The Crow & The Butterfly (Part I)

The Crow & The Butterfly (Part I)

A Story by Aianarie (INACTIVE)

The Crow and the Butterfly

Short Story Version

 

 

There was a boy lying there, in the dry mud and leaves. He must have been there all night. He was naked save a gold-stitched woolen loincloth. His hair was black, long, and wild; I remember it reminding me of a savage bird prince. When I looked harder, I could see white in his hair too. Not the old kind of white, but pure white without a tinge of gray.

 

He had a beautiful face. Smooth and blemish-free skin, shaped eyebrows, and thick lashes. His nose was long and his nostrils delicate, which only look better with his pink, pouty lips. He was probably around my age; maybe eighteen or nineteen; twenty at the most. He looked as if he was wearing a lot of makeup, and last night’s rain had only managed to wash some of it away. His body was long and slender, his muscles lithe. Then I noticed the slightly smudged, smeared markings all over his skin. Like he was part of a ritual or something. I shuddered, for some reason.

 

I started to step a little closer, but came to an abrupt halt when my boot crunched a branch with a loud snap. The boy woke, and my heart nearly leapt into my throat. It took a moment for his eyes to focus, but when he saw me, he sprang to his feet and backed away towards the bushes. He looked terrified, but he also looked like he could kill me too.

 

“No!” I said, regaining myself. He stopped and I saw his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed hard. His eyes traveled my body, and I carefully watched his blank expression until his eyes met mine. His eyes were cold and distrustful, like those of a forest wolf.

 

“Shh.” I said gently, keeping my eyes on his. I walked forward, slowly, and reached out for his hand to calm him. He flinched back, his breathing irregular. He stank of sweat and some other iron sort of smell.

 

“I won’t hurt you.” I said. I had used the eye-contact method before when I tamed my stallion, Tora. I was hoping that it would work with this boy. He seemed very animal to me. I wondered if he was some sort of shape-shifter.

 

So I stared deep into his eyes, and he let me. All I could see in there was pain and sadness and fear. I felt immensely sorry for those beautiful brown eyes.

 

I reached for his hand again, this time more slowly. He sucked in a breath as I held his clammy, trembling fingers.

 

“Come?” I said, tugging on his hand. He hesitated, so I returned my eyes to his. I would stare at him until he trusted me.

 

His voice startled me. “What are you?” he asked. His voice had a slight accent to it that I didn’t recognize.

 

I misunderstood. Was he human? I wasn’t sure, but still I said: “I’m human, like you.”

His eyebrows lowered. “I’ve never seen anyone like you.”

 

I smiled at him, and his expression softened a little. “Or I you.” I paused. “Are you alone?”

He looked at the ground and nodded; a shadow passing over his face.

 

“Are you hungry?”

 

He nodded as if he just realized that he was.

 

“You can talk to me.” I said, squeezing his hand a bit. “You can trust me. Come.” I tugged on his hand again. This time, he followed me, much to my relief.

 

“Do you have a name?” I asked after a moment.

 

“Crow.” he said plainly. He was staring at our linked hands.

 

“I’m Nissa. I’ll take care of you.”

 

 

~*~

 

The girl took me to her village. She gave me her cloak to…cover myself up. I felt embarrassed; I had forgotten what I had been wearing. Her village was so unlike my own. The houses weren’t much bigger or better built, but they were cleaner and painted with bright colors. There weren’t many trees around, and the people were dressed in layers of soft-looking clothing in colors as bright as their buildings. The horses, cows, and other livestock were clean and well-fed. I even saw some dogs and cats. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a dog or cat, besides wolves and mountain lions.

 

The village was lively, not silent like mine. The grass was green, and a river ran down the center of the village. There were also these plants, strange ones. They were small and had skinny trunks, and the heads had colored leaves. The girl noticed me staring at them.

 

“Flowers.” she said, smiling. “Those are called daisies. There are prettier ones than those, just you wait.” I glanced at her, wishing I could remember what she told me her name was. She was looking at this building ahead, the one with the spinning wheel on the side of it, so I took that moment to study her. Her eyes were large and brown, with a curl of very long eyelashes. She had a very nice nose and lips. Her hair was black and long enough to sit on. It was braided, so it had to be much longer.

 

I repeated flowers in my head until I was sure that it would stay there.

 

Then a young woman walked over to us, cradling a small bundle in her arms.

 

“Good morning, Nissa.” she said to the girl. I had never seen such a pleasant woman. I closed my eyes for a moment to stamp Nissa into my memory with the flowers. “Who’s your new friend? He’s a handsome one!”

 

I felt my cheeks warm. No one had ever complimented me before. Nissa laughed.

 

“Well, Aurele, I just found him in the bushes…he’s in desperate need of some care. His name is Crow.” said Nissa, looking at me with a strange look in her eyes. I felt even more embarrassed when I realized that I was staring at her then. I looked at the stone pathway beneath my feet instead.

 

“Yes, I see. Well, a pleasure to meet you Cr"“ began the woman, Aurele, but she was cut off by a cry, apparently from the bundle in her arms. “Oh, shh, my darling.” I watched curiously as she poked her finger into the blanket, shh-ing whatever was in there. Was it an infant? I swallowed a lump in my throat.

