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|The firey spirited Bregita wakes from another haunting dream in which she is called to save the sorceress queen Dirwan from her royal captor. But what is the source of the dreams? And why is she compelled to follow?||
The moon rose sluggishly over the tips of great pine and ash. Playful ice fairies danced along the bare bushes in their dresses of spun silver, singing their many beckoning songs and leaving behind a trail of frost with every tiny step. The forest was abundant with life, though the night be chilled and the wind frigid. Many strange and dangerous beasts dwelt in such a forest. Blood-craving beasts roamed here and there seeking out prey, but Nilla could feel no fear. Her hard life had made her no longer able to fall prey to such emotion.
Nilla, mother and sole protector to four, walked through a dark forest with only the moon light flickering off the wings of fairies to guide her. Her dark-brown hair that was now peeking gray, fell in disarray. The chill of the east winds forced Nilla to pull her thin cloak tight in a useless attempt to keep out the bitter cold.
She seemed to walk on forever, aimlessly, but she felt that her heart knew where to go. When she paused in a clearing, she listened. The wolves up in the purple, fog-covered mountains called back and forth to each other with their howls drowned by the sounds of the howling wind. She walked to the edge of the high cliff as if to jump, but she knew she could not, for there were so many who depended on her. She could not leave them yet. Not before she had seen this battle to its end.
The waters below rushed into a cave under her feet making a rather frightening sound as they slammed into the rocks beneath. A mist rose from the rapidly crashing brook. Nilla stared in silence toward the determined waves as they fought past jagged out hangings hazed in blue and gray. She became entranced by the way the light of the cold season moons hit the waves. Thoughts of the way that this place had once inspired her rushed through her mind.
She felt much sorrow that her beloved husband was not there to share this time with her as he had so many nights before. But dear Nilla, who was now getting tired and old, could only dream, for the one with whom she thought to spend the rest of her life, was now taken away from her—away from her children.
The thought that he would never see his sons become men brought pain. She knew that he would not be there to give young men permission to court his lovely daughters. Nilla would not grow old with the man she loved by her side. Except for her many wonderful children she was alone. A tear falling from her tender cheek froze before hitting the cold ground. She wondered why she could not put these thoughts from her mind, but wondered even more if she really wanted to. She felt that it would have hurt more if she had never loved. She shivered restlessly as she unwillingly remembered receiving news on that dreaded day.
Collin had great hope in his heart as he hurried home to his wife and three children--a fourth on the way. He had been gone from his family for a great time, warring the neighboring nations by order of the king, or at least that is what his children were to say should they be asked. And he had brought back gifts for everyone. For his wife he had chosen a necklace more beautiful than any in the family would have ever seen. Its jewels sparkled in the sun. For his youngest, Zetalyn he had a doll of the finest quality. The long, deep blue dress would accent the two-year-olds inquisitive eyes perfectly. For his other daughter, Bregita, not yet eleven, he was bringing home a bow fit for a large man but the caring father knew that with the drive that she possessed to develop skills of warfare that she would be capable of using the bow in time. Finally for the oldest, Dacodon, he brought home a great sword. The blade, he was certain, could slice through almost anything. The father only hoped that the boy would not slice through young Bregita. They all knew how headstrong and trying of ones will she could be.
The father’s heart was glad that he would finally see his family, but lay heavy with the realization that the gifts he brought to his family were spoils of war. He ran his battle-hardened hands across Zetalyn’s doll. He wondered for a moment what the previous owner had been like. Was the child just like his Zetalyn? Had she loved nothing more than to laugh all day and sing childish melodies? Had her hair been such a golden blond that in her presence it always seemed to be day. As a tear came to the warrior’s cheek he put the thoughts from his mind. He looked forward to his destination. He shouldered the bag carrying the items while his faithful mule carried various other supplies.
The road was long and dusty on this very hot harvest season day. At times the winds would almost knock the man to his knees. It swooped around hills and onto the valley path. The dust would often block his weary vision. He trudged along. The distance home was yet a day and a half. The mid-day suns disappeared behind a shade of gray and black as storm clouds followed the bursts of wind that had been crashing through the forest all day. Collin started around.
