To strike one of the Blood when you were not one was an act punishable by a public whipping and humiliation. She knew that, but as her hand struck him, she could not have pulled the blow to save her life. If she died here, her dignity would remain.
She stepped back and pushed passed him, suddenly unable to breath. The whole viewing platform was silent, all eyes turning to follow her. Mouths were left agape and women moved from her path. Men reached for her but she ducked beneath their grasps. Running now, she found the airlock and went through it, out into the open air of Zennir. Continue reading →
Knights rode in on their metal steeds, their etherlances held at the ready. The tips of each lance ended in two feet of glowing Ether. She saw her brother Redrick, looking radiant in his dark power armor traced with white lines of Ether. His lance’s tip was the same color. His Spark was like any other Medani. Caden would be there as well, but she did not look for him.
House Querra had arrived as well. Their Ether was a brilliant green. She saw a dozen knights on their steeds, all of them beating with that powerful light. It was beautiful to look on them. A knight was a powerful position even if they held no starkeep of their own. She would never marry a knight. Continue reading →
The wind blows cold from the east, carrying with it the scent of freshly turned earth and blood. It unsettles my hair but its caress is soft enough to make me close my eyes. I can not reconcile the things I see with reality and I shut them out. Darkness is much easier to understand than this.
I stand here for an eternity. The whole of the world moves on without me. The war ends, life begins again, the Union and Confederacy collapses. These images are more real to me than the present and I surrender to it. Continue reading →
After, when we leave Shiod behind and make our way back toward the line, I resist the urge to think of home. Kat is looking at me and I wonder if he can see the resignation I feel. Still, he says nothing and we walk on through the lines of men on medical pallets, blood pooling and dripping. Some of them are already dead, others still clinging to a half-life of delirium and hope.
Our batteries open up, creating a cacophony so loud it shakes the ground we walk on and the walls that pen us in. Kat and I have to stop in a dugout to keep from falling over.
“What’s going on?” Kat asks a sergeant, the only man in the dugout. He’s older, a lined and bearded face half hidden behind a helmet and mask. He shrugs his shoulders.
The letter to Vanmere’s family goes poorly. I crouch in the mud outside a medical tent with Kat while we wait for word on Shiod. I put the nub of my pencil to paper but the words that come are stiff and meaningless. They form no sentences, create no explanations for the woman who made me promise to look after her son out here.
At first I wanted to tell her the truth, that I’d failed to do what she asked. I would write that we’d gotten separated and I hadn’t looked for him. I left him to die in No Man’s Land without a second thought. Me, I killed him as sure as the sniper’s bullet. Continue reading →
It is mid-day by the time I’m allowed to sit up. Len doesn’t say it but Kat does. Even this is too soon, but they need every man who can hold a rifle. A big offensive is coming soon.
“It’s less than a day,” Kat says as I hobble through the medical station with Shiod. Shiod is proposing a game of cards and we’re in search of Len again, full of purpose that we’ll steal him away from the center long enough for a game. Ever since Shiod spilled the news about Vanmere, Len hasn’t been around. Continue reading →
When I was a child, I often stood in my mother’s garden, where she grew red poppies behind the house. My mother would pretend not to see me there and call out to me, over and over. Standing there, I felt invisible. In that garden of red and green nothing could hurt me. Nothing could take me away. Even my mother was not immune to it.
I stare now at the dull red petals of a poppy plant. Even in the darkness I make out the color when star shells explode. They are the color of blood and cover this wasteland from which there is no return. I lay in the land of the dead where the living should not go. We were not men when we crossed into it. We were beasts, driven mad by fear and blood rage. Now humanity returns and we are no longer welcome here. Continue reading →