NOTE: This story takes place in a fictional world, and therefore does not conform to any true time period. Also, no persecution towards those who do or do not take part in any religion is intended; the deity mentioned herein is fictional, and the belief in this being is meant to contrast with those who do not believe in any higher being at all within the world in which this takes place.
That aside, I do not often write in the third person, so please excuse any awkwardness. This is my first true piece of writing in quite a while. I had fun writing, and I hope you enjoy it! Thank you for reading!
Children of the Sea
A Lore of the Lighthouse Tale
The man following her was not what she was fleeing from; this was the thing she had to keep telling herself. She could hardly hear him through the wind and rain, but try as she might, she couldn't ignore him.
"This is all your fault," he said again. "If you had listened to me, we wouldn't be in this ungodly mess."
She grit her teeth and kept moving onward. The urge to scream at him was still there, but Sonia found that the more William berated her, the less his harsh words grated on her nerves. It was just as the pelting raindrops on her skin, as time wore on, because less and less noticeable, her body more numb, more immune to the cold--soon she would feel none of it at all. Her hands were shaking and her body was tired, so she set her gaze straight ahead. Maybe she could just pretend...
"Are you listening to me?"
No, she couldn't. She couldn't pretend she didn't want to run from him.
Sonia focused her attention instead on the young man beside her--the reason she couldn't run. His sandy blonde curls were wet and matted down, but the tips of his ears poked out, stung a bright red in the freezing air, and she couldn't help but notice that even his horribly pallid features were turning pink. She kept her arm about him, supporting his weight, as he struggled forward.
"Thomas," she said to him, "are you doing all right?"
He startled a bit. "What?" Then he shook his head and turned to face her, a droplet slipping down his nose. "Yeah," he said, swallowing. "Yes, I'm okay."
She pursed her lips to contain her doubt and nodded. William trudged ahead of them moodily, delivering Sonia a look as stormy as the skies as he did. A chill ran down her spine. They had to find shelter quickly.
Soon a dull light perforated the darkened world ahead--a sign of hope, for where there was light, there was life. She guided Thomas forward eagerly but found herself stopped short by a rough hand on her shoulder, and her breath caught in her throat.
The world seemed to shift whenever he touched her. It made her stomach clench, the way she could only feel her inability to breathe, the way the blood ran from her face, the shivering of her body as she stood there, frozen. Some of the women in town had told her that attraction did strange things to a person.
This was not one of them.
"I will need to speak to you, Sonia," William said, gripping her even harder. "Soon."
Another chill ran down her spine as he walked away and she tried to banish the image of his dark face from her mind.
The lighthouse stood on the shoreline, stoic and weathered. The stone building had certainly passed the test of time--perhaps many times over. It overlooked the vast waters, a thing that made Sonia heartsick; the waves reminded her so much of her mother. She wanted terribly not to look at the ocean, but she did, anyway. She always did.
It was too dark to see now but for when the light touched the sea, so she sat in the sitting room of the lighthouse with the hypnotizing sound of the waves rushing through her ears. She had seen Thomas to bed so he could rest. The only thing now was to wait for William.
What remained to be seen was who maintained this place; they were nowhere to be found. And surely there was someone
running it--cleaning and stocking it, as well. It was full of elaborate decorations: paintings, sculptures, vases, glasswork. Most all of it was water-themed; sea nymphs danced upon a side table, fish swam through labyrinth streams in a finely-woven rug, and golden leaf patterns adorned the dark framework of many doors. All of this was very well-kept. Sonia hoped the owner's nature was as kind as his taste was expensive, for their sakes.
This room was almost like a shrine to the Goddess. Her mother would have loved to see it. If only she were still here
, she thought.
She was numbly watching the glow of the gaslamps as William walked in.
"Sonia," he said, nodding in curt greeting.
She tried to avoid looking at him. "Hello, William," she replied softly.
His heavy footfalls sounded against the wooden floor. "Ugh," she heard him say as he lifted a strand of her wet hair and flung it back into her face. "Why haven't you fixed yourself up?"
He had combed and dried his dark hair and found some dry clothes to change into--almost as stately as his usual dress.
Her eyes cast downward again, pretending to study the woven rug.
"You're a married woman now, Sonia," he said. "You need to keep up your appearance."
Her gaze flitted to the ring on her left hand.
"No wife of mine is going to sit about looking like some drowned wretch."
