Princess of the Pyre

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
Fire burns, so don't let it show. It kills and is unforgiving and to show the world is to condemn yourself. A girl raised in the peaceful hunters village hides a secret of fire. Only Arman knows, fear will keep it in check but beneath the surface it grows.

Submitted: September 03, 2015

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Submitted: September 03, 2015

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Part One

 

I was lying on a tree branch, the sun beating down through the greenery and warming my skin, my hands dangled on either side of me. I rested my cheek on a knothole and stared at the ground, I was around seven or ten feet above it. Dang was I bored. I watched the cornfield where Arman said he was going to come from, I saw no movement in the field and heard no footsteps. I propped myself into a sitting position and my hair flopped in front of my face, so I grabbed it and raked it all back into a braid while I waited.

It was late afternoon and the sun hung low in the sky. Near the edge of the field I saw slight movements, which began to get faster. The only person I knew who could run that fast and quiet was Arman. I saw his black hair bob out of the cornfield, trailing behind him was something much slower that was shouting obscenities. Arman had obviously gotten the attention of the farmer. I jumped into action, turned sideways, locked my legs around the tree, and dropped my torso. The world flipped upside down as I dangled with my hands out. Arman burst out of the corn, his face had a slight sheen of sweat and his brown jacket was covered in corn husks. He saw me instantly, I could see his leather bag was full as it smacked against his side. His hand grabbed my elbow and I grabbed his. My body protested at the sudden weight I had to pull up, but, nonetheless, I swung my arms and launched Arman up on to a branch next to me. He clumsily, but surely, found his footing, and then relaxed on the trunk. “So, did you get it?” I asked nosily.

“Yep,” he took a deep breath then pulled his bag into his lap. He pulled out carrots, beets, and a few apples. He had a few more things in his bag, but he didn’t take them out. He tossed me an apple, which I nearly dropped, and took a bite out of it; Arman began to eat a carrot. We could both see the old grouch running around the field and yelling. Arman chuckled, but continued to eat.

“I could have just gone to the market and bought us this stuff.” I said.

“Oh Mika, that’s no fun.” He retorted. I laughed and took another bite of the apple; its juices burst out and slid down my chin. I raised my hand and wiped my face clean. “You going to the festival tonight?” His question caught me off guard; I had to think for a moment before answering.

“I don’t know, the festival is for the villagers.”

“You are a villager.” He pointed out.

“They don’t see me as one-“but he cut me off.

“Yes they do!” I stared at him, my expression changed into a smile.

“You know what? I will go”

“That’s all I ask.”

“Oh yeah, well-“I took a step onto a lower branch and it snapped. I fell swiftly; hitting every branch on the way down until I landed on my face.

“Mika! Are you okay?!” he yelled down at me. I heard the branches crunch as he climbed down. My head spun, it took me a minute until I could focus on the blade of grass in front of me. Oh ouch, it hurt to move. I lifted my head.

“I’m okay.” Arman grabbed my arms and hoisted me up. He tried to scrape the dirt from my face with his hand, but I scrunched up my face in reaction.

“Come on, let’s go home,” he chuckled.

It didn’t take long to get to the village. We walked along the well worn path until we could see the houses in the trees and the shops clustered around the main square. People all around hung red poppies that, when it became dark, would open with bright, sparkling lights of all different colors and brighten the night. Others hung candles and bells Some carriages pulled by, usually they’d be carrying hay, but now they held a mass of baked goods for tonight’s banquet. As Arman and I walked, people waved at and greeted him; he returned their kindness with a warm smile containing perfectly white teeth. The town’s people didn’t hate me; they just didn’t care for me. I was an outsider, found by Arman’s grandmother and raised alongside him. However, Arman was born here, he was the best hunter and fighter of them all, and just plain handsome. People had claimed we were brother and sister, though we looked nothing alike; it’s just how they accepted me, Arman’s adopted sister. He walked faster than me and I practically had to run just to keep up. Our house was near the outskirts of town, but we liked it there. It was much closer to the animals that we hunted, which reminded me, “Arman?”

“Hm?” he grunted.

“We need to hunt soon, we’re out of meat.” He looked puzzled for a split second then nodded his head.

