Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Yeah Write #56: The Lies That Bend ( #flashfiction )

I drew my wool and fur cloak closer to hide my quivering hands and defiant posture. “This dotter is grateful for your wisdom in this betrothal, Papa.”

I stared straight into his eyes and drove the lie home.

My mother frowned and corrected me to use the more formal “Foder” or “Ser”. The brutish words lacked. The vile language of the invaders had infested our native tongue over the past six years like ticks. They left a bitter sting on my tongue and a wad of bile in my throat.

“Gud! There, you see?” The tension melted from Papa’s face and his shoulders loosened as he reassured Mama. His naked face and shorn hair still disturbed me. I missed braiding it and beading his beard as he told me stories of our people who lived long ago — the great beasts they hunted and the creatures they charmed.

The foreigners had made all our men shed their hair to show their loyalty and the biting winds chapped their faces. My mother could no longer decorate her tresses or weave beauty into her garments. We were all to clothe ourselves in garb drabber than the evening mid-winter mists on gray rock and to coil our hair so that even a breeze would forget we stood in it.

With most of the elders and leaders dead now, my parents were among the few who remained. The foreigners who governed had taken a shine to several young women of our village.  The rest of us — whose faces were not as pleasing and whose cunts had known other men — were parceled off to soldiers, lesser sons and brothers. The abomination who was to claim me reeked of rotten flesh and loose bowels. I pitied the girls who had scarcely a foot in womanhood who had been taken because they had not known the embrace of a boy and lacked the maturity to fight.  Perhaps, I thought, my mother sought status to protect herself now that women could not carry even a sharpened stick without punishment.

“May I have leave to visit the ancestors?”

My mother clasped her hands tighter. “You should pray to –”

“Ach, Grineld, let her be.” Papa motioned to wave me away but then held my gaze and clasped my arms. “Bren, my dotter, heed the weather. I had pains in arranging your betrothal before the squalls. Say your farewells, for tomorrow you go where I cannot.” His weathered hands left heat prints even through my garments.

Was that hope there in the deep dark of his eyes?

I bowed my head in the new way, though I desired to throw myself into their arms and have us all embrace as we once did.  Even with the cold sting of a dozen lost children, they had always had laughter to gladden the sod walls.

The foreigners only laughed at other’s pain, and their women had never known joy from their first breath.

I left and walked familiar paths through the dying village.  The ground swelled from the moisture in the air that would become an icy kiss.  I breathed the scent of the first squall and tasted the cool salt from the coast. The invader’s temple had once been the common dwelling and I passed it. None stopped me to speak, for that was forbidden. Guards made a move to halt me, but let me be when they spied the betrothal necklace and prayer beads of their god.

They smirked and spoke vile things in their cursed tongue, not caring if I understood. That is what became of men with no mothers and no love from their fathers.

We laid our dead by the cliffs facing the sea and let the tides take them. Women had long given birth in the tide pools.  From water we come and to water we return. I removed the shell band from around my arm and dropped it in the hollow where I was born — every child separated from their parents this way.

The rising ocean storm slapped my cheeks until they were ruddy and my lips froze on my teeth.  I let the wind take my cloak, cut my braid with my contraband blade, and tore away the vile necklace. My intended would presume my death.

I picked my way through the first fingers of the violent squall to The Endless Caves where I had squirreled away a stocky horse and meager supplies.

I knew my place in this world.




7 comments on “Yeah Write #56: The Lies That Bend ( #flashfiction )

  1. Pingback: Yeah Write #56: The Lies That Bend ( #flashfiction ) — Laissez Faire | Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing

  2. innatejames
    March 22, 2017

    I liked the Viking(?) touches of this story. It added history to the piece – I imagined the narrator was a newly conquered Celt on the shores of Ireland. The “we” in “We laid our dead” was unclear to me. Is it a royal we, or is she with others down there on the beach? I imagined her escaping alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 23, 2017

      Yes, it was a “royal we” to refer to her people. She did escape alone. And you are right there is a touch of Viking and Celt, dash of inuit, a sprinkle of native american, some JRR Marting wildling, and a smidge of “other stuff” 🙂 I tried to use the familiar, but unfamiliar words to give that “ancient” atmosphere. 🙂


  3. Jackie Law
    March 23, 2017

    I liked the harshness of the sixth paragraph, from “The rest of us…” to “… lacked the maturity to fight.” I thought this explained well why your protagonist risked acting as she did. I did wonder, though, how she could squirrel away something as valuable as a horse. There are interesting ideas here – scope to develop further.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 23, 2017

      It was a small northern, hardy animal. It had been described “An old, but hardy nag” (I cut it down to horse for word count) 🙂 I’m glad you noticed the harshness of the middle and that my word choices worked to convery that rather than being vulgar.


  4. rubybastille
    March 23, 2017

    Phew, I got cold reading this! The details of the Viking-ish native culture and their harsh land and puritanical conquerors were all really well done, and unfolded in a way that kept the interest up and made Bren someone to cheer for. I thought she was committing suicide near the end there and was very pleased to see she wasn’t!


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