Monday, April 13, 2009

COBRA CUTLASS, a short story by KM Wilsher


***Khoran discovered he is an Illuminary and has chosen to become apprentice to the evil Sorceress Evixen Mosk. As an offering to his new mistress of darkness, Khoran has kidnapped King Henry in an attempt to learn the identity of the Prophesied heir. Only two people stand in Khoran’s way in his quest to win Evixen’s heart; One, the scion whose very existence remains a secret until now, and, Two, a female knight with her own kind of magic.***

A cerulean moon spotlighted the center courtyard pedestal displaying a kneeling man, arms separated and tied to the two posts above him. Gazing at the man’s wrists dripping with blood, and bits of scalp hanging from his head, Khoran felt nothing but aggravation.
“I thought the sorceress would castrate you for the prisoner’s silence.” The voice whispered from the white scorpion, the embodiment of his conscience.
“Her poison burning through my veins was not terrifying enough for you?” He massaged his inner arm, where the Sorceress Evixen Mosk had inserted her poison punishment. Punishment for to Khoran’s failure to convince the man to talk.
Khoran grasped the balcony rails for support and glowered at the pedestal. “I’ll find your son and extinguish his life, Henry -- King of Abana. Though you have hidden him. He will die before his next birthday.”
Khoran looked out over the towers of the City of Abana standing arrogantly quiet at the base of the mountains. The prophecy told that on the scion’s 24th birthday, the king’s son would gain powers beyond comprehension. Powers even greater than the Sorceress Evixen Mosk.
The white scorpion twisted on her perch, tendrils twitching. “She approaches!”
Evixen emerged from the shadows and Khoran took a knee. He ventured a glance at her from under the shade of his brow and cowl. A tight-fitting green tunic exposed her belly beneath it, and blonde hair lay streaming, contrasting against her dark, glimmering skin.
“Rise.” He could hardly be sure she said it, for her skirts rustled over her whisper as she closed the space between them.
He could feel all the blood drain from his head as he stood.
Khoran, an Illuminary, could see the consciences of others and the figure they embodied. His, a white scorpion, hers, a naked ugliness only horror stories would depict. He deflected his eyes from the monster following her.
“I am not pleasing to you?” The creature screeched.
Evixen, deficient of the Illuminary power, could neither hear nor see the monster, her conscience. She folded her enchanting frame against the balcony railing, eyes shining with a hollow, red glow. “I succeeded where you failed. King Henry gave me the location of the scion.”
Khoran’s insides reeled with shame at her words. The sorceress’ magic persuaded the king to talk. Khoran’s magic had failed. “Of course, mistress.”
Looking downward he caught sight of the veins on his arms rising out from his muscles as a result of the frequent consumption of his master’s elixir. His stomach tightened then flipped, hating and at the same time loving that she and her poison were killing him.
“Drink. Your sickness from the punishment will subside. We must fit you ready to hunt.”
Ah, one elixir to calm the effects of another. He curled his fingers around the offered goblet. “Hunt?”
“I need your Illuminary eye to find this prophesied scion. The physical incarnation of his conscience is said to look like a Cobra Cutlass. King Henry says he hid him amongst his Special Force -- the Flight Riders.”
Khoran drew in a sharp, stunned breath. Flight riders? Why would a king allow his son to join such a dangerous rank, the elite Pegasus riding battalion? What an impossible task, finding one specific highly trained Rider whose conscience took the shape of a sword with a cobra on it.
“M’lady.” He dipped his head in acquiescence, then drained the liquid from her cup.
Evixen reached up and pulled his hood back. He watched her fingers comb through his hair, shuddering as he caught sight of the spine extending from her ring, the instrument in which she used to administer her poisons. “Why do you force me to goad?” She ran her finger across his cheeks then over his closed lashes, and he smelled her peppery perfume on her wrist. “I cannot tolerate timidity.”
As she caressed her soft fingers on his cheek, his spine prickled from her drink. The very thing that ensured a light-headed Khoran to continue a blind, committed service to her. Her iron fist, contrasted with her tendency toward delicious nurture.
A light pink color painted her cheeks rendering her face almost childlike, but she pulled away and her eyes hardened again. “Do not act a fool with tunnel vision. Look first to the peasants, the vassals, in all quarters. Then look for the scion in the ranks of the Flight Riders.”
Khoran, gave an understanding nod. “As you say.”
Her eyes scanned his face. “Your Illuminary eye, is it healthy? Did my poison dim?”
He thought he saw a trace of regret in her typically stone expression. Then, observing the white scorpion standing stark, he reassured her. “Vigorous and resolute.”
She tilted her head but kept her gaze upon him. “You never talk about the manifestation of my conscience. Yours is a white scorpion. Tell me again of mine.”
Khoran ignored the cackle from the creature behind her as he diverted his gaze to the floor. “A dragon, m’lady, jade and scarlet scales, with eyes of purity, haunches of power.”
“Lies! Lies!” He sensed the embodiment dancing in the air.
“Mmm. Well, the foretelling says the scion’s conscience forms a lance emblazoned with a cobalt cobra. You will know it when you see it?” Her fingers smoothed the cloth of her skirt over her hips.
“I will know.”
A grinding noise drifted from the courtyard below.
A wind caught her golden hair and lifted it as a banner of battle while she looked over the courtyard. “The Kakkerlak are ready. I manipulated Blattodea embryos growing them to six foot. They will serve you well. Do not let me down. I would miss you and your Illuminary power.”
Khoran knew she offered an ultimatum. The heir died and Khoran lived. The heir remained elusive, and she would deliver him to the forever black.
The white scorpion sighed as she turned away, her cape billowing behind her. “Muster the Kakkerlak.” She said, then it seemed the shadows reached out and swallowed her.
Khoran vowed that the futile attempt to get King Henry to talk would be his only failure. Evixen abhorred hand-to-hand scimitar and sorcery, preferring torture and the private cryptic part of conflict. She would not come out to the battle. He alone owned this task and would win the return of her respect.
. . .The King’s song is sung
On one girl our hopes are hung
An Illuminary and female Knight
A Cobra Cutlass will be his mark
King Henry’s descendent long hidden in dark. . .

