Six cloaked figures walked into the chilly darkened room with seven large candles suspended from the walls. Even with all of them lit, there was still an eerie stillness. The cold stone walls seemed to absorb the wavering light, instead of reflecting it back, giving the room the same feeling as a glassy still lake in the dead of night. A little brown-haired boy or about eight crouched in the corner behind a large frightening statue of a dragonia demon. Exquisite design laid each scale, talon and tooth in frightening detail. The warmth of the stone beneath his hand shocked him, and gave the statue a feeling of being alive. Tentatively he glanced upward to the distorted face of the lizard, watching the the deep red delaremes flash and waver in the candlelight. Those jewels were the only thing in the room that reflected the light instead of absorbing it, adding to the illusion of life beneath the soft stone. His eyes wide with fright and wonder, he watched as the cloaked figures circled the long stone table in the center of the room. Chained face down upon the table was a young blonde haired girl, and her slacken face explained why she seemed so calm about her surroundings. The largest of the six figures, who the boy knew to be his father, Michail, leader of the As'hatan, took his place at the right of the table, closest to the girl. Standing upon a pedestal type stone, he was placed a full head above the rest of the figures, adding to his height all the more. Lifted his hands and began to chant in a strange language the boy did not understand, the girls eyes popped open, and she began tofrantically pull on her restraints.
"Evig em eht rewop dna htgnerts
deaden ot mrogrep eht ksat erofeb em.
Rof ruoy ssnetaerg, Wermut Tokar,
e od siht."
Michail drew off his hood, and the boys sight was caught by the glint of metal as he pulled out a very pointed menacing object. Too far away to tell exactly what it was, he scooted closer, taking care not to reveal himself. His father had warned him never to disobey him and watch one of the forbidden ceremonies. Michail leaned down close to the girl and as he whispered in her ear she suddenly stilled. Her eyes were wide and darting frantically around the room, searching for a way out. The boy was so busy watching her that he almost missed the flash of light as the blade came down and made contact with the base of her exposed skull. He had not been prepared for this, and didn't want to watch, but he couldn't pull his eyes away from her terrorized face. All he could do was listen to her screams. Just before she passed out from the pain, her eyes flicked over to his corner and rested on him, as if she had always known he was there. They pleaded with him to help her, but he couldn't. He felt himself shake his head no, just slightly, and her eyes filled with hate. Her anger and hatred for him scared him so much that he was finally able to tear his eyes from her misery.
It felt like an eternity before Michail finally stood up. In his bloody hand he held a small pink square above his head. Forcing himself to look, the boy could just barely make out a hole in the back of her skull. The stone still and silent circle of figures broke into a repetitious chant along with him.
" Rewop dehsaelnu.
Gnirb htrof reh tfig.
Deef nopu eht cigam inhtiw.
Worg gnorts dna nruter, os taht uoy yam deal su ot yrotciv."
Ever so slowly, a thin shadow of purplish sparkling smoke started to rise from the base of her skull. Swirling and rolling, it collected in a mist just above the group. The words changed and continued, guiding the mist towards another table next to the door they had all entered in. This one was made out of polished metal, and it too never reflected a single ray of light. The table itself of quite plain, but atop it sat a large, ornate, gold and silver bowl. With a shallow base, and an extremely wide rim that expanded beyond the edges of the table that held it. Distorted designs that looked similar to the statue he hid behind began to move along the edges of the bowl. As the mist collected over the mouth of the bowl, condensing into a smaller cloud, vibrant green light began to seep from within the bowl, simply filling the room with its glow. Twisting and turning it began to resemble a set of gnarled old hands. They reached up and began guiding the sparkling purple mist down into the bowl. A slight hum seemed to eminate, vibrating the floor beneath him, and in the time it took for him to glance at his feet it was all gone. Blinking his eyes, he wasn't sure he hadn't been dreaming. A strange feeling that he had just walked into the room enveloped him and he fought the urge to believe it, knowing he had been there most of the night.
