"Estelle! Estelle!" Estelle turned suddenly to the chorus of her name, quietly shutting the book which was previously open in her grasp. She sat upon a wiry, metal bench and before her stood a familiar little girl. A smile found its way to her lips. The child wore a pastel colored dress with a cream ribbon around her waist. Shoulder length long blonde hair bounced in its usual ringlet curls. Bright green eyes held all the innocence and laughter the child had in as she set the book to her right side, Estelle threw her arms open. She sunk to the ground, catching the girl in her loving grasp. The girl flung her small arms around Estelle's neck in a hug, clinging to the woman. Estelle hugged the girl's delicate form tightly before taking a step back.
"My favorite little niece," Estelle murmured before planting a kiss on the girl's forehead. With a dazzling smile and a girlish giggle the child shook her head and stared up at the woman with excitement.
"I'm your only niece, Aunty Estelle!" Estelle walked forward, snatching up the little girl and giving another tight squeeze to the child before setting her onto her own two feet. The girl stood close to her, nearly bouncing with delight as a male figure approached. His face was etched with the lines of age, but in honesty he was still quite young. Tousled brown hair, which scraped at his ear lobes, was loose and looked partly damp. As he neared, she could see the fatigue shadows under his eyes and drowsiness in his nearly half shut lids. He continued walking until they collided in a hug and she could smell the faint odor of mint. A smell she knew all too well. He carried little candied mints in his left vest pocket, a signature of his own. His clothes looked well worn, and a little less than their usual cleanliness.
"Oh, Estelle. It's been too long," he whispered, a hint of sorrow crawling out of his words. He held her close for a moment, relishing in the woman's warm embrace before stepping back with a shared smile. His hands held her shoulders, eyeing her over with a wink of his right eye. "I bet you are quite the person in your city. You look just like mother did, though, except the hair color, of course," his voice trailed off with a smirk.
"And you are the spitting image of father, Etharion," responded Estelle with a gentle smile. Her gaze left the man as his daughter rushed up with some important news of a rock recently located. They stood on the outskirts of her home town. A small city, walled with copper colored bricks and roads with the matching colored stones towards the entrance shaded by a line of trees. Towers stood tall, looming over the dormant town. A cloud of dust colored smoke puffed up from the armory. The soft murmur of voices and the business of the town drawled out to where the two stood. Her gaze turned back toher brother, eyeing the backpack which rested on a shoulder. She guessed they had traveled far this time.
"How have you been, sister? Any news?" Etharion questioned. He had lifted his daughter onto a hip as she played with a small pebble she found. Estelle shared a worried look with her brother before shaking her head slowly. "I have not received any news on her yet. I have been sending letters to every city, yet no reply. Eventually I hope she gets ahold of one." At this point, the little girl chirped up from her silent play with the rock.
"You mean Aunty Esaelia? You told me about her, father," the girl whispered innocently. Her eyes trailed up to her father, eager for answers.
"Yes, Emmy. Aunty Esaelia." Her father responded as he gave his daughter a dismal look. His tired eyes refocused back to Estelle with a tilt of his head. "You never mentioned how you are. That is more important."
Estelle gave a slight shrug. "Alright, I suppose." Her eyes flitted back to the town on her right. She chewed on her lower lip before responding. "I am still getting used to things. The town is larger than it looks. At least twice a day do I find myself on the wrong street or wrong corner. The people are pleasant enough, though I have yet to fully meet many of them." With this Etharion stepped forward, setting the small girl down to the ground. He reached out and hugged his sister with a reassuring smile.
"It will all be alright. I know it's different than the training grounds, but you'll meet people. They will welcome you. You'll see," he whispered, giving her a last warm squeeze before stepping back. "You're so young to be doing it alone. My offer to live with you still stands," he trailed off. Dark was closing in on the ground fast. The sun nearly sunken into the distant earth to their left. The grouping of trees looked more menacing with the darkening sky slowly blooming. "It is getting late, you two," Estelle said. "I know your offer stands, and I thank you, but I can handle it. Besides, you both are a town away. A day's ride. You both should be going if you want to make it back before dawn." It had been since the last spring Estelle saw the two of them. She wondered just how long the gap would be on their next visit, and hoped for sooner rather than later.
The little girl ran up to Estelle and clung to her legs with passion. "No! I want to stay!" she proclaimed. Estelle gave a sad sigh. She was the closest thing the girl had to a mother. Estelle lowered herself and gave a warm hug. Her hand came up and stroked down the loose blonde curls.
"It won't be long. We are closer now than ever, so I promise to see you both more than in the past." The girl stepped back with a smile, glad to have made this promise. Estelle waved a hand to the two as they walked off. The sun had completely sunk beneath the distant curve of flat earth. Little light was offered, but she was near the entrance to her city. A cool breeze swept through the area sending in return a small wave of shivers down the woman's back. She quickened her pace.
