Posted in Calere, Fiction on March 19th, 2013 by Annabelle – 10 Comments

He sat on a stump in the village square, leaning on his knees and turning his face up to the sun.  It was finally warm, and he felt a smile blooming.  The interminable northern winter felt like a crushing blow every year, but he could never remember being more grateful for spring.

A delighted shriek pierced the air.  A dark-haired toddler was staggering after a fluttering scrap of yellow just out of her reach, waving her chubby arms and babbling as she went.  She had managed to take off her shoes, he noticed ruefully, and her feet and legs were coated with mud.  He levered himself up and went to the rescue.

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Trifecta: First Blood

Posted in Calere, Fiction on January 28th, 2013 by Annabelle – 36 Comments

“Hang in there, Dane.  We’ll be there soon.”  There was no more response than the last three times.  Cy told himself it was probably a good thing that Dane had passed out.   Easier that way.

Cy winced as the wagon jolted and his fingers, slippery with blood, slid across the increasingly saturated pad above Dane’s left hip.  He swore quietly.  Dane was looking far too white, and as for the wound, Cy was afraid to lift up the pad again to look.  The mouth of the wound had been ragged after the captain had pulled the arrow out, and the blood was still coming no matter how hard he pressed.  Cy was far from sure that yanking the arrow that way had been the right thing to do — it was bleeding so much — but he had no idea what else they could have done.

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Posted in Calere, Fiction on January 17th, 2013 by Annabelle – 8 Comments

“You did that?”  Cy looked dubiously at a length of fabric so sheer that he could almost see through it and then at the sister who was holding it.  She was twelve.

“Don’t touch it!”  Make that twelve and bossy.

“I wasn’t going to.”  Cy looked guiltily at his callused hands.  He’d been a disaster with the finer cloths even before he’d joined up, and now?  Five years of continuous sword drills had left him with hands that would snag silk from three feet away.

A snicker came from the doorway.  “Eleven years of age and all that military training and Cala’s still in charge, huh?”  Their brother Brev, nineteen and the sanest person in the family, leaned against the doorframe, grinning.

“Strategic choices,” Cy responded promptly.  “We pick our battlefields.”

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Posted in Calere, Fiction on December 21st, 2012 by Annabelle – 6 Comments

Cy looked down at his pay slip and contemplated the latest misspelling of his name.  Seinen.  It had, in past weeks, been Sinan, Sainnen, and in a bizarre creative flight that he still had trouble believing wasn’t deliberate, Siiniin.  Sinan at least sounded Caleran.  What sort of a guy was Seinen?  Heid, maybe?  It had a Heid sort of an air to it, all E and I.

He shook his head and pushed off the wall, turning toward the offices.  Every week, a new man here in the military.   He’d wondered at first if he should try to correct it — but he was having enough trouble about his foreign looks without making a fuss over the spelling of his even more foreign first name.  It was the least of his problems, really.  If he’d been one of the farmers’ kids, he probably wouldn’t even read well enough to know.

Of course, if he’d been one of the farmers’ kids, the Atan officers wouldn’t all look at him like he was a mercenary.

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Trifecta: Letting Go

Posted in Calere, Fiction on December 10th, 2012 by Annabelle – 12 Comments

The boy was quiet when he told them.  His chin was held determinedly high over the brand new Church soldier’s uniform, and his face was a mixture of resolve and apology for the shock he was giving them.

It was almost enough to make the old man laugh despite it all.  They had been headed here all the boy’s life.  Longer — ever since the moment his daughter had led an Eastern mercenary in the door.  He might never forgive Dyan for marrying Ellin then dying on that pointless campaign, but he’d seen that coming the way he’d seen this coming.  Inevitable.  It had been in every line of the boy from the time he was six, an uncanny anticipation of the soldier now before him.

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Trifecta: Uneasy Lies the Head

Posted in Calere, Fiction on October 3rd, 2012 by Annabelle – 15 Comments

A clatter sounded from the other end of the room, cutting through the din.  Callie’s head jerked.  One of the other servants had dropped a charger of roast pig spectacularly on the floor.  She turned back to the table and filled another goblet.  These Atan loved their wine.

She brushed a sleeve.  Murmuring an apology, she withdrew.  She wasn’t at all sure they understood her, but it hardly mattered.  She kept her head down, and they ignored her.  She was happy to be nothing.

The duke sat at the head table by the guest of honor.  He was uneasy in his cousin’s seat, so newly come to him.  It was a very different gathering than the ones the old duke had used to have, these minor nobles in ill-fitting Atani robes bowing and scraping and laughing too loudly.  But he had fought, and so was gone. It made her face flush with shame, but in her memories of that day, the horror of the children’s execution was overwhelmed by her relief at being left alive.

