A/N Eeeeee! I'm so excited I now have 3, count 'em 3 AMAZING reviewers. Thanks a bunch you guys : D Sorry it took so long to get this up but I must warn you I'm kind of a slow writer, but it's summer so I have tons of time. This chapter isn't totally finished (the end still needs some work) but I'm going to put it up anyway. Now enough of my blabber and on with the story!
P.S. Don't forget to R&R if you do I'll give you a cookie.
The boy trekked through the small clearing; a mass of shaggy brown hair covered much of his face, flopped in the breeze and occasionally exposed his electric blue eyes. The long grasses swished about his bare ankles, making them itch like mad, but his mind was elsewhere and he took no notice. Upturned eyes trailed the rich autumn sky, and began to watch as the soft fluffy clouds twisted and writhed in and out of recognizable shape. Every once in a while his gaze would fall upon a bird that darted through the crisp morning air, following her from tree to tree as she went about her day. He spent much of his time in the town's outer lying fields and knew most of the birds that lived out there; some of them he could even identify by each individual trill. As he walked, he tuned his ears to the conversations that wafted along the breeze and tried to pair the cries to the bodies from which they came. The constant chattering of the young swallow as she dipped and twirled in the wind, the steady drum of the old woodpecker as he searched for food in a nearby tree, the steadfast beat of wings as one of the great hawks circled overhead, meticulously scanning the ground for his next meal.
Their language was different from that of humans; it relied less on words than on the tones and feelings that were relayed by those words. For instance, one sound could have fifty different meanings depending on how its speaker presented it. Multiple words for similar thoughts were pointless; animals lead simple lives and had no need for complex grammar and phrases, it just muddled the mind. That was one of the talents that he respected most in them; they were able to eliminate trivial concerns, such as those that plagued the human mind, and just enjoy life for what it was. How people could worry about such frivolous things as money or work, he never quite understood. All one really needed was a home and good friends, but people were too busy to realize this. They spent their whole lives living in a bubble, working the same job, trudging the same road again and again. Never in his right mind could he imaging living like that; it dulled the mind and deadened the senses, turning everyone within reach into mindless zombies herded by the ever looming threat of the clock.
His foot struck a rock and he watched as it ricocheted off through the grass, sending a rabbit scampering. Time. Everyone was always in a hurry; obsessing over how little time they had in which to get things done. And once one task was accomplished, another popped up that just begged to be taken care of and the hurrying began anew. What they never realized was that their scurrying and scuttling about was of no use in the long run. What did it matter if the laundry was hung, or if the day's work completed, when one was on his deathbed? He turned his head upward, searching the ageless sky for answers, but finding none, focused his attention on the imprints his feet made in the sweet summer grasses. Those tasks were menial, unimportant, only done because long ago the need had been branded into the minds of the human race. If society learned to simplify their lives, then so many new marvels would unfold from right under their noses. But that was highly unlikely; the day he saw a merchant stop to bask in the simple beauty of a single apple blossom would be a fine day indeed. Until then he would just sit back and watch as the town rushed around him, as the rivers do rocks.
He was the only human out here, and he loved being able to do what he wanted and when he wanted, without being thrust into something new. Walking lazily over to a large oak, he nestled himself among the twisting roots and closed his eyes, relishing the way the sun danced across his face. A warm breeze played through the leaves, wrapping itself around his body and caressing his skin. It felt good to be alone; finally he could think straight. The noise and crowds of the town were too constricting, he needed to get away from it and did so every chance he got. People could be a nuisance, constantly bickering and arguing, not caring about much else besides themselves. Their blatant ignorance of nature and its beauty caused them to destroy it for their towns and cities; they just didn't understand.
His eyes cracked open as he took in his surroundings. The idle clouds that wafted across the sky above, casting dark shadows on the rolling hills, the leaves of the trees, just beginning to take on their red hue, fluttering in the gentle breeze, the bright flowers that dotted the grass bringing specks of color to the green fields. Rays of sunlight peeked out from behind the trees, bathing the world in a golden glow and chasing away the early morning dew. The wonders that the world possessed could not be described in words, or at least not in his mind. How could anyone look upon this place and feel the need to destroy it, to eradicate its gentle inhabitants, to rid the earth of it forever? And yet they did. The way that they could go about plotting houses and stores with total disregard for what and who lay around them caused the caustic bile to once again slither up his throat.
A high klee klee klee woke him from his trance and he raised his head in its direction. Sitting not too far away on a small rock was a female kestrel. Her russet colored wing feathers, slightly ruffled by her flight, stuck up at odd angles, giving the impression of a young child just woken from a fitful slumber. A mischievous smile spread across her soft features, adding more to the childlike air that surrounded her. She cocked her head slightly and began to eye the boy as if seeing him for the first time, judging whether he was safe. The boy gazed back, meeting her deep chestnut eyes with his ice blue ones. Eventually the fierce intensity was vanquished and the ageless intelligence reclaimed its rightful throne within her sparkling orbs. She let out a soft twill and gracefully bridged the gap between her and his shoulder. Once there she took on the arduous task of nipping and tugging the chaotic mop upon the boy's head into some sort of an order.
