Get My Drift, Take Two
The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
To See God in a Snowflake by Leslie Fish
Do you really want to do this? by Liz
North vs. South by Ghost Cat
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: GET MY DRIFT, TAKE 2
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Somewhere in a temperate climate, two antagonistic Immortals meet in an indoor setting and a challenge is issued. Seeking a private place to do battle, they open the door...and are confronted by a massive snow drift. There has apparently been a blizzard overnight that has deposited at least 5 feet of snow with huge drifts.
Write a short story or scene about the above.
Remember to put "MWC" in the subject line of your entry, if you wish to have it archived.
MWC: "To See God in a Snowflake"
Posted By: Leslie Fish <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wednesday, 9 January 2002, at 8:48 p.m.
Okay, I'll take a flying jump at this. Hang on!
"Ahmed, we don't have to do this." Amanda slid one hand under the little bar-table, under the edge of her coat, and clasped the grip of her sword. "Not here, not now, not in Paris in the Spring..."
"We must battle where we find each other," said the intense-looking young man on the other side of the table. His dark eyes blazed with a desperate fervor. He couldn't have been more than 20 at his first death, and probably hadn't lived more than another ten years beyond that. "It is the will of Allah."
"Ahmed, dear, who told you that?" Amanda noted that her best display of elegance, charm, and frank sensuality hadn't swayed him from his course. She hoped that logic would.
"My teacher, Daoud Al-Hadj Al-Fazir." There was a tremor in the young Immortal's voice as he said the name. "He was slain but two months ago, by an infidel. It falls to me to carry on his mission."
"Darling," Amanda tried, beginning to despair, "I never met the man. Did he say who told him that story?"
"His teacher before him, and that one's teacher before him, and so back unto the Creation."
"Ahmed, I've heard that story too -- and one thing nobody ever knew was where it came from. Can't you see that nobody knows where it came from? We don't have to believe it, we don't have to battle until there's only one left, we don't have to kill each other. We particularly don't have to do it today."
"Yes we do!" Ahmed clenched his light-brown hands on the table, even in outrage being careful not to touch any of the wineglasses -- even though they were empty. "It is the will of Allah. We must battle to the last, and that last shall become an angel upon the Earth. My teacher was certain of it."
"So you're certain too. Because you were told. Do you believe everything you're told?"
"Don't try to deceive me, woman," Ahmed snapped. "I have taken oath, and no clever words shall make me stray from the path."
*Or listen to reason,* Amanda sighed. She knew the type. Only an emotional appeal might sway him, and it had to be the right sort of emotion. "And has Allah ever given you a sign to stop, or proceed?"
"A sign...?" That put him off balance for a moment.
"If your course is truly a holy one, wouldn't Allah give you a sign that it was so?" Amanda pressed.
The boy shook his head. "I need no sign to know my course," he insisted.
"But would you recognize a sign from Allah if you saw one?" Amanda insisted. If she could just get him into the right receptive frame of mind, she could find him an omen in anything...almost anything.
"Surely I would," said Ahmed, slowly. "That which is contrary to the ordinary workings of the world..." He shook his head again. "But there is no sign. Do not attempt to distract me, woman. Draw your sword, and let us do as Allah wills."
"Not in here, at least," said Amanda, looking offended. "Not in front of mortals! Didn't your teacher tell you that?"
Ahmed blinked, remembering. "Oh. Yes, of course. Let us go at once to some private place, where none shall observe."
*There's no sparing him,* Amanda sighed. "Very well. Let's go out to the parking lot. At this time of night nobody should be there." She gathered up her coat, slinging it artfully over the sword. "Through that door, I believe."
They got up and went to the exit, unnoticed by the bar's few remaining patrons. Ahmed was muttering a prayer under his breath. Amanda was reviewing strokes and strategies. She reached the door first, and pulled it open.
A huge pile of snow tumbled in. Beyond it stood a taller drift, easily five feet high. Past it, Amanda could see the snow falling, thick and fast in the darkness, obscuring the parking lot and all beyond it.
*Freak storm!* she realized. *I saw this before, in 1959, even later in the year than this...*
*What in Allah's name...?!" Ahmed gawked.
*This is the chance!* "Ahmed, it's your sign! It's snow. When did you last hear of snow in Paris in late April? THIS is contrary to the ordinary workings of the world!"
"...A sign...?" Ahmed kept staring. He'd probably never seen real, live snow before.
