Posted by on May 14, 2016 in Mr. Stix, Uncategorized | 0 comments

For the love of Amarnath 

(This story conceived while riding rail in the Black Forest, Germany 1971)

Copyright 2017 by Michael Bookout

(see for this update: ..this novel was self published in 2008 and is being retold this day  and not with immediate editing…please allow for mistakes, correctable as we move along…in the direction of a goal so desired.)

This book is rated: Adult, but not too adult

I would like to thank Greti  Rayen for helping me with the Germanic translations and understanding the nuances of a culture past. M   (Greti is a fictional character)

‘Light is a strange commodity.

In a place of eternal darkness, it is a rumor at best.’

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Dedicated to Amarnath the Never-Lover

 

Introduction:

May 14

Now it came to pass in the undergrowth of human self-preservation a girl child was conceived, the father of whom was murdered several days before her birth.

     The child would live few days before showing signs of being something of a unique person; already her emerald green eyes were the symbol  of prophecy of village sages.

   Indeed, these sages were always in competition to prove whom among them were the most insightful.

   At any given time there could be seven of these self-serving individuals who often floated from township to township, wherever they could claim for themselves the most followers.

    But within only two weeks all seven would appear and set up camp in the fractured  landscape of Thailyn Hamlet, the destination of many battles and much death.

     It was an auspicious birth in that yes, Zoe the mother, was over come with mourning the passing of her husband but also, this child her first, was delivered several weeks earlier than had been expected.

The midwives of Thailyn Hamlet worked as one body to ensure the girl child’s care leaving Zoe as much time needed to ruminate about her husband’s murder, a deed carried out up0n orders given by Dier Hand a despicable man whom with all pieces of evidence showed he was more beast than human.      Dier Hand was a name given him as he one time as a child beat a wild dog with a stick and then after poking its eye out the dog grabbed onto his wrist and tore the offending hand off its arm.     Dier Hand had risen to prominence in the half state Germani Cisrhenani. And there as a warlord he inflicted pains and sufferings to as many humans as he was capable of affecting.

Zoe’s husband, he and fellow residents of Thailyn Hamlet and other men and boys of the surrounding settlements arrayed themselves in an ambush attack against a troop of Dire Hand’s soldiers. But their attempt was glorious if not stupid and the attackers were easily defeated, shot through with arrows, hacked into pieces with hatchets or captured and skinned alive to be burnt in heaps as a warning to any other comers. Zoe’s husband was one of the men skinned and burned, her man’s charred head lay at her door on the morning following the battle.

“My husband is dead, my child alive.” In her own words, her own dialect these Zoe recited hypnotically.  The mixture she had instructed her shaman to create led her deep into the woods to the fast running rivers edge. There Zoe disrobed and threw her clothing in before her so no one might find the place of her departure. Down she stepped into the icy water, hardly feeling the chill, the elixir working its black magic. And into the water full; no feeling at all.     “My husband is dead, my child alive.” “My husband is dead, my child alive…”

Chpater I

The men trackers who set out to seek for Zoe traced her steps with little effort and found the path and also the washed-up undergarments Zoe had thrown in. In equal time the midwives, with a ferocious admonishment, displaced the worthless soothsayers, scattering them like stray dogs back to the communities that welcomed them.

Corianthan, the eldest of the midwives, was by default the inheritor of Zoe’s child.  Her younger sister of age seventeen years, Tarianthan, had delivered a stillborn only weeks before leaving her both in mourning and breasts full of milk and no one to suckle them.  Tarianthan became the obvious surrogate mother to care for the child with which she anxiously agreed to and, to which she insisted she would be the one allowed to name her.  And after many days, and slight bits of taunting from the other women, Tarianthan awoke from a dream with the child’s name in perfect focus: Astrid.

Now Astrid was as any child to all appearance and in her activities; she cried, laughed, slept. And as she grew into her early years Dire Hand received reports that yes, something was abundantly unusual about this girl. And why not, he reasoned?

Her mother was herself a seer. Dire Hand had himself called upon her, riding rigidly up to her and her husband’s home early one morning with his troops in full armor.  He was invited inside and Zoe took him to the small room she made for her readings.  Taking his hand with its many sealed over lacerations, she read of his success in the battle he and his troops would engage that day. But that battle would not be won without a price and this price would be his adopted son whom he had promoted captain of the foot soldiers. Dire Hand thanked Zoe with a single gold coin, something of more value than a year’s harvest income of field labor.

Yes, the seer did predict accurately. The battle that day had been won. And of his son, an arrow directly targeted at the center of his throat, pinned his body to a tree, the youthful soldier looking as if he were simply standing in a casual pose awaiting orders.

And of this child then, the one of such a mother?  Dire Hand’s servant told of this girl, told of her astonishing green eyes. Spectacular eyes, eyes that plotted your own destiny for their own two gain.  And fight she could, in mock practice she held wooden swords and chopped with vigorous intent with as much skill and determination as any of the boys.
This child Dire Hand understood, must be watched with great care.

 

Dire Hand was also aware that Zoe’s husband’s brother had pledged his life to revenge Zoe’s husband’s dismemberment and death. The brother Farcnaught had taken with him a few men and were well in hiding; perhaps Rumania, perhaps as far as Prussia. Very few communities near or far were unaware of Dire Hand and his reputation for cruelty as well, the rumor penchant for drinking human blood.

Better to not  disturb the Thaiylin Hamlet, or to seek out Farcnaught reasoned Dire Hand, the child must be allowed to grow, mature. This would be the bait  enough to bring in Farcnaught.

