Fade to White

Fade to White Chapter 14

Fade to White

Chapter Fourteen

“Are we leaving now?”

Tryne stopped and straightened up so fast she nearly bent herself over backwards. “I forgot to mention that to Ken.”

“So we’re going to have to wait until you remember to tell him that you’re going away and never coming back?” Jerek asked sarcastically, lying on his bed with his elbow propping him up.

“No, I think I’ll just leave him a note or something.” Tryne sighed, slopping some of the jam she was spreading onto a slice of bread. “Is there anything else you would like to eat?”

“I’m fine. When do you think you’ll be ready to leave?”

“I don’t know, really.” Tryne laughed slightly. “I have to pack, clean some more, and make sure that everything is all set before I’d feel comfortable leaving, and don’t you dare make fun of me!”

Jerek growled. “I’ll be outside.”

After all of the events that had transpired over the last couple of days, his white shirt was stained almost black, to the point where he doubted he could ever get it clean again, and it left him with a grimy feeling. Walking a way with a bucket full of water, Jerek sat down on the grass with the sun hitting his back, and as he took off his shirt he realized that he had forgotten to grab another one to wear. Because he was already feeling comfortably settled, he decided that it didn’t matter much. Dumping the shirt into the bucket, Jerek reached in and began swirling it around.

He knew that he sounded suspicious with how much he was urging Tryne to leave, and perhaps that was why she kept delaying. Jerek couldn’t help himself though. Every moment longer that Tryne stayed, the more he worried about her safety. Nosaj knew about the place and his soldiers had obviously been there already. They could be back at any moment, and they would recognize Jerek, exposing who he was. Then Tryne would be killed, or worse . . . Jerek winced, feeling sick at the thought of Nosaj brushing his boney fingers against her smooth face, or clamping his thin yellow lips over her soft pink mouth. Leaving was the only way he could protect her from Nosaj. Keeping Tryne safe and happy was all he cared about, seeing her smile was all he lived for . . .

Jerek stopped that train of thoughts. He was getting too sappy. Suddenly, he realized that he had been doing it all wrong. Instead of waiting for Tryne to decide she was ready to leave, he should have swept her up onto his horse and ridden off with her. Eventually she would go along with it, and even thank him for stopping her from wasting valuable time, though she was probably going to be angry at him at first for doing something like that. Maybe that was what he should do, put down his washing and burst into the cottage, picking Tryne up and throwing her over his shoulder, then carry her to his horse. Jerek almost laughed at the thought.

A soft thud sounded faintly behind him, and Jerek looked over his shoulder to see Tryne, a cloth bundle at her feet and a strange, alarming expression on her face. Slowly Jerek stood up to face her, wondering what it was that caused her to react like that. In a flash he remembered, and the black rose tattoo burned into the back of his shoulder, shamefully marking him for what he really was. She had seen it.

“Tryne, I . . .”

“You work for him.”

“Tryne . . .”

“You lied to me! You said you had nothing to do with him!”

“Listen to me!” Jerek shouted, getting angry at the fact that she didn’t seem to hear him at all.

“You really are evil!”

“I never said that I wasn’t,” Jerek retorted.

“I can’t believe you’ve been working for him all this time.”

“Yeah, I have been. And you know what? I’m Nosaj’s heir. I’m the future ruler of this God-awful land. I’m his right-hand man.”

Tryne stood stunned, then shook her head. “I’m so stupid! Ken even told me I couldn’t trust you, but I didn’t listen because I . . . How could you be so manipulative?”

“I didn’t manipulate you into anything. Everything you did, you did on your own,” Jerek answered coldly. “And that was stupid of you.”

“Get out! Get away from me!” Tryne screamed, droplets forming in her eyes. “I never want to see you again!”

A pang went through Jerek’s heart, and he found himself lost for a second, unsure of how he should act, fighting against the desire to hold her. “Tryne, I . . .”

“Leave now.” She squeezed her eyes shut, turning her head away.

Silently Jerek moved past her, walking to the cottage and hastily grabbing his things, first putting on a new shirt to cover up the offending tattoo that he now loathed more than anything else in the world. Tryne was standing outside when he left, going inside and slamming the door shut as soon as he was out. Getting up on his horse, Jerek kicked its sides hard and the horse bolted forward.

Inside the cottage in the dim light that came through the window, Tryne knelt down at the side of her bed, and clasping her hands together she began to cry. In her heart she was still attached to him, she still loved him deeply, and she knew that it was wrong for her to feel that way.

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FadetoWhite

Fade to White

Fade to White Chapter 10

Fade to White

Chapter Ten

There was simply nothing left to do, and only one thing that Jerek wanted to do. Besides, if he was going to go, then it was best that he do it quickly to avoid running into Nosaj or Ramo again. Deep in his heart, Jerek didn’t really want to oversee the relocation for Nosaj, and by leaving he wouldn’t have to.

With that plan set in his mind, Jerek pulled out a travel bag and he began stuffing his shirts and pants into it, then he slung the bag across his back. Jerek retrieved his sword from where it stood propped up in the corner by his bedroom door, and strung it through his belt, giving him all of the essentials that he needed to go.

Ordinarily Jerek left the castle whenever he wished, but also ordinarily he didn’t have his clothes packed up with a recent history of a long disappearance. It was possible that he could raise a few inquiries because of those two combined facts, so he decided to sneak out. Slinking around the corridors, Jerek found a certain delight in avoiding being seen as the adrenalin pumped through his veins. However, as usual there were very few people wandering around the halls and his thrill was short lived as he found himself outside very quickly. Not even the stable keeper was around to fuss over Jerek saddling his horse and galloping off into the surrounding forest.

Jerek couldn’t keep from chuckling, wondering what Ramo would think if he knew what he was doing. Ramo would certainly be surprised, but Jerek justified his actions because he missed her; the woman who had invaded his thoughts and feelings, who agitated somewhere in the back of his mind a vague memory of something that used to be pure. There was an exception to the rule of women, and Jerek had found that exception.

When Jerek arrived in the clearing, he saw Tryne sitting in her open doorway with her head turned the other way. For some reason, that made him nervous. The constant thudding of the horse’s hooves echoed the pounding in his chest. He wanted her to look over and see him, to notice him before he had to announce his presence, but her head stayed turned the other way, refusing to show him anything other than the back of her orange hair. Five feet away, he dismounted, his feet making noise as they hit the ground and flattened the grass underneath him, his sword also clinking in its sheath. Now she had to be ignoring him, because it was obvious that he was there. Irritated, Jerek strode right up behind Tryne and stopped with his feet apart and arms folded.

“You didn’t say anything when you left,” she said, still refusing to look at him. Slowly she stood up, then in one swift movement turned around and punched Jerek in the shoulder.

He stumbled back a step. “What was that for?”

“I thought that you’d never come back. I thought for sure that . . .”

“You’re crazy!” Jerek rotated his shoulder, almost ashamed that it hurt.

“You deserved that, but I guess that since you did come back I might as well help you.” Tryne reached toward Jerek, but he flinched away. “Oh come on now.” Grabbing Jerek roughly, she turned him around then began massaging his shoulders. It felt surprisingly nice and relaxing. “I’m really glad you came back,” Tryne whispered, stopping and letting her hands rest between his shoulder blades.

Jerek grunted, wanting to say the same but feeling too embarrassed to express any sort of emotion. Instead, he half turned to look at her and with a small grin said, “Don’t worry about it. I was just getting my sword, since I’m your protection after all.”

Tryne’s face lit up with curiosity as she reached for the weapon on Jerek’s belt.

“Hey!” He turned away from her.

“I just want to look at it. I’ve never seen a weapon with a black hilt like that before. It’s got to be high quality, very expensive.”

“Don’t touch my sword,” Jerek said with an almost threatening tone. “Besides, why are you even still here? You should’ve moved to town.”

“I could never leave my farm in the middle of the season. I have to finish this year out so I’m staying right here.” Jerek flinched, remembering what Nosaj had said about the cottage, but Tryne didn’t notice. “Though I admit,” she said as Jerek felt Tryne’s hand slip into his, their fingers interlocking, “it does get lonely.” Feeling excited and unsure of himself, Jerek closed his fingers and gripped her hand, his heart thumping almost painfully as he longed to do something else, but he couldn’t figure out what. It was something that involved her, something that . . . Nosaj flooded his head, repeating the words, “I want that farm destroyed.”

