The Dragon of Lothal
Having searched the entirety of the cavernous castle to no avail, and on the verge of giving the search up for goose, a realization of sound found his ear, a sound which, similarly to the disregarded songs of a zillion cicadas, had been playing there in the background of his thoughts, completely unnoticed all the while. But that was not the light, almost airy sound of water he was hearing, but was rather the heavier, sloppy gurgle of some oily liquid.
The fountain! Tappan had passed by the fountain three or four times in his searches without giving a thought to it, it being so obvious. As he approached it, he understood why. What little light his tiny torch could offer to the surrounding darkness gleamed back towards him from off the fountain’s thick, languid liquid with an unnatural, unholy limpness which water alone could never muster. The torch held high with the one hand, and the other steadying him atop the cold, damp granite, Tappan bent his head low to inspect the fountain’s contents.
The orange torchlight glowed dimly across it’s metallic, almost coppery surface. Up close, the liquid smelled of salt and age, an odor that was somehow both alluring and revolting at the same time, but a familiar odor as Tappan recollected the deer he‘d hunted with his father long ago, and the static tang the blood had applied to his tongue when he’d been forced to bite into the still warm heart of the beast.
Blood. Is that what he was looking at? A fountain of blood?
But, why not? What better hiding place? Disgarding the torch and rolling up his sleeves, Tappan plunged both arms in up to the elbows. The fountain’s rocky bottom was both sticky and slick on his fingers as they searched in abject blindness, this way and that, but then his hand touched something else! Something that moved away from their contact! He grasped at it, feeling his fingers wrap around it even as it sliced into them. Never minding the pain, or that his own blood was adding to the fountain, Tappan withdrew his prize. He had found it! The sword of Lothal! And with it, he would become king… nay, a God!
If, that is, he could now get past the dragon.
"You have no control who lives or who dies." She all but spits in my face. I wipe it furtively anyway, her vitriol enough to drown.
I sigh, turning to look over the stables I own. We own. "Maybe not. But I sure as hell can try, cant I?"
My eyes land on a dark horse- a Seattle Slew. I named him Robin after my late brother. The horse lays on its side, huffing uneven breaths despite the open air the field provides. The vet said it might help, but his eyes are cast further down on his broodmare, a fine horse that stands nursing their new foal.
"You can't stop death."
"But she stops for us?" I sarcastically quote, mapping the strong muscles of my prized animal. I had bought him to secure a fortune- I mean, a race horse? One of the cream of the crop? He surely would have brought glory. At least a dollar to the farm. But I quickly valued him far beyond that- far beyond my own brother, I hate to admit. He is family, as much a dog or cat. He became sick the moment I offloaded him, and hasn't been able to do much but rest the poor bastard.
"No." My wife says, turning to look out at the farm. It feels easier without her heavy gaze on me; one I had promised would survey a bountiful future, now drawn to the very dying of our soil. The horse never wavers his dying gaze from his loved ones. "No, death hasn't stopped. She rests. Even death must rest, must she not?"
I shrug noncommittally. "Does she? I watched my entire family die first hand- one after the other, barely a few months apart. Not much a rest, is it?"
"Oh William, you are such a negative man." My wife chuckles, and I quirk a smile instinctively. "No. Death takes those that she must. She is not cruel. She simply takes those begging for release."
"You say my ma, pa, brother and sister- god my sister, barely five- asked for death?" I growl out. She does not flinch.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But death must sense fight. I imagine your family-" She turns quickly to me, and I nearly buckle beneath her wide-eyed stare. Her hands grip my face, forcing me to steady on the fence. "Oh Will, your family was sick. They were in so much pain. Surely you did not wish them to survive and suffer still? From paralysis? From a risk of relapse?"
I shake my head quickly before I can imagine my young siblings ensnared by wooden wheels and bed-bindings as they lash against their fevers. "Of course not. But couldnt death give them a chance? Grant them mercy? Restore them?"
Her hands, firm and sturdy, stroke my face like I am something good. She is as piss-poor as I, yet pulls me forward as though I am worth the land in weight. "Prayers fall on deaf winds, scattered by the winds of begging for release." She tugs me by my jaw and I helpless to follow, inhaling her sharp scent of sunshine and earth. Her smile puts the darkness to shame, though I feel a banging of guilt like the sturdy slam of the guillotine to wood at my own thoughts of deserting her.
"William, what is it you wish?"
Without hesitation, I reply. "Health. Happiness.." My eyes drift to the delicate bump beneath her tunic, though I am not brave enough to touch the poor child she nurtures when I am barely capable of feeding her. "Survival for our family. Security."
She smirks, all the bit enticing she had been nearly five years ago in that tavern when she had been little more than an overworked barmaid. "You've yet to name him: our son."
I can taste the beginnings of her smile, and shrug with a whisper of a response, "What about Robin? After my brother and our stallion."
"Do you not suppose it bad luck?" She asks with a tilt of her head, and I pull a few inches back to admire the framing of brown locks around her gentle, wondering face.
