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Book III: Shift

Chapter 39: Dewdrop

February 23 at 12:00 AM

Dewdrop - Photo courtesy of stem_pl

Photo courtesy of stem_pl

A short distance in, Yakim felt the tendrils graze her. She swam ahead, slipping between the icy teeth. Curiosity aroused, the creature of Black Lake spun its coils around her waist, and pulled her under.

Yakim did not panic, nor try to run away. She embraced it, as it did her. It peered at her, curious why she did not flee, seemingly at ease under the water's surface. Her warm touch inspired the beast's frigid heart, and it loosened its grip, encouraging her to the surface.

Still in the beast's embrace, Yakim rose out of the water, uncoiling gently on the bank. The creature grazed her one last time, and dove into the depths below.

A gust of air snapped Yakim's head back, biting down her spine. Teeth chattering, she knew she would not last a moment longer. She stripped off her dank dress, rolled it into a ball, and warmed herself by the nearest fire.

Embers snapped, the chapel collapsing inward, charred bodies spilling out the door. One held a rosary, though it did not smolder, faith bound to the bitter end. She spread her dress over a nearby derf, and continued a blaze over.

Yakim gazed down at her scrawny legs; so little meat on them. Again, she searched for the wound, and when it was not there, touched herself to be sure. Her breasts were small and frail, empty vessels without a tender heart to stir them. "Mother," she often said; the mother she yearned to be.

"No," Yakim cried, collapsing to the ground. She pounded the snow with her fist, warm tears melting the ice. Reaching forward, she grabbed the tiny hand, kissed it, and pried the mortal child loose.

She held it dear, and cried anew. "Dewdrop, do not fade." She held fast as the wind whipped around, hoping, by some miracle, its heart would thump again. Ever still, she lingered until certain it could not be coaxed, and kissed the infant one last time.

The thunder of hooves caught her ear. No time to bury the child, she reluctantly gave it back. She spied the dress, still damp, and considered the one before her. Disgusted with herself, she could not bear the thought of seeing the mother stripped down, child in hand. She sprinted over to the derf, tossed on the sopping fabric, and hid in the forest's edge.

Four horses rumbled around the bend, carriage in tow. As it eased to a stop, black boots hammered down, crushing the ice beneath. Clarence traced the blade over the fresh footfalls. "Yakim?" he screamed.

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