Writer's Wednesday!

Writer's Wednesday! Into the Crypt

*This is a continuation of a series. Find the rest in the archives under the Elemental series.

Crisp daylight fell in choked slivers through the cracks in the crypt door. Dust danced in the bright white light, falling and settling restlessly down onto the hard concrete slab of the tomb.  The cloying stench of death and decay stifled the air as he hastily sucked in a breath, prying the door open with a resounding creak. The thick layer of dust stirred on the concrete coffin as a cold wind howled into the damp chamber for the first time in years.

His calloused fingers hesitated on the lid of the tomb. A deep chill permeated the air as though a faint whisper of the tortured soul imprisoned within the crypt still lingered, seething at the injustice of her death long ago. 

The huntsman had slaughtered innocents in the name of his mistress Artemis, tracked prey around the world, stared into the wide eyes of a poor man and slit his throat because of a simple accident when he had stumbled upon Artemis in the bath.

 All of it in her name; just to see satisfaction light the goddess’s cold yellow-hazel eyes that he loved so much, just so he could hear the barely perceptible hint of admiration in her voice, sinning endlessly to earn a love he knew she would never give. 

But at least those innocents had been sacrificed at the request of his lady, for some greater heavenly purpose. This task was his least sinful on paper, but as he stood still in the light-flooded secret crypt, he felt chilled to his bones. Every fiber of his being tingled and shivered with a cold as deep as the ninth circle of hell. Please forgive me.

Orion lifted the cover of the stone tomb and immediately recoiled. Pungent aromas of blood and decay exploded into the crypt. A body lay crumpled in the confined stone case, barely recognizable with the rotting skin and glassy eyes: Inara Nightlock. Dried brown blood stained her forehead in a nasty wound, her fingernails caked with grime from fighting back against her kidnappers, ebony hair matted and tangled. 

Orion thought of the Earth girl, of the brief moments he’d seen her jetting across the waves with his captives, hope still tangled in her heartstrings that her long-lost sister was out there somewhere when all the while she’d been here. An innocent murdered and dumped in a dusty crypt, her name engraved into the cement lid by the sick, twisted killer that had left her here. A man Artemis killed years ago! She has already been avenged, and my lady Artemis using her to weaken the rebel goddesses is nothing more than a way to honor Inara. I have already failed my lady, and now she has sent me here to do a simple job. I can’t fail her again.

Even as he thought it, he knew what he was about to do was vile in his culture. In any culture. The very marrow in his bones shuddered with cold now, the harsh daylight doing nothing to warm his shivering frame. With Artemis’s cruel, ethereal face hovering in his mind, he resealed the lid. Dragging the chisel out of his pocket with a quaking hand, he brought down a mighty slash straight across her name. In a spray of grit the meticulously etched letters were scarred beyond recognition. 

Orion was still for a second, his uneven breath rasping in the death-like silence. It felt as though his heart suffocated in his stomach as the realization of what he’d done set in: he’d just desecrated the tomb of an innocent, even if that tomb had been sealed by a murderer. 

Out of the blue everything went dark along with the screech of the crypt door being shut. He heard a muffled heartbeat faster and faster, reminiscent of the Tell Tale Heart. Artemis’s tinkling laugh bounced off the walls, becoming more and more demonic each second and all the while the tick of the heart raged on. A young woman’s scream sounded from the dark, echoing around the huntsman from every side. 

“Please! Let me out!” Orion groped blindly for the door. Sobs tore his throat, darkness swallowing the room whole like he was in the damp maw of a beast. He found no knob, no handle. Each limb of his fine-tuned body shook uncontrollably from a bone-rattling fear that sent him spiraling into hysteria. 

“Your sins have caught up to you, huntsman. Did you think I would not judge you because you have some convoluted love for a maiden goddess? You will perish as you have made others perish: slowly and without a shred of dignity.”

