The Night Sounds
The voices swirled past her ear, caressing her cheek like a lover’s touch. The night sounds of the breeze carried their dark but beautiful song through the air; her body began to sway into the breeze, her lithe limbs moving with an elegant fluidity all their own. And a new voice joined those of the wind, rising high and clear, piercing the night sky and spiraling its way skyward. She became one with the night, with the wind, and with the song it carried. But her reverie was short lived, a strong hand clasping about her arm and jerking her back from her dreaming.
"Kenda," the man hissed at her sharply through his teeth, "you know you shouldn’t be out here! D’you want to get yourself killed?" He relinquished his grasp on her arm roughly, a look of disgust on his face.
She bowed her head then looked up at him timidly, her head tilting to the side as she saw the masked look of concern in his eyes. "I’m sorry, Shardin. I… I didn’t mean to upset you." Her absolute sincerity was painfully clear; she looked rather like a small child, reprimanded for the first time and crushed by the knowledge of doing her first wrong.
Shardin sighed heavily, the harshness in the lines of his face melting away to betray a much softer and kinder man than one might first expect. "I’m not exactly upset with you, Kenda. You just shouldn’t come out here at night and you know it. What would you do if one of the shadow beasts or nightlings came after you? You never bring any sort of protections with you. And you were singing again; you ought to know by now that it attracts them sometimes," He fell silent for a moment and not a sound was to be heard throughout their entire region of forest.
He had been standing just outside the ring of pale moonlight that encompassed the young woman but now he stepped forward and out of the shadows. Moonlight bathed his form, seeming to give him a soft glow much like the pale aura that surrounded Kenda. She watched him move closer and suddenly he was holding her face in his hands. Her gaze locked on his eyes- those strange golden eyes, ringed with a deep blue- as he spoke.
"Why do you do this, Kenda? You come out here night after night and they send me searching for you. And time after time you’re here, singing to the moon in the middle of the night. Why? And what is that song that you sing anyway? It’s always the same."
She stepped back from him, breaking his hold, hot tears stinging her pale blue eyes. "I have to do it," she choked back a sob and shook her head a little, "Shardin, all my people are gone. Destroyed. It’s my duty to put them to rest. I’m the only priestess left so it has to be me. I come out here and I look to my teachings to find some way to help them. The way to put them completely to rest hasn’t been shown to me yet. So for now all I can do is comfort them a little. I come here to sing to them. It’s all I can do until the moon shows me the spell to set them free. No soul who dies the way they did can simply rest right away. They’re trapped here until the magic comes to me. I come here to sing to them. And I sing their Requiem. The song of their deaths. "
Neither one knew what to say. Shardin stood and stared at her helplessly as she turned her back to him and sat down among the dead leaves on the ground.
Everyone knew of the end the Demorkai had met. They were the one race powerful enough to fight off the nighttime creatures that took such delight in feeding off the inhabitants of the realm. Their power came from the moon and the existence of the night. Perhaps it was their common love for the night that made them such a formidable enemy of the nightlings, shadows beasts, and darkened souls that crept through the forests and fens at night. For a period of about ten years, every threatening night creature seemed to have disappeared. Most people rejoiced at their newfound freedom but the Demorkai became increasingly nervous. They formed stronger spells of protection and spread their death wards for deeply into the nightlands. But their efforts simply weren’t strong enough. Shadow beasts struck first, the lesser night demons followed. They had spent their ten years in hibernation and growth, multiplying in strength and number. And they decimated the populations of Demorkai in every region. Only a handful of them were known to exist now at all. Kenda was the only survivor of her tribe and sect. She had been the most powerful moon acolyte at the time and a Death Projection Priestess as well. Her tribe had hidden her away to assure that someone would be left to put them to rest and hopefully find a way to defeat their enemies. She was the dying dream of her people.
After some time he knelt beside her, trying to make his tone both kind and stern. "I know it hurts you deeply that all of the Demorkai are gone. And it must be terribly hard to feel that you have such an enormous responsibility. But you just can’t keep coming out here at night like this. It’s not safe and y…"
"Shut up," She cut him off sharply, her head raising as she crouched to a kneeling position.
He stood up then, her expression quickly changing to one of authority. "Now look I’m trying to be nice about it but if you keep this up I’m going to have to take some drastic mea…"
"SHUT UP, Shardin!" She leaped to her feet, her expression intent but her true concern was not with him at all. She was peering outside the ring of moonlight and backing up very slowly. "We have to go."
"What the Hell is with you, Kenda?"
But then he stopped as he heard what she had already sensed. A snarl rose from the darkness around them, freezing them both for a moment with the sheer inhumanity of its sound. This creature was somehow terribly wrong by even existing. It was terrifyingly clear that it was neither alive nor dead, but trapped somewhere in between. It howled then- its voice filled with enough hatred to tear a soul apart. That sound was enough to snap Kenda out of her paralysis.
She grabbed Shardin’s arm and broke out into a run, forcing him to fall or run with her. He chose the latter and they bolted, trying desperately to save their own lives. No that far, it’s not that far. Those words raced through Kenda’s mind over and over again, giving her what little encouragement was possible. As she thought it, Shardin spoke it. "The shelter’s only about 100 more yards! Don’t stop, oh gods, DON’T STOP!"
She hazarded a glance back over her shoulder as she ran- hearing and sensing that the shadow beasts was growing closer- and almost fell from the shock of the wave of sheer malevolence that hit her. Her speed quickened as she turned her head back to look where she was going and saw the stone walls of the shelter mere yards away. By instinct she reached out and grabbed Shardin’s hand, the grasp somehow giving them both hope for fuel as the thundered on to the wood and iron door of the shelter.
A cry of dismay sprang forth from two mouths as the flung themselves against the door and found it locked. In a panic they began to scream and pound on the one thing keeping them from safety. Kenda pummeled the door with her fists in frenzy, bruises and cuts appearing on her flesh almost instantly. She began to sob and cried out hoarsely, feeling the creature loom closer. "I’m sorry, Shardin!!! I’m sorry!!!"
And then she found herself falling.
Shardin grabbed her hand and pulled her into the shelter as it was flung open. They tumbled to the floor and Shardin frantically kicked it shut, shaking and screaming. "BOLT THE DOOR! SAVE US! BOLT IT!" He kept yelling until his voice broke and his energy drained- long after the door had been shut and bolted- clutching Kenda for fear of losing his life somehow even now.
A confused and frightened group of people had gathered about them. Most to afraid to speak but a few prodding for answers.
"What happened? You alright?"
"Did you see it?"
"Is it gone?"
Shardin simply ignored them and struggled to his feet, picking up Kenda’s sobbing form and carrying her to the main room. He placed her in a chair before falling back into a chair of his own and collapsing from exhaustion and fright.
Eventually, Kenda managed to halt her tears and weakly scramble out of her chair, oblivious to the little knot of people standing in the doorway. She crawled to Shardin’s chair and wrapped her arms about his legs, firmly convinced that he had saved her life by dragging her inside with him. It was there that she was finally taken in unconsciousness by her intense fatigue, the sounds of the shadow beasts following her into sleep, as they would haunt her throughout the rest of her life.
The Night Sounds By: Melanie E. Haley
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