Elfwood is the worlds largest SciFi & Fantasy community.
- 149235 members, 3 online now.
- 12704 site visitors the last 24 hours.
|I haven't looked at at this in such a long time...And it's gonna change. Open to suggestions on this one.||
The Redemption of Ravid
The blood was wet and sticky, covering his hands, a crimson second skin as they wavered across the bowl, shaking as if with a palsy. The water stained red as it swallowed his hands . . .
He scrubbed and scrubbed, afraid it never would wash off, staining his hands forever, vivid and dangerous, an eternal reminder of his crime. .
One last rinse, but another set of hands, cold and clammy, with a grip of iron shackles, grabbed his own. He opened his mouth to scream, but the bowl suddenly became an ocean of blood, surging up to devour him. It rushed into his mouth, metallic and foul. He gagged, choked and struggled against the hands that were holding him . . .
Biting down screams, Ravid was waking. Blood images from his dream were slow to fade from his mind. As he awoke, he let his senses fell his surroundings, his body still slack. The beer and rot of an exhaled breath blew on Ravid’s face and he felt the coldness of a knife so very close to his throat.
Dreams forgotten, Ravid opened his eyes to see the man above him.
‘Rise and shine, pretty boy.’ He snarled, the smell of his breath much stronger as he spoke, filling Ravid’s nostrils with sickness. ‘Dreamin’ about horses again, were ye? Horses are too good for the likes a’ you, pretty boy. They say ‘neigh’, yet you . . .’
‘What do ya want Stickler?’ Ravid interrupted.
‘You o’course!’ Stickler snorted. ‘Why else would I have come down into this hole? Get up, pretty boy, Boss wants a word with ye.’
The youth frowned inwardly. Can’t be good.
‘Well, get out of me friggin’ way then.’ Ravid growled, pushing the cold blade away from his vulnerable neck . . .
. . .and then slashed, blood pouring from the neck, slowly at first, then faster and faster, the scream of shock and horror silenced by a strong hand . . .
. . . and he rolled off his bed, stretching his lanky frame. Stickler watched the youth nervously, his knife still in his hands, hoping for some action. Ravid threw a grubby white shirt over his shoulders and tightened his belt. His coat formed his blanket and he stuffed his arms into the sleeves, wary of the holes in the elbows.
‘Ready then, pretty boy?’ Ravid raised and eyebrow. Stickler shrugged and turned up the narrow stairs to the street above.
Before too long, the unlikely pair arrived at a dishevelled tavern nestled around equally dishevelled warehouses. The room was crowded, filled with drunks, sailors, thieves like themselves and whores.
Stickler found them a table and two chairs towards the back wall, having pushed an unconscious drunk from sprawled across the table, to the tavern floor, where he lay in a pile a stinking liquid and mess, still unconscious. Seated, Ravid glared around him with his typical distaste and Stickler ordered the cheap ale. It was quick in arrival for once, and as the two dirty mugs were placed on the table, Stickler looked at him expectantly. Ravid’s expression soured even further as he slammed a coin on the table. The coin rapidly disappeared into the hand of a serving girl.
Almost instantly, that woman was replaced with another. ‘That scar makes you look very dangerous you know.’ She purred, appearing out of nowhere and placing herself on his lap. She weighed almost nothing, but he felt her heat too close to him. ‘Dangerous and seductive . . . mysterious . . . ’ She trailed off, allowing her hands to run gently down his chest, resting at the top his trousers, suggestively. Ravid removed the hand and turned his head, catching Stickler’s envious look.
‘Well, pretty boy, you ain’t gonna disappoint the lady are ye?’
Lady?Ravid did not voice his comment. The thief temporarily lost his attention in the youth, as another woman appeared at his side, whispering in his ear. Yet the whore on to of him had not. When she got no response from him, she reached her hand up and tugged his chin toward her. She watched him, surveying him almost. Ravid met those eyes . . .
. . . beautiful eyes, a mixture of brown and green, watching him with terror. . .
. . . and took her hand away from his face. ‘I’m not interested.’ He said gruffly. ‘Alright?’ Instantly, the women’s features changed from seduction to hurt.
‘I can do anything you want,’ She whispered in his ear. ‘Fantasise with me.’