The tall, heavily armored guards stood watch over the entrance. Their long polearms recently sharpened to a deadly point. The visor of their uniform was pulled up to reveal their faces. To the right, an older man nearly dozing off. On the left, a younger trainee that was clearly going over some mentally challenging task for his gaze never met the young priestess until she stood in front of him.
"Oh! P-priestess," he stammered, blushing slightly as he was caught off guard. "It is quite late. Was that your brother right back there? I mean, if you don't mind answering, that is." Estelle gave a worried look and a shake of her head. "It is no problem, but no, they are just close friends of mine."
The guard nodded, collecting himself once more. "Quite late to be wonderingthrough the city. I must humbly offer to walk you to your house, Miss. The dark isn't always as friendly as one assumes."
Estelle nodded. It had been a long day of unpacking and re-organizing her belongings at her house, and she had loved the visit with her brother, but the warm fireplace of her new home sounded more inviting than ever. "That sounds alright. I live just up the second street, fourth building," she informed him. The man nodded with his composure now intact. He turned sharply, the metal armor that hung on him rattling all the way.
He walked with a determined pace. His head turned this way and that to scan up and down the desolate streets. Shadows bounced off of the lampposts and bushes lining the streets. The moon looked half swallowed up by a menacing cloud. The town was more quiet than she had ever heard. No sound from inside or outside the houses to be heard. She listened to the evenly paced footsteps of the two. They arrived quicker than she could imagine and stood awkwardly at the front of her door.
"Thank you for walking me. I never did catch your name though," she trailed off, half struggling to keep the man in her sight from the rapidly darkening night.
"Sunsorrow. Aionn Sunsorrow. A pleasure to be of service, Miss..? Erm, now I really must take my leave. I need to return to my post. A good night to you, Miss," he called as he must of stepped far enough away that he doubted she could hear him.
"Estelle Ceras. Good night to you and may the light shine upon whatever you may do," she called back with a blessing at the end. Estelle stepped up to her door and with a wave of her hand and a twist of the knob, she let herself back into her building.
Darkness welcomed her home. She held out a hand to keep from running into inanimate objects. She guessed the girl whom shared the building with her had already retired to bed for the night. Estelle wandered until she saw the low spark of the grand fireplace to her right. Fumbling for two more logs of wood from the organized pile to her left, the house slowly brightened from the fire light. She held her hands out. As the flames started to consume the log fuel, her hands could feel the radiating heat. She had done this too many times to count when she was younger, and with her gaze locked on the enchanting, burning coals, she went back to her childhood.
They lived the in the mountains, the five of them. A small cabin nestled in a grove of surrounding trees. They had large, open fields of grass to meander and play their childhood games. A devoted patch of highly fertile soil was devoted to the family's garden. Leafy greens, vibrant oranges, and juicy red vegetables grew in the fall.
Yet now it was winter and a foot of snow lay newly fallen on the cold earth. The sun had fell and nighttime arose. The three children had scrambled into the cozy house just moments before, greeting their busy mother with a hug from each. The woman was tall and gentle with long locks of pure blonde hair as soft as a satin ribbon. She wore an apron over a casual dress and smelled of chef hard at fragrance of warming soup and freshly baked bread wafted through and filled the cabin.
Estelle stood in the small cabin and in front of the warming fireplace with her palms facing out. She was young then, and her older brother stood to her side warming his hands as well. Her sister, older than her but younger than her brother, took a seat in a distant chair, eyeing the two with her normal scowl of a look. Her hair was a twisted blonde mess of curls and her much too pale skin was bright red from the cold outside winds.
Estelle turned around from the fire with a smile normally worn. A man rested comfortably on the cushioned loveseat. He propped up one knee to rest the book his eyes scrolled eagerly across on. His eyes were the lightest of colors, but held the strongest warmth she could remember. He shared her inky black hair, yet his fell in waves and scuffed across his ears. His eyes met her own and when they did, he folded down the propped up leg and held his arms open invitingly. Estelle crawled up and rested her childish form tightly against his chest. She could hear the beat of his heart through the dark green sweater he wore. He continued reading, some aloud and some silent, yet his voice ,and the smell of candied mints in his left pocket, is what inevitably drifted her off to sleep. It was one of the happiest memories she could remember.
In a moment, the memory was gone. With a sigh and newly warmed hands, she turned and sank into a cushioned chair that rested beside the fire. With an elbow rested on the arm of the chair, Estelle set her chin into her palm before exhaling another deep breath. Her eyes danced along the small room where she sat. The walls were painted a deep and earthy green with matching colored furniture to follow. A window rested before her on the opposite wall, the curtains draping fully over the panes.
