Baiyne (chapter 5)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
safra was abandoned as a baby, but something about the reasons have never really rung true with her, and when she is adopted, she finally begins to unravel the mystery of her mother, a mystery that will take her to places she had only ever imagined. (i am doing this book's chapters as short stories as i have not finished it yet, but look out of the other chapters)

Submitted: June 25, 2017

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Submitted: June 25, 2017

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Chapter 5 - Doom and Gloom

  The next four years passed thus; Safra exploring the nearest towns and villages with Aetha and getting told off by the authorities for meddling, Safra inventing weird things with Aetha and getting told off by the butler for it going wrong, Safra knowing more things than her teacher because of Aetha and getting told off by her governess for being an insufferable know it all, Safra developing various skills of magic and non-magic nature with Aetha, and getting told off by the maids for getting her dresses filthy and finally, Safra spending time with her parents without Aetha and getting a lot of love in return.

  In all that time, nothing of great importance happened although to her and Aetha's amusement, a rumour developed among the stable hands (Joseph told her so) that the stables were haunted, or at least being watched by a shady individual; namely, a man wearing all black who disappeared every time he was pursued.

  But the night before her sixteenth birthday, something happened that ended her peaceful, halcyon days.

  She was making a dress (using the fire that Aetha had taught her to conjure up) in her room, when her mother moseyed into the room to admire her work. Safra immediately dropped her fiery hands, lunged for the needle and thread and was in the position of a well poised girl doing needlework before her mother could see that she had been holding anything else. Emilia sat down on the soft double bed beside her, and gave Safra her usual little smile that signified something exciting. Safra paused what she was doing, and tried to look attentive.

  “You recall, I believe that I told you due to his business, that your father would be away on your birthday? Well, I have wonderful news! He’ll be here, and the messenger told me he’s brought something back which ‘may interest her considerably’.” She gave a small giggle of delight and Safra could almost see her as a child. “Your father, he has such a flowery way with words. He can never tell you anything straight.” Safra nodded, although she had never found this.

  She had personally felt that he could never say anything nice simply, but when it came to telling people what not to do, he could compel them to do what he wished in less than a whole sentence. He had taught this skill to her, although her own naturally acid tongue and the help of having Aetha as second thoughts helped a lot. Safra, she remembered him telling her, no one owns you. The right to say and do as you please is yours, and if anyone ever tells you otherwise, you’ll be able to silence them with one word. Never forget; often, a word in the right place can change the balance between life and death.

  Her mother then fussed over her for a few more minutes, before leaving to tell a maid off for not having her apron tied at the back.

Safra watched her go fondly, then turned back to Aetha, who was scowling. “What is it?” Safra asked, letting all of her poise go.

“This means that I’ll have to spend your sixteenth with my mouth closed.” She said coldly. “I’ve already had plenty of years of that, and it wasn’t good.” She threw her hands up in exasperation. “I’d go to the demon realm, but I want to be here for your sixteenth; it’s an important birthday!”

Safra sighed and shook her head. “Don’t worry about that, I think that I’ve got the hang of the mind communication thingy you started to teach me a few weeks ago. So we can keep talking.”

“If you can keep a straight face.”Aetha smirked back. “Oh, and you should probably call in on Kaison sometime tonight, Joseph’s put a saddle and reins back on him – you know how he hates that.”

Safra finished her flame dress, while Aetha explained that it wouldn’t appear like flames to the people who saw it if she didn’t want it to, it would just look dazzling. After the effort was over, she flung herself on the bed, waiting for one of the maids to come and tell her that dinner was ready.

  “Emilia keeps on pointing out sons of lords, bankers and business men to me that are ‘rather handsome’ or ‘wonderfully intelligent’ or ‘absolute gentlemen’.” She complained to Aetha.

“What’s wrong with that; courting and kissing isn’t such a bad thing.”

 “Yes, it’s all very well, but they’re all ‘rather wonderfully absolute pigs’, when it comes down to it.”

“You should think of broadening your field.” The demoness commented.

“Huh?”

“Well, it’s great that she’s looking at the local aristocrats, but maybe you could nudge her in a different direction. For example,” She continued, motioning with her hands as if casting a spell, “Have you considered America, Russia, or Italy? Even looking in Scotland might be better than the competition around here. Trust me.”

Safra sat up abruptly and peered sideways at her. Then slowly, with the hint of a smile trickling across her face, she asked, “Aetha, did you ever have a...special someone.”

Immediately, Aetha was on the defensive. “I might have done.” She said tartly.

