Sunday, September 13, 2015
1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Pohl Revision 1
Name: Laura Pohl
Genre: Young-Adult Fantasy
The smell of blood always reminds me of my dreams.
It stung my nostrils, pungent and feverish, invading all other senses.
That's what the cabin smelled like -- I didn't need to open the door to know I was in the right place.
I ignored the creaking door and the breeze that followed me inside, making my bones cringe. There was no avoiding what came next -- there never was. It had been like this since the day I was born.
The body lay on the wooden floor. It was a woman and she had been stabbed multiple times. I tiptoed my way around the room, avoiding where the blood had touched. After all this years, I had learned not to stain my clothes. I held my breath as I faced her, only a pale reflection of what she once had been. Her life was slipping away, as she struggled on the floor, the knife plunged into her chest.
I did not know this woman's name.
But she knew mine.
"Tatiana Koscheiovna" she said, with her last will. Her final words.Daughter of bones, daughter of blood, daughter of death. "Have you come for me?"
There was no relief on her voice, like there isn't in any of the others when they see me. She knew she was as good as dead. Her body lay violated and broken in her own house, having suffered the most violent of deaths. My appearance only confirmed what she already knew.
"Yes" I answered. "I have come for you."
I stood outside with the knife in hand, my braid slashing in the wind like a coiling whip. The smell of death had vanished as the woman's soul had passed to the Other Realm, and for a moment, I had almost forgotten that I was awake the entire time. It wasn't often that mortals saw the spirit of violent death in person before they passed from this world.
It wasn't often that I was awake during the whole process. At least, when I was asleep, I could pretend all of it had been a nightmare. That none of those people were real and that none of them were really dead. That every time one of them died like this, I had to ferry them into the next world. At least by now I'd gotten used to it, and their features weren't more than a blur in my head.
Mt hands slided back into my fur coat, one of them still gripping the bloodied knife while I waited. I wished my godmother would hurry herself.
"Did you find it?" Morena's voice echoed in the clearing, as if my thoughts had summoned her.
In a moment, the raven materialized into shadows and then into the goddess of nightmares. Her appearance never failed to take my breath away and a chill climbed up my spine, as if my nightmares had come alive. She stood with her dark clothes and dark skin against the bleak setting of the dying woods, a vision among mortals. Her crow pendant hung from her neck, bright silver, the only thing that gave her any color.
She walked forward and I handed her the bloodied dagger, still wet from the body that wasn't so cold inside the cabin. An anonymous cadaver. Morena caught it, turning it in her hands and evaluated it. Her eyes turned to appraise me, dark and mysterious, a pitch of endless black.
"How did it happen?"
Morena knew very well, but still she wanted to evaluate me. Test my knowledge.
"Multiple stabs" I answered, my voice barely a whisper. The blood didn't stain my fingers, but if I looked close enough, it was almost like they were tinged with red. "By a man. He missed the first strike and went for the second, which hit close. The third was only to make sure she died."
Morena didn't question me any further. By touching the dagger, she could probably tell this and much more from the victim. The dead woman who knew my name like every child in Russia feared it. The last face anyone who died violently would ever see before they really left this world.
My father tells me it's a noble duty. My sisters tell me I am lucky to have such an important task.
None of them ever sees the bodies.
I stood in the middle of the clearing, shifting my weight as Morena took the dagger and slid it inside her cloak.
"Walk with me" Morena ordered, turning around to walk in the woods. I followed her, having to take double steps for every single she took. She's several feet taller than me, her eyes and cheekbones set perfectly in her aristocratic face. She's a true goddess, while I'm the shadowy copy of what to be one. "Tatiana." The way she said my name sent shivers through my spine, as if she could break through all of my fears and nightmares and expose them until I had lost my mind to darkness. "Do you ever wonder why I train you like this?"
I wondered which part of the training she meant. Crossing the borders to the Mortal Realm or teaching me to see someone's death by simply looking at the blood. She had taught me spells and how to read the bones of a man when he falls, or how to listen to the whisper of the wind when death was knocking at your door. She had taught me how to use my magic and when not to use it, how to wield my sword and any weapons, and how to survive the coldest of winter snows without food. I knew what shadows and nightmares looked like and how to walk in a way that would make a man's spine stretch and what patterns crows would fly if a man's death was near. I knew how to look at a man's face and tell what his death was, and whether it was bound to his bones. I had still two years left of my training, but not one one single time had she mentioned why she did it.
So I tried my next best guess.
"So I can't run from my destiny?"
Her voice was firm when she answered, "So you can fulfill it. No one escapes destiny, Tatiana."
My destiny -- the one no one ever talked about, and still everyone seemed to be conscious of it, that started when the Zoryas had come down from the Heavens in the Other Realm and made the prophecies by my crib. To my sisters, they promised lightness and gold and bright futures. To me, they had promised darkness and death.
"Yes" I answered through gritted teeth, unwilling to go further into the subject that seemed to shape my life and upbringing. "I know, godmother."
If she felt my uneasiness, she chose not to contradict me. With a swift move of her hand, she reached inside her coat and produced a letter. It was tied with a beautiful silver ribbon, and for a moment I was taken back to my father's palace, to Yelena's quick fingers scolding my clumsy ones for stealing one of her laces. She used to smile down at me, and it felt so long ago that for a minute I forgot what my sister's smile used to look like.
"This arrived for you."
I unfolded the parchment, not wanting to admit how hungry I was for news of the outside. I was faster than Yelena now -- she was beauty and elegance, while I was unyielding steel, tempered in blood.
Her letter was simple. Impersonal, like a letter to a foreign dignitary. A letter to a stranger. It had been six years since I saw her, and the time was marked on her intricate and curved handwriting.