Night had teeth.
Rossa heard those teeth clatter as she walked on the ruins of the white path – the overturned fragments of the clear stones that used to mark its borders now scattered like shards of ice.
The moon shone from above, peering through the needle foliage of the pines, casting her silver rays to cleave the shadows. Some she could not reach, and those were the skittering, moaning Eerie that hid in the crooked roots between the trees, gathering under the banner of the Fae’s will, made hungrier by its rage and more cautious by her own fury, which poured off her crimson skin.
Rossa felt like she was about to shed all the emotions she did not need. She still lingered for the warmth of the Woodsman’s body, to reach out for him, to hide between his arms and listen to his voice that would tell her everything was fine and she was not a murderous traitor and a failure.
These must be blessed times, cackled the caw-like voice to her ear, coming back to lick at her awareness like a chained dog that can only graze its teeth at its mark. I am getting a visitor! What a honour.
Rossa shook her head and proceeded further. She knew better than to engage or to follow her pride and boast about her abilities.
Her hand still held the knife she had taken from the Woodsman’s hut and she pulled her cloak tighter.
She did not feel cold, but her heart still turned icy as she reached the end of the path.
For the first time in months, she set her gaze on the rubble and charred ruins that had once been Ferravia.
As the forest was wont to do, it had overgrown to reclaim anything that held the memory of mankind’s rule. It had covered every surface in a thin layer of moss. Rossa could clearly see, thanks to her enhanced eyes, how it was not the green shade of the usual one, but a pale ochre colour, similar to bleached skin.
From the moss grew boughs of crooked bones, leathery skin stretching between them like misshapen wings. They flapped back and forth even in the total absence of wind. From the overtaken ruins came a gnawing noise like grinding teeth, and a moan from many throats.
Red flowers bloomed here and there, an open eye in their midst crying crimson sap.
The Old Country had come.
Rossa’s heart hesitated. Those emotions that she believed she had left on the road climbed up her legs and pierced her stomach with their frozen hooks.
She balled her fists and proceeded.
She had advanced too far now.
Please do make yourself at home, the Fae invited her. She could almost imagine the picture it wanted to project, that of a homely host who allowed her to trod this sacred ground with her bare feet.
Rossa walked past the mounds that had once been the walls of Ferravia, touching now the soft moss of the Old Country. It felt spongier and far warmer than it was supposed to be and a shiver of repulsion ran up her spine at the squelching noise it made as she set her weight against it.
We have worked so hard to make this a pleasant environment. I am sure that if you look hard enough you will find the bones of your parents scattered here and there.
It was now openly goading her, but she did not reply, even then. This was of course her doing. She was the one responsible for all this.
She could not fix it. The Erepeople did not haver a spell or a machine that could save the world, otherwise they would have used it and the Eldritch War would not have left the world in that state. She had lived all her life in blissful ignorance of what had been lost.
A part of her still longed for Rossa to just fall to her knees, uselessly scream and give in to the instincts kicking away inside her body, to the fury that would have her discard her plan, the new life already growing inside her, the chance she still had to make the Fae pay, all because her pain was like a rising tide of glowing knives that bit at her skin, ripping it off in bloodied strips.
She welcomed it. Rossa opened her arms, breathed in – the wave came: if it wasn’t for her, nothing like this would have ever happened. It would have been better if she was never born. Her grandmother had cursed her while she died. The last thought going off in her parents’ heads had been regretting giving her life.
She knew it all very well.
The tide broke foam and then it waned.
Rossa breathed out.
She opened her eyes inside the Old Country, the heartland of her enemy. A court of Eerie crawled towards her, and the Fae, or what was left of it, rested on a moss-covered rock in the middle of what had been the main square of Ferravia, the long-lost parking lot.
Even if her spear had been destroyed by the contact with its flesh, Rossa could still appreciate how much damage it had manage to do. The thing lay on its side, its twisted neck wrung like a rag and giving her a look of burning hate, swirling in those beady eyes. The horns that used to sprout from its head now lay broken and battered, the flames between them reduced to little more than sparks.
She breathed in again. Here the smell of overripe peaches was stronger, but it was also far less sweet than before.
Perhaps the Queen of Thorns had not taken kindly to the Fae’s failure to kill her the first time.
Just a tiny bit of hope.
Rossa looked the Fae dead in the eyes and aimed her knife at its body.
No words. And to think you used to be so talkative.
Another goad. She did not move, she did not reply.
Die in silence, then.
The sparkles on its head waxed and the circle of Eerie pounced on her.
Author’s Notes: And here we are. I will make a post (or a few) about this journey, but it is over. I have written and published at least 1000 words every day, for one year.
I will keep publishing Red Girl Rising’s final three chapters (The Sun, Judgment and The World), and then I will most likely take a break.
It has been an extraordinary experience which I am not keen to repeat any time soon.
As always, I want to thank you all for reading and following. Your support was just so meaningful. Now it’s time to turn this repository into a hub, and it will take me some time to do, but I hope you will like to come back here for some articles about this experience, sticking to a goal, the craft of writing, and such and such.
Thanks for being here.