by Rolin Joles
Anna is confronted with her past as the Emerald-eyed man reveals his identity. However...
|The next day, Anna awoke to a quiet home. The draft from her window shifted her body away from the milky clouds that shrouded the day. She stared off into the distance as the memories of yesterday began to flood back into her head. Most specific, her burning hand flashed before her eyes. Her off hand found its way to its sister, shielding it from further harm as Anna began to think of another time when it had happened.|
Anna walked downstairs and into the kitchen where her mother was sitting. Anna stepped forth to greet her, but her mother remained still, her eyes downward. She had a cup of tea in her hands, one long since lost its warmth over time, as Anna couldn’t see the steam of a fresh brew rising from the cup. Her mother seemed lost in her thoughts, unmoving except for her chest expanding from breathing.
“Mother…” Maria looked up and saw Anna, startled. She stared at her daughter for a moment before sighing in relief.
“Anna, dear, are you alright?” Anna walked over to the kitchen table and sat down next to her mother with a smile.
“I’m fine. Where’s father?” Anna asked.
“He went into town to sell goods. He’ll be back shortly.” Maria replied. Anna nodded and stood from the table. Maria watched as her daughter made her way towards the door, her hands scooping her travel bag. Maria quickly stood up and followed her. “Where are you going, Anna?”
“I have to ask father something. I’ll walk with him on the way back.” Anna reached for the front door knob, but her mother’s hand made there first. Anna jerked her hand back, shocked at the speed her mother raised the door.
“Anna, wait,” Maria started. Anna looked to her mother, “The man from last night; did he say anything to you?” Anna looked into her mother’s eyes and slowly shook her head. She thought about telling her mother the truth, about what the man had said about her and something about a ‘mission’, but decided against it. She could see the worry in her mother’s face, and the thought of troubling her more was vexing.
“No,” Anna shook her head, “Before he could say anything, I started screaming and swinging at him. Had he said something, I would’ve not heard it.” Maria held her chest and sighed in relief. Anna looked down and noticed the wooden dagger from her black sheath was missing. She then remembered dropping it outside after her hand caught aflame,
“I just want you to be careful,” Anna looked up and noticed her mother was speaking, “because there are many things in this world that you might not understand, but it’s crucial that you heed the warnings. It’s dangerous, Anna, it’s very dangerous, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Mother, I can take care of myself,” Anna laughed at her mother’s worry, “You’re taking this way too close to heart. The man did no harm to me, and father’s rifle probably scared him off into the forest, where God-knows-what has gotten to him. There is nothing to fear, mother, I promise.” Anna walked over and placed her hands on her mother’s shoulders, leaned over to kiss her forehead, and smiled. “I’ll go ahead and bring father home, and we’ll all have dinner together.” Maria nodded and placed her hand over Anna’s. With a smile and a laugh, Anna headed out the door, making her way towards the stump of the dead tree.
“My dagger,” Anna looked about the area where she fought off the dark-haired man. Her dagger was nowhere to be found. “He must’ve taken it…that lowlife.” Anna was furious, now. “If I ever see his face again…”
“To the town…” Anna turned to a nearby tree, “The weapon you seek is in the town. The boy fled with it.”
Anna gasped and began darting off toward town. “Thank you!” She called back to the tree as she gained speed. She could only imagine what a thief would do with a dagger. Her first guess: try to make some money off of it. She ran into town and looked toward every market and trader. His face was nowhere to be found. “Samuel,” Anna turned to the blacksmith’s shop, “Maybe there?” She dashed to the building and stopped when she noticed the “closed” sign on the doors. She began banging on the door, hoping that Samuel would be inside. “Samuel! Open up, I have to talk to you!” She banged several more times. “Samuel!” After a while, she gave up on Samuel and let out a heavy sigh. “He’s probably long gone with his money now…”
“Anna, what are you doing?” Anna’s father approached her in front of Samuel’s shop. “You’re over here making a scene. What happened?”
“The man from yesterday; he stole my dagger,” Anna showed her father the empty sheath, “I figured he’d try and sell it to Samuel as a trinket for some Crusade’s son or a practice weapon or something. But…” Anna sighed, and wiped tears of frustration from her eyes. Her father placed his arm around her and led her away from the stares of the townsfolk.
“Let’s get home. I’ve already done the errands for tonight.” Anna sighed and nodded, following her father towards their home. Anna looked at all of their faces; the faces of the townsfolk. They all had the same look: an angered expression masking a deep fear. It was as if she were being hauled away by the Crusade as her father pushed pass the arrogance of the town with her close by his side. Anna looked at all of them, even the children, and the same question remained in her mind: why were they all angry with or fearful of her? What did she do that caused her isolation to be so dense? Her mind drifted back to the days of her childhood; the day that Michael ran into the forest…A man bumped into her father while crossing in the crowd.
