The Queen of Ruin

The Goddess favoured us, she sighed staring at the vine coated ruins. The forest creeped over the stone pillars guaranteeing they would never rise again. Her home laid to rest under a blanket of soggy moss.

Odora rested her head against the rough bark, allowing her foot to dangle over the branches. She watched the glowing moon between the waxy leaves. The Goddess favoured us once, she corrected herself.

She used to shine over them from the night sky and made the lake sparkle under the stars. Even now the water’s glowing azure light, lulled her to sleep as she dreamed of days long past.

The leafy trees blanketed her people from the rain. They provided fruit, creatures to hunt, and shelter. Her forefathers chipped stone blocks from the mountains, dragged them across the forest, and built their city around the edge of the rippling water.

Odora didn’t remember her father, a warrior who never returned. But the memory of the day her mother met her second husband never faded.

They were washing laundry at the very lakeside she stared at now. He was a tall, imposing man, with child like wonder in his eyes. He rode a strong ivory horse draped in fine leather.  

When Odora emerged from the bushes with her prized frog she felt she had interrupted something of great importance. Her stomach knotted and she wanted to shrink away in the tall grass.

But the man exclaimed with pride how impressive the squirming frog was in her hands. His smiled pulled her to him and she loved him from then on.

He brought them to live at the palace, for he was the king. He married her mother under the Goddess’s smile and her people cheered. When her mother’s belly grew swollen, she prayed to the Goddess for a sister, although a male heir was preferable.

When her brother was born, she pouted, threatened to never pray to the Goddess again. Then she saw his scrunched face and little toes, and she secretly said a blessing for his health.

She burned incense to keep the demons away and held him when her mother needed to rest. From then on, she vowed to love him for ever.  

Jorah grew like a weed and never left her side. They explored forgotten caves, climbed the tallest trees, and swam with the fish in the lake. When Jorah was confined to the palace for study she spied on the royal priests.

She asked hundreds of questions, fetched materials, and watched their experiments with bated breath. Together her and Jorah watched them make water burn like fire and turn gold into ink. When their father was stricken with a mysterious aliment, they called their next miracle “the elixir of life.”

They spent less time together, since the priests were preparing Jorah to succeed their father. She had no claim to the throne, not that she wanted it. She loved her father; he was kind to her and her mother.

Despite his position he never made her feel anything less than his daughter. Her and Jorah were equals, although it was becoming clear his path was being laid out before both their eyes. He was still too young to rule, or so she thought. And he thought it too, for one night he begged her to take his place.  

“Jorah, I can’t. You are father’s son, you must rule.”

“Please, it must be you. You’re smarter, stronger, and braver. You’re a better king.”

“That is true,” her mischievous smile widened. “However, only royal blood can wear the crown. And I am not royal blood.” His darkened face revealed the sad truth; no one told him she was only his half sister. But none of that mattered; the worse was yet to come.

Their father grew weaker, his illness ravaged his body and their mother cried at his bedside. Odora ventured outside the palace less and less but watched the priest more and more.

They mixed, muttered, and read every spell to create the mythic drink which would cure the king. Liquids that glowed, bubbled, and sizzled. But nothing fruitful came from their trials.

After she said her nightly prayer asking for blessing for her father, she laid her head down on her pillow. Her dream twisted into a wild frenzy of screaming, cries and a blood moon that shook the land.

A soft voice whispered in her ear: you climb too high little birds. The fall is treacherous. Odora awoke soaked in sweat. Her heart raced in her small chest but she told herself it was only a dream.

But it wasn’t, night after night, the dream became more elaborate. Faces of those she knew fell in massive holes as the world shook. The palace crumbled around her and the blood moon grinned.

The same soft but persistent voice chided her. Cursed the elixir the priests were making. And warned her of the destruction that will follow.

The visions of death took their toll. Never had she felt so scared, so alone. After another sleepless night she sought out Jorah who slept in the room across the hall. The moonshine danced over his peaceful face as he dreamed happy dreams.

How envious she was of him. But the voice in her vision was getting louder; growing angrier with each night. If she didn’t tell someone, she felt her heart will burst.  

“Jorah, wake up, I had a dream.” She nudged him awake, repeating the phrase until his eyes fluttered open.  

“So, I have them all the time,” he yawned.

“Not like this Jorah, this was different. The Goddess, she spoke to me. She said the elixir is a curse upon our land. That it will not only make father better but will keep him from dying. Eternal life, Jorah. That is what the priests plan, and the Goddess is angry.”

“Don’t be foolish sister, the Goddess smiles on us.” He pointed to the window, motioning the full-bodied moon hanging in the bed of stars.

The Goddess watched over them, blessing each birth, and tending to each soul on their way to Paradise. From her throne on the moon, she smiled upon them.

Maybe he was right, how could something so beautiful be angry? But the visions didn’t stop and all she could do was seek council with the priests.  