Estelle bent down to untie her right boot when a small breath of wind rose the hair on the back of her neck. She sat upright. Slowly, her head swiveled but found nothing behind her but the decorative painting hanging on the wall. She returned to her task and kicked off her boots, setting them to the side of her chair. Her toes wrapped around the fringed edges of the rug as she sank back into the soft cushions.
She could still feel the fire blow lightly across her form. Until she found this heat unwanted, she rested with her eyes closed. Yet eventually, the heat was unwanted and when that became the case, she rose and retrieved her boots. Quietly she made her way through a small archway opening and took an immediate left down a short corridor and to a closed door. Eastell softly shut the door. Her palms rose from hanging near her sides. Slowly, magical light flickered to life against her palms. The light tingled and emitted a faint heat in her hands. The soft and luminous glow bounced off the light colored walls that were her rooms.
Walking a few feet from the door, she neared a perched candle, that had melted and was stained with the hardened drips of wav from its last fire flickering. She put the wick between her thumb and forefinger, letting the holy glow of magic spark the diminishing wick to life. The candle sa upon an old wooden night stand. The dark wood was solid and within it held pieces of her clothes and linens. Diagonally to this small stand was a larger chest in which a small stool sat before it. With grace in every step, she moved to light a larger, red waxed candle which rested upon such.
With both candles now lit, the room was clearly visible. Her heated palms fell back to her sides, the holy fire emitted before to wane before she was left with only warmed hands. The walls which made up her room were a pale peach in color and softly lit by the surrounding candles. Upon her single bed, cream stitched blankets were neatly made and folded. The wind rattled noisily on the closed window panes that were shielded by flourished drapes before the room fell into a still silence. She stood in the center of the small enclosure and slipped her lean form out of the heavy silken robes. She held up the perfectly stitched clothing as she eyed the rims of faint silver and pale blue cloth in corresponding patterns.
After folding and stowing away the outer layer, and most decorative, robe, she was left in a thin linen dress. By the time she was finished, the linen dress, thin pants, and a nearly translucent shirt had been another soft dress clinging to her small form, she laid under the thick cream comforter which covered her bed. Her eyes shut, thoughts slipping away from her mind as a fury of dreams took their place.
His gaze flitted over his shoulder and back to her. He saw as she spoke quietly with the patrolling guards who stood on duty that night. They protected that small town from whatever harm was outside of its safe walls; and for that, he had confidence in trusting them with his sister. He wondered what had made her decision so final in the past summer months. He had offered to house her and her minimal number of belongings at his small cabin lodged in the woods. He thought she would accept this offer greedily or even acknowledge his kind offer, yet her mind was already set. For some reason, unbeknownst to him, she had chosen this town to live her life away in.
He eyes watched her distancing form before he gazed before him once more to the road lying ahead. His child clung tightly to his own larger palm. The fallen sun had left very few tendrils of light to help guide the two along the cobblestone road. His eyes searched eagerly as they strained to clearly see the path. They had tied up their horse, an old steed name Thunder Biscuit, to a tree not far from where his sister told them to meet, yet now that light had faded and the trees looked more menacing than ever, the short distance seemed prolonged.
"Papa?" the little girl said suddenly. Her voice sang out into the quiet air and was held there perhaps a moment too long. His look had fallen onto her visage. In the dark he could not see her child like features, but her framing golden curls and the shape of her pale green eyes. She had a startling resemblance to her mother in this amount of light, and he struggled to clear the lump of emotion that swelled within his throat at the thought.
"Yes?" He quickly retorted, yet his voice wavered in the making. The girl looked away and with it took the vision he had of his deceased wife.
"Are we almost there, Papa?" she pondered, shifting around anxiously as they walked. He knew she would become restless, but not this soon in.
"I believe we are. Just a little farther," he added. His eyes tried to scan the forest that laid before them. He could just make out the form of his tall steed eating the lush grass that sat under the large tree it shaded. "Right there," he said with a bit too much relief in his voice.
As they neared, complete and utter darkness fell around them. Once they had paused near the old horse, Etharion shrugged the heavy pack from his shoulder. He bent down to his knees, rifling through the miscellaneous items which were stored within. Emmy continued to roll the pebble she had found earlier in her palm. She held the pebble up to the faintly glowing planet that sat in the sky looming over the two.
"Papa, this pebble is a perfect circle," she whispered, the nocturnal creatures of the night beginning to start their own chorus of music. The man pulled out a candle with the holder attached. He also held it up to the light of the planet, checking the height of the shaped wax.
"It means that pebble is a lucky one. You should keep it and make a wish," he whispered back as he pulled out a small box of matches. With a flick of his wrist, the match flickered to life and lit the short wick of the candle. He held it up, eyeing the shaded area around them before sliding the pack over his shoulder once more. "Alright. It will be awhile until we get home, so let's get hurrying."
