Sunday, October 9, 2011

Story Time: See-Saw (Chapter 5: See-Saw)

Once in awhile the gods allot the mortals a perfect day. The breezes kiss like young girls, and the leaves flutter like prayer kites, granting motherly protection. The sun shines low, clear, fruitful, a honey harvest of pollen-toting bees, bringing offerings to the service of their queens. Magisterial clouds promenade down aisles to their altars, two by two, and summer swan-sings their praises. Whether the gods are bestowing these masterpiece days as gifts, or taunting the mortals with their stingy skills, it is hard to say. Those who were optimistic see only blessings: those who are less so are skeptical of gods’ motives.
When he fell, it was on one of these exquisitely crafted days. He would have missed it if not for the rogue’s pact. His reflexes, creaky with atrophy, found their manners after he did, “Pardon me, my lady, please. The sun blinded me for a moment.”
Crab-scuttling under his weight, the young woman loosed herself from the humiliating position, almost tripping again when her palm bolted the edge of her cloak. She quickly recovered and stood up to her full height. Impressive, and daunting, he thought. He knew her, his memory gaining steam and speed, moving toward the destination of her name. But she recognized him first.
“Oh, Gaenlon!” She blinked, not sure of her guess, he didn’t look the same—the Gaenlon she remembered was, well—healthier. “It’s me, Dacianna.” In spite of her regal armor, bearing, status, and rank, in her heart she was still the impulsive little tomboy, and gave him a bear hug and knuckle-knock punch on the shoulder. And she was always a little blunt: “What happened to you?” she asked unabashedly.
“Daci! Of course! Long story, little Mudpebble, long story…I am, well, in somewhat of a hurry, and I don’t mean to be rude. I would love to know how you are, and your family—are they doing well?”
“Mudpebble! I haven’t heard that name in ages! Oh, I am sorry you are in a rush…” and Gaenlon bowed, and hurried away. Daci was confused, then angry, and confused again. He remembered her nickname. When she was small, there was a time when a neighbor boy was bullying her. This boy was relentless. Her mother said it was because he liked her, but his taunting had an abusive edge that did not have any sweetness or shyness in it. One day, she had had enough. She picked up a mud clot, meant to scare him and break apart upon impact, and took her shot. Her aim was true. (A quartermaster had shown her how to properly throw a ball, spear, or knife.) The mud clot was not a mud clot after all, but a rock covered in mud. She can still see him falling back on the green hill. It hit him squarely on the forehead, erupting in a goose egg the size of a giant’s pimple. He ran home crying to his momma, and she stormed out of the house, grabbed Daci by the ear, and gave her a tongue lashing that dissolved Daci to slobbering tears. She hadn’t meant to hurt the boy, just teach him a lesson. She later found the unfairness of his mother’s reaction almost unbearable. But the mother was creating the son, honing a weak bully. She cursed the both of them again at the memory. Gaenlon had been a few years older at the time, and didn’t pay her much attention. She was the tag-along, the underfoot nuisance. He saw the knot on the boy’s head, asked him how he got it, and of course one of his toadies told Gaenlon “It was a GIRL!” Gaenlon gave her the nickname as a reward for her good deed. The boy was a well-known troublemaker, and it made him smile that a little girl had given him this scar-tissue reminder to always pick on someone of equal size.
If Daci knew him, it was certain Gaenlon didn’t know himself anymore. What was he running from, or to? Why wasn’t he able to talk to her, walk with her, go sit in the grass for a spell, in the sun, on this perfect day? These answers he knew. He was weak, and time whipped him down. Hidden by the blue sky was a moon in motion. However, he was not left untouched by their encounter. The golden healing inside of her seeped in him, just a splintered piercing, imperceptible, the unnerving strength of Draenei. Those gifts, those weird otherworldly gifts they carried, had shaken him to his core once before. He would want to ask how another one of their acquaintances was. Daci knew her as an older girl who lived down the lane, and would help care for Daci on occasion; he knew her as the girl who lived down the lane, a few years older than he, and out of his reach. He would be disappointed in any report. If she was well, he knew it was not because of him. If she wasn’t, he knew it would be.
Gaenlon made his feet haste. The rogue had given him some gold to retrieve his mount, shaming him by his lack of resources. His first stop would be to the stables to get his steed out of hock. He hoped the stable master wouldn’t be greedy, but fair, for the cost of feed and fresh hay for the time when Gaenlon wasn’t able to care for his commissioned paladin steed. He glanced back, and saw Daci on her own paladin elekk, going the opposite direction. A spark of an impure thought about the luck of her saddle…and he quickly extinguished this vulgar path. She might throw a mud clot at his head if she knew! Oh, she was gorgeous, though. His time in the dark did not blind him completely to Draenei beauty. Cinnamon skin, hair so thick and soft, a sugar-kissed smile and kind eyes, and they always smelled like peaceblooms. Or at least the two he had been close enough to smell. 
Gaenlon's heart smelled those peaceblooms on the breeze today. He had felt as if he been in the bottom of a deep well. Now, a shaft of light glinted and speckled down on him. He had fallen, and fallen hard. Perhaps the light would provide a soft place to land.

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