No one really knew what happened. They could only imagine as they brought news to a Nilla awaiting her husband’s return. Some said bears, some dragons. Some thought it a super-natural occurrence as if perhaps Collin had found disfavor with the gods. But they had no idea that the man had suffered such a horrible fate as was known only by the heavens of his final release and the hell which could conjure such.
The wind sent chills down the spine of a friend who found Collin’s cold, lifeless body days later on the edge of the path. The strangest thing was that all of the dead man’s supplies were found near the body of a dead mule. This ruled out thievery and murder or so they thought. The man buried the body on that site saying a prayer that such evil would not seek out those who were yet awaiting news. The man packed the items into his merchant’s cart and carried them to the family. The mule still lay to the side collecting assortments of bloodthirsty flies and insects. Its smell was by then permeating the area. A reminder of a deal gone horribly wrong.
Screams resounded through an evil darkness as the three suns melted behind trees that had been made bare by the country’s harsh winter. Screams of terror or screams of victory or of both-- one could not tell at a distance, but fear shot through all that heard. The defenseless of the town could only await their fate as thick, night-darkened blood streamed down the hillside like the familiar sap of the native trees. The many with heavy-laden hearts dwelt crouched in the corners of their poorly constructed housing --some clinging to handmade weapons and others to wailing children all licked and seared by the advancing flame. The rafters of each house shook with the strikes of swords outside. Each heart wondered what their sentence would be when the massacre’s term would roll to a close.
Many wished to die now rather than be taken captive by the enemy or being subjected to the vehement tortures that each had heard so much about. Many of the people chose this option--slaughtering their sons rather than have the young wills broken and hearts hardened by evil. By the mother’s hand were many daughters lying, faces in the dirt, with innocent blood pouring from their unviolated bodies. This was better, reasoned many, than seeing these girls raped by a hundred war-driven men and enslaved by their harsh wives. Finally, a limp body would fall to the floor to die slowly of a noble, self-inflicted wound. With the ever-loving mother’s task completed, there was nothing left to do. Many huts lay in silence.
For others the simple drive to live and to see theirs live kept them striving forward although into what dark and cruel times they knew not. What shadows would make their dwellings hanging low over the heads of these tormented!
The battle would be lost by the time the suns returned to their thrones in the sky.
A regal woman paced in full anticipation of her fate. She had lost and with her loss went the hopes and dream of her people, which they had so trustingly rested upon her.
A knock came loud, breaking the wailing silence of spacious thought among the blazing roars outside. The woman looked to the window as she signaled with a weakened hand that they open the door. Flames rose high, casting orange light around the humble cottage that had been the center of their stronghold for a time when her castle would yield her no strength.
The woman’s guards hesitated in following her command. “The back door, my queen, Dirwan, my friend . You must not be taken. There will be another time. You must live for it. We will perish in your stead. You must go.”
“There will be another time,” said she sullenly as the golden torch light reflected off tears not yet fallen from her eyes. “But the victor can not be me, for I have brought this upon all of you. I cannot escape my fate. I only wish that it had not taken so many deaths for me to see.” She signaled again slender, majestic, fragile. “Open the door.”
Another bang sounded as a soldier rammed the wooden door. It would not take much to break the old oak’s spirit.
Faithful to the end and even now unable to deny her commandment her devoted opened the door. Soldiers rushed in subduing any possible uprising of her protectors. Dirwan stood in the back still showing signs of her once overpowering radiance. Her hair fell over her breast and to her waist dripping blood and sweat. No soldiers would approach her. As all was chaos around her, in pure tranquility she watched the door for his arrival.
As anticipated, a man approached her, extending his hand toward hers. She took it as he kissed her hand gently and released it to her delicate side. “My love, you have betrayed me and you have caused my people to rise against me. You have brought them only pain,” Said the man in a genteel manner.
“They are not your people, my boastful husband. They will never belong to you. They will belong to no one, Melech. I have served only as their protectress.”