Ravid turned away from her and took a long draught from his mug, ignoring his anger and emotion. The woman bit her lip and frowned. She was something of a favourite of all the women who worked in this district, and she enjoyed her leadership over the other women. It was not often that someone was not interested in her. And she felt the eyes of her competition watching her closely, hoping she would fail. He’d better be worth all this.
‘Tell me how you got that scar.’ She leaned closer to him, breathing in his scent, unwashed but not filthy stinking and rotten, like most of the scum in this room. She made sure he could smell the exotic perfume that was part of her success. And she waited.
Ravid still did not respond. Stickler, who had turned his attention away from his girl to fumble in his pockets for money, met Ravid’s hard look.
‘When’s he coming, Stickler? You better not be leading me on.’
‘No, no, course I ain’t. He’ll be here in his own good time pretty boy. So why don’t you have a little fun first, eh?’ Ravid just looked at him, muscles clenched. Stickler gulped nervously. ‘I swear on me miserable life Ravid, he is comin’.’ Ravid believed him and Stickler breathed a sigh of relief before disappearing with his woman.
‘Ravid? What an unusual name.’ The woman was purring in his ear again, leaning too close to him
Just leave me alone.Ravid thought with intense frustration. And then she stood and began to massage his shoulders gently and seductively. ‘You’re so tense . . .’ Her perfume was sweet and tempting. ‘Let me ease your troubles. I can make you feel so good . . . ’
Ravid took her arms and spun her away from him. ‘I said I wasn’t interested. Now leave me alone.’ His grip was firm and voice determined. People were looking now. The whore tried one last time. ‘Don’t be silly, I can take care of you -’ She reached up to touch him and . . .
. . . with a sudden strength, driven by wild fear and female hatred, she lashed out at him, her manicured nails digging in his vulnerable flesh. He screamed . . .
. . . ‘Get the hell away from me, whore!’ Ravid threw the woman away from him causing her to land heavily on the floor. Everyone had turned now, and the woman felt the hot flush of indignation rise in her face.
‘Easy Master Ravid, easy.’ A heavy hand touched Ravid’s heaving shoulders, easing the angry youth back onto his chair from which he had risen in his fury. The big man then leaned past the youth and offered his hand to the woman, who accepted it willingly, dusting of her dress and glaring dangerously at the other smirking women around the room. ‘You must excuse Master Ravid, Miss Genevieve, he is a little hot-tempered.’ The man tipped his head graciously.
‘A little?’ Scoffed the whore Genevieve, ‘He -’ But the large man silenced her by placing a gold coin in her hand. She stared at it briefly before a small curtsy and a ‘Thank you Master Ardent.’ And then she disappeared into the dispersing crowds.
James Ardent, Thief Master, Ravid’s ‘Boss’ sat himself down opposite with a friendly smile. Ravid’s body was still tense, shaking a little, watching the other man dwarf the chair and table he sat at all the while.
‘Do you like wine?’ Ardent asked. Ravid just shrugged. The landlord had appeared out of nowhere and took Ardent’s whispered order. He scurried away and returned a moment later with two crystal glasses, full of a deep red wine. Ardent twirled a glass in the murky light, sniffed the wine inside and took a large swallow. ‘Hmm. Yes, very good. Old Thomas never told me he knew anything about wine. Hmm. Good. ’ After draining a third of his glass, he leaned forward and looked at Ravid intently. ‘Ravid. Interesting name but Ravid what, exactly? And Ravid who?’ Ardent paused. ‘Nobody knows. In fact, nobody knows much about this Master Ravid at all.
‘I’ve been aware of you for two maybe three years know, and you’ve done some good work for me. Yet still your origins remain an enigma to me. You don’t appear to have many friends, I would possibly go as far as saying that you are something of a loner. Don’t be offended by that, please, it is merely an observation.’ Ardent gave Ravid a moment to speak, but he remained silent. Ardent then continued. ‘You come across as educated, aware of the better things in life. You always appear disgusted with the world you are clearly forced to live in, you haven’t got rid of that ‘richer than thou’ attitude that I have noticed on men with much finer apparel and heave purses than you.
‘I hope you don’t find all this too insulting Master Ravid. You see, I like to know all that goes on with all of my employees, know what their strengths and weaknesses are, so on and so forth.’ He now leaned even further forward and said in a hushed, conspirital voice, ‘I like to know where best I can use my employees, make the most of their, talents, shall we say. Do you understand me?’
