Mist. It smothers the screams, the wailings of dying men. It blankets their still bodies to their eternal sleep, in mattresses of liquid earth. Mist. It isolates this patch of land from the rest of the world, this quieting battleground. A graveyard for no less than an hour. Banners of ancient families flutter in reluctant obligation, in tatters. Standing tall from as spears resting in the breasts of lying men. Swords lie in shatters, cheap iron wrought for the cheap labour, masses for the attrition of war. The leaders, adding another layer to their shield, rather than sharpening their arrows or whetting their blades.
Two of her brothers lie somewhere on this moor, smeared in amongst the bloody stain. No matter, she knew their names but not their hearts, and besides she has five other siblings at home to care for. The boys killed themselves, fighting for words they heard in public houses; not for the honour. As they would have you believe. Slap a badge on an arm and baptised themselves heroes. Fools more like.
She is not here for them.
She is here to collect the tokens of the dead men, lying in the mud. Foolish enough to spend their lives, she will thrift their sacrifices: their bitter tasting coins, their wives’ silk handkerchiefs, their broken promises. Anything of worth adorned on their worthless selves. Into the willow weaved basket it drops.
Penny for your absence of thoughts, a shadow of a smile flickers on her chapped lips as she plucks a coin from his fist. Closed, white and clammy, a bulking blossom never to bloom. Like a morbid gardener, she prunes weeds and collects seeds to sew another day. Not to sprout botanical beauty but the root of all evil itself.
Onto the next body, skipping over sprawling limbs, in the rain soaked earth. Her shoes become heavier with every step, collecting mud on the soles. Some stray fingers stroke the hem of her ragged skirts, crying the name of another, another far away from this damned field.
“Please… take this to my son… in the Coldern territories,” one man sobs, lying on his back holding up a brass pocket watch. Hanging on a slender chain, the circular face manages to catch a slither of veiled sunlight. The girl takes the brittle heirloom with a swipe, into her basket it drops with a semi-precious clink. She does not reply nor echoes a hollow promise to the man. Just onward through the field of mist; the lone figure through the grey sea of premature cadavers.
She is cold, all of a sudden. Ripping one of those flags from its post, she cloaks herself with the scarlet fabric, the selvedge fondles her ankles. The wings of a golden phoenix sprout from her shoulder blades as she trudges on through the mist.
The bodies stop.
She has walked ever such a long way from home, where is she? All around her is the grey. The battlefield has faded away without her noticing. She turns around but still there is grey, grey, colours are a lost memory. Except her renovated red hood, blood and fire of the embroidered phoenix.
Where has the world got to, she thinks to herself. It was here a minute ago. She scrambles through her basket, through all the clinking trinkets to find the brass pocket watch. To her mild surprise, the face and blank, as clueless to the time as she is. She could cannot see her own hands through the impenetrable mist, how could she see the clock’s?
A curious calm settles over the blank plane as the ticking of the watch ceases and the dying men stumble into their metaphorical graves. So blank, so quiet, as if it were a page with a pen preparing to press into the paper…
She can hear singing. A rapturous tune resounds through the mist. Lyrical baritone quivers up her spine, it fills every follicle and filament of her fragile being. Capturing the young girl’s heart with its lyrical tethers, yanking her towards the sound. She drops the watch. Stumbling forwards, she does not notice the absence of the dead men, who have melted into mist. All there is the swirling grey about her, like a second cloak. And the music.
Oh! The heavenly melody, scolding rain of notes sear her skin, this beautiful pain. Trapped between a heaven of music and lyrics of hellfire, yet the fire warms her ever white, cold skin. Winter has been her one companion through this torrent of life, summer rings in his voice, summer’s bright intensity hurts her virginal soul. She has never known summer.
There he is. It must be him – he must be summer. A siren of the forest. His hair stands in blond tangles, the stripes and shades of sand. His eyes have been painted by the sky, immaculate blue with a hint of cloud in the corner. Red lips, a white scar traces the shadow of his Cupid’s bow. Skin leathered from the sun, hands calloused from the violin dancing in his arms, his elbow spinning in the misty air. Everything about the boy is summer; late spring in his step and early autumn in his looks.
He sees her.
Blood stops, eyes lock and the music ceases to play.
Image sourced from Giphy.com