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tiger eyes

Judgment

I wrote Judgment a long time ago.  I wanted to work on my descriptions, as I often tend to write a lot of dialogue, hence why you will find little here.  It takes place in Rajala, the same realm as my novel I've been working on for forever.  It's vague, it's supposed to be.

 

           
           
It was that short span of time between dusk and night when the clouds began to form, dark and unbidden.  A breath of wind hit her, and she wrapped her deep blue cloak tighter around her, continuing on.  Experience insisted she find shelter before the storm broke, but she only urged her horse onward, determined to reach her destination.  Mind screamed fool; no one was anticipating her arrival tonight. None would be concerned if she sought shelter, and yet, the knowledge that none knew of her arrival only spurred her on.  Only her sudden appearance, unannounced, would bring her truth.
            Court gossip had spread like a death plague, eventually reaching her on her distant travels, calling her home.  Many friends, and foes, had sought to bring their version of the truth to her eyes, but she could not be persuaded by their mere words.  Until she could see it as fact standing before her their letters would be dismissed as falsehood.  She was determined to find answers before dawn, and only then would she act.
            The storm finally broke, sending fat droplets onto her face.  Her horse whickered nervously as her Guardian shook his coat, attempting to dismiss the first rainfall.  He had desired they rest until morn, but had already asked and would now remain silent.  Her heels dug sharply into the mare’s side, sending them into a run.  Only a candlemark lay between them and their destination, and only then would they find shelter.
            Their fast pace was kept until the stone archway that welcomed all to Raji loomed before them.  The stone Guardians looked down upon her in the darkness, their eyes seemingly following her as she passed under them.  Lion and Tiger, courage and wisdom, freedom and justice, all would guide her as the night deepened. 
            The city streets were well worn and empty in the darkness, but courtesy ordered her to dismount and walk the streets on foot.  Dark mud covered her horse from the long ride and smeared onto her tunic as she slid to the ground.  She dismissed the dirt, for she was already covered to her waist from the splash of the mare’s hooves.  Filth worried her less than the presence of rain, knowing it would not be long before she would be clean and warm.  She pressed on through the eerily empty streets, acutely aware that even the occasional beggars one would encounter had fled the rain.  Taking a direct route from the gate brought her to the beaches of the lake that protectively surrounded the palace.  None could gain entrance without the aide of a Mage.  Tonight the enchanted waters, normally smooth as glass were disturbed by the now downpour and wind.  Small waves crashed into the shoreline, causing her to be gratefully she had no need to cross by ferry. 
            Her arms rose, triggering a stone bridge to emerge from the waters effortlessly, as if called.  She stepped upon the ancient granite and pulled sharply on the reigns clenched tightly in her fist.  As predicted the mare shied at the passageway, most horses were weary of the crossing, although Mages’ steeds warmed to it in time.  This horse had not walked the path before them enough to welcome it, even with the promise of warmth awaiting them on the other side.  The Guardian nipped gently at her heels, and the Mage pulled forward, forcing her onto the stones.  Now, firmly placed between Cat and master, it dared not disobey.  They finished crossing with no further difficulties, the bridge submerging at the last lift of the Guardian’s paw.
            As she made her way from sand to grass she could see another Mage and Guardian keeping watch over a half-hidden stairway.  Both nodded, but found no need for words, even if the other noted the early arrival of the King’s Messenger.  The three companions began their assent, Mage and Guardian climbing the archaic stairs, while the horse struggled along a sharp incline beside them.  The passageway offered comfort, dry and astonishingly warm, as it spiraled upward, through the small mountain that eventually lead them to the top of the plateau.  Reluctant to exit, the mare reared at the top, but both Mage and Guardian were firm, leading her once more into the storm.  Lights beckoned them to the stables, and once inside she handed off the horse to an always-present stable boy.  Normal circumstances would allow her to see to her steed, but the lateness of the hour brought her task back to hand with pressing urgency.
            Her path finally led her towards the castle’s inviting lights and warmth.  Rain still fell, now more forceful, washing away some of the road’s filth.  Tall grass flicked at her legs and Guardian’s coat, if nothing more, feet and paws would be clean at entrance.  A side door was whisked open by a lone guard and she eased inside, the storm’s sounds replaced by her determined stride, well-worn boots colliding upon stone floor.
