Aretherra Volume One | Tryn Runs From Destiny

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Copyright Eric L Gardner © 2021
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Aretherra Volume One – Running From Destiny
Created On: 08.30.2016
Last Updated: 11.02.2016
New Update: 01.12.19
Total Words : 14065

Hiding from Destiny
Running from Destiny

The village was straight out of a fairytale storybook. Nestled in a wooded valley next to a cold clear water of the river Ouse in the shadow of white frosted mountains and hugged by cascading green foothills, the little village of Rievaulx was the definition of picturesque. The main street and it’s branching lanes and alleys were made still of smooth cobblestones, gathered from the riverbed a millenia ago when the village became a village. Before that, this part of the upper valley, this particular riverside location in the large bend of the meandering river, was a trading post for area farmers and shepherds and a stopover place for prospectors and migrant workers who headed across the country in both directions hoping to find their riches in lands other than their home. There was something heartwarming and peaceful about this place but most of all, there was something strangely familiar, so she decided to stay a while.

That was three nights ago since she followed the smell of wood burning smoke out of the evergreen forest along the river Ouse to find this lovely little village. Since Tryn arrived she has barely survived, being forced to scavenge for discarded stale bread from the trash bin of the village baker and drinking from the large wooden barrel that collects rainwater for the livestock in the barn behind the Inn. Earlier that afternoon Tryn was caught by the Innkeeper as she scooped water with her dirty hands up to her chapped lips, gulping down desperate swallows rainwater as if her life depended on it and with one look of her, the Innkeeper could tell that it did.

He cautiously watched her for a few minutes from behind one of the horse stalls, where he quickly determined that she was not a threat, but simply a person in need of help. The Innkeeper slowly approached and introduced himself as Mr. Fisher the innkeeper. He then invited her to come inside the Inn for real food and drink. She devoured two servings of meat pie, mash potatoes, assorted vegetables and a sweet custard, plus three large glasses of water. Afterward he gave her access to his residential quarters, where she was finally able to strip off her synthetic fiber jumpsuit from the space station and bathe for the first time since she awoke.

After Tryn’s bath she was allowed to choose anything she wanted from Mr. Fisher’s wife’s clothes. He had been a widow for almost ten years but never had thrown out her wardrobe, adding that she rarely wore them anyway. For the first time Tryn was going to wear a dress. There were only three dresses from which to choose, so she tried on all three. Two of them were made from a plain grey colored fabric and had a very uniform quality about them. These dresses did not appeal to Tryn in the slightest, but the third dress was made from a soft and pretty pink fabric with white accents and comfortable-looking shoulder straps. Mr. Fisher said that his wife wasn’t as tall as Tryn, but he guessed that the dresses may still fit her figure because they looked to be a couple sizes larger than Tryn might wear. All three of the dresses were indeed loose fitting around Tryn’s figure, including the lovely pink dress, with one small exception, all of the dresses were a little snug around the bust, but not to the point of being uncomfortable.

Tryn loved wearing a dress, she loved wearing this dress. She then saw her reflection and the notion of loving something so trivial as a pink dress paled in comparison to the revelation looking back at her. So impossible to imagine a reality such as hers, but she lacked this solitary experience which was so crucial at a time like this. She stood before a mirror, perhaps for the first time, experiencing the immediacy of instant visual feedback looking at her reflection. An unexpected surge of emotion welled up within her soul. It was more than the dress, perhaps the dress was totally inconsequential, but as she stood before the full length mirror the first of a few tears fell from her long dark eyelashes. Until now Tryn had only dreams and scattered memories of distant, foreign places and unknown alien faces, from which to build a roughshod identity. But that person from those memories was not her, she would not accept that idenity any longer. Of course Tryn knew what a mirror was and how it functioned. She knew its purpose for being. She recalled seeing mirrors in her memories, how they were used for mundane everyday activities, like combing hair or to stare into while cleaning teeth. She feared that she would forever be haunted by theses memories. Forever haunted by the recollection of nefarious reflections and the face that looked back at her from her subconscious, a face that was not hers. But this experience was completely different.

Tryn stood before the mirror and for the first time she could see herself. She saw more than a reflection of a young woman at the dawn of adulthood, this was more. Of course she saw the reflection of a slender but athletic woman, with chestnut brown hair whose shades of brilliant auburn remained safely concealed until bright sunlight exposes the hidden shades of burnt red. For the first time Tryn saw a young woman who could chose for herself a path that was hers and hers alone. No more was she going to accept a destiny that was laid out by anyone else. She was tired of everyone else telling her who she was and what she was and where she should go and who she should seek. This was Tryn’s moment and as she looked into her own eyes, as she wiped away the last of her tears, she smiled. Tryn was going to become her own woman from this point on and she looked forward to the journey.

Tryn wasn’t the only one taking notice, Mr. Fisher had returned and was standing by the open door to the bedroom. She saw that his demeanor, the way that he responded to her had changed drastically since he left her to choose something from his wife’s wardrobe earlier. This was the first time that he saw her in the pink dress and he didn’t say anything, just looked and then looked down at his boots. Mr. Fisher then looked a little flushed and seemed embarrassed, so he walked away. Tryn was confused, she had no experience or working knowledge of the minds of men, especially with regard to how they react to beautiful women sometimes, really most of the time. However, Tryn guessed that he responded in this manner because it was his wife’s dress and seeing it on another woman must have been difficult for him.

Mr. Fisher offered her a job at the Inn and told Tryn that she could sleep in the loft on the second level of the big barn outback. She was ecstatic and reveled in her good fortune. After she nearly starved and slept under a large tree on the edge of town for several days, she could not believe her good fortune. He then suggested that she stay on his property for the time being and not wonder off into the village today. She wouldn’t have to start work until the next morning and he invited her back for dinner later that afternoon, until then she was on her own. Mr. Fisher added that until he had a chance to introduce her to the other villagers, it would be best if she kept to herself and not speak with anyone else for the time being. When Tryn asked why this was the case, his only explanation was that the other villagers were fearful of outsiders. Less than an hour later the boredom became too much to bare for Tryn, she couldn’t sit in the barn loft another minute longer, so she set off to see the rest of the village of Rievaulx.

The Three Swords Inn was one block away from the unofficial center of the village. While the front entrance of the Inn was located on one of the busiest streets in the village, the back of the Inn and remaining property opens into farm land. The Three Swords Inn is the main house of what used to be a large working farm, long before there was a village of Rievaulx. The large barn was one of several detached barns and buildings on Mr. Fisher’s property. While sitting in the big barn Tryn had the peaceful feeling that comes from being far out in the countryside, away from the noise and bustle that naturally comes with life in a village or town. However, the rest of the village was only steps away from the front door of the Inn because the Rievaulx built itself around the farm’s property, making it the unofficial old center of everything.

As Tryn walked away from the Inn, the first thing she noticed was the most obvious feature of Rievaulx. It was quaint, beautiful, immaculate with its upkeep, and clean, very clean. Tryn couldn’t help herself and actually took a knee and swiped her finger on one of the cobblestones of the main street to see if her fingertip would pick up even a speck of dirt. It didn’t, her finger was still clean. Did people live there? Did they use the streets? Tryn wondered if this was the case before she finally saw some of the residents of Rievaulx for the first time. She was relieved to see other people besides Mr. Fisher, because there was something creepy, almost frightening about an empty village. Tryn did not have anything to worry about, no one spoke to her and the

Tryn was exhausted that night as she lay in a makeshift bed in the loft of the big barn behind the Inn. She laid in bed for a while looking out the second story window at the host of stars in the black night sky. The heavenly vista seemed to go on forever because the window faced East, down the river valley between the mountains that flanked the village on both sides. Like two older brothers looking over your shoulder, the mountains blacked out the skies with their menacing bulk that towered over the village below. Tryn considered how small she felt, next to something so big. As she drew closer to sleep, she considered what her job might entail, what fresh opportunities awaited her with her new employment. Perhaps finding this village was her true destiny, she thought, and if it was, it felt right because it was one of her own making. Tryn fell asleep to the sounds and smells of the horses and other livestock that lived in the stalls below. Tryn had a big day tomorrow, the first day of her first job and she couldn’t be more excited.