“Ah, still the protector,” Cood Melech. “I say again why do we serve them when we have the power to bend them to our will. They should be our slaves. But alas if my empress will not rule them at my side I must dispose of her and find another, and such a name as yours will only proceed from the lips of the dead and forgetfulness will cloak all living into submission.” He turned from her for the last time. “Bind her. She will not harm you.” Melech’s guards hesitantly bound her, still fearing her power.
All those who shared her vision were slain in public execution until few could remember that such had existed. More of her followers died, she was imprisoned. She spent her first night of captivity in a dungeon cell. A high barred window allowed her some light by day and sound of the wild by night. Dirwan stared blankly at her chains as she contemplated what her sentence would be, whether death or torture and death or deprivation and death. Dirwan happened to look up to the midnight-darkened window across from her to spot a doe peeking its nose through the bars seeming almost to frown. Even the animals of the forest could feel of the sorrows of the people. Dirwan tried to give a comforting smile. Her face felt as if it might break at the attempt. She had to be strong.
The next day they carried her away. She said not a word as they took her forth to her final punishment as it was proclaimed by the lips of Melech himself. Within the darkness of waters deep, beyond the view of common eye, supported by the magic of Melech himself she would live out her life as a soulless body in a cylinder cell of the underwater prison.
Bregita woke, almost sitting straight up, but somehow in realization of her sister being next to her with blonde bangs curling around her round chin, she froze in her place; her mind wandering over the scenes of the very vivid dream that had haunted her sleep for the past six nights. Darkness still covered her. The moons were nearly in full radiance as they cast their transforming rays upon her heavy blanket, turning it from bright green to deep shades of blue and gray. The night was cool. Bregita turned to her side and pulled the blanket up over her ears, knowing that sleep would find her again if she could just get warm. She looked over to the body sleeping in the bed next to her. She wanted to be sure that Zetalyn was still covered. She had heard of small children freezing to death in the night without making so much as a peep. It was a little late in season for such a thing, but the night was unreasonably cold. Bregita hoped that she would sleep through the night with no further disturbance.
“Make haste!” Bregita called out in a childish voice while taking an evident gasp for breath. “We’ll miss all of the good stuff.” The young girl ran on ahead, scampering across brook-polished pebbles that had been flung to the sandy path by the many caravans carrying goods to sell in the upcoming town.
“Dammit, Gita, slow down,” Dacodon struggled to equate his pace with hers. “We’ll not miss a thing. The festivity does not begin for a while yet.” Dacodon held fast to his blade as it bounced around in its sheath, violently. On the other side a brown leather bag was strapped loosely to his waist. His mother had entrusted him with it and the antiquities and works therein. They all hoped that the items would hold great price in the market. A family needs all the money it can get while living in the village on the north side, especially since the taking ill of their mother who was once the sole support of the family.
It seemed that now, at least for a time, that job had fallen to another. Dacodon, just now entering into manhood was shouldering the burden of his sick, widowed mother along with his two sisters and brother. Bregita, who could not actually be titled a child, could just as well not be titled a woman. The place in between where she fell was totally indistinguishable even to those who knew her best--one minute possessing the character of responsibility and the next absolute carelessness-- an angel for a moment and constructing catastrophe the next. Dacodon seemed to understand though, as he anticipated her every move and just as soon set up a counter to her childish pranks. Zetalyn and Arturo were not so predictable. At their ages, six and four respectively, fate would not allow it. Curiosity was on a rampage and adventure was a way of life. Many times this meant even if they scared their mother almost to death. That was all that could be said. One just had to be prepared for the unexpected.
When Dacodon saw that Bregita would not give up here pace, he hastened his. As they approached the noise of the excited crowds, the smells of flaming meat welcomed those from miles around. Street performers with faces painted brightly and clothing no respectable would be caught dead in danced about displaying their skills of fire breathing and juggling. The limber, energetic girl slowed as Dacodon came up beside her, but Dacodon would not stop to watch just yet.
