This week’s goes with an idea I’m playing around with for a short story. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m liking the idea and characters so far. Enjoy!
Eltara reached out with trembling fingers and touched the cold stone base of the statue at the center of the square. This city square held only ivy, crumbling cobblestone, and the unweathered statue. Even though the guards didn’t watch this place, it still held an oppressive air of sorts. Or so she was told. She only felt sadness and longing. The statue was abandoned here just like she was, but unlike her, it at least lived on in whispered children’s fables. If anyone dared whisper of love and soulmates in a world that had outlawed such things.
This place held a draw on her that she couldn’t explain, but that wasn’t why she was here tonight. She was here under the full moon, staring at a statue, because Lutania had wanted her to take a picture with the statue. The girl, despite her father’s attempts to knock some sense into her, retained a strong sense of romanticism, and she’d insisted on sending Eltara to test the stories. Now that she was here, though, she couldn’t bring herself to take Lutania’s picture. She just stared at the forlorn expression on the statue and shoved her hands into her pockets. “Who did you represent when you were carved? Whoever shaped you took a big risk. The person you’re supposed to look like can’t have appreciated that forlorn, lost look on a marble likeness of himself.” She climbed up onto the marble base and sat at the statue’s feet, staring out across concrete yards, rows of tidy houses, and pitch-black roads in the city down the hill from the square.
“What was it like back when your maker lived? Were you formed back when this land was part of America? I wish I could’ve seen it. Equality must have been a beautiful thing. Being free to be whatever you were must have been even nicer.” The breeze snatched her soft words away, and she stood, hands on her hips. While she was asking questions and making confessions, she might as well get the things weighing on her off her chest where no one would hear or hurt her for saying them. “I hate this place. No one wants me, and I have nowhere to belong. But I’m not weak just because of my birth’s circumstances, and I’m not meant to be treated like an outcast.” Her smile dropped, and she reached out to run her fingers over the cold stone chest of the man. “Whoever’s image you were carved in, you’d be just like me. Not quite similar enough to either side to be accepted anywhere.”
The statue remained still and silent.
Sighing, she turned and leaned back against the statue’s chest, placing her hand in his one free hand. Maybe someday, someone besides a cold statue of a man long dead would embrace her. Not likely. An ache spread through her chest and stole her breath, left her with only the pain instead of the air that should occupy her lungs. She’d never be matched with anyone. A half-breed who never should have lived would never be picked for the ranks of the Chosen. Even if she were, her fellow Chosen would hate her, wouldn’t they? Her match would recoil in disgust. Tears filled her eyes, and she sagged down to hunker at the statue’s feet. Would the loneliness and separation ever end? If she could leave and find her own way in the world, maybe it would be better? But it wasn’t possible for one half-breed with no help. She’d be caught trying to escape the Praesaepium’s walls and thrown into the mental hell of the Mors Animi. Her tears spilled over past her lashes. She buried her face in her arms and allowed herself this moment of weakness. Out here, at least, she could have that.
A groan sounded behind her, and she froze. The sound had almost seemed human, but it had a strange grating sound like pebbles or stone grinding against other stone. She hugged her knees to her chest more closely and listened. Was someone else out here with her? Had Lutania sent someone to make sure she actually did what she was supposed to? No, that made no sense. She was to return with a picture.
The groan came again, and she reached out for the boot of the statue to push herself to her feet. Her heart pounded, and she almost missed it because of the adrenaline pumping through her.
Warmth and real leather caressed her palm.
She gasped and snatched her hand back. She scrambled to her feet and backed away from the statue. The moon, standing directly over it, illuminated the cold marble. But that cold marble was slowly, but surely, losing its sheen and becoming something else altogether. A clap of thunder boomed overhead, and lightning split the sky. The statue moaned this time, and she froze in place.
Then the most miraculous thing occurred as she watched. The statue began to shrink. She gasped and stumbled away, but not quickly enough to avoid the statue as it toppled over. She squeezed her eyes shut. Was this how she went? Crushed to death by a giant statue magic was shrinking? Had she done this? She took another step down the stairs before the statue toppled onto her. How could she have done this? She wasn’t a Fortis. She didn’t have magic.
The former statue had, somehow, become a living, breathing man. Clearly magic was involved. Had it been the curse Lutania had gone on about? Her heart hammered in her chest. No, no, no. That wasn’t okay. It wasn’t possible. His warm body pressing against hers said otherwise. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her palms to his bare chest to push him off. She had to get out of here. If the Fortis guards bothered to check the square tonight, she’d be in so much trouble. Emerald eyes met hers, and the man pushed himself up off her, but he didn’t stand. He just hovered over her, a frown furrowing his brow.
She stared too. Mesmerized, she reached out to run her fingers of his face. He’d been cold marble moments ago. How could this even happen? She chewed on her inner cheek. Whatever had happened, if anyone found out she’d woken him up, she’d disappear like any other Infirmi who had Ability. No one would miss her because she wasn’t even fully Infirmi and both sides wanted her gone. She pulled her hand away. Her movement snapped whatever spell he was under, and he moved off her, standing up and staring at the city. The furrow in his brow deepened, and his brows pulled down.
“S-sir?” She scrambled to her feet and looked out across the still sleeping Praesaepium. What was he looking at?
He didn’t answer.
Should she leave him to figure out his own problems? Or stay and help him? Helping him would jeopardize her safety, and it might also mean she would have to attempt an escape even if she didn’t think she’d make it. But if things went sour, she’d be tangled up with him, and they’d end up running from forces belonging to the elite members of the Fortis. She turned away, her steps faltering. Her heart whispered that she shouldn’t go, but she couldn’t let it dictate this situation. Not if she wanted to survive in this society of rules and dictates.
Eltara shook her head. “You’re mistaken, sir. I’m not the woman you’re searching for.”
“You have to be. You… You broke the curse.”
She shook her head again and glanced over her shoulder. His malachite gaze rested on her hopefully. She couldn’t leave him here. He looked lost, and she knew what that felt like. She’d never be able to ignore someone in need. Not when she knew what it was like to be there and have no one. She sighed. “I’m Eltara. Please, keep quiet. If the Fortis that check around here catch us, you’ll be in trouble.” And so would she, particularly since this didn’t look very good. They’d think she was trying to seduce one of their own, and that would gain her a quick pass to the Mors Animi. She shivered. “Really, you don’t want to know what might happen.”
Well, that’s it for this week! Hope you guys enjoyed it! What are you working on? I’d love to hear about it, so if you’d like to share, please feel free to utilize the comments section to share with us.