|Drink of Me
Author: CalliScribbles PM
His sister could once hear the whisperings of fate in the sounds of the water, but the words had lost all meaning to him and she had gone away inside her head.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Tragedy - Words: 2,136 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 05-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3018609
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Drink of Me, Drink of me,
Forever then a Wolf you'll be,"
He had never thought it strange that only his sister could hear the whisperings of fate in the song of the creek, nor had he thought twice about obeying her as he turned, thirsty, from the spring. Even as a wolf he would never tear her to pieces as she feared, but he had no desire to be a wolf the rest of his days.
"Aman, she's still following us," Kitra said half an hour later, as they keep dragging their feet through the forest, step by step. They had already thrown away everything that might connect them to her, have literally nothing in the world besides the clothes on their backs, and night, the second night, is coming quickly. He remembered it all with a burning clarity, how small they both had been, how large the gap between ten and eleven had seemed, how he had tried to be cheerful, tried to be happy, for her. She didn't deserve the dark. She still didn't.
"She'll never catch up," and she wouldn't, not if he had to climb over the mountains or swim across the great river, because if she did, it wasn't just him that would go back to that dark hole in the earth and never see the day again. He'd had chances to run so many times, but this was probably the only time that he'd had the chance to bring Kitra with him. If they failed now – four years in the dark, and Kitra had barely remembered the name of the sun. Who knew what a fifth year would do?
They kept walking, step by step, wishing to hurry but finding it impossible in the unfamiliar woods, on limbs weak from walking and from not being able to stop for food, for a decent sleep, for anything. As long as they were in motion, they were free.
What seemed like ages back, Aman had let Kitra finish off the waterskin. It was no wonder he was thirsty. The two stale loaves of bread they had been able to steal hadn't helped, and he felt now as if his throat had closed in on itself, sticking together and making it hard to breathe, hard to speak.
They stumbled upon the second stream and Aman had never been more grateful in his life. He knelt to drink his fill once more.
"Drink of Me, drink of me,
Forever then a Bear you'll be."
Kitra grabbed his arm and dragged him away from the stream. He had wanted to curse, wanted to cry, as she told him what the stream was singing under its breath, what was to him nothing more than the sound of rushing water. He would become a bear, she said, and forget all that it ever was to be a human, a boy.
He almost wouldn't have minded, except that Kitra couldn't have lived off the forest like a bear, and he'd likely be shot at or made into a part of the circus if he attempted to steal normal, human food for her. He suggested that they turn themselves both into bears and simply be done with it, but she refused.
"How do you know she wouldn't find it easier to catch us both? We'd be worse off than before."
Aman had seen the black cat, and before that, the lion cub, and in the end he had to concede that she was right, that as animals they would be far worse off if she caught them than as humans. You needed fingers to steal, to pick a lock, to wiggle the glass shard out of your foot. A bear or a wolf would not last long in the dark, in the cages.
They had left the second stream with their waterskin still frustratingly empty.
It had never occurred to them to talk or tell stories to pass that endless walk, because the dark was silence and if it wasn't, in the end she made it so. Besides, their throats were swollen with thirst, though for some reason Kitra was holding up far better than Aman. Perhaps because she had always been able to go away in her head and let things happen, because she saw and knew and heard the things that others didn't. That's why she had wanted Kitra, after all. The only reason that she had wanted Aman was because he was strong.
Strong? He asked himself, incredulous. Perhaps it had made more sense at the time, when he was so young, when he thought that he could find a way out of the dark and the silence despite knowing almost nothing about the light and the noise and the day. He had refused to die – and there was something, if only because he now had a chance to make good on an old promise.
Kitra's face was etched with acid into his soul. They had only been children. And if he had been silent the last eight years, at least he had watched. If a child was defined by their innocence – and he and Kitra had been tearingly innocent about some things, but trust had never been one of them, except with each other – then he had certainly lost enough of that to be a man. The dagger in his hands should be easy enough to use, given the right motivation.
His memory refused to show him the end of the walking – the spring that he had finally, finally drank from, and the sudden sensation of being forced, bones liquid and burning, into a new body – it had only been moments ago – and the silence. Oh, the years of silence. As a wolf, he could have hunted for food, but he and Kitra lived well enough off of the snares that he had told her how to make, a distant memory of before the dark, one which she did not remember. A day, a week, a year – Kitra stopped going so far into her own mind, which was good, because he couldn't tell her what she needed to know when she was there, at least not as a deer. She had tied the ribbon around his neck to remind him that he had not always been this way, but perhaps to remind herself as well. He could no longer convince her all of the time that they had managed to walk beyond the dark.