Tryn woke up at sunrise. The rising sun sparkled off the River Ouse and warmed her where she laid. Any notion of sleeping a little longer was crushed by the sound of an annoying rooster taking too much pride in his morning ritual. Tryn got dressed in one of the grey pant suits that Mr. Fisher provided from his wife’s old wardrobe. She then met the Innkeeper in the kitchen where he was busy making breakfast for last night’s guests. After Tryn cleaned up the mess from the breakfast crowd, making the dining room spotless as she tried to ` by the taste of coffee, especially with ample cream and sugar added. She could never imagine being able to drink coffee black, it was way too bitter and she liked sweet things. But most of all, Tryn loved the way coffee made her feel like she could run circles around the village, swim the length of the river and climb every mountain in the nearby range, all before lunch. Was this coffee drink some sort of magical potion? Tryn thought as she headed upstairs to perform her next duties.

Mr. Fisher called up the back stairwell to Tryn, who was stripping the first of many beds and he told her to throw the dirty linen down the chute that was in the room at the end of the hall. Tryn found this strange until she saw that the chute and the room where it was located were both marked laundry.

The first room was easy because it was basically clean already. But as the day progressed the novelty of her duties wore thin very fast. Her job entailed changing sheets, making beds, cleaning up all sort of disgusting things people left behind in their rooms, cleaning sinks and toilets and taking out the garbage. When she finally finished cleaning every inch of the eight guest rooms, Tryn had to go to the basement of the inn to wash and fold the bedding. The sun was setting on the day, Tryn was far more exhausted than the day before. She found the innkeeper on the front porch smoking his pipe and she asked if she was finished for the day.

The innkeeper thought for a moment and responded without looking her way. He told her that there were some issues with the rooms after she finished cleaning them, but that he fixed all of the issues, save one. Mr. Fisher, in full his full master innkeeper mode, proceeded to tell her to scrub the floors in rooms four through eight with the bucket of soapy water and scrubbing brush, both waiting for her on the porch steps. As she walked away, the innkeeper reminded her to not get the floors too wet while she scrubbed, then added that too much water would ruin the wood.

Tryn was not sure what to think about this. She had swept all of the floors and cleaned more with a soapy rag where needed, but to scrub the floors of five rooms now? She had no basis to judge this from any angle and there was no one from whom she could ask. So Tryn headed upstairs, bucket and brush in hand and she got some satisfaction from the water that sloshed out of the top as she walked. Maybe he would slip and fall. She could not believe she just thought about him falling and hurting himself. Where did that kind of thinking come from?

Tryn got to bed late that night and fell asleep immediately. The sun and rooster woke her again and she repeated the previous day’s work all over again. As the days went by, the innkeeper relied more and more on her work to keep his property functioning. Soon the care of the animals was added. She was serving meals in the inn restaurant and he added dinner service to the breakfast and lunch meals already part of their daily workload. Mr. Fisher was thrilled with his increase in business and for the important people who came in every day at lunch and breakfast to eat the food that he made and Tryn served.

One of these people was the Rievaulx village Burgomaster Prime, who was the town’s chief executive and leader of the people who lived there. Tryn did not like him very much. While she had no reason not to like him at first, there was something off about him, something that made her squirm inside and always tempted Tryn to run the other way when she saw him come in for his daily lunch. The Burgomaster Prime, along with his traveling circus of henchmen, had been coming to the inn everyday for years to get his morning breakfast. But for the last three weeks, since Tryn began serving meals to the diners in the inn’s restaurant, the Burgomaster added lunch to his daily routine. Twice a day Tryn had to act pleasent to this man and his rowdy group of yes men and it was getting more difficult by the day to keep up her charade.

Tryn made mental notes of the signs as they accumulated during the weeks that she served him his meals. It started out with small conversations where the Burgomaster would ask about Tryn’s background. He wanted to know where she came from, who she knew it town, what Aretherran people she hailed from and similar questions meant to dig in and find out everything about her. She remained guarded and told the Burgomaster what the innkeeper told her to say to those who asked about her, she lied. Tryn maintained the story that she was Mr. Fisher’s neice, who was visiting from the countryside. This worked for a while and Tryn stuck to the story that she was the innkeeper’s sister’s daughter. However a few days after she lied to the Burgomaster things changed.

Everyday Tryn would walk into the village before dinner, just to get out to see and think of anything besides dirty linens and scrubbing floors. Although Tryn would never admit this to the innkeeper, let alone herself, she hated everything about her job and she had grown tired of sleeping in a barn after three nights. Everyday, ass she walked through the streets of the village that was always clean and orderly, she had the odd feeling like someone was watching her. So Tryn turned a corner onto a new street and ducked into a store, where she hit behind some shelves and watched out the front windows to see if she was right. Moments later the Burgomaster’s number two man, the Burgomaster Minor, walked past the storefront frantically looking up and down the street as if he had lost something. Tryn knew right then that her suspicions were correct, he was following her.

For the past two weeks Tryn knew that the Burgomaster was on to her, that he knew something about her origins or that she was lying about being Mr. Fisher’s family from the country. Everyday she maintained her routine and took a walk through the village in the afternoon and everyday the Burgomaster Minor would follow her. This surveillance was so far harmless and the conversations at the inn, while the Burgomaster Prime ate his daily meals remained falsely pleasant. But the real proof was at the point when the questions he asked Tryn about her background stopped and the superficial took over. That was when she knew that her time was running short.

Tryn had no proof yet of a greater conspiracy that would threaten her job or much worse her life, but it was only a matter of time. The clues were there, she needed only time to figure out what they meant. Many of these clues masqueraded as positive aspects and seemingly good qualities about the village. The cleanliness and order of operations for example, at first seemed like great signs that this was a wonderful place to live. However, there was the unstated dress code; every person in the village wore essentially the same grey-colored loose-fitting two piece coveralls. Their clothes were always in shades of grey, with grey socks and grey boots and shoes. The Burgomaster Prime and his number two were the only exceptions to the rule. The former always wore red socks and a big red bow tie and the later wore a small red pin on his lapel in the shape of the Rievaulx village emblem.

The villagers’ coveralls leaned heavy on the basic function of covering one’s body, with total disregard for fashion, a utilitarian one-look-suits-all function, and Tryn wondered how this came to be. The clothes the villages wore reflected their basic attitudes as well. Tryn found very little humor or happiness from the people she met at the inn while serving meals, on her walks or in the shops. It was like some part of the villagers was suppressed. An essential part of every person, the spark that gives everyone, or at least should give everyone, the drive to thrive inside their souls, to seek a happiness, prosperity and freedom. Tryn didn’t know a lot about people in general, at least the different types and societal intricacies of various cultures, but she knew that what she saw in this village was wrong.

Nobody spoke out or had different beliefs from the next person in line at the bakery counter. Everyone in the village looked, spoke, and most likely thought the same as everyone else. Because of this, the village population as a whole followed the mandates, orders and proclamations of the person in charge; meaning that every villager followed the Burgomaster Prime. For three weeks Tryn was forced to listen to conversations by the Burgomaster Prime and his subjects as they sat around the table in the Three Swords Restaurant. The ideals and sentiments that she heard from these people made Tryn frightened for the safety of anyone who was not just like them, especially for hers. After a week passed by, Tryn summoned the courage to ask Mr. Fisher to enlighten her regarding the truth of the Village. If he refused to fill in the blanks of her investigation, at least she hoped he would verify her questions and concerns about the Burgomaster and everything she had witnessed. The innkeeper freely told Tryn everything.

