Monarchs (Entry 4)

It isn’t fair!!!  I need to get away!!

 

“Be ready to purify your soul, heathen!!”

 

The crowd thundered and cheered, whistles and catcalls sprouted out randomly.  Suddenly, Sophie relaxed with a warm sensation running along her back as though a hand had rubbed it.  She felt as though someone was soothing her, and she slowly lowered her eyelids, closing them off to the light, and the sound of the crowd was replaced with the sound of a light breeze.

 

Sophie began to recall her life.  She remembered the sensation of being burned as she touched a hot pot, the frustration of trying to weave the first time, the fascination of hearing her father tell his tales of war and hunting trips, and the sadness of her brother’s death.  Sophie saw snowflakes falling, the sunset on a late summer evening, the fields full of wildflowers, and the smiles upon her little brother and sister’s faces.  The smell of clover and early morning breezes filled her nostrils and her soul.  She could see the sick filling Tabi’s barn two falls ago, and felt the exhaustion of helping her take care of them.  She felt the sharp edges of the healing stones as Heldrig taught her the art.  Sophie saw Terrin laying naked against her and telling her how much he loved her, and wanted her to be with him forever.  Her life began to flash in seconds and split images; until she could only open her eyes.

 

Sophie watched the knife plunge downward and saw it go through her chest.  She heard a scream from the crowd and a rumble of excitement from the crowd.  She watched the priest slowly began to dance around in glee with her blood upon his hands, but she felt no pain, no sadness, and no anger.  She felt calm and accepting.  Tilting her gaze to the sky, Sophie could see wings, blurred, but flapping, and the sound of the clapping wings thundered in her ears, blocking out all other sounds from the masses.

 

You will not die in vain, said a soft voice in Sophie’s head.

 

“Doves?” Sophie asked softly unable to fully see the pale objects swarming the platform.  The spots became closer and darker.

 

Has the crowd literally become vultures and preparing to pick my bones clean??

 

The objects moved closer and Sophie’s eyesight began to clear, and she began to realize the objects were a flock of monarch butterflies.  They flew from the wound in her chest, and her blood pooling around her knees.  They flew from Atna’s shrine and the neighboring trees surrounding the square and all the spectators.  Sophie could no longer hear the cheering and knew with the appearance of Atna’s patrons would bring change to her people.  She smiled and felt herself fading away as death finally took hold, and she began to slump back.  Sophie opened her mouth to release a few more monarchs trapped in her throat, and hoped they would pass on a tale of hope to her loved ones back home.

 

 

The End

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Monarchs (Entry 3)

He stood on the outskirts of the crowd in the shadows of an alley.  His expression grave and he was slightly hunched forward, sulking.  He looked like the night she had told him, the night she explained how she had been chosen.  She had snuck out the very night she had learned, and ran across the village to his house.  She woke him with an urgency that startled him as much as her as though at any moment the king’s men would gather her up or sacrifice her right in the middle of the street.  They ran from the village to the nearby lake, and she explained to him.  She told him she was to be the sacrifice.  He sulked and pushed her away, separating himself from her and moving to the other side of the boulder.  He didn’t look at her, and she could see the rage dancing in his eyes, frustration echoing out every time he clenched his jaw.  His hands were balled up at his sides, and he hunched over, snarling and trembling.  She began to feel ashamed and started to cry, curling up and trying to hide.  She mumbled and cried it was her fault, and he quickly pulled her closer to him, and held her, rocking them back and forth and whispering it wasn’t her fault and several jumbled compliments.  Virginity wasn’t a requirement; just lineage, and that night he had decided to make love to her.

 

It shouldn’t be you, and I will always love you.  Since we only have moments and a few nights, I am going to provide and give you all the love you deserve for a lifetime.

