The morning breeze touches my face with the caressing stroke of a mother. My golden hair floats, lifted by the gale falling from the mountain Annaliese high above our camp. Above the highest peak, the wind sweeps down the rock faces until the mist shrouds it entirely. The great Annaliese shines above us all...
The mountain seems to shift with the wind, swaying this way and that as if it were not solid and unmoving. I always smell the sun on her stony depths, feel the pull down to the center of the Earth. Her sister, the river Galatea, dances through the oak trees that stick out from the damp topsoil. Her wiles draw me closer to the edge every day, bring me to the brink of jumping in.
"Come, Demetria," Galatea called to the light of my soul. "There is nothing for you here, I will take you away."
Each day I turn away in sorrow, yearning to be one with the river and mountain, one with the sisters of beauty. They call to me in turn every day... every day...
It was a bright dew that touched the prickles of grass. I had awoken in a feverish sweat, thinking not of my people or my obligations but of my sisters, my beguilers, the lovely spirits... I knew that I would have to restrain myself for the day, but that didn't make it easier upon my aching heart.
The mortar that held the logs of my house together was creaking in the light of morning and the cold seeped in through the holes. Shifting morning air tickled my arm as I forced myself to a sitting position.
"Why do you stay, Demetria? They do not value you..." Annaliese called through the cloud of my morning-head. Like the sun, or rather like rain, it penetrated the thick silence that lay in a blanket over my nerves. Still, I silenced the call as I did each day, dressing my bare ankles in sheepskin.
"Thrall, where are ye?" The gruff voice of my master echoed through the camp of warriors. I threw on my clothing as best I could, rushing to the door.
"Your Strength, I have awoken." My head bowed like a swan's delicate curve, staring at the leather-bound feet of Bragi Borg. He was quite tall for his stout name, but he made up for it in fat. Jiggling jugs of skin cascaded off of his hips and legs, flapping a little as he walked. My Master was a man with a short temper, so I did my very best to follow his orders.
My face held taut as he leaned over and breathed down my neck. Smells of tobacco and barley drifted from his unkempt mustache.
"Awoken, are ye? Well, you left me awoken with nay a spot o' breakfast for some time..." He rounded his Os to the point of babbling, where I had to strain to decipher what he was saying. Bragi was an impatient man, so there was no option of not listening.
"Ye know why yer here?"
"Why, Your Strength." I always replied in a bland manner, never letting any emotion seep in.
"To make me breakfast!" With a whirl his hand connected with the side of my nose and I reeled back in surprise. The pain... it pressed deep into my bones like a branding iron. I showed no emotion, a face of stone was all that he saw as he shoved me towards the stove.
"Make breakfast. Ye wanna keep yer pretty face, don't ye?" His words threatened and taunted, daring me to defy. I stood still as ever, remembering what happened to those who disobeyed the warriors.
"Sethe, what happened?"
"Not now, stupid girl. Go to yer cabin."
"Why? What's happened?"
"Go now if ye wanna live."
"SETHE?!" The harsh voice of the warriors resounded through the huts as I ran to close the door to mine. There was pounding and grunts and screams all through the night, and I sobbed behind my oaken door. The poor old thrall never spoke again.
All through the next month I heard her oaths and curses at the warriors like a faulty loop in my brain. All through the month I reached to the table where water would lay filled in a bucket every morning to find the bucket empty and abandoned.
The only girl left in the camp, they poked and prodded at my chores every chance they could get. Spear butts would knock over cups of ale that the foul beasts knew I had to clean up. All through the next year, there was no happiness but in the cold embraces of the mountain and river, of my sisters of nature.
"Come, Demetria, let us hold you..." The warmth of the stone and water would melt my sunken heart and fill it with grit. It was thanks to the sisters that I survived...
"MAKE THE BREAKFAST!" I rushed back to work as my dream faded away in the pale light of day. The warriors would be out hunting soon, running to catch a deer or two. I would run to the crossing of the water and rock, hug the mountain with my two scratched bare hands.
My fingers shook as I placed the whale blubber onto the cast-iron pan. I brushed up against the scorching metal on the side and gasped in horror at the red bumps that rose from the flames.
The meat that the warriors brought in each day was warm and roughed up, ravaged by the berserk slashes and stabs. I would wash it in the river until all of the blood had escaped it. Galatea received the spirit of the poor animal, drifting it away to the horizon as I watched. Whenever I placed the skin on the pan, there is no fight left in the sallow bones. There is no life. I cannot help but be glad for it to have left the horrid world in which I must still live.
There was silence all throughout the camp after I fed the savages their morning grits. No laughing or growling or fighting or yelling or stomping or rustling... silence. There was nothing but me and my memories and my sisters.
I ran to the spot where river met mountain, sibling met sibling, and stopped to catch my breath. Air sped in and out of my heaving lungs, and mist felt its way into my nose as I inhaled. Galatea and Annaliese gave the air I breathed a blessing, in a way, and I enjoyed every gulp of it.
"Demetria, you must leave them... stay with us..." The entreaties of the sisters warmed my heart as I listened in harmony with the flitting of the water.
There was a peace that came over me when I sat amidst the cascading folds of rock and water. I could only realize the stunning beauty of the world around me when I could no longer realize the ugly. When I rested at the shore of the river, I could feel myself and the echoes of my spirit in everything around... from my smile in the river to my heartbeat in the depths of the rocky peak. Galatea and Annaliese were here, and so was I, and so I was.
"Sisters... why must the world be this way?" There was only silence as I stretched out for an answer. I didn't expect any to come; After all, they knew naught the terrors of my world as I did... but one can hope.
The sun began to pierce itself on Annaliese's peak as I sunk down to dusk. I admired the washes of crimson that fell from the canopy of the trees and their shadows. They caught the golden whispers in my long, wavy hair.
"THRALL!" A wave of perfect terror crashed upon me. There was a storm of panic as I ran back to camp. They would hurt me... they would punish me... how could I have been so careless? Even after what happened to Sethe I was careless... I didn't think.
"YOU. Get over here. Now." I trembled in terror as Bragi and his folk crowded around me. Stone face, Demetria, stone and nothing more.
"What ar we going to do with theh body?" Mirkin, the thin, wiry archer of the company, said. He sauntered over to Demetria's feet and took out his knife with a great flourish. With a grunt, not caring for neatness, he sawed off the big toe on her right foot. "What? Makes fer good bait." The others scoffed at him.
"Everyone take a toe for bait, then throw 'er in the river." Bragi swung his large axe over his head and severed Demetria's foot from the bone. With a ghastly flourish, he threw it to the company and hauled her over his shoulder.
Upon reaching the river, he saw the waters churning in a darker fashion than ever before. Bragi paid it no mind and threw Demetria deep into the depths with a cold sigh.
"Where'r we going to find a thrall now?" He shook his head in disdain and took a swig of brandy. He had dropped his guard and turned to leave when a slab of rock impaled the ground before him.
"The hell?" As he turned to go around it, more began to fall from the sky, seeming to rain upon him like hail. They formed a pyramid over him and he shouted to his companions, seeing if they would hear him through the walls of rock. To no avail.
A wave rushed over the rock pyramid and swept it down into the depths, sinking Bragi far away from any hope of rescue.
The sisters Galatea and Annaliese smiled within their walls of stone and water, smiled to each other for the sister they avenged.