The child was born into silence.
The mother labored with quiet grunts.
The father watched on, gently tutting on his pipe.
The midwife’s voice was the only sound in the room. She encouraged the mother along, and the child was born in near silence. She did not scream when she was born, perhaps she softly cooed. Only when she was placed in her arms and began to nurse did the child make a sound, and the mother gasped.
The new family of silence.
The father was once a knight. He had been injured. He wanted the silence.
The mother was nobody. She learned silence from his hand.
The child knew nothing but silence. Her mother did not sing to her, her father did not tell her stories. When she fussed, as all babies do, her mother rushed her from her father and scolded her. Soon, she too learned silence. When she was hungry, tired, wet, she wiggled in discomfort. Her mother, always nearby, softly turning pages in a book, or silently knitting, tended to her, and they returned to silence.
The child had no toys but her own fingers and toes. She was not swaddled in playful fabrics.
Her world was quiet.
When the child was old enough, she was allowed to go to school.
The priests quickly removed the stone from his palm, and hurried him into the great shrine.
He heard no voice during the great ceremonies. No voice answered his prayer. On the way back home, the priest told him they would try again next year, but he must commit himself fully to Balor in the coming months.
At night, he dreamed about that stone, that warm, brilliant stone, with the blue etchings he seemed to know.
That year was rough. The priests shaved his head, and began harsh mediation sessions. He fasted for weeks, he meditated through nights, and all the while, that stone slipped into his thoughts. One morning, during a fast, he heard a little voice in the dusk. Something small and crying. He broke his meditation and followed it. He ran through the tangled overgrowth of the shrine garden, down into the nearby town, chasing the little sound.
And there, in the dirt of the town square, he heard it loudly.
“I’m here!” it cried out.
He bowed his head to the passerbys as he wandered closer, something in the dust crying out to him louder than ever before.
There it was. The red stone.
He shoved it into his robe and ran back to the shrine. It talked endlessly as he sprinted. It thanked him over and over again as he rushed back into his room.
“Shh. Someone will hear you!” Wataza whisper barked to the gem in his hand.
“No they won’t.”
“My lord…” She cleared her throat. He didn’t budge. “My lord, you’re going to suffer summer sickness if you sleep in the heat here.” She put her bucket by her feet, debating if she should kneel down and touch him. “My lord.”
His breath was smooth and even. He was far away in his dreams. Laurel almost felt bad as she got onto her knees and reached out. “Lord Saeran.” She whispered, hoping to wake him gently. Her hand made contact with his shoulder, giving him a tiny shake. “Lord Saeran.”
He moved far too quickly for her to react. His hand shot out like from a bow and clamped around her neck. She took a sharp breath inward, the lack of air she could take in as Saeran’s grip grew tighter. Her own hands grabbed around his wrist as she made a gurgling sound. Saeran’s eyes were empty as she beat at his hand. She kicked her legs out, knocking her bucket over. Nothing was getting to him as her world started to fade at the edges. She could feel spit eking from the corner of her lips as she tried to make words.
Laurel’s world went dark.