The duke’s wife, white-faced, sat erect next to him.  Her smile was brittle and her movements tight and sharp.  Everyone knew why.  She had been a votary of Amala.  For anyone else, that would have meant an execution, but her life had been spared… for now.  Spared on condition of her husband’s obedience, his cooperation with their new overlords.  Callie wondered if the duchess felt the same way she did: kneeling before their altar, thinking she was damned, damned for betraying her faith.

The Primate, newly arrived from overseas, sat nearby, his forearms resting lightly on the table.  He was short, stocky, pale, and he coiled in the chair like a snake.  Callie shivered.  She was the littlest, the tiniest mouse.  There was bigger game under his eye.

The duke raised his glass in a shaking hand.  “To our glorious lord, the Dawn Emperor!”  The desperate roar of voices assaulted her ear, and she turned away.


Welcome to this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge!  This week’s prompt calls for 33 to 333 words on the third definition of the word UNEASY (adj.):

1: causing physical or mental discomfort
2: not easy : difficult
3: marked by lack of ease : awkward, embarrassed <gave an uneasy laugh>

Thanks for reading!

Trifecta: Driven

Posted in Calere, Fiction on September 25th, 2012 by Annabelle – 14 Comments

They fled into the night, Dala laughing hysterically and Hasari gritting his teeth.  He’d scraped his face in the rush to get out the window, and Dala had nearly been shot by a guard, but she kept laughing, laughing, as if they had never done anything so amusing.  They could both have been killed, and for what?

The city streets flew by, dark and too familiar.  Just the sight of them made him tired. “Stop.  STOP!”  He grabbed her arm roughly and dragged her into an alley.

“We can’t keep doing this, Dala.  We –” he ran out of words.  “We just can’t.”

“What do you mean?  Of course we can!”  There was a feverish shine on her face, a fretful energy that was afraid to rest.

“What do I mean?  I mean it’s only blind luck that we’re not dead yet!”  Her carefree nonchalance had stopped being convincing a long time ago.  It had been real once, and he’d loved her for it.  These days it had a manic edge, a desperation for the girl who’d existed before the Fall to still be there.  It had taken him a long time to recognize: she couldn’t stop.  She would keep looking for trouble until it consumed her.

He had nothing left.

“We should go back.”  A rough village in the middle of nowhere, a life in hiding.  It no longer seemed like the worst thing that could happen.

She reared back sharply, incredulous.  “They told us not to leave.”

“And they were right.”  The words fell between them like lead.  She was staring at him with a blank look on her face, like he was speaking a language she didn’t understand. He looked away.  “I’m going back.”  He didn’t have to ask.  She wasn’t coming with him.  He looked back at her face for a long moment, memorizing.

“Goodbye, Dala.”  He dropped the words over his shoulder and left her, standing in the alley and staring after him.


Welcome to this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge!  This week called for 33 to 333 words using the third definition of the word BLIND (adj.):

BLIND (adjective)
This is another story of the aftermath of The Fall.  Thanks for reading!

Trifecta: The Wanderer

Posted in Calere, Fiction on August 15th, 2012 by Annabelle – 16 Comments

“Gods!”  The soldier next to him smeared at his brow, sweat trickling down his neck. “This forsaken country.”  He smacked at an insect and started to express at length his opinion of the bandits they were here to put down and their painful elusiveness in the height of summer.

Dyan twisted his mouth and looked out across the water.  The heat of Njaia was relentless, and there were days when the drone of the cicadas drilled into Dyan’s head until he could hardly think.  This kind of waiting was the worst thing he could think of, and he wanted to leave more than he could say.  The campaign had been too long, too slow, and he was starting to feel like he needed to be somewhere else.

Home, perhaps.  He thought of home sometimes when he was on a campaign, and wasn’t always sure where he was thinking of.  Home was the little house in the city where his wife and his children waited for him.  His oldest, who reminded Dyan startlingly of his father, and the baby Ellin would be almost ready to have by now.  That was home, but sometimes the scent of the grasslands came over him in a giddy wave, and he heard the shuffle of horses and his sister’s laugh.  In the vertiginous space between dreaming and waking, the soldiers around him became his clan striking camp for the spring move.  He was as at home here on campaign as he was anywhere, but…  He had always expected to go back.

For a moment, he saw his son playing with his cousins, a wooden practice sword in his hand, and Ellin watching them from the flap of the clan pavilion.  He smiled and turned away.


