Vol.2, Ch.1, P.8
There once lived a little girl.
A Nafílim girl.
Tender and bright. A child of much love.
Her mother was fair as a flower, and famed for it. And from her did the daughter inherit a gaze of amber and locks of obsidian.
Eyes, large and lovely.
Hair, long and lustrous.
Over the coming moons and winters, she was sure to bloom into a shimmering belle herself.
Six was her family.
Her father, giant yet gentle.
Her mother, beautiful yet benevolent.
Her brother and two sisters—elders to her, all of them—were each copious of ken and principled of personage.
And the girl—a springtide sprout, ever smiling.
Smiling, smiling, amidst the sunshine that was her family.
In it was warmth.
In it was serenity.
In it was happiness.
But over yonder whirled the wheels of war.
Every which way. At every corner of the continent.
A great war waged with Men.
Her mother and father did their best to keep its tidings at bay, that their dear daughter might know not a moment of worry. A difficulty, for beyond their home-forest spanned the fields and halls of Man.
And from time to time from such places, Men in their arms and armour would sally, with greed in their eyes, with grim in their hearts.
Of this, the girl knew. Despite the pains of her parents, she knew.
Her people fought back. Indeed, they fought back. Unbroken. Unafraid.
Only, a fearsome fort confounded their way. And so, their retreats repeated, on and on. And so, the fort endured, on and on.
Once upon a night, the girl was sound asleep. But then by a tickle was she roused awake. In her sight was the hand of her father, large and reliable, gnarled and knobby, the fingers of a proud bough.
“Awake?” he whispered. “Forgive me.”
There her father sat, beside her bed, quietly caressing her head.
“How precious your face, when asleep. What father cannot adore it?”
A smile upon his lips. Half sorry. Half bittersweet.
Yet instead of forgiving him, the girl held her father’s hand with both of her own.
Tiny hands, clasped tightly about callused fingers. The daughter’s grip could not hope to encircle the father’s.
But a smile was upon her lips, too, as she drew his hand closer. Fast in its warmth, she closed her eyes. Gladly, quietly, her father watched on, till once again his daughter sang the sounds of slumber.
How dearly she loved her father.
How dearly she treasured the surety of his hands.
How dearly she would come to miss him.
Off her father went into the mists of dawn.
A woodcutter, he was. But also a warrior. So it was with all the brothers of the village. Indeed, each of them bore his own burden of battle.
For days, the home was without its father. On the third, he should be back.
Only, he wasn’t.
“A little late, your father. But do lighten up. Before next sundown, he’ll be home with us again.”
To her children at the supping table, the hope-woven words of the mother.
Trusting them, the girl sipped her stew. Oh, what a favourite it was.
But then a thought occurred. And so to her mother, she smilingly said thus.
“Mama! Let’s make Papa’s favourite tomorrow! Warm, warm lentil soup!”
The smiling answer of her mother. The smiling agreement of her siblings. But miring their mirth was unease. One the girl was yet too young to sense.
The sun woke again, and so did she.
Up from her bed she sprang and through the house she flew, so eager to find her father home again.
Only, he wasn’t.
To the kitchen she came, where her mother busied herself with making breakfast.
Bread was baking. The soft scent of rye.
“Good morning, my little flower.”
A sunny smile from her mother. Warm. Assuring. Just as always.
Soon, her siblings were gathered as well, and the family of five then sat at the table, to begin the day with filling their bellies.
“Many thanks for this meal.”
“Many-many thanks for this meal!”
Words of grace from the family. Brightly so from the little girl.
The wisdom of thanksgiving, given to the children by mother and father both.
With measured manners, the girl took to hand a fluff of bread and nibbled upon its pillowy crumb.
“Papa not home yet…”
She yearned aloud.
But hope was hale in her. Tonight, five will be six once more. A happy six, all supping together. And so, again, did she brave her father’s absence.
The girl then knitted away her morning hours.
Quilting was a craft best left to the artisans. Certainly not something the fellow village children were capable of.
But her mother and sisters were skilled with the skein. Loving them each and everything they do, she long mimicked them. Those many moons of diligence had imparted to the girl some deftness in the art.
What was, days ago, just a thread of yarn, would soon be a crocheted crown for her mother.
