HIS MIDNIGHT SUN
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Beautiful Tara is too brave for her own good. In the land of Mistera, where free thought and choice is a crime punishable by death, this can put her in serious trouble, and it does. Tara is bannished to the outlands where she meets the king of the lore himself, Raig Swain. Even though Raig is supposed to lead the invasion that would kill all of Tara's kind, he finds himself falling in love with her, and now, he must defy nature, fight an ancient curse in order to be with the woman he loves -- even though she is already married to another.
When in the cool of the evening,
You smell the sweet scent of forest green,
And the nightingale with a sweet voice,
Do not stop to listen, close your ears, run
Tara could hear her own breathing and she was sure a creature of the lore would hear it too yet as much as she tried, she could not still her breath. Her heart hammered against her chest and her breath came out in whooshes.
All around her, screams rent the air – of little children being torn away from their mothers, screams of mothers, of even grown men when they were taken. Her hand felt heavy, weighed down by the heavy sack of potatoes she had come to buy.
She could not run with the potatoes, they were too heavy and yet, she could not leave them behind, death at the hand of a person of the lore was very painful but very quick. Death by hunger could take slow agonizing days and she didn’t want that for Farah, Starc and Moey. She didn’t also want that for Mama.
Scrunched up as she was under the butcher’s table, her legs felt numb and a weird sense of calm threatened to overtake her – the nightingale’s sing. Even though she knew what it was, she couldn’t bring herself to run. She pictured her home, by now the children would be seated for supper – scrapes of yesterday’s supper warmed on the fire and served like a new meal. Mama would….. Mama would be worried that you’re not home yet, her brain tried to warn her but… There was a loud crash on top of the table she hid under and the dead body of the man she had bought the potatoes from rolled down and fell in front of her.
Tara screamed and leaped out from under the table, running blindly, the potatoes long forgotten. She crashed into a fat woman that was equally running blindly, screaming something, perhaps her son’s name. The woman trampled on Tara in her bid to get up and she kept running, without a backward glance. Tara felt a sharp pain on her ankle and even as she tried to deny it, to get up and continue running, she couldn’t. Her ankle was sprained.
Dust raised from the stamping of people’s feet on the dry earth stung her nose, making her sneeze and she could hardly see ahead of her.
The screams continued, people running in different directions so that apart from being in danger of the lore, she was in danger of being trampled in the stampede. If only she could find a quiet place to hide till the hunt was over… if only.
A young woman of about Tara’s age was dragging a little kid along as she ran, heading straight for Tara. In the dim light of the evening and with the dust raised, she probably couldn’t see Tara lying almost crippled on the ground. The little kid looked fat, a little too heavy to be carried but also too young to run fast and so he kept tripping as they ran, his hand clasped firmly in the woman’s, then Tara saw it.
It was part shadow, part real as it whooped low, missing the woman with the little kid by inches and taking a man just in front of the woman who was running in the opposite direction.
Tara’s screams mingled with the woman’s and that of the little boy and in the frenzy, Tara forced herself up, half limping, half running. She didn’t know where to run. In the confusion of the moment, she had forgotten the way home.
She pictured her home in her mind but this time, she was not compelled to do so by the nightingale’s sing. This time, she felt a little ray of hope as she imagined her brothers laughing as they taunted little Moey, their sister. Not unkind laughter but laughter that came from a place of happiness, from the love that bound family together.
Her mama once said that she had a strong mind, that whatever she set her mind to do, she always accomplished. She wished that was so, hoped it was so. At the moment, she set her mind to reach home. To hug her mother again, listen to yet another complaint from Moey and separate yet another fight between Farah and Starc.
She ran. Numbing in her mind, the pain from her sprained ankle, side stepping dead bodies that fell all around her, taken. She had to get home. She ran, blindly at first then slowly, as she tried to block the fear, the screams of the people.
With the dust still stinging her eyes and making her nose run, she made out the familiar shapes of the streets and the familiar stores. First the shop where pots and pans and scraps of metal were pawned and then the Goldsmith’s.
She turned at the shoemakers sign into a quieter street. It was the street that was lined with the school, the dress makers and the bookstore on one side and the council and windmill on the other side and so it was usually quiet. Perhaps the creatures of the lore hadn’t bothered to take the hunt this far.
She ran, hearing her footsteps echo in the empty classes of the school and in the council. She needed to get to the windmill and turn into her street, then it would only be a matter of running down the long street into her house. Perhaps even, she might knock on a neighbor’s house – a neighbor that would agree to open if danger came too close. Either way, once she turned into the street, she was as good as home.
Her ankle hurt more with each step until the pain became unbearable. She could feel herself slowing down, the screams and cries of the victims of the hunt now sounded far away, the sound reaching her ears like an echo. She hubbled now, the pain of her ankle too sharp, too raw for her to keep running. Even though she tried as much as possible to keep her weight on her good leg, the pain was still so much, she felt like she was about to faint.
She passed the school building and hubbled on, her lungs bursting with exertion and the pain from her ankle getting worse with each step but through it all, she smiled in hope. She had reached the windmill, it only remained for her to get past it and then into her street, then she saw him.
She knew immediately he was Raig Swain, he had to be. He was riding – no flying on his dragon, heading directly for her. His dark hair was flying behind him and there was determination in his eyes as they zeroed in on her. She knew at that moment that she was taken.
A glimpse from chapter two
It is not the chirping birds or the cockcrow
that wakes you in the morn.
It is the joy of family and the hope
for a morning’s sun.
It is not the chirping birds or the cock
That wakes you at morn.
It is the joy of family and hope
Of the morning’s sun.
Tara woke up before sunrise and began to grind the little wheat that would be used for breakfast that morning.
She would mix a little porridge with the left-over oats from yesterday’s super for Moey and Starc. Farah was older now, thirteen summers – almost grown up. He was big enough to understand hunger, to know what she and Mama had to sacrifice every day to put food on the table.
As she ground the wheat, she sang to herself. A song her grandmother had always sang to her before she passed, about large green meadows and houses that were so beautiful, they could not be described.
Of men who rode horses and clothes made of iron so that even the butcher’s heavy knife could not pierce through it. Of knives so beautiful, strong and sharp, they were actually called swords and of kingdoms.
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