“Race You,” He called out while keeping his momentum and passing her up.
They continued with Bregita determinedly regaining speed and catching up. On they ran for the next hundred yards with bodies evened along the path. The race ended without a decided victor as both fell face first onto the muddy path. No one could decide who tripped the other but they had reached the destination and that was all that mattered. Dacodon lifted his eyes from the path to see a very displeased face.
“My dress, you heathen children.” A girl, who was splashed with mud, exhaled a breath of gentle frustration. “This was imported from Jinan.” She placed a strange and somehow snobby intonation on the statement.
Dacodon moved his eyes upward as she spoke. Her dress of shimmering silver twine was now spattered in the dust of the path. The two had practically fallen at her beautiful silhouette. To Dacodon her harsh tone and cocky frown made her even more alluring. “We are greatly sorry. If you...”
Dacodon was caught in between words.
“I should be ashamed if I acted in such a childish manner at your age.” The silver clad girl aimed her chastisement at the young man who could not be more than a year or two younger than herself.
“Someone should teach you what it is to be a man,” The girl paused. “I’d make you pay for my dress but from your looks and your clothing, you could have not a coin of worth.” The two stood to their feet to walk away but the girl seemed unwilling to cease her complaining. “And you, girl, did no one teach you how to dress as a lady? You seem more as if preparing for war with your home knitted garb and a longbow and arrows. Sorry, but there are no wars around these parts. Our lord be blessed. Your readiness is much in vain.” She had heard enough from her. Bregita’s mother had made the outfit, and she liked it quite well. She would not have it insulted. Bregita revealed no change in visage as she spoke finally in declaration. “I’ll drive this arrow through your frozen heart, you stupid, pompous bitch.”
Dacodon could not help but smile as he corrected his sister. The girl in the dress shrugged and walked away. She did not wish to associate with such unmannered. She huffed on her way back into the commotion of the place. Then, to the surprise of the many who saw the girl in the silver dress fell face first into an oddly collected mud hole. Her dress was definitely ruined now. Clumps of fresh spring mud fell from the dress to the moist ground as the girl let out a gasp for help. No one would assist her as they only looked on in amused apathy. Her driver was on the other side of the market and had not seen to help her.
Bregita only stood smirking with a cruel joy in her heart. Her pupils hid in irises almost as black. Bregita's long auburn locks blew wildly in the wind. She called to her brother as he ran to assist the girl still lying pathetically in the mud. “Dacodon, leave her.” She knew he would not. She only stood in place, running slender fingers up and down the string of her bow. She wished that she had been the one to down her, but alas her flimsy shoes had been to blame. If Bregita had made those shoes she never would have fallen, but Bregita was glad that the girl was so impractical as to wear her ballroom shoes to the market place.
Dacodon offered a hand and pulled her to her feet. He brought forward his kerchief to her extended slender hand that she could wipe her face. She rose to her feet and then the girl opened her mouth as if about to express gratitude and beg forgiveness, but to his surprise she began again with her mockery, “Unhand me.”
With that she almost budged an unwanted smile as he looked into her green eyes yet, kindly. She turned, swooshing heavy skirts of elaborate vesture around and walked away once more.
Dacodon returned to his sister’s side. Bregita knew he had kindness in his heart, but she thought it ill-used on such as she. Dacodon showed no discrimination. “You should have allowed the serpent to squirm on her belly in the mud,” Bregita turned swiftly from him as if to punish his genteel nature.
Dacodon only smiled.
With that out of the way she began her touring of the market place. Her eyes lit up with the sight of every booth-- swords and bows and leather sheaths and many other covetous delights, none of which she thought to be taking home that day, but a joy to see just the same. The older brother kept to his purpose while allowing young Bregita to roam the streets, filling her heart with desire. He knew that she was well able of warding off any trouble that might come about, even if she did start it herself. His sister was highly skilled in the use of many weapons, and beyond that she would use anything she could get her hands on if she could see some fighting value. She kept with her at all times two sheathed knives, one strapped securely high on her left thigh, the other high on her right arm and out of sight. She was never seen without her bow and quiver. It was used when time would allow for a long shot. But she rarely drew her weapons, for she more delighted in the using of her opponent’s weapon against him.
