This post is a response to the Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge #9. I’m trying to do my entries to the challenge as a series. As such this is the second part of a larger work of fiction. You can find the first part here. If you’re confused because it’s a Friday challenge and today’s not Friday, well… It doesn’t have to be posted on a Friday (that’s when the prompt goes up) and I was worried I would end up rushing these too much if I try to get them written and posted on Friday.
The prompt instructions for this week suggest aiming for 500 words, and require including a given sentence.
A wizened little man appeared beside Azael. She started. She’d been so absorbed that she hadn’t heard his approach. He bowed to her father.
“Ser,” his voice whistled through the gap where his front teeth should have been, “all is prepared. Shall we begin?”
Father grimaced but gave a tight nod. The man bowed again and shuffled forwards, drawing Azael’s attention back to the tree, and the bundle.
A soft mewling came from Father’s arms. Azael turned before she could stop herself. Father gently bounced the burden he was holding, humming to it under his breath. Azael frowned.
“Do not blame your brother.”
Azael glanced at Father. He was watching her intently even as he soothed the baby.
“Here we gather,” came the wheezing voice of the old man. Azael bit back a sigh of relief as Father’s focus moved away from her. “Beneath the gods’ ever present gaze, to return Maire’s physical form to the earth from which she came.” He tilted his head back. Azael thought it looked like an oversized walnut.
His arms lifted, stretching skywards like the branches around him. The man’s voice was surprisingly strong as he continued, seeming to almost sing the words he knew so well. “We humbly ask you to accept this offering, to acknowledge the return of the treasure you gifted us, and in return give safe passage to Maire’s soul as it travels to the beyond.”
Tears pricked at the corners of Azael’s eyes. She bought a shaking hand up to her mouth. Palm pressed against her lips Azael kept herself from shouting. She wanted to yell. To beg the man not to leave Mother in that deep, damp hole. To beg the gods to send Mother’s soul back. They could have the baby instead. She didn’t want him. She hated him. Azael just wanted her mother.
The tears gathered at the corners of her lips. She could taste salt. The whole world seemed to slide beneath her as the old man deftly lifted the bundle from beneath the tree. Azael’s mind swirled. She knew her mother was within that cloth, yet it did not seem as though it could be true.
Was that her mother’s voice? Azael’s head felt heavy.
Father was shaking her. Azael opened her eyes – she didn’t remember closing them – and blinked up at Father.
Up? She frowned as she realised she was lying on the ground.
“You fainted.” Father explained. Was that concern or frustration in his gaze?
“Never mind, never mind.” The wrinkled face of the old man entered Azael’s field of vision. “It’s to be expected. Grief, you know. Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.”
Azael’s frown deepened. “What?” Perhaps it was the fuzziness that still clouded her mind, but she could make neither head nor tail of his words.
The old man bent and patted her on the shoulder as she struggled to push herself up from the ground. “Time takes as all, eventually.” He turned and walked away.
Word count – 506
I’m not completely happy with how this turned out… Although I did find the sentence from the prompt surprisingly easy to slide in. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!