His jaw was set and his eyes were sharp, but she said nothing. It wasn't worth setting off his tempter over something so small, and any comment she had to make would only make things worse. She stayed silent and listened to the ocean, which she could hear even better now that the rain had slowed. The sound kept her calm even as her heart pounded in her chest.
"Now," William said, sitting in the chair across from hers, "I think it's time you tell me something: what do you mean by running from town with this peasant from the infirmary?"
Sonia took a deep breath, pushed the hair out of her face, and spoke. "The raid. He would've been killed in the raid, had I left him there."
The town had risen that morning to the smell of deadly smoke; nearly every building that could burn had been set ablaze, and men wealthy and poor alike fought for their lives. Crops, livestock, liquor, and more had gone missing in the night with the thieves nowhere to be found. The infirmary and several other buildings were made of stone, but Sonia had heard tales of these rogues from towns over. They took no prisoners.
"Your altruism is touching," he said dryly, sitting forward. "If you were so intent on saving your patients, why choose him over those darling children?"
She bit her lip, staring at him and his satisfied grin.
"I'd have gladly harbored any of them within my own four walls," he continued, sitting back in his chair and gesturing as though regaling some tale of his own heroic deeds. "You needed only to ask."You'd have done no such thing
, she wanted to say, you liar
. Instead she looked him in the eye and told him the truth. "Thomas was the only patient able to walk. And those children I told you about--they died several days ago." She swallowed the painful lump in her throat and whispered, "There was nothing I could do" as her gaze fell once more to the ground.
"Hmph. Serves you right, getting so attached to those filthy waifs as you do."
Sonia looked up at him in shock through her hot tears. He'd risen to pour some whiskey into a glass. She watched disbelievingly as he returned to his seat, and he chuckled into his liquor as he drank. And he smiled.
"Why do you mock me, William?" she finally burst. "I love what I do, and I care about those patients. I have to help them, protect them--it's my duty!"
His eyes narrowed. His smile faded as he set his glass on a side table and stood. "That's very nice," William said. Then he seized her by the arms, pulled her from her chair, and dug his fingers into her shoulders. "But let me clarify something for you." Malice punctuated his every word. "I am your husband, your master. Your only duty now is to serve me
She fell back into her chair as he released her, and before he passed through the doorframe he turned to say, "Clean yourself up"--then left Sonia to try, once again, to forget the awful look on his face.
It was late, and William had retired to bed. Sonia knew what he was expecting, and the idea of lying with him in a stranger's bed made her uneasy. She told him she'd be there in a few minutes, after she'd checked on Thomas. It wouldn't keep her from him indefinitely, but some time was better than none at all.
How would the owner or crew respond to finding strangers in their beds and using their things? Sonia could never quite understand how William was so easily ready to help himself to others' belongings without asking. His family had little power despite all its wealth, yet he still seemed to think of himself as a king, entitled to everything, and thought others should think so, too. He wasn't concerned with those who lived here; if his identity didn't convince them, the blade he wore on his belt would. She'd never seen him use the knife, but his reaching for it in threat had been enough to intimidate even his own father--a strong, healthy man, and a seasoned fighter in his own right--and she didn't need any further proof than that.
The bedrooms were all located in a structure built off the side of the lighthouse. Sonia took comfort in that Thomas's room was the farthest away from the one in which William waited for her. She walked into the modest room to find Thomas sleeping in the cot. The gaslight still glowed in the lamp on the nightstand, and the sight of it along with the sound of the waves lulled her into a kind of trance.
Somewhere far off, she thought she could hear the song her mother used to sing, the one about the ocean waves. It reminded her of her baby sister, Lena, in the weeks before she died. Her mother sang to her most every day then, cradling her in her arms. They were too poor to afford medicine to ease her pain, so her mother sang to Lena, told her stories, and did everything she could to soothe her. The illness was incurable as the doctors has told her, but in spite of it all, her mother was cheerful. A warm smile graced her lips, and when she was caring for Lena she almost seemed to glow...
A voice interrupted her musings, and she looked up.
"Ma'am?" Thomas spoke again, sitting up in bed. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes. I'm fine, Thomas," Sonia replied. "How are you feeling."
"I'm not bad, ma'am."
"I'm glad to hear it," she said, noting that some color had returned to his lips and pale cheeks. "You look a bit better tonight."
He smiled. "I'm hoping for the best, ma'am!"
