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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Magic of Silence

The following is a very raw scrap of text I've written this week and thus will quite obviously be edited further later; Feedback is welcome! (Pardon the possible missing Ds, my keyboard on this laptop is a little bit broken)

Part 1: The Disappearing Act

Anna was a silent girl with a quiet life. She worked in a library surrounded by the kind of eerie silence only thousands and thousands of written words on paper can create. Even her childhood home had echoed of a silence the way places do when they are lacking in things and people. Perhaps if their home had been filled with people and chatter, silence would not have become Anna's mode of self-expression. And maybe if it hadn't become her mode, she would have never started thinking of herself in such a degrading way..

Obviously, midway through a life is no place to begin a story of any kind, especially one as important as hers.

You see, Anna wasn't just a girl or a librarian; She was more and she was less. All her life she had been told less was more, and most recently she had gotten into thinking that if less was more then what was more if not less; Those words were capable of defining her entire outlook on herself and on life. On the outside, Anna seemed quite ordinary and that was the way she wanted to keep it. Since she had been young, she had wanted nothing quite as passionately as she wanted to be ordinary. But wanting, hoping, even praying had not gotten her what she had wanted. Born with silver hair and bright blue eyes, she had been marked among her people as some prophesied hero or the other; Gods if she knew, but it had rendered her parents unwilling to raise her and thus she had been passed over to the village elders. She had lived and learned in a house unsuited for children. Then again, could men and women with a median age of 105 have known what a young heart needed? The Elders knew how to sharpen her mind, to purify her soul, and to keep her heart kind, but they hadn't seen how to instill playfulness, compassion, and joy in her. She wasn't a real person as far as they were concerned. She was simply a vessel to fill; Someone who would, eventually, save them all from death, destruction, and despair if properly trained in the arts of the mind, medicine, and magic. She had doubted these requirements all her life but refused to admit - least of all to herself - the disrespect she had held towards her tutors.

Eventually, Anna had learned what there was to learn, come of age, and simply up and vanished. Her people thought she had left the village, but instead she had avoided detection by transforming her hair a brilliant, albeit traditional and ordinary, red and glamouring her eyes to appear a dull brown to peering eyes and stayed. These were seen as acts of selfishness and cowardice by her people who seemed to think that she had escaped out of malice and not self-preservation or foolishness of youth. But there were those who had always pitied her due to the burdens placed on her, and they understood the need for space and a life of her own outside martyrdom and heroics. To these people, she had been but a girl. A young, albeit foolish, girl with a real need for an actual life. How could she want to save lives if she didn't understand what made life precious; Why save something she didn't love or understand? In that they had been wiser than the Elders who had forgotten about humanity. You see, the Elders thought that no matter the life she was forced to live, Anna would save the village and its inhabitants. The Elders had thought that keeping her sheltered and educated made sure she saved them all in the best way possible, perhaps even prevented the need for saving, and forgotten about the details left out in prophecies. There were things Anna had to experience before saving anyone. She needed to learn to believe in herself, to be humble, and, all in all, worthy of the honor of saving anything prior to heroics.

When the Gras came, Anna wasn't ready and her village was enslaved. The villagers stopped believing in the prophecy, and thus in her, and Anna continued living among the Gras as the free woman she was. Without her education, magic and outwardly ordinariness, she would have been enslaved same as everyone else. Those were things she thanked gods and the elders' spirits for daily. The conquerors were not cruel masters; not until they found the magic and prophecies Anna's people had been hiding from them, and, even then, not before their elderly emperor perished in battle and his firstborn son was raised to the throne. His name was Aurelius, though he was only spoken of in whispers and never with a first name. He ruled with an iron fist and soon after his crowning ceremony, he started rounding up those who even slightly fit the description of the Savior. The young in Anna's age group with light hair or blue eyes with the tan skin of her people were rounded up in the town square and executed, and though Anna felt the horror of it, she felt no urge to stand up and call unnecessary attention to her own existence. Her training had transformed her years ago from one of empathy and compassion to cold and calculating; Feelings did not figure into survival. She was simply determined to live.

Out of fear that someone would see through her facade of complete ordinariness, Anna had not made friends during her years of freedom. She was good at pretending to be something other than what she was. It was rather easy to pretend to not be the Savior when she had never really thought herself a hero of any kind. She had always felt the idea was kind of daft. Her. A hero? Just didn't seem likely! Weren't heroes supposed to be witty and fun? Adventurous and brave? Men? What did a feeble, cowardly girl such as herself have to do with heroics? Not much more than the average Joe, she mused, especially when heroics meant danger and bloodshed. She had read the prophecies and had to admit that she fit the basic description of the savior - height, build, coloring - but it never said "woman" or "born in" this or that time! Between you and me, the prophecy could have said anything and Anna would have convinced herself somehow that it wasn't about her. She couldn't have handled the self-blame for the suffering of her people as she, like everyone else, believed the Savior could have prevented all of it. Now it is more likely no one will ever know if a savior could have prevented it from the conquer to the cruelty and public executions since those things had already come to pass.

