Saturday, March 31, 2012

Twisted Paths of Fate - Part 5

Yes indeed, I finally figured out a suitable title for my formerly "Untitled Short-Story":
Twisted Paths of Fate 

And here is finally the next part, which sort of started with another prompt from Lindsay. However, I won't tell you yet what it was, since it actually inspired me for a scene near the end of the story. No spoilers for now ;)
I hope you enjoy this part nevertheless.

-> the beginning
-> previous part

"Tell me about that world of yours, Valeria." He leaned back, making himself comfortable in the high-backed chair. Alexander knew better than to meet a seer's eyes too long, and so he watched the ruby-red liquid in his cup. Patience was not one of his strengths, but he forced himself to appear generous and calm. The past years have trained him in recognizing how to deal with any friend and foe.
"It is boundless, in a way you can't possibly understand. I can see what is happening in every corner of the world at any point in time. My advice helps to decide the fate of countless people." She sat straight like a lady, one hand on the table, the other resting in her lap. The wooden staff with the eternal flame leaned on the edge of the table, it would never be far from her.
"Is that so? Really? I've heard that your gift is exceptionally strong. It seems your reputation was not exaggerated." Now it was him who sounded unimpressed.
Of course, by the time the contract was struck, no less than three great mages had proclaimed she could turn into a promising seer, provided she soon got proper training. And Alexander's father had not only the interest but also the means to keep eyes and ears on her to make sure she didn't disappoint his expectations. The amber talisman which lay between them on the table was proof that the royal family still wanted this union.
Valeria did not mind that her future husband being aware of her abilities. It didn't need the vision to know that he and everyone else who would be bound to her through this marriage would expect to use her visions to their advantage.
"What do you want? Most people are rather eager to ask their questions after they made the effort to come to me, even if they already know the price.” Patience wasn't her strength, either, but she had no reason to disguise it. “Do you know the price, Alexander Knevash?" Seer's might not always tell all they knew, but they didn't deceive people. No matter if she used it for a stranger, her husband or herself – her gift always demanded something in return.
"I want you to come with me."
This caught Valeria by surprise. It was not the request of a prediction. In fact, it wasn't a request at all. Her ears were not used to that. For a moment, she even had difficulties to understand what he was saying. Again, he had not acted like she had expected it. It didn't help at all that she knew this mistake occurred only because she had not consulted the flame about this meeting. With his arrival, she was entering a blind spot in her visions.
Finally, she took a deep breath to calm herself and stifle a sigh at his stolidity. She hated repetition, almost as much as being surprised.
"I already told you ..."
"Come with me and see the world with your own eyes, not through the flame. Touch the velvety petals of blood-red Archaris with your own fingers, smell the sweet, shimmering moss in the Golden Forest and hear the mating-songs of the butterflies in Zarran, which makes your head dizzy in the most pleasant way. If you think you'll miss your nice view, I'll bring you to the Wandering Desert of Khalandy, where the dunes vary between the colours of heather and silver. We can go there by riding on an ekara, since a Water Bridge obviously won't be out of the question."
He winked at her.
Valeria blinked speechlessly. He actually had winked at her, after his parade of words.
Not only did he not request a vision, he didn't show any interest in the answers she might be able to give him and his allies. Furthermore, he insisted on taking her away from here, out into the world, but not for his own amusement or to present her to his family and enemies. He wanted her step out of her tower and leave the valley. She had seen most of the places he mentioned in the flame, always curious about where the people came from who asked for her help. Never before had she let herself even dream of visiting those far away wonders by herself. That was not the way of a seer.
Once again, Alexander let his gaze wander, as if their conversation was only unimportant small-talk. He studied the round room which filled out most of the towers base. A few paces to his left a rail-less stairway started to climb upwards, made of the same dark stone as the wall, looking like it had grown right out of it. The ceiling was a bit lower than in a regular house, and he wondered how many floors might be fitted into the building. It definitely looked smaller on the outside.
Valeria used this to chance a look towards her staff. The fire revealed nothing.
'Is this the choice I have to make? The one question that can't be answered with the help of a vision?'
She regarded the man opposite her, taking in consideration all she had learned from the many times she had watched him with her gift, and what was now presented to her in the flesh. There was no doubt that he had grown into a fine, strong and resourceful man. Aside the influence of his family, he had connections and magic of his own at his command.
"You know, there is only one way that a seer can go out into the world like you suggest."

