A Beginning and an End 3.

[part 3 – scream]

Wandering on this no man’s land again made me rough, filthy, for I could hardly find some water now and it too became a problem, and it made short work of my clothes too – so again probably I did look almost as bad as when I escaped from death’s snare. But still, I somehow felt that I was getting close to home, and in my mind as I walked and caught food and during the nights when I could not sleep, I tried to remember now. It was painfully hard, I did not exactly knew how much time passed but I guessed it a decade or so, and it is a long time, particularly spent in a way that I did. Elves usually have eidetic memory and these do not fade with the centuries either; a thousand-year-old elf will just as easily recite a poem that he learned in his youth as he would the previous day’s happenings, and I had not been an exception either. But experiences like mine do affect memory, and it took me effort to remember my life Before… I of course remembered Rihanna and father, these were strong recollections, a few other things and peple, and curiously a small piece of a cherry-wood that for some reason lodged itself in the front of my mind although I could not do anything with it, as for the life of me, I could not remember what it was for or its significance… but I do know that it made me sad for some reason… it must have something to do with Rihanna, he gave it to me or I gave it to him, I should remember, but there were gaps aplenty in my recollections, things that I almost but not quite remembered, friends whom I should recall for their shadow moves in mind but they elude me… I wondered how they would welcome me, would they recognise me at all, I must remember to tell my name at once, to spare any misunderstanding for all of us. I also wondered, how I could reintegrate to my former life, if I could at all, to be again as carefree and happy as I was before… to be honest I could not really dream of that, my imagination could not encompass this subject, no matter, I thought, I will improvise, I will get by, I always have, I learned to.

As the scenery became a bit livelier it was some kind of mixture of unconscious dread and joyful anticipation settling on me, I somehow felt that my long journey will end soon, and I went on with grater speed, watching every shrub and tree to see who came to welcome me, I secretly hoped of course that it would be Rihanna, but dared not to trust this hope, and it wasn’t him at the end, a group of strange elves, armed and unfriendly, the border guard surely, ordering me to stop and turn back whence I came from, and I struggled with the long unused words, telling them who I was, but they did not become any warmer towards me, ordering me to put down the sword I still carried, still in that sharp, alien voices, and I did not understand, I am an elf like you, I pledged to them, you must understand, I was abducted and escaped, I came home… but they still gave no sign of accepting me, one of them starting to intone a spell, and I felt consciousness leaving me, no, please, why are you doing this...

I come to in a dark and dank place, for the first glance obviously a prison cell. The sword disappeared as well as the knife and everything else I still carried. My hands were tied, not cruelly, but with the almost impossible to tear elvish rope. I was alone, but I was used to that, it was dark, but my eyes could see in that, but I was in such an inner turmoil that I could hardly think straight. Why did they do this? What did they take me for? A spy maybe, a dark elf, an assassin or what? But I came openly, I came in plain sight, not in secret, why would they fear me for anything, it is not possible that nobody could recognize me, I know that I have changed but surely not that much… but if so, I can surely prove it, I remember things, I lost a lot, but enough to prove who I was, who I used to be. I slowly calmed, it was a misunderstanding that I feared, but it can still be cleared, it will be more difficult now, for they are for some reason suspicious, maybe the do know about some kind of plot and I got caught in it, yes, that is possible, I came ill-timed, but we can elucidate it. I hope.

So, when they came and took me from the cell, I did not create a furor, instead went with them without a word. They took me to another room, a bigger one this time, with a group of elves, unfortunately all unknown to me, sat by a table, very much like a tribunal or a court… and yes, they asked me the expected questions, necessary to confirm my identity, and started to interrogate me for my capture, the captivity, my time in slavery, and the escape. They seemed neutral, not showing any emotion either sympathetic or otherwise. But still, by the end I was not sure of what verdict they would bring… they seemed positive about my being whom I claimed to be, but still their faces showed no favourable disposition for me, no compassion, no understanding. Nothing. Then they become silent, and me too, having said everything that I could. I looked up to them, and that unconscious dread that I have felt before came back to settle on me, like a stormcloud… And then, silently coming to an agreement, the one in the middle started to speak, and his words froze my blood in my veins… you are an outcast now, banished from our land, never to set foot on it again… it is a verdict of this hearing and you can have no more say in this matter. A what…? I stared at them, not wanting to believe my ears, not wanting to accept what I just heard, but why, I stammered, hardly able to speak, why? You freely confessed having become tainted and defiled with the human world, mind and body. It is the law. But I had no choice, I am not responsible for it, why don’t you understand… but we do. It is still the law. You are impure now, debased, and is not fit to live as an elf, here. You will be taken to the border and if you ever try to set foot on elven land, you can be killed by anyone.

