Here’s a piece from this morning’s work on a Tabat story that is somewhat connected to the events in Hoofsore and Weary, which appeared in Shattered Shields.
This is how I first saw the Red Paladin.
She must have just entered the city, because her scarlet armor was dulled with dust, and her horse’s head drooped.
Mother had elbowed and fought her way to getting us a booth near the market’s entrance that day, and she was battling to sell every brick of spice we had before going home, despite the fact she could have summoned a servant to do it. She was doing it as some small battle in the endless war between my parents and when I paused to watch the paladin pass, my mother’s hand clipped me across the ear, hard enough to rock my head and feel the snap of blood rising to meet the place she’d struck.
“Stop gawping and bring me more sacks,” she snapped, and sent me racing on her errand, running under the beat of the hot sun and knowing I’d be hard-pressed to get back in time to satisfy her, but even so my soul rocketed out as I dashed through a crowd of tea-pigeons and sent them startled upwards, feeling the press of her attention lessened for a little while.
The image of the paladin, her head upright underneath the masking helmet, the slight curves of her armor the only thing marking her female, stayed with me.
She looked so calm for a knight sworn to Anger.
The second time I saw the paladin, I was pretending I was someone else while I walked through the gardens. I pretended I was a noble’s daughter, raised only to think of her own pleasure, not worrying about obligation or responsibility. I could do that because my little brothers were playing tag on the long grass and I could watch them from a distance but pretend that I wasn’t in any way connected with them. I sat on a bench made out of iron spirals and coils and flowers, one of the old-fashioned kind, in the shade and tried to make pieces of myself loosen out.
I tried to do this every few days because otherwise – and sometimes even with – I would wake up aching as though I’d been beaten, my jaw clenched tight, chased by nightmares through endless passageway toward waiting red rooms, doors mawed with teeth and fleshy silence eating any protest I might make.
But pushing to relax is something you cannot do and finally I just sat and appreciated the sunlight, hoping I’d feel all those pieces of me unclench. It had gotten so much worse lately, with both parents worrying about marriage-brokering (my mother’s thought) or apprenticeship (my father’s) or both, but never my thought of neither.
In other news, this weekend’s classes are the Reading Aloud Workshop, Literary Techniques for Genre Writers II, and the First Pages Workshop. If my live classes are inconvenient due to schedule or price, check out the on-demand versions.
My most recent publication is “Marvelous Contrivances of the Heart”, which appears in Recycled Pulp, edited by John Helfers. It’s a story where I tried to hearken back to an old, twilight-zoneish theme while refurbishing some bits to update it some. I’ll be curious to hear what people think.