Chapter 1: Get Up

Bit Adini I

Sunlight. Cresting over the sloping hills. After two weeks of rain, how reassuring. Cold rain had washed over the house and lands of Bit Adini, creating a chilly atmosphere, an unpleasant setting. Everyone, from the serfs to Father Tötges, had been reflecting the poor weather. Attitudes were dour, faces unfriendly, conversation brusque, dinner awkward. The sun, serenely unaware of its importance, lifted its head across the horizon, and Beatrice rejoiced with a smile. Maybe this house would be a little happier.

As the hours progressed, the day did prove to be more cheerful. People seemed to open up. No longer soggy, with the skies permanently overcast, they could mirror the sun and beam. Hearty laughs were exchanged, slaps on the back, stories told. Beatrice felt comfortable again; when the house and its lands were sad, she felt it much deeper. Truly, she felt everything deeper, as if somehow she was more connected to the planet, like her feet didn’t stop at the ground, like she had roots that stretched across the land and far below.

When someone cried in front of her, her heart would cry. When everyone was quiet and sullen, she felt beaten up, bruised, locked away in a closet somewhere in a big building that was deserted except for her (and all she has to eat is a rat, a live rat of course, she has to kill it for food, but why bother, she’s going to die anyway, the door is fucking locked). Beatrice has always been vexed by her crushing empathy: or rather she has been vexed that other people do not feel as much as she does. Other people’s feelings concerned her to no small degree, and when they were careless, she just couldn’t get it.

Maybe her heart is big enough for everyone and everything; for all of creation, the entire universe. If it is alive, if it exists, she loves it, with her entire soul, her essence, the lights that dart across the insides of her eyelids when she tries to sleep.

Bit Adini II

Beatrice had come here, to the House of Adini, a number of years ago, after turning thirteen, as part of her ritual into adulthood. Women were traditionally sent to live in far away lands for ten years. By the age of thirteen, it was time to leave childhood behind, and learn the tasks necessary to being a helpful and happy citizen. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, sewing, planting; the list went on and on, of the new tasks that Beatrice had learned. She was grateful to learn them all, because she knew it made her smarter, and a better person. So as Father Tötges assigned her new tasks and taught her duties, she happily obliged.

She was turning into a beautiful young woman, ripening like a tomato on the vine. She was confident and level-headed; the product of being cared for and taught well. So when one day, Father Tötges found his head turning a little longer than usual as she descended the stairs, he caught himself: hold now, Father, this like your daughter. You have raised her from uncouth youth to civil ladyhood.

And yet… there was something about her graceful step, her full hips, gentle smile, ample–Father Tötges caught himself again. Improper thoughts. He shook his head to try and clear it of sudden and rampant desires. Father Tötges had never looked at Beatrice this way. It was sudden, it was frightening, it was invigorating.

She had failed to notice his arousal, and went about her daily tasks. The sun was shining: it was to be a great day. Birds were singing. The smell of eggs and ham was drifting throughout the house. Beatrice smiled. Today would, no doubt, be perfect.

Bit Adini III

Tötges had to get control of himself. He had left breakfast early, his entire soul flushed with rampant emotions. He decided to go for a run, and he did go running. After half an hour, he felt tired, but still vigorous enough to imagine Beatrice. He pressed on, he kept running. After an hour, his heart beating wildly, he could picture nothing but Beatrice. He shook his head and kept running: surely he would tire and stop thinking of her. Two hours later, his breath shaggy, his head spinning, his legs numb, he arrived back at the house. Tötges had finally achieved what he had desired: freedom from imagining her. All he saw was the bright sun and whirling trees.

Upon entering the house, he found Beatrice walking up the stairs. She had just washed up; a towel was neatly draped over her luxurious body. Tötges gritted his teeth. She smiled at him, bidding him a happy welcome. He could not take it anymore. He could not take it. How could he? He strode towards her, strong, full of determination. She only smiled wider; this was her Father. She loved him. He loved her.

And as her all-too-loving father approached the stairs, his eyes blazing with insatiable desire, the whole house shook, and the kitchen, opposite the two of them, was replaced with smoke and flying pieces of wood. The noise of the explosion was so great that it had immediately deafened both Tötges and Beatrice. He fell backwards, down the stairs, and Beatrice was blown backwards, through the wall.

A Whole Bucket of Stars I

The smell was overpowering, but God help her, she couldn’t stop smelling it. The scent was so full, so complex: it was like burning wood (incense?), but there were flavors present. Crushed oregano here, some roast beef there. Petunias. Chamomile tea. How were all these things rolled up into this one smell? But what a perfect scent, how fulfilling. You could smell it and want to sleep for hours afterwards. It was some combination of eating a tasty sandwich for lunch and strolling through a field next to a golden forest. Calming, delicious, warm. Beatrice wanted to find this smell and package it, so she could save it and smell it whenever she wanted to (which was every minute of every day for the rest of her life).

