The Awakening, part 7

I wake with a start as I feel something cold against my neck. I make an attempt to sit up, but it only results in pain. I see a hooded figure leaning over me and holding a knife to my neck. Now I feel a bit of blood oozing from an incision. Apparently the cold thing is a pretty sharp knife.

I blink back tears of frustration. Yes, I’m terrified for my life and wellbeing, but this rotten luck is getting fairly ridiculous. First, I nearly drown, then I begin hearing voices in my head. Well, a single voice, but that still means that I’ve probably forgone my sanity. Not to mention an Elf-priest wants to exorcise, or in other words, torture me. And now this!

Plus, the stupid voice didn’t even alert me of danger this time. I was starting to depend on that. Maybe it’s gone? Don’t blame it on me. You sleep like the dead. It is not in my power to wake you. Nor is there a reason to warn you now, since you are already as good as deceased. Nope, still there. I sigh.

“Could you remove the knife please? I mean no harm.” I use a soothing voice, hoping it would have a placating effect.

“Give me a reason why I should let you live.” The voice is slightly accented and sounds like it belongs to a young man.

“Because I don’t want to die yet?” I ask hopefully.

“Not good enough.” The knife presses harder on my neck and I feel more blood flowing down the side of my neck. Well, it was worth a try, though I kind of guessed that he wouldn’t care much about my opinion on the matter.

I raise my gaze and look under the hood, trying to make eye contact, but it’s too dark. There’s a bit of light coming through the slits in the curtains, but it’s not enough. I know nothing about this man before me, but I really hope that he is the lesser of two evils.

“Please make it quick, then.” I whisper, a lump forming in my throat and tears brimming my eyes. “I ended up here because I didn’t want to be tortured.”

“Tortured by whom?” It seems I’ve somehow managed to cath his interest. The pressure on my neck lessens.

“There was an old man. A priest. I heard him tell my father I need to be exorcized and that he would deal with me himself. And…” I can’t help it and begin to sob. “And I’ve read about how they… do it. I beg you, don’t make me suffer like he would have.”

“That priest, what did he look like?” He removes the knife and sheaths it. I might have a chance of survival after all.

Should I tell him about the Elfin features I saw or just about how I originally percieved him? If I told him the truth would he think I’m crazy and kill me anyway?

“Well, he was very old and he had white hair.” As I debate with myself on what else to tell the man in front of me, he removes his hood. The room is very dimly lighted, but I can see he has somewhat handsome features, dark hair, light eyes and… pointy ears! Now that’s just great. Have I angered the Gods somehow?

I rub my forehead and say, “And his ears were just like yours.”

“Did he have a scar on his left cheek?” he asks. I squint my eyes, trying to remember, but I can’t give him a definite answer.

“He was wrinkled and it was dark when I saw him up close. To be honest, something told me to get away from him as fast and as far as possible. I didn’t stick around long enough to memorize all his features.”

“Your instincts were probably correct. I believe I am familiar with that priest of yours, though.” He looks at me as if he were assessing me. I guess he is satisfied with what he saw, since his next words were “You can stay here for a while. It is the safest place for you at the moment. Naturally, you’d have to earn your keep.” He mowes toward the door and opens it. Before leaving, he looks back at me.

“If you do decide to stay then first thing you need to do is take a bath. You smell funny. It almost reminds me of… Never mind.” He shakes his head lightly and I think I catch a glimpse of a small smile before he leaves and closes the door behind him.

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The Awakening, Part 6

It feels like I’ve been going for ages, but I know I’m probably no more than ten miles from my home, if even that. I have no idea whether the strange priest is coming after me, but I’m definetly not planning to stay and find out. If only I wasn’t so tired…

I stumble on a root and nearly fall flat on my face. I sit on the ground and try to catch my breath. The day will be over soon enough and I have to find some place to sleep. The forest is so thick here that I can’t see the sky at all. What’s even worse, I’m not sure where I am. I went through the woods and avoided every path that I knew of. I even walked in a small creek that I found, hoping it would hide my trail in case I’m being followed.

My stomach aches, reminding me that I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning. Now that the adrenalin has worn off I just want to curl up and fall asleep. However, I force myself to stand up and go on. I wince with every step, since my soles are scratched and bleeding. I should’ve remembered to put some shoes on before I ran.

