The Story Starts Here

Chapter 1: Mean Girls

Friday, 8 April 2016

Chapter 9: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

          Another earthshake knocked her over as she ran but she scrambled up and she and the herd poured through the shrine’s door in a twisted jumble almost landing on a goat-foot who squealed in fright but didn’t run.

            The air was thick with dust and salt and she pulled her tunic up over her mouth and nose, trying to see.  It was like a brown fog that swirled and then people crawled out of the rapidly darkening world.

            Yal and Scali crawled in, helping each other, wailing, coughing. Then Doris staggered in, one of her rugs over her head.  An enormous crack of thunder that went on and on but no rain. The little goat butted Icarus and Irilla and the babies in through the door, Irikraska clinging to his fur, blood streaming down her face and arm from a rash of circles ripped into her skin, bleeding from the scalp where her hair was torn out on that side.

            Then it sounded like the start of rain… but nothing so gentle.  It was stones falling out of the sky.  A lumpy, monstrous shape loomed out of the dirt and the girls screamed and the goats screamed and it turned into Uri, who fell to his knees, with his friend Deno over his shoulders, limp as a wet rag.

Naida had her hands over her ears, tears streaming down her dirty face but she could hear the first crack on the roof and then a roar like a thousand thunderstorms as rocks the size of her fist fell out of the sky.

            There was barely enough room for them all and with a babbled prayer of apology, Naida climbed up behind the statue of Demeter, squeezing in behind.  The statue was carved out of the rock of the mountain and wasn’t likely to move, even if the earth kept wiggling.  She huddled in the statue’s skirts, with goats piled around her,

            The strange goatling stood in the doorway roaring at the sky and there was clear air all around the shrine, a thick bubble of ashes all around as though they were shut inside a snowstorm, or sealed inside a circle of marble, but everyone could mostly breathe.

            He roared a half dozen times and twice he was answered from outside in the sky, a shriek that made all the hair on Naida’s skin stand up. The bubble shrank, slowly, as the goatling tired, sagging and people’s screams and wails died away to moans and sobbing and coughing.  Even the goats wailed softly, jammed in so tightly that no one could move.

            Scali got her apron over Irikraska’s injuries and she struggled to nurse her babies to quiet them in the press, even as she cried.  The one twin kept getting his mother’s blood in his mouth as he nursed and kept spitting out her tit and wailing.

            The hail of rock kept on, and the wind sprang up, blowing the ash away from the shrine, even as the little goat roared weakly, one last time, fell over and vanished letting the wind howl through like a Goddess’s broom, raising dust and ash devils off of everyone and out the door.

            The goatling reappeared across Naida’s lap though she couldn’t see how he’d gotten over or through the press of bodies. He smiled at her, butted her gently and whispered “Breathe through my fur.  The ash is blowing away.”

            She clung to him as though he could save her.  “You did talk.  I wasn’t dreaming.”

            “Yes, I’m sorry,” he said. And every living thing in the shrine flinched at another smashing roar of thunder. “The Goddess picked an angry way to save Atlantis.”


            “Never mind.”  It wasn’t the earth shaking but the air.  “That’s the volcano’s thunder,” he said.  “I’m a joker and I should have stayed, when you saved me, but I couldn’t help teasing.”

“S’all right,” she said and in the sweet scent of his hair she began weeping rather than being frozen in shock.

“Cry.  You’re safe here.” A hideous shriek from the air above made everyone freeze. “Don’t move,” the kid whispered. “Kraken love chasing—“

A much louder bang on the roof of the shrine sent one of the goat-feet squealing out and Naida could just see out the door that a tentacle, long and snake-like reached down and snatched it right up off the ground. There was a spattering sound and red drops rained down onto the steps. Somehow Irikraska must have escaped being snatched up by just such another tentacle. It was hard to see anything because of the dirt in the air and the day gone over to dark.

The kraken tried banging on the roof again once it had swallowed the goat-foot, but no one moved, this time.  The hail and stone came down harder and the kraken yelped and went squealing back down toward the sea.

“The wave is going away,” the kid said. “They go with it.  Like lions on the edge of a grass fire.”

“Don’t say that, I’m going to be sick,” Naida said.  There was a red splash on the steps at the door but everything outside was turning grey as what looked like filthy snow fell.

“Sorry.  We need to stay here as long as we can.  The volcano is still belching out ash.  I’m tired.  I won’t be able to stay awake much longer, Naida… My name’s Asteri Chaiti.”

          Naida was still crying, even as she gulped and snotted in the kid’s hair and he didn’t say anything. Twitch pushed up next to her and she absently petted the nanny.  Where is Bruiser? Oh, Gods, I hope he didn’t try and fight a kraken, silly ram.

She stopped worrying when she spotted him off to one side as the herd shuffled around a bit and managed to lie down, even if they were lying on top of one another.  Deno was still unconscious but lying across Uri’s lap while Scali tore her apron to shreds to bandage people’s wounds.

The brownies weren’t in evidence at all but then they were best at hiding. All they could do was wait for the kraken to go away, and hope that the volcano’s fury would end or that the wind would shift completely and blow the flying stone and pumice away. And cry.

Asteri sighed and collapsed against Naida’s shoulder and wouldn’t wake even though she shook him and called to him.


Another weekend.  I'm probably going to do the five days, five posts thing.  I've just hit the point where I'm going to be doing extensive re-writes so we'll see.  I give myself the weekends off, so you can catch up then if you fall behind.

Cheers, my dears!

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