This is a piece, probably a little long, that I have been toying with and trying to decide what direction I should go with it. Want to make some suggestions? 🙂
I am on a raised dais, my back to a jeering crowd. I am shackled at the neck, wrists, and ankles. My hands are attached in the back, underneath my folded wings. I am naked, save for a linen shred of cloth tied around my waist. My head is held high, shoulders back in defiance. My hair is still long, the color of cacao. They have something more humiliating in store than simply shearing my hair.
The man to my right steps up to me and sneers. His face is obscured but for his near toothless mouth. I give him a bored look and tell him they should hurry up already. He punches me in the side of the face. The crowd cheers louder. They obviously want my execution. I sneer at this masked man and spit a mouth full of blood and a single tooth on this shoe. Anger. Oh! I have just become the subject of his ire. As he lifts his fist to pummel me, a loud trumpet like whistle stops everyone gathered. I look to my left, the direction it came from.
There is a winged man, beautiful in form, hovering next to the dais. He has a scroll in his hands. So, it seems that they must drag this out as long as possible. I sigh with boredom. They do so love the pomp and circumstance of these things. The young messenger of the crown drones on with my charges. Mutiny. Yes, yes I did! Attempting to usurp the crown. Rubbish. Treason? Rubbish as well.
I devised my mutiny to prove a point. It worked well, but the crown did not like that I managed to beat out all of those well trained soldiers. I smile in remembrance. The poor thing is still droning on. I finally stop him with my voice. He’s scared of me. I give him a smarmy smile and say, “Let us not drag this out any more than we already have. Let us get on with the torture, murder, etcetera. Quite frankly, I am bored with all of this anticipation. You know I am not standing here in terror, so please, do your worst.”
My voice has always contained my magic and been my greatest asset. It has sent legions home to foreign lands, trembling and crying. My own people listen but are not so affected. The young man then looks at me, smiles sadly, and said, “As you wish,” before nodding to the masked man.
It is obvious to me that the masked man loves this part of his job. He moves to my left and jerks hard on the top of my wing, forcing it down and to open just a bit. Ouch. I grit my teeth and stare ahead. This sadistic fucker isn’t going to take his time. Good! The sooner we finish…
Pain, the pain of ten thousand hot branding irons stabbing my back. My vision waivers and I lock my knees to keep from falling. I refuse to cry out, refuse to make a noise. There is no longer a crowd. There is no longer the masked executioner. There is only me and the pain of his knife, the heat of my wing being torn from me, body and soul and the icy grip of fear around my heart that I may actually die for this.
Somewhere through the fog, he laughs. I look at him through my air and strain to focus my eyes. The realization that he is holding my wing, as well as a large portion of my back, is slow in coming. He unlocks the chains around my ankles. He tosses me off of the dais, me and my detached wing. I’m confused, yet know I am probably going to die. At least, I hope so. I watch my wing float down as I fall and then the world goes black.
There is darkness, a dark so deep it feels like velvet to the senses. Nothing penetrates it. I wonder if this is death. Maybe we don’t go on, as I previously thought. Maybe we stay in this void, but if I am conscious of this void, then I can’t be dead, right?
Struggling, I open my eyes just a bit. The light is very dim and indirect. The bed I am on is very soft and I am very warm. Breathing is painful, I realize. I can’t take a deep breath. I attempt to roll over to see if I can find a more comfortable position to sleep in. Pain grips my whole body and my muscles seize. I let out a tiny squeak because that’s all I can manage.
I hear slow, deliberate steps coming toward my bed. “Lay still, child,” the voice says. “Don’t move and don’t breathe too deeply. You are still quite ill.”
It is the voice of an elder. She sounds ancient, yet her hands are gentle and sure. Her magic is in her touch. She calms the pain in my chest and the seized muscles. I sigh. “Rest, young one and recover. It will be some time before you are fully well.”
My eyes close again as I relax into her gentle touches. She is working with the energy of my body, the ley lines, and not allowing the energy to build up or block anywhere. It also helps her to keep the pain pushed out of my body. I drift silently back into that nothingness. It is much better in this place.
Again, I hear quiet shuffling. I don’t know how long it’s been, but I hear the old woman. My body is still in pain, but not like it was the first time. I move my head slowly back and forth. Opening my eyes, I again see the indirect light, but this time, my surroundings come more into focus. It is a single room, round and stacked full of miscellaneous things. I see jars, books, and a table with a candle on it, as well as a small kitchen and a wall of nothing but jars of… maybe plants?