Thursday May 26  PM……The sun was flirting with the Thailen landscape and Astrid was bitten by sparkles of light upon her check and caused her to wrestle while she lay in that delicious unconscious  of half asleep, half awake. She had been dreaming of ridding a horse along the rivers edge, enjoying its curious necessity to go somewhere; to a fjord one of the many in her region or perhaps to a waterfall that would continue its journey to an ocean, something she had heard of but had never seen.   Her grandfather told her about the ocean, with its simmering blues which jumped and lapped against the giant rocks of the land, its infinite vista where you cast your hopes that sometimes came perfectly back to you.

Friday  May 27/

Astrid’s grandfather’s name translates into the concept of  ‘days of wonder’.    And the ‘wonder’ being when the landscapes were pristine. No broken swords handles sticking up from the ground, no rusted helmets with skulls in them scatted across the ground as toey balls left by children who have abandoned them for the night dinners….These were the days preceding the travesties of war; the folly of men whom for what primal need sought to enlarge the kingdom of the god’s which provides them a body mind and spirit…as if this were not more than enough to wrestle in   enough o contend with to tame…but no they wished for more..more to conquer more to dominate   until they possessed it all for themselves.Saturday 28th

Saturday 28th/

Almost every day, weather allowing, they would take what she and her grandfather would jokingly refer to as ‘the secret passage’  a narrow ridge which crested an almost two thousand foot drop into a gorge never having been explored by humans due to the rumors that the Auzin Ones devoured all trespassers.

“The trick is, said Astrid’s grandfather with a mirth in his voice “is never to look down”

“Are there really monsters living there grandfather?”  questioned Astrid with a slight hesitation in her voice.

“One never knows my child; yea, I have not heard of any person going there to explore and, if they have, well, they have yet to return.”

And then, not with much climbing and sweat causing their clothing to cling hard to their skin did Grandfather and Granddaughter come to the place where the woods parted and there the almost perfectly circular lake of passion blue beckoned them to discard their outer garments and boots and dive far into the water,washing away any memories minor miseries of the long climb they had partaken to get there.

“We shall call this lake what…?” challenged Grandfather.

“Well, said Amaranth,” pushing her multiple strands of light, long  brown hair from her vision, “I think the name appropriate would be of one of the stars in the configuration of Hesperia Planum, the ‘traveler’s beam’.

“Ah yes, my child, such and  appropriate name…for we are forever travelers and with the always hope of finding such a wonderful end to our work on earth’s surface as these waters.”

May 29th-June 1 -2PM

After swimming for an approximate hour both persons climbed out of the lake and then lay back upon the grassy beach allowing the sun to lay heavily upon them with it’s warmth and security. 

Astrid had fallen into a deep sleep and after a half hour or so Grandfather reached into his pack pulling a small wooden flute from one pocket.  Raising it to his lips he began playing a string of notes in the form of smooth, quiet melodies.    Astrid stirred and sat up alongside her Grandfather  yawning but also remembering the flutes liquid voice from her earliest years.

‘Grandfather,” sadi Amaranth  “this is a new flute you have.”

“Yes. Do you like its tone?”

“It sounds so different than your other ones.”

“I have been saving this one to play for you, my child.  Now, what do you think of this song?” And grandfather allowed the floating out of an almost mythical noise which drifted out onto the small lakes enclosure which affording the melody to bend and climb up the walls of the overhanging tree limbs.

“Have I heard this song before,”  said Astrid which was emphasized more as a statement than a question.

“Have you indeed, my child;  from where i do not know?”….(And yet he most certainly did …for as he suspected, and in line with all else that presented Astrid in the unusual orb that was her existence, she would only know of this sound if indeed, she was The One.

Grandfather and Astrid stayed lake side their usual length of time before gathering their clothing and bags. Here, this is your’s.” said Grandfather to Amaranth handing her the flute.

“This is not a holiday nor my special day of birth” she said playing coy.

“But you play it so well. It knows you; you most surely are aware of this.”

Astrid took the flute from him and looked at it as if she were perhaps handling the combination to a safe, a map to a hidden location, a key to understanding an alphabet.  

Astrid  wrapped the flute into a napkin and then put it the flute carefully into her pack and their journey home began .  “There will be a day when you may have to pack me along on the top of a mule Astrid said Grandfather jokingly.  

That will be many years from now  I would hope.”

The day was dwindling of its strength.   June 4/PM

Can you tell me where you had gotten my flute, Grandfather?”,  said Astrid ignobly, humble to the idea it was in her possession.   

It is a simple tale to tell my child. I was in my youth, which is to say, anytime before this day. I was in a tavern one night with several of my friends, in a city many months from our location here. True I was quite under the influence….rum I think was my drink of choice. I remember at some point I was stumbling and then without warning the floor came up to me and banged me in the face.”

“Oh Grandfather!” laughed out Astrid.

“No, this is quite true my child; when in taverns you must beware the floors. But, on to the story. I do remember of course a wild looking woman staring from the shadows. She was sitting alone, no food or drink before her; just alone and staring. The friends I was with said they saw nothing of her, so I might think she was something of a ghost.  But then the situation of my face meeting the floor; when I awoke in one of the taverns upstairs hammocks there was your flute lying next to me.”

“Really Grandpa Pa…can you not in any way think who that wild woman was?” said Astrid in a covered over desperate voice.

“Perhaps an ex-girlfriend,” said Grandfather laughingly “there had been quite a few up to that time.  But truly, I would have to think that she did have something to do with the ‘other world’.        June 6/PM

“And this is the world mother talks in?”

“Yes, your brave mother the ‘Seer’.”

“Why do you call her brave?”

“The other world is a mystery to all but a few of us. You really have to be called; indeed, beckoned. No one person would, nor should choose to frequent there,” said Grandfather looking deeply into Astrid’s face. “No one should choose to go there, do you understand your grandfather Astrid?”

“You are a wise man as everyone knows,” said Astrid sternly.  “And I will heed this wise man’s advice whom I am fortunate to be his granddaughter.

