Content Warning: Psychological and physical torture. Brutality.
Ralla sat tucked between the oversized roots of her favorite tree. She was smiling, happily listening to the calamity going on. She used to play here with her brother Akan. They were twins, born from the belly of mischievous Shaah, who happily accepted the seeds of thunderous Malfu. When Ralla broke from her mother’s womb, Malfu saw the thunder in her eyes and called her demon. He saw the reckless spirit of Shaah and the overwhelming power of himself manifested in one goddess. She was everything Akan wasn’t. He was soft and meek. He would be the redeemer. Shaah was amused by what caused Malfu’s fears. She laughed and deemed Ralla the bringer of conflicts. And so it was, these polar opposites, were locked in the bonds of blood. How fitting it is that Ralla sits there covered in his.
She closed her eyes, comfortably cradled in the soft moss, cooled by the canopy of Ferngully trees, and allowed the battle lust to drain from her veins. The screams emanating from afar were sweet lullabies to her ears. She knew it would only be a matter of moments before they would come for her. After all she had not hidden what she had done; she even left her mark seared into his flesh. Her smile broadened, reflecting on the way he writhed beneath her as she engraved his skin. Oh how he bellowed and shrieked, but he never begged her to stop. Not that she would have, but she had to respect him for not groveling. Truth told, she admired her brother for his quiet strength. It was his only asset.
The panic slowly gave way to the rumble of thunder as raindrops sang their condolences upon thickly woven leaves. Ralla gave only slight notice to the approaching footsteps. She casually lifted a blood stained hand, offering it to the spiked cuff. Chains are simply a formality, it is well tested that they cannot hold her. She rose to her feet and humored her uncle Avouterie. She knew he would take her to stand before her mother. There would be no negotiations, no time wasted on idle explanation. This will be swift and cruel, like her conquests upon the fields, and she would enjoy it no other way.
“I should have slain you on your birth bed as your father had asked of me.”
“I love you too, Uncle,” Ralla responded with a smirk, her teeth like sun bleached bone against her mask of blood.
Ralla had a vivid vision of what she was walking into, and she was not disappointed. Malfu stormed the room with gale winds as he paced. Shaah sitting quietly, tear soaked and weary. It was she who had found the pieces of Akan; mangled and strewn about as if ravaged by dire wolves. She had witnessed her daughter’s capacity for violence, but never thought it would extend to this. Ralla stood in front of her mother in a relaxed stance. Shaah stared into her daughter’s eyes, void of expression,
“Banished. Your father wanted your head.”
“At least he’s consistent,” Ralla quipped. Her words sliced through the roaring winds with deadly accuracy, landing harshly upon Malfu’s ears. Malfu turned, looking at his daughter for the first time, and hurled his full force upon her. Ralla accepted the energy he gifted her, absorbing each bolt into her body. She relished in the pain and channeled the current throughout her being. By the time Malfu had exhausted himself, she glowed with a crimson hue. He could have struck her down, and she was aware that the only thing keeping him from it was her mother’s grief. He would not make her witness the death of a second child. Ralla reigned in the surrounding energy as she knelt before her mother, “Whatever it is you wish, I accept”.
“Why did you do it?” Shaah’s voice quivered.
Ralla did not drop her gaze, “Why not?”
The room was suddenly ablaze, the ground beneath her rumbled, and then there was nothing.
She opens her eyes, ignoring the searing pain coursing through her, and takes a breath. The crisp air fills her lungs like sharp knives. Her eyes and ears are keen and aware of the desolation that surrounds her. This isn’t right. “What the ever-most layer of hell is this? I am contained within this? What am I even?” Slowly she gathers herself together, awkward and fumbling upon her new found limbs. She catches sight of herself within a puddle, and snarls. “A human? Of all the beings I could have been condemned to, I am human!” Full of rage and vile bitterness, she forces her new form into compliance. “So they thought that a human form could diminish my power? Let us find out.” She raises a hand and light builds at her fingertips, burning her flesh. She draws back her focus. “So, I am to be deterred by pain at any attempt of magic? Not likely”. She raises her hand once more, fighting back against the biting agony. She forces the energy forward, slicing through the flesh to release a shattering blow. Again. Again and again, until blood drips forth from every digit. She took aim at the rocky terrain in the distance. It did not take long to shatter the large boulders with a single flick of the wrist. She laughed wickedly. “Condemn me to humanity mother? I think not, for it is they who are condemned. Vengeance will soon be mine.”
Dusk is falling as a young woman quietly steps foot upon the field. Long ago, great battles were fought here, but now all is peaceful. The ground is cold beneath her bare toes. The rustling of the tall grasses and leaves dance upon the whirling wind in harmony to her sing song whispers. She extends her thin fingers to touch imaginary warriors as she lightly dances past her visions. The air is still everywhere else except here. Here she twists and turns it to her fancy.
“One, two, three. One, two, three.
Sing a song of sixpence, rise up to me.
Leave behind your solemn graves,
leave behind your hellish toil.