           

He did.   Terrin kissed and loved her, and spent days and nights holding her and sharing the days.  They got married, secretly; exchanging vows between each other, and he gave her his ring that he received from his father after his first major hunt.  The ring clung to her finger, and she twirled it around her finger for security and memories.  She had protected it from the maids and servants, whom greedily tried to pry it from her hand as they bathed her.  Sophie refused to part with it.  She accused them of defiling the goddess’ gift, which caused most to back away, but when the head maid scoffed and lunged forward to grab it from her finger, Sophie hit her, sending her skidding back.  She kept her stance with balled fists, and the servants left her alone to clean and take care of herself, and brought her great relief to free from their selfish prattle and conceited opinions.

 

A cold hand grabbed Sophie’s upper arm, shaking her from her thoughts, and she instinctively looked and found the priest glaring down at her with his beady black eyes.   The crowd shouted their approval, and the priest smiled, tilting his head back, causing the long green feathers to tremble and headdress to rock.  He lifted the knife up in the air, and Sophie became mesmerized by the glinting of the blade, focusing upon the strings of beads dangling from the hilt.  He tugged her toward him, and she tried to shake free, sneering, but he tightened his grip, sending a sharp pain along her arm, then pulled her into him.  She tripped falling into his pristine white robes.  The audience applauded and roared, clapping and waving their banners of approval.

 

“We have a feisty one.”

 

Sophie wanted to spit on the priest, but she bit her lip, looking away from his smug grin and the people’s enthusiasm.  She looked at Davin, whom had turned away, but she could see the shame and the hopelessness in his drooping shoulders and troubled look.  The priest yanked at her again, and she pulled back.

 

It isn’t fair!!!

 

“Come here, girl!!  Don’t disrespect Atna with your insolence,” the priest snarled, dragging across the stage.  He twirled her like a rag doll, causing her to trip and fall, but he continued to drag, and the stone grated against her knees and legs.  Sophie yelped, and the spectators grew fervent in their shouting and waving of arms.  Jackals they had become, frothing at the mouth with eyes glazed over with bloodlust and greed oozed out with the sweat on their brows.  The king smiled approvingly and nodded, leaning forward as if she had become the stuffed pig at the main feast table.  He licked his lips and his eyes glinted, smiling revealing pearly white teeth underneath his fat pink lips.

 

“Give Atna her gift, so we all can prosper,” the king bellowed waving his hands, and the aristocracy roared with approval.

 

“So be it!” the priest replied, dragging Sophie across the platform, then dropping her upon the spot she would kneel.  “Kneel, girl!  Prepare to make something of your lowly existence.”

 

“Sophie.”

 

“What did you say, girl?”

 

“My name is Sophie.”

 

“Who cares.  The only importance is what your blood will do for our king.  Kneel, now!”

 

She slowly situated herself upon the altar, and the priest moved behind her.  Grabbing her hands, he tugged her back, causing her to arch upwards slightly, and with a piece of rope he bound her.  The rope cut into her wrists and she felt her hands go numb from the circulation being cut off.  The priest seized Sophie’s hair and tugged her head back to make her arch more and to look back at the statue of Atna; to look into Atna’s face as she died, so she could be purified.  Sophie released a snarl and a sharp yelp, and priest sneered and back-handed Sophie’s cheek.  Her head snapped to the right and her cheek burned from his hand, and a few tears trickled down her cheek.  He jerked her head back into place, and a few strands of hair covered her face.

 

“Now let us celebrate,” the priest shouted, causing his spittle to cover her face.  Sophie felt the tears come and she began to sob.  Her body shook, convulsing, and choked out cries.  The crowd began to dance and the band played, while the priest spouted out a speech on the future prosperity.  The sound of the crowd’s laughter, the stench of roast meat, and the sun beating down upon her face, and she could only kneel there helplessly waiting, and she cried to an unsympathetic crowd.  Sophie had only the stone-face of Atna to appeal to, and the shrine provided no confidence.   Atna’s face was cold and stern, and Sophie looked into Atna’s pupil-less eyes, discouraged and frightened.  She wanted to scream no, wanted her family to stop them, or she wanted Atna to stop everything to prove her life was more than mindless entertainment for the aristocrat masses.  There was no movement; only tears and the cold and forlorn face of Atna.

