Challenge #01673-D212: Middle Finger to FatesteemCreated with Sketch.

in #fiction7 years ago


An appellation for a person or group of people: They Who Defy Fate -- RecklessPrudence

On the day that the children become adults, be it their first blood or their first chest hair, they are told their fate. Most resign themselves to it. Some... fight.

Rare are the ones who are successful, and fewer still are the ones who go courting it.

Helen was told by the village seer, "You will die childless, and surrounded by Imps." She did not resign herself to her fate. She did not fight it by girding on armour and learning to fight, or vowing to kill every Imp in her kingdom. Helen merely packed her things and went walking for the nearest mountains, because everyone knows that Imps live in mountain caverns.

If she was going to die anyway, it made simple sense that she might as well get it over with. So, with nothing more than what she had, and the skills she carried in her head, she went looking for the Imp caverns.

Helen saw her first Imp when she was cooking herself some wild rabbit over her campfire, one evening. She had katniss 'potatoes' roasting in the coals and a great deal of forage in her cauldron. The Imp crept into the fire's light so slowly that Helen didn't notice until they were plainly visible.

"Hello," she cooed.

The imp vanished inside a bush.

"I won't hurt you," said Helen. "And I have plenty of stew if you're hungry. The more we eat, the less I have to carry tomorrow." She'd carried extra clay bowls just in case one broke. Now one came from the depths of her pack to half-fill with stew. She fished the katniss out of the fire and scraped off the char and ash before adding one each to the bowls. Helen began whittling a spare spoon out of some of her firewood.

The Imp slowly crept up. "No hero?"

"No hero," she said. She was fated to die surrounded by Imps. That didn't seem very heroic.

The Imp tried to snag a piece of rabbit from the bowl, and hurt themselves.

Helen pressed the older spoon into their hand and helped them with the first use of it. "Like this, and blow some heat off it."

The Imp seemed greatly shocked that a human would help them like that.

Helen finished the new spoon while they were staring, scrubbing its carved surface with sand and washing it from her waterskin.

"Hard work?" said the Imp.

"Hard work," Helen agreed, finally getting to her share of the stew. "But it's worth it. Mama always said that the best work feeds another as well as yourself."

The Imp was named Grix, and she had gone out to fill her belly on whatever she could find. The things Helen taught her were new and strange and, she admitted, entrancing. Grix stayed around to learn from Helen how to find all the different kinds of forage and the basics of cookery. And then she vanished.

After a week of searching for Imp caverns, Grix returned with six friends. They had seen what Grix could do and wanted to learn. They showed Helen their hiding-cave and the small horde of maybe fifty Imps.

Helen had learned many things in her childhood. She knew how to make mud-ovens and spindles, and how to turn flax into cloth. She knew all the things that one could eat, that could be found in the forests. Especially the things you could eat if you were hungry enough, which was a boon in the first year. She knew how to make traps and weirs and baskets, because a girl's hands were not allowed to be idle.

All these things, she taught to the Imps.

In a year, they had worked out how to farm things together, and no longer needed the kind of forage that was harsh on the tongue. Helen worked out how to make a sort of paper from river reeds and brushes from rabbit fur or her own hair, and taught the Imps what she had learned about writing and numbers.

In the second year, they worked out buildings, mining, and fireplaces. The Imps flourished, and they made certain that Helen flourished, too.

She was almost one hundred when she finally breathed her last, in the city that she and her Imps had built. Helen couldn't help thinking that the soothsayer lied. She wasn't childless. All the Imps in her city were her babies.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / pasiphae]

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