"We can't possibly fight in that. This is Allah's sign, his message; he means us NOT to fight. Don't you understand? Can't you recognize a miracle when you see one?"
A blast of freezing air echoed her words. Ahmed shivered and backed away from it. "...We can't fight in that," he agreed.
"And we can't fight indoors, because it's forbidden to let mortals see," Amanda pressed her argument fast. "We can't fight now. In fact, we don't have to fight at all until the Gathering. We don't have to fight until the End of Days. Until then, our time is our own. Do you understand, Ahmed?"
"...We can't fight." The concept finally worked its way through the boy's structure of desperately unquestionable faith. "We need not...until the End of Days?"
"That's what my teacher told me -- and her teacher before her, and that one's before her, back to the dawn of Creation," Amanda recited solemnly.
Ahmed turned, almost blindly, to the nearest chair and dropped heavily into it. Amanda let the door swing shut, had to shove it hard to get it past the melting mass of snow on the floor.
"...What, then, do I do with my days?" the boy asked, almost pleading.
Amanda saw that he had lost his fearfully-held purpose, and now had no idea how to live, how to guide his life. She couldn't leave him like that.
"Use your time to study, to gain wisdom," she said. "Surely that's what our long lives are meant for, don't you think? How can you become an angel if you don't have wisdom?" She held her breath, watching to see how he'd take that.
"...I'm supposed to be a student," Ahmed murmurred, almost dreamily. "I take classes at the American School. I hadn't taken my studies seriously..."
"Do it now," said Amanda. "Surely Allah guided you there for a reason."
"Yes," he muttered, nodding his head in growing decisiveness. "Yes. I must learn all the world's wisdom. Yes!"
With that he lunged to his feet and marched toward the front door of the bar, eyes sparkling with hope and determination. He didn't even seem to notice Amanda as he left.
She smiled, returned to her table and sat down. *He's traded one fanaticism for another,* she thought, *But this one might lead him to better sense in a few centuries.*
With a sigh, she finished her drink.
MWC - Do you really want to do this?
Posted By: Liz
Date: Wednesday, 9 January 2002, at 4:18 p.m.
MWC: Somewhere in a temperate climate, two antagonistic Immortals meet in an indoor setting and a challenge is issued. Seeking a private place to do battle, they open the door...and are confronted by a massive snow drift. There has apparently been a blizzard overnight that has deposited at least 5 feet of snow with huge drifts.
Immy 1 Oh **** I hate getting my feet wet.
Immy 2 Me too. Do you really want to do this? Right now?
Immy 1 I have a pack of cards - do you play Gin Rummy?
Immy 2 Yeah. I drink it too. Have a swig.
Well, I know it's not too classical a story, but they are grown up boys and girls. On the whole.
MWC North vs. South
New Orleans: the Paris of the New World, the heart of Cajun Country, home of wild passions, unfettered joy and warm hospitality. For a Northern prairie girl, it was like entering a whole different world. Deb had come to Louisiana to avoid three things: snow, her nagging editor, and the thought of people trying to kill her.
Well, two out of three ain't bad she thought bitterly as she mentally followed the Feel of her captor downstairs. Deb hadn't been foolish enough to travel alone; Amanda had gone with her. Mind you, that was about the only sensible thing she had done since this whole thing started.
Never trust an Immortal who introduces himself as a hunter. It had been Amanda's idea to crash the party, a very posh, very private party. Once they arrived, the Lady Thief was much more interested in her own pleasures than in watching the young Canadian's back. There were simply too many other people-and things-to watch instead. Amanda had left the party on the arm of a very handsome, very rich, gentleman and, as far as she knew, Debra had done the same. Deb remembered wild music, dancing, the temptation of chocolate liqueur…after that, things got rather fuzzy.
And somehow, I ended up here. "Here" was a lavish colonial manor, conveniently far away from any curious neighbours. It wasn't so bad, really; she had the run of the place during the day. If it wasn't for the fact that the doors were all locked and the main floor windows shut tight, she could have imagined herself a welcome guest. The lord of the house kept the only key on a chain around his neck, a taunting reminder of what she'd have to do to get it away from him. The upper story windows were all left wide open, an equally mocking gesture, for a stone courtyard would take care of any leap to freedom. At best, broken bones would hinder her escape; at worst, he would have an easy kill.
