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And then it all went up in flames



 
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Aileana Nathairsen

Sometimes, when one is lost in the depths of a lovely dream, it’s hard when reality comes butting in and waking you up. In fact, it takes quite a few moments to shake yourself from the comfort and warmth to fully realize that you -are-, in fact, awake. Such was the case for Aileana. She languidly stretched on top of her straw mattress, made softer by wool blankets beneath and on top of her. Something itched at the back of her mind. It didn’t feel like she should be awake yet, but she was not exactly a morning person, so that didn’t surprise her. Still, it felt...off. The reddish hairs on the back of her pale skin, skin plagued with freckles.

She slid open the door of her box bed, which provided her with as much privacy as one could expect when sharing the room with half a dozen other people. It was quiet enough, and warm, and as much like a nest as a dragon could ask for. Her frizzed red hair stood out in all manner of disarray around her head. It was an instant later that the smell hit her sensitive nostrils.

Fire.

It wasn’t just any fire either, it was the sulfur and brimstone scent that came with dragon fire. And it was everywhere. It permeated the air. Now, Aileana was awake. Whatever pleasantness she had been experiencing in the dream world, it was now well and shaken off as she quickly slid from the wooden frame. “Whot th’hell is goin’ on?” Her voice was still thick with sleep as she pulled on a pair of soft woolen slippers. Her question hung on the air, unanswered. All the other beds in the room were empty. Where was everyone? Why hadn’t they tried to wake her?

She didn’t even bother to dress, merely pulling a wrap from it’s hook and throwing it over her shoulders. It was just about then that she heard the screams.

It wasn’t just one, and they weren’t entirely human sounding at that. She moved quickly, more quickly than a human ever could, into the mud thick streets of their small clan village. It was just the beginning of fall and the rains had already started, thickening the dirt so that it squished around her barely covered feet.

Some of the fire smell was coming from the homes that had been set on fire. This was, by what she could tell of the scent, wood fire. Man made fire. “But why would we b’settin’ our homes on fire?” she whispered to herself. She hunched down and trudged through the roadway, mud caking the bottom of her rough linen nightdress. Her vision was already good in the dark, but the light coming from the burning domiciles was helping. “Allo? Whot’s goin’ on? Anyone?” She was trying not to panic too much as she followed the sounds near the center of the small village. It didn’t help when she felt something wrap around her ankle like an iron vice. Aileana screamed, pulling her leg before looking down.

The scream turned into a gasp as she spied her uncle, half in shadows, grabbing at her and speaking in low tones. “Shut yer trap, lass. Yer likely ta’get us killed. Well, at least yerself” He managed a strangled, coughed, laugh before groaning. She dropped to her knees beside him, the smell of blood mingling with mud and filth. Her eyes scanned him as he grunted loudly. Painfully. Not only were his clothes shredded, but he was caught in half form. Parts of him had begun to turn scaled and thick, his body taking on mass. The wound in his stomach, though, had happened before he could fully take on his other shape. The smell of filth, blood, reeked from him as his free hand keep his entrails from falling out. Normally they could heal quickly, but not quickly enough to stop this, and not when stuck between one form and another.

Her tone became hushed as she pulled herself into the shadows with him. “Uncle Fearghas, can y’tell me whot’s goin’ on? Where is ev’ryone?” She was now trying to help him, pressing her hands against his gaping stomach. His breath was ragged as he inhaled before answering “Humans, lass. I dunna ken why or how, but they know ‘bout us. Came t’kill us, it seems.” He stopped, the act of speaking obviously becoming harder and harder by the moment. “They smoked most of us out, first. Everyone started runnin’ out. Nah you, though...” he started to drift off. Blood loss was taking its toll. As she looked down she could see that the wound had stopped bleeding. She pulled her hands away, wiping them on her dress. She knew if it stopped, then that meant he wasn’t going to make it. He might only be passed out now, but it wouldn’t take long. Tears stung at her cheeks as she leaned over, kissing the scruffed beard on his cheek. It was from him and her dad that she had inherited her flamed hair and now she ran her fingers over it.

