A child; After all these years, I remember nothing about her, only that she was me. That was a long time ago. My mother had died giving birth to my third brother, Toron.
Because of my mother’s death, my father became a drunk. Any money he got from working odd jobs was immediatley spent at the tavern. I, being the eldest of four children, was left with the task of raising the others.
The town, or hamlet, consisted of our house, four total, one of which was burnt down long before anyone in this town could remember, a shrine to Sol, a grave spot with many rest written in an archaic language our shawman says people stopped using a mileniam ago, and a few even older then that... Also a well and the tavern that, if a stray wanderer came to town, doubles as an inn.
Our neighbors have food growing in dirt patches around their houses. I attempted to do this myself, but to little success. Sometimes, the only food we had was a caught rat.
Day to day life was rather monotonous. I know for a fact that I wasn’t happy. But I didn’t know anything different.
I write this not to explane the pity of my past, but as an account of my metaphorical journey. It started here, in the nameless settlement I have drawn out for you.
There was a man in the town; his name I don’t recall... Praelo, I think. Could be Pringle. I don’t remember. His name doesn’t matter to me. All that does is that he preyed upon little girls, as I was. And I was unlucky enough to be caught alone in a room with him.
I was in the tavern one night, searching for my father to talk him out of drinking so much, and maybe help with finding food and repairing the house a bit. I wore a dress that was my mothers, believing it would stir some memory of her. Toron, Poe, Caain, and I were her children, after all.
My father, however, had left the tavern. Somewhere on the road between it and our house, he was likely to be passed out on the ground. I started thinking about how a small girl was going to get him all the way back to the bed in our house without help from someone bigger. I asked the barkeep for help, but he just lauged. “Not my job, kid,” he said. “When you find him, just leave him. What has he done for you anyways?” He then went up the staris to the living area of the building, leaving me alone in the tavern. Or so I thought.
I turned to leave, but before I could get to the door, a voice called out to me. “Girl,” it said, “come here and show me a smile. You would be so pretty if you would only smile...”
I stopped, and turned to see Praelo, sitting in the dark only feet from where I stood, swishing around the contents of a leather tankard.
A voice in my head, the voice of reason, most like, told me to ignore him and walk on. But I was frustrated. This made me bold.
“I am not here for your enjoyment,” I said. “Go find someone your own age to torment.”
He laughed, then reached out and grabbed my leg.
Unhappilly, I tried to slap his arm away. This only provoked him further, for he slid his hand under my skirt and between my legs.
I remember the rage I felt as he felt me up. It filled me. It forced me to defend myself. I twisted, shoving his hand away, then took a step towards him, bringing my knee up between his legs.
He cursed at me and threw his tankard to the ground. Then, he grabbed me by the hair, and threw me down onto the now wet floor. I screamed for what was left of my honor. Desprately, I kicked up at him, but he only grabbed my leg and pulled me closer before kneeling down to mount me. One hand pinned me by the neck to the floor as he lifted my skirt with the other.
I struggle to retell this next part.
He took me. I felt him enter me, and I felt pain. It felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside. But I remember it all in the third person, as if I was watching myself from the ceiling of that room. I wached him leave me alone and watched myelf cry. I felt ashamed and angry. I let out wordless call of anger, slamming my fist into the tavern floor. Waiting for what, I did not know, I cried there for the better part of an hour before an idea struck me... Revenge.
I went out to the well, cleaned myself up, then went to my house and locked myself in the attic.
My story begins here. A little girl with too much responsibility, left impovereshed, and lastly, violated and broken.
Over the next few days, I formulated a plan. However, I was not strong, quick, or clever.
Praelo... He spent most of his time in the tavern. He’s still sitting with his drink long after the bar keep has retired for the night. More often than not, he’s alone. I don’t think he actually had a place of his own in town. He just bummed at the tavern all hours.
A knife behind the counter is a common thing. So is a sleeping drunk. What isn’t common, at least in that small town, is when a man is found murdered in a public place.
This was my doing. I did not like Praelo, or Pringle, or Potato, or whatever his name was. He had to be stopped.
The barkeep had retired upstaris for the night. I watched him put out the last lantern in the tavern before taking his own candle for light up the stairs. The wooden door that lead inside the building had no lock... It didn’t even have a handle. After waiting five counts of sixty, I pushed in the door, hoping the hinges had been oiled recently. The scraping sound the door made against the floor was the loudest sound I had ever heard before, or so it seemed at the time. I dared not close the door as I went inside, lest the scraping sound wake anyone inside.
