She woke days later to a heavy heart. Injustice, betrayal, death, and hatred all pooled together in the center of her chest.
Doubt and worry plagued her mind. How could Doc have so much faith in the gods when they have done this to them all? Doomed them to this fate. Too often, she had prayed to them when she was younger. Take back their gift, give her life so normal as the rest. Every time it went unanswered. A vacant answer from absent gods.
She hadn't asked for a purpose. Didn't want to be blessed. She was no nymph nor fae. She was human and human was what she wanted to be. Even as Doc's kind words replayed in her head, she frowned.
Her gift had ripped her family apart. A secret her whole village had shared and one betrayed. Once she had believed that good people existed and that that last move would be the last. That her family would have a safe home in the Ether Mountains.
Today, she had little conviction that people had any interest beyond their own. For so many had put their own life before others. Her only consolation, the only fact working against her, was Doc.
Rising from her cot, she reached for Stargazer. Staring at its fragile frame, she touched the petals. At her touch, the flower grew. Blooming until it stood valiantly once again. Instantly, she recognized Doc's magic. He had a way with plants. With people and words for that matter, too.
Daylight trickled in and she heard the banging of metal claim the halls. She waited, listening to the scraping of plates on the floor. Breakfast.
Aedon appeared at her door. "Sleep well?"
For a moment she thought she heard genuine concern. Then cast it aside when he sneered.
"Only because you weren't there."
Jerking the door open, he tossed her food inside. Uncertain, she looked back at him. "What is this?"
"You're going to need your strength." He disappeared quickly down the hall before she could say anything.
A bowl of broth, three half-burnt rolls, and half a jar of jam. The cup of water was filled with water.
Full rations and clean water, she considered. What were they planning that she'd need her strength for?
She ate every last piece and mulled over every possibility her mind could fathom.
When she'd finished, she sat atop the same old musty cot that was there when she arrived with the Stargazer laying crippled in her lap. It looked vastly different than just days before. Its wilting body bowed sadly. Its petals folded and ripped. She had clutched it too tight, so much so her hand had cramped in rebellion.
The damage is done, she thought. She rolled the stem gently between her fingers, twirling it as it hung limply. Alone, she felt the subtle energy still clinging to the flower. Its hum mixed with the only other living things in the cell, her and the moss that grew on her wall. Leaning against the cold wall, she laid the flower aside and stared into the darkness.
The walls were rusted and grey, the cell door the same. Metal bars fit into its frame, locking her inside. Sunlight filtered in from the small thin window caressing the space where the wall met the ceiling across the hall. Stale yellow, it glowed dimly. The floor had never been washed nor the walls ever tended to. Allowing for her moss to grow unhindered.
Not unlike the moss growing outside Doc's home, hers spread from floor to ceiling and had nearly expanded wall to wall. It was the only thing that had changed since she arrived. It hadn't existed at first. But the longer she stayed, the larger it became. And it still grew, even as she had been absent.
She listened to it, taking comfort in its presence, in the hum of life. It sang to her. Sometimes, she swore she heard a voice come from its mass. Sometimes in the voice of her parents, of Doc. Sometimes in a voice unfamiliar to her, yet still it comforted her.
Crossing to it, she spread her fingers inside its flesh. Green, soft, wet. Sometimes, she let herself dream of magic far beyond her reach. The kind that used to open portals to other worlds. The kind that could take her far from here. Magic from stories her parents had told her before bed. She remembered drifting off into their worlds of elves, dwarves, and fae. Where magic was free and treasured and prisons reserved only for the cruelest of creatures.
Her favorite, she recalled, was the one her father told her after she'd awaken distraught from a nightmare. He would tuck her back into bed like mother tucked budding plants into the earth and lay next to her.
"Maleah," he'd begin, "Here is a tale to calm your dreams. A story of adventure and wonder and peace. There once were the Gods of Eight. Our saviors, protectors, leaders. In their absence, a great and terrible King with magic beyond the likes seen in any human rose to power. Under his rule, all born blessed were condemned to horrible fates. Turned to slaves, imprisoned, or worse."
"Father, you have told this one before. It is not happy."
"Patience, little star." He winked and drew a tender finger along her nose. "As rebellions rose across the lands, it is said that three blessed with great power banded together and forged alliances between Fae and humans. Together, they lead hundreds of refugees running from Kings Men south. As far south as the land would take them until it fell to the sea. It is there they created a sanctuary.
"A home where all blessed, human, fae, and creature were safe and welcome. Far from the war, peace aroused. Celebrations lasted for days with balls and campfire dances. Warm beds, good food, and safety of mind grew wildly here. Magic twisted the lands, creating more room and comfort for all who came seeking refuge. Forests of majestic beauty, a castle for splendor, mountains, and mines for resources. Life returned to normal for those protected behind the barrier that separates our world from theirs.
"Can we go there?" she had pouted.
Her fathers' eyes saddened, his bark brown eyes lowered. "It is only a story, star." He pulled her closer. "But you are safe, here. I promise you that."
Tears swelled her eyes in her cell. Pain and heartache clenched her chest. Where was her father now? Had he lived? Did he know where she was? Had he searched for her?
If only that sanctuary existed. If only magic could break through this wall and take her there. What she wouldn't give to be there. Laying her head against the moss, she cried softly. From the pressure of her head, the moss wept with her.
A gentle wind caressed her cheeks. Wiping her face, she looked through clouded eyes at the wall. She heard music, laughter, drums. Real drums. Surely she was imagining it, stuck inside the story her father told her.
The moss sighed again. Its short grass shaking. Her mind was playing a trick. A sick trick. It wasn't unheard of that people went crazy in isolation. Spending days upon days alone with nothing but yourself stirs the insanity inside.
Yet, somewhere in her mind, she knew that was not her case. Four years, four winters and she had kept her wits and strength. It was not insanity that kept her company all this time, but her sanity.
Besides the music . . . the music. Wasn't it a lovely song? Enticing, inviting. Stepping forward, she pressed a hesitant hand into the moss and watched it disappear.
Her heart stopped, breath caught. Shakily, she released it and retrieved her hand. Examining the unscathed skin, she let out an unbelieving laugh. Dirt fell to the ground at her feet.
She was crazy, she decided. So crazy, she had to see what on the other side. Swallowing fear, she began to step into the moss.
A cell door slammed down the hall, its echo jolted her three steps back. Slinking into the darkest shadows of her cell, she pressed herself against the wall. A fire illuminated the hall and moments later a pair of guards escorted an orange-haired prisoner down the hall. She heard their feet catching on the floor as they walked away.
Maleah dropped to the floor, curled her knees into her chest. Tucking her head atop them, she breathed. Drawing in ragged breaths. Her body ached with sudden fatigue and she couldn't think clearly.
Crawling to her cot, she twisted herself into a ball and laid there. Begging for her sanity back, she let sleep carry her off into dreams of stories in lands far away.
About the Creator
From crafting second-world fantasies to scheming crime novels to novice poetry; magic, mystery, music. I've dreamed of it all.
Now all I want to do is write it.
My IG: https://www.instagram.com/iamtiffanieharvey/