Later in the day as Astrid was helping her mother  T…….prepare food for the evening meal a message arrived via a lite whistle coming from the direction of a patch of willow trees.   Astrid recognized the sound as being unnatural and therefore something not to be ignored.   Her mother heard the sound as well and both women put down their utensils and walked in the direction of the trees until they got to the base of the largest formation and stopped.  Astrid had followed T.. and reached out for her mother’s hand.    “What?” is all she said to her mother.  And there before them in the tall grasses at the base of the trees was a rolled up purple napkin.

T reached for the napkin understanding it was a message. Covered over in the napkin was a string of beads with a small pendant interlaced.   On this pendant were depicted a knife with a half sun over it: Zoe’s family crest.  Farcnaught was back.

………………………………………………………..July 20-16

Astrid was well acquainted with Farcnaught. Only a few years her elder he, and  by her own evaluation she had claim against him as her husband. Not by accident Astrid knew, the scions of the air had placed them as opposite opponents when practicing combat.

The first time they had faced off against each other with swords at the ready, Astrid swong so hard that the clap and force of their wooden instruments sent Farcnaught staggering backwards on the heels of his feet with a whirld of almost fear and wonder on his face.

It was then their eyes locked for the first time. Not that Astrid had not been trying to gain his attention for several years. But when he halted his back-fall by stretching his arm out behind him and landing against a wood piling, he looked curiously into Astrid’s face, she having advanced close enough to strike at him with another blow, and smiled.

Many days passed before Farcnaught contacted his brother’s remaining family and this with the message of he and his men’s food supply running out. And it was not as if they could go till the fields in open light nor hunt for animals as Dire Hand’s men would surely cut them down. Farcnaught’s and his men’s plans were to wait for promised  reinforcements from Poland to move head-on against Dire Hand’s troops. But word was they had been detained due to weather and skirmishes from a small army from Turkey looking to secure a trade route north.

D, T and Amaranth had store enough for them and with only the communication a napkin again.  Amaranth and Grandfather with little preparation took to their walk early that next day and lay the food stores in a sack near the lakes clearing.  “So they have been watching us Grandfather, all this time  whispered Amaranth.

June 11-PM….Saturday

“Yes, my child, they have taken care to hide are not only for their safety but ours as well.  For who knows how many spies Dire Hand has hidden among us; yea, even our so-called closest friends could be those who betray us. Only yesterday night I saw one of those stupid Seers lurking around the Wanton Tavern.”

“You mean non-seers don’t Grandfather?”

“My, aren’t you a clever one with your words.  Ahh, you so take after my former wife. Always with great wit; do you know she could cut a person with her words faster than I could with my sword.  I think she must be talking thru you; I certainly do.”

Once Grandfather and girl child, who was, by the way of our story, now the age fifteen, swam, Grandfather lay back with a great heave of breath.  “For some reason the hike today was a bit more effort than usual,” he said.

“You need rest Grandfather,” said Amaranth lovingly as she pulled her flute from her bag.  “Here, let this music help you to wander into a dream.”  And so Amaranth played, the tone of the music wafting up among the trees, even into the clouds and into the pounding heart of a love-struck Farcnaught. 

Part:  June 23 PM/

A wedding was brewing about the village with more ingredients of preparation poured into the anticipated festivities than acorns in a tree.  Astrid was assured by her grandfather that he would not call upon her for entertainment with her magical flute, as she had hinted that she might hide in the house if such a request were to be made.

The lucky couple, or rather, the luckily-happily arranged couple did indeed love each other.  In Thailen, it is all but impossible not to have a longing for a mate from childhood with thetight-knitt community and those of surrounding populace.

Krystal and Claeschen were said to be made for one another.  Krystal had a small wart on the end of her nose and one of Claeschens ears was twisted up and around making it look as if it were transplanted from an elf. Yes, in Thailen, such peculiarities were to the elders of the city and most especially the madam matchmaker symbols of natural distinction, clues about purpose and destiny.

June 28 PM

The weddings were short on planning once the union had been publically announced.  Time was sparse; diseases came with shrill winds, sicknesses from the water, mold in the leafy plants…all acts of vengeance by the Wither Gods and goblins who wafted thru the air unseen but always present waiting to take a child or an elderly person for their own or a woman in the throes of labor.

So life was full and fast when you played you balanced on the knife-edge.

The feast was on, tables were laid out with foods of any and every mixture;  big plates, some with fruit, some meats and specialty mixes, all piled high upon the plates of the wedding goers which in this part of the country was every and anyone within traveling distance who had the desire for fun and gluttony.  Baskets full of flowers, sweet pungent aromas intermixed with the food,  music raising in the heat of the moment let out among the party goers who literally danced up a storm of dust and dirt. Drinks of any concoction poured across chests instead of mouths of men and women already drunken with joy, the one sure festival license with none of your neighbors able to stack up rumors about you.

And there he was, hidden by the ruckus,  hidden by the shadows that danced to the play of the moon light,  intermingling with trees and the swirling dust: Frauqunaught.

September 21-2016 am/pm

By mid-morning, Astrid awoke, the swirling frivolity of merriment she had experienced thru and late in the night, danced in memory like a stringed ornament of glass beads above her.

Refreshing herself with water and combing her entangled hairs free of this disorder Astrid looked into the glass to see her reflection.  “Not bad” she said privately to herself.  She was aging into full maturity and liking it. Belle of the Ball would have been the roll she had played if indeed the village……this phrase had been of invention.  All eyes had been upon her; the aged, gossipy women, the drooling older men, her envious, jealous ‘friends’ which mounted in layers when at each dance there were vying

For certain all eyes had been upon her; the aged, gossipy women gaggling in their circle, the drooling older men whom         , her envious, jealous ‘friends’ whose feelings mounted in layers when with every dance there were the younger men vying for a perfectly harmless excuse to hold Astrid near their body, feel the wisps of her perfect hair upon thier faces and massage the palm of their hands with hers.

