the hundred violins
by Andre Gonzalez
Recently, I was perusing the writer-webs and came across Chuck Wendig’s blog (http://terribleminds.com/). I found that weekly he invites writers to participate in a Flash Fiction Challenge, ranging anywhere between 1000-1500 words. Although, I totally missed the deadline I nonetheless took part of the challenge. In the future I’m hoping to be a bit more punctual! Below is my story in correspondence to this prompt: Chuck Wendig’s Challenge
the hundred violins
The city, all of it, burns with screams and songs, songs to help you never forget, as melodies often last as long as time.
“Is it gone?” says my brother, Pietr. He is thirteen.
We managed to abscond with but a satchel of melee weaponry. High above on the Cliffs of Windbites some distance away from the city my father and I watched at its destruction.
“Our home, you mean?” I scoffed.
Pietr, although no longer a child, possesses certain attributes of adolescence, his stature one of them and his ignorance another. He could not see over the steep ledge.
He could not see what was lost.
The flames snapped amid the syncopated rhythms of ‘the hundred violins’, as the coterie called themselves. I could feel my heart sink deeper with every new player. The music was brassy and rasped at the edge of every note.
I wanted all of them dead, each violinist. The fires however simmered my rage and dredged my melancholy.
The wind was grey and bold with the smell of smoke.
What no longer burned was left as a mocking effigy.
Sunrays once shined over the peristyle court of the Sept of Tiers filling it like a goblet. Limestone columns soared and a fountain of pristine steps pour from portico to cobblestone streets. This was where the history of the eight elders was preached; the novice sought lectures taught by scholars, and mama and I visited sometimes merely to eat our honeyed dates during its most trafficked hours. The voices echoed amongst the district, a sea of sounds, and I relished in its waves.
I moved closer, gusts whipping at my robes; an outcropped ledge supported my perch.
“Fatima,” father calls to me concerned, knowing my temperament and lust for battle, yet I cannot turn my face to him nor my back to what is disintegrating, not yet.
The violins amplify by multitudes as I watch tenuous shadows run ablaze in every direction, our people no doubt burning alive. Then the catacombs where our dead are kept, where mama rests, are devoured last. I cannot turn away.
Until I do.
* * *
We walked as nomads. A late summer sun cooks our backs as we move along a dusty road. Pietr beside him, father stared ahead masquerading like he knew where to lead. I lagged behind, my back weighted by a satchel of sharp steel, my ankles weighted by my stubbornness to continue on our fleeing. Perspiration wets my neck.
“Why were they playing music?” said Pietr.
The question forced my eyes up from my feet.
“It is their way,” said father. Pietr’s face stared blank and perplexed.
“A violin plays for every dead Sicari.”
“Oh,” Pietr’s eyes happily lit with misinterpretation.
Quickly, I admonished. “It was in revelry not honor, Pietr.”
“Oh.” Pietr dimmed, shoulders slouched. Good, let the pain feed him, too.
* * *
In the distance rises a black wall of forest. It’s been a day since our escape from the fires. Father carried Pietr when he complained about his legs. For his hunger aches there was no ration for salving.
Tired, I switched the satchel on occasion from one shoulder to the other. The heat was determined to become our newest foe, and eventually thirst, too.
Then a sudden coolness in the air flushed smelling of freshly wet leaves. It reinvigorates my alertness. It meant water. Nearer now, the forest is not black but live with birdsong and green.
Pietr jumped up, gasped, he smelled it, too.
“Go on, Pietr,” said father with a humor in his voice I found impossible to find in children and, given the circumstances, myself. As Pietr started forward, the wind cast again on my face carrying with it new smells of metals, dirty leather and husky foulness, a soldier’s scent.
“Wait,” I clutch Pietr’s shoulder. The rigidity in fathers face was all the incentive I required.
I placed the satchel down and from it secured a dagger. I move in-between my brother and father into the trees darkness. The green shade aided in my furtive watch of the clearing ahead. As we suspected there was water, a brook coppered with clay runs slow enough to be still. A dark image sits in the water. At first it’s a boulder but as I abandon the shelter of trees it transshapes into a naked man. As the man proceeds with washing himself, I see the wound on the side he favors. On the nearest bank is discarded armor, a scabbarded sword and a violin.
My grip on the dagger tightens.
“Deserter,” I call out. Startled, he falls back to his haunches. His eyes are iced with fear.
Immediately, he knows who and what I am. Once a Sicari has proven themselves worthy, they adorn scarlet protections and an ebon robe with blue stitching’s.
“Please,” his hands rise in plea, beads of water fall, wasted as they splash back on his skin. “I still believe in the borderlands treaty of peace!”
“The borderlands expire thanks to the hundred violins.”
His eyes widen and the blade reflecting in their gloss as it fast approaches his throat has wrought the last emotion his face would ever show.
I return from the trees onto the road with father and Pietr. I prepare apologies to them for my imprudent kill, I knew my temper championed over my patience. Seeing my father lurking as I approach, weary of the trembling bramble, I make to speak but am stopped when he says: “I hope you made it painful.”
For a moment I stare. “…How did you-”
“Fatima, you are my first born. I’ll always know.”
I nod, feeling a blend of embarrassment and pride as they move beyond me toward the clearing.
“Besides,” father calls back, “… you are smiling.”
I touch my face surprised at its betrayal, and coyly turn to watch them.
“Let us drink,” I whisper and still, I smile.