Sunday, March 24, 2019

Initiation (in pieces)

He woke slowly. The world seemed hazy, swirling around him in fog and ash. There was screaming, so faint. His mother perhaps? The boy sat up, curiously looking around. The house was crackling and alive. Flame kissing...engulfing. 


His mother’s voice was breaking. 


Horrid coughing interrupted her cries. She called for his younger sister. In a flash, his mind cleared. His sister. He had to save his sister. In a flurry, he threw the blankets off the bed and rushed to the door. He pushed, wincing as it singed his fingertips but the door wouldn’t budge. The house groaned and part of the roof caved in. 

“Marian, we have to get out while we still can!”

“I’m not leaving her! ...Evangeline! Where are you honey?”

The boy started pounding on the door, the heat searing his forearms. He squealed and jumped back. He joined their screams, hoping they could hear him. Hoping they would rescue their only son.

“Marian, over here...”

“Did you find her? Eva, honey, say something so mommy can find you!”

The boy screamed again.

“You fool, that’s him...” She spat. “You caused this, you little shit! If you’ve hurt her...” Coughing mixed with a new tuft of ash in the air. The house groaned and something snapped. “You’ll burn for what you’ve done.”

Her words made him frantic. In desperation he pounded, harder with each succession. “Dad! ...Dad!” Broken sobs as finally he backed away, looking around him in fear. “Help...!” his voice squeaked. “Please...please, help me!”

* * * * * * * *

Black eyes watched in concern as a farmhouse swirled in flame. The last stubborn bits finally broke with a crack that spoke to the heavens as it collapsed in a colossal heap. No one ran out. No one stirred. He closed his eyes and listened. The wood spit. Fabrics caught in a sudden burst. The flames lapped in hushed tones and whispers. Subtly filtered through the resin, flesh popped and pooled. Then he found it, so soft yet so clear. A small boy whimpering. Black eyes opened, alert. 

* * * * * * * *

One foot in front of the other. The mantra played in his head as he willed himself forward. Each step sent sharp pains through his body. When the house collapsed, a large section had landed on his arm. He had no memory of escaping. No memory of how he ended up staggering along the side of the road. He had no concept of where he was going. If he were to turn back he would see only blood painting the newly fallen snow. Keep going. Have to get help. Evangeline. 

The ground rushed forward and bit into his knees. He whimpered as he fell forward, not bothering to try to catch himself. He could hear coughing, crying. The snow turned to ash swirling the air above him. Embers that threatened to betray him. Blessed cold, save him, he prayed. Prayed even though he knew no one would hear him.

* * * * * * * *

Black eyes watched from a distance. The young boy was struggling. Bleeding. He likely had broken bones. He’d be in shock. And was wiser to simply wait. Breath came in white clouds against the chill in the air, which was a drastic change from this morning. Once the boy lost consciousness completely, warmth would seep back into the world. There was a slight whimper in the wind and a crunch as the small body slumped into the snow. It as almost time. Fingers flexed within black leather. Not much longer at all.

* * * * * * * *

It was subtle, the way the sound of hooves clipping against the stone roused him. It reminded him of traveling with his father, before. Lost in groggy momentary happiness he felt weightless and free. He inhaled deeply, his lungs squeaked from the force and pain dimmed his world again. His only thought before the hooves lulled him back to peace was one of hope. His mind didn’t register any of the scents around him but he felt as if the world was as it should be. The hold around his body tightened only slightly as the rhythmic tempo increased. 

* * * * * * * *

Falling. He was falling. There was no end to the inky darkness beneath him. A fire raged above him and at his sides, creaking. Shifting. Timber that threatened to break loose. He opened his mouth and found his throat was burned. He couldn’t make a sound. Wind whipped through the rags barely clinging to his body. His arm was dead at his side. 

A terrible rumbling radiated along the walls. Cascading blocks of cinder tumbled around him. One slammed against his shoulder and he screamed. His voice, suddenly found. He pulled at his clothes, ripping them further. 

“Sir, he’s waking.”