Father’s share was already finished.
A present for her parents. To be given when they are together again.
Socks were what the girl wanted to make at first. But a bit too difficult it might be, her elder sister said. How about a hat, she then suggested.
That same sister now watched the girl warmly. The tiny hands tamed the needle as the hat took shape.
Such a sight to smile upon.
But also a secret to be kept.
Not till the presents were complete could either parent know.
So requested the girl of her sister at the start, answered with giggling acceptance. A promise protected till this day.
Noon came, and at last, the final thread was threaded. Two hats together, graceless of form, but filled with gratitude. Two messes of yarn, but to the girl, two masterpieces.
“Lovely hats, lovingly made. Mother and Father will be most glad!”
Her sister’s seal of approval.
How happy they would be, mother and father both. Dreaming of the moment, the girl beamed brightly.
A little later, a villager visited.
Mother met him at the door. Words were shared for a while, and taken by a bit of unease, she left the house.
To her children, a promise to return by dusk.
Till then, the two sisters gave their time: an hour or two of play with the girl.
Suppertime was setting in. Mother was sure to be home by now.
Only, she wasn’t.
“Lentils, lentils! Warm lentil soup for supper!”
The girl sang with excitement.
Tonight, and together, they would all be gathered, to give their father his favourite, and enjoy it themselves in his sorely missed company.
A warm and lovely time it would be. One the girl looked forward to.
And then came a buzz about the whole village. Brother looked rather grave.
But the eldest sister could not bear it any longer. To her feet, she rose.
“The orphanage… I must go look,” she said. “Don’t worry. I won’t be long.”
Charitable, her eldest sister was. Ever a lender of helping hands for the orphanage, where lived children of parents lost to tragedy.
There was concern upon her face as she left the house in haste.
Not once before was there any warrant for worry.
What could it be?
The girl thought.
An hour went by.
Neither mother nor sister were returned.
By now, the village was veiled in some tumult. Brother worried quietly. His face was furrowed. His heart was heavy.
A bellow. From beyond the safety of home. Angry. Echoing.
The elder sister held the girl tightly, picking her up.
Brother sprang to his feet. His eyes darted about.
The stove. A hearth of much happiness, earthen, large. Enough to cook for their family of six.
To it, he pointed.
To it, the sister rushed.
In it, she hid, with the girl wrapped in her arms.
“Be still! Be silent! Stay in there—no matter what!”
Brother’s whispers of warning.
To them, the sister nodded. Cold beads of sweat sailed down her cheeks. For an instant, they glinted. In them, a reflection of the brother’s unbound blade.
Then by his hand, he sealed the stove. Turning, he stepped towards the entrance. But before he could emerge outside, into their home barged unsought visitors.
Three kins of Man.
Cold swords in their hands. Cold armour binding their bodies.
Bellowing blurs of iron they became, sending steel to the brother. There, he met them with his own sharpness.
The sound of clashing swords. A first for the girl’s ears. Her home, once filled only with happiness, now echoed with the throes of war.
Tightly and tighter still, the sister held her with bated breath. Verily did she try to turn the girl away from the violence outside. But to no avail. The stove was too cramped inside.
How sad, then, that the girl could gaze through the grates, and see for herself the battle beyond.
She beheld in those gaps the sight of her brother brought down in cold blood. Skilled he was with the blade, but not enough to fight three at a time.
And so the brother fell, cruelly cut.
And so the sister knew woe.
But keeping the scream from leaving her lips, she held the girl ever more tightly.
“Peh. Right pain in the arse, the scrawny scoundrel.”
“Ey. Ye think there’s more?”
“More? Well I don’t see… wait… ’ear that?”
The cold words of Men, whetted sharp.
The warm tears of the little girl, wetting her sister’s bosom.
Happiness was all she knew. And as well, the delightful days spent with her warm and loving family. Such innocence was ill-prepared to bear the sight of it all breaking to pieces.
The lid flew open.
The sickening smiles of Men.
“Well well well. Wot we ‘ave ‘ere, ey?”
“Hah! Look at ‘em! Steep’d in soot, the devils!”
Cold hands reached in.
Girl and sister both were dragged out.
By rope the two were tied up.
To the village square they were led down.
