I’m currently revising the proofs of my new novel Hell Ship, featuring among others the character of Sharrock, who also appears in a story in Further Conflicts (see below.)
I find myself haunted by this character – an alien warrior with access to space age technology. And as part of my on-going experiment into web publishing , here’s a second flash fiction story about Sharrock. It’s intended to be just a sliver; the Further Conflicts piece is much more substantial.
So here’s a scene from Sharrock’s childhood:
Sharrock in Love
Her name was Heldria; she was a great warrior; and I loved her utterly.
She came to our village to make peace terms with my father. This was after Dex Roden had attempted to claim the Chagol Mountains for his tribe. My father however insisted the land should remain common to all, for hunting and for communion with the wildernesses of our world. And many savage battles were fought to teach that upstart warrior the folly of his greed. Eventually, Dex Roden was slain. And Haldria, who then became chieftain of the Kal Tribe, came to honour my father and to yield her claim to the Chagols. Then she and my father Lexas swore the sacred profanities, including the forty-two syllable word that refers to simultaneous sex with all the gods; spat on the ground, and vowed never again to fight each other. (Unless, of course, one of them became mindwild.)
I was ten years old.
To celebrate Haldria’s arrival in our village, there were cathary-riding displays and sham-combats and clowns (who I hated, even then, for they mocked my warrior’s code) and music and drinking and wine and noisy fornication inside fur-draped tents. And Haldria was magnificent as she stalked through the busy stalls and blazing fires where whole jarloks were being barbecued, flanked by her entourage of warriors clad in steel and leather. She was tall with ruby-red hair and powerful arms and piercing eyes. And she wore an armoured girdle that hugged her hips and groin and extended up to her sharply-tipped breast-plates; and her brawny legs and arms and midriff were all bare. And she saw me staring at her and she laughed.
And then I challenged her to single combat.
It was a reckless act, even for me, for such a challenge can never be declined. And she of course had the choice of weapons. She could have chosen blades or axes or the swinging ball. Instead she asked my uncle Lalian to find some wooden spar-swords.
Larian glared at me when he realised what was happening. He had often told me I was doomed to die an untimely death; and he made it no secret that he preferred my brother Andro to me. Larian was a giant from birth; younger than my father by a millennium, but half again as tall. It was rumoured he had smiled once; a rumour unconfirmed.
So Lalian was grim-faced as he brought us the spar-swords. Haldria was still smiling however, in the way that grown-ups do when they believe a child is being cute. I felt I was being treated like the toddler who arm-wrestles his muscular father whilst only a few years old, and is allowed to win.
We assumed the combat pose; tapped swords; and I lunged and she parried.
Then I swept my sword a thousand times upon her torso, in less time than elapses between the beat of one heart and its companion heart. It was a move I had practised, and practised again.
I was, I should tell you, in all observable respects, a happy and a normal child. I had many friends, and together we savoured the indolence of childhood. Playing dice. Talking rubbish. Making bets on which of the skyplanes in the air above us would reach a particular cloud first. Lazing on the sands, or floating idly in the lake.
But I was also a driven creature. For at the age of five I had taken a vow never to sleep; and since then, each night for six hours or more, I had secretly practised my combat moves with sword, dagger, axe, and palm and fist strikes. In consequence, I was faster, and fitter, than almost any warrior in my tribe.
Yet Haldria was esteemed the greatest warrior of our age; and I was but a whelp.
And so now she easily blocked my every thrust, leaped over my head in a single bound; then clapped me on the skull with the flat of the blade. First cut to her. But she was sweating, and there was a faint look of alarm in her eyes. She hadn’t expected such speed and skill from me.
We took our poses once more. She lunged, I parried. She leaped over me again and this time tried to smite my head whilst upside down, but I anticipated her and rolled to safety. We faced each other again and I struck her wrist and she threw the blade into her left hand, and shook her injured hand, and made an ‘Ow!’ face.
Second cut to me. We were equal. Equal!
She lunged again and now she was no longer pretending. Her mind became the sword. I parried, leapt, fell, roll, retreated. Second cut to her. Third cut to her. Fourth cut to her. One more cut and the combat would be over.
We were surrounded by a crowd, since everyone loves to see a fight. I could smell the presence of my father Lexas, and my brother Andro, and my sister Wareel. My mother was not there. She rarely left her tent in those days. I did not know why then, but eventually I learned – no, that’s the subject for another tale. Let me recommence the story of my combat with Haldria.
It was blurringly fast but I saw and felt everything. I attuned my body to the body of my opponent. I sweated her sweat. I anticipated her every move. I saw the swell of her breast as she lunged. I saw the fire in her eyes as our swords crashed. For five entire minutes I subsumed myself into the body of my enemy; I was Haldria.
This intensity-of-combat was a communion more intimate than sex; as I had known it would be! For my aim was not to defeat this great and proud and gifted warrior. My aim was, in this metaphorical and utterly exalting fashion, to fuck her.
I was, as I have already explained, only ten years old. Ha! What a cheeky little stealer-of-the-spunk-of-his-best-friend I was!
Her blade hit my nose. Fifth cut. I had lost. She saluted me. I saluted her. I was panting and grunting like a fool by now, but she was calm and her breath was silent as rain upon a lake on the distant side of a mountain crag. Her skin was moist with sweat however; and her veins bulged like cords; and the summer light danced upon her damp flesh in a way of which I was most acutely aware.
Then Haldria invited me to join her in the feasting tent, and that night for the first time I drank wine. After two full glasses I fell asleep at the table and, so I am told, Haldria picked me up and carried me back to my tent and lay me down upon my bed.
I have a vivid memory of her smiling down at me as I slept; and then kissing me gently on the lips. But I fear that may have been just my dream.
Haldria died a warrior’s death in the Sunlight War against the Emperor of the Southern Tribes – fought to protect our interests on the desolate and may-it-be-cursed-for-all-eternity colony planet of that name. Fireworks lit the sky to honour her passing. Their many explosions formed a fire-image of her face that occluded the stars, and was visible to the entire continent.
On that night I looked up at the sky and saw Haldria-made-of-flame, and I mourned her, and I missed her deeply.
My first love.
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