He hadn't even had the decency to Challenge her outright. Every day, he invited her to join him in the Library, a room that, despite its name, held no books only his collection of hunting trophies-all heads. He must of thought it terribly clever of him, but aside from turning her eyes away from the lynx and cougar, it hardly mattered to her. If he had boasted a tiger skin, it might have been different, but Deb would not be provoked in this way. They discussed history and morality amid the empty, staring eyes, his view of both, of course. The South will rise again, and all that ridiculous nonsense. The mock-civility set Debra's nerves on edge more than any overt threat. The only time she had seen him even close to violence was when she had laughed at his name. His rage was enough to curb any further insubordination, but how could she have resisted commenting on an Immortal by the name of Dorian Grey?
The Northlander paced her small room, feeling very much like that hidden portrait, as if she were being held pending some future need. In case of emergency, remove head. She had to wait patiently for one of the servants to unlock her room for the day. This breach of hospitality was a punishment for getting caught wandering the halls late one night. Debra had awoken unarmed the morning after the party, and her first priority had been to recover her paired blades. Although not her official mentor, Amanda had insisted on teaching Deb "things that every woman ought to know" including, of course, the fundamentals of burglary. It was a measure of Grey's overconfidence, or his scorn for the fairer sex, that although she had been caught and punished, Deb's room had never even been searched. And so she had the tools for battle, but not the opportunity.
Immediate action is reserved for immediate threats, Deb remembered Cassandra's advice clearly. Patience and planning, more often than blind instinct, is what will keep you alive. That didn't make her captivity any easier; already she was starting to lose track of how long she'd been here.
She heard the sound of footsteps in the hall and tensed automatically, but there was no accompanying Buzz. She listened carefully, calm but wary. There was a dull thud as the heavy antique lock on her door was opened then a pause. A timid, nervous knock sounded, followed by an even more timid voice. "M'sieur desires to see you downstairs."
Deb recognised the voice of one of Grey's servants. In fact, calling them "servants" was being generous; these people were slaves in all but name. Deb wouldn't be surprised to learn that they were descendants of this household's original slaves. The staff was all too cowed by years of mistreatment for her to get any co-operation, but that didn't stop Debra's feelings of guilt and sympathy. She kept her voice firm and her answer just short of defiant; "I'm not coming down."
Deb glanced nervously from door to window as the footsteps retreated. Her first look out that same window this morning had been quite a shock. Act of God, freak of nature, or environmental change: whatever you called it, it was a sign. This was her day to act. The opportunity was there, but her plan would only work if she kept the advantage of surprise. Dorian had been the ruler of his little domain for too long; he took things for granted. He hardly even glanced at the luxuries that surrounded him, but did that mean that he wouldn't even look out a window? How much could she rely on his bad habits?
Deb pulled her blades out from their hiding place while she waited. The mindless task of whetting the steel calmed her somewhat, though the edge was already razor sharp. The knock on the door returned, even more timid than before. "M'sieur does not like to be kept waiting." There was an extra note of tension in the woman's voice this time, a genuine fear of punishment. Deb cringed: could she go through with this? There was a fine line between psychological warfare and outright suicide.
Deb took one last glance out the window; she had no choice. She threw open the door, provoking a startled "Eep!" from the serving maid. "Tell M'sieur," she snarled, "he can come up here himself!" The maid looked stricken for a moment, caught between fear of her master and fear of the madwoman before her. "Go!" The maid sprinted down the stairs as if whipped.
She moved her sword to a new hiding spot within easy reach; the situation was rapidly building momentum. She both heard and Felt her enemy charging up the stairs like an enraged bear. She turned around just as he reached the open doorway, her back straight, shoulders back, eyes flashing defiance. Dorian's face was purple with rage, contorted into an ugly mask. "Why do you continue to defy me?"
"Why do you refuse to Challenge me?" she returned with equal vehemence. Grey was dumbfounded by such impertinence from a woman. His open-mouthed shock was quickly schooled into a sneer that implied the northerner wasn't worth the effort. Deb continued, pressing her advantage; "You can't keep me here forever. My friend will come looking for me."
The sneer turned into a snort of dismissal. "Your friend follows the laws of the Gathering; when she isn't following her own appetites. Rescue is an empty hope."
Her cat-paw rapier slid from its concealment in a single smooth movement. "I make my own hopes. I need no one's rescue."
It took longer to conceal his fear, but once again overconfidence drove him forward. "So you did find it after all. Put that thing away P'tite, before you hurt yourself." Deb's pose of open defiance showed no sign of breaking. His own blade, a Civil War cavalry sword, whispered clear of its sheathe. "If you want to play at combat, Woman, just say the word."