The boy was suddenly brought out of his personal struggle the candle above him suddenly went out. As each figure left, a single candle went out. His father was the last to exit, leaving only one candle lit. The boy waited for a while, unsure if someone would be coming for the girl. Hesitating, he realized the only way to leave the room was to pass the girl. He looked at the floor surrounding the base of the table, searching for the blood. Seeing none, he creapt to the edge near her feet and noticed groves along the edges that lead to two small holes. Blood was still trickling away. Taking a deep breath, he wiped his sticky hair away from his face and assured himself the girl was dead, he started for the door. He had only managed a few steps when she reached up and grabbed him by the arm. Stifling a frightened scream, he cursed himself for walking too close to the edge of the table. She used the little slack in the chains that bound her to pull him closer.
"Why didn't you help me? Do you have any idea what you have done? The prophecies must be fulfilled."
Too scared to think let alone speak, he stood there, mouth gaping. Blood soaked her hair and trickled down her cheeks. Her round face was dusty from lying against the stone, the dirt highlighted by the places her tears had run clean. Her dark pine-green eyes burned into his golden brown ones, and her cold whispers filled his ears.
"I will not forget you. I will find you, and you will die."
She lapsed into unconsciousness again and her grip loosened. He pulled himself free and ran. Thankful for the lingering fog that hid his movements in the early dawn, he hoped he was lucky enough to make it back to bed before his father got home. Making good time across the open gardens within the towers of the As'hatan, he quickly jumped into his open bedroom window, slid under the covers and tried to fall asleep. But the girl's eyes burned bright in his mind. They were beautiful, such a beautiful green, so full of hate and anger. He knew just as she said she wouldn't forget him, he knew he would never forger her.
On the other side of the Enn'aira, in a land that wanted believed it was free of magic, a small city slept, the sun not yet touching its soil to start a new day. Alyag, home to a prosperous knot of people terribly frightened of anything unexplained, was about to be given an extraordinary gift; a gift that they would never get to open.
A small four-year-old boy plays quietly by the fire, while an attentive nanny watches over him. Fast footsteps thunder up the stairs outside the room.
"Brody stay here, I'll be right back."
He doesn't even look up from his toy truck as the nanny steps into the hallway, and demands an explanation from a startled looking nurse.
"Just a minor complication ma'am, that's all. She's having a little difficulty pushing this one out. But Ms. Small has everything under control."
"When do you expect the child to arrive?"
"Very soon ma'am, very soon."
"Good, see to it that I am notified the minute she arrives. Her little brother is anxious to meet her."
"But ma'am, how do you know it's a girl? The child hasn't been born yet?"
"Now don't you worry about that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions aren't they? But you'll see soon enough, trust me, it's a girl."
Leaving the nurse quite confused, Monisha returned to Brody and told him the good news. He looked up at her like she was talking nonsense, and told her so.
"I told you, don't wanna see no dumb baby. Momma can't fit one in there, too small."
"We talked about this Brody; I know it's hard for you to understand. But you will still be getting a baby sister. And you'll be her big brother; you'll get to help take care of her. Won't that be nice?"
"NO! Stupid baby! Momma only love me, can't love baby! Not FAIR!", Brody screamed, his chubby cheeks turning bright red.
Tears brimmed in his eyes and he tried to run out of the room. Monisha grabbed him, and pulled him to her. Holding him as he cried, so tried to help him understand.
"Yes, Momma loves you, but Momma loves the new baby too. She will not stop loving you, or love you any less. She won't love the baby more than you either. You will make her very proud if you can accept your baby sister and help her to grow and teach her all the wonderful things you know. Wouldn't that be fun?"
"No," he whispered as he wiped his nose with his sleeve.
"Ok, we'll just wait, but you'll see. Nisha knows. But let's not worry about that. You want to play with your truck again?"
