. My hardened heart began to race in unknown fear and I knew without looking that someone stood behind me. I felt them there without so much as hearing a single footstep.
It was a feeling of great....evil. I felt it watching me, willing me to pick up the broken white stones and remove the brilliant things inside them. It was almost too much to bear. I struggled with the strange manipulation and fought against it as hard as I could, thinking that I must. I must!
And so I did and the moment passed and the silence silently melted away into the morning. Noise rushed my ears then, noise of the wild and of the world and of the life I no longer felt a part of. I held my breath and waited for the watcher to return but it did not. Instead, I heard a twig snap and a footstep and a branch pulled back and to my utter horror, heard a voice, musical and low and oddly familiar. And the voice said "Magic indeed!"
WARRIORS OF THE WAY
THE MAN WITH SKY COLORED EYES
At the sound, I reached for my sword and quickly pulled it from it's sheath. Bounding to my feet, I took my battle stance and stood at the ready, daring the voice to be real and to show it's face. Confusion came to me when long seconds passed and no one appeared. Surely I was still lost in a dream or worse, the sickness had taken me again. Years ago it had been, and still I remembered it's days and nights of helplessness and pain. Without warning, the sword was taken from my hand and thrown aside in a movement so swift I could not have prevented it had I been a hajvoni. (one of the race of giant men of Hajvon.)
I felt ashamed at my compromising and anger poured out of my mouth to hide my guilt. I roared and moved to rush the stranger I could not yet fully see. Pulling the dagger out of my boot, I struck with all the fierceness I could muster and caught the sleeve of the attacker's garment and ripped it in pitiful victory. The laugh that issued from my victim then made me furious beyond reason, my mind running in a thousand different directions all at once as if taken from my control. A strong arm thrust me back and forth like a leaf in the wind and held me fast against a broad chest clothed in black and brown and smelling like the forest. I caught a glimpse of gold hanging from a cord of leather and felt a heavy ring cutting into my arm.
I struggled to pull away and the stranger grasped me tighter and pushed the hair out of my eyes as if to make me look at him but I did not wish to see. "Why, you're only a maiden," he said softly, "Barely more than a child." At that, I kicked backwards hard enough to do damage and felt freedom within my grasp as he moaned and let go of me. Hitting his chest with my head, I unbalanced him and turned to run but fast as lightning he was upon me and caught my cloak and down into the soft grass I fell.
Before I could upright myself, my eyes caught the gleaming, magical glow of the object in one of the broken stones and I lay mesmerized and powerless. All earth and sky passed away and I entered into a realm of unknown origin and purpose and opened a door of gigantic height and width and went inside to see wonders no tongue could speak of. And then I remembered no more.
When once again my eyes could open and my mind think sensible thoughts, I looked around to find myself in a strange camp, covered in blankets, pillowed on softness, with the sun hanging low now and far across the azure sky. A fire was burning some distance away and the smell of food cooking made me hurt with homesickness and hunger. I tried to sit up but fell back down and lay there puzzled at my weakness. What had transpired, I could not say. I understood nothing and remembered less. The sickness, surely. I felt afraid and at the same time, strangely peaceful. Awake and simultaneously sleeping. I closed my eyes again and tried to recall....anything. I listened for the voice inside me to say again, "Someday you will know."
And just as it came, another voice near at hand broke my reverie and kindly said, "I do not have a table and chair, but do you care to dine? I do not have a cup and bowl but what I have is thine." A poem from my childhood! My nurse had recited it to me sometimes at mealtimes and I would quote the next verse and she, the next, a lengthy piece of prose about hospitality and selflessness. I was speechless with surprise! "I do not have a coat or cloak to shield you from the rain but I have love enough to give to help you bear your pain." I quoted from memory and softly said aloud. The moment was sweet and comforting and yet brought all the more confusion to me as I pondered on it.
I opened my heavy eyes to see a man beside me holding bread and meat and a flask of water, reaching in my direction, his form looming against the sky. Up his length my eyes traveled and rested upon a face I had never seen and yet somehow knew. He was tanned from the sun and smooth and hard and beautiful in a way I could not describe. His hair was dark and shoulder length and his arms were muscled like the warriors' in my father's training fields. Tall, he seemed and powerful like the muhatni, but not as fierce and cruel as they, at least at the moment but then I remembered not the actions that had brought me to this blanket. Something in me did not want to look into his eyes but I forced myself to look and felt inside me, the same yielding in him.