“It’d be easier on you if you left.” Jerek tried to sound casual, not wanting to give away that he knew anything.

“Ken tried to get me to leave too. When we discovered that you were gone, he claimed that Nosaj’s army would be marching down on me at any moment and I would be safer in the town, but now that you’re back I don’t think it matters anymore.”

“I’m only one person,” Jerek said darkly, then caught himself. “I can’t do farmwork, so you’d be working all by yourself. You really should move to the town . . .” No, the town wasn’t any safer. “. . . or somewhere so you don’t have to worry about keeping the farm up.”

“Jerek, what are you getting at? Why are you so insistent on me leaving the farm?” Jerek froze as he heard Tryne say that, fearing that he had given away too much. “Do you hate farmwork that much?”

“Yes.” He couldn’t keep the relief out of his voice.

“Then I won’t make you do any, but I’m not leaving before winter comes. I have a responsibility, after all.”

Jerek almost wanted to growl at her stubbornness. Perhaps Nosaj would wait a few days before he sent his forces without Jerek.

“Would you like to have a picnic? I’ll prepare the food while you move your stuff in and settle down some,” Tryne said.

“It’s all about food with you, isn’t it?”

“If you feed a stray animal enough, it’ll never leave.”

“Are you saying that I’m a stray animal?”

“Think about it. I found you injured one day after you ran into a tree.” Tryne paused and giggled as Jerek winced. “Then I nursed you back to health. Ever since then you’ve been in and out, and I really hope that this time you’re here to stay. By the way.” Tryne reached up and brushed Jerek’s hair aside, gently touching the scab on the side of his head. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“That’s good, and it doesn’t look infected so I’d dare say you’ll live through this experience.”

“I’m not too sure about that, you might end up smothering me to death.” Jerek grabbed Tryne’s hand, holding it in place. “Same bed?”

“What?” Tryne gave Jerek a strange look.

“Am I in the same bed as the last time? I didn’t mean . . .” Jerek’s face turned red, and he quickly let go of Tryne’s hand.

“Oh, yeah. We should probably get ready for our picnic now, so we can have as much time as we’d like.”

Fifteen minutes later they were sitting in a sunny patch of grass with lunch spread out before them on an old blanket.

“Tell me about yourself,” Tryne said. “I want to know everything about you.”

“Like what?”

“For starters, cats or dogs?”

Jerek thought for a moment. Ramo kept a cat, a fluffy fur ball with a squashed face that gave him a permanently grumpy look. He liked that cat better than the guard dogs that barked and tried to jump on him. The cat, at least, left him alone. “Cats.”

“Me too. How about your favorite color?”

“Why on earth would someone have a favorite color?”

“I don’t know, everyone just has a color that they like better than the others. Don’t you have one?”

Jerek looked around, then his gaze settled on Tryne’s hair. “Reddish-orange gold.”

Tryne giggled and blushed. “You’re just trying to flatter me.” Leaning forward she whispered into Jerek’s ear, “It’s working,” then sat back, continuing their conversation. “My favorite is pale pink. What’s your favorite food?”

“How long do we have to keep doing this?”

“Okay, I get your hint, you don’t have any favorites. What do you do in your spare time?”

“And yet you still keep up with the questions. All I do is sit in my window and smoke!”

“You didn’t have to snap at me like that.” Sulking, Tryne looked at the sky away from Jerek.

In that moment Jerek deeply regretted that he had been rude. He didn’t think that he would hurt her feelings, but he couldn’t take the harshness of his voice back. Instead, he acted on his first impulse. Wrapping his arms around Tryne in an embrace, he pulled her close to him and whispered, “I’m sorry.” Tryne’s eyes opened wide, then slowly closed as she smiled slightly, moving to rest her head against his chest.

“It’s all right,” she murmured. “Let’s just stay like this for a little bit.”

Jerek nodded, moving one of his hands to stroke the back of Tryne’s head. Her hair was soft and smooth to his touch, and it felt good to hold her even though it made his heart beat a little faster. He wanted them to stay like that for a long time, with the warm sun bathing them in a way that made the whole world stand still in peaceful serenity.

However, after awhile Jerek’s muscles started to feel stiff and Tryne was more like a heavy weight pushing against his chest, constricting his breathing. Gently taking Tryne’s shoulders and pushing her away, he shifted and stretched, easing the aches in his back and legs. Tryne stretched a little bit too, raising her arms to the sky and falling backwards onto the grass.

“Jerek,” Tryne said grinning. “You turned me into something sappy. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“You’ve done far worse to me. You know, there’s someone who would die to be you right now.” Jerek chuckled.

“Really? Who is she?”

“Just someone I grew up with,” Jerek vaguely replied, starting to feel like he had given away to much information.

“I’m feeling a little deflated. I was under the impression that I was your only acquaintance, and now I find out that you’re leading along other girls as well.” Tryne folded her arms and puckered out her lips in exaggerated pouting.

“I don’t lead anyone along. If I don’t like someone, I tell them, and if they still insist on obsessing over me then that’s their problem.”

“Do you like me?”

Jerek was caught off guard by Tryne’s question, even though he should have been able to see it coming. “I haven’t said otherwise.”

Suddenly standing up, Tryne said, “I have chores to get to, and I insist that you escort me back.”

“Why?” Jerek asked, pushing himself up as well.

“Because that’s what gentlemen do for ladies.” Linking her arm with Jerek’s, Tryne began to pull him off. “Come on, we have lots of work to do. It’s just the two of us running this farm, after all.”

“You told me that I wouldn’t have to do any farmwork.”

“I’d still appreciate it if you helped me out a little. It won’t be that bad.”

Jerek sighed and rolled his eyes. “I don’t have a choice in this, do I.”

 

Fade to White

Fade to White chapter 9

Fade to White

Chapter Nine

Tiptoeing through his lounge, Jerek was careful not to wake up Ramo who was still sleeping on the couch. Despite the late night before, he had gotten up early on the account of not being able to sleep anyway. She was the only thing he could think about. Every time he closed his eyes he could see her sitting with her back to him, wearing a long baby pink night gown, pulling her hair out of the braid in shimmering strands of red. He could also remember waking up briefly in the dead of night and listening to her cry.

Ramo hardly ever cried, that heaven for that. Making the decision in the spur of the moment, Jerek tapped Ramo’s foot. “Get up.”

“Uh.” Rolling over, Ramo buried his face into the fabric of the couch. “Why aren’t you tired?”

“I’m a god. Get up or I’ll tell the Commander not to give you any breakfast.”

“Why would you do a thing like that?” Ramo sat up quickly.

“Because I’m a cold-hearted bastard. C’mon, let’s go eat. I haven’t had a proper meal in a couple of days.”

“All right.” Bouncing up, Ramo stretched his arms above his head and asked, “How are you this morning?”

“Progressively worse since you got up.”

Jerek smiled slightly when Ramo punched him in the shoulder, and opened the door to go out into the corridors of the castle. Faint screaming echoed down the hallway, gradually growing louder and soon a girl appeared dashing toward them, followed closely by two soldiers before one of the tackled her.

“Disgusting,” Ramo murmured behind Jerek’s shoulder. “Let’s go.”

Staying where he was, Jerek watched in amusement. That girl looked familiar.

“Help me!” the girl suddenly cried out, lunging at Jerek. “Please save me! I don’t care what you do to me, so long as it’s not him!”

It was the teenager from Opal. He remembered her now. “Go on and leave,” he told the soldiers who stood and looked at each other with uncertainty before obeying. “Tell me.” Jerek crouched down to look at her in the face better as he addressed the girl. “Were you thinking that I would make use of you? Is that why you struck that deal? You’re a shallow little girl.”

“Save me,” the girl sobbed, reaching up and clinging to the front of his shirt. “I know you have a good heart. Otherwise, you would have never helped the children.”

