Rating:PG/PG-13 ish, maybe. (for references to sexuality and violence)
Spoilers: Yes, for the middle/later episodes.
Characters: Rose, random Ishbalan kid, reference to Scar
Notes: It's been a while since I've posted on this comm, and I thought I'd contribute a Christmassy thing I cooked up a day ago. Happy Holidays!
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
And the world was so distant and tall, shadowy and above for me, but in her simple white robes that smelled like my mother up close, eyes placid and dimmed and amethyst from too much too fast, she was Shimbala. I knew why everyone bowed to this girl, to the weeping newborn in her arms. Never had anyone seen someone so strong.
I had been there the night they brought her home to us, the Scarred Man cradling her, protecting her with his sinfully scrawled arm. Warding off others as they clamored to her. He had wrapped her in his hide-cloth cloak, but they were seen. Long streaks of rusty red tracing her waning skin. How gorgeous she might have been in that moment, with her color rich and like bitter chocolate, hair like nighttime and warm summer roses. But the blood was old and crusted with primitive beginnings of rot around her calves, dripping, and as people grabbed for her in the crowd, as the Scarred Man flung his hands to bid them away, I saw the cloak hitch higher around her legs, up her thighs, and the stains were there as well. So close to the beginnings of the women’s sacred space, and still, old blood and other things I could not decipher, would not decipher.
And the child in her arms, wailing.
And her face, untouched like the snow I had heard of only in stories.
Outrage and fury and deep, stabbing sadness; how could this have happened to such a poor thing? How? Why? Why would anyone destroy something so beautiful?
Yet now, with her full breasts, tummy flat and lined with pretty flower roots of stretch marks, her ripe thighs and stare of protection strong and perfect, she was all of our mothers.
So they took her away, had her cleaned, made her drink sweet things with orange-blossom honey and buttery chamomile to sooth her seared throat. We only saw her after surround by virgins, surrounded by soldiers. No one was ever going to let anyone hurt her again. No one would steal her. No one would leave her forgotten at the hands of people who made her scream and scream and scream.
And her beautiful baby, scented of bread and his matron’s starry cream; our symbol of light. Having her hold him, clouded violet in those eyes upon him, seemed natural and sublime in every aspect of the universe.
She received gifts, many, many gifts. Women gave her the last of their jewelry, treasures they hadn’t dared to sell before, not even for food. Men gave her the best of their crops, though still withered and sometimes even bitter with decay, they were the best. Children offered flowers, smooth stones, sticks cut and tied into dolls.
She raised her hand to the gold, shook her head to the harvest.
She braided flowers into her hair. She held the dolls in front of the baby’s orbs of curious, joyous ink and made the stick girl dance and dance for it. He laughed like cane sugar.
But I had nothing then. Mother lost to the coughing sickness, sister ill with it as well, her face burning with guilty fire. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said to me. Sorry to leave me alone. Brothers, father, gone to their stars in the heavens. I hoped that they were happy. I hoped for this, because I would go there too someday.
I was a drummer boy in our army. Leather stretched taut over the hollowed gourds, sown into place with twine and hide-string, wrapped in flossy sinew. Tap it slowly, I was taught. Smooth, smooth, crescendo, they called it, as it gets louder. I stand in the place my father stands above me in the sky, the place where my brothers stood as their hearts were broken by the rabid dog’s flying stones of martyrdom. My prior, through the neck. My eldest brother, through the eye.
I had nothing. No jewelry to be denied, no food to be scorned with. I had nothing and knew nothing and as everyone in the village walked past me to give their offerings, I cried in the dirt.
Ashamed and desperate and wanting so hard to be thankful, I took my drum by the woven handle. I stormed like the ocean in the rain through the crowd.
I had never been truly frightened before I stood in front of her. She was white, and tawny and ebony and reddened ivory. She smiled and nodded. Her guards looked on, like animals with empty eyes. She nodded.
So I breathed.
My eyes closed, and through the air and smoke of incense, I felt her features fall. Her smile slipped. Smooth, smooth, crescendo. The baby wriggled in her arms as my sound became hardened and rapid. But he did not cry.
I stopped, heart beating in time to my pace, drum warm with my fingers.
He did not cry.
The Holy Mother, however, did.
Huge, diamond tears leaking into rivers that slipped between her lips. She looked into her arms, into her lap, upon her baby. His little limbs shuddering, cheeks fat and high in the signal of his very first smile. Her voiceless mouth choked out a sound, and when it failed to make sense, she gripped her throat and made a face like laughter. Her baby wailed a chortle for her. I smiled as well.
The guards glared at me, seeing only that I had made the Holy Mother cry. I saw their steely stares, their concealed blades left conspicuous. I bowed my head and left the tent, bright with so many candles.
I walked to my tent, to be with my sister, perhaps for the last time. I never could tell. We practice tomorrow, the soldiers with their weapons and I with the rhythm to keep their minds sharp and bladed. I knew one day I would come home and my sister would be asleep so quiet and so still, and then she would be in the sky.
And I remembered the Holy Mother, so beautiful with her tears and voiceless smile.
Her baby, our light, tiny toes and fingers curling, grabbing for the heartbeats of my drum.
I looked up. I saw a star, to the east.
And I felt joyous.