TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 8

Chapter 8

With an awesome force

The maiden dreams of dying

A sunlit tower

 

“When Hayaoh awoke and found the space beside him empty, his behavior was strange to behold. Rather than panic or confusion, his first reaction was a sad, resigned acceptance, as if he always feared this day would come. Perhaps she was a dream and nothing more, he thought. Perhaps her love was more than I deserved…

Then, in the pale morning light, he saw a scrap torn from Shizuka’s bedclothes, stained with threads of her blood and pinned to the wall of their bedchamber by a knife. At once he understood: his beloved Shizuka was not a cruel illusion, as he merely dreaded. She was not gone of her own will, but taken.

Fury consumed him, a rage both as hot as hellfire and cold as the depths of the eternal sea. The force of his war cry split the earth asunder, releasing great gouts of flame and molten rock from below, and the stars above trembled at the sound.

For all of Gen’s despicable acts, for all the things for which his name would be cursed in years to come, his plan was a complete success: the old Hayaoh, the merciless warrior once feared by all, was reborn…”

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

 

It is dark. She cannot see, she cannot move… but she can feel, and she can smell, and she can hear. Above and around her, a ceaseless skittering and shuffling of legs, hundreds of legs. Padded feet cross to and fro over her, pressing into her with their weight. Their voices call to each other, some in birdlike chirrups, others in strangled mewling like that of creatures in their death throes.

Her prison encloses her body from head to tail, a soft, tight, unbreakable shell that clings and adheres and entangles every last millimeter of her fur. Escape is impossible, for her movement is restricted to fruitless rocking back and forth, a few millimeters in either direction. She cannot cry for help; her voice is too feeble for anything but moans and whispers, her lips and tongue are numb, and there is no one to hear besides… there is only them, the things with the padded feet and alien voices. Her prison seals her eyelids shut, depriving her of even a glimpse of her captors, but she knows they are always there, always moving, even when she cannot feel or hear them. Their smell never goes away: the dry, dusky stench of withered corpses.

There is no way to tell how long it has been. The outside, the sunlight, the freedom to move, all those things are fading, distant memories. The passage of time is marked only by periods of fitful sleep, and by the protests of her stomach when the hunger is too much. Usually they hear the noise when that happens, and within minutes, they push an indescribable mash of something past her lips, something with many indistinct flavors. They manipulate her weakened jaw for her that she might not choke. It is never enough; the food—such as it is—is to keep her alive, not satisfied.

She is aware that her life is slipping away, despite the feedings. All sensation in her limbs is lost, her muscles have withered from disuse. Even if by some miracle she should be freed from her confinement, she would still be all but paralyzed. When their teeth dig into her, there is only piercing pain for a few moments while their mouth-parts pour their venom into her. The venom always brings with it more weakness, more numbness, melting away her insides little by little. Their mouth-parts drink of the resulting slurry, and when sated, they go away until the next time, leaving her to sink into darkness deeper still.

She has come to long for that darkness, for the brief times when she can dream of freedom, of rescue… when the torment of slow death ebbs enough that she can feel the barest glimmer of hope.

She is not certain whether she is awake or asleep when she hears the voices. Not the screech and chitter of her captors, but words, clear and articulate. She smells them, too: not dry husks, but fresh, warm, living bodies. People, at last. Whether they are a delusion of her fevered mind or not, she surrenders to them. Maybe, maybe someone will find her at last. Vibrations rumble through her… movement. Motion. Joy fills her failing heart…

The rumble escalates into a roar. Something huge, heavy and solid crashes nearby, and her body shakes with its impact. Then another, and another. Her relief is smothered by a renewed sense of claustrophobia, and she trembles in her prison. Air whistles above her—

Crushing force. Pain, pain that she did not think herself capable of anymore. She is bleeding in too many places to count, it oozes up hot and sticky through her fur. A massive weight is crushing her lungs, forcing the air from them like someone slowly compressing a bellows. Every time she exhales, inhaling again becomes harder and harder… until coppery fluid clogs her throat, and she cannot breathe at all. She chokes, she suffocates, she drowns… and the cacophony of many more falling heavy things assaults her as her consciousness fades. She slips into an eternal sleep to the tune of a hellish lullaby…

 

Hanami collapsed against the black stone wall, her hands pressing her temples as if trying to squeeze the vision out of her brain. This newest waking nightmare was born of someone else’s memories, of one of the many helpless victims that died when she collapsed the ceiling of the spiders’ lair. How it was possible to see and feel that person’s final moments, she did not know and did not care. It was another divine punishment, that much was clear. She killed all those people in the cavern. Whether by intention or not, or whether or not they could be saved, it did not matter. She brought the ceiling down on them… and that was just one of her multitude of sins.

