Click here to read Part One.
The cottage was dim. Katarina ducked inside and squeezed out the hem of her soaking dress. The freezing water trickled down her legs and she shivered. Across the room lay a cot. She tiptoed up and kneeled beside it, taking the motionless wrinkled hand in hers. It was cold, so she tried to warm it up.
In the stillness that followed, Katarina could only hear her own gasps and sobs. Finally, she rose and pushed her tears away with the back of her dirty hand.
“Okay Isaac, I will look for it,” she whispered to herself. Katarina took her cloak from the basket beside the bed and slipped it over her worn, old dress.
Outside the rain streamed down from the huge black clouds that never left but ever cast their shawdow over Tenebris. Icy air nipped her fingers, but she opened the door and stepped out.
“Somewhere the sun shines,” she whispered to herself, as if saying it would make it come true. Her voice tightened, but she added, “Somewhere there is a Creator who cares.”
She turned down the alley that led to the edge of town. Beyond that were the marshy fields and then the rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. The buildings on either side looked ominous and gray in the shadow of the storm. The wind threw water in her eyes and it streamed down her cheeks, mingling with her tears. She hunched over and hugged herself and ran forward until the she reached another alley and turned down it.
The village ended and she looked out over the marsh. A cloud of mist shaped and shifted slowly above the gray foliage and puddles of water grew bigger and bigger with the heavy rain pour. An aura of mystery seemed to cling to every leave and patch of moss. Not a bird called. No dogs barked. Her breath was shaky and her hands clammy and frozen with cold and fear. Slowly she stepped forward on the ground that still protruded above the puddles and pools. Her feet sunk a little in the damp soil. She took another step and then another and another.
Carefully, she worked across the sinking land and slowly got closer to the hill where on top the cliffs were. It felt like hours, but finally she was across. In the darkness she could hardly see before her, but she knew that the ground was beginning to climb up. Fuzzy dark shadows on either side grew into jagged rocks. Under her feet the soil gave way to pebbles and rock slates. Then before her the ground gave way and she could hear, somewhere past the fog and heavy rain, the waves beating against the high cliffs. Freezing wind blaster her face and made her cloak whip behind her.
Here she was. She had made it.
Find light, he had said. But all she could see was blackness.
“Hello?” she yelled. Her cry was muffled by the billowing storm. “Help! I need Your help!” she screamed and beat her hand against the boulder beside her. Her skin split and began to bleed. “The storyweaver said when someone calls you always hear them,” she sobbed and collapsed. “Light,” she whispered. “I need the Stag — I need the messenger of the Creator,” she gasped and griped the stone under her face. “I need healing for my Grandmother. ”
Katarina opened her eyes. A small warm fire crackled before her and she lay upon a soft bed of pine needles inside a tent. Outside the storm still raged and rain still cascaded from the clouds. The smoke made her eyes water and she coughed. Someone stooped inside the flap. An old man hobbled up and smiled at her. Katarina pushed herself up, confused and aching, as the man hunched over the fire and pulled two cups from it’s warmth.
“Drink,” he said, his voice crackling. The girl obeyed and gulped down the steaming liquid. It was sweet and she could feel it warming her stomach. She coughed and then drank more. The man watched her as he sipped from his own cup. His hands were wrapped in strips of cloth and his wore a cloak with holes for his arms. Underneath he wore a jerkin and leather breeches and boots. His face was scared, wrinkled, and worn from many years of life and work. Katarina set her cup down.
“I found you on the cliffs,” the man said, coughing. “You fainted. Are you alright now?”
Katarina shrugged. “I guess so.”
The man began swirling his his cup over the fire. His eyes squinted. “You had a fever and were whispering and murmuring for light.” Katarina looked down and the man watched her from the corner of his eyes. “You know there is no light around but a candle here and there,” he said. “And my fire. Now you have light!” he cackled and smiled broadly, showing a row of chipped and crooked teeth.
“Thanks,” Katarina muttered and drew up her knees to rest her chin on.
“Breakfast?” the man asked and took some tongs and pulled a wrapped potato from the coals of the fire.
“Is it morning already?”
The man nodded. “There is no dawn here — just mornings.”
“I know,” Katarina sighed. “I live here too. I just didn’t think I was asleep that long.” The man unwrapped the potato and passed it to Katarina. It was hot and she cupped it in her hands for warmth.
“Where do you live?” the man asked.
Katarina shrugged. “Just the village.”
“Just the village,” the man murmured and pulled out another potato from the fire. The girl looked past him into the storm.
“Do see many people on the cliffs?” she asked.
The man looked at her for a moment and tore his potato open with his hands. “I see people here and there. Some want to be found, some don’t. Some hunger for Light, like you, and so I invite them in. Others are looking for Light but don’t recognize it. Others—” he paused. “Others come here to escape or make choices.” He glanced up slyly at Katarina. “Some come to find someone. Are you?”
Katarina blushed again. “I came for Light.”
The man nodded. “I thought you were looking for him.” Katarina didn’t answer. “There was a boy that came yesterday to find him too,” the man continued, scraping the inside of the potato into his hand and licking it off his fingers. The girl’s heart fluttered at the comment.
“Did he find him?” she asked hoarsely.
The man smiled, his eyes twinkling, and looked Katarina in the eyes. “He found Light.”
“I want to find it,” she whimpered.
“Young girl,” the man said. “Do you not have love? ...Love and kindness. That is the reflection of the Light.”
“I don’t understand,” Katarina sniffed. “My friend said something like that too.”
“Then he is right,” the man said and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Love is Light and Light sends the Dark flying. This world,” he waved to the storm outside the flapping door of the tent. “It is dark in both ways, but though we may not be able to take the clouds away, we may strive to lighten the burdens of those arounds us and spread a little Light.”
Katarina nodded and bit back her tears. “What about my Grandmother though? I… I wanted to find the Stag to heal her.”
The man’s expression grew grave. He looked down into the flames thoughtfully. “You want to see the Stag, the prophet and messenger of the Creator,” he murmured. “Many seek him, and yet few succeed. Sometimes a person’s path leads a different way. Sometimes the Creator knows that it is for the better that one does not see or talk to him. If you want you may pursue the path, but I promise nothing for you.”
Katarina thought for a moment. “I must,” she whispered. “For love.”
“And that is the noblest reason. Use it well.” The man smiled sadly and stood. “I must go. Use this tent as long as you would like. And remember: Love is a power that can’t be overcome. Even by hate. Love always wins.”
Katarina nodded and the man stepped out into the storm.
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.