"Ki stop," he said, running a hand though his hair, and earning a sharp peck on his knuckle. "Chew on this if you want." With that he reached into his pants pocket and began to dig around for the strips of dried venison left over from lunch earlier that morning. Retrieving his hand, he unfurled it so that the strips were revealed to the bird who stared intently at the meat before hopping forward, cautiously at first, tilting her head from side to side, deciding whether or not to take it. After giving a quick glance at the boy who nodded his head for her to eat, she began to devour the meat with such ferocity that you would think she hadn't eaten in weeks.
"You greedy little pig!" the boy cried, chuckling to himself as the venison disappeared before his eyes.
Puffing her chest out, the bird spread her wings and gave him a smug look before fluttering into the branches above, just out of reach. She looked down at the boy still laughing on the ground and gave a slight twitter before dipping teasingly around his head, willing him to chase her.
"Oh, is that what you want, silly bird?" he asked, eyebrows raised. "Alright then, but you better watch out!" Supporting his back against the tree trunk, he stood stretching his sore muscles before taking off. The kestrel dipped and dived in front of him, always managing to stay just out of reach as he tore through the grass. He followed her up one of the gentle slopes, hair slicked back by the wind, lungs pounding hard from the laughter and sudden physical exertion.
As they crested the hill, the boy slowed to a jog and finally halted, eyes riveted to the kestrel's form as she spiraled higher and higher into the sky until she was just a speck among the clouds. He followed her every move transfixed, like a proud father watching his child move out into the world, and in a sense he was.
He had found her orphaned and alone a little over a year ago and raised her with the help of his mother, dubbing her Kiora for her short stature and dark coloring. Kestrels were rare in this region, known only through the legends and stories passed down by the town's elders, as most had been hunted down generations ago. She was probably the only kestrel for miles, and it made her special, different, just like him.
Thinking of her created a gnawing sensation in the pit of his stomach that clawed through his body, wrenching his heart. He wanted to chase after her, call her down and hug her tight for fear that she may never come back. He loved her too much to let her go, yet there were times he knew he had to, knew that she would come back, knew that she loved him too. So, he stood up on the hill and watched as she soared through the air twisting and turning in a silent waltz with the wind. He closed his eyes, envisioning the land from her height: the expansive green fields shimmering in the breeze, the tops of the building in the village far off in the distance, and then the world began to spin around him faster and faster, enclosing his body in a swirl of colors as his surroundings melted into each other. He was unsure of where he was or even which direction he faced, knowing only that wherever he was, the ground was approaching with horrifying rapidity.
He stumbled back suddenly, his head spinning, and stood for a brief moment while the scene before him began to settle. As soon as his vision had quieted down, he quickly began to search the skies for Kiora. Had his vision been true or had it only been his imagination? He had envisioned the world from her perspective numerous times before, but never this clearly. A flash of movement off to the left caught his eye and he banished his previous thoughts from his mind when he turned just in time to see something fairly large plummet to the ground. Without even thinking he was off in the direction of the falling object, which he was convinced was his bird. It had to be, he saw her, he felt her, tumbling with reckless abandon towards the awaiting earth. He picked up the pace, covering as much ground as possible with long smooth strides. He needed to find Kiora.
As he neared the spot where he believed she fell, he came upon two boys both of which he recognized from town. The pair was standing over a large patch of grass, backs turned, and were staring at something, which he could not see clearly but was obviously a source of great amusement for them. The larger boy, a kid named Donovan he recognized from classes, held in his right hand a slingshot, and in his left a handful of perfectly polished round stones. That's when it dawned on him.
Rushing forward he grabbed Donovan's arm and held it with all his might. Donovan turned much surprised by his attacker stiffened and turned, but being much larger easily shook the boy to the ground with a hearty chuckle. The other boy turned as well, leaving the wounded animal the fun having been lost at the sight of his new prey.
"Well lookee what we got here Don, it's the little mute boy, the retard with that witch of a mother," the smaller boy spat grabbing the frightened boy's arm and twisting him to his feet, where he remained caged by the boy's iron grip. He struggled against his captor, eyes white and rolling like those of a frightened horse, but to no avail. He was trapped, a dying fox waiting for the quick death of the hunter's knife; there was nothing he could do now so he dropped his head allowing a cascade of hair to mask his face.
