by Alexa Black
How far does a warrior's blood flow? - WIP
Lo, There do I see my Father
Lo, There do I see my Mother and
My Brothers and my Sisters
Lo, There do I see the line of my ancestors back to the beginning
Lo, They do call to me
They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave shall live Forever...
It was the fireworks.
They held the attentions of the enthralled crowd captive in their splendor. Only Oz walked by, immune to the vibrant pinks and yellows above. Let them rejoice in the start of the holidays... He had nothing to celebrate. Just another thesis lost. Another year's worth of his life's sweat, blood and energy to be printed with his name barely a footnote in the citations. The department director would claim all the credit- again- and Oz would be left toiling in the library- still nothing more than a pathetic teaching assistant. It didn't matter that he had his Masters in Social Anthropology and Theology and was only fifteen credits away from his Ph.D- All that mattered was tenure. And Dr. Lincrest had it in spades. So Dr. Lincrest was the one who's name got printed on all of Oz's work...
Oz swore viciously under his breath. He needed to get the hell out of here. Find another college where they'd appreciate his work... Yeah... he'd only been saying that for two years now! Ever since President Obama had entered the office, the recession had just been getting worse and worse. He'd been lucky to get the job he had here at the local University and the Machu Picchu sized debt he'd accrued in student loans made it impossible to quit. He needed the living almost as much as he needed food.
The dimly flickering bulb above his front stoop buzzed at him as he came to a stop outside his door and began rummaging through his messenger bag for his keys... Climbing the stairs to his small one bedroom apartment Oz wondered for the up-teenth time if he should get a dog... or maybe a cat. Hell, just some fish or something. The tiny cluttered apartment was lifeless and quiet as he closed the door behind him and flicked on a few lights. He looked around, despondent, at the tiny television, battered thrift store couch, heavy punching bag and Ikea made tables and shelves.
This wasn't where he was supposed to be by this time in his life. At twenty eight, he was supposed to be a full fledged Professor by now. He was supposed to be married, or at least in a committed relationship. He was supposed to have a house or a nice flat with matching furniture! At least that had been his plan when he'd been eighteen, a freshman in college and still filled with the hopes and dreams only a very young man could believe in.
Funny how a single decade could drag you so far down. Instead of living the American dream, he was shacked up in a studio flat, with barely enough room to swing a cat in, was no where near becoming a full time professor, and between teaching classes, finishing his PH.D, and working an additional forty hours a week as Lincrest's bitch, he hadn't even had enough time to grab a cup of coffee with a woman in almost four years.
Dumping his bag and coat onto a spindly wooden chair next to the door, he pulled his iPod out of his pocket and plugged it into the cheap alarm clock/ radio he'd bought from Walmart a few months ago. The Dropkick Murphy's began filling the small space only a few seconds later.
He set his laptop on the couch and plugged it in to charge. The iPod had come free with the laptop which he'd purchased a few years back. Some back to school promotion Apple had been hosting. The two pieces of electronics constituting his most expensive possessions.
Stripping off the sweater vest and button-up shirt that were standard uniform for academics everywhere, Oz grabbed some boxing tape from the shelf near the heavy bag and began wrapping his hands.
He didn't need a dog. He was almost never home to feed it anyway... What he needed was a little time to work out his frustrations. To forget how shitty his life was so he could force himself to wake up tomorrow and head back to the library to begin his next thesis. It didn't matter that it was a holiday weekend and the college was closed. He had a pass card to unlock the side door. His parents were too busy with their two new families to notice he wasn't visiting for the holidays. Let Dr. Lincrest stuff himself on turkey... Oz would be working. And eventually that work ethic would pay off...
Weaving a vengeful fantasy in his mind that painted his boss as a urine drenched homeless man and himself as the department head, he finished stretching and had gotten three whole swings on the bag when a ball of flame suddenly shot past his window, slamming into the ground with a crash.
Oz ducked instinctively, then stared at the glass pane. What was that? A comet? A Satellite? Not likely. A piece of a firework? All too likely. Fuck, what if it landed in the trash? The whole alley could go up in flames and take the surrounding buildings with it!
