The Spirit Keeper

Tailla

My heart was beating faster than that of a trapped rabbit. In my haste to escape I had tripped over several of the roots that snaked through the forest’s floor. I  was covered in dirt from head to toe and had a deep cut on my jawline from hitting it on a sharp rock one of the times I had tripped. I wasn't petty enough to let that slow me down. My long raven black hair was refusing to cooperate in my plans to seek refuge, constantly snagging on upturned branches. Just when I thought I had put enough distance between myself and the spirits that haunted me, I heard my name travel through the forest in an eerie song. “Taaaaillla,” the voice taunted.

I bit my lip and blinked back tears that threatened to spill over. I picked up pace and ran faster, never slowing down, refusing to let my feet fumble again. Eventually I would run out of ground. The forest was split in half by a steep slope that opened up to a rocky shore. I slowed when I neared it. I had two options; jump and face a bloody brutal death, or turn myself over to the spirits. Neither seemed favorable.

What would mother want for me?I asked myself. My mother was a pious women. She wouldn't have lasted this long, no, she wouldn't have done the bidding of the retched spirits. She would not have let them turn her into a sinner of many proportions. Immediately I had sought my answer. I took a deep breath and inched forward. Don't look down, I reminded myself.  I braced myself for the long and terrifying jump.

I picked up pace. The running start would make my death faster and less drawn out. Only it didn't happen that way. My arm was pulled back, by a cold hand. I recognized the cold in the balmy august air as that of a spirit's. The spirits became concrete and real to me, all thanks to the sorcerer's curse. I turned to face my captor. When I saw him I forgot how to breathe. “Gabe,” I whispered in awe.

The man smiled at me. It was a smile that I had longed to see in the two years since his passing. It didn't add up though, why was my brother's spirit trapped on earth with the rest of the evil doers?

I stared at my brother, he had the same delicate features I had. The same translucent blue eyes, shrouded by dark eyelashes similar to my own. The only thing that was different was our bone structure, his far more pronounced and masculine. We could have been twins. It  took me a moment to process my thoughts into words. “Gabriel, what are you doing here?”

Gabriel shook his head and averted his eyes. The last time I had seen him before the burial he was lying unconscious in village center. He had been stabbed by a bandit at the age of twenty five. As long as I could remember he was an innocent. “We don't have time Tailla,” his hands went for the talisman, made of silver chain links and bloodstone, over his head. “Wear this and it will lead you to another land. It won't stop the spirits from chasing you, but it will be awhile before they find you.”

I protested. I had questions for him. He pressed a kiss to my forehead and dropped the chain over her head. “ I will find you little sister,” he whispered before my vision went dark.

*******

I couldn't be sure how much time had passed, when I awoke abruptly, treading water in a river bed with a strong current. I cursed myself for never learning to swim in my eighteen years of life.  I kept my chin up while I struggled against the current. Desperately, I searched for something to anchor myself. Instinctively my arms went around a moss covered rock. It wasn't long before I began to slip. My eyes grew wide when I realized the river bed was transcending into a steep waterfall. Wasn't this what I had asked for earlier? A  quick ending? Well that was before I had come across Gabe's spirit, before I had any real sense of hope.

Somehow, I summoned the strength to fight the current that threatened to push me down stream. I didn't stop walking against the heavy water until I had made it across. My fingernails dug into the rich earth as I climbed back to dry land. My legs collapsed and I rolled over onto my back. Above my head purple birds flew in a flock against a pink sky. I wiped the water out of my eyes. Purple birds? Surely I had been mistaken, it had to be a trick of the sun set. I let my eyes and weary mind rest for a few minutes. It was night time when I opened them again. I still wasn't able to comprehend the scenery around here. Glowing birds lit up the forest like candles. Once I was sure I could be steady on my feet, I followed the path of light formed by the birds until I came face to face with something more disturbing. I froze. Strange creatures eyed me with the same scrutiny I offered them. Blue skinned men and women. Was it a plague of some sorts? There was no comforting answer. I turned to run when one of them grabbed my arm. I let out a hiss of breath, silently praying I wouldn't be infected.

A blue woman, ushered me forward, but released her grip on m arm. “What is your name?” The creature demanded.

“Tailla,” my voice came out in a shaky whisper.

The woman's hand went for my tailsman, making me  recoil. “How curious,” the creature grinned. “Here take this,” The woman thrust a wooden sphere into my hand. “Or be eaten in your sleep.”

I searched the blue woman's face for any signs of humor. There were none. “What would eat me in my sleep?” I asked cautiously.

The blue people roared into laughter before turning away from me. I did not find the unanswered question as amusing as they had.

The End

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