Category Archives: Rachel Burkholder

A Child of Orn – A Prologue (part 2)

Last week I posted the first part of “A Child of Orn”

Edzel sat with  his face lifted up, soaking in the moonlight that came in through a crevasse in the ceiling of the cave. The moon  had reached its fullest height, but only part of it was visible. Edzel had found this place when he was a small boy.  The crack in the tunnel wall that led to this cavern had been just large enough for him to squeeze through.  He had been confident that none of his people knew about the crack or they would have sealed it.  Cracks to the outside were forbidden.  But he had managed to keep it hidden even while widening it as he grew from a small boy to a lithe young man.   Edzel rationalized that technically he was not outside, nor had he violated any of the basic tenets of the Chailltaer, that is until the day she had come.

Edzel had been coming to see the moon for several phases, when one evening of the waxing Gibbous Moon she had been sitting in the pool of light with an open cut on her hand.  He watched spellbound as the blood spilled out at her feet and she muttered words he did not understand.  But that had been years ago when he was young and frightened.  Now he was older and well versed in her arts.

He had asked her once where she had come from since she did not appear or act like any of the Chailltaer, but she had smiled at him and never answered.  He stopped asking; he knew that to know that secret could in fact ruin everything and he did not want that.

“You know the power is not at its strongest.”  The scratchy voice of an old woman sounded from the darkness of the inner cavern.

Edzel smiled into the darkness. “I know, M’thair.”

M’thair chuckled, but replied seriously, “You should not use the power of a waxing Gibbous.”

“Because it is the power reserved for women,”  Edzel recited. “I was not going to use it. I was savoring the presence of its power while I waited for you.”

“Ha. Move away.  It is my time,” the woman said coming out of the darkness to stand in the edge of the pool of moonlight. M’thair was small and hunched with frail skin and weak pale eyes.  Her hair was long and silvery, held back in a myriad of braids and beads.  She was old like the hills, and smelled of earth and blood.

Edzel scrambled to his feet and backed away from her.  She twirled with surprising grace and agility around the light, muttering an older language under her breath.  She pricked her finger and sprinkled the ground around her with blood.  Edzel came back to her and offered her his hand.  She smiled at him.

“You know that it can only weaken you. But for me the loss of blood can only strengthen.”

Edzel nodded. She always warned him, but he ignored her concern.

She drew her knife from its sheath on her belt and cut along the thick of his thumb.  She followed the white line of a scar, which was proof of this same ritual having been performed before.

Edzel’s blood gushed out, spilling over her hands and into the moonlight.  It was dark, rich blood full of youthful vitality.

M’thair cut a small slit on her hand that was covered in Edzel’s blood.  Their bloods mixed. Edzel felt something in him stir and pull.  His blood flowed more freely.  He fell to his knees.

“I bind with blood, blood of youth, old of innocence, the blood of man, the blood of a daughter. I bind this request to the power of Gaelach.”

Edzel watched as the binding took place.  M’thair changed.  He had been watching her change for years but ever since he had been providing a piece of the binding, she had changed even more.  Before, she went from what he would have called an old hag to a woman of nondescript age, but now she became a young woman.   Her back straightened, her skin darkened and firmed.  Her weak eyes brightened, but her silvery locks stayed the vibrant color of the moon.

Though she was not terribly beautiful, she was the most beautiful creature Edzel had ever seen.

For a moment while the transformation took place, the moonlight seemed to wane and Edzel thought he saw a shadow pass over M’thair’s face.  “You always give me such youth,”  she said, grinning to the open night sky.  She turned to look at Edzel; she paused and Edzel could not read her expression.  It was at once full of joy, hope, despair, and pain.  She gave him a weak smile before tearing at the ragged hem of her dress to bind Edzel’s bleeding hand.  “You need to rest,” she said softly.  Her voice was still husky but now it had a hint of something sweet about it.

