Tára: Chapter 1 - A Promising Child
Janôra, Tríerzòn, 10 Laránè TR702
An old woman hurried along a long wooden corridor, calling as she looked worriedly from side to side.
“Where are you girl?”
She halted at the foot of a long staircase that disappeared up into the gloom.
“Are you up there again, Tára? You know your father doesn’t like you going up there!”
She waited, but heard nothing.
Turning back down the corridor, the old woman continued calling, and made her way down another flight of stairs.
She called again, but her voice was muffled by distance.
High above her, in the darkness of the attic at the top of the stairs a young girl crouched silently. She had heard her matron’s calls, but had ignored them.
Tára had more pressing concerns. She reached down and ran her fingers through the fur of a small dog which lay before her.
“Férsey…”, she whispered. “Férsey… come on… wake up now…”
The small animal lay still, inert.
A chill ran through the girl. What could have gone wrong? She had followed all the instructions in scroll, to the letter… how could this be happening?
She hurriedly turned to a scroll laid out to her side, and holding up a flickering candle, re-read the steps in the process, her heart racing as she struggled to work out what to do.
It was hot and stuffy in the attic, and beads of sweat began to form on her brow.
She glanced back at the dog, but it continued to lie still and quiet. It did not seem to be breathing, either.
Then she saw it. She saw the error she had made, and she dropped the scroll and scrambled over to the collection of materials on a low table. She furiously began mixing ingredients, silently cursing herself for being so stupid, fear rising every moment that she had done something terribly, terribly wrong, but trying to focus on undoing it.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than a minute, she had repeated the mixing process, and rushed back to the small animal’s side, where she poured a small flask of liquid into a shallow dish filled with a grey powder she had placed under the dog’s nose.
A thin, acrid, smoke rose from the powder as it dissolved, bubbled and hissed. It stung her eyes, but she continued holding the dish under the dog’s nose.
The dog continued to lie still and silent. Putting down the flask, she held its head over the dish, coaxing it to breath in the fumes.
“Férsey, please…” she whispered.
But the dog was limp and, she noticed, increasingly cool in her hands. Nothing stirred in the animal, and then the mixture in the dish sputtered and ceased to smoke.
Tára lifted up the dog and held it close to her, but it was clearly lifeless. She rocked back and forth, clutching the animal, and whispering to it.
"Oh Férsey, I'm so sorry..." she repeated over and over again, as tears began to flow down her cheeks.
But the dog did not stir.
She gently lowered the animal to the attic floor, and stood up. It looked so small, lying there.
Tára wiped away her tears, and looked around the attic. In the corner, she saw a pile of old sacks, and next to them, a battered leather bag. She examined and tested the bag, and carefully put the small dog into it, sealing the straps.
She cleared away the materials on the small table, and the scroll, and packed them in her satchel, which when she was done, she slung over her shoulder, and picked up the leather bag. It did not seem overly heavy.
Listening for activity below, and hearing none, she carefully made her way down the stairs. Instead of following the main corridor down which the matron had left, she entered a small storage room, and made her way to its small shuttered window. She looked out cautiously, and down over the roof of the next neighbouring building.
She carefully lowered the leather bag down on the roof below, and climbed out the window. She hung momentarily on the ledge, then dropped herself down to join the bag. She crouched down low, looking around to check that no one had seen her. It was early evening, and the few people she could see in the streets below all seemed busy about their business.
Tára took up the leather bag, and made her way carefully along the roof line, then repeated the same procedure down onto a balcony of the neighbouring building. She knew that old woman Kóralenes was nearly deaf, and would be most unlikely to notice her. She had used this means of avoiding her matron many times before.
She glanced down off the balcony, and the small lane below was empty. A pile of refuse lay in the lane below the balcony, and she dropped the leather bag onto it, and followed once more. The refuse was unpleasant, but cushioned her drop well.
Wiping off as much of the refuse as she could, she gathered her belongs, and cautiously made her way to the end of the lane, and then out into the wider street, doing her best to remain unnoticed. Soon she was in the flow of people moving along the busy streets of Janôra. She followed the streets away from her home, towards the nearest secluded canal.
Tára looked around, and seeing no one in the small courtyard beside the canal, quickly stepped down a short flight of stone stairs to the water’s edge. She wedged out a loose stone, and placed it in the bag. She looked at the small dog once more, and whispered to it.
“Goodbye, Férsey. I’m so, so, sorry…”
She closed up the bag, and lowered it into the water, and watched as it slowly sank. She climbed back up the stairs to the courtyard, and glancing around once more, almost ran back towards the main streets.
She never noticed the tall pale-skinned man standing in the shadows of the courtyard. In fact, it was unlikely she could have done anything that would have enabled her to see him. He watched her leave, shook his head sadly, and turned away.