The Burgomaster Prime was outspoken about his unorthodox beliefs, especially his zeal for his special brand of xenophobia. This alone explained the Burgomaster’s initial apprehension to Tryn’s presence in the village, being the new girl in town and an unknown entity who served his meals everyday. In his eyes Tryn was a threat to their way of living, possibly their very existence. The villagers were lead to believe that the Burgomaster Prime was right, about everything. Due to their blind faith in his teachings and as their chosen leader, the laws that ruled the village were absolute and not to be questioned. But there was more and Mr. Fisher continued by telling Tryn the most shocking truth about the village she was not aware of yet.

One hundred years ago, back when Mr. Fisher’s grandfather was a farmer and the Three Swords Inn was a farm, the Burgomaster Prime’s grandmother ruled over the village of Rievaulx with a literal iron fist. She was a Vysuvian who was injured when she was a little girl. Her father was the village blacksmith and one day she was playing hide and seek in her father’s workshop. Her father as out making a delivery, so the little girl decided to cheat and she made herself invisible when she heard the sound of her friends calling her name. They had no idea where she was, wandering aimlessly, searching for her out in the yard. Finally her friends drew closer to the shop door and as they burst into the blacksmith’s shop, they tipped over a large cauldron of molten iron. The little girl’s hand and forearm were totally covered with liquid iron. The girl screamed out for help, but the only thing that could be seen was an iron arm.

An hour later the Burgomaster’s grandmother was visible again, but the village healer was unable to remove the arm-length iron glove. Not to be disillusioned by this unfortunate event, the blacksmith helped the little girl learn to incorporate the iron into her physiology. As the legend goes, a year after her accident, she had a fully functional forearm and hand, which she was able to control and move the same as her other. The devastating accident and the painful recovery planted a seed of strong will within the little girl. This blossomed into an unstoppable drive to succeed and a desire to make life better for the people with whom she lived. As an adult she was chosen to be the first Burgomaster Minor of the village of Rievaulx. Less than a year later, after the current Prime tripped and fell on a rock, she took the office of Prime, soon after he died from his injuries.

With an iron fist and a will of steel, that little girl grew up to be the most influential person to the village and people of Rievaulx. On her first day she signed a proclamation banning all powers and abilities from being used by the villagers. As time went by amendments were added to include visitors and laws that banned the use of language with regard to people’s country of origin and all associated powers and abilities. A program was put into place and all children were vaccinated at a young age to suppress the gene that is activated, which allows and causes powers to manifest at the age of emergence. At first the program was voluntary, but a law was quickly added and then it was mandatory that all children should be vaccinated against powers. Few villagers resisted the new way and believed that their new Burgomaster Prime had a mandate to make these radical changes. Her sad story was part of her pitch, but she really sold them on fear of nefarious outside forces bent on taking over or destroying their village. Secretly the innkeepers’s grandfather lead a pack of rebels who began a shadow war against this new radical tyranny. Mr. Fisher has continued this fight ever since. The face he puts forth to the Burgomaster and the village is a mask that hides his seething hatred of the how things are and he yearns for a day when he can fight to restore the ways of the past; he calls it the war for normalcy.

The current Burgomaster Prime believes he has a mandate handed down from his grandmother, to his father and then to him. This is why he is the way that he is and rules as if he too as an iron fist of justice. This current Burgomaster Prime refined and finally deployed the technology first developed by his grandfather that would blanket the entire valley surrounding the village with a dampening field. Hidden in the foothills surrounding the river valley, an array of powerful field emitters broadcast the dampening field, suppressing the powers and abilities of anyone within its reach. The dampening field renders the effects of Aretherra’s core and magical influence inert. Tryn’s head was swirling and spinning out of control as she tried to mentally digest this barrel full information about the village and her favorite dinner guest. She was not tired in the least and blamed it on the three cups of coffee she drank while listening to the stories of the past. Instead of heading to the barn, up the loft to attempt sleep, she snuck by the kitchen window out to the street that would take her into the village. Mr. Fisher had already gone to bed and Tryn knew this because the downstairs lights were all off. As she walked away from the inn, buzzed with energy, she felt as if she already slept for the night. Mr. Fisher says that coffee does that to people, especially slim little women like her.

Tryn was turning the corner, about to pass before the bakery window on the street that runs parallel with the inn, when out of nowhere two men grab her by the arms and a third punches her in the stomach. Tryn wheezed in pain, gasping for air as they dragged her backward into the park across the street from the bakery. The park was very dark this time of night. The only light that succeeded in penetrating the awning of tree limbs were the two street lamps, located on opposite ends of the park. Tryn kicked and screamed the whole way into the deep shadows of the inner landscape until they reached the fountain at the center of the park. The men threw her down, slamming her back against the bench height stone wall that surrounded the circular body of water.

The three men started taunting her and bounced coins off her head, trying to get them to land in the pool, where they would join the others put there by wish makers. They told her to make a wish and demanded she do a trick, yelling at her to show her power. Tryn palmed her fingernails and made clenching fists hoping for a chance to slug one of her assailants and until that opportunity presented itself, she tried to resist allowing a power to come forth. Each of the three men took turns kicking her repeatedly and then they hit her with their batons. The leader screamed in delight and as Tryn held herself in a fetal position, praying for relief from somewhere or someone, she knew the voice of the man giving the orders, it was the Burgomaster Minor.

Tryn cried out and pleaded for mercy, but this was met with further brutality and for the first time that night she considered that it might be her last. They continued beating her until one of them was out of breath and backed off. Tryn thought that one was obese by the sound of his haggard breathing and thundering footsteps. The leader then said the most fear-inducing line thus far, he commanded the guy to just finish her, followed by the unmistakable click of a gun’s hammer being pulled back. Deep within the wellspring of her soul, a fiery hatred welled up to the surface and was so palpable that Tryn could actually taste the venomous bitter toxin of hatred in her mouth. Although she knew that was just blood oozing from her teeth, it was enough of a symbolic jumpstart to allow her to resist all temptation of not fighting back with every ounce of power she had.

Tryn rolled over to face the edge of the fountain and then lifted herself to her feet. All of her limbs felt like pain flavored gelatin, but nothing at this point would stop her from turning to face her destiny or theirs. With her hands behind her back two fireballs formed in her hands, both of them hovering just above the skin of her palms. The men laughed at her feeble gesture, thinking that if this woman believes standing would save her, she’s out of her mind. They had no idea what secret weapon lay hidden just out of view, if they did know about the fire, they would have shot her already. The leader gave the sign to shoot her immediately, but since they all were still in hysterics, their arrogant laughter made them all miss the obvious fireball soaring through the air at the man with the gun.

The fireball hit the gunman square in the upper chest and exploded in a mini inferno which knocked him several feet through the air onto the ground where he continued to burn and scream out into the night air. Shocked, the other two drew their guns, but in the same moment a long stick cracked them both in the head, the clunk sounds rang out in quick succession, and just as fast both of them were out cold. The innkeeper kicked away their guns and then checked to see of the third was dead. With his death confirmed, he ran to Tryn, scooped her in his arms and carried her back to the inn. He tended to her wounds and she finally was laying in bed a couple hours later, hoping that the shot of whiskey would help calm her nerves and ease the pain she felt throughout her body. Falling asleep wouldn’t be a problem, Tryn’s mind could only take so much emotional turmoil before she shut down completely.