 

“Well, I must be going. Hosänna needs her nap.” said Aurele, nodding her head to Nissa and I. “Have a nice day, you two.” And she went off down a different path.

 

“What’s wrong, Crow?” Nissa asked, noticing me.

 

“That…she had an infant.” I said. The shock was clear in my voice.

 

Nissa turned her head. “Yes; that’s her daughter, Hosänna.”

 

I returned my eyes to the ground and we started walking again.

 

“Crow?”

 

“In my village, there are no children.” I said suddenly.

 

Then it was Nissa’s turn to be shocked. “None?” she cried.

 

“No. To…the act of creating a child was made forbidden ten years ago in my village. Marriages were made against the law as well.”

 

“That’s absolutely horrid! Why is that so?”

 

“Our goddess. For centuries my people have lived in pain and suffering, and they believe that the goddess Astoria is punishing us. They believe that she dislikes noise and all other sorts of disturbance. And children…well…”

 

Nissa’s eyes were wide and full of horror. She had stopped walking, so I did too. She looked up at me, blinking away tears.

 

“You…you’re from Cabrän, on the other side of the mountains?” Her voice was quick and anxious.

 

I nodded, and she went very pale. She grabbed my wrist and we started running.

 

“Hurry.” she said.

 

We ran through the village, past the building with the spinning wheel, and reached a small purple-red house at the foot of a mossy cliff. She pushed me through the door, took a look around outside, and then came in and shut the door"and locked it.

 

“My people aren’t particularly fond of those from Cabrän.” Nissa said quietly, washing her hands in a basin.

 

“Neither am I.” I said, my voice low and cold. Nissa eyed me curiously.

 

“Crow, why are you here?”

 

“Because you brought me here.”

 

“No…why aren’t you in Cabrän?”

 

“If you were there, you would see why.”

 

She paused, wiping her hands on a cloth. She swallowed hard. “You were meant to be a sacrifice.”

 

I closed my eyes. “Yes.” In my village, a human sacrifice was made every week upon the Black Altar, to satisfy Astoria’s incessant hunger for souls. As of late, a strange illness had plagued Cabrän. The village elders said that the reason is because we always offer Astoria prisoners or slaves. They said she desired someone ‘young, fresh, and pure’. Once a month, at midnight of the new moon, there is a special sacrifice called the Nightsong. A lullaby of blood and tears to Astoria when the moon is not there to lull her to sleep. I was meant to be the Nightsong sacrifice.

 

I watched Nissa as she stuck her hands into the pockets of her apron and stared at the floor. She was still pale. Suddenly, she looked up and managed a small smile.

 

“Well, you’re safe for now. I can make something for you to eat, but you’ll have to wash first.” She gestured for me to follow her. I did, and she brought me to a small room with no windows and a large stone tub in the middle. I watched as Nissa cranked the pump. The water flowed into the tub. After that, Nissa crouched and turned a dial. Fire appeared under the tub, apparently to heat the water. Nissa stood and looked at me.

 

“You’ve probably never had a hot bath before? Oh, you’ll love it.” she said. “My brother made this tub. He’s a fine inventor. He’s probably out making more of these for some of the other villagers.” She paused and sighed. “That’s how we make a living. We’re poor now, but some day, we’ll reach the city with our creations.”

 

I couldn’t tell that she was poor. She looked healthy and clean, and her house was nice. And what was a city? As I was thinking, the bathwater had started to bubble.

 

“All right, I think that’s warm enough.” said Nissa, switching the fire off. “There’s a bar of soap and towels there, and when you’re finished, pull the plug at the bottom of the tub to drain the water out. I’ll get some of my brother’s clothes for you to wear, okay?” She nodded once and went out, closing the door.

 

I stared at the water. The only way I ever got clean was dumping pails of ice-cold water on my head that I had taken from the well. Getting the water from the well was in itself a laborious task. The crank was old and rusted; hard to turn.

 

So I hadn’t showered often. No one did. No one cared.

 

I took off Nissa’s cloak and laid it on the table, and then I slipped off the ceremonial loincloth. I hoped that I would never see that thing again. I threw it aside.

 

I stepped into the water and hissed. It was hot to my skin. I slowly lowered myself until the water was up to my chest. I sat very still until the scalding water drowned out my shivers. My breaths came out short and jagged. I closed my eyes. After a few minutes, my skin got used to the water and the warmth had reached my insides. It felt good. I liked it. I dunked my head into the water and scrubbed at my itchy hair. The water tickled my scalp.

 

I glanced at the bar of soap and grasped it. It was slippery, but I managed to grip it firmly with one hand. What was it for? I dunked it in the water, and when I pulled it out again, bubbles were coming out of it. I dropped it at once. Then I smelt something, a nice smell that reminded me of the flowers. It didn’t actually smell like the flowers, but it reminded me of them. I reached into the water and grabbed the soap again, then brought it to my nose. The scent was coming from the soap. I rubbed the bar of soap until the surface of the bath was covered in bubbles.

 

I jumped when someone knocked on the door.

 

“It’s me, Crow. I have some clothes for you to wear. I can leave them by the door if you want.” said Nissa’s voice through the door.

