31 Fantasy Characters, #25: Istrafe

31_fantasy_badge“They say you exist,” Istrafe said aloud to… well, he wondered if to someone. Or something. “If you do, then show yourself to me!”

Istrafe stood atop a high mountain peak. Weeks of preparation, days of travel alone, he rather enjoyed the journey here. The nights were cold, but he was used to freezing winters. This land was foreign to him, with its hot deserts and barren fields. Although from this height, it wasn’t as bland as he thought. It was rather beautiful.

But the scenery was not his reason for coming.

“How does a god expect to be worshiped if he won’t make himself known?” Istrafe said. He wasn’t convinced he was being heard.

A former prisoner of war, Istrafe was released after five years in captivity. His nation, hundreds of leagues away, was defeated. He had no idea if his wife was still alive. But he couldn’t go back. He couldn’t bear to see her, dead or alive.

“My captors have tried to integrate me into their culture, tried to convert me to their religion. They call you ‘The Only God.’ My people believe there are many…”

Istrafe stopped. Could his people even call themselves a people anymore? Most of the men were dead or captured. The women taken for slaves or as new wives. The children were taught to call themselves by new names, taught new a language, and culture.

No, they were gone. An entire people erased.

A rage that Istrafe had kept inside him for years grew furiously in his gut. He let out a growl so loud and fierce the few eagles nearby fled.

Istrafe could have wept then. But for what? It was over. He pulled out his knife, held it to his throat, and challenged the Only God.

“What god is so impotent that he cannot stop the suffering of his world, even when unchallenged by other gods? If you care at all for your creation, you will stay my hand!”

Istrafe waited. Nothing.

“SHOW ME A SIGN!” Istrafe shouted.

A faint rumble sounded. A small avalanche of rocks on a lower peak to his left fell, and he turned to look. When the dust settled, a hole in the mountain was revealed.

Probably a den for some mountain creature, Istrafe thought, and he started to turn back.

Until a light started to shine from the hole.

Istrafe dropped his knife and ran toward it.

(The word prompt today was “Sign.”)

[– 31 Fantasy Characters in 31 Days –]

31 Fantasy Characters, #24: Poroughan

31_fantasy_badgePoroughan leaned against the rail and drew in the salty sea air through his nostrils. All around him was sea, no land in sight. The furthest he had ever traveled. He trembled with excitement, and a little bit of fear. It was exhilarating.

Poroughan’s shift was over yet he was not down in his bunk taking a well-earned rest. He wanted to see the Flokyne, the giant sea serpents that emerged at night from their dark depths to breathe some air in the night’s black sky. Poroughan was enamored with these creatures, enormous and terrifying but peaceful and nonthreatening if left alone; they were more than beautiful, they were this ship’s guides.

Poroughan remembered that day when the captain came to his village. Captain was recruiting a band of able-bodied men that he would lead on an adventure no one had ever dreamed of — to sail around the world. It had only been ten years since the proof of a round world was discovered, and still some held to the belief it was flat. But not the captain; and his idea to circumnavigate had him laughed at at almost every port, not so much for the attempt itself, but because of the Flokyne. The captain had adopted one, he claimed, tagged one with a Qod’vor crystal that allowed its partner crystal to be used as a tracking instrument.

Yes, Captain was going to follow a Flokyne around the world.

It sounded preposterous to most, but to Poroughan and a dozen other men, it was genius. They were going to make history, and a Flokyne would lead them to it.

(The word prompt today was “Global.”)

[– 31 Fantasy Characters in 31 Days –]

31 Fantasy Characters, #23: Elruban

31_fantasy_badgeElruban came to the furnace just before sunrise, as he had every morning for the last two hundred years. He started the fire and stoked it for a few minutes, then let it get hot while he perused today’s ledger.

Ah, the princess had another request of him. A tear fell, uncontrolled, almost immediately. He read carefully: A glass goblet, with a teardrop stem, wildflower filigree, in any one of Elruban’s signature colors.

He smiled. Such a request would have normally taken but a few hours. After a bit of sketching, Elruban decided to take the entire day.

He checked the fire, then prepared his materials. Since she had not specified a color, Elruban would use blue sand today. It would accentuate the teardrop, and with careful use of yellow sand, he could make the request flowers appear as forget-me-not’s.

The first glob of glass was almost always the most challenging for glassblowers, but not for Elruban. He knew it was all in the balance on the blowpipe, combined with just enough time to cool before the first blow.

