Stories - Page 6 of 15 - Lyonesse

Wii-Fit Plus

I’d been overweight so long that it felt like it was just the shape I was meant to be.  But then, a few months ago,  my friend Rachel gave me her old Wii-Fit device, complete with balance board.  I’ve never been into computer games but even I know that the Wii is no longer fashionable, and there’s much more up-to-date technology to help people exercise, but the thing was, Rachel herself had lost so much weight that I thought it was worth a shot.

Rachel was, if anything, even fatter than me when we met at a Weightwatchers’ meeting a few years back.  I join every January when they waive the joining fee – and I usually drop out by mid February.  But that year we managed to keep each other motivated until well into the summer before we both finally gave up and called in at the chippy on the way home from one of the meetings.  Neither of us ever went back.

But then, in the last few months of last year, Rachel started losing weight.   I mean really losing weight – not just the few pounds now and then which we normally achieved.  It was miraculous.  She was about half her previous weight by Christmas, and she looked great at the New Year’s Eve party we both went to.  She was wearing a sparkly dress that showed off her new slender body perfectly.  I’d never seen anyone lose excess flab so quickly.  She didn’t even have lots of loose skin, like people who’ve lost lots of fat often end up with. She just looked gorgeous and slim and sexy.  I was dead jealous.

Beside the buffet table, where I was just grabbing myself some sausage rolls and a piece of black forest gateau, I asked her what her secret was, but she just smiled and tapped the side of her nose mysteriously.

As the new year wore on, however, I didn’t see her for months – it was almost as if she was avoiding me, and when I spoke to mutual friends they told me she was doing the same to them.

‘Maybe she’s met a man,’ suggested one, with a knowing smile.  And perhaps that was it.  Falling in love can make people drop their friends, at least for a while.  It’s happened to me before with other friends. Or maybe she no longer wanted to associate herself with fatties like me – she’d moved on to the beautiful people?   Maybe, once the glamour wore off, she’d start seeing her old friends again, and if not, well, she’d’ve lost more than a bit of excess fat, wouldn’t she?

Still, I had to admit, I did miss her.  She’d always been up for a laugh – and it was nice having someone who was facing the same struggle with her weight as I was.  Though that wasn’t true any more, of course.

I have to admit  I was really curious to know what had helped her transform from chubster to hottie so quickly.

Anyway, a few weeks before Halloween, on my birthday, she turned up on my doorstep wearing a long grey coat that looked too big for her, and a pashmina over her head.  It was quite chilly but this seemed a bit over-the-top to me. I mean, it’s not as if we live in Alaska.  Her face – what I could see of it – looked thin and drawn, and there were dark shadows beneath her eyes.  Her cheekbones were very prominent and her lips were pale and dry.  She looked like she had the flu.

‘You asked what my secret was,’ she said, standing on the doorstep. ‘And it’s this.’  She placed the Wii console and balance board on the floor at my feet and handed me two bags of accessories: remote controls, nunchuks, discs.  I had to put the chocolate hobnob I was holding into my pocket so I could take the bags.

‘What is it?’ I asked her.  ‘Are you coming in for a cuppa?’

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She That Devours The Tail

If you come upon this account, traveler, it means that some fraction of my discovery may yet enter the civilized world, and I am absolved of my refusal to be a messenger.

Having left this journal interned below a dais in the windy, eagle-peopled places at the edge, I have no illusions about how long my words might gather dust. By then absolution will be behind me, and this unburdened land will perhaps have been claimed and colonized. But if you are reading this account, you now face the same choice I did, and all civilization and all understanding has gone out behind you like a tide.

I believe this choice will destroy you, or else you will destroy yourself to avoid it. But let me tell first my journey and how I came to the road under stars to the lost fathoms of the world, and you may begin to understand what you face.

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Splintered

Katy stumbled across the muddy field, her heart still beating hard in her chest. Adrenaline from the battle still pumped through her veins.  The raid had ended, but it always took hours to bring herself down from the rush of war.

The area between where the rebel coalition called Ahuva had set up fort and the occupied city of Rostislav sat empty of human life.  Other than herself and a handful of retreating soldiers, only the crows occupied the dead zone between the city and the rebel camp.  In the darkening field Katy couldn’t tell what uniforms the stray soldiers wore so she didn’t fire at them, but she did suspiciously watch them until they disappeared. Dusk had fallen, and no one wanted to be out alone in the war-torn mud pit after dark.

Her feet ached from running on the concrete inside the city for hours. Her neck and shoulders ached from tension. Her stomach ached from hunger. Her bones ached with utter exhaustion. Parts of her young body she had never before acknowledged ached. Even her teeth hurt from grinding them in anxiety. Not even her previous life as a farmer punished her body the way her life as a rebel soldier did.

Again and again Commander Hayim sent them in to raid small strongholds of the Teodor Empire’s army in Rostislav, with little rest and little planning.  She didn’t mind the many chances to avenge Victor. But anger roiled in her stomach anyway, because she knew she and her fellows were being used until collapse or death. And then their new commanders would just be replaced them all with someone else who would be driven just as hard. The days of being a family…of being a small band of cheerful rebels throwing off an invading power were gone.

Now she was so tired she could hardly see straight. Her heavy feet caught frequently on pieces of broken tanks and trucks, and occasionally she even stumbled over a body.  Only her anger at Hayim and her hate for the Teodor kept her upright.  One dirty hand absently rubbed at her face, the other hand loosely clutching her gun as she made her way across the field towards the lumpy cot she knew waited for her.