My movements have alerted her to my consciousness. She shuffles over to my bed and looks at me with a healer’s critical gaze. She smiles a warm, toothless smile, and says, “Welcome back to the land of the living child. Let me get you some warm broth and we shall see if you can keep it down.”
I begin struggling to get up, but she pushes gently on my shoulder and says, “Not yet, young one. Let me get your food and then I will help you to sit up.”
Her shuffles are a little faster this time. She reappears with a bowl of some clear aromatic blend. She puts it on the small table next to the bed. Then, she reaches behind my neck and takes my left arm at the elbow. “I need you to push up with your other arm and help me, Child. We are going to go really slow because you are going to be very, very sore still.”
I do as she says and we get me seated. It hurts to breathe as she positions the pillows behind my back and helps me to adjust my angle. It’s better, but not much. My right wing is spread out to the side, but I can’t feel my left one. I reach around and touch the top of it. There are no feathers! The shock on my face shows. Her face becomes sorrowful as she shakes her gray head. “It’s reattached, but I do not know if you will ever fly again, Child. Here, eat.”
Silently, she feeds me spoonful after spoonful of the broth. Numbly, I take each bite and swallow. I can’t fly and maybe never will again. Life isn’t worth living if I can’t feel that kind of freedom.
I finish the small bowl and the old healer helps me to lie down again. Tears are in my eyes as I look into her leathery face. “Shush, Child,” she says gently as she wipes the tears from my face. “I don’t know what you did to deserve that, but in a few days when you are stronger, I’ll tell you how I found you and what I have done to help you. For now, you must rest and allow the herbs to do their work to strengthen you.”
I nodded. I didn’t know what else to do but agree with her. For the next two weeks my days were filled with less and less sleeping and more and more solid food. By the tenth day, I was feeding myself and holding lengthy conversations with the old woman. She seemed to know when I was about to ask her about how she came to find me and she would always change the subject or find something infinitely fascinating to do that didn’t involve being near me.
Then, the day came when she broached the subject. “I suppose that you are strong enough now to know how I came to be your rescuer, Child.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “I would very much like to know.”
She dragged one of her kitchen chairs loudly over to my bedside. “It’s been three moon cycles since the evening I found you.” I raised an eyebrow at this but didn’t dare interrupt her. “I was in the mountains searching for an herb that only grows there in the warmest months of the year. I’d been gathering the rare plant all day. I came around the bend in the trail and there you were, lying in a puddle of blood.
“I was certain you were dead, just by looking at the angle your body had taken on that boulder, but I’m a healer, so I couldn’t just walk past you without checking. I was surprised to feel you still had a pulse. It was weak, but it was there. So, I bandaged you up as best I could, gathered your wing up, and brought you back here. I don’t know what you did to deserve having your wing cut out by the root, but I still wonder if I’m harboring a fugitive since you didn’t die.”
Her eyes twinkled at the last statement and there was a sly grin on her ancient face. I had a feeling that even if I was a fugitive, she wouldn’t turn me in. Then, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know what I’d done! I started thinking back. I got flashes of a scroll, a masked man, and pain, arrogance, and hate. “Treason,” I whisper aloud.
I look to the woman. “I was supposed to be killed for treason.”
She smiles. “I knew it was something good, Child. Do you know what you did that would warrant an accusation of treason?”
I sat on the bed stretched out for some time, thinking. Finally, I look into her coal colored eyes. “I don’t even remember who I am… or who I was before I was supposed to die.”
She makes a sound that is almost a growl. “I wondered what they put on that blade when they cut you. Only a select few herbs will cause anticoagulation and memory loss when mixed together. They wanted you dead in this life and in the next, it appears.
“Well, Child, since we don’t know who you were, we can’t know who you are. I’m Zora, by the way, and if you want to stay here until you ware well enough to travel, then you can. Another thing I want to tell you about is your wing. I got it reattached. It took some serious healing magic just to do that. I can’t guarantee that you will ever be able to use it again, but when you are ready, we can at least move it around manually so that it doesn’t completely atrophy.”
“Thank you, Zora,” I say with a hitch in my voice.
“It’s going to be okay, Child. Don’t worry about your wing too much right now. You still have weeks to go before you are even well enough to start really getting out of bed.