Hindra stared blankly down at the pool, the black water betrayed its depths. Her mind was adrift, as if lost in that bottomless well. So lost, she didn’t even see it. Her thoughts swam about, not in water, but worry, fear, and sorrow. She was drowning in them, completely. What her mind thought, her body made real, and now breath came hard. She didn’t want to breath, she didn’t want to see, she didn’t want to think. All she wanted was her son.

He was not in his bed this morning and there was no trace of him in the village. Her son, her life, her only child, a child gifted to her by the gods before they saw fit to call forth his father. Her son, the boy so close to the rites, on the edge of adulthood in their small village. He was their future, her future, and now he was lost, as so many feared their future was.

Hindra, perhaps because she was one of the few the gods graced with child, never accepted how near the end was. She never believed the doom and terror the warlocks preached. Looking into the eyes of her babe, she always saw hope for the future, she always saw a sunrise in the darkness.

Now, staring into the twilight pool, darkness was all she saw. No future, no hope, just the darkness of the deep, swallowing up all that was good and pure in the world. Her son, she thought, her precious boy. So full of life, so ignorant to the darkness that surrounded them. Nothing escaped the darkness, Hindra knew, and now her boy was taken by it.  

A tear rolled down her cheek and fell to meet the water before her. As it did, the stillness broke and ripples went forth, informing the whole of the surface of the mournful sacrifice. She took no notice, not even as the village began to stir to the sounds of warning. High pitched whistles from the sentries on watch sounded through out. Her gaze was fixed, lost in terrible darkness.

Murmurs broke the silence as the intruder came forth, followed by gasps of shock and muttered prayers. Some spoke curses, but none dared speak loud enough for the intruder to hear. She walked through the press, leading a beast twice her height. Draped over its back was a body wrapped in cloth. Its size was hard to gauge, but few doubted it was the missing boy.

The crowd began to gather around her and soon her way was blocked. The voices grew louder as speculation turned to anger, but Hindra did not look up. None dared yet to challenge the intruder, they only stared upon her black cloths and covered face. More were taken by the beast that followed her. None had ever seen a dar’rak before, their eyes grew wide in fascination and fear. When the dar’rak chirped, many flinched back. The intruder said nothing at all, only watched and waited.

Finally, after an eternity, one of the villagers went to Hindra and took hold of her. She did not respond to the hand on her shoulder, nor the gentile shake. It took a wrenching jerk to break sorrows spell. When their eyes met, she understood and rose, allowing herself to be guided through the crowd.

By now the whole village had gathered around the intruder and their beast. Some had weapons, swords and axes, but most held garden tools or nothing at all. The numbers grew enough for some of the men to find their courage. Several spoke at once.

“What yar doin here?” One asked.

“Is that Jar’en?” Another asked.

“Did ya kill him?” Another demanded.

“We should kill it.” Came a fourth voice hidden safely in the back.

The intruder just watched and waited, her eyes scanning the crowd, sizing them up with little concern. Her silence only encouraged their fear, eating away at their minds and provoking them into foolishness.

A moment later a villager broke through the inner ring of spectators with Hindra now clutching his hand. Her eyes paid no mind to either the intruder or the beast, but focused on the body draped over its back. From the cloth, a few longer strands of red hair were visible and Hindra’s eyes fixed on it.

“My Jar’en,” she cried out and ran to him with no care of the risk.

The intruder just watched, as did the dar’rak. The villagers grew even more tense, some calling out warnings, many others bracing for bloodshed. None came.

The beast chirped at its master as she grew near, but made no moves. Hindra pushed up the cloth covering the boys head. She clasped the his face in her hands and brought her face to his. At her touch, he stirred. It was too much, she broke, tears streamed from her eyes as she began to kiss his face wildly.

“Mother?” He asked in a raspy voice rich with sleep.

“Oh my son,” she cried as she kissed him and pulled him down from the beast.

More muttering and whispering swept through the crowd. Hindra hugged her son as he tried to rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“What’s happened?” He asked. “I’d this awful dream, alone in the dark, and there was this beast, a monster just like the elders said, and then-” Jar’en trailed off as he became aware of the beast behind him and the mysterious stranger holding its reins.

“It’s okay, It’s all okay now,” was all Hindra could manage through her sobs.

She turned the boy’s wandering gaze from the sight behind him back to her.

“It’s okay,” she said again, holding his gaze on her.

Jar’en only stared with wide eyes, mouth hanging slack jawed. Speechless.

The intruder turned to leave, her purpose served, but at first the crowd did not part.

Hindra rose, her bloodshot eyes meeting the intruders cold silver stare.

“Thank you,” she said.

The intruder only nodded, and started to leave again. The men, trying to be courageous, held stubborn in their line. Then dar’rak let out a violent shriek, unlike the peaceful chirps of before. Their courage failed and they melted away, allowing her to pass.

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