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In the far-away land of Arbainia, where the animals could talk like humans and the birds could perpetually be seen flying in the clear, remote firmament, their wings glimmering like kaleidoscopes, something inexplicably bizarre was happening. An obscure murkiness had recently engulfed the island with its freezing touch and foggy winds, the reason for it beyond all comprehension. The king, frail-hearted as he was, had apparently been killed while investigating the elusive mist, or the Jwelalur, as the locals began to call it. He had been enveloped by it along with seven of his soldiers and was missing, presumed dead.

What no one knew was that the queen had their slaughter planned.

She had killed eight of them, finding it too risky to let the soldiers live after the assassination. She assuaged her conscience, thinking that she would do what he had failed to: find a solution. Meanwhile, trade had been disrupted and the royal treasury had incurred various loses, no one being willing to venture out into the darkness.

The queen consulted the witch, Thorilat, not heeding the advice of the elders, who had foreseen that consulting witches would only lead to destruction. The witch cackled upon hearing of the king’s untimely death, then intoned, “The Arbainian spirits have been invoked incessantly by the nymph of the island, Ma-Laia, the sacred one. Their consecrated wrath has just cause: the Arbainian adultery. You must extinguish the divine fire of their rage with the waters of sacrifice!”

But the queen could not very well hang the few human subjects she had onto the altar. But what about the thousands of animals you have hanging around? A traitorous voice whispered. It was the native spirit of Temptation, out to get the queen when she was weakest.

So, the queen went to the meeting of the animals of the island, where the nominal head of the creatures, the wise owl Lat-y-Anna presided.

“I request two volunteers, one male and the other female, from each family,” she commanded imperiously. Each animal belonged to a family, where there was unconditional love and support.

“For what purpose, Your Majesty?” the sagacious Lat-y-Anna inquired politely, for old and experienced as she was, she sensed a malicious undertone in the queen’s voice.

“The finest animals will be chosen, then sent into the Jwelalur. Humans are too incompetent to grasp the glory of it,” she lied,” so we must request you to do it.” The animals were quite beside themselves in their pride and volunteered exuberantly.

What no one knew was that the queen had their slaughter planned.

The next day was the last day of the Arbainian year. Astrologers prognosticated that the stars were foreseeing something terrible in their mystical ways, but no one heard them, too busy expecting the queen to solve their problems.

The ‘chosen’ animals, in the dark shroud of night, were taken to the humongous relinquished caves of the island, where superstition stopped curious passersby from entering. They were mercilessly slaughtered, and their cries went unheard, for no one, animal or human, had been allowed to set foot near the caverns, from where the ships for the investigatory quest had supposedly been setting out. That night signaled the beginning of a new year, and as dusk drew near, the animal carcasses were burnt in a fire by the witch to appease the spirits and to stop the island nymph’s ceaseless cries. The witch told the queen to celebrate with a feast, attended only by the humans. At the stroke of midnight, the Jwelalur disappeared, and the festivities commenced. In the morning, the queen soberly informed the animals that there had been a storm at sea that night, so all contact with the explorers had been severed. When Lat-y-Anna asked,” If the storm had been as momentous as that, surely, we would have felt it too?”, the queen replied,” The mysteries of the Jwelalur are beyond perception,” laughing a little nervously, as if her subterfuge gad been found out.

The kingdom flourished, and trade began yet again with the faraway kingdoms that no Arbainian had ever seen. However, whispers circulated among the foreign traders: “Did you see that? Those were beasts buying meat!” “A high price in the Elavenese market for these, agreed, brother?” However, all trade with foreign kingdoms was abolished, due to the sudden increase in their deaths, supposedly because of the diseases they brought with them.

What no one knew was that the queen had their slaughter planned.

As the Arbainians prepared to begin a new year, fishermen refused to budge from the coasts, saying that the mist was getting into their produce. An overexcited beaver confirmed it for them all in the town hall one day: “Yes, indeed, my friends! The Jwelalur has returned!”

However, the queen had something malevolent in store for everyone, for the witch had ordered more sacrifice to get the Jwelalur to disappear again.

 In the very same town hall, there was flummoxing, yet joyous news: the animal explorers had reestablished communication, having sent a letter saying that they had found an abandoned isle, which was overwrought with pests. Miraculously, the moment the pests had been killed, the Jwelalur had disappeared! However, the pests had returned, and they needed help to rid the isle of them. Many came forward: they were sacrificed brutally, and a statue was erected in the honor of all who had helped the island in its time of need. The queen slaughtered everyone who had helped her execute her plan, and celebrated the feast, forgetting in an inebriated state, the infinitesimal voice of her conscience.

Lat-y-Anna had sensed something wrong when the queen had asked the animals to volunteer for the second time. Why is it that she prefers humans everywhere, but asks us to endanger our lives? She had wondered and secretly shared her doubts with her confidant, whom no one knew; but she was close to finding the answer now. She had followed the queen to the witch’s lair, where the queen was receiving potions from the witch to help with her fitful sleep. Lat-y-Anna confronted the queen and told her everything she had seen, but not before she had revealed the truth to her confidant. No one knew who the confidante was, and no one knew what Lat-y-Anna was planning.

