A bit of flash fiction. If you like, please share, ta.
Terga Draws a Blade.
The people of the sea called it the red coast. Many an Empire had broken upon it. As far as a gull could fly, north and south, a seemingly endless line of towering cliffs, guarded by jagged rocks, stood sentry over the hidden coves which sheltered the ports of the Sea People. From these hidden places they traded, fished and, before the lean times, raided.
Terga the fishergirl followed Perin Wind-Priest, along the cliff top path above their village, Insuu. She walked nervously, swinging a stick through the tall grass and stealing glances out to sea where high-prowed galleys, from lands far away, prowled up and down the coast. Perin Wind-Priest turned to the girl, twisting his short beard with arthritis riddled fingers, the light winds making the grass flutes sewn into his baggy woollen clothes whistle a low, seagull lonely, song.
'Before the world moved, Terga, our coast was protected by storms.' He raised a twisted and calloused hand to shade washed out, blue eyes against the sun as he stared out to sea. 'Those ships would already be wrecks and our people would pick them clean, like a sea eagle with a fish.' The old man shook his head and stone charms woven into his hair rattled against hollow wooden balls braided next to them. 'Now they peck at us, readying themselves for the killing blow.' He grabbed the girl's jaw with the same hand he had used to shade his eyes. 'Are you sure you want to be a hero, lass? Ready to do whatever it takes? Ready to sail the old routes?'
Terga took a deep breath of air, heady with ozone, and nodded.
'Anything. Perrin, I wish to draw the dark sword.'
A gull cried out and its fellows answered.
When that summer had begun Terga had sat mending nets and dreaming of the old stories where gods arose and heroes wielded the dark sword. A ship, high prowed and brimming with men in armour, rowed along the horizon. Later came news that 'Berga's Safehalme' had been raided. The few men not at sea, mostly old or hurt, were cut down, the women and children taken. Those of Insuu who lost relatives threw grass dolls into the gentle waves, asking the sea to wash away their mourning.
Terga wanted to rise up like a winter tide and take on these invaders. But she was just a fishergirl and her net mending knife was no weapon to challenge an army with. She tried to join the strong women, who guarded the fish on the drying racks from wolves and bears.
'Do not be foolish little girl,' said Shana. 'Our Gods left us when the world moved and Our Queen knows defeat comes. She is old, past thirty winters and though her womb is as dry and empty as the wind she is wise.' She took the blade from her hip and held it out. 'Do you think yourself young and vigorous enough to birth a future for our people?
'Pass the gull feather cloak to me,' said Terga, drawing her small gutting knife and holding it, white knuckle tight, 'and I will.'
The strong women watched and the men at the drying racks paused in their work at the prospect of a fight.
Sharna stared at the younger women her fingers flicking idly against her blade hilt. She gave a sad smile and punched Terga in the gut, doubling her over.
'You are not unattractive, Terga,' said the strong woman sadly. 'When the raiders come, open your legs and they may let you live. Our people's tide has withdrawn now, we cannot fight the current without the Gods to fill our sails.'
Terga dragged herself away, watched by Perrin Wind-Priest.
Aldire's Safehalme, burnt a week later and two more halmes further up the coast fell within days.
The walled town of 'Warmhearth' was destroyed. Those few who escaped told of ships landing to disgorge men and a sorcerer who used fire magic to bring down the walls. The invaders demanded treasure and laughed when they were offered fish-skin clothes and grass dolls.
The Old Queen called a moot and Perin Wind-Priest spoke a telling. How more than the usual amount of ships had been lost at sea this year. A curious thing to happen in this new, calm weather. Terga the Fishergirl, sat in the dark and smoky moot-hall, her fingers working at the net she held and woody fire smoke tickling her throat. She dreamed once more of taking up the dark sword and striking down the invaders, became so lost in her imagination she cut her finger when Perin Wind-Priest tapped her on the shoulder.
The old man and the young girl continued their walk along the cliff top path. In the distance the high prowed ships tacked into the wind, setting course for Insuu far below.
'You are sure about this, Terga?' asked the wind-priest as they approached the standing stone.
'Put your hands on the stone then, lass.'
She did as asked and Perin stepped close, smelling of smoked fish and breathing the names of Old Gods into her ears. The words seemed to swim in her mind, a shoal of sound becoming a chorus, a choir of intoxicating noise. The mournful calls of the gulls above twisted into the swelling noise within her. The music rose up into a great, triumphant, consuming wave.
Perin slipped his sharp knife into her heart.
She fell to her knees and the song left her. Sound faded until the gentle brush of waves upon the shore as it washed away grass mourning dolls filled her ears. The Wind-Priest took up her dying body, tears running down his face, and threw her over the cliff with a great cry. She fell, wind whipping past her head and, as the sea rushed up to meet her and the world became black, she felt something place the hilt of a sword in her hand.
On the horizon, dark clouds formed. The sea began to rise.