Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Story to tell

Its time I tried writing again. I'm about to start NanoWriMo and see if I can churn out something novel length.

So far my production has been limited to short stories. I thought I'd start putting my stories on this blog.
If you happen to read any of them and like what you read , good.

Here's a recent one. A love story and tragedy because I'm still not over cheerful. The next one will be humourous.


A great many years ago in the wild lands between Istanbul and Novgorod there once lived a beautiful and happy girl. This girl had no fine jewels but she had rich furs to keep her warm on horseback. She had no solid house but she had gaudy silks to decorate her tent.

She was a Hun, a girl who had sat her own saddle since she was four years old. She rode as well as any man and her skill with a bow was better than most.

Her name was Salska and it was her curse to be loved by two men.

The man who first loved her was called Basiat. He knew her from a child and all her life stayed always by her. So it was that he saved her from a fire. The fire destroyed all her belongings and killed her sister Maykor. Afterwards Basiat took Salska and her mother under his protection.

Despite his love Basiat never asked Salska to marry him, although at first her mother begged it. Basiat said someone so lovely deserved a young and virile partner. He was an ageing horse-master with burns that scarred his face, but he always cared for Salska and dreamed of her at night.

The other man in this girl's life was called Csaba and he was a handsome youth. Csaba had fine moustaches and far-seeing eyes.

After Salska came to his attention Csaba developed a habit that caused much giggling among the women of the clan. He began to hang around the tents, instead of sitting in the men's huddle. He would stand with hands jammed in his belt chatting to the old widows, while those deep eyes watched Salska's every move.

He grew to know all her ways. He sighed with envy when stray hairs fell across her face. He smiled because Salska stuck her tongue out when she strung her bow. He praised the speed with which she skinned rabbits. In short he fell in love with her.

Csaba was an elder son and likely to inherit the leadership of his clan, which made him a worthy suitor; so when he came to ask for Salska her mother sighed and agreed the dowry. There were no flaws in Csaba's nature, other than those of all young men and Salska was not in love with Basiat or anyone else. Therefore when at last Csaba summoned his courage and told her to marry him she accepted the decision.

But Maykor didn't.

Maykor, when living, had daily determined Salska's life. Maykor was the elder by an entire morning, having been born as Dawn rose while her twin hadn't struggled free of the womb until after Noon. Salska had never been allowed to forget this and she grew used to her sister's high-handed ways. Salska was easygoing by nature and biddable. Thus when Maykor died Salska simply waited for someone else to tell her what to do.

Marriage to Csaba suited Salska; her life was not much altered. When her new husband demanded her attention she gave it to him. When she had free time she played with the dogs and the babies.

Maykor had been unable to prevent the wedding, her spirit being now constrained in the body of a Golden Eagle, but she began to haunt Salska. There were many nights when Salska had strange dreams. She dreamt of flying far up in the sky to where the blue turned black, but her days were bound up with the tasks of women and she shrugged the dreams away.

In time Maykor's approach grew more direct. At every camp-site Maykor came to Salska and called her name. She flew past low and fast whenever Salska rode out. She sat on the poles of her sister's tent. She hopped after her sister when the girl collected berries. It didn't take long before Salska recognised the voice of her sister in the Eagle's cry.

"You must kill Csaba. He must die and you will get his gold. Then you can marry Basiat and be happy for my sake."

As Salska rode, sat and walked Maykor repeated this message; day after day. Her sister stopped her ears. Maykor grew ever more frustrated and increasingly angry. Whenever the clan made camp the Eagle would pester Salska continually and the other women began to mutter that she was bewitched.

To gain peace Salska eventually spoke to the bird. "I do not want to kill Csaba. He is a good husband to me. He loves me as he should. Men sing of his deeds. He gets much ransom and he brings me silken trophies. Why should I kill a good man?"

"You must kill him in order that you can marry Basiat. Csaba is too strong to die of a fever or a fight."

"But why do you want me to marry Basiat? He is kind and always thoughtful, but he is old and spends too much time with horses."

"Because I love him, you stupid girl. On the night of the fire I asked Basiat to come to our tent. I wanted to give myself to him. He is wise and gentle and I longed for soft hands on my skin; the likes of Csaba are always rough men."

"I still don't understand." said Salska "How could my marriage to Basiat help you? It would surely make you jealous to see me in his arms."

Maykor's voice softened with laughter. "Once you are married to Basiat we can exchange places. You have lived three summers since the fire. I want my turn."

