Spokoystviye: Jealousy

Creeping in, I seize your gaze,
Clench your fists, set your cheeks ablaze,
I tiptoe up your crooked spine; I curse and swell
And dance along the collarbone of hell,
Creep along the ink across your neck,
Fight through fear; all doubts I wreck.
Seep through skin and float through veins.
Twisted gut through all the pains.
Eat away all reason and sense.
Seeking dangerous recompense,
I will ignite the fires of hate
And slowly blowing, I lie a-wait
‘Til once the words with whispers said
To set me free, and you’ll be dead…

***~~~***

The market sang with activity beneath the crystal blue sky. Spring was beginning to settle into the Bree-lands and the fields and towns grew alive with its reawakening.

Najwa wove her way through the people and the stalls in search of something sweet to cook for after supper. She had an idea, but she was not sure what to substitute for the eastern fruits she had not been able to find in Bree. Mister Valthier had some business or the other in town, and he would not be happy to discover that she left her perch on the low wall outside the building he disappeared into, but she really wanted to bake for him tonight. Perhaps she would be able to return before he noticed her absence through the dirty, low window…

Suddenly, a familiar voice interrupted her thoughts. Sweet and alluring, it carried above the din of the market like birdsong on the breeze. No, she thought as she turned to find the source of the sound. No, not here. It could not be.

A young man with average Breeish features caught her elbow when she stumbled into him still searching for the voice. His eyes expressed concern and then softened with his smile as he asked if she was all right. Najwa could only nod and draw her arm out of the man’s gentle grasp. His boyish features reflected his confusion toward her odd behavior as she backed away with reddened cheeks. Then, he blinked–where she had stood was now empty space, now a woman haggling for a basket of eggs. In the space of a breath, she had disappeared.

*

Heavy breathing filled the alley as Najwa tried to regain her bearings. She wasn’t certain how she had found an empty alley or what part of Bree she was in until her breath calmed enough to reveal the sound of the market only a block or so away. She looked down to the left of the alley: dead end. She looked down to the right and then up at the backs of the shops around her.

The sudden urge to climb tingled in her forearms. She did not understand the twitch of her fingers until they wrapped their tips around the thick, exposed support beam that protruded from the back of a building. She looked up. Two stories: a shop with a room overhead. The owner would be busy selling and managing his wares. His children would be out on the streets at play. His wife seeking the day’s groceries just as she had been moments before. Najwa reached down and tucked the back of her skirt into the front of her belt to keep it out of the way, took hold of the beam, and pulled.

She did not know why she knew she could climb to the top of the building, but she knew and she did. The strength in her arms surprised her and her toes found purchase where she thought there was none. It was as though some spirit had possessed her and compelled her to do these things, leading and guiding her to the rooftop’s ridge.

Down below, few pedestrians wandered about on their way to and fro. They streamed through Bree as the town’s lifeblood; without them, the town would sicken and die. She had seen villages whose men did not return home–even as their buildings stood, they dried up as the women were taken or fled from the veins and arteries that wove between their vacant structures. Bree would suffer a similar fate should it loose its people, she thought looking down at the nearly empty street. Just like the ancient villages nearly swallowed by Mirkwood, she thought. Just like the crumbling ruins in the Lone-lands.

Laying on the roof, she closed her eyes. She could not see the market from her perch and thus, she crawled up onto the roof for nothing. The sound of the voice, so familiar, lingered in mind, but as she shimmied to the ground, she wondered if it had all been in her head.

 When she glanced up at the sky, she realized how much time she had wasted with her panic. Lifting her skirts, she broke into a quick trot on her way back to the Prancing Pony.

Through the Mirror

Streets never scared her before. Fear came from closed doors with chains. Tight places where she could barely move. Long marches to foreign lands. Angry silences before the fall of the lash. Things so rare that she felt as though she deserved them when they came for her because she must have done something wrong, so very wrong. Her life in-between those moments of fear never seemed to raise the hairs on the back of her neck or compel her to glance over her shoulder on the walk home from the market. In day to day life, walking down the street had never scared her before.

In day to day life, walking down the street had never scared her before.

Walking down the street now was different for Najwa. She kept her hood up and her head down and tried not to think about the familiar streets back home. So many leagues, mountains, and forests separated her from them that she doubted she would ever find herself walking their paths again. She hardly thought of them by day, but at night in the fading twilight, they felt comforting and familiar and the cold streets of Bree felt like the foreign land they belonged to. Wary. Strange. Different.

Different somehow from the days when she had a large house full of powerful men or a cabin full of cats to call home instead of a tiny shared room in a house full of girls in various stages of alone. They lived by twos in those tiny rooms: two beds, two trunks, two hooks for gowns. Two girls to each tiny closet, yet for Najwa, she might as well have lived alone; at least she would accept her own presence without suspicion.

