Daughter of Light (rewrite) / Chapter 3
Posted January 17th, 2019 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: i know i said id stick to a schedule but idk lol maybe ill do that when i get a little further into the plot.
anyway, here's chapter 3, enjoy
Flies buzzed around the men’s bodies, scattering wherever Loren stepped. She examined them with extreme care, scrutinizing every detail about their face, their hair, and their clothing. She lifted one of their hands and traced the blood-crusted lines in his palm, her red eyes scanning the cuts scattered over their armor.
“Why are they here?” Eileen asked.
Loren held up her hand in dismissal.
“I thought there was a treaty—”
“Some people don’t like to play by the rules,” the Elderwitch said, her voice like ice.
Eileen’s foot crunched against pine needles and leaves. “Loren—”
“Go back to the village,” she said.
“Save your questions for later. Please.”
Eileen swallowed her voice and stepped away, trailing her hand along a tree trunk. Did Loren know why the men from Euanthe were in Mohana? Did she know why they were hunting her?
That thought scared her more than a broken treaty.
“What are you going to tell the other Witches?” Eileen asked.
Loren rested her hands on her legs and slowly stood, releasing a long sigh. “I will tell them what has happened.”
“What about the part…what they said about me?” Eileen wasn’t sure how to word her question—she wasn’t even sure what question she wanted to ask.
“I will figure that out on my own. In the meantime, do not speak to anyone about that.”
“Not even Rosalyn,” Loren said, staring at Eileen with her powerful eyes. “Now leave me to work.”
Eileen nodded and walked to the village, picking up the sword still half-hidden in the grass. When she turned back, she saw a plume of black smoke wafting above the trees, and thought she could feel the stench of burning flesh stinging her nose.
“Where were you earlier?” Eileen closed the front door behind her.
A kettle steamed on the stove and a lit candle wafted a sugary aroma across the front room. Rosalyn turned from her curled perch in her armchair beside the bookshelf, folding down the page of the book she was reading. Her pale hair framed her red eyes, which were aglow in the dim candlelight. She stood, walking over to the stove as the kettle squealed.
“I was helping Serilda with something.”
“With what?” Eileen opened a cupboard and sat two cups on the counter.
“She had a leak in her roof and I was helping patch it up.”
Rosalyn silently poured the tea, filling the cups almost to the rim. Steam trickled like smoke from their brown surfaces. She waved a hand over the stove and the tiny blue flame vanished. The room felt colder and darker, the only light coming from the candle that barely reached from the sitting area to the kitchen.
“We need more candles,” Eileen said, bringing her tea to her armchair.
“It took me weeks to make the ones that we’ve used for the past month.”
Rosalyn followed her, resuming the book she’d been reading, precariously holding it with one hand while she sipped her tea with the other.
“What are you going to do when you have to turn the page?” Eileen asked.
Her sister shot her a look over the top of her book and hesitated a moment. Then she sat down her teacup on a small table in between the chairs, gently flipped the page, and lifted her tea.
Eileen twisted her lips and reached in between the cushion of her own chair to retrieve her own book. She picked up where she’d left off a few days ago.
“No luck hunting?”
Eileen almost jumped, draining her last dregs of tea and setting aside the cup. She placed a finger in her book and shook her head.
“No, not today.”
“Sad,” Rosalyn said.
“What’s sad?” Eileen shut her book. Was her sister so disappointed in her? Or was she just ashamed of her little, freakish sister?
“I just hoped you would’ve gotten better by now. You aren’t bad with a bow. If you could just work up the nerve to kill an animal. It’s not that hard, once you’ve done it a couple times. They’re really—”
“I killed someone today,” Eileen blurted, Loren’s command not to tell anyone, even Rosalyn, buzzing in the back of her mind.
“Wh—what?” Rosalyn blinked.
To hell with Loren’s commands.
“I…two people, actually. Men. They were men. They were in the forest and I saw them and they attacked me and then before I knew what I was doing I killed them. I tried to run, I swear, I tried not to hurt them, but I didn’t really have a choice. It was all in self defense. Loren is—”
Rosalyn was standing now, pacing back and forth. “You mean that there were men in the forest?”
“Less than a mile out. King Hadar’s men.”
Eileen nodded, rising from her chair.