He clutched at the sheets barely grazing against his fingertips. Urine warmed his thighs as his bladder released. He felt warmth against his forehead. A gentle hand to push his black hair off clammy skin. He tried to open his eyes. Tried to move. The touch moved past his eyes and down his nose. He smelled flowers. Beautiful red flowers that led to calm darkness.

* * * * * * * *

“Can you tell me your name, son?”

Clear blue eyes stared vacant into the room. It had been two weeks and all that seemed to be occupying the bed was the shell of a boy that was. Sometimes people don’t bounce back. 

Thoughtful black eyes watched the boy from a chair at the corner of the room. He wasn’t a healer. Not of the body, anyway. He must stay back and let his people work. The room felt cool, which he supposed was a good sign. He rubbed his jaw slowly. “Evangeline... that was her name, right?” He knew he was talking to himself but maybe there was someone still in there. “And your parents were...Marian and Haim. Farmers, I believe....” His voice faded as a petite female approached the bed.

“Has there been any improvement?” Her voice felt indifferent, though he knew better. She was giving up. It would be easier to let go if she didn’t care.

“Yes.” He lied. A spark returned to her eyes and he knew he made the right decision. Hopefully his prior choices were also the right decision. How does one know until it’s too late? It’s a tricky thing, the mind. He debated lighting a fire. He was confident even the smell would rouse the boy back. Perhaps it’d even be explosive. It had been a while since there was a “mage” issue. He chuckled and the healer tilted her head in confusion. “My apologies,” he nodded, “please, do what you need to do.”

A frown knotted her brow as she turned back to her patient. “I have to apply the salve to try to mend the burns...if you’d like to help.”


She turned back and the room was empty.

* * * * * * * *

The boy’s head snapped up in a start.  He was sitting upright in a mildly uncomfortable metal chair. His hands were in shackles built into the table before him. A soft light above him illuminated the windowless room. He had no memory of how he got here. Had he committed a crime? His eyes darted rapidly about as he desperately tried to come up with what had happened. He paled as the heavy wooden door groaned and clicked as a weight pressed against it. He thought he remembered...there was something about a fire.

Tanned fingers splayed against the wood grain, pushing the door open. Beyond seemed to be only shadow. Deep blue fabric shimmered in the light as he slowly stepped into the room. He looked strong. The boy tugged on his chains and looked desperately away. His eyes filled with tears as he remembered his mother spitting at his name. He had started the fire. That’s what she had said. Would she forgive him? He remembered shouting for his father... 

“What is your name.” His low voice was soft. 

The boy started shivering and blubbering. His little arms jerked against the cold metal that tethered him. “I didn’t mean to do it! I didn’t mean it! Please tell him. Please tell my dad, I’m sorry!” His voice broke and he dared to look up at the man before him. “Does my my mom...” bottom lip quivered. “She won’t forgive me!”

He was met with a frown. The man inhaled deeply, while illustrating the breath in gesture with his hands. The boy tried to mirror him. The chains clinked but forcing himself to slow his air intake calmed him for the moment. “Better.” The boy’s arm involuntarily jerked, digging metal further into his wrist. The man softly smiled. “Your name, please.”

“Aemon, sir.” Weary, the boy broke eye contact to stare at his chains. He started trembling. Quietly crying. He felt a touch at his chin as his face was angled up. 


Aemon nodded. “Yes—“ sharp intake of air as a sob threatened to break “—sir.” 

“My name is Monol.” He thought for a moment and unclasped the chain to the heavy ash coloured cloak at his back. Carefully he dropped it around Aemon’s shoulders. “When you’re able, we’re going to have a talk about how you ended up here.” Aemon’s head fell. He didn’t bother to try to hold back the tears. 

Monol stood, waiting. Muffled footsteps hurried past the door but the boy didn’t seem to notice. Eventually the cries and staggered breath would calm. Eventually, Aemon would find his voice. Until then, he must wait. Monol backed a couple paces to find the wall and adjusted his weight. The room was extraordinarily plain. Windowless and small, it simply contained a metal chair that was melded to the floor and a rough wooden table with attached manacles. The length of the chain could be adjusted. For Aemon, it was short enough that he couldn’t touch his face, or clasp his hands but not so that he was forced to be hunched forward.