“Oh, that was how it was. Go on tell me about him, what happened, was he a banished knight, or an assassin, or maybe a prince?” Safra taunted, and then was silenced at the icy glare that Aetha gave her.

Prince she thought, looking away.

“Come, dinner’s ready.”

“How do you...” Safra began, but no sooner had Aetha said the words and stood up, than a maid came in to tell her that dinner would be served in a few minutes. So Safra slipped her new-made dress in silence which she longed to break. Aetha had only been angry with her a few times before, and at first, that was what she believed Aetha was. But as she clicked down the stairs to the dining room, there were no miraculously slippery steps, or statues that followed her with their eyes, or disapproving stares from the paintings that had been smiling before. Instead, there was only an eerie emptiness engulfing her. Aetha even hid herself from Safra’s sight when she took hasty looks over her shoulder.

  It was only about half-way through desert that she reappeared, only instead of being contemptuous, she seemed forlorn. She gave Safra a sympathetic gaze, and moments later, the door burst open, and a policeman jogged in. Emilia’s soft smile changed to a frown in less than an instant. The man gave Safra a passing glance, and then whispered something in Emilia’s ear which made her drop her napkin to the table in shock. For a few seconds, her face was a sunken ship. Then, like lighting, she turned to her usual, composed self, although with obvious difficulty.

Safra waited for the news that she knew was coming in silence, listening to the clock clicking louder than heels in a tiled hall. Tears were welling up in her eyes before her choked-up mother even spoke.

“Safra, darling...” Emilia couldn’t hold the tears back any longer, and they streamed freely down her cheeks, causing her to stutter.

“He’s gone, isn’t he! Father’s gone!” Safra exclaimed, snuffling hysterically, they both were.

“Yes, dear… robbed and,”-sniff- “B…beaten up.” Emilia could no longer contain herself, and left the room, kissing Safra on the forehead, and sobbing that she would be in her room.

Safra just stared at her plate, unable to quite lay hold on the hundreds of emotions that were coursing through her.

Suddenly, it all overcame her, and she flew from her chair and scurried up the stairs, banging the door to her room open and shut, a torrent of tears caressing her cheeks. She slid down the back of the door, still weeping, wishing that it was a bad dream.

Moments later she felt warm, slender arms embrace her. Tilting her head up, she found herself gazing more fondly than ever into Aetha’s softly glowing violet eyes, which gazed back with infinite understanding.

 

  After that, days, weeks, months past in black dresses and more tears. Aetha became more lax in training Safra, and wouldn’t spontaneously appear, or make snide comments as she used to. Emilia took it worse than Safra. This could’ve been due to the visit from her parents, who told her with as much sensitivity as a piano falling on her head, that now her ‘less than respectable husband’ was gone, she would be recognised as an heir to the considerable fortune that her parents had, and that they would give her a substantial amount of money per week to make up for the ‘years wasted with him’.

  She didn’t decline the money, after all, people must live, but she was awfully quiet when they had gone. Not that money would’ve been a problem for them. Safra’s father had left the jewel business to her mother, and then Safra after.

  As for Safra, she spent a lot of time out of the house and away from everyone except Kaison and Aetha. Even Joseph didn’t see very much of her. The only person that she seemed to spend more time with was the stable master, who had so often doubled as a sparring partner for her father. Maids and stable boys would hurry anxiously past them, and some would stop and stare as she hammered her blade into his with a clean, precise furry, never losing a single match.

 

  Nine months on, Safra came downstairs to notice that her mother wasn’t wearing her elegant black dress and veil anymore. Dutifully, she slipped away before it was even noticed that she was there, peeled her own dreary attire off and changed into a carefully selected crimson number that she had wanted to wear again for some time. She had eyed the flame-dress, but after having to hold back tears while looking at it herself, decided it would be kinder on both her and her mother to settle for the darker, more conservative dress. Then she tiptoed into the dining room, and placed herself opposite Emilia. She attempted to make an apology for being late, but her lips betrayed her.

“Why have you come out of mourning so soon?” She blurted, unable to control herself and quickly cursing that particular part of her.

  Her mother was taken aback at first, and then she offered a half-smile.

“It is not good for you; to be living in such sadness for too long.” She sucked in a sharp breath, and then continued hesitantly. “Also, we have guests, whom I believe it would be best to make a good impression on. They will be here at any moment now.” As if she had spoken prophecy, there came several loud bangs on the door.

Safra wrung her hands and smoothed out her dress several times before the guests in question were actually shown in. Whoever they were, it had been obvious from the way Emilia spoke about them that they may soon be more than guests.

