Thief

castle

Shouts from the palace guards rose up behind me as I ran down the gilded halls.  I laughed, holding the package close to my chest.  I’d never been inside a palace before.  The sheer joy and adrenaline I had from running barefoot through this place was like nothing I’d felt before.

I made a sharp turn to the left and there were the stairs, right where Jalex had told me they’d be.  My legs burned as I took the steps two at a time.  Up, up, up, the guards that gave chase becoming a rumbling thunder behind me.  I hadn’t glanced back at them in a while, but I could tell the number had grown.  I adjusted my grip on the package, careful not to crush it.

“Halt!  You there!  Stop!”

As if.

I burst onto the next floor, dodging the guards Jalex had said would be there.  One of their hands brushed my back, a breath of air away from catching me.  I forced my legs into a burst of new speed.

Almost there.  Almost there.

I wove around a couple servants, grinning at their exclamations as the stampede of guards swallowed them whole.

Another spiraling staircase appeared on my right, and I charged up.  The palace was huge.  Jalex had said it would be, but I suppose he could only prepare me for so much.  Some things you just have to see to believe.

The door at the very top was heavy, and I had to slam my shoulder into it before I could get through.  I ran out, onto the top of the castle walls.  To my left I could see stone and windows and pointed rooftops, and to my right I saw a spreading town and winding roads and green hills checkered with fields.

Soldiers were close behind, I could hear their heavy steps echoing up the staircase.  Before me was a path of stone, ending in another spiraling staircase.  Just as the men behind me reached the top, the door to the stair in front of me burst open.  More men spilled out, their swords unsheathed.

No turning back.  No going forward.

I’d run out of breath so I didn’t laugh, but I did grin at the men running after me.  They couldn’t catch me, and they wouldn’t get the package in my arms.

I looked to the right again, this time straight down to the base of the wall.  It looked a lot farther down than it had looked the night before, when Jalex and I had stood at the bottom.

Almost there.  A few more steps should do it.

The closest soldier reached out a hand, a few more steps and he would have grabbed me.  Instead, his fingers grasped cold air as I jumped onto the edge.  I stood there for barely a second, just long enough to look down and aim before leaping off the wall.

I clutched the package close to my chest, my heart and stomach floating inside me as I fell.  Shouting above me and wind around me and falling, falling, falling . . .

Whoosh.

I sank deep into a pile of hay, nearly hitting the wooden planks of the wagon that held it before I stopped falling.  There was a whistle and a jerk, and the wagon started moving.  I smiled, panting for breath as Jalex drove us away.

My fingers shook with excitement as I carefully unwrapped the package.

Thieves we may be, but we have only ever sought one kind of plunder.  The smell of leather and paper and vanilla rose to mingle with the scent of hay, and I passed a loving hand over the cover.

Those nobles wouldn’t have used it anyway; leaving it to rot in their vaults, its knowledge unread and unknown.

But I opened the book to its first page and began reading as we made our escape.

Weaver

rain

The light is dim in my tiny home, but morning has broken all the same.  Thunder rumbles all around me as rain splashes against my window panes.  The wind plays a game of tag with itself, rushing along my walls and pushing the rain in every different direction.

I light a rose scented candle and start the kettle for tea.  Today I have nowhere to go and the possibility for anything.  Lightning flashes, and I count the seconds before thunder grumbles an answer.  I pour myself a cup of tea and walk the few steps from my kitchen to the living room.

The windows are framed with plants that I’ve somehow managed to keep alive, their leaves stretching to catch every last bit of light.  A small table sits tucked into the corner, holding up stacks of books with used envelopes sticking out of their pages as bookmarks.  They call out to me with their worlds and stories, but today is not the day to open them.

In the center of the room, waiting patiently and filling nearly all the floorspace, sits my loom.

Today, I will weave something for myself.  Something I don’t have to show anyone or limit to what they want.  Something fun and experimental and all my own.

Today I want to weave the storm.

I start out with my soft grey thread, the best for binding and holding.  The wind presses rain against my windows in sheets, and I pull just the smallest stream of it out, weaving it up and down through the threads.  The wind bucks and squirms, but eventually it figures out the rhythm and direction I’m taking, and it flows smoothly through the thread.