 

The goddess had been depicted more benevolent and kind with a youthful smile and soft expressions in her village.  Atna had deep green eyes cheerful and wise, and she was always dressed in long flowing gowns surrounded by monarch butterflies, her patron animal that aided her in the exodus of her ancestry.  They had formed a bridge with their wings and with a wave of Atna’s hand and simple command; they sliced down the disbeliveers with their wings, or so Sophie had been told.  She expected to see monarchs fly from the goddess’ empty eyes and slice her to pieces for her sudden loss of faith, but left with the priest’s blade.  Sophie squeezed her eyes tighter, and tears still found a route down her cheek.   She opened her eyes once again and looked at Atna.  She wasn’t the mother figure or lovely maiden from Sophie’s education, but hard and stern with desolate expression leaving her mouth with no smile and face chiseled with aggression and anger.  She looked more masculine holding the appearance of the king’s guard.  She appeared menacing with a frown and strength in her towering appearance.  The only thing that made her look feminine or delicate were the butterflies lacing her hair, but even they appeared to be lifeless corpses dangling loosely in Atna’s hair.   Sophie saw the glint of the knife in the bottom of her eye, and knew the priest had taken his position.  She could see him raising the knife up, up over his head.  She started to cry harder and whimpering, wiggling and struggling to try to move, but couldn’t move or budge the restraints, and the priest had blocked her onto the alter.

Monarchs (Entry 2)

She nodded, hiding her contempt, but pursed her lips and relaxed her face.  She would exit with dignity and strength.  Sophie began her walk to her sacrificial bed.  She began her final walk to her death.  She slowly strode to the door, raising a hand in front of her face to block the light, and she stepped out on to the platform.

 

The coolness of the stone floor shocked Sophie, causing her to shiver and making her step back slightly.  Suddenly, the crowd roared with her appearance, cheering and clapping.  Sophie tripped backwards into Davin’s open palm, and she turned quickly to look up at him.  He gazed back stern with his face like the stone sculptures lining the offering platform; chiseled and emotionless.  She shrank down slightly, folding her arms protectively against her chest, shuffling and nervously looking back and forth between the cheering crowd and Davin’s cold face.  Sophie caught sight of his eyes, catching the pain, the strength, the reality of her situation; she could almost hear him.

 

Be strong.  Don’t let them think you are a dog.

 

She stood up with the thought, and faced the crowd.  Aristocrats, rich merchants, and curious strangers crowded the stage.  They jumped and cheered in their carnival colors of purples, blues, reds and greens.  Mouths opened and closed, spewing forth endless jeers.   They applauded her with arms over their heads.  She was their amusement.  Contempt filled her eyes, and disgust caused her stomach to turn over, while she watched the hordes of fat balding men bound up in their silks, exploding at the seems like her mother’s sausages with wine trickling down their cheeks as thick bags of coins jangled their privileges.  Overdressed women with headdresses decorated with brightly colored feathers, whispering their fun, and taunting her with the pride of not being in her shoes.  Skinny little men waved banners with fork tongues and greedy eyes greasing her upon for the priest’s knife, while children scrambled under the crowd’s feet stuffing their mouths with candy and chased each other, ignoring the grisly scene.  Sophie had become a circus sideshow, and she looked down, slumping slightly.   Rage and sadness overcame her, and she felt defeated and humiliated in her small dress of muslin.

 

All I need is the king’s horses and mules, and I can balance on their backs right before the priest stabbed her.

 

She felt guilty.  She had been selfish in her thoughts, focusing only of her youth and lost future, and not thinking of the greater cause.  Sophie would be the future of her village.  Her blood would nourish, the goddess, Atna, and through her sacrifice provide a prosperous five years for the village.  Her life would provide life to her family and friends, but she felt cheated.

 

Why me?