‘Aye, I understand you. But what do you -’ Ravid stopped, uncertain.
‘What do I think your talents are? Or perhaps you wonder what it is I actually want you for. Well, Mr. Ravid, I am many things, but I am not a mind reader.
‘Shall we consider your talents for a moment. You’re currently a thief, a fairly good-un, if a little noisy, but you haven’t been caught yet. I’m guessin’ that you were once a merchant’s boy, whose father taught him his letters and numbers before his circumstances changed. But you don’t seem to fit in with the rest of my employees too well, which can make things a little difficult.
‘After the last incident, in this very tavern, with that chap, Master Barker, I considered a few things. I don’t want to lose you, you earn your keep well. But . . . ’ Ardent sipped his wine, prolonging the moment.
‘Well, I’ll put it this way. You’re a strong lad, young and quick to learn. That’s obvious to me, ‘cause if you weren’t, you’d be dead already. There’s an old man, a Martial Arts Master I would like ye to meet. He could possibly teach you a few things that could be of advantage to you . . . ’
* * * * * * *
Crouched in the alleyway, making almost no noise, Ravid waited. The only sound was of his deep breathing. The only movements he made were those of his eyes. Dark brown surrounding the dark pits of his pupils, reflected in the orange lamplight. His eyes watched every shadow and every body that moved across the street in front of him.
His muscles were taught with strain and anticipation. He had waited for some time, but how long, he did not know. It was not important. He was waiting for the moment when the man in the green cloak would pass, as he had been promised.
He knew what to do, but his conscious mind was hardly aware of it. The darkness hidden in the deep of his soul had come forth.
In the swiftest of movements with only a whisper of noise, Ravid leapt forward and grabbed the skinny man in the green cloak. The man didn’t have a chance to cry out before he was dragged into the alley.
The slim velvet cord wad in his hands and his arms were around Green-Cloaks neck. He was ready.
The flash of silver in the dark and Ravid hissed a curse. He propelled Green-Cloak out of reach, so the man was face down in the ground, and examined the deep well of blood spilling out of his thigh.
The knife had skittered away, sliding away to stop an equal distance between them. They leapt at the same moment.
Ravid landed with the weight of Green-Cloak on top of him. His lungs were crushed, he could hardly move to take a breath. His hand, squashed beneath his body closed over the hilt of the knife.
A desperate twist of his body and a lunge of his fist, the knife met flesh. A grunt from the man above, his face pressed closed to Ravid’s own. Green-Cloak’s breath was hot on Ravid’s face, eyes were wide with horror and mortality. Ravid, in finality, twisted and pulled the blade upward. Another grunt and gasp.
Ravid pushed the dying man off him.
Blood, blood, everywhere. On his hands, his trousers, his mind. So much blood. The dying man crawled away from Ravid, his eyes wide with disbelief, whimpering. Ravid did not notice and he did not hear the man start to scream.
Ravid remembered . . .
. . . The second one was pretty, a sweet smile on her face. For the first time in his life, as young as he was, Ravid recognised seduction. Mama had only been in her grave six months. Ravid could still remember her, her smell still lingered on her favourite pillow. He still dreamed about her.
His father had been so melancholy and lonely, since the day the priest had taken her away. His eyes had been haunted and desperate, but that look, as he stood wrapped in the woman’s arms, was fading . . .
. . . A blackness gnawed at his soul, a blackness that yearned to be filled. He walked silently along streets and alleys, following the whore and her client. There were no thoughts in Ravid’s mind, only his anger controlled him.
They had done their business, the whore and her client, and now her client the wealthy, gentlemanly sort Ravid had once been, was walking the whore back to the tavern he had met her in. As if it mattered.
She was a pretty one, soft brown hair and pale skin, much like the one Ravid has once met, hanging off his father’s arm. Things had been different then. His father was alive then, not destroyed by drink, poverty and disease.
The two departed with an exchange of coin. Ravid followed her back into the tavern. Time passed, she took on no more clients. Soon it would be daylight and she would return to where she slept.