“The children are dead.” Jerek pried the girl’s fingers from his shirt, then holding both of her wrists with one hand, reached to his leg where he kept a hidden knife. “As you deserve to be.”

The girl began screaming again, repeating the word “no” over and over, struggling against Jerek’s hold on her and trying to escape. Bringing the knife up, Jerek hesitated. She was crying.

“Not right before breakfast,” Jerek grunted, standing up. “I don’t want you ruining my meal.”

“Jerek! Make her stop!” Ramo suddenly burst out, his hands pressed against his ears, droplets sparkling at the corners of his eyes.

“Ramo, it’s okay.” Turning to Ramo, Jerek grabbed his wrists and forced his hands down.

“No Jerek! Make her stop! I can’t stand it! Make her stop!” Tears were flowing freely down Ramo’s cheeks as he grew closer to becoming hysterical.

“Shut the hell up!” Jerek roared, turning around and seizing the girl’s neck, lifting her up into the air. “Never scream like that, ever!” he yelled, shaking the girl forcefully. She choked and gurgled, her eyes bulging as her hands feebly hit and clawed at Jerek. “Stop that!” Thrusting his arm forward, Jerek slammed the girl against the wall, a loud smack sounding as her head made contact with the stone, then she went limp. “Are you okay Ramo?”

Ramo nodded. “I’m sorry. It’s just . . .”

“I know. How did the girl escape anyway? She shouldn’t have been in this part of the castle to begin with.”

“Did you just kill my whore, Jerek?”

Dropping the girl, Jerek dusted his hands. “Commander and King, you’re becoming lax in your security.”

“Perhaps.” Kneeling down, Nosaj put his hand on the girl’s neck, then with a disgusted look he straightened and kicked the girl’s body. “I expect you to replace her. Someone young and fresh like she was.”

“I’ll think about it after breakfast.” Jerek turned around, but Nosaj stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Ramo, go on ahead. Jerek and I are going to take a little walk, then meet up with you later.”

“Okay.” Ramo was barely audible. “I’m sorry.”

“You aren’t that upset over losing one girl, are you?” Jerek shifted around, obviously impatient.

“No, no, this isn’t about that. Perhaps you’ve already heard, but it has recently come to my attention that there’s also a rebel group in the Amber Village. You know I like to have peace in my Twelve Villages, but currently we’re down to eleven, and I don’t want to be forced to destroy another one.” Tapping a bony finger against his lips, Nosaj asked, “What do you suppose I should do?”

Jerek shrugged, giving no other reply.

“Tch, Jerek.” Nosaj shook his head. “That’s disappointing of you. Sometimes I wonder if you’ll make a good heir, or if everything will just fall apart in your hands.”

“That depends on the strength of the kingdom my predecessor builds. If he hands me a weak kingdom, then time will take its course, regardless.”

“At least you’re quick witted in some areas. Now here’s what we’re going to do: we have one city that needs to be rebuilt, and another that needs to be divided. Do you see?”

“A relocation? Won’t that just put the rebels in both towns?”

“Their forces will be divided and communication with their leader will be cut off. We’ll also saturate both of the cities with soldiers so it will be difficult for them to reorganize, and it would take some very determined people to keep that silly little group alive.”

“What if they are that determined?”

Nosaj chuckled. “Then I’ll give them my kudos.”

“And you want me to take care of this for you?”

“I’m getting older, Jerek. I have you. I don’t need to go out on raids anymore. Why else do you think I saved you and raised you as my own?” Smiling, Nosaj reached up and patted Jerek’s face. “Go and join Ramo now, that boy’s waiting for you.”

“Oh goodie,” Jerek grunted.

“And Jerek,” Nosaj suddenly turned back around to face him again. “There was a woman brought in here the other day, claiming to be the leader of the rebels. I was really quite surprised to see her, especially under those circumstances, considering that for quite some time she had been paying me to turn a blind eye on her godforsaken farm. I’ll have a map of its location sent to you, and I want that farm destroyed. I’m beginning to think that maybe the house had been a meeting place for miscreants.” Starting to laugh, Nosaj added, “And all this time I thought it was a brothel!”

Turning around, Jerek walked off without a word in reply. He couldn’t decide which made him angrier, the fact that Nosaj didn’t tell him about the cottage until now, or that he had actually been talking about Tryne’s farm. He doubted that Tryne knew that her mother had been paying off Nosaj, because it was something that she would never accept. It had been hard fighting the urge to reach out to forcefully remove that smile from Nosaj’s face. It was insulting that Nosaj kept information from him, and as the future heir to the title of Commander and King, he deserved to know all of Nosaj’s business. He needed that trust, so that when he did take over he would be able to hold the Twelve Villages together.

Bursting into the dining room, Jerek caught Ramo by surprise and caused him to jump. Jerek huffed slightly as he looked at the place set for him, the plate piled high with scrambled eggs and warm fruit croissants. Taking a seat, Jerek used his fork to viciously stab a sausage.

“What did Nosaj want to talk about?” Ramo asked, leaning casually against his hand but looking at Jerek intently.

“Strategy,” Jerek replied, then quietly whispered, “And to flaunt in my face how much he keeps from me.”

“Oh.” Putting his fork into his mouth, Ramo paused thoughtfully. “So what are our future moves?”

“Massive relocation, from Amber to Opal. Half the city’s population with as few fatalities as possible, but we have to keep up the scare factor.”

“How are you planning on moving all those people?”

“Soldiers surrounding everyone with guns and swords. They’ll have no choice but to walk.”

“You can do it, no problem.” Ramo smiled, swirling his fork through the air before scooping up more eggs with it. “This morning’s breakfast is really good.”

“Yeah, it is.” After pausing for a moment, Jerek said, “I want to train.”

“Ooo Jerek, can I fight with you? It’s been forever since we’ve done that.” Excited, Ramo leaned forward.

“That’s because I’m way better than you. I’d break you.”

“Then you can fix me. Please?”

Standing up, Jerek turned to the door. “Better hurry then,” he said, looking sideways at Ramo. Jumping up, Ramo skipped as he followed Jerek to his personal training room. The walls were lined with swords, though most of them were nothing more than sparkly decorations. Turning, Jerek retrieved two wooden swords from the corner where they had been standing propped up. Tossing one of the practice swords to Ramo, Jerek then took off his shirt and dropped it to the floor where it landed lightly in a white pile. Flexing his muscles, Jerek picked up the second sword and looking over his shoulder at Ramo said, “I won’t go easy on you.”

Then he paused as the black mark on the back of his shoulder caught his eye. He was always thrown off by that tattoo, because he could never seem to remember that he had it, despite the fact that the ink in his skin was years old. It was Nosaj’s symbol, a snake twisted around a black rose that bore venomously sharp thorns. Ramo took off his shirt too, revealing a similar mark on the back of his shoulder, and picked up a sword, pointing it at Jerek and saying “En garde.”

Jerek chuckled, standing ready for Ramo’s attack. “I hope you don’t try any fencing moves. These are the wrong weapons for that.”

“I won’t,” Ramo said as he took a swing at Jerek, who brought up his wooden blade and blocked the blow, then thrust Ramo’s sword to the side and in almost the same movement struck Ramo’s leg.

“Ow!”

“Hurt already?”

“Well, you hit me rather hard,” Ramo said as he gingerly touched where his leg had been hit. “It’ll probably bruise.”

“Go on and sit down, I’ll just do some exercises.” Turning his back to Ramo, Jerek continued to swing his sword at the air. Ramo nodded and limped over to the wall, sitting on the ground with his back leaning against it.

“You’ve gotten a lot better.”

“I told you so.” There was a moment of silence before Jerek plunged into words. “So what does it mean when you can’t stop thinking about someone?” he asked, trying hard to sound casual.

“It depends, what kind of feelings do you have when you think of them?” Ramo’s back arched as he leaned forward with piqued curiosity.

“I don’t know. Kind of happy, kind of annoyed, I guess. I think I want to spend more time with this person.”

“Jerek, are you in love?”

“No!” Jerek brought his sword swinging down so quickly it made a hissing noise in the air. Sullenly, he added, “I’m just intrigued, that’s all.”

