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A short Story of Mine

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Becoming By: Nicole L Petersen

The dark musty cavern floor is littered with putrid decaying flesh. In the corner a small freta scurries among the heaps of bloody carrion trying to grab one last morsel of food before the flashing claws of the watchers pierce the matted hair and spill the life force of the freta’s mortality. In the center of the den the fires blaze on a black pillar of basalt. From the top of the pillar the hissing embers fall to the cavern floor illuminating glimpses of the watchers’ jagged claws. Just short of the entrance way a dark figure skulks away from a convulsing mass of twisted limbs and black torn fabric. It lifts his head from the corpse below and its piercing yellow eyes gaze into the fires of its master.

“My lord, he was too weak to complete your task.” The dark form throws its battle worn body before the blazing fires.

Flames scorch the scaly being on the flesh-covered floor while screams of pain and suffering echo throughout the cavern.

“You are spared this time, do not fail me again.”

“Yes master. Thank you, my master. So good to me you are master.” The dark forms press their heads to the floor chanting their dark mantra over and over again.

Their chanting ceases as the voice of their master hisses his final orders. “Go and seek out the child at once.”

“Yes Master. We obey. We obey at once. Quickly. We go. At once.” The watchers drop low to the ground and slink out of the cavern to the earth’s surface.

The elf child searches desperately for a familiar face, a face she knows that she can trust. She finally spots her father off a short distance talking to the high council of Perasca. She quickly distances herself from the whispering shadows - where they are waiting for her still. As she reaches the security of her father’s cloak she can feel the images staring at her. Taunting her to look their way. The wind brought their voices to her; “We’re waiting”. Her father looks down at his shivering child and picks her up with his strong, callused hands. He holds the child tightly to his chest and places her head on his shoulder. She sighs contently in the comfort of her father’s arms. She feels safe, for now.

Her father carries her all the way home like he did when she was a youngling, before the shadows began whispering to her. He caresses her cheeks with his hand and rocks her in time to the dance of the night. She becomes limp in his arms and her mind slowly drifts off into the night air. He walks briskly into the old decrepit hut. Her father takes her past the smoldering fire, and into the earth stained room where he lays her down on her pallet that is made up of leaves, feathers, and milkweed. He covers his diminutive offspring with her rabbit hide blanket. He runs his hand across the soft fur that his wife had given to their firstborn before she died giving birth to their son. Aniste was only a few moons old at the time of his wife’s death. Thank the Creator she doesn’t remember much of her mother.

The smells of gardenias on a sweet summer day fill Aniste with happiness and the vague memories of her mother. The soft grass underneath her feet began to squish between her toes. She smiles towards the inuka tree and begins walking towards the open field. Flocks of jayas glide through the sapphire sky playing in the afternoon breezes.

Dark clouds blot out the sunlight and roll quickly across the sky. The budding grass began diminishing till there was nothing but the sound of hard clay crumbling beneath her feet. Lightening strikes the inuka tree in front of her. She screams, turns abruptly and runs as fast as she can back to the safety of the familiar wood.

“Papa, no. Papa, no.” She is alone and frightened there is no way out, nowhere to run. “Help me. Save me. Please!” Pitiful sobs pour out of her young body as she crawls along the dark, grimy, stank cavern floor. She trembles with fear as the rancid wind blows towards her, the awful whaling screaming inside her head.

Her whimpering grows louder as flashes of moonlight graze her face. Echoes of torture fill her waking thoughts. She bolts up clutching her blanket and looks dazed about the room. As she realizes she is safe her heart stops pounding and she lies down and drifts back into a deep sleep.

The watchers peer through the misty glass and watch as the child encounters her fears in the first steps of her training. After watching her night after night the horrid creatures slip into the darkness of the wood and skulk into the labyrinths below the earth’s surface.

A voice echoes throughout the cave and the fires blaze up to the caverns crown. “What news have you brought me?”

The watchers pause at the entryway of the den below. They throw their haggard bodies on the pathway leading to the pillar. “She is ready my liege.” A dread silence passes by while the watchers await word of their master.

“Go. Fetch her at once and bring her to me here. She must learn who she belongs to.”

