Whisper in the Four Winds
Her mother once believed in Angels, celestial beings birthed from glorified light, hailing from the souls of the pure. She would elaborately describe their features: The massive pearl-white wings that left droplets of feathers each time they took flight, their gentle faces and their placid smiles. Actually witnessing one was like basking in resplendence, and a sense of security and contentment would feel that person's heart. However, her mother was not destined to witness such beings, and so when she truly believed that, her faith had deserted her. Praying to Angels who could not hear your pleads was meaningless, even for those who placed their entire being into it; Angels did not exist. Those had been her mother's exact words moments before she took her final breath and left her children alone to face the cold world.
Her words had not only displayed the faith she had casted away, it also told her children that there was no such thing as mercy and miracles, for if there were, their mother would still be alive, and her children wouldn't have left their only home. The village wouldn't be in the state it was in, what with foreign men claiming to protect the citizens from false invaders whilst they beat the other men, raped the women, and killed the children. Her mother had been raped by the soldiers who claimed to be for the good of the people, but she bore the child that grew within her, and giving birth had ultimately cost her her life. After nine months of becoming nonverbal, her mother had finally spoken the moment of her death, truly casting away her faith.
Then, her amber head had fallen atop the pillow, her eyes never to open again, her porcelain skin, even more paler, glistening against the winter sun peering into the glass window. She had, during the stages of her pregnancy, implored her daughter to raise enough funds and leave the village someday, especially in the event that her mother would no longer be there to guide her. And she had, four weeks after her death. She had acquired two jobs as a stable-worker and a maid for an elderly couple who never liked leaving their hut desolate in the daytime. Finally, with enough money to support herself and the baby that had killed her mother, she had boarded a wayfarer's vessel, heading east toward Shar and had paid him more than he actually deserved.
It was now the third morning since she had left her small village Destillia, and the shoreline was not even visible yet. Once she arrived in Shar, she would follow her mother's instructions that she had bestowed upon her daughter. First, she needed to seek out her Grandmother Nadine, who would surely take her and her baby brother in. The old woman was the mother of her father who had left the village years ago for unknown purposes. He had never returned. Once she found a job in Shar, she'd leave Grandmother Nadine, being sure to not depend on anyone. Once her life was settled, then it would return back to normal.
Suddenly, her baby brother began wailing for food. Food that she didn't have. Her supplies waned rapidly after she had boarded the vessel and set sail for Shar.
"Oh, dear," she fretted, running a hand through her cinnamon, shoulder-length strands. "Oh, dear. What to feed you, brother?" She didn't like calling the baby her brother because it had caused its own mother's death, and left her motherless, and besides, no one had taken the time to name the malevolent being. All it did was want and cry to no end. Was it happy to know that it had succeeded in destroying her only family?
"Need some help in there?" Jostin, the wayfarer asked after rapping at the creaking wooden door. She jumped, turned to the locked door and shook her head as if the man could see.
"No," she replied when he pressed further. Though Jostin was being extremely generous, lending his vessel for her and transporting her to Shar, he was quite the annoying one. Apparently, he was a social creature, yearning for companionship between a fellow human. But she had locked herself in her sleeping chambers below deck, never exiting and ignoring the man whenever he knocked on her door. At night, she'd only stare out into the circular window, looking at the black void of the ocean and the skies when they were starless. Then, the baby would cry and she would, against her will, soothe it so it could close its mouth and fall back asleep despite its raging stomach.
Perhaps today, letting the man into her world would prove to be beneficial. He was a wayfarer, and was very cognizant when it came to preparing for journeys. The woman stood, maneuvering her way around the constricted space where her belongings and her makeshift cot and quilts lay strewn about the place. The baby was nestled inside of her emptied trunk. It was cushioned by various cloths and a dress her mother had bought for her three years ago.
"Sir," the woman called when she heard his muffled footsteps clanking away atop the wood. The vessel rocked and creaked rhythmically. "Sir!" she called again, a bit louder this time. Jostin's booted feet halted, then they became louder as they came closer.