She should be thankful, she told herself. So she lost her life from before they marched to the Mrachniiles to face the tall knife-ears with their arrows and spears. She lost the beds of silk pillows on sun-warmed stones. No more lavish banquets at which to pour wine and listen to the secret dealings of the chieftains as she sat at their heels. No wooden bowls to mix dough for the hearth fire. No masters to nourish and no earning their praise.

But she had a bed nonetheless. And she had friends even if her dour roommate was not one of them. She would find a better place, she told herself. And as long as she kept her head down and her eyes low, she could find her way through the streets of Bree. And if they stayed in color, and mud brown was better than black and white any day.

~~~***~~~

The warmth of the fire kept the hut cozy. Cwendlwyn resisted the sounds of morning filling the camp; she did not want to go out into the cold winter air to pack her saddlebags and leave Rheb and the simplicity of her life in the Lone-lands behind. The flat of his nails trailed down her back as he began to rejoin the waking world and the gentle pressure reassured her.

The flat of his nails trailed down her back as he began to rejoin the waking world and the gentle pressure reassured her.

Tomorrow, she would go home. Her husband would take her in his arms and smile and ask how she was because he cares. Maybe he would have flowers or a gift to show his love. Their children would celebrate the sweets she would bake.

But for now, Rheb’s nail slid across her shoulder and the warmth of her blood slipping down her back made her growl.

(Two of six I need to write.)

 

Spokoystviye: Little Fingers

After the last customer left the shop, Mister Redoak turned the sign until it said “Closed for the Day” and Najwa knew it was time to sweep the floors. So she swept the floors.

She swept them so efficiently that Mister Redoak did not believe that she had swept them at all, so she swept them again while he counted the dried beans that fell onto the counter throughout the day. Beneath the counter where he stood hung a little drawer that he brushed the strays after the customers left and each day he seemed to take pleasure in counting the beans as if to say “I have saved this much from the dustbin! Look at how much I have saved to sell tomorrow.”

Sometimes, it was as much as a quarter of a pound and he was very pleased.

Today, it was not so much, which might seem like a reasonable end of the day (little spillage, little waste!) but Mister Redoak grumbled nonetheless. Najwa knew when to smile and when to look contrite and as she swept the day’s dust into the yard, she knew that a solemn expression was needed, v samom dele. So she kept her gaze down and didn’t respond when he stomped his boots and hurried to help him finish the day’s chores.

“Nad-juh-wuh!” he said as he fumbled with the knot of his apron. “Confound it all…”

Najwa’s confident fingers quickly tugged the knot loose. She stepped back to let Mister Redoak pull it free.

“There, Mister Redoak,” she said carefully in her cheerful accent. “You will have good evening?”

Grumbling, Mister Redoak said something along the lines of “of course” and “you, too” as he closed up the shop and sent her on her own way back to the Pony where she roomed.

Dusk was just descending upon Bree, earlier than the week before, but still late enough for it to be late. She was certain the common room of the Pony would be bursting with patrons by the time she made it home. Perhaps she’d meander a bit down the alley to the more interesting parts of town, she thought, as he feet began to take her that way without even coming to the solid decision.

Children milled about unwilling to make the day end with their retreat into sagging houses. Mothers called impatiently that dinner was getting cold. Najwa only understood bits and pieces of the yelling and summoning, but she understood the magic that flowed through the streets. The bonds of family and companionship. The demands of survival and splendor. She smiled as a little girl rushed up a narrow flight of stairs to a room rented above a fur shop and then-

The color of the world flickered to black and white. She blinked and it was brown mud and honey red splashing off of windows again. Heart pounding in her ears, she took a few more steps. Shades of grey. A world the same and yet…bleaker. Void. Flashes of red, not honey red, blood red, and brown, brown skin, brown hair, black and white again.

Oh, no, she thought in a panic. Not again.

She stumbled into a corner out of the way and shrank into a tiny shadow. A quiet corner hid the frightened woman clutching her head as she rocked on her heels. She waited and waited until the color came back for good, only to find darkness had descended around her casting the entire world in black.

Shaking, Najwa looked up until she found the stars past the rooftops and chimneys. She counted each fallen warrior in the sky. With a deep breath, she pushed herself up the wall to stand on her own too feet and brushed her hair back from her face.

The headache was back again. The pain in her neck that spread down through her shoulders and into her very fingertips. The visions she saw when the world flickered off and on again haunted each step back to the cheerful light of the Prancing Pony and only when she stepped inside, looked around, and saw Valthier lounging in his seat with a half-empty glass of wine did she feel close to herself again.

She went over to him.

“Hello, Mister Valthier! It is very nice to see you!” She made a show of looking at his wine glass. “Do you want drink?”

As her little fingers set the coin in Butterbur’s palm, the ache in her neck nearly faded completely, but she was no closer to understanding what it was she saw in her head.