Arise again to scour the earth,
dig out from the soil.
Walk again upon this land,
step by step, follow my hand,
rise unto the tallest peak,
mischief and havoc for to reek.”
The ground beneath her feet rumbles and cracks into a million pieces as her new found army assembles itself among the living world once again. She smiles with delight and calls to her minions, “Sally Ho!”
Sanya watches the corpse armies reenact their battle, allowing each to fall to rest in turn. It has been her routine to come here to hone her skill. She still hasn’t raised the full masses from their lodgings beneath the solid earth, but every night she adds a few more to the battle ranks. She was so engulfed in her observations that she did not notice the approaching men until a dart pierced her arm. Immediately, the poison began to take hold. Sanya fell to the ground, as inanimate as her playthings.
She awoke some hours later as dawn broke forth over the mountain peaks. She found herself bound in chains. She looked about, men in brightly colored red trousers, were setting to daily tasks. A shadow fell over her from behind, and she turned to see a tall man, grown like an oak tree, towering above her. His face was clean and his voice was steady.
“I will take those off if you promise not to run.” He leaned down and removed the cuffs from her hands. “My name is Thomas. I am captain here.”
“Where is here?” Sanya asked in a dry, raspy voice.
“High Peak,” Thomas responded, calling over a man carrying a wooden bucket. He took the ladle from the side, dipped it in, and offered her the water. Sanya drank eagerly.
“You are the rebellion then?” she asked as she drank her fill.
“Why did you take me?” she asked angrily.
“Your skill has been a myth around High Peak for a long time. Many people are looking for you. We simply found you first.” Thomas stood up and offered her his hand. Sanya refused it and rose to her feet.
“If you were going to kill me, I’d already be dead. What do you want from me?”
“I was hoping you’d join us,” Thomas said directly.
“And if I do not?”
“I’ll take you back to the valley. But I cannot guarantee the next people to find you will be so generous.”
“I do not know how to fight.”
“You don’t have to. Just do what you did last night.” Thomas’s tone was gentle, but his dark eyes were firm. It was easy for Sanya to see why the men followed him. She surveyed the scene and weighed her options heavily.
“Alright. I’ll join you.”
Ralla stood amid the brambles of what qualifies as a forest in this wretched place. She has mastered this feeble form, making it as strong as it could be. After all, she has had an eon to do it. Every muscle defined, every synapse charged and waiting. She has become comfortable in this skin, and has even come to enjoy the simple beautiful curves of her body, never forgetting the power behind them. Her strength emanates from her core; a strength that has only grown stronger. Every battle, every war, every drop of life essence spilled, has fueled her. Here, among humanity, there is no shortage of malleable, ego driven, fodder. Her waist hugging, not quite black hair was braided and tucked up so as not to protrude her vision nor create motion that would reveal her position. There was a keen glint in Ralla’s eye as she silently nodded in the direction of her approaching target. Her sight line followed their every move. Her lips slightly mouthed silent words. She knew her voice could have moved mountains, yet her calm, stable, presence was all she needed. Her thoughts were alight with the variable outcomes of every opportunity. She quells the turret of motion beneath her surface and focuses on her target; saying not a word, but watching as the battalion officers passed beneath her. They were not the true targets, simply collateral damage. If she was correct, and of course she was, there would be a much more valuable jewel than the heads of rebel captains. Ralla sat like a cat, ready to pounce. She batted an eye and watched the men fall from their horses, feeling their death in her bones. She stifled a chuckle as she viewed the panic that followed. The entire battalion, fifty or so men, whirled about the two fallen generals like dogs chasing their tails. She hadn’t yet grown bored before she found her real target. One soldier waded through the mayhem, ushering in a calm. Ralla watched the every move of the approaching soldier. She watched feet that seemed to glide over the hard packed trail. She saw the slightest movements of gloved fingers pulling the limbs of the fallen men into action like a puppeteer would bring hunks of wood to life. She watched the corpses rise from where she dropped them, stand, and mount their steeds. The soldier seemed to set things right again and order began to return to the battalion. It was in this moment that Ralla chose to strike. Quickly she disappeared from her post and reappeared beside the soldier, encompassing them both in a power ring. With a wave of her finger, Ralla sent out a striking force that reaped all those around them. Her eyes turned a violet color as their combined energy fused with her own. When the trail dust settled, Ralla focused on the one remaining soldier
“Do it.” Ralla commanded, and the soldier silently, unwillfully, complied. In no more time than it took Ralla to breath, the entire battalion was standing at attention.
“Remove your helmet and tell me your name.” This time Ralla did not speak. She infiltrated the soldier’s conscious mind. She was met with unanticipated resistance, but easily shattered the human’s defenses.
Satisfied with herself, Ralla bestowed her full power and took over Sanya. “I am your master now,” Ralla laughed at Sanya’s feeble attempts to resist, knowing full well that the puppeteer had now become her marionette.
Part 2 continues in our Autumn 2021 edition.