Yay or nay? Perhaps a little review shouldn't hurt unless the story is still sucky and doesn't deserve a review :o
By the way, I didn't come up with the nursery rhyme in this chapter.
A beautiful woman with shoulder-length, dark hair caressed a child in her arms. They were sitting alone in a hut with a lighted candle flickering on a wooden table. As her green eyes gazed fondly at her sleeping child, she sang softy:
Sleep, baby sleep.
Your father tends the sheep.
Your mother shakes the dream-land tree,
Down falls a little dream for thee.
Sleep, baby, sleep.
Shouts and cries cut through the song. The woman immediately got up from her seat, and a young man with a terrified face appeared in front of the entrance.
"Aspalis, run! They are coming!"
"No! I must protect her, Adams!"
The young man placed his arms on her shoulders. "Leave the child with me, my love! There's a horde of them. They won't dare harm a babe."
Tears trickled down on the woman's face. "But what about you? What will they do to you?"
"You and the child are more important than me!" The shouts grew louder. "Go now before they come for you!"
The couple shared their last kiss, and the woman kissed her child's forehead. "Goddess protect you, my daughter."
Godddess protect you, my daughter.
Anastasia woke up sweating.
The glimmering waxing moon still hung high in the star-blanketed night. It was not able to shine through the depths of the earth where light has never touched the place. Only the torches' fires were what some of the residents had ever known. However, there was a woman who once knew the heaven's light.
Behind the barred cages was a thin, pale-looking woman sitting in the corner of the cold cell floor. Tattered rags were able to cover most of the vital parts of her body, but they couldn't hide the scarred and bruised skin that was once brawn. The muscles on her long legs and arms had shrunk, and only their slight toneness remained. The woman didn't feel compelled to push the greasy black bangs out of her eyes to face the moving shadow before her.
The torchlight shined on a tall, blue-eyed young man with blond curls. The smirk pasted on his angular face mocked back at the prisoner before him. "Nothing to say today?" his smooth voice echoed in the air.
"No…" a deep low voice almost like a grumble escaped her mouth.
"You are much calmer," the man remarked. "Any special occasion? Or anything you rather not to say?"
A shout, and then a shuffle of footsteps entered the section of the cell. Two torches were carried by two pale blue-hooded men. Although their faces were hidden, the shock and panic in their voices weren't mistakable.
"Sir Randell," the two guards began at the same time. The man let the other one say the message. "Casimir Whittemore had been found dead and mutilated in his bedroom by one of the prisoners."
Randell stared hard at the guards. "Is the prisoner taken away yet?"
"Yes… but he was found dead afterwards."
The blonde clenched his teeth. "How is it possible that he was found dead before she was taken away? Weren't there guards protecting him inside his chamber?"
The guard swallowed hard. "One of the guards confessed that they were requested by Whittemore to wait outside his chamber after he was done. The guard said that they decided to look for other entertainment, and when they returned, they overlooked that Whittemore was sound asleep with the wench. Later after the prisoner was escorted back, Whittemore's servant pulled off his blanket because he didn't stir to her voice. She found his… his gentalia and lower body bleeding and soaking the mattress."
Although Whittemore was dead, Randell wanted to smack him with the hilt of his blade a million times for his stupidly. "Who is the prisoner?"
The two guards both looked at each other. "The guards forgot her name…" one of the hooded men replied.
Randell's eyes nearly bulged out of his sockets. "Damn those asses! Make them spit out her countenance, or they will be sent to the gallows!"
"Yes sir," the guards automatically replied. They quickly exited as Randell disappeared to the other side of the tunnel with his royal blue cloak trailing angrily behind him.
The men had forgotten about the woman in the cell. She pushed her black bangs away to reveal her glistening green eyes as the torchlight flickered on her toothy red grin.
Anastasia couldn't concentrate throughout the day, so she let Verna take over the reins. The dream she had was so vivid and overwhelming. Usually she would usually not be able to recall her dreams, but this was one had her parents in it. Was she the child in the dream too? If so, was this dream real or part of her imagination? It felt too real to be just a dream.
"It sounds more like a vision than a dream to me," Verna said as she led Obsidian to the left of the forest. Anastasia didn't notice the change of direction.
"A vision?" the Jovian girl asked.
"Well, Artemisian folks like me believe in visions. Yours might happen to be a memory of a past that had been buried in your subconscious mind."
"So," Anastasia began, "do you might know the significance of it?"
"I think—woah!" Verna and Anastasia were thrown off the saddle and crashed onto the ground. Verna groaned and felt her body ache everywhere. Luckily, she managed to push herself up to stand and glanced over to Anastasia. The Jovian girl was rubbing the newly formed bruise on her knee. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Anastasia nodded. The two glanced at Obsidian whom was bucking and snorting at a grass snake that was hanging from a tree. Hissing at the mare, the grass snake refused to slither away. Obsidian stepped back until she was standing in front of the two women. When her hind legs started to move, Anastasia jolted up and pushed Verna out of the way.
