I fear you none.
For though you give chase across time, across ages,
through valleys blackened by pain
and pastures greened with hope,
the labor is solely yours.
You know my name, but yours will go unsaid,
until the moment of leaving, at whose gates I will no longer care.
For though I might gaze across years, across oceans,
toward a horizon whose distance I will know only once,
you cannot touch me until then.
And so I fear you none.
Strip away the leaves of others, take them as you must.
Peel dry the orchard in which I live, whether summer sapling or wintered oak,
whether friend or foe, whether loved or despised.
I care not.
For they are mine forever, and yours but once.
And whence they come to you, wordless and unchangeable,
they are immortal to me.
In spirit indomitable.
In memory indestructible.
So take them. I care not.
Once the forest falls and I am the only one left,
you may cast your shadow upon me.
Victory, you may claim, fleshless, arid, and everlasting.
And you may laugh to see me kneel in the dirt, under grey skies,
under columns of black clouds in which no heaven awaits.
But nameless, I will hold you.
And bittersweet, your conquest.
For the dark line, drawn in the sand at the time of your choosing,
is no loss to me, no more than a whisper in the eon of my soul.
And I shall fear you none.
Whether sharp and sudden or a slow carrion crawl,
my burdens will be shed,
my thousand aches mended,
and sleep again I shall until the ending of all ages.
But you, my friend,
you must toil on.
For whether here or there or a in place yet unnamed,
your work is never done.
Were I a stone in a pale river,
the water would teach me
beguile my bones into shapes
I’d never known.
Were I a cliff, lording over the sea,
the wind would, over patient eons
move upon me,
at times a gale, sharp yet sincere,
at others, carrying the mist softly to my face,
that I might feel things
to which I’d never awakened.
Were I grass, short-lived and thirsty,
but always a friend to the sun
the rain would nourish my roots,
and beneath its clouds, it would remind me
that no day is ever-bright,
but nor is the darkness always my foe.
Were I fire, booming in the hot belly
of the earth untamed,
my release would raze the life from all things
yet in the end,
I would gladly perish,
and all else grow anew.
And were I a maker of words,
quill in hand, burning hearth in place of ordinary heart,
she would smile at me,
and whisper thoughts undreamed into my ear,
that I might wake the next morn beside her,
with always another page,
and never a dry spell
for the garden in which we live.
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She lives in the wind
or so the riot tells me.
A golden flame, a pale rapture, an elemental catastrophe,
all of this, and more, the riot will say.
An invisible trail, she leaves,
on the streets we have walked, in our rumbled bed.
But she is never lesser.
Her hours of toil beget mere moments of calm,
for there is no taming her, only the lie thereof.
She walks never straight, but in tangles, in weaves,
and on wild paths only the trees can name.
She lives in the wind
or so I’ll say
from now until the end of everything.
Many will try, and many will dream of her at peace,
only for a moment’s breeze to unravel her.
to take her skyward.
to unleash her.
The riot, she is.
In body, in spirit.
And those who would tame her,
had best beware.
Having survived the Night of Knives, beautiful Nadya rises to power as the baroness of Tolem.
There’s just one problem. The Emperor of Vhur has just dispatched his largest army to retake Tolem and burn Nadya at the stake.
She’s left with only two choices: Run for her life…or kill every last man in the Emperor’s army.
She has no intention of running…
Nadya the Deathless
It began the moment I left.
The clouds, black and burgeoned with dark water,
caught me, contained me.
Drums in the sky pounded the only message
my body needed to know.
For all their thunder, my bones shook.
For all their streaming rivers
falling down my fractured panes,
I should have turned back.
Brief, I expected them,
and easily swatted aside.
But the sky told no mistruth,
and the serpentine road, swallowed by the rain,
scrawled into my tired eyes
the lie of leaving.
A wager, I made with the advancing night.
‘You’ll break with the sun when I return.’
‘And go black again with every retreat.’
And impatient, I threatened.
And made war against everything.
Even knowing the deed was mine.
But the rain only laughed.
And the night shrugged at the hidden moon.
Daring that I should do it again.
That I should return, and stride the storm
a thousand times over.
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On a black river, I race toward the waning light.
Westward, burning, the smoky clouds breathing their last.
My carriage vibrates on the shallow water,
the wheels wanting to break, but lacking the will.
There are others besides me, but there are none.
I am alone here, but for one.
A dusk-born bat, I see nothing, and feel everything.
Flying, wings biting at the dark, nothing slows me.
At the witching hour, to a theme which shakes the world,
Sweating. Aching. Hellbent.
At the black river’s end, everything.
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Am I dead, I asked her?
In a box, I did molder,
rotting, shapeless, my nightly sleep.
Dead, but dreaming, of what waited
beyond my comfortable dirt, beyond
my opulent world of worms and disquiet.
But when they asked, wake me none I said
until the day my box is broken.
And then the first of dreams
drained through the holes where nails once lay.
I listened. I woke. And pushed away the cold dirt.
My insides, new, pumped with raw life,
and I recalled the days I’d never lived.
The moon, she burned my face. My eyes, she scalded
with such light my box never allowed.
Still hushed, she bade me walk beside her,
and her smile drank away my grave-dust.
For hours, we tread lightly
On the shadowed fields, unseen.
Of the world below, of worms, of coffins, she asked,
and for the moon, we floated high,
in the wind, the light, and nothing.
But to the silver jewel, we never did come,
for at last, she saw the dusk within,
and feared, with me, the sun
would not rise.
Quickly, we climbed back down.
The dirt waited, starved of me.
Where now will you go? the dream asked me in lament.
To sleep, I said. My home, it is,
in my tomb, dead but dreaming always.
Down, she lay me, shining no more, but gloaming
as I slid into bed, shivering.
Again, I’ll see you? she asked.
Long from now.