Zelika was walking through the streets of Baladh. It was early morning, but the city had been so tense lately that lying abed felt far too passive. Baladh was, after all, a city of warriors and Imank and the Dark Army were drawing nearer by the hour. She pointed her face towards the sky, closing her eyes as she walked and relishing the warmth of the young sun on her face.
This was home. She could hear the clash of metal on metal and wood on wood, as people trained with their weapons. She could hear the voices, both singing and speaking, of worshipers in the temples. The temples had been full to bursting since the city had seen the smoke on the horizon. They worshipped the Light with passion and certainty, and while Zelika could not understand it, she respected it. Their passion brought forth beauty in the form of songs and poems and their certainty was a tangible force of peace in the city, possibly the only thing keeping everyone sane.
They reminded Zelika of her family. She'd seen her mother and father spar. Beauty didn't begin to describe her mother, hair in disarray, muscles tense and tight, eyes shining with determined fury – with passion. Similarly, certainty and the peace it caused were personified in her grandparents, her grandfather who wielded certainty, the appearance of fearlessness, to frighten his opponents and her grandmother who watched his fights the way that people watched the golden fish swim in pool near her home.
As she walked further down past the temples, she opened her eyes. The merchants in the market place were packing away their goods. Families were leaving the city. Gardens were being uprooted. The city was preparing for war, and the same tension that had drawn her from her bed that morning was written on the faces of the people she passed, tension born of a different kind of certainty.
Suddenly, the street was filled with people and sound.
"They've reached the wall!"
"To your weapons! Defend the city!"
Soldiers ran to their positions like rills to a river, streams of people tracing their way through the crowd to join and form a larger mass.
Both sides of the street were packed as people rushed to warn family members or to grab belongings. Zelika was trying but could barely fight her way through the crowd. She had to get home. She needed her family, her parents, grandparents, and her brothers. More importantly, they would need her if the wall broke. She could fight. She must fight, to defend the house if Il Aran and the city of Baladh. If nothing else she could get her brothers to safety. A crash like thunder sent a rush of fear through the crowd. The Dark Army had come and the wall was falling under its assault. Zelika bit and scratched and kicked her way through the crowd. She had to get home.
After long moments of struggle, the gates were finally in sight. Her home was in the affluent middle sector of the city, a fair distance from the walls, but Zelika could still see the smoke rising in the distance and hear the faint echoes of screams over the rising din of the crowd. She remembered the stories her parents and grandparents had told her, about the dogsoldiers and hulls, and the myriad of other beasts that the dark had set on her city in years gone by. If those stories were true, she wasn't sure that she wanted to know what the warriors and the inhabitants of the city's outer east side were facing.
She ran through the gates and up the outer stairs into the house.
"Zelika! There you are! I thought I made it clear that you were to stay close," her mother chided her sharply. "Go to cellar. Nisrah, Asran, and Arlian are down there with a servant."
Zelika wanted to argue, to claim her right to help protect their family, but her mother's word was law, so she moved to obey. Before she could leave the room however, her mother called her back.
"Zelika, remember your lessons. You are a daughter of the house of Il Aran. Be strong and protect your brothers. Be fearless."
The fire that lit her mother's eyes as she spoke was like nothing Zelika had ever seen. It was love touched by grief and both in present in quantities beyond measure.
"Mother," Zelika whispered. She turned her face towards the floor to escape the intensity of her mother's eyes.
They listened to the din from the road outside and the hushed voices of her father and grandparents in the next room until finally Zelika reached out and clasped her mother's hand with her smaller one, then turned rushed down the hall. She walked to the buttery and propped open a wooden hatch on the floor, before climbing down a rope ladder into the lantern lit cellar.
"Zel, where have you been? Father sent us down here ages ago," Asran murmured. He grabbed her hand and pulled her over to Nisrah, who was holding their youngest brother Arlian.
"See Arli," Nisrah said soothingly, "She's alright. Now hush or the bad things will get us."
Arlian, already upset by the situation and his sister's former absence, burst into tears. Zelika pulled the three year old boy into her arms bouncing him gently and rubbing his back. Then she pressed his face to her neck and hissed, "Nisrah, what is wrong with you? Don't be stupid. Remember your lessons. What is the most important job you have?"
"To be safe and to protect my family," he grumbled petulantly.
"Is this how you protect your brother? Is this how Asran and I should protect you?"
Nisrah looked her in the eyes for a long moment before bending to her authority, "No Zelika, sorry Arli. Don't worry, the skinny cat might not look like much but she won't let the bad things get you."
"And if anything gets by her. I'll send it running for its mother, " Asran grinned. Nisrah shoved him.
"Stupid, Hulls don't have mothers, and neither does The Nameless One."
"They do too have mothers, ugly ones!"
"Quiet down, young ones, unless you want a chance to ask one! Your parents told me to keep you quiet," the servant scolded lightly.