He slipped off her lap and quietly continued to play with his truck making soft puttering noises as he pushed it around the hardwood floor. As the night wore on, Brody slowed down; soon he was yawning and trying desperately to keep his soft gray eyes open. Despite the fuss he made over the baby, he wanted very much to see this "baby that grew in Momma's belly". But eventually sleep won, and he was soon sleeping peacefully on the floor with his truck. Monisha watched him sleep and was soon nodding off herself, when the nurse burst into the room. Monisha jumped out of her chair, startled awake as the nurse yelled.
"It's a GIRL!"
Monisha didn't even have time to ask him how the baby was, because he was gone just as quickly. She absently rubbed her face, trying to recover from her fright. Checking on the absolutely adorable sleeping child on the floor, she decided to move him up on the large comfy armchair next to the fireplace. It still had a few glowing embers in it, so she threw a couple of logs to get a small flame going again. Turning to go, she brushed his brown curls back and softly kissed his forehead as she went out into the hallway to await more news of the baby. She was very anxious to greet the new child. Ciara had had an unusual pregnancy. Her cravings were severe, as were her side affects. Extreme morning sickness the entire term, awful swelling, mood swings that were so out of control they all feared for her sanity. No pregnancy that extreme could be good. Monisha's village believed it was a warning from the gods that the child would be unique beyond the parent's control. Thinking of her ancestors made her a little homesick. She left them behind a little over seven years ago, and felt no regrets. Her father was chief of their small Anui village, and he had arranged a marriage with the chief's son of a neighboring village to create a peaceful union between the two. She knew her actions were selfish, but she simply couldn't marry the boy. She was only fifteen at the time, but she still managed to run away. She rarely wondered if it caused her mother pain, she was the eldest of seven children and doubted they even cared that she was gone.
Within minutes she could hear the healthy cries of a very upset and cold baby girl. She smiled as she thought of a tiny face all scrunched up and her mouth wide open screaming for all it's worth. Monisha wanted to see the baby right away, but she respectfully, though rather impatiently, waited. After what she thought was far too long, when she specifically instructed to be told immediately, the nurse finally came out of the birthing room. "You may come in now."
She followed the nurse to the small study that had been converted into the birthing room. The rich vibrant colors of red, green and silver created a very soothing atmosphere. They used the same colors in the Winter Festival they had every year; which was quite suiting for this birth considering that it was December. She quickly joined Ciara and Tristan, two very proud parents, and admired their new bundle of joy. Tristan was holding her, and in his arms the contrast was startling. This was very much Ciara's child, but it was hard to tell yet if Tristan was the father.
"May I?" She inquired with her arms open. Wanting very much to hold the child she knew would be very special.
"Certainly." Tristan reluctantly handed over his child. He didn't want to let her go, she was so beautiful, but he knew he would have more time later.
Monisha's brain was running a million miles a minute. The moment her eyes settled on her, she knew she had to be Tristan's. Her eyes were so big, and so vibrant blue, they were like the sky on a crisp fall day, true and unwavering. She could feel the energy flowing from her as she stroked her red puffy cheeks. Handing her back to her father, she asked,
"May Brody see her now?"
Laughing, Ciara responded,
"Yes, yes of course, in all the commotion I almost forgot this little bundle had a big brother. Please Monisha, bring him here."
Monisha walked down the hallway and into the room where Brody was sleeping peacefully. The fire had rekindled just enough to keep the chill out of the room. Monisha gently shook him, and called his name softly. He hardly even stirred. She decided it would be best to wait until morning when he awoke on his own. Picking up his small body off the armchair, she carried him out of the room. She quickly poked her head in the birthing room to tell Ciara that she would bring Brody in to see the baby in the morning. Ciara and Tristan agreed this would probably be best and bid her goodnight.
