The only memory I had held onto no matter what was the last day I was at my home, in a small village in the corner of a long forgotten country. A country that no longer exists, and hasn’t for a long time.
During my childhood, I grew up with stories of wizards who built men out of metal, and witches that crafted skin to make them resemble real people. Such stories were commonplace and largely debated.
That is, until my 11th moon-year when the Great Gates of the Center was opened and they marched the roads and streets. They swarmed homes and businesses, with the witches and wizards waiting in the doorways as if they themselves were not permitted within.
But, for some reason, no one really panicked, though instead seemed sullen and withdrawn. It’d be many years before I understood why at first.
And even though many possessions were broken in this mass invasion, nothing was taken. Until that is, they came to my home.
I was making weaved baskets with my older brother and sister, as my mother was preparing lunch and my father was tending the garden with my cousin when they came over the horizon.
I remember mumbled conversation between my cousin and father before the clang of their tools dropped to the ground, and their rushed footsteps ran up the path.
My father burst through the door, telling my sister and I to hide in the cupboards, and for my brother and cousin to run to my uncles house to warn him of ’Golems’ is what he called them.
I remember how my sister held me as my mother closed the cupboard door on us. She was trembling, and stroking my hair softly, whispering words of comfort to me and herself.
I, myself, wasn’t very afraid, but just very confused. It wasn’t until they started tearing the house apart that I started to understand.
From what I heard, the Golems whispered to themselves in a language I partly understood. They would whisper ’Find’ and ’Choosen’ as they started breaking things in the house.
It wasn’t long until I heard my mother scream at them to stop and shortly after in pain. My father yelled, “What do you think you’re doin-?!” Before grunting in pain as well.
After that, the cupboard door was swung open and I was pulled from my sister’s arms. I cried out for her as a Golem carried me outside, watching as another one pulled her out by her hair.
I looked to my parents in fear, seeing that they were being held down by two more, fighting desperately to get to me.
Once outside though, I was taken to a short red haired witch with startling green eyes and moonlit skin. She wore a black robe with a matching green sash around her waist. Her face was kind, but her eyes held no warmth in them.
The Golem set me down in front of her, and held me in place, mumbling, ’Found, found, found,’ over and over. All the while I just stared at the woman, who was about a foot taller than I was, and trembled as she placed a hand on my cheek.
Before I could even ask her what she was doing, there was a loud noise, like plates smashing, sounded behind me. I turned to see that my father was now wrestling with the Golem that was holding him down, fighting to get to me.
My only thought in that moment was, ’if he doesn’t stop, he’ll die,’ so I turned to the witch, determined, and asserted myself. I repeated the words the old woman in the woods once told me and the other village children to say, if ever we had to deal with a witch in the future.
I turned to the witch with a burst of confidence and said, “My name is Essa Triden, daughter of Meri and Finigan Triden. In exchange of my family’s safety for all eternity, I’ll give you my name, body and soul, under the unbreakable and undisputed law of nature and Magiks!”
The witch stared at me before smiling sweetly, bring her hand down, hissing, “Yes, she will do nicely. Perfect for her chosen position.” She then held out her hand to her side and snapped twice, and the Golems marched to her side at her command.
I watched in amazement as she waved her hand over where their hearts would be and the Golems shrank to the size of toy soldiers. She then, in a puff of dark green smoke, summoned a box and bent down to place them neatly inside.
I turned to my father in awe, only to see horror in his eyes. It was then that I realized exactly what I had done. I have given up my freedom, my life and myself to this witch to use as she pleased. But I also knew that I didn’t regret it.
I made my way to him, looking at the witch for approval, but we both knew that she had nothing to worry about, I wasn’t going anywhere. As I walked over to him, I remember how my mind was swimming with relief and joy to see that he wasn’t hurt.
As soon as I was within arms length, he grabbed my shoulders, fell to his knees and pulled me into a tight hug. I hugged him back with just as much veracity, and felt the arms of my mother as well a short second later. We hugged for a good ten minutes, before they let go and just stared at me.
I suddenly felt the need to clarify and explain what happened, as I quickly sputtered, “I did the only thing I could think of. I didn’t want father to get hurt so I did the trick that the lady of the woods told us to do. If I didn’t, you’d all be killed or worse! I only did what I thought I could do to protect you all, I-” My father shushed me calmly and said, “I know Essa, and I’m sorry that you felt like you had to do that. I should have done more to protect you. But, there’s nothing I can do now, you can’t break a Magiks Deal.”
I nodded and mumbled, “I know and that’s ok. I protected you, and that’s all that matters to me.”
My mother then sobbed out, “Oh, my baby!” And held me again. I looked over at my father, and was shocked to see tears in his eyes, for he was typically a stoic man. Reaching out, I touched his face and wiped away the tears and smiled. Looking over, I saw my sister in the door way, holding herself, and a sob back.
Then, a voice said, “It’s time to go.” I looked over at the Witch and gave a shaky nod. Father and I peeled mother off of me as I stood and went to the witch’s side. I breathed in, and looked at my family one last time, trying to burn their faces into my brain. The way my mother and sister clung to my father in grieve, the way my fathers eyes looked both sad and oddly a little proud, the way my brother looked as he and my uncle rounded the hill behind them, both filled with confusion and freight.
But now, I can barely remember their faces, their voices, their smell. Soon after I saw my brother and uncle, the witch waved her arms, yelled an incantation, and in a dark green fog of smoke we traveled to the Great Gates of the Center, where nobles of magical descent and royalty lived.