|On the Face of the Sun
Author: Small Wings Flying PM
Darkness either cannot walk...or it is dragged underfoot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 3 - Words: 3,060 - Reviews: 88 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 09-16-12 - Published: 07-09-12 - id: 3040108
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The flame flickered, then went out.
The midwife straightened, clutching a bundle in her hands. The woman beneath her stirred faintly as cold gnawed at her bones, the sheet cast over her frail form offering no reprieve. A young man abandoned his attempts to relight the fire and knelt by his wife and newborn child. Brown eyes trembled as he looked at the midwife, the old woman making no move to cleanse the babe. Nor did the Priest come forth to offer his blessings; the tribe stood like black shadows rising from an equally black world. The moon shone whole in the sky; their only light.
Blue lips parted and the kneeling man spoke. 'Is…is he-?'
'A girl,' the midwife replied.
Silence burned the air.
'A-a girl?' the man finally said.
'A girl,' the midwife repeated. One hand crumpled her shawl, but her voice betrayed nothing.
One from the onlookers stepped forward: a man, old and frail. 'Give her to me,' he rasped.
'The Gods have cursed us,' the new father moaned, beginning to rock.
'They have blessed us,' the old man corrected, 'after these past moons have passed without rain, killing produce and turning fields into a desert.'
Heads tilted up and swallowed the sight of the full moon, white against the black sky. All save the parents; the father still rocked, and the woman grappled for strength and consciousness after her ordeal.
The old man took the bundle, the shawl dragging in the dry soil as the midwife surrendered her temporary charge. The child opened her eyes at that moment, and immediately began to wail.
'They have blessed us,' the old Priest repeated, ignoring the midwife as he turned away. His voice was devoid of emotion; he paused only when the sound of splashing echoed across the fields.
The people only managed a glimpse of the Priest, bathed in the ethereal light of the moon as his robe sagged in the muddied water of their only stream, before the moon suddenly turned the colour of fire.
A woman wailed, clutching her son close as her husband embraced them both. The new mother let out an almost silent cry before stilling, and the midwife quelled her own shock and horror to kneel down.
The wails froze. The widower moaned something unintelligible. It seemed he alone remained blind to the flaming moon.
'The Gods are angry,' someone whispered. The voice carried; there was little growing on the land to muffle it. 'We're too late.'
'No,' the Priest broke in, raising the small bundle in his arms so it caught the red light.
Several people screamed as lightning whipped through the air, followed by a large crack of thunder. The Priest simply knelt, robe becoming heavy with water soiled from drought. One hand lowered the baby into the water. The other withdrew a leafy branch, tracing it over the small body.
Blue eyes scrunched shut. The baby girl began to whimper and cry.
Lightning flashed through the sky again. Thunder inched closer. The wind began a vicious howl.
The Priest ignored the war of nature, pressing on with the hasty ritual. There were no jewels to offer, no glorified bride. There had been no girls born to their people for years till that very moment; all existing ones had either died or left the tribe. Some had the good fortune of marrying. Others were sold as slaves so the extra money could help their family through the tougher times. But the lack of girls had resulted in an eventual decline, and the dissatisfaction of the Water God showed from the abstinence of rain and clean flowing water.
If life went on as it had, their ragged tribe would die out.
The Priest took a deep breath and began to chant. The wailing rose. The thunder grew ever nearer, almost drowned by the vicious wind. Several tribes-folk screamed as soil rose. The widower failed to move, even as his wife's body was dusted with dirt. The chanting continued.
The prayer reached its peak – and froze as the river's contents suddenly upheaved. The baby was flung from the old man's grip. His cry of surprise was short-lived; muddied water crashed over him, biting cold. Beneath him, the earth screamed and tore at itself in a haste to flee.
It only took another scream for one more tribe to be washed from the world. Only the widower failed to scream, kneeling beside his dead wife. He stood as the waters washed her body with little care, reaching for the bundle that was his child.
They hadn't even the chance to name her, but he would fix that.
'Yin,' he said clearly, voice travelling over the water. The bundle twitched; the baby screamed. She still lived, even as she floated away. Away from him. Towards safety.
Her father smiled at the sound that pierced the roaring water. He died with that smile permanently etched upon his face.
Eventually, the river's water stilled, and the earth too; the Gods of nature quelled their wrath. The first snowflakes began to fall, beginning the process that would freeze history. The moon lost its flaming glow, returning to the blank white face that looked remorsefully at the resting place of a lost civilisation, before altering its gaze to the baby washed downstream.
It was still watching as a kindly middle-aged man picked up the sodden bundle, unaware of the slowly freezing lake that had once been a flowing river stream.