His free arm slid around the girls waist and he lifted her light form into the well worn saddle on the horse. She slid forward, making room as the man mounted the horse and sat behind her. Putting the same arm around her waist, he tugged for the free reigns, recently untied, and set the horse off in a slow walk down the dark road.
The candle light gave him enough leeway to see the road, but the sky was particularly dark at this time of night. The girl leaned her form against his chest, becoming comfortable in his embrace.
"Do you want to know what I wished for, Papa?" She asked quietly, her eyelids shutting lazily. He quirked an eyebrow upwards, curious as to what her childish mind had thought of.
"What did you wish for?"
She paused for a moment with uneasiness before answering in a meek voice. "I wished Momma would come back to us." His breath caught in his throat before heaving a lonesome sigh.
"I wish that every day," he whispered, but his daughter had already drifted into the land of dreams as she breathed heavily against him.
Luckily the road in which the two were following was a nearly linear. A straight ride, but a long one. He dug his heels into the horse's sides, urging the beast into a slow trot. The hardly luminous light given off from the burning candle casted shadows of their moving forms along the trees. The trees barricaded the road, one growing surprisingly close to another every so often. The few gaps in the trees housed a variety of misleading shapes in the darkness causing his eyes to scan this way and that.
He held the child close to him protectively while the soft sounds of animals lurking in the dense woods seemed to amplify as the hour passed. Time dragged on sluggishly as the two made their departure home, and with the time went the man's consciousness multiple times. His eyes were growing heavier and the battle for them to stay open was closing in to an almost final defeat. His head lolled off to the side in weariness, and the motion of his head falling was the only feeling keeping him awake.
With a final jolt, he tugged his head up and caused the fire held in his hands to waver and nearly flicker out. He shook his head, blinking rapidly to force himself awake for the light's sake. With impeccable timing, the small clearing in the trees was now visible. Two large trees, spaced a few feet apart from one another, held a worn down path through the woods. As the horse neared, he turned into the narrower lane. From here, he knew the ride was short and that was the only thing keeping him from dozing off once more.
A few long minutes passed before they reached the barely visible fork in the road. Steering the horse down the right most path, they reached a decent sized clearing with a cabin situated in the center. He slowed the horse to a walk. Before the two could reach their cabin, a gate stood in their path. Once stopped, the man slid down from his horse with a groan, shaking out his legs for a moment. Pulling the horse by the reigns, he opened the gate and walked into the yard-like area.
A pile of chopped wood was stacked neatly near the cabin for the new winter months to come. The planet above shone down on the cabin with such ease and beauty, a smile came to his lips as he remembered how the cabin came to be.
They had been riding for hours. At first their chatter filled the air, but now silence had taken its place between the two. Nothing had happened for the duration of their ride. Down the road lined with trees. His confidence in her information was waning as the ride progressed. Yet, in a sudden moment, she piped up and broke the looming silence.
"Oh! It is right here. Take a left," she sung, glad to have finally arrived. His own hope blossomed as they rode down the narrow path in single file. The moments it took them to arrive felt short from their eagerly awaiting selves. Nearing the fork in the road, she called out again.
"The one to the right. There is another house to the left. They were the ones who put up the flier. They own this place, and said it was a good amount of land for such a low price," she explained as they walked their horses into the clearing.
Lush green grass welcomed them. A good sized pasture, as the flier had mentioned. Enough for just a cabin the two of them needed. Large and growing trees gave privacy to the area, but added the perfect touch of nature the two had once hoped for.
They dismounted quickly, rushing forward and frolicking in the soft grass. She laughed so hard it turned to tears. Tears of happiness when the two came close. They stood in the center, his arms around her waist and her delicate hands cupping his cheeks. Her eyes were locked in his, sharing this eternal moment with the gaze of hope he would never forget. Their lips touched, and the taste of peppermint candy was shared between the two, forever connecting their love.
He could feel her lips, soft as petals, when he came back to the dark and dreary night. His hands dropped the reins automatically. He reached up to tug the sleeping child down from the saddle and into his arms. With her head resting on his shoulder, he carried the little girl inside of the cabin as he left the horse to graze for the time being.
Stepping into the cabin, he held out the almost diminished candle in front of him as he made his way through the small living area. The fire in the fireplace he lit before he left had burned down to nothing, and inside the house the air was cool. He stepped carefully, taking a sharp right and down a long corridor to the end of the hall. Two doors faced each other and he picked the left one to open with some difficulty.
The room he entered was small so the light from the candle in his hand filled the space evenly and led him straight to the bed in the far corner. He set the candle on the small night stand beside the child's bed before laying his daughter under the thick, hand-made blankets and pulling them snug around her. She rested peacefully, her hair in tangled curls. He stroked down an untamed curl before place a gentle kiss upon her forehead. She mumbled incoherently before twisting comfortably in her bed and drifting back off to the land her dreams were made of.
