The Crimson Cloak
Arana's GhostI close my eyes and take a deep breath. I pull the arrow until I feel it’s soft, feather tip on my cheek. If I’m going to hit the target, I need to focus. I block out all sounds around and inhale. I release the arrow and open my eyes.
I exhale and smile. Dead center…as usual! I look at my bow and wonder how such a beautiful weapon could ever be in my possession. I admire it’s long, black limb and realize that it has a symbol carved into it. The symbol is a rose inside a random patter of swirling circles. I wonder why it’s so faint. A beautiful pattern like that should really stand out more. I’ll ask my mom about it. She is the one who gave it to me after all. I look over my shoulder and see Tuck doing what he calls his “happy dance”. Really, he’s just doing a bunch of old eighties dance moves… what-a dork. I watch him do the shuffle and the hustle before I start laughing.
Tuck, realizing that I’m laughing at him, stops dancing. He puts his hands behind his head and smiles.
“I mean, uh… Go Luna!” Tuck raises his fist in the air, awkwardly. I roll my eyes.
“Does everything you do have to make you look like a dork?” I ask. I look over at Tuck only to see him staring at me.
“What?! Do I have something on my face or are you just that amazed at my naturally cunning abilities?” Tuck doesn't even realize that I said anything. He just keeps staring at me.
“Okay Tuck. You’re kind of creeping me out now. And I don’t mean old lady across the street that shows off her underwear, I mean stalking you until I know exactly where you sleep kind of creepy. Tuck?” His gaze is still transfixed on me. “Tuck?!” Exasperated, I do the only thing I can think of. “Tuck! That’s it!” I run at Tuck and slap him, hard. So hard in fact that he stumbles and falls back.
“Ow! That hurt!”
“It was the only way I can get you to stop gawking at me! What were you staring at anyway?” This time, Tuck does respond…by blushing. I look at him confused. Why is he blushing? Tuck never blushes. I remember the day when I asked him why he doesn't.
“Hey… Tuck?” I ask Tuck as I wring my hands nervously. I have never talked to anybody about this kind of thing.
“What is it Luna? You look kind of… nervous.” Tuck looks at me with concern filled eyes.
“Well. It’s just that.” Every single well thought out word I had ever planned to say is forgotten and everything comes out of my mouth in a rush. “I never see you blushing, even at things that are really, really embarrassing and I was just wondering why!” Tuck looks at me, surprise written all over his face. Surprise… but not ever embarrassment.
“You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to. It was kind of nosy after all.”
“No! No! I guess I was just kind of surprised, by your question I mean. I really haven’t thought about it much.”
“Do you blush when you’re not around anyone else?”
“Do you blush at all?”
“Why are you asking me this Luna? You aren't usually this nervous. Are you okay?” Tuck asks, more curious than surprised this time. I start to blush.
“I was just curious.” I say innocently even though Tuck and I both know that’s not the case. I avert my eyes and look around at the scenery around me. What a beautiful place for such an awkward meeting.
Tuck and I are standing in a large meadow full of beautiful white carnations with pink centers. There’s a waterfall to my right that falls into a shimmering lake. It’s so beautiful. The lake looks a lot like diamonds. Off to the left of the lake is a cave with a delicate veil of pink carnations hanging over the top of the cave like moss.
“They’re so beautiful.” I say looking at the carnations.
“Do you really like them that much?”
“Why?” Tuck presses.
“Why do you ask?”
“Because... I think that you’re much more beautiful than these flowers are.” Tuck reaches out and brushes my cheek. I smile. I grab hold of Tuck’s and lead the way back to the village. Tuck and I slowly make our way back to the village only stopping occasionally to glance at the scenery around us.
“Hello? Earth to Luna? Did you hear what I said?”
“Oh… sorry Tuck. Can you repeat that again?”
“I said that we should be getting back to the village because I have a date with your mom. We have been going out for a while now and I’m thinking about asking her to marry me. Just think, soon I’ll be calling you my daughter.”
“Uh huh. Very cool Tuck.”
“You’re not listening to me… are you?” Tuck looks at me with a little bit of agitation in his voice.
