The Story of Andrew Zacharias
The fire flickered, full of energy, dancing in the shadows, completely innocent. The bright flames were as unsuspecting as the merry people laughing around it. But when the laughing ceased, and silence overtook the room, the voice of an old woman cut through the air, and something was begun.
"Shall I tell the story of Andrew Zacharias?" questioned the woman.
"Oh, Grandma, please don't! These children have enough silly superstitions filling their minds," pleaded an amused young woman of eighteen.
The old woman looked at the raven-haired youth with pity. "Oh, Shaundrelle. If only that were all he is."
The girl sighed. "Very well, Grandma Addie. You've had your way," Shaundrelle said, scooting a small child off her lap and rising to her feet. "But I'll not listen to it. I must prepare for supper."
"Yes, well, hurry up and flee so I can share my 'silly superstitions', as you would call them," Grandmother Addeline replied humorlessly.
Shaundrelle laughed and shook her head as she walked toward her room.
Shaundrelle and her family lived in, and owned, an inn in the village of Tornell. A thick forest on one side, and endless plains on the other surrounded the community. It wasn't very often that they had many visitors, but for some reason, the inn was crowded, as if in anticipation of some great occurrence.
The pale girl with two raven braids opened her door, walked in, and closed it. She sat on the edge of her bed and stared in to her open closet, mentally sifting through the few outfits that hung there. She sighed in frustration at her small collection and put her head in her hands. Her family was not rich and could not afford the beautiful clothes the people of the rich world around her wore; and how it distressed her! "How can I possibly expect to be beautiful without anything lovely to wear?" she groaned.
"You do not need beautiful clothes to be lovely. Anything you wear will be beautiful." It was a man's voice. She snapped her head up to look at her door, thinking it was a guest who had lost his way and needed direction. But the door was still shut tight, just as it had been the last time she had looked.
"And now I am imagining things!" she said loudly to herself, wondering, not for the first time, why she talked to herself when she was alone.
"Wear the blue one… The dark blue one," said the 'man'.
This time, Shaundrelle let out a small squeak. Where was that voice coming from? She walked to her door and opened it. Of course! There was a man and woman standing in the hall outside the door. Shaundrelle must have overheard him. She went to her closet and pulled out her own light blue dress. "I am so silly. I do not even own a dark blue dress!"
As she changed, she could hear pieces of her grandmother's story. "Andrew Zacharias was a happy little boy… until his mother died… father was maddened by grief and he could not bare to look at Andrew… dark blue eyes… so his father sent him away… Poor Andrew was now alone. He became a very angry, very hating boy… his flesh faded and his eyes darkened to black. He ran away and was not seen again for ten years… great magical havoc. His father was killed in a storm he created… ten years ago from this day, a ten year old boy challenged his power. Of course, Andrew would not permit this, so the boy, Roy Sonnle, was sentenced to death. Andrew, who looked like an old man, though he is now only twenty-one, was devastated when the boy escaped and came to him. They fought, blade to blade, for two days, neither of them willing to give up. But on the third morning, the constant storm over the land faded away, along with the memories of the people of the world… struck Andrew to the ground, hopped on his pure black horse, and rode away… Andrew recovered, he pursued Roy. To this very day, they are still riding through the wild. The boy did not have a murderous heart," Grandmother Addeline finished.
Shaundrelle smiled. How many times had she heard this story and rolled her eyes? Too many to recall, she thought. She straightened her dress and glanced in the mirror. She wasn't overly impressed with what she saw, but figured it was good enough.
"I was beginning to think you were not going to show up." Shaundrelle spun to see her mother standing in her doorway.
"Why wouldn't I?" Shaundrelle asked, smiling sweetly. She and her mother were going through a bit of a rough time. Shaundrelle had skipped quite a few dinners in the past month, snatching bits of food from the kitchen during the day to take with her out to the river, where she would have a nice, quiet picnic.
Her mother, Avalie, frowned. "Dinner starts in ten minutes. Do not be late again," she ordered, reminding her daughter that when she had even bothered to show up, she was always late. Last night, for example, she had assured Shaundrelle that if she missed or was late for another dinner without reasonable cause, she would be punished. "And take out those braids," she added. Madame Avalie then turned and left the room to see to their guests.
"Shaundrelle…" The man's voice was almost whining now. At first she didn't pay any attention to it, thinking she must have been hearing the man outside again. It wasn't until the second time he called her that she realized he had been calling her name. "Shaundrelle…"
Shaundrelle walked to the door and looked out into the hall once more. It was deserted. The voice was laughing at her. She closed her door and took a deep breath. She knew it would happen one day; she knew she would go insane. She just hadn't thought it would be so soon. She thought she could last a year or two more without losing her mind. At times she had even thought that she was just exaggerating; that she wouldn't really go crazy from being lonely. But obviously she had been wrong. She was hearing voices, and that was the first sign of insanity, right? The laughing ceased, and then…
"You should really take out your braids and get to dinner. You do not want your mother to get mad at you again."
Shaundrelle thought about the voice of her insanity as she unconsciously took out her braids. It sounded kind and gentle. If she had to put it to a face, she would think it a rather handsome young man. Perhaps twenty. She ran her hand through her now waist-length wavy hair and listened carefully to make sure it wasn't coming back. "Hello? I would really appreciate it if you did not distract me while I try to seem normal at dinner tonight. Alright?"
The voice chuckled. "Alright."