He grabbed the flickering candle from the night stand, holding it out as he left her room quietly. After shutting her door with as much silence as possible, he returned to his saddled steed outside. There, he unbuckled and removed the worn saddle and reins to allow the horse freedom of the clearing. Yet the horse remained in place as it simply ate the grass before it.
He had difficulties with the heavy saddle on just one arm, so he quickened his pace and made his way inside. Once there, he put the saddle onto the table that stood near the door for that purpose entirely. His eyes scanned his small home, eyeing the fire which had died out some hours ago. With a faint shiver, the man walked over and place took three cut logs and placed them into the pit. He got to his knees, dipping the candle to the wood while blowing a stream of air onto the fuel.
It took minutes, but at last the fire caught hold of the free wood and began to consume it's gift. The man stood, hoping the fire would at last create some heat for the chilly house. With a sigh and a wave of tiredness overcoming him, he trudged back into his own room, the opposite space from his daughter's, and sank into his inviting bed with his hand-stitched quilt.
Estelle awoke early the next morning with excitement coursing through her veins. She laid in her warm cocoon of blankets hesitantly before throwing back the quilt and sliding out of bed. Her bare feet seemed to never touch the ground as she stepped over to her wardrobe. She gently opened the doors to the piece of furniture, peering within.
They had all been given a color of robe they were told to wear at the training grounds. The colors represented what leaders felt the priestess's were most suited for. Luckily for her, she got her favorite color. A light lavender stitched robe with cream tensile and lining piped around the edges. Compared to the other colors the high priests gave out, she thought hers was the classiest.
With care she pulled out the fine robe, and slipped it on over what she was already wearing. Layers were her friend, they taught her. Exposure was to be frowned on. Though she already followed the same mentality, knowing others were with her whom believed in the same idea comforted her greatly.
As she touched the fabric with a proud smile, her mind slipped back into the thoughts of her as a girl and the countless times her peers would mock and tease her about how many layers of clothing she wore. They taunted her to remove one layer many times, yet she held true to what she felt was right. The reward came when the rules of priesthood were shown to her.
She shook her head, washing away the few bad memories that had made themselves prominent in her mind. She relished on the fact that this day was the first. First of her actual priestess duties, and her yearn for this could not have been any higher. Years and years of diligent training had come to this: the day she would begin in her rightful place as a priestess.
Estelle gently smoothed out her robe with her palms before exiting her small room and entering into the main social quarters of the house. There she found her roommate. The woman sat, half sunken into the lush cushions of the chair. Her head popped around the edge, a bright smile on her face when she heard Estelle walked in.
"Estelle! Oh, I did not hear you come in last night. I had some vegetable soup sitting on the counter for your supper! Finally I can make more than just one serving of food," she laughed to herself, standing and smoothing out her robe as she walked closer. The brilliant blue robe she wore offsetted the startling mess of red hair that was toppled into a bun at the top of her head.
Estelle almost blushed, caught off gaurd with this statement. Her voice stuttered as she responded. "Oh. I am so sorry, Aline, I did not know. It will get eaten soon, I am positive." Aline gave a sympathetic smile before she bounced over to Estelle and brushed her hair out of the girl's eyes.
"Oh, do not worry. It's alright! Are you ready to go? It's nearly time! Oh, you will -love- the other girls. They are so excited you arrived!" Aline said enthusiastically. Her bubbliness made Estelle smile and clear a sliver of doubt she had about the other priests.
"I am ready, yes. Let us go before we are late," Estelle tried to keep her excitement under control, but within her she could hardly walk a straight line. Donning their boots and outer coats, the two made their way out the door and onto the sidewalk quickly.
Estelle gazed out at the emerging city. People came from within their houses. Some strolled lazily with a variety of items in their grasp while a woman dressed in a simple brown dress held the hand of her quiet child. Estelle stretched out her arms as they turned to the right and began to walk down the street. Aline kept up a constant chatter the entire way, only adding to the loll of speech which hovered over the awakening town.
"And down this road," Aline mentioned as they passed a fairly dark row. The trees that grew on either side of the path had curled in with age and shaded the area from the overhead sun. "Is a street most people don't walk when they're alone. Trust me on this," Aline added as they hurriedly shuffled past and to the next street over. Estelle nodded, but knew she had no intention of ever going down such a street in the first place.
The temple where the priest's met was usually one of the largest buildings in the town. She had seen the elegant peaks of the building from her afternoon chat with Etharion, but as they approached, the temple was larger than she imagined. The two stood out in front of the steps to gaze at the view in front of them. Quickly, they took the steps and came to the massive double doors. Aline ran ahead, the bun on her head bouncing all the way, as she held the door open for Estelle with an almost giddy smile.