The Gods demanded atonement. The Gods put the little voice in her mind, whispering the litany: I should not be here. Soon, she prayed, the Gods would grant her release.

Her vision blurred by tears, Hanami scrabbled at the wall behind her, pulling herself up by her claws. She could only see the tower window as a lighter shape contrasting with the darkness of the stones. Outside was an early evening sky, blue tinged with traces of pink as the sun set… it would soon be twilight. As good a time as any. Her hands grasped the sill…

No, said the little voice in her mind. Not yet. The time is not right. Wait.

Very well, then. She would wait. Hanami sat back against the wall… and as she did so, the tower chamber shifted around her, featureless black stone melting and reshaping into a place very familiar, one that she could not forget…

More

TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7

Swelling of a storm

When sorrow gives way to hope

Race against the dark

 

“Gen ventured far and wide in search of passage to the realms beyond, for only there would he find the aid he sought. By chance, he stumbled upon a white gate that led him to the depths of the world, to the Beneath itself. There he crossed the dark river to the farther shore, and there he saw Abidokuja, the HellSerpent, the God of Death. As great and perilous and awe-inspiring as the mountain that imprisoned it, the enormous ebon viper awoke from its slumber. Its blazing white eyes beheld an unbelievable sight: a mortal samurai, as lowly before it as an ant before a sentient, who now stood where no living thing had ever dared tread. Unafraid, Gen announced his name and intentions in the sacred manner, unsheathed his sword, and challenged the Serpent to a duel.

“Such a duel had never been fought before, and never would be again. One lone mortal, with nothing but his sword and armor, against a God a hundred times his size, wielding power unimaginable. How an ordinary sword managed to cut the Serpent’s black iron hide even once, none shall ever know. The weapon did not survive Gen’s strike; the Serpent’s blood was hot and red as flame, and melted the steel to slag. Yet still Gen fought on, defiant…

“Of course Gen fell, as all must fall before death, but in the aftermath, the Death God looked upon the battered samurai who dared challenge it, and it found itself amused by his audacity. ‘Take up this fang shed from my mouth as proof,’ it said, pushing forward a venomous tooth half as large as Gen himself, torn loose during the battle. It smiled… ‘As proof that you have battled and survived. In times to come, when stand you here again, a favorable judgment shall I give.’

“So Gen was allowed to leave the Beneath, empowered and emboldened. Once he returned to the mortal world, he forged the Serpent’s fang into a new sword, a terrible weapon with a sawblade’s edge. That done, he had only to wait for his chance. It came on one dread autumn night, when under cloak of darkness, Gen stole Hayaoh’s beloved Shizuka away…”

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

 

In the fading afternoon light, all three of them stared at the open scroll, pinned to the floor of Haven Grove with the stem of a sprig of flowers… pale pink sweet pea, with rounded petals curled up at the edges.

Rowan sat in the overstuffed armchair he had donated to Hanami months earlier. It was a favorite chair of his and he had been sorry to see it go, but now it brought him no comfort, none at all. His elbows sat on the armrests, his hands folded in front of his mouth, which was a grim, hard line.

Zero stood so still that one might mistake him for a statue. The words written on the scroll ate away at his insides like acid. He was a fool, an utter fool not to see it before. When Hanami came to him, he had been so distracted by his own sorrow that he failed to notice hers. The kiss only further distracted him, taking up space in a mind already far too crowded. And now…

Only Faun made any sound. She sat in her favorite spot on the couch, head in her hands, sobbing intermittently. Her eyes were bloodshot, raw and puffy with tears. It took ten minutes of Rowan’s pleading and a bucket full of cold water to rouse her from her stupor. At first, she took his words of alarm as some kind of bizarre, alcoholic hallucination. Only when Rowan carried her to Haven Grove and she saw the scroll for herself did realization and guilt come crashing down upon her. “It’s my fault,” she said again. Her voice was husky and broken, absent of her usual brash confidence. “It’s my fault. I was so excited to finally drink with her, I never even thought about why. I’m such an idiot! I should have stopped her, I should have said something! She’s my best friend, I should have known… but I’m just a stinking drunk, a worthless, stinking drunk! Oh Gods…” Her hand flew to her mouth as she heaved.

