Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pallitine Rising by
"This is a well developed knightly tale that promises good things to come."
- Piers Anthony

Taryn, raised in a pit of squalor, refuses to follow the path of the pickpocket being forced upon her. She sets out on her own, and after an unfortunate run-in finds herself apprenticed to a pallitine knight.

Now, apprentice Pallitine Taryn faces many new challenges as a young pallitine in a world of doubt and frustration where little is as it seems. Guided by her mentor, High Pallitine Thoman, she stumbles on an obscure cult and is betrayed by one of her own kind.

Left to deal with consequences of the betrayal, and thoughts of her own past, she looks to the future with a wary eye.
Motes of dust drifted through the sole shaft of light streaming into the cramped shack from a shuttered window, illuminating the dark and cluttered room. Taryn moved with a stubborn determination as she rushed through the rear of her mother’s modest home. She passed the old kitchen table and the haphazard pile of dirty dishes and grimy spoons that needed washing from the night before. The young, charcoal-haired girl bore an edge beyond her years, an edge that rusted with disappointment as she watched her mother and sister grow self-consumed in their own affairs. Annoyance hung heavily in her mood already, made worse by the need to escape.
“Where do ya think yer goin’?” Serra, her sister, asked as she stepped through the front door.
She turned and looked back, hiding her anxiety. Being the youngest sister, weeks away from her fifteenth year, it was her responsibility to make sure that the house was taken care of while her mother worked, though she wanted none of it. “Out for a bit,” she barked, and instantly regretted the harshness of her tone. “They let me off early from cleaning the bathhouse and I need some air.” Her eyes let a fleeting hint of regret slip past before she willed herself into her typically stubborn scowl.
Serra pointed toward the black pot resting in the ash covered and dirty hearth. “Don’t forget about dinner, Ma’s going to be back soon and I’ll be out looking for coin.” She shook her head and frowned. “Best be glad I don’t need you today, or you’d be out there with me.”
“No, I wouldn’t.” Taryn bit back a harsh retort and cringed inside. After watching her sister Serra get dragged down by her mother, there was no way she would let herself get sucked into wasting her life chasing easy money like they were.
Her sister scoffed. “Yeah, we’ll see. Good luck doin’ somethin’ else.” Her smirk faded. “How many times do we gotta say it? Look around ya.” She waved her hand toward the door and the world outside. “There ain’t nothin’ for our kind ‘sides what we make of it. Ya can’t trust no one but those who’ve been there. Ain’t no one but no one’s gonna do nothin’. We’re all ya got, ‘bout time ya figured that one out and accepted it.” She held up a sack, one that likely held a clutch of the dreamseeds she had grown so fond of as of late. “I’ll be off for a bit. Don’t even think of botherin’ me.” Serra turned to duck behind the shabby curtain hanging from the ceiling which cordoned off her corner of the room. “Don’t forget dinner. I mean it,” she barked from behind her wall of cheaply patched fabric.
“Ugh!” Taryn spat out, exasperated. The very nerve of her sister telling her what to do set her on edge. Like I’m going to end up wasting my life like you and Mom? Doing anything to get a coin with no thought to the future? Not a chance. I’ll get out… someday. She headed for the rear door in the corner and stepped out into the alley.
Dull, yellowed light struck her from the overcast autumn sky. Diffused streams of black smoke swam down from the bathhouse and mixed with the area’s veil of waste and refuse, an odor often referred to as the alley’s charm, not that it bothered anyone much, save for the occasional patron who wandered too far down Velvet Alley. Taryn squinted up at the oppressive clouds toward the solitary orb hiding overhead and sighed. At least it’s not raining. She grabbed the rusted latch and closed the door behind her before she turned to head toward the river’s side of town. The sun above marked the time as somewhat past midday, allowing her a couple hours to herself before she needed to return.
“Ah, there’s the pretty one.” A familiar and drunken drawl called out from the side of the home.
Revulsion for the man she knew waited for her mother swamped her. Her shoulders slumped as she turned. “She’s still in the field. You’d best get to the bathhouse and clean up before she gets back if you want to see her.” As she expected, Donald, one of her mother’s many acquaintances, sat leaning against the shack. His leathered skin looked even more pallid and sunken than usual, probably from a late night nursing a bottle, much like the one he coddled in his arm.
The worn, thin dwarf pushed himself upright from the wall and stumbled across the grayed earth toward Taryn. “How ‘bout Serra— ” His dry, rank breath filtered through his pitted teeth and filthy beard, and carried the bitter stench of someone who had been drinking far too long.
“I said go.” She turned, repulsed by the man and nauseous from his rank aura. Taryn cared little for what her mom thought of the man, but she needed to leave before something happened that either of them would regret.
He stumbled forward and reached out to her shoulder to steady himself. His hand squeezed gently as he tried to coax her into staying. “Hold on now,” he slurred, “no need ta run off.”
Shivers wracked her back as she fought off the bile creeping up her throat. “Don’t touch me!” She jerked her shoulder away from his calloused touch and squirmed out of reach. I think I’m going to be sick. Taryn ignored his attempts to gain her attention and call her back as she rushed out of the alley. Her heart pounded with every step, measured relief found in each of the rickety shacks she passed. The corner was met with a welcomed sigh as the sight of indifferent strangers throughout the area brought their distractions. The casual conversations and clatter of everyday life helped fight off the worst of the feeling when she turned down the street.
The girl’s quick pace brought her near the river as the last vestiges of the man’s ghoulish touch faded from thought. The approaching sound of rushing water babbled loudly, and nearly drowned Trent’s taunting voice as it rang out from near the bank. Not even the cool, soothing breeze that swept out from the river helped to ease her mood when she heard him. Her ire found a focus when she found the source of his voice. He stood laughing as he tormented two younger boys, brothers who lived outside the alley, near the edge of town.
He grabbed one by the scruff of the neck and held him to the water’s edge, threatening to send him in. The other boy sat there, sniffling as he watched his older brother flail helplessly against his much larger opponent. Trent’s rounded and freckled face turned to watch Taryn as she came into view. “Lookee here, right in time to watch the little flea swim.” His blond locks framed the cold and cruel blue gaze as he teased Roy with a push toward the edge.
What little patience that still clung to her anger disappeared with the motion. “Why do you gotta be such a slag? Leave them alone.” Her tone sharpened as she continued walking toward the brutish boy. “Don’t you think they suffer enough without havin’ to look at your face?”
“Yeah? It’s just a bit o’ fun.” He spouted in defense. “Not like you can stop me.”
“Pull him back and we’ll see.” She stood and drilled a defiant stare into the bully’s dull gaze. “Or are you scared that you’ll get whooped by a girl?”
His lip curled in a sneer, creasing his face in spite as he stepped forward, shoving Roy toward his younger brother. “Scared o’ you?”
Taryn relaxed, glad to see the boy released, and watched as he scampered away before turning back to Trent. Up close, his meaty frame towered over her and sent a shiver of doubt down her arms, filling them with nervous energy. Her cheeks flushed as she drew on the frustration and anger from earlier and swung at his face, hitting it with a resounding smack across his cheek. “Don’t do that again.” She fumed. “Those boys have never hurt anyone; they don’t need your trouble.”
Trent’s eyes shot open with disbelief from the unexpected blow. “You hit me.” He lifted a hand to his cheek and touched it. His brow furled in anger as he struck her in a backhanded slap.
The force of the blow pushed her back. A second later pain wracked the side of her face. The rage she felt earlier dimmed compared to what now coursed through her veins. Venom flowed through her eyes and shot seething rage, startling him into a nervous step back. She took advantage of the hesitation and plowed forward, pushing the bully over.
Trent stumbled and landed in a heavy thud on the bank, wheezing as the air got knocked out of him.
A hint of satisfaction spurred her on, and before he could react, Taryn leapt on top of him with her fists clenched and pounded the surprised boy. After the first round of strikes, Trent lowered his guard. She paused as she glared down on him. “Don’t you ever,” she punched Trent in the eye to stress the point, “hit me again! Understand?” She leaned over him and waited for his response.
His arms flew up defensively and tried to push her off, only to have his hands land awkwardly on her chest.
The dimming fires of retribution instantly blazed anew with that ill-placed gesture. She grabbed both hands and pushed them off her and got up, slamming her foot in his gut in the process. Her leg hung poised to strike Trent again when two hands gripped her arms from behind and pulled her back from the bully, who lay on the ground curling from the pain of the assault.
Fear mixed with the anger as she shook off the hands that held her. Taryn’s fingers curled into a readied fist as she turned to look at the person holding her.
Jacks stood there, laughing and held his hands up. “Hey! I’m on your side.” He looked at Trent and laughed, wincing in sympathy from the pain he was still groaning from.
Relief to see the sole person she counted as a friend there, with her, drained the anger away. “Don’t do that!”
“What happened?”
She shrugged. “He was being himself. Again.” She looked sheepishly up to Jacks. “And I had a bad day.”
She nodded. “Partly. And Donald. And life.”
He winced.
Lee fidgeted, drawing her attention to the boys who still sat nearby, watching.
“Oh! I almost forgot you.” She rushed to Roy and Lee and looked them over with a concerned eye. “You two all right?”
Both boys nodded fervently and mutely stared in awe at her.
“Good.” Her tone softened as she knelt beside them. “If you see Trent, try to avoid him. And if you can’t, let me know he’s bothering you two, all right?”
They quickly nodded and stood up to scramble back toward their home.
Jacks watched the brothers run off with a hint of amusement. “Where to, the tree?”
She nodded and moved past Trent to where Jacks stood. Together, they walked along the river to her favorite place to get away from the stresses of Miresbough, and all who lived in the area. The tree was an old growth, one of the few left standing near the town, and provided the perfect amount of shade during midday. It rested on a small knoll overlooking the river and gave Taryn the perfect excuse to lose herself in the comforting sound of its rushing waters and forget her dreary and dismal troubles of everyday life.
Once they settled in their familiar spots at the base of the tree, Jacks leaned his head against the trunk. “Are you going to tell me what happened?”
Her dour mood returned as strong as ever, sinking the tension in her neck. “It feels so hopeless. I want something more for myself.” She shuddered. “I love her, but I can’t stand seeing Mom go downhill. Working in the fields all day, then coming home to…” Her voice lingered listlessly.
“But she’s gotta, right? What else is she gonna do? It’s not like there’re many choices.”
He still doesn’t get it. Taryn scowled at Jacks. “I don’t care. There’s always another way.”
He raised his hands defensively. “Hey, we’ve hashed through this before. Back to Trent. You really gave it to him good.” He grinned.
She sighed. “Don’t get me started. I just wish I didn’t have to.”
He peered quizzically. “You wish you didn’t have to? You hate Trent. He’s a creep. It had to feel good to knock some sense into him.”
Yes, I hate him, and yes he’s a creep. Doesn’t mean I want to thrash him.” Taryn lost herself in the rhythm of the river’s mildly turbulent current and watched the babbling waters roll by as a smile crept up her lips. “It did feel good, though.”
About The Author 
Roderick Davidson was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and has three children. He enjoys diving into his imagination and writing about fantastic worlds and exciting situations. In his spare time, he reads anything from Isaac Asimov and Lisanne Norman, to Piers Anthony and David Eddings, among others. His other interests include drinking copious amounts of coffee and gaming; his favorites being role playing as well as strategy games.
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