As the night grows closer and I stumble onward, I wonder if I made the right decision by leaving. The only reason I disliked and feared the priest in the first place was because of the strange voice in my head. But what if I’m crazy and the voice is only a trick of my mind? I mean, the priest could’ve hurt me when we were by the Dark Lake, but he didn’t. He even offered me food.

But if Brian was truthful, then it wasn’t him who saved me. And that talk about exorcism… I shudder. I thought the days of with-hunting and killing demons were long gone.

When I was five, my mother taught me to read, and after her death her books passed on to me, since my father can’t read and he wasn’t interested in learning it. Among those books was “A History of Faith” which described how the priests tried to eliminate anything that they considered unnatural. I only read it halfway, and had nightmares for weeks after that.

I rub my hands, trying to fend off the chills. The air is getting colder by the minute, and it won’t be long before it’s completely dark. I know I should pick up the pace, but putting one foot in front of the other is all I can manage at the moment.

Just as I begin to feel very sorry for myself, I reach a small clearing in the woods. For a second I think I’m imagining it, but no! There’s a small house on the other side of the small meadow. The Gods must still be with me. This is more than I expected to find. Way more.

I allow myself a small smile as I near the cottage. I try the door and it’s open. I sigh with happiness and enter. The place looks like it’s habited, but at the moment there’s no one here. If the owner returns, I’ll explain my presence. Now… to sleep! I search the small cottage and find a single bed in the back room. I crawl under the covers and fall into a dreamless sleep.

The Awakening, part 5

The morning sun is shining through my bedroom window and I find myself surprisingly well rested considering yesterday’s events and the late hour when I fell asleep.

I change out of my soggy clothes and make a face when I see the condition of my linens. I should’ve put on a nightshirt before going to bed. Now I have to change the linens. The bed is just too dirty otherwise. But first things first. Brian.

I put on a worn brown dress that I usually wear when I work in the garden, and head for the door. I almost run into it when I try to push it open on my way out. The door won’t even budge!

I let out a startled laugh and try again. No, it’s not my imagination. But how is this possible? There is no lock on this door, or even a hook for that matter. One thing is clear, though. There is no way I can open it on my own.

I try my window next and am somewhat relieved when I manage to push it open. Good thing this house only has one storey. I climb out without a problem and walk around the house toward the front door.

I almost expect it to be locked as well, but it’s not. As I move through the kitchen and into the hallway, I can’t help but notice a very large pile of furniture in front of my room. I can’t even see the door from behind it. Wow. No wonder I couldn’t open it from the other side.

“What the…?” I shake my head and move on. I’ll wonder about this later. But first I have to talk to Brian.

I thank my lucky stars when I enter his room and find him all alone. He is asleep, but I quickly rectify that. I shake him lightly and call his name. I’m relieved to see he doesn’t look flushed or feverish anymore.

But he does appear to be terrified of me when he wakes up. The moment he recognizes me he tries to back away from me. That doesn’t help him much, though, since the farther side of his bed is against a wall. I can see from his expression that screaming is his next course of action and I press my hand on his mouth before he has a chance to make any sound at all. He struggles against me, but I’m bigger and stronger. I hold him down easily.

“Brian, calm down. It’s just me. I only want to talk. I will remove my hand now, but if you scream I’ll tie you up and gag you and take you to somewhere more private for our little conversation. Do you understand?” It’s an empty threat, and I’m pretty sure Brian will see through it, but to my amazement he stops struggling and nods. I let him go and he actually sits still and remains quiet.

“So, Brian. Why are you so afraid of me?”

He swallows and when he speaks he’s so quiet I can barely hear him. “You didn’t come back to kill me? For what I did?” I can see he’s blinking back tears. For the fisrt time in years I want to comfort him. “I thought you came back from the dead.”

“Why would I want to kill you? I’m alright, as you can see. You did nothing.”

“But the monster…I thought it… I don’t know… and then it looked at me… and… and…” He struggles to keep calm, and again I feel sorry sor him. I know he probably wanted to have fun at my expense and didn’t even think that something bad might happen. He’s careless and can be quite mean, but he’s not evil.

