Card Challenge: Day 78
Card Day 78: Falling water droplet holding a sun, windswept trees, a snake, a man, water, a butterfly, a fetus, and stones.
Vivia traced the path of water down the windowpane with her finger, watching as the droplets splashed and tumbled down the clear class toward uncertain end. There was a prickle of giddiness in the exercise as she tried to imagine what the route might be, but she was ultimately as surprised as the water droplet was. Or she presumed it was. That raised another interesting question. Did the droplet realize where it was and decide where to go? Did it select each fork in the road or did gravity and friction decide for it? Her eyes searched along the droplets for any hint, but they were stalwart and silent. Just as well, she sighed. It would have robbed some of the magic of it.
The wondering was good, and Vivia felt her brain stretch with the exercise. It was a nice way to shuffle back some of the loneliness, even if the reprieve was remarkably brief. The feeling of companionship with the inanimate rain droplets dwindled, but she found her eyes drawn back again and again to their trails. Some part of her was still concerned with the end of their journey. Perhaps that part should be equally as concerned about her end.
That thought served to redouble the emptiness of her room. It was a stone room, decorated with restrained finery. The bed was plush and soft, though it was nothing more than a plain white lump against the wall. Fresh food arrived three times a day with the same restrained delicacy—fine ingredients combined in mundane combinations. The large window generally let in copious light, though today it bristled with storm clouds. That again was fitting, she decided. Perhaps it was even an intentional reflection of someone’s sorrow for her predicament. She liked to believe that someone out there was on her side.
With a sigh, she collapsed into the wooden chair in the corner, gazing out over the empty and sparse room. It was all the luxury she was accustomed to, simply separated from its usual elegance. It felt silly that they took such care to provide for her comfort when they were, in fact, about to completely destroy her life as she knew it. Yet she had her feather pillow at night.
Feathers were no better at soaking up her tears than a straw mat would have been.
There was a gentle knock on her door—they still pretended she had enough power that one should knock before entering. She wondered if she simply did not speak if the courier would leave the door. She could ride out the rest of her life in this bland cocoon, gazing out at the majestic landscape now covered in fog. These thoughts still danced in her head as the door creaked open.
“Milady Vivia?” squeaked the voice, obviously terribly uncomfortable at the intrusion.
She rose from the chair with a whisper of silk. “I assume they are ready to pronounce their judgment.”
“Yes,” came the response with a sigh of relief, even though it was not a question. She walked towards the door and her ill-burdened messenger opened it wider to admit the guards. They raised silver links in their meaty hands with an apologetic tone.
“We have to obey our orders, Milady.” The ogres did their best not to manhandle her more than necessary as they directed her down the corridors, but she still arrived in the main chamber feeling harried.
“Vivia,” grumbled the silver-haired man from atop his high seat. There was a strange mix of anger, sorrow, and disappointment in his eyes. She deflected that with staunch pride and aloofness, never quite meeting his eyes. He was beneath her and in the wrong. She knew it and he likely had a pretty good idea of it as well.
“You know why you are here?” His voice was the echoing of a storm on the horizon. Once, she had loved the gravelly rumble, but now it left her feeling bitter. That thunder no longer brought the gentle summer rains, but unleashed a torrent that would soon wash her away.
“Because justice,” she spat the word, her eyes roving over the assembled figures with disdain, “must be served.” Her mimicry did not go unnoticed.
“Vivia, we do not want to do this,” said a woman with a shimmering voice. Vivia turned to fix her with a withering stare, but felt an internal prickle as the other woman wilted. Her generally sunny, bright face dimmed to match the cloudy skies outside. At least someone seemed to care.
“Oh, plenty of you want to. Otherwise I would not stand before you in judgment today.”
“You stand here because you killed one of your own!” roared a small man from the other side of the room. He had a stiff and wooden appearance, his skin gnarled like the old oaks that grew by the river. Vivia’s iciness never wavered, and she covered his rage in a heavy frost.
“That is true. I killed him before he could wipe away humanity as we know it.”
“That was not your decision to make,” thundered the leader again. This time he stood, drawing all eyes to him with deference. All except Vivia’s whose instead slowly wandered across the assembled until they found his. She smiled.
“Maybe not, but at least I made one.”
A whisper scuttled along the rest of the waiting faces, dying out just as it reached its swell. Her impudence did not pass without note.
“As have we.” He was the only one who could meet her eyes.
“An eye for an eye, right?”
There was a ripple of anger and sorrow in his eyes. “No, bloodshed must not lead to more bloodshed. There is no justice in such a world.”
For the first time since she entered the room, Vivia faltered. She had marched proudly to her death, and this was unexpected. Nonetheless, she kept her wits about her enough to seal her lips.
“You will be exiled.”
The only measureable change in Vivia’s appearance was the way the blood faded from her cheeks, leaving her a statue carved from marble. Her eyes wavered and blinked, but maintained their intensity.
“Then do it,” she said tersely, her jaw clenched so tight the words barely escaped.
The small, withered man stepped down from his seat and walked before her. He raised a knotted finger and tapped her forehead three times while muttering. With sudden speed, his gnarled nails dug into her arms, drawing a pinprick of blood. And then there was darkness.
Vivia woke up and felt the frailty of humanity in her bones. Her body ached, as did her head. A strange pain arced from the front to the back of her skull and back again, leaving stars in her vision. The name Hannah echoed in her mind, and she turned it over gingerly, probing at it as if it would reveal some great secret. All she got was a series of memories and associations spinning around her own lofty knowledge. Apparently, Hannah was her new—albeit unwilling—host. Hannah.
Vivia certainly preferred her name, but she could spend some time as Hannah if that was what it took. The ground beneath her was hard and cold. Vivia liked the cold, but did not like the way the stones dug into her shoulder blades. Filled with energy and powered by her anger, she vaulted to her feet. Others pushed past and around her, caught up in the bustle of a market and never noticing the woman who had collapsed and revived in the middle of the streets. Just as they wanted, she was sure.
Vivia turned to face the sun, seeing the white hot sphere hanging in the sky. She stared it down as her human eyes watered and withered. Human eyes prevented her from seeing them sitting up there, but she was sure they could see her. She wanted them to see her. The heat and light of the sun burned at her eyes, and she only turned away when it came time to blink away the tears. But a determined smile peeked from the corners of her lips and she surveyed her new people.
She might not be a god any longer, but she would be worshipped.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.