Donovan howled at this and pushed his face into the boy's. The boy stared into his hair maybe if he ignored them they would go away, but Donovan was not about to let him go that easily and having dropped his stones grabbed the boy's chin with his large rough fingers, smearing the boy's chin with dirt and grime. The boy stared forward, his terrorist having wrenched his chin upright, straight into the large bulge that sat squarely in the center of Donovan's face. Short greasy hairs stuck from dark nostrils, matching the strands of black hair that sparsely covered his misshapen head. His skin was gray, not the gentle gray of twilight, or powerful gray of storm clouds, but the gray of hatred and cruelty and all that is evil. A color so vile and nasty that never would it be found on any creature other than those spawned from Hell itself.
"What do you think yer doin' in this neck of the woods? This is our land, ain't it Tom? We don't want you doin' all yer weird witchy stuff here. So git!" Putrid air spewed from his mouth, sending waves of nausea to all in its vicinity. Don pushed the boy, knocking him off balance and sending him to the ground in a confused pile of limbs.
"But Don, don't ya wanta have some fun with 'im first? It'll be better 'an killin birds and such." He kicked the boy's ribs with such a force that it nearly knocked him over as well. The boy stifled a gasp as precious air was forced from his body and pain began to exude from his wound.
Don looked down at the boy's contorted face as he struggled to bring breath to his weakened body. "Ah leave him be. The poor bastard don't deserve it now. Let this time be a warning, but next time he comes poking his head round here we'll do him in." With one final kick, Don trotted off up the hill, his lovesick puppy Tom close on his heels.
On the ground the boy began to think, letting the familiar progression of ideas numb the ache that came in the form of purple blotches. He had no siblings, and his father had died many years ago, so his mother was the only person in his life that he looked up to, the only person who made sense. She was there rain or shine, laughter or tears and he loved her for it. No matter what he did she could always make it better, often wordlessly. That simple knowing smile was all it took to right the world, and god did he need it now. He needed to bury himself in the folds of her robes as he had done so many times as a child, and just weep. Let the sorrow come pouring out in tears and jagged breath, only to be quelled by his mother's warm embrace. She was the only one who could rescue him from the torments of the world, yet at the same time it was she who placed these burdens upon him.
Day after day her ominous words haunted his mind, willing him to keep his mouth shut, lest the wind here a word and whisper it in the ears of passersby. She said everything had voice, everything spoke, but most importantly everything listened. If he wasn't careful who knows what information might be leaked to the world, so it was best to just keep a tight lip and not speak a word. He did as his mother bid his, keeping secret all that went on within his life, speaking no more than a word to anyone outside of the confines of his home.
This created ample ammunition for the bullies of the village to torment him, to call him names, and often times beat him senseless. Essentially anything that would make his life a living hell. And as much agony as it caused, he never fought back; just hung his head and walked on as the anger welled up inside of him. As a result he had allowed a ball of rage to amass within himself to the point where he couldn't hold it back any longer. He needed an outlet, somewhere to let out his pent up fury, to release the hatred that coursed hot through his veins. And this was it, the last straw. He didn't care what they thought of him, but to bring an innocent into the whole thing was completely unnecessary, not to mention horrendously cruel.
He stood, ignoring his aching ribs, and set off after the boys, preparing to take out his pent-up anger. His feet dug through the turf, pushing him faster and faster, fueled by the hatred that radiated through his body. It was a fire that had been building and had reached the point where it was beyond control. His eyes narrowed, blocking out all from his vision but the two boys as they sauntered up the hill, unaware of the danger that careened blindly towards them. As he approached their boisterous laughter rang through his ears, instilling yet more hatred to well up from the pit of his stomach, encouraging him on.
He reached the closest boy, not caring which one it was, and leapt onto his back, clawing and ripping at his skin and hair. He had to make them feel his pain, Ki's pain; they needed to pay for everything they had done, not just to him, but everyone. Tom cried out in anguish at his friend's predicament and tried to pry the boy off Don's back, but his effort proved futile. Don fought as well, beating blindly at his back trying to shake the boy to the ground where he was prepared to beat the living daylights out of him. But the boy was too strong in his rage and continued to bite, kick, punch and tear at Don, who collapsed onto the ground in a display of submission hoping his beating would stop. Tom stood in awe and terror as the boy continued his attack, wild with fury, until no breath could be heard entering Don's body. Eyes blazing, the boy next turned on Tom, who was cowering against a tree. Seeing the animalistic look on the boy's face, Tom took off running, too scared to look back until he reached the safety of the town.
The boy's chest heaved as he stared off into the woods after Tom. He was just a puppet; he had followed Don around partaking in any activity that he thought fit, no matter what the consequences. Without Don, Tom was useless and there was no point in going after him now. Slowly he began to calm, and the first thought to enter his mind was Kiora. Panic swept over him in waves, was she all right? Was she dead? Had she been eaten? He spun around and his eyes fell upon the lifeless body of his tormentor lying flat at his feet. It made him sick to think that he had done that and he began to feel the bile rising in his throat as he gagged. Choking it back down, he fled the crime scene to find his kestrel.
