“Little girl, it is useless to run.”
The merrow in front of me snarled, her features distorting as she leapt out of the water and at the feathered ribbon bracelet I held in my hand. I staggered back, clutching it against my heart and distancing myself from the shapeshifting creature, still stunned from what had happened.
Her tail shrunk and her arms sprouted into wings and she flew overhead before landing, legs forming just before she landed. “I won’t hurt you, Princess” she cooed, the voice that came from her lips too beautiful for the sharp teeth and wicked growl frozen on her face. “But you must give me that.” She pointed to the bracelet with a smooth crooked finger.
She stalked forward, hand still outstretched. Her milky hair cascaded around her face and dripped to her feet and I wondered how anyone could walk or swim with it. I stumbled back again, clutching the bracelet. It wouldn’t serve me to stall. We both knew her companions were coming and I needed to be back at the castle. But my wand, summoning staff, and dagger had all been sucked into the flash of light that had created this bracelet.
“You can have your belongings,” she sang as if reading my mind. “You can go help your friend. I require only the egg.”
The egg. It was large dragon egg, pitch black except for a few jagged rings the same crimson color as my hair and pink circles the color of my eyes. When I’d first seen it, I wondered if it too existed only because of a blood sacrifice. We already shared in common being the only living creatures on a planet inhabited by recalled dead and bloodthirsty merrows.
“I-It was absorbed into the flash.”
“And you can call it back.”
I was at the edge; behind me the Visola Formidine waterfall plummeted downwards into the lake the merrows lived in. I could hear the fleshy sound of their wings as a dozen of them flew up, surrounding me.
“I can summon it?” I feigned cooperation as I stepped closer to the edge, kicking a pebble down. It disintegrated from the energy radiating off the waterfall before it even hit the foam at the bottom.
“We should just destroy the entire thing,” one hissed. “She cannot summon it yet.” I turned. The new merrow had spears in their clawed feet and all wore the same devilish scowl the first did. There was no way I could defeat them all and have energy to help Loise in the Calling.
We waited like that, them unwilling to harm me should I make it alive to inform my parents, and I desperately calculating an escape that didn’t involve killing anyone; there was already enough death in my existence. Then one of the merrow broke that kind train of though:
“The egg, Princess Luna.”
“Anuna,” I snapped, anger boiling within me. “I am Anuna Erkygon, ancilla of the Lady Auiya Le’Enor. And you have no right to call me otherwise!”
I took my opening, sweeping my free hand around me, aiming vaguely for the offending merrow. Magic energy exploded around me and a jagged black stream of electricity went wild, sending off red sparks. Without looking to see if my distraction-attack was enough, I took the final step and plummeted off the edge.
Here’s a tip: don’t jump off waterfalls in a dress. Even if you have leggings and shorts underneath.
The wind whiplashed across my face, and I could feel the energy from the waterfall reaching for me, drawing off my fears and clawing at me as if I were a piece of prey. Fifteen years of life lived in the shadow of my parents and tore at my mind as pain licked my skin. The bracelet clutched tightly in my hands, I concentrated on pulling the air around me to slow my descent.
Suddenly I felt a shudder from the bracelet and a moment later it glowed and wound around my wrist, leaving in my hands the ebony and cherry egg that the merrow, now shooting down the waterfall in their aquatic forms, sought to eat. It shuddered again and as I pulled the currents of the air, unable to get a firm grasp without my wand to channel my magic. A merrow’s spear whirled out of the cascade and I dodged, plummeting faster. A crack and tiny burst from my hands alerted me to the egg again, and I realized that it was hatching, in the middle of our plunge into the Lake of Fear. A droplet of water from the Visola Formidine touched the shell and before I could wipe it away the droplet was steaming and the shell exploded away, leaving a small, slimy, black figure in my hands.
I couldn’t tend to him immediately as we were quite obviously falling, but I took delicate care not to fold or damage his wings and held him close. With my other hand I reached out at the pool of water and ignoring the screams of death echoing in my ears and the claws raking my skin I uttered a portal spell directly into the encroaching lake.
A few fast merrow were catching up and aiming to attack us. Fortunately, it seemed none had noticed the whirlpool coagulating beneath us. At the last moment I thrust my hand around to create as best a protective cushion of air against the impact as I could and curled up with the pitch-black dragon safely against me as we plunged into the waters of the Lake of Fear itself.
Colors swam before my eyes and air swept out of my lungs as I and my new dragon hurtled through space. I gasped for breath and finally the whirling stopped. The world still spun with dizziness around me but I could feel solid ground below me again and the thumping of another little heart by my side.
