Here’s a snippet from the story I was working on. I’m still working on a fiction series to run, so I hope you enjoy this taste of Blood Filigree in the meantime. This is actually the first scene in the story. Someone told me it made a confusing, entirely-too-quick opening. Either way, the same person’s feedback made me realize I need to start this series with Silent Rain (which is at the top of the list for original blog serial). That story happens earlier in the ethkyri (what Caera and her people are) timeline and involves setting up the world so Blood Filigree can run with it as background to a more personal tale within. I realize there are also issues with the narrator sounding far older than a 7-year-old girl even though she’s an adult while relating the tale. I may edit it into third person later.
Blood Filigree I
The whisper in my ear woke me and grew more frantic when I whined and tried to roll over. That’s when the shaking started and I finally opened my eyes to see my mother’s face, entirely too close. Her hair looked grey and hung in disheveled strings, managing to escape the confines of her braid in their mad dash for freedom. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of urine and burned magic. Her wide eyes focused on the door and she stopped moving. I expected to see a monster there, but saw only a closed door and empty space.
When her eyes finally found me, they froze the clammy sweat to my skin. Insanity quavered in those dilated pools, crawling over my face and tickling my spine. She shoved a pack at me, lips thin and tight. It filled my arms and I stared at it until she yanked at my elbow, a finger pressed to her lips and pulled me along, stumbling. She barely allowed time for me to slip into my house shoes. I thought of my aunt and wondered if I should call out.
Instead, I let my mother lift me out of my window and around the back of Aunt Thera’s house. She moved like a terrified animal as we played the part of thieves in reverse. Nothing remained of her full smile and warm laugh. I missed that woman so much and I hated my father for taking her with him. Guilty, I tried not to remember his laugh, his arms hoisting me up, seeking nothing but happy smiles. Did I remember how to laugh? I felt far older than seven. So much vanished with father’s life.
“Kitty!” My feet planted and my mother nearly fell over from the sudden weight against her. I tried to turn around, that porcelain figurine was all I had left of him, but my mother clamped a hand over my mouth and hissed. She looked about wildly for signs of unwanted attention. Her grip tightened, but I didn’t struggle. We huddled in the dark together, breathing fast for long moments before she removed her hand and tapped my sack. I nodded. She nodded. She placed her finger to her lips once more before pulling me on behind her through the shadows and toward the wall.
When they thought me out of earshot, the family whispered of my mother’s illness, her inability to cope with father’s death, the shame and pity. I knew I should call out, but despite her frantic behavior that night, she returned to me. Scared as I was, I almost believed we were running away, back to our life before we lived here. We might even find father still alive, waiting for us out there. If I called out, they would take her away again and never let me see her. If I called out, the dream died again. A danger to herself and others…but she returned to me. I so badly wanted to run away to the time before father’s death.
The sound of a door sliding open was loud over the chirping crickets and my mother broke into a run, sprinting, a firm grip on my wrist, to the other side of Aunt Thera’s garden and for the small orchard in the back. She shoved me up into an apple tree where the twigs broke against my arms and cheek. She hushed my whimper of pain as she followed, urging me farther up the tree and to the wall around the family grounds.
Someone called out from across the garden and mother scooped me into her arms and jumped down from the wall. Her leg buckled under the landing and she grunted hard, sending us both rolling into the dirt. Protected from the bulk of the impact I tried to help her, but she already got to her feet and resumed her grip on my arm, dragging me into the woods several paces away from the walled up grounds, limping all the way.
Someone was shouting now in the distance and my mother responded with a strangled cry of denial. “Hurry, Caera!” She scooped me up again, running faster still, her limp vanishing.
“Lights, Mommy.” I pointed over her shoulder and she began crying. I rubbed her back and snuggled in with small hopes of providing comfort. It kept the fear away. We slid down the steep side of a hill and I heard the splashing of water before the cold shocked my bare legs. Mother changed direction, the choppy protest of ankle-deep water continued until she veered unexpectedly and shoved me up into a small, rocky crevice.
“Stay hidden!” She commanded. She brushed my cheek and I tried to embrace her again but she pushed me back, her face wet. She choked back tears. “Sneak away after you hear them pass, stay hidden, and never look back.”
