It was a clear beautiful night out, not a with not a single cloud in the inky black sky to be seen. Only the moon hung idly, it’s milky white light shining softly on a sleepy-looking town called Zaezenus.
Still a few hundred thousand leagues below the moon, things were a lot livelier in the streets of that not so sleepy town. A young woman or maybe a girl, honestly it depends on how you look at her, was tearing through the streets of the town. That was Nasha.
Not quite far enough behind her was a crowd, a crowd that had initially started with a handful of people but was quickly growing as men, women and even the occasional child joined its ranks. The crowd was trying to keep pace with her but unfortunately, it was hampered not only by the sheer number of people in it, but also the lanterns, torches, pitchforks and other miscellaneous farming equipment its members carried. That was the angry mob.
“Don’t let her get away!” A member of the angry mob bellowed, “After her!”
Nasha honestly thought that the shouting was a little unnecessary, it wasn’t like they were stopping for a tea break or anything. They seemed perfectly willing to chase her indefinitely, even without the encouragement.
Clearing a small flight of steps in a single leap, Nasha stumbled at the bottom when one of her leather thongs snapped. She didn’t have time to stop and pick up my sandal so she just kept running, one shoe on and one shoe off. With every other footstep, the sole of her bare foot slapped against cobblestones sending jolts of pain up my leg; her hair had escaped its tie and now stood around her head, a huge crinkly black cloud bouncing around and in her face, occasionally blinding her. To top it all off, after almost ten minutes of running as fast as she could Nasha’s muscles were screaming and her lungs were on fire.
This was the most fun she’d ever had in her life.
Nasha followed the labyrinthine streets and eventually found herself in the city square and before she’d even had a chance to catch my breath she was surrounded. It looked like the angry mob had grown to include the majority of the town, except for a few children who were sent to bed without supper and wives left to watch the stove or something. Either way, there were more than enough people to block every entrance to (and consequently exit from) the plaza, and fill the square itself for good measure.
A heavyset man in his fifties with jowls just beginning to form elbowed his way to the front of the crowd. Given the way in which his face was flushed tomato red and he was panting like I dog, Nasha figured he was even less used to running than I was.
“Monster…” He wheezed at the townsfolk, his chest heaving. “She’s a monster! A demon! Look at her! She bears the mark of hell upon her very skin!”
You would think that someone who seemed to be having so much trouble catching their breath wouldn’t want to waste it on stating the obvious, but Nasha supposed this man just liked to hear himself talk. There was no need for him to draw attention to her looks, they spoke for themselves. The plaza was flooded with moonlight, so all and sundry could see clearly.
Her left side was absolutely normal, pretty even; half a set of good features in skin as dark and smooth as coffee. Her right side, on the other hand, …well that was different. To say the least. The entire right side of her body was charred from the very top of her head down to the tips of her toes, as if that weren’t enough, a network of thick and thin, raised and smooth scars ran across said blackened skin.
A monster indeed.
Now Nasha could have tried explaining the true nature of the curse she had been afflicted with, tried to get the townspeople to understand that she was merely an undeserving victim of a badly-aimed spell, an innocent caught in the crossfire. But as she looked at the faces of the angry mob, she decided against it. Despite it being relatively new to her, she immediately recognized the unquenchable bloodlust in their eyes. Such things were hardly conducive to calm discussion and reconciliation.
In any case, Nasha wasn’t ready to waste her time and risk her wellbeing on a futile effort, she had other things to do and places to be. It was time to leave.
Quick as a flash, she reached down and unwrapped the scarf she had tied around her waist.
It was blue, as dark as the night sky they all stood under, with silver threads woven into clouds and the moon, gold into the stars. It truly was a beautiful piece of work, far too beautiful to have been done by human hands.
The townsfolk recoiled as Nasha brandished the cloth, certain that it was some kind of devil-child magic, sure to send them all to hell.
Wouldn't that have been fun?
Instead of summoning a demon from the pit or whatever else the once-angry-now-terrified mob expected, Nasha simply grip the ends of the scarf in each hand and said "Take me up"
All of a sudden, out of nowhere the wind picked right up blowing out torches and sending pitchforks and rakes scattering. But the crowd wasn't paying attention to that, their eyes were fixed riveted on Nasha.
The embroidered cloth had caught the wind just like a sail, ballooning to about ten times its original size. Nasha was carried into the skies by the gale and all the people of Zeazenus could do was watch in awe, as the talkative man shook his fist in impotent rage.
By the time the first of them had collected their wits, Nasha was nothing but a tiny figure in the moon and Zeazenus, if had she taken the time to look back, would have been less than that to Nasha. But she never did, Nasha sailed forward through the night sky laughing breathlessly, eyes fixed dead ahead on her next adventure.
She just hoped it involved a little less running.
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