"Princess Anuna!" I looked up and saw Dr. Markyus and my father rush into the courtyard I had appeared in. “The Calling has started,” the good doctor said, waving his hand over me. My breathing eased immediately. “It’s not going well though.”
Not going well was an understatement: Cristae’s movements were sunk in weariness and Loise choked the words of the ritual out between gasps of air. The rune that surrounded the area were the standard symbols to call people to the Land of Dreams, the pool that the Calling had to be done with was laced with the proper ingredients, and plump packets of herbs surrounding the circle radiated the needed auras . What was going wrong?
“What is—?” Father asked suddenly, a mix between horror and confusion in his voice. I followed his gaze to the little dragon that was floundering about, drying himself, and touched his black little snout. He looked up at me, making a gurgling sound.
“A dragon…” Dr. Markyus said, the awe apparent in his voice. The expression I saw though, was more than awe: it was greed, power-thirsty desire. I shuddered and took a small vial out of my pocket and poured it into a rock for the newborn.
“Doctor, the Calling,” Father reminded him urgently. The High King glanced over his two old friends and gritted his teeth in determination. “Dr. Markyus has a spell, but we have no power to use it,” Father said, turning to me. “It requires the power of an ancilla,”
I snapped my fingers and he handed it to me; I skimmed the words and procedure. It was remarkably simple for a Calling-spell that demanded the power of one of Auiya’s own. “It is harder than it seems, milady,” the doctor and my mentor said, and pointed to certain marks on the scroll where he had jotted notes. “Your mother was unavailable due to a conflict with the merrow-folk, but I trust you can preform it well.”
“Go. I will watch this…organism,” Father encourage with obvious distaste.
I nodded in thanks at their confidence. Raw determination flooded through me; this was my friend and lifelong servant who was at stake. Abruptly I realized I had no wand to amplify my power and grasped the feather and ribbon bracelet my wand had been absorbed into, hoping it had gained the powers of a wand. My finger grazed the pearl in the feather-and-ribbon bracelet and I envisioned my wand--more for security and reassurance; nonetheless, the ribbon and feathers suddenly shrunk and twisted until they reformed into my wand, exactly as it was before the absorption. I was surprised, but Loise and Cristae were in danger and without pausing, I flourished the wand and held it high as I read the Ellhnikan script.
“Pneyma toy Auiya oti proedros mesa olos Kawl , katharos eht empdisa energeia apo aytoi psyxh. katharisths aytoys temper aytoys , kai anagennwmai eht swma , psyxh kai pneyma. metaferw aytoi poiothta sto Kalesa. sa diko toys psyxh oxyrwnw eht Kalesa. aporrofw diko toys pneyma otni eht Kalesa. Aether.”
At first it seemed to be working. A wave of light emitted from my friends as used energy instantly renewed itself in a river of magic. I relaxed and collapsed next to my dragon. Father wrapped an arm around me and I let his soothing light magic purify my own energy and rejuvenate me. Dr. Markyus smiled at it and sat next to me with a quiet, "Congratulations. You managed that spell very well.”
I only nodded, accepting the compliment and returned to watching the scene: the pink healing light was still there, dancing over their skin as they finished the ritual's task. The storm of energy around them swept upwards, spinning around the courtyard once before streaming downwards. The herbs danced inwards before everything synthesized and solidified into two shapes over the pool. Light from the pool shone over the two figures, bathing one in orange light and the other in golden. The pink glow around Loise and Cristae faded, signaling the apparent end of the Calling of new souls to the planet.
"Two children," Dr. Markyus seemed mildly surprised as we rose to welcome the newcomers to our planet. "How sweet."
Apparently though, the ritual decided it wasn’t over. A dark scarlet glow suddenly enveloped the crystals of the children, and the adults abruptly dissolved into fine particles that streamed into the orange and yellow crystals. I screamed in horror, rushing forward too late to grasp Loise's disintegrating hand. Her soul and body already turning to powder, she turned towards me, a last word I couldn’t catch on her lips.
I watched through blurry eyes as the particles that remained of Loise faded into the crystals of her son and daughter. The carmine glow dissipated and the crystals melted around them and two bodies fell to the ground.
Out of nowhere a knife was hurtled at us, and I reacted just in time to block the boy from receiving a splendid welcoming present. Blood laced around my fingers as I touched the wound. "Who dares--" my voice spoke for me as rage poured into the hollowed soul. Loise and Cristae's death had been enough and this new injury sent pain skewering through my body, but a murder attempt on a newly called soul was an affront to Auiya Herself!