Her mind focused on the glorious idea of a few hours of sleep, she didn’t notice the figure crouched in the mud and destruction in front of her until she saw movement in the corner of her eye. She had almost passed an entire human being without noticing them at all.  Suddenly the adrenaline that had been slowly flushing out of her system rushed back full blast, making her head spin.  Her other hand came around and tightly clutched the gun that had been held limply at her side.  She jumped back slightly, training her gun on the living body, blinking furiously to clear her vision of the dizziness brought by the adrenaline.

She looked closely at the figure in front of her.  A woman dressed in muddy clothes crouched in the increasing darkness. Katy could see the faded mark of a medic emblazoned across the chest of her jacket.  She also wore the white and red scarf denoting her rank as a doctor, but the strips were more a brownish gray now than white.  Dark, curly hair covered her head and hung around her shoulders, obscuring her face for the moment. Katy realized she had to be very short as well; all these things made her nearly invisible until Katy had almost tripped over her. The medic crouched low over a gurgling and squirming Teodorian soldier.

“Hold it!” she shouted, cocking her pistol at the top of the medic’s head.  She had to be a doctor for the Empire, or perhaps the Wojciech. Katy couldn’t let them go.

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At The Noise of Battle

Sirat watched as Thennor haggled with the butcher.  “Sixteen fanad for four kilos of meat?”  The butcher nodded.

“What, will dewy-eyed maidens cook it for us?”  Thennor held their moneybeads.

“No, but I will, for a fanad more.”  An Emth merchant with heavy shoulders and back, the butcher wore a leather apron and a kilt. Meat lay on the merchant-wagon’s table in double gobbets. Above the table hung two gareep carcasses, plucked and gutted.

“Elephant-pig, you say?”

That’s too pale to be elephant-pig.  Or was it?  It was too big to be rabbit or woolbeast, and primates weren’t eaten, of course….

Sirat probably looked less than her thirty winters, her arms muscled from weapons practice, her light tunic and jerkin cool in the firstday.  Since Pendleton’s World has a day 140 hours long, folks worked, then slept, and spoke of firstday and secondday, firstnight and secondnight. It was twenty hours to the noon eclipse.  She wore linen breeches and moccasins of woolbeast-hide. Her crossbow was inside with the men, but she wore the saber beside her that was called Whiteflame. Around her neck on a chain was a little monocular, a magic seeing-thing that the wizard had given her.

“Aye, it’s elephant-pig, hauled here in the dawn.  Make you a good stew, she will. Better than when she was alive!”

Thennor’s eyes widened. “Alive?”

“Alive, the beast can’t cook at all!”  The butcher laughed. Sirat did not. She noted the scars on the man’s hands and arms and wondered if he had been a soldier before he took up cutting meat.  “Now, do you want four kilos, or five?”

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The Armor of Ned’Var

Steel sang as Ned’Var’s sword met his opponents. This young fighter’s first strike was the most basic of attacks, a vertical cut perpendicular to the ground. Ned’Var simply smiled and raised his sword above his head to block it.

He may not be a worthy addition, but I can wait no longer, Ned’Var thought as the rogue pushed back. He took a deep breath and relaxed his posture, awaiting his opponent’s next move.

By the young warrior’s drab brown and red colored clothing, grime-covered cheeks, and dulled blade, Ned’Var knew the boy to be a peasant without proper combat training, but with no markings of any sort, he could not tell the village he once hailed from. He had spotted the youth filling his flask by the river’s edge just outside of his camp. Ned’Var watched him carefully, keeping to the shadows of the forest and looking for any companions. Fortune smiled upon him for the boy was alone.

“What’s your name, boy?” he asked, daring not to deliver a fatal wound until learning it.

“My name is of no concern to you. And don’t call me, boy!”

The young warrior’s next move came, a thrust to the center of Ned’Var’s torso, with the boy lunging forward. Before the blade could spill his intestines, Ned’Var retaliated with a tight, downward swing. The sword blocked the attack and slid the boy’s blade past him. Ned’Var angled in and caught him square on the chin with a left hook. The two combatants stumbled to the right, both caught off balance by the blow.

They stumbled and caught themselves before falling over. With their footing recovered, they stood perpendicular to each other with their swords pointed upward.

“Why do you persist?” asked the boy. “I have no qualms with you.”

“Nor I with you. You simply happened upon the wrong man’s path.” Ned’Var swung his sword downward once more, aiming for his opponent’s right leg. “You should have kept to the road.”

The young warrior swung his sword to counter. He parried the sword away from his body, but Ned’Var quickly arced his blade back, cutting him across the abdomen. The finely sharpened steel sliced through the grunge covered linen and underlying flesh with ease. The skin folded outward as tubular intestines rose forth and spilled to the ground. The boy dropped to his knees, driving the tip of his sword into the rich soil on his way down.

Ned’Var shook his head. “Terrible shame.”

“Bastard,” the boy said, blood pooling in his mouth and spilling from his lips.

“Tell me your name.”

“Christoph,” he whispered, “from Woodkade. Now you know you’ve killed the wrong man.” His grip on his sword faltered and he fell face-first to the ground.

“Where you’re from is of no importance, but your name…that is power. Don’t worry, my boy, soon you’ll be an unstoppable warrior,” Ned’Var said.

He waited for a sign of movement, the tip of his sword hovering above the boy’s shoulder, but none came. He had to act quickly.

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