Friday Fictioneers – Walking On A Thin Line

(Author’s note: August and September are typically busy times for me at work, so my output may be less… not that it’s much of a departure from previous. Here’s today’s Fictioneers!)

© Krista Strutz

Walking On A Thin Line

by Miles H. Rost

Stewart grabbed his handkerchief and wiped his eyes.

He didn’t want to cry. Seeing the bald eagle that landed on the memorial above him, though, broke everything.

He remembered walking off the plane all those years ago.

The spit. The urine.

The look of disgust on the faces of his classmates when they came to visit his mother, and found him there.

The days alone in his apartment, wondering if that day was his last.

It started looking up when Kristi entered his life, but there was still those memories.

It was this day, though, where that eagle validated everything.

Thanks to Keith Hillman for the Frog

The Fire Still Burns

Author’s Note: If you like what you’ve been reading today and in the past, and want to stay in touch, you can find me on Facebook at this link. If you wish to catch me on Twitter, as well, come to this link

The Fire Still Burns
by Miles Rost

They were lucky to have left Qianshun Square alive.

Paige Hennessey and Uri Syrokova breathed a sigh of relief behind a dumpster in a shabby part of the area, using a tarp and the surrounding garbage to keep themselves covered, safe, and alive. They practiced the drill a thousand times, and put it into execution more times than they wished to count.

They were trained to be persistent, to go in without fear and worry, to trust that they were being taken care of even in the worst of places. They were the ones to go in, bolster the existing infrastructure and be the distraction while people moved from place to place.

This was the life of a subversive missionary, reinforcements for those who suffered under the hands of oppressive governments or anti-faith authorities. The job was a hearty one, full of danger, full of potential fatalities, but with what the faithful would consider major rewards.

Paige and Uri came from different parts of the world, but were almost inseparable in their mission. Both had a passion for refueling the faithful, while going to places that normal folks couldn’t.

Paige was an Irish lass from Wexford, who studied at a university in America, before moving onto the field of subversive missionary work. A red-headed firebrand, she currently was sporting a short, black, bob-style haircut. As she calmed her pulse down, and collected her thoughts, she smiled at the work she was doing.

Uri was an Ashkenazi from Novosibersk, Russia, who was originally a child thief on the streets before finding Christ at the age of 15. After turning himself around, and getting an education that barely made it into university, he ended up in Minnesota. He was able to graduate from the University of Minnesota, before meeting Paige and starting his work as a subversive missionary. Naturally blonde-haired, he was wearing a very convincing skullcap, and glasses that made him look more middle-aged than his 25 years belied.

After an hour, both of them felt that it was safe enough to depart from their “makeshift” trash cover.

“Do you think we gave them the slip?” Paige asked, looking concerned at their current situation.

“We won’t know until after we try to escape the square area. I am pretty sure they’re going to comb the area and search for people who are out of place,” Uri replied, taking a deep breath.

Ditching their wigs and other things in a nearby receptacle, they snuck down to the corner of the alleyway and looked towards the square.

“It looks like they didn’t secure the square like they normally do, Uri. I can see people milling around.”

“Good, that’ll make things easier for us. We may be caught, but since you’re red and I’m blonde, and they’re looking for a Korean and a old geezer, I don’t think they’ll do much with us.”

“You better be right. If I get caught and executed, I am going to charge you for the cleanup.”

“We blame it on Moose and Squirrel,” he replied, smiling while effecting his best Boris Badenov accent.

They took a breath, and casually walked out of the alleyway. They walked into the open, and towards the edge of Qianshun Square, looking up at the lights of the plaza and the buildings. Almost immediately upon reaching the square, they were stopped by two Chinese Red Guard soldiers.

“Stop! Let us see your papers!” they said, in Chinese.

Uri and Paige searched their pockets, and pulled out their passports. They looked shocked, as the guards looked them over. One of them, a shorter female guard, looked at them and spoke to them in perfect English.

“Do you know why we stopped you?” she asked, trying hard to look fierce.

“Uh, no. Not really.” Paige said, effecting a non-committal tone.

“There were two people here, who were about your height, doing some things they weren’t supposed to.”

Paige and Uri looked at each other.

“Tell me, have you seen these two people?”

The young soldier pulled out sketches of the bob-haired girl and the middle-aged bald man.

Uri looked at the pictures, and going back to his thoughts, he played the act of an oblivious college kid.

“I think I saw them, but I just have no idea whether it’s actually them. I think they were heading towards the river, but I can’t be too sure.”

Paige piped up.

“Hey, I remember her! The Korean girl. Remember when I told you I liked her legs and wish I had them?”

“Yeah, I remember that!”

“See? You did know!” she said, looking back at the soldiers, “I remember seeing them passing us, but they looked like they were heading towards that famous bridge back a ways.”

The soldiers looked at them, blinked twice, then stepped back.

“Have a good day. It would be suggested to get back to the place you’re staying and stay there for the night. The streets aren’t going to be safe until morning.”

The pair nodded, and proceeded to walk past the soldiers, linking arms as they headed off.

As they disappeared out of the other side of the square, they smiled at each other.

“Think they bought it?”

“Hook line and sinker. Another church’s fire is burning bright again. Let’s get outta here, and back to HQ.”

Paige put her head on Uri’s shoulder, smiling.

“The fire still burns. It never fades.”

