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A bird must have found her dead, for that morning she woke up carried on a long, laced stiauq with such a fine ruby lining only reserved for dead strangers.

A 4056 word short story about a woman from the green lands whose body is continually rejected by the earth, on a mission to kill her father.

This was originally written to be written with the style and content of an author who was famous in the Statue on the Wall world (sort of that vague, folktale-esque vibe with complicated wording and stuff) but it kind of ran away from me so now it is its own thing.

Content warning for descriptions of gore, drunkeness, talk of abusive family members, and mourning.


A bird must have found her dead, for that morning she woke up carried on a long, laced stiauq with such a fine ruby lining only reserved for dead strangers.

On each corner of the stiauq walked a pila-bearer, their shoulders low and hunched in a strange, eager way, as if all the dead they'd ever carried balanced unseen on each of their thankful shoulders. They dressed as pila-bearers did, with three necklaces round the neck and chest lined with jawbones, and two round the temples lined with teeth. One always places two jawbone necklaces first, then one tooth necklace, then the last jawbone necklace, and finally the last tooth necklace, always specifically in that order. She remembered it intimately. She was a pila-bearer once.

Her ribs stung. The birds are always particularly vicious with the dead.


It took until the sun was low in the sky and the first moon peeked above the horizon for them to dump her in the Jemirukke river. By this time, hundreds had come from the villages that the pila-bearers passed through. Farmers paused in their reaping, children left their play, tailors put down their needles, blacksmiths let their bellows cool. They gathered around the stiauq, singing low songs in scratchy and discordant voices.

The pila-bearers let her into the river gently, the front two kneeling in slow movements and letting her slide into the cold and clear water as gracefully as a corpse can. Her blood began to make the holy Jemirukke run a deep red, washing downstream over her face and making it look to her as if she's drowning in the ocean red itself.

She heard the villagers' song crescendo as the frontward pila-bearer spoke. "May they be blessed, this stranger who has come to our homes to die. May their soul venture well, this traveller who has died amongst the land of our blood. Holy Jemirukke, we kindly ask that you bid this dear loved one well before we place them in their grave. Satarakke, mother of Jemirukke, we kindly ask that you let this one bathe and be clean before we bury them in your dearest's Sutomeq's flesh. Sutomeq, wife of Satarakke, we kindly ask that you do not reject them from your flesh and leave them to deathlessly wander these lands."

With utmost reverence, all four pila-bearers lifted her out of the water and back onto the stiauq with firm hands. They once again lifted up the stiauq and began heading the direction from whence they came, and once again all the villagers followed. As they passed village by village, each individual and person went back to their business, and the following party trickled away into nothing.

They buried her in the middle of nowhere, where she'd died, under the light of the three moons, and then went home to their rest. Not a few hours after she'd been placed, it felt like Sutomeq himself woke and then proceeded to groan and bellow, pushing her out of the mud of his bosom, until she felt the night breeze tickle her cheek.

Placing the stone that marked where the pila-bearers had made a traveller's grave for her inside the pit that just rejected her body and letting Sutomeq swallow that up, she proceeded to vomit blood and Crystal all over the jungle brush.

She wordlessly thanked the pila-bearers for trying.


Her little brother lay somewhere under a traveller's grave, under the earth. She vowed, once, to never forget where it was, and her memory hadn't failed her yet, for she remembered it exactly. It had no name, for traveller's graves never have names, but she knew exactly where in the southern spire jungle, amongst the high twisting fingers of Crystal that towered over the earth, it resided.

She could follow the exact path still, even after all those deaths. Her last stop in civilization would be at the little village of Quya-dim-Jer, where three tributaries from the far south united to become the Jemirukke. Three days' travel on the back of a rusaiab would lead her to the Mahuiz-di necropolis, a silent and solemn place of graves labelled in long-forgotten scrawl. A short distance southeast of the necropolis would be the beginning of a great and long spine of Crystal, and only after following it to its very end would she find the grave of her dear little brother.


"Hey kid," she said, as she did every time once the little slab of ivory and stone came into view. "How fares your winds? They blow well and in favorable directions, I trust."

She knelt, resting her palms on the tops of her knees. With sad eyes, she regarded the dusty little traveller's grave, with no offerings placed in front of it and barely any strings wound around its body, to signify that anyone had been there. It was in a poor state, and that tugged and ached at her heart.

