The Cursed – Excerpt: Nova

(c)

The ground trembled beneath them again. Yonas ran through the carnage, pushing his red hair out of his eyes as he craned his neck, trying to locate any of the Nine. To his right, he could see the brave Sir Richmond battling two creeps all by himself. He tried to catch his eye as he passed, but did not dare to linger. Ahead, in the mass of dust and sweat and blood, something bright and white caught his eye. The Queen of the Lost! He rushed forward, darting through the feet of men and beast caught up in a lust for battle that his young mind could not yet fathom.

He struggled to keep her in his sight, heart soaring with pride as he saw the Lord Shade and his young squire flanking her as she cast devastating spell after spell at the charging enemy lines, only pausing to summon up protective shields around her friends. The elven archer grinned as he spotted the boy, and yelled out to the Queen. But he need not have bothered, for she was already looking at him, a worried smile lighting up her tired features. She swayed, and the Knight and his squire simultaneously leapt forward to catch her, swords at the ready in their free hands, daring anyone around them to come seek a challenge. She smiled at them reassuringly and steadied herself on the forest floor, preparing to cast once again.

Suddenly, a sharp pain stabbed through his spine, and he dropped to the trampled grass, confused. He could barely make out the Queen’s distant screams as she lunged forward, only to be held back by Ether, even as Janek and Shgyar moved in closer and assumed defensive positions. Lord Shade and the Mhak man charged forward, but a tightening feeling in the pit of his stomach brought forth the sudden realization. He had been stabbed. And he was dying.

He could hear the Queen calling out to him, much like the first time he had met her on the bridge outside the town, her dark hair blowing about her pale face, even as Lord Shade spoke to her in low urgent tones. She had caught sight of Yonas perched on the tree growing on the riverbank, and she had smiled at him causing Lord Shade to turn about to investigate the source of her humor. For some inexplicable reason, he left his hands and hung upside down from the tree, reveling in her gasp and the pretty laugh that followed. She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen. And, as he swung upside down on the tree, offering to pluck her some fruit for one of the pretty stones around her neck, he noticed the Lord watching her as she fingered the green gems about her neck, and when she screamed in delight at the berries Yonas tossed her, he saw that the Lord was smiling. Yonas had never before then even seen the Lord of Shade smile since he returned from the first Crusades.

But now she was crumbling to the floor, eyes wide and unseeing and pointed at him. He wanted to reassure her about his place in the palace of God, but did not know how to. He shivered violently, and felt rather than saw her helplessness and fear.

Another tremble took over the ground, and the last thing Yonas saw was the Mhak man peering down at him intently, even as Lord Shade cursed out loud. The trembling intensified, and the two sword wielding men turned just in time to see the burst of flames heading out towards them at a rapid speed.

“Nova”

Storms and Cottages

He woke up with a start upon hearing the heavy wooden door to the cottage swing open, drenched in sweat, and his hair all disheveled, yet instinctively reaching out for the sword. Before remembering that he had lent it to her.

It was hers in the first place, said a niggling voice at the back of his mind.

“It’s just me”, she whispered to him, the quietness of the cottage hidden away from the snowstorm outside suddenly too much to bear. Her eyes drifted to his slowly healing bruises and he looked away, scowling. He waited until she had knelt by the fire to stoke it before risking another glance at her. She appeared alright, he thought, as she placed the sword beside the door.

It was much too large for her anyway.

“Why are you smiling?”, she asked, curious. He blinked at her blankly for a second, before giving her a curt nod and gingerly laying himself down again, even as she turned to unpack the medicinal herbs and plants that she had been out collecting, wary yet hopeful that they would suffice.

“Did you run into any trouble?”, he asked, and her hands shook as she remembered the horrors of a nearby village she had stumbled upon, terrorized by a pack of vicious dogs, and their even crueler masters. They had followed her into the forest,barking and laughing as she had stumbled along with the village’s orphans. A year ago, they would have hunted her down and killed her, laughing as their beasts tore her apart. But the year had been a long one, and it had changed her.

Her voice was steady when she turned to answer him, “Just some hungry dogs. But I took care of it.”

The smile on her face was a new one.

One that hadn’t been there before. And he didn’t know what it meant.

Nevertheless, he nodded in a way she had begun to interpret as relieved, and in turn, she was glad that the darkening evening kept the blood spattered sword hidden from his sight. At least until she had had the time to polish it, and feel the sharp edge of its steel, light against her skin. Just once more, and then she would return it.