Ramo laughed, sounding relieved. “So such emotion has yet to happen to the great and wonderful Jerek, but who knows, maybe that’ll change sometime in the future.”

“Don’t look at me like that.” Jerek hunched his shoulders, keeping his back to Ramo. “And don’t talk like that.”

The door swung open, revealing Nosaj who looked at them for a second before cracking a grin. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

Jerek put down his sword and picked up his shirt, then pulling it on he walked up to Nosaj and said loudly, “We were finished anyway,” then continued past Nosaj.

“I meant to tell you, Jerek. I want the relocation done today.”

Jerek stopped. “Today?”

“Yes, if you would.”

“I don’t feel up to it today. I had a late night.”

Nosaj seemed to be a little surprised. “Very well then, tomorrow. We have to get this done quickly, you know.”

Nodding, Jerek pushed his way through the door into his sitting room and from there into his bedroom, locking the door behind him. Getting down on his hands and knees, he pulled out his secret stash of cigarets and lit one, but failing to receive any sort of enjoyment, he tossed it out the window. What he was craving was Tryne’s simple and wholesome cooking. What he wanted was to see Tryne again. He wasn’t in love, he couldn’t be, and yet he felt something in his chest . . . Maybe he was. The thought made him smile.

 

About Me

Maturity

As I’ve been reading the Fade to White chapters that I’ve been posting, I can’t help but find it jarringly jumpy — like most of what was in my head when I wrote it never actually made it into words. I want to go back and smack my 19-year-old self then tell her to stop reading so much manga.

Maybe at some point in the future I’ll rewrite it, because the story itself is cute. Or maybe I’ll be too engrossed in other projects to care.

Thank god I’m not 19 anymore.

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Macro tax
Fade to White

Fade to White Chapter 7

Fade to White

Chapter Seven

During the morning Jerek and Tryne worked on small and menial jobs that felt more along the lines of busy work. Jerek couldn’t help the feeling that Tryne had turned her back on her normal routine, at least for the time being since all the things Tryne ordered him to do were directly related to their immediate needs. Just after midday, Tryne hung up her last wet apron on the clothes’ line and with a smile watched Jerek as he worked.

“Come on, let’s go have some fun,” Tryne called, waving to Jerek.

“Don’t you want me to . . . ?”

“No,” Tryne cut him off. Dropping the axe, Jerek walked over to Tryne who took him by the arm, once again leading him to the brook. Tryne hitched up her skirt, exposing her bare legs as she kicked off her shoes.

Jerek blinked. “What are you doing?”

“Haven’t you ever done this before?” Tryne asked, stepping into the water.

“No.” Jerek watched her curiously.

“What kind of rock do you live under?” Tryne kicked some water at Jerek. “Come on, it’s fun!”

“Wait.” Jerek shook his head, leaning against the tree with his arms folded. “You expect me to take off my boots and step into cold water where sharp rocks can injure my feet?”

“Yeah, that’s the basic idea.” Tryne tilted her head to one side, placing her hands on her hips.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“You’re as much fun as a wet blanket.” Sticking her tongue out at Jerek, Tryne turned and walked out deeper to where the water was rushing around her knees. “Are you coming?”

“No.”

“All right then.” Tryne took a couple more steps, then almost fell with a loud and painful gasp. “Ow!”

“What is it?” Jerek asked, stepping closer to the bank.

“I stepped on something sharp. Oh my gosh, I’m bleeding!”

“I told you so. Well, come up over here, I’ll look at it.”

Tryne took a hobbling step, then looked pleadingly at Jerek. “I don’t think I can walk.”

With a sigh, Jerek plunged into the water, getting his boots and pants wet. He walked over to her, put his arm around her waist and lifted Tryne out of the water, then looked down at her feet which were clean and white, the clear droplets of water reflecting the sunlight.

“You aren’t . . .”

“Oh Jerek, my hero!” Tryne threw her arms around his neck. “You rescued me!”

“Liar.”

“No, I’m . . .” Tryne didn’t finish her sentence, cutting it off with a scream as Jerek dropped her. The splashes completely soaked her and plastered her hair against her head as she sat stunned while the water swirled around her chest.

“Maybe next time you’ll think twice before lying to me.” Smirking, Jerek turned and looked at the shore, suddenly stopping.

“Tryne.”

Scrambling to her feet, Tryne exclaimed, “Ken! What are you doing here?”

“You’re wearing a white shirt.”

Turning to face the other way, Tryne looked over her shoulder. “I wasn’t expecting anyone till later.”

“I came early to see how you were doing.” Taking off his long brown coat, Ken held it ready. “But I see you already have help.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Tryne waded to the shore. “Come on Jerek,” she muttered as she passed him. Ken wrapped his coat around her shoulders when she reached him, then began pushing her back to her cottage. Stopping only to pick up Tryne’s shoes, Jerek followed closely after them.

“Don’t you . . . need your shoes?” Jerek asked, feeling an immediate dislike for Ken.

“Yes, thank you, Jerek.” Moving away from Ken, Tryne took her shoes from Jerek, her hands brushing his as she did so. Bending over, Tryne yanked on her boots before she then continued walking with distance between her and both of the men.

When she entered the cottage, Tryne shut the door on her followers and the clanking of the chain was heard as the latch was drawn. Jerek settled into a waiting position, leaning against the wall near the door with his arms crossed, but Ken paced around anxiously, looking up at the sky then into the forest repeatedly. Several minutes later, Tryne opened the door and Ken sprang to her.

“I’ll set up everything inside,” he whispered, glancing at Jerek then looking expectantly at Tryne before he disappeared into the darkened interior.

Tryne stepped outside, pulling the door partially shut behind her. “Jerek,” she said softly. “I trust you enough to include you in this.” Watching her silently, Jerek felt suspicious of what was going to come next. “I told you before that I hated Nosaj. Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that.” Lowering her voice, Tryne stepped closer to him. “I’m one of the leaders of a rebel group.” Taking his hand, she pulled Jerek inside, causing Ken to look disapprovingly at them as he set a large rolled parchment on the table. Opening up the parchment to reveal it was a map, Tryne continued, “There’s a leader for each of the Twelve Villages, each of them able to function as an individual group, but corresponding with one another. Now, I am . . .” Tryne paused, “digressing. Sorry about that.”

“Tryne,” Ken said gruffly. “Are you sure you want him to be here?”

“Yes. Tonight I’m announcing that the leadership over all the villages has transferred to me after my mother’s death. From now on, I’ll be deciding where we’ll go in the future and I’ll keep the communication lines open. Before anyone can make any major decisions, they must consult with me.”

“Do you know what you’re saying?!” Ken exclaimed in alarm, grabbing Tryne by her upper arms then almost immediately letting her go, looking away. “You’d do well,” he said, forcing each word out. “You’re determined enough.”

Tryne smiled. “Help me make a snack. These meetings always go better when there’s something to eat.”

“You are such a woman Tryne. Sometimes I can’t help but think that you’re time would be better spent raising children.”

Tryne laughed but didn’t answer, busying herself in preparations. Slinking down, Jerek sat on the floor by the door, retrieving his hat and putting it on before he did so. As the sky darkened, men and women showed up one by one, until the room was filled with newcomers. Both Tryne and Ken were familiar with the people, greeting each of them warmly by name and with the shake of the hand. Most of the gatherers didn’t notice Jerek in his position, talking to each other with delight mixed in with graveness.

After the door remained closed for several minutes, Tryne loudly cleared her throat. “I suppose we should get right down to business. As some of you may know, our sister village Opal was destroyed the other day by Nosaj and his troops!”

One of the members of the meeting spoke up with a calm and methodical voice. “I heard rumors that the one in charge of destroying the village was some sort of an heir for Nosaj, though no one seemed to know any specifics about this new person. Apparently though, this heir is supposed to be very talented at fighting and leadership. As soon as I get anymore information, I’ll pass it on.”

“An heir?” Tryne frowned. “If that’s the case, we’ll just have to get rid of them both. We can’t let them continue to ravage our neighbors anymore! The time is coming close for all of us to declare open rebellion!”

