Friday, January 7, 2011

Archaeologists' War

The wind scurried sand even in the neighborhoods away from the desert. Mansoor watched the darkness coveting Silwan's ridge. He rubbed his hands together for warmth and wished he wasn't a cadet. Khirbeth, squad leader of the firebreathers, claimed that protecting territory from the archeologist's propaganda was more important than front line fighting. But there was no glory in his guard duty. Mansoor dreamed of his first kill and promotion. How difficult could it be to kill an infidel?

Blinking away sleep, Mansoor poured himself another cup of khiv. A stone rattled as it slid down the graffiti-strewn walls. Mansoor spied the out of place shadow. He ignited his fires; pleasures suffused his belly.

The darkness hid the man's features. Yet, he knew from the way the man hunkered against the wind and the shape of the cupped hands holding tools. He faced an infidel archaeologist. "This place is forbidden." The fires licked his esophagus. He should spark and kill the man inside his five meter range.

"Wait." A woman's voice.

Mansoor retreated, but he kept her within range. The air felt cold when he gulped it. "You're an archaeologist?"


"A woman?"

"Of course." She moved forward out of the shadows, the moonlight catching the swell of her breasts.

"It's not allowed." The crevices around his words hissed as saliva dripped into his stomach.

"You would deny knowledge?" She kept her arms wide, the hands in fists, where he could see them. "Our history is a blessing, but it was never meant to be a mystery. You must understand that I am not different than you."

"You would claim Silwan's walls as your own." Mansoor's words were sour.

"Only if they were ours."

"The propaganda of your ways lie, they will cheat us of our birthright. Our homes."

She opened her palm and a shadow fell from it skittering to the street below. She leaped into the air to levitate for a second during which Mansoor breathed fire. Her face was beautiful as the flames consumed her flesh. Bones clattered to the pavement below.

Her porcelain cheeks stared at him. Accusing afterimages. He fumbled for more khiv. He never forgot.


  1. There was a fine line between fantasy and reality here. I'm not sure if the fire, and the levitation were imagined, or true. But I think the ambiguity is the appeal. :)

  2. Intriguing set-up. Makes me wonder about this world and its factions.

  3. What exactly will he remember of that? Such a surreal encounter.

    As far as editorial, I know you were shooting for style, but I was left very unclear what happened in the sentence, "The crevices around his words hissed as saliva dripped into his stomach." You might break that up into two sentences and clarify a bit.

  4. @TS, I won't spoil the fun and discuss the (un)reality of the world. :)

    @Valerie, glad it got you wondering.

    @John, I find faces haunt me sometimes. Perhaps it's just me ;) Thanks, that is an unclear sentence. I'll have to look at it in the morning when I have brain cells.

  5. I got the feeling in the end that she had been wearing a mask, that's why her features clattered to the ground- because it was the only thing that didn't burn up. Great line between realistic and fantastic.

  6. Very surreal. I think this is a piece of the larger work, right? High Fantasy- I assume. I liked what happened in this story but it is hard for me to remember the context in order to understand it fully. It's probably just that I need to go back and read the stories leading up to this. I've been out of the loop with the holidays.

  7. Interesting idea...I suppose the best way to propagate a false history is to ban history, and then paint those seeking the past as villains. Not that I'm advocating that. By 'best' I mean 'surest'.

  8. I like the imaginative and evocative imagery in this. The use of shadow in particular caught my attention. Nice story.

  9. Archaeologist as infidel-interesing idea-usually its grave digger. A world that would creat such an idea would be a very controled world. It makes me think they must be hiding something important, otherwise the order would collapse. "The crevices around his words hissed as saliva dripped into his stomach." This sentence threw me off guard. I wasn't sure how the imagery of that fit in. I'm interested to know more about this world, levitation and fire breathing.

  10. A war is a war, and this one was surreal :) beautifully written, I loved the possibilities in this and where you took the piece.
    And that's a great last line "He never forgot."

  11. @ganymeder, the mask is a great detail. I don't know if I had seen that; but now that you mention it... I may have to beg/borrow/steal :)

    @GP, it's not a longer work yet; there's a lot of backstory currently, and I wanted to avoid putting that in here but it does make this more difficult to follow. Hope you had a good set of holidays!

    @Icy, Are you sure you mean surest? There might be a part of you that wants to be a firebreather ;)

    @Jason, thanks; hmm... you're giving me plot/world ideas on the shadows.

    @Lara, the firebreathers are what got me, especially the idea of using them as infantry men. Ooops, I may be spilling the ambiguity beans.

    @Estrella, thanks for the comments; I'm particularly glad you liked the closing line.

  12. Aidan I thought the dialog was interesting - they had a very grandiose manner of speaking - were you looking to create the effect of a more formal forgotten manner of speaking? I do think it worked if so.Also curious about the levitating archaeologist's special ability with shadows if anything?

  13. @Brinda, yes, I was trying for a formal manner of speaking. I think it was related to that by being more formal that "made" their argument more right in their views. I haven't fully worked out the shadow portion of this world. I'll need to revisit it with another story focusing on it from the shadow/infidel point of view.

  14. Hi Aidan,

    I followed the breadcrumbs back from your comment... =)

    I really like this, I like the ambiguity and the sense of a greater world, something I always strive for in my fiction. I like that you've thought through the fire breather too, the physicality of it beyond just the ability.

    And, because different people have different tastes...
    "The crevices around his words hissed as saliva dripped into his stomach."
    I like this line, it's strange, it stood out and it made me think more about what was actually happening.

  15. @John, glad you found your way :) and it is good to hear an opposing viewpoint. I haven't changed it yet because I haven't managed to make it clearer in my mind without ruining the "essence" that I wanted to achieve with the description.