Falling Petals



Chapter 10: Wherein An Arcane Investigation Concludes With An Absurd Hypothesis


  Arianna recoiled inside me as my fury spiked to a height I’d never before experienced; I’d reached a plane of anger that lay far beyond the reach of my previously mundane reckoning, and though I’d had no knowledge of its existence until now: I certainly wasn’t going to boil away alone in that place. She couldn’t escape my ire while trapped within me, and so she would simply have to endure my wrath until it ran its course… and I could just endlessly spew thunder as this furious energy coiled within me!

  I stormed off towards the forest as I shook with a barely-contained anger, for I could very much feel the coming bitter tirade, and I would not unleash it any further upon the children than my very first unbidden outburst. As my steps resounded from the unfortunate ground, my mind cast about wildly to understand how I’d been so blind as to have missed Bart’s ‘resurrection’, and Mercy guide me if he wasn’t the only one!

  In my dream, which must have surely been a real event, my Arianna had complained that she couldn’t get out, not even with all of the aether at her disposal… but she’d said that she could send ‘them’ out, all of them if she’d wanted to. At the time, I was overwhelmed with the deathfulness of her situation, and I hadn’t lingered upon the nonsense she’d screamed out in the throes of aetherial deficiency.

  How would I have had the wherewithal to have guessed that there was more than madness to her words? Perhaps it was from before I’d fallen asleep, when she’d said something about doing what witches do best? But she’d always made it very clear to the children that she was ‘a proper sorcerer, not some poultice-peddling madwoman’, and since when did witches raise the dead… God, Arianna, what have you done?

  Remorse swam from that place inside me, and I knew that even without raining down with more shouts than my first: she was certainly sorry enough, and perhaps I even felt shame come from within her. Whatever she was really feeling, it seemed that my anger could not dwell inside me forever in such a magnitude, and even though I was well into the forest now: I no longer wanted to hold my beloved to account with anger alone.

  A gentle breeze blew through the trees above as I came upon a clearing, within which a small stream flowed. My mind cast back to where Lisset and Roger might have gone when I’d first arrived at the Fredrickson house, and I had to wonder if it wasn’t here, for with the well gone: this stream was the only appreciable source of water around.

  In truth, our little unnamed settlement should have been founded closer to this stream, but the Orlovs claimed that the rusalka dwelled within its slow-moving waters. While they weren’t strictly evil creatures: one did not needlessly provoke the ungodly spirits of nature, for the risks inherent in their attention could have easily seen all of our crops wither and fail!

  Frontier life was always like this, I thought as I’d approached the clear waters. People take to the frontier for endless reasons… to get away from the law’s reach, as Arianna and I had, or to escape persecution for their religious beliefs, as had the Orlovs. Some came out here to try their hand at a new life away from scrutinous eyes, as Lisset and Bart had done, and still others simply wished to be away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, as had the Roddericks… Mercy, but I missed them all, even Dmitry, though perhaps not his wife; Old-Hag-Olga, as the children had nicknamed her.

  Gerald had been out here for trapping, and he was rather gifted with the trade; he was a lonely man out here only to spend his last days, and his health was rather on the poor side, so I’d had to visit him often enough that I knew well all the exploits of his life, and many of those he’d only ever had in his dreams.

  There were so many sad stories to be had with frontier life, but some things still weren’t supposed to happen out here, and what killed Gerald in the end wasn’t the hypothermia or his hypertension: it was His Holiness who allowed that this travesty could occur! I’m sure that most would have blamed the soldiers who put us to death, but I knew a soldier, and I wouldn’t hear myself blaming their profession for simply existing to do the bidding of other men!

  Our Amadeus was a grizzled ex-legionnaire, and though he was always gruff and inclined towards impure utterances: he was gentle to his Elissa, a cursed girl who should have been put to death were it not for her father’s love, and so he’d often come by to ask me how to best to care for his aetherless child. I couldn't have been her mother, but I’d become something rather similar to a role model of sorts to her in the twelve years she’d known me.