"Go on in," she assured Estelle. Estelle shimmied past the woman, stepping inside the surprisingly bright temple. Large panes of glass lined the far wall, and the sun shone in brightly upon the gathering of people. The gathering of people held a constant chatter. Everyone wore the colorful robes, and Estelle could just make out a small number of priests with her matching robe color.
Estelle stood hesitantly for a moment. Aline returned to her place by her friend's side. "In just a moment they will call for the colors to group up. Procedure when a new priest arrives," she whispered, walking forward into the group with Estelle on her heels. Long white draping fabric hung from the rafters, and added a simple, but elegant touch to the dull-painted gray walls. Her breath caught in her throat as they neared the surrounding people. Aline greeted on friendly, giving a hug and chatting before she turned back to Estelle.
The woman that stood before her had ringlets of auburn curls that cascaded to her waist. Her skin was pale and her eyes a dark green. She wore a smile, and gave a polite courtesy to Estelle in greeting. Estelle returned the gesture, tilting her head to the side as the woman spoke.
"I am Zariane, but Zarie will suffice," she said in a musical tone. She wore an emerald colored robe, with the faintest of pure gold stitching. By this time, others had come to stand about Zarie and smiled at the newly arrived priestess. Estelle blushed slightly from the surrounding attention, and quietly gave them all her name before she got a serenade of names back to her.
After the names had stopped flooding Estelle's mind, a woman came to stand on a tall podium, and heads simultaneously swiveled to her direction. The woman that stood wore pure white robes, and was clearly a higher ranking priestess than the rest. She spoke softly, yet her voice was always heard.
"My daughters and sons," she started. "We welcome new members into our home today. Let us treat them like family, and grow to live with one another. We, whom have been granted these extraordinary gifts from a higher power themself, have a duty to fulfil for our brethren. With our abilities in hand, the priest's have been healing and praying to those who may be less fortunate than us. May light fill the path you take and show you the destined way." Her speech was simple, yet Estelle could tell everyone understood what was to happen next.
Zariane had moved away with a small group of similarly colored clothed priest's, and Aline pointed to a far corner. "Over there. That is where the violet's are." Estelle followed her finger, eyes gazing upon the one other violet robed woman who stood in a far corner. Estelle walked slowly, fidgeting with the cuff of her robe as she neared the other woman.
The woman had her nose in a book, intently scanning the pages with such speed she hardly noticed the arrival of Estelle. Estelle stood in front of the woman, casting her eyes around her before she finally dipped her head down slightly. "I am Estelle Ceras," she quietly whispered.
The woman nearly lost her book from snapping her head up so swiftly. Her cheeks darkened with embarrassment. Pure blonde strands of hair were neither straight, nor curly, but rested in simple waves. Her eyes scanned Estelle over, watching as she continued her fidgeting before she ultimately closed her book. She was nearly half a head taller than Estelle, and her gaze was casted down upon the girl when she spoke in a soft voice.
"My name is Circe," her eyes dropped back to her book. "I did not hear you approach, my apologies." Estelle stepped to her side, turning to face the rest of the crowds in the vast temple room.
The groups of priest's had already taken shape, and in their multitude of colors, they chatted happily with one another. Many groups had close to four or six people standing around gawking at one another, while Estelle stood beside only Circe. The woman had reopened her book, deeming it fit that the conversation had ceased and it was appropriate to return to her book.
Estelle's gaze lingered on the woman beside her before it left and found the group of brightly colored blue-robed priests. Within it, she could see the fiery mess of red hair lopped up. Aline stood in the center, a hand on her stomach as she laughed heartily with her friends.
A small stool was hidden in the far corner the two lone priestess's stood. With a gentle sigh, Estelle turned and planted herself upon the small stool with her chin in her palm. Her temple was not as she expected. The training grounds had prepared her to work with a team of four and drilled into her the idea of teamwork. Now, with only one other person in her section, she felt as if the training she received slowly dissipated from her knowledge. With this came the thought of her brother. He had so kindly offered to house her, yet she knew she could not impose upon him and his daughter. She had chosen this town, and already she felt as if she would have rather stayed with him.
The day had progressed to get slowly better than she expected. Rules and regulations were lectured on. Purposes and prayers were recited. Training procedures were practiced, though the training grounds held true to their word that they indeed teached everything the priests would need know. She had met and greeted dozens of people that resembled her in character, and now, the two walked back silently from the temple to their shared house.
The streets had long been vacant, and very little light shown through the open windows of houses. The town seemed to ultimately shut down once the sun started setting, and now since the sun had dipped below the trees, silence wafted through the town two had made it back to their small building in record time, stepping through the doorway and into the chilly main area of their home. As they expected, the fire had died down to a very low spark. Aline stepped ahead of her, walking over and placing two logs into the fireplace for the spark to slowly grow.