“Tryne,” Ken said softly, leaning close to her. “The support for Nosaj still runs too deeply in some villages, especially in mine. They would kill us before Nosaj’s troops even lift a finger. We can’t openly declare ourselves yet.”

“But we have to do something! We can’t let anyone else die!”

“I suppose now is as good of time as any.” Ken reached over, wrapping his fingers around Tryne’s hand. “Alara, Tryne’s mother, is dead. Nosaj’s soldiers killed her, though they didn’t know about her position. As usual, they took her body with them so we can’t have a regular funeral for her . . .”

“I wasn’t planning on a funeral,” Tryne interjected. “I’m going to take my mother’s place.”

There was somewhat of an uneasy silence, until it was broken by a female voice, “You’re such a nice girl.”

“Will you let me take this position?” Tryne asked.

Several people murmured, while others nodded. That seemed to be the final decision, because Tryne smiled in relief, but it was instantly replaced with surprise and fear as banging sounded on the door, hushing the group.

“Everyone’s here though, aren’t they?” Tryne looked at Ken, who was calm and somewhat smug.

“I thought I’d bring along a surprise for you,” he said, flinging open the door. A couple children shyly entered the room, seeming small and unsure of themselves as they were herded inside by their caretaker.

Clapping her hands, Tryne jumped forward and dragged the kids more into the center of the room, taking the baby in her arms. “Don’t be scared. Would you like something to eat?”

It was time to leave. Standing up, Jerek managed to slip out unnoticed into the cool and earthy air, which calmed him after the commotion inside. Walking past a few trees into the forest, he stopped with his back against the rough bark of a tree trunk and pulled out a cigaret, lighting it.

Everything made sense to him now. He had been wasting time cutting at the branches and trunks of the aspen trees while the roots remained hidden and safe right underneath his feet, sending up new shoots the instant his back was turned. The only way that he was ever going to destroy this rebel force was to strike at the roots themselves, and the main root seemed to be . . .

Jerek nearly dropped his cigaret, then chided himself. What happened to her shouldn’t be any concern of his. Yet he could picture her. He could see her long orange hair, her brilliant eyes, and her laughing smile, fading into deep sorrow as he . . . Jerek refused to think about that anymore. If Tryne had been more like a woman, then he could do it to her easily. Despite the fact that Ken had said that she was just like one, Jerek couldn’t make the connection in his mind. To compare her to the sniveling objects he had known all his life was an insult to Tryne. She was better than that. She was . . .

“Excuse me, what are you doing?” Tryne’s voice said right behind his head.

With a startled jump, Jerek turned to face her and the baby in her arms. “Huh?”

“Those are disgusting, and they smell bad.” Reaching up, Tryne took the cigaret out of Jerek’s mouth, dropping it and smashing it into the ground with her foot. “From now on, I forbid you from smoking.”

“What? You can’t do that.” Jerek didn’t really feel annoyed though. In face, he was smiling.

“And especially around a baby. You have no honor.” Tryne laughed, putting a finger against the infant’s nose and saying in baby talk, “Isn’t that right?”

“What are you doing out here?” Jerek asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be inside leading everything?”

“Nope, everything official has been said already. Besides,” Tryne gently twirled around with the baby, “I noticed you were gone so I came out looking for you.” As Tryne stepped closer to Jerek, the infant reached out and caught hold of the baggy sleeve of Jerek’s white shirt, trying to put it into his mouth to suck on. “He likes you.”

“I can see that.”

“Do you want to hold him?”

“No. I don’t want to.” Jerek took a step away, holding his hands up.

“Aw, c’mon.” Grabbing one of Jerek’s arms Tryne set the baby against it, waiting until he moved his second arm into position to hold the baby before letting go. The infant immediately reached up with a wet fist and pulled Jerek’s hair.

“He’s just like you,” Jerek said, looking and feeling very awkward. “He has an obsession with my hair.”

“He has good taste.” Reaching up, Tryne mimicked the baby and tugged slightly on Jerek’s hair, but he leveraged the baby to one arm and grabbed her wrist with a free hand, pulling it up so Tryne had to stand on tiptoes. In this position her body was brushing against his and he could see more detail in her eyes. There was a darker rim of azure around her irises, with a mixture of turquoise along with the blue, and there seemed to be more light reflecting in her eyes than there was in the air around them. Her eyes slowly closed, and in a sharp suddenness Jerek realized just how close they were. Letting her go, he thrust the baby to her.

“Take him back.”

Taking the baby and holding him against her hip, Tryne smiled slightly. “You know, after you left Ken openly said he didn’t trust you at all.”

“So? Why should he?”

“I don’t know, it just kind of seems like he’s jealous to me.” Giggling, Tryne added, “I’m going back inside now,” before she turned around and began meandering back toward the cottage. Jerek sat down on the ground with his back against a tree, planning when he was going to leave.

“Tryne.”

She stopped, and smiling turned around. “Ken! I’m sorry. I didn’t see you. I guess it’s getting too dark.”

Ken stepped out of the shadows, his dark eyes even more sullen that usual. After a moment, he said, “You remember my proposal? You didn’t turn me down, but you didn’t accept it either. You said . . .”

“‘I need to stay home and take care of the farm with my mom,’ I know.”

“I thought that was noble of you, putting off your future for your mother’s sake, knowing that I was in no position to take care of your mother as well as you. So we promised to wait.”

“I need to harvest this year’s crop . . .”

“No, Tryne.” Ken let out an exasperated sigh. “Quit making excuses.” An uncomfortable silence fell heavily over them, then finally Ken broke it. “You wanted him to kiss you, didn’t you.”

“You know I never felt anything like that toward you,” Tryne said softly. “I always thought of you as more like a brother.”

“I hope you’re making the right decision.” Moving one arm, Ken embraced Tryne and the baby. “You deserve to be a mother,” he said, patting the baby’s head but his eyes locked with Tryne’s. Smiling, he added, “You can always come back to me if he ever makes you cry. I promise.”

 

Fade to White

Fade to White Chapter 6

Fade to White

Chapter Six

A cigaret burned low in Jerek’s mouth as he watched Tryne, the tiny glowing light disappearing, so he took the dead cigaret and flipped it into the brook nearby, then looked up at the darkening sky and wondered how long it had been. It felt like hours, and Tryne was still asleep, but Jerek found himself unwilling to wake her. Thankfully the burden was taken off his shoulders when Tryne stirred and partially pushed herself up, looking blankly at the deep shadows around her.

“What time is it?” she asked, sitting up completely and rubbing her eyes.

“Close to sunset is my guess,” Jerek replied.

“Oh.” Tryne shivered slightly, though Jerek didn’t know why; it felt warm to him.

“Are you cold?”

“A little bit. We should head home now, and we probably ought to think about dinner.” Yawning, Tryne stretched her arms above her head.

Jerek got to his feet, then helped Tryne up. Her hand was cold, so when she started to move away he tightened his grip and began walking with her. Tryne smiled, slipping her fingers in between Jerek’s so that they were interlocking.

“I don’t even know anything about you,” she whispered. “Where do you come from?”

Jerek set his jaw, hoping he didn’t seem too hesitant in answering. “Several miles west. You could say I’m a hermit of sorts.”

“You dress pretty nice for a hermit.” Tryne closed her eyes. “I would’ve pegged you as someone of prestige.”

Jerek scowled. “So what if I dress nice? I like to look good.”

“You do look good, so don’t worry about that. What do you do for a living?”

Jerek solemnly swore in his heart that if Tryne was going to ask anymore questions, he’d shove her to the ground and walk away. “I’m a mercenary.”

Tryne’s eyes snapped open and she looked at Jerek narrowly. “You don’t work for Nosaj, do you?”

“No, never have.”

“I hate him! I hate his stupid dictatorship!” Listening, Jerek kept his mouth closed as Tryne talked. “I want . . .” she seemed to struggle to find the words she wanted to say, but she could only come up with, “to get rid of him.”

“Why?”

Jerek’s question shocked Tryne. “Why? Because he destroys villages and rapes women. That isn’t exactly what a good leader does.”

“But you can’t just get rid of him, that would create a power vacuum.”

“I know.” Tryne sighed. “Say, how do you get hired as a mercenary if you’re a hermit? How are people supposed to find you?”

