Elissa laid in her bath, ribbons of vapor covering most of her naked, wounded body. Her breaths came out pained, in short shivering spurts. Her left hand rose from the water and adjusted the blindfold that hid her eyes, so that it would stay up even in the damp air.
She was drained. Mastra had asked so much of her… the threads of fate she spun still wriggled inside her mind, struggling against each other, the swift knots she had to tied them with, built with the utmost speed.
You have to be quick, she had commanded. She truly did her best.
And they met. The Hunter accepted.
She had been a good girl.
Her fingers touched the base of her nose and when they came back they glistened red.
A good girl does as she’s told.
Then, just days later. Same thing, with that Venatrix, Cloria. She knew her far less than the Hunter, so she had required even more effort.
Now, laying in her bath, she just let her mind wander through time and space, through muddled past and uncertain future.
She was atop an Erepeople tower, half-collapsed under its own weight and the patient work of weed and root, looking down at the grey forest. No red on the treetops, so this must have been spring or summer. A soft wind caressed her locks. It was peaceful.
Then she was flying over the southern waves of the Bittersea. Tall waves, capped by purple foam, glinted in the dying sunlight. Far off in the distance the floating districts of Venexia bellowed dark smoke up in the air.
Just take me far from here.
Her second sight, as worn-out as it was, liked to be set free. It soared in gladness like a kite that’s allowed to chase the sun to its content.
A crater, filled with sparkling water and strange dolphin-like creatures.
The smell of sweet peaches.
Another tower, this one hooked and carved in bronze, a tall brazier burning on top, as stretched figures danced around a pike.
Sounds of people around a table, chittering in some weird insect-language.
Elissa let out another breath and allowed the bath to truly soothe her. Warmth spread all over her body, kneading her stiff muscles and treating every ache and pain from her back to her twitching toes all the way up to the scars on her wrists, to her neck, to the scarred rays departing from her eyes.
The same strange chittering people around a table, their huge yellow eyes like lamps. They were covered in rough leather and some kind of weird moth-like hair; they joined their four arms together in prayer, or maybe a family song.
Elissa’s lips curved in a smile. They seemed to be having a good time.
And then someone else came in.
A tall girl with dirty white hair, two wolf ears on her head, her blue eyes smiling at the strange family as she carried a tray with smoking bowls of soup on it. Her tail waggled excited.
And Elissa burst out of her bath in a mute scream.
She held her pounding head in her hands as she strained her Sight to keep onto that moment, onto that vision. Delusion. Whatever it might have been.
“It’s you,” she whispered.
What was that? And yet as much as she tried to pierce through the veil with the burning poke of her Sight, already it was leaving her. “No no no,” she groaned. Elissa gritted her teeth and focused, hooking her will onto this time and place, onto the smiling face of the girl with the white hair and the most beautiful shining eyes. “Stay…” she prayed.
Even as darkness rose from the corners of her vision. Even as something warm and sticky came running down her nose, and crimson drops stained the bathwater.
Her Sight swam. She pressed hard against her orbits.
How could she see her now? Where was she? Was she safe? Why… why why why!
“Sadja!” Elissa groaned weakly. She lost her grip on the vision and her sight recoiled like a swing pushed too hard.
She hit with the back of her head against the bath’s wall and slid into the water.
Tiny pink bubble rose to the shaken surface.
The young Augur sat up, water rolling down her short red hair. She quickly adjusted her blindfold, but all she could do was pant harshly as she tried to understand what she had Seen.
It had been years since…
“Sadja,” she whispered. The name sounded like a caress on her cheek, like warm fingers held into her own, like a promise in the dark, all those years before, like a cutting knife, like the shield against a sickle grin that came between them time and time and time again.
Where was she? Was her vision true?
If it was, she was in the middle of the Old Country, right on the onset of winter, of a harsher Tide that it had been seen in years!
Why was she there and…
“Oh. Oh. Oh. I see.” She bit on her knuckles until she drew more crimson blood. It stained her fingers just like her still-running nose bloodied her upper lips. She licked them. They tasted metallic.
The Hunter. The other Venatrix, the one with dark hair. Their fates, their destinies, intertwined and pulled this way and that, knotted together at the tune Mastra had given her.
And all because…
Two words, enough to reopen a wound in her chest.
Mastra had promised Sadja would be safe. That if she… if she was a good girl…
But a few details stood out now. Even as she was smiling, the deep dark circles beneath those shining eyes. Her arms, marked by rows upon rows of holes.
They did not stop.
But why lie to her? Why lie?
“Why why why…” she muttered, trying ti make sense of what she had found out. Assuming it was a true vision and not something sent to test her faith. A trick of the Fae perhaps. Or maybe even the Queen of Thorns herself, coming out of her hole to lay waste to her mind and sanity.
Trembling, Elissa climbed out of her bath. Her body fell into waves of shivering cold as water evaporated, but she did not really care, they were too far from her mind. As little droplets ran down her face, all she could think about was the vision she had.
She grabbed a towel and began to dry her body, still shaking a little. Her stomach twisted like a hook, pulling her innards apart.
“I’ll have to check on this.”
But she was far too weak for the time being. The efforts required of her made every moment feel like she wore a leaden robe.
Elissa pushed back her red hair, checking her forehead. She was feverish.
Really needed some actual rest, but she’d have to bless more water, and Belacqua’s residents expected her to keep the holy mist running, especially at such a time.
She walked on the cool marble floor. The ghost of her vision still lingered. She was walking on cool marble, she was walking on tall grass. She was falling down a waterfall, she was turning a corner in her familiar temple, she was running through a forest of grey pines.
Someone called her. From the outside, using her ears, so it couldn’t be Mastra.
She waved her hand as if to say it was nothing – even as she kept wobbling on unsteady feet, covered only by a damp towel, stumbling ahead, each step harder than the last.
Elissa strained her head to the source of the voice. A woman stood behind her. She caught her by the shoulders.
She recognized her touch, the texture of her naked hands, her smell. One of her attendants.
“Obina,” she called, as if surprised she was there. How could she be there, if she’d just been walking through the forest? “What are you doing here?”
No, wait, she did not move, did she?
Lies, lies, lies.
“Augur. You are not well! Why did you get out of the balsam waters?”
“I… I think…” she tried to stand up. What was she doing there? She had to find Sadja.
To tell her… to…
Her feet gave way from beneath her. She fell back in the arms of the poor woman, so suddenly she couldn’t keep her, and for the second time in just a few minutes, her head hit a cold and hard surface.
This time, luckily for Elissa, it knocked her out.
Pic by Darkfang
“Author’s Note: and here we reach the first 10 days of the 100-days challenge. It’s a strange feeling, half anxious and half relieved I have made it this far. I hope I’ll be able to post and deliver every day. Thank you for reading and your patience.“