I reached for the bracelet but a dark energy wrapped itself around me, constraining me. I tensed, focusing my energy to break the spell, but relaxed, recognizing my mother’s aura in the magic. Instead, I turned my head as Father and Dr. Markyus did and bowed my head as the Anicilla Suprema materialized in the room. “Are two deaths not enough?” her voice cut through the air, sending cold through my veins. She walked past Father and me and the energy constraining us vanished, setting us lightly on the ground. Father tended to me immediately, tugging the criminal knife out as gently as he could. He didn’t even bother with a healing spell; the moment blood touched the injury, the gash sealed. I didn’t even look; I was born of blood sacrifice and this phenomenon had followed it.
"Good doctor...why did you do it?"
The old man stared at Mother for a long moment before bursting into laugher, "You know very well why I tricked our little princess into it." He laughed again, and wheezed halfway through, scaring me. Only then did I notice indeed how old the family’s servant was. "Cristae's had his run on this world; it's his time to go and I needed an ancilla's power for the casting." Another wheeze-laugh. "Cheer up people! The children survived and have the strength of two souls each!"
"What do you say about the knife?"
Markyus squinted at the offending object that had a moment ago been lodged in my side. "An unfortunate accident. If one had died…”—he managed an unconvincing shrug— “who knows. Maybe we would have had four souls worth of power within a single body."
"They are not weapons," my voice hissed.
The High Queen ignored me, but seemed to agree: “You will pay dearly for murder, attempted murder and… treason,” she spat and he dissolved away, presumedly to some dungeon. “Lyciar. Take the children to Loise and Cristae's rooms and wait for them to wake. We must see the effects of the rite."
Father nodded but first turned to me, pity written in his expression. “You couldn't have known his schemes. You are not at fault.”
But it was. “I-I cast it. I said the words. If I had known better…”
“Anuna.” I could feel both of them tense. I sobbed. “But Luna’s just as good, isn’t it? It doesn’t change anything.” Another sob escaped me and I searched the stone for a trace of dust that might have remained of my friend. “I’m just an agglomeration of destruction. I’m no more alive than any of you.”
“No.” Mother’s voice was stern. “You are different.”
“I’m a murderer.”
Father patted my back again. “You couldn’t have known. You are fallible. That is part of life and living. Of being alive. You don’t have to be perfect just because you are actually alive on a planet of people that have died. We aren’t even perfect and we’ve had an entire life’s worth of experience.”
“And I’ve had nine!”
“You have the blood of nine, not nine lives.” Mother took the black blob from Father’s hands and held him in front of me. “You saved him from eternal sleep, didn’t you?”
“He might have been better off asleep than with me,” I said, but looked up. The black dragon stared at me with unblinking innocence, turning his head in curiosity.
“He needs a name,” Mother said, setting him in my arms as she thought of a name for him. “Azimuthal,” she decided, staring at the odd wings.
I stared at angled head, and the small jagged red marks that ran down his back and wings and devised a name for more common use. “Akai.”
My parents nodded in agreement and smiled sadly, before vanishing away to their respective tasks. I was left alone in the courtyard surrounded by crumpled gray brick with only a ray of fading light gleaming off a translucent pool. I stared down at Azimuthal, to be known as Akai, and watched my hopes and dreams flicker through his pink-ringed irises.
Artist's Note: HIIIIIIII No post in FOREVER, I know >< Terribly sorry about it.
This was actually written quite a while back, around late October 2011 to early November 2011. I edited it sometime in November or December but never got around to posting it online until now. It was actually originally written so I could submit it to the Creative Writing Club (SORRY!!) but obviously I neglected to submit it then. I don't quite like it as much as I did a few months ago, but I figure I might as well post it and get it over with since I'm not going to be writing the accompanying story (my failed NaNoWriMo 2011 attempt). This part of Anuna's story should remain the same though.
In other news, Anuna may come up as a minor character in other, future stories. She isn't part of my "main cast" of characters dubbed The Sixteen, but she'd probably be considered the Seventeenth. Haha. More on the Sixteen sometime later on my own bloggie: The River Windrose. (I'll update the links sidebar soon, promise!)
Until the next post, whenever that happens to be! Lewis, I miss your writing too! D: ! :D I miss posting every week and will make a better effort to post stuff next quarter.....maybe. Let's both!