The forming cloth under my fingertips is turning into a light, glistening blue, and I know it is ready for a new element.

I reach for the dark, blanketing clouds.

They are elusive and full of everything I’ve ever felt.  It’s no wonder they are always swirling and charged with a storm, I would do the same if I held so much inside me.

Light as mist and heavy as rain, I weave the clouds through.  They take their own sweet time to settle, but once they do, it makes the softest cloth I’ve touched.  Softer than my cats’ purring woven into silk.

The cloth now has flecks of green and purple and silver.  I breathe in deeply and stretch, stepping out onto my front porch for a break.

The wind instantly starts playing with my hair, and the rain follows it under the overhang to spray mist into my face.

The colors around me are all deeper, brighter, vividly shining through the downpour.  My eye catches on the yellow honeysuckle, and suddenly I know I have to have it in my cloth.

I am soaked by the time I come back inside, but I have the honeysuckle blossoms in my hands.  They are sweet and warm, murmuring about humid days and bumble bees.  I lay them out on my counter to rest while I change out of my wet clothes and pull on a soft sweater and warm leggings.

My cuckoo clock calls out the hour as I settle back to my weaving.  Rich dark yellow appears in fine threads amongst the wind and clouds, and the scent of honeysuckle rises to mingle with the essence of rose from my candle.

There is one last element I want to add to this cloth, and it is the most difficult of all to catch.

It is mid-afternoon before I capture a splintering bolt of lightning.  It is charged and wild and makes my skin tingle as I weave it in.  Lightning fills the spaces between threads and lines the edges, flickering like the sky outside.  I think perhaps even an echo of thunder is caught in the cloth.

I weave until the storm passes, leaving in its wake a hushed sort of calm.  The clouds part just in time to let through the last rays of the setting sun, steeping the sky in gold and red and orange.

I leave the cloth on the loom for the night, letting the storm settle into its threads.  Tomorrow I have other work to do, I have places to go and responsibilities to fulfill.  But sometime, when I have another day to myself, I will make something from my cloth of storms.

Of everything I’ve made so far, I think this one will be a favorite.

Goodbye

Quiet

Flakes of white float down from the sky, collecting on my shoulders and clinging to my hair.  It covers the ground in a thin sheet, marred by the track of footprints I’ve left behind me.

I’m trying not to look back.  I already know what it looks like– still and quiet, dusted in white and gray.

There used to be such noise.  I think normal volume was never quite loud enough for us.  Squirrels used to wage warfare in the trees before the sun had a chance to wake me.  My neighbors would always be shouting, laughing, working.  Dogs would fill the air with their excitement and play, ceaselessly working to scare away the stubborn squirrels.

Now . . . silence.

My home, turned into an echo of what had been.  Buried under the flakes that continue to fall.

A phantom breeze brushes across my neck.

It’s time to move on.  I know it is.  Somehow, knowing that doesn’t make it easier.  There is a part of me that is clinging to the past and refusing to let go, no matter how impossible it is to go back.  No matter how many terrible memories I have, the good ones like to shine brighter.

I tell myself it doesn’t matter now.  The good and the bad, it’s all in the past.  It had to be, before I could leave.

That’s why I’d done it.  Why I’d buried my home behind me.

I take a deep breath, looking at the path before me.  The trees are reaching out their branches, green buds peeking out from beneath the white flakes.  The air is still cool enough to see a faint puff of fog as I breathe out.  It looks for all the world like winter is still clinging to the earth, refusing to let go, as I once had.

But that’s something I’ve learned over the years.  Looks can be deceiving.

A small smile grows on my face.

I look back, peering through the softly falling flakes.  My whispered goodbye is barely heard, only reaching my ears because of the blanketing silence around me.  It’s strange to look back like this, and I can almost imagine something peaceful amidst the dusting of white and gray.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the smell of smoke, you’d almost mistake the ashes for snow.

 

From the Shadows

clouds

Sing a song of sixpence

I stand in the shadows, hair falling into my face as I glance up at the scene around me.  There is a quiet panic in the city square, bubbling just beneath the surface.

They are coming.  The monsters of legend.  They are coming and the people are scared.  I play with a switchblade in one hand, flipping it open and shut.  Waiting.

There’s a sudden silence that ripples through the air.  People are standing frozen in place, their faces turned in the direction of the city gates.  They’re coming.  They’re coming.

