Cira abhorred sewing. Forcefully drawing up her notorious needle from the white piece of cotton on her lap, she mollified the burning pain in her index finger. A small drop of blood had formed on the tip of her pale skin, leaving a pinhole opening in the flesh.
"If you hold your needle like that, Cira, you're bound to get twice as many holes in you. Hold it like this when you bring it through the cloth." Carefully, Mistress Anne pulled the needle through her own beige cloth, making sure to keep clear of the needle as she carefully drew the azure string through it.
Slapping down her fabric onto her thigh, Cira sighed, "I don't think that sewing is my calling Mistress. In fact, now I am sure of it!"
Not taking her eyes off of her task, the aged woman began to speak in a calming voice, "You're acting childish Cira. Every woman's calling is to sew, cook, clean, and tend to the needs of others. And unless I am greatly mistaken, you are a woman and therefore will do the things asked of you. Now, finish sewing that dress for your mother."
Cira picked up the limp skeleton of the dress and looked over at the Mistress, "Maybe I'm different then everybody else Mistress Anne. Maybe I was called to do the things I enjoy doing now."
"You will not question what you do! Everyone is set to a certain job and you are no different than the rest! Now, you will halt your talk of these ideas in your head and finish making that dress. I will be tending to the cooks for our dinner and when I return, I want to see that dress finished. I mean it Cira, there is only so much an old woman can take and you are using up most of my patience."
With that, Cira sat silently in her cherry wood rocking chair as Mistress Anne stepped out of the stone room and walked down the spiral staircase to the kitchens. Cira looked down at the needle in her hand and the string attached to it. She glanced at the unfinished dress that lay on her lap and felt the bumps of the fine embroidery on it done before by Mistress Anne. It seemed that when her Mistress was in the room, everything else was out of focus and nonexistent. Now, with the woman gone, all of her senses came back to her. She noticed the cold, gray stone that surrounded her like a cage. Small bits of light tried to squeeze through cracks in the windowless chamber, landing on the small baskets of sewing supplies placed neatly in the corner or the room. The strong stench of urine remained in the room, coming from the molding pile of straw located in the far corner of the room. Cira winced as she realized that she was nothing more than an animal caught in a cage.
The cold stone was not kind to her bare feet. Chips and cracks located on the floor always were able to send Cira flying to the ground, catching her off guard every time. She never got up much though, as it seemed she had nowhere to go. Everything was provided for her at the palace. Food, as bland as it was, was brought up to her small, putrid room every day, three times a day. Mistress Anne never failed to come up and teach her the finer parts of sewing and cleaning. The Mistress was her only contact. Sometimes, during the long hours that she waited in her room for her lessons, Cira wondered if all women were treated in this manner. Locked away and worked to death by merciless lords. She never was able to see outside of the walls, but Mistress Anne told her she was to be grateful that she was so close to the sun.
She let out a yelp of pain as she stared down at the needle in thread. Another droplet of blood formed on her finger as she realized she had absentmindedly stabbed herself with the sharp point of the needle.
"Curse these blasted things…"
"I do not want to hear one more 'curse' from you young lady. Leave that work for Plitus himself, not you. Now, how is that dress coming along?"
"It seems that luck is not with me this day. I seem to be having much trouble with this needle, Mistress Clarice. Mistress Anne went down to see that the cooks were preparing dinner."
The young woman's face was unreadable as she stood in the doorway of the room, "Ah, I see. Well then, I must be off to go fetch her! Try and finish that dress Cira, your mother awaits for its completion." Her plain shoes echoed through the hallway as the sounds became more distant.
Cira was used to being scolded by just about every single woman in the palace, but not Mistress Clarice. She and Mistress Anne were about the only two people who even bothered to teach the young girl. Cira personally favored Clarice over Anne, although the distance between the two was small. Clarice had warm, brown eyes and was full of vitality. She looked to be about 30 years young as Mistress Anne put it. She had soft, brown hair that flowed down to her mid-back, which was always tied in a braid. Her voice was smooth and quiet and it seemed to reflect her entire body. Clarice's figure was delicate and minute, and the large, viridian robes she wore around the palace always dulled her figure. Cira saw her quite often, as she made frequent trips to her room to visit with Mistress Anne.
Anne was almost the opposite of Clarice. She was stout and had gray hair streaking across her black mane. Her face seemed to be pinched and her eyes always squinted. From what Cira could tell, Anne's eyes were a clear shade of hazel, but it was hard to tell. Though her outward appearance was less than attractive, Anne's heart was made of pure gold. Every time her mouth was opened, her words would strike a clean note in Cira's mind. She was much too wise to be ruled by someone else, and the thought of someone commanding her was unimaginable.