  So many children lived out here, and I often wondered why it was that they should number near to half of the adults when so many out here were so old. I thankfully didn’t have to miss many of them, but Sasha, Vitali, Pamela… and Elissa; the faces that were gone from this world were precious, and my beloved and I were almost certainly at fault for it, for bringing down the church’s ire upon them.

  Goodness but I missed them, and Carmen, God knows but I missed her too; she would have known what to say to settle things between Arianna and I. I’d never been one for anger, and she’d never been one for fear, and we were both so affected by these new emotions that their intensity since death was rather new territory for us as a couple.

  A chuckle came to me then, for long ago it’d been my dream to promise myself to my Arianna until death came to us, and now we were testing our bonds and acceptable boundaries in the hereafter! That stream played a pleasant melody to my ears, and I felt the distance between us shorten considerably… so what if she’d been treading on God’s ground, really: what’d God ever done for me that she hadn’t done better anyways?

  My eyes closed as a sense of peace washed back across me, and with it came a weariness of loss that wore most the rest of my anger away from me. I suddenly could really have used a place to sit down right then, so that I could focus inwards and talk to her without resorting to the bug-covered grimy ground — I certainly didn’t wish to dirty my dress needlessly.

  I lazily opened my eyes, and upon my tongue was a request to my dearest, but it seemed she’d already beaten me to it, for there in the clearing was a table and a single chair that so perfectly fit with my imagination that I might have designed them myself! They were even stationed in the most perfect place in that little clearing, so warmth spread within my chest, and it banished away the rest of the storm clouds that’d been gathering up in my heart.

  How I loved Arianna for all the little things she’d do for me, but we still had to talk about some things over, and Bart’s matter was near the core of them. I began with thanking her for the comfortable place to sit, although I couldn’t begin to know how she’d known I needed one,

  “Thank you, love. I really appreciate the sentiment.”

  I breathed in, and I was about to continue on to the meat of the matter at hand, when I felt her churning strangely inside me. A desire to speak rose from the morass of feelings that came from her, so I delayed for a moment, after all: she might be about to tell me everything I’d ever wanted to know, and so much more that I never cared to find out, and my interruption might have stymied this whole process.

  “Mira…?” She finally said to me, with a lot of hesitancy clinging to her voice as if she didn’t know how to tell me something important, “I didn’t do anything.”

  “Of course you did, Rianna.” I wondered what game she was playing at this time, and my patience sifted away like an hourglass split open, so with much more vitriol than I’d expected, I said, “How else would this furniture appear here!?”

  A quiet murmur came from her, for I’d cowed her so with my resurging anger, and I very much wanted to lambast myself for inflicting it upon her when I hadn’t meant to, but I was instead focused upon what she was saying,

  “Can I maybe ask you to do something, Mira? Please?”

  Well, I could hardly refuse her between the guilt I felt growing within me, and the insecurity that came pouring out from her, so I resolved myself that I wouldn’t get angry, no matter what it was she’d wanted from me — even back when anger was as foregin an emotion for me as fear was for her, she would always get me to do things through the power of guilt, such that I would have accused her of siren-sobbing if I could only have overcome the guilt I’d have felt to say it — so I apologized to her,

  “Yes, Rianna. I’m sorry for getting angry out of nowhere like that. Ask away, my love.”

  Relief flooded through our connection, and even the hint of a smile appeared in my heart as my beloved contemplated how to phrase her request for me. Still, I wondered what it was she might have me do, and I suspected that she’d manufactured some foul play so as to distract me away from the unhappy conversation to come, and then to ensnare me so totally that I should not speak of it further.

  A little more confidence wrapped around that core of her inside me, and I somehow felt as if she was getting in the mind for testing something upon my person again, but it’d been ages since we’d done anything regarding my physical state; it was a bit of a sore spot for me, and no amount of subverting it through pleasure had ever quite cured me of the scars my nature had left upon me.

  “Could you imagine something appearing on the table, Mira? It can be anything, just don’t tell me about it, okay?”

  Some new part of me cried out in outrage for such a pointless distraction in the face of resurrecting the dead, but I clamped down on it the moment it appeared; I’d made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t get angry, even if I couldn’t see any sense in this inane exercise!

