Huntress: Waterfall

The weather was cool this afternoon as Sera trod silently through the forest bordering their new home. She could smell the changes in the season even, the heady aroma of already fallen leaves becoming fertilizer on the forest floor. So many think that Springtime is the most fertile season, but Sera argued that the Autumn was when that fertility began. She smiled when she came upon a small clearing in the trees where a herd of deer were grazing. They had not heard her approach, only lifting their heads in alarm when she came into view. The elf considered drawing her bow, but then thought We have stores enough for the coming winter. You don’t need to worry.” As if hearing her thoughts the deer put their heads down, resuming the urgent grazing to fatten themselves for the season of cold and scarce food.

Exploring their new world had been enjoyable for both the elves, their children now old enough that Sera and her mate could venture out without the entire clan in tow. Sometimes she left her husband to his tinkering though, and took paths through the woods on her own. She promised him she would not explore too far without him, that she would return if she found anything of interest. Zui often looked at her skeptically when she left alone, but he trusted her. She never explored too far without returning for him.

Leaving the deer behind in their clearing Sera moved on along the path she had found a few days ago while playing with their youngest in the woods outside their home. It was old, overgrown to be sure, but still noticeable to the huntress’ keen sight. As she walked she marked the path slightly, breaking branch tips carefully or gently lifting bits of bark away. It was a trail only the most experienced of trackers might find, and she knew her husband was among the best. If he came looking for her, he would be able to follow her path.

She heard the water long before seeing it, the soft rush of a stream moving lazily over rocks. Unable to gauge the time except by her own internal clock, which told her it was barely mid-morning, Sera decided it was late enough that she could pause for a small bite, and perhaps the stream would prove drinkable. Still following the path she found it edged toward the stream, and was delighted when she saw the sparkle of water through the old, mossy tree trunks.

Though now she had to veer from the path slightly Sera stepped through the trees and onto the stream bank. It was thick with lush green moss and edged with drying grasses. The stream itself was rather wide and shallow in this place, but her hearing could pick up the sound of roaring water not far upstream which meant it was likely deeper. Counting on her boots to keep her feet dry she waded a bit into the stream and found a stone she could mark this place with. The stone she chose was wider at one end, and somewhat flat, slick with the sort of algae that usually grew in moving water. She placed it carefully on the mossy bank, the smaller end pointing upstream, then headed along the bank in that direction.

She startled a few rabbits along the way, the small creatures come to drink from the stream where it formed small still pools. “No doubt the deer came here to drink as well,” she thought. As she moved upstream the roar of water grew louder and she began to recognize the sound: a waterfall. From the sound of it, she was either very close, or it was massive. She received her answer not long after that realization came to her.

Several huge stones remained immovable by the stream, and so formed a sort of pool where the water collected before becoming the stream which she had followed here. The stones were in a semi-circle, and where they ended the earth was higher than at the mouth of the stream, helping contain the water falling from the cliff at the back of the pool. The fall itself was not terribly high, perhaps four times her height, but it was high enough to cause the roaring sound water makes striking both stone and water. The pool was not still, but it was calm on the far end.

Sera peered into the pool and was delighted to see that while she could see the bottom it was not shallow. Likely it was deep enough to swim in. “That bears exploration,” she murmured to herself. She began to make her way around the edge of the pool, carefully after nearly slipping on the slick stones. The mist caused by the waterfall made everything damp, including her face and hair as she walked steadily closer. Gazing up, she saw the tall cliff where the stream above created this fall; perhaps caused by a shift in the ground ages ago – although in this world it could easily have been from a dragon attack, or a giant, or wizard’s battle too.

The momentum of the water pushed it outward from the cliff to fall at the edge of the pool, where rocks again formed a slightly less rounded ring containing the water. She found the fall itself hid an overhang of stone about eight feet from the edge to the back wall; it was almost a cave but not quite. She moved more carefully now, examining the site for any indication of inhabitants that were not creatures of the forest. Her bow would be useless, but she drew a long dagger from her boot and held it out at her side. Her brief inspection did not reveal anything that would alert her to a non-animal presence, but she decided to return home and not explore further without Zui’s presence. Retracing her steps to the far edge of the pool Sera looked back at the waterfall and smiled. “He will enjoy this place,” she thought.

Today’s fragment was inspired by the October 1 Fiction prompt from Creative Writing Prompts.

The Serpent Queen: Messages

Manasa sat upon her throne, turned to look at the carved stone seat beside her own. She smiled and reached to touch the lion carved into the armrest; her people had taken Siris’ heritage into consideration when they’d made their new King’s throne to accompany her own. She sighed, and looked to the scrolls that had been brought to her by the couriers. Messages from far-flung outposts of her people, stories of strange tribes moving in the mountains, and in one of the seaside cities there was some sort of gathering.