Later she was walking alone, swaying slightly with tired drunkenness, unaware of the menace that followed behind her. He closed in, the dark space in him yowling for revenge of what had been taken from him. His hand reached out and swung the brown haired girl around, to meet him, face on . . .
. . . The blood flowed freely from the cuts on his face. They hurt, but now it was done. The dark space was filled and it would leave him alone. Only it would haunt his dreams, his soul clamouring for penance . . .
Ravid came almost to himself when two heavy-handed men wrenched him up by his armpits. Eyes glazed, he vaguely recognised the form of a City Watch constable in his navy blue, a decorated beret hiding most of his close-cropped blonde hair. Ravid’s mouth went dry with fear. He tried to swallow, but he could only taste the metallic blood that covered him. The constable gingerly removed the hilt from Ravid’s bloody hand, fixing the youth a hard, intense stare that he lacked the awareness to return.
‘You are under arrest,’ said the constable thickly, ‘under the charge of murder.’ Ravid turned to his left, and saw Green-Cloak, dead, eyes open, hand clutched in vain over the whole in his gut. Ravid paled and retched.
He remembered little of the journey to the City Watch barracks, the dark descent into the basement cells, the cold bowl of water and scratchy towel he used to wash his hands and face, or donning the crisp, pale blue prison uniform, his clothes taken away. Finally aware of himself, he sat, later, on a tiny bunk, staring at his hands. The blood was still there, pale pink on pale skin. Late night moonlight streamed through the window when the heavy clouds parted. Argent light bathed his hands for an instant, making it seem as if the pure moonlight had burnt the sin from his hands and then his soul, making him whole again.
In an instant, the light intensified, unbidden. It stemmed from his hands, bright enough to make him blink, black spots forming in his vision. And when he could see again, he was not alone in his cell.
A woman stood there, in a green dress, watching him ambiguously. Ravid’s mouth fell agape, uncomprehending, stupefied.
‘You are catching flies with your mouth open like that.’ She spoke calmly, as if her uncanny appearance in a condemned man’s cell was the most natural thing in the world. Ravid closed it obligingly, never taking his eyes off her. She appeared tall, standing above Ravid as he sat on his bunk. The green dress hung closely to her slender frame, perfectly proportioned, hanging to the floor and trailing delicately behind her. The dress appeared to be made out of green grass and pale moonlight, shifting and shimmering.
Brown hair hung to the waist, plaited with roses and ivy. Dazzling viridian eyes pierced his heart, saw straight through him. And her orbs were so deep, so black, he felt he could loose himself in them forever . . .
‘Are you going to stare at me all night?’ She enquired suddenly, breaking Ravid’s happiest daydreams, ‘Or are you going to offer me a seat on that tiny bunk of yours?’ Ravid blinked and for a moment couldn’t think of what to do next. Then, surprising himself, Ravid remembered the poise he had been taught years before.
‘Madame,’ he whispered, falling off the bunk and to one knee, ‘you are simply the most incredible woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Please forgive my rudeness, but your beauty has stunned me.’ He took her hand and kissed it, soft and delicate. ‘Please make I offer you a seat?’
‘How every eloquent, Master Ravid,’ she sat down on the bank, the green dress settling softly around her. ‘You will be a gentleman yet.’ She looked expectantly down at her hand, which was still enveloped in his rough, bloodstained own. Ravid blushed and hastily withdrew.
‘If you will pardon my bluntness, Madame . . ?’
‘Armanella. Miss Armanella.’
‘Miss Armanella. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman.’ Ravid winced to himself at the exaggeration of his words. ‘If you will excuse my bluntness, but why have you chosen to visit a lowly, guilty, man? For surely I am unworthy of your company?’
‘Master Ravid, it is my right to chose who I visit, when and where I visit them.’ Ravid’s blush deepened under her stern, suddenly matronly gaze, but she ignored that. ‘And why do you believe yourself to be so undeserving of my presence?’
Ravid gulped and was momentarily perplexed. He had never said it aloud before, not even thought it before, never confessed his dark secret to himself. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t. But her gaze was so intensely curious it was impossible to deny. Mouth was dry and voice cracked as he said, ‘For I am a murder, my lady, and at sunrise, it is my fate to die at the gallows.’
