In medieval Andona, the day before the summer solstice marks the beginning of Audrianna's harrowing journey. As the Daemon clans fight for power, she finds herself trapped as a pivotal piece in a deadly game. This decades-long challenge between brothers stretches across the boundary between life and death, and pulls Audrianna to the very center of the conflict. Cast into a world she does not fully understand, she struggles to return to the one person who matters. Amidst Daemon deities with unknown goals, Audrianna shoulders the burden of a people who call her cursed. Born to make an impossible choice, will she be able to find hope and end the suffering of all Andona?
Ye rule the land and sea!
Beware, ye brothers, the eyes of dichotomy.
Here they come as swift as the breeze.
The Clan of Caldre will seize
The land his brother Aithne has won
With cunning the mighty they freeze.
Fighting back as fierce as a flame
The Clan of Aithne's fame
Men whose brawn is known through the land
Will blaze you into the grave.
Ye rule the land and sea!
Beware, ye brothers, the eyes of dichotomy.
Blue as blue, Clan Caldre will rise
Consuming frost to the skies.
One eye not blue, born unto you
Will lead to Aithne's demise.
Brown as flame Clan Aithne came
Their fires burning in rage.
One eye not brown within you is found
The rule is yours to claim.
Power is shifting for thee!
For failure to claim the eyes of dichotomy!
Power is shifting for thee!
For failure to claim the eyes of dichotomy!
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Release date: March 31, 2021
Print pages: 250
Content advisory: Contains instance of attempted rape and a forced kiss.
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Behind the book
Many of the experiences in this book are pulled from real-life reference and placed in this fantastical medieval setting. If I would have you take one thing from the reading of this book, it would be hope. Hope that things will get better. Hope that the sun will set on the evil and rise on the good. Hope that Love will conquer all.
~ Amy Lynn
Amy Lynn McConahy
I had done my best to wake early in order to finish my chores before the sun graced the sky. The straw in my pallet did not rustle as I
quietly rolled it and stowed it away in the wooden chest by the door. I breathed deeply of the sweet, familiar scent of rushes as I carefully crossed the floor with my bare feet. I tended the round central hearth and added a few sticks to the cooling embers while pushing the clay container of pottage closer to their warmth. The oak front door creaked softly on its wrought iron hinges as I slowly opened it outward. Before crossing the threshold, I glanced back at my sleeping parents huddled under a homespun blanket. My father snored lightly as my mother nestled closer to his side and sighed in her sleep. My lips curled into a smile.
You work so hard. I will do a little extra to make your morning easier.
I closed the door of our fieldstone cottage quietly and busied myself with the daily chores of a farm maiden. Being the only child of a farming family had made me somewhat stocky, but as I had aged, my square build had softened into curves. I finished chopping some kindling into thin strips to feed the hearth and bundled some sticks with twine to help with the oven. I placed a woven basket of fresh eggs and the wood beside the back door for my parents to find.
I love you both. I will be back soon.
Dawn had come but had not yet fully established itself upon the sky. My bare feet whispered through the forest undergrowth as the morning dew soaked the bottom of my kirtle. I needed to hurry if I were to arrive on time, but not at the expense of stealth. Necessity had bred a lightness of foot that belied the sturdiness of my build. Remaining hidden was of the utmost importance. I flinched, remembering times that I had not been as careful as I was now. Being struck with sticks, rocks, or vegetables well past ripe was not at all pleasant. In my mind I saw the cold azure eyes and firm-set mouths of the villagers of Dagian, the village of my birth, the village of my whole life up until now. Dagian was nestled in a quiet river valley in the northern reaches of Andona. Far enough away from the fighting that we lived in relative peace. Spacious enough for both farming and livestock as well as a watermill. Large enough that everyone should have a place.
Everyone but me.
I shook my head to dispel the dark thoughts. My unruly auburn tresses brushed my cheeks, but I swiftly tucked them securely behind my ears.
Not today. Today is a good day. I am careful, quiet. I will not be seen.
