For those that were expecting Sparkly Horn Horror this time on the Tale, I really have been stalled on that story and I set it aside in order to try and write something. This is that … something. This appears on Groundhog Day and … I do feel sometimes like I am repeating my stories over and over again …
Still, sometimes there are things to say and they need to be …
Occasionally, though it is rare, there are those in the universe who can see more than most can. Sometimes they see the world around them a bit differently. Sometimes they see shadows or flashes of light that no one else can see. Sometimes they see something—or someone—that pushes at their sense of reality, or belief, and forces them to reconsider that which means the most to them.
Sometimes the question is asked by a raven-haired woman with a pair of red horns poking through her hair and a long red tail.
She should have been cowed by them, frightened certainly, even begging for mercy. That is what they expected when they had surrounded her. Of course, she was found in a place where there was nothing but pain, suffering, and more. That is where their kind dwelled, after all. They expected that she would fight them, in a battle where many would fall. They were prepared for her to twist some of them into things of darkness, the survivors having to end them to protect themselves and the innocents around them.
They had been told, clearly, that she was to be shown no mercy, because her kind, those with horns and tails, were obviously evil and would not give any mercy in return. They attacked, weapons drawn, intending to subdue her as quickly as possible and then vanish into the night. The thing was, none of that unfolded as they expected, and this brought the first small questions into their minds about what, and who, they were dealing with.
Before they could set up their ambush, before they could place their traps, before they could create a situation where nothing could survive … she simply walked out of the depths of the darkened streets. She walked up to them, unconcerned about her safety, it seemed, and approached the leader of their group. She stopped a short distance away, crossed her arms over her chest and regarded them all. She had an expression on her that they couldn’t quite read, but the first words she spoke made it all clear.
For a moment, they were all taken aback by her force of will, but then they remembered they were all protected from evil, from what it could do with their minds, and their bravado returned with the leader of their group answering in a gruff voice: “Prepare to die.”
Her eyes narrowed, the green bright and clear beneath the bangs of her wild ebony hair: “I have better things to do. If you were doing good, you would be helping here. But you are not. All you have in you is black.”
Of course they all took this as an affront: a creature like her making such a claim was unthinkable. They drew their weapons, seeing no other choice but to fight her in the here and now, the innocents be damned.
She shook her head, pinched her nose, and sighed: “Fine.”
At this point, they expected her to summon darkness to protect her, to turn into her true evil form. They had seen if before, and were prepared for that again. What they were not prepared for what when she offered her wrists and said: “Bind me. Take me away from here. You will not cause harm here.”
They did not know what to make of this, as never had a creature like her given up without a fight. The leader couldn’t help himself, blurting out: “Explain yourself.”
She smiled, and that smile was one that they knew had no power over them. It couldn’t. Yet it did, and they lowered their weapons slightly. She did not move as she replied: “You will not hurt a soul in this place by your actions. If I do not fight, you will not either. At least there is that much honour in you. So, bind me, take me away.”
They did so, they had the special bindings to hold any being of evil and secured her with them. From that point onwards it should have been a simple matter to walk out of the place, drag her along, and then deal with her elsewhere.
It didn’t quite go as they expected.
They expected to be cheered as they left, to be called heroes for taking this evil from this place. It had happened every time before, and they expected this occasion to be no different. Instead they found that, at first, they were greeted by looks of surprise, then confusion, and then—more troubling—disdain for what they were doing. It started with one of the elders, one they had not spoken to, looking at them in anger and sternly barking two words: “Explain yourselves.”
They were only the first of many. It seemed the further they walked, the more of the inhabitants of this place were coming out to see what they had done. The next demand was made by a child. Two words: “Explain yourselves.”
The next by a couple, the wife with child: “Explain yourselves.”
They did not answer any of these queries, for they had no need to speak to anyone, they knew exactly where the evil was. Still, they quickly escaped the place, feeling more and more uncomfortable by the moment, but certain in their own minds that she was responsible for what happened. She obviously placed a spell on all of the locals, making them so demanding. It didn’t mean a thing.
This was an assumption that none of them should have made.
They arrived at the place they had been told to bring all of the evils they had found, the place where the evils would be judged—a formality—and then ended—which was decidedly not. The building was made to hold evil, restrain it, bind it tightly.
Again, this didn’t go as they expected.
The first sign of a problem was when they finally noticed that the bindings they had used on her, which should have been tight … were not. In fact she had tapped the leader on his shoulder and handed him the bindings with the comment: “Would you like to listen to an explanation?”
When he moved to grab her, expecting her to run away, she pointed at the building in front of them and sighed: “Fine. Let’s go inside. Maybe that will explain it.”
When they placed her in shackles, then locked the cell door and activated the wards, they all felt safe and secure. They all knew, without a shadow of doubt, that no evil could possibly escape their prison. They retired to their canteen, to have a meal and mull over the creature. It was just as the first drink was served that the door to the place swung open with a loud creak.
