The Ritual of the Flames

It was a hard and gruff voice, so, a man's. He was tall – she could tell by the way his voice spread through the forest: like a ripple in an otherwise calm lake. He was taller than her mother. And she didn't know the man, neither did her mother. Yet they were next to each other. Her mother quite unwillingly, though. It was this man who separated her from her family. She was stuck in reality whereas her parents were, hopefully, in heaven. Together at last.

Would the last of her kind be able to fight for her life and flourish in the epic battle in which her life was her prize?

Or would she fall?


2. Chapter 2

Chapter Two



               The sun had set and risen again by the time that Renn was on her way to the Orphanage. A brown-leather messenger bag, on her right hand side, jumped every time she took a step. It did not have very much in it. Just her mother's favourite book, one of her mother's nighties, a toothbrush, her mother's hairbrush, the knife from her mother's stomach, the hand-drawn map to the Orphanage, a few clean pairs of pants and some shoes.


               It was a windy day so Renn was grateful that she had not worn a dress. She was wearing a pair of trousers that had belonged to her father when he was young, an old t-shirt and her mother's coat that hung on her like an elephant's skin. Her feet were bare, as always, as she didn't like her feet being enclosed in shoes. Most of the things she had with her reminded Renn of her mother. The book. The nightie. The hairbrush. The knife. The map. The coat. The bag.


               She could not help it. Everything she was carrying, and wearing for that matter, reminded her that everything she held dear was dead or missing. Her mother: dead. Her father: dead. Her ginger tabby cat, Sarman: missing. Probably dead. She let the tears flow, her face covered in a mask of salty sadness.


               Renn's footsteps left a trail in the dirt, like the trail on the map. Just not red. She hated walking; almost as much as she hated carrying the weapon used for the murder of her mother. Her tears had come to a halt, leaving stains on her slightly burnt skin. It was soothing - her tears soaking her burnt face.


               She had been walking for hours on end. Her feet were sore, a result of not wearing shoes. The map was not helping, it was directing her in the wrong direction - most obviously old, like Renn's mother had been expecting her tragic fate at an earlier stage in life; carrying the map at all times as if it were the only thing that stopped her from dying. Renn dismissed the thought, how could her mother of possibly known that she was going to die?


               Renn slipped into the Forest at the side of the road. The trees were enough to shade her from the sun. She should have gone at night - it would have been cooler. She sat in a ditch that had recently dried mud in it. She was dipping her toes in a stream that was running next to her resting spot, she got out her mother's book.


〰 〰 〰


               Renn had started reading when the sun was at its highest point in the sky, it was now setting. She folded the corner of the page down and stuffed the book back into her bag. Page 32. She went to the edge of the road, maybe she could catch a ride with one of the few cars that drove at night, assuming they did not run her over first.


               So far, she had had no luck in catching a ride. The moon was not at its highest point yet which meant that the road ahead of Renn was not lit up. Her bare feet were no longer sore but she put her shoes on anyway, in case she had to make a speedy escape. She carried the knife in her right hand.


               Her eyes were fixated on the road but she was not looking at where she was placing her feet. Before she knew it, her knee was cut, her nose was bleeding and the knife had cluttered out of her hand and onto the road in front of her. Renn reached out, her fingers longing to touch the knife before anyone could see what she was carrying, yet the knife was an arm's length away. The blade was cool on her palm, cooler than the darkness that surrounded her.


               She was on her feet again in minutes, as though the fall had not happened in the first place. The knife was back in her hand; keeping her safe. Her nose was bleeding violently and she soon had blood over her hands as well as over her face; she looked as though she had been attacked. The only thing that could alter that thought was the fact that she was the one holding the weapon.


               There was a shuffle nearby. Immediately, the hand holding the weapon shot up in front of her while the other stayed pinching the bridge of her nose, attempting to stop the blood flow.


               "Who are you? And what happened to you face?"


               Renn grunted, she hated questions. Especially when she did not know who was asking them. Renn racked her mind, forcing her senses to attention.


               It was a girl, older than herself, by three months. Blonde hair, tied back in a rough ponytail, mid length. Shorter than Renn, six inches shorter. She was a lost child whose food had just ran out. Her parents were dead, like Renn's, and her brother had gone missing. And she was running from something. Something big.


               "It does not matter what happened to me, what are you running from?" Renn asked, she hated being asked questions but was quite fond asking them.


               "A be-" she stopped. "How did you know I was running from something?"


               "Again, it does not matter. A bear?" Renn did not wait for an answer, she just continued. "You can come with me if you like, I have a knife. It will keep us safe for now. I also have some food, you can have it since your supply of it recently ran out."


               The girl just blinked. The bloody-faced girl knew a lot about her even though they had just met. She knew she was being chased by a bear and she knew that her food had ran out. But... How? A distant roar sounded.


               "Hello?" Renn asked.


               "Yes. Hello."


               "Are you coming with me, Blondie? I am on my way to an Orphanage."


               It was dark, how could the girl possibly know her hair colour? How could she know that she was an orphan? She dismissed the wretched thoughts. "Yes, please."


               And with that, the two girls set off in the direction Renn was already headed. The direction of the Orphanage. The opposite direction of the bear. Or at least, that's what they thought.


〰 〰 〰


               Renn shoved the girl aside and threw her bag in the same direction. Renn went up to her and handed her the knife.


               "Blondie, take this and run. I will meet you down there in a bit."


               "What do you mean you will meet me down there in a bit?"


               "I mean, you are going on without me for a minute or so."


               "And what are you going to do? The only thing you will accomplish by trying to distract a bear defenceless is your own death."


               "Well, you had better hope that it is enough to spare the rest of your years, then."


               "You are not serious, are you?"


               Renn looked around, she looked at the girl's face. She could see desperation in her eyes, the kind you get when what you want most has just been given to you and is about to be snatched away. She could see her own reflection; beaten and bloody, thin and fragile, small and breakable. The girl had just met her but had already got used to the company.


               "Yes. I am serious."


               The girl blinked: anger filled her eyes. Sorrow filled her eyes. Guilt filled her eyes. Renn's reflection displayed all these emotions perfectly. She was not human, she was a series of words.


               The girl ran and Renn stood her ground. The road had started to shake by the time that the girl had got ten metres away. The bear was getting closer. Still, Renn showed no obvious signs of fear.


               The girl looked back, her brown eyes wide. Her whole body shaking: fear consumed, for herself and Renn.


               The bear was three metres away from Renn. Time appeared to stand still. Renn stood still. The bear stood still. The girl, ten metres away, stood still. Hours seemed to pass before Renn made a noise that resembled a grunt. The bear mimicked Renn. She shut her orange eyes, slowly. When they re-opened, they were black.


               The bear charged at her. Renn put her right leg forward, extended her arms and clapped her hands.


               Fire unleashed itself from her palms and erupted in a semi-circle around Renn. The bear stood up on its hind legs and roared in defeat. Renn's black eyes were unseeing, she was unaware of all that was happening. The bear returned to the forest. Renn shut her eyes. The fire dyed. Renn opened her eyes. They were orange again. The girl stared.

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