Queentia (Download Text)
Damien was ready to leave; his wife was watching him as he fastened his coat. Her green eyes were glistening with unshed tears. When he stepped close to her, her face twisted in an attempt to smile. She put her hand gently on his arm, her touch as light as a feather.
Suddenly, her look became fierce. „They might have mercy, don’t you think? Then you could come back to me.“ Her strong voice didn’t quiver.
Warmth flooded his body. For a moment, her wild hope was infecting him, but it vanished as soon as it had come. He knew better than this. His hesitation caused her brave façade to break and she flung herself around his neck. He felt wetness dropping onto his shoulder.
Damien drew back a little to wipe the tears from her rosy cheeks and brushed her blonde hair from her forehead to plant a tender kiss there. There it was again, that attempted smile.
„I just wish we could stay together.“
„The judges have been clear, my angel. I have to leave.“ Damien turned, stepped out through the front door and leaned onto the wooden banister of the porch to take a long look around. He had spent most of his life here in Queentia. And here, he also had met his beloved Virginia. His old house at the edge of the village had been too small for the two of them, so they had moved into this house directly next to the village square, over which Damien was looking now.
Some of his neighbours were watching him judgingly. A sick feeling rose in his stomach. What a hypocrisy. It was not like most of them weren’t guilty as well. The rustling of clothes made him turn around. Virginia was standing in the doorway, another tear glistening on her cheek. As she wiped it away, a more sincere yet apologetic smile crossed her face.
„My laughing was supposed to accompany you, not my tears.“ Her face became stern again. „Please, watch out for the creatures in the woods. If they have mercy you can come home. And then I want you back unharmed.“
„The creatures won’t hurt me, you know that. But I promise to take care.“
She kissed him hard on his lips, sending a jolt of energy through his body. This might be the last time he ever kissed her. He crushed her tightly against his own body, wanting to prolong this moment for as long as he could.
But the time had come. Damien had to leave his wife, his home. He knew if he didn’t go now he might never have the strength to. He released Virgina, turned on his heel and stormed off, without looking back. The sobs of his wife were following him, becoming quieter until he didn’t hear them anymore.
Damien kept on walking until he reached the gates of Queentia. As soon as he stopped moving, doubt rose in his heart. Could he really this? But he didn’t have any other choice. The trial has been held and the sentence must be carried out. For that, he had to leave the village. He stared into the forest which was surrounding Queentia. The trees were looming over him; the light of the early setting sun barely penetrated the thick leaf canopy.
A cold shiver ran down his spine. In a few hours everything was going to end and his life would be over. With a deep breath he tried to steady himself. What else could he do? With hesitating steps he set out into the forest. The second he was surrounded by the trees, he felt like all of his life had already been sucked out of him. Everything was suddenly quiet, all sounds absorbed by the thick green. The abrupt cold gave him goose bumps.
When he suddenly heard the rustling all around him, he startled and whirled around. He knew it must have been the creatures, so why was he even looking for them? He couldn’t see them, nobody could until they came to carry out the sentence.
He had no idea how long he had been walking – in the forest, with barely a sign of light, one could easily lose track of time – when he saw a slender, shrouded person leaning against one of the trees.
„Damien“, the figure addressed him, pushing himself away from the tree. „I am Nero“, he introduced himself while he removed his hood, revealing the white hair of a Priest, which fell in wisps in to his face. His boyish features were grim, his piercing blue eyes scrutinising Damien intently. „I am here to guide you to your quarters. You understand why this is necessary, don’t you?“
„So that the sentence can be carried out without interference.“
Nero nodded curtly and set in deeper into the forest without even waiting for Damien.
For just a second, a mental image flashed before Damien’s eyes, of him grabbing a trunk, knocking down the Priest and making a run for it, going to get Virginia and just leaving the village. He was sure they could make it work, where ever they would go, if it wasn’t for the creatures. But they would attack him probably even before he had reached the Priest and he was certain that they were too many to fight them all off. He wasn’t even sure if he could see them. After all, they wouldn’t have been called in this case, but they would still attack to protect the Priest. It was helpless. Resigning, Damien followed Nero.
„I hope you know that we don’t necessarily like what’s going to happen. Especially in this case. You and Virginia have been very pleasant residents. It is sad that it has to end like this. But the punishment is necessary and we were disappointed that it turned out that you two were involved in this maliciousness.“
Damien nodded, but he actually didn’t agree. There was nothing wrong with neither him nor his wife. They really have been good people and if it hadn’t been for that unfortunate incident, they still would be. Virginia in particular had been very valuable for the community.