The screaming sobs of the little girl. The unceasing sorrow of her sister. The sadistic smirks of the Men.
At their destination was found the villagers, bound and brought together. Surrounding them were the soldiers of Men, jeering.
“Thass all o’ them.”
Said a Man, bringing the girl and her sister before the others. Then, with a sharp shove to their backs, he sent the two tumbling down into the dirt.
“Aeck…! …hic… uu…”
The girl continued to cry.
And there, echoing across the air, were their names.
A familiar voice. The voice of their mother, vaulting, desperate.
To her the girl looked. Mother, too, was bound amongst the villagers.
“Oh? Wot’s this, now? Those two brats be yers, is it?”
“Yer good pa’s come ‘ome, ‘e ‘as! But ‘e be doin’ a lil’ ‘ide an’ seek! Why don’t ye… be a good mam, yea? Tell yer kiddies where the pa be ‘idden!”
Sinful words from sinful smiles, said to the mother. Choosing not to obey, she but shook her head.
“Ey. Ey! I said, tell ‘em! Ye bitch, you!”
“Why ye gots t’be a big boot in the arse, eh? Bloody Nafílim. Devils, the lot o’ ye!”
“Well thass all right, then. We’ll tell ‘em fer ye, we will. Oi. Which one’s their pa, ey?”
“Should be eh… in that pile, methinks. The one with all the run-aways from yesterbattle.”
“This one ‘ere, yea?”
The uncaring conversation of the Men.
“No! Don’t! Stop! Sto—p!!”
The nigh-crazed cries of the mother.
There, a waggon sat, covered. Then, by the hand of a soldier, it was covered no more.
At first, the girl could not comprehend what her eyes saw.
For they saw a heap of heads.
Each and every one of them, a face she knew.
And amongst them, a face she loved. A face she missed.
The face of her father.
Her breath was wholly stolen.
The cold grip of the fates seemed to clench at her heart and lungs both.
Next to her was her sister, seized by the same shock.
Down and down, slowly and soundlessly, the girl’s gaze fell.
“C’mon now. There’s yer pa!”
Called one of the Men, who then snatched the girl’s chin with his iron hand. Back to the horrid heap he then made the girl look.
“See ‘im? Nice smile on ‘is face, eh? Heheh!”
The wuthering wails of the mother.
But the girl had stopped crying.
In her eyes was no longer the light of her heart.
“Yea, yea. Playtime’s over, ye wankers. Back t’work!”
“Right right. Ey, ye devils! Get in ‘ere, the lot o’ ye!”
And thus the Men had the girl, her sister, and some others make their way to another covered waggon.
But the girl budged not a bit.
“Ey, runt. Get movin’.”
A Man’s command. Yet the girl’s feet were unmoving.
“Tch. Oi, look ‘ere, you! Get in, I says!”
No avail. In his frustration, the Man called to another, who then held a blade to the mother’s neck.
“Oi, ye bloody brat! Get a move on with yer sis! I’ma count now, an’ if ye ain’t in the waggon by three, why, I’ll ‘ave yer mam join yer pa, I will!”
Oh, dearest daughter. How the mother cried and cried.
Seeing the sword set against that neck, the girl slowly started moving.
Such pain and sorrow upon the sister’s face, as she picked up the little girl. Quivering caresses were given. Then, onto the deck they boarded.
Sister knew well where the waggons would go.
To where else but sunless suffering?
Yet even then, she thought only to comfort her little sibling.
“Right. Got ‘em all loaded up now. Let’s move!”
With a signal, the waggons were off.
“Oi, brother. Wot ‘bout these ones, ey?”
“Eh, ferget ‘em. They’ve got battle magicks, they do. Can scarce make slaves o’ ‘em. Bugger.”
A cruel conversation amongst Men yet in the village square.
“Rubbish, they be, eh? Oi! Off with their ‘eads now, yea!?”
Orders given. Swords swung.
The Nafílim folk, bound and defenceless. Each was felled. One after another.
The girl’s last sight of it was not to be forgotten.
The sight of her mother’s final moment.
Held tight in her sister’s arms, the girl lost all strength.
Something lingered on her cheeks, and now ran down.
“…hats… Mama… Papa…”
Her amber eyes dulled.
Oh, so empty.
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