He had not attempted to speak to her. Fraqunaught surmised there would have been spies among the guests. Or even those whom he theretofore assumed friends. A few bronze coins can blind even the sincerest of neighbors. But, watch he did with great amounts of saliva swirling in his mouth as his beauty pranced around in timing with every person whom he knew would fight he, Fraqunot to the death with the perhaps chance of placing his man muscle into Astrid.

September 23rd/pm…………………………..

The festival was one thing and, now that it ws neatly packed awayby those responsible for the clean up, Astrid being one, the beat of the hamlet fell back into its well formuslated mold of bickering housewives, irresponsible husbands seeking for greater importance and purpose at the bottom of wafts of wicked whiskey emptyign into their bellies careening down the pipe of digestion, in time coroding the passage making it, and its cavern of deposit, the liver, of no use and in the final days lifes own death sentence

Fraaquart and his men retreated many miles down the vallies Ralinet to meet with the Polish soldiers who had had no less than one half their army desecrated by the Turks.  Their leader Sharmande had been severly wounded and his first cousin Lacreche now charged the men, himself a gruff, mistrusting and fanatically ambitioous person whose desires for gain was hardly disguised, even overtly obvious displayed when he began referring to Dire Hand’s eminent deposing as something of his own victory.

Thus Farquart and his men were subsumed into Lacreche’s army’s plans which were to wage a series of ambushes, false attacks and then eventually causing insecurity and unrest in Dire Hand’s lands that an exhibition of all-assault would engage the ‘menacing dogs’ as Dire Hand referred to Frauquat and his men. The assault would be a faint as well, a fake to lead Dire Hands troops deep into the Ralient valley for an ambush.

And while these attacks began and word of fierce fighting filtered throughout all the lands, the mood around Thailen hamlet became tense to a level that even children began to stay indoors with the mist of fear and unease encased the actions of their parents and older siblings.

Astrid found solace befriending her flute. It soft whispers like children’s breathing when they slept floated out of upon Astrid’s breath. “You are making a great acquaintance for yourself,” said her grandfather as he kissed her lightly on the head while they sat upon a grassy hill on a rare and beautiful mid-day.

“I really believe there is a spirit in here guiding me grandfather,” said Astrid holding up the flute in a votive gesture of that possible reality.

“You may find more than one, child,” said her grandfather in reply.  “As I said I did save it especially for you; I knew you two were destined for each other.”

But time was running out for such casual, warm exchanges between relatives. The sky seemed to fill more full daily with the molten melting exploded bombs, burnned out building and fields.  Not to mention, smoldering carcuses of horses and men.

There was also rumors of marauders. Those warriers who broke off from the Lacreche’s army and some men from Dire Hands control; several of these banding together and seeking the spoils of war far from the main confrontations.

“There will be no more wanderings about for women or children,” ordered grandfather and the other elders of Thailen hamlet. “No one is allowed into the fields without armed escort. No man is to be left alone to herd the seep or cattle,” was the decree given from Main Lodge with it’s circular fire pit never not burning for all but a few months of the year, and always and forever during nightfall.

To understand, nerves of the resident’s of Thailen were raw and more than several requests, some not so polite, asked Astrid to “quit playing that damn flute!”

And so Astrid would go into a darkened room in whatever structure she was in to play her flute with her hands but would not blow into the mouthpiece.  But alas, this Lass found to her amazement that still the ‘spirit’ or ‘spirits’ guided her hands, fingers, and composition.   September 30/pm…………………………………………………………..

In haste, Astrid sought her grandfather to tell him of this strange thing but he had left the village with other men to be as it were soldiers. And it was about this time, wandering round her village that Astrid began to feel in some curious way alone and, even lost.  Astrid felt that she was somehow becoming a scapegoat, a person the village would put their angst upon. (Strange as this is, and all but incomprehensible to this young lady, but, and especially in small communities, a person who is not necessarily like every other person, one of similar sensibilities instead of one who has been specially chosen to ‘talk’ with her flute, would be singled out for a revenge against what ever enemy was foremost on the communitie’s mind).

And so without telling her sister or friend Astrid, having inquired discretely of the priest the trail he must know her grandfather had taken and to which location, whom he in turn warned her severely that seeking out her grandfather and the other men could be something far more dangerous that the stories she had heard told around the evening campfires.      And the priest did insist in giving Asrid a magical potion, so great was his love and concern for the girl and her family; her mother Zoe notwithstanding.

This potion he explained would, in any emergency, be able, if correctly used, transport Astrid to a place of safety. A place the priest admitted and even a perscribed time, he was not sure.  “It’s formula my dear Astrid” siad the priedst has had its birth many generations from my day of birth…truly in our line of sorcery we have even forgotten the man,” or hea said circumspectly “the woman who was its original creator.”

Perhaps it was a ‘Terrible One’ suggested Astrid.

“Shhhh…” enunciated the priest. “We must refer to them…and you, whom will begin this treacherous journey…just becaouse we know of them does not mean they are our friends.”

The priest then cupped Astrid’s head with both his hands and kissed her lightly on the crown of her hair. “Go, my child, as i must givew you my blessings…for i know nothing i say will dissuade you from your journey.  May you find your grandfather  and perhaps your Fraqunaught as well.”

Astrid’s head whipped around and loooked deep into the priest’eyeses….”How did you….?” she inquired with her expresssion.

“I am your priest my child,” answered he with a quiet word…”I am aware of all things accursed and blessed.”