Her eyes fluttered open. She groaned. It felt like she had just run a marathon. Her body was screaming. Lifting her head up, she saw Tötges’ unmoving body. A couple small fires were burning tenaciously through the remnants of the kitchen and living room. Moving slowly and deliberately, Beatrice made her way to her father’s body. She shook him, but he didn’t move.

Wailing noises over head. Then explosions nearby. The ground shook, and Beatrice steadied herself. She had to get out of here, she realized sadly. She called out for the rest of the family but received no response. Brushing her hair behind her ears automatically, she made for the front door only to find it didn’t exist anymore. Unphased by this new development, she strode through the debris, away from the house.

After clearing the ruins, she turned around to see what she could of the house. An unmoving body was visible on the second floor. More wailing noises tore through the blue sky, accompanied by distant explosions, and ominous brown clouds of smoke.

Is There Splendor II

Beatrice had managed to extract herself from what appeared to be a warzone. Upon fleeing the house, she wound a path to a nearby river, far away from the shrill noises and explosions. Most of the surrounding farms had also been obliterated: House Adini had actually taken less of a beating than most. Whoever was doing this seemed content to launch individual shells at the farms.

The bombardment was an eternity of two hours, an endless stream of smoke and shrapnel. Hunching down next to a magnanimous tree, Beatrice clasped her hands and absorbed the whole scene. She didn’t cry, or shake with anxiety, she just bit her lip and furrowed her brow. Even after the detruction passed on into the distance, she sat there, watching tendrils of smoke stretch into the sky, following their masters on a march towards heaven.

As night fell, she drooped her head and plucked herself up, meandering towards the ruins of the nearest farm. Careful not to crush anything as she stepped through the smoldering ash, she caught herself looking for items to take. She wasn’t aiming to steal, really, only to find things that might be useful: it was clear she would have a journey ahead of her.

Picking up a couple of slightly blackened blankets, Beatrice made her way back to Adini. Upon entering the crater that was her home, a little bile rose into her mouth, only for her to swallow it back down. Glancing around for any food, she noticed an upturned barrel that appeared intact. She kicked it onto its side and removed a few loaves of bread and some apples. A moan came from upstairs, followed by a thud.

Her head jerked up and jaw steeled shut. She called out and listened for any response, but no noise followed. Shutting her eyes, Beatrice allowed herself a moment of pain. When she opened them, however, only action remained: she ran from the house, and didn’t stop running for a long time.

No Ocean’s Waves III

Beatrice moved perpetually north–she had no idea where her home was in relation to Adini, except that a vast expanse of water existed between the two. She figured her only choice was to move in one direction, and hope that someone knew of her people’s customs, and would know the land from which she came. It had been so many years, honestly, she had no idea what her land’s name was, what direction it was in: but she avoided thinking about it too much because if she did, waves of depression crashed over her, anxiety breathed upon her like a hulking dragon, hopelessness grabbed her and shackled her and sold her for a quick buck to cruel slave traders who would take her to work in deep dark mines way under the ground, no light, no friends, just endless unending work, shut up little girl, get back to work, you’re daydreaming again aintcha bitch.

So she couldn’t think about it, she just walked. And eventually she came to a town on a vast expanse of water. Surely someone here would know where she had come from. As Beatrice walked around the town, pressing her questions, she received answers that gave ground to her worst fears. No one knew what she was talking about. No one had heard of House Adini. Soon she was roaming the streets, destitute, and worse, the slave traders of her soul were knocking on the door.

Walking out of town, she couldn’t feel anything. She had been on the move for days, eating nothing but bread and water, drawing energy from the knowledge (the hope, the faith) that she would be able to go home again. With that gone, she had nothing else: the death of everyone she had known for the last six years slapped her in the face, and she crumpled into a beaten heap under a wooden bridge as it began to rain.

She didn’t give two shits if she drowned, or if she was carried out to sea like a piece of worthless flotsam.

Ever Quite As Clear IV

She woke up dry; the sun had lovingly wrung her clothes of the fierce downpour from last night. Mud was caked onto her side. She stared at it with sunken eyes, and then slapped at it, breaking it apart, abandoning it to gravity and the ground from whence it came. Clawing up the side of the embankment, she stumbled back into the town.

Stoke-on-Trent was a quiet port town; the sailors never got too rowdy, the mayor pleased most of the people most of the time, and everyone seemed content to live their lives out here. So when raggedy-old Beatrice dragged her feet through their main street, a few people looked her way. Oblivious or uncaring about their stares, she continued until she reached the fountain in the city square, where she let herself sit, and drink of the cool water.

While she was washing her face, a tall, imposing figure blocked out the sun, his huge shadow covering her as a proud oak tree would. He introduced himself as Lucius Felix, and extended his paw of a hand toward Beatrice. This olive branch seemed as though from God, and she took his hand quickly, without thought. Once he had her, he lead her in great haste to a single room apartment on the south side of the town, near the ships, away from the square.

He put her up here, caressing her cheek, calling her a beautiful sunset. She must not leave this place, he said, for she was a stranger and might be thrown out. But he would bring her food and other goods. Oh yes. He would bring her things.

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