With the sun baking the ground, within this Solstice, she knew they’d come. Karsha had waited this moment all her life, and at 12 born she’d been striking off the moon’s turn ever since.
The dark nights had come so slowly, since she etched them on the wall. The tavern was all she could remember, despite the memories spouted from drunkards and others. Tonight was the night they rode into the tavern, the town, one night she had her chance. She knew they’d be full this night, the ringing of Amanta’s apron gave that away two sun’s ago.As happy as she had been here Karsha felt she couldn’t stay, with each passing harvest she seemed to be always upsetting Amanta; he found a fault in almost everything she tried to help with, and beat her harder and longer each rising moon.
Karsha was sick of the stories of the night she was found, too many times had she heard her rescue by the old tavern keeper, too long had the pain stayed inside. The hoofs could be heard in the distance, the ground just echoed the powerful beasts upon which they rode. She excused herself from the tables in order to get them a refill, although she knew none were needed, she headed to her room, up through the makeshift cooking house, and through the wooden ladder on the side.The rungs seemed to hold her legs, as if to stop any direction, and despite any movement her feet delayed and took their time. The room she stared upon was sparse, and she knew not once did it feel like home, but yet as she dug down under the straw she found the only possession she had ever owned, the only thing she treasured. Apparently it had hung round her neck when she was found, that fateful evening in the woods, she never once understood the etchings upon it, the lines drawn down, it seemed like it had been bitten, like some wild animal had taken a chunk out of it for a morning snack. But it was hers. The only link with a past that she did not know or remember, and had yet to understand.
She scooped the necklace up, placed it upon herself, the metal felt cool on her body, the chain sitting lightly upon her skin, somehow she felt more complete, not quite whole, but like she actually belonged somewhere, to something. On her way down to the kitchen, she did something she’d never done before, and in stealing that paulper bread and wheel of cheese, she sealed her fate. Once wrapped in the bundle she made her way to the backdoor, not once did Karsha look back. The night air was cold, and hit her face with a force that took her breath away; the silence was a sleek contrast to the noisy tavern that people deemed her home. She stared up at the large oaks, leading into a destiny that was impossible to imagine, let alone plan. It wasn’t the steep steps that went down to the forest, it was the weight of her actions that sent her pulse racing, she could feel every gust of the night air, hear every leaf move with mother nature’s touch, she was afraid. And alone.
As she passed the rubbish pyre, the unmistakeable sound of a door slamming assaulted her ears, she spun round like a frightened animal, caught in an archers sight. It was him – he’d heard her, every dream, every wish she’d had during the darkest times were taken from her with each stair his bulky frame stepped upon. He shouted, no bellowed, for her to stay where she was, she knew she was going to receive a beating that would leave her battered and bruised at best, she could not contemplate the worse. His huge frame made light of the distance between them, she was barely at the oak tree before he had hold of her tattered apparel. Amanta had been drinking, the stale smell of ale was on his breath, the sickly smell of pipe smoke emanating from his clothes and pores, she was in trouble.
“Where in devils spawn are you going?” Amanta said as his grip tightening. Before she had a chance to stammer a reply he moved his forearm down with force, her top shredded, shattered like a glass in a drunkard’s hands. She was exposed, exposed and afraid. “I’m gonna teach you a lesson, something you’ve had coming for a while”, in one swift movement the rest of the garment split, the breeze upon her was the least of her problems. He put his weight on one foot, and pushed her to the soft floor of the forest. The emotions that coursed through her body, her brain, were impossible to fathom, so fast so furious were these feelings that she was a passenger to most. He moved toward her, the intent evident in his eyes, she felt an anger rise in her, one she had never felt before. It started as a low growl within the confines of her stomach, gently, slowly rising, as the brief seconds passed it seemed to gain momentum, move forward and take new shape. It was as if her diaphragm was forcing the word, the sound out, her mind clouded, she thought she was going to pass out. Up it came, she felt the rise like a searing flame, ever trying to reach the sun. The noise left her throat, the sound was impossible to describe as words, more a rush of air, nay, a force of nature, a power so strong even the tallest of oaks would be left shaking.