A sharp sting pricked his throat, fire spreading through his muscled neck. His eyes bulged as the memory came back to him in flashes as though it was trickling slowly through a leaky faucet. Beady black eyes of the scorpion. Artemis, an avenging angel above him. The crunch of the scorpion under her boot. Sic itur ad astra. But before that, something that the world was sure Orion had long forgotten under a haze of ambrosia and ebbing pain. 

“I love you too.” Artemis. His one true love. On some level, he knew that memory was Death’s last gift to him before the pain of all his sins caught up to him all at once. Yet he still extended one final reach for life.

“Artemis! Please, have mercy!” The deep cold dragged him into the darkness with the force of the undertow pulling a sailor into the depths. With his back plastered to the cold crypt wall, Orion screamed, his head splitting, and prayed for the sliver of light to reappear. It was time. After years and years, he knew it was time. But he couldn’t let go. Could she?

🌍Zara

Inara ducked down another side street, her shadow flitting out of view. The pound of her boots pummeled her legs with each thumping step. Time was an amorphous deity, dragging on at seconds where each bounding stride was a shot of pain and then racing ahead like a bullet train; one moment she was on the street, Inara just a spot on the skyline, and in the blink of an eye Zara found herself in an alley with her long-lost sister directly ahead of her.


It’s not her… her brain hissed. Instinct was riding high– her whole body itched with the wrongness of the figure she chased. It’s not her… They always said you can’t trust your eyes. You have to trust your gut. And her gut? It felt like a hurricane was ripping through it, flurries of fears and false hope funneling into a roiling vat of searing frustration. Frustration… frustration that Inara was just beyond her reach around every turn, that her whole village, destitute and droughted, wanted to burn her at the stake for bringing prosperity to the land, at the reality that she had been traveling with a mysterious stranger for the past day and would probably never see her family again.

The girl paused for a fraction of a second in the middle of the intersection, looking back. Zara’s breath hitched at her sister’s pale jade eyes staring back at her. Inara. Ebony skin dashed with off-white flour, long hair loose and flowing as though it had been hastily tied back and then had fallen out again. 

“Zara? Is that… is that you?” Her musical voice carried on the rustling breeze. Zara’s knees were weak, legs shaking like the jello her family never could afford from the “big-city” markets of Kommetjie. The words that left her lips next were a blubbering string of emotion-choked sounds.

“Yes–I–can’t believe you’re alive! Where have you–do you own a bakery now, like you dreamed? Why haven’t you contacted us? Inara, it’s been…” 

“Years?” She offered with a strained laugh. A funny look crossed her face, an unbecoming blankness, emotionless as shards of ice: lips set in a hard line, glazed eyes, perfectly smooth brow. It melted away as quickly as it arrived. Zara took a careful step closer, just feet from her sister. The traffic light above them flickered uselessly… the street was eerily quiet for a few long seconds. 

“Are you okay, Inara? The police searched years for you! You ran away, I could have sworn you were dead–” 

“Where are your friends?” Inara blurted. 

“What? How could you–” Her sister’s shoulders tensed, the delicate gold flecks in her jade eyes brightening wildly. They had always been a light tone but with each passing second, it seemed to Zara that the gold was taking over Inara’s soft eyes. 

“Answer the question,” Inara hissed, ripping away her flour-dusted jacket to reveal a tank-top. Crimson bloodstains darkened the white fabric. Scars marred her arms in poorly-healed-over pink gashes. A cloud passed over the sun abruptly, throwing shadows over the intersection. 

“Talia is with the others, helping Daria. She’d been shot with an arrow… please, Inara. Stop. You need to see a doctor right away. This,” she gestured vaguely to the sky, the air, the world itself, “can’t be real. I’m mixed up in something bad, Inara. And it looks like you are too.” 

Inara’s eyes were solid gold marbles in their sockets, not a trace of the pale jade. The perfect skin of her forehead was peeling away in grotesque layers to reveal a bloody gash, the smooth ebony facade on her wrists falling away to reveal rope burns. She didn’t look like Inara, the aspiring baker that loved the city. She was a blunt-force trauma and kidnapping victim reanimated. She was a demon.

