LIV.

“My name is Ophie of the Polonus. Our family had always been one of the most skilled fishers of the Southshores, our nets always so full that our village dubbed us the whisperers of the sea. Altogether, our village was prosperous, tradesmen from all over the world make their way here from the main city ports.”

“A few months ago…my father went out to sea, but he never returned. We thought we lost him…turned out it would have been better had he been buried at sea.”

“A few days later, we heard a knock at our door in the middle of the night. We were all sleepless from our anxiety and grief so my brother answered it like a bolt of lightning. There were no one except for a note and a ring — my father’s ring — the note said, ‘obey us and turn over your family’s secret or another part of your fisher will be returned to you.’ Then there were instructions for us to leave our family heirloom at a temple by a nearby jetty.”

“None of us knew what they were asking for: the only thing remotely like an heirloom is my great grandfather’s watch. We almost suspected our own townspeople, but we know they are far too wise to be jealous to this extent. We brushed it off, thought it a cruel trick. Then the next day, we found a bundle at our doorstep: it was a….severed hand, my father’s. A new note written by what we immediately recognized as my father’s writing told us in earnest to give the heirloom away. Meet them at the temple, they insisted. We had to.”

“So the next day, at the appointed time, we went and had some of our trusted neighbors hideout with whatever weapon we could find…When the sun sunk to about half a disk, two hooded figures came to my grandfather, who was representing us to meet with the strangers.”

“Grandfather presented them the pocket watch, and — I saw the two strange figures and thought that they must be a hunchback and a man — they took it, and the hunchback dashed it against the rocks and shattered it to pieces: the figure raised its voice, and it was a female’s, sharp and shrill.”

“ ‘Deception,’ I caught her saying with a strange accent. ‘You are trying to trick us for settling such a foolish trap.’”

“We didn’t know how they saw us, not one of us even batted our eyes during their meeting and we know the area like the ridges of our hands. Mother took the moment to attack the man, and others followed suit. We thought they didn’t stand a chance: we felled beasts of the sea at a smaller number often.”

“In a blur I just smelled blood…blood everywhere. Many of our kinsmen were hurt, sprawled on the ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes but the hunchback had lost her cloak during the struggle, and there revealed that the bump was no twisted back, but a pair of wings. They were not unlike yours, Lord Aldebaran but the hue is of a bright sky blue. I would never forget those wings with their ungodly blue.”

“She saw that most of my family were not unscathed and smiled. At any other time I would have found her ethereal, beautiful, but she was a murderer. Then the man threatened us to bring in our actual heirloom, or else all who we cared about would be killed. Grandfather pleaded that there were no such heirloom that they sought, but they left without another word. We patched and helped our wounded.”

“Since then many of our fellow villagers heard of the confrontation, of the menacing banshee. Their fear became so strong that they were willing to forsake their ancestors’ ways and moved from the shores. Despite our simplicity, our town provide a great amount of food sources for the rest of the kingdom, so the local magistrates soon noticed the change. They prohibited the sudden flight in fear of disturbing trade. That only made matters worse: people thought that the king had some plan of sabotage and snuck out of the area as though to escape a plague.”

“But we knew the truth, and the few that saw or believed or were brave enough stayed. We wanted to reclaim our proud town from this irrational fear. We had to. However, before we could plan to retake our town by hunting that strange banshee, something worse happened.”

“They must have realized that we are determined to ignore their demands as each note became more menacing. One day, we just got a nameless bundle. We all saw this day coming, but…You see, in our belief, the head symbolizes the seat of the soul. Once gone, the soul would then be trapped in a state of uncertain meandering for eternity.”

“So imagine…how we felt when our father…or son…or husband…”

“Even worse, within that same week, all these apparitions began to appear, killing whichever villager remained. By the charms of our ancestors, we have the curse to continue living. We were safe as long as we staid behind these doors barred and fortified. Grandfather only risked yielding the door for you when he saw that your companion is not unlike our tormentor, and that he was capable of dispersing the vile spirits.”

“Now, your Highness and honored guests, please help us. For we are desperate and lost, on the verge of death. The Polonus would forever be in your debt if you should be able to lift such a curse.”

The address was to the Etzion prince, thought the eyes were upon the Nokshan King, who buried his mind in blank inexpression only interpreted by the one that read his mind.

No, Lyra began.

I have to kill her, His resolve remained, while the rest of the world could only guess at the dull glint of rage in his otherwise immoveable facade of perfect impartiality.

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