“Be a good girl and keep very quiet, ok?” she smiled reassuringly, caressing her hair, letting her hand linger a moment before placing it on her shoulder tenderly, yet firmly.
“Just climb into the barrel and stay put until Papa or I come for you. Do you understand me?” Her eyes were bright as they bore into the child’s. The sounds coming down through the decks were frightening. Loud voices yelling, groaning; things thumping hard against parts of the ship. The child nodded quickly twice, taking in her mother’s face – her bright jade eyes, now moist, her lips a tight, thin line. Whatever was happening above, Mama would make it right. She and Papa were a good team, she with her illusions and he with his daggers. They would make the harsh sounds stop before the noisy people knew they’d been defeated.
The timbers creaked. Something crackled and the child thought she smelled acrid smoke. Papa’s started, she thought glancing at the dark planks above her head. Her mother also caught the scent and stood up and was still. The child watched her and saw her eyes widen briefly, a small smile flit across her mouth. It was time. She stepped over to the child quickly and picked her up deftly, lowering her into the open barrel, the child’s dark head just visible above the edge. She looked down and smiled at her as if she were tucking her in for the night. She lowered her head and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “Sit quietly now, remember.”
Mama! she thought. She felt the tears fill her eyes, Mama’s face soon blurring. But she didn’t cry out or whimper as her mother fit the lid onto the barrel with two thumps. She reached out and felt the smooth wood under her hand. With a singing crack, she heard Mama summon an illusion, and the noise increased, the wood telling her ears the story. They were making the noisy people stop. They’d come back for her soon.
Then a scream. And another. Then laughter, an explosion, groans. Silence. She strained to hear … nothing.
The young girl’s eyes flew open and she sat up instinctively. She was cold and drenched in sweat. She shivered and blinked rapidly, trying to catch her breath. She reached down and felt the soft cotton sheets.
Startled, she looked to her right, blinking and squinting to see through the dark. A young woman walked over to her. She had soft brown eyes and a kind smile. She knelt next to her bed. The priestess …
“You’re safe, child. It was just a dream,” she whispered.
… that’s right. Her breathing slowed a moment, and then the tears came, spilling noiselessly down her cheeks. Mama and Papa hadn’t come for her. This was Queen’s Heart Orphanage. Kryta. She couldn’t return to Shing Jea again.
Excerpt from “Evening of Chaos” by Kevin MacLeod @ incompetech.com