“We’ll go tonight before the festival at dusk.” I smiled in response as his mouth jerked into a grin. The hunt was great, nothing like an arrow perched on the tip of my finger, ready to kill in a second, poised and dangerously powerful. We finally made it back to our house, a giant willow, like the other houses, with a circular wood door decorated with black, iron swirls. I leapt up the wooden steps and pulled the door ajar. It really only needed to be opened a little. I walked into the den of our hollowed out tree home, within was a fireplace with a cooking pot dangling over it. A few feet away from that was the table where we ate, along with the bookcase and the chest that contained miscellaneous objects. Arman dumped the stolen vegetables from his bag.

“String those up and put them into the pantry,” I instructed. I headed towards our spiral staircase that lead upward.

“Can you bring me down a shirt?” he asked with his head turned toward the table, sorting the various vegetables and fruits.

“Sure.” But I couldn’t tell if he heard me. As I walked up to the second floor, I found my hand travelling across the emerald green-sketched wood that had been left from generations of the Altair family, Arman’s past relatives. It was just the two of us now. Inside of our chambers, I walked down the hallway that lead to my room and pulled back the veil of vines that acted as a door, and stepped inside. My hammock was on the far side of the room, it was filled with lion and sheep skins that I used as blankets the previous night. Leaning against my dresser were my bow and quiver. I strapped my quiver on my back and filled it with my handmade red pine arrows. I plucked my bow’s string before securing it to my back. Before I left my room I grabbed my leather pouch from its branch, which I used as a makeshift hook. I ran down the hall and peeked in Arman’s room, it looked almost identical to mine, aside from his man clothes everywhere. I walked in and grabbed his sword, its black scabbard, and the first shirt that caught my eye. As I headed back down, I ran into him on the stairs, “Oh,” I exclaimed, “um, here, I got you a shirt,” I held up the crumpled shirt in my hand.

“Thanks, could you hold these?” He held up the stringed carrots. We exchanged the objects. I was two steps above him when he removed his brown jacket and dirt covered shirt and dropped them on the both. I looked at his unblemished chest, which had been tanned by days working in the field, until I came upon the tiny, pink, hand-shaped scar about halfway up his ribcage, where he’d been burned; burned by me. I felt tears well up in the corners of my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. Arman must have seen my expression after he put his shirt on, he instantly knew why I was sad, he could always tell how I felt. “Come now, it wasn’t your fault.” He leaned forward to wrap his arms around me in a hug, but I stepped back.

“It was my fault! Don’t touch me, I could hurt you.” I choked on the last few words.

“It was an accident, Mika.” He cooed the words to me like he would to an injured bird. He was right, it was an accident. We were playing by a lake when we were little, Arman was running away from me and I was trying to keep up, but I was never as fast as he was. I was getting frustrated, ran so far ahead into the forest so that I couldn’t see him at all. It was dark and I had become lost, I began to cry from my anger. I cried out for him, but he didn’t come back. I wandered for hours until it got even darker. Arman jumped out from behind me and roared, which made me jolt around in fright. He began to laugh, so I got even madder, I wanted to hurt him to show that he couldn’t push me around, so I rushed him and pushed him with all of my might. Scarlet bloomed like a flower from my hand and burnt a hole through his shirt. He seized in pain and screamed with agony. I fell to the grass; it caught on fire and burned to ash around me. That was the day I learned of my horrible power. Many more accidents occurred after that day. I burned myself multiple times, but the pain never lasted and my wounds healed unblemished. Arman was the only other person who knew. He always tried to help me, but I’d always pull away. I couldn’t control it. When grandma passed, I could have killed everyone, but he calmed me down, as he always did, he kept me safe. I stood there, looking at him trying to help me; I had to at least pretend to be strong for him. I stood straight and caught my breath.

“I’ll meet you downstairs when you’re ready to go.” He looked at me and his look was sad, he nodded. I made room for him to pass on the stairs.

 