Part …..something  October 1…am/

Astrid followed the way directly as she had been given, it was to be a long journey and she imagined her grandfather and how sorry she felt for him feeling it necessary to go off to battle, his age a serious factor for consideration. Astrid wept a sweeping glistening sheet of tears crossing her cheeks as they streamed from the edges of her eyes.

For herself, she had packed as much jerky and bread as she could fit into her nap sack and carried with an attached small rope      a flask of water. There would be streams and pools of water ahead on the trail the priest had assured her.  Astrid also carried a small but efficiently deadly dagger tucked in its sheath under her left arm, a small hatchet which hung from her belt strapped to her thigh and the leather encased sword which she had won in a village-wide contest one year earlier; all bets had been against her winning but Astrid had practiced with the best swordsman of Thailen and, for infinite hours alone positioning her body in the midst of a tight pack of birch trees imagining them as enemy soldiers, thrashing and slicing at them with great intent, never really thinking she would someday be marching in the direction of a battle as she was this day.  October 2-16 pm………………………………..

Dire Hand’s wrath floated in the form of black smoke coming from burning or smoldering structures such as farm houses or wagons or the roasted fields purposely scorched, something like a calling card with Death’s signature at the bottom of the menacing epitaphs.

Astrid pushed forward along the chosen path keeping low and as close to the underbrush for cover not hindering her movement. Not far from the carcass of a cow that was, but for its bones, all but cinder, Astrid halted and retreated into the bushes laying down still and silent listening as men’s voices came in her direction  Men’s voices coming in her directi

Silent as a thought, Asrid, who was laying on her back pulled her knif from undedr her arm and with the other hand unlaced the string that held her hatchet and breathed with modulated care.  “What will i do?” she asked  herself if they discover me. Beut she did not have more than a moment more of thought when a voice she recognized matched the face she saw when she rolled out from under the brush to see Fraqunaught

Immediatly Fraquanaught and a young man Patried drew their weapons crouching and moving in seprate directions, almost balletic the men stepped in attack prone positions. But Astrid just stood facing them, her weaposn danglig in non offensive position.  She was smiling and siad “do either of you twow gentlemen know the way to the battle?”

“You little bitch!” stated Fraquant, the other man unaware of thier friendship. Fraquant had put out his hand to his friend to not strike.

“And a bitch I am! ” said Astid defiantly.  ” A right worthy one for the fight I should think.”

“You a warrior!” scoffed Fraqunaught in a mocking tone. “We are not playing with wooden swords,” he said as he pointed to the tear on his tunic at the top of his shoulder wich was stained with dried blood. His ffriend too, Patried showed signs of battle; cut or torn clothing in several places, scratches on his forehead and nose and, a deep cleavage on his left cheek with a scab of heaped blood.

There was a silent moment before Astrid clasped her sword hilt with two hands and raised it to a striking position. For myself,” she said “I am off to find my grandfather and I bid thee not to hinder my journey.”

The smile of mocking slid from Fraquants face as Petrid and he looked at one another astonished. “Well you can’t go in that direction said Fraquantat looking over his shoulder grimacing at the tug of pain. The bridge has been burned; they are trying and at the rate they are moving, successfully  block our escape routes. The Poles did not bring as many troops as we had hoped for and our (and here Fraqunaut shifted his stance) our leader has made several strategic, clumsy decisions…the battles have not gone well for us.  And if your grandfather has gone anywhere it is in the direction Petrid and I are traveling now.  Feel free my sister to holster your sword,  you will be in need of  all your strength for what is ahead of us.  October 10-2016…………………………………………………

So they walked, and sweated with the dsut of the crumbling  under them as they did, drinking what little waters they had between them; the land jutting inward away from the rivers path and,  where they could access a place to resupply thier empty flasks ….the exposure of the open beeaches made it far to risky to chance the long beach thus finding …themselves a moving target becoming the resting place for a targeted arrow that woudl sink into them from their skull to half way through their body.

After what passed for an evening meal two persons attempted to rest as the third person would watch and listen for wolves or soldiers each with fangs of their own marking, with the ability to shred skin from bones, devouring  leather or chainmail the same.  October 13  …………………………………..

In the morning Astrid awoke and sitting up she found herself alone but only for the moment. From different directions both Franquat and Petrid came to her out of the brush. There had been no encounters only a sighting by Petrid that some of Dire Hand’s men had made and now abandoned camp just over the hill from where they themselves had slept.

The three made their way as carfully as before onto the city hamlet Damshalm.   “Do you belevie in fate?” asked Astrid in a whispered voice to Farquat who was walking mere paces behind her.

“Why in heavens are you asking me this?” said Farquat.

“Well here we are” is all that Astrid said in reply;

“I do beleive in fate sadi Farquat “fate that plays in your favor can easily put its hand against you.

And as these words left his mouth a whooshing noise came out and down from the leaves and branches overhead. A volley of arrows had been targeted upon them. Miracuousley neither Astrid nor Farquant had been perforated but Petrid had not been so lucky. His last moments of conciousness were that of looking into the eyes of Fraquant while blood gushed from either corner of his mouth dripping down his jaw and neck and into the hands of Fraaqunaut.

Fraquanat could not help but weep as Astrid and he ran through the underbrush until exhaustion had overtaken them like wolves in pursuit.  Fraqunaught who by this time was stunned with grief and fatigue lay side to side with Astrid whom by maternal instinct put her head upon his chest and wrapped her arm around his body touching lightly his wounded shoulder feeling for wetness.

“Your shoulder is scabbed over enough,” she said. “I thought with all our movement you may have struck it.”

Frauqnaught said nothing. He was staring into the overhanging trees as if to read an answer of what this life was about. Frughnaught put his free hand up to Astrid’s hair allowing the softness to remind him that not all was cruel and ugly upon planet earth.