Cira glanced down at the dress. Oh, how she hated to sew. She picked up the needle carefully and ran the scarlet thread through the small hole in it. She quickly moved from one side of the cloth to the other, not pricking herself on the needle's sharp point. The two pieces of white cloth were coming together in a smooth manner like waves breaking on the shore then slowly retreating back to the sea.
When she had heard the clap of Mistress Anne's shoes on the hard floor, Cira had completed sowing the dress. The small bits of sunlight had faded long ago, and judging by the scarce amount of noise that she heard through the corridor, Cira guessed it was well after the evening meal.
Anne's raspy voice broke the extended silence in the room, "Dear child, hurry down stairs! We must move to the towers immediately!" Her hair was scattered around her round face and she looked to be near death. Her breathing was shallow and her chest heaved as she stood there, grasping on to one of the large stones in the door.
Clutching the finished dress to her chest, Cira stood up, knocking the needle and thread to the floor. She ran to the older woman, breathing heavily at the door. Mistress Anne placed a rough hand on Cira's back, gently leading her down the corridor and out of the stone room. Under her breath, Cira cursed the needle as she winced at the sharp pain in her foot.
The stone hallway was lit sporadically with burning torches. Shadows danced across pieces of granite and marble as the two continued on down the corridor. The sheer size of the hallway was something unimaginable to Cira. As the two walked on, the hall became larger and more elaborate, yielding to a vast chamber from which thousands of hallways sprawled forth. What seemed like hundreds of Mistresses crawled from various hallways. There weren't any other young girls with them.
"Hurry to the towers! We're under attack!"
Chaos seemed to lurk behind every corner as Mistress Anne directed the young girl down the labyrinth of stone. Cira's mind was completely drained as she succumbed to Mistress Anne's forceful hand directing her down an unknown path. There were swarms of people rushing past them, beside them, and behind them. Women shrieked as burning torches fell to the floor and stones rumbled from their secure resting-place in the ceiling. Men gathered around entranceways, pointing and shouting directions for the women to follow. May the spirits help those who became lost in the frenzy.
"Dear spirits, where is Clarice? Cira! Do you see Clarice? Where is she?"
She could feel the incredible tugging on her arm. The smell of burning flesh was thick in the air and it caused tears to weld up in her eyes. She couldn't see anyone, hear anything, she was numb.
"Cira! Do you see her? Answer me!" She was being shaken… It was incredibly cold in the room. And lonely. Where was everyone? Where was Mistress Anne?
"Oh please! Cira, please answer me! Wake up child!"
"Anne! My dear spirits, I thought I had lost you!"
"Clarice! Oh thank goodness! Cira, she's been taken! Help me, Clarice, please!" She could hear the shrill voice of a woman. Everything was muffled together and dulled to the point where the words didn't make sense, she just heard random noises.
Warm hands were cradling her head as a fist beat against her chest. She couldn't breathe, the air was knocked from her lungs. Her body struggled to reach the scarce air while smoke seemed to burn at her insides and tumble in from her mouth.
The coughing came almost instantly as crimson blotches of blood blinded her. Her vision was blurred, her mind shot. A wave of fresh air scrambled into her lungs. It was the sweetest breath she ever had taken.
"Oh, Cira! You had us so worried my dear! Oh, thank you!"
Mistress Anne stood over her, tears filling up her hazel eyes. Slowly, her sight began to return and her hearing was now sharp, "Mistress Anne? Where are you?"
A hand clasped with hers, "I'm right here dear child. Just sit and don't worry about a thing."
"Where's Mistress Clarice?"
"She's standing right here. Hush small one. Rest."
The smell of smoke became stronger as the group of three progressed. More rocks seemed to tumble as Cira realized that she was being brought down steps. Clarice walked quickly, holding a lit torch in her right hand and her iron staff in the other. Anne carefully cradled Cira in her arms, making sure that her head was not bouncing on the way down stairs.
The screams became more distant in Cira's ear and were replaced by the buzz of thousands of people talking. A distinct smell of mold came in through her nose as the light source dimmed. The room was incredibly warm although Cira felt the warmth pleasing on her stiff body. Mistress Anne set her down on the cold, hard floor and stroked her forehead gently.
"Dear one, are you well?"
"Yes, Mistress. What is going on here?" With a strong effort, Cira attempted to sit up, but Mistress Anne quickly forced her back down on the floor.