She was only its guardian. It was time to let go.

He watched her gaze drift to the sword by the door, eyes full of emotions he couldn’t begin to decode. He wondered if she had been living by this underground lake for the entire year that she had been missing. He thought of telling her how he had looked for her. How far and low he had searched. How desperately he had hoped and prayed.. How hollow everything in the world had suddenly seemed to be. How he had learnt what it meant to be drowning in despair, feeling insanity clambering on to the sides of his mind; the absence of her, a raw wound that never learned to heal.

But he was not the same.

And, neither was she.

By choosing exile, by choosing this, by leaving when the war broke out, she had made a choice. Abandoning him, but also saving him from having to make any sort of choice himself. They would have never trusted him as long as she was around. Her hair was too wild, and her skin wasn’t pale enough. She would never be one of them. He would have had to make a choice..

“I can mend your weapon, you know”, he said quietly, and watched as she whirled around to face him, body taut and disbelieving, eyes boring into his, searching him for any sign of deception, or doubt.

He showed none.

“You”, she whispered. “You can fix Estel?”

He nodded, then pushed himself off the bed, swaying as his feet hit the ground. She rushed forward, her small cold hands reaching around him, steadying him as he gritted his teeth and shook his head. The Winter had hit him hard. He would need some time to recover before going ahead with his plans.

He glanced down at her worried expression, before letting his eyes drift to where her pale hands rested against his bruised skin, causing her to blush and look away. He leaned forward and closed his eyes, taking in the scent of the forest from her hair and clothes, trying to figure out where exactly they were, and how he would get them out of there. His eyes snapped open and fixed themselves on hers as he smelt the blood on her clothes, not her own, and that on her scratched and swollen wrist, her own.

She looked back at him in a confused mixture of fear and raw, aching desire.

“I can fix Estel”, he said.

The Princess and the Blind

She walked up the narrow path, her long dark hair billowing in the wind behind her.

It was black once. But that was before the curse. And before everything in her life turned into the color of fire.

“Are you okay?”, asked the little blind boy. She nodded, and then feeling stupid, said, “Yes.. The path is just longer than I remember.”

And, it had been. The last time she had run up this path, she had been just a little girl, glad to finally be home, away from all of the horrors in the wide world outside. ..That was before she had taken the vow, and before she had worn the black. Now, she was just another passer-by. And the house was supposed to mean nothing.

“It’s time”, said the boy, and she nodded again, her gaze shifting to the ruins towering over them. It was.

~~~

The raven haired princess laughed delightedly as the knight pierced seven flying cards with his sword. And watching her smile set off a smile of his own.

“Would you like me to do that again, Princess?”

She nodded, and the knight watched her messy hair bob up and down with her head in rapt attention. Oh, how he longed to twirl a strand of that dark hair around his fingers. But, instead, he settled for piercing another seven cards of her new deck, losing himself in the tilt of her pale throat as she threw her head back and clapped at his boyish antics. If it were up to him, they would never march back into war. He had found himself a part of the heaven promised to them all in the name of their victory, and it was hidden somewhere along the contours of her narrow girlish waist.

~~~

“You still love him”, he said.

And she was surprised at the anger in his voice. Though she then realized that it was not so strange that he sounded so.. jealous. They had kept no company but each others’ in the last six months. Counseled none but each other. And the only time that she had gotten drunk in the last six months was in his company, when she had ended up revealing more than she ever intended.

“It does not matter whether I do”, she replied, wearily.

“He brings you nothing but pain”, he hissed, suddenly persistent.

She glanced at him sharply, and then turned away to watch the changing skies.

He dropped his gaze, and shuffled his feet forlornly, until she turned to face him again, the wind setting free strands of her tightly tied hair.

“I’m sorry, princess. That was out of line.”

~~~

He yanked her to himself, and laughed as she stumbled, his arms already enclosing her. She turned up to say something, but he had captured her lips in a searing kiss, and she wondered how she was going to walk away unscathed from this life lesson, even as his voice drifted into her aching mind.

“Are you okay, princess?”

“What– what are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, princess. That was out of line.”

“But.. wait! You said you had something to say.. What was it?”

“I don’t like repeating myself”

“But what did you say”

“Does it matter?”

“It does.. to me.”

He smiled at her confused expression, before kissing her forehead gently.

“You will always be mine.”