She stood at the precipice of the unknown, a steep slide into herself where she would fall and never land on solid ground. There was nothing to hold on to and no one to turn to for help. She was alone, isolated and in desperate need of help. But with no one to lean on, no confidante, no trusted friend to love her in this time of need. The hand of grief took hold on one side and on the other, the hand of anger joined in and together the cold uncaring hands began to strangle her state of mind. The claws of grief and anger dug in deep and cut her to the bone. These emotional wounds may not damage her physically like the scars she would bare from the attack in the park; but the longterm effects of her emotional strangulation would damage her soul far greater than its physical catalyst. Seconds before Tryn fell asleep her mind esed into a state of euphoria causing all of her animosity, sadness and emotional baggage to slip away. She watched as the baggage fell into the void, disappearing from sight and she remained on the cliff high above completely unscathed.

The next morning Tryn was greeted by the sun again and by Nibbet the rooster, announcing the start of another wonderful day in the village of Rievaulx. Tryn sprung to her feet like she always did, but the searing pain reminded of her of the many injuries all over her body. Surprisingly she didn’t feel as bad as she thought she should and the long gaping gash above her right eye, that bled profusely into the night, was only a thin pink line now and well on it’s way to being healed. Tryn stood in the barn loft and examined her face in the dresser’s oval mirror for a few more minutes; as if she was waiting for her reflection to say “hello”. Someone did greet her in that very moment, a voice coming from her right side, over by the railing next to the stairs.

“Hello.” Greeted the woman’s voice in a soft and unassuming manner.

Tryn spun around, shuffling her feet to pivot her body, instead of turning her aching neck and torso. The young woman leaned on the rail, using her hands to support most of her weight and had her feet crossed in a casual, almost welcoming stance. Tryn looked her over and saw that she was wearing the same pink dress as the one Tryn borrowed from the deceased wife of the innkeeper that first day. The pink dress, but really the fact that this young woman was wearing the pink dress, was more alarming than her presence here in the loft. What’s more, the young woman favored Tryn in many ways. Her hair was a similar color, her body looked lean, but strong and she stretched out the upper part of dress like Tryn; the dress was too loose everywhere but the bust area. Tryn clearly had taken too long observing the girl and the dress and given the curious look on her face; she obviously was waiting for Tryn to respond.

“I, I’m sorry. I didn’t expect, I never thought that, who are you?” Tryn finally responded, shaking her head a little. She was confused but relieved to see a smiling face not wearing a grey coverall uniform.

“No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I was asked to come here, I know that you need my help.” The girl stepped forward, standing square with Tryn and stood with her hands clasped behind her back. Tryn looked over the girl’s shoulder, then back at the mirror and finally met her eyes again before continuing.

“Where did you come from? Why are you h-, Who did you say you were again?” Tryn’s confusion showed in her face, her eyes darted up and down scanning the young woman who stood a few feet away and her confused state made her fumble her hands together as she gently shifted her weight back and forth between her two feet. Tryn was almost sure that she was hallucinating the image of this young woman and closed her eyes to test her hypothesis. Upon opening a few seconds later, there she stood, hand still clasped behind her back, still standing a few feet away and still smiling at Tryn. Something about thisf person made Tryn want to run up and hug her, thank her for being there to help or at least trust her enough not to kick her out of the barn right away. The girl opened her mouth to respond to Tryn’s queries, but hesitated as she chuckled to herself and then met Tryn’s waiting stare.

“Where do I begin?” The girl began, she took a step closer to Tryn and placed her arms before her body so that her inner forearms could plainly be seen. “I’m just like you. I escaped a secret laboratory pod that was part of the orbiting space colony and I made my way to the planet’s surface and finally found you.” Tryn could see a tattoo on her left forearm that matched the one on her own. Could this be for real? Tyrn asked herself. She guessed that is was possible for there to be others like her.

“Okay, but who are you? Do you have a name? And how did you find me?” Tryn asked, wanting to believe this girl’s story.

“My name is Taryn and I heard about you and thought that we would be stronger together. I’ve been with you through you’re whole journey, always close by but never intervening until now because now more than ever you need a friend.” Tryn shook her head appearing to reject Taryn’s entire story, but in her heart she believed every word. Something about Taryn made Tryn trust her implicitly. Tryn smiled and with a concentrated stare she looked her over once again and thought that besides not knowing Taryn, she could find no other reason not to trust her. Tryn needed a friend because she was on the verge of falling apart in every way conceivable.

“You’re not the only one Tryn. I too have been through unimaginable difficulties since I awoke. Situations and circumstances that tested me in every way possible. It’s a miracle that I am still alive! But I will not let these trials change me or bring me down. I know that you too have the inner strength to rise above these tumultuous times and those who seek to persecute us. All of which seem to be so pervasive these days.” Taryn walked forward, took Tryn’s hands in hers and continued. “We can help each other, or more importantly, I will help you find your strength again, find your true purpose in life.”

Tryn smiled through her tears, she needed help and maybe that’s why Taryn found her right when she needed someone the most. “That sounds good. I bet I’m late for work. Oh! Work. I hope Mr. Fisher doesn’t mind you being here. He’s the innkeeper and this is his barn. He’s been letting me stay here while I work for him during these past few weeks.” Taryn let go and got ready for work, but stopped at the top of the stairs.

“You can stay up here while I go serve breakfast and clean the rooms. If you leave the barn please be careful should you go into the village. You know what, don’t go into the village, or near the inn restaurant during meal times. It could be dangerous. I’m not even sure if I am safe here anymore.” Tryn said with a decidedly serious tone.

“I’ll stay away from those places. I’ll stay here if that’s what you want.” Taryn responded.

“Good. You promise?” Tryn asked.

“I promise.” Taryn repeated with a smile. “Now off you go.”

Tryn ran over to the main house to help serve the breakfast to the diners who had already gathered outside for their morning meals. Conspicuously absent was the Burgomaster or any of his men. After the attack on Tryn the night before, she and Mr. Fisher wondered if he might show up this morning to arrest both of them and armed with a false concocted story about how she attacked his men in the park. As the breakfast crowd dispensed from the inn, Tryn looked up through the window to the kitchen and saw Mr. Fisher watching her with a concerned look on his face.

Mr. Fisher came out into the dining room and sat in a chair by the front door, Tryn continued wiping down tables, but she could hear him sigh several times. Finally he broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Tryn, stop what you’re doing for a minute.” Tryn stopped and stood up to look at him. This was when she noticed he had a large crossbow laying accross his lap, loaded with a razor sharp bolt and ready to be fired. I want you to know something Tryn. I know that I haven’t been the most friendly boss and I haven’t been your friend while you’ve worked for me. I wasn’t raised like that, I’m not the most open person. After I lost my wife I told myself not to get close to anyone again. I guess I’m afraid of getting hurt or losing someone I cared about, should I ever let myself become invested in another person again. However, you mean a lot to me. I can tell you’re special, made of better, more precious stuff than anyone I’ve ever know, including my wife. I’m sorry that I have not been a friend to you and I’m sorry that I have worked you so hard.” Tryn was beyond surprised to hear his tender and heartfelt confession. Her eyes welled up with tears looking into his eyes full of pain.

“I fear that things are going to become a lot worse for us before they become better. The Burgomaster will keep trying until he makes an example of you for all of the village to see. Most likely he will attempt to arrest you and probably me, most likely before day’s end. I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to protect you. I will even give my life to protect yours if that is required of me.” He paused and wiped a single tear from his eye. I wanted you to know how important you are to me before it is too late.” Mr. Fisher stood up, straightened his apron and pushed open the kitchen door. “There were six rooms occupied last night, get two of those tidied up and I’ll do the other four. Don’t worry about the floors and then go and rest, you’re going to need it.” With that, he walked back into the kitchen and Tryn headed up the stairs to clean the two guest rooms.