-> part six

Monday, March 26, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award & Resolution

First, my new resolution:
I set myself the goal to blog at least once a week here ... about writing, my writing-progress or something else writing-related. Starting today.
Why? Because I need to "force" myself to keep going and thus improving. If I don't do that, I'll never finish a good, well-written story.

Second, it's about time I say thank you to Elise for giving me the "Versatile Blogger" award. I believe it's the first I ever got, and certainly the first one for my writing-only blog here.

These are the rules:
- Share 7 completely random pieces of information about myself.
- Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award and inform them of their nomination by posting a comment on their blogs.

In return you gain the right to "wear" that nice, green badge in your blog, meet old and new friends in their blogs and encourage other bloggers to do the same.

Since this blog is about writing, the 7 random facts about me will mostly be about this obsession.
1. I can't really say why I want to write, but I feel miserable when I don't.
2. I get most of my better ideas while walking to or home from work.
3. As far as I remember, I've never dreamed about any of my stories or characters.
4. I'd love to write a story based on my cats, but I just don't know how.
5. Hardly anybody reads or is interested in what I write, although I'm in dire need of feedback.
6. Although I've started working through 3 writing-courses/books, I still haven't learned how to do it properly.
7. An awful lot of things distract me far too easily from writing. 

And these are the 15 bloggers (in no particular order) who I'd like to reward with this award, because I like what they write or because I think it's about time that they blog again :)
I hope none of them already got it, since I checked each blog before naming them, and that they like this little present. 
4. Rek
5. Misha
12. Jenny
14. Kamen

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Untitled Short-Story - Part 4

This is the second part to my answer to Lindsay's (second) prompt:
The moment he saw her he couldn't take his eyes off her. The moment she slapped him he knew he would love her forever.

The shrill shriek would have done any girl of 5 honour, but it was disgracing Alexander Knevash, who was old enough to be a squire, and he knew it. His shaking hands also shamed him, and for a moment he feared that he had even wet himself.
Then he registered that his fingers twitched in empty air and he remembered. The soft, moist nose of his sisters horse had touched him in the neck. He had been so focused on carrying that awful heavy bucket that this tickling sensation had scared him almost witless. Water had splashed on his trousers and the horse's legs - and apparently a girl that was now staring at him out of the shadows. Her red hair was so fiery bright that he could see it even in this poor light.
Alexander still stared when she stalked towards him, transfixed by the sky-blue of her eyes, noticing the knife in her hands only because its blade had the same dangerous glint. Even her dress was blue, although now stained with dark spots of water. And yet, he never hand seen something more beautiful. Never mind her angry glare, the threateningly raised weapon or her rather dishevelled and untidy state. Had Alexander been old enough, he would have known that he was about to fall in love.
"You idiot! You've ruined everything! Your scream will bring the whole castle into the stables! I should have stabbed you in the back and left when I had the chance!"
She ranted on like this for a few more seconds, but fell into a stubborn silence when the adults arrived and dragged her away. Just before his father and others blocked his view, Alexander saw how she turned her head and granted him a last scowl of sky-blue.


Later, he had learned that she was Rianne of Duskandar, born to be a warrior-princess, and brought to the castle as a hostage. She and her guardians had only been on the journey through, so they had stayed apart from the rest of the household and guests. When the girl had gone missing, there had not been a great fuss about it, because certain people were not meant to know about her presence at all. They didn't underestimate her afterwards.
Alexander and Rianne had never been meant to meet, and the had never met again since that short episode in their childhood. Still, her fearless strength had made a heavy impression on him. He soon stopped being a naive weakling, although he might not have developed quite like his father would have liked.
Now he granted Valeria a sliver of that admiring stare. It was not enough to diminish his deep feelings for the red-head that had stolen his heart before he knew how to love. However, he acknowledged the strength and courage of the seer with a little smile, who met his gaze unfaltering. It was not her place to make demands. Neither her magic nor her birth granted her that right, and what independence she might have had got lost when she accepted the proposal.
He would consider giving in, nevertheless. Just a little. Just to see what her world might have to offer. In the end, she would be his wife. Her power would be his to command. She would help him find Rianne.