~~~

“Don’t worry about it”, she said, as kindly as she could muster, fingering the scar he had left her, flinching as she remembered the night he had given it to her. Perhaps things were never golden.. except until she thought about him. And then, it didn’t matter what precipice she thought of; all were achingly beautiful to her.

The little blind boy felt the expressions change upon her face, and knew that if he knew how to cry, he would, for her. For himself, too, as the princess was clearly never going to think of him in the way she thought of the fallen knight. But, mostly, his unshed tears were for the princess, because they would never find the knight of her dreams, and he did not know how to tell her this. Especially when she whimpered in her sleep.

The knight didn’t want to be found by anyone.

And two lost children, one of whom called out his name in her sleep, would not find him unless he wanted them to find him.

And it was in this perpetual fear that the little blind boy slept and awoke; that she would find him, and he would take her away.

Forever.

~~~

It’s cold, don’t you think?”

“Not if you come a little closer.”

“But you scare me.”

“No, I don’t. I only want to protect you!”

“From what?”

“Everything!”

“And what about you, yourself?”

“…No One can protect you from me, love.

I Can’t Take it Anymore [said the Pied Piper]

The Murdering
The Raping
The Torturing
The Terror
The Violence
The inability to stop involving the children!

There’s this theory scientists are looking into that suggests that our Universe might just be a giant computer program. There’s another theory that says that human beings existed longgg ago, even indulging in Nuclear warfare. All over the world, unexplained, mysterious ancient artifacts have been discovered that at least point towards the fact that we don’t know everything about the past. To me, these two theories could co-exist, as could they with the theory bout aliens watching over our planet. The reason I bring this up is because I like to believe that some of our older tales and information have trickled down from these futuristic ancestors of ours.

For instance, take the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Long story short, there’s a village of lazy, greedy people that get affected by a plague. Being lazy, they do nothing about the situation until it gets utterly out of hand. At which point in the story, the Pied Piper makes his entrance. He plays music for the people, but finds them super-stingy. It’s only the children that stop to listen to him. And, then too, they’re most often dragged away by their parents. Then, noticing a couple of reward-on-getting-rid-of-rats signs, the piper goes to the palace/mayor and claims that he can rid the city of the rats in 2 days (or something). The people smirk at him, and agree.

That night, the Piper gets up, and starts playing a soft tune. He plays in his room for a bit, and then steps out, his lips never leaving the pipe. As he walks through the village, slowly, rats start filing out of hidden nooks and crevices, falling into line behind him. The piper plays and plays, and the rats continue to pour out, as if in a stream, and slowly, yet surely, the piper begins to lead his absurd following towards the river. As he stands by and plays, one after the other, the rats leap off the stone bridge to their doom, and the few villagers awake to witness this, shudder and bar their doors.

The next morning, the piper goes up to the council/mayor and asks for his reward. “What reward?”, says the mayor, feigning ignorance.

The piper’s eyes grow cold. “The rats are gone.”

“Yes, and?”, asked the mayor, even as the greedy, stingy people looked on. “What had you to do with it?”

“I got rid of them, like I said I would.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” said the mayor.

“Are you sure?” asked the piper softly, head bent low so that his cap prevented anyone from looking into his eyes. “You’ll regret this.”

“Are you threatening me?!”, asked the mayor. “Guards!”

The pied piper raised in hands in a non-threatening gesture, and slowly backed out of the packed hall, which let out a collective sigh of relief. Something about that man was very unnerving.

That night, when the inhabitants of the town are fast asleep, a beautiful tune starts to sound in the night air, soft enough to not wake a soul. Except, one by one, in every house, the children start to wake up. Quietly, they drop out of their beds. Stealthily, they sneak out of their homes. One by one, every child turns around and bolts the door shut. The pied piper continues his song, and the children fall in line behind him.

By now, parents have begun to notice their children missing. At first, they worry. Upon finding themselves locked in their little houses, they begin to panic. The fear spreads through the town like wildfire. “Look! There they are!”, screams a little boy’s mother, pressed against her window and pointing out into the distance.

Faint strains of the piper’s song can still be heard by villagers.

“He’s going to drown them!”, sobs another mother, even as her husband falls into a faint.

But the piper turns away from the river where the rats had leapt to their end, and starts moving towards the nearby mountains.

By now, some of the parents have managed to free themselves. Soon, most of the town is free, and they rush up and down, collecting torches and horses to ride out after their children before the night swallowed them whole.

Meanwhile, the children hadn’t looked back once, their eyes focused on their leader with the strange hat and the musical pipe. If any of them had bothered to turn around, they would have been surprised to see how far they had come, certainly further than most of them ever previously had.

Except for one boy. The town’s only cripple, the lame child had fallen behind as the trail of children followed the pied piper up the winding mountain path.

Soon, he was the only one the search party that was sent out to find the kids could see.

The pied piper, along with all the children of the village – they just vanished into thin air. When the distraught parents finally reached the crippled boy,  they found him standing and staring at the side of a mountain, tears streaming down his face. “They didn’t wait for me.”, he finally said, sounding as if his world had shattered.

The parents of the village were inconsolable, and wished that they had done right by the pied piper, but they never saw him, nor any of heir children, ever again.