Dacodon walked casually and confidently toward a booth where stood a man trading for various items. The man stood stiff with portions of his exposed body baking in the bright sun. His once white sleeves he had rolled just above his elbows and he wore an apron as if trying to keep the already stained shirt clean. His face was bearded and gruff. His dress was not like that of the many other merchants with their purple satin robes and cocky, feathered hats. His dress was simple yet clean as it could be and dignified. Soon, the man saw Dacodon coming up and called to him while he was still a way off. “Ah, my boy,” started the long time friend of the family. “What has ye brought f ’r the booth, ta-day.” Each syllable seemed to be drawn to its end. The man set his heavy hands upon the booth table causing it to wobble under his weight.
“The usual.” Dacodon pulled a thin, neatly knit blanket from his shoulder. He wiped it clean of the dust of the path. He was glad that in his attempts to help to fallen girl he had not mindlessly given her the blanket. He realized that she had not returned the kerchief to him. “How dost she do it.” The man reached out his arthritic hand to accept the work. “Is Dear Nil-la’s con-di-tion improv-ing in the lea-st-st?”
Dacodon thought back for a moment of his dear mother. He could almost see her--sitting in a chair knitting, with every stroke of the needle having to stop to let out a frequent cough. “She is doing much better. The bean soup that your wife brought was quite a god-send.”
The man thought of the day on which he had had to tell sweet Nilla that Collin wasn’t coming home. An unintentional frown dashed to his face. He washed it away as Dacodon loosened the large bag from his waist. It hung down to his knees. He lifted it to the top of the rough table on which assortments of goods were already lying on display. The old man placed the blanket aside, dumped the bag onto the table and began digging rather ferociously for an item of worth. The man looked rather saddened as he fingered the small broaches and assortments of individually wrapped pottery, some terribly cracked. Each was once hand crafted to perfection.
“I can give you half a po-und o’ coppers and no mo-re. That is three silver, but I’m havin’ no silv-er on me this da-ay.”
Dacodon tried to look pleased as he accepted the small payment. He knew that these were hard times for all and at least this would be enough to purchase much-needed seed, for the planting season that was fast approaching. With last year’s poor harvest they were able to put little away for the next year. “Much gratitude, Gordon.” Dacodon managed to make the words leave his lips.
“Do not ye be talkin’ that way-ay. It’s ‘thank ye.’ That’s all what you be needin’ to say.” Gordon tossed the last counted copper into the bag
Dacodon displayed a light smile before re-securing the brown bag to his waist, now filled with copper, and heading out to find Bregita. The day was hot considering how cold the night before had been. The wind blew wildly, at times almost knocking the many tents and stands, littering the village, to the ground. His search finally came to an end as he sighted commotion in the clearing. Townspeople had gathered to watch a street fight that had just broken out. No one knew the reason, but all liked a good fight.
The competitors looked fierce and their weapons shown brightly in the gleaming, mid day sun, at least on the one who had weapons drawn. The one was a large, well-built Broiack man of long-practiced battle skill and expert of weapons. The Broiacks were foreign to the human land, but they traveled far across the great water to take advantage were they could in selling their goods in the human market. The other fighter was Bregita, a girl quite human but not common, though limber and strong and not at all afraid to take on these perverse brutes. At the age of seventeen the young girl welcomed the challenge. Mostly self-taught, because her family could afford no lessons, she could put up a great fight.
Dacodon pushed his way through the many perspiring bodies to see. He drew his sword. Some turned to look at him as they heard the clang of the released blade. He held it low to keep their eyes off of him. There she was weaving in and out, making circles around the brawny Broiack, who was most likely part of the Brocacian merchant’s guard. While racing under his legs she drew her dagger, running it across his left leg, leaving an open wound. Dacodon reasoned the fight must have been going on for some time for her to wish to bring out her own weapon. He obviously had not relinquished his.