They’re here.

A spark is glistening in their eyes

I know it before the whispers start sweeping through the square.  Among all the statuesque crowd, a face turns and looks straight at me.  One flash of amber eyes and I know who he is.

What he is.

He grins at me, and I know it’s an invitation.  He’s decided then.  That would make one of us.

Just as the whispers sweep past me, the screaming starts.  The panic is boiling over.  These people know they are doomed.  I am watching them, waiting to see what they do about it.  Waiting to see what happens.

Golden wings are spreading

I can see it now, over the rooftops and domes.  A dark cloud is approaching, and I know better than anyone what sort of horrors it brings.

I glance back at the gleaming amber eyes, and he nods, just once.  He was always one for heroics.

The screams rise as he transforms in a burst of light and smoke.  Wings spread out from him, and he leaps into the air as his limbs grow scales.  He is fully in the sky before he finishes changing, probably because of how crowded it is on the ground.

A second flash hits the corner of my eyes, and I spot another one of us joining him.  I shut my switchblade and flip it back open, listening to the confusion this is causing.

They are taking to the sky

Screams rise behind us a block over, followed by the sound of wings.  Very, very large wings.  I raise my head to watch as he soars over us.

I know him by his black scales.  I’m surprised that he’s joining them.  I was with him when he received that long scar down his tail.  He’d sworn never to face those creatures in battle again.

I guess he’s breaking that vow.

The people below are crying, screaming, clinging to each other as they watch my friends gather above them.  I hadn’t expected so few to be running.  Perhaps they’re too scared to, or perhaps they’re clinging to some hope that these creatures gathering above the city will protect them.

I know they’ll at least try.

The sheets of clouds are breaking

I shut my switchblade one last time and put it back into my pocket.  There’s an older girl with wild eyes searching the crowd, calling out a name.  She’s lost someone, and I can feel the terror rising in her.  Not terror for her own safety, but for the safety of whoever it is she lost.

She pauses in front of me, standing on her tiptoes and scanning the crowd.  I can hear her heart from where I’m standing.  She turns in a circle, and she stops when she sees me in the shadows.

“Have you seen my friend?  Blue curly hair, about so tall?” her voice is breaking.

I slowly shake my head.  Tears fill her eyes and she turns back to look at the dark cloud approaching from the horizon.

The northeast winds begin

I melt out of the shadows, walking through the crowded square.

I am tired.

So, so tired.

A young man is sitting on the edge of the public fountain, shaking from head to foot.  He couldn’t run if he wanted to.  Wouldn’t even be able to stand.  I stop in front of him, and he lifts his eyes to meet mine.

He is young.

So, so young.

I pull out my switchblade and hold it out to him.  His hand is trembling, but he takes it, his face full of questions.

“You’ll be fine.” I say.  My voice does not shake.  It hasn’t for centuries.

A spot of color catches my eye, and I leave the man behind.  On the far side of the square I approach a girl with blue curly hair.  She’s turning in circles and calling out her friend’s name, fear coating every word.   She sees me and pauses.

“Your friend’s over there.” I say, pointing my thumb over my shoulder.

She runs past me, and I close my eyes with a sigh.  I have decided.

They’ve left behind their shadows

Light and smoke bursts from me, and I spread out my wings first.  They lift me to the sky as I change my form.  Scales cover me in an impenetrable armor.  Fire is rushing through my veins.

It’s been so long.

Amber eyes turn to meet mine, and I see surprise inside them.  I don’t blame him.  I’m still rather surprised myself.  Below me the city is a small thing, filled with little people.  People who I have lived amongst for ages.

In all that time, I remained a stranger.

A creature in the shadows.

But the others had found friends among them.  Nooks and crannies where they could fall in love with the place we’d gone to for hiding.

They’d found something worth standing against this cloud of darkness for.  I couldn’t share their reasons, but I had some of my own.

Up here, gathering in the sky, these were my friends.  My family.  If this city was theirs to die protecting, then it was mine as well.

Making a last stand with their kin

I turned to face the approaching enemy, and roared my challenge.  The others took up the sound, and I swear a ripple of fear swept through the cloud before us.

As one, our cry ceased.

As one, we charged.

As one, the last of the dragons made their stand.