As the Wisdom Prophetess rang out her canter, JR pushed through the crowd, a purposeful back turned to the woman’s makeshift pulpit near the elevated platform of the stocks. JR tried not to look into the faces, but obstacles, like shoulders and knees stepping purposefully into her path, forced a look up into the appalled, wide eyes ridiculing her.
“You, an Illuminary?” The smithy tipped his head back in a mocking hack. His greasy hair bobbed around a mouth missing teeth.
She detected a break to her left near the path to the labyrinth gardens, if she could just push through the --
The baker, Web, put his stubby leg out to block her way. “Who do you think you are JR? First you enter the all male force of Flight Riders and now an Illuminary? Cobra Cutlass? Girl to save her people from Evixen’s destruction?”
“I was not the one to say those things.” Twisting sideways, she tried to pass by, but Web’s wife, Crestast, blocked the way.
“Is it true? Are you able to see the forms our consciences take?” Crestast reached out, but JR kept moving.
“What does it matter? The whole town thinks the old hag spits horse gurgle until she utters a name, and then her prophecies are fodder for town gossip.” JR said this over her shoulder ducking through the last armpit and into the trees lining the rim of the square. A twig snapped. Was someone following? She cut into a run toward the labyrinth gardens.
The daily utterances from the Wisdom Prophetess were ramblings of a fool. The woman cackled her premonitions of death and destruction every afternoon. Did the leather skinned simpleton have to use JR’s name? Or reveal to the public she could see the human conscience embodied -- hanging around people like illuminated ghosts?
For the past five years she’d been the weird girl who attended the Royal Alliance Academy to train for the Flight Riders. The only girl to ever secure a spot in the Pegasus cavalry. Now she’d be known as a strange witch-like Illuminary. No matter how true, JR had worked rigidly to keep that secret, and with one muggy word the woman had shouted it into the streets.
She jogged through the paths to her favorite spot in the maze, a cryptic fountain centered in a perfectly trimmed square. Training with Flight Riders, the argument with her father, and the run in with the crowd left her dizzy. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a long red curl fall from her ponytail and with puffed lips she blew it in the other direction. The life of a knight felt unglamorous, save the gleaming silver mail stretched across her shoulders. She smoothed her fingers over the chain.
“Is it true?”
In one move, JR drew her saber and faced the direction of the voice.
On the bench three yards behind her sat sZura Rhys, his black hair framing his crystal blue eyes. He surveyed his fingernails as if her weapon bored him.
“You are evil spawn!” she snapped, repositioning her fingers around the hilt.
“I wouldn’t say evil really. Besides we are related. If I am, you are.” He winked, then raised one brow.
“My Uncle’s brother-in-law’s cousin is married to your sister’s brother-in-law. We are not related.” She dropped her blade into the sheath.
sZura crossed his eyeballs. “You really have all that figured out?”
Her cheeks burned. “sZura, the last time you spoke to me, we were 19. You told me -- in front of the entire battalion, mind you -- my thighs looked the size of elks’.”
“You’ve proportioned out now -- looking quite good after five years of training. Your body now matches the beauty of those round green eyes of yours.” He scanned her body, then looked up at her. “Oh, come on, that was five years ago.”
“My point exactly. You tormented me growing up, and then throughout our years at the Royal Alliance ignored me -- along with the rest of you heathens I’m forced train with -- now you are here by my fountain and -- ”
“Oh!” His tunic rippled over his flat abdomen as he laughed. “Your fountain? And you think you’re forced to train with us? Try us forced to train with a girl, Jeni Rebeka.”
“Don’t you call me by that name!” she slammed her hands on to her waist, thrusting a hip outward. “That’s it, sZura, what do you want?”
“Is it true? Can you see the embodiment of a conscience? Are there really birds, foxes, ghosts, cherubs -- invisible to most -- floating in the space next to each human?”
“Go!” She pointed to the nearest exit.
Instead of leaving, he swung his feet to the ground. “Oh, come on. Forgive me for the elk comment, and let me in on this. No one knows I’m here. I’ve heard an Illuminary can see the physical form of a human conscience.” He held his hand a few inches from his ear as if to show where one might exist. “Someone around here has a conscience shaped like Cobra Cutlass -- and the poor soul is King Henry’s secret offspring?”