 

“You can bring them in.” I said, trying to pick up a cluster of large bubbles with both of my hands. Nissa slipped in after a moment, but I didn’t look up. I heard her walk to the table and set a pile there. When I glanced at her, she was already heading for the door again. When she turned and pulled the door closed, I saw that her cheeks were faintly pink. Maybe it made her uncomfortable that I was naked. But it’s not like she could see anything.

 

After a few more minutes I started to feel groggy, and decided that I had to get out of the water no matter how much I enjoyed it. I pulled the plug at the bottom of the tub and watched as the water drained out. I got up and dried myself with the towels. My skin felt soft and smoother than usual. It must have been because of the soap. I noticed a mirror in the corner near the table, so I looked.

 

Most of the ceremonial makeup hadn’t washed off, much to my annoyance. I could still see the lines, dots, and curves of black all over my body. I still looked like some sort of ridiculous dark god. My towel-dried hair was already starting to stick out in all directions as usual.

I frowned. The villagers were probably very angry that I had run away.

 

No doubt, they would find me here. And…I didn’t want to put Nissa in any danger.

 

~*~

 

I waited at the dining table for Crow. My brother Kato hadn’t returned yet either, so I wondered where he was. I stared at the supper I had prepared. Three bowls of my specialty, rice pilaf, a cucumber and tomato salad, and a sliced loaf of bread. It was Sunday, so I had even brought out some light red wine for us to drink. My stomach growled. All the walking around in the woods had made me very hungry.

 

I started thinking about Cabrän. People there are sick and twisted. They practice witchcraft, bodily mutilation, torture"and they were going to murder Crow as a “sacrifice” to their horrid goddess? How could they think that a goddess would even want such things? Our goddess, Zephyria, would never want to take an innocent life.

 

I was so lost in thought that I didn’t notice Crow walk up to the table.

 

“Are you all right?” he asked, startling me. I looked up at him, half-dazed. I had left him underclothes, a shirt, a long tunic, and trousers, and the only thing he was wearing was the trousers and a leather band around his neck. Was he wearing that necklace before? I didn’t remember seeing it. I also noticed that he had a metal stud in each of his earlobes. I stared at the markings on his chest, wondering why they hadn’t washed off. They looked like paint, not tattoos. I hoped they weren’t tattoos.

 

“Are those tattoos?” I asked, looking away. I pretended to adjust the dishes on the table.

“No. It’s a special kind of dye. It doesn’t wash away very easily.” he said. I looked up at his face; his eyelids and lashes were still dark as well.

 

“Well sit. I don’t know where my brother is, but the food is going to get cold.” I poured some dressing on Crow’s salad as he sat down. “Aren’t you cold?”

 

He shook his head. “No. I’m used to it.” What is with the good-looking boys not wearing their shirts? Aren’t their handsome faces enough? Now that I think about it I hardly ever see Kato wearing shirts, either. Not that he’s handsome. Well, I guess he is, but he’s my brother.

 

I shook my head, flushing a bit, hoping Crow wouldn’t notice. I was just embarrassed that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Now that he’s clean and sitting right in front of me, it all seems quite awkward.

 

I took a deep breath, and Kato walked into the house.

 

~*~

 

Nissa’s brother was about my height, but bulkier. His wavy, chin-length hair was dark brown whereas Nissa’s was black, and his eyes were grayer. He was dressed in loose pants tucked into boots, and an unbuttoned shirt rolled up to his elbows. When I looked closer at his face, I saw that he had the same as Nissa. The very same. How odd, I thought.

 

Nissa stood and went to her brother, kissing him on the cheek. She whispered something to him that was completely inaudible to me since I was busy chewing on a slice of the crunchy bread. It was good. Better than anything I had ever eaten. I savored every bite.

 

“We’ll talk about it later. Dinner?” I heard Nissa say to her brother after I had swallowed a mouthful. Nissa returned to the table, and her brother went into the kitchen to wash his hands. He sat heavily, his eyes flickering over to me.

 

“Nice to meet you, Crow.” he said, in a lighter voice than I expected. “Nissa and I are twins, in case you can’t tell. I am much better looking, after all. The name’s Kato, inventor, future billionaire.” He grinned and cocked his head towards Nissa, who rolled her eyes and shook her head. It was easy to see that she was very fond of him.

 

I had no idea what a billionaire was, but I forced myself to smile anyway. I wasn’t used to doing that; no one smiled in Cabrän.

 

“My sister has a thing for taking in the needy.” continued Kato, “A bird with a broken wing, a crazy horse, a wolf that lost a foot, and now you.” He paused to down a few spoonfuls of rice. I hadn’t even tasted the red rice yet. I had a feeling that I shouldn’t use my hand (Kristofer wouldn’t have minded me if I did), so I grabbed the spoon and used it instead. The rice had a pungent, earthy sort of taste. I had never eaten anything so richly flavored before. There were certain plants that I knew were called herbs and spices, but only Cabrän’s priests were allowed to eat foods flavored with them.

 

I tasted the salad next. It was flavored with some sort of oil and more herbs and spices. The only salad I had ever eaten was plain lettuce or red cabbage, although sometimes I could get vegetables and olive oil. I had eaten tomatoes before when Kristofer had managed to pinch them, but I didn’t recognize the crunchy green vegetable in Nissa’s salad. It was sweet and refreshing.

