Security through Obscurity

“The enemy cannot attack what they cannot find.”
–Pyanni saying

Some wooden thing in Yoyogi Park Mark Dollner flickr - Copy

Photo credit: Mark Dollner



Arana set the witcher wheel beside the crossroads. Her other eye examined the nahjans placed around it.  She chanted, touching each corner in turn, weaving them together.

Arana painted the scene in her mind, like a treasured memory, no detail too small. Finally, she cast the directions: north, east, south, west, earthward, skyward. The spell rained up, blanketing the village in her vision.

The band of drovers clanked into view. Closer, they smelled of smoke, stale sweat, dried blood.  Arana held her breath as they stomped within arms’ reach — seeing only trees, hearing only birds — and were gone.



Word count: 100.  Written for this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge. Thanks as always to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting.  The original prompt photo is below — very cool image, but your guess about what the statue is of is is as good as mine.

FF.jennifer-pendergast5

Photo © Jennifer Pendergast

Historical Eneana note: The drovers were gangs of disaffected soldiers who had survived and supposedly won the War of the Tandonni — driving off the hated magruk invaders — only to find that the war had devastated the Pyanni Empire and they had no homes to return to.  They roamed what was left of the countryside, looting and pillaging and generally making it harder for anyone trying to save the empire and rebuild civilization.



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47 thoughts on “Security through Obscurity

    • I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right, Neil. Funny, that so often I have to remind myself to include smell, and this time I did it without thinking. Thanks for the great comment!

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  1. Oh, Joy, how I love this. Too see her cast the spell, from ingredients to gestures, and then see the result. It feels so real–her visualization of the intent, the seamlessness of her casting. And your background note makes the entire reading experience even yummier.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

      I started with a much longer version of how she casts the spell, but I had to cut it for length reasons. For instance, she places packets she has already prepared on each of the four “corners” of the wheel, each with a different herb — for sight, sound, smell, and belief — and these are what she has tied the other-planar nahjans (magic bits) to. I was able to cut without being too disappointed by deciding that I am going to write the longer version into a whole short story, yay! Basically: something she sees in the drover band makes her realize she can’t just hide her village from them: she has to stop them.

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    • If the spell hadn’t worked, the village would probably have suffered the same fate as many other villages along this same road. I originally had a line in there about how, while she was casting the spell, the villagers were taking their children and animals off into the woods – knowing that if it failed, it would still not be far enough away.

      Thanks for reading!

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    • Thank you Rochelle, I’m glad that came across! I wanted to convey something about how scary the drovers were without just saying it outright, and the smells combined with clanking scared me, at least. Thanks for reading!

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    • I, for one, have not noticed your writing stinking! It’s funny how noticeable the smells in this piece turned out to be, when I didn’t even think that much of it at the time. I will have to think more of it next time. Thanks for the great comment!

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    • Well, when you’re not strong enough to fight and you can’t run away (hard for a village to do), hiding is the next-best option. Lucky for them that she’s strong enough to cast such a massive illusion. Thanks for reading, Amanda!

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  2. An evocative tale altogether. You have managed to appeal to all of the senses, and created a picture of the invaders that instantly makes us hate them and want them to fail. There’s also the sense of relief at the end when we know that Arana’s spell has worked and the invaders can’t see the village.

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    • Thanks Millie, I’m glad you liked it! I’m hoping to expand this into a full short story as one of my mini-projects for Camp NaNoWriMo next month, and I’m really excited to spend more time with this character.

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      • I can see that the whole concept of what is happening/has happened around this scene could be developed into a much longer story. The characters alone are shouting out to be given a longer rein and (being you) you could develop the background and present setting so well too! Go for it!

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      • The characters are really talking to me — including the ones you haven’t even seen yet, like her husband sitting behind her praying. And I already know so much of the historic background, that part is easy.

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      • I’d better get a lot of stories finished over Camp NaNo — I’ve set a goal of 15,000 words written or edited (I give myself half word credit or less, depending on how much editing I do). Since my stories usually end up in the 1,000-3,000 range, that’s a lot of stories for one month! The plan is to submit them to magazines and ezines and see if I can increase my official-looking publication count. 🙂

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  3. I love this, I can practically see her cast the spell, and, as others have said, the smell of the drovers is giving the story the extra punch. And since you mentioned cutting down the description of the spell in one of the comments– I find it is very well balanced this way, at least for such a short piece. A longer description would have taken away from the impact. You know what she did, we learn about the mysterious items, but don’t really need to know what she does. That’s part of the magic.

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