“I go into the nearby villages. It’s not like I spend all my time alone in the forest.”

As they reached the cottage, Tryne gripped Jerek’s hand harder as she pushed the door open. “I can’t pay you much, but I can feed you anytime you want. Will you work for me?”

“Eh . . . sure,” Jerek grumbled, “But just as a personal body guard, I don’t want to get involved in your politics.”

“Of course, I wouldn’t dream of forcing someone to fight for something they don’t believe in, no matter how right or just the cause is.”

“What do you want to hire me for anyways?” Letting go of Tryne’s hand, Jerek pulled a chair out from the table and sat in it backwards with his arms crossed over the back.

“My mom got killed, didn’t she?” Tryne answered coldly, before flushing with embarrassment. “I’d like you to help me out for awhile, taking care of the farm and going with me to the village.”

“You would’ve forced me to do that anyways.”

“I don’t have to feed you.” Tryne hummed as she pulled out a large knife with some carrots and broccoli. “Would you get the fire going?”

Jerek looked at the cast iron stove. The door to the fire chamber was open, revealing gray ashes with some partially burned wood. “It looks dead.”

“Underneath that. Stir the ashes a bit and put that dry grass on it, then blow.” Tryne shook her head. “Honestly, do you have servants that do everything for you?”

Jerek kept his mouth shut, fighting the urge to give her a sarcastic reply and following the instructions Tryne had given him. When he saw the little flame crackling up and consuming the grass, he couldn’t help but to feel accomplished. In his satisfaction, he grabbed a log and tossed it on the small fire, snuffing it out.

“Idiot,” Tryne said.

“What did you call me?!” Jerek sprang to his feet, clenching his fists.

“I think I’ve figured you out now. You probably have a tab a mile wide at all the taverns and inns in all of the Twelve Villages. I guess you really do spend a lot of time in town.” Tryne laughed, kneeling down on the ground in front of the fire. “You have to build the logs around it in a little fort, like this.” Reaching in, Tryne grabbed the wood and propped it up against a couple other pieces as Jerek crouched down to watch. “That way the air can get to it, and it doesn’t go out. Understand?” Tryne said as she patted Jerek’s cheek, leaving dirty soot marks.

Touching his face, Jerek smeared the black powder even more and he looked at the ash on his hand feeling rather shocked. On impulse, he reached over to Tryne to do the same thing to her, but she caught his wrist and pushed it away, using the motion to lever herself up.

“Water,” she said.

“Huh?”

“We need to fill that pot with water. We keep it stored in that barrel over in the corner.” Tryne pointed to the objects in discussion.

“Oh, right.” Getting up, Jerek retrieved the water like he had been asked.

“We’re just going to have vegetable soup, since I’m not much in the mood for slaughtering, and I doubt that you can.” Tryne dumped the chopped greens into the pot then put it on top of the stove, also grabbing a rag. Before Jerek realized she was even that close to him, she was wiping his cheek clean. “Soot doesn’t suit you,” she chuckled. Jerek stood still, unsure of how to act, but after a moment Tryne put the rag down and sat in the chair Jerek had occupied earlier, leaning with her chin in her hand.

Jerek gave her a strange look, cautiously sitting down in the only other chair at the table.

“You think I’m weird, don’t you?” Tryne buried her head in her arms against the table.

“Different,” Jerek mumbled, and even more quietly added, “Gutsy.”

“I know I just met you,” Tryne’s voice was muffled, “But could you stay tonight?”

Jerek jerked backwards and his chair started tipping. He scrambled to grab hold of the table edge, but failed and crashed onto the floor, dazed for a moment after hitting his head.

“Are you alright?” Tryne asked, standing up.

“Yes, I’m fine.” Jerek attempted to pull himself up but fell back down.

“Let me help you.” Hurrying over, Tryne bent and caught hold of Jerek’s arm.

“I’m fine!” Jerek yanked away. “Don’t touch me!”

Tryne popped down in surprise. “You didn’t seem to mind before.”

“That was before you asked me to stay.”

“What does that have to do with anything? I don’t see what’s wrong with it.” Furrowing her eyebrows, Tryne looked very confused.

“Oh dear God, woman! You’re sick! Perverted!” Shuffling back, Jerek seemed unable to get up to his feet without falling again.

“Wha-oh.” Tryne hit her forehead with the heel of her palm. “You’re the one who’s mind is in the trash, not me.”

“What?” Jerek stopped.

Bursting out laughing, Tryne explained, “You sleep in my mom’s bed while I sleep in my own. We’re not going to–eww.”

“But what was up with that whole ‘we just barely met’ line?” Jerek was suddenly feeling very stupid.

“You could kill me in my sleep for all I know, but I’m willing to take that risk.”

“You didn’t mean . . .”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Okay.” Standing up, Jerek held out his hand to help Tryne. “Sorry about that.”

“I’m glad we understand each other now.” Tryne laughed and turned to stir the pot on the stove. “So will you?”

“You aren’t going to touch me?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Yeah, sure. I guess I could.”

“Jerek, you never fail to amaze me,” Tryne said as she set two bowls and spoons on the table.

Picking up the fallen chair, a small grin snuck into Jerek’s expression. “I could say the same about you.”

Fade to White

Fade to White chapter 5

Fade to White

Chapter Five

As they rode through the crowded market square, Tryne looked around intently at the people in the village, but her eyes never lit up in recognition of the person she was searching for. When he passed a stand selling hats, Jerek leaned over and snatched a wide-brimmed western style hat and put it on to obscure his face, then almost passed Tryne who had stopped her horse to gaze around, seeming very lost.

“Tryne!” a man called, waving and making his way toward them. His face was sullen, with dark brown hair falling into his gray eyes.

“Ken!” she answered as she dismounted from her horse. “Where’s my mother?”

“Come with me Tryne,” Ken said more privately, putting his hand on the back of Tryne’s shoulders and leading her away. It was after they had been walking for awhile when Ken noticed Jerek following, and asked, “Who’s that?”

“It’s okay, he’s with me. Are we going to the inn?” Tryne looked intently at Ken’s face, searching for an answer.

“Yeah, come on then.”

Ken waited until the horses had been tied up and that the three of them were sitting around a table shrouded in darkness inside the inn’s dining room before he began talking.

“I don’t know how to tell this to you Tryne. Yesterday morning the Opal Village was attacked by Nosaj’s soldiers because they had rebelled and refused to pay the taxes. People are getting scared now.”

Tryne clasped her hands together and looked down solemnly at the table. “We still need to keep fighting. If we just keep expressing how important this is, then I’m sure people will gain courage.”

“Some children escaped the attack, and we have them at . . .” The man stopped and looked suspiciously at Jerek who had jumped slightly.

“Hey, where’d you get that hat?” Tryne asked, tilting her head to one side as she looked at Jerek with confusion.

“I’ve always had it,” Jerek grunted. “Didn’t you notice?”

“No, I suppose I didn’t.” Tryne frowned as she tried to think back, then after a moment she said, “I’d love to go visit the orphans. The poor dears must be so scared and lonely right now.”

Jerek shifted around uncomfortably, unconsciously pushing his hat farther onto his head.

“Who is this guy?” Ken gave Jerek a very strange look, leaning closer to Tryne.

“I don’t know,” Tryne whispered loud enough for both Ken and Jerek to hear. “He was around, so I brought him along. Now Ken, answer my question. Where is my mom?”

Ken looked down at the table then back up to Tryne’s eyes and reached forward to take her hand. “Yesterday afternoon a few of Nosaj’s soldiers were hanging around in the village. A couple of them started harassing your mother, and – you know her – she bit back. That made them mad, so . . .”

“No more.” Tryne put her hands up to her ears, staring down.

“Your mother is dead.”

She sank so that her forehead was touching the table, but Tryne didn’t respond in any other way.

“Tryne, I’m sorry. Look at me, please.” Ken moved his hand to touch the top of her head. “Tryne . . .”

Outside there was a sudden loud noise, followed by shouting and cursing. Jerek sprang up and ran outside just in time to see two men running off with Tryne’s horse as his own stallion stood fierce and proud in the middle of the road.

