I really can’t remember the last time I posted a short story here, which is terrible. So here’s something I threw together just now. I used the Ides of March too inspire a starting point and then let inspiration carry me.
This is the result.
Hope you enjoy it 🙂
Galadryn fingered the dagger hidden beneath her billowing robes and felt another tremor of nerves rush through her body.
It was a warm day, hotter than the norm for this time of year. Chills rippled through her, nonetheless, her body drenched in sweat for a reason other than the weather.
The marketplace was marked by a lull, most vendors sitting at their stalls, a bored look in their eyes. Customers had dried up like the lake outside the town. The drought had chased away the normal visitors that would fill this space with a buzzing excitement. Now, the only sound of buzzing came from a surplus of flies bombarding the arid land.
Voices called out for her to stop and take a moment to appreciate the wares being sold. She kept her gaze down, refusing to connect with any of them, ignoring their pleas, lest they recognize her.
Galadryn passed without further hindrance down a deserted alley. After a few steps, she paused before a nondescript door. Throwing a furtive glance to her left and right, she assured herself that no one was watching and pressed a hand to the door.
Gold threads escaped from her fingterips and the door swung open at her command.
She scurried inside and was greeted by a dark chamber lit only by a single light.
A Shadow waited for her there. It raised its head as she entered, its face no more distinguishable than the obscure recesses of the room. It was better that way. She did not want to see. If there had been any other option, she would not have summoned it to help. But Death alone could end death.
A single table stood between her and the Shadow. It gestured at it and she approached, drawing the blade then from the folds of her robe.
The Shadow waved its hand again and a human child, a young girl still in her first decade of life, with curly golden locks, appeared upon the table. Her emerald eyes glimmeredwith fear.
“Do not be afraid,” Galadryn whispered in comfort.
The child eyed the dagger in her hand. “Are you going to kill me?” she asked.
Galadryn shook her head. “No.” The rush of nerves was almost too much to bear, but it was too late to retract her promise. She had sworn to protect her homeland from any danger to whatever end. She had to honour that vow.
The door opened then to reveal another woman dressed in sweeping violet robes. Her grey eyes shone with anxiety.
“You cannot do this.”
“You cannot stop me,” Galadryn commanded her, frustrated by this interruption. She had been careful to leave unnoticed. She should have known that Ollyra would have been a step ahead. “I have made my choice. The land is dying. Soon our people will too.”
“Princess — “
“No more, Ollyra. This is my choice. This is the child we hoped for. She can bring life again. But first, there must be death.”
She raised the dagger and said a final prayer to the gods for this sacrifice to end the suffering of her people.
The blade descended.
Silver tendrils ensnared her wrist, halting her action before the blade could pierce her skin.
“You will steal my conviction,” Galadryn accused her.
“Then it will be well,” Ollyra protested. “I cannot let you die. I did not train you for this.”
“You trained me to protect my people. Why must you stop me?”
“You know why.”
The little girl had been silent until this moment. She spoke up then, her voice a hush. “You wish to end the drought.”
Ollyra and Galadryn turned to her. The Shadow lingered behind, an unmoved observer.
“I had a dream of this land,” the girl continued. “That the waters would flow red first. Because I bid them to.”
Galadryn felt a ripple along her spine. “You will make them run.” She looked back to Ollyra. “But first, blood must spill.” A soft sigh escaped her lips. “This girl must be guarded and trained. Will you do it for me?”
Ollyra, defeated, gave a nod. “I did not mean to train you so well.”
“I am glad that you did. And I am glad that you are here. At my ending.”
The silver tendrils released her then. She feared death no more. This was the right decision. The girl would bring the land back to life. And Ollyra would train her.
“I will tell them of your sacrifice. And I will never forget.”
“Nor shall I.” She drew to mind the memory of their love and then raised the dagger once more.
It fell without obstruction this time.
The magic leapt from her as it pierced her heart, her life passing into the little girl. She became one with her then: Ananephy.
She knew then that the girl had come from a different land, from a different time, so far away, so far ahead. The Shadow had drawn her here. It was good that Ollyra would take care of her, protect her.
As their essences mingled through the Shadow’s efforts, Galadryn lost all sense of who she had been. Now she knew only that she was Ananephy.
She was afraid to have been taken from her home, to have been brought to this strange place. But she would be brave. For weeks she had had the same dream about a desert land in need of water. This was to be her purpose. She would accept it.
The Shadow behind her vanished, its work done. She knew it was not the last she would see of it.
The woman with grey eyes offered her hand and helped her to descend.
“What is your name, young one?”
“Ananephy,” the girl replied. “But everyone calls me Nephy.”
“I am Ollyra.” The woman did not release her hand. “Come. It is time that the waters flow.”
“She is still here,” Nephy whispered before following her out the door. “I feel her love for you.”
A single tear dripped from her eye, but Ollyra spoke not a word.
Nephy would remember it as the first drop of water to fall on the day she restored the water, on the day death made way for new life.
© 2016. Faith Rivens.