Aemon’s sniffles were getting persistent. Monol watched him, curious. The chains clinked as he tried in vain to wipe his nose. Aemon glanced up briefly before attempting to bend down to his sleeve. Drops of phlegm dripped onto the table before he realized his situation. Aemon’s face, puffy from emotion, darkened in embarrassment. A soft fabric wiped his nose, which made the embarrassment deepen. Aemon looked up, grateful. “I’m sorry...” he whispered.

Monol just nodded in response and resumed his post against the wall. Aemon’s arm twitched again decorating the air with a soft clank of metal scraping the table. The boy seemed hyper aware of sounds, staring down the chains. Willing them to silence. 

“Deep breaths and you’ll feel better.” Monol softly reminded him. Aemon nodded and closed his eyes, trying to focus. Exhaustion threatened to claim him.

“Aemon —“ Monol’s voice sharply cut the silence. “Shall we begin?”

Aemon stared at his wrist. It was lined with pink and white stress lines. It kept jumping as his arm seemed to have a mind of its own. The man—Monol, he thought....Monol was his name—had moved forward and was leaning towards him on the table. His face didn’t look angry but Aemon couldn’t help but feel small. Growing smaller by the second. The cuffs had spots of rust on them, marring the beauty of the iron. They seemed to be his reminder that he would not simply fade out of existence. He owed this man answers. Owed his parents answers. 

Aemon opened his mouth to speak and nothing came out. His eyes felt strained. It somehow felt brighter in the room. Defeated, he sniffled and tried to start again. “I don’t want you to get mad at me,” he squeaked.

Monol stood and crossed his arms across his chest. The blue hued marvellously throughout the folds of the fabric. Noiselessly he moved to Aemon’s side and knelt beside him, gently resting his hand near the arm that kept twitching. “What happened.” His voice was soft. Calming. 

“There was a fire...and I don’t remember.” Aemon turned his head to meet Monol’s gaze and saw disappointment. “It’s true! It’s not my fault. I was sleeping I —“ Monol held his hand to silence him. A fleeting moment of courage hit Aemon and he blurted, “I’m not lying!” His voice was cracked and dry. “I don’t remember.”

The hand upon the table flexed into a fist before resuming its flat unassuming position again. “Why do you seek forgiveness if you don’t know what you’ve done? You should be seeking knowledge.” Monol shook his head and stood once more. Starting absently, he shook his head once more and turned his back on Aemon and started to walk away.

“Please don’t leave! Please!” Aemon was frantic. Pulling hard at the chains that bound him. “Please, I’ll do better! Please don’t leave me!” Monol paused and glanced behind him. “Please...!” Aemon started hiccuping. 

“If you lie to me again, those will be our last words together. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir.” He clamped his mouth shut in time to silence the hiccup. “Please...please don’t le—hic!—leave me.”

* * * * * * * *

Monol turned towards Aemon slowly. This fingers played with his lips as he stood in thought. “Tell me...” his dark eyes wandered about the room as he began. “Tell me about your parents.” An idea had sparked. “It’s a common expression that we say things we don’t mean when we’re upset. Have you heard this?” He kindly regarded Aemon, but didn’t wait for a response before continuing. “I don’t think that’s true, do you? I think we say things we absolutely mean and yet...we simply had no intention of saying.” Monol’s head tilted ever so slightly. “You asked for forgiveness...” After a period of silence, he prodded, “why?”

Aemon paled.

“Too much. That is the heart of it, isn’t it?” A brief flicker of a smile warmly lit Monol’s face. “Tell me about your mother. What is her name?”

Aemon’s small face twisted into a frown. “Marian,” he whispered.

“Why are you afraid?” 

Aemon looked up at Monol. His bright eyes wide. “She said it was my fault. I didn’t mean to. She wouldn’t...” He looked down at his chains. “She told me to burn!” His voice cracked at the exclamation. “I was calling and calling.” His arm tugged against the chains as it twitched. 

“Aemon....” The boy cautiously looked up at the man before him. “Have you ever caused objects to burst into flame?”