            Despite the infrequency of her visits her feet led her effortlessly to their chambers.  After breathing deeply her hand moved to the door, revealing an empty sitting room.  No fire burned in the hearth, no candles lit the small quarters.  Once she lit a nearby wick with the flick of her wrist, light revealed the full extent of disuse.  The room was immaculate, no ashes in the hearth, every book stacked perfectly on the shelf, a thin, yet noticeable layer of dust covering them. 
            Another flick extinguished the light, and she moved onto the bedchamber.  It, too, was empty, she had expected it, but still it pained her.  Silently she lit a second candle, fully intending to let it burn through the night, or until the truth she now acknowledged, was revealed.  A chill ran through her, reminding her just how damp she and her Guardian were.  She removed her boots with effort, her fingers numb from the cold.
            Lightning struck, flashing the room with blinding light.  Thunder cracked, and the storm deepened, all that were wise would seek their beds.  She longed to join them, but could not; knowing sleep would not come if she were to try.  A low grumble of displeasure escaped the Cat’s throat.  He was cold, wet, and unhappy.  She fought not to laugh, finding humor for the first time in almost a fortnight.
            Upon opening a nearby chest she found a well-worn blanket she had once carried on her travels, blessed that nothing had been removed.  She began brusquely rubbing the fabric along his fur.  Once he was dry she set to making herself comfortable.  Discarding her wet garments, she replaced them with warm clothes generally reserved for winter rather than spring.  Still chilled she found a dry cloak to slip on, at last, feeling somewhat contented she began the wait.
            First she started pacing, her Guardian eyeing her from his corner, silently pleading for her to stop.  She ignored him, but in time began to tire.  It had been long since yesterday’s morn.  She tried settling on the bed, but that only unnerved her and set her to resume her pacing.  He growled, firmly warning her that although she had not sought sleep, he indeed had.  After a short pause her eyes fell on the window.  Lightning flashed again, soothing her.  The ledge was just large enough for her to settle herself in the now darkened corner, a single candle not reaching the entire boundaries of the room.
            There she waited, watching droplets hit the glass and light dance across the sky.  Her spot became quite comfortable, back resting against the stone, feet settled across the alcove, the cloak’s heat enveloping her.  A candlemark passed since her pacing, then two.  Silently she wondered if her query would not arrive until morn.  Still, the storm continued, and she was its audience, attention not wavering from the act before her.
            Dawn neared, and she heard the opening of the outer door.  For one last moment she remained transfixed by the storm.  The second door scraped across the floor, and she turned toward the noise.
            He stood in the doorway, unmoving, unable to bring himself further into the chamber.  A small gasp had escaped his lips at entrance, obviously surprised by her presence.  Still, he said nothing, as if waiting for her to explain her arrival.  No endearments, no words of welcome.
            Full light, as if it were dawn flashed behind her, allowing her to see him clearly, if only for an instant.  Hair in disarray, clothes untidy, obviously tossed on quickly by the bearer.  She had not needed the light; an unfamiliar scent filled her flared nostrils.  Still, he was silent.  She slid from the alcove, and began the few steps to meet him.
            Another bolt sent light into the room, revealing her pain filled eyes to him.  Not acknowledging her, he knew what she had seen.  She knew, truth and rumor had become one.  Sometime between leaving the alcove and reaching his side her dagger had been drawn, as she passed the lone candle, he could see the metal catch the light.
            He screamed, and turned to run, but her reflexes were catlike, instinctive, and she grabbed him roughly by the shoulder.  Useless drivel began pouring from his mouth, begging her to stop, and she did, but only long enough for her to look back into the chamber.
            Golden, cat eyes met her own, he had awaken, he had seen, he had chosen to remain unmoving.  Judgment had passed.
            Right hand raised, she brought the dagger up to his throat, pulling across it in one quick, fluid motion, blood poured out, and the outer door found its way open again.  Three guards stood in the doorway, disbelief on their faces.  All knew her.
            Struggling, she found her voice, “Adultery is punishable by death in this land.  Judgment passed, sentence carried out.”
            She swept past them, in search of her king.  They made no move to stop her.  In the darkness a Lion rose, stretched, and then followed his Mage.



