The Queen of Golden Light
The little princess smoothed the wrinkles on her innocent, pink dress, chubby fingers lingering on the bodice as she caught her own vibrant eyes in the mirror. Anxiously, she searched the image for something strong, but was greeted only by a face round with youth. A harsh knock on the door broke her out of her temporary trance, but the girl stood content to let the person wait outside for a moment. Her neck jerked towards the door as it opened with a creak, an undeniable sign of its age, and an ancient, yet familiar woman hobbled in. Uninvited. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was a scratchy whisper, unintelligible to the girl’s innocent ears. The princess leaned closer to hear the woman’s request, edging away from the serenity of the mirrors. As a golden tendril of her hair slipped, partially obstructing her view, she noticed a movement on the servant’s face. Not the usual twitch of a smile or frown; it was as if invisible fingers had grasped the flesh and tugged towards the floor. The whispers grew louder, thrumming over the princess’s skin until they were a scream in her ears. That feeble-figured woman seemed to melt, flesh twisting and bending over jagged bones unnoticable before. The moans echoed in the empty air until they became the deep guttural shrieks only a demon could form. The woman, now a gangly figure, stood, torn and broken, towering over the girl, drowning her screams in the monster’s sudden silence. Something sharp and metallic poked through the chaotic thoughts of the girl’s mind and almost immediately a quiet darkness descended. Then it spoke, words of a new language, unheard of to the girl, but she understood. It hissed and crawled through her mind melting over what was left of her consciousness. It almost sounded like a song, a twisted lullaby from the worn throat of an ancient being.
“Sleep, princess. Sleep.” And darkness swallowed her whole.
Her eyes opened, darkness greeting her gaze. Not the darkness of death, but the familiar, soothing darkness of poor living conditions and crowded rooms. The girl struggled to maintain a steady breath as she inched down from her cot. She padded across the room and into the cool night, thankful she was silent in her terror. The stone wall of their cottage was cool against her back as she leaned against her home. Her hand suddenly jerked to touch her long muddy brown hair and she ached for a mirror, some reflection to show that her eyes were the deep murky emerald they had been since her childhood. She rushed to slow her breath, shuddering as she returned to the empty room. Except it wasn’t empty, it was filled with death’s heavy breath, coughs echoing like the royal chorus. Or was it the cold empty darkness that the little princess huddled away from daily, her hair smothered in mud, eyes darkening to a rich emerald that looked almost black. Black, like the eyes of her captors, soulless beings that haunted her dreams, or more accurately, her nightmares. She almost looked familiar. Shuddering against the dark and the mental image that tore blindly through it, Meredan gasped with recognition. But just in the way it came, that fleeting moment of realization dissolved into the murky sky. The sun fought to edge over the horizon, breaking through her tattered curtains. So, as the world awoke once more, the girl joined it. And Meredan Hagarhue began another dark, sleepless day.
The muscles in his arms screamed in anguish as the boy pulled himself further up the tree’s branches. Every inch of him begged relief, calling a name long forgotten in a time of war, but he pushed further, reminding those calls of exactly why they were futile, crying out over the desolation. He made it to his vantage point, breath labored. Checking the intricate weaving of wood and vegetation, salvaged from the ruins an hour back, he grinned mirthlessly.
As he slid the mask over his face, he peered through the foggy glass. Outside, the world continued on with an eerie stillness, but within his new facade, the boy felt hope. He was the vengeance of a homeland, the fury of a country, and he was coming home.