Challenge Four


When Damien opened his eyes, the horizon had a purple hue in the east and twinkling stars could still be seen against the deep blue sky.  He didn’t know for how long he had been unconscious, but he figured only half an hour was left before the horizon turned red.  Evelyn was nowhere to be seen, and his sword was gone.  He felt strange within, sometimes as if a part of him was missing and the next moment as if he had never been better.  He remembered feeling sad when he lost a favourite toy as a child.  But now as he lay on the ground beside remnants of a fire, he wanted to know why he wasn’t feeling bad about giving the sword away.  As a matter of fact, he wanted to know why he wasn’t feeling any emotion at all.  Evelyn had taken the sword and disappeared, and probably she had been the one to make him fall unconscious using her eyes or some other magic once her motive was fulfilled.  He tried to figure out why he wasn’t angry at her.

He sat on the ground, and saw the sun rise like the countless times he had seen before, brightening the lush valley with each passing second. 
It happens every day.  
He remembered feeling something while he saw the breaking of dawn from his balcony, but he couldn’t pinpoint it.  The wind that was blowing was strangely warm against his skin, which struck him as odd.  At this time of the year, it was supposed to be biting cold.

The sound of a door turning on its hinges behind his back made him turn, and he saw his mother emerging out of the house.  She curved her lips upwards at the edges when she saw him and walked towards him.  When she came near, her eyes widened for a moment and the curvature disappeared.
What was it anyways?  A smile. 
Something deep inside him supplied the answer.

“What happened to you?”  Josephine was surprised.  Damien had a faint bluish pallor, and he was looking at her with an unfamiliar expression in his eyes.  She bent down to feel his forehead and check whether he was okay, and was startled when her palm touched his forehead and felt as if it had touched ice.

“Get inside Damien, I’ll bring some firewood from the barn and light a fire.  Come on, get up and go inside.”  He rose from the ground and started walking, and she hurried to the barn.

How many times do I have to tell this boy not to stay outside at night?  Old enough to marry, and can’t even take care of himself!  It was probably some poor hungry fellow who took the milk.    Josephine thought to herself, but her motherly nature was urging her to grab some wood and head back home inside quickly, and take care of her son.  Minutes later, she strained tea in a cup and handed it over to Damien, who was sitting on a rug in front of the fireplace and staring blankly into the fire.  The bluish tinge had still not gone, and when his fingers touched hers to take the tea cup, they were chilled as before.  She wrapped a shawl around her warm clothes to guard against the cold wind, and went out of her house to consult the village Healer.

The villagers were slowly getting out of their beds.  Some were tending to their farm animals outside their homes, and some were emerging out of their doors with steaming cups in their hands filled with fresh tea and clad in shawls or woolen overalls, surveying their farms.  Wearing two or three clothes over their normal summer wear, everybody looked fatter than they were.  Passing farms as they stirred into activity, Josephine began to think that she should have woken up Arthur and sent him to tell the Healer about Damien; he would have run fast and reached there by now, but he had been sleeping so deeply that she didn’t have the heart to wake him up.  The quivering ‘meh-meh’ of the sheep and ‘moo’ of the cows being herded into the open from barns were beginning to be heard as Josephine quickened her steps when she reached the alley where the Healer lived.  When she reached the house, she knocked once and waited.  The window to the left of the door opened and an old lady’s face emerged.

Josephine bowed.  “Good morning Nyerah Mai, I have come to ask for medicine for my son.”

The window was closed to stop the cold air from entering, and soon the door was opened and the old Healer of the village, in her sixties now, greeted Josephine. 
“What happened to Arthur?”  She questioned as she walked past her and continued to the garden beside her house to the left.
“It’s not Arthur, Nyerah Mai, it’s Damien.  He is very cold, and he doesn’t look well. He looks... blue.”  She said, following her.
Nyerah narrowed her eyes and furrowed her brow, concentrating on her vast knowledge of symptoms and illnesses.
“He must have been out in the cold for some time.  Give him some hot tea and he will be okay.”
“He looks strange, Mai.”

Nyerah nodded and swept her gaze on the plants growing in her garden.  They were mostly different kinds of herbs and wild shrubs growing in the forests around Javidan and the slopes of Haroun mountains, but she had carefully chosen which one had medicinal properties and had them planted near her home.  A plant with round leaves grew to the far left, with bluish white buds that had braved the cold winter nights about to bloom.  Brandewine was good for curing cold and winter strokes.  Nyerah plucked a few leaves from the bottom of the stem and gave them to Josephine.

“Put these in your pot when you make tea, it will take care of him.”
Josephine looked worried, and Nyerah knew it.
“Don’t worry dear, I shall light a candle and pray for his good health.  Now go and give him this.”

In the small village of Javidan, there wasn’t much talk about philosophy and religion.  People led simple lives, and put their faith in God to give them good rains and healthy animals to take care of their lives.  Faith made people strong, and reassurance from each other to see through thick and thin together only strengthened it.  This was the reason why Javidan had an uncomplicated way of life, where people took care of themselves and each other, and let the world unfold itself at its own pace.  But right now, with leaves clutched in her hand and reassured by the Healer’s promise of praying for her son, Josephine was pacing as fast as she could to traverse the distance between herself and her home.  A cold wind blew and made her shawl flutter, which she pulled tighter around herself.

The wind ruffled her hair as Evelyn stood atop Haroun’s peak, trying to forgive herself for leaving Damien lying in the cold while she went to place the sword in the Unbreakable Chamber, from where her father had taken it out the day he was murdered by his own brother.  The sword was safe, and now beating in rhythm with her heart.  But the deep magic with which it had been wrought had taken its toll on Damien, and he had not been fully able to give it away.  She knew she would never be able to forgive herself if anything happened to him.  She closed her eyes, and floating on the stream of the infinite calmness and raw strength that flowed into her from her bond with the sword, she traversed space and time, landing in front of Damien’s house in the blink of an eye.  She went inside and saw him sitting in front of a fireplace and gazing absently into the fire, holding a cup full of tea in his hand that had turned cold.

Damien turned around slowly, and saw Evelyn standing in front of him, the door open behind
Mother had said something about not letting the air inside.

“You’re letting the air inside.”  He spoke, got up, and walked to the door to close it as Evelyn stood in the centre of the small room.  When he was done, he turned around to look at her.
“What is it?”

Evelyn bore into his unblinking eyes, the ones that had widened in astonishment when they had first seen her, searching for even a slight flicker of emotion.  She took a step forward to close the distance between them. 
“Oh Damien, you had to let go of the sword with all your heart” She spoke gently.

But Elvish hearts had a hard time in letting go of anything, forget the First Sword.  She put her arms around him, pulling him into an embrace as she felt the cold of his chilled skin permeate her clothing and discomfort her.  Damien didn’t move a muscle, didn’t raise an eyebrow, didn’t blink.  Evelyn had never been this physically close to a man in her life, and she didn’t know what to expect.  She had no idea if he could be cured, but she had done what was necessary and there was nothing she knew she could do to cure him.

She whispered, “I am sorry Damien.  I am so sorry.”

The pain of parting with the sword had been so great that Damien’s mind had stuffed all his emotions into a void, unknown and inaccessible even to himself.  But when he felt Evelyn’s body pressed against his and heard her speaking in his ear, something sparked inside him.  It exploded into an inferno, flooded him with its heat and made him burn.  Evelyn felt his hands move as they slowly wrapped themselves around her and held her close.  Resting her head on his shoulder, she smiled.

The End

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