Surprise, surprise. Today, you’ll get not one, but two #free #stories on my blog. You’ll find even more if you follow the links below. Please do visit the other participants, and please leave comments. There’s nothing more rewarding that hearing from you. It means the world to us.
As the gate closed, shutting the maelstrom on the other side, Rupe counted quickly. Of the hundred that had set out, only three – Pista, Caram, Edda – remained, near death but determined.
In his hand, the kiehr glowed with the lives of those who had been lost. Everything else – tools, weapons, everything but the clothes on their backs was gone.
But they lived.
And wherever they were, it was raining. The forest around them remained dark and forbidding. But nothing was trying to kill them.
“Quickly!” The others roused, their movements stiff and pained. “We must find shelter!”
He wanted to use the orb to find it. But the cost, the energy of those who had passed, would be irreplaceable. At least until they found a home here.
Randomly, he pointed. “This way!”
The manor was large and well-lit, even with the torrential rains falling. The three others had used tiny magics, barely enough to keep themselves dry. Even so, he felt the loss.
A flag waved forlornly on a post before the door. Thirty-seven stars on a blue field, then red and white alternating stripes.
A last hope. “We will bargain fairly, but dearly. And we will not suffer again, no matter the cost.”
Grimly, the little party marched to the front door. His fingers touched the kiehr.
I am sorry, he whispered as he took just enough magic to glamour them into finery.
Even so, he felt memories die.
When the door opened, a large man in stiff clothes with a face to match looked down on them. “The governor is…”
“We were called.” Rupe let his hood fall back enough to reveal his face, eyes glaring into the servant’s head. Believe me!
The man staggered. “Yes. Right this way.”
They stepped in, their spell keeping the rain and wet outdoors.
He gasped. “You – you’re not…”
“We were called,” Rupe repeated, the others pulling back their hoods, the glamour covering their shabby appearances.
His face gone white, the servant opened a double sliding door, surprising the other two men in there – one in a fine suit, the other in military garb with a sword on his hip.
Ambush? Terrified, Rupe strode in, looking from man to man. Neither had the sharp features of the Alfar. The sword remained undrawn.
“We were called. We came.” His eyes set on the soldier. “Name your bargain.”
“You?” A glass filled with amber liquid swished off the table and emptied into the man’s mouth. “I called you?”
Pista stepped forwards and put her fingers over the glass: it filled with a pale-yellow liquid. Rupe prayed none noticed the liquid came from her sleeve.
“Magic?” The soldier snatched up the glass. “Williams, close the doors.”
The servant, wide-eyed, had to be told twice before the doors shut.
The – General? Colonel? – took a sip. “I’ve never tasted the like.”
“Bogyberry brandy,” Rupe announced. “Is your bargain for this?”
“No!” The other man circled slowly, taking in all four. In turn, each removed their cloak, allowing the full impact of the glamour to fill the room: two women of incredible beauty, two men of incalculable power.
Not four desperate people with next to nothing to their name.
“A moment.” Without an answer, the two stepped back towards the fireplace, anxiety and greed on their faces.
The papers! Edda’s voice sounded in his skull. A moment of looking at the table – papers, legal papers, and a map!
“Power.” The two returned, avarice dripping from every pore. “We want power, power over our enemies, and power above all men!”
Might as well ask for the stars above.
Rupe turned his gaze on the soldier. “Four of us, four terms each.” Then he planted his finger onto the map, at the crux of an L-shaped land. “There. You will make there ours. You will set it aside as its own place, ruled by itself. And you will make this gift a secret from all others.”
The soldier sucked on his cheeks, but the other one nodded. “Easily done.”
Rupe waited, saying nothing.
The soldier spoke first. “I want power – political power.”
“And power over the souls of a nation!”
“And I want–“
“You had your turn,” frowning, the suited man rapped the table. “I wish for my enemies to suffer. And I wish for Reconstruction to go on as planned.”
Rupe mumbled under his breath, then nodded. “Four and Four, as agreed. As best as we can provide, you will have what you ask when your part of the bargain is done.”
From nothing, a parchment with faint writing appeared. “Sign your names there. We shall make our marks.”
Too quickly, both scribbled names at the bottom. Solemnly, the four added theirs.
The parchment vanished. “The Covenant is sealed.”
As one, all four recloaked and turned toward the doors.
They passed out into the night, and it was as though they had never been.
“On this day, the fifteenth of March of 1870, Legislative Act 102 is hereby passed.” There was no applause. It was just another act of the Louisiana legislature, creating a new parish clawed from the parishes of Calcasieu and Vermilion. Few if any gave it more than a cursory read, forged as it was by the Governor himself, ostensibly as a favor to his friend, a paroled Colonel of the Confederacy.
Even fewer noted the asterisk in the act itself. And none paused to consider the few extra pages inserted due to that single symbol.
In the swamp on their land, their house built itself. Strange trees spread deep roots, their branches growing foreign fruit. Fresh water springs appeared.
His people would live.
Reverently, Rupe put the kiehr at the highest point, the better for it to pull from this land so nothing inside would be lost.
And on a wall, he hung the agreement, a thin pane of clear sap protecting it yet allowing any to read. And it was with an unsavory smile he read through the whole.
“Four and four,” he muttered to himself. “These people cannot count. And they never read the fine print.”
Visit the others:
Autonomous Militarized by Gina Fabio
Pipes by Barbara Lund
From Bad To Worse by Bill Bush
Under Surface Of The Stars: A Story Poem by Juneta Key
Un-Nefer’s Triumph by Kate Flint
Super Jill by Vanessa Wells
Timeless by T. R. Neff
Desire by Katharina Gerlach