Rosalyn shook her head, one hand against the wall and one on her stomach. “That’s impossible. There’s a treaty. We can’t cross borders. We—”
“He broke the treaty.”
Rosalyn’s eyes grew wide. She put her hands on Eileen’s shoulders and locked eyes with her little sister.
“What’s wrong?” Eileen asked.
“You killed them?” Rosalyn’s voice shook. “You killed two men?”
“They were trying to hurt me, I had to—”
Rosalyn wrapped her arms around Eileen, pulling her into a tight embrace. Eileen felt her organs shifting, her ribs cracking and bending.
“I’m so proud of you,” Rosalyn said.
Proud of me. For killing.
“Loren is examining their bodies right now,” Eileen said. “And I took something from them.”
Rosalyn released her. “What?”
“It’s…it’s outside. I didn’t want to bring it in and scare you so—”
Rosalyn opened the front door and gasped. A moment later she dragged in the sword and dropped it. The blade clattered against the wood, gleaming in the warm candlelight. Rosalyn dropped to her knees beside it, wrapping her fingers around the leather hilt and tracing up and down the blade.
“This is beautiful,” she murmured.
“I know. I don’t know why I took it…I guess as some sort of evidence.” Eileen brushed her hair behind her ear.
“Aren’t there bodies as evidence?” Rosalyn asked, still eyeballing the sword.
“I’ve never seen a sword in real life,” Rosalyn said. “Not that I can remember.”
Her eyes glazed over for a moment and Eileen thought, somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard the stinging screams of battle and smelled the tang of blood. She felt the warmth of a crackling fire snapping at her heels.
She had dreams like that. Dreams in which she ran from the flames.
Rosalyn said they were memories from when she was an infant—when they escaped one of Leon Hadar’s raids eighteen years ago, the last time they saw their mother. Eileen would have been a few weeks out of the womb, and Rosalyn would have been barely five years old.
“I can’t believe King Hadar’s soldiers were less than a mile from here,” Rosalyn said.
“Neither can I,” Eileen glanced out the window at the dusk falling fast into night. Was Loren still in the forest? Had she gathered the information she needed from the bodies and burned them? Or did she plan on keeping them for evidence. Eileen buzzed with questions that only one person could answer—but the Elderwitch had sent her away before when she tried to speak.
“Where are you going?” Rosalyn asked, leaving the sword to stand.
Eileen twisted the door knob. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
But she was gone, cutting off Rosalyn’s voice with a shut door. She had more thoughts to sort through than she’d ever had a once. What she needed was an hour or two to sit alone in the forest and contemplate everything that had happened to her in the last four hours.
King Hadar was hunting her, she had killed two men, Rosalyn was proud of her for being a murderer, the treaty that had lasted for eighteen years was broken, and Loren was shutting her out and studying dead bodies.
She needed answers.
Before she could comprehend her actions, Eileen knocked on Loren’s front door.
Moments later it opened and a tired, annoyed version of their village Elderwitch answered the door.
“I need to talk to you,” Eileen said.
Loren nodded and stepped inside. “That’s good because I need to talk to you, too.”
“Can I go first?” Eileen asked. “I have a lot of questions.”
She followed Loren to her sitting area, a candle already lit on the table, and took a chair across from her.
Eileen fumbled for the right words. Where did she want to start?
“Why is King Hadar hunting me?” Eileen asked.
Loren folded her hands in her lap, closed her eyes for half a second, and then breathed once, as if she had expected this to be the most pressing question.
“The only logical explanation is that Leon wants you because you pose a threat to his mission.”
“To take over Mohana. To get revenge on the war that he lost eighteen years ago.”
Eileen blinked. “I thought that he signed a treaty—that it was an equal agreement.”
“That’s…false. You know what happened. We, thousands of our kind, burned their land. Turned every field into wasteland—every forest into desert.”
“Thousands of your kind.”
“No, dear,” Loren clicked her tongue. “Our kind.”
“I’m not a Witch.”
“I knew your mother well. I promise you that you are one of us, no matter that your eyes and powers say differently.”
“Why did King Hadar sign the treaty if he was losing?”
