Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chapter 2: The Summoning Flames

A woman and three men, two with spears and armor, and one in dark, worn out robes, somewhere in the outskirts of the village. A little boy who was playing in the fields in the first gleams of sunrise wondered where they were going. The village gates were rarely opened to guests if not for trade and even more seldom someone came through those gates to leave the village. The king liked to keep his people inside the gates, for “safety and comfort”, they said. The farmers outside had to leave their meat and grain outside the gates in a small outpost, from where they were later taken to the village. The fields were large and plain, a desert of dried grass and weed with a few big rocks here and there. There wasn’t any wildlife either. The boy stopped hacking the grass and weed with his wooden toy sword and quickly ran behind a large rock near him. It was no bigger than a horse, but still big enough for an eight-year-old to crouch behind.

 The three men and the woman approached a small opening in the field, right next to a forest that spread across the horizon there. On the other side you could see the village walls, the hills behind the village and the only river within the village boundaries. A long time ago, where the village stood now, was once a large forest of willows and birch, before it was cut and burnt down for farming. They stopped in the middle of the opening, on a gravel patch where nothing grew. The woman was facing the man wrapped in his dark robes, resting between the guards who had dragged him out there by his hands. She grabbed his hood and threw it back with one swift move. The sun had risen above the clouds and it soared light on the old man’s face. His mouth was dry with blood that he couldn’t spit out, bruises colouring wrinkles and marks on his face as he lifted his head slowly to meet his maker. He could barely stand so the guards had to hold him by the armpits, while his feet laid freely on the ground. The little boy could take a look behind the corner of the rock and see the woman holding a curved dagger, the guards putting the unknown man to his knees, but not his face. He watched as the woman stepped closer and toyed with the poor old man’s face, sliding the blade softly up and down, hidden behind the other guard. He was too far away to hear if they would say anything and there wasn’t anywhere to hide nearer, except for the forest, but the boy was too nervous to make a run for it. Somehow he knew that something bad was going to happen. But why this old man, he thought. What could’ve he done, to meet his maker at dawn? The thought of running back to the farm and getting help did cross his mind, but it was too late already.

 The sound of steel slicing first through flesh and then bone filled the air. A small breeze of wind carried the smell of blood straight to the young lad’s tiny nostrils. The boy watched terrified, as if the image of blood squirting straight up from the man’s neck like a fountain would burn on his corneas. So much as he scared, he tried to look away and duck back behind the rock. He could only hold his hands tighter against the cold, shady side of the stone and reach his head out just enough to see the horror. The lifeless, limp body of the old man dropped dead on the gravel as the guards let go of his hands, still squirting blood on the ground. Soon the blood formed a puddle, that began spreading until it branched off two narrow streams. The streams ran down small paths on the gravel, spreading further apart until at last coming to a full circle.

The woman said something and waved her hand at the guards. One of them stuck his spear next to him on the ground. It made a stinging, high pitch sound as the blade sunk in the tiny rock fragments in the gravel. The gravel was not dense enough to hold the spear straight, so it moved slightly towards the ground, until the guard shoved it deeper inside. It stood at slight angle, right next to the body, that moments ago breathed and now exhaled blood. The blood on the guards, on the woman and on the ground was more than the boy could have milk in a month and his parents wine in a year. It surely wasn’t a pretty sight for such innocent sky blue eyes. 

 Just as the young lad reached for his wooden sword thinking he would’ve seen it all, he heard something burst into flames behind the rock. Too curious as he was, he left the sword and again glanced behind the corner of the rock. The blood on the ground was on fire and the woman was holding the old man’s half-bald head high above hers, her back facing the little boy. The first light at the horizon had turned red as leaves in the fall and beams of it shined through between the woman’s hands and above the head she was holding. The flames weren’t high enough to reach the woman’s height, but when she let go of the head and it fell down inside the circle, the flames went up, dancing fiercely in the red dawn.

Circling around the fire, the woman scattered something in the flames. It wasn’t ash, neither sand though it looked like it, but it was too white. Sand so white could only be found far, far away in the south. Such seas of sand only existed in the little boys dreams, songs and tales they were told when they were younger. At his age, the boy had no time for tales, as he had duties back in the farm. The only time he had for himself was right in the morning, before his drunken father crawled up from one of the hay bales where he would often fuck the boys sisters or the neighboring farmers daughters and then pass out. The young boys mother was long gone, sold to passing soldiers for bread and ale. He’d take care of his old man, by taking care of the small barley field, from which most of were brewed for the old man to drink again. Before the woman and the guards left, the woman placed the dagger on the ground, next to the spear, along with a small package wrapped in leather. As nothing was happening, the boy realized they were leaving. Quickly he ducked back behind the rock, trying to catch his breath he was holding the whole time. The sun had risen high enough, that soon they could see his shadow behind the rock if they looked back on their way to the village. The boy shut his eyes tight and took a deep breath, before he ran straight to the forest, as fast as he could. The guards weren’t too far away, and so they heard the leaves rustle as he ran past them. Luckily, the boy had spent countless mornings playing in the forest and the fields, so he knew where to hide. A couple of hops away from the edge of the dense forest, there was a ridge he slid down at and hid behind a wide tree that had fallen down years ago. It was ripped from the ground with roots and all, which were now squirming with beetles, centipedes, worms and all kinds of invertebrates. Back in the fields, one of the guards was now almost by the large rock, as he went to investigate the source of the sound. He scouted the terrain with his eyes, turning his head from one side to other. Then down on the ground. That’s when he spotted something on his left side, right behind the rock. He kneeled behind the rock to get a closer look. He looked for places near the rock where someone could still be. The edge of the forest was clear and they had better things to do than look for someone, so he stood up and started walking back. ”What is it?”, asked the woman. 

-”A wooden sword...”

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