THE AIR SMELLED OF SWEET GRASS AND HONEY

 

Though putrid the smells were that often emitted from within the swamp, in the Spring a certain flower would bloom that filled the murky wasteland with an aroma that Eville quite enjoyed. Eville breathed in the scent as deeply as she could with hopes that she could somehow keep it with her forever. It was Eville's favorite time of year, but that day in particular was especially exciting for it was Eville's sixteenth birthday, a day she had long anticipated for it would be the day she discovered her true purpose. Eville didn't know what that purpose wasbut  Baelzerog assured her that at precisely ten past six in the morning (which was apparently the exact time she was born), she would know.

 

"Yeh ready, guhl?" Baelzerog's guttural voice startled Eville as he pulled a live tree beetle from his satchel and crunched it between his tusks. Eville was fixing her hair in the reflection of the bowl she'd eaten her rat bone stew out of the night before.

 

"Just a moment!" Eville knew better than to object but it was her birthday, and though Eville didn't care much for her appearance she wanted to look her very best. Baelzerog ignored Eville's protests and grabbed her by the arm before dragging her out of that vine infested cage.

 

Eville would normally shield her eyes from the sun after being secluded from its rays for weeks at a time, but that day it was still dark so she didn't have to. In the distance, beyond the looming trees a rhythmic pound of several drums caught Eville's ears.

 

"What is that sound?" Eville asked, which Baelzerog ignored as he impatiently brought her along in the direction from where the sound was coming. They pushed through the swamp's thick foliage, a feat much easier for Baelzerog because of his hide-like skin but Eville's body was not so well equipped. The branches and thorns tore at her flesh before the two emerged from the dense greenery into an area Eville had never seen before.

 

They stood atop a cliff. Beneath them, a barren valley extended far beyond the distance Eville's violet eyes could capture. Stumps poked out from the ground, but there wasn't a full grown tree or plant anywhere in sight.

 

The trees must had been removed, but removing an entire section of a swamp must have taken years to complete. Eville soon realized that this must have been the work Baelzerog was tending to during the sixteen years she was under his care.

 

At the peak of the cliff Eville's eyes landed on the source of the drums. Seven creatures, all of which looked as if they could be related to Baelzerog, beat giant drums half their size (though next to Eville they'd be eye level). The rhythm was so hypnotic if she weren't so excited she could easily be lulled to sleep.

 

They were split onto both sides of the cliff. Between the group of drummers was some sort of device made of metal that had been bolted tightly to the edge of the cliff. It wasn't a friendly contraption by any means. Two metal rods that anchored themselves to the earth supported a dense sheet of black, forged metal that had three small, hand-carved holes within it. The three holes were lined up in a row, but the one in the middle was slightly larger than the others. If it were only a bit larger Eville could poke her head right through it.

 

"BROTHERS." Baelzerog's voice interrupted Eville's thoughts.

 

"HUUAGH!" The drumming creatures raised their percussive sticks high before continuing to drum. Eville lit up at the charade. To think that Baelzerog had orchestrated all of this for Eville's  birthday filled her with that same sensation of happiness she felt the day she met Arowyn.

 

"DAWN DRAWS NEAR AS DOES THE AWAKENING OF OUR FATHER."

 

"HUUAGH!" The creatures shouted back, this time even louder. Eville's grin broke into a smile as her anticipation festered.

 

"LET THE HARVEST BEGIN ONCE THE KEY HAS BEEN SET IN PLACE."

 

All at once, the drums stopped. By then, Eville had grown so excited that she could hardly stand it. Then, through the silence that settled, Baelzerog turned back to Eville as lazy eyes rested on her face.

 

"Put the girl in the stocks."

 

Eville's bright smile slowly faded. She had never heard that word before, but she knew right away he was referring to the metal contraption on the edge of that cliff.

 

Before Eville could protest, two of the drummers seized Eville and lead her to the stocks. She didn't resist. She knew better. And in that moment, though fear had begun to replace the happiness that consumed her just seconds before, she tried her best not to cry and keep that smile there by focussing all of her attention back on the one thing back at the swamp she'd come to love... the wonderful smell of sweet grass of honey.

 

 

Copyright Travis Bryant © 2019