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I Will Return: Chapter 3.3

by charleslee

*Note: The prologue is now Chapter 1, bumping up every chapter by one number. Sorry for any confusion.

Chapter 3.3 (The Stars Shuddered, Pt. 3)

Who else would be at Hawthorn’s tower at this time of night?

“Hello?” said a small, girlish voice. “Are you there, Hawthorn?” Malachi recognized the child’s voice immediately but had trouble identifying her by name. Her sound echoed and pulsed through the silent chamber. Malachi slid into the shadows, silently, his eyes bulging with unease.

“Hawthorn? It’s Fiona. I’m from the village,” her voice was airy, discontent.

Malachi drew a heavy breath in, but couldn’t seem to let go of it. He remembered her. He’d seen her just hours ago, playing games with the other children at the Moon Dance.

“The power’s all gone out. At the dance, I mean. Everyone was wondering where you were… so you could, you know, make it right...” She paused. “Hawthorn?” She was pacing now, looking into each of the rooms.

Fiona was the very least of the villagers, from the poorest of poor families. She came out of her little wooden home every day, hands still filthy with the marks of the past day’s work, and be sent out to harvest crops in a place Malachi had only heard of, but never seen: the plains of Vagor. They’d sent her deep into the wood like a pig to slaughter, knowing it wouldn’t matter if she never found her way home in the dark of the wood.

“Hawthorn?” Fiona called again.

She was different than the rest of the workers, whose pale reflections shone brilliantly in the sunlight while they worked. Instead, her skin was golden brown since birth—the old women sometimes joked that she’d had her own personal sun with her in the womb.

“Where are you?”

The shadow of Fiona’s short, skinny body grew larger as she approached the doorway. She wore a lacey white dress and a blue bow in her sunkissed hair. Malachi glanced over, his mouth full of unsatisfied air, resisting the urge to expel his oxygen and draw attention to himself. Fiona stood vacantly in the darkness until the moonlight finally caught Hawthorn’s beaten face.

Fiona’s eyes glowed with surprise. She scurried to his side with a gasp and fell to her knees, speechless. Her mouth opened up like a cave, and a tear rolled silently down her cheek. Wind began to beat violently against the fragile windows like persisten demons as she wept. “Who’s done this to you?” she said softly, her voice shaky. “What monster did this?”

Malachi felt the pocket of air pressing urgently against his pursed lips. His lungs were reaching up to his throat, burning, hissing. He couldn’t let go now.

Fiona wept delicately, combing her shaking fingers through Hawthorn’s greasy, bloodied hair. She leaned against his body in mourning and kissed his wrinkled face, her tears uniting with the spattered blood dotting his chin.

As Malachi’s eyes bulged in suffocation, Fiona began to sing, like a mother to her child, the Moon Dance hymn.

Aida ma venti

Serendoa poe!

Quis vox lu-

Like a breaking dam on a raging river, a rush of air burst from Malachi’s tight lips. He heaved and gasped for breath, unable to contain himself, suddenly feeling very small and very vulnerable.

Fiona screamed. In the scarce moonlight, all Malachi could see was her crumpled face, shrieking in pain, longing, mourning, wet with her own tears.

“Please be quiet—” Malachi insisted weakly. She screeched louder. He covered her mouth with his palm, but she ferociously lifted his hand away and yelled painfully into the night, so even the stars shuddered at the sound.

“Quiet, please—”

Fiona's cry penetrated the still, steady air like a double edged sword. The people would hear her—Malachi knew it. His life was over. He gazed anxiously out the window, wondering if a herd of men were on their way now, seeking out the girl’s cry. Malachi crouched on the ground against the stone wall, shielding his eyes with filthy, blood-ridden fingers. Fiona’s shriek grew weaker, but was still pulsing. She screamed as long as it took for the starlit sky outside to grow just the slightest shade lighter, closer to the cosmic aura of the constellations.

She fell, her cry drowning out at last. Fiona’s arms lay limply on the floor, her little face quivering, her eyes finally closed.

Malachi ran, stradling over the two bodies strewn across the floor. Thrusting the door open and leaping down the steps, Malachi ran to the forest, the shadow of Hawthorn's tower dancing on the ground he ran on. The forest was black, misty and dangerous; he didn't care. Malachi ran on.

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1053 Reviews

Points: 101315
Reviews: 1053

Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:51 am
Mea wrote a review...

Hey there! I thought I'd drop by for a quick review on this lovely Review Day. I remember reviewing the last chapter of this a while ago, so I'll keep that in mind as I review this chapter.

I like Fiona. You do a good job of introducing and describing her effectively - I already feel like I know her and her personality, and I feel bad that she's the one who has to discover Hawthorn like this.

and be sent out to harvest crops in a place Malachi had only heard of, but never seen: the plains of Vagor

I feel like this doesn't quite make sense. Malachi never having seen these plains of Vagor implies that they're not nearby. But if they're a long, long walk away through a deep, scary forest, wouldn't it be really inefficient for her and the other workers to walk all that way each day to the plains? It would take hours, and they wouldn't have much time left to work once they got there. It seems to me like it'd make more sense for them to sleep near the fields, and come back home only once or twice a week. Maybe I'm reading too much into this.

I thought the way you had Malachi get noticed because he couldn't hold his breath long enough was a little bit melodramatic and kind of stupid of him. Just the way you phrased his needing to breathe (with phrases like "his mouth full of unsatisfied air" or "like a breaking dam on a raging river) felt a little over the top. For one thing, why didn't he just let the air out slowly and take long, shallow breaths? That would make almost no noise, and unless Fiona can hear really well or something, it would be plausible she wouldn't notice him at all.

I think instead of having him get noticed by breathing too loudly, you could have him accidentally make some other noise. He's distraught himself, having found Hawthorn here dead - he's probably having a hard time controlling his emotions. I think it would be very realistic and add to the depth of his shock and sadness if, after Fiona begins to sing, the beauty of her singing or the sadness of the situation is too much for him and he lets out a small gasp.

I guess Fiona is screaming because she thinks Malachi killed Hawthorn, but that's not quite clear from the way it's described - at first, I actually thought she hadn't seen him, and was just screaming because she was so upset at Hawthorn's death.

I thought the end of this was really good - the image of her collapsing beside Hawthorn as Malachi runs into the night was really powerful. It's definitely the first turning point in the story, enticing the readers into reading on.

And that's all I've got for this! Good luck, and keep writing!

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1636 Reviews

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Reviews: 1636

Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:50 am
BlueAfrica wrote a review...

oh my god did malachi literally just kill a little girl

So it was a little funky to me that Malachi had to hold his breath so hard to keep from making noise? Like, yes: breathing out a huge burst of air through your mouth makes a lot of noise. But also, breathing through your nose is a thing. And generally a quieter thing, unless you have nasal problems of some sort. I know you want him to have this tension as he tries to remain quiet and then the big reveal when he makes noise, but I think there's a better way to do it than to deal with his breathing.

I liked the contrast between Malachi and Fiona between this chapter and the last, however. In the last bit I read, Malachi found Hawthorn, got angry about Hawthorn's suicide, and literally beat and kicked his body out of pain and anger. Meanwhile this little girl - to be fair, she didn't realize it was suicide, so maybe she'd react differently if she knew, but still - comes in and cries and kisses Hawthorn's face, not even bothered by the blood all over it. It was so sweet and just such an amazing contrast, and really intriguing the way a child was less bothered by it than a grown man.

It also made things a whole lot worse when Malachi...killed her? She's probably dead. She's referred to as a body there at the end, so I assume the worst.

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
— T.S. Eliot