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Earth Chapter 2: Hope 2
Talitha's dream became chaotic and broken from this point on. A cry from the crow’s next. Raiders’ sails. Terror in the darkness. Talitha tossed in her covers, near to waking. Fifteen-gun ships. Savage marines. Worshippers of Reanai and other dark gods.
The crew was dismantled. Her man-at-arms disemboweled before her eyes. Servants slaughtered. The nurse raped. She, taken captive as hostage and concubine to the vile leader, and her infant, greatest horror, left to drop into the sea aboard the burning merchant ship.
What happened next made little sense to Talitha. She did not understand how it could be so. Aching rage burned in the woman with icy eyes, perverting her vast knowledge gleaned from years of study into something more, something primal. A dark portal, a storm without an eye, swirled change within her.
That night, the lord of the reaving armada, who had taken her for his own, came to know her. But the moment his skin touched hers, the fury of blurred and broken weirding unleashed by the searing pain of her heart manifested in the unnatural.
In the morning, the crew found him dead, without a mark on his body. Their superstition kept them from the woman huddled in the corner, endlessly weeping. Whether her body had truly become a poison to mortal men they would never know. Her bloodshot eyes were enough to stave off even the most gruesome among them. Their master had not been loved so much as feared. Now the fear of her crept over them.
Worse still, the sun did not rise so much as pretend to exist behind a fog that never lifted and darkened the hearts of them all. As both the morning and the darkness grew, a scream broke out somewhere above decks. Though many rushed toward it, no man was found, dead or alive. Soon, more shouts could be heard from the other ships in the fleet. Calls to them went unanswered. Before long, the shadow had taken them all. Madness, too, overtook them, as small skirmishes led to one man or other being cast overboard. Then a throat was slit. Then a man’s head bashed in.
By midday, the woman had been pressed into a dingy at spearpoint and lowered over the side, left adrift in the mists behind them. This did not sway the lightning which now descended. Winds of a gale, the ensign of a much deeper storm.
All these may or may not have taken the crew to the depths. But they passed the woman by. A day and a night she drifted alone on the lonely sea, until at the second dawn, she came to land on sands unknown.
A blind wraith, without purpose or goal, she wandered inland. In the distance a singular mountain rose. It called her, for reasons she did not care to understand. She did not know it as the home of the Forgotten.
But Talitha did.
Talitha woke with a start. It was morning. She spoke nothing of her dream. But she eyed the woman resting paces away, her brother to the breast and suckling well. Everything about her was both terrible and magnificent. She said nothing, but rose to her chores and sought her best to please the new mistress of the home.
To the surprise of the populace of Elusa, perhaps even to their chagrin, pleasant times soon descended upon the little house at their edge. The first time the woman with the icy eyes walked into the Philmon's forge to purchase an iron hoe for the field behind the home, he played gruff and indomitable as he always did. Busy to his task, tired as the day, he intended to let this odd newcomer know how the town ran its business.
“What want ye?” he said, not bothering to look up, pounding out the fire in his metal work and casting it into the barrel of water at his side. The silence which met him left him cold. Anxiety, like the poorly smelted crack in iron, crept up his spine. It did not leave until he set the tool aside and turned to her. But he found his lips struck dumb until a single word arose from his mouth. “Mistress?”
So she came to be known, the Mistress who took in the virgin daughters of Anirea, who raised the late whore’s son as her own. Her silver was good, though never marked by seals as it should be. Yet it always bought more than was expected both of the stock sold to her, as well as of all things later purchased with it from traders and merchants. Soon, her business was not feared but coveted. Prosperity itself descended on the hamlet tenfold. The fields were more fertile, game was more fine, and in a few years no one questioned if it had ever been otherwise. Mourning had come to the little town under the shadow of the Forgotten, but with it had come the even more unexpected.
To be continued…
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