The Cloak Of Black Fire

Black Fire Vale is the last place you will ever visit. It is where Death himself reigns. But Birch is born of Black Fire and is tied to it. Maybe that's why he want's the cloak so much but however he tries to get it someone will get hurt, sometimes power is best left to those who know all the answers instead of those who ask all the questions.

Entry for the 'Hidden Power' competition.

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1. One

Birch had been watching far longer than anticipated. His eyes betrayed the look of a boy waiting till the light would appear. It was his own fault in turn, for months the opportunity had been his. Had he taken it the first second he could, the cloak would be his. But he was Birch, not Death. Death was stood in his grand entrance while Birch hid in the corners of the dark forest.

Birch was one of the few, one of the ones who didn’t have to die. Birch had been born of death and would forever belong to the darkness. His mien was secretive, selective and struggling. His pallid face and odd eyes glowed in the cluster of trees. Even though he looked more like his father than any other soul you would not see him sick or unusual. Birch was Death’s own son, his bones were crafted from the ashes of black fire and his life blown into him by the winds created of Death himself. That is why Birch will always have the rightful claim to the cloak, but how can he conquer a man who is already dead?

 

Wading home through the mists of Algrath and gliding over the River of Tramar not an eye glanced at the son or a whisper follow his lead. Somehow here, Birch will always be forgotten. As the doors to the main entrance came to view Birch stopped, knowing he had but seconds before the one pair of eyes he hated would see him. In that spilt second of stopping however, a haggard old woman approached. No one of great consequence, just another dead soul. Or so Birch thought, for he had never taken an interest in the ones who passed through. The air around this woman though, something more than the decrepit haze of hate. This was a purple haze that engulfed her white hair and translucent hands with protruding bones and yellowed nails that curled at their spindly ends. Her manner didn’t seem like the usual passers but her eyes were grey like the sky and pupils thin like the blades of grass.

‘I can help you.’  A voice sung. Birch turned in circles but couldn't find the perpetrator of the silence. Only the old woman cowered in his wake. ‘Look at me boy.’ The woman said, that voice again. Had Birch had the energy he would have jumped back in surprise, had he cared much he would have caught his breath. As it was his only query was how a woman so ill and old could sound so young and powerful.

‘And how could you possibly do that? You don’t even know who I am.’ Birch sounded arrogant, confident in himself and proud that he knew something she didn’t.

‘Oh I know you Birch. I’ve known you a very long time. And I know you want it.’ The woman started to approach Birch and the purple haze grew larger around her body.

                ‘OK old woman, you know me. How? Who are you?’ Birch’s voice started to falter, his feet inching back slightly with each syllable. The woman didn’t say anything though, she didn’t need to. In a spilt second she was engulfed in the purple haze which thickened to smoke, had she not already been dead Birch might have worried she would choke. He watched in shock, fear and a multitude of emotions he shouldn't feel. Eventually the smoke receded to just around her body but the body itself had changed. No longer old and pale. The old woman could have been sixty years younger. No longer haggard and withered but she stood tall and straight. Her nails did not yellow with age but glisten with blood red paint. They matched her eyes, almost pools of blood themselves that bore into Birch’s. He had never seen someone else but him and his father with eyes that were so deep and fluid. The woman still had white hair but it was not wispy or wild any more, instead it sleekly fell down her back and rippled like the river with the slightest movement. Bones were trapped in her skin which had a pink tint to it; she looked alive.

                ‘Now that would be telling you everything, and I’d like to keep some things a secret.’ She finally said, her lips moist and lightly falling together when she closed her mouth.               

                ‘I asked who you are.’ Birch uttered again through gritted teeth. He was not scared, had no cause to be. Merely angered that she did not give him an answer. ‘You approach me as a haggard old woman. Change right before my eyes and do not have the courage to release your identity.’

                ‘I don’t think it’s really a lack of courage boy.’

                ‘Well what then?’

                ‘Knowledge. The knowledge not to entrust you with my secrets in so open a surrounding.’ The woman smiled. ‘Perhaps we should take a walk through the Garden of Black Fire.’ Her eyes darted for a moment between Birch, the entrance to the garden and Birch’s original destination.  A flicker of desire passed her face. Birch might have been arrogant but he knew how to please the right people when needs be. Even if it was the only thing his father taught him. 

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