14 – Cacophony of Crows

Cover-RM

I guess I just can’t stay away from this story. Here’s 1000 more words utilizing prompts from Inspiration Monday, #WOW555, The Writing Reader, and Word-A-Week. I think I may get a chance to write some more of this over the weekend.

* * *

“Die with me, Asis.” The words repeated over and over, the voice morphing and overlapping until it was just noise. The noise she could block out, but the torrent of emotion attached to those three words were too much for Asis to bear. Tears streamed, displacing grime on her cheeks. Her body shuddered, and Asis flinched against pain that did not come.

She opened her eyes, and stared to where Nemr’s body should’ve lain. A field of grass unfolded as far as she could see. Blades swayed peacefully in the light breeze she felt on her wet skin. The grass was trampled here and there, as if a large force had recently marched across the green plains.

In the distance, Asis saw carrion birds circling something. She rose shakily to her feet, and was relieved to discover the pain in her ribs and arm were missing. She took her first step toward the something, and she arrived, as if someone else had performed the journey.

A flaxen-haired boy lie on the field, the grass beneath him no longer green. He gripped a giant leather scabbard, and his mortal wound stretched from his shoulder to his belly. The carrion birds had feasted on the wound, and Asis was forced to close her eyes and turn away, lest she be sick from the sight of carnage.

When she returned her gaze to the young boy, she realized she was not alone. A strange woman knelt over the body, her hands squeezing and twisting her long dark hair. Asis welcomed the opportunity to gaze upon the woman, and she let out a gasp as her view fell on the woman’s shoulders.

“It is so sad,” the woman whispered, turning her attention to Asis.

Asis tried to meet the woman’s eyes, but her own eyes were transfixed to a pair of gleaming clockwork wings. The intricate brass movement shuddered of its own volition, as if they were prepared to launch the woman into the pale blue skies.

Asis glanced at the boy, but a bright light interrupted her view. The wound on the boy’s body gleamed brilliant white, and his chest began to rise and fall again. His eyes opened and he looked at Asis.

She couldn’t keep her hands from covering her mouth, and a sigh escaped her lips. The boy’s eyes looked exactly like Nemr’s. The woman gathered the healed boy into her arms, and whispered into his ear.

“You will have another chance.”

The words, although whispered, were heard in Asis’s head clearly, as the clockwork wings spread to their full span, and a single thrust propelled the woman into the air, her white gown fluttering in the breeze. Three more times the clockwork wings moved, and the woman with her charge were but a tiny dot on the horizon.

* * *

Jahan gripped the root of a tree that clung to the cliff side. She rolled over the lip, and lay on the ground, taking in breath, and attempting to convalesce. The girl and boy were not visible from this vantage. After a moment or two to gather herself, she stood, and gazed both directions down the Dawn Road.

Back to the City of Dawn, she thought, or to the next city.

She had a level of notoriety in the Dawn Consortium: the younger sister of the great Ejaz. She didn’t worry that she would be unable to secure assistance with Asis, but with the Denizens behind the gates, there may be too many questions about how she came across the girl and boy. Salubrious assistance would be delayed by curiosity.

Jahan stared at the sun overhead, and hefted her water skin. Unused in the cool morning, she could feel the oppressive heat emanating, and she knew it was going to be a hot day. She turned her back to her home, and made her way along the Dawn Road to the walled companion city.

* * *

Asis allowed her eyes to fall at the site the boy had laid. The blood was still there, and the carrion birds that were ever-present continued to call to one another. Their deep black feathers, beaks and eyes seemed to display shades of color she couldn’t identify. She was having difficulty focusing on one of them long enough to properly gauge the spectrum, and the black seemed to pulsate and change as her brain tried to decipher what her eyes were telling her.

The birds gathered, and it was as if they were there, but not there. Fitting for a fever dream, she thought as the birds subsumed into smoky caricatures of avian interlopers. The smoke and dark shapes expanded, until she could see only a few feet away. The calling of the birds still haunted her, as their caws took on a more humanistic tone. She felt she could almost understand their vocalizations – whispers that matched the cacophony of voices she has been ignoring.

“Die with me, Asis.”

She tried to concentrate, and block out the cries she had heard from her deceased friend. Closing her eyes were of little help, for the darkness within undulated as the smoke that filled her world. The crescendo of voices rose until her ears hurt.

Die with me, Asis.

She was aware of other sounds, but the incessant repeating phrase prevented her for focusing on the disparate noise.

“Stop!” she screamed, and the voices ceased their rabble. She opened her eyes, the smoke, grassy field and birds were gone, replaced by the sound of flowing water, and the sight of Nemr’s broken body a few paces away. She marveled at the scar, and accompanying story of lightning that she had seen adorn the feral child for as long as she knew him. She felt empty, knowing she’d never pass rumors along to her treasured derelict again.

What had the Goddess Kanoni shown me? She wondered as she looked at her friend, baking in the rising heat of the day. Asis closed her eyes, and slept deeply the much-needed rest she missed when Nemr interrupted her the prior evening.

Next: Dawn Road Danger

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. View all posts by Mark Gardner

9 responses to “14 – Cacophony of Crows

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