Fiction Friday: Mistman Vagabond

I’ve been radio silence for a while now and I apologize for my absence. You will be happy to know, however, the writing did not stop during my absence. I have been working on my random short stories and editing through a few that are near the submission stage. It’s been an exciting process and I can see how the tedium of doing rounds of edits on a manuscript will be a brutal process. I’ve taken a lot of encouragement though from my writing group, especially from a few rejection letters which were shared. I feel that there are a lot of great kernels of wisdom from a good rejection letter – one that gives the writer feedback or points out what is working and what is broken in the story. I am pumped to start submitting my work and getting some of that feedback.

On that note, I did write a very last minute flash fiction piece for Mark Lawrence’s site, www.thatthornguy.com. A friend of mine pointed me to an ARC giveaway contest in the form of a flash fiction writing submission. The prompt was to write a story in 300 words or less and incorporate the words LIFE and DEATH within it. You can find all of the entries HERE – mine is submission number 140, which is all the way at the bottom of the page. Hopefully, I will hear back on that competition soon. Along the same lines, I should get my results from the second round of the NYCMidnight short story competition on Tuesday the 26th as well. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Now we get on to the reason for this post. The Writers Guild met again for another write-in session, and we decided to do another random word writing session. If you don’t remember what that writing prompt entailed, check out the post for my story from the first time we did it HERE. This time around, I chose the words MIST and VAGABOND and immediately set to work creating another mythos. I didn’t “win” the prompt, as I did not get the full story finished in the hour, but I had a blast writing this story as well. I can see this developing into a larger short story quite easily. Right now it sits at 1623 words, and I could see this being 3000 – 5000 words without batting an eye.

Please remember that this is a zero draft. It’s just me writing a story from the top of my head without any outlining or forethought.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.

Mistman Vagabond

A banjo plucked its way through the night’s humid air, filling the bayou with the frivolity such occasions require. Crooked-toothed smiles bobbed (mostly) to the rapid staccato of a five-gallon bucket drum. The fire, rising higher than most heads, snapped about, swirling with the command such a creature is due. It was Gwenog’s right of passage, and her accomplishments had already started forming their own shape of a tale worth telling for many years. There had been many attempts before her’s, none of which came to fruition.

The fire’s touch ranged about, baking the cheeks of those who spun or stomped to close to its domain. The ring of stacked stones around it ensured the safety of the creature. There had been too many incidents of injury lately, and Gwenog’s goal had been to create a barrier strong enough to hold the Queen. To hold the one who immolated her sister just last year. The wounds were still too fresh, and her rage was what brought her through the trials alive, despite the burns.

Gwenog’s feet, thick-skinned and powdered in dirt, stomped just as hard as anyone else’s. Her spinning and dancing just as feverish. She smiled wide to those who congratulated her, but the warmth of her captive never made it to her eyes. She knew she need only wait for another song or two to finish. He would arrive when yesterday became tomorrow and set his wrath upon the Queen Infernai.

One of the celebrants handed her a jug. She wrangled her thumb through the ring handle and titled it back, letting the weight rest on her arm. The bite of drink faded to the sweet, clear corn taste she loved, maybe even a little too much. As the warmth diffused down her throat and into the pit of her stomach, an unfamiliar lurch flipped her stomach. The warmth evaporated, and the sweat from dancing turned icy on her neck and under her arms.

Gwenog turned to look past the dancing throng and deep into the recesses of the trees’ shadows. It took several moments for her to spot him. He was standing next to a tree, barely outlined by the last touch of the flame’s presence. She nodded to him, her bald head flickering with the lights play across beads of sweat.

There was no bounce to his step, only a swift gliding onslaught. He made his way through the crowd without interference. Gwenog was sure that the dancers spun, or fell, or stomped out of his path the moment before he would have collided with them. Several dancers were now stopping in place and checking their feet for some reason.

The flames, bound to the ring of stones, began snapping violently. The Queen Infernai was enraged, her face continually forming in the vortex of what was now an inferno. She screamed yet her voice had been contained within the bindings as well.

“You’re here.” Gwenog’s voice was full of cautious excitement. Her eyes grew wide and hard as the figure nodded behind its robes. “Is it time?” she asked.

The creature pulled back its hood, forcing a gasp from Gwenog. He stood there, his face a swirling vessel of deep ocean blue. There were breaking waters in his eyes and the emptiness of the great depths behind them.

The silence was sudden, all but the final sharp twang of a missed banjo chord halted. The note quickly fled into the night.

“I am here, as promised, Gwenog. We’ve our deal. You captured the Queen Infernai. She has wronged you. Stolen the warmth of love from you. I will quench the very last of her existence now.” His words were as relentless as the waves of the coast only a few short miles from here. They lacked emotion.

