beauty, love, war, women, writing

A Sparrow’s Song

the_early_bird__1__by_hansgoepelphotograpy-db43xve.jpg

Loviisa held the rifle to arms, narrowed her eyes to focus on the deer in her sights. The glare of the sunlight made her head hurt, but she went away inside herself, to the cool perfect zero that enveloped her in the moment before she pulled the trigger.

She had learned to find comfort in pain and exhaustion before during and after her mandatory year of military service. Otso, her fiancee had died whilst she was out on exercise, whilst building the farm they would raise cattle and children on. She had wept herself into exhaustion, but the work of building then maintaining the farm became a way to absolve herself of her grief and guilt.

Her parents wrote letters, alternating between pleas and admonitions. They asked her to come home, but she told them in the plainest way possible she was home. It stung her, that they could not see how hard it had been for her, that she was making the best of it.

On the days she could not lift her arms above her head to undress, she believed herself incapable of it, but in time, she had built a fine smallholding and all of it her own work down to the last nail. She hunted as much for the reward of the hunt itself as the meat it allowed her to store. The cows were stubborn, the chickens stupid but the rifle never let her down.

She wore her white suit, furred on the inside with her finger on the trigger and all the world’s fate determined on a few ounces of pressure. She took in a deep breath, held it and pulled the trigger.

The deer collapsed the ground. She slung her rifle, unsheathed her knife and went over to it. She made a good, deep incision and pulled the intestines and anus with a good, hard tug that stained the snow a deep red beneath it. The upper organs joined the rest before she dragged the carcass back to the farm.

Let mother and father see how I struggle, she thought.

She had the carcass hanging from a hook in the larder before sundown. Her hands steamed and shone with blood. The act of death and birth was the same to her. Blood. Pain. Such thoughts led back to Otto and she left them in the dark of the larder.

She lit the fire to boil water and make dinner. Her back and thighs had ached when she heard the birdsong and went to listen.

A high melody always drew out the girl in her, even smeared in deer blood and sweat.

The sparrow sat on the branch of a fir, singing without a care in the world. She envied it but still stood there with the door open, listening to it and smiling to herself.

The song was a precious stone mounted on a bed of velvet silence. Its sweetness drew a dull blade down her side but she bore it without complaint.

Sparrows, Otto had told her, were psychopomps. Emissaries to and from the land of the dead. Its fragile courage gave truth to the idea, Loviisa thought and she wished she could sing her own joy to it. They might have been friends.

Joni crashed through the trees, with his left hand pressed to his shoulder, his raw lean face tight with shock.

He was sweating and unsteady on his feet as he approached her. He had time enough for two words before falling away into a deep faint.

‘The russians.’ he said.

2.

Loviisa dragged him inside. He was lighter than a carcass, but she took him into the cabin rather than the larder.

She cleaned his wound, bandaged it and he ate a bowl of elk stew whilst he relayed the news to her.

Stalin had ordered Finland to cede territories along its border.

Territories like the land she owned and farmed.

Her land.

The Russians would come through here. Through her.

‘You must come with me. It’s not safe here.’ he said.

Loviisa helped herself to another bowl of stew and shook her head.

‘This is my farm, I cannot just leave it.’

Joni meant well, but he spoke the same words as her parents, just from a different place and time. She smiled and blew across the surface of her stew. She whistled a little, and it sounded like the song of a bird.

A bird of prey.

She told Joni that he could stay the night and then leave in the morning. His feet were blistered and raw from his run, fortunate to survive his encounter by more courageous patriots and telling him to run.

Loviisa awoke before dawn. She broke down and cleaned her rifle, wrapped up whatever rounds she had in her parent’s letters to keep them dry and clean and packed whatever tins of food she could fit into her kit bag. She repeated the maintenance and cleaning routine with a sub-machine gun, an ugly but reliable souvenir from her time in service.

Joni watched from beneath the covers. Loviisa was a, robust woman but as she packed, her purpose lent her a beauty terrible in its power. He hated the Russians for what they had come here to do, but looking at her, he feared for them too.

