The smoke was thick, rising up everywhere Esua looked. She could hear the guff words of her father shouting through the black fog that threatened to drown it out. He was calling to her, to her brothers, and her mother. Where were they? She lifted herself from where she had been lying; a soft bed made out of animal furs that she knew was her home had been beneath her. Her golden eyes squinted in a hopeless attempt to find her family.
Placing her feet on the floor, she made her way through the dark smoke and found her way out of the tent she shared with her brothers and sisters. The sudden brightness caused her eyes to shut without her command. She forced them open again, desperately looking for any sign of her father or of what was happening. It was then that she realized the bright sun was not the morning. The time was still late but the clan’s camp was lit up like noon by the embers of fire everywhere she looked.
It was then that she realized that she had been hearing screams through the smoke. She turned to look towards where she thought she heard her father. Her mind swirled in a dazed mixture of confusion and pain. She could feel her eyes burning and her lungs filling up with the smoke. Clasping her small hands over her lips and nose, she began to venture forth when the voice came to her again.
“Esua!” this time the voice was the melodic tone of her mother’s but there was panic in it.
“Esua, run!” Her father was shouting at her, not asking her to find him, “Run, my litla!”
It took her another moment to understand what was happening. Her father was struggling with someone at their feet was the bloody body of one of her younger sisters. She reeled around, a scream escaping her as she dodged the hands of a man that looked similar to the one fighting her father. Neither of these men was from her clan, their bodies covered in dark clothing to disguise them in the night. As she ran, the sight of other fallen kin and clan were everywhere. Every tent was burning red with flames. The smoke was spiraling high now, filling the night sky and swallowing the stars and moon.
Her parent’s voices no longer followed her but she continued to run. Her bare-skinned feet slapping the ground as she tried to outrun the smoke. She did not know how long she had been running when she finally stopped and hid from sight. No one had followed her, at least this far and they likely expected her to die in the forest being all alone.
She stayed hidden for over a day, listening for the voices of her family or the footsteps of the strangers. Neither came near. Another day passed and without any familiar sounds, she dared back to her home.
As she drew near to it the forest littered with bodies, some covered in blood, others burned, and others that had died chocking on the smoke. A few she noticed were dressed like the man her father was fighting. She stopped to bend down and foraged through his pockets. She pulled out a few different things. One a piece of paper with words she did not know and the insignia of some noble that she likewise did not know. Another was a small knife. The last was a strange, small object. She took all three and continued walking, heading for where she had last seen her parents. All of the tents, throughout the camp, were burned and turned to ash from the fire. The only bodies she saw were that of the dead.
“Papa?” she gasped on the word. Tears began to swarm in her eyes as they fell upon the lifeless forms of both her father and her mother. Neither moved, at her voice, but as she drew close she could see the slit throat of her mother, half-lying on her husband whom was stabbed through the chest. Esua collapsed beside them in tears. Confusion, heart-ache, and despair swallowed her up.