"No." I grin as I let my hands fall from the fence finally to her hips, my thumbs skirting the edge of her expanded stomach. "Luck is benevolent to have found me you."
She grins, bright and brilliant and I admire the slight lines years of happiness have bestowed her, whereas mine revel worry of the fall of empires. However, her gaze is not on me.
Without glancing away from the field, her fingers find my jaw, softly prompting. "Look."
Robin stands on shaky legs, his wild foal bounding happily around him in circles. The mare nuzzles the sturdy neck of the male, who chuffs into her own mane.
I blink wildly, my hands falling to grip the fence, ready to vault over. My wife is making for the house; undoubtedly calling for the vet. However, she stops to shoot me an impish grin. "Better find a better name for our boy by the time I get back."
How dare I doubt such a woman, I wonder as I leap across the field in bouts of energy no amount of money could ever bestow me. So long as I have my family.
Luster Bright as Dawn
Caleb would peg the downy lady as cheery. All pep, few brains, and possibly distracted by shiny objects.
That worked just fine for them both.
She gushed over Midnight. Cooed at how he held his treasured friend close.
Actually, much more than that. Midnight was the only living thing he could trust right now. The only one he allowed himself to love right back. Midnight's was so naively, so freely given.
Much like the cherry pink leather sectional he nuzzled up in. A matching soft pink fuzzy blanket provided.
"You can even keep it if you like deary," she simpered, turning out the light and waddling away.
She was quite large. Fat and probably somewhere in her fifties, or maybe close to seventy.
Caleb rolled over onto his other side, so he faced the couch and not the hall.
A shiny clock of fake gold and obnoxious design clicked the hour. Past eleven, thirty minutes to midnight.
Did he like stealing from sweet old ladies who had proven to really be so starved for company even homeless boys like him would do?
No. No he didn't.
But Caleb needed to eat and Caleb was not going to return to foster care. Life on the road, it proved quite eventful.
People sure did get wise fast. About the thieving kid that always cased the houses with the classic street waif play.
All untrue. Of course.
The awful thief was probably a miserable little wretch ungrateful and a burden on perfectly tender parents.
Funny how all their precious possessions were stamped onto police reports just as if not more important than thousands of missing children.
These were the things he'd thought about lately.
He really shouldn't get too bitter.
Pete had been perfectly nice.
The older people get it seemed the less they had in them to be mean. Maybe since by then their adult kids don't need them anymore either. Sooo, they got mean.
This lady's name-- the one whose house he was currently robbing-- was named Dawn.
Caleb peeled out of the couch, sliding quietly to the rugged living room floor.
He really hated stealing.
Midnight did too.
She began to cry.
Her drawers had been strung shut but it was a laughably easy job to figure her code. Each and every item had the same date code. The day of her first date. Her husband's deployment. Her first son's birth.
The day that man was no longer any son of hers.
Caleb took only a few of the pretty silver spoons and tea plates.
Next he scrounged the fridge for a fine stash of food for the road that morning and a slice of her sweet, decadent Black Chocolate Gelato cake.
How did the stores get ice cream in the center? How did she?
The light flickered on and Caleb reared.
The plump old bag was smiling serene as a drugged out bird, a nice white robe knotted tight.
"Well about time now," she hmmphed, small and still so, so disappointed.
Caleb did nothing, simply let her strut in her slippers for her dining table.
Where she opened up the tin of stale chocolate and moon cakes.
"Let's have a chat sweetie. About my son."
“You know, you don’t really know me at all.”
“I’m sorry—What’s that?”
“I could be anyone right now. Literally, anyone.”
“Oh. OK. Actually, who are you?”
“You really want to know?”
“Um, sure. Yeah, I guess I wanna know.”
“I’m a banker, I live on Wall Street and thumb out checks to the big guns in Washington.”
”No, no, wait, I haven’t finished yet…”
”Okay, what‘s your name?”
“How do you know any of that is true?”
”I don’t know, is it? Actually, I’m not sure that I—”
”My name is Nick, I give to the homeless and I take care of children…”
”What is this, are you trying to tell me your Santa Claus or something?”
”No, no, but which do you believe? Am I Nick? Or the banker?”
”I don’t know, Nick? Because you gave yourself a name? Hey hey—Where’s Sara? John, have you seen Sara?”
”No, not in the past couple minutes.”
”I mean, if I’m the banker, I can still be Nick, that’s not the point...”
”Oh, there’s Sara! Sara!”
”Like, I could be Bryan too, I could be anybody! That’s the point, I can just tell you something and—“
”O-M-G, Mei! It’s so good to see you! And, Georgie, get the hell out of here, why are you bothering my friends? Actually, why are you even here, who invited you?”
https://www.theprose.com/post/719969/it-could-be-real @Ferryman “It could be real”
My apologies Ferryman, I believe I took your character and ran with them down the deep end…But I enjoyed the witty dialogue and imaginative description of your writing!