-> part five

I welcome any comment and critique on my writing, especially the helpful ones.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Untitled Short Story - Part 3

This is the continuation of the (still) untitled short-story I started with a prompt from my NaNo-Cheerleaders.

You might want to read part one and part two, first.

So, this is the second prompt I chose, given by Lindsay (again):
The moment he saw her he couldn't take his eyes off her. The moment she slapped him he knew he would love her forever.

Alexander's breath formed little, white clouds while he carefully placed his feet on the snow. Luckily, he had woken up later than he had planned and so the sun was already rising. In the night, his treacherous lungs would certainly have betrayed his presence to the guards on the wall. He could no more stop breathing than keeping the half-frozen snow from crunching beneath his high boots.
It never had occurred to him to pull up the bright red scarf he was wearing, or at least the gold-lined broad collar of his mantle. Unlike his older brother, he had never been trained to be a soldier, and just like his sisters he tended to act without thinking. A child of the royal blood had to mind consequences as little as he cared to leave behind his favourite garments. After all, the fine boots had been a present from his uncle, along with the brave, grey pony which waited for him impatiently in the stables.
At least, it did in Alexander's mind. To him, it was his closest friend, valiant like his father's best war-horse and more intelligent than the smartest hound of the whole court. Why else was Silverstar always eager to greet him and would let none else ride him? Together they had mastered to jump over the little stream behind the castle and bushes that were almost as high as his waist. And surly the pony hated to have to leave this place tomorrow, just as much as he.
His plan was simple: run away before the nurse came to fetch him for breakfast, hide in the woods until his sisters and their convoy had departed and then return to the castle. It would take at least a few days until another convoy could be organised, but he hoped that he had convinced his father to let him stay for much longer by then.
Of course, Alexander had never once in his life spent a night outdoors. He had come prepared, however. His favourite clothes were quite warm and comfortable, after all, and he carried some cookies and apples in a small bag. The snow was worrying him a bit, however. How were he and Silverstar supposed to sneak towards the side-entry when it made so much noise? Never mind that he should have been more concerned about the handful of servants that were already out and about. Luck was again on the boy's side, however, since their footsteps drowned his own to his way to the stables, and none of them knew he wasn't supposed to go there alone.

Darkness still lingered in the hay-padded corners. The voiced and steps her keen ears picked up from outside told her that she had slept too long. It would be nearly impossible to escape now, no matter if one dared to sneak away or simply stole a horse.
The dark-brown mare who kindly had allowed her to share her quarters last night whinnied uneasily. Someone was coming. Pressing even deeper into the shadows, the girl watched with narrowed eyes how the back-door opened a little. Even if the shape that slipped in was only small, she clutched the hilt of her knife with a fierce grip. Nobody would call her anything but brave, but she tended tense up and get ready for a fight at the slightest sign of opposition. Usually she got what she wanted, because she had been taught to do anything to earn it - even if that meant to fight, steal or lie. And right now, she wanted out of here, and that boy, he just passed through a patch of early morning light that fell through a slit in the wall, was coming ever closer to her hiding place and so to keep her from getting out of here.
"My dear, brave Silverstar, have you slept well? Are you ready? Here, have an apple."
A young boy. A rich boy, considering the fine embroidery which was all over his clothes. Some of it even shimmered in the dim light. He had stopped at the opposite box, the one with the white pony. It was an unfriendly, little beast, and she was disappointed when it didn't kick and snap at him like it had at her last night. She would never again believe those plumb and cuddly looking creatures were all friendly and tame.
"All right, what next? I'll need to saddle you, I guess. That can't be too hard, if Rodric can do it."
She rolled her eyes. 'Don't these royals here learn anything? He looks around like he doesn't even know where the saddles are stored.'
"Or do you want some water first?" The boy's face light up with relief and satisfaction about his great new idea when he spotted a bucket half full with water.
'No, go away, you fool!' The bucket stood far too close to her hiding place. He would have to be blind or dumb to not discover her.
He came over, grabbed the wooden handle and heaved it up with an obvious lack of strength. The girl almost pitied him. He appeared to be taller than her by a hand-width, but he was weak and incompetent like a little child. When he turned away, groaning softly due to probably the first manual labour in his life, she relaxed a bit. He had not seen her.

