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Earthbound Creatures

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The Day After the World Didn't End...

 

It was a lovely morning, followed by a day that was eventful for some and quite uneventful for others, closed off by a properly beautiful evening. 

In the small town of Tadfield, a boy and his dog were running off together to enjoy the last delicate wisps of an unforgettable summer, and as they went off over the beautiful fields that the boy loved so dearly, they waved to a witch and a witchfinder who sat burning a book. 

It wasn't just any book with which they stoked their little pit of flames. It was one of a kind, an original manuscript, in fact, but one that they had decided, together, would not grace the hands of man.  

Anathema Device shivered a little as she watched the pages curl and smoke. It was one of the most frustrating things about being human, she thought: feeling as though you could be doing something very right and very wrong all at the same time.  

Newton Pulsifer leaned a little closer to her, permanently nervous but in love all the same, and let their shoulders press together. "No use having second thoughts now," he pointed out. "It's well and truly gone."

Anathema took a deep breath and let it sigh back out from her lips as she tilted her head to lean against the love her ancestor had prophesied she would meet. "Yes, no turning back now. It's all gone," she agreed. And, after a moment or two, added, "Except for that one page that hasn't even caught."

Newt had tilted his head toward the scent of her hair, so it was quite excusable how his response came several beats too late. "Wait, what?"

They stared into the flames together, he in bewilderment, she with a grim, knowing look. 

A single page sat at the heart of the fire, the pristine, unburnt cream parchment looking up at them as if with defiance. Can't get rid of me that easily!  

"You can't-" Newt sputtered, turning to stare at Anathema. "You absolutely can't tell me that Agnes knew we would burn the book and did something to this one page. After everything else, I don't think I could handle it."

But the witch was frowning, eyes narrowed. "I wouldn't put it past her," she admitted, "but consider when she lived. What would she have had access to that she could have fireproofed a sheet of parchment and kept it preserved that way for over three hundred years?" She considered the fire carefully. "No...something about this feels...strange."

Newt snorted. "Everything else wasn't strange?"

Anathema ignored him and reached tentatively toward the flames, causing the anxious young man to cry out and snatch up her wrist. 

"What are you doing?!" 

"I...I don't think it will burn me."

She reached out with the other hand more quickly, eliciting a further yelp from Newt, and grabbed the sheet from the fire without suffering anything more than a pleasant lick of warmth. Newt's jaw dropped. Then his hand went to his face so he could remove his glasses and press a few fingers to his head. 

"I give up," he muttered.

Anathema stared intently at the sheet of parchment. While laying in the fire it had seemed quite blank which would have, of course, been quite unlikely. Why fireproof a blank sheet of parchment, after all? But once the encapsulating heat of the fire met the cool, soft caress of the evening air, words began to appear as if written in invisible ink. 

Most of the prophecies Anathema had devoted her life to were less than a few sentences. At a stretch, some of them could have been called paragraphs. This, however- 

"It's a poem," said the witch. 

The witchfinder had since replaced his glasses and heaved a truly put-upon sigh. "Go on then," he told her. 

Instead she turned to him with something like indecision in her eyes. "I really don't want to be a descendant my entire life," she assured Newt. "I burned the book ."

Newt forced himself to relax (just a bit) and offered her one of his adorably nervous smiles. "I know, I was there," he teased. "And I think it's great. I'm really proud of you, honestly. But we both know that you're not just going to ignore a prophetic poem written in magic ink on a centuries-old sheet of parchment that is impervious to flame. So…" He waved a hand at the poem as if to say, 'get on with it then'.  

Anathema frowned at first, but in the end her face softened and she leaned forward to place a little kiss on the corner of Newt's mouth, making him turn red from the neck up. 

And then she turned and read the poem aloud.

 

"When Dark meets Light 'neath falling sky

The Trick unveiled, deceptions seen

A plot to bring cruel death to worlds

Within the minds of lovers' dreams

 

Hearts once one, ripped back to two

A balance torn asunder here

Will split the skies and shake the lands

That once for both were held so dear

 

Search ye, young ones, the horsemens' grave

Two souls within a wall of stone

Awaken they whose loyalty gave

To earthbound creatures gifts unknown

 

Should two to one unite once more

White to Black and Black to White

Forever changed their Fates will be

Beheld to neither Dark nor Light

 

So heed ye Light, and heed ye Dark

Though great of might ye armies be

True strength is lost amongst them both

So Look and Listen, Hear and See"

 

Anathema's voice faded with the last words, her eyes fixated on the page in her hands. Newton watched her eyes for a moment, then glanced at the page, then back at her, and counted to twenty before fairly exploding. 

"Well what the bloody hell does all that mean?"

Anathema slowly shook her head, her gaze never leaving the page. "I have absolutely no idea.

But it sounds like it's going to be big."