Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prompt: The bearer of bad news

The rider shifted with restless exhaustion in his harness as the steebaugh steadily plodded through the shallow water that covered the valley for miles in all directions. The steebaugh’s thick-scaled leathery hide was impervious to the acid rain that splashed with puffs of steam everywhere it touched. Its broad legs and feet didn’t suffer being submerged for the long trek from the Imperial Center to the Oracle’s Temple.

The rider’s harness stretched up behind him, with poles in front to support a thick, cured steebaugh hide to protect him from the worst of the rain. Even so, a plop and sizzle preceded the burn on the back of his neck under his heavy cloak. He flinched and growled, “Worthless commissariat!” Clenching his fists, he resisted the urge to rub the spot, which would only spread the damage. The drop slid down his back, etching a stinging trail.

Even with this proof of the imperfect system, he reflected the steebaughs were infinitely superior to the mechanical transports that began deteriorating as soon as they were put into service. Able to move without stopping for days on end, the steebaugh could easily carry a rider and a load of supplies, including the rider’s package for the Oracle herself.

The King’s Consort had called him to her own quarters and handed him the small box. Even without knowing the contents, he had known at that moment he might not return from this journey. Jazared had always been kind to him, even when he had returned from the Temple to remain in Crown’s service. But she had ruled side by side with the King for many years, and she would not hesitate to do whatever she believed must be done for the Crown.

After the many days and nights of constant riding, he could barely dismount by the time he reached the Oracle’s Temple courtyard, built up to drain the endless rain down long tubes that sluiced the water into the valley below. The temple servants discreetly gave him time to stretch his back and shake out the pins and needles in his legs. When he motioned, one moved quickly to take the steebaugh’s reigns. He pulled out the package he carried for the Oracle and followed another initiate into the Temple Another led him to the Temple narthex, where he was stripped and bathed in hot fennel water to cleanse his body and soul after the long journey.

Dogs in house

Allegro Classical 2011 Winter Sampler

Time writing:
~1 hour

September word count:

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