“Noooooo” was the closest sound that was disconcernable to human ears, Amanta was almost upon her, about to take something that was never his, something that should never be snatched from anyone, but given lovingly, to a bearheat that you cherish and hold dear, a moment that you waited for – your heart races for. As the noise left her thorax she could see his chubby, grubby cheeks fold back, like he’d squeezed into a gap too small. Then his huge soiled body began the same backward dance, those mighty forearms pinned back to his side, no further, they were flaying past the apron, above his head.The sweat wept openly from his brow, the pain immeasurable on his face, yet still the anger threw him, the more he tried to plant his feet in the dark dank forest, the lighter they became. The left rose first, despite its size, and the supporting leg had no chance in continuing its duty.
The sight she witnessed would haunt the dimmest of evenings; make her welcome the sun rising from its morning slumber. She was scared, but that fear was replaced by another factor, a feeling – no a passion, something she’d never felt before. Then the energy left her body, to say it came from the mouth would be little, even taunt, the ferocity of it. Amanta seemed to hang in mid air, even the perspiration hung betwixt the sky and moss packed earth. As Karsha’s mouth became an empty vessel, power leaving her shell, her eyes opened as Amanta was thrown backwards, like a giant hand casually swatted a fly, he flew deeper into the woods his face portraying an unfathomable fear. The lowest branch caught his ankle, but his mid section took the full force. As Karsha looked through the tears she saw her mentor and tormentor impaled, the wind faded, the leaves stood still.
Nauster’s journey had been long, just the stool bearing his weight eased and comforted body, if not mind. Even the sturdiest of men find comfort in a small piece of furniture after what seemed a life time upon the saddle. Although the ale was wet, it could not ease the thought of sleeping under a roof, away from the elements. As soothing as the mead was, the very notion of bathing took the taste away. It had been a long hard ride, one not worth the coins earned. He looked for the serving maid to take him to the quarters he longed for, he’d seen her briefly, a wisp of a woman, barely child bearing he thought. Where was she? His so called companions were drinking any form of saddle sores away, typical he thought.The smoke from pipes and loud laughter was far and away what he was used too, he chuckled to himself as he realised he wanted, no needed, fresh air. The tavern was large, he had his back to the entrance, the training stayed with him for that. Beyond the bar he saw a door blow in the breeze, twas impossible to hear the banging of its timber amongst the drunken noise of so called trackers, most could not hunt their way to water despite their rides urgency. He made his way to beyond the bar, the daggers still hanging from his side and the scar on his face almost looked like it shimmered in the lamplight, he made his way through the bustling smoke filled room.
The night air felt inviting, although he’d only just come in from his ride, the silence embraced him.. He took to the stairs, and as he descended he saw the light, felt the noise – not words heard, but emotions , it shook his body, his balance gone, never had he lost footing in battle, to do that was to lose limbs, or your life. In the distance he saw shapes, the trees seemed to be dancing away from their roots, the very heart of the forest shook, which did not help his normally reliable legs. A shadow flung itself from the darkness, only to be reclaimed;Nauster felt the movement in his body before his vision took hold. There were to shapes that caught his eye, every branch nestled in its home, every bush, twig, awakening flower and impassive leaf brushed over his very soul. The wilderness was his home.
Jaybo was hungry, no doubt about it – either that or a pack of wolves were dancing under his smock, god the pain. Twice he’d been caught, well seen, by the lords guards stealing, but so many more times than that had he faced starvation. Blinking guards with their finery, fancy daggers, and stone built homes. They called him and others street rats, and no matter how much the phrase hurt he knew the likeness. Not only knew, but felt it, felt the emptiness, desperation and constant fight.
Street day today, a day unlike all others, warriors, traders, lords all came to the outskirts of his kingdom, his home. Granted it was between an empty shell of the castle and the sewers, but it was his, he had made it his. The smell of the elden bread nearly forced him under the hooves of a passing trader – need to be more careful he realised, food was his first thought, he knew there was another place to visit, knew that his body would disagree with any other directions, Pero’s show.
The meat came easy once the lords reached the stall, with owners falling over themselves to get noticed: it was a borrowers dream, and he helped himself.The fat of the pork hardly dripped from his fingers as it was reacquainted with its careful owner, the feeling of having food in his belly made him feel happy.There could be lords everywhere, but I feel like a king he thought. Then a gloven hand hit his shoulder.