The chill in the room was caused by more than just mutual animosity; the gauzy curtains fluttered in a faint breeze. Almost time, almost… She had to make him angry enough that he couldn't think clearly, but keep him off-balance so he wouldn't attack outright. The line on which she walked grew thinner still. Step by cautious step, she moved toward the back wall, never taking her eyes off her opponent. He grinned evilly at her seeming retreat. Then-
"How about two words… follow me!" She spun around in an instant; throwing her sword like a javelin, she followed it out the window in a dive. In mid air, she tucked herself into a tight ball, allowing her body to roll with the impact. The heavy blanket of snow absorbed the force of her fall and she unrolled into a combat crouch.
Snow! Pristine white snow stretched as far as the eye could see. Deb's lips curled back from her teeth in a feral, wolf-like grin. The Northlander was home. She thrust her hands into the snow without hesitation; her fingers had been numbed many times before, and they didn't fail her now. Within moments, she balanced on improvised snowshoes, her blades crossed defiantly overhead as she stood perched on the crust of a snowdrift at least six feet deep. It was all she could do not to howl.
Dorian's face appeared at the window; as his gaze swept the Christmas-card landscape, he looked for a moment as glassy eyed as one of his own trophy heads. He spotted his former captive, alive, unharmed and as brazenly insolent as ever. Wide-eyed shock turned to frustration and then open hatred. He wanted to race down the stairs, take her where she stood; but the pre-dawn blizzard had buried the doors and windows. The only way out was the route that northern she-devil had taken.
Laughter trembled in the Northlander's voice as she called out her challenge. "Come on out, the snow's just fine!" She saw his hesitation, the fear that hides behind bravado. She could run right now and be free; she'd be miles away from here before he could dig his way out. But something inside of her was tired of running, tired of avoiding conflict. She called up one more taunting jibe; "Oh come now; you wouldn't want to admit that you refused a direct challenge from a woman?"
This was one step too far; with an incoherent roar, Grey leapt out the window. Where the soft layer of snow had cushioned the Northlander like an old friend, it all but swallowed her opponent. He struggled like a drowning man, and still he couldn't reach the surface. Watching his plight, Deb was torn by conflicting instincts: fight vs. flight, individual survival vs. survival of the fittest and beneath it all his rage-fuelled Quickening, screaming through her head. She saw him, the self-proclaimed hunter, undone by a few feet of snow and slowly shook her head. He wasn't worth it. Turning her back on him contemptuously, she started to walk away.
In the eerie stillness that comes after a heavy snow, every sound becomes crystal clear. Dorian's attack was a high, keening whistle; Deb spun around with the grace of a mountain cat. Reacting faster than thought, she brought up both blades. Her dagger came up to parry his blade, the clash of steel on steel jarring her arm all the way up to the shoulder. His weapon effectively blocked, her own sword lashed out in a cutting attack.
Her instincts and sense of balance declared this to be a battle on level ground, but Dorian had floundered deeper than she imagined. She expected her slashing attack to be a body blow, the first of many exchanged back and forth. But instead of glancing off a rib, her well-honed blade bit deep into an exposed throat-and kept going. Blood fountained, bone was a mere temporary resistance. The end of Dorian Grey was strangely silent, muffled by the blanket of snow.
It had all happened so quickly; Deb stood numb with shock, her wild adrenaline surge left oddly unfulfilled. She stared in disbelief at the blood, bright as berry-juice, staining the purity of the snow. A faint mist rose and the body, hissing softly, sank into the snow. A wind came up from nowhere, stirring the snow in ever tightening spirals. Blue and purple lightning reflected off the swirling flakes until it seemed as if she stood in the center of a shower of diamonds.
The storm that surrounded her was a pale shadow of what was taking place within her. Fierce winds howled through her mind, tearing at the essence of her being, shredding it. She felt herself being unmade, combined with Something Else, an alien invader. As she fought to maintain her identity, Deb felt a familiar presence form a protective wall around the core of her being. After a great struggle, the victorious Northlander dominated over the last remaining threads of awareness of her defeated opponent. She would never be quite the same again, but she was still Debra Campbell.
Awareness of the outside world slowly, painfully returned. She looked around, dazed, and was awe-struck by what she saw. She stood in the center of a circle of lush green grass, surrounded by a six-foot wall of ice. Somehow it seemed appropriate; creation through destruction. She recalled the original definition of the word Quickening--that which brings life.