“I am sorry Fraqunaught for your friend,” said Astrid with true sorrow in her voice.

“We were only just friends; he was our neighbor living in Vindenal hamlet,” said Franquat.

After a few moments of silence Fraqunaught said “We must not lay here long, we do not know if they may be following us.”

“As sure as we did not know they were pursuing us back there,” said Astrid. “Whoever they were,” she said almost correcting herself for accuracy as a historical reference.

As they lingered to get more breath Astrid lifted her head slightly off Fraqunaugh’s chest and turned her eyes to look directly into his. Both of them in mortal danger, both sorrowful for their current life’s affairs, war was never good but it did have a habit of bringing together situations that might not have occurred, without the current drama, as such  two childhood friends touched lips for the first time, being adults to the culture they were born.

Neither spoke but, simply observed, while a force of nature passed between them. It was something the world refers to as love.

“Now we really must be going my love,” said Astrid.

Both she and he, propping themselves on elbows and knees as their lips never leave their interlock, their free fingers and hands groping, both smiling wildly (“What had happened?” they questioned the air) sweet music with no instruments playing, pounding hearts in tandem, standing, they wiped grass and leaves from their bodies and hair.

Chapter ..

More than having their heads in the clouds Amaranth and Fraguanught’s ability to keep their feet on the ground was something more a philosophical question than one of science.  They made quick time along their agreed way until they came into a mist of smoke with shards of ash particles blowing in their faces. More destruction. More death. The searing stench of life turned ugly.

Buildings smoldering, horse carcasses with feet stiff in the air and a certain greeting of particular disaster. Heads upon pikes.   Severed heads of Dire Hand and his soldiers making, lined as a picket fence in file order, spaced almost artfully.  And then a form, familiar, haunting: Grandfather.

Fraquanaught had to run with his greatest strength to catch Astrid. Breaking through branches and slicing through the undergrowth Astrid carved a mad zig-zag path of escape.

There had been others who had died in the village.  Death was almost as common as life in this century: relatives, friends, distant residents in other counties. To live to the age thirty was an ironic miracle. To live to be a grand parent was a spectacular miracle.  But someone you love stuck upon a stick like a piece of meat you would roast over a fire, there would be no placement for this in Astrid’s conscious mind.  Hatred was born. Hatred would grow.

It was a week before Astrid and Frouquat returned to Thailen hamlet.  The battles had subsumed both sides having been wounded, neither a victor.  It was not an altogether surprise when Astrid and Fraquant stood with their feet covered with ash as they walked where Thailen had once been.

They had seen the smoke from the village for a great distance. It was a site too large not to have meant disaster. Armed they were in each other’s embrace Astrid and Franquaut walked as if they were treading the grounds of a graveyard, the bones of which crackled under their feet.  Once where the church had stood there were charred beams. Once a meeting house, now a house of death. Once their own homes Astrid and Franquat were left with memories only.

Both wept. Young lovers with nothing to reference of such a turning of disgust in their soul.

Franquat had buried Grandfather’s head while Astid sat waiting him starring at the ground pondering an empty void. And now this. It was as if all their youth had withered away.  And Franquat, the multiple wounds of his warrior body.  For not only had he a severe cut upon his shoulder, he had also suffered a knife attack under one of his ribs. Not until they had removed their clothing that first time did Fraquant reference it; such was the pride of brave men.

And later that afternoon as Fraquat his head upon Astrid’s lap, she singing to him and playing her flute, Franquat’s spirit made its feign farewell into the eternity of his families heritage.

Astrid had little choice. Her energies gone, both emotional and physical, she could do little but to cover Franquat with a few branches from a fallen tree and then pretend as she walked away that his burial was sufficient, sufficient for

Along the river bank she walked and sat at the place a cruel child had taken her for a “surprise” when indeed it was nothing less than the place her mother had been found among the tangle of branches that had kept her body from floating to sea.

Astrid pulled from her bag the potion her priest had given her and pinched a few droplets into her mouth. She then reached for the flute and began playing as her fingers, almost with no conscious instruction, began to play an ethereal tune, punctuated with notes even Astrid did not know she was aware of how to play. And then, all was still, all nature void of sound as Astrid disappeared.

Part II (updated 10-24-2016)

And it came to pass in the middle years of 1960 Astrid, who had come through something of a wormhole to have arrived in San Francisco, California.

But alas, to play the role of the person whom would carry our story to the birth and beyond of Amaranth, had to be compliant with the times of the culture which were known as the Hippy Movement. And this specific era was a time when young men and young women left their college dorms, let dirt accumulate under their fingernails and washed their hair with the same normality as they had seen their father clean out the car garage.

Astrid would eventually go to work for a man named Mr. Wangerstein, an aged and exceedingly wealthy resident who owned the largest residence on Nob Hill which every person simply referred to it as the Wangerstein Mansion.

Several more changes occurred to Astrid inclusive of the tap on the head as she passed through the wormhole; her hair had grown a tremendous length, her voice now resonated like a viola, deep and soothing and, she had gained years in that she was now eighteen. But what a surprise, Astrid had grown no taller!  She was every bit four foot and eight inches in height as the day and century she did her disappearing act in Thaylin.

Neither had her beauty waned, her eyes as luminous and seductive as in any century, and if anything, the overall attractiveness of her face and body had increased.

Astrid had not simply materialized in San Francisco and acquired a job with Wangerstein.  Actually, there was quite a bit of competition to get the position of being his ‘personal maid’.  The comfort and security of living in your parents home, having full stomachs and daily bubble baths did resonate with many a Hippy girl after having lived the life of what was termed a ‘flower child’.

It was a nasty showdown in front of  the great Wanger mansion gates, the little scamps of the Haight-Ashbury district, dressed in their most flirtatious clothing each with the thought that it would be rather nice to live in a grand manner even if meant scrubbing floors like Cinderella when once they read the three by five card on the co-op food store bulletin board advertising the job.

