Wednesday, July 29, 2015

armor | part 1 & 2 & 3

[A quick note: read this link {click here} and this link {click here}, first to get the most out of this one if you haven't. Once again I glued the all the parts together for everyone's convenience.]

The softmen were incautious with their stink, unaware of the wind. Ar-tuk had hard-learned how to smile in daylight, but he would never unlearn caution.

Two softmen crept up the sun dappled mountain beach, with soft footfalls they believed to be stealthy. Ar-tuk absently pressed the pad of his finger into the sharp point of his tusks. Sel-tuk gathered the children in silence. She could smell as well as him.

He smiled at the children before they descended from sight; Sel-tuk gave him a halfhearted grin before following.

He tried to reassure her with a toothsome smile. His wet eyes betrayed him.

No matter, all would be well. Sel-tuk was wiser and fiercer than him; she could keep them safe, even in daylight. His children would know laughter and bright skies.

He slowly armored himself in this thought. Then, with a sigh Ar-tuk snatched his last tattered spear from the branches of a nearby tree.

Ar-tuk gave no restraint to his steps. Still, above his own cacophony he heard the many missteps of the softmen. Above all, the strangers reeked of wine.

“Softmen!” Ar-tuk called as the strangers rounded a fresh-fallen tree.

Two lean, sunburnt men stopped short and drew long rusted  knives from their belts. The tuskman held his spear-point low.

Ar-tuk spoke again in hard, wet voice of his people. “I offer no harm. You walk the hunting place of Ar-tuk, last of his tribe.”

The furthest of the softmen scratched his scalp vigorously through matted hair. The nearest slyly eyed Ar-tuk for too many tense moments.

“Don’t expect you made that daisy chain your own self, toothy,” the nearest said with malicious grin.
At the thought of his daughter, a cold hard knot of rage twisted deep into Ar-tuk’s stomach.

“Reckon you got some women or some girls nearby.”

The rage surged into his chest, even his teeth sang in violent tension.

“Wager you got yourself a stash of food, too.”

Ar-tuk felt his heart pound behind his eyes.

The nearest softman licked his sun-blistered lips. The furthest threw his knife.

Ar-tuk tore into motion. He spun into a wild lunge. Ar-tuk’s old spear bit deep into the nearest softman. The brigand’s grin dissolved into a gurgling mockery of a scream.

The spear snapped as Ar-tuk tried to wrench it free. He roared; letting free the fire in his chest, Ar-tuk leapt upon the shocked second softman, blank rage blurring his vison.

His tusk’s tasted blood. Ar-tuk slowly stood, his eyes held by the blood pouring from behind the second softman’s jaw.

“My tusk will be their spear,” he whispered with a wan smile.

***

{Craven}

It was sometime past that weird wreck, with the floating stones and bright blood like an oil slick, that I spied that high-walled river-barge. Three drunks inside made it easy to follow.

Too many candles, lit every night. Must’ve feared the wide open dark.

Should have been afraid enough to know you’re never alone. You’re never the last, always folks like me out there. Dark won’t kill you, not the dark.

Barge walls were too high. I waited and drank the dregs from amphorae they tossed into the sea.
One black night, as I floated close, I heard them speak seriously of meat. Lots were drawn. Come morning, there were two.

Soon enough, I knew, their stomachs would find their knives. Then, the barge’d be mine.

Until the morning I awoke to the distant stench of pine trees. The barge of fools floated into a flooded valley, set between two tree ringed mounds of naked stone.

The fools made a rough landing on the muddy beach beside a bone-dry dugout canoe. They fell across the high walls of their boat and stumbled their way up the wooded ridge. My coward’s eyes saw the faded wisps of smoke towards which the fools follied.

I tied my boat to a half-drowned tree and swam quick through a thicket. I split my path between the drunks the half-hidden smoke. When I saw an upturned tree across a likely path, I settled myself into its branches.

The drunks tried to be menacing on top of clever and failed at both. The tuskman quickly bought me the barge, but dry land put new warmth into my craven bones.

He took too long to look at what he’d done. I slithered out of the branches and struck like an adder. The heavy blade bit through thick skin, knotted muscle, and bone. He fell without screaming and ripped away what still held foot to ankle.

Suddenly all the air crushed out of my lungs.

***

Sel-tuk watched her mate in perfect, silent stillness as he stood against the softmen.

The children were tucked away, well-hidden and waiting with her knife.

Her mate was swift, strong, and armored in blood-bought-love. The softmen purchased their passing in typical fashion.

Sel-tuk closed her tense eyes and allowed herself to breathe. The sounds of cut bone, tearing flesh, and collapse snapped her into white-fire action.

Through red tunnels she barely could see while she crushed the worm-snake beneath her.

Her knees and forearm burst the ribs surrounding his empty chest. The iron bands of her fingers snatched his black hair and slammed rotten teeth down his throat. She ground the worm-snake’s skull cruelly into unforgiving tree roots. She bellowed her lamentation unto the sky then thrust in potent rage. His wretched head broke and collapsed into wet nothing.

Through the red tunnel she saw the open eyes of Ar-tuk. Over the pounding drums of her erupting heart, she heard his cry of pain.

Sel-tuk dropped the worthless sack of flesh beneath her and rushed save her blood-bought love.

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