‘Your Fate?’ She enquired, almost annoyed with this comment. ‘Can any mortal be certain of their Fate, when it is governed by forces that they can never know or comprehend?’ Ravid tried to swallow, to think of a response, but he was not educated enough and his mind was still dazed at the suddenness of events. ‘Master Ravid, lost wonderer of dark paths, Fate has not finished with you yet, and you must make of it what you will. Because it will make you.’
The room suddenly became so bright, white light closing around them, intensifying until all Ravid could focus on were those green eyes and pupils, infinitely dark. Then it was all gone and darkness prevailed.
Ravid awoke slowly and regretfully. For the first time, since the sudden end of his childhood, his sleep had been calm and complete, without haunting dreams and terrifying nightmare to disturb him.
Yet a urgent chirping pulled him up from sleep. The two slits that served as windows let in dusty, murky light on his face. A small sparrow sat on his chest, looking at him curiously. He regarded it with surprise.
‘What are you doing in this place?’ he asked it, reaching to touch its head with caution. Realising that his own room was somehow not the place he had fallen asleep in. The bird nipped his finger gently then turned its head to the door. As the tiny head was turned, Ravid noticed a brilliant ring of green feathers around the neck of the sparrow. Ravid knew little of birds, but he had never seen this ring of feathers on any sparrow before.
Then he fully became and he sat up suddenly, swearing. The sparrow flew away, chittering indignantly, to land on the windowsill. A searing pain ran up Ravid’s leg as he had moved, and he forgot the bird completely. He threw off the coat that served as a blanket and studied the wound that he had just torn open. Bright red blood was beginning to well out of the deep wound, slowly spreading over the stiff blue fabric of the overalls he was wearing. Blue overalls? What the . . .?
He didn’t have time to think, for heavy sets of footsteps crossed the floor above his room. Someone was coming. Heart thumping he quickly threw off the overalls, mindful now of his wound, stuffing the overalls, with his coat, out of sight, under the bed.
He was tightening the belt of a clean pair of trousers as his visitors entered, without knocking.
Stickler came first, smirking. ‘’Ere he is, Sirs.’ He rasped delightedly. Two other men came out of the stairway from behind Stickler, each taking one of Ravid’s arms before he had a chance to protest.
He was held fast in the centre of the room. The mysterious sparrow had disappeared. Fear chilled Ravid. Out of the half-darkness stepped a well-dressed gentleman, his black top hat brushing the doorframe. He was carrying a walking stick in his left hand, although it was more of a prop than an aid, the gentleman swinging it theatrically as he walked. In only a few steps, and he was standing directly before the vulnerable Ravid.
Out of habit of indifference, Ravid’s face remained unreadable, even when this cleanly shaven, fresh smelling gentleman took off his hat and examined Ravid closely and with contempt.
Behind, Stickler was still in the stairwell. Twisting his head around his visitor, Ravid’s eyes met those of the other thief’s. Meeting this calculating gaze, Stickler gulped guiltily and ran up the stairs. Then Ravid met the stranger’s gaze levelly.
‘I do not know who you did it, young man, but you did it and it must have been clever.’ He stopped, waiting for some kind of response from Ravid. Ravid chose not to reply.
The gentleman continued. ‘You were found at the scene of the crime, the victim’s blood all over you, half-delirious - muttering to yourself. Moments later, the victim, a close friend of mine, you understand, died.’
This man now grew agitated, at the lack of response. With an indiscernible gesture from him, pain exploded in Ravid’s left hand. Ravid refused to scream, biting the inside of his mouth until it bled.
‘I don’t even know who you are,’ Ravid panted, ‘let alone the man whom was . . . killed last night.’
‘Well, young man,’ the pain had stopped now, ‘I hope that you remember me in times to come. I will certainly remember you, a useless mindless, foolish assassin who somehow managed to escape the gallows. An assassin who could not do the job properly.’
That grated. Ravid’s muscles tightened underneath the arms that held him, and his jaw clenched angrily. The gentleman smiled tauntingly. ‘On the other hand, it is not you that I am really interested in. You are purely the monkey. I wish to know who your keeper is. I know my friend had a few enemies, but that was to be expected, he was an important man, and that can attract hatred. Yet I find it strange and rather insulting that the City Watch no longer seems interested in you. I would sincerely like to know why they did not torture and kill you.’ And now the stranger leaned forward to whisper secretively. ‘And I will find out. I will get to the bottom of this, I swear it.’ Pain now exploded in both hands this time and Ravid muttered a low groan, breathing hard.
