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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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He strode through the woods under the cool grey sky, a bright god of the hunt, his hounds orbiting him like dark, baleful moons.  He scanned the trees and undergrowth ahead of him, systematically seeking out his prey.  The dogs raised their heads as one, scenting.  A quick movement drew his gaze and he broke towards the small hillock where a stringy shrub still moved despite the lack of wind.  He gestured to the dogs.  Leander and Petra ranged out to the left and right, ears upright, describing the circumference of a circle while he walked a diameter to the crest of the hillock.  He strung his longbow at the walk, his fluid power an ode to the bloodshed to come. He reached the bottom of the gentle rise.  He raised the bow in one hand as he nocked and drew back on an arrow with the other, muscles gliding under the skin of his bare shoulders. 

He crested the hillock, bounding up to gain a clear shot at anything on the far side.  Leander and Petra were in their assigned positions, loping steadily to the confrontation they were trained to finish when their master loosed his bow.  Directly ahead he spied his quarry, a tan blur in the low ground moving away at speed.  He loosed, hand dropping to his quiver for another arrow even as his first flew.  Incredulous, he watched the arrow curve away from the intended path, striking the approaching Leander just behind the foreleg.  The impact threw the dog over on his side, where he lay still and silent.

The hunter ignited.  He flew forward, enraged, splintering trees as he roared in pursuit of the quarry.  He cast aside the traitorous bow and drew his knife, stealth and elegance subsumed by rage, raw power and the desire to avenge Leander.  Wood and soil boiled outwards from the shockwave of his passage, shredded, boiled, seared.  The sounds of destruction were drowned by his enraged scream as he flew, himself an arrow driven forward by fury, burning behind the point of his dagger.

His blade-point struck the palm of an outstretched hand and stopped dead. He fell sprawling to earth, his vengeance scream turning to a grunt and a cough as he struck the ground.  Rain quenched the burning trail of his passage and new greenery crept inwards, questing, feeding on the remains of the fallen.  He scrambled up, momentarily lost for words or actions.

Demeter spoke.  "Apollo, I have already made myself clear.  You will not violate my woods without consequences." she said, lowering her hand.

"You have killed my beloved companion, and you warn me of consequences?" He stood, beautiful countenance burning with pale fire and hatred.  He drew back his arm, dagger flashing.  Demeter stood unmoving as he struck.

 "HOLD", spoke a voice of thunder.  Lightning forked lazily across the sky, bolts caressing the face of another. 

"Father, she has struck down Leander.  I demand my vengeance," said Apollo, straining to complete his thrust against immovable restraints.

"DEMETER?"  She raised her pale, beautiful face to Zeus, calm and determined. 

"I will pay a blood price, Brother, but the consequence must remain.  These woods are under my protection." 

A pause, then: "SO BE IT.  DEMETER, YOU WILL PAY BLOOD PRICE FOR THE HOUND.  APOLLO, YOU WILL ABANDON THE HUNT AND YOU WILL NURTURE NEW FOREST TO REPLACE THAT WHICH YOU HAVE DESTROYED."  Thunder rumbled again, and Zeus was gone.

Apollo looked at her, bleak, his fire extinguished.  He lowered his arm and sheathed his dagger.  "There will be a reckoning over this, Demeter.  I will not forget."

"Nor should you," she said, "but Nephew, you must not hate.  You are welcome to return here, as long as you leave hate and death behind.  That is the blood price."  She gestured, and the earth took Leander's corpse.  The fatal arrow stretched, sprouting branches, to become a tall tree of singular colour marking the place where the hound had fallen. 

"You have taken my companion, and Petra's," he retorted, "how then are we to leave these events behind like garments shed after wearing?"

Again she gestured, "Look to Petra."  The bitch looked back at her master, shifting her hindquarters as Leander's unborn pups wriggled within her.

Apollo, caught between grief, anger and joy, summoned his chariot.  He left his bow where it lay and commenced his daily vigil in the sky overhead, obedient to his father's judgement.


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2009-11-10 08:28:09
what was here was well done, but it does feel like a snippet rather than a story.

2009-11-03 13:05:01
This story contains some beautiful writing, and elegantly drawn characters, but it feels incomplete. I don't really feel like much happened. It feels like a small part of a much larger story, by itself of little consequence.




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