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Comments

I said I'd read this, and I finally did! Wow. This whole scene really holds the essence of something out of the ordinary, both in how you're describing it and how the scene unfolds - ordinarily I'd look on the storm as cliche, but in this case it adds to the scene where nothing is meant to be of the every-day. The looming storm just adds to the flight, the waiting - the looming justice. I really like it. Given that your intention is to work on description, I'd say you've done that well without taking the step into RJ-esque torture ... and, the best thing I can say, is that your description is relevant to the mood you're trying to portray, you're not describing things just because they're there to set the scene, but because they enhance it. (Do you understand what I mean? I'm not positive I do!)

However, this really just makes me hungry to read an every-day sort of scene! (I mean, both every day in terms of event and in terms of writing, ie a greater deal of dialogue and action...)

What I really liked - the gravitas that capital 'C' gives to Cat, and the communication between the Cat and the Mage. I REALLY liked how you wrote that! And the closing lines are awesome - as in Black and White, you have this fabulous ability to create a really snappy end to a piece that closes everything nicely with a punch. *applauds*

The only criticism I'd make is that rearing horses have become painful cliches in fantasy. Shying, spinning, ducking/stepping out to the side and bolting are common typical reactions of a startled or reluctant horse, especially when going past/inside something. Just for variety, I'd really be inclined to change that slightly. But that's the only thing I have to say, and I only notice it because I'm absurdly hypersensitive to horse references in fantasy, given that I used to ride all the time... ;)

I'll read more of this any time you post - I am so curious about the Mages and their Guardians!
I love your comments! They just make my day!

I'm glad that the ending came off well, its really hard for me to write anything short, and it's good to know I'm able to wrap it up.

I love that you can give me feedback on horses and their reactions, as I've never been around them much. I would love to, but I haven't had that opportunity.

It's good that the Mages/Guardians have caught your interest, as they are a large part of Rajala. I'm sure you'll be seeing more of them. :) I may be posting the first chapter of Tiger Eyes sometime soon, so you'll get a bit more of their world then.
Yay, I'm glad you liked. I'm not the most experienced reviewer in the world, so it's actually really good for me, to think about what I like and what works in a piece, and to express that with any coherency!

Seriously, though, I think you write short stories really well, from what I've read. They both close really well (leaving you wondering, but not feeling like the end was contrived to fit a word limit, either) and have good pacing. I know how hard it is to write anything short, though - I can't do it at all!

I am more than happy to provide any horse info/feedback you want, no worries. I'm not an expert by any means, but I've ridden for several years (a friend of the family is a professional instructor, so I had lessons with her until work got in the way of that), so I'm pretty comfortable with writing about them. I guess I'm very lucky to have that experience!

Ooooh, I'll look forward to that chapter then! I am definitely curious to see how their relationship came about and how they fit into the world, so that will be awesome. :)
Well, when I mentioned I'd have more information about Mages and Guardians, I didn't mean this specific pair. What I find really crazy about them is I couldn't tell you their names, or anything about them. While normally I have this urge to explore my characters, I've always just wanted to leave Judgment as is.

But you will find out more about Mages/Guardians in general, once I get a chance to look over that chapter. Again.
Good thing I meant Mages and Guardians (the relationship between how a Guardian is bonded or connected with a Mage) in general, then - I wasn't thinking of this specific pair either. In a way, their story is kind of just meant to be a point in time, without history or context - they just are. And it really is enough.

I know, I go over the Sorano stuff SO much before posting it, probably more than really necessary! But I can be patient, knowing I'll get to read something really good!