With a sickly smile, the gentleman stood back, put his hat back upon his head and swung his cane into the air. The two men released Ravid whom staggered with the sudden freedom. ‘Goodbye, young Master, I don’t doubt you shall be hearing from Lord Belany again soon!’ And with that, they were gone.
Ravid slouched at the bar, his hands wrapped around a jug of ale, nursing his sore pride and fingers. Many rumours about him were abroad and people kept their distance from him even more stringently than usual. He did not care. He replayed the events of the past hours in his mind. He vaguely remembered his dream, vision . . . thing, but after that he remembered nothing. He didn’t remember arriving home, or even being released. And Ravid felt that it was something he should have remembered.
‘It’s not how you got out that’s important,’ a voice suddenly commented, ‘What you are going to do now is the issue here, boy.’
Ravid turned suspiciously to his right. A figure sat beside him, but if it was male, female, young or old, Ravid could not guess. The figure was covered, head to foot in grey, torn, stinking rags. Only the tips of their fingers showed, linked together on the bar before them.
‘Who the hell are you?’ Ravid growled, ‘And what do you know about my business?’
‘Easy my boy, easy.’ The voice was dry and cracked with a great age, but Ravid guessed the speaker was a woman, an old woman. Ravid frowned. What is happening to me? Why can’t the world just leave me alone?
‘Because you didn’t leave it alone. You ain’t got a choice, so stop grumping.’ Ravid stared at his glass, still grumpy. Apparently this woman could read thoughts too. ‘You need to confront your past, that what you’ve got to do.’ The old woman whispered huskily.
‘That’s all well and good,’ sulked Ravid, ‘But how do I stop these men from killing me?’
‘Confront your past.’
Ravid turned his head to argue, but as he opened his mouth he realised it would have been in vain. The woman was nowhere to be seen. But in her place, lying on the bar top, was a green sprig of leaf entwined with a tiny unopened blossom of the purest white.
Ravid stomped in all the puddles as he marched through the wet city streets. Rain ran in rivers down his face, his coat was soaked through. But the cold and wet did not penetrate him and his thought of what he was going to do next. Confront your past.
Ravid was averse and afraid. He wasn’t even sure where to start. He suspected, however, that this spirit-woman that appeared in his life wasn’t likely to tell him. For the sake of his life, he should also be lying low, preferably not in the city. Ravid had not left the city since his father had died. Perhaps he would start at the river.
A ride on the back of a trader’s wagon meant he arrived at the river at sunset. It marked the city’s outermost boundaries and it shone in the setting sun. Here the world was a quiet, peaceful place. Arms wide, Ravid breathed in the air that rolled off the green carpet of hills before him. The mixture of soil, animal and flowers was the smell of vitality to Ravid. Behind him, in the distance, a cluster of dirty houses and chimneys, blanketed in smoke, smoke dyed blood red in the in glow of the sun. Loss and ending of people he had loved and had needed.
Ravid stood with his feet in the fast flowing water, his shirt off, feeling the warmth on his skin. The rain clouds, which had hidden the sky this morning, were gone now, as if they had never been.
His mother and father had taken him for picnics here, under the old. Gnarled oak tree at the bend of the river. In the afternoons the tree would have shaded them as they sat eating sandwiches and cakes. Ravid sat now smiling with the memory. Mama had been a country girl whom had willingly moved to the city to be with her lover. She always had seemed to glow on these trips out, her face rosy and radiant, always a smile and the lightest feet when she danced for them. Ravid touched the grass in the deepening gloom, melancholy casting his features.
This was the place of happy memories, the place his mother would always be . . . A cry of almost physical pain and tears began to roll down his cheeks. He lay his head on the grass, the old grief returning, bringing with it a new torment. Oh how much she must despise me now! How disappointed . . . her beloved son is a . . . murderer.
He sobbed for a long time, the sun setting, unnoticed. As he lay, he began to imagine a hand brushing the side of his head softly, as his mother had once done after a bad dream. Gradually his sobs lessened, but the hand was still there, comforting him.
