Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Three | They Might Be Dead
Hateful cries buzzed around my head like vultures over a kill. My lungs ached as I gasped for breath and my feet tore over the mixture of dark brown soil and yellow-green grass. A slope rose before me and my body slowed down. I jerked my head around to see how close the mob was.
“You are wicked!”
“You are evil!”
“You deserve death!”
The cries blasted into my ears as furious faces moved toward me, desperate to catch me since I’d eluded them back at the burning hut. A group of males and females ran towards me, shouting curses and waving torches. One lifted a hand, and something hurled toward me. It flew past me and landed with a thunk on the hill. A round gray rock, perhaps one of the rocks from my herb garden.
My lips trembled, and a surge of anger rocked my body forward. Balling my hands into fists I willed my legs to move faster, driving my heels into the ground as I fought my way uphill towards the forest.
“She’s one of them!”
“She should be condemned to die!”
Words drove me onwards as tears pricked my eyes, but I wasn’t worried about myself. My pets. They might be dead.
My thoughts turned to his dark chocolate eyes and the stubble of a beard on his youthful face. He’d held me with such care and love, but that was before he found out what I’d done. The riot was his fault. He’d stood before the villagers and profaned my name, my art, and my life. They believed him because he had a solid reputation and I knew my personality caused dissension especially among the females. They were jealous of my looks and abilities. I snapped my fingers, impatient with my thoughts. My pets. Where are they? I could handle losing my home, losing him, but not my pets, they were everything.
A stone slammed into my back and I bent over at the waist, grabbing my heaving sides. A sob caught in my sore throat. After inhaling smoke and fleeing across the countryside I desperately needed refreshment. Despite my predicament, I stumbled up the hill, sweat pouring down my back. I wiped at my face as I reached the top of the hill and the dark forest swayed before my vision.
Another stone flew past my face, but the shouts of the mob faded as I stared at the old wood. The villagers thought I was evil, but in truth, the old forest was what they should be afraid of. I’d never been more than a few feet in the forest, gathering firewood and the strange violet flowers that grew near the outskirts of the wood. Slender birch trees with white wood perched near the forest, a last warning for those who would venture in. Tangled vines heavy with age stretched across treetops, choking out the greenery with their deathly grip. A deep musky aura hung over the forest, and my keen senses detected the smell of vile creatures, death and destruction. There was nothing for it. I had to go in. I had outstayed my welcome in the village. I had to take a risk and escape before they caught and killed me.
Jerking back my head one last time I eyed the village in the distance with the smoking chimneys and children playing in the dirt without a care in the world. A heavy scent of herbs hung in the air from my burning garden with the vines, roses and great bushes of healing plants. They accused me of dealing with immortal powers. They would never understand. They would never forgive. My eyes fell to the villagers standing at the bottom of the hill, frightened of the forest, their superstitions allowing them to come no further. They jeered at me, raising their weapons in a threatening manner. I’d never seen faces full of such a deep loathing in my life. If only I had my pets. They would be sorry.
Tossing my vibrant hair over my shoulder I defiantly turned my back on them and ran into the woods. The jeering faces faded. I recalled the females, jealous of my prowess, although the males never complained about my presence. They were usually too busy ogling my large breasts, the curves of my wide hips and the way my shapely thighs moved when I walked. They were jealous of the one I’d chosen, the male with the dark chocolate eyes. Yet, what he told them turned them against me. I was admittedly flirtatious to a fault, because it allowed me to have my way with everyone in the village, but now the tables had turned, and it seemed my past rose before me and demanded punishments.
Branches slapped my rump, a punishment for the sins I’d committed to bring my pets to me, to heal others, and, above all, to study the ways of nature which brought power. They lashed out at me and with each branch I saw a villager’s angry face rise before me, fists ready to smash into me, hands outstretched to rip my clothes from my body and beat me into the ground.
