My NaNoWriMo story, the anti-fairy tale.
The sun sets on the highlands, torches provide pools of warmth and light that flickers and moves with the cold wind blowing from the north. Far from the domed huts all clustered together a child cries in her father’s arms as the dim orange light leaps from just a soft glow to a roaring flame engulfing the pyre and body. “Hush Lana,” the man tries to sooth, holding his daughter’s trembling form close, he cannot bring himself to gaze upon the scene when the last one so precious to him is in tears, clinging to him with all her strength. “Hush, Lana. Remember what she said before. Remember her words child and you will never be without her.” she nods, unable to speak through the tears and semi-silent sobs. “Look to the stars, far over head, the stars that sparkle and light our ways, that is where I will be till your dying day.” he whispers into her hair.
“With Baba, and brother?” The girl manages to ask through her hiccups and sobs.
“That’s right, with Baba and Mika. They’ll watch over us with the ancestors and gods.” Though it does little to sooth the twelve year old the thought brings some comfort to the pair as they stand beside the pyre letting it burn. When the shaking and sobbing stops the man stands, lifting his sleeping child with ease and carrying her to the pools of warmth and light, away from the dying fire and painful memories. As he enters the town the people all turn away, for though his face is stone and without emotion, his people know what is beneath the placid surface, and while his face betrays nothing and the pain does nothing to deplete his strength, they know his wall with break, and he will cry this night and so they afford him a blind eye for the inevitable.
“Urzoth,” The soft call makes him turn, an elderly man motions over head to the clouds slowly rolling in from the north “No rain will fall from them. We must move on.”
“No.” He growls, voice rough from restrained grief. “My wife has yet to be honored and you call for us to leave her, a better chief would cut out your tongue.”
“I simply meant-”
“I know,” He sighs “Give me time, give Lana time… We will leave in three days, we have the store to afford that much.” The elder nods, he turns heading toward his tent to lay his daughter in bed.
“I’m sorry Urzoth.” The man offers “She was a good woman, a strong addition. She will be missed.” Back turned his walls break, tears roll down and all he can do is nod, not trusting his voice. “Rest well, mighty chief.” Another mute nod, none look upon him as he strides to his tent, laying Lana in his bed before covering her with her mother’s blanket; when she does not awaken he leaves her, returning to the dying pyre far from the camp, far from where strength and honor require him to be stoic and strong.
He falls to his knees, the dry grass offering some comfort as he watches the flames dwindle away, two days before his wife had been alive and well, but Mika had come early, chaos ran through the camp and they fought to bring the child into the world and save the mother. Her pain was immense, she clutched at his arms so hard she broke the skin, her screams were terrifying but the memory of the exact moment when she gave up, when something whispered her fate in her ear remained so clear to him. His eyes closed and the events washed over him.
Her voice gives out, then her grip loosens. “Urzoth, my moon and stars.” She whispers “I’m going away now… It is too late. Our son will not awaken and the blood will flow.”
“No… No please, hold on. It’ll be just a moment longer.” He looks to the healer “Help her.” she reaches up and turns his head to face her, and she smiles.
“Hush now, my love. Hush. Just hold me for a little while.” He cannot deny her last request, he pulls her to his chest and holds her so close that he can feel her slowing heart beat. “You must be strong, now. You must love Lana for the both of us.”
“I will.” He manages to choke out, he can feel her smile fading and breath slowing “I will love her with my heart and more. I will keep her safe.”
“I love you, my moon and stars.” He shakes his head and tries to laugh though it comes out as a choked sob.
“You are the stars, you have always been the stars. The guiding lights in my life. You will be up there, and I will see you. Your sparkling eyes and gentle smile, your voice will be on the wind and in the water. And Lana will see you, and you will watch over us till we meet again.”
The fire gone he looks at the pile of ash, tears rolling down his cheeks “I will keep her safe, my heart. I will love her with all my being… Watch over us, keep us safe. Please my dearest love.” The only answer is a soft breeze rustling the grass and blowing some ash from the pile. He stands slowly and plods back to his tent, but he does not sleep. The mighty chief remains awake watching over his sleeping child.