It burns. And yet, after a few days, those pieces mend together. Then again, the cycles reiterate, repeating as a poisoned arrow struck through the neck. I care no longer for my three brothers and two sisters; they employ themselves in the interests of our parents. The big, old family business tends to animal slaughtering, cornfield harvesting, and taming different wild beasts. Although that last one is of little interest to me, I’d appreciate watching them break dragons and mythical creatures. Should they ever decide to accept that challenge, I’d roam around the world to see them in their real habitat.
The unforgiving heat of summer forces us all to endure the most. The fields all lost to drought, almost all bred animals now dead, and there are no more wild beasts left for training. Each year, all except my mother and aunt, go away during these harsh months to live in the dangerous cities headed by powerful, influential individuals. Most belong to kings within their castles. Groups of individuals lead the rest, awaiting opportunities to ambush innocent lives. They hunt them in a chase, of mental death cause, exploiting them of their mind, strength, influence, and reputation.
With not many eagles remaining, I hope this summer won’t kill us. I am all shattered bones, hoping for miracles to happen each day. My mother is as old as she can get, and my aunt is the one to tend to both of us. I’m cursed of sitting in bed all day, unable to help. I’m dead weight on both legs, always reminding of my past when I lost control. Of course, those summers were different then. I had a life to live. The wolves licked me whenever they had the chance, and the rattlesnakes bred fear in the hearts of those who bullied me in school. All those wild animals we’d tamed, considered our entire family as part of theirs as well.
Nonetheless, I’m all alone now. I feel Death sitting on my bed, wanting to hold me, and fly me away to a different place; I imagine it would be Death’s own home. I can imagine Death feeling lonely, waiting for my time to come, to pick me up in desperation. It feels dark and grim, my life for none to feel proud. And yet, I continue to live, for the sake of living, to keep hope in the minds of others within my family that someday, I’ll begin to walk again. Hope for a lost cause is all I get in return when I ask why.
Everything went as usual during the summer. It was a tough life for all the house members, and aunt endured intense heat while going out for purchasing essentials. Remotely located, our house stood away from all populace. Our family occupation had forced us to relocate away from the potential harm the wild animals had caused to the ongoing public outside. Always, the people harassed, mocked and attempted to hurt the animals in the first place. The beasts reacted naturally, and the assaulted people made complaints against our livelihood.
We live away, far from the people of this world, surrounded by a mountain range to the east, and a forest in the south. Rumour has it that a few forest fires have risen, burning all life as it consumes more lands. The dormant volcano, Kelanji, contained within the mountain range also has been reinstated as active, with its stream of clouds barely appearing in our view outside our house.
We don’t receive updates often regarding the hinterlands. The alchemists calling themselves as the Black Wizards continue to invade the northern lands. The savage barbarian troops create tension surrounding both borders of the Gladen Kingdom, and the Kapratic Empire. Nonetheless, with the news a month old, we haven’t received frequent updates. A messenger rarely arrives during regular times. But it’s dangerous territory to travel during the past few summers. Heatstroke, dehydration, and exposure to the sun are common issues resulting in death on a mass scale for people travelling during summer.
“They’re here,” Aunt Diedre said, pacing fast across the house, “the hoard of barbarians. It’s all true, the Gladens have fallen, and the siege continues over Kaprilla.”
“It’ll be the end for all of us if it falls,” said my mother in a worry. “We need to be as far away as possible; they’ll slaughter us all.”
“Baran might’ve heard us.” Aunt Diedre whispered. “We shouldn’t have him worry about it.”
But I heard them both talk, with the roof crafted such that there could be no secrets within the family. “Don’t worry, aunt. I heard you the first time.”
“I’ll send a bird to let them know,” Aunt Diedre informed mother, then left towards the aviary tower.
Mother came into my room. “You shouldn’t worry, son. It’ll all be fine.”
“Don’t worry, mother. I’m not afraid.” The nervousness intensified and shook me to the bone. I wished to hide someplace. “We could hide in the secret dungeon until they’re gone.”
“If they ever come and leave, they’ll burn down the place for all I know.”
“Did aunt Diedre tell how long do we have?”
“I’ve sent a message with an eagle.” Aunt Diedre appeared at the door, exhausted after running around. “Hopefully, someone will come soon. We should head towards the forest. It seems to be the only way to survive.” We gazed at her, stunned at the speed she had returned from the aviary tower. “And to answer your question, we don’t have much time on our hands. I’d say at most an hour or two.”
