The Story of Gladianima (Part II)

Thyra drew a slow breath, trying to calm the pounding of her heart. She watched a handmaid draw hot water into a tub. The handmaid kept sneaking glances at her over her shoulder, trying to keep her expression unreadable. She dipped her hand into the water before stepping back, keeping her eyes downcast.

“When you are ready, my lady,” the handmaid said meekly.

Thyra nodded. “Thank you,” she said softly. She started to pull at the fastening on her armor, letting the plates slide from her arms and shoulders.

The handmaid moved quickly to catch the pieces as Thyra pulled them off.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Thyra said quickly, tightening her grip around a strap.

“It’s no problem, my lady,” the handmaid assured her, meeting her gaze for the first time. “Please, let me help you.”

Thyra didn’t want to surrender her armor, but as she looked at the handmaid, her grip slackened. She didn’t say anything as she let the heavy metal slide from her fingers.

“Oh my,” the handmaid breathed. “This is much heavier than I thought.”

Thyra felt a swell of pride as she watched the girl perch the chest plate against the wall.

“How do you wear these things?” the handmaid continued.

Thyra looked up at her as she pushed the gauntlets over her arms, realizing that the handmaid was intrigued by her. She watched her carefully through deep brown eyes, awe on her face. “I’m used to it,” she said softly.

The handmaid smiled. “I wish I could have seen you battle,” she said, a grin slipping across her face. “It must have been spectacular.”

Thyra looked down. She didn’t say anything as she pulled at her tunic.

“The rumors are that the prince is quite unhappy,” the handmaid continued, stacking the remaining pieces on top of the chest plate. She giggled softly. “What I wouldn’t give to have seen the look on his smug face.”

Thyra paused, looking over at the girl. “So he’s always like that?”

The girl nodded. “Oh yes,” she said, excited to be gossiping. “He’s extremely…” She waved a hand trying to find the right word.

“Pompous?” Thyra supplied.

The handmaid laughed. “I didn’t say that,” she said, kneeling to dip her hand into the bath water. “But I wouldn’t say you were wrong.”

Thyra felt her lips press into a thin frown. She shed her dirty clothing quickly, hissing at the temperature of the water as she dipped her toes in. It was hot, but it was nice as she slid into it. She hadn’t had a nice bath in longer than she could remember. She closed her eyes when the handmaid began to undo her braid, brushing it with a thick-bristled brush.

“Is this to your liking?” the girl asked.

Thyra nodded. “Yes,” she said softly. It had been longer than she could remember since she’d had someone attend to her like this. It was a luxury that her family had afforded at one point, but that was a long time ago. She glanced over her shoulder. “What is your name?”

The handmaid smiled brightly. “Alice.”

Thyra offered a small smile. “Thank you for your help, Alice.”

Alice continued to brush her hair. “You’re very welcome, my lady,” she said. “May I ask your name?”

“Thyra.”

“Just Thyra?” Alice asked.

Thyra could tell by the lilt to her voice that Alice had her suspicions. “Yes,” she said softly. “Just Thyra.”

Alice made a soft sound, like she was disappointed, but she didn’t press the issue as she washed Thyra’s hair for her. The smell of lavender oil filled the washroom as Alice poured it into Thyra’s plum-colored hair, brushing it in with her fingers. Thyra was beginning to think that she could stay in the tub forever, but that didn’t last. Once she was sufficiently clean, and the water had become tepid and dirty with the dust from the arena, Alice brought her a towel and clean undergarments.

“Would you like to choose your gown, Lady Thyra?” Alice asked.

Thyra followed her into another room, where a boudoir was set. Several different dresses were laid out for her to choose from. She felt uneasy as she walked toward them, feeling the silks and soft cottons of the dresses. She hadn’t owned a dress in many years.

“Which do you like, my lady?” Alice prompted.

Thyra paused on her second pass, running her fingers over a soft pink dress. “This one.”

“Ah, you have excellent taste, Lady Thyra,” Alice said, taking the gown from where it was laid. “The cotton comes from the southern province. It’s said to be the softest in all of Gexalatia, hand spun to perfection.” Thyra knew that should have impressed her, but the luxuries of the nobility were lost on her these days.

Before long, Thyra was seated at the boudoir in the pink dress as Alice brushed her hair, easing the twisting strands into a simple curl. She tried to avoid Alice’s gaze in the mirror, but she eventually sighed, looking into Alice’s brown eyes.

“Why do you keep staring at me like that?” she asked.

Alice looked down, her cheeks turning pink suddenly. “Forgive me,” she said quickly. “It’s just…the crest on your armor…”

Thyra fought the urge to scowl. “I haven’t been a member of my father’s house in a long time,” she said snappishly.

Alice kept her eyes turned down. “I’m very sorry, my lady,” she said.

Thyra felt bad at the way Alice’s face seemed to crumple. “It’s not your fault,” she said softly. “I just don’t like to talk about it.”

Alice nodded, silent as she continued to smooth Thyra’s plum curls.

Thyra hadn’t seen her father in nearly ten years. After her brother’s death, her father had become a shell of himself, turning cold and cruel. Thyra’s only crime had been that she wasn’t a boy. She could never hope to be loved by her father the way her brother had been, and when she’d turned eleven years old her father had sent her away to live in a monastery. Thyra knew she’d never see him again, and she decided, after a time, that she never wanted to. If he could so easily cast her aside, then she didn’t want him in her life. She forsook him name when she was sixteen and ran away from the monastery. She never wanted to be associated with his banner ever again.

It was only by chance that she met the man who trained her to use a sword. It was at his behest that she entered the contest which led her to the palace.

“You’re finished, my lady,” Alice said, breaking her from her thoughts.

Thyra looked at her reflection in the mirror, feeling her stomach clench. She looked too much like the paintings she’d seen of her mother.

A knock on the door made Thyra’s hands clench, and she watched Alice through the mirror as she answered the door. She spoke briefly to another servant before returning to her. “King Brieuc is expecting you.”

Thyra drew a steadying breath, moving slowly to stand. She wasn’t ready for whatever mess she’d gotten herself into.

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The Story of Gladianima (Part I)

Blood dripped from the tip of the curved seax in her hands. Dust was settling around her as her foe fell to the ground, choking on his own blood as he drew dying breaths. She looked up, seeing ten men laying around. The roar of a crowd was deafening, but the pounding in her ears drowned out the noise. A bead of sweat ran across her face, reminding her to draw a breath. She hadn’t meant to kill them, but they wouldn’t stay down.

The crowd began to quiet then, and she turned her eyes toward a platform, where the banners of House Erdos fluttered in the breeze. A man stood, his white beard curling under his chin and across his thick belly. A crown sat on top of his head, and he looked like he would pass out from the weight of the clothing he wore despite the scorching heat.

“Congratulations, winner,” he said, his voice echoing across the arena. “This was quite a spectacle.” He laughed. “You are much stronger than you look.”

Thyra drew a steadying breath, clutching the seax tighter in her hand. “Thank you, Highness,” she said strongly, forcing her voice to deepen. The sound echoed inside the helmet she wore, ringing feebly in her ears.

The king waved his hand, beckoning. “Come,” he said. “We shall celebrate your victory, warrior.” The king began to walk down a set of wooden stairs from the platform to the arena floor. A handful of guardsmen stepped out of his way as the king came toward her.

Thyra felt her breath catch. King Brieuc was much fatter in person. His beard was tinged with hints of blue curls, as was his now-white hair. A thick, gold chain hung around his neck, with the crescent of House Erdos etched into it.

“Tell me you name, warrior,” the king said, smiling as he hooked his fingers in his belt. “Remove your helmet so we may see your face.”

Thyra’s mind ran dry suddenly. She hadn’t thought this far ahead. All she needed was money and a boat to cross to the western kingdoms. She realized how stupid and short-sighted she’d been. “I prefer not to, Highness,” she said meekly.

The king’s face pulled into a mild frown. “No need to be shy, son,” he said, shifting his bulbous weight. “Let us see your face.”

Thyra drew a ragged breath, feeling her hands shaking. She dropped the seax in her hands, hearing it land with a loud ringing. Her brother’s armor clacked, too big on her, as she lifted her arms. Slowly, she pulled the helmet from her head, blinking against the bright light of the midday sun.

The air around the arena shifted, a murmur running through the crowd as Thyra’s plum-colored braid fell down her back. She watched as the king’s brow lifted as she tucked the helmet under her arm.

“This is unexpected,” the king said slowly, taking in her face.

“Looks like your gatekeeper needs to open his eyes.”

Thyra’s eyes shifted to a man that was standing just beyond the king’s shoulder. She tensed as he drew a sword, his cerulean eyes pinning her darkly.

“Stay your hand, Kegan,” the king said quickly, lifting his hand.

“But Father, it is against the law for a woman to impersonate a soldier,” Kegan said hotly.

Thyra shook her head. “I never impersonated a soldier, my king,” she said desperately.

The king frowned. “Then whose armor do you wear?”

Thyra bowed her head. “My brother’s,” she said quietly. “He was slain in the Eastern Wars.” She looked up, seeing the king’s confusion and Kegan’s blazing anger. “I only meant to win the contest. Nothing more.”

Kegan lowered his sword as he looked to his father. “She needs to be punished,” he said sternly.

The king’s grey eyes were appraising suddenly. “No,” he said slowly. “My gift to her is amnesty.” He looked to his guardsmen. “Bring her to the palace. We will still celebrate in her honor.”

Kegan’s face twisted with anger, his jaw clenching. He shot Thyra a death glare before rounding to chase on his father’s heels. “You can’t be serious,” he whispered vehemently. “You’re just going to let her get away with this? She dishonors you, treating you as if you were a fool.”

King Brieuc paused, turning to face his son. “You let your temper control your hand too often, Kegan,” he said quickly.

Kegan straightened slightly, his eyes offended. “If I am to be a just king, I must uphold the law,” he snapped.

“Some laws are meant to be broken,” King Brieuc said, offering a wry grin. “Besides, aren’t you in the least curious about where a woman like her came from?”

Kegan drew a slow breath, glancing away. “What does that have to do with anything?” he asked, sighing shortly.

Brieuc clapped his son on the shoulder. “Think about it for a moment,” he said. “Who teaches a maiden to wield a sword? Much less to wield one like that.”

Kegan frowned then. He glanced back toward the arena, seeing the girl looking around at her escort of armed men around her. His father was right. What in the world was she doing here?

Writing Prompt

Today’s installment of my blog is going to be a writing prompt! Yay!

I love to look at the subreddit r/writingprompts, and that’s where I’ll be taking my prompt from. The one that I have chosen is by user MattersofDarkness: When you die, you enter a “spectator mode”, like in a video game, and cannot change your target until they die. Most people choose to spectate their family or celebrities, but you choose to spectate a tree.

Enjoy!

I never assumed death would be like this, but I suppose it makes sense. As humans, we cause so much pain and are the source of so much violence, why not force us to relive it, even in death?

My death wasn’t swift. Or maybe it was. I don’t really remember. Other than it was painful and lonely. Once it was over, I woke up in a forest. Bright light was shining down through the branches of beautiful, tall trees and birds were chirping happily. Squirrels chattered and scurried through the leaf-litter, the occasional bobcat or fox trotting down the trail lazily.

I realized fairly quickly that I could move freely, anywhere I wanted. I first went to my home, what had been my home, where those left behind mourned for me. All I could do was watch, my words and screams going unheard. I couldn’t speak to them or touch them to let them know that I was still there. I didn’t linger long. I couldn’t stand seeing their suffering.

So I went back to the forest. The stupid thing about whatever realm of existence I was in was that I couldn’t interact with anything. I couldn’t feel the dirt beneath my feet. When I reached for the branches around me, my hand passed through them. The animals didn’t notice I was there. I was alone and unable to do anything more than walk and observe. I wandered for what felt like eternity, trying to find something that could put me at ease. And all of a sudden, there it was.

A tall, spindly little tree. It stood in the middle of a grove, rays of sunlight touching it over the tops of the rest of the forest. It seemed so lonely, kinda like me, inspiring a feeling in me that nothing else had. It and I were kindred spirits, so to speak. So I stayed with it.

Over the years it began to grow, its spindly branches spirally into the sky, growing strong and thick. Beautiful pink flowers began to grow among its bright green leaves, turning it into something out of a painting. It became tall and strong, even though the forest around it went through changes. When the winter came, the other trees, the less strong ones, turned dead and wilted, but not my tree. It took each turn of the weather and change of the season like a champ, becoming more and more beautiful. My heart swelled with pride every time I looked upon it, knowing the challenges it had faced.