It hadn’t registered, how could it? The only thing that could be said is the way she felt,…well… joined. She didn’t understand, but knew there had been a change. Then there was the body
It hung beneath the light foliage of leaves, His pig eyes were wide, staring straight ahead, not looking down toward his fat body.The branch that held him, impaled him, seemed to sprout from nowhere. She had to run. It was always the plan to leave, but so much passion, emotion, coursed through her veins. Fear, upset and unknown power scrambled through her being, her tender years disintegrated with every vision, or thought. She ran. Part of her wanted to look back, but Karsha felt scared, not by the darkness she was entering more that what she’d ran from. Her body felt empty, a hunger that food could not quench, nor water ease, The forests limbs made hard work, Karsha barely felt the touch of the thick wooden branches almost as if they were a child’s brush.
Even though the forest floor gave easy to her footfalls, she had run, tripped, and walked for what seemed like a lifetime. It dragged her in, her movements were slow , but her brain, no maybe something else, pushed her forward, She had to catch her breath, the fear of what she’d run from, every step she’d taken, all the hours she had shuffled she was still no further from the memories, But her limbs had to stop.
In all the years Nauster had been in battle, the pain he’d caused and eased, nothing, not one thing, could have prepared him for that. He’d seen limbs and heads removed, bodies sliced in half. But nothing like this. A branch had punctured the stomach, not as bad as sword or spear. It was the face. The face seemed like it looked into the very depths of hell, and then spent a hundred moons there. The earth around was untouched, the forest seemed at ease. Just to the south of the twisted figure, the ground seemed settled, almost like something had up’d and broken free, the bracken told little to his senses, but his eyes stored the vision of death.
He left the scene behind him, hoping that the images in his mind would remain there too. the moss seemed to darken an already black journey, one he knew he had to take. He quickened his tempo, headed to where the noise of rushing and broken foliage fell and called. He could sense the sway of the forest, hear the whispers, and yet they told him nothing, it was if all he sought vanished, invisible to the surroundings, impossible to locate.
Jaybo felt the covered hand upon his body, and knew he’d been caught, there wasn’t much the guards would do with him, two options, both at best not pretty he thought.
The grip got tighter, as his world felt smaller, and knees got weaker to the constant pushing. Panic is a true word he thought when you have stolen meat and warm elden bread, one that was too hot to touch, and yet placated the stomach. The air was warm, the dust beating up from the swarm of people, there was a stale smell on the air, like a casket of over ripe fruit in the sun, baking and decaying.He got dragged further toward the guards and the knowledge of a whipping, but then Jaybo knew and had felt this power struggle before, and had often succeeded in escape, apart from the warnings and bruises. The grip transferred to his ear, leading his body in one unfightable direction, “ah spawn’s hell” was the instant thought as he got dragged through and shoved on the street floor he started to feel weak, his eyes shutting, noises around his mind bounced loudly, thus causing pain., Jaybo could sense where they were heading, and yet could not have stopped the bulky generals transporting him.
“Please lord davay, I just tried to find my cousin…..”
“no, no, hell, I’m in hell, that’s here now”
“aaahh, please take, me, I swear to all”
“this is a dungeon for our soul”
“I just need water for my child”
These noises drifted through Jaybo ‘s mind, his eyes black and bloodied, he knew they were different voices, the tone and desperation gave them away. He tried to understand as once again consciousness failed him, and the stone floor was a pillow to his sleepy thoughts.
As parched as he was the contents of the bucket did little to whet his appetite, nor his soul. His castle stood before him, lord only knew how long he‘d been there, his prison twas barely the size of a fowl pen. He’d got to despise the high, dark, dank walls, being assaulted by the numerous horrors of the noise and pain. Through the highest block the hint of sunlight came and teased, before leaving as quickly and silently as it came. His legs buckled and once again darkness appeared.
It had been two long, hard moons, for Karsha, her stolen goods were all but gone, her sanity she felt wasn’t far behind. The thought of stopping never once entered her head, the fear of what happened kept her running, the forest seemed to stretch impossibly in front of her. She rested for a while, the grass felt heavy beneath her feet, the trees hung low, as if bowing to another impending night fall. As the light flickered twix branch and bracken she felt the slow call of sleep, and the withdrawal of pain and hurt. The rhythm of the earth shifted gently, moved her senses, around the air winged birds or creatures flew, some silent hunters, some avoiding being hunted. The colour of the sky moved from deep darkness, and then shed strange lights across the fields, a new noise sat her up right, hooves.
