Arius makes no move to release my hand, so I don’t pull away either. I’m cold, the words now etched into my skin an impenetrable sheet of ice. I hug myself with my free arm, try to fight the chill, but it’s no use.
We continue to walk, and though Arius continues to hold my hand, it’s like I’m not even there. His gaze never strays from the path ahead of us and he makes no attempt at conversation or an easier pace. Whatever these markings are, it’s obvious that their presence makes him nervous, or angry – it’s difficult to tell which.
He pulls me along and I struggle to keep up. My body still hasn’t fully recovered, and exhaustion settles like a blanket on my shoulders.
“Can we take a minute? Please?”
“No.” He doesn’t even pause, continuing up the hill, practically dragging me behind him. My resistance doesn’t seem to bother him.
The other side of the hill reveals a lake. It’s nothing particularly impressive – quite ordinary, actually. But something about it emanates immense power. It resonates through me, my skin pulsing with it. It makes the etchings itch. An aged pier links the land with a small island that sits some yards out into the water. From here, I can only just make out the structure of a house through some sparse trees.
“Is that where it is?”
“Yes.” He tugs at my arm – like I’m some kind of dog on a leash – and begins the trek down.
Maybe it’s my exhaustion, the cold, or just his general aloofness, but I finally tear my hand away.
That makes him stop.
“What are you doing?”
“Our destination is right there, it’s not going anywhere. So can I please take a break?” Without waiting for an answer, I sit on the ground. My chest hurts.
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation.”
“If I don’t, it’s because you’ve done a shitty job of explaining it.” I spit the words at Death, a part of me forgetting who he is. Instead of looking at him for a reaction, I fall back. The ground, surprisingly, is warm. It feels nice.
For a second I think he’s continued without me. But then he speaks, voice low.
“This place is a prison, meant to contain a very powerful being. Those etchings on you are a portion of her power. When she was trapped here, she was ripped to pieces, scattered throughout, never to be reconstructed.”
“What?” I sit up. His arms crossed, he gazes down at the lake.
“If you leave here with those etchings, you’ll give her a way out of her prison. And I can’t remove them until I have the book.”
“Who is she?”
“My older sister. Mara.” His hands move to his pockets, and he shifts his weight. Restless. Fidgeting.
“I didn’t realize Death had a sister.” I follow his eyes down to the house. It looks abandoned, and I wonder if another piece of her is inside. At the thought, I feel a tug, like the house is calling to me. “What did she do?”
“Mara was angel of death before me. She grew wrathful. And she held no love for mortals.”
“And you do?” I can’t help but scoff.
“She wanted to end humanity.” His statement is matter-of-fact, emotionless. “Whether I love humanity or not is not the point – I know the value of life. She didn’t.”
“Is she the one who stole your book?”
“No, but she’s the one who put whoever did up to it.”
“You said she’s trapped.”
“I also said she’s a very powerful being.” He finally looks away from the lake and back at me, offering his hand. “Done resting yet?”
I want to ask more questions, but I don’t think he’ll answer them. Instead, I stand and take his hand. Without another word, we continue toward the house.
Its power hums in my mind.
This one has a longer word limit, so we got a little more today. Be sure to check out the rest of the responses at the prompt.
Friendly Reminder: My writing prompt challenge got a reboot! Now #SwiftFicFriday, the prompts go live on Friday nights. Check out the rules here.
As always, think happy thoughts!