Umber, an honest, hard-working man, has just lost his sister to the pyre. But could this incident become the start of a strange and terrible quest?
They took her away, and they burnt Sienna.
As I sit at the kitchen table, I don't feel the splintered grain on the wood I lean on. I don't feel the warmth of open hearth. I feel nothing, nothing at all, but the ghastly reflections of what has passed.
My feet are bare and cold as I fly down the street. I'm weaving between the crowd, the stink of people and smoke hindering my progress. Running, running so fast. I'm gasping for breath, but I can't stop. I can't stop now. I can almost see it.
Water sits in a clay tumbler on the table. But I don't want to drink. I don't want to see-
People are regarding me now, as I push through them. The crowd is thicker here, not moving, and as I jostle them they hold a spectrum of expressions. Annoyance. Curiosity. Shock. A small child, holding his mother's hand, looks up at my face in fear as I make my way through.
I hold my head in my hands, my face screwed up, but the tears won't come. I hit the table in a moment of passion.
“My sister...! She's my sister...let me...through...”
There are splinters in my hand now. The room is too warm. Claustrophobic. I can feel myself sweating.
“...They've got it wrong...please...let me past...!”
I'm lying now, head and arms on the table, trying to block out everything.
The crowd has a parting, a gap, to the front now. I can see the light and the embers through it. In one final push, I scream, panting, through it.
I can hear the logs on the hearth spitting out heat.
And in a moment of tranquillity, I spot her immediately. True, her skirts are black and tattered as the flames lick them, and her skin is reddened and charred. But I can see the hair I plaited for her this morning dancing in the flame, and I distinguish her screams.
The tears have come. The burn on my arm is throbbing.
She is spewing raw notes of fear from her burning lungs. I can smell her roasting flesh as she burns on the pyre. I am shouting for her, clambering over the barricade and towards the fire that holds her prisoner.
And now, I am sobbing. I just want it to stop.
The flaming pyre is roaring and hissing as I reach it's base. Sienna can see me. I can see her. My arm feels white heat suddenly, and I retreat it in a screech of agony.
If I hadn't pulled back, I could've held on, I could've saved her.
Phantom hands from unnamed faces wrench me down. I'm spouting gibberish for them to let me go. But she's slipping from me, and as I tumble down, we lock eyes for a moment.
But, now, she's gone.
In a moment of fire's unpredictable fury, the flames jump up and engulf her like ravenous imps. As I fall to the cold, hard ground, her noise has stopped.
And they just led me home, numb and dead inside.
I stood up, I couldn't stand it anymore. I roared in rage, and seeing the fire in the hearth, threw the cup of water over it. The flames were quelled, and I sank down to the floor, sobbing. My shoulders heaved. Why, why, why.
In my bout of emotion, I almost didn't see him.
The door creaked open, and there was a cold breeze. The steam and smoke from the water were drifting lazily from the now-cold hearth, and they cast a screen over the open doorway. Against this misty backdrop, a figure was silhouetted. I sensed the silence before I sensed him himself. As I turned to look at him though, he broke that silence in a voice soft as velvet and charming as a purr.
“Excuse me to bother you at this time, sir, but...to put it very, very soundly, have you ever indulged in necromancy?”.