Old Man Wanger would not be the one to interview the young women who filled out applications in the great entrance hall circumferenced with eleven-foot mirrors one of which was a two-way mirror which he sat behind. The girls were greeted by temporaries from behind a long desk and when finished were told to sit off in an antechamber. And at the end of the day-long interview process, Mr. Wangerstein had sufficient time to study each face and body to make his evaluation for the girl most suited for the position of ‘personal maid’.

And here we find why Astrid, above all other contestants, was the selected  for the job. No other person could champion Astrid’s luminous skin and her beautiful face all framed by her fabulous hair.

But beauty and all the rewards were rarely given by Nature without price and, one night while Astrid was scrubbing the mansion marble stairs which extended three stories in height Mr. Wangerstein who was drunk with his favorite bourbon took it upon himself to rape and impregnate Astrid without her permission.

This, of course, was not Wangerstein’s intention for he wanted nothing to do with Astrid other than that she clean his socks, scrub his floors and, provide an open vessel for his, eh, wanger.

Indeed, Wanger the Banger wished that after his death his great fortunes would go to the city of San Francisco and the city elders would build a large memorial in his honor; perhaps a larger than life statue of him.

But, alas, the justice of Nature’s courts had other plans and if anything “Wanger-the-Banger” as he would be remembered and called out in the school yards of San Francisco (from children who had not a clue as to the origin of the epithet) would be known as the Hippy-Rapist.

As related, Astrid’s head was struck by an object while passing through the wormhole which left her objective thinking not in its best form and so, with the assault perpetrated against her she was unsure of how to relate what had happened. To note, Astrid had never left Wangerstein manner once she became, as it were, a slave to her employer. This was something Wangerstein had accomplished by telling Astrid that if indeed she did leave the manor she would not be allowed to enter it again. She would loose all the monies she had been earning while working for him and that he would in no way give her references in that she might obtain another job.

So hump away he did, that old Wanger-Banger, once he had accomplished his first attack against Astrid, he came onto her every night thereafter and, sometimes every day. (“Goodness,” reasoned Astrid to herself “this old bird has such great endurance for being, well, “such an old bird”).

Astrid all but forgot what had happened in her life so many centuries ago.  For her, Thailen Hamlet and all the other lives and occurrences of her first fourteen years seemed something of a television mini-movie, the very material she fed her mind daily while she cooked and scrubbed for the old-bugger Wanger butthead III.

And now we shall move ahead, yet not into centuries but, in years and, this would be the day Astrid’s child of Wangerstein inception had herself turned fourteen years old.

Amaranth was so very much like her mother in that her beauty was unquestionably divine, and showed as Astrid had in her youth a forthrightness of mind, will and, purpose. Sadly, Amaranth was at her innocent age of fourteen already showing signs on the palms and fingers of her hands of having washed far too many socks and stair steps.

Of course, the Wanger Man would try to take advantage of his very own daughter and this indeed he did but Astrid was always in proximity where she could fend him off on behalf of her very own daughter and allowed herself the unpleasantry. And once as a child he had so wrestled to have her that Amaranth’s head also clipped upon the corner of a table giving her a life sentencing of (and there is no other way to relate this) ‘incorrect thinking’.

And after assaulting her one more time Wanger lay back on the library couch, while Astrid took it upon herself to drive a stake through Mr. Wangerstein for no other purpose than basic hygiene and that we might move along with our story. In several days the authorities would discover Wanger stiff as a broom with a large butcher knife having been forced to his chest and pinning him like a laboratory insect to his couch,  gleaming with still wet blood and still with an erection. (Oh, my!)

October 28/PM Friday….(not the thirteenth) ……………………..

Astrid, even with her crippling innate desire for truth and honesty surmised that Mr. Wangerstein was not really saving money for her all of these years and so with the little few coins she had accumulated, those fallen between the couch pillows, those falling from Wanger’s pant pockets while he was on a rape rampage, and those she could find in his sock drawers (Well, if he was going to assault her she might as well be on the payroll.) gathered those monies and her child by the hand, as well bed rolls and a few partials of clothing, doughnuts from the morning breakfast and, left the manor never to look back with her eyes or mind.

Having been an uber fan of television, and most especially crime/detective shows, Astrid had a running knowledge as to the severity of her judicious crime and knew that time and chance would eventually catch up with her and her daughter (not to mention the hangman) while they were on the run (get it?).

Alas, we have spent so little time developing in this story and rhyme about the passionate love between Astrid and Amaranth. Rest assured no greater bond had been formed between mother and daughter on this planet earth than between these two persons and yet Astrid was fully aware that she and her daughter would be separated for the remainder of their lives. The only resolve was that Astrid would have to continue her life, which was something of a real myth, for all she had lived and grown through these many centuries; information Astrid had mused and meditated upon while living in San Francisco and worked through musical composition, the notes themselves revealing a map of understanding.

Deep in her primal consciousness, Astrid was a master at surviving in the wilderness having foraged under roots, atop trees and catching birds with the tip of her arrows. And so she would make the best of their escape and hiding until no more would be no more.

Daily Astrid read the newspapers and listened to the radios of the cafes using Amaranth and her strange beauty to entice persons to give them free food and drink.

Fortunately, there was scant physical description of Astrid and nothing of Amaranth.  The detectives on the case had gone back to the persons who did the original interviewing for the position of Wangerstein maid. And those they could find were very certain of Astrid’s appearance, she being so extraordinary in her rare beauty and relatively ‘tiny’ in her stature.

Of those service persons who labored at the Wangerstein manor or those delivery, persons had exactly the same recollection of Astrid. Lythe, fragile in her movement, “someone who moved like and ghostly cat”, quoted the postal delivery person.