I paused, and soon my eyes adjusted to the lack of light inside the tavern. Light on my feet, and very slowly, I creapt through the dark to the other side of the building. Behind the bar, there’s that knife I was talking about. I looked at Praelo, a third of the way across the room, then down at the knife I held, anxous, and only half believing that I was doing this.
I spent the day before fancying myself like the ancient and imaginary assassins, thinking about how good it would feel to finally be rid of him. Now that I held the knife, creeping slowly and silently behind this sleeping man, I was not so sure of myself. What if he woke up? What if the barkeep came? What if I couldn’t go through with this? I stood behind him, and put the blade of the knife a few inches away from the skin of his neck. What if the blade wasn’t sharp enough to cut through his skin? I paused, and a million questions went through my head.
I pushed the knife into his neck, and slit his throat, then ran as quickly as I could out the door, hearing him choke and cough on the blood.
The constible was arriving in town to check on the settlement after the body was found. The town shaman was leading her, and it looked as though they were coming to talk to me. Before she could get to me, however, the bar keep ran up to the constable, arms flailing.
“Madam!” he shouted, “Madam, a man was killed in my bar last night! Thank Sol above you’re here!”
The constable was a woman of average size. Her rather light face had already found lines from laughter and scowling across it. Her blue eyes slanted in a way I’ve seen very few people do. People like her have white hair, that darken as they age. The stark white of hers suggested that she was much younger than her facial lines would have one believe. She moved quickly to the scene of the crime, glancing at me with an almost apologetic look. She mouthed something, but I don’t know what.
I made myself scarce for the rest of the conversation. I hid in my house’s attic. It was an eternity later, though, until I heard a knock on the old door below. Toran answered the door.
“Hello, boy,” the constible said, “is your sister at home?” Her voice was almost sweet.
He just pointed to the broken celing boards and stuck his fingers in his mouth. Although he could understand our language, he couldn’t form complete sentences yet.
“Azrah,” the constible called, “don’t make this difficult; just come down here and we can talk about this.”
She called out again when I didn’t respond.
“Now girl,” this was her third call, “if you step down and come to Veii quietly, there are things we can do to help you. If you fight on every stop of the way, those options won’t be available. so Azrah, please, just come down.”
Hesitanty, I walked across the attic, avoiding the lose or crumbling boards until the constible and Toron were visible through a hole in the celing. She held a hand out as if offering to help me down. I hopped down about a yard away from her.
“You killed Praelo?” She was asking, but it sounded more like a statement.
I shook my head without looking at her.
“Who did, then, Azrah?” she asked. “It doesn’t take someone too bright to put the pieces together. He hurt you, so you killed him.”
I looked at her face. “Maybe,” I said.
The constable laughed.
“He had to be stopped,” I said. “This is serious. Why are you laughing?”
She smiled. “I know how serious this is. My work is very serious. I take any amusement I can, at this point. And I’ll count that as a confession. Come with me” She tied my hands before me with a long rope, and tied the other end to her belt.
“You’ll want to grab some food. Its a few days travel to Veii,” I remember her voice sounding calm at this point.
A simple response: “There is none here.”
The constible went to the tavern to talk to my father, I figured she was worried about my brothers. Of course, by the time she and I got there, my father was too drunk to comprehend anything.
“I’ll try and look after them,” a small woman said. She was a lady that lived in the house closest to ours. Her skin as white as the rose flowers that grew wild, with hair in varying shades of whitish grey.
The constable and I left after she spoke with the woman for a time. I did not care to listen in. At this point in time, my brothers were on their own.
The path out of town was long, and somewhat twisted. Enough so that I would have a difficult time telling the exact direction from the main road the town lay. It was set deep into the forest. From the walk, I would have thought it was farther than I later learned it was. The path was unpaved and rough. Often, I couldn’t tell where it turned without following the constable. The tree roots seemed to jump out of nowhere, grabbing my feet to pull me down to the ancient cities, and to the tormented rest of all thoes who died died during the Black War.
In the village, there were folk tales about trees so old that they had grown aware of their surroundings. Soon after, they started to speak to each other, then walking, using their roots for legs and feet. My mother used to tell me stories about these trees before putting me to bed. I thought about that while we walked the trail, I wondered what things trees would talk about. I thought about anything that kept away the thoughts of punishment for the act of murder.