Loviisa kept her promise and escorted him to the edge of the forest. She walked slow, precise and quiet. Joni worried that if he took his eyes from her, she would fade into the woods.

He stopped, fighting for something to say.

‘What are you going to do, Loviisa? You cannot fight them’

She walked over and planted a warm kiss that would haunt him into his dotage.

‘No, Joni, but I can hunt them.’

She turned and walked away. A sparrow sung overhead and as he watched her walk away, he thought he heard her whistling.

She hunted Russian soldiers through six feet of snow in temperatures of minus twenty.

Seven hundred and five Russian soldiers dead by the time the war was over.

They called her ‘The White Sparrow.’

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fiction, short fiction, women, writing

The Sound of Running Water

Asra ran.

She heard the thump of hooves behind her. She checked the glaive was strapped to her back and focussed on her breathing. She had sheathed her scimitar in order to focus on making as much distance as possible between her and the Sisters coming after her.

The branches and leaves crunched beneath her heels as she slowed down, moving to avoid tripping over the thicker roots that would grasp her ankle and break it if she failed to take care. Her silks were damp with perspiration, and each breath brought the tang of her scent to her.

She stopped, scanning ahead to find her bearings. She sought to listen over the roar of her blood and breath. The sound was faint, but she gauged the direction of it and picked up her pace again.

These places, that she visited, once were merely entries, recorded by diplomats and transcribed for the interest of the Caliphate. This forest was once the sight of a great battle between Ser Rosey, The Drunken Poet and a bear that stole his last flagon of ale from his hand. Such was the viciousness of their battle that the leaves on the trees would turn red once a year in tribute. Asra’s education had disabused her of that notion, but she enjoyed the myth. Her lust for travel had been nurtured by those stories and had those been her only lusts, she admitted, she might have avoided such situations as this.

The sound of her pursuers grew louder. Five of them, holy warriors, much like the fedayeen of home, women raised from birth to kill in their Father’s name, trained in tactics and weapons. Asra had seen them from the hedgerow when they had first set out, five of them to begin with, asking at the inn for her. When they had decided to stay the night, they awoke to find two of them dead in their beds, blankets stained black with their blood and faces carved into expressions of mute agony.

Asra always looked to take opportunities wherever she found them. The simple coincidence of two of them in the same room, a door left unlocked by a tired innkeeper, a maid with a candle, all of them woven into a single, shining moment. Sharp as the blade that she drew across their throats.

Three, she corrected herself, three of them now.

She ran onwards.

The waterfall announced itself through it’s perpetual industry, the noise of pouring water was overwhelming, a voice in nature’s chorus and she smiled with delight. ┬áThe perpetual mist was cool against her perspiring skin.

Until she looked down.

Too wide to cross quickly, too long to go around without being caught and so she looked down. The water looked deep, and she gave a small prayer to the God that she figured was no longer talking to her. She looked for higher ground that she might defend herself, but remembered the longbows that each Sister carried and kept returning her attention to the river below.

It led to the east, far enough that she could find passage back to Petra’s Plait, get a ship from there back to the Caliphate, hide out for a while and count her blessings.

Or it would break her legs and back, rush into her lungs and leave her as meat for the animals, rotting into loam at the side of the water.

She shut her eyes, put her arms down by her sides and thought of the maid at the inn, her coppery hair and green, shining eyes. If it were her last memory, she wanted it to be a warm one.

With that, she stepped out.

 

 

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courage, creative writing, love, mother, poetry, writing

mother

A Mother's View by scottchurch.deviantart.com/

A Mother’s View by scottchurch.deviantart.com

You could have never had me
I wonder what life you might have had
My drive is borrowed from you
In the worst moments
I thought about how it would
hurt you and I kept going
I never tell you
Because I have always wanted
To have you think of me
As brave
But even when I’m scared
The little ways
And the large one
I know that you kept me
For a reason

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