Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unthawed

Unthawed

"Unthawed" -- This piece of flash fiction was first published 
in the December 2012 issue of Static Movement. 
The gray sky hung low and motionless over the stony moors. The first snowflake of the year seemed to bring with it a soft silence, a stop to time itself.

Crio, feeling old, watched the tiny white speck fall. It drifted through the late autumn air, dipping, turning, ever in search of a path of least resistance. His eyes followed, caught in the dream until it ended abruptly against the cold black bark of a protruding daggermoss twig. There the snowflake clung to life and form for an instant, and then was gone.

Already more of the skyborn ice particles were spiraling down to a similar fate, each freezing a new spot of earth or branch, throwing themselves as if in communal sacrifice so that other snowflakes might find purchase on their sisters' corpses and remain unthawed.

"Hesha, three riders have been spotted crossing the Salt. The have the look of Lowlanders," said the man named Belar, addressing Crio by the traditional title of respect, as did all those loyal to him and many who were not.

Crio nodded, his gaze lingering on the new snow. "Let them come."

Belar bowed from his saddle and trotted off to tell the sentries not to kill the riders.

Crio stood, his knotty forearm muscles bunching as he gripped the shaft of the ancient dorzhak with fingers that were hard and unyielding like the alloy from which the kingweapon had been forged. Dalba, daughter of Crio's surviving son Torvin yet already ten times the man her father had ever been, moved quickly to fetch her grandfather's horse.

Crio took the reins and handed the dorzhak to Dalba to hold for him. After mounting, he leaned down to whisper next to the sixteen-year-old's ear. "Stay close. I need you ready for anything."

"I understand, Hesha," Dalba breathed.

He straightened and smiled into the young hunter's eyes. From anyone else, it was but a word, a habit; sometimes even a disclaimer. But coming from his granddaughter for the first time ever, those two syllables were packed with meaning: You can count on me. I am your blood; I am your zezla. To the death.

She passed him the weapon and mounted her own horse, and together they rode across snow-powdered rocks to greet the new era.


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