And so, while in public, Astrid did bunch up her hair under her hat while she looked proudly upon her daughter who had no real sense of the doom that was set upon them.

One day when the ladies had awakened inside their made up tent, somewhere near the back entrance of the De Young museum, Astrid sat Amaranth upright and put her either hand on either of her child’s shoulder.

“Listen, my child,” said Astrid. “Whether we run in San Francisco or Austin, Texas or in Paris, France they will catch us. And I think for myself I have already come to the end of myself in this realm.”

And with the term “this realm” even Amaranth whose thinking was “incorrect” understood this to be something of more than just a few minutes of ‘girls talk’.  “What does “this realm” mean mother?” asked Amaranth suspiciously.

“Well, my daughter, California is not like the Old Country I was born in. Although machines make life seem so much more sophisticated, it really is slow here in comparison to the designs fo ancient knowledge. I wished for more time; I envisioned a time when there was space to help educate you properly; a time without television.  I thought that somehow I would manage to gain enough money to send you to a school to become a doctor (prostitution pays well she had reasoned as a way for accumulating money).

“A doctor mother?”

“Yes, my love; you would have a life of healing for which I believe to be your true life’s purpose. You play the flute so effortlessly…it has so much untapped power, I see that you are the one to unlock its deepest mysteries.”

“But my killing,” and here Astrid just swung her head around in the direction of the Wanger mansion “has changed everything.”

“But I barely play the flute mother,” said Amaranth incredulously.  “And why do you worry, we will have a lifetime together whether in this realm or some other.”

“Unfortunately my dear Amaranth, as I have been trying to relate, there is no time,” said Astrid who was holding back tears.

Astrid handed the flute to Amaranth who took it with as much familiarity that it might have been an extended portion of her own body. And without regard for anything urgent or not Amaranth began to place her fingers in perfect  synchronicity  allowing the simple wooden ornament with the strange, cryptic carvings and inlays of ink, to omit the most quizzical and yet pleasing sound.

The flute’s markings at first glance looked nothing more than careless stains accumulated over the centuries, but with further investigation, and that of the minute, purposeful carvings, communicated a language that Amaranth would one day learn.

But this was not the day.

Astrid put forward her hands and placed them firmly upon Amaranth’s shoulders. “My love, I am fainting. I feel I am no more,” she said as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Mother,” said Amaranth who was also in tears. “Mother, don’t leave me!” screamed Amaranth as she watched her mother become what ?  Vapor.

Astrid was fading, disappearing and then she was gone. December 9th 2016

Chapter….Part III    Dec. 12-2016 pm The Education of Amaranth

It had been more than one month since Astrid disappeared before her daughter’s eyes and in many ways it was something of a miracle that she had not been beaten to death by an assalient or run over by a passing vehicle as she darted in no particular direction as if she were racing to catch up with her very life. And Amaranth had only a vague understanding of money and its cost per value exchange and so,  in a matter of days, she spent all that her mother had left her.

Amaranth had succumbed to the trait of stealing food from small and large vendors alike. Amaranth found this type of foraging particularly convenient at outdoor food fairs where among the milling shoppers who enjoyed taking their time choosing which vegetables looked most ripe she could gather in her arms her daily meal and fade as if she had been  devoured by mist and move through the crowd without paying for them.

There were also dumpsters; those flanking restaurants provided the greatest assortment of throw aways. Amarnath would say to herself…”Well, today I feel like Italian,  no, on second thought I will have Chinese if you please.” and then she would go to one of several alley locations scouring for what fare may be available.

One day, awaiting the noon rush to be over back behind her favorite Chinese restaurant, Amaranth spent a few moments climbing up and leaning into a dumpster when she was confronted by a Chinese boy, someone in relative closeness to her age whom was named Wing.  “What are you doing climbing in our dumpster?! cried out Wing in a threatening and high-pitched nasal voice.  Amaranth jumped from the top of the dumpster and landed, stumbling a bit, and when she stood found herself was face to face with Wing.  Wing, with one glance at the poor frail creature Amaranth presented; her torn clothing and unwashed, straggly hair, took immediate pity upon Amaranth and his face, molded in anger, began to sag with sorrow.

“I am sorry,” apologized Amaranth sincerely.  “I was, I am hungry. I’ll leave now if you promise not to call the police.”

Wing spat on the ground as he had seen his Grandfather do at the mention of the police.  “My people do not call the police,” said Wing defiantly.  “If you are hungry I will ask Grandfather if he will give you some food.”

Amaranth said nothing when Wing appeared a few minutes later with a small cardboard box of chow mein. Wing held the steamy food out to Amaranth who grabbed the box without saying anything and grabbed the chow mein with her fingers and began to push the food into her mouth.

Wing watched with amazement wondering how Amaranth showed no signs of pain knowing that any other person would take her time lifting the noodles up with their chopsticks letting them cool before putting eating.

In a minute or two the cardboard box was empty and Amaranth, experiencing the first hot meal in many days felt a wave of shock through her system.

“Do you need more?” asked Wing curiously. But Amaranth put her hand to her stomach and looked at Wing saying sincerely “I am not sure.”

Neither Amarnath nor Wing knew what to say regarding their al fresco meeting and so they merely stared at each other. Moments passed until the silence was broken by the angry voice of Wing’s grandfather calling him back to work.

“He sounds angry,” said Amaranth with a bit of a smile. “Must be having a bad day.”

“Grandfather always has bad days,” said Wing.  “I have to go,” said Wing.

As Wing turned Amarnath said, “So your name is Wing, like a bird or something.”

Wing cocked his head and said “I think it is no mistake we have met” and walked up the two concrete stairs and into his Grandfathers restaurant.