The woods were always so thick and beautiful like one giant organism split into many, but still remaining connected to one another. I perched myself at the end of a large tree’s branch. My quiver dug into my back as I leaned forward on my knee, making sure to have one and hovering over the branch, just in case I fell like earlier today. I rolled my eyes at the thought. Arman was hiding in a bush to my left, I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. I could see something move up ahead, maybe a deer, but it seemed too large for that. Maybe if I scooted closer I could see it better, so I tempted fate and pushed forward on the branch. It could be a bear; its fur was dark enough- SNAP! My heart dropped, leaned too far forward on the branch and it gave way. The ground came fast, but I reacted faster. This time I landed with a cat like arch on one foot, bent at the knee, and with my right foot outstretched. I couldn’t believe I landed that. I smiled largely toward my flexibility. Though my smile faded quickly because the animal, a wolf, had began to rush toward me. I turned tail and ran as fast as I could, but my speed was nothing compared to its, it was gaining quickly. When I got close to the bush Arman was hiding in, I looked back. Arman jumped into action, with his sword, he brought the cruel steel down on the wolf’s back legs. The wolf yelped, the snarled at him. I skidded to a stop, my breath was heavy. I drew my bow, but the wolf was circling Arman, I didn’t want to take the chance that I might hit him. I retraced my steps and ran toward the two. The wolf lunged at Arman, but he flipped backwards and out of the way. As soon as he landed, he swung his sword at the wolf, but only managed to take off its left ear, which began to gush blood. Boy, did that piss it off. I moved to the left, freeing up my field of vision and allowing me a take a clear shot at the wolf. The arrow buzzed through the air and embedded itself in the wolf’s eye, that wasn’t exactly where I was aiming… I wasted no time drawing another arrow. Its fur was slick with blood as it began heaving and jerking harshly. I felt its presence leave when the feathers of the arrow crossed my cheek, I released the arrow and it sailed into the wolf’s hind legs, this made its whole body go up and back. Arman took advantage of this situation and slammed his sword into the beast’s lung; I heard the ribs shatter as the sword moved its way through the wolf’s body, clear through to the other side in one easy kill shot. Blood splattered across Arman’s face.

I jogged to Arman’s side and pulled my arrows free from the dead animal’s carcass. Arman placed his foot on the wolf and cracked his knuckles before pulling his sword out. I heard the gross sound of the flesh rip as he revealed his blood bathed sword. “You seriously fell out of another tree?” Arman panted, I could hear the laughter in his words. I blushed and stared down at my black knee-high boots.

“I didn’t mean too… and here, you have blood on your face.” I pulled a small blue handkerchief from my bag and handed it to him; he cleaned the remnants of the wolf from his face and sword. He tried to hand me back the now crimson rag, but I told him, “Naw, you keep it.” He shrugged and let it drop to the ground.

“We should head back, it’s almost dark and the festival should start soon. We can finishing hunting tomorrow.” He said.

“Okay, that sounds alright.”

 

Night had fallen and the warm summer breeze jostled my hair every now and then. I fell in step and took the lead while Arman followed suit, until I grew lazy and he passed me. As we grew closer to the town, I could hear the shouts of the village people and could see that they started a bon fire from the way the sky lit up. We got closer and something didn’t feel right. Arman had run further ahead of me and peered around the tightly knit houses. “What’s going-“Arman turned and crashed into me as an arrow from a crossbow whizzed by my head. I clattered to the ground entangled with Arman. “ARMAN! What the hell?!” I barked. He sat up and I saw the panic that flooded his eyes. He stood up and grabbed my hand before I even understood what was happening. That’s when I truly heard the villagers’ screams, they weren’t joyful; they were screams of terror. I looked to the sky as Arman tried his best to pull me up, it was snowing. But it was summer, this couldn’t be snow. Some flakes landed on me, they weren’t cold; they were warm. I instantly knew this familiar sensation, this was ash. Arman had been yelling at me, but I hadn’t caught any of it.

“Mika! You have to go! Someone’s attacking the village!” He pulled me up and pushed me extremely hard toward the forest, I almost lost my footing. “Go into the forest! I’ll find you!” He drew his sword and, without looking back, ran forward into the chaos.

“Wait!” I screamed. I wasn’t going to run away, I had to fight. I followed in Arman’s footprints around the house and saw the true horror unfold. The houses were engulfed in flames that rose to the tree tops. Men in hooded black capes rode through the streets on horseback. One of these men swung his massive sword and took a man’s head clear off, leaving his body in a useless heap; the severed head’s eyes were wide open. I wanted to scream and run away, but I had to find Arman. I ran forward, but ran into a woman, she had been my teacher. She fled for the safety of the forest. I looked among the mass of panicking people for Arman, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.