  I closed my eyes, and I tried to picture something, anything at all, but the images I sought were flashing away from my grasp the very moment I’d made to seize upon them, and so I got to my feet and stretched to settle the restless energy with which my thoughts evaded harness. My back cracked as I reached up behind me as far as I could, and a small sound impudently escaped from my lips.

  “Mmmmn, that’s not what I asked for, Mira,” mused my Arianna, for she was never one to leave alone a temptation, however miniscule, as she relished to prove with her following words, “but I’ll take it, Mira, oh I will definitely take it.”

  “Mercy, Rianna,” I protested with exasperation heavy upon my lips, “but you just can’t help yourself.”

  Her very unchasteness had finally put an image within my mind, and I imagined that it was resting there on the table. A black mist came out from the phylactery around my neck, and it formed up with density until it became solid, and a single plastic ‘device’ full of a mysterious liquid appeared. I lifted it up with my hand with no small matter of satisfaction, and pointed it at myself threateningly as I dramatically declared,

  “Prepare yourself, Rianna! I will have you atone for your misdeeds!”
  “Is… is that…?” I’d heard her hesitantly begin, although she trailed off with surprise as I felt her recognition swell within me, so I turned it away from us, and I gave its trigger a squeeze, from which a mist of water vapor harmlessly went out into the air.

  “Yes, it’s the spray bottle.” I affirmed to her, and I remarked with some amazement, “I don’t know how you did it; this thing hasn’t worked in years, frankly I was under the impression that you’d burn…” my breath caught as an unpleasant memory came to mind, and it caught me so by surprise that it’d rather stopped my speech in its tracks.

  She came to my rescue with speed, thankfully, when she’d corrected me, “I disposed of it back then, Mira, I really did.” She pondered for a moment, and I could feel such an excitement bubbling up from her that it was almost ticklish when she began to enumerate the many wonders of the arcane to me,

  “So far, I’ve only been working with the things we already had, and changing them. Mira, this is new. I don’t mean in the scientifically new kind of way, although it very much is: I mean this spray bottle is actually a completely new creation — not that I know what it’s made out of… but I think I can guess.”

  Her excitement changed so rapidly to a dark and terrible trepidation that it rather sent my stomach into knots, and a nauseousness overwhelmed me with the whiplash by which her feelings were affecting me! Either her feelings and mine were coming closer to being one and the same, or she’d gone from one total extreme to another with such a speed as to leave me feeling dizzy. Whichever the case may have been, I felt that I rather could have done without it, for it so assailed my insides that I felt my strength failing!

  She quietly expelled her sickly apprehension into my body, and I rather had to sit again upon the chair while I waited for my stomach to settle back down. It seemed that she would be quiet forever if I didn’t say anything, so I asked her,

  “Rianna, what do you think it’s made out of then? Aether?”

  It was to my relief that she didn’t attempt to shake my head again, and instead she verbally came back with a simple statement,

  “No, Mira… just let me think for a bit, okay?”

  Though I was reluctant to let her stew in whatever strange thoughts she was having, it wasn’t as if I could do anything to affect a change in that manner, so I simply put my hand over my heart, and I pressed it against myself in the vain desire that she would physically feel my reassurance.

  “Oh Mercy, that makes so much sense…” I heard her whisper out, as if she'd simply been unable to let whatever it was stay inside her, and for a few short seconds she’d rather had me on the edge of my seat with wondering, but her following silence rather spoiled my ability to sit still. The anticipation and dread I felt for her unstated conclusion simply became too much for me, and I practically begged that she elucidate me,

  “Rianna, please: what makes sense now, love?”

  She gulped using my throat, but I didn’t mind in the face of the terrible arcane secret she was about to posit to me, and I'd thought I was prepared to hear anything when she said,

  “You're not aetherless, Mira. You never were.”


About the author


Bio: Loving a medium unfortunately doesn’t make a person necessarily talented within it, and I have no expectations for being the next best most famous new author going boldly into the future.

That said, I'm still gonna try my best! ^__^

My updates won’t have a set schedule until September 2020 in all likelihood. Thanks for reading! ^__^

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