Tomorrow was the beginning of my nineteenth summer, and I had decided to use the morning of the last day of my eighteenth year to visit a dear friend. Reaching my destination, I crouched behind a thorn bush and peered intently at the familiar elaborate door with its intricately wrought iron hinges. This back door belonged to Dagian’s blacksmith, Leone, but he was not who I sought. The thorns provided good cover, but I still remained vigilant. My breathing slowed as I settled in, preparing to wait as long as was necessary. I absentmindedly picked at a loose thread on the squared neckline of my overtunic as I shifted into a more comfortable position. To pass the time, I focused on the sounds of the forest around me. Birds warbled their morning greetings. Small creatures rustled in the underbrush. The hooves of a hind padded carefully on the moss nearby. The clean smell of new plant growth and spring rain hung around me like a cool blanket. I shifted into a sitting position as I relaxed into the beauty of the waking morning.
Life should always be this peaceful.
My body tensed at the sudden sound of firm footfalls approaching on the dirt path. The sound echoed down the row of fieldstone trade houses that made up the westernmost edge of Dagian. Unwelcome, the steps continued their loud approach. I glanced furtively at the door.
Who else would be out at such an early hour? Hopefully they will pass by and not stop for the blacksmith.
I had hidden myself well. A casual passerby would not discover me. I relaxed minutely. The footfalls were closer now, but far enough from my hiding spot as to not cause me more alarm. That is until she came into view.
“Lynet.” I whispered before I could stop myself. A coldness spread through my body, starting at my trembling hands. I pulled my knees up to my chest as quietly as I could, as if my bent knees would protect me from the memories that threatened to surface. Placing my forehead on my knees, I tried to dispel the unpleasant emotions that seeing her roused within me. Unbidden, my mind flashed to one of our many painful encounters, her golden ringlets wild and her azure eyes full of glee as her father’s whip cracked a hair’s breadth from my face. It had been so close that I felt the puff of air caused by the whip’s change in direction. I shook my head. I should not fear this woman, two years my junior, but years of abuse had bred in me an apprehension that I could not easily push aside.
The miller’s daughter, her shining golden ringlets descending to her slim waist, approached the back door of the blacksmith’s shop with saucy confidence and a direct gait. She knocked firmly on the door and waited, leaning forward slightly with anticipation. After a moment, the door opened outward, forcing her to take a quick step back. I thought perhaps it would be Leone, rising early to stoke the forge, but it was his son Tavish who ducked through the low door frame and closed the door behind him. He raised himself to his full height—which was average for men of his trade—and stepped toward Lynet, causing her to retreat a few more steps to make room. Dressed in a gray tunic with matching gray trousers covered by a well-worn leather work apron, his heavy tool belt clinked as he shifted his weight. He crossed his strong arms across his broad chest and tilted his head in a questioning manner, a motion that caused some of his shoulder-length sandy hair to fall into his bright emerald eyes.
“How can I help you this morning, Lynet?” His smooth gravel voice carried easily to my hiding place.
“You know well the reason I am here, Tavish.” Even with Lynet facing away from me, I could hear the haughty crinkle of her nose in her nasally speech. She tossed her fetching ringlets carelessly into the breeze where they caught the sunlight, making each strand glisten. “To assure that it will be you who escorts me to the Solstice Festival tomorrow.”
Tavish returned her statement with an impatient tap of his boot that jingled the many pouches and hammers on his leather tool belt. “You know well that I am courting another in the next village, Lynet.” I knew that this excuse was false. Tavish had used this line for years in order to spend time with me, as a childhood friend, nothing more.
If only …
I jumped slightly as Lynet startled me out of my reverie.