Without a word, Rowan slid the chamber pot to her again. Any other time, he might have made a sharp remark about the consequences of overindulgence. Not now.

Zero’s claws dug into his palms. He was the first to arrive, so he was first to read the scroll, Hanami’s confession. He alone saw the final few lines, written only to him, an outpouring of her true feelings. He begged the others not to look. “This is all wrong,” he said, partly to himself. “This is all wrong. Why didn’t she say anything before now? Why didn’t she trust us?”

More

TWILIGHT’S DREAMING, CHAPTER 6 [Reupload]

Chapter 6

Path of many years

Winding from farm to forest

This is her story

“The maiden’s name was Shizuka. From that night on, she was a constant sight by Hayaoh’s side. Those who knew of him saw a great change come over the great warrior… gone were his days of fury and bloodlust, gone was the merciless aura that trailed him like clouds. His heart of stone had cracked in two.

“Theirs was more than a simple courtship turned romance turned love. ‘Love’ was hardly a sufficient word, for the two complemented and completed each other. As Shizuka filled the emptiness inside Hayaoh’s heart with compassion, so Hayaoh brought out the warrior’s spirit in Shizuka, teaching her the sacred virtues of the samurai. She tempered his anger, and he brought out her courage. He showed her how to fight, she showed him how to make peace. It was a perfect union, with each half enhancing the other to become greater than the whole. In time, the legend of Hayaoh became the legends of Hayaoh and Shizuka… the world watched in awe.

“Yet this was not the end of their troubles. When they fought, as all who are in love must fight, their passion shook the earth and rattled the sky, bringing forth rains of bitter tears. Only when they reconciled would the sun shine again.

“And as the years passed, one grew to resent this passion, this bond between them. He was a samurai as cold and hard as Hayao’s heart of stone had once been. His name was Gen, and for many hours, Gen would sit and think his dark thoughts: that Hayaoh had come to disgrace the warrior’s code, becoming a pale shadow of what he was before. It was his mate’s fault, he thought. Something must be done, he thought…”

 

[Excerpt from The Legend of Hayaoh, a collection of squirrel folklore, circa Year 500]

 

She is born on a farm in mid-autumn, in a small brick house within the Jiburi Grasslands. The house is bordered by rows of green blessed with vegetables and fruits in a dozen varieties, and flowers in countless colors.

It is a humble life, a simple life. The farm makes money, but not very much. She learns to tend the fields at a young age. Her parents teach her the Edicts of the Heavens and how to read and write, for they do not have the money to send her to formal school or hire a tutor. She reads whenever she can, whatever she can. Sometimes she hopes for a younger brother or sister to play with, but one never comes.

Years pass. Her life is quiet and sometimes lonely, but pleasant.

As she grows, her parents tell her again and again the importance of the Edicts, the sacred directives given by Lady Terra, the Goddess of Life herself. She comes to know them all by heart. The Edicts are good, the Edicts are absolute. How could anything from the Goddess be anything but?

She spends many days gazing out of her bedroom window, imagining the wider world beyond the seemingly endless fields of green. She suspects she will never see that world, that the farm will keep her here for the rest of her life, as it has kept her parents and grandparents before her. Sometimes she sorrows to think this, but the sorrow always passes quickly. It is good work, important work that she and her parents do. They plant the seeds and till the soil, and the Goddess gives them food and flowers. The food feeds the people, the flowers make them happy. Happiness brings enough money to plant more seeds, and the cycle goes on.

Sometimes she thinks that the cycle will continue without end.

More

COPYRIGHT

Tasakeru, tasakeru.com, and all related contents, text, and media are the Intellectual Property (IP) of BHS and BHS Productions, registered in 2009, and may not be modified, reproduced, or changed in any way, shape, or form without the author's express permission. For more information on usage rights, see the From the Author page.

ads.txt

google.com, pub-5010106122800170, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0
Pets Supplies Shop online for pet supplies, pet care products for house hold pets as well as small garden animals at low internet prices and fast home delivery service - petsboutiques.eu

Member of The Internet Defense League