The twigs caught in my long hair, pulling and twisting, holding me back for another whipping as I fought my way through the forest, following an invisible path into the depths of wickedness while my heart fluttered in my chest. My breath came in great grasping gulps, and a tree root purposefully stuck out in my path. Leaping I misplaced my landing and fell flat, hands out to stop my fall, my palms skidding through rock and mud as I collapsed. The root caught my foot and twisted it, and a sharp agony of pain ripped through my leg, like the fire that consumed my hut. My pets. I held out a hand, reaching into the unknown, begging for salvation for those innocent beasts. My eyes were dry, the tears would not come. I spit into the mud while I perched on all fours, turning my face to the tree. “A thousand curses on your roots,” I spat at it, my viciousness coming out in all forms.
The tree shuddered as if it had heard me, and my naked eyes saw it shiver and whimper, branches hanging out as it recognized who I was and begged for forgiveness. “That’s right,” I rebuked it. “I am a lover of nature, I am on your side.”
Scolding the tree gave me confidence, and I stood, shaking the dirt off my hands and brushing the dew off my bare legs. I wormed my way through the mud, wishing I were wearing shoes. If I could see myself in a looking glass, I would appear like a dirty, vagrant. My long light hair lay tangled to my waist, while my ample chest was on full display with the torn sleeve of my dress hanging down and the thin, dirty material scratched by burrs and tree limbs. Scratches covered my long legs and mud caked my feet. My lemon-yellow eyes narrowed in the darkness.
Citrine. That’s what they called me. My born name. My eyes were the same color as the jewel, an odd light color, giving me the appearance of a wild cat, and my ability to see in the dark was feared by some. I knew when twilight came my odd eyes glowed, giving me an outwardly appearance. I was no immortal, just a mortal, one of the people groups called Tiders. At least, that was what I knew of my heritage. My parents lived in hiding until the days of Eliesmore, the Great Conqueror who saved the South World from the rule of the immortals and their vicious armies of darkness. It was a tale of heroes, fantastic powers and weapons beyond belief. I paid no attention to the tale, for it did not concern my small life in the small village where they slandered my name and cast me out.
Not more than a quarter of an hour passed when I stumbled over a beaver. The beast leaped off my path, hurling curses as it dashed towards the nearest tree. “Watch where you are going. Mortal.”
“Watch where YOU are going,” I retorted back at it. My throat stabbed me and I added. “I am looking for water, in which direction lies the closest stream?”
The beaver wrinkled its nose at me, dark eyes blinking as if considering whether I was serious or joking.
“I don’t have all day,” I grumbled. “Please, speak up and let me continue.”
The beaver grunted and pointed an ambiguous finger further into the woods. “You shouldn’t go there, though. They eat mortals. You should only go there if you want to die.”
“Don’t be daft,” I mumbled. “They want to kill me out there they want to kill me in here, I’ll take my chances.”
Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford
Citrine’s Monsters: Chapter Two | Betrayal
A smell woke me and I bolted upright, involuntarily reaching out a hand to pat the other side of the double bed.
It was empty. A stiff anger rose within my body as I realized Hansel had not returned after our fight last night.
Wrinkling my nose, I sniffed again and a sudden frenzy gripped me. Thoughts of Hansel dropped out of my mind. Sleep fled from my brain as I recognized the charred smell. Something was burning. Tossing back the quilted blanket I leaped out of bed and ran, forgetting the scarf I wore over my bright hair and the shoes for my feet. My heart thumped in my chest in a way that made me feel nauseous as I stumbled out of the room, through the narrow hall and down the five stairs into the kitchen. My square kitchen was my peaceful haven. Each morning the yeasty smell of fresh bread and cinnamon wafted through the air before I stepped out into my garden to gather plants. Now, the back door that led to my herb and flower garden was ablaze. Bright yellow flames leaped high, encouraged by the greenery. A smoldering rage smoked through my veins as I froze, staring at the wicked flames, jeering at me with tongues of red and blue fire as it ate my garden. Pure terror struck me and a silent cry shot through my brain like a comet through the skies. My pets.