M’thair helped Edzel up and led him over to a bed of leaves and moss in the corner of the cavern.  She had several bags of dried fruits and nuts and couple jugs of wine and cider stored there.

“How long do you think it will last?”  Edzel asked, breathlessly.  They had not found a permanent solution to her aging. In a few moons, she would start to age, and after three Sans Festivals, they would have to repeat this ritual, though sometimes it would be longer.  Edzel could not tell why sometimes it would work longer and other times it did not.

“Hush, we don’t need to talk about that now.”  M’thair poured some wine into a flask and gestured for Edzel to drink.  Reluctantly, he took it.  He was very tired, more tired than he ought to be.   He shivered, chilled to his very marrow, as he drank.  The wine was sour.  He stared up at M’thair her brow creased with concern and he knew that he’d do anything for her. She brushed the strands of his curly black hair away from his face.

“I love you,” Edzel said in his weakness.

M’thair gasped and tried to cover it with a laugh.  “Dear one, love is a very powerful binding.”  She took the flask from him.  He was barely holding it anyway.  He was so weak.

“I know.  But I…”  Edzel’s strength failed him.

“Hush,”  M’thair whispered, placing her fingers to his lips.  “Don’t speak of such things.”

Edzel muttered something incoherently and passed out from exhaustion and pain.

A Child of Orn – A Prologue

Dear faithful readers (and new readers),

LHP is about to release the next issue of Gallery of Worlds (June 1). In preparation, I’ll be posting the prologue to the new serial, which is making it’s debut in the issue. I hope you enjoy. I’ve been working on this story for several years now and am very excited to start sharing this strange world of mystery, darkness, magic, and light with all of you.  I’d love to hear  your feedback.

So without further ado…

A Child of Orn  - Prologue to The Keepers

The darkness penetrated her thoughts and consumed her being.  She remembered a time when the darkness had not frightened her.  She remembered a time when the darkness had been like a cloak that warmed her, when darkness had been a friend that she knew better than herself.  She remembered a time when stone and earth walls and rooms had been safe and comforting. But this was not that darkness.  This was malicious darkness, full of hatred, pain, and horror. This darkness was that sort of pitch that nightmares were made of, from which even death fled.

She shivered more from the fear that gripped at her heart than for the chilly dampness.  She muttered a prayer begging for Orn to give her rest, to take her breath and let her soul leave this hellish existence.  But Orn had left her, he did not dare come to these chambers.  That is what he  wanted.  He wanted Orn to come…it was a trap.  She shivered and even though her mouth was parched and her head ached from dehydration, she managed to shed a tear.

“Orn…come not to this place…give me strength to endure…the light.”

She heaved a choking sob.  Light.  Dreadful, harsh light.  Oh, how she hated the brightness!  She was not supposed to see it.  She was forbidden to see daylight and yet…was it daily that her captor dragged her out into the brilliance of the burning orb, tying her to the black iron that warmed to scorching temperatures, searing her skin?  He would come and taunt her.  He blasphemed Orn.  He violated the sacred name of death.  He made her look at the Sun!

But she would endure.  She would not let him take her soul.  She belonged to Orn.

Harsh, yellow light reflected off the damp stones.  She backed into the corner of her cell as far as she could. She could see the hundred eyes of the other captives.  Pale opalescent eyes stared out of taunt, terrified faces.  These were faces of creatures like her, once human but now reduced to the stupor of fear and lifelessness.  Their faces were barely recognizable as faces – all bloodied, burned, scarred, bruised, and flesh torn.  She could see all the horror and hopelessness she felt in the dim glow of the lantern in the faces of the captives.  They were all thinking the same thing: who was it going to be this time?

The cruel brightness of the lantern stung her eyes as several men all hooded and shadowed came into her cell.  Even though she shared her cell with several others, as she squinted against the burning, she knew they were going to take her.  She tilted her chin ever so slightly.  She was not going to let them conquer her.  They may kill her body, but her soul was Orn’s.  She had served him faithfully.  She had not answered any of his questions.  She had stayed firm.  No amount of burning or blinding searing light was going to make her give up her faith.