“Yes, I have heard much of this ‘mist maiden,’ but I have yet to make her acquaintance.” Her hands raised to her hips and curtly came to rest on her bright cerulean overtunic. “Your own father has led me to believe that she is only an excuse to avoid me.” Indignation dripped from her every word. “You will take me to the Solstice Festival or there will be consequences.” She brushed a stray ringlet over her shoulder with irritation. “Do not act as though you have not known your fate for some time. Our fathers have long intended us for each other.” With this, she stepped closer and looked up into his face. My hands clenched into fists as I rolled to the balls of my feet, my legs growing taut beneath me.
“I am not”—she paused—“unpleasing.” Her hips swayed slightly as if to emphasize her point.
Tavish took a step back toward the door, narrowing his emerald eyes.
“I am my own man, Lynet, and I will not be pressured by you or our fathers on this matter.” He turned toward the door and made motion to enter, but Lynet grabbed his arm to stop him.
“You know the power my father holds.” Tavish grew still, and Lynet continued in a voice so faint I could barely hear. “Are you willing to pay the price?”
Without answering, Tavish shrugged off her hand and opened the door, refusing to meet her eyes, and shut it firmly behind him. With a low growl, Lynet’s fists clenched at her sides as she trembled with the effort it took to contain her rage. I had seen this response from her before, and it did not bode well for the recipient of its focus. I remembered a time past when I had watched Ned, the leathersmith’s son, cowering in a ditch, holding half of a golden braid in his fist while Lynet’s plump childish finger pointed at him as she shouted in a trembling rage, “You will be sorry!” He had been only a child at the time, still, the miller’s men had broken his legs for his insolence. Ned still walked with a limp to this day due to the poor healing of his injury.
I was again startled by Lynet’s swift turn in my direction. Managing to stifle a reflexive gasp, I remained still, petrified in the thorns. Her gaze passed briefly over the thorn bushes and then turned in the direction of her father’s watermill. Being the miller’s daughter had made Lynet one of the most powerful and sought-after women in our valley, second only to her own mother. Controlling the supply of milled grain as well as the use of the river that flowed through Dagian had given her father the undue power of a clan leader in our little corner of Andona. The man used that power with deadly efficiency on any who displeased him. It would be incorrect to assume that Lynet was anything as mild as displeased. Her lovely face twisted in a teeth-grinding grimace as she stomped stiffly toward her father’s mill.
After she was out of sight, I saw movement in one of the back windows of the blacksmith shop. I could barely make out two arms locked from wrist to elbow with both hands spread. I smiled to myself as I recognized the familiar sign of a tree and stealthily left my hiding place to head toward our meeting spot in the forest.
Not long after Lynet had stormed off, Tavish quietly left the blacksmith shop under the cover of the rhythmic pounding of his father’s hammer. Slipping out the back door with a satchel on his shoulder and his belt of tools about him, Tavish began to walk casually behind the trade houses, making his way toward the highest hill in the valley. It was covered by a dense copse of trees and was thought by the villagers to be haunted due to the eerie singing that had once echoed across the valley from within its depths. Tavish grinned at the memory of the boyish dare that had brought him and Audrianna together as children. The eerie singing had been nothing but a child attempting to express her pain. An image of her tear-lined cheeks round with youth caused him to wince.
I will find a way to never see her face red with crying again.
After this morning’s childish interruption, Tavish was even more careful than usual not to be followed by anyone from the village.
I must protect her from that harpy.
His breath came out in a whoosh as he tried in vain to calm himself.
What does Lynet see in me? I have given her no encouragement. Even when we were children, I made it perfectly clear that her tantrums would have no effect on me.
He grunted in displeasure.
She thinks that she can threaten me? I would like to see the miller’s hired men try their hand at beating a blacksmith raised by a master swordsman.
Tavish shook his head in disbelief. He had started his training in the art of swordsmanship as soon as he could walk. The sole person with more strength and skill was his own father. Tavish’s brow pinched with worry.
I will be in trouble if my father and the miller choose to join forces.