They lived in the garden, coming and going as they pleased. A desperate prayer rose within me and I pleaded to the unknown Creator. Please let my pets be safe. They never would have let a stranger enter the garden and set it on fire. Someone I trusted must have done this which meant… I let the thought trail off as a fireball blasted into what was left of my smoking kitchen. A whimper of fear escaped from my dry lips and instinctively I covered my head, ducking from the flickering embers. The sudden heat made it impossible to breathe, and I inhaled. A billow of thick black smoke floated through the air, taking its time like searching fingers, winding its way into every nook and cranny. My heart constricted and a painful cough burst from my lungs. I bent over at the waist, wheezing, fully intent on taking a step forward to find my pets when another blast of heat surged through the kitchen and the door collapsed with a shudder. The roar of heat, the lack of oxygen, and the haze made me feel weak, heady and dizzy I fled from the room, my eyes streaming with tears on their own accord.
Thick smoke had spread throughout the entire hut by the time I burst out the front door. Turning I covered my mouth while I watched the straw thatched roof cave in. Fresh air filled my lungs, rushing in to chase out the smoke and I took a deep breath, feeling strength return to my body. A fury like I’d never known blasted through my body and my eyes narrowed. I folded my arms across my generous chest and turned around.
I was bold, confident and always sure of myself and my decisions. In the years past life in the village made me feel comfortable. I’d forgotten about risk and allowed myself to live and love as if I were one of the normal mortals, happy to do nothing more than farm, love, and make babies to inherit their land. I wasn’t lucky in life, just smart, and I’d let my guard down with Hansel, let him see my true self and he ran.
My accusers stood a safe distance away from my hut, watching the fire turn my livelihood into dust. A deep seething boiled within me as I eyed the villagers. They stood armed with farm tools, pitchforks and shovels, as if I were a powerful immortal who could blast them away with my words. If I wasn’t so angry I might have laughed. I had one unusual ability which led to a swift betrayal.
“Look!” a voice shouted, and I could make out a hand waving in the distance. “She left the hut, she’s alive.”
“Stick to the plan, we have to bring her in,” another voice ordered. “Follow my lead.”
They marched towards me, faces set, and even though the mob was silent, I could almost hear their thoughts floating through the air like poisonous arrows. They called for my blood. They wanted me dead. Solely because I was different from them. They did not understand. How could they? Ignorant scum. Turning on my bare feet I ran away from my burning hut, heading west towards the boundary line forest.
Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford
Citrine’s Monsters | Chapter One: Quarrel
The foul wind slammed the door behind me. The hinges growled as if they would suddenly develop fingers, reach out, and eat me alive. Shaking off the looming six sense something bad was about to transpire, I spun around and drew up short, nearly dropping my basket of goods.
“Hansel,” reaching up I struggled with the knot of the scarf that concealed my vibrant hair. “You gave me a fright.”
“They warned me about you,” my lover, Hansel, confronted me as if some outwardly being had invaded his body and held it hostage. His bare arms trembled and his chocolate brown eyes were red rimmed. “They warned me about you,” his tone hollow as the repeated words buzzed in the suddenly thick air.
“What are you talking about?” I waved my hand in dismissal, more frustrated with the stubborn knot than what Hansel was agitated about.
“I was in the garden,” he went on.
A sudden flurry of alarm flittered through my heart like the panicked wings of a butterfly, stuck in a spiderweb. Save me. Words whispered through my mind. Save me. Blinking I straightened my shoulders, dropping the basket and hugging my middle. “I told you never to go into the garden…” I lifted my chin, reminding myself to stay calm and confident. He knows nothing. We can figure this out as long as I don’t lose my temper.
“I know!” his words bit the air as he snapped at me, a wave of anger passing over his face like a flash of lightening. “I found this.” In his right hand he held up a three-foot-long black and white patterned snake skin. “What kind of dark creature has a skin like this? And this…” he held up a peacock blue feather, twice the size of my hand.
“What do a snake skin and a feather have to do with anything?” I cooed, taking a step towards him, holding up my hands in reassurance. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting? We live on the outskirts of the boundary line forest, wild beasts roam the meadows from time to time, which is why I told you not to go in my garden.”
