War and Despair

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Chapter 31

The creature sat beside the patch of flowers vaguely shaped like Callen. He didn’t understand, why had she saved him? Why had she saved the Geomancer?

He didn’t understand so much, so many questions. Why had Callen returned to the earth and he still lived and breathed? Why had the witches done the things they had done? How had he survived? Why was Columba lying face down in the stream? Why was his son blue and lifeless? Questions he would never really understand the answer to.

A twig crunched behind him. He turned to see an old woman with matted hair dressed in rags standing behind him.

“Farina.” He rasped. Instead of running, she came to stand by his side.

“Why?” He rasped.

“Why what?” Farina asked.

“Why did you free me?” the creature asked. “Why did you give me a chance to escape?”

Farina smiled sadly. She reached up and pressed her thumbs into the space behind her ears. Her face fell away and shattered on the ground, turning to dust and blowing away in the wind. The face underneath was smooth and unlined. The woman had delicate features and large aqua-marine eyes.

“My name is not Farina.” The woman said. “Farina died years ago, my name is experiment thirty-nine. I got free, and I killed her. She was the first to successfully combine earth, and air, and it was her downfall. I was half dryad before, now…I’m not sure. I used the air magic in me to steal her face, and I left. I hid for years, unsure of what to do. Corina came to me with a proposal, that all the witches combine power to try to create a witch-made. That’s the name they gave us.”

“Why didn’t you stop them?” The creature said, putting his head in his hands.

“I couldn’t, not without revealing myself. I bided my time, waiting for my chance. I watched five of them die quickly, and I noticed Gwyrdd seemed guiltier each time. I thought that if I waited longer I might be able to use that. But I saw how much joy Corina and Elwanda took from causing you pain, and I knew I had to act soon. I waited until they were busy with other things, and I made an illusion of myself walking through the woods, and I went down and untied you. I did everything I could to make sure they didn’t find you. I told them that you would probably die anyway since you were injured when you got away.” The woman said.

“Do you have a name?” He asked her.

“My mother was a dryad, she died giving birth to me. I lived among her family member for most of my life. They saw me as a mutt that had murdered one of their sisters, they saw me as unworthy of a name. They never gave me one. I never gave myself one either.” She said.

“How did they catch you?” the creature asked.

“I was tired of being the lowest. I killed the one of the dryads and ran. I hate that I enjoyed doing it. Farina came up behind me in the woods and knocked me out.” She said. “I thought that trying to abandon my name would erase the memories. It didn’t, and I wasn’t able to take a new name. You tried to do the same.”

“We’re immune to spells. She didn’t know.” The creature said, gesturing down at the flowers. “She threw herself in front of me, and it killed her.”

“A part of her is still alive, in the soil and the flowers.” The woman said. “I’ve told you who I was before, now you tell me who you were.”

“I was weak. My mother thought that I was cursed and abandoned me. I lived separated from the rest of the world until Columba. I saw her from the distance, and I fell in love with her. She had seen me from a distance too, and she felt the same love. She came to be one day, and we were sure. We were married in secret by a priest that didn’t care that she was marrying against her family’s wishes. I built a cottage for us in the forest, and we thought that all we needed was each other. We thought that we were invincible, that nothing could ever break us apart. Two people, together forever. She told me that we were expecting, and I was overjoyed. My son was born dead.” The creature paused for a moment. “It changed Columba. She cried after she thought I was asleep. She thought that there was something wrong with her. Instead of comforting her, I pulled away from her. She disappeared, and I found her later dead in a stream. I went away to mourn her, and the witches caught me.”

“No one is invincible.” The woman whispered, circling him. “And you are dying. You can feel it. I can feel it. You haven’t eaten in days. You don’t have much longer to go human hearts aren’t sustaining you. You need more.”

The creature nodded. “I need to catch the Geomancer or her brother.”

“But deep down, you know that you won’t catch either in time.” The woman said. She reached her hand inside her chest and pulled out her heart with a wet squelch and offered it to him. Unlike a human heart, it was covered in layers of jagged, blue, crystalline substance.

“That won’t do anything.” He told her flatly.

She tore off the crystal-like layers to reveal a human heart wrapped in protective leaves and vines. “This is what my heart was before.” She told him. “Take it. It will keep you alive until you find another ‘meal’.”

The creature took the heart and swallowed it whole. The woman crumbled into pale green dust and floated away on the wind.

“Thank you.” He whispered to no one in particular. “Why does someone else have to die every time?”

A pale blue flower petal drifted down from one of Callen’s flowers to land on his robe. He bent down with a spike of pain to pick it up. A feeling of peace came over him, and for a moment, he remembered what it was like to just lay staring up at the sky, free of worries.

Columba lying beside him in the grass, a smile on her face, daisies woven into her dark hair. The white clouds drifting high above them…

Callen was there somewhere, somehow. She was trying to help him.

“I will get revenge for you, little sister.” He rasped. He turned his back on Callen’s flowers and walked away. He didn’t hear the whispering of the wind begging him to stop.

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