"No one ever passes 'round these parts, huh?" She leaned forward and began to brush the dust and dirt away, the particles clinging to her sweaty and calloused hands. She brushed and brushed and brushed, wiped her hands, brushed and brushed.

She felt a will to sob, so she did.

"You are an honorable man for haunting this space, though no one comes here, though even I can rarely see you," she wept.

"I'd have thought that even as the dead, you still wouldn't be able to curb your own natural curiosities," she laughed as she wept.

"And why!" she wailed, "why is it that Sutomeq must reject my body! What is it they want from me?!"

The traveller's grave said nothing in reply. How could it? A shrine speaks no words, for the holiness is found in the touch that cleans its little body. She was careful not to lean on the stone as she slumped over to cry.

Later, when she could cry no more, she set up her tent at the nearest tree and then walked back on slow legs to sit in the soft dirt. "Kid," she spoke with a lump in her throat. "I think I'm gonna kill father. I don't have to explain it to you. You know why. I think... I think it's long overdue."

When she went to bed that night, she slept little, for she was awoken by a gale that howled with all the power of the Qaulem-di-yama themself. Despite the wind and rain, she dashed outside of her tent and threw herself upon the traveller's grave stone, gripping the strings that dangled from it with bony knuckles as mud whipped at her legs and back.

She needed no further answer, though her heart was heavy. When morning came, the sky was low and grey, and she simply sang a song as she tied a string around the gravestone of her little brother and went on her way.


It was during the final act of an unenqe production, way back before even her fifth death, when she'd met the farm hand for the first time.

She was quite honestly a little bored. The actors were great, it was a reputable troupe, but she just didn't find the story quite to her liking. At this point, she'd been paying attention more to her mug of nekkaibe and the handsome lady currently sidling up to her.

"Is it bad?" they asked.

"Yes," she answered. "Never really liked this playwright."

"Then why'd you go to see it?" they asked again, a grin beginning to grow on their face.

She frowned, deep. "Boredom."

They laughed and laughed. "You know what? I can't even blame ya there, I kinda hate this one too." They pointed a thumb towards the doors, away from the stage. "Wanna drink together outside? Two fellow travellers sharing a sunset, if you will?"

What else did she have to do? "Alright."


"I'm a farm hand," they said, before quickly waving with a limp wrist at her. "Usually! Usually. I got some cousins to hold down my place while I'm gone."

She frowned before taking a sip of her drink. "Why do you travel?"

The farm hand beamed. "For the love of it! Plus." They pulled out a little notebook from an inner pocket and showed the cover to her. "I've got this little thing. Filled with a checklist of things my cousins told me to do while I'm all the way over east. Drink nekkaibe for the first time and see if it's good, take a couple photographs of the Mahuiz-di, maybe check out some spires, so on."

She raised an eyebrow at the book. "Your cousins? Do you not have anything to do for yourself?"

The farm hand laughed so loud they bent over and clutched their chest, the other arm raised up to prevent nekkaibe from spilling out of the glass. "Well obviously I have stuff I wanna do for myself! But it's not like my cousins are an obligation," they said. "Doing things that make them happy makes me happy. And what is more holy and an honorable reason to follow the path of travellers than love?"

She thought of her little brother, long dead and lost. "Oh," she said.

"And you?" said the farm hand between sips of nekkaibe. "Why do you travel?"

"Because Sutomeq keeps rejecting my body," she said bluntly, "and I used to travel with my brother, eager to both follow in the venerated path of a traveller and get away from our father. But he died."

The farm hand nodded jankily, solemn but not sober, and lay a firm smack on her shoulder. "Well! You're always welcome at my farm, buddy. Anyone who tells me an honest secret is welcome at my place."

She nodded back and stared at a moon that was hovering behind the farm hand's head as it rose into the sky. She doubted she would remember the farm hand in the morning.


It was a year after that night, and if she remembered correctly, a few months before her sixth death, that she ran into the farm hand. She did, in fact, remember them.

"Oh, my bestest friend," they said, out of breath. "You mind if I hitch a ride with ya on your rusaiab?"

She paused in her singing and glared at them. "Okay. Where are you going?"