Not even bothering to grab his coat, Oz snatched up his keys and bolted down the steps. None of his neighbors joined him as he flew out the door. It figured they were probably all a few blocks over watching the Light Up Night celebrations. He'd be the only one there to try and save the place. Wouldn't that just be great? Loosing his rat hole apartment to errant fireworks! Happy fucking holidays!
But aside from a few bits of smoking paper and plastic, which Oz easily stamped out with his foot, the falling fireball was no where to be found.
Looking around the alley, he frowned. That was strange. He'd been sure of what he'd seen. A golden ball of brilliantly glowing light that had hurtled past his fourth floor window to the alley below.
Cautiously entering the alley, in case of an explosion yet to come, Oz glanced back over his shoulder for back up. No one was there. Had he been the only person to see it? Maybe he had a brain tumor that was making him hallucinate.
A small shifting noise, like weight being redistributed caught his attention just in time for him to see an arm fall to the ground between two large garbage bags.
Oh hell! Someone had gotten hit by the firework shard... Probably some damn homeless guy. Oz cringed at the thought of anyone dying so horribly. rushing over to see if there was anything he could do, he spotted the corpse laying amidst the refuse. Oz grimaced. Not a homeless man. A woman, her skin ashen gray and hair the color of onyx. His eyes roamed over her curiously, thinking of what to do. Her eyes were lightly closed, her whole body relaxed as if in sleep. She was dressed in what looked like black bandages that just barely covered her. A hooker probably. No chance of ID on her- where the hell would she put it in that get up? The only real identifying markings she had were the green tattoos on her body. They were all angles that all pointed downwards like arrows that had been sliced in half. A half on each cheek, a pair between collarbone and breasts, two pairs on her stomach that looked like one pair had fallen and split the other, a pair per wrist and pair per ankle... He frowned and took a step closer. In the dim light of the darkened alley, it was hard to see her clearly, but to his mind's eye her skin was an incredibly pale, flawless gray. Really really gray. Far more so than someone who'd just died. To be that gray she'd couldn't have a drop of blood left in her body. But there was no blood to be seen. She didn't look burned and he couldn't see any more firework pieces... It was very possible she'd been there for a while... Oz reached out, touching her shoulder only to jump back in shock. She was still warm.
He stepped back, frowning. Nothing was making sense. No burning garbage, no evidence of any burning anything having landed... A dead white corpse that was still warm despite the cold weather... It all should seem completely natural, people found dead bodies in alleyways all the time. I was awful, for sure, but that was the world he lived in. And yet the scientist in him couldn't accept the appearance of things. Something was off, he just couldn't figure out what.
Stepping closer to her again, he realized suddenly what wasn't making sense. She didn't look dead. Yes she was gray, but she didn't look like a corpse. Freshman year of college he'd taken a gross anatomy class. Those bodies, had veins showing through the skin and a bluish tint to them. Skin became sunken in some places, lost it's elasticity in others... This woman showed no signs of being a cadaver. She was just... gray. Colorless. Her jet black hair was still glossy, her skin still firm... Cautiously Oz reached out to her again, this time placing his fingertips to her throat at her pulse. Again he noted the warmth of her skin, the resilience in it and... There! A pulse. Slow but strong. He pulled his keys from his pocket, and held one steel blade beneath her nose. After only a moment it fogged up. She was breathing. She was alive.
He stood there for a long time. Logic and observation warred in his head until he saw her start to shiver. Until his own skin puckered with goosebumps. Until he finally kneeled in the dirty alley, scooped her into his arms, and took her inside...
Tir'riilanka Delashorekelva opened her eyes and tried to think through the fog that was clouding her memories. She had been on her way to Windara to choose her avatar. She had been so excited, longing to see Windara for the first time. She'd heard it boasted some of the strongest warriors in existence and was honored that one as young as herself would be illari for such a champion. But something had gone wrong...