She smiled back. He did
look better; this made her happy, but she couldn't help but feel something was amiss. It was only several hours before that he was struggling to carry his weight, and now he looked healthier than he had in months. Aside from the shadows under his eyes, he might have just awoken in his bed at home.
"Thomas," she said, "when did you last eat?"
He scratched his blonde head and thought. "Well, just a bit before we left, I suppose," he answered.
"Ah." She nodded and pretended to look out the window. Her suspicions about Thomas's illness had just been confirmed, which meant he wouldn't be safe back in town. It wasn't terribly surprising, but she hadn't had the time to plan this far ahead. What was she going to do?
"Do you suppose this place is haunted, ma'am?"
"I'm sorry," she said. "What did you say?"
"This place," he repeated. "Do you think it's haunted?"
She furrowed her brow, thinking of the polished statuettes and dustless tabletops, wondering what in the world could have prompted this.
"I know you believe in spirits," he added quickly. "I've heard you praying to the Goddess sometimes, ma'am."
She raised a brow at this, but said, "Why would you think a thing like that?"
"Well, ma'am," he said, "I found this." He held up a worn leather journal. "It was in the nightstand drawer. I know I shouldn't have been looking through it and all, but it looks very old, and fingers tingled when I picked it up."
Sonia took it from him, intrigued.
"I don't read at all, ma'am," he continued. "I don't know what it is."
"You may call me Sonia, Thomas," she said, preoccupied with the yellowed pages she was leafing through. It was indeed very old, and it didn't at all fit with the other things in the lighthouse. It had been bound a bit unevenly, and the handwriting inside was anything but neat. She was about to put it back where it belonged, not wanting to invade its owner's privacy, when she caught the words "fell in battle." She flipped it open again to look.Goddess Amartel
, it read, I heard from my aunt today. My uncle, Benjamin, fell in battle two weeks ago. He left behind two young sons. I beg that you guide him safely to the Otherworld and protect his family. And please protect my brothers out at sea. I hate to ask so much of you, but I have one more request. Please let me see my mother again, just one more time. I will gladly die for my country, but I must see her again. I never had the chance to say goodbye. Until that day, I will be keeping the light shining for everyone sailing on your seas. Chris.
She took a deep breath, letting the reality of the words sink in. "It's a prayer journal, Thomas," she said softly, "from the time of the last War. It's nearly one-hundred-and-thirty years old."
"Amazing," he said as she carefully replaced it in the drawer. "What if the writer was one of the last ones here?"
"That makes no sense," she said. "If that were true, there'd be no one here to run the lighthouse."
"We've been here for a while," Thomas said, holding his bent knees, "and the light is still on. Have you seen anyone?"
She felt cold just thinking about that. Suddenly the waves sounded louder in the silence. Somewhere in the space of the past few minutes, the wind had picked up, and now the sea was raging.
"Goddess Amartel must be angry," Sonia said to herself, looking toward the window and basking in the sound.
"Didn't you once say your mother was a priestess?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied with a smile. "She was."
"My grandmother said the priestesses sang beautiful songs."
"Yes," she agreed with a nod. "My mother sang, too."
It was the first time in a while she had spoken openly about these things. William had called her mother's religion "nonsense," and so she'd been careful not to mention it in front of him again. It was freeing for her to talk about it without being judged. She stood listening to the waves a few moments more before her smile faded. She had to leave; William was waiting.
She bade Thomas goodnight. Sonia was halfway out the door when he asked, "Do you suppose I'll live to hear those songs someday?"
"I'm sure you will," she said. And she was determined to see to it that he would.
William was not in the bedroom.
She heard Thomas's scream before she had the chance to panic and rushed down the hall as quickly as she could. Sonia arrived to see her husband pinning the younger boy to the wall, a knife pointed at his throat.
He turned to her. "Ah!" he said with feigned joy. "How nice for you to join us!"
"What are you doing
?" Her heart pounded in her chest so hard it was as though it wished to break free of her ribcage.
"What does it look like, love?" he asked tauntingly, moving the blade even closer to Thomas's throat.
"Stop this!" she screamed. "You're scaring me, William--please!"
He raised a brow. "Fine," he said, "let's hear your side of the story. If it's convincing, I might make your death a painless one."
She felt her eyes go wide. "What?"
"Sonia, run!" Thomas cried.
William turned back to him, face contorted in anger. "You," he said, "are on my last nerve!" and struck him so hard across the face that his head hit the wall with a sickening thud.
She watched the blood pour from Thomas's nose. She could hardly breathe. "I don't understand," she finally whispered.