Anna first started doubting her conviction of not being the Savior when the first woman in her village was tortured and beaten to death. Then again when the Gras rounded up all the children and sent them away, but nothing could have prepared her for what was still to come.

Months had gone by without an incident in the village of Berou while the Emperor searched for his only living threat in order to destroy it. The threat was never referred to in terms that would allow it any humanity and, thus, compassion and empathy. At first this tactic did not work, but after months and months of persecution for someone they had never seen, the people in one of the villages gave in and pointed the Emperor and his men to Berou. "It's where the prophecy says he'll be born," the man had said before being executed for not having come forth before. Afterwards, the Emperor had the man's whole village burned own as an example to the rest of their people. And before long, the Emperor's men marched into Berou with the Emperor himself. But no one could tell him anything but what she had looked like at sixteen years of age. The Emperor had been intrigued and offended then. "She? Am I to believe that your magical savior is nothing but a mere girl?" he had asked with disbelief in every word. Hearing what the Emperor thought had stung a bit, but Anna had stayed strong and refused to let her pride get the better of her because showing herself would have meant certain death. Besides.. No one knew it was her.

Their coexistence was uneasy but doable. The Emperor threatened and the villagers gave him breadcrumbs; the Savior had magic, the exact shade of her eyes was sapphire, she had always loved words, and so on. Months went by like this as the Emperor gathered information on what could be his undoing. He was more filled with curiosity than hatred or anger, and you could say the feeling was mutual. That is, until he decided the best way to lure her out was to start destroying everything she had loved. The fountain, the statues, the museum... Each loss more painful than the last. And then one night, she woke up in her library upstairs apartment to the sound of flames. The Emperor had stopped caring who died as long as he found her. Nothing else mattered anymore.

Anna simply sat in her bed, stunned as she was, and did nothing. She wasn't sure if she had been discovered through some freak accident or if this was just another attempt to destroy what she loved. Either way, she did not mean to die in a burning library, no matter how much she loved books and scriptures; She gathered her nerves, murmured an enchantment to save some of her things and got out of bed. Afterwards, she calmly dressed and walked downstairs. She knew walking out of a fire unscathed would reveal her and chose to return her looks back to their original state. She was angry. All she had wanted to do was live a normal life and now he had ruined everything. Anger was a good motivator to her, and thus before walking out, she prepared two spells; one to protect her village and the other to teleport herself to a distant location. "I may have magic, but I am unfairly matched here," she muttered and stepped out through the flames with one last, longing look to her beloved books which were now speedily turning to ashes.

Anna was greeted with nothing but stunned silence, when she emerged from the flames. But then, she must have been quite a sight; A young woman walking out of a burning house with no ash on her clothes or skin. Add to that her silver hair glowing in the firelight while streaming down her back and the spark of anger in her sapphire eyes as she walked towards an army that intended to kill her. The silence, beyond the cracks of flames and the building falling apart, was deafening, nearly expectant. Anna turned her grim face from her people to look the Emperor straight in his eyes, and proceeded to disrespect him further, "I heard you had been looking for me, Aurelius, though I must admit, a warm gathering by a roaring flame is not what I expected," Anna said with a smile. She could afford to be confident because she had taken him by surprise, and she herself had come prepared, humming with the power of her magic. And since she was not looking for the love of her people, she did not care what they thought of her afterwards, or that is what she told herself as she released her protection spell on her village and people for effect.

The entire village was engulfed in tiny little sparkles in all the colors of the rainbow, and the flames behind her went out in a swoosh. "That is more like it, don't you think?" she shouted over the fearful reactions of both her people and his. The only light left on the square was the glow emanating from her. "What should we call you, woman?" Aurelius asked with no care for how disrespectful he seemed or how he had been disrespected before. "A savior? A hero? The silver haired devil?" he continued with half a laugh. "Any of them would do me justice, really," Anna said gleefully, "but I prefer Anna." Her people nodded in unison, they had all known this but had refused to tell the Emperor. Aurelius smiled; Among his people names, even those given by others had power. "Anna," he said, "what a lovely name." She shivered slightly. The sound of her name falling off his tongue felt like poison dripping down her spine. But she knew the value of silence and merely quirked an eyebrow at Aurelius, who seemed disappointed by the lack of reaction. "Did your mother give you that name?" he asked calmly; There had to be an explanation for the surge of magic that had accompanied the name not affecting her. "I never knew my mother, you ought to know that since you have studied me this past year. No, I have chosen to be called Anna. I chose to become who I am today through many means, one of which was naming myself," she nearly sang out, not knowing why he wanted to know but enjoyed having information he seemed to lack.

Anna was so concentrated on Aurelius that she did not notice his men bracing themselves, instead she merely listened to the sound of his melodic voice and wondered how someone with such a voice could be so obviously cruel. Had he been misguided by his tutors or was it simply destiny that had required him to be this way? "I see.. That is peculiar. Did you ever have another name given to you by others, then?" Aurelius asked, still hopeful real violence would not be needed. "No." The single word rung clear and true, and at that Aurelius lifted two fingers and the square exploded in sound. Anna got hit once or twice, and made a disappointed sound before pushing everyone back and simply disappearing without a trace. Again.

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