Against a Velvet Sky | Lydia Trethewey

A tale of powerful magic


Against A Velvet Sky

By Lydia Trethewey

For the SUN AND MOON contest


With each step Hasah’s boots sink further into the black volcanic soil. A sound like two great stones crashing together fills the darkening sky, the air alive with the threat of lightning. She struggles upwards.

“If you do this the war might end,” Kafee had said, her eyes like black holes opening onto the universe.

“Why me?”

“I sense a connection. You are a dreamer. You can negotiate peace with the spirits.”

Clouds roll in, warm rain which obscures the thin forests and the town that spreads to the sea. In the nebulous wisps Hasah loses herself into the rhythm of walking.

Ghosts from ten seasons passed inhabit the sparse landscape; when her legs were shorter, running to catch up with her brother who strides ahead cradling the kite. The young Hasah is daydreaming, the wind whips the line away and the winged dancer crashes into the forest. Tears fill her eyes, but Marnen is only laughing and shaking his head.

“It’s true what they say about the child born during the eclipse,” he grins “head forever in the stars!”

Her brother stands tall against an endless blue sky.

“I have a dream too,” he whispers “I’m flying, brushing the heavens. The war is over, the spirits relinquish the night. I gaze freely down on the sleeping world.”

Thunder shrieks and Hasah flattens against the ground.

“You’d be a bridge. An ambassador,” Kafee had explained.

Watching the crossing in the enfolded darkness of the aromatic tent; Kafee cradles the roughly hewn bowl, stooping beneath waves of purple fabric. Her hands dart like spiders to dusty jars filled with arcane powder. The nearest warrior steps forward, naked but for the flowers pressed against his joints. His eyes graze the walls, the floor, as he inhales the powder. Hasah sees something of Marnen in his nervousness.

The warrior’s deep breathing gives way to momentary stillness. Then the writhing begins, spasms wracking the man’s body as he falls forward. Something in the core of him glows. With a gasp he is still once more, the light fading as he passes through the twilight to the other world. His body remains.

At the crater rim Hasah stops. Plants grow inside the volcano’s mouth. Evening is approaching, neutral ground in a world partitioned by sun and moon.

The atmosphere sharpens. Close by the air seems to warp, to turn inwards.

Hasah has never seen a spirit before. The seer’s words echo: “Do not be fooled by appearances. They are vicious.”

The other ambassador grows clearer. She is outlined in silvery blue, the lines of night seeming to intersect her body as if it belonged to the very air. Her material the substance of darkness cut through with the light of the moon.

Summoning her strength Hasah steps closer. The spirit is careful, watchful. Her form is familiar, human.
Hasah gasps. The spirit is a reflection of her.

“Finally we meet,” Anu whispers.

The long forgotten name drifts up from a nameless place within her.

“Anu?”

The child born during an eclipse, the twins birthed into different worlds.

The two regard one another.

“I felt your absence,” says Hasah.

“As did I.”

The spirit pauses. “It’s easier to see without the harshness of light. When the sun sets, the falseness of the eyes closes and true seeing begins. I knew you’d come.”

“Marnen…” Hasah inquires softly

Anu shakes her head. “Our world isn’t that of the dead.”

From the corner of her eye Hasah catches a swish of purple.

“Liar!” shrieks Kafee, leaping from the crater.

Anu twists around and the arrow catches her in the chest. Turning disbelieving eyes to Hasah, she collapses onto the black soil.

The air ripples, a deep murmuring as spirits appear.

From behind Kafee warriors with golden arrows charge forward.

“Your light is stolen! The moon steals from the sun, just as you steal our lives!” the seer screams.

Hasah ducks low, tears away from the battle. Tears swim in her eyes.

A shrill whistle. Fire erupts in her chest.

The ambassador’s body hits the sodden ground. As the light fades, she senses Marnen in the clouds, riding a giant kite against the velvet sky. The rain falls on.


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