Tryn stopped at the landing between the levels of stairs, Taryn was waiting for her on the first step of the second level. Tryn hadn’t noticed Taryn come in the main house, but on second thought, Tryn was consumed by the intense conversation with Mr. Fisher; Taryn could have slipped by, or taken the back stairs and come around to the main ones to meet Tryn when she headed up. She didn’t give it another thought and smiled and greeted Taryn. After that intense moment with Mr. Fisher, Tryn’s heart felt lighter and surprisingly more optimistic when she saw Taryn waiting there, smiling back at her. Somehow in light of everything, or more appropriately in the shadow of everything Tryn faced at this time, she felt a better, almost hopeful.

“So, are you going to let me help you?” Taryn said while she followed Tryn down the hall toward the rooms.

“Sure. I’ll show you what to do and we can work on it together.” Tryn called back over her shoulder as she lead her to the first of the two guest rooms that needed cleaning.

“Two minds and four hands are always better than half of that, right?” Taryn responded.

“That’s what I have always thought too.” Tryn said with a smile.

The two women proceeded to clean all of the six rooms, despite what Mr. Fisher instructed her to do and then they grabbed some provisions from the kitchen and went for a hike to look for a nice place by the river to have a picnic. Their exit from the inn’s property was clear, because the back of the property faced the open fields that lead to the riverside, Tryn and Taryn did not have to venture into town to find a spot to have lunch. Tryn not only had her new friend, but had the rest of the day off, which was a first for her since she started working at the inn. Altogether, the rest of the day was perfect.

The woman laughed and shared stories of their misadventures and for the first time, Tryn felt like she could look to the future with a sense of hope, without foreboding fear occupying the her most prevalent thoughts with what inevitably waited for her in the coming days. Yet despite the optimism she felt as a result of her time with Taryn, in the back of her mind Tryn couldn’t shake the fear of the unknown. The Burgomaster could come at any time and after killing one of his men in the park last night, she was sure that this could mean imprisonment or even death for her, Mr. Fisher and now Taryn.

Tryn and Taryn talked about the village for a long time, Tryn shared her thoughts and feeling about what she had seen and felt as a result. She told Taryn that for all of their idyllic, seemingly peaceful ways on the surface, what brewed underneath the surface of this village was dark and unforgiving. She never imagined a place could exist, that people could live their lives with such fear and ignorance ruling their way of thinking. To deny the natural order of all living things on Aretherra was unforgivable and wrong. Toward the end of their conversation, Taryn asked Tryn a question that floored her, she couldn’t believe that she knew these things she knew.

“Tryn, please tell me, why did you decide to stay here?” Tryn almost jumped in to respond right away when Taryn held up a hand wanting to continue. “Let me finish. What I’m asking is: Why did you come here, stay here, when you have so much more out there to do? When you must go and find the boy, do you remember what the old woman said? That it is important, that it is your destiny? That is why I ask you, why did you run away and hide here at the inn with Mr. Fisher?” Tayrn looked down at the blanket they were sitting on and then looked to the river and watched the water swiftly flow by. Tryn looked away too, consumed in the deepest thought, considering what she said. They both watched the water for a couple minutes before Tryn finally responded.

“I was trying to find my own way. I have no other excuse than that. I thought that if I stayed here, tried to make some sort of…life for myself, a life that was my own, for and by me and on my terms, then I would be happy. I think that you are right. I did not consider it until now, what you said, that I am running. I guess, I guess I have been running this whole time.” Tryn smirked and laughed to herself. Taryn gave her a funny look, wondering what she could have found humorous about any of this.

“What’s funny?” Taryn wondered.

“You know, it is ironic that I am ready to admit that I was wrong this whole time. I was running, you are right about that. But after all of this, even if I followed the path that the old woman set me on, even if I decide to go find the boy and see what destiny holds for me out there, I am still stuck here with a bloodthirsty Burgomaster coming after me and I will probably not make it out of this village alive, even if I tried to run right now. So yeah, I find that kind of funny, in an ironic kind of way.” Tryn laughed again, but Taryn did not join her, instead she was concerned. “Do you have any ideas?” Tryn asked.

“I wish that I did. I wish I could make this all go away and send you on your way to chase this destiny you speak of. I may not be able to snap my fingers and poof, that guy is dead and you and Mr. Fisher are safe, that would be a great trick. But I can stand with you and be here for you and help you in every way that I am able.” Taryn said sincerely. Tryn could see the open honesty in her eyes and smiled, thankful for her presense.

“You are, you have been helping me since you arrived this morning. Just being able to talk to someone about all of this has helped. You’re timing could not have been more perfect. Last night, when I finally fell asleep, after the attack in the park, I thought that I was going to lose my mind. I was filled with fear and doubt and I was literally ready to give up.” Taryn smiled at Tryn’s words, happy that she was able to help Tryn through this difficult time.

“I’m happy that I’ve been able to help you. Again, I wish I could do more, but if talking about it helps you, than I’m happy that I’ve been able to be here for you.” Taryn replied.

It was getting darker, the sun was taking it’s bow for the day, ready to welcome it’s protege, Lhunoz to take over the sky with it’s nightly glow.

“We better head back, it’s getting dark and I don’t think we should be out at night right now, not with the Burgomaster out there and ready for revenge.” Tryn said as she gathered what remained from the picnic into the basket that Mr. Fisher provided.

Tryn and Taryn walked back to the barn at dusk, their shadows cast long against the wheat in the field as they hurried back. Neither spoke along the way, save for pointing out the first stars of the evening. When they arrived it was quiet on the homefront, no sign of the Burgomaster or his men, not even of Mr. Fisher, who normally would be on the front porch smoking his pipe at that time. Normally Tryn would not find this troublesome, but given what could be possible, she feared the worst. Tryn sent Taryn up to the loft and then headed inside the main house, which strangely was completely dark. Normally there would be lights in the downstairs windows and assorted guest rooms upstairs, but that night no light was on. She checked everywhere, no one was at the inn, not even Mr. Fisher. Tryn ran down the main stairs through the darkness into the dining room when she heard a Taryn yelling her name from the loft in the big barn.

Tryn sprinted across the yard to the barn and stormed up the stairs and found Taryn standing next to the dresser where a note was written in red on the mirror. There was enough light from Lhunoz above and the street lights outside to plainly see what was written. The words read: “Save Mr. Fisher. Come to me. BM Prime.” Tryn grabbed the far edges of the dresser with her hands and gripped the wood until her knuckles were white. She looked up at the mirror again and noticed the unmistakable shade of red, the thickness of the liquid, it had to be written in blood, Mr. Fisher’s blood. Who were these animals?

Tryn was beside herself, Taryn stood next to her and Tryn turned to her with a look in her eyes, as if to ask her what she would do now. She never expected this, Tryn did not think that she would have to see someone she cared about harmed, possibly killed because of her. Tryn felt powerless and lost again. Taryn stepped forward.

“Don’t disappear again Tryn. You can fight this, it may not be too late. You’re more powerful than you realize. You could burn the whole place down if you wanted. You have powers that you don’t know about or understand yet. Believe me, when you do, you will do great things. So do not disparage, you fight this Tryn. Fight for Mr. Fisher, fight for yourself.” Taryn looked at Tryn, believing in her heart every word she said.

“Thank you. I hope you are right about me.” Tryn said looking out the window at the stars.

“I am right. I know you. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish great things, extraordinary things some day.” Taryn said seriously.

“I’ll go now. But I do not want you involved. I could not live with myself if you were injured or killed on my behalf. Will you stay here and hide?” Tryn pleaded.

“Yes. I mean, I want to go with you and try to help you, but if you need me to stay, than I will stay here.” Taryn agreed. Tryn gave her a big hug, smiled at her, bolted down the stairs and ran into the village.

