What the Raven Saw – Dark Fantasy Novella, 13/13

Runo is flying.

Not through the raven this time – she can feel her own body, her arms stretched and the air playing with her red hair. Below her, the plains stretch and the abandoned city is already withdrawing from sight. 

What did they do? Wasn’t she supposed to die, or to be transformed?

Apparently they know much more about this than she does.

Below her the terrain starts to change – it raises in a series of hills, and then forests and then mountains, but she know how to get past them. It feels like has been there already, her mind expanding to feel where she has been and where she has to be, where to set each step in order to reach…

The way from the Iron Tower to the Ocean Sea. 

She turns mid-air and connects the dots. Yes. Away from the threshold of her prison and past the fields of slaves, towards the hunting ground to the south, and then braving rustwater marsh, which she deemed could not be passed in any way, but she knows where to set her foot now not to drown. 

And then to the north of the Elven lands, once again encroaching the forbidden city – and then a turn to the west and the south to find a river and from there pay for passage on an Iskalnari ship that will bring her…

… to the King. 

And she sees herself, standing there in the throne room, holding the thick envelope with the maps, the plans, the decisions and the resources, all the secrets she could bring with her from the Iron Tower. After all, she’s a Marrower. She has access to those. Who would betray the Gloom Lords, after they have lived their entire life hooked up on a chain?

But now she knows she can. 

Her one chance.

“Thank you,” she mutters. 

Below her, she spots a group of people dressed in grey cloaks. Standing away from the others, the Anthilian huntress who killed her looks up – and their eyes meet, even though she knows she is just looking at the clouds, and she can’t see her spirit as it is pushed back towards her body. 

But something else sets in like the missing tassel of a mosaic – in a flash, she knows where these people will go. Towards one of the villages that the Gloom Lords have chosen for the Harvest. There they will find the grim fruit of the massacre, and there she…

She knows what to do. Her spirit flies away, leaving behind the girl with black hair and aqua eyes and a dark, dark heart. 

There she starts to lose her bearings. The wind carries her away, and she feels like falling into sleep. 

Runo catches the final miles of her journey. From the hunting ground with its petty kingdoms and tributaries to the Iron Crown, to the first slave-mills where thousands sweat with one voice and one will. And at last, the iron tower where she has her study, and her body laying on the chair and-

And as she withdraws her head from the basin, drops falling down her face, Runo feels that tinge of hope in her heart bloom. For the first time since she was a child, she feels like the world can be a rightful place. 

Leaning back, her sets both hands over her chest, thinking to the raven she bound. 

“Thank you.”

She hopes it will be able to fly free. 

Far and away, in the empry city of not-stone, glistening under the sky with its mysteries and unseen truths about the Capsizing, something flutters in the air from the empty center. It’s a small bird, tiny in fact. One of those that will only ever eat pollen and fruit. Not any larger than a thumb, it thrums its minuscule wings in a rhythm it has to yet completely learn. 

It is a new day for it as well. 

Days later, Runo rummages through the safes and the archives of the Iron Tower. It takes her weeks to prepare what she has to, making copies, forging documents, noting down numbers and plans, and her heart beats so fast while she pretends to keep serving the will of the Gloom Lords.

By night, when Heleth claims her, she pretends to enjoy it. Knowing the day of the Harvest is getting closer, and it will be the day of her liberation. 

And when, finally, they depart, and they attach the collar of slaves to her neck, the four sacrificial men hulking behind her in drunken stupor, ad her coven of Marrowers walks out of the Iron Tower with tall cries and cheers and hungry shouts for the Harvest is close, and they will make the most out of it, for the glory of the Iron Crown, Runo holds her hand against her chest. 

It feels almost as if she can still feel a flutter of wings and a small heart beating in tune with her own.

Miles away from the village where the Marrowers will officiate the Harvest, Artumes wakes up, stretching her body as she looks at the dawn, the sky still glistening with the shattered light of the Crumblemoon. 

She has felt… something streak the night just a few days before. She does not know what it was, and it did not feel like Marrower sorcery. 

Sighing, Artumes looks down to the open valley. There will be a Harvest soon. If they are lucky, their company will be able to catch a Marrower or two in the act, and cleave their cursed heads off their necks.

That will surely help her feel a lot better. She pulls up her sleeve, showing the twelve silver stars tattooed over her dark skin. She can’t wait to add the twelfth. 

Then, maybe, she will consider her job done. 

Three figures lay in the forest, surrounded by a small fire. The shortest of them is reading a scroll as she tends to the fire, absent-mindedly. The other two lay over each other, looking up at the night sky.

“I still cannot understand why you went out of your way to help her,” Thiur muses. As Usil opens her lips to answer, she holds up her hands to stop her. “But! By now I know better than to hold it against your judgement,” she chuckles shaking her head. 

“Mother should have made you the youngest sister,” Usil replies. “Your ability to complain truly knows no bounds.”

“Hear, hear,” Pulum interjects, putting down her book. “I am laying just right here.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Thiur says, and Pulum snorts with a satisfied sigh at being acknowledged. 

“As for those two,” Usil explains. “Who knows? It’s not like I hold every string of fate in this story. I am just going out on a limb. But I have a hunch.”

“You and your hunches,” Pulum murmurs.

“Which more often than not turn out to be true.”

“Wait, those two?” Thiur creases an eyebrow, and the silver light coming from inside her body shifts as her cracked cerarmid creaks.

“Of course,” Usil replies with a catty smile. “You will just have to wait and see.”

Author’s Notes: Thanks for reading until the end. The raven is free and Runo is about to embark on a new adventure. I hope you will keep following Artumes and Runo in their new adventure that will begin shortly. Thanks for reading.


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