In the surfaces of glassy ponds his antlers marked time, and in twelve points he was no longer certain whether his memories of a life before he had been a stag were real or simply another dream in the dark. Perhaps his living was simply one long night of hope that would be snatched away when they were visited once more in the dark. He'd lost the knack of conveying something that strange to Kitra, and even if he hadn't he wouldn't have told her, for fear that she would retreat into the corner of dark in her own mind again.
"Brother Deer," she always called him now, saving his own name to whisper when he needed reminding. In the way he sent his mind out to meet hers, distorted now by the shape and distance, she was always Sister. Very seldom, Kitra, because the name had become a strange group of sounds that his mouth could no longer make, it's only meaning left that which they had learned in the dark before.
If she could only read his thoughts once more. His mouth moved, making no sound, as his voice had not returned and he didn't care much if it ever did, even if he was going to have a chance to wait for it to happen.
Sister. Kitra. Sister.
But all that had changed – stopped, her mind had been closed-off and vague after the ones with the arrows had come, and at first he had thought that it was because they had shot him, the worst pain he had ever experienced except for the change. He had clearly been able to hear her panic, or more accurately, the meaning of her panic, as words no longer made sense to him, as he had fallen. He didn't know what she had said or bargained. He did know that when he regained his senses, he was lying in the hay with his head in her lap and tears in her eyes and nothing but words to make the bridge between them anymore.
He touched the scar on his right shoulder. It hadn't been his scar that had severed them.
It had been Kitra's.
She had no use for all these fancy things, she had no knowledge of what they were, she kept going off into her head where he couldn't see her, couldn't follow her, couldn't do anything but be a sort of pet, the tame deer in the castle, a curiosity with no interest in humans except the one that he was no longer allowed to see. She stopped saying anything, and it was that, more than the distance, that finally fell between them – even if he could not make out the words, hadn't been able to for years, at least her voice kept the memories alive. Even the painful ones.
By the time the baby squalled the first time, Kitra was so locked up in her own head that she didn't hear until he prodded her with his nose. She didn't smile. Just rocked the baby back and forth and he could smell the way other people looked at her, she was sick, she was weak, she was going to be left for the wolves.
If she'd only been a little bit stronger, if I'd only been able to remember words…
The regrets were half-formed in his mind as he waited outside the door of the new queen. She had come and he had known her only by scent, and by Kitra face down in the water, all white robes like the down of an angel, her face blueish and closed in death. It had only taken eight years for her to catch up to them – and at that moment, he had known all the despair of a human once more, his bones had turned to liquid fire, and he had woken up on the cold riverbank with his hands digging into the mud, and he knew.
Upon drinking of that pale grey water, Kitra, it seemed, had become an intangible thing, not so much an animal but an idea, lodged behind his brain, pushing at him. He knew, after the shouting and the searching and the wailing was over, after the bier of flowers and lace obscuring the true cold face of death had passed him in the streets, when he finally looked like a human once more, albeit strange, that this would not take very long. He understood now why Kitra had retreated into her own mind, and the dagger was no longer slick in his hands.
The door was unlocked, and the false face of the new queen, peaceful in slumber as he had never seen it awake, she who had bent and twisted them into mere wisps of themselves, had no time to contort. Her silence as she passed to the dark, almost gently as the sheets reddened, was obscene in a mockery of the pale dawn of Kitra's bare feet pointing back towards the shore. No water would wash that blood away, and she – and he, no less guilty – would be found in the visceral obscenity of their sleep, of the night. It was he that had broken it all, he who had allowed himself to be fooled by her sweet words, and most of all his scent on the drifting white linens in the water
He approached the cradle. The guards would be coming soon. The baby reached for his beard but made not a sound, and he let the tiny palm caress his nose as it had when he had run on four legs. Forevermore a Deer you'll be. The baby couldn't tell the difference.
Gently, he placed the last tie, the bit of ribbon Kitra had once placed around his neck to remind him, the one thing she had kept, in the infant's hand.
With a crash, the doors burst open.
Knowing the Grimm fairy tale "Brother Deer" or "Brother and Sister," might help in reading this, as that's what inspired this one shot. The Grimm ending is somewhat less fatalistic than mine.