One of the hooded man laughed sinisterly.

They grabbed her by the hair and half-pulled, half-pushed her along the dark corridor of rough damp stone.  These were old tunnels from a time when the gods roamed the earth.  She stumbled along trying to keep up with their forceful pace.

Suddenly she was flung into the greater, harsher light of day.  Her eyes burned so fiercely that she thought that they were going to ignite.  She drew a sharp breath but that was all the visible sign she gave of the pain.  She heard him laugh.  And she was kicked down.  The force caused her to bite her lip.  Blood filled her mouth.  She spat it out as strong hands pulled her to her unsteady feet.  She was then tossed onto the apparatus of her torture.

It was a disk of black metal that had been infused with magic to not only reflect the sun’s light but its true heat as well.  There were six metal braces  One for each wrist and ankle and one for the waist and one for the neck.  Those same strong and malevolent hands bound her.  She was forced to face the sun.  If she tried to turn her face away jagged teeth of the metal brace around her neck would bite into her skin.

“I belong to Orn,” she said through clenched teeth.

He laughed. “I know.  That is why I want you.  Your twisted little black soul is just too good to waste.”

“I belong to Orn…I seek the dark places. I dwell in the deep.  I care for the sacred things, the holy things, the treasured things of Orn,”  she muttered.  Endurance.  She just needed to endure the light of day.  “I belong to Orn.”

He started to speak in a language that only the gods knew.  It chilled her to the bone despite the sizzling heat and burning brilliance of the light of sun and apparatus.  This was something new. He had never done this before.  Normally he questioned her, mocked her, blasphemed Orn and profaned the name of Death.  But now he spoke words that cut deeper than taunts.  He  was cutting away at her soul, slicing it from her living body. She could feel her soul squirm.  This was a new kind of pain.  It was worse than anything she had endured yet.

He smiled and spoke the words louder.

Her soul writhed and twisted, straining to leave her body. “I belong to Orn,”  she chanted.  She willed her soul to stay.  Even though she wanted to be free and rid of the mortal flesh that caused her pain.  It was not her choice to decide when death should come.  It was not his decision either, though he did not seem to bother with the proper order of things.

“I belong to Orn,”  she whispered.  Her soul ripped from her body with a force that could have leveled cities.  He cackled with mirthless glee.  She felt pain so deep, so raw that she could only gape wordlessly. There was no sound that could express the pain. There was no escape from it either.  The pain was too much to faint from.  In all consuming agony, she watched with a distant horrific fascination as her writhing soul burst. An emptiness and loss washed over her; the sun’s brilliant rays seemed muted and the pain felt immaterial; all thoughts of caring left her and she was completely hollow.

He cursed and with a howl of anger and frustration, he killed her with a single word.

 

Inspiration in the Stillness

This month I’ve been looking at who and what inspires me.  For some, inspiration enriches the soul, helps us to appreciate the world we live in just a little more.  For others, inspiration drives us to recreate or, as Tolkien called it, sub-creation.  The beautiful sunset, the rain streaking down the window obscuring the woods, the bright colors of spring reflected in the varied outfits of the busy passers by on the city street, the long road lined with red-buds and blooming trees – they inspire us to paint, sculpt, draw, write, or read. In my last post I called these the wild places that compel me to be something more and make me aspire to tell stories. But often I am too busy, too noisy to appreciate these things.

Inspiration breaths in the quiet moments, when we are still.

I am reminded of Psalms 46:10″Be still, and know that I am God.”

If we acknowledge the truth of what Tolkien wrote about the art of sub-creation- we can only create because God has created us and we enjoy creation only because of Him – then we cannot truly sub-create without acknowledging the creator.  Imagination becomes an imitation of the act of creation.

Be still.

Take a moment and enjoy creation.  Be inspired.  Do not let the business of life detract from the enjoy the world we live in, from finding inspiration in the wild places, the books we read, and the people we know.

