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Cheryl Mackey, 20 Oct '12

The Youngest Ascended
                                                                        Chapter One pt 1

At first they didn’t see her atop the great horse.

        She sat low, riding bareback, her cloak and frayed robes blending well into the pale brown stallion. Narrow shoulders hunched beneath a worn cloak and only two long golden plaits of hair tumbled from beneath the shadow darkened hood.
        The villagers who first noted that the horse did have a rider were closest to her path and so stopped to study the stranger with wary, hollow eyes. When she didn’t stop to ask their leave to enter the village, a low murmur began to swell among the throng of people. More villagers stopped, most too startled by the sight of the stranger to do much but stare and mutter worriedly. More than one woman gathered her laundry, wares, and children and hurried into their flimsy clapboard homes.
        At the center of the village a great, roaring communal fire provided most of the light, warmth, and cooking needed for the entire village. The buildings themselves were arranged in a large circle surrounding the great fire, so that each door faced it, but perched several feet off the rocky ground on stilts or platforms.
        The stranger let the horse move unhurriedly toward the great fire, as if she didn’t attempt to lead him at all. The horse stopped short of the fire, but well within the radius of the comforting light and warmth.
        She slid free of the horse in one blur of motion, so that the villagers who now had all paused to watch, stared agape and noted that she was now standing before the fire, gloved palms stretched toward the wildly flickering flames.
        Even standing now, she still seemed oddly petite and where her robe, cloak, and worn leather boots touched the dry earth, the colors seemed to mysteriously blend together so that they were indistinguishable.
        More villagers hustled away and all around the circle flimsy wood doors clattered shut. A few brave souls, maybe a dozen, remained…determined to get answers from their uninvited guest.

        They approached her slowly, in a solid mob, but with no one declared leader to parley, they were at a loss for a long, tense moment. The small figure seemed to not notice their approach and continued warming her gloved hands. The closer they shuffled to her, the more they as a collective realized just how slight she was.
        “Why, she’s but a little girl!” Aggie Crower gasped as she pushed to the front of the mob. They halted, murmuring loudly and watched tensely as Aggie Crower moved to stand just behind the girl.
        “Little Lady?” Aggie swallowed dryly but stopped short of touching the strange girl. “Do you need help?”
        “No.”

        Their collective gasp would have been comical if the situation hadn’t been so dire. Her voice was low, soft, yet grainy…the voice of a child mixed with the voice of an elder. Aggie licked her lips and stepped closer.
The hood moved this time and Aggie caught a flash of gold eye shine within the shadows of the hood. Maybe it was just the fire reflecting…but Aggie didn’t think so.
        The figured turned back to the fire again, her flowing gold plaits sliding silently against her clothing.
        “It is you that need my help, I am afraid,” she spoke again, puncturing the stunned silence so that it erupted into a chaos of cries and protests as the remaining villagers spoke out in terror.
        “What do you mean?” Aggie wasn’t sure who which feared more…the mysterious child or what she meant.
        “Evil is coming. I am charged with protecting you.” her words were soft, but firm, almost commanding…confident.
        “What evil? Who are you?” Aggie hushed the clamoring crowd with her bold words and they watched and waited now, all eyes on the small figure silhouetted against the crackling bonfire.
        The hood turned again and another glint of gold flared in its depths.
        “I am called Emaranthe.”
        The hood slid free of the gold braids and the entire crowd gasped. Her beauty was vivid and unmistakable…as was her youth. Golden waves, loosely braided in two streamers that threatened to escape their bonds hung nearly to her waist. Skin that was creamy in color and blemish free seemed to glow in the dying firelight.
        It was her eyes, however, that held everyone still.

         Gold- vivid, electric golden eyes watched their reactions with patience. Only a slightly arched eyebrow betrayed her inner humor at the situation. The flickering flames caught her eyes and they seemed to glitter even brighter though the sun was sinking fast and shading their desert valley.
        “Emaranthe? I am Aggie …” Aggie swallowed, finding it hard to speak in the face of such youth and beauty…deadly beauty, she realized astutely.
        “I mean none harm here, but I do come charged to aide your village.” Emaranthe turned back to the fire again, tugging the thin hood back up and once again returning her gaze to the shadows.
        “Aide us? How can you aide us? You are but a child!” Igoras Morne ducked around Aggie and brandished a small stick.
        “A child? I haven’t been a child for many, many years.” Emaranthe sighed. She studied the small group of villagers from the shadows of the cloak. Her uncanny eyes settled on Igoras, noting the old woman’s withered body and silvered hair that strung unkemptly from a loose chignon. This woman was knowledgeable, an elder.
        “Hah, you can’t be more than ten summers!” A man’s voice huffed from the throng, but he did not dare to show himself.
        “Eighteen. I was eighteen summers.” Emaranthe whispered so softly that only the village elder and Aggie heard. Her gold eyes glittered in the firelight as the sun sank behind the red and orange cliff walls to the west.
        “Ascended….she’s an Ascended.” Igoras gasped and licked her cracked lips. Aggie, only barely hearing her, looked up in time to catch the golden flare from within the shadowed hood.
        Igoras dropped to her knees and bowed her head in absolute respect, her gnarled, bent fingers clutching at the hapless stick, streamers of silver hair dragging loose and tangling in the stiff desert breeze.
        “Please, forgive us Ascended. We meant no disrespect!” Aggie took cue from the elder and bowed as well, followed quickly by the remaining villagers, until even those cowering within the rickety shacks bowed low as well.
        The silence grew agonizingly long. Golden eyes studied the cowering, humbled throng with aching sadness.
        “Please, rise. I ask no one for homage.” Emaranthe called out so softly that a few wondered that she had even spoken aloud. When all had risen again, she let the hood slide free once again and once more people wondered at her youth.
        As they watched in silent awe, she reached over her shoulder with one hand and slid free a long, slender, twisted wood staff-something that had moments before simply not been there.
        Uncrafted, it appeared to be an entire tree branch grown for the sole purpose of arcane use. At its peak the staff was partially curled, like a shepherd’s crook, but was charred and splintered midway through the curve. She held it away from her, over the flames of the bonfire and the villagers watched the flames flicker, twist, and curl over and up the length of the staff. At the end of the splintered curl the flames danced and twisted.

to be continued...

Comments · 3

Page 1 of 1

  • Mary Beth W. said...

    Amazing...Your detail is beautiful, the characters are so truthfully human - except for Emaranthe, I suppose - your writing is captivating...Well done! I can't wait to read more :)

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Cheryl Mackey said...

    Sorry about the formatting by the way...it looked fine when I typed it out. I will work on it better for part 2 xD

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Cheryl Mackey said...

    fixed the formatting a little bit, hope it helps xD

    • Posted 7 years ago