His pace slowed as he neared his destination, and he ran a nervous hand through his sandy hair. Having entered the dense forest of the High Hill, Tavish came upon what he and Audrianna habitually called “our tree.” Naming is not a strength of children, “our tree” it was then and so it continued to be called. What stood before him was an artfully gnarled tree lifted two heights off the ground by a massive block of granite. Roots as thick as his thigh twisted and curled around the rock to lock themselves in the soil around the natural monolith. The effect was stunning as mica in the granite’s surface glittered in the sunlight that pierced the oak’s leafy canopy, a covering that stretched above the surrounding forest and spread like a mushroom. The wide ring of shade circling the trunk did not quite reach the jutting outer edge of the granite, and it was there, at the highest point, that he found Audrianna. His breath stilled, and the forest seemed to quiet. Facing away, humming to herself, Audrianna had not yet noticed his presence, and Tavish took the moment to appreciate her beauty, unguarded. Her generous auburn locks gleamed unbound in the sunlight, reflecting almost as much as the mica in the rock that surrounded her. Her curves were clad in a mossy-green overtunic over a wrist-length kirtle of cream. Both were bound at her waist with a fancifully embroidered leather belt covered in small, brightly colored flowers. He stood at the edge of the clearing near the base of the monolith watching the dappled sunbeams caress her form.
I will protect you.
At length, he stepped forward, allowing a branch to snap under his leather boot as he walked evenly toward the granite. Audrianna turned to look over her shoulder and ceased humming with a smile. With a fluid grace born of repetition, she leaped from the monolith, landing in a slight crouch. After gaining her balance, she straightened.
That single word made his heart skip nervously, and he did his best to make the slight pause in his gait go unnoticed as he drew within a few paces of her and stopped.
Does she know how I feel about her?
He thought not. Both being the only children of their parents, they had grown together much like brother and sister. A chance meeting as children had given him a tear-shaped scar and the unlikely treasure of her friendship.
Can I change that perception? Will she accept my proposal?
After an awkward pause, he forced himself to speak. “You look lovely today.” His voice was uncharacteristically low, and he shifted his weight from foot to foot. Audrianna’s cheeks turned rosy as she glanced away, seeming surprised by his sudden statement and intensity. He had kept his feelings to himself for fear that they would frighten her, but today, on the eve of her nineteenth summer, he finally had the courage he needed to change their relationship from that of siblings to something more. Before she could comment, Tavish turned at the waist and began
rummaging through his satchel. He felt her warmth as she leaned toward him, most likely curious as to his occupation.
“I have a gift for you,” he explained, still searching in his satchel. “I know I am a day early, but I do not know when I will be able to leave the Solstice Festival tomorrow to give it to you.”
“I see,” Audrianna replied, her soft voice close to his ear.
When did she move so close?
Tavish allowed himself an imperceptible breath to steady his nerves and removed a small drawstring bag made of kid leather from his satchel. Only then did he chance turning toward her. Audrianna straightened and stepped backward to place the proper distance between them and tilted her head questioningly.
“I made this for you.” Tavish opened the bag and spilled its contents into his large, calloused hand. Against his forge-darkened skin lay a braided cord made of threads dyed blue, brown, and green. Attached to the cord was a pendant made of painstakingly tooled brass in the traditional shape of lovers’ spirals, formed untraditionally into a teardrop shape. The magnificently constructed pendant glittered in the sunlight as Tavish held it out toward her. She gasped, and he raised his gaze from the necklace to look into her lovely dual-hued eyes. One was the color of the softest of skies and the other a deep, earthy color. In his mind, everything about them was perfect, but to the azure-eyed people of Dagian, Audrianna’s eyes marked her as the most detestable of creatures.