Regardless of the horse’s passengers, she knew there was danger, having grown up with fear this was just another entry to the journal of life. She checked, no, surveyed her surroundings, trying to find a safe haven, her hazel eyes scanning the forest for sanctuary. The floor held few shrubs, the grass was in its early stages of growth, unable to shelter the smallest vole. The thundering of the beasts pounded on both the floor and her ears, she didn’t need to look to the horizon in order to gage their pace, the urgency she felt. Panic began to overtake her senses the closer the booming stallions came, her very core seemed to echo, vibrate, with every push of their powerful bodies, almost as if they had taken flight from the ground. She hid as best she could, pushed against the ground like a worm in movement, like a snake in defence, an insect in hiding. And still they came.
Her heart wasn’t in her mouth, she’d lost that organ when she ran from the Inn, and with what she caused she felt it had gone for good. The air was cooling, the inhabitants of the forest, bugs and birds were beginning to start their day, but unfortunately, they tended to begin silently, like a sleeping baby, before moving into the crescendo that marks the dawns song, as they hit the leaves and trees . She felt the horses breath, could smell upon which it fed. Damp hay and oats she thought, as the understanding took her how close she was to them, fear hit her as she realised she’d be dragged back to her village, to explain a murder, if she ever made it back there.
“I did see something captain” the voice was so close it could’ve been out of her own throat, she daren’t look up, barely breathe as the words ascended her ears. “well the grass holds no sign, there’s not been a pass through here in days” “you’ve been in the saddle too long Gerad, and can hear the trees and the water in the wells talk, lets head for the next Inn, we still have our items for the cause“ A large man in uniform moved to the front, the voice deep, burst and echo‘d round Karsha‘s ears “our mounts will feed on this plentiful grass, I‘m sick of the stables and what they do our war horses, we rest here“. They gathered and tethered the mounds and made camp, the smell of caught game made her stomach cry out, but the noise was lost over the crackling fire. Karsha looked around her, and realised, how she wasn’t seen, she gingerly looked around to find complete cover, not only had the grass engulfed her, but as she dared to look back, it had grown over her tracks too. Her head lifted above her new found tent, the warmth and smell of food guiding her, feeding her nostrils and dulling her thought, without conscious thought she stood.
She felt the journey of the arrow before she knew the target or intent, the woods had parted in front of her. She turned to see a bearded man over her, knife hovering by her shoulder, and yet he was pierced in his neck blood steadily seeping a deadly wound , the body was then captured by a fast moving beast, too quick for her eye before it soiled the ground, she stared in a daze as the murderous dance spread around her, as bodies weaved shadows, shadows caused from a fire she knew had no right to be there.
He was trained for this, muscles moved, flexed by impulse, as if off in their own direction,
Nauster saw the arrival of the so called warriors, the lords soldiers, “scum of the earth” he thought. He’d seen the girl, and lost her all to suddenly, at that point he witnessed the flash of a blade. He shot forward, the only fear he felt was for those in front of him, the lives they chose. The first one went easy, was hovering by a patch of grass. He barely recognised the weapon steeling away the life of another, a fire was lit, an advantage they should never have given, and he strove forward.
There was silence from the lords men, but a heap of noise if you knew where to listen, the crackling and hiss of the fire were like booming sentences to the trained mind. He moved amongst the shadows, on the edge of the camps glare, the future battle playing out in his mind. He took the sentries down with ease, they were stationed to far apart and far too worried about warmth and not enough about life. Nauster knew that swords would be drawn, but tried to minimise the timeframe, the blood dripped freely from his dagger as he gently placed them on their route to the dark lord. He knew the last part was tough, he’d dealt with difficulty his whole life. Rage and anger were his weapons, retribution his cause, they died swiftly, Nauster hardly registered the empty stare from their eyes, the final throws of their bodies, they deserved this, warranted it.
Jaybo surveyed his prison, and had never felt so alone. His whole life he’d been around people, sleeping on the streets does that for you. The occasional cry, moan and murmur did little to ease the silence of the cell, yet his brain kept recalling the events that were horrifically played before his unwanting mind. Who was this lord? Why were people begging? In fact why were they there? He’d seen people walk down to this hell hole, and yet an empty shell of a lifeform return, was this his fate? Again he was thrust from his thoughts, the cell next door was alive with terror, not me, not a chance of getting me, the street urchin thought. He felt the screams echo, and yet his heart strummed a different beat, his body ached for food, could not lift itself from the cold dank floor, and still his head faced the fading, almost nonexistent sunlight, then it came.