Loren smiled softly. “He signed it because he was losing, dear. He knew that in the state Euanthe was in, if he continued fighting, there would be nothing to show that he or his family had ever existed. There would be no Hadar line. There would be nothing but Witches. With the Warlocks already gone, he had nothing left to do but surrender.”
“So…the treaty wasn’t a compromise?”
“To the rest of the world it was. But between Leon Hadar and the Witches, it was a surrender.”
Eileen stared at the burning candle wick. “What does that have to do with me?”
“You’re different than the rest of us. You possess Warlock powers. You have the sky-blue Warlock eyes, yet you’re a woman like any other Witch.”
“Warlocks were all men.”
“Every last one of them,” Loren said.
“So the King of Euanthe wants me because I’m different than the other Witches? I’m not any more dangerous—”
“Oh, but if only that were true.”
Loren cut her off, “My turn now.”
Eileen tightened her lips.
“You’re powers. You do not know the extent of your powers.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I just—”
“You don’t know, so please do not fight me on this.”
Eileen’s mind clouded. She wanted to yell at Loren for interrupting her and for being so vague. Why couldn’t she just spit out whatever she had to say?
“You’re right,” Eileen said, standing. “I don’t know. So either tell me or I’m leaving.”
Loren nodded, folded her hands in her laps, and cleared her throat. “Very well. Your powers have the ability to be stronger than almost any other Witch in Mohana—stronger than any Warlock ever was.”
Eileen opened her mouth to retort but Loren cut her off.
“I am the Elderwitch of this village for a reason. I sense things…weather patterns and shifts inside people that most other Witches can’t pick up. And, Eileen, in you I feel an overwhelming surge of power. So strong and untapped. The potential…”
Eileen ran a hand through her hair and shifted on her feet. She just wanted to get back home, to finish this conversation tomorrow after she had a full night’s sleep. If she got a full night’s sleep. She wasn’t sure she would be able to after seeing those men bleed out from her own attack.
“Leon Hadar wanting you is proof that something inside you is very strong. I need you to search within yourself and try to embrace that,” Loren said.
The candle wavered.
“There’s going to be a war, isn’t there?” Eileen asked, though she knew the answer.
“And you want me to fight in it?”
“We are all going to fight in it, for our country, for Mohana,” Loren said, standing with a grim look hardening her face. “I want you to lead it.”
Eileen turned over in her cot, sweating through her sheets and unable to keep her mind still for a second. Thoughts churned, going around so fast she couldn’t catch one before it slipped through her fingers and she was clinging onto another.
Loren wanted her to lead a war.
There was going to be a war. Most likely.
The King of Euanthe wanted her dead. Or wanted her in his captivity.
There were men in Mohana at that moment searching for her.
That last image rose the hair on the back of her neck. The shadows in hers and Rosalyn’s bedroom seemed more dense around the door, a cluster building until it resembled a humanoid shape. Was there someone standing there, looming over her? Or was it only her imagination playing midnight tricks? She could barely distinguish the shadows of the wall and the door and the tall figure.
Eileen turned to see how far away the window in between hers and Rosalyn was—a few feet. Too far for her to reach without getting up. If she could pull back the curtains, the moonlight would show her how insane she was being. If there were someone there, they would have picked up the sword laying beside Rosalyn’s cot and killed them both already.
But did Leon Hadar want her dead?
Sleep didn’t come easy. Her mind’s eye showed her fire and floods and famine, and a looming faceless man in a crown. Every position she adopted was more uncomfortable than the one before, her sheets itchy and her pillow too lumpy. What she needed was to just get out and go sit in the forest for a few hours. But she couldn’t…the idea of being alone in the forest at night, where any of King Hadar’s men could sneak up on her.
But she’d killed them.
She had murdered the men who tried to hurt her last time. She could do it again, if she had to.
But she didn’t want to.
Eileen woke up in a fit of sweats, convinced that she was running a fever. Her eyes were slow and her mind was cloudy as she sat up, stretching out. Rosalyn’s cot was empty, blankets astray. Odd. She never left without making her sheets.
Eileen saw light coming through the window. Though it wasn’t the crisp white that normally lit up her room. It was dark orange, and menacing. Shifting.
Eileen tossed aside her blankets and peered out the single window.
Underneath a twinkling blanket of stars, the village burned.
Flames licking up the sides of houses, devouring the thatch roofing, cracking and groaning and spitting embers.