 

“My sister here has interesting taste.” remarked Kato, around a mouthful of food. Nissa blushed and threw a piece of the green vegetable at him. He laughed. I assumed by “taste” he meant the food that she had made, so I nodded in agreement. Nissa pretended to ignore us both and focused on eating her supper.

 

I thought it was funny, how these people acted. I mean, I remember smiling and laughing when I was a child growing up with Kristofer, but…these two were different. They seemed genuinely happy. Something that I was so unfamiliar with.

 

“So, Crow…where do you come from?” asked Kato. I looked at Nissa, who shot her brother a look. She shook her head and started to pour drinks for us. It was a deep red liquid that made me think of blood. Surely it wasn’t. Nissa and Kato didn’t look like vampires to me. I picked up the cup and brought it to my nose, but quickly flinched away. It had a very strong, acidic sort of smell. It wasn’t blood, thank goodness. It must have been wine, the strong stuff that I had seen at ceremonies in Cabrän. Kristofer had been flogged for trying to steal some once.

 

Kato, looking slightly bewildered, raised his cup. Nissa and I did the same.

 

“To bright futures.” he said, candlelight gleaming in his gray eyes. Then he and Nissa worked on draining their cups. I took a sip. It tasted even stronger than it smelled. I didn’t want to offend Nissa, so I swallowed it down. As I continued to drink, it tasted better and better. I was somewhat disappointed when my cup was empty. I looked up, and Kato was grinning at me.

 

“I think a second cup won’t hurt.” he said, eyeing Nissa. She shook her head.

 

“Oh no, Kato. I don’t like it when you’re drunk. You start telling me about how beautiful Marina is and what parts of her you find attractive.” she said, and before Kato could speak she continued, “And how you’re going to propose to her, plan a wedding in the city, and have ten kids…five boys and five girls.” Then Kato was blushing. He glared at his sister for a few seconds, and then they both burst into laughter. Myself, I’m completely astonished how they can joke about getting married and having children. I’ve heard of adulterers and fornicators being beheaded, pregnant women hacked to death and their unborn children burned as penance to Astoria.

 

“I can have my dreams, can’t I? Besides, you’re doing your own exploring in the world of romance, sister.” said Kato quietly, gesturing towards me with his spoon. I didn’t know what he was talking about, so I ignored his comment and finished my salad. He ate the last bit of rice in his bowl and leaned back in his chair. “Delicious as usual, Nissa.”

 

“Well thank you, my dear brother.” she said, a hint of mockery in her voice. She rose and began to clear the table, taking used dishes to the kitchen. And she snatched the wine bottle before Kato could pour himself another glass. After I had finished eating, I felt very awkward just sitting there. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do then.

 

“The food was very good. Thank you.” I said. Nissa beamed at me.

 

“Thank you, and you’re very welcome.” She returned to rinsing the dishes with this curved pipe thing in which the water flowed out when she turned a handle. It wasn’t like a water pump at all. It must have been another one of her brother’s inventions.

 

“So, Crow, you must stay tonight.” said Nissa.

 

I stood and shook my head. “I thank you very much for your hospitality, but I simply cannot impose further.” I said. She looked at me sadly, a knowing look in her brown eyes. Kato caught that look and stood up.

 

“Is there something I don’t know here?” he said, almost crossly. Nissa went to him and held his arm tightly. I didn’t see his face as they exchanged an expressional conversation, but I saw Nissa’s. I couldn’t read her though. Kato loosened a bit when she nodded. She looked back at me then.

 

“I’m sorry, Crow. Please stay, just for tonight at least.” she said. I looked away, towards the window. I could see the faint outline of the mountains in the distance; my cursed village lay just beyond.

 

“Please.” Nissa pleaded. I swallowed a sour taste in my throat and nodded, without looking at her.

 

“Yes. I will stay, just for tonight.”

 

~*~

 

My heart untwisted itself when he said Yes. I let out a breath and smiled.

 

“Oh, good. Come with me.” I said, taking his hand. We walked down the hallway to my room. “You will sleep in my room. I’ll sleep with Kato.”

 

“No, I couldn’t. I will sleep on the couch in the living room.” said Crow.

 

“Absolutely not. You are our guest. Or would you rather sleep with Kato?” I said, laughing. Obviously I was joking. I wondered naughtily if Crow thought of sleeping with me as a possibility. I glanced at him. He didn’t look happy at all. I lowered my eyes and retrieved one of my nightgowns from the dresser.

 

“Anyway, good night. Sleep well.” I said. Crow said nothing. I shut the door, a bitter feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 

 

~*~

 

Night fell, and a sickening feeling overcame me. My people thrived in the night, as Astoria slept. It had been only a few hours before midnight. How long would it be until they found out that their sacrifice was gone? The Nightsong ritual would not be completed that night, the night of the new moon.

 

Oh, how the goddess would be angered.

 

But then what would happen? Would the Cabränians come after me and punish me for running away? Or were they still too afraid to step out of Cabrän and away from the high temple?

 

Nissa’s bed was soft but not too soft, and had many of these large pouches full of something soft to lay one’s head upon. I was used to sleeping on woven mats on the dirt floor, so this was a luxury for me.