-> part four

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Untitled Short-Story - Part 2

This is the second part to my answer to Lindsay's prompt:
He offered her the world. She said she had one of her own.

Valeria had considered ignoring the Traveller as long as possible. After all, everyone knew she often was deeply occupied with a vision and might not notice the presence of someone for an hour. But the silvery lines on her face appeared to tingle, as if the outward signs of her power wanted to remind her to not debase it. The seer in her had known about this day for ages, so she should at least act like the grown woman she had become.
Besides, a vision in the flame was not the same as seeing with your own eyes, and she could not deny a certain curiosity. There was no mistaking the man who climbed up towards her secluded abode, countless times had she seen his stature and even had been able to get familiar with his unique way of his movements. Usually, her gift had shown her this very moment in numerous variations. Sometimes he came riding on some kind of beast, once or twice he was shrouded in dark robes, but in the end the most likely and thus most frequent vision had come true: he wore a jacket and trousers of some rich, shiny material, almost mirroring the heather-colour of her shawl.
The cloth which he had wrapped around his head was something unexpected, though, and seer's aren't used to being surprised. It drew her gaze to his face. A bit flushed from the climb, but with a ready smile. Brown eyes greeted her, they had the same colour as the hair that spilled out beneath the strange head-cloth, falling in slightly unruly waves onto his shoulders. Clean-shaven, although he certainly was old enough now to grow a beard. There appeared not to be much of the boy she had known left in him. This made her uneasy. For the first time since her early training she doubted herself. Was this really the right one? Perhaps the right man was still on his way and this was just someone who had sought her out for one of the usual reasons. And yet, the way he looked at her touched something in her that had slept so long that she could not put a name to it.

Alexander drank in every bit of the woman who stood about five long strides away from him. The hood of her garment concealed her hair, just as the wide, flowing dress and shawl obscured her body. Her stance was as straight and elegant as the long staff of twisted wood. In the eerie light of the magical flame on it's top, the markings on her face shimmered like silver tears. In the first moment, her eyes still had held that particular mat look of a vision, but then they had come alive.
Of course, he had met other seers before, but none of them had he known before they had reached their full power. Now, his mind tried to unite the serene figure before him with his memory of a certain girl. They had both grown to almost the same height and she had maintained her open and alert gaze of green-blue. Even at this distance he could make out this rare, uneven colouring he always had found fascinating.
He could not quite read her expression. Surely she was not surprised by his arrival? And most certainly she had not forgotten why he was here? Or had a vision told her something he should know?
He never had been one of the hesitant or careful sort. After granting them both a few heartbeats to take each other in, and to regain some of his breath, he made two easy but long strides towards her. Her mien did not betray how she felt about that, and yet her eyes were fixed on him like he was a dangerous animal. With a fluid, elegant movement, he bowed to her, lowering his gaze only briefly enough to acknowledge her status. After all, he himself was of royal blood. She might be able to see the future, but he could wield the power to make it happen.

"Valeria Temerit, in accordance with the treaty to which our guardians agreed many years ago, I, Alexander Knevash, am here to ask for your hand in marriage."
He offered her the traditional coin-shaped talisman of his home-country on a gloved, open palm. Somehow he had put it there with a slight-of-hand while he had courtesied, because Valeria was sure he had at first approached her empty-handed.
Alexander hoped his face did not betray his feelings. Nobody liked to be betrothed to someone you had known only for a short while as a child. He may be allowed to rule a country or start a war, but he was neither allowed to choose his own wife, nor when or how to propose to her. And yet, she had to make the next move. Why didn't she say something? Would she refuse? Could a vision have changed the rules? And why did this idea stir a sick feeling in his stomach?
A crunch, of the staff meeting the pebbles between two cobble-stones, a step forward while the free hand extended at the same time, like the start of a court-dance. Her hand was bare and he wished he had removed his glove so that their skin could touch. But the slender fingers hardly made contact with his hand, while she covered the wedding-talisman in acceptance.