 

Sophie didn’t bother or attempt to look for the king, a staunch man with a frown and disapproving glare, or the queen with her long black hair and apathetic glare.  She didn’t look for their daughter, a pale and frail girl the same age as Sophie, and with her failing health; it had been the rumor of the peasant township; she was supposed to be the actual sacrifice.  The princess was the king’s only child and royalty, and the king’s tyranny was more infamous than his compassion and his honesty.  No one knew how they picked the sacrifice or how the king even knew Sophie’s family, but it was rumor amongst the peasant witches, healers, and even their clergy, Sophie presented a threat.  She had been strong with the community, leading and aiding in every event, catastrophe, and relief since she could walk.  Sophie represented a cornerstone among the peasants, and her parents often thought her too bold with her remarks and ideas on how the kingdom should had run with a kinder hand and a lesser harsh tongue.  The old witch, Heldrig, told Sophie before she passed away last fall that Sophie bore a mark of change, and her life would give new meaning and direction for the village.

 

Looking up at the crowd, she faced the horde’s oily and greasy faces howling and waving in celebration, jumping up and down and barking at her heels like jackals, squawking like vultures.

 

I have to die for THEM!  They provide profit and prosperity from MY blood and MY flesh and

MY death, while my family and friends starve.  They will watch me die while stuffing their faces full on cheap wine and bread, feeding off my pain, and taking pleasure from my family’s suffering.  What good is a goddess, when only ones profiting are the ones deaf to her message?

 

Fighting tears, she cupped her face in her hands.  The heat beat down upon her shoulders, and Davin’s hand couldn’t provide anymore strength.  The crowded grew louder in applause and mirth.  She could hear a band play louder to her tears and hear as the crowd began to dance.  She looked up and through tears could see women and men twirling around, laughing, while performers began to entertain with juggling and disappearing tricks.  They didn’t care about her tears, and to her realization, they didn’t care for her life.  Broken and humiliated, she stood there crying with no one but Davin to support her or care.   She knew her family hadn’t come nor did the village, because most didn’t support the king’s choice, but most were too scared to say anything or revolt against his choice.  She knew her family couldn’t watch her be slaughtered and were crying now for her.

 

Don’t let them think you are a dog.

           

Be strong.

           

Sophie straightened her back and wiped the tears away with the back of her hand.  She grew strong with anger and hoped that maybe this wouldn’t be in vain.  Maybe she could provide something to her family after death.  She could help her family and friends in the end.  Suddenly, the priest wrapped in his many layers of robes trotted out to the stage with tall green headdress and caring the long sacrificial knife like a rod of power.  The crowd applauded and watched him in awe and fascination, waiting for a miracle or one of his speeches that made Sophie sick to her stomach.  She shuddered, appalled and sickened with entrance of grandeur, then glared at the newly polished blade of the knife, and how he waved it around with no concern as if it were only a toy.

 

“Pray to Atna!” he shouted to the crowd, thrusting the knife in the air.

 

“Pray to Atna!” the crowd replied, lifting their hands in response.  He laughed loudly and thrust the knife once more in the air and they applauded and cheered louder.  Sophie couldn’t watch them anymore, closing her eyes and tilting her head back.  She wanted them out of her mind.  She needed to focus on something else, trying to avoid them.  Suddenly, she felt a tugging at her heart, and turned her head away from the crowd a little to her right, and opened her eyes.

 

Terrin.

Monarchs (Entry 1)

She had gotten used to the dark.  The creaking and occasional scratching sounds had stopped scaring her.  She had been locked in the dark since the morning before, and remained alone, while the festivities thundered and clattered outside the locked door.  She knelt patiently before the door, praying and pondering the events soon to come.  The dust rubbed against her knees and the muslin material of her gown and started to chafe at her sides.  She laid down and curled up in a ball.  The sounds of trumpets echoed loudly and ricocheted against her eardrums.  With that signal, she knew the final parade procession had started.  The clattering crowd and clumsy conversations ceased outside, and within minutes the door would open.  Her cheeks still felt sticky and hot, and her eyes stung, while her head provided a slow thudding of a headache to the situation.  She rubbed her face in frustration and got to her feet.  Tilting her head back with pride and dignity, she shook her hair free from her face, and straightened her shoulders.

 

I won’t be found on my knees.  I won’t let them see me on the ground.. not now, not ever.