“Don’t be coy with me,” he snapped. “Don’t beguile me with your words. I know what I saw in the garden, what are you hiding back there? Whatever it is, it’s not natural. The villagers warned me. You are too bright and snappy. There’s something odd and enchanting about you.” He pointed a shaking finger at my face as his face sneered. “You with your strange eyes and odd plants and herbs and potions…”
“Sometimes you see things you don’t understand. I’m sure it’s nothing,” I cocked my head at him, amused by his anger. He was frightened of a snake skin and feather. It did not add up.
“I know you’re hiding something,” he tossed the snake skin at my feet where it curled into a ball. He leaped backward as if he’d been stung, his tone rising. “I heard voices and saw eyes watching me, eyes like yours. There are strange beings in the garden and the more I think about it, the more I fear what you are doing. Don’t you know how the Changers and Monrages rose up? It started with something as simple and seemingly innocent as this. I think I’ve been blinded by love. I think I made a mistake.”
“Changers? Monrages?” I shouted, waving my arms, anger surging through me like a wave. Suddenly I had no remorse and the threads of control slipped away from me. “I resent that! You claim to love me and yet you go to my garden and get frightened because you saw a creature from the forest most likely eating my herbs! And you go to such a drastic measure to compare me to evil immortal beings? How dare you! Maybe you’re the one who isn’t trustworthy!”
Hansel dropped the blue feather, and it swooped back and forth, drifting to the patched floor of the cottage. Crossing his hands over his wide chest he frowned, his face growing stern. “Will you tell me the truth? Who are you? What have you done? I know what I saw. I went out there and I saw…I saw it shift and move. There were horns… tell me.”
I glared at him, fuming. I tapped one foot against the ground while fixing him with my wide eyes as I raised an eyebrow in defiance.
“I know what I saw,” Hansel resulted to blubbering and repeating himself. “Are you the reason? Tell me. Things are disappearing. Crops. Livestock. That child the other day? Tell me it’s not true. Tell me you have nothing to do with this.”
I have nothing to do with this. I wanted to repeat the words, to calm him down, but he’d stroked my anger. Instead I opened my mouth and out flowed the words I swore I’d never tell another living soul. As soon as I finished, I wished I’d never spoken. His face turned white, and he stumbled away, reaching for the wall to hold up his trembling body.
“Why have you never told me this before?”
“Because,” I shot back, “I thought you might react like this and I was right. I never should have told you.”
“You lied all this time. I thought we had something. I thought you loved me,” his face twisted with contempt, but it was his eyes, those deep chocolate brown eyes that made me feel as if I had ripped his heart out and boasted about it.
“We do have something,” I waved my arms as I tried to prove my point. “I love you, which is why I didn’t tell you, I knew you would not understand.” Love was not the emotion I felt in that moment, there was something deeper, some reason I would not relent.
“It isn’t natural,” his eyes narrowed as he hissed at me, and for a moment he seemed like a venomous serpent, ready to strike. “You aren’t natural. This must be reported.”
“Who are you going to report me too?” I crossed my arms, rolling my eyes as I mocked him. “Who are you to decide what is natural and what isn’t? You’re with me, remember!”
His hand came up and for a moment I thought he would strike me. All the same I stood unflinching.
“You are wicked,” his face contorted. He held up his hands as he backed away as if I were the snake who would strike him.
“Hansel,” I dropped my tone although I had no reason to apologize. “I thought we could talk through this, like adults.”
“You thought wrong,” he pointed a shaking finger at me as his back crashed into the door frame. His fingers fumbled for the door as he shook his dark head, his eyes glazing over in shame, fear and, perhaps, heartbreak. “I should have known. Someone as bright and snappy like you is too good to be true… I should have seen the signs, but I didn’t want to.”
“Where are you going?” I shouted as he slid out the front door. “We have to talk about this!”
“I need time. I need to think,” he shouted back and slammed the door.
Download the full version of Citrine’s Monster’s here. | Copyright 2018 Angela J. Ford