Guilt ripped through her. She hadn’t woken up with everyone else when it all began. She was a hard sleeper in the best of times, but lately….

Another scream ripped through the night, tearing her attention away from the guilt and the loss. She looked around for something, anything, to use as a weapon. Luckily her Uncle Fearghas was a warrior, and he would never go anywhere without his sword. She grabbed it from the ground where it had fallen. She was strong, but she couldn’t quite lift the sword. It was made for a man three times her weight, twice her size, and a few hundred years older. The tip dragged in the mud, a deep crevice cutting into the ground behind her. She knew she would likely die, but she couldn’t just let them slaughter her people. Her family. There wasn’t enough time to shift, and already too much time had passed.

She heard the slurping of mud behind her that wasn’t made from her blade. Her body turned quickly, pulling up with all of her strength to lift the sword, raising it up in the air as she let a growl rumble in her throat. In an instant she dropped it to the ground as she rushed towards the figure. “Edward! I almost ran y’through!” She threw her arms around his neck, having to launch herself several inches off the ground to do so. He grunted and did the same, though his arms circled her waist for a few moments before helping her to the mud again. “Ailean, m’love. We have tay go. Now.” Her arms had dropped from him, but now she tried to take a step back, shaking her head. “Nay, we have tay fight! They’re killin’ mah people, Edward. Let’s go!” Before she could run towards the fray, he had grabbed her arm, tightening his grip as he pulled hard. “No, we need t’leave. Now. They’ll nah stop til they’ve killed all of ye and yer kind. Especially ye an’...” his eyes travelled down to the soft swell of her stomach “Our bairn.”

She pulled her arm away from him as hard as she could, hands protectively covering her burgeoning bump. “Whot d’ye mean, especially?” He couldn’t look at her, though, his eyes falling to the ground. Her irritation grew. There wasn’t time for this nonsense. “Obviously there’s somethin’ burnin’ in yer mind, Edward Malcom Macrae. Loosen yer tongue, lest I loosen it fer ye.” Slowly his eyes moved to hers, his voice barely above a whisper. “I told m’family about ye. All of ye. Tol’them about our plans, the bairn...what ye are.”

Her mouth opened in shock. The grief she had been feeling moments ago was replaced by a rage that she could feel burning in her stomach. “And whot? This? They did this?” She waved her arm around, her voice having dropped at least two octaves. Her normally blue eyes were a brilliant green, the pupils elongating to become more slitted than round. He didn’t answer her, though, just closed the gap between them. “We have tay go.”

“No,” her voice no longer human but the deep growl despite the skin she wore still maintaining her human shape. She turned and picked the sword up again, starting towards the fight. He might be a traitorous coward, but she wasn’t. Couldn’t be.

Pain, sharp and quick, exploded in her head. Those green, slitted, eyes rolled up in her head. That sting was nothing compared to the sting of betrayal she felt as everything around her turned black.



October 03, 2018 02:34 pm

Aileana Nathairsen

Groan. That was all she could do at the moment. Her head was pounding as if she had spent the last week drinking. Actually, no, it hurt worse than that considering how well she usually handled her drink. The sound of her pain was mimicked close to her, though it was more of a braying sound. She pushed herself up from the soft blanket of grass underneath her, dewy drops leaving her skin damp from the morning mist. With much effort she pushed herself up into a seated position. Unlike the day before, she didn’t have any remnants of sweet dreams or a soft blanket to curl up under.

Sleepily she rubbed her eyes, pulling them open with much effort as she rid herself of the crust in the corners. She found herself nearly eye to eye with a shaggy beast, horns curving back from it’s furred forehead. Slitted eyes regarded her lazily as she yelped, the pain in her head increasing tenfold at the sound. “Gods help me.” The creature brayed again. Now that she was completely awake, she got a better look at the terrifying...goat. Not just one, but a herd it seemed, shaggy fur shifting in the breeze. For now, they paid her no mind. Of course, she wasn’t much of a threat, was she? Standing out in the middle of a rocky field in naught but the skin she was born in.

Wait.

The skin she was born in?