"What?" William asked casually. "You think I chased you all this way out of my love for you, Sonia?" His tone was dripping with disdain. "Of course I didn't. I had to get rid of this miserable boy! He'd have been dead already had it not been for you!"
Sonia stared in horror and disbelief. "It was you
!" she gasped. "You're the one poisoning him!"
He laughed like a madman. "Yes, Sonia, darling, it was me. My, you are a smart girl, thinking to give him that antidote every day for all this time," he said, lips curled up in a wicked smile.
His face went dark. "I saw the way he looked at you. I didn't like it," he said. "You know I've never been one to share."
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't play games with me!" he shouted. "You know exactly what I'm talking about!" He paused to whip the hair out of his sweating face. "And now, after all this, it turns out I'll have to kill you, too. You know too much. And besides that, I could never stay with you, you heathen!" he spat. "Goddess-worshipping bitch! I knew I was going to have to get rid of you eventually. And now it just so happens that the perfect opportunity has arisen."
William threw his struggling victim across the room. Thomas hit the wall and crumpled into an unconscious heap, and Sonia screamed. Oh, no. Oh, Goddess, no
, she pleaded silently. This can't be happening. It can't!
When he advanced towards her, knife in hand, she wanted to run. She tried--but she just couldn't move.
"It's a shame. You're really quite beautiful," her husband said, tilting up her chin with his hand, "when you fix your damn hair and keep your mouth shut."
And then she was against the wall, the knife at her throat, tears spilling down her cheeks and choking on her own breath. She begged him and begged him to stop, but he only laughed. This is it
, she thought. I'm going to die here
. And with that realization came a great sense of calm. Sonia could hear her mother singing off in the distance again, and the sound of the ocean waves caressed her, lifting her high up above herself to a place where no one could touch her.Please, Goddess
, she prayed, keep Thomas safe. Please let him be okay...
And everything faded to black.
She found herself in the sitting room with Thomas beside her. Everything was bathed in a brilliant blue light. Sonia was certain she was dreaming, because she had never seen anything so wonderful. The glasswork sparkled deep ocean blue; the statues looked to blaze with cerulean fire. It looked like an underwater palace, and it was beautiful.
Then a woman stepped in wearing light rippling robes that looked as though they were made of the ocean itself. Blonde waves of hair cascaded back from her pearly face, and her eyes were like orbs of mist. She was too stunning to describe, and as she gracefully came to stand before them, neither of them had to ask to know who she was.
"Goddess?" Sonia finally said.
The woman smiled gently nodded. "Yes."
Sonia felt as though she might cry, for when Amartel looked at her, she had that same warmth--that same glow as her mother.
"Goddess," Thomas said timidly, "are we dead?"
Amartel laughed and shook her head. "No, my dear child," she said. "You are very much alive. Now, I imagine you have some questions?"
Indeed they did.
When asked, the Goddess told them the story of the lighthouse crew. They had perished during the last War in an unexpected attack, and their enemies left the building in shambles. The men had been so dedicated to the work, and so loving--and they always kept their faith. Some of them had prayed every single day. In honor of their memory, she restored the lighthouse to its former glory and furnished it with belongings to make it a home for all who needed it. She herself maintained the lighthouse, and while she had filled it with many new things, she left behind a few mementos of the ones who had lived here--such as the journal from the bedside table.
William, she said, had been banished from the human plane. She could not allow him to leave this place alive after what had happened, and certainly she would not allow him to stay. She did not elaborate on this point; Amartel merely stated that he would never cause harm or threat to anyone again.
Then came the question of what they were to do next.
"You may stay and live here, if you'd like. Or you may come and go as you please. It is up to you," Amartel said. "You will always be welcome and provided for here--and you will not be alone. All those who came before you that have entered this place will be here. You are invisible and separate from those from the outside in this lighthouse, and you are safe."
"Thank you, Goddess," Sonia said, overwhelmed with gratitude.
"Yes," Thomas said, "thank you."
"You are more than welcome," she said, and both she and the blue light began to fade. "I imagine we'll meet again soon. Remember, my children, that I am always with you."
They sat in silence long after she was gone, thinking of all that had happened.
"Where do we go from here?" Thomas mused.
Sonia looked at him. "I don't know. There's a lot to think about."
He nodded his agreement.
"But right now," she said, "I'd like to sing a song. One about ocean waves."
And she smiled.
THE END©EMR 2012. Don't steal, please. :3