Welcome to this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge prompt. This week called for 33 to 333 words on the third definition of the word HOME (noun):

1  a : one’s place of residence : domicile
    b : house

2: the social unit formed by a family living together

3 a : a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one’s domestic attention
   b : habitat

If you’re wondering how this fits in to past responses?  Dyan is Cy’s father (more of Cy under the Calere category).  Thanks for reading!

Trifecta: Reunion

Posted in Calere, Fiction on July 23rd, 2012 by Annabelle – 12 Comments

This is this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge response.  This time around, they gave us a chance to write some longer fiction — no prompt, just between 333 and 3,333 words on a subject of our choice.  Many thanks to Andra for suggesting subject matter and Jessie for suggesting a way to wrestle with my profound lack of enthusiasm for short stories.  This follows last week’s The Secret, so if you’d like a little background on how Sarili got where she is, take a look.  Thanks for reading!


In the long list of stupid things she had done in her life, leaving before her people had decided where to settle might end up taking the prize. Sarili looked grumpily up and down the length of the dusty road, and then waddled off into the grass and sat down. She pulled a foot up into what was left of her lap and rubbed her ankle while she contemplated her stupidity.

They had told her not to do it.  How will you find us?  We can’t afford to lose each other now.  At least wait until we’ve found a home.  It had been a reasonable question given that they were planning to hide, to make themselves as unfindable as they possibly could.  She hadn’t listened.  She’d been too wild with grief and horror and the need to run, and the elders had been too devastated at the loss of the City, too overwhelmed by the task before them to do more than tell her not to.

I’ll find you, she’d said.  Just go, I’ll find you wherever you end up.  She would.  Eventually.  The question was whether she would find them before the baby came.  She hadn’t imagined time pressure and a condition that made it increasingly difficult for her to travel.  It had been months of not finding them.  It was what she would have expected, but it was starting to be a serious problem.  She was getting close now.  Her feet hurt, her ankles were swollen, and she was pretty sure that no one carrying this much extra weight in baby should walk this much.  If the baby came, it would be an end to safe searching.  The only way she could protect the baby on her own would be to walk off into the woods and hide.  Stay there, just the two of them, until her child was old enough to be able to search with her or be left alone while she searched.  It would be years.  This one last place to look — it would be just about the last thing she could manage before finding somewhere safe to give birth.

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The Secret

Posted in Calere, Fiction on July 20th, 2012 by Annabelle – 16 Comments

The room was dark and lively, with a strong scent of ale.  Shouts flew toward the tavernkeep’s pretty wife.  “Where are you really from, Sarie?”  It was an old game, one they never tired of.

“My mother was a Xemish pirate,” she called across the room while wiping up a spill.  “She was shipwrecked in the southern sea and I was raised among the Synalei.”  Snorts of laughter, hoots, and careless splashes of ale greeted her latest outrageous lie.  “Why do you think I’m so good at telling the weather?” she demanded with exaggerated innocence.

“Don’t believe her for a second, boys.  She came here straight from heaven!”  Her husband seized her by the waist and buried a kiss in the crook of her neck.

She laughed, and put a hand up to his hair.  “You heard the man.  He’s the authority here.”

The results of that were, as she expected, lewd.  She flipped her skirts at them, swept an armful of empty tankards up, and swept off to the kitchen.  She dumped the tankards reflexively into the basin for washing, and then stood, hand resting on the edge, and sagged.

She was married.  What had she been thinking?   She scrubbed at her face in frustration.  It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, a good place to land, to spend a few decades among people who liked her even if they didn’t know her.  Someone who could love a piece of her while she did what she had to.  And she’d been happy, happier than she’d been since the day the city where she’d been born had become a name that could never be spoken.  The one thing that could keep her from staying had never occurred to her.  Their birth rates were so low, and she was so young.  It had never even crossed her mind.

Her hand curved protectively over her abdomen.  He hadn’t noticed yet, but he would soon enough.  And then he’d look for her if she disappeared, and not stop looking.  An errant wife was one thing, but…  She closed her eyes as his voice carried through the doorway, and allowed herself to picture, just for a moment, how he would take her leaving.

She turned away, lifting her chin defiantly against the tears.  He wasn’t what mattered any more, and neither was she.  That game might never find the truth, but once they saw the baby, there would be no question.  That was the only thing that mattered now.  There was no more time, and nothing left but the baby.

She wiped her hands carefully on a cloth, dropped it on the table, and walked out the back door.


This week, I’m taking my first pass at Write On Edge‘s Red Writing Hood challenge. The prompt calls for up to 450 words inspired by the following Robert Frost poem:

The Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

This is part of the same series as The Fall and assorted other prompt responses that I should probably link together.  I’ll get on that!  Thanks for reading.