Andona was a country divided. On their island, encircled by the Fiadh Sea, the color of your eyes decided your allegiance. One was either born with the brown eyes of Aithne Clan to the south, those who followed the deity Daemon Aithne, or the blue eyes of Caldre Clan to the north, those who followed the deity Daemon Caldre. Marriage between the clans was forbidden, and those born with green eyes were rare. Green-eyed people, who did not have a clan by birth, had to choose which clan would claim them in their twentieth year. Audrianna’s parents were both turquoise-eyed Daemon Caldre followers, the same as all those in the village, but the night of her birth had changed everything for them. The elderly healer that brought Audrianna into the world was so shocked by her dual-hued eyes that she suffered a malaise of the heart from which she never recovered. Between the loss of the village healer and the ominous mention of dichotomous eyes in a well-known ballad, her parents were encouraged by the village council to dispose of Audrianna. When they refused, they had been cast out of the community and forced to live on the outskirts of Dagian’s fertile river-valley. There they had raised their daughter with as much love as a couple could lavish on their only child. It did not keep others from cruelty, but their love did succeed in shielding what was most important—the kind and loving woman that stood before him. Tavish knelt, still holding the pendant.
“Audi,” he began, using his special name for her, “do you understand what this pendant signifies?”
Audrianna gave a small nod as tears began to form in the corners of her dual-hued eyes.
“From the moment your tear gave me this scar,” he said, gesturing briefly to the tear-shaped scar under his right eye, “I have wanted to protect you. Though you did not believe that I would be constant after knowing of your peculiarities, I have stayed with you and grown by your side as a brother. Though I do not wish to be your brother any longer. Today, I ask with complete sincerity for your hand and your heart, for no man has loved a woman as profoundly as I love you.”
Audrianna’s cheeks flushed as she glanced toward the village and then back at him. “But, Tav …”
Tavish raised his free hand to still her protest. “I am willing to make any change necessary to be with you, Audrianna.” He gestured toward his chest. “As I approach my twentieth autumn, I must choose the clan of my commitment. I will choose either clan in any village that will allow our union.” She absentmindedly touched the embroidered belt at her waist. Tavish understood her fear and nodded. “I know you do not wish to leave your parents, and if they are willing, we can bring them with us on this journey. I know of places where people can live between clans, at least for a time.” Tavish stood and held his hands open toward her, being careful not to drop the pendant. “What will your answer be, Audrianna?”
Tavish had worked hard on his speech. Being gruff Leone’s son did not make professions of any kind come easily, but he had striven to cover any topic that might cause her to refuse. With nothing else prepared, he waited in silence, gazing into her tear-filled eyes.
A radiant smile began to form on her face. “Tav, I …” Her words trailed off and her expression twisted into one of fear. Clasping her hands over her heart, she began to back away, then turned to run as Tavish heard a familiar voice screech behind him.
“Tavish Leoneson, what are you doing!?”
Tavish’s stomach clenched into a knot.
How much did she hear?
“I saw everything!”
Tavish turned quickly, closing his hand over the necklace and shoving his hands behind his back to deftly tuck the jewelry into one of the back pouches of his tool belt.
Lynet was trembling with rage for the second time that morning, and Tavish could see a prominent pulsing vein standing out against the smooth skin of her forehead. “You were proposing to Audrianna! How could you?” Stomping toward him, she brought her face a hair’s breadth from his and growled, “You are supposed to be mine!”
“You are incorrect.” Tavish held his ground and kept his breath even, belying his pounding heart. “It was a chance meeting, and I knelt to adjust my boot.”
“Your boot does not sparkle like jewelry, Tavish!” Lynet seethed. “When I tell my father, he is going to kill her and her curse-rotten parents!”
“You would not dare!” Tavish grasped her shoulders hard, anger replacing his fear.
“How dare you harm me!” she screeched, face full of indignation, azure eyes flashing with hate. Her sudden outburst caused him to release her shoulders. Taking her chance, Lynet whipped around, smacking Tavish in the face with her curls and sprinted away. After a few paces, she turned her head and yelled behind her, “You will be sorry!” and continued to run toward the village.
Tavish stood stunned. His anger drained back into fear. He glanced down at his tool belt and wished he had worn his sword belt instead. As it stood, even if he were to run hard toward the village, the miller and his men would still be between him and his weapon, for High Hill was on the eastern side of the valley with the mill between him and the blacksmith shop.