The former was of some curiosity for the Serpent Queen, for she herself had come from the mountains in her youth, but it was the latter that drew her concern most of all. There were old stories of the people of another kingdom, stories passed on to her from the Queen who had died to give her the crown, that told of them stealing ophidae children and enslaving them. Of course there was no indication now of any non-ophidae races living anywhere close to current settlements. The leonide were the nearest, and even they were several days travel from her clutch. Her ophidae kept themselves remote from other cultures, save for the few traders who ventured to their underground river.

“Royal Highness.” The voice was that of Desiran, one of her council. She was the representative of the craftsfolk living in her clutch. Manasa lifted her gaze to her and smiled, beckoning the woman closer. Desiran stepped closer, gathering the flowing silk that she wore around her waist and bowing low to her Queen. “Highness, I heard from Velash that you have word from the mountain clutch.”

Manasa nodded, putting aside the scrolls she’s been reading over. “I have a few tales, yes. You are from the mountains as well, are you not?” asked the Queen kindly. Some of the clutch in the foothills were from the mountain clutches like she herself was, though most had lived here in the main territory of the ophidae. The craftswoman nodded lightly, and the queen smiled. “They send word that there are strange tribes moving in the high mountains. Tribes not seen in almost a hundred years, perhaps more.”

Desiran frowned in thought. “I remember some of the stories, told by my ancestors, of a people from a land beyond the mountains.”

The queen touched a bangle on her wrist as she considered the message from her mountain subjects. “I heard some of them as well.” She too had come from the mountains. “I do not yet know what to make of this news. It could be nothing at all, or it could be the return of an ancient enemy.”

“And if that is true, Your Highness? If one of the ancient tribes is rising again?” asked Desiran.

Manasa inhaled slowly, tracing her fingers over the arm of her husband’s throne. “If they threaten our people, Desiran, I will put them down. We will put them down,” she said, her voice clear and firm. “The ophidae and the leonide will not allow our enemies to endanger our futures.”

The woman standing before her smiled warmly. “Our King is a good man, Highness. We are most pleased that you allowed him to live, that he became your husband, and father to your son.”

The queen smiled just as warmly, glancing to the passage which led to the royal chambers from the throne room. “I am as well. Allowing him to live was one of the best decisions I have ever made.” she said, laughing at the irony in her words.

October Page a Day, Day 26

Before the two could speak more the sound of hoofbeats on the ground disturbed them, and Rafel looked up. Pasha and Toresh were racing towards them, and he stood hurriedly, reaching to catch Pasha’s reins. He only paused a moment before urging Tirena into the mare’s saddle. “Hurry! We must get back to the stronghold!”

Tirena did as she was told, letting him boost her up almost unladylike, then shrieked as he slapped the mare on the flank, sending her galloping towards the walls. “Rafel! What is wrong?” she cried, but he did not reply. She clung tightly to Pasha, trusting the mare to bring her back to the stronghold and hoping that Rafel was not far behind her.
Continue reading

October Page a Day, Day 23

“To … court me?” Tirena giggled softly at the very formal request. In the village, she’d never even considered herself interesting enough to have any young man wish to seek her hand.

Rafel smiled at her happily. “Yes, Tirena. I wish to court you. To win your heart and take you as my wife, as your father took Eiren as wife.”
Continue reading

October Page a Day, Day 22

Tirena followed Rafel from the stableyard, getting used to the feeling of the mare beneath her as her appointed protector took her on a tour of the grounds. She saw for the first time how massive her father’s keep was – she had to remind herself this was her home now – and Rafel leaned close to nudge her when he caught her staring.

“Doma-sha. Are you even listening to me?” he asked, his voice low and soft.
Continue reading

October Page a Day, Days 17 & 18

Rafel guided her to the stables, a short walk from the keep proper, and an aging groomsman bowed slowly to her. “And who is this handsome fellow?” asked Talven’s daughter. Her attention made the man blush and she grinned.

“I’m Dor, doma. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

Dor escorted them into the stables, which smelled sweet, like hay and fresh oats. Horses whickered and stomped their hooves against the broad planked floor, coming to the open half-doors of their stalls. Another groom led a large roan stallion to the yard, already saddled, but paused to let Rafel run a hand along the beast’s withers.
Continue reading

October Page a Day, Day 16

After breakfast Tirena returned to her room, where she bathed with scented soap in perfectly heated water. Lera helped her wash her hair as well, and once the clanlord’s daughter was wrapped in a dressing gown she spent time brushing and styling it in a fashion common to their people. Tirena admired herself in the vanity mirror, amazed at her reflection.

“In the village, I dressed not unlike the boys, really, except I wore long skirts instead of trousers,” she said when Lera laughed at her amazement. “I’ve never looked so pretty.”

“Well, you’re pretty now, doma. Now come and get dressed,” commanded the girl kindly. “The Marshal will come fetch you for your ride soon enough, and you don’t want him seeing you in your nothings.”
Continue reading