On the nights when I thought about my family and everything I left behind, I would sit in the bows of the tree. I wished I could smell its flowers and feel the bark under my hands, but that never affected the love in my heart for my tree. It kept me company when I was alone, and it loved me by showing me how to stand against a cold wind. I never knew there was so much wonderfulness in just watching a tree. As the world around me changed and faded, my tree stood tall and strong. I didn’t think anything would ever take my tree away from me and I had never been so content.

But then they came.

They came with their axes and chainsaws. And in an instant my beautiful tree was gone.

I watched them drag its pink little flowers through the mud, feeling my heart breaking. How could those monsters destroy such an innocent, wonderful thing? In that moment, I wished I could stop them, cut them down with their own instruments of destruction. But I couldn’t even touch the stump where the tree had once stood, its sawdust, like blood, spilled across the ground. I spent days sitting there. What was I supposed to do now?

But then I saw it.

A tiny green sprout. My heart soared as I sat with it, keeping it silent company as it struggled for life. My tree had left me a gift, one that grew into a sapling that so resembled its parent. It was in that moment that I understood why I was cursed to sit there in silence.

I had never appreciated anything when I was alive. In the hustle and bustle of my life, I’d never stopped to appreciate the life that I had around me. My nose was always in my phone, so much that I missed the smell of the flowers that bloomed around me. In my race to be the best at whatever I was doing, I didn’t see that the best of everything was already with me.

My heart felt light then, as if a weight I’d been unknowingly carrying had been taken from me. The sun seemed brighter, and I turned my eyes skyward, hearing for the first time something that sounded like music. My brain couldn’t understand it, but my soul knew. My purgatory was over and I was to be welcomed into the afterlife. I never would have made it without my tree.

Leave me a comment with your thoughts and check out my website! Read, write and go outside!

Gotta catch ’em all!

Hi everyone!

So I’m a few chapters into The Gift of Fear (finally) and its given me quite a bit to think about. Firstly, it’s aimed mostly at women, but it should be read by men, too. In the chapter I just finished GdeB outlines the techniques that con artists use to lure in their victims.

A lot of the reason that people get sucked in, especially women, is that there is the social construct to not be rude. Being rude, according to GdeB, could save your life. This is something that really resonates with me. My hubs and I had an experience where we knew something was up, but out of not being rude, we went along with it. Only later did we realize the tremendous danger we’d put ourselves in and how epically stupid we’d been.

So my consensus is this: get the book, read it, and trust your instincts. We get gut feelings for reasons!

But now, on to something more fun. 😁

Two days ago, I started playing Pokemon Go. Talk about a blast from the past! I’ve never done so much walking in the search for Pokemon. When I’m playing I’m like this:


Like I’m ten years old again, too.

But to tie everything together, be aware of where you’re catching Pokemon! Look at who’s around you, see what they’re doing, and search for that Taurus in pairs. Also, stay out of other people’s yards. Apparently they think that’s trespassing.

Until next time!

Read, write, and catch ’em all!

Meet the Bubby!

So, I know I was supposed to write about The Gift of Fear this week, but it’s a short week due to the holiday and my hubs was sick, so that limited the amount of work I was able to do. So as a substitute, I’m going to tell you about how I got my Bubby!

I call him Bubby, but his name is actually Cayde, like the Hunter Vanguard from Destiny. You know, the one voiced by Nathan Fillian. Anyway, we got the Bubby when he was a little bitty guy, as you can see in the picture. My wonderful and soft-hearted husband found him, thinking he was dead. Hubs was going to pick him up and bury him so I wouldn’t find a dead baby kitty, but it turned out he was alive! So hubs put him in the back of his truck and brought him home.

We weren’t supposed to keep him, but one costly trip to the emergency vet later, I knew this baby was mine. He spent two weeks in quarantine because he was sick and because we had two adult cats who didn’t know him yet. He was only three weeks old when we found him, and he’s always been a little guy.

Here he is when he was feeling better:

IsN’tHeSoCuTe!!! *cue cuteness aggression* 🙂

So eventually, after he got over his illness, we were able to introduce him to his new brothers. He took to Dustin immediately:


And it took some time, but Toby eventually came around (like 4 months later):


And that’s the story of how we found the Bubby! Toby and Dustin both have interesting stories too, but I’ll save those for another day.

Here’s some cuddle time:


Here’s a pic of Toby with his tie on because why not!


Happy 4th of July weekend everyone! Stay safe out there.

Read, write and go outside! The weather is great! 🙂