 

I laid there in the darkness, unable to sleep. I heard Kato and Nissa talking animatedly in the room behind me, but I tried not to listen. Instead, I wondered what Kristofer was doing back in Cabrän. He was probably very worried about me. I prayed to whatever higher Power is out there that Kristofer won’t worry too much. I also prayed that one day he would be able to escape too.

 

 

~*~

 

“Nissa, this is too risky. What if the Cabränians are angry and attack us to retrieve Crow? They have strange ideas. Zephyria alone knows what they could be plotting.”

 

I hate when Kato lectures me. He’s no older than me. He has no right.

 

“What did you expect me to do?” I said, irritated. “Just leave him there? I’m not so heartless, Kato.”

 

My brother made a gesture somewhere between exasperation and annoyance. “Don’t look at me like that, Nissa. I’m the head of this house; I am meant to protect you. Father entrusted you to me.”

 

“They were going to…Crow was supposed to be the Nightsong sacrifice.” I said, lowering my voice.

 

Kato went deathly pale. I had never seen him like that.

 

“Oh, oh Zephyria.” he whispered. “Nissa! You fool! Do you have any idea how much danger you’ve put us in? Not just us"our village! Our friends! Do you not know the war our people had against the Cabränians fifty years ago?”

 

Of course I know.

 

Once, the people of Cabrän and our village, Alia, were one. They were very poor, faithless people. One day, a witch came to the village and proclaimed that if everyone should worship the goddess Astoria, an age of peace and prosperity would come to past. Some people believed, and others didn’t. Those who sided with the witch started doing horrible things. Body mutilation, as well as infanticide and other forms of human sacrifices with hellish rituals. Those against the witch were horrified. They threatened to kill them as punishment for these evils. But those of Astoria did not cease their ways. The witch spurred on.

 

Eventually they went to war. The hero of Alia killed the witch, and her followers fled to the other side of the mountains. Those of Alia never saw them again.

 

The Alians tried to rebuild their lives, but Astoria haunted their dreams. The farmland became very bad. The Alians could not sow their seed, and their animals had no fields to graze. The earth was becoming barren; bereft of water. The wells were drying out.

 

When all seemed to be lost, a voice came to the hero of Alia; a pleasant, soothing voice full of hope, kindness, and love. She called herself Zephyria. She manifested herself in the form of a large butterfly, and led the hero of Alia deep within the heart of the mountains. They reached a wall of polished stone. The hero and his companions struck the wall until it crumbled to the ground. Water gushed out, and a river flowed through Alia.

 

Since then my people have prayed to Zephyria, and she has kept us. My people never had contact with the Cabränians again"until now.

 

I was thinking of that story as Kato continued speaking.

 

“Nissa, are you even listening to me? Look at me when I’m speaking to you!” he cried. I sprung to my feet and cornered my brother.

 

Stop lecturing me, Kato! I don’t want to hear it! My choices are my own!”

 

“No, they are not, especially when your choices will harm other people! Don’t your people matter to you, Nissa?”

 

“Of course they do! But Crow matters to me too.” I said, my voice cracking. Kato’s expression softened and he sighed. Looking at his feet, he took a few breaths to calm himself while I wiped my face with my nightgown.

 

“Oh, come here.” said Kato, pulling me into his arms. I sobbed against his bare chest. The ice-cold sapphire pendant he always wore around his neck burned my cheek.

 

“We can’t endanger Alia any further.” said Kato softly, “We’ll take Crow to the city; he should be safe there.”

 

 

~*~

 

I woke in the middle of night, sweaty and panting heavily as if I had been running for miles. What a horrible nightmare. I dreamt that"

 

Suddenly I heard a crash from outside the window. I swung out of bed, my heart and mind racing. I looked out the window and saw nothing but Nissa’s village in peaceful slumber. Then I heard a scream. It was Aurele, the young woman I had met yesterday.

 

I got out of the house as fast as I could and ran into the village square. Nissa was screaming my name behind me. I kicked down Aurele’s front door, and found her crouched on the ground, her hair disheveled, sobbing violently.

 

“Aurele!” I cried, putting my hand on her shoulder. “What happened?” She couldn’t stop sobbing long enough to speak. I rubbed her shoulders to calm her.

 

“Some people came"oh, my leg! They took Hosänna!” she sobbed, clutching at her thigh. Her nightgown was bloody. “I’m fine"please! My baby!”

 

I stood up and headed for the door, but Nissa rushed in and pushed me into a corner.

 

“Stay down!” she whispered fiercely. She put out the candle and peered out a window. “Oh, Kato, be careful…”

 

I raised myself so I could see out the window. Kato was wandering around the village square with a good sword ready in his hand. His expression was dauntless. Three cloaked figures each with daggers in both hands came into view, surrounding him. Nissa carefully opened the window a fraction so we could hear.

 

“What do you want here?” said Kato, fearlessly.

 

“We’re searching for a traitor. Have you seen any outsiders pass through here recently?” said one of the figures.

 

I sat down quickly and leaned against the wall. I recognized that voice. It was Ananias, one of the high priests of Astoria’s temple.

 

“Crow, what is it?” Nissa asked.

 

I shook my head and swallowed. I was starting to feel extremely sick.

