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The wind sighed through the trees, rustling the leaves in a quiet temper. A lock of blonde hair floated gently for a moment, before being gently tucked away behind an ear. Elodie sat on her mother's lap, listening intently to the story spilling out of her lips. The woman’s voice was smooth and flowed like the music that played during their celebrations.
“Arachne wove the thread together, her hands moving swiftly against the bright colors.” She paused, imitating the movement with her own delicate fingers. Elodie watched, entranced at her mother’s words. “While Athena moved with intent, Arachne’s image began to form. Various gods shone on the fabric, malice and hatred forming intricate patterns on their faces.” Pictures appeared in Elodie’s imagination, changing in time with her mother’s words. Side by side, two women sat next to one another, each focused on the threads in front of them. One tapestry held the story her people knew all too well: images of Zeus and his mortal conquests were interrupted by the string of infidelities that took place with other gods. The opposite loom portrayed the superiority of the gods, and the bright threads wound through the history of the deities. Images continuously flashed, made only more vivid when her eyes slid shut. Elodie’s mother continued, unaware of the sleeping daughter as her voice filled the quiet land. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Elodie thought nothing of the storm it would bring. She should have.
When she woke, there was no longer a peaceful atmosphere in the garden. Hands grabbed her roughly, and a woman’s harsh voice sounded panicked in the background. The tight grip paired with the fear dripping from the person’s words sat Elodie up immediately. With unfocused eyes, the young girl glanced around, pressing deeper into her mother’s dress. The air was thick and heavy around the two, and Elodie soon felt as if her mother's familiar scent was suffocating her. Words tumbled out from the woman above her, spoken in a language that Elodie could not understand, and for the first time that night she looked at her mother. The sky flashed overhead, and still, she did not think of it.
Gone was the sophisticated lady whose hands and light touches never faltered. Gone was the soft voice that sang to her family every night. And gone was the peace and beauty that always touched her features. The woman before Elodie was unrecognizable. Harsh lines gleamed on their face, framed by locks of untamed hair. The voice that had for so long been used for nothing but grace was now hoarse and crude. Elodie moved suddenly, a small motion of panic that set a pair of fierce eyes upon her small body. Her mother's gaze was wild, pupils blown so wide that the iris almost appeared black. Another small spasm from the young girl had her tumbling from the woman's arms, and Elodie scrambled a few feet away in fear. Even as young as she was, Elodie knew of the stories about people who went mad, cursed by the gods to commit heinous acts. They were described just as her mother looked: wild eyes, hunched posture, and the aura of an untamed animal. She could not help but think of a rabid dog.
Savage black eyes followed her movement, softening slightly at the ever-present fear on the child’s face. Curled fingers reached toward her, beckoning her in what she assumed was meant to be a warm gesture. Instead, Elodie shivered and pulled farther away from the thing in front of her. It stopped. Froze entirely. The feral creature stayed that way for a few seconds then, all at once, lunged toward her. The scream erupting from her throat was torn away as a much larger body slammed into her. The child tensed, her breath knocked away and body jostling. Her father’s face swam in front of her, tears causing the view the waver and disappear. The man clutched onto her tightly, running with the grace of a warrior away from the thing behind them.
“Father...” Her voice trembled, trailing off as she attempted to ask the one thing she was dreading, “What happened?” Her words could go no further, and she choked as a new wave a panic washed over her. The lord was flushed, panting with exhaustion as he carried his child. But his face was serious, never wavering from the strict expression he wore every other day. Silence followed the question. Rain pelted her small form, and she curled herself tightly into his warmth as if it would chase away the coldness nestled inside her bones. She did not question the storm. A loud screech sounded from behind them, haunting and vicious. She watches as a flash of panic washed over her father’s face, and felt his speed increase. Elodie knew better than to look over his shoulder.
Despite the strong winds, the young girl could hear the snapping branches and guttural moans that came from whatever was chasing them. The chest she was pressed against pounded in ragged patterns, and the once sure footsteps began to falter. Her father couldn’t hold out much longer. After a moment, it seemed he wouldn’t need to. The pair burst through the treeline, and the storm hit them at full force. The cliff they were standing on stretched over the ocean, but the thick fear in the air overpowered any thoughts of beauty she might have while looking at it. Elodie squirmed in her father’s arms and risked a glance toward the dark forest. They were alone, but by the desperate shrieks that pierced the air, she knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. She continued her struggling, desperate to leave her father’s arms and run away from the monster chasing them, but his grip only tightened around her frame. Elodie paused as the man’s eyes caught hers.
“I’m sorry, my daughter-” His words cut off as a gust of wind threatened to overpower them. “This is all our fault. We should have been more careful.” Her confusion must have shown clearly on her face because her father stopped speaking, opting instead to press his forehead gently against hers. She did not bother asking what had happened, or how any of her mother’s strange behavior pertained to him. A white flash blinded her vision momentarily, and her father pulled away sharply. He hadn’t stopped in his walk to the cliff’s edge.
“Father, wait. What’s-” He shushed her, and began speaking again. The tears in his eyes were held at bay, and he smiled softly while staring at her face. All movement of his stopped but for a calloused finger that wiped the water streaming from her face, and a soft voice that trembled from disuse.
“We have angered the gods, my dear. They demand retribution.” His words were almost swept away by the wind, but the tone was clear, and Elodie’s heart stuttered. She knew of the sacrifices the gods asked for - blood. She had seen enough red coated on the throats of their sheep, and was warned of the more powerful gods, and the followers that worshipped them. Those gods yearned for a different offering. Her eyes traveled to the dagger at her father’s hip, and she felt his gaze watching her. His grip tightened infinitesimally, as if he predicted the panic that grew in the following seconds. Whimpers poured from her throat, snatched away by the unforgiving wind. Her father shushed her, cradling Elodie in his powerful arms. He looked down at her with an unfathomable gentleness.
“They shall not have you.” His grip disappeared from around her, and she dropped. Elodie had seen birds dive into the sea before - grace and power filling their wings as they flew. She had never once seen a heron falter in its descent. The fall was always precise and purposeful. Hers felt nothing like that. Elodie’s stomach climbed into her throat as she dropped toward the cold spray of the ocean. Nothing nice could ever be said about falling - the thought that it was similar to flying was far off the mark. For the smallest moment, she wondered of Icarus. Then the sound of a thousand cannons overpowered her screams, and for the first time, she truly noticed the storm. There was only one god she knew of with wrath strong enough to conjure this punishment. The winds howled his name as she fell.