Sloughing

An Espresso Tale

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

This is another Espresso Tale inspired by ABK’s Promptcast. The prompt this week was “Snake People” and I have to say that I had a bit of a hard time finding the idea I was looking for.

It seems that in the end I found something 😉

A note: “Sloughing” is actually pronounced “sluffing” and is the act of shedding ones’ skin.

Enjoy!

A.G.G

Silence filled the age.

After the war, all life fled the world, and with it went the wind and the rain.

She couldn’t remember when her scales had stopped making the odd, soothing noise she loved so much. Now, when she slithered over the grey sand and climbed over the blackened tree trunks, she heard nothing.

As the dull morning broke, she scanned the horizon wearily. A small huff of disappointment disturbed the corpse of a nearby pine and she slid down the hill, moving towards the dirty river on the edge of the horizon.

She twirled gracefully amidst the deadness of it all, letting her eyes wander over the piles of refuse; hoping to find today’s meal.

So far, she’d been lucky: out of all her clutch, she was the sole survivor. Her mother and sire had perished in the flames, and her siblings hadn’t made it past the first winter.

She sighed heavily as Roran’s sweet smile clawed it’s way to the front of her memories. Her brother had been the last to die, sacrificing himself so that she could live. She could still see his broken body, lying at the foot of the frozen chasm, many miles behind her.

He’d preferred a sudden death to the slow march of starvation.

Something scurried under a rock. It was fast, and small. For a moment, she wondered if it would be worth the energy it would take to kill.

Her empty belly won out. With an impossible surge of speed, she struck, stabbing at the hidden creature with the venomous spike on her tail.

It died instantly. A minute later, she’d swallowed it whole.

“…all skin and bones…,” she grumbled, sliding away towards the river. Her stomach growled in frustration and again her green eyes took up their searching.

She reached the small ditch after midday, tired and hungry. Her scales were darker than they had been a few days ago and they’d started to itch. She scratched her waist idly and took a moment to secure her brown hair under the long sash she was using as protection against the sun.

The river was almost dry, but she still managed to find enough water to fill her two skins. She drank greedily, pretending not to notice the taste of earth and ash.

Her wondering took her a little further. When night fell, she’d found shelter from the winds in a copse of dead trees. Her thin spires carried her to a small clearing where she lay down, exhausted.

She awoke sometime past midnight, roused by her unerring instinct.

She looked up, and was surprised to see the stars for the first time in months. Lower on the horizon, the full moon cast its friendly glow on the stage of the sky and for a moment, she felt magic surge around her once more.

Then she noticed him.

He was in the centre of the glade, his thin upper torso resting on black coils that showed signs of extreme malnourishment. Where once she suspected there had been powerful muscles, now she could see gaunt ribs.

His eyes, however, were kind.

He smiled at her and acting on instinct, she rose to meet him.

 She was surprised when she saw him bow, in the manner of the Zearass Dancers. He was inviting her to join him.

The stars and the moon curled around her, and she felt neither hunger nor fatigue. There was no more itching, nor despair, nor cold, nor time. There was only the dance, and the dancer and his gaze.

The two joined in the centre of the glade, cradled by a warm wind. They moved in sinuous patterns, passing within a hairsbreadth of each other, yet never touching. His hands moved the strands of her hair with their passing, while their two bodies created graceful swirling patterns in the ash.

Only their eyes were still, locked in an embrace so strong, that no two creatures of the world had ever been so united.

Slowly, the wind cooled and above them, clouds began to gather. A soft rumble sounded from far off and as the first patches of dead skin rubbed off their scales and into the air, the rain began to fall.

They picked up the pace and soon, great swathes of dead scales fluttered into the wind, and fell again, floating away in the waters of the swollen river. Drops of magic sparked between the clouds and the trees seemed to straighten.

They danced through the night. In the storm, dodging lightning. Alive at last.

Never once did their eyes falter; they were lost to the dance and they carried the world with them.

They awoke the next morning to the sound of birdsong and the soft caress of new grass on their bodies.

Her scales were emerald green once more and she sighed contently as she caressed the midnight black of his sweet body.

They left together and made for the faraway hills, moving through a land that they had returned to life.

That night they danced again, and their laughter made love to the thunder that the rainstorm brought to end the blight.-

3 thoughts on “Sloughing

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