  Her suspicions were confirmed when a large man strutted through the door in front of three peaky, much younger girls. The eldest looked about two years older than Safra and had dark brown hair, almost close enough in colour to Safra’s soft black to be the same. This was pinned up severely in what was supposed to be a bun made up of elegant curls. She wore a dress which nearly made Safra’s eyes water at the tightness, and was a harsh shade of blue. She did not look the friendly type.

  The next eldest had strikingly blonde hair. It was the sort that Safra expected would’ve almost glowed, had it not been for the sour face it framed, which seemed to absorb any hope, light or happiness that may have immediately surrounded it. It was quite possible that what she had seen in the last two girls had been because of the auras that they were smothered in. With both, it was as if she could almost smell it, and it made her want to wretch.

The third girl, who appeared to be a year or two younger than Safra was the most mild, bland looking girl Safra had ever seen. Her aura barely felt like it left her body, and her eyes showed a withdrawn sort of dimness about them. She had the dark brown hair of the eldest, but wore it loose, with only the sides pinned away from her face. Unlike the others, she had small, stumpy little hands, not the delicate, slender tendrils of her companions, and shuffled in with her head slightly bowed, not held high and haughtily.

  This girl was seated next to Safra, her two sisters opposite, while Emilia and the father of the three sat at either end. Safra made an attempt to be cordial to all of them, and found that the eldest, with her dark hair and stern face was called Elizabeth. She made no other conversation either to Safra or her siblings, and came across as a closed, reserved creature made up of nothing but blank expressions. The second was similar, and was given the name Charlotte. She spoke very little, and what she did say was to complain about fashions other trivial, vain things such as the fact that her hair (which any girl would’ve died for) never seemed to curl quite right.

  After Safra had endured introductions and a few comments by these two sisters, she turned to introduce herself to the third girl, who had been very quiet.

“I’m Safra, what is your name?” She decided that this would be the best approach.

“Harriet.” She replied softly, as though it was a forbidden word. It was a few seconds before Harriet spoke again, like she had to consider carefully every word before she said it in case it was the last one she ever said. “That’s a beautiful dress you are wearing.”

Aetha smirked at Safra as she hadn’t dared do in months, and said “I told you to go for crimson, not green.”

It took all of Safra’s self-control to not roll her eyes or tell her to shut up, instead, she decided to return the compliment. “Thank you. I think that your hair is very nice as well.” She tried, hoping that despite Harriet’s quiet start, she would make a better conversationalist than her sisters, who she could sense glaring at both of them. Then she decided to take a shot in the dark. “Do you like horse riding?”

“Oh yes!” Came the slightly more outgoing reply. “I have a wonderfully friendly one called Dash. He’s chestnut, and I share him with Elizabeth. How about you?”

Aetha had a sly grin on her face. “Bet she’s never seen one like Kaison before.”

Safra ignored this and answered, glad that she had found a topic that Harriet really liked. “Mine’s called Kaison; he’s all black, and,” – She gave a lopsided smile to Aetha, hoping that Harriet would think it was for her – “He’s a bit of a nightmare sometimes, but most of the time he’s great.”

“Kaison, what sort of a name is that for a horse?” Sour-faced Charlotte butted in.

“An amazingly good one.” Safra retorted lightly.

Charlotte gave a small snort of disdain, and focused back on her food. Next to Safra, Harriet blushed and whispered “I can’t believe you could reply to her. If I did that, I’d get one of her looks and she’d lock me in my room.” To which Safra only replied with a wink.

 

  After the dinner, the three sisters lingered only briefly while their father talked privately with Emilia, who told the girls that they could have a quick tour of some of the grounds, including the stables. Harriet squealed with delight when she saw Kaison, who nuzzled her hand gently when she held it out, and Elizabeth demanded to ride him, which Safra said she could, if she was willing to rid bareback. Needless to say the prim, tightened girl did not want to be jostled in any such way on what she called a ‘vindictive looking creature’. Charlotte had a similar opinion of the horse that snorted angrily anytime she came near and nearly ruined her ‘handstitched dress’! This was mostly because Kaison had gotten pretty good at reading his mistress’ feelings towards people, and reacted accordingly.

Safra suggested that Charlotte and Elizabeth take a dappled grey mare which she knew would be easily guided, and told them to follow the path out of the stables and do the circuit, she and Harriet would catch them up. Of course, she actually had no intention of ‘catching them up’ and flashed a wicked grin a Harriet.