Some jeered and some cheered as the competitors pitted force against each other. Dacodon cringed as Bregita took a jab to her arm with his heavy sword. She managed to catch the blade at an angle so as not to lose her arm, but all the same the cut was deep. She paused a moment to wipe the blood from her arm. Other than that the wound seemed to slow her none. She caught the tall Broiack off guard with a high kick to his already crooked nose. He almost fell with the surprise, but kept his wits well enough to grab her leg as it aimed for the sure footing of the ground. She went down with a crash on her shoulders and upper arms. Her wound heaved with pain as it trailed that which would bare witness of it. He still held her leg as the brute’s blade slid to her trembling throat before she could try to rise.
It was then that Dacodon could take no more. He entered the circle to defend his sister. Many of the brute’s colleagues ran in to assist their friend who was now out numbered. Others ran in to assist Bregita and the young man who had helped her. The group’s fighting became fierce.
Dacodon pulled a contrary Bregita from the arena by her quiver as she began to fight him, “Lemme go! I could have beat him.” She kicked and screamed but no one heard her because of the sounds of the fight still raging. When they had made some distance and he felt that her anger had cooled he let her go. “My bow. Where is my bow?” Dacodon tossed it to her. He had picked it up from the ground where she had set it when she first entered the fight. She caught it in one hand and threw it over her shoulder. “You know I could have taken him.”
Dacodon caught her glare. “I know.” He only wished to be on his way.
“Let’s get what we need and be away from here, before they come looking to finish it.” Dacodon insisted. He still had to use all of his strength of persuasion to pull her away. She so wanted to rejoin the fight. He grabbed her arm again to check her wound. It was bleeding heavily. His kerchief was gone. She took a cloth from her chest harness to tend to the gushing blood. Dacodon ran his fingers around the outside of the wound. The pain subsided minutely and the bleeding subsided. “May I ask what that was all about?”
“He wished to ravage me.”
“Not so, you imagine such things.” He knew his sister well enough to know that she was given to great exaggeration.
“It’s true. Those kinds are known to do these things. To them we are animals for the taking as dogs or working horses.”
“And they would rape beasts also?”
“They are beasts.” Bregita had to slow to catch her breath. The pain was coming back. He could not heal all of her wounds or she would never learn. Bregita continued after a slight flinch. “And what need? When so many stand unprotected.”
“What makes you think this?” He knew he only encouraged her, but she would tell him anyway, whether or not he asked.
“Well, I was walking by, see, when he reached out to grab my arse.” The thought brought a flash of red to Dacodon’s cheeks. He had difficulty thinking of his sister that way. She continued unabated. “And he would have had the pleasure, too, if I had not been so quick to catch on to his gesture and swing around to kick him square in the chest.” She tossed her hair to one side.
Dacodon cringed with the thought. He had not been foreign to receiving one of Bregita’s kicks.
“I only frightened the animal a bit. No harm. It went from there. And then I guess you came along.” Bregita smiled as if very pleased with her triumph.
Dacodon’s face was lit with a smile.
“We really should hurry. Dark approaches and we have a long journey home.”
“Silly, we left home at dawn. It’s merely midday. We’ve time to play.”
“We’ve a long journey home.” He repeated in the same tone and timing.
“And are you afraid?”
“Don’t talk nonsense, only cautious. One should be.”
“What need? If one is prepared for anything?”
There was no arguing with her so Dacodon would not even try. He approached the place to purchase supplies for the upcoming planting. After purchasing the items, they both threw a large bag over their shoulders--one of grain seed and the other of peas. How each wished time and time again that the family could afford a horse or even a mule to shoulder a bit of the burden! Around the waist of Dacodon was a leather bag containing the few remaining coins. With the task completed they headed back toward home.
|When the Shadow Speaks Part 1/Chapter 1 and 2||When the Shadow Speaks Part1/ Chap 5|
|When the Shadow Speaks Part 1/Chapter 6||When the Shadow Speaks Part1/ Chap 2-3|
|Dark Justice: Chapters 4-6|