A Melody of Fear and Hope
Melody watched the clouds drift above her and sighed. Turning her attention towards the unkempt road that led to the village, her families old wooden cart shook beneath her as it rolled over sticks and pebbles. She wished she could be like those clouds, drifting free of any fears or worries. But she couldn’t, especially around this time of year. Autumn was a busy time for farmers and Melody rarely had a chance to stop and take a breath before her father was getting her to complete another task. This time he had asked her to get supplies from the village. So, she had fetched their worn out cart and begun the long ride into town. She remembered how afraid she’d been the first time she’d had to make the journey into town alone. She was not a brave girl. If anything she was the complete opposite, being shy and fearful, perhaps rightfully so. Life around Mt Targon was not easy, as the harsh weather, scarce food and brutal bandits all worked against anyone who sought to live at the mountain’s base. Her family had seen its share of flash blizzards and bandit raids, often times fleeing to the village to take refuge at the inn her uncle owned. Melody had always hidden in the smallest, darkest places she could find – under the counter or between two closely packed barrels of mead. It was there that she would sit for hours, waiting out the storms or battles that took place and hoping all the while that she would survive. And so far she had. But her displays of fear hadn’t come without their consequences.
“Oi, girl, what’ve you got for us today?” The words cut through Melody’s daydream, pulling her back into reality. She was near the entrance to town, and barring her way were two shoddily clothed boys. She knew their faces.
“M-my name is Melody!” Melody spoke louder than she had intended, frightening herself. The older boy laughed.
“Come on girl, just give us the money and let’s get this over with. You know how it works.” Melody looked down in shame. She did know how this worked. She would give them some of her money, and they would let her pass. If she refused them they would take it by force, or at least they told her so. She had never been brave enough to refuse them. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small pouch of coins she had prepared knowing that the boys would be waiting.
“We thank you for your charity.” The older boy flashed a smug grin. Melody quickly urged her cart forwards as the two boys jogged away. She hated giving them what they wanted, but being who she was she didn’t see any way out of the matter. At least this way no one had to worry.
Melody spent the rest of the day purchasing supplies. As she was leaving the sun was low in the sky, casting half of the mountain behind her in shadow. By the time she got home it was setting, casting an orange glow on the fields and livestock. She stopped the cart in front of the cottage that was her home, and went to go inside. Hearing her parent’s voices within, she paused.
“…don’t like it. A lone Demacian, this far away from his kin? It’s not right. It’s like he’s fleeing something. Something that will now be led straight here!”
“Luca, the poor man has no supplies, no shelter for the night. You know what it’s like out there, especially at this time of year. We can’t just leave him to die. Besides, he promised he would leave at first light. There is no need to worry.” Melody had stopped to listen, but as her parent’s conversation ended she forced herself to enter. After a quick greeting she let her parents know that the supplies were in the cart, but that she’d be going to bed early because she wasn’t feeling well. Her parents let her know that they had a guest who was staying in the back room, but before they could tell her anything else she’d climbed up the ladder to the loft. She lay down, and she could feel her anxiety eating away at her stomach. She was doing what she always did, hiding from the world and its threats. What if something was following that man? What would it do if it found her family? Thoughts like these plagued her mind, and it felt like years had passed before sleep finally came to her.
Melody woke in a cold sweat, her heart racing. Yet another nightmare. She sat up, and tried to slow her breathing. It seemed that even in sleep she was unable to escape her cowardice. She lay back down, closing her eyes and waited for sleep to return to her. But it did not. After what felt like an eternity Melody got out of bed. Careful to be quiet she climbed down the ladder and made her way out to the back of the house. Sitting on the veranda was a man Melody hadn’t seen before. Melody froze. Was he a bandit scout? Had he seen her?
“The stars are beautiful tonight, are they not?”
The stranger turned to Melody as he spoke, revealing the face of a beautiful man. Melody could think of no other way to describe him.
“W-who are you?” Melody asked the stranger. He looked peaceful, but Melody stayed close to the door just in case.
“My name is Taric. Your father very kindly let me stay the night.” Melody remembered how her mother and father had been discussing the man when she’d got home.
“Mother and father were talking about you. They said you’re a Demacian, that you’re running away from something.” Hearing this Taric gave a soft smile that seemed almost sad.
“I come from Demacia, but I don’t think I can be called a citizen of Demacia anymore.” There was a moment of silence as Taric gazed back up at the sky.
“What are you doing up at this hour child? Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Taric gestured for her to sit by him. She hesitated for a moment, her fear of this stranger holding her back, however she decided she could trust him.
“I had a nightmare. I came out here for some air.” She sat down beside him. “I was afraid that you were going to lead something here that would end up hurting my family.”
“I’m sorry I scared you.” Melody could see concern written on his face. “I can assure you that nothing is chasing me.”
“It’s okay. I’m a coward. I get scared by everything.” Melody hugged her legs to her body and rested her chin on her knees. She didn’t know why she was telling this stranger about her problems. Something about him made her feel comfortable though. Safe.
“You’re not a coward. It’s only natural to feel fear.”
“But I get scared by everything. Everything around the mountain is tough – the animals, the plants, the people. They never hesitate to do what they have to. But I’m weak and afraid. I just run away and hide.” Saying it out loud made Melody realise how much of a coward she really was. She could feel tears welling from her eyes, but she fought to hold them back. She didn’t want to end up crying in front of a stranger, no matter how kind he may be.
“Then maybe you should try facing your fears. Try fighting them.” Taric spoke calmly.
“You’re doing it already. You’re fighting your own tears and from the looks of things you seem to be winning.” Melody managed a weak smile.
“You think I can really fight my fears?”
“Of course, anyone can. Tell me, what are you most afraid of?” Melody thought hard for a moment.
“I don’t want to die. Everything around this mountain seems to be really good at killing everything else. I don’t want to be killed.”
“Then I think you should learn how to defend yourself.” Melody stared at the horizon. She knew her uncle knew how to fight. He could teach her. It was an idea she’d never really entertained before, and the fact that she was even thinking about it now surprised her.
“I… I think I’ll do that.” She couldn’t believe she was agreeing to this. But there was a feeling in her stomach drove her forwards.
“Good. Then I think you should also head back to bed. You won’t be able to defend yourself if you can’t stay awake.” Melody nodded, standing up and making her way back inside. As she got to the door she remembered she was forgetting something. Turning around she could see Taric still sitting there, gazing at the stars as he had been when she had first seen him.
“Thank you Taric. Thank you for giving me… hope.”