The Broken Scythe

She stood alone amidst the crowd that day on the Place of the Skull, where the wind swept the hilltop with growing fury. Her long veil whipped around her like black feathers in a storm, or ash flung far on a hurricane.
They did not see her; the crowd. They never did.
She clasped her hands atop the scythe that rested against the ground before her and propped her chin on them, staring with narrowed eyes at the three crosses silhouetted against the angry red of the sky. It was the eighth hour. Not long to wait now.
She brushed one hand absently down the shaft of her scythe and touched the cold iron blade. One hour more… and all the eons of the world had not seemed so interminably long.
A soft footfall sounded behind her. “Greetings, Death.” His voice was calm. As always.
A tiny smile lit her lips. She did not turn. “Greetings, Life. It’s been too long.”
He stepped up beside her. The pure white of his own veil swept him from crown to foot with a shimmering light, untouched by the ghastly red glare of that place. He clasped his hands around his staff and was silent for a long time.
Lightning flickered along the dull grey bellies of the clouds. Thunder growled like the grinding of stone against stone in the deep places of the earth. Like jaws opening slow and wide to swallow the world in their grip.
Death shifted restlessly, then glanced at the white figure beside her. “Remind you of anything?”
“Yes.” Beneath the misty folds of his veil his face did not turn. “Everything.”
“I wonder you dare show your face here, in the hour of my triumph.” She bumped him gently with her shoulder.
“Hour?”
She could not see his face, but she knew he was smiling.
“Hour?” The shape of his face turned to her at last, blank with the fluttering white of his veil. “The hour of your triumph, Death?” He shook his head. “You still reckon by single deaths, don’t you?”
She shrugged. “Because ever since Abel I have won them.”
“And why should you not? You are Death. Of course you have.”
“You are Life.” She arched one eyebrow. “Show me one captive you have saved from me in the end.”
She heard the grin in his voice before he even formed the words, and cut him off with a slash of her hand. “Don’t you dare bring up Elijah again.”
He ducked his head with a little laugh and was silent.
Death slung her scythe over her shoulder with a sigh and lifted her chin. “I have told you a million times. I may not have taken him, but neither did you keep him.”
He shrugged, and raised his face to the three crosses on the summit of the hill. When he spoke again his voice was grave. “I suppose that depends on how far you think I rule.”
She hooked both hands on the shaft of her scythe behind her neck and snorted. “As far as I do, Life. What a silly question.”
He leaned his chin on the top of his staff. “I suppose we’ll see.”
She glanced at him sharply. “Oh please. Don’t tell me you’re hoping to snatch Him from me at the last moment.”
No answer.
Death dropped her scythe back to the ground with a sharp clack of iron against the stones. “Your Master promised me, Life. Are you calling Him a liar?”
He shook his head.
“So then? You hope? Why?”
“Who can tell why anyone hopes, Death?” He straightened from leaning on his staff and looked her full in the face. “And who can say whether there is not something greater than you and I and this game we play, and have played from the beginning of Time?”
She stared at him. “A third kingdom? You’re mad.”
“Not necessarily a third.” He looked away. “May I remind you it was my Master who set the borders of your kingdom, and that your master knows nothing of mine?”
She frowned. “You really are desperate, aren’t you. You should be used to defeat by now.”
“You’re right, I suppose.” He lowered his face and poked at the rocks with the end of his staff. “I should, shouldn’t I.” He turned away.
Death shook her head and looked back to the crosses. They were almost lost in the blackness of the sky now. Only the fretful streaks of red lightning revealed them, stark and ugly in the lashing rain.
When had it begun to rain?
She lifted her veiled face and felt the sting of the flying drops against her skin. She closed her eyes. It was close… so very close… He was slipping away. The shadows gathered faster and deeper around the central cross, like strands of her own inky veil. Tearing. Clawing. Beckoning.
The shape of the Man, slumped in breathless agony against the sky, shifted.
Death set her teeth and gripped her scythe until her hands went numb.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”
The cry splintered across the stony hilltop like a thorn driven deep, deep into living flesh.
The silent crowd broke into a tumult of mutterings and speculations, but Death glanced sideways at the white figure beside her.
His head bowed against his staff. White hands clenched in silent agony on the pale wood, and drops of water that were not the rain streaked his veil in slow streams.
Death looked away.
The crowd was going wild now. Their faces, pale and stained red with the sickly light, raised to the central cross, and clenched fists shook out from the sea of garments tattered in the wind. “He is calling for Elijah!” one of the crowd shrieked. “Let him alone; let us see if Elijah will come and take him down!”
Death smiled.
Life raised his head and glanced at her, and even through his tears gave a broken laugh. “Elijah… no. They don’t see, do they?”
She shrugged. “When have they ever?” She raised her scythe from the ground one last time and stepped forward into the wind. Her veil tangled around her feet, but her steps were sure. Down through the huddled masses of shrill people that reeked of fear. Past the groups of Pharisees and scribes clustered to the side in the shelter of a great rock, their rich garments stained with red and their faces drawn like corpses. Over the ring of stones and through the soldiers who guarded the crosses, with their hands so white and stiff on the shafts of their spears, until she came to the central cross itself, and looked up.
He met her eyes through the blood that streaked His face like the tears of a million fallen souls and smiled.
She raised her scythe from her shoulder. One blow.
The breath left His body in three words, whispered hoarse and barely heard against the howling wind.
“It is finished.”
The jeers of the crowd turned to wails.
Death slung her scythe across her shoulders with a smile, turned, and lifted her eyes to the cluster of boulders at the shoulder of the hill.
It was empty.
Life was nowhere to be seen.