Within moments Tryn was standing before the large stately three story building on the village square. Beside the fact that it was the only building in the village made completely from hand-forged stone (sure there were some traditional brick or others with walls and chimneys made with rocks from the nearby river) this building was built with the one sole purpose of making a statement: Government = Strength. The five immense columns that fortified the three story high overhead entrance to the building were designed for the same purpose, to make the citizens of this humble agricultural community fear its leadership and in turn obey them without question. Tryn always avoided this entire street for the duration of her stay in Rievaulx, always walking past the town square to take another street back to the inn, two blocks away.

But tonight everything was different. Tryn stood before the large building looking beyond the columns and the dark windows knowing somewhere deep inside was her friend Mr. Fisher, an innocent prisoner being held captive by the Burgomaster. Tryn stood halfway up the sidewalk that lead to the entrance and posed with her most ominous looking stance she could muster. Tryn’s left arm was outstretched, the palm faced the building and her fingers were curled in a menacing claw. Her right arm was also elevated with a similar claw and palm pose that faced the building, but that arm was bent at the elbow and pulled behind her back as if it pulled an invisible bow and arrow string. Tryn imagined this pose inducing fear in the hearts those who heard that she had sent one of their comrades to the morgue last night with one of her fireballs.

Tryn held her pose standing at the ready for several minutes waiting to be noticed, totally unaware she was being monitored since she left the barn. Tryn’s ears were filled with a chorus of assorted crickets, tree frogs and other insects of the night, but the sound of man was not one of these. Not until the tinny, scratchy and awfully loud announcement rang out from the loudspeaker stationed high behind the center column of the building.

“Welcome! Welcome! Glad you could make it Tryn! Please, put your arms down, there’s no need for theater here. Come. Come. Welcome.” The loudspeaker announced the voice of the Burgomaster Prime across the entire village square.

Immediately following his words, the main doors opened, held open by two armed guards and four more guards stormed out and rushed toward Tryn’s position on the sidewalk. Tryn put her arms down as suggested. She shrugged and thought that it was all theater posing like that, because the Burgomaster had all the power here and he knew it. While two guards kept their rifles aimed at Tryn, the other two put her in arm and leg shackles and then escorted her inside the building. Soon after entering the building Tryn’s total detail of assigned guards doubled to eight with two extra to handle doors and other gates and security procedures.

Tryn was brought into a damp and moldy room, the sound of trickling water featured prominently in a distant corner, however shrouded in shadow. It was a room of extremes, cold because it was underground and warm because it was the nerve center of the building’s center of operations, containing heating and cooling systems, water and other essential machines. The room was very dirty in areas, but in this place it had been swept bare to the cement floor, where a solitary chair awaited Tryn. They pushed her down hard into the metal surface, so hard the chair scooched a couple inches, Tryn made mental note that the chair was not fastened to the floor. The basement was also very dark, but where Tryn sat, the rules of extremes played out yet again. A solo bright light shined down over her blinding much of her ability to see anything above her head.

The shackles were very tight and very uncomfortable and Tryn wanted nothing more than to break free of them some how. All ten of her armed guards who brought her to this dismal place, positioned themselves in a circle around where Tryn sat, forming a defensive perimeter. Tryn kept reminding herself why she came, why she allowed herself to be captured and why she did not fight her way past the perimeter and escape now, because the Burgomaster had Mr. Fisher. It made her furious that a man like the Burgomaster used people as pawns in his dangerous game. His beliefs and ideas may have always been dangerous, but since the park Tryn knew that he would use any means necessary to protect his power and his secret.

Because the Burgomaster Prime’s power and his secret were one and the same. His power came from controlling the villagers by suppressing and stealing their powers through doctrine that demonizes abilities and powers. If they knew the truth, that their powers were natural, that he stole them from the villagers, that the villagers could regain their natural powers and retake their town from their tyrannical leader and that everywhere else across Aretherra, people live their entire lives with their given abilities and powers in freedom and happiness. Tryn thought, if only the villagers could know this secret, if only they knew! His reign would end and they would be free and she wouldn’t be chained in a chair surrounded by ten armed gunmen and maybe she would be on her way to finding that mythical boy everyone keeps telling her about.

Tryn had not realized her eyes were closed while she wished for something better. When she opened them to the sound of heavy bootsteps approaching, she looked up to see the man who was in her thoughts, the Burgomaster Prime stopped a few feet away and stood very straight with his hands clasped in front of him. Soon after the Burgomaster Minor came in with two other flunkies, which was Tryn’s word for the lackies who might do anything for these two men. The Burgomaster Minor stepped in front of the Prime pulled back his right arm acros his chest, let it fly with force and then his backhand slammed across Tryn’s left cheekbone, leaving behind a small red scape from his ring.

“Thanks for taking your ring off. Very considerate.” Tryn said to him with a smile.

This earned her another backhand in the same exact place, leaving another read mark on her cheek. The Minor then used his right hand twice and hit the other side of her face accordingly. Tryn felt every blow, but did not give them the satisfaction of showing any pain she felt. She smiled through all of it. The Minor glared at her. Prime held his hand, as if to say enough for now.

“Tell me Tryn, how did you do it? How did you kill one of my men last night? I’ve heard the report, but I have to say, I have trouble believing it. Not that you did what you did, simply how you did what you did. So tell me, what did you do?” The Burgomaster asked in a friendly, but direct manner. Tryn stared off into the space between two of the perimeter guards, not wanting to give him her eyes.

“Where is Mr. Fisher?” Tryn said in a low measured voice.

“He is safe. For now. And that depends on you Tryn. His welbeing is directly tied to how you respond to my questions. See how easy that is?” The Burgomaster Prime replied.

“So you would harm or kill one of your own villagers because someone does not answer your questions to your satisfaction?” Tryn shot back.

“What means, what did you conjure and throw to burn and kill that man in the park last night? I will not ask you again.” Demanded the Prime. Tryn considered telling him where to go and other colorful metaphors came to mind before finally always coming back to Mr. Fisher, his safety, the reason she came.

“I shot a fireball at him.” Tryn confessed.

A hushed murmur buzzed around the room as everyone was shocked to hear what she said. It confirmed what was reported, but this was thought to have been a mistaken sighting in the field. Something imagined in the heat of battle or similar and only the Prime was calmly looking at Tryn unaffected by this revelation.

“Phyrroans can’t shoot fireballs. Energy, lightening maybe or similar, but not actual balls of fire!” Exclaimed the Burgomaster Minor.

“You are right. Then if she is not a Phyrroan, she is something else. There is only one type of entity that can conjure such an effective tool of destruction and death and that is someone who practices witchcraft, she is a witch.” The Burgomaster Prime said and then put his hands behind his back and looked into Tryn’s eyes. “As Burgomaster Prime of the village of Rievaulx I convict you of the practice of witchcraft. You are to be lawfully executed at noon this very day by hanging by the neck until death in the village square before the public.” The Prime took a breath before continuing. Tryn’s heart was racing faster than it ever had before and she couldn’t breathe. “In addition, Mr. Fisher, of the Three Swords Inn, will also be lawfully executed by hanging until death for harboring a known witch within the borders of the village of Rievaulx. All of his belongings and property will become ward of the village.”

He turned and walked away. Tryn’s glare of opposition and defiance faded into an expressionless face of a defeated woman who had given up all hope. She hung her head and closed her eyes while failing to stop the tears from gathering along her long eyelashes. She shut down completely, unable to function mentally and physically due to her crushed state of emotional distress. Tryn’s innermost thoughts went to Mr. Fisher. He had been her sanctuary, her place of refuge, a solitary remote outpost where she could be alone with him. But most importantly, she was able, if only for a brief moment, to hide from her destiny. Hiding with Mr. Fisher allowed her to escape the trappings and wisdom from the old woman in the cave and all of her talk of the boy that she was destined to find. Tryn escaped to the deepest confines of her mind, running into the recesses of her consciousness, hoping to escape the horrors of this village, the same way she had run and escaped to the village for the real world Tryn had not noticed the commotion approaching her station under the blaring light, but a couple minutes later she was joined by another person shackled to a second chair, sitting directly behind her.

