Steaph is thought to be the last Singer, of an ancient order dedicated to one purpose: preservation. Singers once shaped the world, carved the mountains, filled the seas, flecked the skies with white fire. Now they are but one. It is fabled in the Singer's ancient lore that the Phoenix will rise from fire and bring a new birth to their order and the dying world. Except a power hungry young prince has captured Steaph, nine moons with child, and sentences both to burn.
The house continued to burn. Panting heavily, each wretched breath worse than the last, she huddled in the corner of the room and begged the gods to save her babe.
Please, not such a fate for one young as this. Please. She would have been so beautiful…Let her breathe at least one breath of purity. I beg you my gods, hear me, do not let her live and die in fire. Please!
Gods oft did not listen. The putrid stench of scorching flesh filled her nostrils, her babe continued to wail. Screams drifted up the stairwell, dry voices rasping oaths to lost loves that none would hear save the damned. Her own brethren burned below, desperately punching and clawing on oaken planks which sealed each exit.
Futile. They barred the house when they heard my pain. Trapped inside, we are ants in a smoldering jar.
Already the house was filling with smoke; the cacophony of splintering wood, sizzling flesh, cries for mercy and useless poundings on windows long ago boarded shut was muffled by a heavy, suffocating oppression.
Better suffocation than burning alive, she thought. Gathering what little strength still clinging meekly to her bones, Steaph raised herself to hands and knees. Her babe’s screams were incessant, the most lovely and heart-wrenching sound she had ever heard. My sweet daughter’s first song, a wordless plea for death. This world of heartless gods and soulless men is no burden for you, my little angel.
A speck of white in a room of ash, her pale, wrinkled, naked little form lay back on a bundle of cloth, small piece of purplish flesh still connected to naval where the men had split them.
My brothers delivered her even as their fates were set and oil was poured about the property. She will never leave her spot of birth. Am I so impotent? To bring forth life if just to burn? The sheets that wiped her clean of blood shall be her cerements and she will never know to laugh.