It had taken him all night to finish, but when he had, he held aloft one of most beautiful pieces of art he had ever created. He burned its image into his mind, for he would never see it again, just like the princess.

Elruban hoped she would enjoy it. Once again he had placed inside the stem a single pearl, made to look like a bubble, as he had done for every piece he had made for her over the years. She probably would never notice, but that was fine. He was determined to return her pearls to her, even if it took him two hundred years more.

A father gives good gifts to his children, and he would be no different. But she would never know that was his reason.

(The word prompt today was “Blowout.”)

[– 31 Fantasy Characters in 31 Days –]

31 Fantasy Characters, #22: Theocolese

31_fantasy_badgeTheocolese stood atop the step pyramid of Alandalbhe, clinging tight to the rough wall with his climbing claw. No one had seen him scale the back of monument on this moonless night. None would ever think to look up. None would ever dream what he had planned.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out two small bottles smaller than the palm of his hand. They contained the most extraordinary potion he had ever had the privilege of stealing. According to their former owner, the liquid changed your body for a few moments, such that you could pass through solid things. The problem was that this included the ground itself, unless the drinker had undergone a lot of practice.

Naturally, Theocolese had not practiced; he had not even tried it yet. But he had the notion that he wouldn’t need to practice for this particular theft.

He looked up at the stars and oriented himself along the top of the pyramid. He looked down at his feet. Was this the right spot? If he was off by just a foot…

Theocolese uncorked one of the vials, took a deep breath and drank. It was actually quite sweet. Nothing happened for a few seconds. He burped. He suddenly felt his body feel warm all over.

Then he was sinking.

His movement down was quicker than he expected, and he panicked when the floor met his face. But like a muddy pool, all he saw was brown. To his surprise he could breathe, but he wasn’t sure what he was breathing. He was now a little more at ease despite the strangeness of the situation.

Oh no, Theocolese thought. I forgot to count! How long have I been falling? Must be seven seconds by now. Only ten or so left and then… But what if my calculations were off? I could be stuck… well, too late now.

Suddenly it was pitch black, and he could somehow tell that he was no longer falling through the rocks of the pyramid, but through air. He had made it! He was in the chamber!

His body quickly chilled, and a breath later he fell much faster and hit the floor hard. Luckily it had only been a few feet.

He had twisted his ankle, but he didn’t care. He pulled out a torch from his bag with excitement and lit it up.

His jaw dropped.

The sarcophagus of the emperor Alandalbhe, last seen 1000 years ago, was right in front of him.

(The word prompt today was “Off.”)

[– 31 Fantasy Characters in 31 Days –]

31 Fantasy Characters, #21: Mr. Pitt

31_fantasy_badgeI saw Mr. Pitt everyday during my lunch break in the park. I was on one bench by the fountain, he was across the small plaza next to the playground. I called him Mr. Pitt because the first time I saw him he was wearing a University of Pittsburgh sweatshirt with the big blue letters “PITT” across the front. I never actually knew his real name. But Mr. Pitt seemed fitting because he wore it everyday in the colder months, because it was all he had.

Because Mr. Pitt was homeless.

We almost never talked to each other. We became friendly strangers once I realized the park was his latest place to panhandle; I would give a waive from across the plaza when he saw me and made eye contact, and he would waive back. Once I think he said something about the weather, but I never said anything back.

I never said anything back. Ever.

Not even on the day he walked over to me with a smile and a paper bag in his hand. I was nervous, of course, as a woman begin approached by a strange man. Plus homeless people are sometimes mentally unstable, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw right away the bag didn’t have booze in it, so that made me feel a little better. But then he held it out to me, and I just sat there with my sandwich in my hands, mid-bite, not sure what to do or say.

After a minute of him holding that bag out to me, he gave a small laugh, then set the bag down on the bench down beside me. He looked at me for a moment and cocked his head to the side, studying me. I’ll admit it was uncomfortable. Then he nodded, looking satisfied about something.

“Yes, you are definitely the next one,” Mr. Pitt said. I realized at that moment that he was British or Australian or something like that. He pointed at the bag. “I’m done with it, it’s yours now.”

He waited for me to say something. I didn’t. So he just shrugged, turned around, suddenly leapt into the air, turned into a mourning dove, and flew away out of the park.

Hand to God, it happened. And my life has never been the same after that.

(The word prompt today was “Park.”)

[– 31 Fantasy Characters in 31 Days –]