“What monster?” Last night my father said something about monsters as well. I feel something awakening in me again, but force myself to ignore it.

“You were under water for so long I didn’t know what do to. I swear, I didn’t want to kill you. Please, Please, believe me!”

“I do, Brian. Now about that monster?” I try to comfort him by akwardly patting his back. Get away from here… I’m hearing it again, but the voice is much weaker than yesterday.

“It… Something pushed you out of the lake. With it’s nose, I think. It was so big. And then it looked at me and went under the water again with a huge splash. I got all wet and it scared me so bad I ran straight home.” His lower lip starts wobbling. “Your skin was so blue I thought you were dead.”

“Oh, Brian.” I hug him. “I’m alive, don’t you worry. But where are our parents?”

“Mum went to the neighbours’ place to trade our eggs for some fresh milk. And dad… I’m not sure because they were whispering, but I think they talked about fetching a priest for you.” Get away…Run! Quickly! The voice in my head grows louder, but when I look at Brian I’m convinced only I can hear it. Shit.

I hear a clatter of hooves through Brian’s open window and turn my head. I see my father riding in with an old priest in tow. He looks a lot like… The elf-man by the Dark Lake!

“Oh.” What do I do? My heart beats fast like a rabbit’s. For a second I panic. Then I have an idea. My parents’ room faces the garden in the back of the house, just like mine. And their room isn’t blocked.

I dash out to the hallway and straight into the room next to mine. Just as I get the window unlatched I hear the front door open and close. I try to be as quiet as possible while pushing open the windows. As I lower myself down on the ground I hear the priests voice filter through the closed door.

“The girl’s condition sounds very bad. I believe it would be wisest if you and your family left the house during the exorcism. For your own safety. She might hurt you if given the chance. I will deal with her myself.”

I shudder. That doesn’t bode well for me. I hitch up my skirts and run as fast as I can.

The Awakening, part 4

I’m being carried somewhere. I open my eyes and see my father’s face. His eyes look haunted and I feel bad for him. Last time he had that look was when my mother died.

He doesn’t notice I’m awake and carries me to my bedroom. I try to move when he puts me down, but I’m too tired to even lift a finger.

“Father?” He looks at me and he seems somewhat relieved to see me awake.

“Em. What have you done to Brian. And what’s happened to you?” He looks at my bedraggled clothes.

I push down the ire and hurt my father always makes me feel. Why is it that Brian always comes first in his mind when I am his only child? I purposely ignore the question about my half-brother (mostly because I wouldn’t know how to answer it, since I haven’t a clue what I did in his room earlier) and answer his second.

“Well, father. I fell into a lake. I suppose it’s quite normal under such conditions to look like a drowned rat.”

“At least you’re alright and nothing bad happened.” He is probably sincere when he says it, but I can already see that his mind is elsewhere. Worry for my well-being has passed.

“But what about Brian? We specifically told you not to leave the house while he was under your care. But you just had to go for a swim! When Marissa and I got back from the marketplace and were greeted only by an empty house, we were worried sick. What were you thinking?”

I try to get a word in, but he doesn’t give me a chance to defend myself. Not that it’d make any difference even if I could.

“And then he comes running home all alone, like the hounds of Hell were after him, screaming something about monsters and water and you. What did you do that frightened him so badly?”

“I… Father, I’d never…” That’s all I’m able to say before he cuts in. I blink back tears and listen.

“Poor Brian’s been feverish and incoherent for most of the night. If anything happens to him, you shall be held responsible for it. I know you’re jelaous of him, but this time you have gone too far.” He paces back and forth in front of my bed, clearly agitated.

I grow angrier with every word he says and the need to cry  lessens. How DARE he? I have tried to be as good a daughter as I know how to be. I have never uttered a bad word about either Marissa or Brian. At least not out loud. And I really did try to like them at the beginning. Nor have I ever complained about the fact that my own father prefers another man’s son to his own flesh and blood, simply because of the fact that I am female.

“Get out!” It came out more as a growl than actual words.

“What?” He seems surprised, and doesn’t seem to be moving.