 

“I haven’t.” said Kato.

 

“Hmm.” said Ananias. I had heard that before. The priest didn’t believe Nissa’s brother in the slightest.

 

Aurele gasped, and I opened my eyes to see Kristofer standing there, his face pallid.

 

“Crow!” he cried, immediately embracing me. “You’re alive!”

 

“Shh!” I cautioned. “Kristofer! What are you doing here?”

 

“We’re supposed to be finding you…and taking you back to Cabrän.” His eyes glanced up at the window. “Now that I know you’re safe…I have to go.” Nissa caught him by the arm.

 

“You won’t turn him in, will you?” she said.

 

Kristofer’s hazel eyes scanned her face. I selfishly wondered what he was thinking.

 

“No, of course not. He’s my best friend.” he said. “I trust you. You will take care of him.”

Nissa offered a smile and nodded once. Kristofer turned to leave, but Aurele held onto his cloak desperately.

 

“My daughter…please…she’s only a newborn…” she sobbed.

 

“I’m very sorry. I’ll see what I can do. I’m sorry.” He pulled his cloak from her hands and slipped out the back door.

 

He was putting himself in mortal danger, holding such a secret from his superiors. First Nissa, and now Kristofer.

 

I hated the thought of causing others to suffer because of me.

 

~*~

 

I watched as Kristofer joined the other cloaked men, whispering something to the taller one. My heart constricted. He said that he was Crow’s best friend…

 

“I know he’s here.” said the tall one. He was apparently the leader. “Let me introduce myself. Ananias, high priest of the goddess Astoria.”

 

I gasped and flew backwards into a chair, knocking it over. I clamped a hand over my mouth. I watched Kato’s face attentively; he didn’t seem fazed at all. Maybe he should’ve taken up drama instead of inventing.

 

“Kato.” he said. “I’ll say it again. Whoever you’re searching for is not here.”

 

Ananias laughed. “You’re a good liar.” He pushed away the left side of his cloak, revealing a bundle in his arms. Hosänna. Aurele gasped behind me, but I held her hand tightly. Crow was still in the corner, looking deathly sick. I wondered if the priest’s presence affected him somehow.

 

“I believe this child belongs to someone in this village. If I don’t find what I’m looking for…” The priest pulled out a dagger, “I’ll offer this little one up to Astoria.”

 

Kato was angry now. “You demon. Will you really sacrifice an innocent?”

 

Ananias laughed. “We do it all the time. All for Astoria. It’s an honor to be a sacrifice. I would give my life to her most willingly, a hundred times over.”

 

“You’re disgusting.” scowled Kato. “Hand over that child, now.”

 

Aurele screamed, yanking her wrist from my grip. Despite her injured leg, she ran out of the house.

 

No! Let her go! I know where he is!”

 

I helped Crow up and we ran out the back door. We stumbled up the hillside undetected and reached the surplus shed. Thank Zephyria that whoever was in there last left it unlocked. I pushed Crow inside and shut the door behind us. Lighting a match, I felt around the floor until I found the handle to the village’s root cellar.

 

“Go!” I said, and Crow climbed down the ladder. I squinted through the tiny keyhole. Ananias and the others were heading into Aurele’s house, Kato following helplessly behind them.

 

Aurele was holding Hosänna tightly in her arms. I was shocked that he actually gave her baby back. This Nightsong sacrifice must have been a big deal for him not care.

 

I climbed down the ladder and shut the trapdoor above me. I felt around in the pitch-black darkness, and I find Crow trembling against a wall.

 

“It’s gonna be all right, Crow. Don’t be scared.” I whispered. I sat down beside him and took him into my arms. He was crying then.

 

“They are going to kill Kristofer.” he said, and I heard him swallow hard. I didn’t know what to say. I put my hand against his cold cheek and stroked his face with my thumb.

 

“I’m sorry, Crow.”

 

He coughed. “No, I’m sorry. I’ve put you and your people in so much danger.”

We began to hear footsteps above us, so neither of us even dared to breathe.

“There’s a trapdoor there.” said a gruff voice, neither Ananias nor Kristofer’s.

 

My heart stopped beating. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t keep Crow safe.

 

Tears blinded my eyes as the trapdoor opened. But nobody came in at first.

 

“What’s down there?” asked Ananias.

 

“It’s just a root cellar.” said Kato, somewhat slyly. What was he trying to do?

 

Two footsteps (presumably towards Kato). “What are you hiding down there? Some sort of beast?” continued Ananias. “Is this a trap, boy?”

 

“It’s a root cellar.” repeated Kato, his voice low and matter-of-fact.

 

“You go.” said Ananias. At first I thought he meant Kato, but one of the cloaked men came down the ladder. I held Crow tightly in my arms.

 

It was Kristofer. His eyes went wide when he saw us.

 

I let go of a breath that I had held for far too long, and Crow’s body noticeably relaxed against mine.

 

“Well? What is it?” called Ananias from above.

 

Kristofer struggled for words. “It’s just a root cellar. It’s empty. No one’s here.”

 

Ananias jumped into the hole, ignoring the ladder completely. I screamed without thinking. Kristofer tried to hold a straight face as Ananias looked at him. The priest turned and saw us, then looked back at Kristofer.