“No, sir”

Monol frowned in seriousness. “Are you on familiar terms with an arsonist or anyone that is capable of causing objects to burst into fire who could seek revenge upon you and your household for some deed of which you are responsible?”

Aemon chewed his lip while he pondered the question. Monol’s eyebrows drew together and he nodded. “The likely answer is ‘no’ which begs the follow up question: why do you suppose she would possibly blame you?”

* * * * * * * *

“She says the old gods are punishing them. She said since I’ve been getting older, their land and fortune is dying. The crops won’t grow. I overheard her tell my dad to leave me next time we went to town...” Aemon stared at the cuffs. His brow furrowed. “He never did.”

“Old gods?” Monol tilted his head, curious.

Aemon’s frown deepened. “She said that’s where magic comes from.”   

A rustling sound of fabric as Monol folded his arms across his chest startled Aemon. “I see.” His voice, grave. “The old gods, who left this world to rot long before your great grandparents were alive, bestowed upon you a gift. A gift that has ruined your household.” Monol scratched at his jaw and quietly moved to Aemon’s side. “I appreciate your honesty.” His hand covered the shackle closest to him. Aemon saw the flash of silver. It flitted between Monol’s fingers, briefly coming into contact with the pinhole meant for a key. Something within the metal clicked as both cuffs unlocked in unison.

“Thank you!” Boyish wonder was back in Aemon’s face with his freedom. He rubbed at his wrists, trying to smooth the aches away. The arm twitch marred the happiness temporarily but it was forgotten as he heard the latch at the door. Wide little eyes stared forward at Monol pulling the door open.

“I need you to understand something, Aemon.” A faint breeze pushed past Monol to ruffle the boy’s hair. Aemon thought he recognised the smell. So familiar, and yet...what was it. “I don’t believe you are responsible for any criminal activity. You are free to go. I know the hall seems dark...and I can escort you if that is your wish.” Monol bowed slightly, gesturing to the dark. 

Aemon paled. “I...” Monol looked up at him. “Is my dad waiting for me? I...don’t know where to go. My house...” He seemed lost within the room. “The fire...”

Monol’s mouth opened to speak, but no sound came out. He stood and frowned. “You were found at the side of the road, barely alive and alone. I do not know the fate of your family.” He extended his hand in warmth. His dark eyes alive with hope. “I will help you discover if they yet live.”

Aemon paused before climbing out of the chair. He had never noticed, the man’s eyes were so dark they looked black. Terrified of what he might discover, but resolute in his path he decided he must try. For Evangeline.

Thirty Years Later

Soft exhales in a lonely bed pushed small pockets of cool into the air. Dry hands mindlessly itched short hair that was so black it hued blue. His head tilted back into the pillow as long fingers dragged over his face. Adam's apple shifting as he grunted in frustration. "Fine," he whispered venomously into the air. Swiftly he disentangled himself from the linens and grabbed white woolen pants. He hopped awkwardly tugging them into place as he crossed the room to throw open the doors to his balcony. Midnight window hangings billowed around him as the wind swept through. A hawk dove at him, stopping short to perch on his bare shoulder. She had a small leather pouch on her back. "On the desk, if you please."

Turning back to the room he absently waved his hand and brought it towards his lips to chew on his thumb. A rope hanging  beside his door strained in the air as it pulled to him. Ice laced through the fibers and quickly formed a ball the size of his fist. Glancing at his desk, he let his hand fall. The rope started swinging, clanging a bell wildly. Noiselessly he walked to the desk and patted the hawk's head before taking the pouch. 

A slight creak behind him bounced around the circular stone room. "Wine and food, Sir?" 

"Food for the birds. Fire." He didn't bother to look up as he removed the contents delivered to him. He unrolled a parchment and smoothed it over the wood grain, waiting. He smiled at the murmuring behind him. Light to burst into the room revealing words on the page. "Try to keep the screaming to a minimum,"  he murmured.

A small squeak of fear. "Sir?"

He sighed, irritated. "The food is to be fresh, always. Or I suppose if you continue to make them wait, the screams will be yours, child. Take the hawk to the others and pray she's not hungry for you."

No comments:

Post a Comment