“Little sister, you’re wrong about one thing. This is real. Even if I’m not.”

Zara stepped back, tripping in a pothole and plummeting, black hair flying. Panic mounted in her heart. Nausea barraged her stomach in hot waves like her gut saying a huge “I told you so!”, bile searing her throat.

“Who are you?” She gasped. “Where is my sister? Why are you doing this?” The bleeding girl cocked her head, an uncanny portrait of Inara painted with blazing gold eyes. 

“Lots of questions, little goddess girl, all with easy answers. My name is Artemis, huntress and eternal maiden. Your sister is dead.” Before Zara had time to gasp, Artemis laughed, flakes of the facade falling and taking to the breeze. “And why am I doing this? Well, two reasons. One: I wanted to crush your heart. Like mine has been for thousands of years. You’ll find eventually that you prefer it that way… it hurts more at first but you will never feel another pain. For who can break what is already shattered?” 

Those last words hung on her lips as though they were meant to be a rhetorical question, but she had discovered an answer. Eyes flitting to the sky, Artemis tensed, suddenly on high-alert. It reminded Zara exactly of the feral look on a wolf’s face when they catch a whiff of a rival pack. Artemis had undoubtedly heard some kind of signal, one that answered her own question. Whatever it was, it was from something or someone that could break her heart for good. With a decisive motion, she slammed her shoe down onto Zara’s shin. A sickening crack sounded.

“Second reason? To lead you away from your friends. The plan is simple, really. Break all of you pathetic goddesses down one-by-one, luring each one away until all that is left is my target. Selene, my best friend.” A cat-like grin spread over her face, one that didn’t linger. 

“There’s nothing you can do to find them. I led you miles away, and you followed as willingly as a gullible puppy dog. Goodbye, Zara. It’s a shame I won’t get to see you die.” 

Artemis disappeared, taking with her the only trace of Zara’s long-lost sister. Crumpled on the ground, her shin wasn’t the only thing shattered. For her sister was dead… and Zara would never visit her grave. Just as she summoned the strength to cry out, a bus hurtled through the intersection. The wheels screeched like a banshee, in perfect harmony with her screams. The world. Went. Dark. 

Writer's Wednesday!

Writer’s Wednesday! 🌎⚡Earth 1- Storm’s Quest

Image from ColourBox

*This is a continuation of the Elemental Series! You can find the rest in the archives. Comment below who your favorite Elemental is and why and I will give you a shout out in the next edition!

Blood stained her black swimsuit, gushing steadily from the torn flesh of her gut. Her incredibly wavy hair was soaked with sticky crimson that took over everything in an unforgiving tide, strong as the sea that lurched beneath the deck and twice as merciless. Seeping into the gnarled wood, the ropes that bound her wrists, the other girls’ clothes. Life flickered weakly, in and out; a grim reaper hovering just out of reach, ready to pounce. Salty ocean spray nipped at her pallid cheeks, the bronze fading into white like a waning moon.

Daria’s dreams were plagued with visions that danced across her mind like a rambunctious squirrel leaping into the road to interrupt the endless black of unconsciousness.

 A girl with ebony skin and the greenest of eyes, eyes that held a million memories overflowing with life. A green as deep as glinting emeralds far below the surface, as glittering as dewy wildflowers under the morning sun. A sheen of black hair dark as craggy mountains silhouetted in the dusk. The fiery sun lit up her bottle green eyes so they glinted like shattered glass. 

What she was standing in was the exact opposite of the life and warmth she exuded. Dead. A dirty, desolate landscape as far as the eye could see; the only sign of life were the sparse patches of dying yellow grass dotting the ground and the weak, spindly fingers of leafless trees clawing the sky. Everywhere you looked life was being quenched like a fire doused with water: cracked earth, remnants of animal bones scattered across the dirt, flurries of dust suffocating the dry air. 

