Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chapter 7c: Rachelle's Walk

Madam Rachelle stumbled through the streets of Renier in a daze, a bundle of cloth grasped to her chest. Legs dangled from the cloth and swayed as she walked, one foot bare and the other wearing a small leather shoe.

After leaving the castle, she had returned home. The deserted streets and eerie silence didn’t intrude into her thoughts. Her mind roamed elsewhere, focusing on every detail of her conversation with the wizard.

When she reached her home she brushed through the door and froze. Mia lay in the middle of the floor. Rachelle had asked the young girl to watch after Tanilla while spoke to the wizard. The girl’s head lay in a pool of vomit and blood, terrified eyes open and staring at the leg of a small table. Her hair formed a dark halo, making her face even whiter by contrast.

Rachelle ran to her and rolled her over. Her voice quivered as she cried out Mia’s name. She touched the girl’s cheek; cold flesh told her what her eyes refused to believe.


She stood on trembling legs, a lump of terror gathered at the base of her spine as she raced to the child’s room. Her worst fears were confirmed when she saw her five-year-old daughter lying on the floor with arms outstretched as if reaching for the door. A shriek burst from Rachelle’s throat. She ran to her daughter, picking the child up and holding her close. The cold, little body slumped against her, arms dangling at her sides.

She had raised Tanilla by herself for the past three years, since Raman went out on a merchant boat and never returned. The loss of her husband had been devastating, but she didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity. She had a daughter to raise, a little girl who depended on her for everything. Rachelle had to be strong for her daughter's sake.

There’s no reason to be strong now, she thought as she cradled her daughter’s cold body in her arms and cried. Tears streamed down her face as she laid the child on her bed and tenderly wrapped her in a blanket before pulling her close again. Her breathes hitched in her throat as she walked through the house and out the front door, her daughter’s limp body pressed tightly against her. Rachelle went through her actions automatically, pure instinct without thought. Her reasoning had buried itself deep within her, unable to face the bitter truth, her body taking control. She had to see to the needs of her precious baby.

The world around her vanished as her feet slowly carried her back to the castle. She barely noticed the shambling corpses, slinking out of doorways and between houses. Rachelle continued down the road, ignoring the people as they grouped together and shuffled behind her, slowly gaining ground and numbers. She ignored everything until her cherished bundle began to shift and squirm.

The movement yanked her mind back from the void it had retreated to. With hope in her heart that she didn’t trust, she lowered her daughter to the cobblestone road. Then she noticed the crowd of people behind her. She saw the blank look in their eyes and the blood coating their mouths and clothes. A few she recognized as neighbors and clients. She willed her vision to shift into another spectrum, a spectrum of life and death, love and hate, future and past. The people’s auras stood out, like holes in the fabric of the universe, worse than the smoky shading of death. Dozens of black silhouettes tottered in her direction, forming an undulating black wave.

She willed her normal vision to return.

Not understanding, but refusing to loose her baby twice in one day, she hugged the child to her once again and ran down the road, toward the castle. The bundle she carried fought and squirmed against her grasp. “Shhhhh…it’s gonna be okay, baby. Mama’s got you.”

She stopped, frozen in place as more bodies stepped out of the manicured forest on each side of the road ahead of her. She stepped back, but with the bodies advancing from behind her she had nowhere else to go.

“LEAVE US ALONE!” she screamed, knowing it would do no good. Hope drained away, to be replaced by gut wrenching fear and despair.

Dropping to her knees, she pulled Tanilla’s head to her shoulder and stared at the ground as tears fell to the cobblestone road.

Pain flared through her shoulder. She pulled the bundle away and looked at her squirming daughter. Her arms rose against the constraining blankets. A small circle of cloth opened and closed in the center of the girl’s head as her mouth chomped up and down.

She needed to see her daughter's face; hear what she tried to say. With shaking hands, Madame Rachelle unwrapped Tanilla from the blanket. She shuffled backward and gasped as baby teeth snapped together behind lips pulled back in a snarl. Her short arms reached out for her mother, but not for a hug. The sight that hurt Rachelle the most though, was the lack of recognition in her little brown eyes.

Rachelle held the struggling girl at arms length while her mind began retreating again, going behind the dark door of her consciousness where none of these events were happening.

Suddenly the girl’s hair wafted up in a spray of red and grey. A steel arrowhead dripped blood onto the girls shoulder. A feathered shaft stuck out from her daughter’s other temple. The girl stopped struggling.

“Don’t just sit there. Run!” a colorfully dressed man screamed from between two trees while notching another arrow onto a short bow. A similarly dressed woman released an arrow into the crowd steadily closing in on Rachelle.

Her mind snapped. Her daughter slid from her hands as she stood, rage enveloping her. Rachelle’s world glowed with auras. The diseased crowds a black mass of waving forms, the trees a patchwork of bright greens with sparkles that flashed and danced. Houses swam in a gray haze, and the man who shot the arrow through her daughter glowed a deep, pulsating red; the object of her rage and hatred.

Her left hand curled into a fist, fingernails cutting bloody crescents into her palm. Her head rolled back. Open eyes faced the cloudy skies. A chilling scream erupted from her throat as her hand flashed toward the man and a wave of blue energy burst from her fingertips and slammed him, throwing him into the air and slamming him against a tree where he slumped to the root covered ground in a daze.

Rachelle collapsed to the ground, her thoughts retreating to the safe place behind the door within her mind.

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