Cursed? Child the Goddess smiles upon our miracles!

Why would she condemn us, she created us in her image, why would we not have the mind to discover the divine secrets?

We honour her, by surpassing our limits and ascend to the heavens!

Despite their arguments, reason, and dismissal; her nightmares continued. As the moon waned, starting her journey across the sky, terrible visions continued to torment her waking hours.

Their father’s health was at its worse. Her mother cried at his bedside and sang lullabies to help him sleep. The fever refused to break and he called out to brothers and sisters who passed long ago.

With each fleeting day, they prayed for a miracle; and then, one day, the priest succeeded.

They celebrated with happy tears; the hope swelled in their chest. Everyone sang their blessings, everyone but Odora. She protested louder than ever.

Her body shook with terror as she cried about the curse. How the Goddess threatened to swallow the land if they went through with it. But no one believed her; her mother called her a reprehensible child.

The time had come; or so the priests declared. Rich tapestries draped the walls of the king’s chamber. Ornate rugs scratched her bare feet and vases of flowers were scattered around the bed.

Her father, once built like an ox was thin and weakly. His cheeks sunken with bags under his dull eyes. Her mother gripped his hand while Odora led the trembling Jorah to the bedside.

The priest followed, carrying a bowl with a glowing ethereal liquid. But when the high priest placed the bowl to his lips, her father refused.

“Husband please, it will make you better.” She pleaded but he ordered for pillows to prompt him upright.

“Sylvie, I loved you with all my heart. And I will wait in Paradise for our union. But I will not take this. My time is about to set. Odora, my daughter,” he pulled her into a tight hug. She breathed in his scent, committing it to memory. “Protect our family. You have a heart of a warrior and sing the song of a survivor. Keep them safe.” She nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Come my son.” He squeezed the boy to his chest. “Jorah it is time, take the elixir and lead our people to their future.”

“Father, I’m not ready,” his lips trembled. “Yes, you are. I believe in you. Now you must believe in yourself.”

The high priest in his ceremonial furs draped over his chest held the bowl to the ceiling. The contents glowed, casting shadows over the stone. She noticed the slight metallic smell under the fragrance of lilies.

Greedy Birds! The Goddess shouted in her ears. Her father’s final wish, her familial duty, burned through her veins.

“No!” she yanked the bowl from her brother’s hands, “I won’t let you.”

“Odora!” Her mother shrieked.

“I love you too much Jorah. Please remember that.”

The fling of a bow string sent an arrow whizzing through the air. The guard at the door held his breath as the arrow hit its mark; the center of her chest.

It stood straight as ruby liquid seeped over her dress. Jorah cowered as he watched her bring the bowl to her lips.

“Forgive me brother. It’s the only way to save your soul.”

The liquid slipped between her pink lips and down her throat. Every drop, until the bowl was empty. The floor trembled as her face twisted. A shriek escaped her throat and vibrated around the room; sending ornaments and vases toppling to the floor.

Thousands of screams rang in her mind, she looked to the Goddess for comfort as the fear pumped through her body. The clouds parted revealing a heavy blood moon overhead. She witnessed the Goddess’s vengeance in a murderous grin as the cloud passed.

“What have you done!”

But she rose from her knees to face their anger. Without hesitation she ripped the arrow from her breast. No more blood, no wound of any kind, only the hole in her dress remained.

The ground under her feet growled like a beast waiting to be unleashed. The tapestry depicting the great kings snapped from its hooks and floated to the floor.  

Her father’s last command was for them to flee. The guards pulled her weeping mother from the bedside and scooped Jorah in their arms. The high priest called her a heathen and cursed her as they left her behind.

She gripped her father’s hand as the earth split. Toppling the homes over the lush grass. From the window she saw the lake that provided for them churned as if it was in a mighty storm. Those who sought refuge from the collapsing land in the water drowned under the tidal surf.

“Forgive me father,” she sobbed as he closed his eyes for the last time.

The stone beneath her feet cracked, shook with a fierce roar before splitting in two. She crawled from the window and felt the savage gust whip her hair. White knuckled she climbed to the roof where she saw her mother, the guards and Jorah escape to the trees. The earth broke before them and swallowed them.

None survived that day, none but her. Once the ground slept, she tried to escape. To find somewhere to call her own. A new people, another soul to speak to; a fresh start. Each path she walked led her back to the lake. Whether it took hours or days each trail led her to the beginning.

This was the curse the Goddess spoke of. Eternal life, but no one to share it with. She wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone, especially her family. She watched her home succumb to dust as the years passed by.

The forest grew savage, with murderous creatures. But her father was right, she was a survivor. She lost track of the years, the decades, the centuries. Each day passed as the one before it.

Every night she would watch the moon and pray. Pray that her family was united in Paradise; happy, safe, and together. And maybe they looked down upon her and missed her too.

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