She followed the mourners to the tomb once the storm was over, walking in quiet triumph through the flowers that lay broken and bruised by the pounding rains. The sky had turned from black to purple, with crimson streaks scored through it like the trails of raking thorns.
Death breathed deeply of the cold air and raised her face until the wind swept across it, stirring the folds of her veil and filling her lungs with the taste of victory. “My Master,” she whispered. “It is indeed finished. We have brought down the pride of Life into the grave, and the glory of those who cast you out has been bowed down into the very dust.”
She watched them lay His body on the stone prepared for it, wrapped in misty white. She watched them weep, her own eyes bright, and watched them one by one file from the tomb and fade away into the twilight.
Soldiers came and sealed Him in.
Death’s lips twisted, then parted in a tiny grin. What need had they to seal so fearfully tight? Did they fear He would leave her grasp? Did they fear, as Life hoped? She wrapped her veil close around herself and shook her head. Fools. There was no hope beyond the grave.
Night fell.
Death seated herself on a stone bench, leaned her head back against a tree, and watched.
The wind died from a wail to a whisper, then faded altogether. Even the night creatures were still. The leaves of the trees drooped from their branches in the darkness, heavy with grief, and the moon hid her face in a veil of black clouds.
Death closed her eyes.
The last hope of the children of men had been destroyed.