Within the hour, the fire had sparked to life and warmed the house as the two ate at a circular table. The soup made by Aline had an unique flavor to the vegetables. As the soup was different than expected, so was the quiet but entertaining chatter between the two that dragged the night into late hours. With a smile, Estelle went to bed and wrapped herself in the warmth of her blankets and slipped into a restless sleep. Though unknown, the siblings shared the same dream that night.
It had been nighttime. A single, autumn night that would be forever marked in their history. They were young still, and the three children were together once more. Estelle sat with a doll in hand. A crudely stitched figure; her first attempt at making one herself. Esaelia sat near her. In her hand rested a well made doll finely crafted with care. She had the time to sit and stitch for days on end due to her debilitating and frequent illnesses. Etharion rested on the cushioned seat with a book in hands.
The night was calm like any other. Her father sat at his desk in his study, a scroll before him and a quill in hand. He wrote diligently with elegant penmanship. He wrote a letter, they found out later, to a colleague, promising a visit to town in the upcoming months. Her mother sat near the fire, bundled in thick robes with a cream towel in her hands and an embroidery needle in the other. The Ceras crest stitched in a shiny gold thread.
Estelle and her sister chatted calmly over their important storyline of the two dolls. It was one of the few times she could specifically remember them bonding. The girls broke out into laughter, over some event the dolls took part in, and the sound of knocking at the door was almost unheard. Their father rose suddenly and stared at the door which led into their home. For a minute, the family watched their father nervously. Tension filled the air and was only released when the knocking came again once more.
Their father put a finger to his lips as a signal for the family to stay silent. Their mother hurried over, scooping up Estelle and taking Esaelia's hand. Etharion followed the three, and when their mother whispered for them to get under the bed, they heard the door opening.
Their father's voice sung out a greeting, clearly trying to distill the fear that hung over the children. "Romulus! A pleasant surprise as ever. Quite late, do you not agree? Anything I can do for you and your friend?" he asked.
All the while, their mother had dropped down and gave them instructions to remain hidden. The children nodded anxiously as their mother stood, smoothed her robe, and walked out of the room casually.
"Darling," she called. "Who is - oh. Romulus, how nice to see you," she added as the voices then turned to hush whispering.
The children laid under the bed and were as silent as a mute. Etharion shifted his eyes over to Estelle, whom had tears streaking her face. She was scared and knew not how to stop the streams of emotion that fled from her eyes. He gave a gentle smile, an arm coming around her and squeezing her close while Esaelia laid under the stuffy bed trying to hold back a racking cough.
The voices in the other room had grown louder. Protests of words, and then begging from their mother. They knew nothing good could come from this night.
"Please! She is just a child," they heard their mother yell. "Take us for our sins and leave our children untouched," she pleaded. Estelle could just make out these words, and it took years for her childish brain to fully grasp what had been said that night.
The children cowered under the bed as the sounds of a scruff came about. They heard their mother scream their father's name before a loud thump came from the occupied room. Wails of protest haunted their memories from that night. Crying and screaming from their mother when at last, they had silenced her for good.
Footsteps, loud and heavy, walked along the wooden floorboards of their house. "Dispose of the bodies," a deep male voice boomed. The voice they heard that night would be forever etched in their minds.
The door creaked open, slowly and suspensefully. The children sucked in a breath, holding it inside as they cowered farther back under the bed. Perhaps he would never find them, they hoped. As the door opened silently came a pair of boots. Situated on the ground, the three terrified children had a perfect viewing of his footwear.
The loud footsteps had been caused by thickened leather boots. They had been dyed a dark navy hue and made by a professional. Intricate patterns were engraved through the first layer of leather. These patterns had a finely stitched gold rim that contrasted with such a dark color. Barely visible to the children was the tops of the low-cut boots: a soft animal fur lining. From there, the children's view was cut short from the draping fabric of the bed.
He paced around the already small area, searching around with a disgruntled sigh. He left the door wide open and it gave the children access to witness a female dragging off their father's bloodied body. Estelle's eyes widened in terror as the woman carelessly dragged the body of her father out the front door. Her mother laid close to where her father was being dragged. Her face was sadly turned to the children, and they could watch as the blood slowly dripped from the bashed in skull and pooled on the ground. They watched as the light slowly faded from their mother's beautiful green eyes for the final time.
The man stood for a brief moment before turning on his left heel and stalking out of the room and into the connecting living space. At that very moment, the racking cough Esaelia held back for the terror filled moments of silent made itself prominent. Though she tried her hardest not to cough loudly, the man spun around dropped to his knees.