“Yes master. At once we go. ” Their bright, yellow eyes turn back to the hollows of the cavern. They run back up to the surface scratching their jagged, pointed claws on the cavern floor and wail their sorrows of their past lives. They clamor through the maze of fetid halls back to the child.

Aniste wakes up and glances around the room. Stale, reeking air fills the room and she clutches the blanket that was wrapped tightly around her body. She looks over to where her small inuka chair should be and realizes at once she is not in her little room. Heat from the small fire begins to scorch her delicate frail skin. The shadows’ voices begin speaking softly at first then almost screaming inside her head. “We’re coming for you Aniste. It is time.”

Screaming out in agony and fear she jumps up from the bed and tries to bolt out the wooden splintered door. She reaches the door, pounding her tiny fists till blood drips off each of her knuckles. Realizing the door has been barricaded she cries out her soul and slinks to the floor. She knows she will never go home.

Aniste steps through the shadows towards the secluded grove by a lone cavern set in the middle of the wood. She reaches into her sheath for her knife carefully concealing it behind her back. The watchers fall to the ground as she comes into view.

“We are here to help you, oh, daughter of the soulless.”

“Help me? Do you think I need help? I am not some mindless maiden. I do not need help from ones who were bested by me as a child and I certainly do not need help now.” She reaches down and grabs a black clad figure up from the ground and slices her knife across its throat. A black coagulated fluid seeps from the watchers throat and runs down to the icy earth to the feet of the hallowing watchers. “Now be gone from me. I must continue on my way. Do not contact me further. I will find you when I have completed my task.” She throws the limp being onto the ground.

“Thank you, mistress. Thank you.” The watchers crowd the lifeless body and begin to devour it little by little.

“He sends his senseless beings to keep watch over me, how little he knows about what I have become.” She walks down to the crystal clear river and dips the crimson knife into the water.

After she cleans the knife she returns it to her sheath. Her skin is pale except for the red markings of war. The mark of a true hunter, three pointed daggers that crisscrossed and wrapped around her wrist. She braids her raven hair and ties it up with thorns from the brush she finds by the water’s edge. Her piercing, yellow eyes dart across the river to the direction from which she came. She scans the area to see if the watchers are following her. After pulling her hair out of the way, she proceeds to wade through the pounding rivers current. She is not even aware of the floating ice chunks brushing against her legs. Aniste drudges through the rocky bottom to the other side of the raging river. She then climbs up the ragged rocks out of the river. The gnarled trees covered with the slick moss and night dew drew together leading into the path to the village that is waiting for her.

Walking down the well-worn path, she pauses at the fork in the road. A faint rustling is heard through the trees. A ghuyar lands quietly and silently perches on the branch above her. The knowing eyes watch her, yet the bird makes no sound. It flaps its wings once to prepare itself for the night’s journey, then spreads its wings and begins to lift up into the sky to continue its hunt for its prey. She nods after it acknowledging the task she must complete. A few moments later she continues down the right fork of the path and weaves her way through the wood. After half a moon’s time she reaches the small village.

Stormy gray eyes encircled with the wrinkles of time stare at the heavens above. His nimble fingers cautiously reach for his staff to help pull himself up to a rigid stance. It was coming. The time when loved ones, would be sent away to protect the purity of the nations. Survival was now to become their main means of living. Darkness had swallowed the lands to the east, and now was looming above his beloved land of L’Erea. The venerable elf quietly walks into the great hall and with one last glance above he watches as the clouds come rolling in. It was time.

In the meeting with the village council he talks of the one who has been sent to protect them. He explains to his children that the sacred one will lead them away from the darkness and help them to discover the hidden lands that he himself had tucked away many moons ago. He reaches into his cloak and extracts three maps from the rough folds. J’Hera shakily places the maps on the table and tells his people of the past war with the shadow. As he continues his discussion, the wind blows the door open. The council turns their head and sees the young elvin male with a long bow strapped to his back. His chestnut brown hair falls down around his pointed ears and his striking blue eyes stare at J’Hera.

“She has arrived father.” The young elf steps into the light and gestures to the

lanky elvin woman that is standing behind him.

The raven-haired elvin woman steps from out of the shadows. She bows before the village council.

“I am Aniste. I have come far to the land to help your people J’hera. My journey has been long and I am parched. I would welcome a place to gather my wits before I discuss with you the problems at hand.

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