“He looks like a wonderful horse!” The girl exclaimed, patting him on his side. “But how are we going to lift ourselves onto him without a saddle? It’ll be a struggle.”

Safra merely shook her head. “Ferthui.” She commanded Kaison, and he knelt down as far as he could go. “Now climb on, I’ll be right behind you. Go on, he won’t let you fall.” Harriet hesitated before sitting on him side-saddle style. Getting on behind her, Safra swung on of Harriet’s legs to the other side of the patient horse, saying, “We don’t want any of that side-saddle nonsense today; as good a Kaison is at making sure we don’t fall, we have to do our part as well – now, hold on to his mane, or as far around his neck as you can reach sitting up. Drea.”- she told Kaison – “And we’re off!” They clopped at a steady pace out of the stables and in the opposite direction that the other two sisters had gone.

  Harriet giggled with glee when they trotted towards the trees, and Safra told her to hold on as she spurred Kaison into a full canter (which was pretty fast) “No horse has matched Kaison for speed yet!” She called to Harriet. “And we have some of the finest race horses in the country!”

  No matter how wonderful the sensation of whipping through the woods at top speed was, Safra always found that it was the stop that was the best part. She was always amazed at just a suddenly Kaison could stop himself mid-gallop. They came to halt, and Safra leapt off in one swift motion. As Harriet was doing the same, she took the opportunity to look around for Aetha, but she was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t try and summon her; it would both attract attention, and probably just irritate the she-demon. She was probably at some ethereal cocktail party anyhow.

  They were at Safra’s training ground, although she said nothing to Harriet of it. Instead, she reached into the branches of a small tree where Safra kept a bundle of food. “Come on,” She told Harriet, beckoning her further into the clearing, where an old, comfortably creaking hut could just about be discerned from the peeling bark of the trees around it.

The hut appeared broken and leaky, but on the inside it was cosy enough. Aetha and her had patched it up quite well, and the embers of a fire were always glowing in the hearth.  It was here that they came when they couldn’t quite bring themselves to stand in the snow or rain mucking about with crossbows and swords. They would sit on the grubby floor with a cooking pot of stew and a warm cup of cocoa in their hands (well, really only Safra’s), discussing anything from medicine to ‘is Latin actually useful?’ It was a place of peace and retreat that both Safra and Aetha frequented alone for serenity, as well as together for each other’s company.

  Now, as Safra strolled in and stoked the ever glowing fire, adding a few logs, an uneasy feeling crept over her. She was well acquainted with the ‘someone’s watching you’ feeling, along with sensing evil and good (Aetha had been firm that she learn this literally by heart), but this was different. In the quiet of the forest, she wasn’t used to feeling uncomfortable, nor did she wish Harriet to suspect she was, so she began boiling water in a pan, ready for cocoa, as the girl trundled around the hut, dusting off mirrors and admiring one or two jewelled daggers that were lying in their sheaths.

“I think my father is going to ask your mother to marry him.” She said absent-mindedly as her chucky fingers ran over one of the window sills and she gazed out into the trees beyond the pane.

“Yes, I guessed as much.” Safra replied, shrugging, “It might be good for her.” She didn’t mean it though, she didn’t really want another father. Then, more sympathetically, she turned to Harriet. “How long has it been since…”

“Two months.” Harriet said forlornly. “Consumption, they said, but I attended her, and there was so much blood…” She trailed off and sniffed.

Safra ambled over to her and laid an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry.” She said, and bit her lip. Two months, and he had already started courting, possibly before then! And after such a horrible death as well! When she had seen Harriet’s father – one Lord Raddel – he had seemed so collected, calm and content that she thought his wife must’ve died years ago! Now she saw different, but she couldn’t help feeling sorry for Harriet, after all, it was clear that she was still grieving.

They stood there, gazing out of the window in shared melancholy for a few minutes. Then the uneasy feeling began to crawl up her spine again, this time, tweaking a nerve deep inside of her.

Safra suddenly turned to Harriet and grabbed her hand urgently. “We need to leave.” She told her firmly. Before Harriet could ask why, they heard Kaison give an alarmed whiny, and Safra dragged her out of the door. They sprinted to Kaison, and Harriet clambered onto his back. Safra took a moment to glance at the hut again, and nearly screamed. There, in the doorway was the shape of a man, flicking between ghastly gashes of demonic flame clawing at everything around it, and an empty darkness that swallowed the light and tugged at Safra’s soul.

  She leapt on Kaison, and he needed no urging to flee from the cursed being.


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