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Whispers
#1
This was originally a submission as per Rawne's Hallow's End Nov.1st moot post, but i never heard anything back about it, and didn't have time to let the whole moot run its course, so i'll just post it here. Read it or not, whatever.



Whispers

A squirrel scolded somewhere in the distance. Jaenai took the admonition to heart, knowing that neither she nor her daughter should be out on a night like this, but Kayli had begged and pleaded, wanting to join in the fun. The Hallow’s End pyre burned hot and bright not too far away; it was the heat that had driven her away to stand in the shadows. She thought it strange that she could still feel mundane things like the elements, what with her being technically dead all these years. The heat had made her flesh feel dry and brittle, but now the cold of the shadows beyond was chilling her bones, and her soul alike.

“Mommy, can we go back to the fire now?” her daughter asked plaintively, tugging at the sagging waist of Jaenai’s ragged purple robe. “Please mommy, I’m cold.”

“I--yes, all right,” she replied absently, eyes roaming over the hunched figures near the fire, talking and laughing, losing themselves in the various potent liquors that their allies had gifted.

Hallow’s End was a difficult time for the Forsaken who still had any feelings left. It reminded them too much of what they’d lost, and of the horrors they’d become before they’d been set free, to live again in ageless undeath.

Jaenai stroked her daughter’s hair for a moment before leading her back towards the heat. There were far too many shining eyes lurking in the darkness just out of sight for her liking anyways. Perhaps they were just curious animals playing voyeur, or perhaps they were something other -- spirits of the past, friends, enemies and lovers alike, all wishing they could reclaim what those around the fire seemed to be enjoying.

She found herself longing painfully for her husband Dralon then, wishing she could see him clad in his filthy overalls and crisp straw hat at least once more. They’d always been a strange match, even from the first. Oh how her friends had been appalled -- her a Kirin Tor mage, on her way to great things, and he just another lowly dirty farmer. How could she abandon her studies and let him impregnate her! They didn’t understand though, and she was sure none of them ever had before they died, or passed into near obscurity. Her arcane arts had made her feel more alive than anything could, but only Dralon had made the blood in her veins boil -- had made her blind to anything but him and their consuming love. It had been a sweet life, what little they’d had together, and sweeter still when little Kayli had come along.

Jaenai looked down and let her eyes linger on her daughter. Her face was an odd pink, a combination of the cold air from the shadows meeting the almost unbearable heat form the pyre. Firelight danced in the gloss of her chin-length red hair. She was smiling at something, Jaenai saw, but couldn’t imagine what. Remembering her father, maybe? She hoped so, and was at the same time glad that Kayli only had good memories of him -- that she hadn’t seen her father when he’d been turned by the Scourge, when he’d attacked Jaenai, and she’d been forced to kill him.

If she could still cry, her cheeks would be soaked by now. The sounds of the others’ conversations was only a murmur in her ears as she tried to reign in her emotions again. Oh how she hated being shackled by her old human emotions in this undead body. Sometimes she wished she were actually dead -- fully and truly, but she was too afraid of what might or might not lie beyond the veil of true death to put herself too far in harm’s way. Besides, she had Kayli to think about. That feeling of guilt jerked her back to awareness, to realize her daughter was speaking.

“W-what honey? Mommy didn’t hear you.”

“I said, mommy, when we go home, can I have a kitty? Poppy said I could, when I was old enough, and I am old enough now!” she said, looking up at Jaenai, her eyes wide and hopeful. It was true, too. Dralon had promised it to her many times, and Kayli had waited patiently for the day her father would consider her old enough to handle the responsibility.

“Okay, love. We’ll get you a nice white kitten, all right?” Even as the words left her mouth, though Jaenai didn’t really mean them. She hadn’t the slightest idea where they would find a kitten in the crypt that was the Undercity. Even just thinking about that made her feel strange, the question and the answer seeming almost surreal.

She glanced down at her daughter again, studying her face. “Are you tired? Are you hungry? I’m sure if we ask, someone will share--,”

“Silly mommy,” Kayli said and laughed, her voice strangely high, and seeming distant. “I don’t get hungry anymore, not like you.” Kayli stopped and stared at Jaenai, no longer smiling.

“W-what do you mean? Of course you get hungry. I fed you porridge with honey this morning, and you ate it all up. You’re hungry all the time!” The sounds of the revelry around the fire had died down completely, and Jaenai felt the darkness closing in around her, creeping up on her from behind.

“Not like you Mommy.”

“Stop it,” Jaenai whispered. “Don’t.” The memories flooded back, try as she might to keep them at bay. Dralon had bitten her when they‘d fought. She’d tried to help herself, but there was no way to fight the Scourge, not then.

“Mommy, why did you eat me?”

Sinister whispers in the darkness came at her from all sides, accusing, pleading, crying, all sounding like her beautiful Kayli. The thing before her wasn’t her daughter -- not anymore -- not with greasy, matted hair, eyes showing only whites, with pale, clammy skin hanging slack on her face. Ragged tears in her torso and neck gaped red and bloody.

“Why’d you eat me?” the thing whispered, the voice cold and hollow. Oh Light, it sounded like her daughter.

“No! NO!” Jaenai shrieked, mouth turned to the blackness above her. She screamed in denial, trying to force the memories away again. Oh Light, she had killed her precious Kayli. She’d been so hungry. Even now, she could still taste her daughter’s bleeding flesh on her tongue, on her lips. Forsaken. No word could describe her better.

There was no escaping the memories. She would live indefinitely, undead, remembering her family, remembering their deaths. The Hallow’s End pyre blazed before her. What lay beyond? Oblivion, she hoped.

Jaenai threw herself into the consuming flames.

~
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