“Forgive me, sir, I meant no harm.” Anna positioned herself to catch her father in his stumble. Using her as balance, Anna’s father simply smiled and raised her hand.
“No harm done,” he assured the stranger. Anna’s head perked up as she sensed something familiar in the stranger’s voice. His black hair was covering most of his face, but she saw what she needed. His eyes were as green as the flames from her hands; that was the man from last night! She lashed out and grabbed his manteau, jerking him to her to get his attention.
“Anna, what are you doing!?” Anna’s father gripped her arm, trying to make her loosen her grip on the man who was confused, as well. “Release him this instant!”
“My dagger!” Anna screamed at the man, tugging harder at his manteau, “What have you done with it?!” The man quickly realized who she was and began struggling, “Where have hidden it, tell me!” The man gripped her wrist and pushed her away, causing her to fall into her father and onto the ground. The townsfolk all gasped as the man dashed through the crowd. Anna shuffled to her feet and helped her father up while looking around for the man.
“Anna, what is the meaning of-!?” Anna’s father struggled to his feet, having hurt his back falling. Anna spotted the man fleeing down the road leading back to her home. She looked back to her father, then towards the man, eager to give chase. Anna’s father reached for her hand, but she quickly pulled away, taking off without much explanation.
“It’s him! It’s the man from last night!” With that, Anna abandoned her father in town, leaving the bewilderment of all in her wake. The man was nimble, but not faster. Anna quick caught up to him, chasing him down the road toward her home, feeling herself getting closer with every hurried step. “Come back here and give me my dagger!” She panted, chasing him harder after he tried to lose her with a pulled back branch. She dived under the branch to dodge it, and then rolled to her feet, chasing him into the fields. She had almost been able to reach his manteau before she stopped abruptly, watching him disappear into the thick branches of the forest. Anna froze, her mother’s warning echoing inside her head. The man slowed down after turning back to see she had stopped. He gave a smirk as he back away, catching his breath.
“Yeah, that’s right!” He called out to her as he began to jog away, “Little girls aren’t allowed in the forest!” She clenched her fist in anger; he was right there! She could grab him, get her dagger, and get out before anything ever noticed her. Anna turned to look back at her home, hoping her mother didn’t hear the commotion. With a deep breath, Anna pushed aside her fear. Her mind made up. She was getting that dagger back.
As she stepped forward to enter the forest, her mind flashed back to her childhood once more. She thought of Michael when she found him that day in the forest, his knee bleeding. She knew no one would come to help him, or her. Michael looked up to Anna with pleading eyes that day; she could still remember the tears that poured from his once brave face. Anna thought about how the trees spoke to her for the first time…It was how she found him; how she was able to save his life.
“What, you giving up?” Anna was shocked out of her thoughts by a familiar voice echoing from the trees. Her anger gripped her once more as she associated the voice with the thief. “It must be painful to know something as silly and harmless as trees prevent you from getting your stuff back. Did the Church tell you not to walk in? Better yet, it was your parents, huh? Afraid the big, bad demons of the forest will devour you?” Anna pushed back the thick branches and tore through the leaves and twigs, following the voice. “And here I was thinking you’d put up more of a fight like you did last night. It’s fine, though. I’ll just be on my way-!” Anna leaped from the bushes as soon as she found the man. She tackled him to the ground and gripped his manteau tight, holding him down.
“Alright, damn you, where is it!?” Anna glared down at the man, whose green eyes widened at her strength. “Answer me! Where is my dagger!? Did you sell it to a trader? Did you destroy it!?”
“No, I-!” Anna drew her hand back and punched him in his face. “Ouch!” Anna got off of him and pulled him to his feet. She forced him against a tree and drew her fist to hit him again. “Wait!” The man threw his hand up to block her oncoming fist, “Can you give me a few minutes to explain, first?”
“You had all the time to explain while you were running away!” Anna snatched her hand back and drove her fist into his stomach and threw him onto the ground. The man quickly got to his feet, once again putting his hands out in front of him.
“Thy Goddess, why are you so strong?” He brushed the dirt from his manteau and sighed. “Look, if you’d just clam down for a second and let me tell you why-!” Anna ran towards him screaming, attempting to tackle him. The man soon lost patience and stepped to the side, dodging Anna. She caught herself before running into a tree. Before she could turn, Anna felt the man’s arms entangling hers, his hands placed firmly on the back of her head in a hold. She struggled with all her might before she was forced to her knees, held in place by the thief. Despite her failure, she continued to struggle against him, screaming loudly.
“Release me this instant!” Anna screamed, pushing and twisting and squirming, trying every movement to get away from him. The thief then threw her to the ground, and before she could get to her feet, Anna had the wind knocked out of her by a knee leaning heavily on her chest. The thief gripped both of her wrists and held her arms above her head, holding her down in place as he held a dagger close to her neck. Anna struggled weakly; she couldn’t breathe with him on top of her. She tried to move away from the dagger, but the crushing weight of his body on hers made it impossible to gather her strength. She tried rolling to push his knee off of her, but she couldn’t. She felt the cold metal of the blade pressed against her throat.