Quickly retracing his steps back down the slope, he began to search the ground for the fallen bird. It didn't take long to find her small dark form in a soft patch of grass and as soon as he did, he rushed forward and cradled her in his arms, praying to god that she was all right. Her breathing was shallow and erratic, but at least she was alive. Knowing that she had limited time to be helped, the boy clutched the body to his chest, and ran along one of the many paths that led through the forest to the village, all the while keeping back the tide of tears that threatened to escape with every step.
The tiny house came into view as he turned down a dim narrow lane, and he picked up the pace exerting his last amount of energy, to make it home before Kiora's time ran out. He slammed into the door, nearly knocking it off its hinges with the force. He stormed inside still clutching the small body to his chest, but stopped as he entered the dim light. It took a second for his eyes to adjust to the fire-lit room and as soon as they did, he saw his mother on her feet, her worried gaze meeting his.
"Liam?… What's the matter?" she asked, her voice soft and soothing trying to calm her troubled son.
The boy collapsed on to the hard wooden floorboards, holding the dying animal forward as salty tears stained his cheeks. He couldn't hold it anymore the tears just kept pouring out; sliding down h is face and pooling in dark on the floor.
"Dear me… what happened? … Let's take a look…" his mother muttered as she gently took the bird out of Liam's hand and carried her into the other room careful not to jostle her to much.
Liam got up off the floor, dried his damp face on his shirt and attempted to compose himself before he followed his mother into the next room. The rich smells of his mother's herbs and spices that hung from the ceiling and walls stung his nose and made it run. A small window partially covered with ivy faced west onto his mother's small garden, and a soft light filtered though the leaves casting a gray glow about the room. Sniffling, he looked to his mother, who had already begun chopping various plants as she muttered softly to herself. Kiora lay on a small table, wings sprawled, and he could see the wound oozing with fresh blood where she had been hit with Don's stone.
"Set a pot to boil will you? Ki will be, I'll fix her up good as new so don't you worry." His mother said without looking up from her work. "Go on."
He looked to the hearth, where a small flame was burning, and picked up the pot that was kept filled with water in case of emergencies, and placed it over the flames. Having done what his mother asked, he left knowing that he would be of little help in such a state. Once out in the main house, he realized just how cold it was getting. Summer was wearing thin and winter was surely on its way. He settled himself in front of the large empty hearth and began to poke the dead coals with a stick. The fire had long since burned out, and he could not will himself to start another one, no matter how cold it got.
The light changed from red and gold to pale blue gray to black and with it the temperature steadily dropped. His body shook from the frostiness of the room and he found it nearly impossible to think in such frigid conditions. Still he could not move himself, so he sat staring at the cold hearth, willing the flames to rise and warm his face. He closed his eyes, imagining the soft flickering light that the fire would cast about the room, making the shadows dance on the walls, the crackling and popping of the wood as the fire greedily engulfed it, the sweet, smoky tang that would waft up from the burning pine but most of all he imagined the heat that it would create. Crawling forward in huge rings it would come, caressing his skin, shielding him from the bitter night. A voice rang out in the silence.
"Thank you that fire was much needed," Her voice like the fire itself was warm and inviting, yet there was always that element of danger that lurked beneath the surface.
"I… I… How's Ki? Is she gonna live? Will she be OK?" the boy asked, startled by his mother's presence in the room. How long had she been there he wondered? Did he start the fire or had she? The thought of him being able to do such a thing terrified him, so he shoved it to the back of his mind.
"Come here my baby boy," she said, drawing him into a huge embrace. "You've had a rough day." She wrapped her cloak around the both of them, drawing him closer to her.
Liam in turn wrapped his arms around his mother's form, taking in her sweet and spicy aroma that came from working with the herbs all day. He felt her large callused hands move to his face, wiping dry the tears he hadn't even known were there, before tilting it up to hers. His mother's face was different in the firelight. He had never seen it like this before; the slight wrinkles that lined her brow and the corners of her mouth were not visible, and her skin looked soft and pale. Her hair hung loose, flowing nearly to her mid-back, and the long silvery strands seemed to blend in with the deep black ones. She looked beautiful, and until you saw the worn smile that played across her lips and deep brown eyes that seemed to know all the secrets of the world, she was almost young.
He had not been held like this since he was a child and he had forgotten just how much he missed it. For the first time in ages he was content to just stay there forever in his mother's arms, basking in her love.
She bowed his head, kissing his hair and whispered, "She'll be all right son. Everything will be alright"