Chapter 6: Flashback

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 132
Comments: 1





Fortisa awoke in the gray of morning twilight.  Michail stared out the window. 

She stretched.  Clothing hung all around the room.

“Where’s the woman?”

“In the barn.”

Michail’s voice - devoid of emotions of any kind.



Fortisa closed her eyes.  She didn’t want to think.  Yesterday’s throbbing in her head lingered.

Collecting her resolve she opened her eyes.  This time she noticed Michail’s bow and arrow and blade lay beside her weapon. The sight comforted her.  She forgot about the weapons in the turmoil of yesterday’s problems. 

How could I be so…perhaps…

Michail spoke without turning around.

“I thought you might feel better if you took charge of the weapons...for now.”

Fortisa stood up, wrapped the blanket around herself, and darted out the door.  Michail squinted as he watched her disappear behind the barn. 

Puzzled, he tapped his boot against the floor.  Hunger rumbled in his belly.  He turned away from the window, grabbed a large bowl and threw a few cupfuls of grain into it.

Michail emptied the contents of the bowl into a clean kettle and added water.  He frowned thinking about the milk they didn’t have to cook the grain in.

Fortisa sprinted through the doorway.  Michail stirred the contents of the kettle. “You do have more honey?  I hope?” 

“Of course!  Never travel without honey!”

They ate their breakfast in silence, both thinking similar thoughts, neither sure what to say.  Fortisa struggled with the next words. She managed to pry them past her lips while glaring at the table.  Michail focused upon her raising his head, revealing more of the mask beneath his hood.

“Thank you…for your help…last night.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Are you a...frior?”

“In a manner of speaking.  I belong to an Order, as the friors do.  Our purposes are...similar.”

“What is that…Order?”

“We help the suffering.  People…animals.  We don’t have a name.  We just…are.”

“A physician, then?”

Michail thought for a few moments before answering.

“Mmmm…we study illness...try to find remedies.”

“And this one?  Do you know about this one?  What happened here?”

“No. Searching.  Some places people die…fast.  Didn't expect to fall right into one, in all honesty.  Your sobs drew me.  I could hear you from the road.”

“Thanks.  I'll try to weep more quietly in the future.”

Michail squelched an urge to laugh.  The way she said it, just hit him with a funny punch.  However, he couldn’t contain his smile.

“Are you sarcastic by nature?  Fortisa?”

“Some say.  I don’t think about it.”

“You know what they say, about sarcastic people?”

“I take it you do…I’m listening.”

“They hold a heart…full of pain…suffering.”

Fortisa cleared her throat after swallowing a moutful of gruel.

“Can you read…decipher…symbols?  You speak as though you do.  I need to find someone who can translate something that I can’t read.  I think whatever it says might be important.”

“Perhaps.  Tell me more.”

“You won’t believe me…if I tell you.  Do you know Frior Andrew?”

“Frior Andrew from the Nasterium in Listrel?”


“I know of him, I haven't met him.”

“I’m looking for him.”

“Sorry…can't help you.  Thought you lived with the friors?"

"I do.  We live separate lives for the most part." 

"Do you seek Frior Andrew to solve this puzzle of yours?”

“Yes, it's urgent.  I know he can read languages, symbols.  I’m hoping…”

Michail disappeared into the spare room.  Upon returning he held a roll of parchment, a quill, and a small pot of ink.  He handed them to Fortisa.

"Do you carry a spare toothbrush, by chance?  You seem to pack everything."

“Hmm, no toothbrush, this time.  Can you remember what they looked like?  These symbols?”

Fortisa stretched out the parchment.  She dunked the pen in the ink and stroked out the black marks.  Michail studied her scratch-ings.  She pushed the parchment in front of him. 

“I believe this says, truth.  I don’t recognize the rest.”

“How do you know?  What language?"

There is a legend…of divine beings who cared for the Earth known as the…

“Winged-ones…”  Fortisa interrupted.

 “Hmm...that's what we call them, in the ancient language, no one knows how to pronouce their name.  The Friors have taught you?”

“They share their knowledge with those who want to know.  Most of what they speak of sounds, to me…like imagination...wanderings of the mind…not facts.”

Michail thought about how to respond.  Not finding a pleasing solution he continued with his lesson.

“More specifically, the Healer created...winged-ones…chosen for good, and others who sought to destroy humanity take over Creation for themselves.  These words, symbols you wrote, I believe, and others believe, originate from what may be their language.  There is no one alive who can testify to this, however.”

“Frior Andrew never mentioned this.  How do you know this?”

“Some knowledge is too sacred to share.  It is best kept secret.  Otherwise, it will be trampled and not appreciated…because of the invisible realms and the creatures that live there.”

Fortisa shook her head.

“I like what I can see and touch.  Do you know more?”

Michail didn’t answer.

“What brought you here?” Michail asked.

Fortisa took a deep breath staring at the table.

“I would feel better if I could see your face.”

