River Stories

Ari has always wanted to be the one to break free, the one who knows she will be Light and can travel upstream to see where her life takes her. But when the curse of Alvado Falada begins to unfold, Ari begins to discover that life isn't what it seems and sometimes you just need to be yourself.

This is the story of a girl who faces tragedy, love, heartbreak and beauty to get to where she wants to be. Follow Ari on her amazing journey up the river.

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3. Chapter 3

We sat under the burning sun for the whole of the afternoon and into the cloudless evening, discussing ways in which we could save ourselves from the dark magic that would invade our minds. We talked until the glowing embers were about to die out and the ground was wrapped in a sudden mist, when Calib told us that when some people turned Dark, they had enough self-will to turn around and flee the Valley, into the Highlands and into the Great City of Kildeyern where we would be less likely to hurt anyone. There was so much black magic in that city, no-one would ever know.

Pa, Ro and I walked home in silence. I slipped my hand into Ro's and squeezed it tight, hoping that if at least one of us were to turn dark, it would be me. Ro was far too good natured and kind for me to ever consider him having amber burning eyes when he was angry or an evil look on his face that would surely replace the innocent look he had there now. As I looked up at the stars, I realised that these were the kind of things I would miss if I had to leave. Sleeping outside in the summer, watching the stars as they blinked warmly down at me. Everything had a cold touch to it now, even the stars which seemed to blink coldly at me as if to warn me that what would come I would not like. I hoped that I was just reading into things too much, that everything would be okay and I could preserve the happy little world I had created for Pa, Ro and I. I knew I worried too much but what did that make me? However hard I tried to reach into my soul, to grab the real me and set the thrashing bird free, I couldn't do it. I couldn't see who I was going to be.

That night I tossed and turned on my pallet, not being able to give in to the warm embrace of sleep. Moonlight seeped through the thin curtains I had hung at the window years ago in an attempt to brighten up our little home. Finally, I stood up and walked over to the moonlight, peering out at the silent night that lay in front of me. As I looked into the depths of the darkness, I realised something. People feared the Darks because most are afraid of what they cannot preach about. Darkness holds many secrets, twisting shadows and leaping animals but underneath the chaos, there is a strange sense of peace and calm, a time where none of your fears seem relevant and you can pretend that the world is new, a clean slate for you to draw on. This was when I realised with some surprise that I liked the darkness. I didn't have to be me. I was someone else. I was the cloud you see, drifting sleepily over the watching world below, the beautiful rose that has just bloomed in your back garden bringing a gorgeous feeling of spring and light weather, the juicy apple that you just ate that you found the tastiest thing you ever had. I was everywhere. I could be another me.

Silent as a secret whisper, I crept past my Pa and Ro’s cots and out the door. The very early morning’s dew had settled dreamily on the sharp blades of grass which tickled my feet as I padded across the small square of brambles, over-grown grass and a mass of tangled flowers that made up our garden. The small garden gate that Pa had painted white years ago when our Ma had been alive to make him appreciate pretty, well-kept gardens was not well oiled and creaked loudly as I slowly pushed it open. My thin white shift glowed in the pale glow of the moon and I shivered in the thin fabric that didn’t protect me from the chilly night air.

I had no idea where I was going until I realised that my feet were following the familiar root down to the river, this time not the one that cut through the thorny bushes. The thin strip of white washed pebbles that lay just beyond where the river lapped at the banks crunched beneath my feet. An owl hooted softly above my head and I looked up to see a chest of white feathers and a tawny back of brown. Its amber eyes blinked lazily at me and I glimpsed a mouse tail as it disappeared into the owls’ quick mouth.

The night air was damp and hung heavy in my hair. The stars twinkled brightly in the ink blue night sky, the sky bleeding across my head and stretching on into unknown lands. Stars were just smudges of gleaming gold that occasionally blinked down at me as if to remind me that I wasn’t supposed to be there, I was a stranger in a world of water.

Water lapped quietly against the river banks, the soft sand moving in waves as the river flowed silently over it. Small fish weaved between water weeds and glided smoothly over rocks. I wished that I could join them, their less than six second minds circling endlessly in the world of the river, water being the only thing that controlled their lives. There was no coming Beckoning for them, no feeling of absolute dread, no pressure not to let their families down.

My family had been Lights for the past three generations. Pa was a Light and it was most probable that Ro would be a Light. He had that kind of soul. Every movement he made, every word he said, it reverberated with kindness and truth. The way he bit his lower lip when he concentrated, the way he scratched behind his left ear when he was nervous, I could just tell he was going to be Light. An so, it seemed, could the rest of the Valley.

I knew the Valleyers had their doubts about me. I was silent at school and even though I had a large group of friends, I had no idea how they got to be my friends. When I was younger, I had been the one who the girls envied but as I grew older, I realised I was different. I wasn’t interested in the Spring Hail or boys. I was Ari, the girl who wanted to be alone with the river. I heard whispers about me behind my back. I was the river-girl, the girl who wanted to leak into the river and be a part of the flowing dance.

In front of me, the river flowed. Above me, the sky stretched endlessly on. All around me the animals clucked and squeaks and crowed, the winds whispering through the trees and the trees creaking like an abandoned house. Behind me, a twig cracked.

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