“GET OUT!” A gust of wind suddenly blown in my room. It’s so strong that it makes my father stagger on his feet. He gives me a strange look and makes his way to the door with haste. The door bangs shut behind him without him touching it. I look at it’s wooden surface for a while and think.

By the time sleep finally claims my tired body, the candles have all burned out and I have decided on the best course of action for tomorrow.

The Awakening, part 3

It must be well over midnight by the time I reach home. If I should even call it that anymore.

This pretty little house was built by my grandfather, and it used to be my favourite place in the whole world. I remember being happy here with my parents, before my mother passed away. When I was about ten, my father remarried. I gained a new (and definetly worse) mother and a step-brother. Brian was five years old at the time, but he was just as much of a beast back then as he is now, seven years later.

It wasn’t very bad at the beginning, although I could see that my new family members resented me from the moment we met. I have to admit that Marissa, my new mother, is a very good strategist. It only took her about a year and a half to make my father (and most of the village) see things from her point of view. Of course, my dearest brother helped a lot with that, by getting into all sorts of trouble and blaming it all on me. Funny, though, that I’m still the one who has to watch over him.

I near the house with some trepidation. What did Brian say when he got home? I don’t know what to expect, and life has taught me there are no such things as good surprises.

I open the front door and enter the kitchen. I’m amazed to find it empty. But just as I begin to wonder, I have my answer. A loud shriek comes from the back of the house. Brian!

I’ve never cared much for my step-brother, but as I run toward his room, I’m filled with dread. Please, please let him be okay. Did he touch the water after he pushed me in?

The door to Brian’s room is open and as soon as I see him, I have my answer. He looks like he’s delirious from a fever, but I’m not sure if any natural illness would stike so quickly and with such force. His mother and my father are at his bedside, and quite frankly they look scared as hell.

As I cross the threshold they notice me and jump up, looking even more afraid. Not the reaction I was expecting. Weird. I rush up to my step-brother’s bed, and our parents scurry away like they think I have the plague or some other such disease. As I touch Brian’s forehead, he turns to look at me. His skin is red and very hot, and his golden locks are damp  from sweat. But the emotions in his gaze scare me the most.

“Sis… I… apologise. I never… wanted to… kill you…” I can see how difficult it is for him to talk and my eyes tear up. I can’t say I love, or even like him, but I’ve never wished him harm.

“Hush, I’m okay. You need to rest if you want to get better.” I put my left hand on his chest and that’s when I feel IT inside me again. It’s magic that burns him. His body is too weak to hold it. Only the strongest can survive the Dark Lake, and he is nothing but a weakling. It says the words with disdain, as if Brian was nothing more than a bug, too unimportant to care about. I try to close my mind from the strange voice in my head, and concentrate on Brian.

That’s when I realise there is something pulsating under my palm. In addition to my step-brother’s hartbeat, I mean. I close my eyes and instinctively concentrate on the strange pulse. It’s not long before I feel my hand warm up and in another few moments I could swear it’s burning. I hear screams all around me, but I won’t open my eyes nor do I remove my hand from Brian’s chest. The heat in me is now almost unbearable, and my knees buckle.

I don’t know how much more of it I can bear, but I’m not sure how to stop whatever is happening. Then I can sense IT doing something to me. I feel much cooler, and there is no pain. But now there’s lots of swearing anc cursing toward my person. I realise it’s all inside my head and almost laugh. After a few seconds the strange connection between me and Brian breaks and, not surprisingly, everything goes black again.

The Awakening, part 2

I think I’m drifting between sleep and conciousness. It’s my favourite place after getting a beating. The pain feels less here, and my mind is free to wander and dream, without the bounds of the sad reality that is my life. But this time the pain that radiates through me is worse than it’s ever been before. Even my loungs hurt. Why…?

As I rember my last concious moments, I open my eyes with a start. The Dark Lake! I try to sit up, but someone pushes me back .

“No, you need to rest. It’s too soon for you to get up.” I look at the man sitting beside me on the grass. Funny how I didn’t notice him before. I’m not usually that careless with my surroundings.

It’s dark already, and the man is illuminated by a small fire near us. He seems to be very old, and is wearing priests’ robes. His hair is almost white, and he has dark eyes. I can’t make out the colour since there isn’t enough light.