After the proposal, Valeria had invited her future husband into her tower. Although their union was already binding, there still were the necessary rituals and sacrifices to make. They would need a witness for that, too, but for now, Alexander was glad to be offered a chair on the little balcony and a tray of food.
"This is an amazing view over the valley. I know of some places that are just as beautiful, and a handful that are even more astonishing. I will show them all to you!" He took a bite of the bread and washed it down with a gulp of mild wine. Raising his eyebrows at his future wife, he savoured its smell. A seer usually did not drink alcohol, and indeed her own cup appeared to contain only plain water.
"Have you ever travelled by the water-bridge? I'm sure you have, how stupid of me. We will be in the White Palace in no time. And after the celebrations, we can go wherever you want. I offer you the world, Valeria!" The precious wine would probably have sloshed over the rim, if Alexander had not down half of it already. According to his grand gestures, one could think he was entertaining a whole court, instead of talking to only one rather unimpressed looking woman.
"I don't need the world, I already have one of my own."
Those were the first words she had spoken to him since their childhood.

Continue with part three.

Comments and critique are very welcome.

Monday, March 12, 2012

100 words about ... Magical Music

My dear partneress was one of those who kindly answered my 11 questions and gave me a writing-prompt:

Write 100 words about ME!

The dirty water had ruined the upper part of the big index card, soaking the thick paper and smearing the letters. Some of it might have been an address and phone-number, but only one who already knew the words could have recognized them now.
Reluctantly, with a mixture of curiosity and shame at looking through somebody else's private notes, he started to read with the first line that was still of any use. Just to find a hint about the owner, of course.

... as the supernatural and real plane with songs. It is based on her natural musical talent, which manifests in a fine singing voice, the skill to play various instruments, e.g. flute and guitar, and the gift to compose her own melodies and lyrics.
She was unaware of the true effect of her talents, but it's unlikely that anyone has suffered from it so far or even noticed anything. By nature, this is a positive power that has to be channelled.
I sense great potential in her, and she has agreed to work with me to explore and practice her magic.

He reread the last few words with a confused frown, even squinting a bit, as if the water had reached and blurred that part, too. Then he huffed, laid that one aside and picked up another one. It got accidentally a little bit torn at the edge when the wet paper gave way, but it's content sounded quite similar. And the next one and the one after that. Someone who shaped unbreakable pottery, unless it got in contact with salt-water. A shape-changing actor in need of surveillance, because here existed a danger of abuse. Another musician, but that index-card seemed a lot older than the others. It was of a slightly smaller size, the paper yellow and rough.
He wearily eyed the stack of still unread cards and told himself that there probably wasn't any hint on the owner of the weathered leather-bag on any of them. He didn't want to read the rest. Why had he picked up the sodden bundle anyway? It's owner probably had returned by now to the spot where it had lain in a puddle between the railway and the road.

Well, those are obviously more than 100 words, but those that are directly about my friend are the ones in the middle paragraph :)

I had this idea a while ago and maybe it will one day turn into a story.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Second Campaigner Challenge (of Fourth Campaign)

Challenged into Indian Steampunk

Apparently some Campaigners asked for more challenging challenges ... the result was a crazy accumulation of prompts and activities and optional difficulty-raisers. The whole set of rules can be found here.

I actually included all 5 prompts and completed all 5 activities and included all 3 additional difficulties:
1. completed at least 3 activities and tied them together with a common theme (India)
2. written in the genre "Steampunk", which I never used before
3. asking for critique by the other Campaigners

Activity 1 - Write a pitch/logline for a book based on the prompts (less than 100 words)

When a couple of poor, Indian orphans and the young son of a white, rich factory-owner get caught and hurt in the explosion of a sabotaged airship, they hide from the resulting energy-wave beneath the remains of an old, rusty bridge. Only the half-mad water-shaper and scientist who dwells nearby can save them, if his experiments won't make matters worse first, because he is developing a gas that does not only tinge certain particles in the air orange, but also makes them toxic.

