The Ties That Bind

The markings weren’t dark like that of a tattoo, intentionally penned onto a persons flesh of their own conscious choosing. They were the color of earth – clay, ash, and root. They blended in and out of each other and swirled around Kaiyri’s flesh in intricate designs that even she didn’t fully comprehend. These markings were a part of her. A part that unveiled itself slowly and grew with her each passing year.

She had only recently turned seventeen when it began. The smallest marking on the outer toe of her left foot appeared, only a few shades darker than the rest of her skin. Bewildered but unconcerned, Kaiyri continued about her life as a teenage girl in the middle of nowhere. She was tutored by her mother, taught the skills of a ranger by her father, and was watched closely at all times.

Shortly after the markings began, the dreams did too. Within her, these nightly visions started the seed of doubt in the back of her thoughts. Kaiyri began waking with questions swirling in her thoughts as she watched her two parents seated at the table most mornings. Where was the rest of their family? Why had they never traveled to Eldestra, not even once, in 17 years? Why did they look so nervous when she insisted on knowing? Before these happenings, it never would have occurred to her to defy them. Something clearly was not right though.

One evening as she sat in a rocking swing on the front porch, a small stray feline had come to nuzzle into her warm lap and have it’s ears scratched. As she did so, she began to hum softly to herself. It wasn’t a tune she knew, nor did she pay attention as she sat lost in her own thoughts.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, she was hauled out of her seat by a large angry hand upon her upper arm. The cat who had been sleeping peacefully screeched it’s displeasure and with claws erect hissed at the man handling Kaiyri before running off into the dusk.

“Where did you learn that song?!” Her father’s voice bellowed into her face. She had never seen him so angry. His cheeks were flushed red with checked fury as he stared her down accusingly.

“Wha..I don’t understand?” Kairyi stood on her toes, her arm jerked upward by his tight grip upon her and her body turned away from him as if awaiting a blow that would follow. “Papa, I wasn’t singing a song. It was only humming, it was nothing.” Silvery eyes searched for the resemblance of the gentle man she knew, but this moment of anger had driven him out. She was afraid.

At her response, her father’s eyes widen incredulously and it takes all of his restraint not to throw the poor girl down onto the deck and be done with her. “You lie?! Right to my face?! People don’t just hum Ilythiiri lullabies, Kaiyri. You’ve been sneaking about haven’t you? We have given you rules for your own safety-”

“No papa I didn’t do anything wrong.” She pleads with him, trying to release herself from his grip that is aggressively dragging her into the house. Fear and confusion are the only emotions registering upon her pale and seemingly delicate face as he hauls her up the stairs, not even slowing down when she stumbles upon the wooden steps.

“Don’t speak to me! I will not have your lies. You have been very secretive lately and then I overhear you singing that filth! I won’t have some girl under my roof disobeying our rules.” His voice had lost some of the violence but was replaced by a deadly calm even more chilling. The anger still radiated from him just under the surface as he flung her bedroom door open and shoved her inside.

Falling upon her hands and knees, she could only sob quietly at this treatment. He had never before acted this way toward her and even now he stood over her with a detached coldness. “If you want to live underground, I can help you get there but I’ll be damned if it’s with the drow.”

Turning on his heel, he grasps her bedroom door and tugs it behind him as he leaves. On his way out he glances over his shoulder to look back at her one last time. The expression she finds there, through blurred teary vision, causes her to gasp in horror. It was no longer anger she saw there but pure unmasked fear. Just as quickly, his face was gone and the sound of a lock moments later sealed her fate into that room until he deemed her deserving.

What father fears his child for singing a lullaby? She was hurt, yes. Yet somehow, that small instance in her life out of a million moments and memories was one that would stick with her for a long time.

She knew in that moment there was something about her, within her, that wasn’t only in her head.

He knew it too.

She was changed.

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