They say your life ends the moment you hear the rush of hooves within the night.
The sound of cascading heels, noises of horses and their heavy breathing- the wind stilling- the world stopping- and the silence that comes after. When the movement stops, so does your sphere of living.
And then, in a rush of tangible life- it comes crashing down.
Chaos always is inevitable after peace. It’s never realized, but the two go hand in hand.
That night began like any other night. The ending always is what makes it different from the rest.
Because deep into the darkness, when creatures should have been dreaming-
The sound of rushing hooves was heard.
And the battle cry of the coming army- waking us from the peaceful slumber of sleep.
“Separate the women and children- men go to this side.” The male’s voice rings into the night, his command the incentive the warrior needs to move forward and push me aside, away from my father.
"Go with him,” his eyes plead with me to listen.
I watch in mute horror as the rest of the men are lined up- the few that remained within our hidden village that had always been safe from the evils of outside. Tucked away, and nestled within the bosom of the mountains. Hidden in her crevices and obscured from wandering eyes.
Or so we thought.
These foreigners were strange, yet it was that said strangeness that made me recognize who they were.
All the males were covered.
From head to toe- the only feature of their body naked for view were their eyes and the brows that rested above them. Everything else was veiled in thick garbs. The color looked to be once white, but dust from travel and riding long had spread the stain of dirt and grim onto their clothing. The hiding of their bodies only made them seem more mysterious. More threatening. More dangerous.
The clothing made me weary. I only knew of one tribe that dressed in such garb.
The Onism Tribe.
Even our small concealed village had heard word of their movement. The conquest that they were achieving. It had been one of awed fear, listening to the stories of how much the nomadic tribe had grown in power. Which other tribes they had defeated and merged into their own to expand their numbers.
We just never imagined that they would come here.
Just as my thought enters, I notice a change within the warriors. The men still. I follow where their eyes go and feel the breath leave my lungs at the sight of the figure that is astride. Riding over the others, his whole body covered. Yet there is still an unearthly shift in power that possesses him. No man should contain this much power in his hands. The sky should open up and swallow him whole, just to prove who could win.
But as he moved forward, a doubt flickers in me on if the sky could actually take such a demon.
Several women beside me shiver at the voice the echoes off the mountains.
“There, with the women.”
I suddenly feel pity in my heart. They must have caught sight of Kaleen. She was blessed with great beauty. The village boys always followed her, and the girls always held envy of her. I was on the line of admiration. My strange appearances always had made me an outcast to the others. Watching how easily others accepted Kaleen had been what I most wanted from her.
But now that beauty would be her enemy.
Many of the other women seem to be thinking the same thing as me. The shuffle towards her, forming a circle of protection. I join them and find myself pressed against her.
“I’m scared,” her whisper only makes the knotted group press tighter.
“Don’t be,” I can’t think of anything else to tell her. My only thought was a guilty one- relief that it was not me.
A soft laughter crawls over the women’s head, scratching its way into my ears. I know it’s the leader. He is watching our vain attempt at protection.
I swallow thickly, wiggling to step directly in front of Kaleen’s trembling body.
What fool was I?
The clothed warriors quickly come and push the women aside, their determination no match against the brute strength they possess.
A whimper leaves Kaleen’s mouth, making my body only become tenser as it finally becomes exposed to the leader.
A wild gasp leaves his mouth.
My heart beats rapidly. Judging by this reaction, Kaleen was doomed.
She begins to sob now. I feel a tear fall onto my arm but I don’t flinch from the sudden drop.
The wild leader takes a step closer. Another. Another. Until he is bearing down, his eyes glaring at me. The only thing I can see is his eyes. But those black orbs are enough to show me what I need to see. A crazed fire is lit within them. The sight reminded me of the charred logs that would sit within the heat. You thought the flames had gone out of them, only to find small embers hidden inside.
“I’ve found you.”
He grabs my arm. The gesture is softer than I thought it would be. I wait in anticipation for him to fling me aside- for me to be tossed to the ground as he faces Kaleen. I flinch as he pushes me towards him a scream building in my throat when he-
My body stiffens. The village as a collective whole stiffens.