 

He laughed. “Exactly as I expected. You’re a traitor as well.”

 

“No…” said Kristofer, shaking his head. “Crow’s my friend"“

 

“Astoria will punish you both!” Ananias pulled out a dagger and stabbed Kristofer twice, once in the stomach and once in the groin. I screamed and covered my mouth in horror as Crow twisted out of my arms and got to his feet.

 

No!!!” he screamed, grabbing Ananias from behind. I watched Kristofer’s face contort with intense pain as he fell to the ground like puppet that had been cut from its strings. Crow struggled to choke Ananias to death, but the other two Cabränians jumped down and grabbed him by the arms, pulling him away.

 

“No!!! Let him go!” I screamed, trying in any way possible to harm one of them. Ananias put an arm around my waist, pulling me towards him. He put a knife to my throat. Kato jumped in then, sword brandished.

 

“Everybody stop! Don’t move.” Ananias growled. Kato saw me and froze. He dropped his sword. I looked at Crow, whose face was flushed with anger. He had stopped struggling. His eyes were fixated on Kristofer’s lifeless body, lying there on the dirt floor. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he was sobbing quickly from loss of breath. I started to cry. Nobody could do anything because I had been so weak as to get caught by Ananias.

 

“Yuri. Kadmas.” said Ananias, with a vague gesture of his chin in Crow’s direction. One began punching and kicking Crow in the stomach while the other held both arms behind his back. I cried out, but Ananias pushed his blade closer to my skin. I glanced at my brother. He was so angry that he was trembling. He clenched his fists.

 

I was then crying harder that I had ever in my life. I was scared, hurt, confused, and too many other emotions to enumerate. I shut my eyes as the blows continued. Crow barely made any sound at all, save sobbing. Yuri and Kadmas didn’t stop until he had gone unconscious.

 

“Enough.” said Ananias, but the tone of his voice clearly made it known that more was to come. “Take him away.” I watched as they dragged Crow’s limp, beaten body up the ladder and out of my sight.

 

“You got you wanted. Now let my sister go.” said Kato through his teeth. Ananias threw me into the corner. I immediately looked up, just in time to see Kato grab his sword and lunge for the Ananias. The priest’s dagger flashed and before I could stop it, the blade left a long trail of red from Kato’s right hip bone all the way up to his left shoulder. Kato gasped and staggered back, into my arms.

 

Stop! Leave now!” I yelled. Ananias looked down at us with cold blue eyes.

 

“You’re quite fortunate that I have more important things to tend to. I’ll let you two live. It is great suffering indeed, to go on with life when one has seen such things as you have tonight.” And with that, he leaped back up to the main floor and left. I heard the door slam above us.

 

“Kato…” I coaxed. My brother swallowed hard.

 

“I’m sorry, Nissa.”

 

I shook my head and stroked his hair, trying not to cry.

 

“You loved him. I should’ve been able to stop them.” he said. I gave him my coat, and he sat up with a grimace. He ripped the coat and began bandaging the cut across his front with the fabric.

 

“You tried your best, Kato.” I said. A few feet away, Kristofer became suddenly, violently conscious. I immediately went to his side. His eyes flew open, and it took a moment for his eyes to focus on my face. His hand held mine tightly, his fingernails digging into my skin. He coughed; a horrible, liquid sound reverberating in his throat.

 

“What is your name?” he said, barely able to speak.

 

“Nissa.”

 

“Nissa, please,” he couged again, blood spilling out the corner of his mouth, “Save Crow. He’s like…a brother…to me"save him! Please!” His other hand grasped my arm.

 

“I will. I will try.” I said. I ran the back of my hand across Kristofer’s pale, sweaty cheek. He breathed a little slower, and his convulsions became less violent. His grip on my arm and hand slackened. I watched, tears trailing down my cheeks again, as his sad hazel eyes rolled back into his head.

 

“Thank you…” he whispered, “Give him"“ Then he was gone. I closed my eyes and spent a silent moment of prayer to Zephyria. I looked at the palm of my hand afterwards; Kristofer had left a pendant there. It was a disc of something like cast iron, with a smaller disc of steel stamped into it. The steel had some sort of symbol engraved into it; I knew not what it meant.

 

I pressed the pendant to my lips and then placed it in one of my belt pouches.

 

I looked back at Kato. He was standing then; he had finished bandaging himself up. His expression was pensive and solemn.

 

“I’m sorry, Kato. I have to find Crow.” I said.

 

“I know.” he said.

 

~*~

 

Consciousness returned to me for about ten seconds. All I can remember is the headache, the stomachache; the pain the tormented every fiber of my body. I was being carried, and every tiny movement caused my body to scream. I felt like a corpse brought back from the dead; not yet recovering from the rigor mortis. Faces and bits and pieces of memory and imagination flashed through my mind.

 

Aurele…

 

Hosänna…

 

Kato…

 

Yuri…Kadmas…

 

Ananias…

 

Kristofer…

 

…Nissa…

 

And everything went fuzzy, black, and cold once more.

 

 

~*~

 

 

Kato looked on as I stuffed clothing, food, and medical supplies into my travel rucksack. Neither of us had spoken since leaving the surplus shed. Kato and his friend Tallas gave Kristofer a proper burial in Alia’s cemetery. I shuddered at the thought that in Cabrän, they dismember the dead body and burn it as a final offering of the person’s life to Astoria.

