Dragonfly & Cricket
He sat upon a shelf of rounded stone exposed among the verdant grasses of the hillside, staring up at the pulsing flickers of quiet lighting chasing one another through the clouds and painting the sky with an ever-shifting series of unfocused light and dark shapes.
The light show had been going on for hours without a single cry of thunder, just the light filling up the heavens in broad, bright sheets, nearly drowning the swaths of stars that shone through the tattered and oft-broken canopy.
The lightning made colors too quick for his mind to catch and label, only absorb in swift awe before they faded, leaving memories of blues and purples, pinks and yellows, as he stared up at the dark, cloud-littered night.
A few times, he could make out the bolts as they danced from cloud to cloud, arcing and splitting, sneaking out from behind the foremost of the ragged, misty shrouds piled atop on another. He saw the gods there a moment, their symbol spelled out in electric arcs among the frame of the vari-colored canvas. He whispered a quiet greeting to them, a slight smile playing about his mouth, but not his eyes.
A cool breeze caressed his skin, succor after the day’s heat and stress, the wind a whisper of the cool silver embrace of the sweet mother goddess.
Small blots of swift darkness crossed his view on occassion, bats intent upon the chase of normally bothersome insects who strangely did not trouble him this night.
From below in camp, a few men’s echoing voices drifted up to him, engaged in moments of revelry and loud boast, those still awake at this time of night.
Eventually, he lay back, arms folded behind his head, and stared up at the star-chased navy of the sky directly above. The night was so dark the gathered stars were almost like misty clouds themselves, and at times he could not be certain if what he saw were the wispy gatherings of distant stars or a light haze of thin clouds that had strayed across the heavens.
To the south, the pace of the inconsistent lightning increased to an almost steady but chatoic strobe, the flashes blinding him momentarily in the darkness, leaving his eyes unable to adjust quickly enough to now see any but the brightest celestial specks above. He watched in awe as the unwavering pinpoints of blue were matched by the swift instants of lightning’s flash in hypnotic counterpoint.
Despite the wild, gentle silence that reined around him, a storm was on its way. As if sensing the moment, his reverie was interrupted by a call from below.
“Hey, captain,” the words echoed up through the velvet night from below, and he ignored it the first few times. Finally, he sat up with a sigh and watched the bobbing yellow of a lantern whose owner was picking his way up the slope of the hill below.
He dragged himself to his feet and headed downhill to meet the intrusive messenger. “There’s been an argument,” the messenger informed him in a bleak tone as he studied the young man’s face. New recruit, didn’t know his name off-hand.
The captain glanced up at the sky again and noticed that — excepting a patch here and there — the clouds had covered the sky above, and to the south, the storms raged in earnest.
“Dragonfly’s gone and accused Cricket of being a spy.”
“So? What’s wrong with that…he is.”
“Yeah. But he was accused of being a spy for the other side.”
“Oh,” the captain responded, not really wanting to ask the next question, instead watching the rippling waves of dark grass upon the hillside as they were revealed in piece by the lightning. The messenger waited patiently.
The captain glanced up, making a mental note to give the man a promotion for dedication to the protocols of duty and to make him scrub every pot in the camp in the morning for being too damn zealous. “Alright, so what happened?”
“Well,” the recruit glanced down at his feet, “they blew it up, sir.”
“Oh,” he paused, “They really went at it, huh?”
“Full bore, sir. Probably drew those gods down on us,” the messenger jerked his chin towards the raging clouds of the lightning streaked sky, “Lot of power went out in that spat.”
“They both still alive?”
“Not for long,” the captain gritted his teeth, not certain which one he would string up first. Probably Dragonfly, because right now Cricket — regardless of his personal hygiene and his gratingly weasely demeanor — was more an asset. “Come on.”
Ah hell…he’d lash them to a pair of steel poles and set them out in the storm for the gods to take with them when they left, then find himself some new wizards in the morning. That was the best solution, he grumbled to himself as he picked his way down the hill amid the flickering, silent blaze of the heavens above.