Ignoring the old man’s advice, I try to sit up again and this time succeed. The pain is receding quickly, but now that it’s almost gone, I feel something strange inside of me. Like something is stirring. I rub my chest, hoping that I’m imagining things, but the sensation increases and something whispers inside my head. Look at the man… Look… More closely… But don’t run if you want to live…

I take a shuddering breath. No sane person hears voices in their head. But I can’t help raising my eyes. The man is staring at me with a strange look in his eyes, and as our gazes meet, I see it. He has pointy ears, incredibly blue eyes, and his face looks Elfin, reminding me of the old pictures I’ve seen in my aunt’s house. I blink and the vision is gone. He looks completely human to me again.

There is a duffel bag next to him and as he reaches for it, I tense, almost expecting him to pull out a knife and butcher me on the spot. Instead he presents me with a loaf of bread.

“You should eat, girl. You look half-starved.” He holds it towards me, but when I want to raise my hand I hear IT again. DON’T! I lower my hand with a start and decline the offer.

“I am grateful for the offer, but a man that directly serves our Gods should not go hungry because of me. I apologise if I seem rude, but I ought to go now, my mother is probably already worried sick about me. I must return home immediately. Thank you for…” What, exactly? Watching me while I was out cold? Not even giving me a blanket to warm me in the chilly night while he himself was seated on at least three? But then again, it was most likely him who pulled me out of the lake so he did deserved my gratitude for saving my life. “Everything.”

As I get up, I realise that my limbs are stiff from lying on the ground for more than half a day. Provided it still was the same day that my brat of a step-brother pushed me into the lake.

As I turn my back on the man and the Dark Lake behind him, I feel his calculating gaze on my back until I’m completely shielded by the trees of the sacred forest.

The Awakening, part 1

There was a time when the Elfin people roamed the world. There were stories of their battles with the dragons. Both sides were fierce and formidable. And deadly – most of all for us. Humans were only collateral damage to them. They would wipe out cities, even kingdoms, and not even realise or care about it. The Great Wars wrecked havoc on the land, destroying a lot of my kind. But not all of us. Some of us were gifted and could hold our own. Not nearly enough to pose any threat to either dragons or elfs. Only enough to help us survive. Pathetic, I know.

Luckily for us, though, they destroyed each other. At leatst according to the stories. I wouldn’t know if any of it is true – it supposedly happened more than thousand years ago, and the stories are nothing more than a way for our parents to scare us away from getting into trouble. Not that it’s ever stopped my step-brother from doing exactly what he wants.

“Let’s go back, Brian. You know we’re not allowed to go to the Dark Lake. Just once, please listen to me.” I’ve been at it for the past twenty minutes, but does he listen? No, instead of walking he now begins to run toward his goal. Damn it.

“Brian!” The little devil never does what I tell him to. I am supposed to watch over him and he always, always gets me into trouble. Last time I was whipped so hard I couldn’t lay on my back for nearly a month.

“Brian, please! Come…” But he has already reached the lake and I stop right behind him.

There is something strange about the Dark Lake. It is in the middle of the sacred forest, where only the priests are allowed to go, so not many people have seen it. But those who have, are never the same again. There are stories about it, all of them frightening and without a happy ending.

I thought I would fear this place, but to me it seems peaceful. The surface of the lake is completely still and I can see it reflecting everything perfectly, as if it was a mirror. Without thinking, I step closer and crouch beside the water’s edge. I am surprised to see that the water is very deep even near the land. I can’t see the bottom at all. Dark Lake is a very suitable name. Having forgotten Brian, I slowly lean closer and closer to the surface. I am careful not to touch the water though. Wouldn’t want to end up crazy or dead.

Not daring to speak out loud, I began whispering. “This is so…” I don’t even have time to react as I’m pushed into the water and I accidentally breathe in some of the water. I flounder helplessly and my loungs feel like they’re on fire. The water is ice cold against my skin and my vision turns black around the edges. Or maybe I’m just sinking farther down. I don’t know, and I find it increasingly difficult to care. I no longer know which way is up.  The last thing I see before my eyes close is a pair of huge red eyes glowing in the dark, staring at me unblinkingly.