With my sword I could best the miller’s hired men, but I am only one man. I cannot protect her from the entire village bare-handed.
A true swordsman knew when to advance and when to retreat, but when it came to Audrianna and her family?
“I must try,” he whispered to himself, and suddenly he was running, not toward Dagian and his sword, but toward Audrianna and her family home.
Joy, unadulterated joy, had turned swiftly into dread, fear, and flight. As I ran, what happened in the forest repeated within my racing mind. Tavish’s emerald eyes glowing with love. Lynet’s azure eyes sharp with hate.
What have I done?
I should have known better than to think that Lynet’s directness toward Tavish this morning would be her sole attempt at obtaining her prize.
Who would ever refuse the golden goddess of the mill?
There would be no mild punishment this time. I had heard Lynet’s parting threats as I ran. Her screeching voice echoed across the valley much the same as my singing had all those years ago. ‘… kill her and her curse-rotten parents.’ Her words chased me like an ill-born gale.
I must warn my parents.
Running with single-minded purpose, I quickly descended the hill and made my way north to the outermost edge of the valley. My father’s modest plots came into view, situated almost vertically on the slopes around our cottage. I saw my mother hanging linens on the line outside the rear door. Without intending to, my mind grasped this picture of relative peace and placed it within the depths of my heart where it could live unchanged.
Unfortunately, change is coming, possibly more swiftly than my legs can carry me.
“Mother!” I yelled as loud as I was able, having lost most of my breath in running. “Call Father!”
Whether it was my tone or the unusual outburst, my mother moved into action with a speed I had not anticipated. Perhaps she had known this day would come, and in some way had always been prepared. Whatever the reason, both my mother and father were ready at the door with a pitchfork and an ax before my legs could carry me to them.
“Tavish,” I huffed, placing my hands on my knees to catch my breath. “Lynet saw us,” was all I could voice before shock hit me and the strength I had gained in flight left me. I dropped to my hands and knees, staring woodenly at the ground. The grass beneath me faded in and out of the grayness that closed around my vision. My heart felt strangely numb as it beat rapidly against my ribs.
“Audrianna.” My father’s voice came from above me, quiet and tense. “How bad is it?”
I continued to stare at the ground, his words not quite making sense to my now-drifting mind. Unbidden, the needed words slipped past my lips.
“We need to leave.” Pushing my hands against the grass, I slowly sat back on my knees and raised my gaze to my father, the man who had raised me with love amidst so much hardship, then closed my eyes to the pain I found in his face. “As soon as we can. Now. Now, would be best.” I had a vague sense of my parents moving in a whirlwind of activity, but the numbing sensation that had begun a few moments before was now spreading from my heart to the rest of my body.
“Audrianna!” I heard Tavish call from farther down the hill. My heart thumped painfully at the sound of his voice.
He came! But what can he do against the entire village?
The words Tavish had spoken in the clearing by our tree came flooding back.
I never answered him. What must he think of me?
I remembered his outstretched hands and the lovely pendant glistening in his palm. In my mind, I saw my hands lifting to clasp his. I glanced down to find my hands now outstretched and clenched them into fists.
A reality that will never happen now.
“Audrianna! You must move! The whole of Dagian is coming!” Tavish ran up beside me and clasped my shoulder. I dropped my fists to my lap as he circled around and knelt before me, tipping my chin gently upward toward his face. He must have seen something in my face, for he continued speaking in a gentler tone. “They are going to kill you and your parents. You must hurry and leave before they arrive.” His face was set with the same focused determination that usually accompanied his sword practice. Some of the shock began to loosen.
If Tavish can be strong, so can I.
“Yes.” My voice was barely audible as he carefully helped me to my feet. I held his hand for support for longer than was necessary before releasing it and dropping my hand to my side.