Damien was amazed with how much passion she participated in the village affairs. She had always been fully engaged in what ever had to be organised. She had liked the village fairs the most. She had always been the more sociable one of them. She loved to get together with their neighbours, while Damien had been more of a loner until he had met her. Their neighbours could have considered themselves lucky having Virginia and her talent for decoration in their midst. Oh, and of course, there had also been the election of the court, in which organisation she had also been involved. And wasn’t that irony? She helped shape the judiciary that was now tearing them apart.
Nero and Damien walked alongside each other without saying another word. At least, the Priest seemed to appreciate Damien’s need for silence. He might have behaved differently if he hadn’t been accompanied by a Priest. He certainly wouldn’t confide in someone who belonged to the group that was responsible for this misery.
The path led them deeper and deeper into the forest. When Damien was sure that they would keep on walking throughout the night, the thick trees opened into a perfect circular clearing. The residual light, which was finally visible again, illuminated a small stone cottage. The unlit windows seemed to radiate eeriness.
They entered into a sparely furnished living room and Nero lit some candles to drive away the darkness. Despite the familiarity with the warm candlelight, Damien’s unease did not disappear. While the bright wooden panels in his house always intensified the light, the stones here seemed to absorb it completely.
„Now we wait“, Nero announced simply.
Damien took a look around. Next to the living room, there was only one other, a small bedroom. Nero sat down in a chair, tilting it back against the wall, and looked at Damien. He had no specific desire to spend more time with a Priest and sat down on the edge of the bed in the other room. His thoughts went back to his beloved wife. They had been so fortunate so far that he couldn’t believe that it was going to end like this.
Damien had no idea how long he was sitting there, brooding. But when he looked out of the window, it was completely dark and, therefore, almost time for the punishment. The full moon had nearly reached its apex. Damien got up and searched for Nero. He was asleep in the still tilted-back chair. Damien returned to the bed and sat down again. Exhausted, he leaned against the wall. He wanted to see his wife again so badly, just for one last time before the sentence was being carried out.
Although Nero was sleeping, it might be too dangerous, but Damien couldn’t fight the urge to see his wife any longer. He relaxed, focusing his whole consciousness on Virginia. He felt his Power rising, a tingle underneath his skin. He let his mind flow, until the image of his wife in their home appeared before his inner eye. She had lit candles, causing her to glow like the angel she was. But worry lines were distorting her beautiful face. She stepped to the window and looked at the rising moon.
The knowledge that the creatures would strike soon frightened her terribly. Damien felt the rising panic as his own.
„You thought I wouldn’t feel when someone was using their Powers?“
Damien startled. He was on his feet before Nero had finished his sentence. Even being asleep the Priest had sensed it.
„I guess birds of a feather flock together then.“
What was Damien supposed to do now? Nero was going to punish him, too. Damien probably wouldn’t stand a chance against the Priest and the creatures. Plus, he had never wanted to hurt anyone. However, now it was him or Nero.
The after-image of Virgina hadn’t completely faded, but the red cloud of anger was now blurring Damien’s sight. The Priest would not let him go, Virgina’s wish was not going to be fulfilled. Not, if Damien didn’t do anything. Once more, he let his Power rise, this time focusing it on Nero. Damien flung him backwards without even touching him. Nero crashed hard against the wall, thumped to the floor and lay unconscious. Damien knew this was his only chance. He jumped over the body, ran for the door. He was already pushing it open as he felt a searing pain in his right arm.
Nero was back on his feet again and had thrown one of his daggers at Damien. He pulled it out of his arm and, pressing his hand on the bleeding wound, turned around. Nero had his second dagger in his hands. Both knew that that was unnecessary: the blood which was needed to call the creatures had already been spilled and the Priest started to recite the incantation.
„Sanguine hoc voco vos, canes inferni. Ut vestri tempus adfuerit, cum proxima plenilunio attigerit apex, invoco vos, iudicate impios, et relinquite corpora in condicio quem merentur.“
Damien knew that the hounds would not attack yet. The full moon had to reach the apex. He considered using his Powers against them, but feared he could not conjure up enough energy to take them all out. But he still had time to run back to the village, get his wife and then… And then what? If he ever reached the village in time, the hounds would still be chasing them. But together they might stand a chance.
Without caring about Nero, Damien turned and ran as fast as he could. He heard the hounds in the bushes beside him. They were tracking him, ready to strike as soon as they could. The forest was just a dark green blur. He was nearly flying over the floor; his feet hardly touched the ground. His lungs started to burn, but all he could think of was to reach Virginia in time. He knew that it was going to be close, but the thought of her lovely face and her overwhelming gentleness kept him going. He imagined that he even had outrun the hounds, for he couldn’t hear them anymore. On the other hand, all he could hear was the blood rushing through his veins.
When he saw the first candle-lit window, he gained the strength to run even faster.
He made it, he was home. Without slowing down, he was dashing through the village, finally reaching his house, pushing the door open so heavily that it smashed into the wall. At first, everything looked just the way it had in his vision. The warm candle light, the neatly cleaned furniture. That was what Virginia had wanted him to return to. But as his gaze wandered to the hallway to his left, the big blood splatters on the floor in front of the bedroom door told him that he was too late. The creatures that had been imprinted on virginia had already been there.
He hesitated. Did he want to see this? But he had no choice. He had to see what the creatures did to his beloved wife. With tentative steps he advanced towards the room and entered it. Virginia lay on the floor in front of their bed. Despite the long, deep gashes and bite marks covering her body, she was still gasping for air. If she was aware that Damien had come home, she gave no sign of it.
He sank to the floor next her, brushing her hair out of her face. She was a good woman and he failed her. Had he? He could still make this right, although he had never heard that any one of his kind had ever accomplished to heal such wounds. He had to try. It was his one and only chance. He put his hands on her belly and forehead, so that his Power would flow through most of her injuries. He focused with all his might on his unbearable wish to heal her. When his Power exited his hands, it sent a forceful jolt through his and Virginia’s bodies. For a moment, a white light blinded him from the inside. Then, he suddenly saw the first day they have met.
Virginia stumbled out of the forest, literally into Damien’s arms. She had been so frightened. She had just discovered that she could do things others were not capable of. She knew what happened to those people, so she ran away. She had heard that there would be a village where she could live in peace, where her kind gathered. Damien had told her that there were some in this village who were like them, but they too had to hide who they were. There was no living in peace. But it was safer there, because they could hide in the mass. It was harder for the Priests to locate the one who would have used the Power then, but that’s what they had to do. They needed solid proof before they were allowed to act.
It had not worked! The blood was still pouring from the deep injuries in her body. Damien grew desperate. He couldn’t let her go. As long as she was breathing, he would try to save her. That her breathing was already becoming weaker, Damien would not admit.
Once again, he summoned his Power and sent it through them.
Virginia had stayed. Not only for the relative safety, but also for Damien. They did all they could to hide their otherness, although it had been harder for Virginia. She had never gained full control over her Power and more than once, Damien had to soothe her before her Power erupted. But this one day, this fateful day, he hadn’t been there for her. She had been out in the village center and got tangled in an argument. She had lost control and her Power burst out, throwing the other woman across the square. The next second the Priests were there, cutting her and imprinting the hounds on her.
Damien’s efforts seemed fruitless. He felt the hot wetness rising in his eyes, blinding him. She was barely breathing now. He had failed her, again. He hadn’t been able to keep her safe and he wasn’t able to rescue her. With a last hopeless attempt to keep her alive, he sent another wave of Power through her.
They were arguing. Damien wanted to try and escape, but Virginia was more reasonable. The hounds couldn’t carry out the punishment yet, but they would attack if they tried to flee. The trial had been held and the judges had confirmed the sentence. The Priests would not call the hounds back. Virginia had hope that they might let her live, although Damien knew that the Powers were seen as a damnability. This way or the other, Virginia wanted Damien to live. She wanted him to return to their home, whether she would be there to welcome him back or not.
It was over. Virginia wasn’t breathing anymore. For a moment, Damien wasn’t feeling a thing as he took her once beautiful but now bloodstained face into his hands. Her blood was still warm. Damien collapsed over Virginia’s corpse and his body started to shake with violent, silent sobs. She had never meant any harm. He felt his grief turning into anger. He knew that there were others in this village, others like them. And they have watched as it was tradition. They have watched one of their kind getting torn apart. He sensed his fury increase, his blood was almost boiling. The usual soft tingle of the rising Power turned into an aggressive itch. He thought his skin must be cracking as his body could not contain the Power any longer and burst out in one massive blast. Everything became black.
When Damien regained consciousness he had the worst sense of foreboding. With shaking legs he left his house. The village square was littered with dead, mutated, dog-like animals. In his grief he had been able to create enough Power to kill all the hell hounds that had been after him. A few seconds later and they would have reached the house, would have reached and killed him too. He stepped nearer to the hound closest to him. These creatures were the real abominations. And those monstrous brutes had been the last thing Virginia had seen.
Damien got up again and approached his next-door neighbours‘ house. Unfortunately, his Power had not been focused. He took a look through the window and found his neighbours splayed dead across the floor. They had probably been completely oblivious of what had been happening to them. No doubt, the rest of the villagers were dead too. Here was nothing left for Damien but desolation and forlornness. Inside as dead as his neighbours, he turned to leave the village, when he saw Nero standing between the gates. He must have been out of the reach of his Power outburst. Now he was standing there, just looking at him.
In each hand he had his skillfully forged, curved daggers, one was still besmeared with Damien’s blood. Virginia had wanted him to live, but again he would fail her. There was nothing left to live for. He could easily take out Nero from a safe distance, but instead he awaited any punishment that the Priest held ready for him.