“No, no!” Tryne screamed, standing in the doorway behind him, staring in the direction the thieves ran off, then she furiously kicked at the doorposts, pounding the wood with her fists.

“Tryne, calm down!” Jerek grabbed both of her wrists, but she pushed against him. “Tryne!” he yelled reprovingly, and she stopped, her shoulders sagging heavily as Jerek added, “You can ride my horse.”

“You should go home and get some rest,” Ken said, nodding his head as he moved in between Jerek and Tryne, putting his hands on her shoulders while completely ignoring Jerek.

“I want to call a meeting,” Tryne said darkly. “At my house.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes I’m sure! Tomorrow evening at my house.”

“Okay, I’ll spread the word.” Ken looked uncertainly at Jerek, then gave Tryne a hug before walking away.

“Is there anything else . . .?” Jerek left his question hanging, his eyes narrowed at Ken’s back.

“I want to go home.”

Nodding, Jerek retrieved his horse and mounted it, waiting as Tryne clambered up behind him. With Tryne’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist and her cheek resting against his back, Jerek urged the horse to a trot.

It started softly at first, but as they rode on Tryne’s sobs grew louder. She clung to Jerek’s back, trying hard to suppress the tears but they forced their way out and shook her entire body. A new desire rose up in Jerek, causing him to feel uncertain. He had never had any sympathy for women before, because their tears had been for a choice they had made on their own, but Tryne wasn’t like them. She didn’t bring this on herself. Jerek wanted to somehow help her stop crying.

“Both of my parents died when I was young,” Jerek said, unsure of how that was supposed to make her feel better, but her sobs did soften.

After some time, she asked, “What were they like?”

“I don’t remember . . .” Jerek set his jaw, thinking. “I just know that they were in a house fire.”

“I don’t remember my dad either and Mom refused to talk about him so I don’t know anything. It was just the two of us growing up, and now she’s . . .” Tryne started crying again, harder than before.

This was counterproductive. Jerek searched through his mind for something he could do, but nothing came forward. He wanted her to stop crying, but he didn’t know what to say. “So . . . you’re alone now. That kind of sucks, I suppose.”

Despite herself, Tryne started giggling, mixing it in with the tears. “You have no idea what you’re saying, do you?” Her arms shifted around Jerek into what felt like a hug. “I appreciate your effort though.”

They continued the rest of the trip in silence. Tears streamed down Tryne’s cheeks, but her body was still and her arms were around Jerek in a tight embrace. When they reached the little cottage, Jerek found himself almost regretful that the moment had to end, but Tryne let go and slid off the horse.

“I’ll fix us something to eat,” she said faintly, walking inside and leaving the door open.

Jerek had barely tied his horse up when Tryne came hurrying out, a cloth bundle in her arms and fresh moisture in her eyes. “We’re going to stay out here,” she said quickly, and Jerek nodded, automatically turning to walk toward the forest where they had met earlier that day, but Tryne caught up to him, and putting her hand in his veered him off the right. “There’s a brook over here. We can sit by it as we eat.”

“Alright,” Jerek grunted as he made his hand go limp, but his fingers still curled slightly around Tryne’s.

After a few minutes they reached the stream, which gurgled and sparkled brilliantly in the sunlight as large smooth stones created dips and waves in the shallow water. Near the rocks that made the initial bank, soft green grass grew around a shady tree. Tryne sat underneath the shade and put down her bundle, adjusting her skirt as she looked up at Jerek.

“Come on and sit down.”

Jerek slowly sank, cautiously sitting on the grass. Tryne pulled out a round loaf of bread and a knife, then cut off a chunk and handed it to Jerek with some cheese.

“I’m glad you came today,” Tryne said, staring at the brook as she chewed. “I ended up needing you after all.”

Jerek shoved some of the soft bread in his mouth with a slice of cheese on it, like Tryne had done. The taste surprised him. Even though it looked plain and meager, the meal was good and satisfying. There was sort of a half-smile playing on Tryne’s lips as she watched him eat.

“You have beautiful eyes.” Resting her chin in her hand, Tryne stared dreamily at Jerek’s face.

“What?” Jerek looked at Tryne, shifting backwards.

“And your hair too. I simply adore it.” Reaching over Tryne took off Jerek’s hat and put it on her own head.

“Um, okay. Your hair is . . . pretty.” Jerek couldn’t help but reach up and touch his own hair to make sure it wasn’t in the shape of the hat.

“Thank you Jerek.” Laying back with her arms behind her head, Tryne moved the hat to cover her forehead and eyes. “I’m so tired . . . would you mind if I took a nap?”

“Go ahead,” Jerek mumbled, furtively reaching for more bread.

“Thank you Jerek, for everything you’ve done today.”

 

Fade to White

Fade to White chapter 4

The first couple of chapters for Fade to White were a collaboration between me and my best friend in high school for our creative writing class. I quickly took over and completed writing the novella on my own, since I was the one who enjoyed spending hours and hours alone lost in my head.

We had a falling out after starting college, and I went back and completely rewrote the first two chapters so that the events would be entirely in my own words. Truthfully, it was more about preserving artistic integrity than petty revenge, because I thought that the differences in writing styles stuck out like a forum role play.

For the life of me, I can’t remember if my former friend ever saw the completed novella.

 

 

Fade to White

Chapter Four

Early morning sunlight spilled from the sky and danced around in patterns on Jerek’s white shirt as he sat on the ground with his back against a tree. Two horses stood tied to a branch nearby, one of them stomping his hooves impatiently. Turning her head curiously toward them, Tryne smiled and set her bucket of water down, wiping her hands on her apron before hurrying over to where Jerek lay. His eyes were closed.

“Hello,” Tryne whispered, kneeling down next to him, but Jerek didn’t stir. Gently, she touched his shoulder and he still didn’t respond. Quivering slightly, Tryne reached to brush the bright white hair away from Jerek’s face, watching the strands shimmer in the sun, then slid her hand down the side of his cheek, marveling at how soft and smooth his hair was. Glancing over at Jerek’s face, Tryne jumped back when she saw that his rainbow eyes were open and watching her. “I’m sorry,” Tryne stammered, “I thought you were . . .”

Jerek stood up and looked down at Tryne for a second before holding out his hand to help her to her feet. “I brought your horse back,” he said, turning to his own stallion to pull down the reigns, but he found himself feeling very reluctant to leave.

“You know, when I first saw you lying there I thought you had run into a tree again.” Jerek grunted and scowled, causing Tryne to smile. “Thank you,” she added, walking around the tree to reach her own horse’s reigns, her smile fading.

“Uh,” Jerek began, feeling very uncertain, “Do you have anything . . . that needs to be done?”

“No, not really.” Tryne sighed, patting her horse’s nose. “I’ll be going into town today.”

Sensing something in her voice, Jerek felt slightly alarmed. “Is there anything wrong?”

Tryne hesitated. “My mother never came home last night.”

“Hm.” Jerek shifted from leaning on one foot to the other, fiddling with his hands.

“I’m really surprised you asked to help,” Tryne said quickly, her voice sounding unnaturally lighter. “Yesterday you seemed so mad when I sent you out to chop wood. Perhaps you want to show off your manly muscles some more, and that’s why you came back?”

“You pry too much. Shut up.”

Looking at Jerek for a moment, Tryne spun around and marched away. “The only reason I’m bringing you along,” she said loudly, retrieving her bucket of water, “Is because it’s not safe for a beautiful young girl to travel on her own, and the only reason I’m inviting you to breakfast is to make sure you don’t go running away.” Tryne turned around and motioned to Jerek. “Come inside now.”

Watching her, Jerek felt unsure of how he should be reacting. Any sort of food sounded extremely appealing, considering how he had skipped a couple meals the day before, but . . . “Why should I eat with you?”

“Then you can watch me, but you’re going inside no matter what.” Putting the bucket of water down, Tryne looped her horse’s reigns around the rail post by her front door, then with her hands on her hips she started back toward Jerek. He remained where he was standing, allowing Tryne to completely close the distance between them. Then to his surprise and excitement, Tryne seized Jerek’s forearm with both of her hands and pulled him.