They took me back to the cell, and this time I did make a scuffle, although it did me no good, and they practically threw me back into the cell, not quite beaten but handled roughly, and I still could not believe the injustice, it is not possible to be punished so for something that I am innocent of, I did not ask to be captured, I escaped as soon as I could, I have never heard of this law, so I could not expect it, I have learned much later that it was a strict law that elves always took very seriously, and so the jury had absolutely no jurisdiction to absolve me, it was nothing personal, just a technicality for them. But back then I did not know it, so my mind spun theories of plots against me, my father or something, all far fetched and improbable of course, but I had to make it all understandable for me, had to digest it, for there was no appeal, it was a day, a few days at most and they would really banish me from my homeland forever to wander aimlessly in an alien world for a thousand years… next day I had seen Rihanna, looking into my cell in the small peeping window on the door, and I almost cried, for he did not come in, did not talk to me, just a look, just a single glance and he was gone… the red of the talisman showing for a split second at his neck, and I remembered suddenly, I started to make it to him on that fateful day, and that piece of cherry-wood from a better world, a sunlit and happy place, that told me that it was lost forever, that there was no going back, that it was final.

I was quiet after that, what more could have been said… I waited for them to take me, out of the cell, the country, home… but my next visitor was not them, but my father with two of his guards. I dared not to hope again, but something like hope started to rise in me anyway… æta, I whispered softly, stretching my hands towards him… but his face was like stone and his voice steel, when he roared at me, don’t call me that ever! And my budding hopes were crushed suddenly and cruelly… he formally disowned me, declaring that I was not his daughter any more, I had no right to use the name and I was never to call him again father in any tongue… I did cry then for it was too much, or I thought it was to much to bear, but the worst was still yet to come… the guard forcibly hold me down and one of them pulled my head backwards by the hair… I saw him approach, until he was looking down on me and his face was so full of loathing, so alien, was he my father really, I wondered, how could he love me once so, and hate me now so… and then I noticed the knife that he lifted slowly, and for a second I thought that he wanted to kill me, and in that moment I really believed that it would be an act of kindness, and the best thing for me that could happen… but the knife did not cut my exposed throat, instead it sliced the skin on my face, it hurt but I did not understand its reason yet, but it cut again lengthwise, then a deeper gash, and he slashed and cut repeatedly, until I knew what he was doing, he was destroying my face for resembling too much for his, blood was now flowing from the wounds, hampering my vision and choking me, but I still looked at his face and saw it contort, he was now in a rage, smashing my nose, mutilating it, cutting away my lips, and I did scream then, then hitting my eyes with the butt of the knife, and they swelled shut and I was blind but still felt the slashes and blows for some time, until they let me fell to the ground, writhing in agony, pain and shame for the rest of the night, I would have screamed, but I couldn’t even do that, my face was a mass of pain, nose, jaw, cheek all broken, blood flowing freely from the many cuts, but the greatest pain was in the inside, he did this to me, it was unbearable and I did give up bearing it, I let madness flame and consume me for the first time, for it and only it eased the pain, the picture of his face over me with the knife burning into my mind, and madness did claim me and I remember no more of that night.

Next day probably, somebody pulled me up from the ground, and they tugged me, and carried me when I could no more walk or even stumble, and in some time I was thrown down to the ground and my bonds cut, and I heard and felt them to leave, leave me alone, leave me blind, leave me somewhere, and survival insticts took over, I started to grope around and it was maybe a forest, at least I felt twigs and leaves on the ground, and I crawled and prodded until I felt a rock face under my fingers, and I sought a cave or at least a crevice for it started to rain and I shook with cold and pain and anguish, but found a shallow niche in the rock, I huddled close to it, so as to be defended from the rain, it wasn’t much but a kind of shelter, I knew that I could do nothing until the swelling goes down and I can see again, it was literally the longest night of my life, this time even the madness could not come to take me away, the inner darkness, the cold and the rain soon made me wish for a quick death, it was a quite likely possibility, I knew, with the gaping wounds in the place of my lips and my jaw broken I would not be able to eat, even if I find something to eat here or can hunt a game without any weapon in this condition… I gave up counting the odds against me – they were all on the other side, I simply had none.

I felt the dawn breaking, still in the rain and I did not move. There was simply no reason to. It was more and more likely that I would die here, for I still could not see and I started to wonder if he took my eyes too, I wouldn’t even notice it amongst all that pain, and if so it was sure death… but by around midday the cold did its work and the swelling has gone down and with effort I could open one eye to a slit. It wasn’t much but an improvement, I looked around but the bleak winter landscape offered no hope, I started to find a better cave than this miserable niche but I only took a few tottering steps when noticing something on the ground… it looked like a cloth, and as I flopped down I saw it was a cloak and not just thrown away by a careless traveller, but folded, placed on a few boughs so as not to get soaked, and there was a reddish piece of wood placed on top of it… I knew whom it was from by that, and I cried again, I took the talisman, caressed it, as I was thinking of him, not going against the law, but not wanting to see me dead in this place… I did not look up, he must have came and gone by now, but he left a few things to me which could help me to survive and it gave me a reason to as well… I will survive for you, Rihanna, even if we never meet again, I vowed, and survive I did ever since… but wearing a mask to forever hide my face.

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Copyright by: Nádasdy Nóra – Quicksilver – 2008. november 24. – Oroszlány

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