Salska paled and could no longer bear the Eagle's fierce gaze.

"You must agree that it is only fair. You have a good man. Life as an Eagle has it's compensations, but I have longed for Basiat every day. I will give you only a short time to think for I have had too much brooding. Meet me tomorrow and I will instruct you how best to take Csaba's life."

The Eagle slipped sideways from it's perch then soared into the clouds above.

That night Salska could not find sleep. She lay in Csaba's arms while tears wetted her hair. Finally understanding drifted into her mind. She realised that she cared for Csaba; she wanted to give him sons. She loved her life and it was not her fault that Maykor was dead. She didn't want to do as Maykor ordered; she wanted to fight her sister.

Eventually Salska fell into a restless sleep, in which she dreamt of the Eagle's eyes boring into her and stealing her spirit. She cried out in terror and reached for Csaba, who woke and covered her face with kisses. Salska rubbed her breasts and moaned. He grunted and pulled her to him and their love-making was very sweet that night.

Before daylight Salska was awake again. She had determined to seek Basiat and enlist his help. Quietly she crawled from the bed but Csaba woke.

"Come back to my arms Pretty, it's still early." He patted the furs.

"No, no my Love. I must wash myself. There is a rite this morning for a woman sick in her blood." she said.

Csaba sighed, there was often women's business. He lay down again but he was uneasy. He said nothing as she dressed, but he noted how she stole away through the tent-flap like a thief. Csaba decided to follow her.

"Basiat Basiat." Salska walked around the ring of horses calling for him. A figure pushed through the steaming flanks.

"Why are you here?" He asked soft and smiling.

She clutched at Basiat and said through tears " My sister wants me to kill Csaba. Come with me please and speak with her;I fear her reason has gone. You can talk with horses, perhaps you can talk sense to a bird." Then Salska hurried off towards the rock where she had last seen the Eagle.

Basiat frowned but he followed her; he'd heard the women's talk. She was hurrying ahead, but he dropped farther back when he saw the Eagle swoop, then settle on a crag. It's voice, the voice of Maykor came clear to him.

"Ah sister, you are prompt, good; let's to work. Look on the ground and you'll see a mound of berries, poisonous but kind. Mix these in Csaba's beer and he'll not notice. He will sleep deep enough so you can smother him."

"When Csaba dies what then? What happens next?" Salska asked loud enough for Basiat to hear.

"Then you raise the alarm and say your husband choked on his beer. I do not want you blamed for this. Cry bitter tears, rend your clothes and when Csaba is cold go to Basiat and declare your love. At that point you and I will change places. I shall have Basiat and you shall soar above my wedding feast."

Basiat had heard enough, he left his hide at a run and shouted. "No, you cannot do this Maykor.I have never loved you; I love Salska. I shan't let you harm her."

The Eagle screamed." Treacherous bitch!" and flew directly at Salska's face with talons spread.

Basiat pounced. He grappled with the bird, seizing it by one foot and stabbing at it with his knife. Salska struggled to get free.

The shrilling of the Eagle ended abruptly as an arrow sang its way into the melee.

All movement was caught in a hearts beat.

Then the bird fell to the ground, with Basiat's knife sticking in it's breast.

Salska remained on her feet only because Basiat held her upright; blood running from the arrow in her back.

Csaba rushed up, his bow dropping from his hand. "My lovely Bride, how could she plot my death with you Horsemaster?"

He pulled Salska into his embrace."I loved you always Salska. Pity me for I still do."

The girl's eyes focussed and she whispered.

"I never loved you till last night. Forgive me Dearest. But I never loved Basiat at all.."

Basiat said "She speaks the truth, as we all must at point of death. It's true I loved her but Salska never looked my way.

"Maykor did offer herself to me, but she had no value in my eyes. I rejected her and it soured even her new life." He touched the bronze feathers caught in Salska's hair and bit hard on his lip.

On the funeral day the men stood a long while around the grave. Salska was lain in the ground wearing her wedding gown. Her mother placed evergreens all around her. Csaba laid gold leaf on her breast; Basiat spread the Eagle's body over Salska with it's wings stretched out protectively.

Then Basiat cut his beard and the mane from his mare and dropped these offerings onto the corpses. He said "In future lives may they both be always happy. I look forward to our next meeting" then he turned his face away.

Next Csaba slashed his arm and gobbets of his blood dripped on the ground. "This woman shall be mourned without tears but I give my blood in token of our reunion."

He gave an order for the grave to be filled. Basiat fetched the horses and the clan rode West.

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