Verna landed on the ground with the dark-haired girl on top of her. Right at same time, Obsidian spun around and kicked her legs up into the air to drive the snake away. The grass snake finally retreated up the tree.
Anastasia breathed heavily. "Never… stand… behind a horse," Anastasia remarked in a serious tone as she turned to face Verna. If it hadn't been for her quick reflexes, they might had gotten kicked by Obsidian.
Gazing into the hazel eyes, Verna was greatly embarrassed that the Anastasia was still pinning her to the ground. The dark-haired girl remained unconsciously staring at her until Verna started to blush.
Her face turning red as well, Anastasia immediately pulled herself back and apologized. "Umm… sorry." The Jovian girl didn't know what was up with her. Must be the effect of that dream, she thought.
"It's okay," Verna mumbled softly. She didn't really mind actually and wished they stood longer in that position.
Anastasia stood up and patted dirt out of her clothes. "Obsidian usually bolts off when she sees a snake," she began, "but I guess she felt braver this time."
Verna nodded her head understandingly. "I'm surprised I didn't even see the snake," she remarked as they walked toward Obsidian. The mare's ears loosened into a relaxed position; she was calmer now that the snake was gone. Assuring the mare that they were safe now, Anastasia patted Obsidian's neck. The horse grunted in return.
"Neither did I," Anastasia replied. "Guess we were all too busy talking. Let's mount back on."
The two returned riding in no time. Unfortunately, Verna felt her arse stinging from the fall and cursed silently. It was too embarrassing to tell the Jovian girl where the pain was located, so she sucked up the ache and hoped it would disappear soon. She ended up focusing on the pain in the duration of the ride that she didn't pay attention to what Anastasia was saying to her.
"I'm sorry. May you repeat that again?"
"You didn't tell me what you think my dream might mean," Anastasia replied.
Oh, Verna thought. She was cut off when the whole incident happened. "If that woman was really your mother, then I find it strange that she would worship a Goddess."
"But what if it was just a dream?" Even though she tried to assuring herself that it was just a dream, Anastasia couldn't stop thinking that it might not be just a dream at all. After all, dreams usually didn't make sense, but this dream was different. Could this dream really be a buried past like what Verna had mentioned? If so, why couldn't she replay the whole memory now that it was unburied to her?
Verna shrugged as Obsidian turned right. She wasn't much of a dream interpreter and sighed in her head for the lack of help. An elderly woman's face crossed her mind that she almost halted the horse. "Actually," Verna began as she drew Anastasia's attention, "I know someone who might be able to understand your dream."
"Who?" the Jovian girl asked determinedly as she squeezed her arms around Verna's waist. She was nearly breathing down the Artemisian girl's neck.
Verna's face turned beet red. Noticing what she was doing, Anastasia immediately apologized and relaxed her arms. Verna continued. "She's the Shamaness of Goldenrise. Some go to her when they're ill or troubled. I haven't been to her hut for a while, but I remembered the way. It isn't too far from here. Would you like to go there?"
Anastasia nodded without hesitation. "It's considered ridiculous for a Jovian man or woman to visit 'shamans,' but…."
Ridiculous? Verna arched her eyebrows. Nothing was ridiculous about consulting a wise woman or man.
"But I don't think like them," the Jovian girl finished her last though. "I'm sorry if you got offended."
Verna shook her head. "It's okay. We're both from different cultures, but why is it considered ridiculous to your people? I know your people are atheists, but shamans are also healers. Whom do your people consult when one is ill?"
"We consult doctors, but only men can apply for that position," Anastasia answered. "If I'm correct, shamans use healing methods that are passed down by other healers verbally. Doctors use the text written in books, and they are tested to be proven for effectiveness. I guess that is why shamans are kind of ridiculed because their practice is superstitious." Before Verna could debate, Anastasia said, "Not that I'm on their side though. I think all healing methods are the same. They are just practiced in different ways, but they'll eventually get to the result—to heal the ailment."
Verna found herself agreeing with Anastasia's last sentence. "Well, I guess that saves me from explaining it."
The Jovian girl laughed softly and threw her head back toward the sky to observe the blue wonder. "If it wasn't for my grandpa, then I wouldn't have known about shamans." Somehow Anastasia felt sadness lingering at the end of her sentence. She frowned as she thought about her grandma's condition.
Verna's voice broke up her anxiety. "Tell me about your grandfather, please," she murmured.
Anastasia's lips curled into a smile. "Well… all right."