I heard one of the raiders screech in victory as it made a kill, the sound was unnatural and inhuman. Its screech was so high pitched that it made my skin crawl. As the raiders lit the remaining homes on fire with their torches, I screamed for Arman. I couldn’t tell how many raiders there were, nor could I see their faces, though I didn’t try very hard to. I ran forward and ignored the raiders riding by because I had to find Arman. One of the raider’s horses stopped in front of me, I peered in the endless dark hole that rode atop. The cloaked figure raised its sword, which, now that I could see it better, was nothing more than a long rod covered in spikes, and swung. I ducked and rolled under its horse, I could feel the air from the weapon barely missing me. The horse’s left hoof was luckier than the sword and hit into my thigh. I faulted only for a moment, regained my posture and ran. I glimpsed back as the creature screamed and raised its weapon in the air. The beast’s cloak slipped down its arm, revealing no hand or forearm, but the weapon stabbed straight into its elbow. My heart pounded, but the raider didn’t seem as interested in me as it was to the shrieking masses it was slaughtering, so it turned away. I ran up the main street in the opposite direction of the fleeing crowd, though their fleeing was more scattered than directional. Dirt and sweat mingled on my face as I pushed away people colliding with me. My heart fluttered when I saw Arman’s black hair in the distance. He had attacked a raider’s horse and taken off its leg. The nine foot raider stood facing Arman. I sprinted toward the two; forgetting about my bow, just knowing I had to get to Arman.

Arman’s hair was swept messily across his face; he looked tiny compared to the raider, whose back was to me. I came up close and unsheathed an arrow; Arman’s face contorted when he saw me, I was hopping with joy, but it seemed more like despair and rage. If the raider had followed Arman’s gaze who would have seen me and, most likely, would have killed me. Oddly enough, the creatures back stayed to me; good. The raider raised its weapon and Arman followed suit. Before their weapons could clash, I ran and jumped up the raider’s back and wrapped my arms around its neck. My body pressed against its cloak and, by extension, its body; it was cold and… squishy beneath my arms. The raider flailed in a panic and  tried to pull me off, but I locked my arm around it and and shoved an arrow into what I assumed was its face. The creature tried to scream, but all that came out was a bloody gurgle. The pain must have given the raider a rush of adrenaline because the hand that was trying to pull me off tugged even harder and broke my skin. My grip faltered, then gave away completely and I was flung through the air like a ragdoll. I was tossed a couple yards and I hit the ground hard; knocking all the air out of me and sprinkling my vision with black dots. Something began to drip into my eyes and took away my view of Arman. I could hear him screaming my name and swinging his sword in rage. My head swam as dust settled around me; there was a pain in my chest. I blinked away what was blocking my vision and began to feel a warmth flow through my body. I knew what the feeling was; the curse that I’ve tried to bury away for so many years, it was pulsing inside of me. I propped myself up on my hands and knees. From my forehead, a red drop fell into the dirt, then another. It took me a second to realize that I was bleeding.

The heat began to wash over me, blocking out all sounds, screams and screeches alike. I looked out at the burning town and watched Arman as he fought the raider. The heat burned inside of me from the tips of my fingers to the soles of my shoes. I attempted to stand and reach out to Arman, but my legs buckled and I fell to my knees. I tried to stop it, this couldn’t happen now, not now! I needed to help Arman! Tears fell from my eyes and left scorch marks as they went down my cheeks. My hair had fallen free of its braid and began floating around me, as though i were underwater, except it was alive with flame. My skin pulsed and changed into a shade of red like the dying ember of a fire. I raised my hands in the air in front of me and stared at Arman and the raider. Arman’s eyes grew wide as he turned his head to look at me. All the raiders stopped and stared at me, they began to make strange noises. I could no longer hear the villagers, they had either fled or lay on the ground dead. The dirt around me shimmered intensely. No! What’s going on?! I couldn’t control myself. I tried to scream for Arman, but no words came out. The rage-like heat built up inside me and then burst outward. Streams of flames slithered along the ground and wrapped a circle around my knees. I stood up in the middle, swaying slightly from side to side, attempting to grasp anything around me for support. The circle had grown immensely in size and now towered over me. Through holes in the curtain of flames, I could see the raiders attempting to grab for me. I just wanted to stop this. Why couldn’t I stop? JUST STOP! The flames shot out and I heard screeches. My body suddenly grew tired and I began to wobble unevenly on my legs. The flame wall was gone and I couldn’t tell what was going on. Darkness fell over my eyes as I let myself fall. I could hear my name, “Mika… Mika…” Then the darkness enveloped me.


I could hear drums… The even beating of drums… No, those weren’t drums, those were horse hooves… I could feel arms wrapped around me… I don’t want to wake up. “Mika…” It’s dark and warm. “Mika…” Horse hooves… “ Mika…” I’ll sleep a little longer… Just a little longer...


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