“I am going to the village to waylay them as long as I can,” he said as we both glanced down toward the gathering crowd in the village below. I nodded numbly and he grasped my shoulders and turned me to look at him, not the mob. “I will find you when it is safe.” His broad hands squeezed my shoulders gently. “Do you understand? I will find you.” I nodded woodenly as he glanced once more at the village. “Head north. Run fast. Stay safe.” He released me, turned, and started to jog toward the rapidly growing mob.
“I need your help, Audrianna!” My mother’s muffled voice pulled at me with a sense of urgency. At first, I moved clumsily toward the cottage, then more quickly as I pulled on my boots lying near the door and joined her inside. I paused to mentally prepare myself for the hardship ahead, and then went to work helping my mother to pack our meager belongings. We kept an eye out the small windows as we worked, stuffing various objects into coarse sacks once used for seeds. My father was nowhere to be seen in our one room cottage, and I imagined he must have been gathering things in the animal shed behind the house. Time seemed to move with great weight, but I could hear the angry rumble of the mob’s approach like thunder through the cob and fieldstone walls. Fear was thick in the air as I crossed the room to my mother where she worked to gather items from the food stores.
“Ma, leave this. We need to run.” I touched her arm as I spoke, and her rapid movements stilled.
“You are right, Audri.” She glanced regretfully at the sparse contents of our home. I heard Tavish yelling over the crowd, though I could not distinguish what he was saying.
“Please, Ma.” I pulled at the sleeve of her kirtle. “We must go,” I said with even more urgency. We both heard a sudden cry of pain from my father and a thump as he struck something. My mother and I rushed to the rear door to help my father only to have him thrust inside by three red-faced men from the mill. He sprawled across the packed dirt floor amidst the rushes, blood seeping through his tan hair. Both of us dropped to our knees by his side as the rear door slammed shut and heavy dragging sounds issued from the other side of the wood. Similar scraping sounds could be heard at the front door as well.
“They are blocking us in,” my mother gasped. Leaving my father’s side, she flew to the front door and attempted to force it open, to no avail. She then tried the back door. “Help me, Audrianna, or we will all die!”
I leaped to my mother’s aid. I tried pushing and shoving, and then grabbed the pitchfork from near the front door. I dug the tines into the thick wood of the door jam, trying to pry it open the other direction while my mother made another attempt at the back door.
If only the hinges were not on the exterior.
In the midst of my exertions, the smell of smoke reached my nostrils, and my eyes followed the faint wisps upward. The thatch must have been burning for some time for the flames to now be seen licking at the rafters. As both my mother and I thought to attempt the very small windows, a rock carrying ignited fabric tumbled through the front window. Flames, animal in hunger, rapidly consumed the dry rushes on the floor.
“Help me drag your father to the table!” my mother ordered. Together we hefted my father’s unconscious body onto the table and away from the swiftly burning rushes. “Maybe we can reach the cross beams.” My mother mounted the table beside my father and reached for the lowest beam at the same moment as part of the thatch, engulfed in flames, gave way and divided her from me completely.
“Mother!” I shrieked. Time ceased and all came into sharp focus. She was reaching for me, fear and desperation warring in her turquoise eyes. Her mouth moved as if calling out to me. Glancing down at my father, her face twisted in horror and pain. Before I could reach them, the rafters gave way and ended the moment as swiftly as it had begun.
I will join you soon.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the pain of burning to match the pain in my heart, but nothing happened.
I am not burning.
This realization was almost more painful than losing them to the flames.
I could have saved them.
Something deep within me shifted into place. Ice spidered out from my heart and along my veins, cracking, slicing, tearing. The heat I had expected from the fire instead lit my core. Pain. No. Agony from inside grasped me. Rage. Ice-cold rage for those who had harmed my parents. Murdered them. I felt a wave rising within me, a twisting, cracking, blazing infinity. I was writhing beings. Like two dragons locked in battle. The flames leaned toward my body as if drawn by my essence. The ice in my veins drew sharply inward to my heart, pulling the inferno along with it. Duality mixed within my breast, fed by a rage that was not entirely my own, and then, without warning, released. And all was darkness.
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