“Are you ready to listen, now?” The thief got off of her; she gasped for air, coughing. He offered his hand to help her up, but she slapped it away, still trying to catch her breath. The man sighed and reached into his manteau and pulled out Anna’s wooden dagger. He kneeled down and held it out to her, holding the dagger by the blade as if it were made of steel. Anna looked at her dagger, and then looked up at the man. She was relieved to see her dagger was safe and undamaged, still angry that the thief stole it in the first place, and confused that he was returning it to her now.
“Wh-What…?” Anna looked up at the man, reaching out to grab the handle of the dagger. The man smiled at her and placed his own dagger into a sheath hidden in his manteau.
“My name is Fabyl,” the man stood up and stepped back a bit as Anna began to get to her feet, “I’ve been watching you for a while.”
“Why did you steal my dagger just to return it to me?” Anna examined Fabyl, keeping her distance from him. A tall man, he was. His skin was dark, and his eyes shined emerald in the daylight. His physique was impressive; he was in better shape than most Crusades she’d seen. His hair was long, touching the small of his back, and his right ear had been pierced with an iron clasp which from it a small, dark jewel hung by a thin chain. He wore dark brown pants, and black boots made from quality leather. He wore a black leather vest with silver symbols across it that Anna had never seen before. He wore black arm braces, and a silver band on his left arm. From what Anna could gather on appearance alone, this man did not live in town.
“Well, I didn’t know how else I could bring you here.” Fabyl explained.
“What do you mean-?” Before Anna could finish her question, she came to the sudden realization of her surroundings. She was inside the forest. She suddenly froze, and her eyes shifted back and forth. Fear began to accumulate. This was the only place, the only rule her parents had ever enforced in her life, that she wasn’t allowed in. Yet there she stood, amongst the tall trees and wood with a strange man that had once stolen from her. She couldn’t think of a more uncomfortable situation. “I-I have to go.” Anna quickly made her way past the man and toward what she believed to be the direction of her home.
“Wait!” Fabyl ran up to her, “I’ve gotten you this far, and you haven’t given me time to-!” Anna turned to Fabyl, glaring at him. He froze, but continued to speak. “Your flame; it is green.” Anna recalled the night her hand caught aflame, and touched her hand instinctively. Anna looked down and shook her head.
“I don’t know what it was, and I don’t want to know.” Anna continued to walk away from Fabyl, but Fabyl followed her.
“I know what it is, and no one in that town of Christians could do what you did last night. In fact, no Christian in the world can. It’s a power like no other, and I-!”
“I said I don’t want to know what it is!” Anna yelled at Fabyl, walking faster away from him. She pushed pass the twigs and branches of bushes, retracing her steps. Suddenly a flash of light blinded her, and she jumped at the sound of a bang and crackling. She tripped over a log and landed on the ground, looking up to a large, emerald fire in front of her. She stared in amazement; it was frightening, yet somehow beautiful. She looked at her hands, but they had no fire. She didn’t do this.
“I can do it, too.” Anna turned to see Fabyl. His arms were burning with the same emerald fire, his green eyes shining brightly. Shocked, Anna scrambled to her feet and pressed against a tree, her heart racing at the sight of the flames. “My power, your power; their origin is the same. I’ve been looking for you for years. I didn’t believe I’d ever find you.” Fabyl began walking towards Anna, his arms stretched toward her. “Not after that day…”
“Stay back!” Anna pointed her dagger at Fabyl, and Fabyl stopped walking. He could see her hand trembling. “You just…stay right there! Don’t come any closer with that fire!” Fabyl looked at his arms and shook his head.
“It’s not what you’d think, I-!” Fabyl tried to explained, but Anna picked up a piece of wood and threw as hard as she could, nearly hitting him in his head.
“You did this!” Anna pointed her dagger at Fabyl again, “You did this, and you can undo it! Take away these flames and let me go, now!” Anna demanded. She glared as hard as she could at Fabyl, but his expression wasn’t a threatened one. He seemed disappointed to her, hurt even. After a while, the emerald flames died, and the path to Anna’s home was cleared. Anna watched Fabyl carefully as she slowly stepped away from him.
“I’ll wait for you every night at the trunk of the dying tree.” Anna stopped walking for a bit, lowering her dagger a bit. “When you’re ready to talk to me, that’s where I’ll be.” Anna stared at Fabyl for a long time, and he looked back. She then shook her head and turned away. She began running home; running away from the man of emerald fire. She hoped that when she returned home and open the door to her loving parents, she’d find her awakening in her bed, realizing she’d been asleep the entire time, and that this was all a dream; nothing but a crazy dream.