Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, and here to read Part Three.
Katarina didn’t know where she was running to — all she wanted was to run away. Voices called in the distance, lanterns moved far off, and the rain only pounded down harder. Gradually her feet slowed. She was tired and out of breath. She dropped onto a rock and buried her head into her hands as sobs began to shake her whole body. Loud, heart-wrenching sobs. Sobs crying for her Grandmother, sobs for herself, and sobs of anger. She was exhausted and hardly had the energy for tears.
Hunching down for protection from the boulder, she hugged herself and shoved her hands into her pockets to kindle some warmth. Her fingers closed around something. She had forgotten the poem. Katarina pulled it out and flattened the parchment across her lap and read. The ink smeared as rain soaked the page. Weeping softly, she bent over to shield it.
Love heals the deepest wounds.
The words stood out on the page. She whispered them aloud and then screamed. Rage filled her every bone and she ripped the words into wet paper shreds.
“Where was the loving Creator when my Grandmother died?” she sobbed and threw the torn pieces. When they landed on in the mud, she smashed them deeper with her heel and fell back wearily against the rock, energy drained.
She paused, heaving, and, looking up, finally realized where she was. Before her the old man’s tent shivered in the wind. Hunger gnawed at her stomach and she gave in. Cautiously, she tiptoed to the flapping door and peeked inside. It appeared untouched from earlier that morning — or whatever time of day it had been.
Katarina untied her soaked cloak and hung it over the cot. Then she rolled the potato out of the coals, tore it open, and scarfed it down. Exhausted, she fell across the mat and drifted into her dreams.
Child. You ache.
Katarina didn’t answer, her eyes fixed before her. Deep heavy darkness pressed in around her except for a single golden thread drifting around her. Power throbed through it like blood through veins. And love. And Light.
Child. I was there, it whispered. I was holding her hand and crying for you. I was there. Pain may come but I never leave.
The words were a lullaby.
I was there.
I was there.
Slowly they cradled Katarina and peace seeped into her mind.
I am with you little one. Never lose hope.
Katarina woke with a start. The fire had died off a while ago and now it was cold in the tent. She lay quietly and held her breath, listening carefully. And then she heard them again: screams. Their echoes pieced through the wind and rain.
Her stomach churned. She must be imagining it. But they came again: screams. And drums; there were drums beating.
Heart pounding, she scrambled to her feet and wrapped her cloak around her shoulders once more. Outside the wind had increased. Lightning now flashed and zig-sagged across the pitch-black sky. Thunder boomed. The trees beside the tent bent low the to ground looked as if they would snap, but she didn’t slow to watch.
Across the field her village was burning. Furious, crackling orange flames leapt from house to house, playing tag with the thatched roofs. Lines of soldiers stood along the edge while she could see more moving through the buildings in the blazing firelight. She could see them dragging shapes behind them. It was all chaos.
Isaac. Where is Isaac?
Katarina reached the edge of a cluster of homes and a woman stumbled from a doorway. Smoke streamed out behind her as she fell to her knees and gasped for air. She coughed and then peeled away the blanket from the bundle she cradled desperately. She murmured and bowed her head to kiss it.
“You!” a soldier yelled as he spotted her. “Get up now.” The woman hugged the bundle tighter and struggled to stand. Katarina could now see the fresh burns covering her arms and dress, she could also see the symbol of the king on the soldiers’ sleeves.
Lightning flashed above and the soldier ran at her. “I said now!” he screamed. He snatched the bundle and with his other hand balled his fist at her forehead. The woman fell back and then tried to push herself up and take back her child. Blood trickled down her face, anger filled her eyes. She yelled and clung to the bundle in his arms.
The man growled and lifted the hilt of his sword. A loud crack resounded as he brought it down on the mother’s head. She crumbled into the mud and Katarina gagged in horror. The baby cried louder, but the man ignored it and wiped his bloody hand on its blanket in disgust. A soldier ran up and saluted.
“Captain! Everyone is gathered.”
“Good,” the soldier barked. “It’s time we get to the bottom of this.”
When the two soldiers disappeared, Katarina ran to the motionless woman, but it was too late. Fury filled her. How could he do something so cruel? What is happening!?
Sobbing, she pushed the woman’s eyelids closed and slipped into the shadows after the captain. She had to find out what was going on. In the open square surrounded by blazing shops, the villagers, her friends, and her neighbors, were lined up before dozens of soldiers.
The captain marched up, shoved the baby in the closest woman’s arms, and then continued down the line.
“I am Amir Hanzan,” the man shouted, “one of the king’s most trusted captains, and I’m here to tell you his Majesty is not pleased! He has been hearing distressing news! Reports of your actions have reached the palace!” Hanzan scowled down the lines of villagers. Some avoided his gaze. Some stared back definitely. Some were weeping quietly.
Lighting lit the world and Katarina finally spotted Isaac. His forehead was bleeding and his clothes were torn. He glared fiercely at the soldiers and his hands were clenched, but his mother held him back.
Hanzan paced the other way and continued. “He has heard of rumors spreading lies; he has heard about your plans for rebellion and the chaos you are spreading to overthrow him!” he spat. “And now you will pay unless you recant your actions and swear loyalty to the great King!” No one spook up. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed.
“Well!?” the man screamed.
Out of the line a old man stepped forward. He was breathing hard and hate filled his eyes. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he yelled back. “But I do know you are a murder, and if this is what the king has sent you to do, I will curse his name for it.” The man spat and drew a crude, old dagger from his belt. “I will fight to the death to rid my village of both you and him!”
The captain scowled. “You will regret those words,” he growled and charged, stabbing the old man clean through with his sword. Women and children screamed, but the old man merely struggled for words, eyes wide. Blood seeped from his stomach and trickled out of his mouth. Finally, he managed to gurgle something and then went limp. The dagger fell from his hand.
“And so shall be the end of everyone who stands against the King!” the captain cried out and shoved the body away with the sword still protruding from it. A foot soldier handed him a replacement.
“Anyone else?” Hanzan snarled and turned back to the rest of the villagers.
No one moved.
Written by Evelyn Kelly
Illustrated by Jeremiah K.
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room
Welcome to The Flabbit Blog! Here you will find writings by the many members of The Flabbit Room, most of which will be set in the world of Ildathore.