For nearly an hour and a half they sat in near silence. Zelika whispered stories to her brothers, mostly family history and stories of old battles. They listened; learning, as Zelika had, to honor their responsibilities to each other and to their house. The cellar was peaceful, the soft lantern light and Zelika's murmuring voice made it easy to ignore the vague sounds of combat and to forget the battle outside.
A cry of pain from up in the house startled served as startling reminder. Zelika passed Arlian to Nisrah.
"I'm going up to help, keep them safe and don't do anything stupid," she said quickly. Then she kissed Arlian's forehead and ran to the rope ladder.
Opening the cellar door and climbing up through it Zelika was confronted by air thick with smoke, and death. The sounds of horrible screaming and sickening laughter grew louder by the second. She hid behind a barrel of fruit in the buttery, just before they broke down the door.
Zelika's blood froze in her veins. Fell creatures of metal and flesh, the dogsoldiers were enormous and powerful. Fear like none she'd ever known froze her in place as they sniffed the air. One of the dogsoldiers shot a stream of liquid fire at the door to cellar.
Zelika tried to scream, tried get out from her hiding place and fight them, but she couldn't move. She could barely breathe. Her mother's words echoed in her ears.
"Be fearless! Protect your brothers!"
Was this how she protected her brothers?
She watched helplessly as the one of the beasts pulled her brothers and the servant from the cellar. Tears began streaming from her eyes but she was still frozen, paralyzed by fear and shame. She was forced to watch as a dogsoldier soaked Arlian and the servant in liquid fire then dragged Nisrah and Asran away while the two were writhing on the floor in pain.
When they left the room, and Zelika could finally move again, she ran through the buttery. Finding a deep basin of water that the servants had brought up from the well that morning she struggled to get it over to the suffering pair. She dumped the entire contents on them but it didn't work. They were going to die slowly and painfully.
She looked down at her thick sandaled feet and knew that there was only one thing that she could do for them now. Her brother was going to die in pain. Her sweet, precious brother who'd never hurt a thing in his life was going to die screaming and the only thing that she could do was spare him a slow death.
She killed the servant first, using a stick to flip her over and breaking her neck with a hard stomp of her foot. Then she did the same to Arlian and something in her mind snapped.
She wandered through the house like a dark specter, sinking deeper and deeper into grief and despair with each room and hallway. She saw her grandparents, her grandfather gasping his last in the hallway that led to the buttery and her grandmother burned and beaten nearby. Distantly she noted tapestries torn from the walls and floors stained with blood. She stepped on the corpse of a dogsoldier but all she could do was keep moving. Hope was dying slowly and painfully in what was left of her heart. Though this time there was no neck to break, what she saw next worked just as well; her parents. She saw the stab wounds and the blood before the eyes, her mother's first then her father's, which widened slightly as though in shock before glazing over in death.
They were dead.
They were all dead.
She had to get away.
She tore down the street into the chaos and of battle.
In her nightmares for the rest of her life she would see it all again.
The temple collapsed, its pillars buckling like the knees of a man who has gained or lost everything. Stone crushed flesh. Wood splintered and burned. Where were those things she'd seen there before? What were they? What could they possibly mean now? What was "peace"? What was "certainty"? What was "passion"? Zelika couldn't remember. There was only death.
Faces were warped by pain and anger. The screaming and shouting and sobbing were near deafening but as she ran away from her family's remains, blindly slipping on bloody roads and stumbling over bodies , Zelika heard something that would change the direction of her life.
"You will pay for what you've done, you Light forsaken abominations! Foul creatures from beneath the lowest pits of the Poisoned Lands, you will die for what you've done here!"
Those words, shouted by a man insane with grief, reminded her that there was more than just death. There was revenge. As she ran, she could feel her brother's neck breaking beneath her feet, could see the light leave her mother's eyes, could hear her grandmother's voice crying out pain. The house of Il Aran would fall, but their killers would be punished. She would follow the other survivors to Turbansk and hide when city was evacuated. She would stand and fight and die like her parents and grandparents had, and the dogsoldiers were going to wish they'd never been spawned.
"I don't have any hope at all. Hope is not why I'm here."
"Revenge," she said flatly. "Revenge and death. There isn't anything else." – Zelika ( pg74 The Crow)
Hey guys, I've been writing this for very long couple of days, but I think this is decent. It's not another character focused monologue, and it's my first real attempt at any sort of action so review so I know whether or not I did a good job.
Story notes: Asran is mine. He was born out of the fact that I feel she must have had at least three brothers because I pictured Arlian as being too young to tease her much and the book mentioned that her brothers (plural) called her a "skinny cat" to tease her. Nisrah and Arlian are her only two siblings named in the book.
In my story Zelika is the oldest child. My Asran is the oldest boy, Nisrah is still older that Arlian.
The official Pellinor site describes Zelika as "having seen her entire family killed in the war" so a lot of this was my attempt to have her "see" them die and then start to develop the attitude she has when she meets Hem. Her mother's instructions to be fearless and to protect her brothers later manifest in her character as well.
As always, thanks got to all of my reviewers and special props to those who have put me on their favorite and alert lists, you lot are the only reason this got posted, for better or for worst.
Happy New years!