The girl raised her hands in a beckoning motion. The earth shook, thrumming with power as grass emerged in waves, green spreading over the dirt like the sun leaching darkness from the sky at dawn. Trees sprouted up, growing and aging in seconds, the skinny shoots expanding into gnarled trunks under a single, delicate touch of her fingers. 

A horde of dark figures rushed across the rapidly growing field like the tide creeping up the shore in front of her house, leaping flames punctuating the ends of their torches like a crackling exclamation point. A blonde girl with eyes like raindrops thundered ahead, pushing through the mob and screaming at them to stop. Clouds coalesced, darkening the sky like a gray stain. Boom! Crack! With one sweep of her dainty hand, lightning split the sky, sending the green world spinning into blinding white.

Daria awoke with a gasp, sucking in air like a fish out of water. She tenatatively pressed a hand to her aching stomach, lips light with a prayer that this had all been a dream. The boat. The pain. The woozy, chemical smell of chloroform intermingling with the metallic stench of blood. Her hand came back sticky with red. Daria’s breath hitched in her chest, panic rising as she jerked her wrists wildly, watching the blood-stained rope darken as her skin chafed away to blood. 

“Hello. You must be Sea,” someone said airily with a sing-song tone like a flute’s song. She whirled at the voice, cautiously eyeing the pale black-haired girl that sat straight backed with her hands bound.

“I don’t- how did you know about my powers? Who are-” Daria paused, wincing and touching another careful hand to the torn flesh,”you? Other than the night girl from my dreams.” The girl raised a precisely trimmed brow.

“I wasn’t aware that I was in your dreams, Sea. All you need to know is that I am Selene, and that is Kenna,” Selene said, gesturing to a tan, dark haired girl thrashing against her bonds. She stopped to wave to Daria before throwing herself back into a wild fit. 

“You are one of five goddesses that control the Elements. I am Starlight, crazy over there is Embers- fire, if you prefer- and you are Sea. Now… what did you see in your dream?” Utter confusion and a wave of exhaustion rolled over Daria as blood seeped between her fingers, the flow slowing slightly under the pressure. At this point, there was no point in questioning it. She tried to recall the lapping of water on her toes. 

“A girl growing things,” she inhaled shakily, pinpricks of pain spiking all along her bronzed skin, “A mob. It looked like trouble- a big mob calling her a witch. She was a witch. But then a blonde girl made a storm and then everything was over in a flash of light.” 

As soon as the sentence was over, she sighed. Heavy lidded eyes fluttered shut just in time to see Selene smile. As she dozed off Daria heard Selene’s beautiful voice in fluent Italian,

“Storm did it. We have hope after all.”

**********************************

Dust rampaged through the dry desert air, caking peach sand over my pale skin. Hot wind carried the cries of the townspeople, venomous words floating on the breeze like a hungry vulture gliding on the currents. They were words I could understand in any language, words I’d heard countless times over the last few days. Witch. Unnatural. Threat.

I tore through the small, decrepit village, the dirty huts and collapsing buildings flying by in an indistinct haze. The journey from the beautiful, colorful coast of Italy to the dry expanses of the African savannah hadn’t been easy. 

Days upon days hitchhiking and trekking across the desolate land from dawn to dusk. Matting my hair into dirty strands, clogging every pore with dust that floated thick on the air like smog in the London streets, sand clinging to my clothes. Exhaustion was setting in with each time I used my powers, sprinkling myself with cool rain and beckoning the northern breeze to combat the brutal heat. Hiking over miles of cracked land with no guide but my instinct and a niggle in my gut urging me on.

Image from English Stack Exchange

Through the sweltering streets, I could see the blazing torches of the mob swinging wildly like drunken fireflies. Cutting through a shadowy alley, I rammed into the crowd, shoving forward. Malnourished children clawed at me, some shouting at me in a language I didn’t recognize, others screaming in choppy English. Bodies pressed in on all sides. Hot. Sweat-slicked. Tense with anger and fear. Clamoring through the masses, dodging swinging torches and children hurling spears. Trampling feet. Pounding heart. Trembling hands. Angry people wide-eyed with fury. Writhing masses. Guttural screams that split the air like an arrow piercing an apple.

