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Chapter 1: Fates
The mist coiled at their ankles, nipping upon their heels, as the good people of the humble village of Goa took up arms, marching as one to rid the world of the evil that plagued it. "Kill the witch! Kill the witch! Burn her! Burn her! Release the curse! Kill the witch!" was the chant that echoed a haunting song through the woods. Fog hung heavy overhead; a shroud belying the withered, ghostly spirits. Fires flickered weakly, as if moaning bereft, mourning a doomed soul.
Onward the villagers marched, besieging the village centre, where a lone woman stood vigil. Her back was crooked and hunched, her hands gnarled and weathered. Slivers of silvery hair hung limply against her aged face; skin stretched taut against bone. Her prune-coloured lips dry and cracked, mouth hung open, gasping. One could scarcely believe this woman had been, a mere 20 years of age. Haven't you heard? She is cursed. Mottled brown rags of cloth clung to her skeletal frame, wisps of fabric dragged upon the cobbled-stone. This woman, the Witch, has a death sentence over her head.
A veined eye, the pupil swallowing the iris, like pin-pricks of black within a sea of white, rolled in a widened socket, to train upon the approaching mob. In her shadow, loomed a monster of a pyre, towering upwards towards the waning moon that framed the night sky, devoid of stars.
The damned woman remained silent even as she was secured to the rotted wood. Even as she faced her execution.
The chief of the village stepped up and announced, "This woman, Luria D. Winters, stands accused of witchcraft, and sorcery! Every mishap, every catastrophe that she has proclaimed, has befallen our humble, poor little village! This witch has cursed our days with misery! As long as she lives, we shall never have peace! We shall not stand to see our perfect lives tarnished by such depravity and freakishness! This unnatural stain that darkens our door! Should she be found guilty, she shall be henceforth burnt at the stake! How does the accused plead?"
The woman, Luria, remained steadfastly silent.
The chief of the village, frowned, before conceding, "Very well…The accused is hereby found guilty of the crime of witchcraft! Her sentence: Burning at the stake!"
As a villager brought forth a flaming torch to set the tinder alight, the woman raised her head from where it was bowed to her chest. She neither screamed nor writhed even as the flames licked at her knees. This set a sense of unease amongst the villagers, especially, when it seemed as though her piercing, maddened gaze was trained on them.
As the flames threatened to consume her, the woman's lips pulled back from her teeth, the yellowed enamel stark against the orange light of the fires. With a maddened glint and an insane, spine-chilling grin, the woman let loose a harsh laugh that reverberated throughout the square, thunder echoing in its wake.
Luria then leant forward, straining at her bonds, and rasped.
"In centuries thrice shy o' dozen,
Trio of brotherhood wilt thereth be
Wild, fierce and brazen
Chaos shalt they wrought unto thee
Where there be unrest and calamity
Avatars herald and helm
In their wake glides serenity
Fate closeth to heart and Destiny cradled in palm
Lightning, the eye of the storm
Shalt be King crowned
Ocean, untamed and freedom born
Heavy lies the shame of Noble brow
Hellfyre, shrouded in flame and shadow
Seeks refuge from sin and warmth of hearth
Hark the souls within thine window
To find truth beyond thy birth!"
With a final cry and a bolt of lightning that rends the skies, the flames surged upwards, consuming Luria and swallowing her from view. The last the villagers saw of her, was her jarring grin, as the flames encompassed her, and she embraced Death.
"Push! Push! I can see the head crowning! Continue! Push!"
The cries of a newborn babe echoed through the surrounding woods that shielded the cabin. Within, a woman had laboured to bring her son into the world, and here he was now, nestled in her arms. The woman, damp blonde hair plastered to her sweaty brow, lowered her exhausted gaze to look upon her son, even as her spirit ebbed. The boy, born with a healthy head of black hair, and a smattering of freckles, was now fast asleep, spent from crying. The woman felt a twinge within her, as her eyes landed on her son's pink birthmark in the shape of a flame, resting just upon his left side, near his rib cage. She smiled, a tired, but warm smile, eyes bright.
The babe was sleeping peacefully, safe in his mother's embrace. The woman, for every second that she held him, felt her strength slowly returning to her. She knew it had something to do with his strange mark, and the aura that she could sense coming from him. She knew, he was Special.
She also knew that this moment of reprieve would not last long.
"I know you will go on to become great, my son. I am sorry that I won't be there to see it. Be safe, and live, Ace."
The woman then handed her infant son to an elderly man standing off to the side, and lay back against the pillows, drained.
"I will take care of him." The man promised.
The woman nodded, relief evident, before she closed her eyes, and breathed her last.
The babe erupted into cries as his mother faded, as if he knew that she was gone. The grizzled man soothed him as best as he could, even as he spirited the boy away into the dark. That night, the sky was an inky canvas, neither the moon, nor the stars were in sight. Shadows lurked in corners and chased after the pair as they vanished from the isle of Baterilla.
A couple of months later, a quiet baby blessed the abode of the Noble Outlook III in the calm of night. Already, the babe held the desirable features that would one day mature into that of noble's face. The babe was wrapped up in a blue blanket and handed to the mother. She merely took one glance at her son, and then passed him to a nurse to be taken care of while she rested from her trials.
Thus, only the midwife was privy to the fact that the babe bore a birthmark upon his right flank, shaped peculiarly like a seashell. She chose to keep that fact to herself for now, heavens know how nobles viewed any form of imperfection of the skin with undisguised distaste.
As the nurse brought the babe into the nursery to be placed into the cot, the bright supermoon shone through the open window to cast a silvery beam upon the crib, and the babe's skin glowed with the moon's blessing.
The nurse caressed the baby's smooth head, speckled with wisps of golden strands that gleamed silver in the moonlight, humming a lullaby as the babe slumbered, eyelids flickering; baby blues that resembled the coastal waters peeking between the lids. The infant's breath was as rhythmic as the ocean tide.
Elsewhere, a freckled infant squirmed in his cot within a bandit's hut, the perforating snores like white noise. The infant turned towards the open window to gaze up at the full moon, it's light reflected in his mercurial eyes that momentarily, flashed as red as a blood moon.
It was on a stormy night, that the baby came. Lightning and thunder, along with the incessant drumming of rain upon the windowpanes threatened to drown the woman's screams as she exerted the last of her strength for one final push, releasing the babe from her body to be scooped up by the midwife and cleaned up. The bawling babe, lungs seemingly loud enough to rival the thunder in the background was then pressed to the woman's bosom.
The babe continued to cry fervently even as he was offered food, the lightning shaped birthmark like a beacon upon his sternum. The babe remained restless, refusing all forms of nourishment, the lightning that lit up the gloomy night in tandem with his every breath. He eventually cried himself to sleep as the storm outside settled; whilst a three year old boy frowned in his sleep, sprawled on the floor, momentarily roused, and another three-year old gazed up at the skies through the windows, tucked beneath too heavy blankets upon a too-large bed, alone within the room. Unbeknownst, the boy's eyes flashed a luminous blue.
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