(WP) The Little Firebird
grass was cool under her bare feet, her slippers discarded beside her.
She gazed up at the sky, the cold,
distant stars shining down upon her like the winking eyes of forgotten gods.
How had things gotten so out of
control? She’d only meant to protect herself, both from harm and the future she
did not want.
At the beginning of the evening,
her gown had been the soft, dusky pink of dawn. By the end of it, she was
covered in crimson, the evidence of her crime. It was stiff and had coagulated
all over her skin, covering her in a thick, grimy film.
She should have run when she had
the chance, she knew that now. But the only thing that was certain now was
If she had any sense at all, she
would walk into the river and let it drag her under, and go the way of Ophelia.
But she had to make her mistake right, even if it cost her life.
It all seemed so distant now, so
far away. The wedding in the church, her vows said robotically as hundreds of
guests looked on, eager to see her sold off to the highest bidder, the forced
kisses in the carriage that brought them to the tiny cottage her parents had
purchased as a wedding gift.
And then the worst part of all of
it: the night of the wedding, where she and her new husband would be together
for the first time.
She tried to block it all out, but
the memories crashed down upon her like a tidal wave.
suit coming off, the flash of his pale skin under his clothes, and the touch of
his hands on her, the sensation of her skin crawling. And then his screams of
agony as he began to burn, his skin curling like paper in a fireplace, smoking
curling out of his mouth and nostrils. And then blood, pouring out of him, onto
her skin, her gown, stiffening the fabric…
cottage going up in flames, and she only just barely managed to steal her
husband’s horse. She rode bareback away from the disaster she’d caused, his
screams still ringing in her ears.
was like a nightmare, only it was real. The scent of sweet, burning wood rose
in her nostrils, and she could barely see through her tears, but she directed
the horse into the woods, desperate to put distance between herself and the death
she’d caused. It didn’t matter that it was accidental.
one would see it that way; they’d see her resistance and her defiance to the
match and see it as nothing less than murder.
they would be right.
Suddenly, she buried her head in
her knees, sitting on the river bank, heaving great, gulping sobs that shook
her whole body and made her throat constrict. She hadn’t meant to do it.
Perhaps it had all been born of desperation, of rage, of feeling trapped.
“Do not cry, little firebird. I’ve
come to help you.”
A voice emerged from the shadows of
the trees, and the little firebird found herself blinded by a flashing white