"You need to lie down. The army of Erole is attacking us. They are from the south dear one."
Cira was as unfamiliar with the kingdoms as she was with war. She had never even heard of a land referred to as Erole, but then, who was she to judge.
"Anne, we need you. They want us to put up a barrier, now."
"Can't they do it without me? She needs to be tended to."
"The barrier won't hold without your help. We aren't strong enough individually. I will summon Mistress Darie to watch over her."
"Darie! She isn't much better off than Cira is! How will they be protected?"
"Karbe is with her Anne. Don't worry, they'll be fine. Now hurry. We need to get the barrier up before they attack."
She could feel the warmth leaving her. Mistress Anne was walking through the crowds with an older woman with dark brown hair tied neatly in a bun. The two figures faded into the crowd as a man dressed in silver armor came up beside her. A small woman was at his side, dressed in a viridian robe that covered up her head.
"I'm Mistress Darie, and this is Officer Karbe. Do not be frightened, we will watch you."
Cira wanted to be held by Mistress Anne again. Once more, her sense dulled as blackness began to cover her eyesight. In the corner of her mind, she realized that something was terribly wrong, but she soon dismissed the thought as she drifted off into a dark, dreamless sleep.
Anne rushed off with Mistress Sife through the clumps of novices. She felt worried about leaving Cira in the hands of a new Mistress and a guard. Anne knew that Darie was nothing more than a small bag of bones, always being struck down by sicknesses. Her heart was noble and mind strong, but if the time came, she would not be able to stand a chance against one of the Erole soldiers. Karbe wasn't much of a reassurance to her, as the phrase 'Brawn over brains," came to mind.
Sife looked back at her, blue eyes raging, "Cira had another attack?"
"Yes. I was afraid this would happen if we took her out of the room. It seems that just the smallest amount of light can send her into one of those seizures."
"Do you think that it's becoming stronger?"
"Most likely, but there's no way to be sure. She might have just gone into shock from the sudden approach of the soldiers."
"You know more than I, that is not true. Hopefully, the wizards can bring back the supplies necessary for her in time."
"Perhaps. Do they know why Erole is attacking this night?"
The crowd became more compact as the two entered a large room where thousands of cloaked women were standing. Each was wearing a green robe that covered her face.
"The reason is unknown, Anne. We aren't sure why they are doing it, we've not heard from them in ages."
"An attack this forceful cannot just be random, can it?"
"Mistresses! Thank the spirits you came. Sife, I need you to gather on the outer ring with the fourth rank. Anne, please join those of the second rank on the inner ring."
Anne bowed her head down to one of the only males in the room, "Yes, Master Ran. As you command."
Sife scurried off to her place in a ring of women joined by the palms of their hands. All were chanting in unison an ancient prophecy. Their hoods were drawn over their heads shading their closed eyes and sharp features. Their bodies circled a smaller ring of women, protecting them at all costs.
Anne rushed to the side of Clarice who was standing in a small ring of older women. In the center of the circle, an aged man stood, drawing on the stone floors with a piece of white stone. He drew out complicated and specific symbols that Anne recognized from scripts telling of the Noviva, the destruction. Four other men were standing on the outskirts of the chanting women, drawing similar symbols that were not as elaborate as the ones in the center.
The inner circle was silent with their heads drawn to the floor, meditating. At once, the women began to chant in unison, while remaining perfectly still in the circle.
"Ribatus protect us. In your arms we thrive. Let us live another day, serving your will, guarding your creations. Ribatus, protector of the living, send away Plitus from this sanctuary. Guard our souls as we surrender them to you willingly. Rid us of the underworld. Rid us of the creations of Plitus. Protect us, Lord Ribatus. Guard us, Lord Ribatus. Send us the magic that you give us gracefully so that we may live with you. Let the barrier grow from your sublime hands to our humble ones. Let the barrier spawn forth to protect us."
The chanting continued as the green-robed women fell to the floor, foreheads pressed against the cold stone. The man in the center, finished with drawing his symbols, began to chant along with them. A blue glow began to surface from under the stones, shining and glittering around the man in the center. The chanting grew louder as the Mistresses began to praise and pray to Ribatus, their creator. The azure glow began to wax around the inner circle of women as their eyes opened. The blue magic was dancing in their eyes and lighting their covered faces. The room became void of any light except for the glow, which seemed to be enough.
The words began to echo through the room as the five men began to chant along with the women. Gusts of wind began to gush from the light, which now formed three circles, each forming around one another. It seemed impossible, but the room began to suck away all of the remaining light. Silence fell over all of the inhabitants in the room as they sat in the endless void of night. Nothing moved, as if frozen.
