I know I don't write very often, but lately I found myself with a couple characters in my head. Not sure if these are going anywhere, but they're in the same realm as one another. These are essentially character snapshots in the rough.
Cool air teased wisps of hair out of the tight braid in which Regina Mori's hair was bound. Her eyes narrowed in the morning sun. She felt light without the plate armor to which she was accustomed.
"Ready?" Her mother's voice rang out across the track. As if one body, five competitors dropped into position. Regina put her fingers to her lips to offer a kiss to the Dry Autumn Earth as she readied herself for the race. She took a deep breath, harnessing her surge of adrenaline and retaking control of her body.
"Steady." Her thoughts tried to think ahead, tried to take off without her. She willed herself to relax, letting them pass over her like water.
By the time the word, "Go" left her mothers lips, Regina had switched off her mental dialog. Nerves fired and muscles sprang into action. Feet pumped in an effortless blur. The vivid vibration of the other four runners served only as a further goad to motion.
In a minute the pack had turned the first of the seven corners of the city wall. Morning mist rose from the river alongside the city and swirled in their wake. Ten feet tattooed the earthen track ringing the city. Five bodies pressed forward, steady and swift, biding their time for the miles ahead of them. Shouts rang out from atop the city walls where inhabitants had gathered to watch.
What did it matter to Regina who won or lost? For now she was wind. She was a cheetah. She was late summer brushfire. She was lightning. She was a spring waterfall. She was a swirling winter storm. She was a hunter's arrow and a smith's hammer. She was a poet's rush of words and an orator's precision. She was the moment where road and sky kissed.
She was barely aware of the corners she passed until she crossed the finish and it was time to re-inhabit herself.
Regina slowed to a walk but kept moving, letting herself become aware of her aching legs and burning lungs. Cheers from the city wall brought a smile to her face. Her mother gave her a satisfied nod.
The next runner crossed the line. Regina had won the first trial.
Muse Lewis knew she had been gone too long by the way her hair kept falling in her eyes. She had lost track of the days sometime in spring when the runoff still swelled the river running through the valley. Soon enough it would be time to pack up her cabin for the winter and head back to town. She took a tentative sniff at the air for confirmation and smiled when she detected a hint of mountain snow beneath the rich aromas of loam, drying leaves, and musk.
A chipmunk startled nearby, sending a thrum of awareness up Lewis' arms and spine. Her focus narrowed. Her eyes shut as she reached outward with her mind. She let her senses ripple through the surrounding woods, gentle as a warm breeze. Her hand tightened on her spear when she found the source of the disturbance.
The panther smelled her there – felt her even, but he was young and confident. His kind was plentiful this year: too plentiful. The game in the forest had suffered for it. Lewis slowly turned in his direction, dropping silently into position. As the great cat turned to pass, she erupted into graceful motion. When her spear left her arm it was as if a part of herself flew at her target, knocking the confident animal to his side, slicing between his ribs to pierce his heart.
Lewis' heart twisted to feel his surprise, to feel his pride and his life ebb. She bridged the distance between them, dropping to her knees beside him. As he died, she stroked his head. She closed her eyes as he found the wholeness of endings and let go. She spent a minute in silent reverence before uttering a prayer to the wholeness and beginning the process of butchering the creature for meat, bones, hide, and teeth. She would not let him go to waste.
As she worked she drew in her senses, folding them away as carefully as blown glass. However helpful it might be to have such heightened awareness, the everyday drama of life and death in the forest was too vibrant to leave her raw self exposed.