“Why are you so adamant on getting me into your house? Perhaps you want to show off your womanly manners?” Jerek couldn’t help but congratulate himself for his wit.

Laughing slightly, Tryne muttered, “That’s a good one,” then repeated it to herself faintly. “Pick that up, please.” She pointed to the bucket then opened the front door and waited patiently as Jerek tied his horse up, lifted the bucket, and went inside the cottage.

Tryne prepared the meal in silence while Jerek watched her, and after awhile she set down two bowls filled with hot porridge. “There’s some honey if you’d like,” Tryne said as she pushed one of the bowls to Jerek with a spoon, then she sat down and slowly began eating. Jerek stirred the mush around a bit, then cautiously lifted the spoon to his mouth. Hunger got the better of him at that first taste and he began to quickly shovel more into his mouth. “If you don’t mind,” Tryne said, smiling as she watched Jerek, “I’d like to leave after we finish eating.”

Jerek nodded, putting down his empty bowl. “When you’re ready.”

Several minutes later they were both back outside. Jerek easily mounted his horse, then watched in amusement as Tryne clambered ungracefully onto hers, and he felt tempted to ride around her in mocking circles. Moving in a slow trot, the two of them set off for the nearest village, Jerek riding easily and Tryne holding tightly to the reigns.

 

Fade to White

Fade to White chapter 1

I wrote this novella ten years ago, so don’t expect it to be a stunning work of art. I don’t think that it deserves to be buried eternally on a hard drive, but I don’t have the time to edit and update it to my current skill/knowledge level, so here it is as it is. 

 

Fade to White

Chapter One

As Jerek surveyed the smokey tendrils rising from the blackened burning rubble, his steel gray horse skittered and snorted, shying away from the smoldering fires. Satisfied, he dug his heels into the horse’s flanks and galloped to another area of the former town. Although the streets were abandoned, the white walls of the houses here still stood untouched by the flames of his army, creating an eerie and unnerving silence. A breeze gently brushed by, carrying the sound of a baby crying. Setting his jaw, Jerek tightened his grip on the reigns, pulling his horse around in pursuit of the noise. Crouched in the narrow space between two of the buildings, a teenage girl desperately put her fingers over the baby’s mouth in an attempt to hush it, as a couple of small frightened children huddled against her.

His feet hit the ground heavily when he dismounted, and stepping closer to the group Jerek pulled out his sword from the sheath. Looking up with liquid blue eyes that were filled to the brim with fear, the teenage girl moved her mouth in silent pleas while the baby continued to scream uninhibited in her arms; the children were clinging to her and trying to hide behind the fabric of her dress.

“Please . . . ” she whispered, salty tears coursing down her cheeks. “Please . . . ” she repeated as Jerek slowly raised his sword. “Don’t hurt us!” She shrieked when Jerek swung his weapon toward the huddling group, the sudden movement and noise causing the children to scream and the baby to wail louder.

Slowly the teenager opened her eyes, one at a time, and looked terrified at the bright shining blade held less than an inch away from her neck. “Will you do as I say?” Jerek asked in an icy voice.

“Please, just let us go,” the girl sobbed. “I’ll do whatever you ask, just let us go!”

“The children can go, but you’re coming with me.” The girl protested but Jerek ignored her, putting his sword back into the sheath, then waiting patiently as the girl limply handed the baby to the oldest child, embraced each of them in turn, then sobbing stepped forward. Jerek hauled her by the arm and lifted her up onto the horse, mounting behind her. Kicking the horse’s flanks and yanking on the reigns, Jerek clattered off in the direction of his army as the girl strained to see behind him, watching as the children disappeared from view.

“Are you going to . . . use me?” the girl asked in a timid voice after a moment.

It took a second for Jerek to realize what the girl meant. “Oh heck no!” he burst out, almost seeming to gag. “I want nothing to do with women in any way!” After a pause he added, “I don’t use men either.”

“Then what do you want me for?”

“I’m giving you as a gift to the Commander and King. Now shut up.”

* * * * *

“Jerek!” Nosaj exclaimed as he stood up from his gaudy golden throne, with purple velvet jacket and slacks draping over his arms and legs, and a baggy white shirt open in the front to reveal his yellowish chest covered in black coarse hair. “I see you have returned safely.”

“I brought you back something from the raid,” Jerek said, moving into the center of the large empty throne room, yanking the teenage girl in front of him as he walked. She tried to shrink back away from Nosaj, but Jerek pushed her forward again.

Grinning, Nosaj advanced and put his hand under the girl’s chin, fondling her face with his thumb. “How was squashing the terrorists?”

“All right,” Jerek answered, sounding bored. “I killed everyone, just like you asked.”

“Excellent!” Nosaj muttered gleefully, pulling his fingers through the girl’s hair and raising the strands to his nose to sniff as he slowly moved around her.

“That girl was the only survivor, I found her after the initial attack was over.”

“You are soft Jerek, you should have killed her.” Nosaj chuckled. “But I’m glad you didn’t. Next time, however, I want you to try to live up to my title. I don’t want to hand it down to someone who is unworthy.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jerek grumbled. “I won’t do anything like this ever again.”

“I wonder how good is she at kissing?” Nosaj suddenly asked. Quivering, the teenage girl backed away but Nosaj grabbed her and clamped his lips onto hers, forcing his tongue into her mouth.

With a disgusted look on his face, Jerek turned to go but stopped with his hand resting on the large mahogany door.

“Commander,” He said, his voice echoing against the wood. “I’ll escort the girl to the harem now.”

“Mmm yes,” Nosaj answered, breaking away from the girl who had tears running down her face, and he licked his lips. “Get this girl freshened up for tonight.”

Jerek pushed his way out of the room, barely checking to see if the girl was behind him. Stepping out into the wide dim corridor, he turned to walk deeper into the castle. Following after him were the girl’s muffled sobs, bouncing off the walls and ceiling to fill the area with their sound. After a minute, Jerek became irritated and in an accusing tone spoke, “You chose this, you know.”

“I know.” The girl choked, then began weeping louder.

“My suggestion to you,” Jerek said as he stopped to throw open the large double doors of the harem room, “is to get very drunk.” Placing his hands on the back of the girl’s shoulders, he pushed her into the room and walked away, leaving the girl standing alone framed by the doorway and staring into a large cushioned room filled with women.

“Jerek!”

Jerek winced as he heard the overly-enthusiastic voice bounding down the corridor, wishing that he could be left alone at that moment.

“Returning from gallivanting with the women, I see.” A man a little younger than Jerek came prancing down the hall with a large teasing grin on his face, his tight black pants squeaking and clinging to his legs as he walked. Over his torso he wore a form-fitting black tank top with a large scooping neckline that was supposed to emphasize curves the man didn’t possess.

“Ramo,” Jerek greeted him frostily, focusing on the man’s face. His black hair covering half of his face and his dark brown eyes lined with makeup were sadly the most normal aspects of Ramo. “You know I hate women.” Rolling his eyes, Jerek continued down the hall.

“Yes, I know.” Ramo smirked and giggled.

“I’m not like you either,” Jerek spat out, sounding more venomous than he had intended.

Ramo’s expression slipped a little before he pasted it back on. “Did you just come back from the raid? If you’d like, I can accompany you as you give your report to the Commander.”

“I already gave it,” Jerek said before turning around and walking away, ignoring Ramo as he called after him.

Closing the door, Jerek entered his bedroom chamber and paced around. The room was empty, except for the bed in the corner covered by a simple clean white sheet, and a wardrobe pushed against the wall. Jerek walked to the window near his bed and looked out into the bright afternoon sun at the forest that surrounded the back of Nosaj’s castle, a restless feeling swelling up inside him. Looking at the trees, an idea half formed in his mind and he took hold of it. Leaving the window, Jerek walked out of the room and let the door slam shut behind him with a bang.

 

Stories

FictionPress

Seemingly ages ago I used to maintain a FictionPress account that I updated regularly, and I realized the other day that I really missed posting new chapters on a schedule. I created a new FictionPress account with my pen name, and it will be updated [sporadically] Friday.

https://www.fictionpress.com/u/1095993/