Word Count: 83

Activity 2 - Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts

"Shanti, wait for me!"
"Hurry up then, Rohan! That brat's wailing surely has called guards with rifles."
"Why did you have to steal that ball?"
The dirty, skinny girl laughed, but did not slow down while skipping over junks of metal and evading piles of garbage. It could be painful, fatal even, to step onto some hidden shard or a rusty screw.
"Because the red coat of that boy was too gaudy, of course!"

When they reached their hiding place beneath the broken bridge, Rohan stumbled on into the water and collapsed in the shallow part.
His sister leaned against a rusty girder, inspecting a bleeding cut on her brown-skinned knee.
"Is it bad enough for the factory?"
An orange flower of stylised energy was its symbol. It created gadgets that formed all sorts of shapes out of water, like shimmering fruit-sculptures or little animals. They only applied for the hard work there when they needed the service of its doctor.
"No, I'll be fine."
Nevertheless, Rohan heaved himself up and crawled to her side. Drops from his dark hair drummed on the ball, leaving tracks on the surface, already smeared with oil and soot, and no longer white.

Word Count: 199

Activity 3 - Write a poem with a twist using the prompts as inspiration (in less than 200 words)

At first, there is the light,
it starts white and bright,
until it gathers in a living knot of yellow flames.

Children's cries of joy and sorrow,
a bouncing ball or no food tomorrow,
their fate gets decided by a steam-powered wheel.

Two lovers escape their iron prison,
through water and with marks of crimson,
finding refuge in the rust and rubble of a ruined bridge.

Only a hand steady and bare
can wield a power so rare
that the water of mighty Ganges can be shaped to the heart's desire.

Word Count: 91

Activity 4 - Write a story/poem in five sentences, each sentence based on one of the prompts (apparently no word-limit here)

During the joyful years of my carefree youth, I spent my time chasing my favourite ball and screeching seagulls by the seaside, trying my best to ruin the fine clothes my mother made me wear.
When I was older, “The Seagull” was the first steam-powered airship that brought me to India where I was a guest of honour at my first international art-exhibition, which inspired me to a series of pictures about starving, brown-skinned children.
My masterpiece, a pear shaped out of water-droplets, complete with a green leaf to add some colour, sold for a fortune and made me rich enough to settle in a villa with a handful of clockwork-servants.
Only a few years later my life was in ruins, ravaged by treacherous fame and false friends, and the very last piece of art I ever created portrayed it perfectly – chaotic swirls of fading light in the middle of an oppressing darkness.
Now that the end is near, I find myself beaten and bloody under an equally battered, old bridge, but for the first time in ages I feel like I have a true friend at my side: drunkard Aamir Kapoor whom I have to fish out of the water every few days.

Word Count: 206

Activity 5 - Write a poem/flash fiction piece (in less than 200 words) about the water pear *without* using the words “pear”, “spoon”, or “droplet”.

The first day of school for young Rahul Chopra, and his mother had insisted on giving him a blessing. Fortunately, he wasn't the only one with a little, red smear on his forehead. To him, however, it was more important that his father had entrusted him with the precious, old pocket-watch. It had been in his family for generations.
The morning-lessons passed quite well. Not only his parents, but also his grandfather and various neighbours had told him again and again to be polite to the teachers and friendly to his classmates. Unfortunately, Rahul had soon learned that the latter wasn't so easy when certain boys already started bullying those who appeared weaker than them.
To his dismay, Devdan had managed to grab the seat next to him in the tinker-classroom. Could Rahul dare to show what he was capable of, or would that only be an invitation to get mocked and hurt?
The teacher caught him by surprise, so he shyly lifted the wooden handle. Flicking the simple switch on it he let the water-crystals get shaped into a random form.
"Wow! How did you do that?" Devdan leaned over, pure joy on his face, instead of malice.

Word Count: 199

That's it! :)

If you'd like to vote for me, I'm #82.

Really, I'm not sure how well I met the Steampunk-genre, but it certainly is even more difficult to do it with word-limits like that. Never mind that it was a hell of a challenge to combine so much unconnected stuff anyway - but so very much fun, too!