The queen pulled a maudlin face and pretended to cry bitterly. She sobbed,” I was only trying to save you foolish creatures, but of course you would find me at fault! You ought to know, erudite one, how hard it has been since the king disappeared!”

Lat-y-Anna wisely bit back a retort and listened patiently as the queen spun a web of conspiracies, politics and lies, and heard the queen say that the ancient scrolls decreed that animals were incapable of the human power of speech, and that the Arbainian animals were extraordinary. “I was merely trying to protect you from the vices of the foreign world, Lat-y-Anna!” As she said this, she took out a knife from her crown, stabbed Lat-y-Anna through the heart, and whispered softly,” But if you are not to believe me, you leave me no choice.”

The whole kingdom mourned the loss of the shrewd bird, who had seen the kingdom through its various trials and tribulations. No one contemplated the mere thought of her having been murdered, and all attributed her death to the complications of old age.

The Jwelalur reappeared when the Arbainian year was drawing to an end. This time, the confidant warned all the animals not to fall for the lure of the queen’s sentimental artifice and told them what his plan was. He was disguised, so no one knew who he really was, but they trusted anyone whom Lat-y-Anna had trusted.

What no one knew was that the confidant was the king himself.

When the Jwelalur appeared and no one had any solutions left, the queen was thinking of cancelling the feast and announcing that the island was haunted, but thought that it would sound too far-fetched, she left the palace to think in peace. However, she was met at the entrance by the animals, who killed her cruelly and savagely, then shed tears over her dead body for the friends that they had lost to the witch’s whimsical demands.

The witch was preparing a concoction that the queen had demanded, when there was a commotion at the entrance to her cavern. When she went to investigate, she was gagged and murdered, and she died a painful death.

The moment the two monstrous women died, the Jwelalur disappeared marvelously, and would never reappear. The feast had not been called off, and when the humans would appear for it, rejoicing the withdrawal of the Jwelalur, they would have their rightful king explain to them what had happened, and how he had been rescued from a hideous fate by his loyal soldiers, and the wisdom of Lat-y-Anna. Until the arrival of the humans, who would emerge precisely when the new year would begin, the king waited.

Ten…

Nine…

Eight…

Seven…

Six…

Five…

Four…

Three…

Two…

One.

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26 comments

Lara Macgregor
03:16 Jun 03, 2020

Great story. Maybe add some clarification, such as how the witch died, etc. You have a great way with words. The ending added some nice tension.

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Pragya Rathore
04:13 Jun 03, 2020

That means so much from you Lara :)....Thanks!!

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Lara Macgregor
01:31 Jun 04, 2020

You're welcome. :)

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Waverley Stark
12:38 Jun 02, 2020

I liked the movement of the plot throughout and the eerie mood of the story.

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Pragya Rathore
13:11 Jun 02, 2020

Thanks a lot! Please check out my most recent ones too :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
04:41 Jun 02, 2020

A little short, but other than that I really enjoyed it!

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Pragya Rathore
04:44 Jun 02, 2020

Thanks again :)

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Rhondalise Mitza
04:44 Jun 02, 2020

No worries!

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21:46 Jun 01, 2020

I love the plot, it was really creative. Some of the lines were rather repetitive, but they established continuity throughout the story. I really liked it.

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Pragya Rathore
03:17 Jun 02, 2020

Thanks a ton! I love your feedback!

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02:17 Jun 01, 2020

Interesting narrative style, like an old-timey fairytale, very matter of fact

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Pragya Rathore
02:35 Jun 01, 2020

Thanks, but you're being too kind..😊

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02:52 Jun 01, 2020

There's something to be said for these kinds of stories though! I love old fashioned fairytales. If there are more stories about Arbainia in the works, I'll gladly read them

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Pragya Rathore
03:09 Jun 01, 2020

Thanks a ton, Emilie! You must ask Lat-y-Anna😄

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03:23 Jun 01, 2020

You're welcome! I'm sure she knows ;)

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Pragya Rathore
17:26 Jun 01, 2020

Please check out my other stories too!

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Vineet Bhave
08:37 Jun 06, 2020

Great story... I loved it!!

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Pragya Rathore
09:00 Jun 06, 2020

Thanks Vineet :)

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Sam Kirk
01:46 Jun 05, 2020

You describe situations so well. Very evocative.

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Asianzu Victoria
06:27 Jun 04, 2020

You really seem to have wild imaginations, still unique. I totally loved it ❤️

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Pragya Rathore
06:32 Jun 04, 2020

Thanks a ton Asianzu :)

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Asianzu Victoria
06:41 Jun 04, 2020

Your welcome

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Agnes Ajadi
06:33 Jun 03, 2020

I really enjoyed it. And I love the way you made use of repetition. Great job though!

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Pragya Rathore
06:46 Jun 03, 2020

Thank you so much, Agnes!!

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