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The crickets chirped noisily in the grass as the last of the sun’s rays warmed the earth. Twilight was drawn across the green plains as if harnessed to the wild horses that grazed there, undeterred by the oncoming darkness. The sky was suddenly splashed with magnificent colours as the sun finally gave in to it’s reluctance to sink and disappeared below the horizon. Birdsong faded with the last light and a gentle silence fell over the flatlands.
All was dark save for a small cluster of lights huddled together in the middle of the plain. The fires in the village of the Sanduai people shone brightly against the as yet starless sky.
After some hours, the flames faded and all was silent on the plain. No sound but the wind rustling the grass could be heard, yet there was movement. Across the plains, dozens of black silhouettes emerged from the trees. Silent as the stars above them, they stole across the grassland.
Zared felt sick at the thought of what he was about to do. His mind was awash with confused feelings, but he knew one thing, he would regret this forever. His mind flashed back to how he had pleaded with the chief not to go through with the plans, even though he already knew they were going to be set into motion. His thoughts were interrupted when they came near enough to the village to start crawling. He dropped to the ground and dragged himself along it painstakingly slowly, as though he thought he could avoid what was about to happen.
Suddenly, one of the huts caught fire. This was the signal that all the sentries had been killed and that it was time for them to start moving into the village. His heart burnt with anger as he watched the flames devour the leaves and animal skins that covered the wooden frame of the hut. The wind was strong enough and soon the next hut was being licked by the flames.
Kali awoke to the screams of terror as both men and flames attacked their village. She had not even time to wake her family when one of the men came into their hut. His entire body was covered in ash and all she could see were the whites of his eyes. He stood for a second, surveying the hut and its occupants with a look of pure hatred. Slowly, he moved to her father, who lay closest to the door. His hand moved to his waist, where, from a leather scabbard, he withdrew a long, curved dagger. Kali’s heart beat faster as she watched him lean over the sleeping form of her father. Then the hatred in his eyes seemed to intensify until it burnt with fire and he swiftly stabbed her father in the heart where he lay. Her blood turned to ice as she saw her father’s chest covered in crimson. Her scream was caught in her throat, but her mother’s was heard loud and clear as it echoed through the village. The man turned to her and quickly, before she could cower, stabbed her too. This time Kali did scream as she heard the knife cut into the bare flesh and her mother crumple to the ground.
She huddled against the back of the hut, looking for a way out. The man neared her, his knife raised, ready to kill, but the blow never fell. A fist punched him from the back. He fell where he stood, his hair now matted with blood. Kali looked up in terror, wondering what could be worse than this man.
Zared stood and stared at her. Her eyes were wide in terror as she looked first at the unconscious man at her feet, then him. The screams from outside pulled him out of his reverie and he knew that she would die if she stayed there much longer. He had to get her out of the village. He reached out his hand to help her stand up. After a few seconds of scrutinizing him, she slipped her blue hand into his ash covered one and he pulled her to her feet. He motioned at the door and started pulling her towards it, but she held back. Her eyes were fixed on the bodies of her parents and so shocked was she, that not even a tear from her eyes. Zared desperately pulled her to the door and ran with her through the burning huts, to the edge of the village. There he pointed towards the forest at the edge of the plain, the opposite direction from which he had come and spoke a single word, “Run.”
As she squeezed his hand momentarily and looked into his eyes, he marvelled at her beauty. Then she let go, ran across the grass and disappeared into the gloom.
She stopped to look back once she had reached the trees, looking for the mysterious man who had helped her, but all she saw was the chaos of the burning village. Then she turned and walked into the trees, wiping her hand across her eyes as she went.
There was almost no trace of the bloodshed that had taken place the eve before on the plain as the light spread across the green grass. There was one thing missing though, as the sun rose and its first weak rays shone through the trees in the distance. The usual sound of voices and sounds of commotion that had ordinarily come from the village was absent. In place of the huts that had once stood in the fair green grass were but a few soot-blackened wooden frames that stood out in stark contrast to the verdant field.