Over the dark tide of people I caught a glimpse of the goal. All I could do was stare with wonder at the sight before me. 

Trees were rising out of nowhere, the cracked earth crumbling into dark soil that sprouted grass. Waves of green crashed over the dusty landscape, life springing up in seconds. Wildflowers rose up, dotting the carpet of lush grass like fireworks bursting in a dark sky. In the middle of it all, trembling with the effort, was a dark girl with long black hair cascading down her back. Earth. 

I pushed forward, tearing through the hordes of people. The girl cried out, her thin frame convulsing under the ratty dress. Breaking free of the pulsating crowd, I kneeled beside her. She looked up at me, starry green eyes glimmering with terror before glancing helplessly at the oncoming tide of citizens.
“Can you speak English?” I asked. She nodded meekly, tears streaking down her dirt-stained cheeks. Even as she convulsed with the fatigue, I could feel the earth below me thrum with power, renewed life coursing through its veins. 

“My family- my people,” she gestured towards the mob, thin hands shaking with the effort. “I just tried to help undo the damage of the years. They call me a witch. Please help. Please. I can’t do this much longer.”

“Stop using your powers. It’s okay, I can help. I’m a witch too,” I said, clasping her hand in mine. The earth rattled and she rose, the tide of people edging closer and closer. I had to save her. I had to let it rain. Raising a hand to the sky, I clenched my fist, pulling it down with all my force. Thunder boomed, the roar of a vengeful beast crackling in the heavens. Clouds swirled overhead, the endless periwinkle sky splashed with ominous gray. Rain began to drizzle, pouring down faster and faster. Drops splattered the new leaves, the small canopy sheltering us from the worst of it. Flames were quenched, plunging the world into darkness. 

“What’s your name?” I shouted over the din, thunder rumbling like a bowling ball striking the wood. People shrieked, raging on as their torches died out one by one, rain pounding the newly grown grass.
“Zara!” She shouted between cracks of thunder.

“My name is Talia. I’m going to make a distraction, and then you have to run as fast as you can in the direction of the nearest port,” I yelled, gusts of wind howling like a banshee. Pelting rain came down in torrents, stinging my skin. The heat still clung to the now humid air, each lurching breath pulling in the suffocating air. Zara parted her lips as though to ask a question, staring at me in wonder as though I was the strangest girl she’d ever seen. I probably was, actually- it’s not everyday that you see a pale Londoner in the middle of Africa starting a storm with nothing but willpower. 

With a deep, rattling breath, I squeezed her hand. Bites of rain nipped at my skin, cool and stinging like a blizzard’s icy kiss. The mob of people crashed over us, tearing at my clothes and ripping at Zara. I held on, squeezing my eyes shut as hands raked my skin. Vicious. Merciless. Just like the storm.

Summoning all my power, I raised my hand towards the sky again, forcing my mind to go blank. The cacophony of thunder and pounding rain, of screaming children and guttural yells, the warmth of Zara’s calloused hand in mine, the pain itching in my veins- all of it melting away. With everything I had, I brought down my fist. Lightning cleaved the sky, striking the earth with a bang! The world was lost in blinding white. Screams erupted. Feet scrambled. Smoke tinged the humid air.

 Everything was lost as Zara pulled me away, my feet stumbling across the terrain. We separated from the panicked horde of people, sprinting through the lush grass as rain pelted the world furiously.

Through the chaos, I could imagine Selene smiling at me, Kenna joking with a playful grin, Daria filled with hope (though I had never seen her face.) Thunder roared, the storm raging on as the power drained from my body little by little. Stumbling through the torrents, trembling with adrenaline, all I could think was, you did it, Storm. You saved her from her death. Saved Earth. There is still hope yet.