A Mother’s Love
I was running before I could even think to. The sharp slap of the tall prickling grass as it marred my skin was my only connection to the world around me as I tore across the open ground, barreling past the farthest borders of the village, headlong to the stone archway, the Gate to the other Realm, my Realm. Where my children now were. My boys. My sons. The others wouldn’t be far behind me, they would flee to the Gates — an unstoppable onslaught of terrified humanity — and in doing so, bring those monsters with them. They would lead those things to my children.
There was no time.
So I ran. Faster and longer than I’d ever run before. Never slowing, never stopping. The knowledge of what must be done writhed inside my stomach like a coil of snakes, but I pushed it down, flung it aside, allowing no other thoughts to enter my mind that the image of my sons as I’d last left them. If I thought about the rest I would never be able to do it.
Ryzan, my eldest — just five summers old — had been so fearless. He’d held my Ryvan’s little hand, lending his younger brother courage for their first adventure without me and a surge of beaming pride had nearly swamped me, though I hid my tears in a wide smile.
“Look after your brothers,” I’d told him, kissing Ryvan noisily on his plump, dimpled cheek before looking back into Ryzan’s deep copper eyes. “Keep them safe for me Ryzan.”
My boy had nodded, his grin easy and assured, so much his father’s son. “I will Momma,” he said, as his brother squealed happily with laughter at my kisses before clinging back to Ryzan’s hand like clenched steel,
“Ryvan and I will have lots of adventures — won’t we Ryvan? Uncle says so!” And I knew with certainty my middle son would be just fine without me for a time. Ryvan would go anywhere as long as Ryzan led the way.
And Rynan, my baby, wrapped in extra blankets against the chill of the Realm of Light, he would have a cavalcade of admirers vying to care for him. I wondered again if he would take a chill — my boys were used to the blistering heat of the desert in the Realm of Stones, not the fluctuating seasons of my old forest-blanketed home — but my littlest son never stirred, never whimpered. He merely watched me from my brother’s arms, serene, peaceful, accepting whatever fate handed him. My arms had ached to snatch him back to me, but I clenched them to my chest. “I’ll see you in just a few days,” I said again, as much for my sake as theirs.
A few days…But that was before. I bit back a breathless cry. My precious ones, my sons, the very blood and beating of my heart. They had to stay safe, hidden in that other Realm, away from these killing creatures. But they wouldn’t if I didn’t reach the Gate first. The part of me that was vampyre flared wildly to life, fueling my speed and lending me strength as I hurdled through the unclaimed lands. But it was only temporary.
My breath was ragged, my lungs strangely bursting when the grey-stone gateway came into sight at long last. The muscles in my legs burned like well-stoked embers as I pushed savagely on, surveying the strange clearing without slowing. But there was no one here. I was alone. I had done it.
The stone boulders that made up the Realm Gate were eerily cool to the touch despite the desert sun burning down on them as I all but slammed myself against them before sinking to my knees, gulping in air as I never had before. For a moment there was only the sound of my rattling lungs and the rapid beat of my heart in my ears and I remembered my mother and the dangers of pushing a too-human body with too-little vampyre blood. Though, I reasoned that I wasn’t quite to the point of death, just utter exhaustion, as my breathing began to slow and sensation came back to my bruised feet with the sharp stabbing of thousands of knives. The pain cleared away the remnants of my memories and the immediacy of the world came back to me.
I lurched upwards, forcing myself to my feet until I stood shakily before the Gate, ready to melt back into my Realm, to close the portal from the inside. But before I could make myself move, I jerked back as though struck, horrified. Varrick, my husband! In my sudden fear and flight I’d forgotten him! Was he dead? Was my husband gone already, torn apart by those…monsters before they’d attacked our home? Surely these were the creatures he and the others had been searching for…? What if…
My knees began to shake. I was all but desperate to see my sons, to leave this place, but unwilling to leave their father. My boys were safe for the moment, but Varrick could still be out there, fighting his way through these unspeakable horrors. My heart skittered painfully. He would go home, I knew it with a surety that reached down into the marrow of my bones. Varrick would go home, to find me, to protect me. He’d never stop searching. If I left him now I may never find him again. Could I live with myself? But if I stayed…
The horror of it shook through me and I trembled. If I left now I would live, I would close the Gate from inside the Realm of Light, sealing the inhabitants of the Realm of Stone and these creatures inside, possibly forever. I would have my sons, my family, my life…
But if I closed the Gate here… If I sealed myself in this cursed Realm, my sons would still be safe and I could search for Varrick. The trembling worsened.
I stood torn before the Gate’s reflective surface, hesitating as my entire being screamed and wrenched itself into two. My instinct to live and to hold my children once more warred against the love in my heart and the knowledge deep in my Spirit that if I were to leave now, I could never live with myself. Leaving would kill me just as surely as staying would. I looked up and the reflection staring back at me from the watery mirror of the gate was crazed, copper eyes too wide, black hair windblown, with traces of old blood marking pale flesh where the grass had sliced soft skin. This face didn’t belong to the Summer Girl I used to be, this was another girl all together, a new creature born of fear and heartbreak. I wasn’t sure what she was yet, but she frightened me. I frightened me. She was dangerous. She was deadly. She was me.
A burst of unexpected noise some distance behind me broke the haunting spell and I looked away from the Gate, away from that other girl. My heart pounded a warning and war-cry. there was no more time, someone was coming. Or something. The danger rushed back to me and I knew my decision and suffered as my heart ripped in two. I would never get to say goodbye. There was no guarantee I would ever get the Gate back open again. There was no guarantee I would have enough power to close it. This may be forever. I was only a Fireling after all, not Spirit-Speaker like my grandmother, gifted with the power to control Realm Gates. But I had to try. There was only moments left. I had to try.
“Forgive me,” I whispered, grasping the smooth stones on either side of the waiting portal as the rustling edged closer. The fire inside me flared to life, hotter, angrier, and more desperate than I’d ever felt it before. I grasped the heat, feeling it to burst into flame, and pulled, yanking at the source of the power deep in my blood, in my heart. The fire roared inside me, dangerous, lethal. I gasped, fighting to hold onto it as it writhed inside me, scorching me from the inside out. Pain blinded me. For the first time in my life, the fire burned me, burned my veins, the sinews and muscles inside me, and my heart, turning me from flame to ash.
With a violent scream, I slammed my hands into the rippling mirror, shoving the raging flame of my gift into the very heart of the portal. Be as stone, I commanded silently, feeling my gift leave me and the watery gate miraculously harden and blacken beneath my charred hands. Close. Seal. Shut.
With a final grinding slam of falling boulders, the Gate thrust me back and I staggered, utterly spent, staring at the damage I had wrought. The ethereal Gate was no more than a blackened pillar of stones, a charred ruin. I swayed. My sons were safe. They would live in the peace of the forests with my brother and his wife and my mother and father. They would grow up in the land of gift-bearers and vampyres, perhaps even venture to Britannia one day to lay claim to their grandfather’s people. They would grow in peace and love. And they would never know. Never know the gruesome truth of what happened today, of the decision that was made, or of what their safety cost. I hugged my chest, desperate now to hold together. My sons were safe.
But an entire Realm was now trapped, thousands held prisoner in this nightmare. Because of me.
All the thoughts I had held at bay before rushed in, seizing me. I looked down to the reddened flesh of my own hands and stumbled to my knees, cracking them across the stone base. Now I was truly that other girl. I was dangerous. I was a murderess. A monster. A killer. These scarlet hands would wear the blood of thousands for as long as I lived. I hadn’t allowed myself to acknowledge the truth before, the truth of what my boys’ safety would mean for the rest. But now the truth ravaged my Spirit. I had damned an entire Realm to the terror of monsters and blood and death. I had done this.
But my sons were safe. And my husband… Varrick! Where was he?! My need for him flared wildly, consuming me. I needed Varrick! I had to find him! He would understand, he would see that I had saved them. He would forgive me. He would love me. Even now.
But would he even recognize me now? I was no longer his Summer Girl, innocent and bright, now I was that other girl, a monster, a murderer. But I had done it for them, did that make any difference? I wasn’t sure, though in my heart I understood one awful, bitter truth. I would do it again. I would do anything to keep them safe, and if the entirety of the Realm of Stones had to perish, so be it. I was a mother, and there was no creature more dangerous than I.
This is a clip from my WIP Ashes, I hope you enjoy! 😀