It was the grinding snap of broken stone that jolted her awake, like a shock of cold water dashed against her face.
She stumbled up before she had even fully woken and snatched her scythe, blinking in the soft violet light that bathed the garden in shadow.
All was as before. No wind. No rustle of mice in the shrubs or birds twittering softly in their nests. A ribbon of colorless light streaked along the eastern horizon like a faceless banner.
Death blinked the last sleep from her eyes and dropped them to the tomb.
The stone lay on its side with shards of broken mortar all around it.
Death froze. Her hand tightened on the shaft of her scythe until her skin burned like fire. Then she was running, her feet noiseless on the stone path, wet branches slapping at her face. She plunged into the violet shadows that filled the open mouth and stumbled down three steps. Her own breathing was like gusting wind in her ears.
She froze a few feet beyond the door. A shaft of pale light sliced through the opening in a haze of dust and spilled across the stone in the center of the vault.
It was empty.
Her screams rang to the farthest reaches of the vault and set the walls to shivering, bringing dust and roots and dead flowers from the roof in a rain of filth and mold, as though all the nations from the beginning of time were crumbling around her ears. She found herself on her knees on the floor, clawing with bloody hands at the stones and half-suffocated with her screams. “Adam did not escape me!” she shrieked. “Nor Noah, nor Abraham!” Her lungs burned in her chest like molten lava. “Where is Samuel but moldering in his grave?” She tore her veil and flung it from her in a burst of passion, stumbling to her feet and tearing at her hair with raging hands. “David?” she howled. “Solomon? John? Dead! All dead! I took them! You promised me this one!” She fell back to her knees, then collapsed on the floor with a croaking sob. “He was mine.”
Her voice was flung back echoing from the empty vault.
Somehow she managed to get her hands and knees beneath her. Somehow she crawled back to the mouth of the tomb and up the steps, pulling herself along one agonizing inch at a time with her scythe. Unbearably golden light slammed against her burning eyes. The whole east was aflame with it.
Death crawled from the tomb as a worm crawls from a flooded hole, and flopped down on the path utterly spent.
A soft shadow fell over her, and in the same moment the first stirrings of a gentle wind set the leaves to whispering around her.
“Greetings, Death,” said a quiet voice.
She scrambled to her knees, then pushed to her feet with the shaft of her weapon, sick with horror and trembling with fury in every limb. “Life,” she croaked. “What have you done?”
“Done?”
She felt his eyes even through the flickering white of his veil. Piercing. Calm, even in triumph.
She bared her teeth in a snarl and clenched her hands on her scythe until splinters stung in her torn palms. “How did you know?!” she screamed.
He said nothing. Only raised one hand and swept the misty veil back from his face.
Death stared.
It was a strong face. Strong and wise, with heavy brows and deep, keen eyes the color of amber.
She staggered back a step. Her scythe fell from her hands with a ringing clatter and shattered at her feet in a shower of splinters.
She knew that face. Those eyes had locked with hers only a short time ago between streams of blood.
And the scars of cruelly driven nails still bled in His hands.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6

Son of a Warrior ~ a Poem

The weary warrior in the night,
Riding true and fast and far,
With love of land and love of king
To guide him, and a star,
With heart of stone and firm resolve
And visage set and brave,
Spurs his steed through shadows grim,
His precious land to save.

sonofawarriorinsert-copy

Tonight he rides for sword and blood,
For fire and for war,
But tomorrow-eve he will return,
Where shadows lurk no more.
For though tonight he rides for war,
With heartbeat fierce and wild,
Tomorrow-eve he rides for home,
And wife, and land, and child.

Where hope is strong and life is sweet,
And war is but a word,
And memories and children’s feet
Replace the spear and sword.
The children’s feet! Upon the turf
They running come to meet him,
With joyful shout and twinkling eye
His children kiss and greet him.

They know not what their father did,
What horrors he endured,
So they could laugh and love and live
With peace and joy assured.
The bow and shield, the pike and spear,
The helmet and the armor,
He donned today that tomorrow-year
His son might be a farmer;
To work the land and love the land
As he would do, and more,
If king and land and sword and blood
Had not called him forth to war.

Tomorrow-eve arrived and passed,
And the weary warrior knew it,
But dared not shirk the warrior’s task,
Nor weep, nor curse, nor rue it.
The war he thought would end so soon
Dragged on for months and years,
But he never once forsook the field;
Forsook the toil or tears.

His head grew bent, his land lay waste,
His lifelong friends forsook him,
The winds of time and age and fate
Together racked and shook him.
But the child’s love and the child’s voice
Staid him and gave him rest,
And remembering still he fought with a will,
That the child might live and be blessed.

But the war dragged on and the years flew by,
And the warrior’s life was waning,
And the grey of the skies woke despair in his eyes;
And the low clouds harshly raining.
His sword was bent and his shield was shorn;
Shattered and chipped and broken,
And the life he had lived, and the shadows he saw,
Terror and grief had awoken.

For what was life? And what was love?
And why was war so anguished?
If life and love could not conquer war,
Then life and love had languished,
For the strength of them both had carried him through,
And the pain had seemed far less
Than the child’s life and the child’s love,
And the boy he had striven to bless.

The warrior’s day came, as it always must,
That life from him was taken,
And he lay on the trampled, bloodstained turf,
Wounded and hurt and shaken.
And the din of the battle and clash of the swords
Fell harshly upon his ears,
But he did not move and he did not speak,
As the deaf beggar no one hears.