“I’m sorry. No… I’m not.”
“Sometimes you just get lost in your own little world.”
“Sometimes? I almost never get lost in my own world! This is probably the first time you have ever seen me in ‘my own little world.’”
“Well… I think it’s one of your cute qualities.”
“You know, a cute quality… a lot of girls have them.”
“Oh… so now I’m just like any other girl huh!”
“That’s not what I meant!” Tuck says flustered. I turn away from him to hide my smile. I love teasing him like that. His true colors show when tries to make a smooth cover up for any mistake.
“Smooth move Tuck. I’ll just remember this comment later when, no… if, you ever get a girlfriend and just remember, I know every…every single embarrassing thing you have ever done in your life.”
“Oh yeah! Like what!”
“Remember that time when I was teaching you to shoot an arrow and-“
“I knocked my father’s wig off… yeah. I remember.” Tuck lowly chuckles. “He still won’t let me go hunting with him.”
“I don’t blame him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!”
“Let’s go back to the village. It’s getting dark.”
“Hey! Seriously! You haven’t answered my question yet!”
“I don’t intend to!” I call back and skip the rest of the way back to the village.
“Tuck. You may be a goof ball… but you’re the best friend a girl can ask for.” I say once we enter the village. I grab Tuck’s hand and smile at him warmly.
“Look.” Tuck points to the entrance of the village. I look over towards the only church in the village. The church is the biggest building in town. The walls are made of white, marble stone with spires that seem to go on forever into the sky. I walk over and peer into one of the many stained-glass windows.
There, I see a family of five. A mother with short orange hair kneeling in front of a statue of an angel…whispering a prayer. I see three kids the age of about ten, crying and being comforted by their father.
“The Maysen’s daughter was taken by the wolf earlier this morning. She was supposed to be married in May.”
“That’s only two months away. I wonder how her fiance feels right now.”
“Well… here’s your chance to find out.” Tuck says, looking at an approaching figure, dressed completely in black. He has black hair and startling blue eyes.
“Um… are you-”
“Arana’s fiance? Yes.”
“I’m so sorry. You must be feeling awful.”
“Don’t be sorry. There is nothing for you to apologize for. You couldn't have done anything to help. After all… you’re just an ordinary girl.” Tuck glares at the boy and steps in front of me. I touch his arm.
“It’s okay Tuck. Why are you talking to me if I’m just an ordinary girl?”
“Because you’re pretty and I wanted to tell you not to be shy. After all, every ordinary girl loves Adrian.” Arana’s fiance says, cockily pointing to himself. So that was his name. The name sounded cocky, and arrogant with a little note of a snob. In other words, the name fit him perfectly.
“You little-“Tuck starts.
“He’s just an idiot Tuck. You just lost you’re fiance and already you’re hitting on another girl. Why would I date someone like you? I deserve someone better than a pile of filth… don’t you think?” The boy stands there, mouth open, staring at me in disbelief.
“Come on Tuck. We don’t want his stupidity to wear off on us.” I grab Tuck by the arm and pull him to my house.
“It’s okay Tuck. I’m fine. He’s just an idiot.”
“He’s wrong about you. You’re prettier than you realize… and not only that. You have the strongest willpower I have ever seen in a girl.” I snort at that.
“I think the word you’re looking for is stubborn. Thanks though. That does make me feel better about myself.”
“What can I say? I am incredibly charming.”
“You have about the same charm as a pig.”
“At least I don’t snort.” Tuck and I both start to laugh. I look up and see that we’re now at my house.
“Bye Tuck!” I call towards him over my back as I enter my house.
“See you tomorrow! About seven in the morning. I know it’s early but we need to start hunting before winter comes.” I shut the door behind me and sigh. Winter. Even though it’s months until the rising ceremony, I still get nervous.
Every September, every man who is eighteen years or older is forced to go out and try to kill the wolf. A group of fifty, half of our village, go out. Every September… only ten to fifteen of them return and so far, every eighteen year old has died. Tuck turns eighteen in August. He’ll be going out with them this year. He has no chance of surviving. I doubt that the wolf will spare him even if I pray every day but, I will still pray.
