Ink Washes and Crosshatching
Interview With Brenda Lyons
On 23-Book Deals
News for September
Remaking The Ravenby Rebecca Brown
Her hair had always been the blackest; purple-sheened and long enough that the coiling ends brushed her knees as she walked. They called her Raven, although that had not always been her name.
In the mornings, they watched her as she walked to the stream, kneeling in the damp coolness of the shallow bank to wash her face in the quick-moving water. Later, they watched her gather fruit from the tall, thick-leaved trees which cast dappled patches of shade onto her wind-tanned skin. In the evenings, they watched again as she stretched out her long, swift legs and pointed her toes, massaging the knots out of her tired calves.
Sometimes she tied her hair back in elaborate braids, brightly coloured ribbons (red, blue, purple; even white when the fancy took her) weaved in and out the intricate knotwork as if to tame it's wild, curling strands. Most of the time, she let it fall loose over her shoulders in a cascade of shadows. They preferred her that way; they felt closer to her when curling shadows brushed across her face.
One morning, she didn't come to wash her face. Later, she gathered no fruit. They fretted in their hidden places, whispering to each other in voices hidden on the breeze itself, the news that the Raven had not come. Their worries spread like a rumour, as if to fill the entire world, although no words were ever spoken and none ever heard.
When the evening came and she did not come to point her toes, they ventured out of their shadowed nooks, converging on the grove from which their Raven always came. They found her in her hut, her body burning with an untameable heat which consumed it from within. Her eyes flickered behind closed lids, the softness of her brow furrowing at the twisted nightmares which walled her mind within a tower of it's own fears.
For five long days the heat of her own body consumed her. Their whispers became more frantic, their panic rising. What could they do? Without true form, they could not tend to her needs. Without true voices, they could not call for help. How could they cool her? How could they force water between those parched and gasping lips? It seemed to them that she drifted a little further away with every passing moment, the suffering of her body weakening her soul until the beautiful light which had once drawn them to her was almost spent.
As their Raven faded further they gathered amongst the darkening boughs in brooding melancholy, perching between the leaves like silent songbirds. Their hope had long left them to their grief. Only one option remained to them, the single action which lay within their power and yet they mourned the passing of their Raven as if she was lost to them forever. Never would she return to them as she had once been.
Returning to the hut, they studied her sallow features, gazed into the deep, lidded hollows in which her eyes had once shone. Then, one by one, they pressed forwards to give their Raven a single insubstantial kiss, the sweetest gift they could ever bestow, each one a blessing beyond measure.
The Raven sighed, as if from relief, a final breath escaping from between her tortured lips. Her eyelids fluttered no longer, the long, dark lashes coming to rest on her pale cheeks. They pressed close to the empty shell she had left behind as if their touch could return the warmth to her body. If they had heads which they could have bowed, they would have bowed them.
Then, like leaves in a flurrying breeze, they swept from the room. Within them, they carried the last remnants of her into the radiance of the new morning. From their own insubstantial essence, they created a new vessel for her soul, shaping from those precious memories of her beauty. They could not create that which had already been destroyed; instead, they gave new form to that which they had so carefully preserved.
In time, they would watch again as their Raven washed in the quick-moving water and plucked the fruit of thick-leaved trees. In time, they would watch her collect the ribbons, which would always bring her the joy which comes from recalling a long-distant memory. Only now, in the coming days, their Raven would find a greater joy than she had ever known; turning her face towards the wind, the Raven they had shaped would spread her purple-sheened wings and fly.
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