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Red mixed with red on a damp rock floor, moss and mold creeping their way ever forward in an endless battle across cavernous dripping stones. 

Plink. Plink. Plink.

Rotten water fell in time with the clanging of the chains, fastened at the wrist and around the ankles. The cold metal dangled and whispered alongside the thin silver bracelets free of charms dancing across their legs and up their forearms, singing the song of mourning.

Their arms were curled in on themselves, alone in the hollow echoes of the cavern, pulling desperately at the scraps of rose red cloth draped over a curving figure, torn and dirtied and wet.

It had been so promising, so enticing, they couldn’t help but yearn for the sweet promises the offer gave. They wished and wished for it to deliver everything it promised and then some.

Be careful what you wish for.  

Steam rose from the small iron cauldron in the center of the peaked tent, decorative blankets stitched with ancient runes laid haphazardly across the dirt floor. A small flame was ablaze under the cauldron, and they leaned forward, stirring the powder within until it melted into a thick paste, another wave of steam curling out the small opening at the tip of the tent. 

Humming to themself, they carefully removed the mixture from the pot, scraping it into a small vial hooked to a deep blood sash tied around their waist. 

Light footsteps pounded outside, and they smiled slightly to themselves, a bright cherry red smile. Children running about, carefree and unaware of the wars being raged around them. Not a war of the physical kind, but battles of the mind and will, the people versus the powers.

They stepped around the dying fire, dousing it with a pitcher of water before pushing back the flap that functioned as a door and stepping out, the cold dirt and stone scraping against their bare feet. 

The forest was a fair walk away, getting started soon would be best. The marketplace bustled around them, spices and sweat mixing in the air. Tents and stands were scattered across the city and marketplace, no real pattern or logic unless you knew where to look. That’s how the people kept their secrets, kept their rebels, kept their culture safe. Safe from the eyes of the power.

Snippets of conversations were understandable, but so many languages and tongues mixed together they couldn’t make sense of near any of them. 

 Half an hour later and they were out of the thick of the crowds, replaced instead by browning plants and startled creatures, a few people every once in a while, living on the outskirts and barely surviving. 

They’d been there once.

But never again if this worked, never would they be hungry with one meal a day, never would their blankets be threadbare and fading. 

Never would their people be suffering. 

They had reached the edge of the woods, and after a moment's hesitation and a steadying breath, they moved forward. Moving deliberately, counting steps, they found themselves in front of a tree with a single divot beneath its roots, and they reached within, pulling out their book of spells.

  Hours passed, the sun reaching its peak and then sauntering its way downward, shadows growing and growling and jumping. 

They just clutched their book tighter and kept walking, pulling the sleeves of their hooded garment over their palms to conserve as much warmth as possible.

The peak wasn’t far away now, and they could see the staggering rock formations marking the hollowed crater at the top of the mountain. All they had to do now was find the best way to the peak. 

Their hands were coated in microscopic cuts and larger gashes, bare feet bleeding to the jingle of their anklets rubbing against their soft flesh until it was raw and scalding to the touch. Boulders tumbled away behind them, black soot staining their fingers as they climbed and climbed and climbed, birds buzzing and trees howling, the wolves snickering in their sleep. 

Finally, the moon peeking above and sending cascades of soft and promising light, they crested the top. 

They had made it. 

Panting, they pressed a hand to their side to massage a forming pain, beginning the silent descent into the shimmering crater. Gems had been broken into grit over the years, scattered like sand in the wind to tempt those of ill will. 

They didn’t even bother to look, marching their way to the center of the crater, where a pure slate of glass had been set into the ground, the starlight reflecting back into the sky as if to challenge the moon itself in all its glory. 

They kneeled in front of the pane, scratchy and thin red cloth pooling around their figure as they reached forward, flipping the book open and setting it in the center of the glass. They had opened to that page so often, spent so many hours memorizing and studying the ritual that the book flipped open to the page on it’s own. 

They smiled to themselves, a smile of mischief and triumph. They unlatched the vial of paste from earlier, uncorking the bottle and sticking a single finger inside, their pinky finger. 

When they withdrew their finger, it was coated in a sticky greenish-black and smelling faintly of sage and cinnamon. Like incantations and wishes.

Delicately reaching their hand forward, they began to paint runes with the paste in a perfect circle surrounding the book, murmuring under their breath in a native tongue that wasn’t their own.

The dusty light on the ground grew stronger, the crystal grit beginning to glow and rise from the ground to swirl haphazardly around the crater. Jutting spires of rock reached to the far galaxies, the very tips glowing with an ethereal and ephemeral light, pulsing stronger with each drawn rune.

They were shaky and dripping with sweat as they drew the final rune, energy nearly drained, and a wave of light hugged the land, brushing against their knees. 

A small glow began to emerge from the center of the book, and the swirling grit in the air coalesced above, morphing and moulding into a faint outline of something they could not recognize, but felt familiar in a way. Like wishing upon a star.

State your name, child,” an archaic voice spoke from within the cluster of shimmers, deep and rasping, burnt velvet and a crusted feather. 

They didn’t hesitate a moment. “Kachina.” 

And what is it you wish for,” the voice responded, void of any emotion yet comforting nonetheless.

Their voice was steady and firm, peaking directly to the voice. 

“I want the power to fix what is wrong.”

 A faint whoosh escaped from the light, almost sounding like a tiny voice. Telling them to leave. They didn’t have the time to comprehend what it had said or what it meant before a pain erupted right near their heart, and they clutched at their chest, fingers digging into skin. 

 “A bold request, but remember,” the voice began, the grit slowly drifting apart and coming to a rest on the ground in an attempted circle around the pane, the paste blackened and crusting, “Be Careful What You Wish For.” 

They tried to scream, pain followed by sudden numbness spreading from their heart through all their limbs, from the crown of their head to the tips of their toes, eyelids falling and opening suddenly in an endless cycle, until the blackness fully encompassed them. 

They woke to the sound of a plink plink plink. 

An indescribable cold was crawling its slimy way up their back, soaking into the red red red cloth. Their eyes ever so slowly cracked open, cold cold cold darkness there in greeting, an old friend come to say hello.

Where am I,” they cried, calling into the void, and the void answered back. 

What better way to fix what is wrong than to be all that is wrong,” it replied. 

They yelled again, “What does that mean?” What did it mean, what did they mean, what did this mean. They tried to stand, but shackles had entrapped their limbs, and suddenly they knew what it meant to be free, a bird in a cage of feathers. Mold crept its way into their shackles and their skin, because that’s what they were now. 

Those chains belonged to Kachina, and Kachina belonged in the chains. 

How is this fixing anything?” they cried and cried again. 

And the shadows gave their answer, and wouldn’t say it twice, “To be a god is lonely, to stay one is what’s wrong. To fix the anger of the gods trapped beneath the land, you take their place for a song, giving them a hand. Their anger then will lessen and the people will be free, but I am just a shadow, so why do you ask me.” 

A snicker was all that remained of the shadows in the sand, and realizing they’d been tricked they stood and screamed and swore. 

And in those final moments, at least of the ones we get to see, they cried their final anguish:

Be careful what you wish for. 

November 23, 2019 00:24

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Unknown User
15:05 Nov 25, 2019

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