The king in whose service the warrior had fought
Caught a glimpse of him lying there,
But with hurrying feet and a grim fate to meet
He passed him by in the mere.
For the battle was thick and the armies wild,
And the king had not time for the faithful.
But another was there, with the rain in his hair,
Who knew what it was to be grateful.

His sturdy shield and blood-dimmed sword
Were tossed aside and forsaken,
While anxious young eyes and quick-flying feet
Over the field were taken.
The blood-covered hands and the nimble young fingers
Did away with the warrior’s shield,
And the helm and the spear and the breastplate of iron
Were cast away from the field.

The warrior was cradled in strong, tender arms
With the battle raging about,
And raising his eyes to the raining grey skies
He saw, and he knew, beyond doubt.
The man in whose arms his wounded head lay
Was young, and joyous, and strong,
And the light in his eyes and the light of his face
Shone free of the wicked or wrong.

The younger man smiled, and clasping his hand,
Bent down and spoke to him low.
‘You fought for my sake and the love of my life—
Now leave it, and let yourself go.
The torch and the brand too long you have carried;
Too long you have fought here for me.
Now go and be blessed, and permit yourself rest,
And be happy, and joyous, and free.

All that you wished me to keep I forsook—
The farm, and the home, and the land,
And came here for you, to fight by your side,
And lend you my young, stronger hand.
Your battle is finished— now I must fight,
And gladly I take up the sword,
For you fought for me, and you died for me;
You were my shield and ward.

For the children we fight, as our fathers fought,
And for their children our children will stand,
So that they can stand up, and be bold and be strong,
And live in a free, blessed land.
Dear Father, weep not that you leave,
Weep not that your task is not done.
For the only task that you ever had
Was to guard me and guide me, your son.

And then step aside, with joy and with pride,
And watch the love that you gave
Stand up, and stand tall, with the best of them all,
And be strong and be gentle and brave.
For I am your love, and I am your son,
And I will never forget
What you did for me, fought for me, lost for me still,
And the anguish and heartache you met.’

So the warrior died, with his hand in his son’s,
While the battle still raged in the rain,
And laying him down with gentle young hands,
The son rose to the battle again.
His father’s sword and battered shield
Were lying near in the grime,
And casting away his own mantle of grey,
He took up those weapons of time.
His hand on the hilt of his father’s old sword,
His arm looping through the old shield,
And turning at last from the night and the past,
He charged with a shout to the field.

There he would fight, till that battle was won,
And on he would march in the mire,
Till the war should be won and the freedom should come
To gather at peace round the fire.
A task for the young, a task for the strong,
A task to outlast every man,
But a task whose completion, the righting of wrong,
Lives on as a father’s command.

A torch for the captive, a beacon of hope,
Though hopeless and lifeless for some,
For from father to son and from aged to young
The glorious burden will come.
A charge for the brave, a hope for the weak,
A brand to hold out in the night,
That the darkness may flee and the light may shine forth
And the wrongs of the people come right.

The light may not shine on the first to the fight,
Nor glory be won in an hour,
But the warrior fights for the love of his home,
And in failure true love does not cower.

Hello, World!

Greetings, Random Wonderful Person from the Internet! You have now entered the domain of Myself.
Otherwise known as My Blog.
But I think we can ditch the formality here. 😀

In normal English, hello. My name is Katherine, Kate for short, and this is my blog, where I blog about stuff, because apparently that is what one does with a blog. This blog is about writing. Actually no. It’s about stories. Welcome. I hope you stick around.
As you’ve probably deduced, I’m a writer. Not published— yet— but working on it. I write primarily allegory, both fantasy and science fiction, but I hate cramming anything into such narrow lines, especially something as magical as storytelling. So let’s just say I’m a storyteller. Storytelling really doesn’t have anything to do with genre, anyway. A story is a story, no matter the setting.
But I digress. We can cover that later. 😉
The only thing you really need to know about me is this: I am first and foremost a child of God, saved by grace, and striving to give my utmost for His highest.
Otherwise, no labels. Draw your own conclusions.

*opens the door with a flourish* Welcome to The Inky Notebook!