“Yes!” She shouted, a fever of desperation breaking across her brow. “Destroy her and you will be free. Avenge my sister and your freedom will come as promised.” A quivering madness had begun to rattle her voice.

Without a word, the creature outstretched its arm, letting loose a flooding stream of himself. It struck the barrier encapsulating the Queen Infernai and a screeching his erupted throughout the bayou. For several minutes, her screams raced across the winds, swirling through the grove in a raging cacophony of pain and fury.

As his torrent raged on, the blue of the stranger began to shift from that of the ocean’s depths to the resemblance of  stormclouds gathering. A grayish-blue that swirled and coalesced and drifted throughout him. The queen has begun to flicker and fade to drowned embers. Steam shot to the sky and created an unbearable hot heat.

The stranger’s visage was strained, concentration taking precedence over any betrayal of pain or concern. The darkness continued to fade within him. The steam slowed from a violent column above the Queen to a wafting mist that drifted and gathered around his feet. His cloak began to shift to the  iridescent gray of the moonlit fog as well.

“You have your vengeance, Gwenog. The Queen Infernai is nothing but embers now. Bury her with dirt, as you were forced to do with your sister. My part is done. My sentence paid.”

Gwenog watched the man, whose face was now shadow under the vaporous hood. She couldn’t place the uneasiness that swelled in the pit of her stomach, but thought it had to do with the intention of his words. She took to the final burial of the Queen Infernai, slicing a shovel through the earth where the top layer was dark and heavy with moisture and underneath was powdery dirt.

The red of the infernal specter vanished, Gwenog only faintly understanding the true fate of her target. Beneath the earth, the Queen tried to let out one final scream of warning, but was choked by shovel after shovel of her demise.

The stranger turned without another word and started in the direction of the shores. He floated on, the shroud of mist at his feet swirling with the breeze. More had gathered about him and the bushes and tree roots around him disappeared in the veil.

“Why do you head towards the ocean, spirit?” There was a pained curiosity in Gwenog’s voice.

The robed figure turned one last time.

“It is my domain. I am a vagabond and must bring the mists at night. Your shores have been too clear for too long. Now, if you will excuse me, the dawn is nearly upon us and I yearn to return home.”

Gwenog watched him shift on the wind. A few minutes later she followed in the direction to the shore. The same icy sweat prickled her skin again. As she cleared the gnarl of trees, the fading dark still sat over the ocean. The sands and water had been consumed by a dense, billowing fog. A trail cut through fog at times, sending swirls on either side of its path.

Her throat began to form a sizeable lump in it, as dread consumed her. Large, black masts were just barely visible on the horizon. The men were back from their journey – several, including Gysper, would have claimed their manhood as part of the travels.

The fog continued to grow, rising now to her thighs as well as spreading farther down the shores and out to sea. The expanse startled Gwenog out of her revery for the men’s adventures. Her eye caught the tip of Preenath’s Spire, the largest jagged rock spire jutting out of the treacherous ocean depths, as it disappeared under the spirit’s blanket.

Gwenog screamed, knowing  the ship’s fate if it did not change course. She begged for the vagabond to return to her. A subtle shift in the air caught her off guard. He stood there, his robe swirling about him.

“I must thank you, mortal.” His voice was that of a light rain, or gentle waves crashing. “ I’ve yearned to stretch and roam for countless years. You have allowed me the opportunity to do so again. Why are you upset?”

“You are endangering the lives of our men. Your shroud consumes the sight of Preenath’s Spire and all the others. Do you see?” She pointed out to the tips of the ship’s masts, black against and fading night. “They will crash. They will die. Please!”

His laugh reminded Gwenog of water sloshing around a large bucket.

“Of course they will. Some will survive, to be sure. Some will die. These things are already set in place. We all have our destinies. I’ve mine to roam. The Queen Infernai had hers as well. And she will again. All flames are of one source, you know. The elders of your elders used magic beyond your recollection to trap me. To tear me away from my home.”

Tears were streaming down Gwenog’s face – the visage of fury and unmeasurable desperation. She couldn’t control the tears of rage, they just came. She always hated that she couldn’t.

“I’ve sought the right opportunity to return. To get my vengeance. You had yours, temporarily, as I extinguished the Queen Infernai. Now I will have mine. Gysper, the son of Hrald who was Blar’s son is on that ship. Blar was the one who ensorcelled me. He departed this realm before I could gather my strength again. I will drown his bloodline today. Let his lineage sink to the darkened death. It is penance for his actions.”

She sprang towards him, unable to control the emotions any longer. Her hands caught the neck of the spirit and, for the briefest of moments, felt it collapsing between the crushing strength of her hands. Then it was gone. So was he. The fog swirled around her one last time.

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Please, let me know what you think.

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