"To this town. I doubt you know the name of it. It's just an hour or so further down this road. The one with the big bell tower?"

"Got it."

"And you?" they asked once they hopped on. "Where are you going?"

"To my brother's grave. It's near the far south," she said.

"You remember where he is, that's sweet," the farm hand replied with an honest beam. "What're you gonna talk to him about?"

"I'm going to tell him about my plan to kill our father," she nearly snapped. The farm hand whistled lowly, but said no more.

They were quickly lulled to sleep by the rhythmic steps of the rusaiab, but she, her hands on the reins, kept a steely eye ahead. Though there was a defined track where she rode, it was thin and dictated only by where feet had often trod, and was split and grown over by everything from ferns to knobby roots.

She leaned back briefly to affirm that the farm hand was asleep, then turned to look with dull eyes towards the path ahead and sing a song she'd learned as a young pila-bearer long ago with a low and broken voice.


She dropped the farm hand off at a hotel in the little town with the big bell tower, paid for their room, and left before the day broke.


After her seventh death, after her brother had rejected her offer, she'd ran into the farm hand again, and she once again remembered them.

"Is your farm here?" she asked, the two of them sitting on one of the many benches scattered through the Qitaebit Halls. "On Lake Qitaeb?"

"Nah," the farm hand said in turn, smiling fondly at the painting that rested on the wall across from where their bench was. "It's further south."

"Sightseeing, then?" She turned to look at said painting, and knew immediately what it was. The birth of the Qaulem-di-yama by painter Aqayu of the condign one that shakes during a nighttime earthquake. It was very famous, so much so that even a wretch like her could recall it.

"Yep!" The farm hand stretched, long and languid, and let out a great sigh. "Great ocean red, I love this place so much!"

She bit back a retort to not bless such a thing as the ocean red. "Do you?"

The farm hand turned to her in a sort of double take, their dark amber eyes wide. "Do you not?"

She shrugged. "It's an impressive city."

"Come on!" They lept off the bench and spun around the great hallway, arms stretched out wide and their head turned up as if they were taking in the sky. "Just look at this place!" They ran over to her and slapped their hands on their shoulders. "The genius architecture, like these grand halls or the laketop islands, these glorious paintings, the fact that local unenqe-eiit hold shows every night, and the Qitaebit Halls have so much free stuff for travellers too on top of all this!"

She rolled her eyes, but considered a thought for a moment anyways. "You've heard about the trite blooms here, right? The way they dance across the lake?"

The farm hand practically jumped in excitement. "Oh yes! I'm so excited!" They elbowed her with a wide and uneven, but honest, smile on their face. "You'll stay to see them with me, will ya?"

She shook her head. "No. I'm leaving tomorrow."

"Oh," the farm hand said, defeated, deflated. "Well, alright."

Outside, a rooster called.

"You wanna walk the Halls with me? See all the paintings?" Their voice had nervousness, something it previously lacked utterly.

She shrugged. "Okay."


She was at the lowest she had ever felt, a storm filling her head and clogging her throat and veins from grief and anger, and she'd just stumbled into a bar in the middle of a huge bar fight when she saw the farm hand get socked in the face with a smashed glass bottle of nekkaibe.

Acting on the very same instinct that had ended her life those past seven times, she darted forward and socked the person with the bottle right in the jaw. The farm hand clung to her with waning strength like a vine on a tree, and she'd dragged the both of them out of there.

"That was silly of ya," the farm hand slurred.

"Says you," she found herself saying, and the farm hand laughed and laughed as they leaned on her, an arm slung across her shoulders.

"I'm glad you were the one to pull me outta there," they mumbled, head hung too low to comfortably gaze at the stars above. "Wouldn't've recovered my pride if it was anyone else."

She avoided looking at them, instead focusing on getting to where her hotel was. "And why's that?"

"Cause I like you," they said, almost physically blunt in the way they spoke and what they spoke, and she could practically hear the spit fly from their mouth. "I like talking to ya, even if you're no fun. Always runnin' away before the moons set," they muttered. "Slippin' away like whitewater."

"I'm not very lovable, you know," she replied softly. "The only person who ever managed it was my brother."