Shocked, he sat up suddenly. In the darkness of the night a figure knelt beside him, hood pulled up over their head, so only the green, piercing eyes could be seen. Ravid saw her eyes turn upwards in a gentle smile. ‘Feel better now?’ she asked. Ravid rubbed his nose across his sleeve, shrugging dumbly. She sighed and handed him a white handkerchief, edges green. Ravid obligingly blew his nose. Her eyes seemed to disappear in her face as she grinned. ‘Keep it,’ she said, ‘a token, if you like.’
‘Why have you been following me?’ He asked. The moon above broke out of the cloud for a moment, illuminating her beautiful, ethereal features. They were creased into a frown.
‘What? No ‘Thank you Armanella for saving my life’? I tell you, spirit guides never get enough appreciation these days!’ She put her hands on her hips.
‘Thank you Armanella for saving my life.’ Ravid said diffidently. ‘You’re a spirit guide?’
‘I thought that would have been obvious.’ She commented. Ravid blushed and looked down, a chastened child. ‘Oh don’t be silly.’ She took Ravid’s chin and pulled his face towards those incredible eyes, fingers brushing the scar, the touch sending a tingle down his spine. ‘I said it before, Fate has something in store for you . . . but things were . . . well, getting out of hand – so I was sent to give you a little push in the right direction, see?’
‘What future do Fate have in store for me?’ Ravid half-scorned. This he didn’t like. ‘I choose my own path, and anyway, if this Fate of yours was worth knowing, it wouldn’t have taken Mama away from me . . . ’
‘Ravid Lockheart . . . don’t. Starting an ethical and philosophical debate with an immortal is never a good idea. You’ll lose. If you try and debate with me, an immortal with an attitude problem, not only will you lose, you’ll lose your head as well.’
Ravid decided it was best to choose his question a little more carefully this time. ‘So, um, how is it, exactly, I’m meant to . . . well, what am I meant to do next, if I cannot choose my own path?’
‘I never said that you could not choose your own path, Ravid. I simply said that you Fate will lead to somewhere. How you get there, well I can guide you, but I cannot tell you what to do. You have to do what feels right to you.’
‘But what -’
‘I said don’t ask!’ Ravid looked perplexed. Armanella sighed a hefty sigh. ‘Look, I’m not going to do this all for you. Why did you kill the prostitute? Don’t make that face at me, I’m not here to judge you. You’re a killer twice over and if you ever want to move on from this place, you need to think why.’
Ravid was struck dumb with the monument of this question. His mind floundered.
Think about it.Ravid looked up for askance, but she was nowhere to be seen.
He watched the sunrise, eyes puffy and itchy from his emotion. Splashing water in his face and picking up his shabby overcoat from where it had been discarded the day before, Ravid moved on.
The city graveyard was kept without the city walls, enclosed protectively in a crumbling stone wall. Fairly large, it was a maze of paths through stone and wooden tablets of varying richness, cared for in varying degrees, a monolithic crumbling angel of marble next to the tiny but lovingly carved wooden cross.
Ravid entered through a rusted iron gate at the farthest wall from the city. Across the field of the dead, he could see a group of well-dressed mourners. Someone was being buried. Is it him? Ravid turned from the sight and hurried along the paths, hoping to remain unnoticed.
Here, in an area of ground riddled with weeds and rubbish, he found the marker, a rectangular block of stone with his father’s inscription, carved with only a small amount of skill. Ravid tugged the weeds away so it could be seen clearly. Just Raymond Lockheart and the dates of his birth and death. Overcome with grief and anger, the Ravid at the time, could not think of fitting words to say. Nor could he afford them.
He looked at it for a long while, thinking. Upon a sudden impulse and clarity of thought, he reached for his knife and then the marker. The stone crumbled easily in his hand as he carved.
His love lost, He flounders in the dark.
Mistakes are made.
Now She has come.
Forgiven, He rests.
In Love for Eternity.
Satisfied, he put the knife in its sheath again, though he now felt no desire to ever use it again. It would take time, yes, but eventually, his loneliness would heal, and one day, he too would be with Love.
. . . In a small, stunted tree that stood shading the marker, a green-banded sparrow sang aloud with joy . . .
|Seasons' Spirits: 2. Jack Frost||Old Man Autumn|
|Golden Trouble||The Task|
|Joshua and Annabelle (Part One)||The Scian Stories|