The Story Starts Here

Chapter 1: Mean Girls

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chapter 11: Your Fault!

The next day dawned grey and cold, with the wind blowing strongly from the pass, so the column of smoke in the distance blew away from them.  The air was clean now and ashes blew out to the sea, wind full of the smell of snow.

The ground was still shaking sometimes.  Deno woke up fighting, not realizing where he was.  Uri and Doris pulled him and a few of the goats outside because he was elbowing and punching people and screaming.

Naida threw her hands over her ears but couldn’t shut her eyes.  The goats, Spotty and Dancer ran out and cowered under the grey sky but nothing plummeted down to eat them, so they plunged their muzzles into the sweet water and drank.

Doris managed to get Deno to look at her and he stopped flailing at every touch.  She soaked a rag she had left and wiped his face.  “You’ll be all right, Deno,” she said.  “Goddess willing.”

Everyone else slowly crawled out of the shelter of the shrine, unfolding filthy limbs and looking as though they’d just crawled out of the underworld. Everyone stood, or sat, staring around at a world covered in stone.  Even the goats stood still, clustered around where the new gushing spring sank into the piles of pumice.

Naida crawled out from behind the statue, realizing that Asteri was too heavy to carry in her arms, limp as he was, so she laid him on her shoulders and stood up.  That was when she realized that she was flowing.  The blood on her legs wasn’t from scrapes or scratches, or gouges from goat hooves in the night.  She didn’t know what to feel.  It seemed wrong to rejoice in her coming of age in the face of all the people dead.

Doris had just scrubbed out the blood bag that had carried the sacrifice and filled it and the wine skin with clean water.  People were washing themselves of the grit that made them look like ghosts.

The goats clustered around Naid and she walked over towards where her rock had been, stopped in shock.  The whole cliff face, the whole front of the high meadow including her rock, was gone, fallen down onto Afaris.  No one would have survived that amount of stone gouging out the mountainside.  The flats below, where the fields and the houses and the gardens and everything had been… were just rubble and the treacherous sea foamed over the jagged teeth of rock that looked as though they’d been there forever.

There was trash floating in a wide-spreading fan in the waves but thankfully no bodies.

Naida caught her lip in her teeth, felt the ashes grate, squeezed her crusty eyelids shut.

“THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!”  Naida sank down in shock at the shout right behind her, turned to see Yalenda, with Scaliana behind her wringing her hands.  “IF IT HADN’T BEEN FOR ISOCRATIS BRINGING YOU INTO OUR VILLAGE THIS WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED!”

“That’s NOT TRUE, AND YOU KNOW IT!” Naida found herself on her feet, holding tight to Asteri, draped around her shoulders like a shawl.

“You’re cursed.” Yalenda hissed.  “My Pero is dead along with almost everybody else… Priestess Zeno and Priest Oios couldn’t stop it, couldn’t save themselves, save us and it’s all because YOU brought the Goddess’s wrath on us!” Naida stood and stared at her, letting the evil, vile words roll over her. “Look at you!  Bleeding out of time with the rest of us!  Different!  Couldn’t bleed to save us!  Wouldn’t bleed to save us!”

Naida could see the spring flowing behind Yalenda’s enraged and red-flushed face and as the woman raged on, the water flowed less and less, until an earthshake jolted everyone off their feet and the water dried up completely.   

Everyone fell, clinging to the earth with both hands and Yalenda quit shouting at her as the quaking subsided.

Naida shook her head and raised it out of the dust.  “No.  This is not my doing,” she said quietly.  “Not my fault, however much you want to blame me.”


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