“Whot in the hell?” She looked down at her pale, freckled, skin. Naked as a bairn. Immediately her thoughts went to the life growing inside of her, hands splayed across her stomach in that protective way that only a mother could understand. And her heart sank. That lovely, soft, swell that had just been there the day before was replaced by a flat stomach that concaved slightly inward. The ache in her head was forgotten now as the ache in her heart intensified tenfold.

“No...no, no, no.” Her legs felt weak, faltering under her slight frame. Losing her family last night was hard enough. Losing her love was just as unbearable, even if it had been a loss through treachery. But this? This was all encompasing. She had only known for a few months that she was carrying, but it was long enough for her love to overwhelm her. Nothing, nothing in this world could have prepared her for that kind of love. Now? Now he, or she, was gone. As quickly as she had stood up, she fell back to her knees as her legs lost their will to carry her any longer. Sobs trembled through her body until she was shaking with them, moving to curl up on the ground and pull her knees to her chest.

Everything in her world was confusion. Nothing made sense. And now, here she was, alone and naked in a field of goats. The thought so ridiculous that a laugh broke through the sobs. She couldn’t stop, in fact, and was now laughing so hard that her head felt like it was going to split like a log with a sharp axe. “Oh, Laird..” she managed a breath without both feeling like she was going to die and going to piss herself.

A soft cough sounded. It wasn’t hers. It wasn’t the goats. She looked up from a curtain of dishevelled red curls to see a man standing there. So caught up in her own mind, she hadn’t even heard him approach. The pain...the babe...it was something she would have to deal with another day, another time, when she had time and heart to do so.

He was older, his face lined with as many crags as this valley field. A strange looking hat lay flat against his gray haired head and his pale blue eyes tried their hardest not to make direct contact with her. “Ahhh...lass? Are y’all right? Aht looks like y’might need some halp?” Carefully she sat up, pulling her hair over her shoulder to try to gain some sort of coverage. It was at that point she realized another oddity in a million oddities this morning. No longer was it shorn just above her shoulders. Gone were the small braids that had decorated the thick locks. Now it was long enough that she really could use it, the ends curling against the grass as it blanketed her. Her voice was weak, raspy from crying. “Aye, I think ah could.”

He was dressed strangely, trousers instead of a kilt, and in cloth the likes of which she had never seen. Of course, they had used colored cloth for clothing in her clan, but never like this. It was multi-colored and patterned in a way that the colors cross back and forth over eachother. He pulled off his deep blue jacket and offered it to her, still trying to avert his eyes. He wasn’t an especially tall man, but he was larger and taller than her. He spoke as she pulled on the coat and buttoned it. “M’names Duncan Wallace. I was joust out on m’mornin’ walk and saw y’here…” he trailed off, giving her time to introduce herself.

“Aileana,” was all she replied with. Her clan were not known by anyone except, it seems, the Macreas. Best to keep it to herself for now. His accent was strange...unlike any she had heard before, but just enough of her own to know it was at least of Scottish descent. “Wait, did y’say Wallace? I didnae ken there were any Wallaces in these pairts.” He let out a soft chuckle and glanced up to make sure she was decent. “Me da’ moved us here jest after th’first World War. Met m’wife, an’ just decided t’stay.”

The concern must have showed on her face, because he ushered her with a hand towards him. “Come on, Aileana, dear. Margaret will just be aboot readah to serve lunch. We get some food in ye, an’ye ken tell’meh what brought ye t’be out here.” She nodded and started to follow him as he made his way back, she would have assumed, from the way he came. The coat he had given her was rough and itched her skin, but at least it was warm. “Whot is th’first World War? I didnae ken the world went tay war…”

A deep laugh emanated from his throat as he shook his head, straightening his hat after. “Jest whot are they teachin’ ye in school these days?” Again, she stared at him. She could understand what the words meant for the most part, but there were some things that just didn’t make a lick of sense.

“Whot is a...school?”

His laughter stopped as did he, for just a moment, before continuing on. “Never y’mind, dear. Let’s get y’some food.” The thoughts he had were kept to himself, though he was sure her parents must have been some of those religious zealots who didn’t let their children learn to read or write, much less attend a school. “Tis nay too long of’a walk.”
October 03, 2018 05:40 pm
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