Mr. Fisher made no sound and did not move for the longest time; long enough for Tryn to come out of her state of reclusion, which was when she noticed his presence for the first time since he arrived 30 minutes earlier. His breathing was uneven and labored, but Tryn was more concerned about his erratic heartbeat. Although he never told her about it, Tryn knew that Mr. Fisher suffered from a heart condition, along with other ailments due to his family having drawn the genetic short straw. She also knew that the Burgomaster Prime and his men, even though they were technically Mr. Fisher’s neighbors and fellow villagers, would never do anything to help him in this moment. The medicine that he needed to get better was back at the inn, ironically without this Mr. Fisher may die before the scheduled execution at noon.

Tryn had an idea; she would appeal to his own vanity, hoping to persuade him by appealing to his weakness and convince the Burgomaster that keeping Mr. Fisher alive and healthy until execution time was best for his own ego. She feared that without his medication Mr. Fisher would die long before noon. Instead of being wrongly and unjustly executed before an angry, yet ignorant mob believing the false charges, he would die a slow and painful death in a dark and dirty basement, while shackled to a chair. Tryn was not going to let that happen to a man who selflessly gave her so much.

By the time Tryn was granted an audience with the Burgomaster Minor, Mr. Fisher was fully slumped over in his chair with only a faint heartbeat mixed with intermittent breathing so shallow that only Tryn’s keen hearing could detect when he inhaled. The Minor observed his deteriorated health and immediately agreed to plead the case for medical intervention to the Prime. Although Tryn blamed these ignorant and uncaring men for Mr. Fisher’s near death experience, she was pleasantly surprised to see a young healer arrive within ten minutes of the Minor’s departure. Fifteen minutes later two guards ushered in a sack of medication and other necessities gathered from Mr. Fisher’s bedroom. Tryn was thrilled she was able to provide Mr. Fisher some comfort, a small step toward regaining his health and a sense of normalcy, even in light of what awaited them up above on the village square, only an hour from that very moment.

Tryn could literally hear time pass by from where she sat below the city street. Perched high above the cobblestone streets, overlooking the entire village of Rievaulx, sat the clock in the tower of the three story building where Tryn was being held prisoner in its basement far below. The grand old clock tower could be seen from every corner of the village and its bells could be heard throughout the river valley and up into the foothills of the surrounding mountains. Villagers used the clock to maintain their sense of time, always checking it from their homes, shops, taverns, inns and meeting places. Today the bells would ring out to announce the gathering at the village square for the two executions at noon.

As the hour passed by, Tryn could hear the minutes tick away from her seat in the dark corner of the basement which was several stories directly below the clock tower. Air pockets in the walls carried every miniscule sound made by the clock down through the attic, three stories and into the basement where Tryn sat. As the clock continued ticking away the fleeting moments left of Tryn’s short life, she could hear all of the clock’s inner workings, every gear grinding and turning among the others, every moving part performing its role, all small pieces of a greater whole. Each part, each gear, spring and pulley moving through their mechanized duties, becoming more by working together and serving and honoring time itself.

When the hour drew near armed guards, ten in count, the same contingent who escorted Tryn earlier were joined this time by six additional soldiers. This additional half dozen appeared to be cut from a different cloth than the other guards seen so far. Tryn noticed that there were three women and three men, all of whom stood at least six feet in height and each one was very broad, very muscular. As Tryn was marched through the stairs and corridors toward the village square outside, she looked upon the six warriors that surrounded her and Mr. Fisher; she observed their faces, which were totally devoid of expression, obviously stern, and each had a furious fire in their eyes that seemed to invite confrontation. Clearly the Burgomaster Prime had hired mercenary soldiers from another land, so they were paid killers and were hired for the sole job of making sure that nothing got in the way of Tryn’s execution. Suddenly Tryn knew that they were very close because the murmur and commotion, the buzzing and shouting of many voices grew more intense with every stride toward the building’s exit.

The massive metal and glass doors swung open to reveal a large crowd of villagers gathered on the grass before the great building. Insults, yelling and screaming from the angry faces of the gathered ignorant villagers, rang in Tryn’s perfect ears. She hung her head as she stepped into the midday sun. She continued looking down as the six mercenaries pushed her into her place of shame at the top of the steps in front of the building. The nearest villagers were only several feet away, the six special guards, each carrying enough weapons to arm a small battalion, stood between the angry crowd and the accused. Tryn worried that even with the six mercenaries forming a formidable wall of defence at the bottom step in front of where she and Mr. Fisher stood and the Burgomaster’s men standing guard behind them; if this angry crowd become a violent mob, she could be in mortal danger long before the time of execution.

No sooner had Tryn considered her premature demise, the Burgomaster Prime, followed by his usual sycophants, personal armed guards and the Burgomaster Minor, came out to address the crowd. A quiet hush swept through the once loud villagers, the exact moment when he raised his hands, invoke the universal symbol of “be quiet.” Although Tryn continued to look down toward the steps, at the backs of the six mercenaries below where each sheathed dual swords that crisscrossed to form the symbol of an “X”; she could not help but let her eyes wander far enough to see the assembled villagers.

The Burgomaster’s constituents looked up at him, quietly waiting, anticipating, their bloodlust building and oozing from their mass gaze. Tryn could see it in their eyes, the need for vengeance, to put down someone, anyone to validify their beliefs. Throughout the mass of villagers, the Burgomaster Prime held their attention in an iron grip. They were completely captive, their gaze so mesmerized, so fully secured with a glassed-over look of mass ignorance. Tryn had never seen anything like this, even in the three weeks she had spent in the village. Although, Tryn had never been to a public execution before and most certainly not one of her own.

Tryn was dazed, staring at the silent faces of the angry crowd, nothing could be read from her expressionless face, with little more going through her mind. She blocked out every word said by the Prime, as he lied and defamed Tryn before the villagers. The Burgomaster Prime lied about Mr. Fisher and his role in protecting a known witch, calling him ugly names and spreading falsehoods and how he aided and abetted a person known to be practicing witchcraft. Tryn knew he was done speaking when the crowd cheered, knowing what was coming next. She looked over, then down at Mr. Fisher, who was kneeling now, trembling in fear. Tryn had been so captivated by the villagers, mercenaries, and Burgomaster Prime during the proceedings to notice what stood twenty feet away, off to the right of the veranda.

Two eight foot tall wooden posts had been hoisted into place, the bottom of each mounted into the floor of a wooden platform which was hastily constructed over an rows of stacked cut logs, cut and laid with a semblance of order. The tops of each wooden post pointed to the heavens, of which Tryn thought was an apt place to look, given the whole reason for the existence of these two temporary structures. A dark smile shone from her knowing face. These were traditional stakes, used to burn witches at and for the pleasure of the angry mob. But in light of this Tryn found it very humorous to think about the person, or persons, whose charge it was to construct such a deadly edifice; because if all goes to plan, it is all burned to ash. Would this person take pride in their work? Would they build it to the best of their ability, knowing that it will burn to the ground hours later? With mixed emotions Tryn was happy to feel the elation that a humorous thought always brought her, but at the same time she felt guilty for laughing at the thought of the wooden stake builder, given the psychological state of Mr. Fisher, so frightened, so scared and trembling on his knees in front of the entire village.