Be still and know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Be inspired in the stillness of a quiet moment, of a gentle breeze.

Inspiration: In the Wild Places

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

When I was a child I longed for the Road that would take me anywhere but where I was.  I longed for wardrobes, and magic paintings, for castles in the sky, and lost cities in the ocean. I found myself hunting for faerie rings and dragon’s eggs.  To no avail. But it never stopped me from dreaming.

In the wild places – in the creek half hidden in snow, the purple mountains rising up into the pink sky of a spring sunset, the fog sprawling through a valley, the clear night with the bright silver moon and the cold wind howling, the bend on the dark road – there is mystery and fantasy.  There is that hope of the unknown and the adventure of letting your feet or your mind take you there.cute dragonb

There are dragons hidden in the hills
There are nymphs laughing in the brooks
There are faeries dancing in the glens
There are knights defeating evil enchantments
There are lady heroes fighting the enemy hordes
There are boys finding courage to draw swords from stones
There are girls discovering the magic of words
There are cats hunting fey creatures
There are roads untraveled, lands unexplored
There are words yet to be written
There is inspiration in the wild places.

Inspiration: “This Book Was Never A Blog”*

I generally don’t read nonfiction.  It is not that I find it boring (though I’ll be honest, I used to), I just don’t have as much time to read as I once did and when I have time to read I want to be entertained. I want fantasy and escapism. (Does this make me a shallow person?  I hope not.)

Anyway, I had a delightful moment while shopping at Christmas where I was just browsing the books at a local B&N waiting for other people to finish their shopping, and I came across a book that looked interesting.  I picked it up and started reading.  I was laughing before I knew it. I turned to my sister because I had to share the awesomeness that I had just discovered, and she turned to me as well, desperately wanting to share the awesomeness that she had just discovered, and we showed each other the same book. Yes!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and other concerns picture curtsy of goodreads.com

Picture courtesy of goodreads.com

It was Mindy Kaling’s new book:  Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? and other concerns.

As a good sister, I bought the book for my sister for Christmas.  She returned the favor by allowing me to borrow said book.

I’ve been enjoying Mindy’s quips as much as I did that day in B&N. She is naturally witty and is full of hilarious anecdotes about her attempts at success. Since she has a New York Times Bestseller book, it is obvious that she has achieved success, and she has some delightful insights into that as well.

But what struck me was her attitude about failure and her eventual success.  She was inspiring through her failings, through her bad luck, and her accidental achievement.  She worked hard, lived in the scarier parts of town, but always maintained her confidence.  I suffer from discouragement. Since I write by inspiration, I become melancholy when things don’t go my way. But even in her lonely times, Mindy knew her talent, knew her goals, and knew where she wanted to be.  She worked long hours, hard hours, fought with her co-workers as she strove for excellence in her writing.  She was honing her skills.

Honing one’s talent is difficult. We’ve met those people who can play sports or are whizzes at math, or who can read a book in a day. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work to actually succeed.  Pro athletes, for all the grief we give them about not actually working, still have to train, in and out of season. They cannot sit on the couch and eat Doritos. Like the athlete who works out everyday, the writer must write everyday.

Mindy and her roommate/best friend spent hours writing together, rehearsing comedy sketches and talking about their craft. I must say having a cheerleader or friendly critic is one of the best ways to start honing your craft.  Here at LHP, we are each other’s cheerleaders and critics.  We read each other’s stories, we edit them, we share our ideas and harass the slackers. But it all started out of our friend’s living room.  Every other Friday night we’d get together and read sections from stuff we were/are working on. For me it was the first time I shared my writing with anyone.  It was scary.  That first story was terrible. I got better, as my friends challenged me and took what I had and encouraged me to make it better.

Happy Writing!  Happy Reading!

*An alternate title to Mindy Kaling’s book.  She has a marvelous list.  Somehow it seemed to work here.