Instantly, rays of fluorescent blue light shot through the patterns on the stone. Wind that came from nowhere at all blew upwards, forcing the women's hair to draw to the top of their heads. The men and women alike all wore unreadable faces, staring blankly into the light. Their eyes were glazed over as if dead, but their elongated breaths rose up above them in patches of ice.
Once more, the man in the center began to chant in an ancient language long forgotten. His white hair billowed up against the wind, and his robes were fluttering around his slim build.
"Ribatus lemes ran varula Cira. Tabeaus men do liaquese do meranitus. Ribatus varula col damiscus. Varulami Ribatus."
Mechanically, the woman chanted the ancient words in modern tongue. Their eyes began to fill with the blue glow in the center of the room, not as a reflection but as an actual source of the light.
"Ribatus protect the one of Destiny. Help us thrive in this time of death. Ribatus protect all men. Protector Ribatus."
Swarming over the two circles of women, the light expanded and crashed through the stone walls of the palace. Sighs of awe could be heard coming from the other room as the blue glow washed over the inhabitants. All of the Mistresses stood up from the floor, their memory of the past few moments stripped from them. The wizards that drew the patterns began to brush off their robes and walk off calmly back into the chaotic room where the residents of the palace were located.
Anne stared at Clarice as the women slowly filed out of the elaborate room. Sife came from the outer ring of Mistresses and grabbed Anne by the arm, "Did you feel it?"
Anne was perplexed at the commotion going on around her, "I did. I felt it quite strongly. What is going on here?"
Clarice placed a gentle hand on Anne's shoulder, "Sife, you'll have to excuse her. The barrier stripped some of her memory away. She needs to let it be recovered before she talks to anyone."
Sife bowed down to the two older women and took in a deep breath, "Very well then. I understand Mistress Clarice. I will go back and check on your girl for you if you wish."
Clarice swiped a hand across her chest, "That will not be necessary. Anne will check on her soon. I'm sure that it won't take long for her memory to grow back again. Thank you for the offer Mistress Sife, you may leave now."
Sife bowed down again and quickly left the room, viridian robes trailing behind her.
Clarice held Anne up in her arms, letting her lean against her shoulder, "Anne, you look drained. Please go lie down and rest while this attack rages. You don't need to be down here, you're exhausted."
"Oh, I'll be fine Clarice. You worry too much. My memory has already grown back, and now I need to tend to Cira. I'm sure Darie has already left her unattended many times."
"As you wish Mistress, but I will attend with you. Just in case."
Giving a grunt of approval, Anne rushed off through the large, golden doors that closed off the room from the rest of the underground towers. Clarice walked quickly behind her, sometimes getting caught in the groups of novices that stood in her path. As she glanced to her side, she could see some of the young wizards flirting with some of the novices, charming them with their quick wits. Inwardly, Clarice smiled, as she knew that the women were being just as deceiving as the men were.
"Mistress Anne, I've been keeping a watchful eye on your Cira for you. Karbe watched us both as well" The young Darie indicated the large man standing behind her dressed in metal armor.
"Thank you Darie, your services are no longer needed here. I appreciate your help."
"I thought I should inform you, Mistress Anne, that she fell asleep quite a while ago. Her breathing is steady and everything seems to be in order, but we could not wake her. I don't think it's anything serious that you need to concern yourself with, I just thought it a useful piece of information."
Anne huddled over the limp body of the young girl, unaware of Mistress Darie's words. Clarice quickly turned to the Mistress and answered in a clear, crisp voice, "Thank you Mistress Darie. We will take that into consideration. Now, be off with you, we don't need you here any longer."
Darie gave a quick bow and left with Karbe at her side. Clarice glanced down at the peaceful body lying on the floor and crouched beside Anne, "Can you tell if she is well?"
Stroking Cira's blonde hair, Anne did not look up, "She appears to be. All things are in order, but I think that when she was taken, it exhausted her badly."
"We should probably move her up to her room, since the threat is no longer lingering."
"Yes, you're right. We probably should move her as fast as possible. This lair cannot be good for her."
Anne and Clarice both helped lift Cira's skeletal body. Carefully but quickly, they moved the girl through the crowds of talking women and men. The air of fear had been lifted from the room and now it seemed that the underground towers were the spot of a joyous feast. Torches were lit and placed in silver holders randomly around the room, lighting the dim dungeon-like area.