As the sun warmed the tree tops, the sounds of birds could be heard echoing through the trees. Kali stumbled on through the undergrowth, no longer knowing nor caring in which direction she went. Suddenly the trees disappeared and she found herself in a glade covered in short, green grass. At the one end was a large oak tree next to which was a rock pool which was fed by a tiny waterfall. So exhausted was she that she had barely walked to the oak tree when she collapsed on the ground and fell asleep immediately.
When she awoke it was the late afternoon and the shadows were lengthening. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, trying to remember how she got to where she was. In an instant all the memories hit her and at last it dawned upon her that she would never again see her parents. She heard the sounds of birds in the forest, singing their last songs before the sun sent them to their nests. The light splashing that came from the tiny waterfall made the whole glade seem tranquil and beautiful. How could there be such beauty in the midst of such great sadness?
It seemed too much to bear when she recalled how the man’s eyes had burned with hatred as he stabbed them both without any emotion. Tears came to her eyes and she wiped them away, trying to stem the flood of memories that now invaded her mind, but to no avail. Soon she had fallen to the ground yet again. There she lay, on the grass while her sobs echoed around the forest. When she had no more tears left to cry, she simply lay there, waiting for death to claim her as well.
Some time later she was pulled unexpectedly from her uneasy dreams as she felt a hand on her arm. She turned and looked up, but in her stupor she saw an unknown, unkind face. Fear flooded her and she stood up so quickly that the unknown hand was shaken off. Terrified, she backed away from the figure, searching for a way out. It was the voice that brought her to her senses.
“Do not be afraid,” it said in Emithiel, the language common to all people in the land.
She recognised the voice. It was the stranger who had helped her the night before. This brought back even more memories. She stumbled backwards, tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground. “What do you want?” she demanded, unable to keep the fear from her voice.
“I have come to see you.”
“Go away,” she shouted, turning from him. The tears came again. She no longer cared who this man was or what he wanted, she wept openly. She wept so that she did not hear him cross to her. When his hand touched her shoulder she shook it off and buried her face in her hands wishing that she had been killed along with her parents.
He let her cry, not touching her. She would not lift her head, she could not bear to look at him. Then she felt his hand under her chin and how he gently lifted her head and looked into her eyes.
Awe overcame him as he looked into her hazel brown eyes and saw how beautiful she was, even with tears running down her face.
Her fear and sadness seemed to melt away as she looked into those kind, green eyes and realised that he was not the same. He was not part of those who had mercilessly slaughtered her entire tribe
Written in her eyes was one question. Why?
“How can I just stand by and watch others being killed?".
“What about your tribe, your family?”
“They are no family to me if they can condone the senseless murder of the innocent.”
The shadow that clouded her beautiful features was replaced by relief and exhaustion.
Slowly he wrapped his arms around her and she, too tired to object, rested her head against his bare chest and fell asleep instantly.
She slept throughout the whole of the following day and when she awoke, it was dark and the first stars were beginning to shine. When she realised that her head had been on Zared’s chest, she sprang up and moved away from him, her eyes filled with distrust. It was as she looked at him that she realised what had happened and who he was. Her tensed up body relaxed and she sat back down.
Zared did not speak. Perhaps he understood that she needed time to think or perhaps he had thoughts of his own. The two sat quietly while the sky above them filled with stars and the moon shone brightly down on the rock pool making the water glitter as if filled with a thousand diamonds.
Slowly Kali got to her feet and walked to the rock pool. He was stunned by her beauty as she slowly, but shamelessly stepped out of the animal skin clothes that covered her body. Her blue skin shone in the moonlight. Her hair, a darker blue than her skin, looked silky smooth and beautiful.
Gradually she stepped into the pool, going deeper until her whole body was submerged. She turned to look at him, her brown eyes sparkling in the light. He stood up and walked over to the water, never taking his eyes off hers. Then he took off his clothes and waded into the pool.
For a while, they merely looked at each other, each lost in the other’s face. Then, slowly, his hands found hers and he moved closer.
In a glade, deep in a forest, was a rock pool shining in the moonlight. Two silhouetted figures could be seen in the water. Her blue skin shone in the light as they moved in and their lips touched.