I think I smelt the fire before I woke – my dreams were filled with thick smoke and flames and the screams of people brought me floundering to the surface. Choking, I stumbled from my bed, falling to the floor trying to find some clear air. Grabbing my coat from where it lay on a chest I continued crawling, prying my bedroom door open and making for the stairway. The screams all around almost drove me mad – it seemed as if terror and pain had their own voice swirling and pulsing all around. I heard my mother’s voice calling to my father, and the promise of comfort from that voice caused me to lose my balance and falling, I met the base of the stairs with a harsh bump, stars appearing before my sight. The smoke was slightly less at the lower level, I could run along the floor in a crouched position, calling to my mother. I called to her in a way I had not for many years. I was almost a woman ready to run her own household, but right now I felt no older than five years, and in desperate need of the comfort from my mother, and the strong protection from my father. Breaking through the front door that stood open, I stumbled onto my hands and knees in the cobbled street. Before that moment I had only considered this as an accidental fire, but glancing around I suddenly realized, this was so much more. Small groups of people running helter-skelter down the street, screaming as if all the terrors of hell were after them and every shop and house stood lit up with raging flames. The flickering vermilion and gold tongues of fire consuming the houses and lives looked almost dreamy against the velvety navy waters of the bay. In a frenzied moment I thought of a sunset – the same colours, but this time the beauty was a lie. I pulled my coat tight and ran to the closest group that crouched against a pile of barrels by our stable-block.
“What is happening!?” I shouted above the ferocious growl of the flames
“Pirates! They burning and killing at will, hide, and don’t come out till everything is quiet!” Answered one oldish woman whom I recognized as the baker’s wife.
“Please,” I said, “I can’t find my parents, have you seen them?”
I got no response, the group seemed almost crippled by fear, setting out by myself, my need to be rejoined with my family was getting almost unbearable.
“MOTHER!!! FATHER!!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, sometimes hearing the pitch of my mother’s voice, but I was never sure it if was real or not…
A couple of times I ducked into thick shadows as a marauding pirate charged by in chase of villagers. They wielded fearsome swords and the sounds that I heard as they caught their prey I try not to relive – such actions should not be possible. I was becoming more and more worried as the minutes passed – surely my parents had escaped the inn, where were they? I asked myself the same question over and over again. The flames rushed through our little fishing village, consuming the old wooden houses like a tornado, leaving broken skeletons in its wake. As dawn touched the destroyed town with a pink glow, I found myself standing in front of the Inn, or rather, what was left of it. The main beam holding up the middle lay in a smouldering heap, there was nothing but ash. I thought to myself of how we had lost everything. Up till then I never considered that I would be the one who lost everything. With the light of the rising sun, I crept along the debris, staying clear of the pirates who patrolled the streets every now and again. Hearing a groan come from across the street, I rushed over, something beyond knowledge drawing me. Behind a smouldering crate lay my parents, my father still protecting his wife, even in the cold clutches of death. I screamed in agony, not caring who heard and fell down on my knees beside my them. My father had been sliced by a broadsword, he was long gone, but my mother lay in my father’s embrace, barely breathing, hanging on just long enough to see me. My hands shot out, hovering over the broken bodies, I wanted to do something, but there was nothing to do.
“My precious baby.” She whispered, her voice so weak, the life all but gone, the light all but used.
“Momma!” I shouted and lay down beside her, wrapping my arms around her cold body, I wished and hoped that somehow I could transfer my life-force into her or that she would take me with her. But life is never fair. She kissed the top of my head and with a movement that took ever last ounce of strength she put something into my hand, and with a last whisper of ‘I love you’, she slipped away to join my father – his constant companion in life, following him into death. I screamed over and over, the pain of my loss ripping through me like the claws of a savage animal. I knew what she had placed in my hand, a locket of silver, engraved with flowers, inside a small painting of us three done in minute detail. Taking my coat off, I carefully tucked it around the bodies of my parents – suddenly afraid to touch them – these bodies no longer held them, they were no more than empty husks. It had all been too much, my home destroyed, my family slaughtered – sinking to the ground I welcomed the intruding cold of the cobblestones, wishing the frost to claim me and grant me numbness. It had been a complete slaughter and mission of destruction, for what reasons I know not or if any survived, but I was past caring – everything was gone.