Approaching the center of the room was a man dressed in a red cloak. His clothes were lined with a gold trim, and jewels decorated his fingers, wrists, and neck. Surrounded by ten, large men dressed in armor, the man made his way up to the back wall of the tower looking over the crowd. Anne automatically recognized him as Master Ran.
"Attention! Attention everyone, please!"
The room fell to a hush as all the heads turned together to view the man directing for silence. Whispers of admiration flooded the room and finally died down when the elaborately dressed man looked out again into the crowd.
"As you all have heard, Erole attacked our palace walls this night," Whispers flooded through the room in agreement and anger as the man continued on, "But thanks to the valiant efforts of our highest ranking wizards and Mistresses, we were able to place a barrier around the Palace of Varulami. Now, it is completely safe for you to return to your rooms upstairs, but please do not venture out into the courtyards. The palace guards will remain at their usual posts, except those guarding the kitchens, which will join the soldiers at the entrances of the palace.
"Please thank all of those Mistresses who put up the barrier and wizards Li, Aribus, Karl, Fertinus, and Mendige. Thanks to them, you are standing in this room right now, living the life that our creator Ribatus made for us. I will be the first to thank all of these valiant-"
With a large crash, the back wall of the tower crumbled on top of the man and many others standing near. Screams raged through the crowed as fires broke out from fallen torches. Anne and Clarice both turned to a shade of white then quickly moved with the body in their hands to the large room they had been in before. The frightened people moved like a swarm of insects out of the towers, some being slaughtered by the rushing men coming in from the toppled wall. Swordsman riding on brown horses charged through the room, killing anyone nearby. The iron armor they wore glinted in the light of the torches and blazing fires. The screams became louder and there were shouts to Ribatus begging for protection. Those who kneeled down to pray were the first to have their heads taken off their bodies.
Anne moved into the room, quickly followed by Clarice. The large chamber was empty and the smell of blood had not yet marred the calm aura. Clarice gently placed Cira down and rushed to shut the golden doors closed. With a clang, the screaming was shut off and the room peaceful.
Clarice was in panic, "How did they break the barrier? There is no way for Erole to have a Dark Wizard! How did they get through? We made no flaws in the chants, the symbols were drawn perfectly! Oh dear spirits, how could this happen?"
"Clarice, hush!" Anne hissed at the hysterical Mistress then stood parallel to the door, "I have to seal this door up. I need to use a shielding spell, either that or a cloaking one." Moving her hands in a fast motion, Anne drew symbols in the air, then drew her hands over the length of the massive door.
"Oh, Anne! How could the barrier not work? If that doesn't' work, what makes you think the cloaking spell would? How do we know that the spell didn't just make us more obvious?"
"We don't know Mistress, but we can't take our chances. We have to protect ourselves and more importantly, Cira. We do not have time for speculations or conclusions right now."
"But what could have done something like that?"
Anne hunched over Cira's body and pulled open the sleeping girl's eye lids. Instead of seeing the usual violet flecked, Caribbean blue irises she usually saw, Anne saw the same blue glow that had been called forth when drawing the barrier.
"Oh dear Ribatus…"
"What is it Anne? Is something wrong with Cira?"
"She's calling them Clarice. She's bringing them here." Anne's eyes welded up with tears. She fell over the girl's limp body and wept.
Mistress Clarice drew out her small dagger at her belt, "We must kill her then Anne. There are no other choices."
"We can't do that! She's our only hope for the Darkness! We can't destroy her now!"
"She is the Darkness Anne! You have to see that! We must kill her now." Taking in a deep breath, Clarice drew the dagger up above her head. Her eyes danced with rage as she stared down at the sleeping body. Her breathing quickened as she let the dagger plunge down to the girl.
Anne caught it just above Cira's heart, "I will not let you kill her."
The two struggled trying to take the dagger from each other's clutches. Clarice tugged at Anne's dark hair while Anne managed to bite Clarice's arm forcefully. Their yelps of pain echoed through the room, failing to wake the young, sleeping girl on the floor. The two women wrestled each other to the ground until finally, after a hard struggle, Clarice was able to reclaim her precious dagger.
"Anne, you foolish woman. You always knew I was better than you at combat." Cackling, Clarice drew the dagger up above the girl again, just as five men burst through the door, swords drawn dangerously close to the women's neck.
Disclaimer & Copyrights: All the characters in this story are created and depicted by myself. Any similarities between this story and any other is purely coincidental and not by the sole purpose of the author. The use of any of these characters in any original story is strictly prohibited if depicted in the same manner. Oh, and have a jolly day! ^^