It must have been the smell of smoke that aroused him, for that was the first sense that he felt, not the searing heat, flames, nor crying, the crying as the earthenware tomb danced. As his blacken eyelids withdrew, the light, heat and surroundings drowned him, nearly took him under with their overpowering waves. He stood strong, his torso knew nothing else, and headed toward the painful light, the flames fighting a battle his rags didn’t even register.
She had no understanding of her life, let alone the events that had just taken place, she’d heard travellers talk of hurricanes, and yet never witnessed one, until now. She’d heard of bodies torn from their shell, lifted and thrown to great lengths, these are visions her eyes now encompassed, limbs and blood littered the once green grass, the sorrow she felt shook her to the very core, but move she must. Shakingly she stood, if only her legs could follow her minds direction, she walked through the carnage, the valley of death, only pausing to pick up the necklace she’d lost, her taste of home. The consent crying, wailing in her ears nearly drove her to her knees, but a primeval being drove her on. The distance she covered could be registered so very quickly, with the stars and rising of the moon, and yet impossible to count the millions of footsteps, thoughts, footsteps, the cry eased, as did her body, again she slept.
The branches from which she was beneath shuddered, surely that’s what rose her from her slumber? Everyone wakes with similar, the slam of a door, the wood being chopped, or the smell of game upon flame? For the first time her limbs felt lighter than the head that nestled on them, move she must. The floor echoed the remnants of the battle, but her mind carried the scars, pain, fear and upset, quickly followed by confusion as it coursed through her veins. An animal sighed in the distance, a distance she focussed on, and was quick to arrive to.
With calming words and a batch of quickly swiped grass the mare settled, under her gentle gaze and loving stroke Karsha jumped aloft, she knew those bastards were heading from twix she’d come, so the destination was set, her new found stead could sense her panic, urgency, and began creating distance between the gruesome battlefield and lifeless victims.
The echoes of the town could not be shut out by the slamming of the chamber, lord Davey had enough of the populous and now needed solitude, his hands tensed, the shutters closed, darkness once more. It had been three long weeks, since his last renewal - in his eyes unexplainable, his weakness made him angry, anger brought weakness, this is the circle upon which I’ve danced upon he thought. The room swayed as the noise hit his ears, answer the door he must. There one of the captains stood, singular, alone, no lifeline, no renewal. The failure was more evident in his eyes than the lack of companionship, tiredness emitted, and yet there was one other element Davey could sense... fear.
“Sorry to disturb you lord”, “so very sorry”
Davey didn’t need all his strength to lift the captain from the ground, his throat was taunt, stretched, thus didn’t help speech, so with a brief respite he lowered him
“WHAT – Speak now fool, I sense that one of us will die a happy man, the other....... SPEAK man”
“Well..it’s just, that well, I... on patrol,, as required lord” words were not the weapon the captain aspired to use, nor was trained in, so he was stabbing blindly like a Paige with a dagger. “we came across Gerard and his captain’s team”
“Go on” boomed Davey
“Well, they ain’t no more sire, sorry, lord. Ain’t nuffick I’ve seen on any battlefield in all my quests, not one. Faces like damned devil smacked em lord Davey”
“WHAT? – Before I show you your very own inards, please tell me that you have an answer, nay reason for not bringing me a harvest, some fresh blood? If one captain and team fail, I shall not lose sleep, or feed apparently”
“We left lord, though know it sounds strange, but twas haunted, blinking weird, earth seemed to follow us, take Gerard an mates down ta soil, couldn’t grab im, couldn’t..”
He bearly felt the snap of the neck, the trickle of blood escaping from the final words, he turned sharply, flung the door open, “I need answers, answers” he thought. Lord Davey descended to the dungeon, there the heat of the flames descended upon him.
He soon moved through the weak bodies, the imbeciles that had failed in keeping the dungeon secure, “strange” he thought, “the fire hasn’t risen, nor spread” he got to the cell where his prospective lifeblood were contained, only to find fire, misshapen rock showing daylight, and yet was empty. He ran through as the remnants of the flame died around him, the blasted rock was still warm as he climbed through, and there he saw the childish figure in the distance, his hands must be nearing sunlight as the look of heat was upon them. The figure disappeared, but the lords sight and goal got sharper, just feeling the power of the escapee. Plans were needed, more men to seek. He returned to his study.
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