~~~ The End ~~~

Okay, so that was pretty much long story long, but, well, I like telling stories. And, since it has been forever since I last read the Pied Piper of Hamlin, it’s more like a cover than the real story. I’m sure I got a hundred things wrong. Just think of it as the modern retelling. :\

Anyhow, the reason I brought up the tale of the Pied Piper, as well as the theories about computers/aliens, is: What if this story isn’t just a metaphorical reference to the fact that children will leave you if you stifle their fresher spirits with your jaded talk of wealth while they still believe in dreams?

I personally think it’s an allegorical reference to Moses and his leading of the people into the desert in the quest for the promised land. Or the advent of Christianity after the Jewish community unfairly treated Christ, who dealt with it so well, that nearly all of their children “left” to “follow” him.

Either way, I think if Aliens are involved (or a supercomputer program, or God-like futuristic ancestors), the implications of this story would be a lot more straightforward.. and a lot more sinister.

Treat your children right, or we will take them from you.

If humanity doesn’t change its ways, the planet will either find a way to destroy us, or we, the planet. The virus will most likely affect our ability to reproduce, counting on the barbaric nature of man to ensure it’s spread across the globe.

And we will die.

Sometimes I think that is the only way to stop the screaming in my ears.

How can you stand it?

Sometimes I think that to die would be more of a relief than an adventure..
Especially when I think of the children.
Our descendants should be ashamed of us…
and if they are not, then we should be ashamed of them.

The Lost Spy

I used to be someone else at one point of time, she remembered thinking, a few seconds before she picked up her brush to smoothen out her hair. Her fiance hated it if her hair was all messy, as was its natural state of existence.

I used to be someone else.

We all were, whispered back the creepy old mirror he had insisted she keep, even though she’d tried to tell him about how it watched her at night. He’d simply laughed at her, and she had gotten nearly hysterical explaining to him the things it said to her. In her voice. When she had said that, he’d stopped laughing. But, the gleam in his eyes made him seem a hundred times happier, as if she had just told him that she was carrying his heir. Then a cloud blotted out the light from the sun, and she realized with a start that his eyes were hollow again. Hollow, like they had been the first time she’d met him, when he had wrapped his bleeding, broken fingers tightly around her narrow, chafed wrist, and begged her to let him die. She stood, frozen, and he watched her, curious now. Then she sniffed, and he was beside her in a moment. “Have I upset you? There, there. Don’t cry. You don’t have to keep it. I’ll take it back to my mother’s.”  And, glad that the spell was broken, she glared at him, informed him that she wasn’t crying, and stubbornly half-dragged the cursed mirror all the way back to her room.

At least some things stayed the same.

Like her hair, for instance, which was refusing to behave in any manner remotely lady-like. Sighing, she tied up the loose strands with a ribbon, her thoughts suddenly, and nervously, wandering to the man she never thought about anymore. The one who drank her up with his eyes so hard, fast and deep that there was  no longer anything left of her for all these hungry beasts. And they knew it, which is why they hated him. But they punished her for it all.

You, you have always been you. Even a thousand years before we ever met, she thought fervently, even as the doors to her bedroom chamber opened. She whipped around, trying not to look guilty.

He always knew.

Hours later, when he had finally fallen asleep, temporarily convinced of her loyalty and satisfied with her adulation, she would crawl to the narrow window and pray to the moon. The Moon, which was the only thing that had stayed constant in her long and insipid life. Everything was colorless. And, the only thing that broke the monotony of the gray was the color of blood, splashed across everything  that she had ever held dear to her.

They would pay, she thought bitterly, but quietly.

Quietly, because he always knew.

And he must never know you.