She continued to extend her arm pointing to the exit. Ever popular sZura, one of the best Flight Riders, loved by the whole kingdom, but she refused to warm to him. He had been nothing but a scraping arrowhead against her ribs from the time they were kids.
“All right.” He held his hands up in surrender and stood. “You think about my amends, and I’ll see you tomorrow at training.” His chuckling echoed as he disappeared into the bushy maze.
“Speak to me at training?” she called out to his absence. “Bloody armor, you will! All you ever do is attempt to trip me up and humiliate me. And that is why am I not surprised your conscience takes the form of a snake, sZura Rhys.”
“And yours a butterfly,” a voice taunted. JR looked over at her own conscience, the Monarch. Her chest constricted at this sign of weakness, and shame surged through her body. Clenching her fists she turned her back and walked toward home.
A sudden shadow covered the path, and a long whooshing sound filled the air. It then disappeared. She froze as her heart jumped underneath her sternum. A shadow that large could only belong to a Milewing--half dragon, half horse. And only one woman bred such a monster? The Sorceress Evixen Mosk.
Adrenaline coursed through JR’s body, and she turned and ran down the passageway, her chain mail clinking at her shoulders. Losing her balance as she rounded the alehouse, she stumbled and reached for some crates which sent them flying. Recovering, she tucked her head down and dashed into the square. With caution, she slowed up as she stepped into the open center around the stocks. Something did not feel right. A haze hung just above the trees, and citizens milled about in odd excited chatter.
“Was it a Milewing?” JR heard Crestast ask her husband, as he pulled her toward their street.
So JR had it right. Evixen Mosk.
“I heard screams in the Lower Corridor.” The smithy scurried after them, his round buttocks gyrating behind him.
The wisdom prophetess stood on her familiar perch raving, “In the king’s absence, the vassals fight over his throne like pigs to slop. The only redemption? The Cobra Cutlass. Abana’s only hope.” The woman’s white eyes flashed in JR’s direction. “Jeni Rebeka – Illuminary -- find him before the Sorceress does.”
JR started to lash out at the old woman when a hand locked around her bicep. It pulled her backward before she could see to whom it belonged. With a toss, the hand flipped her around, and she found herself eye to eye with Commander Delayno Star, his big black eyes inches from hers.
“Where have you been?” He spat, crinkling his brows over his wide nose.
Then she realized, as she looked past his bald, dark-skinned head, the entire group of Flight Riders gathered behind him. All but herself. sZura and his comrades smirked, covering their mouths with their hands.
“I -- I thought I saw a Milewing --”
“Bloody right, Jeni Rebeka!” He and her father were the only ones allowed to use that name. “The city is under attack!” He loosened his grip.
“Aye, Commander.”
He turned to the group, “Evixen has sent her servant Khoran and a new breed of creatures. As if breeding dragons with horses to create the Milewing wasn’t in the face of sacred, she has now manipulated roach embryos -- Kakkerlaks.” His leather armor creaked under his bicep as he pointed to a black cloud of flying creatures moving through the heavens above the city. “To your mounts, Flight Riders!”
JR followed the battalion to the Pegasus Outbuilding where Irisin, her faithful Pegasus awaited. Her stomach did a flip at the thought of never being in any real battles. Abana’s civil war had happened before she was a teen, and Roraus the Time catcher had laid siege to Adana before her time at the Royal Alliance Academy been served. Her role in that skirmish had been to take care of the animals.
All this for a mystery son of King Henry? It crossed her mind that sZura’s conscience formed a cobra, but then she whispered, “Yeah, but the prophecy says the scion’s conscience embodies a sword.”
{{{ want more? let me know. this is on the end :P }}}
After disguising himself as a villager and hunting for five days,


kat harris said...
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Billy Coffey said...
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gzusfreek said...

My friends Kat and Billy always making me feel so good by stopping by! Thank you! Thank you!

This was just too funny-had to share :)

Anonymous said...
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gzusfreek said...

I used an old post to post this. Deleted the comments because they were in reference to another subject.

If you got this far through COBRA CUTLASS. Please leave a comment :)

Chris said...

Awesome excerpt, KM! I love the animal embodiment of someone's conscience thing. How cool! The Flight Riders sound amazing, too. Pegasus' are sweet. lol