Eileen ran from her room, slammed open the front door, and stumbled to a halt outside her house. How hadn’t she heard the screams? Or the roaring of the fires? She walked barefoot across the grass, searching for someone to help, somewhere to be. Smoke clogged the air and made it nearly impossible to see far ahead. But she could make out Witches sprinting to and from the stream, carrying pails of water as if it could actually put out the maelstrom of fire that engulfed the village. So many houses burning. Eileen couldn’t even take it all in, couldn’t stop to think about the Witches who might still be asleep while their homes became bonfires.
Where was Rosalyn? Had she ran off to help someone and gotten herself killed in the process? Eileen’s gut churned at the thought, and she ducked forward into the scream-filled haze.
It was like running underwater.
She couldn’t breathe, she could barely see, and her eyes burned to the point of tears. Grass slipped between her toes as she ran.
“Rosalyn!” She screamed.
She turned around, squinting through the smoke and light, though she could barely make out the shape of her own house anymore. She should have reached the stream by now, so where was it?
Someone crashed into Eileen’s side, sending her plummeting to the ground. She grunted but pulled herself up instantly, ignoring the dirt and grass staining the side of her shirt.
“Rosalyn, what’s going on?” She asked, her sister now reaching out to steady her.
“It’s Euanthe. It’s King Hadar.”
“He did this?”
“Yes, he…” She leaned against her knees, her breath torn and rattly. “His soldiers were here. They set fire to the mess hall and to some houses and it just spread and spread.”
“Holy gods,” Eileen murmured, eyes wide as she soaked in the destruction around her, the chaos engulfing their village in yellow and white flames. “I can fix this.”
“I can help.”
“Eileen, don’t, there’s nothing we can do, we already tried everything—”
But Eileen was already off, running a few yards before her feet left the mossy earth and splashed in icy, ankle-deep water. Perfect. The stream—the vein that wove through the center of their village, providing their water for drinking and bathing, allowing them to survive.
She looked around at the destruction, at the Witches trying everything in their non-magical power to put out the flames. It wasn’t as if they could shower fire with fire. There was Loren, herding Witches into her house, where the fire hadn’t touched. And Vaenessa, screaming as she writhed on the ground, apparently burned. Now many of the Witches were gathering at the base of Loren’s house, huddling together to keep away from the uncontrollable flames.
Eileen closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, which failed when her lungs filled with smoke instead of air. She coughed against her arm and straightened herself once more, nose and throat burning even more now. It was okay.
She closed her eyes and allowed little slivers of air to travel through her nose.
Heat washed over her in tangible waves as she raised her arms, a figure in the water bathed in golden light. She could feel the power coursing through her, as if it thrashed down her veins. It was ready to be released, ready for full force. Eileen could feel as she drew more and more from the well inside her. She could hear the water now—building, rising—roaring around her. The Witches gasps were audible over the fire and water and groaning, breaking wood.
And then, as if she’d been sealed off from the world, it all went away. Only a sloshing sound remained.
Eileen opened her eyes.
She stood in the center of a liquid dome, the water swirling spherically around her.
All of that water tore outward like a stampede. It showered every building and every Witch, drowning every living flame. Not only did it soak the village, but Eileen watched with wide eyes as tendrils flew through the air, searching for flames to put out.
Like it had a mission.
When it was over, and the last drops had either soaked the grass or trickled back to the stream, Eileen turned to the mass of Witches.
They were drenched.
But Loren stood at the head of the group, and she had an expression far from annoyance on her face. All of them did—they were all staring at her in a defensive manner, as if…as if they were scared.
A hand touched her shoulder, and Eileen lurched.
“It’s me,” Rosalyn said, draping a coat around her.
Eileen slipped her arms in the sleeves, realizing now that, despite the fire, she was trembling. And then she realized that she was the only dry Witch in the village.
Except for the ankles down.
Eileen stepped out of the stream and stopped a few yards short of the group. Loren approached her, extending her arms. Eileen folded into her embrace with almost a sense of reluctance. She felt numb now, and tired. It was like she didn’t even have energy to think about anything but sleep. Her chin rested on Loren’s wet shoulder for a few seconds before the woman retracted and breathed, with a glint in her eye, “Incredible.”
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