She took him upstairs to his bedroom. The walls were bathed in soft blues and green. The long sheer curtains fluttered at the open window. She had forgotten to close it earlier today. She had opened it to catch the soft breeze in the middle of the day when I was actually warm enough to do so. Now late at night, it has started to snow softly, and light layer had collected just inside the window. She laid him in the bed, and shut the window. When she pulled his pajamas out of the closet, she grabbed an extra blanket. With the window being open so long, the room would be extra chilly tonight. After she had him ready for bed, she slipped him under the covers on his rather large bed. Tristan wanted him to have a bed too big, so he would have room to grow. She understood this, but he still looked even more tiny than usual in it. Kissing him on the cheek, she turned out the light and closed the door. Smiling to herself, thinking back on the day's adventures with him, she was glad she would be there for him again tomorrow. She always looked forward to tomorrow's with that happy child. And yet, she was always glad for the end of the day. Finally there was time for her to put herself to bed, a chance to slow down and breathe a little deeper. And welcoming difference to the chaos filled day that entailed taking care of rambunctious little Brody. She couldn't wait for morning to come. She wanted very much to see his beautiful gray eyes light up with fascination when he realized that his baby sister was indeed a reality. With that thought in her mind, she rounded the corner that brought her to her quarters, and gently closed the door behind her.
Brody yawned and stretched his little arms up over his head. Rubbing his eyes, he looked around to discover he was in his room. He wrinkled his face in confusion. Last night he was playing with his truck in the tearoom with Nisha and waiting for his baby sister.
"BABY!" he screamed mid-thought. Throwing his feet out of bed as fast as he could, he ran for the door. He remembered now, he was supposed to have a baby sister, and no one told him. He fell asleep and missed the whole thing. He was so upset; he almost fell down the stairs in his hurry.
"Mommy! He yelled.
"Baby, where's Baby?"
He came to a screeching halt outside the living room. He had forgotten where Mommy had had the baby. He turned around in circles, his bottom lip quivering and tears filling his eyes. Frustrated, he screamed,
His father burst out of the birthing room just down the hall and ran to him.
"Brody, Brody, it's okay. What's wrong, what are you doing out of bed? Where's Monisha?'
"I woke up, in my bed, and-and-and," he paused to catch his breath, "and there was no baby. Last night there was a baby, and today. I missed it! She's gone and I missed it!" He broke down in tears at the thought of missing his sister. She was here last night, and he missed her, and now she would never know that he actually wanted a baby sister.
His father hugged him tight, patting his back. A deep chuckle rumbled out of his chest as he explained it to his son.
"Brody, you didn't miss anything. You still have a baby sister, and she isn't going anywhere. You feel asleep last night before she was born, and it was late, so we let you sleep."
"I didn't miss it?' he mumbled into his fathers shoulder.
"No you didn't miss it, she's still here, and you're going to get to help take care of her for a long time. Do you want to see her now?"
He shook his head yes as sniffed back his tears. His father led him down the hallway to the birthing room. Mother called him into the room to meet his baby sister. He was excited but still very scared. But he was also very curious to see his sister. He wanted to make sure she was real, he didn't believe that a whole person had been inside his mothers "belly", so he had to make sure. He stood in the doorway, still a little unsure if it was okay to come in.
"It's okay Brody. Come say hello to Shayla Jabesh Smathin, your little sister."
"Where's the rest of her? I knew you couldn't fit a whole person in there!" He turned to run away, his heart crushed that his mother would lie to him.
"Brody! This is all of her. She has to grow, just like you did. Remember the baby pictures I showed you?" He shook his head timidly, not quite ready to believe yet.
"You were once this small too. Everyone starts out this small. You're exactly right when you think I can't fit a whole person in my belly. They start out this small and then they grow up. Now come here and say hello to your baby sister."
He walked over to the bed and stood up on tiptoe to see the tiny bundle wrapped up in his mother's arms. A large round pale face, sleeping softly, peaked out from under the soft pale yellow blanket. It reminded him of the moon, soft and bright. Little bits of her silky black hair lay on her forehead. He carefully reached out to touch her cheek. Slowly her eyes opened and peered up at him. He remembered them being so big and blue. He fell in love with his little sister from that moment forward.