I shook my head and reached for her again.
“Promise me!” She shoved me back and held me there until I nodded.
A distant commotion caused her to look away before she hurriedly arranged the reeds to cover the hole. Then I heard her splash off, continuing down the creek bed.
I shivered where she left me, my eyes stinging as I stared out through the reeds with watery vision. I knew then I lost my mother too. I buried my head and wanted nothing more than my parents, the family embrace we shared so frequently. I both loved and hated them and I found it impossible to understand.
My mother’s sharp cry resonated in the dark, a feral scream in the distance. Mother! I gripped myself harder and tried not to hear. I focused my eyes on my tattered, muddy dressing gown and tried to cover my ears with my arms. A boom echoed through the woods, shaking me to the core. The scream of pain that followed was too much. I scrambled out of the cubby hole, the rocks cutting into my knees. No! Please don’t take her too! Nearby branches caught a fistful of my hair, clutching painfully, but I slid down the muddy sides below, letting it keep a fistful of long, white tresses.
I stumbled into the creek, the cold shocking a gasp from me as I ran toward my mother’s scream. I heard the sounds of fighting, ever closer. Then I began to see shapes, my mother screaming and thrashing wildly like a trapped animal as a few larger shapes wrestled with her.
“Don’t hurt her!” I heard myself plead as I ran up.
My mother froze, the two men falling on top of her with the sudden lack of resistance. “Caera?” The note of panicked denial and pain in her voice made me remember my promise. “No…” She whispered, her head falling to the ground as my Aunt gasped my name with relief and tried to scoop me up.
I struggled against her to get to my mother. “Get off her! Get off her! No!” I bit down hard on my aunt’s arm and she only pulled me in and held me tighter, whispering in soothing tones to me.
My mother looked up again, but her attention was on my aunt. “Please…Thera. Don’t let them take her back. Please!” Tears ran clean paths down her dirt streaked face.
I looked up at my aunt to see the pity in her soft expression. “Ana…” Her voice drooped in tone. “You know I can’t—“
“Please!” My mother shouted, her jaw clenched. I tried hard to watch them all.
Aunt Thera looked away from both of us.
“Damn you Thera, let her go!”
“You’re frightening her.” Aunt Thera chided, petting my hair.
“She should be frightened! Let her go!” My mother’s sobs renewed, as did her struggles.
“Stop this. You should be grateful…”
My mother made choking sounds and my insides grew cold and quivery when I realized she was laughing. It grew somewhat hysterical and I tried to block it out by burrowing against my aunt and covering my ears. They were right, the whispers. Poor little Caera…lost her father and now her mother’s insane… The broken woman on the ground, laughing hysterically made my feet twitch with the urge to run away. I wanted so desperately to get away from that sound.
“Caera shouldn’t see you like this.” My aunt gathered me up and turned away. “Besides, she needs dry clothes and warmth before she gets sick.”
“Like what?! You don’t care, let her go!”
My aunt stopped and turned around, her jaw hard and lips pursed with disapproval. “I don’t care? Your husband is dead, Ana. I’m sorry for you, I really am.” I felt her hand slide over my ear, holding my head to her like she wanted to protect me from hearing. “But, in case you haven’t noticed, your daughter is still alive and she needs you. You not this mass of madness and self-pity you’ve become. Selfish! I sincerely hope you get yourself together. Caera needs her mother.”
From the edge of the cloak I peeked out to see my mother dragged unresisting to her feet. Her eyes found mine and pinned me. “Remember your promise. ” She hung her head and followed without resistance.
My aunt turned away then and we all headed back through the woods toward the walled up grounds. They took my mother away to her little house, my aunt parting ways to wash me up and put me in warm dry clothes. I went through the motions as I worked over the events. I felt devoid of emotion as my aunt tucked me back in and smoothed my hair. She sung a small lullaby that I hardly heard.
I turned my head toward the night stand to see the marble figurine of a mottled black cat. It danced in my vision in a mix of heat and pain. She never put Kitty in the sack. I closed my eyes and let the tears soak my pillow, barely aware of my aunt curled up next to me, still singing as she ran her fingers through the hair at my temple.