Michail cleared his throat.

“As I said, only those closest to me…see my face.”

Fortisa left the table to join the horses.

“You both look good.  I’m glad we brought you inside.”

She patted William and reached out her hand to Dolce.

She leaned close to William and whispered, “We need to get back to Dragon.  Hopefully, his head is above…tear-level.”

While Fortisa visited with the horses, Michail washed out the bowls.

“I’m going to burn their bodies and everything they touched.  I’m thinking, even this cottage…even the barn.”  Michail placed the bowls on the shelf and marched outdoors.

Fortisa stood with the horses for a time.  She whispered into William’s ear.

“I wish we could go home.  Don’t you want to go home, William?  I wonder what Frior Marcus is cooking up?  Would love a couple of his honey-biscuits and gravy right now!” 

She gave the horses pats and joined Michail.

“Let me help you.”  Fortisa called to him.

“No.  I’ll get the bodies  We may already be...touched. Time will tell.”

She followed him.

“Fortisa, please.  Let me…you’re not even dressed, yet!”

“No! I’m helping!”  She let the blanket she held around herself fall.

With Michail clutching the head and Fortisa grabbing at the feet, they clutched the man's body. 

“Eeeee..u!”  Fortisa gagged, dropping the man's feet and immediately holding her nose.  Though Michail was used to foul smells as part of his vocation, he fought against the urge to gag without dropping the man's head. 

“I’m just remembering,"  Fortisa choked, "He had boils of some kind on his face and hands.”


“Of some kind.”

Michail let the man's head rest on the ground.  He removed the top of the blanket and studied the ashen face covered with oozing sores. He put his sleeve to his nostrils. 

They stepped away from the body and gulped in air.  With new resolve they hoisted the man up from the ground and positioned him upon the mattress.  Gulping in fresh air again, they returned to the barn for the woman.

Michail lifted the blanket off of the face of the woman. A few boils marred her face, not yet seeping. 

“These weren’t there last night…the boils…on her.  Fortisa, we’ll need some more water to wash in and will have to boil what we’re wearing. The stream...just behind those brushes.”

Fortisa washed her hands in one of the kettles left over from yesterday, gathered everything Michail used last night to gather water and ran to the stream.

Michail fashioned torches out of sturdy planks from the fireplace and lit the mattress. Within moments, flames consumed the mattress and the bodies.  He looked towards the bushes.  Fortisa slung waterskins over her shoulders and carried some of the gourds.  He ran to her.

“I’ll get the rest.”

Fortisa poured the fresh water into the kettles.  As soon as steam appeared she filled the vessel they used last night to wash in, scrubbed herself pink and dressed in the clothing now dry, she wore yesterday. She dropped her nightgown in a pot to boil.

Michail stepped into the room.

“What happens now?  Here, I mean?”  Fortisa asked.

“After I wash again and change, I’m riding back to the Inn..find out if there is family or anyone who knows this man and woman. I also need to let them know there has been death here. And you?”

“I don’t know. I have to leave soon, very soon. There’s someone I need to look after.”

Michail turned to her, slightly lifting his head.  “Do you need help?” 

Yes, I need help, but…

“I understand you don’t trust me,” Michail spoke after reading her expression, “I don't trust anyone…right off, either.”

After Michail washed and dressed into dry clothing, he rinsed out the basin and dropped that and his soiled garments into the boiling kettle…gloves, too.  Fortisa saw the jagged scars on his hands. She sniffed away a tear. He heard it. 

What happened to you? 

She dared not ask him.

He glanced at his weapons on the floor.

“Fortisa, I would like to carry my blade, at least.”

“Take them both. You may need them.” 

Her gaze riveted to the long scars. Michail saw, but ignored her, trying to hide his hands in the sleeves of his cloak while snatching up his weapons. He had thrown the other pair of gloves into the fire after dragging the woman to the barn. 

He could have killed me in my sleep, if he wanted to. He didn’t.  Can’t believe I forgot those last night.  Can’t make another mistake like that again.

“I’ll return.”

He led Dolce out of the spare room and into the expanding sunlight.  Fortisa gazed through the window as horse and rider disappeared in the distance.  Rubbing her head, trying to relieve the relenting soreness, she led William into the sunshine. He grazed...away from the heat of the flames.

That smell. I hate that smell!

In her mind, she saw the sun and blue sky smeared with black smoke. Screaming men, women, and children ran past her. In the confusion and panic, she screamed, too, separated from her parents, her sisters, and brother. Cottages and barns burned. Bodies charred in front of her.

That smell!

She fell to her knees crying.  She had forgotten, or thought she had forgotten.  When she opened her eyes a black shadow, not smoke hovered over the pyre.  As if  living with a purpose, the image moved within the smoke, circling around the smoke.  Like a kind of jelly the mass folded over and within itself.






Submitted: September 26, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Elise Pannon. All rights reserved.

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Elise Pannon

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Thu, September 26th, 2019 3:24pm

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