I feel tears start to stream down my face. I still remember the day I met eight-year-old Tuck in the forest. I remember it was May twenty-eight and I had just gotten my new bow for my seventh birthday…
I ride through the forest on my horse, Flame, to the new target arena my father had built. I can just see it through the trees straight ahead. I raise my bow instinctively just as a scream rings out loud and clear through the forest. I tug on the reins of my horse towards where the scream echoed, never once lowering my bow. I pull the e reins, ordering the horse to stop. Startled, the horse throws me of its back, as I release an arrow, sending it into a tree instead of the figure in the shadows that scared my horse.
I cautiously move over to the figure. A boy with fair, golden hair and dark lashes a girl would kill for. He seems to be unconscious. I notice blood on his arm and remove the pouch from around my neck that my mother gave me in case of any emergency. The pouch carries a bunch of herbs and a fresh vial of water. My mother taught me a little about medicine but I still haven’t tried to heal any one before.
Hastily, I pull out a few herbs out of the pouch and clean the wound with water. Then I place the herbs on my hands and my hands, in turn, on his arm. I mutter a quick prayer asking for the strength to save the life of another and focus. I concentrate on sending my strength and health into the boy through my hands into his body. I open my eyes and look down at my hands and yelp in surprise. My hands were glowing. This never happened when my mother healed others. I look over at the boy and see the gradually rise and fall of his chest. The boy opens his deep, brown eyes and stares at me. He looks down at my hands, and wordlessly sits up to examine me.
“How are you doing that?” He asks finally, confusion and amazement in his voice.
“Honestly… I don’t know.” I say, shaking my head. My black, wavy hair falls into my icy blue eyes. I take my hands away and instantly, they stop glowing. I look at the boy and smile before collapsing in exhaustion.
“Jeez. I never knew that saving lives would be so draining.” The boy laughs. I sit up.
“I’m Tuck. Tuck Panami.” He says, outstretching his hand.
“Luna.’” I say shaking it.
I have been friends with Tuck for ten years. Ever since we met that day, he’s been the only person I have shared everything with. I have less than six months to say goodbye to Tuck. After that, I probably won’t see him again. Ever… A slight tapping on the door makes me jump.
“Yes?” I say, brushing my eyes with the back of my hand and press my ear to the door.
“Who is it?”
“Luna? Luna! Is that you? I need your help! Please let me in!”
“Arana? I thought you were… they said you were dead?!” I open the door and sure enough, there stands Arana in a long red, silk cape that seems to shimmer when she moves. She has the hood of the cloak pulled up around her head to obscure her face. The cloak flows down and around her like a blood-red river. I move to the side to let Arana in.
“This is for you. To protect you from the wolf.” Arana takes of the cloak and hands it to me. “Use this to button it at the top. Your mother wanted me to give it to you before I died.” Arana says coolly as if she were telling me about her fiance.
I look at the button Arana gave me. The button is clear with a flat bottom and a round, bulging top. It’s probably the biggest button I've ever seen! Inside the bulge of the button is a symbol. A simple red rose stands out from the center of a pattern of golden swirling circles.
“So… you are dead?” Arana nods her head. “Then how come I can see you?”
“You don’t know as much as I thought you did. You can see me because of this.” Arana pushes up my shirt and points to the mark on my stomach.
“Looks familiar doesn't it?” I look over at my bow leaning against a wall. Then look at the button I’m holding. They both have the same mark. I look down again at my stomach. The same mark on my bow and the button is on my stomach. I put the cloak around my shoulders and fasten the button just below where the hood connects to the cloak.
“What does it mean?” I ask Arana absently as I trace the symbol embedded in the button.
“It means “sacred one”. Your mom knows that you are in danger so she sliced you with the tip of a knife dipped in holy water so that the symbol would always be with you. She cut you so deep that you will always have that mark forever. Only certain people can be marked. Most of the people who try to mark themselves die. But you… you didn't. You were only a year old when she did it. I thought she was lying when she told me.”
“So… what do I do?”
“You, Luna, are the only one who can kill the wolf.”