Red Girl Rising – 14

Rossa was there when the rivers began to flow again.

A few weeks had passed since she had performed the ritual that had left her with her crimson skin and her new body. She still found it a little strange as she flexed her fingers, marvelling at her red skin shining smooth with red colour. It wasn’t just her blood rushing to the surface to stain it vermillion, she had done something else with her call to the Spirits.

Rossa was not even sure what exactly. She felt like a child painting with some artist’s long-forgotten brush. But for  the time being she did not do so much of a bad job.

The Fae standing on the opposite bank of the flowing river surely seemed to think the same.

“I am growing ever more curious about you.” It clicked its tongue. It was having a hard time talking with her grandma’s tongue hanging from her corpse’s mouth, stretched out of shape and out of nature’s intended purpose, together with all sort of other monstrous tumours shuddering out of the cadaver’s robe-like skin hanging off the spindly bones that shifted and moved underneath. “First the weapon and now this. What are you going to come up with next time? I am looking forward to it.”

Rossa did not reply at first. She adjust the crimson cloak on her shoulders once again, taking in the surrounding space, rather than the presence of the loathsome Fae. The forest was healing after the winter. Snow was melting in patches and she could kneel to gather water from the bank, instead of melting ice. Things were about to improve.

And the Fae had no idea about it.

“I am glad you are,” she said in the end, looking it straight in the eyes. With her white hair she might have seemed just as demonic as this thing crawled out of children’s fables to snap and devour. Wonder if this was what the Erepeople had devised to transform themselves into during the War? Or perhaps after. “So you can look for yourself.”

Perhaps they simply did not have time to spread the word. As for her, she had no intention to share her gift. She had done it all to break a cycle and she would not keep it alive one minute more than necessary.

After her ritual in her grandmother’s basement, she felt like she had reached a certain kind of balance in her life. Or what remained of it.

Her hair were bleached, and she quickly found that she could not really sleep anymore. Food did not satiate her like before, it was just something that allowed her to continue. Her emotions, once so turbulent, fell into an uncomfortable and stinging routine, but one that at least allowed her to do what she must.

Perhaps this was just life beyond the threshold. Or she had gotten a few words and gestures wrong with her spell and now she was stuck like this.

At any rate, it did not really matter.

“What should I even look at?” The Fae asked, its body quaking with laughter.

“If you haven’t got it by now, why ruin the surprise?” Rossa filled up her plastic bag with the river’s water (it was convenient the Woodsman had at least a few of these still laying around), and set it against her crimson shoulder. “You once told me about that underground river that spilled over the entire land. How many years did you say it was running for?”

The Fae took its time to answer that. It seemed for the first time since they met each other it was actually considering her reply as worthy of note.

“Fourteen thousand years.”

“Fourteen thousand years too long, then.” Rossa turned and left the Fae there. The running river protected her from its presence, but she was quite confident it would not try anything even if the waterway was still frozen solid.

Eerie stayed away from her presence now. Her red skin and the pulsating symbols that lived underneath it now rebuked them like fiery spokes thrown into their cursed flesh. If nothing else, she did gain this from her lastest transformation.

Together with the knowledge of what she still needed to do in order to break the cycle once and for all.

Once she e came back to the hut, the Woodsman met her with a smile as he was busy cutting firewood. Save for his initial surprise, he did not regard her any differently than before, probably he assumed she was just continuing the family tradition, unlike her mother.

Certain things skip a generation.

As for her lingering looks, she still allowed herself one or two, especially in moments like these, when he leaned back to swing his axe and she’d get a good gaze at the twitching muscles beneath his clothes.

Yes, she had plans for that too, but she had to wait for a specific condition.

Roping in another life with the final ritual would not be her proudest moment. When the time came, the Spirits would surely weigh her heart and find her lacking.

“I have come back with the water,” she stated, coming back inside to get the rest of the dinner ready.

“Everything clean on the path?”

“I haven’t seen anything,” she lied.

Once inside, she prepared them a soup which they shared before the crackling hearth. She had found a home and a person who did not mind her weird looks or her weirder soul.

“Once again, thanks for everything. I was alone and scared and you did take me in. I know it must not have been easy.” Her eyes lingered on her spear, its silvery metal glistening as it mirrored the flames. “I am not an easy person to live with.” She drew her legs against her chest and sat on the chair, looking like a demon out of a fairy tale.

“It’s not easy to live with people at all,” he chuckled. “So maybe we just shared that hardship, that’s all.”

She chuckled back. She liked that answer. She could live in the warm circle provided by those words, for the time being.

She only had until the end of winter after all.

So, especially a horrible sinner like her, must cherish all of them.

Author’s Notes: Some of these pages draw more from life than others. I am fond of this Arcana – 14, Temperance. It sits in a special place.

Thanks for reading.


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