 

Tears began to well up in her eyes, but she rubbed them away, and took a deep breath to calm her racing heart.  She could hear the marching of the guards and knew the moment was upon her.  She shouldn’t lose control, because she had been given two weeks to accept this fate.  She should be fine about it, but anger was all she could feel.  No acceptance, and definitely no happiness.  She had worshiped regularly, and had been dutiful to the temple, her family, and the community, but she was the only one that had to hold this burden today.

 

It is always the oldest daughter that bears this responsibility, her mother said.

 

Her mother then had given her a hug, then ran to the bedroom; away from the king’s guards’ faces, her father’s ears, and her eldest daughter’s eyes, so to cry and mourn.  Her father stood strong, but after the guards left, and the children had gone to bed, she knew he had cried with her mother.  Her little sister, Marnie, slept with her that night, and her brother, Ben, sulked in the dark.  All the pain her family had suffered with the death of her older brother, Larkin, last winter in battle, and the death of her baby sister, Nina, two falls again from illness, but now her responsibility would only bring more grief.

 

“Hadn’t we lost enough.  Hadn’t we given enough!”

 

Suddenly a strip of bright light brought the answer, the door was being opened and she turned her head away to avoid being blinded.  She shaded her face with her hand, and the door opened further.  The light was finally interrupted by a shadow.  A heavyset man stepped into the doorway.  Six foot and dressed in formal attire.  As his face became more in view, she recognized the man.

 

Davin.

 

Her father’s best friend had been given the grave task.  His gray eyes showed sadness and the tufts of gray hair poking out from under his helmet were disheveled.  Wrinkles around the eyes showed the wear of this act, and his hesitation to retrieve her, and escort her out onto the platform.  He released a heavy sigh and reached out for her.

 

“Sophie, it’s time.”

 

She felt numb.  All the anger had drained from her and now the fear had set in.  Her heart began to palpitate rapidly, and she felt the tears started.  She turned away ashamed for being weak.

 

Why can’t I be stronger?  Many have gone before me.  We have to choose to accept this… but I am not ready.

           

Sophie couldn’t move, and she looked up for help.  She needed his strength, or his guidance.  Davin’s eyes softened and he looked down for a moment.  Sophie saw a stray tear and her heart softened, clenching her teeth and hands; she decided to be strong.  His eyes fixed on her knees, and she felt inclined to follow his gaze.  Dirt had clumped upon her knees, and streaked down her shins, covering the tops of her feet.  With another sigh, he knelt before and began to brush away the dirt briskly.

 

Sophie watched and smiled, because at this moment, he reminded her of her father, and maybe it was the best he could do for his best friend at this moment.  Davin had fathered her, and raised her along with his three sons.  He took care of her, while her parents were away or when someone fell ill.  He had taught her how to shoot an arrow and showed her the different animal tracks.  He definitely had scolded her like her father did a number of times.  She could see the heartache in his eyes now, and recognized the grief this moment would cause him.  Sophie saw another tear and knew he had accepted her as one of his own children the day she was born, and was torn between protecting her like a father and fulfilling a duty required of the king’s guard.

 

“It isn’t fair,” he whispered, returning to his feet.  “It shouldn’t have to be you.”

 

Sophie could only smile and felt a tear run down her cheek.   She reached out and gripped his arm, nodding in agreement.

 

“Yes, but it is my duty, and it is time.”

 

Davin gave Sophie a quick hug, then brushed away her tears.

 

“Let us go now.”

 

He moved around to her back, then placed his palm against her upper back for support.

 

“Lead the way,” he said.  “May the goddess forgive us of this travesty.”

 

Sophie began to slowly shuffle forward, stumbling slightly, but Davin held her up, smiling down for encouragement.  She smiled up, trying to ignore the fear that had made her forget her own legs.

 

“Bring out the girl,” a stranger bellowed outside, then a loud roar of applause and cheer followed.  Sophie trembled with anger, forgetting her fear and the pain.  She straightened her neck, and couldn’t fight the urge to look out into the light with contempt and disgust.

 

It isn’t fair.

 

“Ignore them, Sophie,” Davin whispered into her ear.  “Be strong and walk with dignity.  Don’t let them think you are a dog.”