Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fan Fiction Contest 2013: The Panther Master

 
  
I could hear the Beast's heavy breathing, deep shadows in the calm of the night. Even though I knew I was safe, my heart skipped a beat at the rapid change.
The stone, though I did not want to touch it, presented a good hiding place; I dashed toward it, tumbling over the uneven ground, and then crouched beside it.     
Breathing shallowly, I pressed my forehead against the smooth stone and closed my eyes.
    How long?
   Through the Wolf’s ranting, the Panther Master's word touched my ears, slurred and barely audible. “Run.”
   I raised my head and caught a glimpse of the girl, running toward the wood. The Wolf was coming closer, feet heavy on the dirt.
    My satchel dropped to the ground, and I peered around the side of the stone to where the Eldest of the Land lay on the stone. The Beast loped toward him, his pace slowing. My breath caught in my throat.
   Oh, my Prince! No, please!
    His eyes refocused on the girl, and his speed increased. The Wolf Lord passed the Panther Master without a second glance. His prize was too close to getting away.
    I scrambled out from behind the stone, nearly tripping. Bother those legs.
     My breath eased as the Beast passed farther away, and, catching the strap of my satchel, I hastened to the Panther Master’s side.
    His eyes were glazed, and his breathing...
    I stopped and whispered a prayer, pressing a wad of bandages from my satchel into the wound as I leaned over, hovering with my ear on his chest.
    He exhaled.
    I pulled back quickly, applying firm pressure to the wound as I had been taught so many years ago.
   “Look,” I said, digging through my bag with one hand. “I know you can’t hear, but I’m glad you’re alive.”
     Of course he did not respond.
    My fingers closed around cold glass, and I pulled it out of my bag.
    “Promise you won’t choke on this,” I muttered, uncapping the small bottle with my teeth and spitting out the cap.
    Blood touched the hand on the bandages.
   I recoiled with a slight gasp, then quickly lunged forward and pressed the bandages back into his wound.
    Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe.
   I forced myself to inhale, nearly choking on the air. Pressing hard into the wound, I blinked back tears. It was all right. I pressed another bandage onto the top and did my best to ignore the blood after that.
   The Panther Master did not respond as I lifted the bottle and tilted it, pouring some of the liquid into his mouth.
    I released the bottle and stroked his neck, forcing him to swallow.
    Ignoring the bottle as it rolled onto the stone, I pulled a longer strip of fabric from my bag, wrapping it around him quickly and surely. My hands automatically found the correct ways to secure the bandage, keeping it tight to lower the loss of blood.
     I scrambled to my feet and looked at the Panther Master. For a moment, the world was still; then I dropped once more to a crouch and put the strap of my satchel over my shoulder.
    He looked a bit big to carry.
   Ah, well. Can’t be helped, I suppose.
     I slid my arms under the Eldest. My arms strained as I forced myself upward.
   As my knees straightened, I winced. We were going to be in trouble if the Wood decided to play tonight.
     I grunted, shifting the man’s weight, and then stepped off the slab.
     The ground felt good beneath my feet, pure and clean. Not like evil of the rock.
It was an awkward thought; a rock, evil? I wrinkled my nose, and then shook my head. It was not a good time to be thinking of this.
    The first step into the Wood brought the world to a close, melting around me.
    I grimaced, breathing in the air full of the feel of the Wood. Oh, how I hated the Wood! Every land had its own rules; it disregarded them all.
    Pressed against my shoulder as he was, I could feel the Eldest's heartbeat. Slow, steady. Not strong, but he would survive the journey.
   He would.
The Path I sought stood before me. I shifted the Panther Masters weight again, my arms protesting, and then stepped into the Path.
 
~~~~~~
 
    I was a healer; so was the world we stepped into. His hope returned after a few days.
    I could not stop praising my Prince from bringing him back from Death’s door.
   The House that I took him to was a beautiful place--not that he could tell, asleep as he was.
   Purple flowers covered the hills around the House, dancing in the breeze. It was for the plants that I had brought him to that world; the alovey herb was good for healing.
  It was the seventh morning that I first had to leave him again. Charging the House to keep intruders out, I went out to the fields to gather some of the  herb.
    I was distracted by the butterflies. Oh, so many beautiful wings, stretching in joy of the light of the morning!
   There had been no butterflies where I grew up.
    I trusted the House to guard the Eldest, so I danced with them for a time, and then I just ran—as well as I run, anyway—and laughed with them as they sang their songs and greeted the day.
    Butterflies were my friends.
    When I bade them good bye and walked back to the House, I was singing.
   The first thing that I noticed when the House decided that I was safe and permitted me entrance was the Panther Master.
     He was awake.
    I squealed and dropped my basket of alovey, though I caught myself before running to give him a hug.
     I kept forgetting how different others were.
    He stood several paces from the door, not moving except to breathe.
   I realized a half second later that he was trying to decide if I was a threat or not.
    He must have decided that I was not, for he relaxed, if only very slightly.
    I smiled.
   He paused, and then, though I doubt he expected me to answer, opened his mouth to speak.
    It was not the question I expected.
   “Where is Starflower?”
     I blinked.
    My first thought was that it was very sweet; I didn’t think he would appreciate my saying it, though.
    “She’s safe. My prince is guarding her.”
    He did not even flinch, though I could tell that a woman speaking unnerved him.
    Then again, maybe I was different enough from the women he knew that it was not that much of a surprise.
   He regarded me silently.
    “I promise,” I said. “She is safe.”
     His words were tense, and I wondered if he was scared.
   “Who is your prince?”
   I frowned. I did not want him to be afraid; not of me.
   “Eshkan. The Lumil Eliasul.”
   The names meant nothing to him.
   “The Giver of Names?”
    There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes, but it was gone so fast that I wondered if I imagined it.
   There was a silence again, and I shifted awkwardly.
   “You can’t go back to the Land.”
    He knew. I could see in his eyes that he knew I spoke the truth.
   He inhaled, long, slow, and steady.
   “Where, then?”
   “That,” I said, “is up to you.”
   Silence.
   “I could introduce you to my Prince...”
   His brain went back to what I said about the Prince protecting Starflower.
   He nodded.    
 

 THE END

If you would like to vote on this or any other Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction, email me at aestengl@gmail.com with the titles of your top three picks. Winners will be announced September 1st.

 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was enchanting! :)

Rebeka B. said...

This story was so mysterious and I loved not knowing who the narrator was; the description really drew me in. Loved your focus on an unnamed healer and the message that sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can have the largest impact on another's life. Great job!

Meredith said...

Oh, my. You bbrought me to tears with this short but powerful piece. Like another commentor, I love that the narrator is nameless and that the story is in the first person. The scene where she dances with the butterflies is so mesmerizing. Thank you for this story. God bless you.

JillStengl said...

I love this! Beautifully written.

Hannah said...

YAY! I'm so glad you found a way to keep the Panther Master alive! How wonderful! I'm so pleased to read this! Very charming!

S.F. Gorske said...

This is a very powerful piece--this scene was always so sad, and it still is, but the unnamed protagonist keeps hope in the situation. Very well-written, as well! Great job!

Athelas Hale said...

Thank you for your kind comments. God bless you all.