To properly fulfil the third difficulty, I hereby ask again for critique.
I am aware, most of it is rather weird, but I do want to improve on my flash-fiction skills and improvisation, so I'll be grateful for any advice.
And I certainly wouldn't mind to hear back from others than Campaigners and those who tried their hands on that challenge, too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Untitled Short-Story - Part 1

During NaNo 2011 I found and got found by the Chick Lit Cheerleaders.
They are a great band and always ready to encourage and advise, no matter what you are writing.
Their latest idea was to do some short-stories based on prompts we give each other during March.

The first prompt I chose was given by Lindsay:
He offered her the world. She said she had one of her own.

Countless tales got carried past her in the gentle breeze that made her shawl dance like a flag. It's colour mimicked the violet heather on the hills to the east. From there, her gaze wandered along the river, which flowed down into the valley. It turned and twisted, like it had no sense of direction at all. In truth, these lands were covered with patches of unyielding rock, leaving little room for farmland. There even were some rapids where the blue, clear stream got turned into white, dangerous traps. The fisher-folk, who were one of the few inhabitants of the valley, stayed well away from them, especially when the spring melt has hidden the riverbanks under icy cold masses of water. And still, she had had to save the one or other from drowning. In return, they brought her gifts, like the blue and white striped long dress.
The flame on her staff flickered, although the wind had ceased completely now. In a soft crackle she learned about the Traveller who was about to arrive soon. She didn't need to turn her head to see him, for she had mastered the visions long ago. There was no need to call them, she just listened to what the fire had to tell her. When she sought an answer, either for herself or for one of those who desired her help, it didn't take long until the wood that did not burn revealed what was to come.
It had taken her a while to learn how to recognize a true vision from a false one. The latter were caused by wishful thinking more often than by fear or hate. In time, those like her learned to control their feelings, which was one key to the secret. Every seer had to follow his or her own path. In Valeria's case it had lead her to the solitary tower on top of a steep hill, where she had dwelt alone until today - most of the time with the knowledge that the Traveller would decide on her fate.

Strong, confident steps carried him from the shore onto the cracked, dusty road. As usual, every fibre on him was soaked. So far, no mage had mastered to eliminate this side-effect of the water-bridge. He couldn't help smiling at the irony of that, although the joke was old by now. An ordinary bridge connected two sides of a stretch of water and was supposed to let you cross it without getting wet. The magic which transported you from one place to another via any accumulation of water large enough to stand in, no matter whether it was connected to each other or not, always drenched you. It was generally believed that this was part of how it worked, but some kept wondering if it wasn't rather a deliberate 'mistake' of the spell-casters.
Fortunately the sun shone bright and warm on this day, drying his clothes and hair, while erasing his damp footprints on the road as well. By the time he reached the first bend, he actually felt so hot that he pulled out the scarf, which was stowed away in his pouch, and wound it several times around his head. The cloth and indeed the style of wearing it had been picked up by him on one of his previous journeys. Never once did his feet slow down or falter, carrying him ever onwards towards the tower on the hill.
Soon it became obvious that the main-road, if it deserved that name considering its poor state, would not lead him to his goal but rather to a little settlement at the river-bank. Longingly he regarded the fisher-huts, smelling supper and hearing the laughter of undoubtedly lively, young women. Surely they wouldn't mind a visitor who could repay their hospitality with entertaining stories and rare trinkets? He could imagine it just too well, and found himself smiling contentedly at the prospect of encouraging a little village-feast, so that he could dance with some of the prettiest girls.
The ground beneath his boots suddenly grew softer. Despite his daydreaming, some part of him had noticed a half overgrown path that diverged from the road. While the laughter of the fisher-folk grew faint behind him, he soon had to pay attention on where he placed his feet. It was a rather straight trail of stones that lead up to the tower, and in the steep places they reminded of old, weathered stair-steps. Moss and thick grass padded them and made them probably very slick after a rainfall. He was glad it was not winter right now.
When Alexander's head came level with the top of the hill, all distractions of the valley, lazy mages or previous adventures were forgotten - the wind itself seemed to push him gently upwards until he stepped on the old cobblestones and approached the woman he was meant to marry.
To be continued ...
-> part two