We Fight Another Day (Busindre Reel)

We Fight Another Day
(aka “Busindre Reel”)
by Miles Rost

The last of the men arrived the night before, weary but with spirit in their mouths and minds.

The camp had a group of 5,000, milling about and getting themselves ready for what was to come. They came from all parts of the region, from the northern Highland regions to the Great Chasm, men and women of all walks of life were there.

The camp itself was on the edge of a plains, on a border with the Great Fire Forest behind them. A strategic location to organize a battle, the camp was called “Azinari”, a Flindrosian word meaning “protected land”. Knowing the leader of this group of ragtag fighters, one would know that “Azinari” is not a word that was used lightly.

Hardulf Charitaine, the former herald of the Great King of Flindros, could hardly believe all of the people who answered his call to come. He stood on a hill nearby, his encampment similar to that of a set-aside Japanese daimyo’s. He looked over the encampment of a menagerie of people, smiling at all who answered the call. While he may have once been a herald, here he was now a general of a great number.

He looked at a small enclave carved out of the main camp where waterwalkers were based. Hardulf couldn’t have even imagined that elementals, even the lower level waterwalkers, would come to aid in the battle. He looked at the Highland Wingfolk, the riders of the great birds, taking care of their flying steeds and giving their attention fully to them and to the task at hand.

However, his greatest surprise was at the number of Small Men that arrived. As a race, the Small Men were not ones who would normally get involved in such a fight. Hardulf knew this even from the days of studying History of the Lands in his primary schooling. But yet, here were 750 of them, taking up a good space of the main camp, and yet still spending time making sure everyone in the camp had good food and nourishing rest.

He looked at his right-hand woman, his lieutenant, Lady Chantrella Origane. A beautiful, and yet strong elven woman, she was dressed in the enchanted armor of a Elven warrior. She smiled down at Hardulf, a hearty man in his mid-30s. With long white-blonde hair tied into a long braid, a muscular frame, yet with soft definitions, she was a picture of tough beauty. She was in charge of the mystical creatures, the Boudican warrior women, and even the waterwalkers. She would be riding out with them as Hardulf gave his orders from above.

To his left, his third in command stood. A short, stout Dwarven man, Ringli Hardtack was the next best thing to a general. White haired with a long greying beard, he stood out as a tough fighter and a tough organizer. He was in charge of the “terrestrial” fighters, the Small Men, and even the Men of Tarasco. While he was dealing with his own personal demons of racism, he was able to forge friendships with many men that he trained. He even became close with a woman from the Tarascans, a lizard-men like people who normally had the Dwarves as enemies.

They relaxed for the night, preparing themselves for the battle that they were to fight in the morning. All of them drank, going over their plans for what was to be done. Chantrella pointed out the holes that they could end up having against the over 10,000 Greebo fighters that they were going to be facing. Ringli pointed out the weaknesses in each group of fighters they had, and how they could be useful if things went sideways. By the time things were done, they had a plan and were able to sleep part of the night.

They awoke an hour before the dawn, getting themselves dressed up in the battle gear they would be fighting with. The three “generals” mounted their horses and rode down to the main front of the camp, blowing the horns to signal the men and women to gather their stuff together and pack it up.

As the light of the morning started to fill the sky with a beautiful cobalt blue, Hardulf walked along the front of his men and smiled.

“Men and women of the Alliance,” he began, calling out with a great booming voice, “We are here to battle against evil.”

He looked at Chantrella, and smiled, before looking back on his army.

“The evil we are fighting is one that affects us all. We come from different worlds, different regions of life. Some of us are mystical, some of us are terrestrial. Some of us look different from the other, and some have had bitter feuds in the past. But this day, this day, you have come together out of a common bond. The bond of helping rid evil from this land.”

He turned his horse and started to pace the other direction.

“We will fight this day. We will fight like champions! We will win against evil, because we know that the battle is already won! We have a great assurance, and  no matter how the battle goes, we will be winning it. We will win because we are united. Elementals, Small Men, Treehorns, and the lot, we all have one thing in common: We serve with dignity and pride.”

He looked at Ringli, smiling as he saw him get a couple Tarascans focused on Hardulf’s words.

“We have one goal. One goal. That’s to win. Even if we lose our lives today, we win. But it will not be this day that we die. Today we will live, and we will be victorious! The Greebos who want to take these lands from you, and their allies, cannot fathom the amount of perseverance that you all have. You are stout, hearty, and itching for battle. And today, today is the day that you get it.”

He pulled out a set of bagpipes from his side-pack, and proceeded to play “The Call of the Charitaine”, the song of his family that was left to him before he became the corrupted King of Flindros’s herald. As he played, the men and women of the vast army thumped their weapons against the ground in time. They heard the song before, and the respect that came with it. The thumping was heard for miles around the plains, and were even heard in the main Greebo stronghold of the area, which made many of them uneasy.

As the song continued to play, Chantrella and Ringli blew their horns and all of the soldiers got into their formation behind them. They started to march past Hardulf, as they made their way towards the stronghold. After some minutes, the last of the soldiers finally left the camp. The last 50 people at the camp were the servants, the ones who would load up the wagons and quickly catch up with the rest of the moving army later. Hardulf gave the head servant the orders for the encampment and where they were to set up, and proceeded to join with the rest of the army.

Under his breath, he whispered a small prayer, “Yihuwa, you’re the only one to help us today. With your hand, let us be victors.”