They saw his angered face as he swiftly reached out to grab for a child. His eyes were a sharp and piercing green that held no kindness she could see. His face had scars and nicks in his tanned skin. Age had already treated him not so kindly, and he looked as if he had just begun to reach the age of full adulthood. His already thin lips were pulled taut as he reached a long arm for the children.
In all the fury of action, Esaelia had let out her held back coughs at full volume that hid the terror-filled screams as they all shrunk back away from the man. Estelle screamed loudly, cowering into her brother who was trying to back away from the grabbing arm. At last he caught hold of one child. The one he was aiming for.
Esaelia screamed loudly but was merely sent into a myriad of coughs as he yanked her out. Her feet and arms thrashed violently at the male figure, but when she was out he wrapped his arms around her own with her back against his chest to confine her. Etharion had hastily climbed out, screaming and beating his fists at the man.
"Put down my sister," he screeched, hitting the male harder with each blow. Estelle had followed him out from under the bed, and she joined in on the fist punching, yet she hardly managed to reach the man's waist.
The man disregarded the weak fists that hit against his arms and waist. They did little damage to the full leather armor he wore. The armor was the same color as his boots, and laced with the fine golden trim. It fit snuggly, and had many slash marks in the region of his shoulders. The slashes were likely from sharp blades, and some had the audacity to slice the entire way through the thick and well-worn armor.
He carried their sister out and into the family room. Estelle and Etharion followed the man. The fire burned low in the hearth, and the woman whom had been dragging the bodies brushed off her hands almost sarcastically as the man showed her his prize.
"I found the little half breed," he proclaimed with a snarl in his voice. "Look at her sickly form and the illnesses coursing through her veins. I knew they could never live long," he snapped, tightening his grip on Esaelia who in return let out a painful scream.
"Please, mister," begged Etharion as tears rolled constantly down his cheeks. He had paused and turned an off shade of green as he witnessed the still warm pools of blood. His bare feet had stepped into one on accident, and he quickly yanked his foot out with a loud sob of emotion. Now, he stared up at the man with his hands held together in a prayer-like position. "Do not kill her!" he screamed.
Estelle had hid behind her brother's larger form, clinging to the back of his shirt as she sniffled and sobbed with shared fear. She still clung to her doll in one arm, and peeked her eyes up to the menacing man whom loomed over the boy.
"No. They were warned not to create new lives with the laws in place, yet they did not follow suit. They said only one of their children had gotten the gift," he trailed off as his eyes started scrutinizingly at the boy. "Be lucky it was not you."
With that, the man spun on his heels and carried the squirming and screaming child away from them. Her screams grew louder as she gained distance from the two. The woman had been silent during his rant, and now she looked upon them with a crazed look. She mumbled, and hissed before screeching as she pointed at finger at the two.
"Leave the others, he said, leave the others," she yelled as her eyes dilated as she threw open her lids. "Never again! Never again!" Chanting the phrase over and over, she exited with a slam of the door.
The two children stood staring at the closed door. Through that door their sister had been taken. Tears that once flowed freely had dried swiftly in their state of confusion.
Etharion was the first to move. He opened the door slowly, then faster as he peeked his head out the opening. He ran out and stood in front of the silent yard. The sky had swallowed up the tall trees, and the moon hung so low in the sky it was not visible. Only the soft glow of faint light in the distant sky.
Out of the corner of his right eye he saw a brilliant orange spark in his gaze. He turned slowly with the fear of what he might see at the forefront of his mind. By this time Estelle stood on the doorstep with her doll hugged tightly to her chest.
To their right a fire burned brightly in the black void of sky. The flames licked up to taste the delicious air before consuming it. His eyes were enchanted by the burning and in the pit of the fire his gaze caught on a fluttering piece of fabric. The cloth was that of the same material his mother wore that night. The small piece was lifted through the air and he ran out to catch the soft cloth.
It was warm to the touch and the frayed edges were burnt with black ash. The material was that of a thin cloth, a faint blue in color. He looked up from the cloth and he stood so close to the fire he could feel the heat blow and drift along his childish form.
Estelle walked up to his side as the two stared down at the blackened bodies sprawled out in the fire. The smell was hideous yet it went hardly noticed by the children in mourning. They stood for a long while, knowing they were unable to do anything, yet felt the need to continue their locked gaze. The two ached for the three they lost the night and in that very moment; Etharion put his hand on Estelle's shoulder and turned her around.
She clung to him with all her might; the boy who was ten years older than herself. While in reality, he clung to her nearly, or if not more, than she clung to him. His gaze was set upon the house while the two embraced. The door remained open and the few rays of lasting light spilled out onto the grass ahead. He could see the pool of blood that would welcome them inside if they neared the entrance. He thought best that he walk inside and gather their belongings. She had seen enough, he thought to himself as his sister sniffled back the lasting tears.