“It seems like you two should head into the forest.” Mother said. “Somebody has to stay here. It’ll at least ensure that you managed to escape, and they won’t search for the inhabitants.”
“We can all leave without a trace, mother.”
“And what will they think when they do not find dust inside the house. Will they leave the house unattended? Either those savages will rest there, then burn the house, and finally hunt for us. I can make them lose their trail on you.”
“The longer we all stay, the worse things are going to get. We have to leave right now.”
“They’d eventually catch us.”
“I have a plan.” Aunt Diedre said.
We left in the scorching heat, the sun barely past its zenith. Aunt Diedre carried me on her back, and mother held on to the food rations. We couldn’t make haste. By the time we reached the edge of the forest, the barbarian horde had arrived at the house. Most of them were on horses, but the screams of wild beasts had us look up to the skies above. Gryphons, along with their riders, kept watch searching for any runaway victims.
“We’re lucky to have reached the forest. At least it’ll give us some time.” Said Aunt Diedre as we entered the forest, “All we need now is a place to hide.”
“The trees haven’t got any leaves left in this scorching heat. Where will we go?”
“These dead leaves shall do the trick.” Aunt Diedre settled me down beside a tree trunk and then whispered something in my mother’s ear. “I shall be back, I promise.” She went ahead, leaving no trail of her for us to follow.
“Where’s she going?” I asked. But mother never replied. She stood beside me, staring in the same direction where Aunt Diedre had gone.
Half an hour later, we heard her voice, “It’s done.” She appeared, not as my aunt, but in a spherical cluster of dried, dead leaves rustling altogether. As it reached in front of us, a face similar to Aunt Diedre appeared on it. “It is me, Diedre. I shall keep you safe at the moment. I shall have to surround you for the travel ahead. But the journey might pose a minor inconvenience.”
“Do we have a choice?” asked mother. The sphere of rustling leaves spread itself open and displayed a vacant space within. She continued, “How will you take Baran?”
Within moments, the sphere encased us. I felt a slight push underneath as if something held me up, but there was nothing in view. The temperature cooled to comfort us both. I began wondering where we went, and how long it would take to reach there. A few moments later, the magical sphere of rustling leaves opened up, the world back in our view. What we saw was a different view. The mountains soared high in front of us with the scorching lands spread far beyond our vision displaying heat dissipations along the horizon.
“Where are we?” I asked.
“We’re somewhere safe, away from the savage barbarians. But we can still see them if we climb these mountains.”
“How is it possible to travel so far so quickly? It’s impossible.”
“Do not worry, little Baran. The scorching heat and the drought of summers over the years were signs of the barbarian arrival. It was inevitable, and the only way was to get away as soon as possible.”
“How did you become…” asked mother, as we both watched the sphere of rustling leaves, “…this?”
“It’s a long story.” The ball of foliage reshaped and took the form of Aunt Diedre. “I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself. Even though Diedre is my true name, my true form is only part of nature that I can become, only when the need arises.”
“We’re all part of nature, Diedre.” Mother said.
“True. But there are others, like me, who can defy nature. We can bend, or sometimes even break them if need be. In our case, I had to ensure that you all survive the barbarous plague that has begun. These barbarians are similar but opposed to our kind. They bring death and destruction with them after they’ve destroyed most of the food supplies of others. They make people weak and inculcate destruction within the minds of their prey.
“But we are here to fight as well. Even though you saw everything destroyed in your farms and sheds, it has raised an army of beings unseen to the human eyes. These have powers similar to mine, only differ in their true forms of nature. And when nature reveals its true self, chaos and order begin their conflict against each other. With the barbarians nearby, nature’s army shall awaken in its true form, and magic will soon set a course that’ll lead the savages to their doom.”
The winds turned. A cool breeze swept from the mountains towards the heat-scorched lands. The rush of chill swooped down as if the temperatures slipped down with a crash, down a cliff. The sun’s heat reduced drastically, displaying no further threat to life.
“The days of searing summer are over,” said Aunt Diedre, “and winter is on its way.”
“That’s impossible,” my mother replied.
“Look up, my dear ones, and you’ll know.”
The fading heat, the cold winds, and the lowering temperatures, they all complied with aunt Diedre.
It had begun to snow.
Acknowledgement: This inspiration comes from the Reedsy prompt – Write a story set in the summer, when suddenly it starts to snow.
Please feel free to check out their other writing prompts at https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts