Azura The Key
Chapter Four: Second Time is a Charm
The village woke up late; they had slept through it all. It was like time had stopped, the air felt stale and tensed. The entire village was quiet, too quiet; not even the sounds of the birds could be heard just absolute silence.
At first, they thought that maybe a strange band of robbers had come to wreck the entire village but things were not adding up. Yes, the cages were broken but what about the dogs? Why did they not raise an alarm? Why were there no human footprints? Just foot prints of animals, suggesting what looked like an animal frenzy. Something was definitely wrong and whatever had happened last night was beyond normal. The scene at the village square was even more unsettling than the broken cages and pens; about more than 6 dozen livestock inclusive of dogs too laid there dead and scattered all around, like the way someone would sprinkle salt over their meal. What made the entire scene even more unsettling was the fact that all the animals looked like they had frothed at the mouth before dying.
The people needed answers and they wanted it now.
The chief priest jerked up from his mat, almost like something had attacked him in his sleep. As he sat on his mat trying to get his bearings, he realised something felt off today. He was pushed out of his musing by the sound of angry fists pounding on his door to which he opened only to see the frightened faces of the villagers.
”What is the matter that the entire village has gathered before my hut in a such a manner and holding such deary expressions? ” he asked.
”We should be asking you! ” The villagers screamed back before calming down and narrating the story, stating all that they had observed that morning upon waking up. He could not believe his ears.
With his ears ringing from what the villagers has just said, he ran to where he had kept his livestock and upon arriving there; he was struck dumfounded, it was empty. It felt like his heart was in his mouth and he could not breathe. So, he put a hand to his chest trying to ease the growing pain and tightness forming there; he had a hard time processing what was going on.
He needed to meet up with the diviner and together they would consult the gods, for only them had the answers that the villagers so desperately wanted and craved.
He went back to the entrance of his hut and addressed the crowd; urging them to return home and be calm, that the matter would be cleared up and a solution be available before night fall.
The crowd dispersed almost immediately after that, although mumbling amongst themselves; they might be scared but they had complete trust in both the chief priest and diviner.
Once the crowd was gone, the chief priest picked up his satchel and headed off to the diviners hut at the edge of the village.
Upon reaching the hut he called out to her and received no response; too impatient to wait outside, he stepped over the threshold and into the hut. Upon entering the hut, his feet felt like someone glued them to the floor and he hoped that what he was looking at was nothing but a fever dream. The diviners hut was littered with the remnants of what looked like a ritual: an abnormal one, he realised upon closer inspection once the initial shock finally wore off.
The burnt chalk lines on the floor did not look like a normal ritual, the effigies close by were all split in the middle and, if that was not suspicious enough, the diviner who hardly ever left her hut was nowhere to be found; the hut looked abandoned in a haste, there were leaves in a mortar still in the process of being turned into a paste. The diviner was not one to leave things halfway, the world could be burning but she would not get up from a spot until she was done with whatever task she was doing. Neither would she start something be it a ritual or medicinal paste without making sure that all the needed items were present and within arms reach; so, the idea of her leaving hastily to quickly rush out into the surrounding bushes to get ingredients was out of question.
The truth of the matter was that the diviner most definitely had something to do with the strange occurrence in the village as well as the disappearance of the other livestock that the villagers were unable to account for. She most likely knew it was only a matter of time before the villagers realized what had happened and traced it back to her. So, in the dark of the night; she must have fled and probably taking with her cloth bundles filled with the bare essentials for her. She had most likely fled to the now deserted forest and made a home deep within the forest by now; that was if the animals there had not devoured her first. Upon closer inspection he realized that the markings in the circle looked oddly familiar but he could not place his finger on what they were supposed to be.
The moment the chief priest left her hut, he hurriedhome and consulted the gods; he had suspicions but he needed confirmation, for he could not speak against the diviner without proper proof lest he incur the wrath of the gods upon himself.
Before nightfall as promised, the villagers got their answers but it was something that none of them could have ever imagined even during a terrible fever dream.After the chief priest related his findings to the people, a crowd of enraged villagers stormed the diviners hut and burned it to the ground in hopes of cleansing the land but their actions were akin to trying to fill a basket with water. The diviner had defiled the land with her ambition. Only the blood of the abomination she had created could cleanse the land and appease the gods.
My mother taught me useful life skills. She thought me how to cook, clean and kill.
My mother said that I came into this world kicking and screaming; like I knew I was destined to be a warrior.
I started walking three months after my birth; she said I was too proud to go on my knees and crawl. I never cried for food or attention; I simply took it.
I had my swords long before they were my height and long after I towered over them. I have had my daggers since I was nine months old but I looked like a three-year-old. Due to my none human father. Every three month was a year to me but after my fifth year in this world, I stopped aging.
When I turned three, my mother and I got into a routine; by sunrise she would cook, I would help clean and after breakfast, I would train till my arms felt like jelly.
When I turned six, I started earning my meals; my performance during each training session determined whether I ate or not. Although, on some days she was nice enough to leave leftovers for me even when I did meet expectations but those days were extremely rare.
We were always on the run; so, I learnt how to pack light and walk even lighter. We never spent the night in the same place twice; forever on the run, bound to always be looking over our shoulders.
I am almost tempted to take Membes idea and go back to my village. It feels weird calling it my village, I was not born neither have I lived there nor stepped foot on it in all my almost 7 years of cursed existence.
My mothers village yes but my village no; the forest is my home. I was born in the forest, raised there and experienced all my important life milestones in the forest; it was in the same forest I lost the only human I trust. If Membe could hear me right now then he would be throwing an overdramatic fit over the fact that I do not trust him completely, even after all we have been through together. It cannot be helped or changed.
I pause underneath a shady tree, pick up a grain of sand and whisper his name three times before tossing the grain of sand to the ground then proceed to stomp on itrepeatedly.
”You do realize that you do not have to stomp on the grain of sand, right? ” he said while appearing before my eyes from nothing.
”Do you know that you could actually take a bath and not die, just felt like I should point that out since we are stating the obvious. ” I say while taking out my daggers to sharpen them; I can hear my mothers voice echoing in my head.
Lesson three: always keep a sharp mind and an even sharper blade.
”Was this call to let me know that you are finally going back to your village? ”
”What you said implies that I once lived there and then decided to leave. You make it sound like there is someone waiting for me that misses me; there are people who are awaiting my return but it is only to present my head on a platter to the gods as a peace offering. ” I say while twirling my freshly sharpened daggers and catching the sight of something interesting in the bushes behind him.
Before Membe could respond with another one of his monologs, I throw one of my daggers at his head. Membe disappears into mist out of fright and shock.
I hit my mark on the hooded figures shoulder.
”You are getting sloppy half breed ” the figure replies still keeping the hood over his head. That voice sounds oddly familiar and why is everyone in this region referring to me as a half breed; they seriously lack creativity.
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