 

As I watched the body of Crow’s dearest friend descend into the earth, I vowed not only to save Crow from being sacrificed, but also to crush Astoria’s devilish cult.

 

It was a big job, but somebody had to do it. And I believed that I could. Zephyria would guide me, just as she did the hero of Alia.

 

I sighed heavily as I filled my canteen.

 

“I’m going with you, you know.” said Kato out of nowhere. I twisted shut the canteen and looked at my brother. Really looked at him. His face so much like my own, his heart in the same place as mine. He and I have been like leaders for Alia; even the mayor came to us regularly for advice. When we were younger, our father would call us ‘noble little hearts’ because we would always be the first to volunteer for anything in which the outcome was some good for our people.

 

Why should we be any different now? Now, it was time for bigger things.

 

“Yes, I knew you would. Shouldn’t you be packing?”

 

“Already done.” he replied. He went into his room and returned a few seconds later with a backpack, already full and ready to go. “I’m always ready.”

 

I should’ve expected that. Typical Kato. Always ready on a moment’s notice, just in case he gets that special message from the city, saying that one of his inventions is going to be mass produced.

 

“We’ll leave first thing in the morning.” continued Kato, and he caught the disbelief in my expression. “They won’t sacrifice him tonight, Nissa. It’s already too late. They always make their sacrifices at midnight; the start of a new day. They are strict about that. Besides, the mountains are even more perilous at night. We need rest before we go. We should try to sleep.”

 

“Are you sure they won’t sacrifice him as soon as possible?” I asked, “What if they’re so angry at him that they just decided to go along with it to get rid of him?”

 

“If that was the case, we would already be too late, Nissa.”

 

I lowered my head.

 

“Hope, dear sister. Zephyria taught us to never lose hope.”

 

 

~*~

 

The second time I woke up, I was freezing cold. My body was so numb that I almost couldn’t feel any pain. Almost.

 

I shifted, and my entire body began to crackle and sting as if a thousand needles of ice were being stabbed into my skin. If one has ever had their foot fall asleep, they can imagine the sensation.

 

I gasped involuntarily and the echo it produced gave me a sense of what the room was like. I was basically lying on the floor of a huge, pitch-black room made up of cast iron"making the room temperature about negative five degrees Celsius. I assumed that I was in one of the lower rooms of the Cabränian dungeons.

 

I was a prisoner. Mind, body and soul.

 

My head began to throb so violently that I lost consciousness again.

 

 

END OF PART ONE.

© 2011 Aianarie (INACTIVE)


Author's Note

Aianarie (INACTIVE)
Here's the summary. The "Description" section above is being a jerkface.

~*~

Two villages on opposite sides. Two lovers trapped in-between.

A witch priestess, claiming ultimate power from a demon goddess,came to the troubled village of Alia and preached of her religion. Some joined her, while others remained faithful to the goddess Zephyria. War broke out. The witch priestess was killed. Out of fear, her followers fled to the other side of the mountains. Alia split into two: Alia and Cabran. The Cabranians continue their satanic rituals, and one young man named Crow dares to run away...

~*~

I wrote this as a "short story", but it came out to 30 pages typed (much longer than I intended), enough to be a short novelette! The way that I wrote it, however--it's not meant to be broken up into chapters, and I decided that it would be best presented this way.

Please note grammar and/or typographical errors. THANK YOU; ENJOY. :]

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Featured Review

Ai, this is crazy good. I love the story. The idea of the two opposite sides and a kid from each falling in love with each other is a very appealing concept.

I also love how you switch POV. You do it so seamlessly that I always know who's speaking and never got confused.

As always, I'm so jealous of your dialogue. Your skill therein is uncanny.

So now I'm off to read Part II. :]


Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

GASP!!! this story is absolutely amazing. i loved it soooo much. now i'm gonna go read part 2!!!!!

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Ai, this is crazy good. I love the story. The idea of the two opposite sides and a kid from each falling in love with each other is a very appealing concept.

I also love how you switch POV. You do it so seamlessly that I always know who's speaking and never got confused.

As always, I'm so jealous of your dialogue. Your skill therein is uncanny.

So now I'm off to read Part II. :]


Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Thank you for the amazing story. I couldn't stop reading the interesting tale. I like the storyline and the characters. I like the concept of the two villages. I like the many dangerous situations and the meeting. Thank you for sharing the outstanding story. I hope to read more chapters.
Coyote

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

this is prolly my fave out of everything u have written. its awesome. post the rest the second half is soooo good!!!!!

Posted 8 Years Ago


Wow, this story is amazing. I love the details. I can't wait to read the rest :)

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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583 Views
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Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on October 14, 2011
Last Updated on October 14, 2011
Tags: fantasy, dark, emotional, romance, first person, narrative, double pov, two povs, religion, witches, rituals, satanic

Author

Aianarie (INACTIVE)
Aianarie (INACTIVE)

Eugene, OR



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**IMPORTANT: This account is inactive. To keep up with me, A.M. Wied, follow me at the Facebook link below! Thank you for your support!** Hello~! My name is Ashley and I am a great many things, .. more..

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