She opened the door and forgot how ragged and unclean Jostin appeared. He was a middle-aged man with blonde hair pulled back tightly underneath a black hat, famously associated with pirates, and brown eyes. His silver stubble of a beard grew in patches around his lined and weathered face. Jostin was a thin, optimistic man.
"Yes, girly?" he answered her and together they walked upstairs. She hated when he called her that. Girly. She was no girl, that was for certain. Her mother had died and she was taking care of a demon baby from hell. Did he even have the slightest inkling of how it felt to lay down at night with such a being? Did he know what it was like to be helpless and powerless to save a dying woman? She was a sixteen-year-old woman, traveling to Shar alone to seek Grandmother Nadine. She was a woman who did not believe in Angels, miracles, or mercy. She was a woman, not a girl.
"Do you have any food for the baby?" she questioned meekly. She already assumed that Jostin most likely thought that she was a girly running from her husband with their child. The baby seemed to cry louder as the thought entered and left her mind.
"I can whip up some warm milk right quick," he suggested, wiping his greasy hands on his greasy overalls. The warm sun made his sweat and his clothing shine brightly. She simply nodded and he left to prepare the milk. The wooden deck of the vessel wasn't very spacious, it was adequate enough for at least two people to comfortably live upon.
The skies were covered in a wintry gray overcast, with the pale white sun peering through. She sucked in the cold air, dismissing the need to wrap herself in something warm. The silver seas below were calm in the morning, sending up a gentle frigid draft of wind. She wondered what her grandmother was like, having never seen her. Would she truly welcome her with open arms? Would she even believe the story of her having come from the village of Destillia bearing a child that was not hers and seeking temporary shelter? Would she believe that she was a sixteen-year-old woman seeing many things that she should not have seen?
"Ms. . . uh," Jostin suddenly said, coming beside her.
"Riviana," she informed, though she felt uncomfortable doing so. The smell of oil and the general salty smell of the sea that he carried with him caused her to subtlety turn from him.
"Oh, well, the milk's on the heater now. Why don't you come over to the stern of this here boat and chat with me," Jostin offered. Riviana, wanting to desperately take the milk and leave his repulsive smell, declined. She had the baby to attend to, which was what she told him. He pretended to understand, though he never would, and she left him. He told her that the milk would be done shortly.
Closing the door, Riviana plopped herself down on her cot that felt more like laying upon bricks, and twisted her neck so that she could see the trunk. The baby was entertaining itself by flopping its pudgy pink arms above its head. It giggled with delight and as soon as Riviana's green eyes peered at it, the baby instantly smiled, displaying its mouth full of crimson gums and a small pink tongue. Its features reminded her of her mother. The deep emerald eyes, the rosy plump cheeks, and the curly plumes of amber hair. His face, in contrast with his body, was pale, even porcelain and when he slept, she always thought that he was a glass doll, frozen and inanimate, resting under the soft glow of the ocean moonlight.
Even so, his appearance was only a facade, obscuring the malevolent and murderous face it had displayed upon birth. The baby was the son of the man who had raped Riviana's mother and had brought about death and destruction to the village. This baby, her brother, was the product of evil and violence and she couldn't bear to be near it, let alone raise it. Once she reached Shar, she would place the baby under adoption and leave the burden up to the matron there.
"Riviana, here's the milk!" Jostin yelled from outside. She quickly scooped the baby in her arms and opened the door. He handed her the pot of warm cow's milk and walked off as a routine, expecting her to close the door, but she didn't. He turned around out of curiosity when he didn't hear the door slam. The girl was placing the baby into her lap, supporting it so that it was sitting upright. When the milk was cool enough, Riviana placed her left hand into the pot and cupped the milk. She began feeding the baby that way, spilling droplets all over herself and the boy.
Jostin wondered why the girl didn't just breast feed the fellow. He walked off lest she would catch him staring.
"Hard times are coming, child. Hard times are coming," he muttered before disappearing up the stairs.