We looked. And stared. And looked away. And back. And froze in time as moments passed and memories stirred and breathing stopped. I felt alive as I had never felt before there in the trap of his eyes like a frightened rabbit, caught. Never had I seen such eyes! I looked above his head at the intense blue of the skies and back into his face in wonder and gave a questioning shout that winded down into a whisper and went silent. "Th..th..thine eyes!" I finally gasped and held them with my own until he ducked his head and set the food aside. He softly laughed in answer, "You have never seen eyes that were not brown, have you?" And I shook my head and tried to look down at the ground but to his face my eyes flew of their own accord.
"No, I did not know that eyes like thine existed but only shades of brown have I yet seen." "I know 'tis quite a shock for thee to discover," he said, "In all thy travels....through unknown lands and.....perilous..places. And yet, I must confess, in all of mine, I never seen such wondrous eyes as...yours." And my heart raced at his words and I turned them over and over in my mind, wondering at their meaning. How did this man know of my travels and of my perilous adventures? He spoke as though he knew and yet he could not.
I looked into the sky once more and back into his face as he picked up the flask and put it to my lips. "Drink." he said and I drank and fell back upon the pillow, drowning in the azure blue I had never seen looking down upon me with human kindness. I felt sleep overtake me once more and down I fell into it's soft white clouds like lamb's wool, marveling over the magic and dreaming of the man with sky colored eyes.
WARRIORS OF THE WAY
A roar of thunder woke me from my slumber, not a slumber really, but more an exit from consciousness. I stirred, disoriented and unsure of anything only to find myself in yet another strange location. This time I was bundled up in blankets lying under a makeshift arbor of skins and branches and almost totally surrounded by odd looking but sturdy trees, wide of trunk with smooth bark that seemed to put forth a kind of pale light. I stretched my arms and touched the top of the tent, yawning like an infant, quietly as I could muster but loud enough to catch the attention of my companion.
The man with sky colored eyes was arranging logs and branches at the edge of the camp while keeping one eye on the fire and one eye on the rumbling skies. A pot of something delicious bubbled noisily over the fire and reminded my stomach that I had not yet partaken of food this day. My strength had not yet totally returned but I felt refreshed and if not in full, in part, restored to my sanity and well being. Somewhere deep inside of me I kept wishfully thinking that the events of the last two days had not been real, could not be real and that soon I would wake up from a deep and feverish sleep and life would go on as always.
As if reading my mind, the man looked in my direction and smiled "Oh, it's real, make no mistake about that." And when I reacted, he smiled again and said, "I know you must be hungry. Let us eat while the fire is still with us. The skies are desperate to release their furies and the rain will water down my famous stew." "Famous, eh?" I queried and shook my hair and tried to straighten my disheveled clothing. I threw back the blankets to find the night air chilly and full of the scent of rain.
"Dost thou always carry strangers away without their permission?" The man was silent as he filled two bowls with stew and made his way to where I lay. With a teasing trace of smile he murmured as he handed me the food, "Tis hard to make a dead man walk." I nodded and tasted a spoonful of food, finding it indeed to my liking but hot, very hot. "Oh!" I cried as the stew seared my tongue and the man laughed and handed me a flask of water. "A thousand pardons, I beg thee. I should have warned you of it's warmth. It has been cooking for hours as I watched thee....wander in thy...restlessness."
I looked at him to discern what he might mean but as I looked into his eyes I could only see his eyes and forgot my reason for looking. "Oh." I said again and cooled my next spoonful before the bite. Then, "I am grateful, I am sure. For thy kindness...and the food....and the..watching....and..and the carrying." Rebuking myself, I concentrated upon the bowl of stew and my stomach rumbled happily.
Finishing, I remembered the previous day's resolve and tried to make my face appear stern and indifferent. "Thou art a very strange man. How is it that I find myself in thy company? Art thou a symbelon?" (meaning demon man of the house of Fallon.) The man chuckled and gathered up the bowls and stood to his feet. He thought for a moment and then scowled down at my fierce upturned face. "I might be. I very well might be. You cannot tell. And neither will I." And went away laughing.