The farm hand laughed a few loud laughs, but that died out quickly. "Nah, 's not true," they slurred, voice getting wetter by the minute. "You'd be very easy to love, I think, if you loved anyone back."

"I see," she said, nary louder than a whisper.

"Come to my farm, will ya? Soon," they begged, leaning into her. "I w... I wanna make you dumplings. My cousin Maiyu taught me their recipe. They're so fucking good, I swear."

"Okay," she said as she opened the door to her room, listening intently as the wood groaned and creaked.

"Promise?"

"Promise," she said, then laid the sleeping farm hand onto her bed. She'd take the floor.


"Hey kid," she said, as she did every time once the little slab of ivory and stone came into view. "How fares your winds? They blow well and in favorable directions, I trust."

She cleaned her brother's grave yet again.

"I died for the ninth time last week," she said. "It was stupid. I accidentally got too close to a train and some wallmen shot me." She could almost hear him laugh, the way the glass beads dangled on their strings and clinked one another. She'd take these scraps. "I'll elaborate later, but I'm tired. Let me just nap for a bit with you, eh, kid?"


She happened upon the farm hand's house, as promised, right when the moqe started to fully bloom. Moqe season was nice, she thought. It made the air grow thick and heady and taking a breath made one's lungs go hyper with excitement.

"Why!" The farm hand exclaimed, running towards her with such a blinding exuberation, like she was a god made flesh. Their clothes and hands were stained a deep red from mud. "My bestest friend! It's so nice to see you!"

She took off her hat to wave with it. "Hello. How fares your winds?"

"Wonderfully! All ready for smooth sailing," they said as they slowed to a stop in front of her. "So. You wanna come in?"

"Sure."


The farm hand's place was nice. Quaint. Built of mud and wood, like any house was. The front door faced the east, and right next to it was the little household shrine for Satarakke right next to it. The house was fairly open, so much so that she could see the little shrine to Sutomeq all the way on the other side of the house, at its westward end.

She hung up her hat and coat and took off her boots. "Nice place," she said.

"You like it?" asked the farm hand, heading into the kitchen.

She hesitated a moment, but hesitantly replied: "Yes. Now, you promised me dumplings."

"Well shit, I did," said the farm hand, wiping down their hands. "Come in here, let's make the dough."

She did as was told, feeling a bit lost. "Afraid I won't be much help cooking. Don't do it a lot."

The farm hand gaped at her.

She shrugged quickly. "You don't need to cook nuts, okay?"

The farm hand laughed and laughed and laughed, but she felt not a speck of annoyance.

"Oh I can't wait to tour you around town," said the farm hand as they tossed ingredients into the dough bowl, with her mixing. "My cousins and neighbors have been so excited to meet you!"

She blinked in shock, pausing in her mixing. "They are?"

"Well of course! I told 'em all about you, y'know." The farm hand made this out to be perfectly easy to say for them. "Your mysteriousness. Your punching skills. Your great singing. All that."

"Oh." She blinked. "I didn't expect that." She didn't even know the farm hand had been listening, that time she sang.

"Well you better learn to," the farm hand said, jabbing her in the shoulder. "Because everyone I know is gonna be made aware of my most bestest friend!"

She looked down at the dough in an attempt to suppress a smile.

"Oh yeah," said the farm hand as they tossed the chopped meat into the bowl, "did you ever get around to killing your dad? You mentioned it a while back but never gave a follow up."

"I didn't," she said.

"Really?" They blinked in surprise. "Why?"

She shrugged. "When I told my brother, he sent a storm my way. I assume he doesn't want me to do it right now."

"Oh I see," they said, mixing the meat with a few spices. "I mean I can see why."

Immediately, she flinched, jolting up to glare at the farm hand. "And why's that?"

They leaned back in surrender. "I'm not gonna be all 'ohh but revenge is so useless' on you, but I don't think you're in the right headspace to really do it and feel a reward."

"I'm doing it for my brother," she said, practically punching the dough.

"I'm sure he'd be grateful, but you still need love around you. A ghost helping passerby around a traveller's grave in some far land of the world isn't gonna be able to reciprocate properly, as much as he'd like to. You need love to turn to and flourish under when your dad dies."

"I love my brother," she said, punching the dough again and holding in tears.

"Yeah I know, but like I said he can't reciprocate properly. You can't love only him ever. You don't even find it in you to say you love places, and you're a traveller! You can honor the dead, but you gotta love the living. You see, you've got all that hatred for your father," said the farm hand. "But do you love?"

"Do I love?" she asked as she let go of the flour dusted dough, turning to the other woman.


As the winter waned, she returned with weary legs to her brother's grave at the very end of the world. The moqe bushes were in bloom, even all the way that far south. She thought it was beautiful, the way the leaves and flower buds curled around each other. Moqe made every inhale a gift.

"Hey kid," she said, as she did every time once the little slab of ivory and stone came into view. "How fares your winds? They blow well and in favorable directions, I trust."

She set up her tent at the nearest tree and then walked back on slow legs to sit in the soft dirt. "Kid," she spoke with a lump in her throat. "I think I'm gonna kill father."

When she went to bed that night, she slept all the way through, and woke up to clear and bright blue skies.


Her father still lived in that same old place on the side of Peninsula Mountain. Neat but dusty, it gave her no pleasant nostalgia but simply chest pains.

She walked in without knocking, and he looked up from his work.

"Oh," he said. "You've come back?" He asked, blandly expectant. Her chest throbbed and bled more intensely, to the point of aching.

She stepped forward. "I am going to kill you."

He stood up, eyes wide. "Excuse me?"

She shrugged. "I hate you. You know that. You've hurt me and my brother a lot. You know what both of us wanted in life, and yet you were still conditional in your support. We doomed ourselves to joylessly travel venerated roads to escape you. What you did to my little brother will haunt my every step. And I don't think you deserve to live."

"You really think killing me is the right thing to do?" he hissed a bit quickly, taking a small step back. "Come on, I'm your papa, I'm a place for you to stay with. But you and your stubbornness don't wanna stay, I'm sure. Your head's clogged with Crystal, ain't no love in there."

"I can love, you know," she said dully. "I just need you to die, so Sutomeq may accept my body when I die. On my own terms, because you took that from me." She stepped forward firmly, and her father scooted back once again.

"Your name will be disgraced," said her father quickly, mouth swollen with venom and maggots chewing into his gums. "All you say, this'll condemn you to bleed into the ocean red, you foul-winded neqiabene!"

But her father did not move an inch, did not raise his trembling hand. He seemed frozen in place, as if seized at the bloodstream. So she simply replied her final words to him out of her thin lips. And she took a small gun, with a handle decorated in fine lipelaya patterning, out from where her father could not see it. And, with more steadiness, assurance, and perhaps even grace than she ever held in years, she shot her father dead.


END


Jemirukke river: a holy river that runs down the east green lands.

Lake Qitaeb: (aka: the lake where flowers grow, demonym: qitaebit) a very large lake in the northwest green lands, born of the caldera of a long-dead volcano. People and tapatliin populate the islands in the middle and have created floating islands around its laketop.

Mahuiz-di: an ancient necropolis in the far eastern green lands, and a popular destination point for greenlandish travellers.

moqe: a healing herb with a heady scent from the green lands.

nekkaibe: an alcoholic drink from the central green lands.

neqiabene: an insult or interjection. Literally means something like idiot, but is much stronger.

pila-ei: (pl. pila-eiit, pila-ei-la. also called pila-bearers) a mix between mortician and priest, pila-eiit honor the dead and prepare them for burial, using the appropriate traditions and rites.

rusaiab: (pl. rusaiab-aiab, rusaiabaat, rusaiaben, etc) a type of mount animal that comes from the green lands, but is also commonly used in the southern straw lands.

Satarakke & Sutomeq: two of the most prominent gods of the green lands, Satarakke flows through the water and Sutomeq cradles within the earth.

stiauq: (pl. stiauq-auq, stiauqiin) a type of palanquin used in the green lands for carrying the dead. Involves four poles, carried over the shoulders of pila-bearers, with a large flat slab of wood, covered in various types of cloths and fabrics that vary depending on who has died.

trite: a craggly and bent tree that grows in the north green lands. Strips of the wood are often chewed on for the sweet taste and mild energy boost.

unenqe: a style of theatre originating from the green lands. An unenqe actor is called an unenqe-ei (pl. unenqe-eiit).