Kaleen’s sobs hitch to a stop- surprise jerking and rendering her senseless.
He pushes me back and steps to let his eyes rake up and down me.
“Mikabellum, you look beautiful in this form.”
I stop whatever I’m about to say when my eyes catch sight of my father's frantic movements. He is shaking his head.
The male turns back to his waiting warriors.
“Mikabellum has been living within this village- hiding herself away. Now we have her!”
My body starts as a cheer rises from the warriors.
“I will leave your village untouched Mikabellum, since you have decided to grace this place with your presence.” Before I can register it, I am being pulled by the wrist, his strength moving me against my will.
I turn around to find Kaleen staring at me open-mouthed in shock. The majority of the villagers are.
What is going on?
The male pauses.
“Yes. I will allow you to say goodbye to your father. After all...he protected you when you took form in this fragile human body…”
I move away from him before he can change his mind, stumbling to papa.
He catches me, his arms clinging to my biceps as he quickly whispers low words to me.
“Listen to me-,”
“Papa what is-,”
“Listen!” He hisses the word his eyes flickering to the warriors before moving back to look at my face in agony, “they think you are their goddess.”
I sputter at the notion, “that’s-,”
“Foolish? I know. The Onism Tribe worships only one and they are devoted to her- Mikabellum.”
The name the male had been telling me.
“Why would they…?”
He shakes his head sadly, “If I had known they were coming...but even then I didn’t think they would make such a connection with your appearance…”
“The goddess- Mikabellum- she possesses the head of a lioness and red eyes.”
Understanding fills me then.
My golden hair that was strange in the village.
And my eyes.
A brown that could be mistaken for red. I had always loved my eyes. But now…
“It’s a mistake,” I feel tears coming into my cursed eyes. The eyes that had brought on this unexpected fate, “It’s not me, I’m not-,” Papa quickly folds me into his arms, his grip tight and constricting with fear as it leaked from every pore in his body.
“I know. I know,” his voice held a desperate sorrow, “You can’t let them...you can’t let them know the truth.”I jerk back, gasping up at him.
“So I should deceive them?”
“They chose to spare the whole village because of your presence.”
I bitterly wish Kaleen had been more beautiful- maybe they would forget the presence of someone who had the features of their goddess and move on to an actual deity of the walking earth.
“Papa,” my voice chokes out.
He doesn’t say anything. He only pulls me in for another crushing embrace.
“Mikabellum,” the soft whisper of the leader's voice makes both of us jump back.
He is standing a few feet away, holding the reins to his horse as he quietly moves closer.
“Let us take you away from this place.”
It hits me then that he means now.
Away from Papa.
I look at him, watching as the tears freely flow from his face.
He is unable to say anything. Greif chokes his words. I vaguely am aware that he is hoping that by this twist of events- this delusion upon the invaders part- that I will survive the ordeal.
“I’ll find you.” His whispered promise does nothing to soothe me.
I only shake my head. Him leaving the safety of the village would only make me worry.
I can’t look at him any longer.
I move away, turning to face the wild leader and his nomadic warriors. His black eyes stare blankly at me.
I cringe when I see several of the village boys and men had been taken into rank with the warriors. They had an eager look on their face. Their leaving would only bring hardships for the village when winter came and backbreaking work needed to be done.
Wordlessly the leader lifts me onto the horse. He places himself behind, letting his weight press against me. I’m able to feel the power of his body. It only makes me shudder in fear.
The men mount their horses and just as quickly as they came- they are gone.
I cannot look behind to see father.
One moment within my village, the next riding astride a horse in front of a wild leader such as this. His mind and tribe deluded into thinking me- me- to be a goddess.
“Mikabellum- what name do you go by in this form?”
I hold back the scream that is threatening to release itself from my lips as the flutter of hot breath rushes down my ear.
He laughs, warm air, that leaks through his covered lips, spilling onto me.
“A fitting name for you my lioness.”
I close my eyes to his words, feeling my fate settle even more firmly to place as the sound of hooves beats against the ground, echoing in the night.