The portal had opened and at the end of the short foggy hall, she'd seen the blue sky waiting for her. She'd stepped into the hall way and then... Something... Something had pushed her from behind. Her balance lost, she'd stumbled and then she was falling... Falling for such a long time... Then she was cold... So very cold. She'd been shivering. But then warmth had enveloped her. Two strong arms had lifted her and held her, carrying her to...
Sitting up, Tir'rii looked around curiously. The room was small and cluttered, with dingy white walls. There were two windows, side by side that had sheets of thin fabric tacked hap-hazardly to cover them. The makeshift curtains had been pulled to the side with another tack to let in the dingy gray light from the outside. A huge white sack hung in one corner from steel chains and around the rest of the room were multitudes of book shelves. Each and every one filled to capacity. Tir'rii glanced down at her own situation and noted that she'd been laid out on a narrow, high backed cot that was incredibly comfortable, if horribly tattered and worn. Someone had even gone so far as to cover her with a blanket so she'd be warm. An extra pillow had been tucked under her head. She smiled, charmed and honored that the owner of the residence had been so accommodating when this was clearly such a poor home.
A glance behind the back of the cot showed a bed only a yard or so away. The mattress laid directly on the floor, a tangle of thread bare blankets and pillows heaped about. If her keen hearing hadn't picked up the sounds of breathing, she would have thought the bed empty. Cautiously, Tir'rii stood, and approached the bed. She hated to try and wake her hosts, but she didn't have a choice. She needed to get home as quickly as possible.
There was only one being in the bed. An Imishie-like creature with lightly tanned skin and dark brown hair. It was mildly fascinating to look at him. It was like looking at one of her own race in sepia tones... If it's physiology was anything like her own, it was male. In her own race's standards his face lacked the softly chiseled delicacy that was the definition of male beauty, but she rather liked his rugged profile. Laying on his stomach she could only see his broad shoulders and lean, muscular back. Too small, was her first impression. Still more broadly built than the males of her own species, his muscular structure was too small to be that of a warrior race. No hope then of salvaging her situation. Pity. What was this creature? She had no memories of his kind. The imishie memory was limitless. Every sight, every sound, every thought and event was recorded by her people and shared by the whole of the populice for as far back as their creation. If she wished to recall, she could re live the birth of the very first imishie nearly twelve eons ago. But no where in this vast wealth of knowledge had anyone ever seen a creature like this one. A touch of awe flashed through Tir'rii. She'd discovered a new world. A young world? An old one, long forgotten? Who could tell... This creature could...
Gently she kneeled down onto the bed and tapped his shoulder, again marveling at the warmth of his body and the thickness of his skin. He muttered something in his native language and batted her hand away before turning on his side, his back again to her. Tir'rii frowned. Odd... He clearly wasn't a predatory race, but he showed none of the flighty instincts of a prey creature either. An animal used to being the hunted would've woken immediately, prepared to fight or run, but he showed no fear. Again she tapped his shoulder. This time he caught her completely unprepared. Who knew such an nonthreatening looking creature could move so fast? One moment he was facing away from her, the next he'd flipped over, grabbed her wrist and was crushing her along the length of his body, half laying on top of her. Tir'rii was so startled she didn't even have time to put up a token resistance. She lay there frozen a moment, fighting the instinct to open her spines and kill off the threat with a healthy dose of neurotoxins. He again muttered something in his sleep, but otherwise showed no other sign of danger. In fact his hold was less restrictive, more cradling...
The loud harsh buzzing startled her as much, if not more so than his sudden attack. It ricocheted through her skull, easily the most unpleasant noise she'd ever heard. The male was obviously used to the sound, because with barely a snort of annoyance he rolled off of her and smacked a little black box with glowing red lines. The sound ended as abruptly as it began and he groaned, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He muttered some hissed, clipped word that sounded in tone like a curse, and looked around. The instant he spotted her, he leapt from the bed like the prey animal she had concluded his was. Again he barked that hissed word, this time louder and with a degree of shock. A language where one word could have multiple meanings? Tir'rii almost groaned aloud. She hated that in languages... It made natural communication so much more difficult because you could use the wrong version of the word and insult a race on accident. Windarens had a simpler language. every word it's own meaning and no chance of confusion.