She stood there, arms crossed over her chest, her long red jacket swirling around her legs, and she glared at all of them. Again she demanded: “Explain yourselves.”
This was impossible! She couldn’t have escaped! Even if she had gotten out of the shackles—which was unthinkable—she could not open the door to the cell or any of the doors in the place. Evil could not do anything there.
Still, she walked into the room, stopping at the far end of the table where they were. “Now, at this point, most intelligent beings are questioning if I am what they think I am. Are you yet?”
The silence in the room was deafening, and the looks they gave her didn’t seem to faze her in the slightest.
“Fine. If you want me, I’ll not be in that cell. I’ll be in your library, reading. Come see me when you can explain yourselves.”
They moved to stop her, but she vanished in a puff of cherry-scented smoke, and that was when panic set in. They scrambled all over their keep, looking for her, knowing that she couldn’t be in the library. The books were sacred: evil could not touch them, use them, or even read them.
When they did find her, she was, in fact, reading by the fireplace in their library. She placed a finger upon the page she was reading, to keep her place and waited, patiently. When they said nothing, but came into the room and surrounded her, she turned her attention to the book she was reading again. “This explains a lot. Who you are, what you do and why. But it does not explain how it is that you are so blind as not to see the truth when it is staring you in the face.”
She turned the page and posed a question to the leader of the group: “How do you know evil?”
He would have preferred to drag her out of the room, but held his hand and answered: “We know it when we see it.”
“I see. Therefore, the failure of your bindings, your spells, your wards and all that you use against evil tells you nothing about me, then?”
“You have the marks of evil.”
She smiled: “Those that I have given comfort, love, and hope to would disagree with you.”
“You trick them.”
She tilted her head to the right: “Really? Then tell me. What is your absolute proof of evil that none can overcome? Please, I ask you, test me. See if you are right or wrong.”
It took some time, during which they all expected her to run, to burn them, to create chaos and destruction. Instead she kept reading the books, one by one, and occasionally leaving for the kitchen to make herself something she called ‘tea’ before returning to her reading.
The time finally arrived, and they brought to her their test. It never failed. It would always, always turn to where evil was. They had searched for some time to locate a newborn and her mother. While the mother would not tell truly the sight of evil, the child would. In evil’s presence they would cry and howl in despair. They expected her to now explode in anger, to kill them all, something to prove she was evil.
Instead she looked up from where she rested when they brought their test in. She smiled, put her book down and then offered: “Please, won’t you both come in?”
While that surprised them, they were more so when she offered the mother her chair, asked if she needed help somehow, and then took another, less comfortable chair from elsewhere in the room to sit beside them.
The mother should have been concerned, upset, angry that her life and that of her child were in danger. Instead the mother looked at the leader of their group and repeated a now familiar demand: “Explain yourselves.”
Before he could, the creature—he still thought of her as that—answered for him: “They wish to test me, to see if I am evil or not. They believe that newborns can tell, for they are the closest to the light of all of us.”
The mother chuckled: “Are they all really that dense?”
She smiled: “They wish proof. They cannot explain themselves.”
There was no other hesitation as the newborn was given to her and she held the child in her arms. No cry, howl, fret, anguish. The child looked up, smiled, and even laughed. She did not look up at them, her attention on the child in her arms as she spoke. “You cannot see anymore. The evidence has been there in front of you all of this time. You have all become so blinded that, when light shines at you, the darkness you dwell in takes it away. You cannot explain yourselves.”
She paused, still looking at the child as a halo formed just above her horns. Large black feathered wings appeared behind her as she stood, still cradling the child carefully. She kissed the child on her forehead and then gave her back to her mother, the two sharing a look between themselves.
She then turned to her ersatz captors, a look of sadness upon her as she did so: “Open your eyes to see. No one else can do that for you.”
She then walked past them all, stopping at the leader’s side for a moment: “See them home safely or you will explain yourselves to me.”
He nodded, still not believing that she had passed the test, as she left the keep, vanishing into the dusk as she did so.
The mother stood and asked: “Do you know her name?”
The mother looked at the book the woman had been reading and then closed it with her free hand: “Had you known your own legends, you would have known her name.”
She then looked at her daughter: “And you, my child, you now have a name, too.”
Many years would pass by, the green eyes of her daughter twinkling at the sound of the name, a name she would come to know in the years to come, for she would hear it every day. The day came, many years later, when she discovered a book in the archives of her town. The image in the book and the name written there told her much, but then the story that followed told even more. When she came home that night, she hugged her mother and showed her the book, open to the page with the name, picture, and story.
“I … know her. Can you please explain?”
That story took some time for her mother to tell. At the end of the story she resolved to find this …Tera. Perhaps she might remember her. Perhaps she might explain.
Perhaps she would be pleased to know that they had the same name …