A peal of thunder broke across the sky and lightning, jagged and bright and close, lit up the camp and exposed the hidden recesses that enclosed us. There were many tall gray boulders around the area on the far side of the fire and near one of them I saw a beautiful silver horse in fancy garb eating his supper of grass. He raised his regal head at the flash of lightning and neighed a warning to the man. Then he disappeared behind the boulder where I assumed a shelter waited for him.
The sight of him made my heart ache for my Starshine and I lay back in the dark and steeled myself against remembering. I could not allow myself to wallow in self pity if I were to become the warrior I had resolved to be. I must remain hard and detached, emotionless and mindful of the mission. I could not lose sight of that most of all, no matter what the losses or the heartache. Feeling stronger after the meal, I tried to remember everything I could, though memories were showing themselves only in tiny portions in my mind.
Something shining.....glittering like diamonds...there..at the edge of my thoughts. What was it? When? The sensation of being taken away into a marvelous place against my will but unable to stop my feet from going forward. A door.....big as a mountain and beckoning....the handle fitting into my small hand as naturally as....what? What was it? Part of a dream? And what lay behind that gigantic door?
The straining to remember made my head ache and I brushed the images away as the first cold drops of rain began to fall. In moments the fire went out and the camp became dark except for the pale glow from the strange trees. The heavens opened up then and rained down on us in the raging strength of nature's glory. The night became alive. The arbor in which I lay was high up off the ground on a kind of rocky shelf and protected from the flow of water that rushed across the low lying camp in torrents of icy silver. The horse called again and seemed to answer himself in his own tongue. "Odd." I thought and snuggled underneath the warm skins and blankets in my hiding place. I loved storms but was thankful that I was not lying in it's fury at my camp near the brook. The willow trees would not have provided the good shelter I had here. It was the perfect encampment when I thought of it. I felt safe and secure and well protected. But that was not of my own doing, I thought. That was because of the man.
Almost at the same moment that I thought of him, he rushed up to the shelter and threw himself over me and snuggled his wet body underneath the coverlets. I was amazed! "W..what dost thou think thou art doing?" I exclaimed and withdrew from him as far as the bunk would allow. I had not thought this out, surely, I said to myself and drew the blankets away from him and up to my chin in protest. "Not here! Thou cannot stay here this night!" I shouted above the din of thunder. He dried his long wet hair with the corner of a blanket and paid me no mind. Removing his weaponry, he placed them at his feet and pulled the blankets back to distribute them evenly.
Then he looked at me in mild amusement. "And where wouldst thou have me stay, my Lady? This is my bed and shelter, thank you very much! And you are my guest. Here at my invitation. And it is the only place available...except for Redemption's haven. What would you have me do?" I did not know. I could only sputter in protest while coming up with no answer. Where else could he go? This was the only safe place from the storm. Perhaps it would soon end and he could go back to his campfire. I would be patient. And watchful.
I made a sort of dam between us with the blanket and lay back warily pretending that there was no man lying there beside me in the dark. I would sleep no more this day, I was certain. "Don't be afraid, little one." he whispered after a time, "I will not harm you. I know you find yourself in disagreeable and awkward company but this is something that you will live through in honor as you have survived many disagreeable things. Sleep well and good night." And with that, he turned his back and pulled the coverlet up to his ears and left me alone in my quandry. After many minutes, I relaxed enough to stretch out in comfort and let go of my trepidation. But for a very long time I could only lay there at the edge of my bed watching the storm and wondering how I came to find myself in this situation. I could only wonder.
The sound of the man's soft breathing let me know that he was sleeping and I turned and looked at his back in the pale glow and how his dark hair curled up when it was damp. I put out a timid finger and touched a tendril and curled it around my hand. I felt like a naughty little girl. I laughed under my breath at my bravery and moved to unwind the curl when a low voice said hardly above a whisper, "You must not touch me while I sleep. I am not a plaything. And you are not a child."
To be continued on it's own blog..........Coming Soon!