Clearly Mr. Fisher saw the burning stakes before Tryn had and a grossly different reaction. But Tryn could do nothing for him now, like her, Mr. Fisher was being marched to his death. The walk from the top of the steps, across the grass to the burning stakes was only twenty feet Tryn guessed, but the journey felt like it took hours to complete. The village guards, who served the office of the Burgomaster Prime, formed a makeshift path through the angry crowd. While the hired mercenaries, who served the office of fattening their pockets with gold, acted as escorts, three leading the way and the other three prodding and pushing Mr. Fisher and Tryn along the way. Not once did they pause, halt, or attempt to slow the progress during their walk to the stake, but the entire time Tryn and Mr. Fisher were prodded, pushed and shoved by the mercenaries, who used the butt of their rifles to goad them along.

Meanwhile, along the path lined with the Burgomaster’s personal guards, the villagers flanked the mercenaries, Tryn and Mr. Fisher and hurled every sort of insult, angry word, and accusation their way. When they reached the stakes, three mercenaries each escorted Tryn and Mr. Fisher to their own platforms and then bound their arms and legs to the pole in the middle. Bound and blindfolded, Tryn and Mr. Fisher stood waiting for their demise. The deafening roar of the villagers died down when a single drum roll called out from the direction of the big building.

Out of the thickness of the gathered people, a large tomato was rocketed in Tryn’s direction, hitting her in the middle of her forehead, before bouncing off to make a squishy thud on the planks of wood in front of her. Immediately she could smell the scents of rich fertilized soil and freshly picked tomato long before the juice trickled into her mouth. It was sweet and tangy making Tryn smile as she thought that at least they threw a ripe tomato. She then chuckled to think of what a waste of a good piece of fruit. These would be the last pleasant thoughts for some time, because the quiet of the crowd dissipated and was rapidly replaced by a swelling buzz and whispers among the mass of villagers.

They remained orderly but actively talking amongst themselves until the great moment arrived. Like a switch had been thrown, it seemed everyone and everything near the green became as silent as death itself. The Burgomaster Prime, followed closely by the BM Minor and their pack of yesmen, trodded down the steps and across the grass toward Tryn and Mr. Fisher, both remained chained to their stakes. Last in line of the Burgomaster’s men, was a young man Tryn had never seen before and in his hand a wooden torch.

Lit with a strange blue fire, the torch burned so bright that the flames could be seen in the glare of the noontime sun. The Burgomaster formed a line in front of the two burning platforms and smiled back and forth at Mr. Fisher and Tryn. Clearly he was enjoying his moment in the sun and did not try to hide his obvious glee over the impending deaths of these two innocent people. As the young man drew closer with his torch, Tryn almost gave into her temptation, but instead chose not to act upon her instincts. Everything insider her told her to break free from her chains and escape from this place, from her death sentence.

However the cost would be far too high of a price to pay had she attempted this course of action. Tryn thought about how many people she would have to kill to secure her escape and not just the soldiers, but there would most definitely be casualties among the innocent villagers during the fight. She thought that even if she was able to harm or kill the Burgomaster and his men, one of the mercenaries or guards would strike her down while her back was turned. And worst of all, should she take on the entire village somehow, while she fought for her freedom, Mr. Fisher would be killed within seconds of her attempted escape. Tryn knew that she could never live with herself if Mr. Fisher or an innocent villager was harmed or killed because of her actions. Even though the angry crowd hated her in this moment, their anger was ginned up and false, completly built on lies and she would not condemn them for their ignorance, instead she forgave them in her heart.

With a smile and a nod, the young man turned from the Burgomaster Prime, having been given the official nonverbal signal, and he bent over to light Mr. Fisher’s platform. He touched each of the four corners of the base to the burning stake where Mr. Fisher was chained and then did the same to Tryn’s. The fire quickly spread from corner to corner and the outer edge of the square platform burst into flames. Tryn could feel the heat of the bright blue flames as they licked the air and gave off a strange perfume from the wooden logs they consumed. Tryn looked to Mr. Fisher and he back at her. He gave her a weak smile, winked and mouthed the words, “It’s Okay.”

Tryn looked down at her platform after noticing something strange about Mr. Fisher’s. For some reason the fire was not consuming the logs underneath each of them or any of the boards that were nailed on top of the stacked logs where they stood, chained to their stakes. She still felt the heat, but it was not getting hotter and the flames were not getting higher or closer to each of them either. Instead the strangest thing began to happen, the fire started to spread across the grass, consuming the lawn as it burned and soon circles of fire spread out from their platforms, like concentric ripples on a pond after a stone is thrown.
The fire steadily spread away from them and the circles grew, leaving charred grass in their wakes. The guards, mercenaries and the Burgomater men began shouting at each other and pointing fingers of accusation amongst themselves, as they backed away from Tryn and Mr. Fisher to avoid being burned. The blue flames then took on a life of their own and jetted out in several directions, forming lines of fire across the grass. Before they knew what was happening, the Burgomaster and all of his men, guards and mercenaries were trapped within rings of fire and the walls began to grow. Soon Tryn could no longer see any of them, due to the three separate raging eight foot walls of fire that surrounded them.

Tryn watched the miraculous happen in that moment. Somehow the entire village was able to get to safety by scattering to the side streets and outermost parts of the lawn. But there, in the center of the great green of the village of Rievaulx, massive walls of fire outlined three separate rings on the lawn, the blue flames were so high, so deep, and so completely formidable that none of these men were able to escape or run through to safety. The blue fire must have run out of grass at the base of each circle of flames, so Tryn wondered what was fueling these at this point. But she hadn’t seen the strangest thing yet.

At the same moment, all three rings of fire began to burn inward, each circle wall of fire moved toward the center where the men were standing. Knowing his life was in danger and hoping for a miracle himself, the Burgomaster Prime began yelling and screaming about Tryn and Mr. Fisher. Surprisingly his words could be heard by the entire village, who stood watching around the village square. The Burgomaster admitted that he lied about Tryn and Mr. Fisher, that she was not a witch and that they were both innocent. Unfortunately for him, these words were too late to matter. Immediately following his confession of his own guilt, the flames completed their journey to the center of each ring. Hacking and coughing, yelling and screaming were the last thing that anyone heard from the men and woman inside the walls of fire.

All of the fire disappeared into whisps of blue-grey smoke and only three large circles of black and burned grass remained on the lawn of the village square. The chains that bound them fell from Tryn and Mr. Fisher and she ran to him and hugged him, she had never been so happy. As they embraced, he kissed her on the forehead, still a little sticky and sweet from the tomato.

“I always believed in you. I always will.” Mr. Fisher said with a smile. “All you have to do now is believe in yourself and be open enough to put your faith in the right person.”

“I know.” Tryn whispered, as a tear ran down her cheek. She continued hugging him with her eyes closed tight because he made her feel safe and special.

The smell of burnt wood and grass was replaced by a faint sweet smell that was unrecognizable, because Tryn had no past memory to recall and therefore could not place the smell that had suddenly consumed, overwhelming her other senses. She did however picture a two story saltbox house sitting in a field, surrounded by tall waving grasses, with an obscured view of a rocky mountain range laid across the world in the far distance. Tryn could not place this memory, having no context for its claim of existence within the fertile construct of her mind. But Tryn had no time or patience for another misplaced and mysterious memory such as this, because clearly there was something happening on the other side of her eye lids.

Tryn was no longer embracing Mr. Fisher, her arms were no resting comfortably at her sides. A light breeze tossed the ends of her hair and the light touch of the softest material brushed against her back and arms as the it rippled her silky blouse like the procession of waves lapping the shoreline of a pond. Because of this alone, Tryn knew that she was wearing different clothes than the irritating brown prisoner clothes that the Burgomaster’s men forced upon her. Once again without seeing the evidence with her own eyes, she was witnessing the improbable and therefore feared to open them, as it may authenticate what she already knew.

Tryn opened her eyes and another place, a different world greeted her.

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