Chapter 1-Jenny




 

 

 

 

Here is a small town, there are no course for steam trains, so there were rarely dealings with travelers. Its back is covered by endless expanse of snow capped mountains, except for those old people who once went out, the people have been living here in this own, and make a living by hunting.

The center of the town is a small square,there used to be fountain, now there is only remnants of bonfire covered by layers of heavy snow. It is early morning,the sound of footsteps passing through was heard, Merlin came out from his home, carrying his box. He needs to go to the mountain to pick up firewood. Footprints appear along the clean snow, slowly stretched far into the distance.

Perhaps because this side of the square is facing the mountain and with less people passing through here, most of the snow here is very clean. But not far in the snow, there was a slight bulge, Merlin walked towards it and looked down, he saw there was a black cloth exposed in the snow, he cleared the snow completely.

“A woman?”

Merlin hurriedly picked her up, the body of the woman feels somewhat cold, Merlin carried her into the box and ran towards home.

After returning home, he boiled a pot of water and put some herbs in it, he carefully laid the woman in the tub. Her body was stained with blood, the skin was pale, Merlin looked at the lying woman, suddenly he hesitated, but then quickly went forward.

The pieces of clothing fell down one by one, water vapour is rising in the little room, the woman’s stiff body slowly softened.

Merlin stopped sweating, the woman’s condition seems better now.

In the afternoon, Merlin is sitting in front of the entrance in a daze, outside the door is a simple small yard surrounded by the fence, there are some loosely stacked wood, on which the top layer is piled up with snow. There is also a wooden dummy in the yard, once upon a time his father used to teach him hunting skill.

One day, his father went hunting in the mountain and did not return, his mother went looking for him and later she didn’t appear again…he is left alone at home.

“Merlin, Merlin”, a voice interrupted his thoughts. Kate ran over to him.

“Good news, good news, Merlin. Today’s prayer went smoothly, we’ll have good luck”. Kate cheerfully stormed into the yard from the door. He wore a padded jacket, his whole stature seems somewhat skinny, he is one of the few Merlin’s friends in this town.

“What’s the matter?” Merlin seldom sees Kate looks so happy. It is a bit odd.

 

“Isn’t the lottery going to start? I asked Grandma Sarah to pray for us today, she is always been spiritual, we will not be selected!”

“It is really good.” Merlin also smiled, this is a really good news.

The so-called lottery is one of the ceremony which the town has started in recent years. The hunters on town use the snowy mountains for a living, but there are wild animals in the snow capped mountain. In recent years, it comes down every year to eat people, damage livestock and destroy the town.

After several times of trying to exterminate it was fruitless, the town’s prestigious elder iraqi old man decided to take out a person from town each year and send it to the beast of the mountain, in order to eliminate disaster. For most people, of course they will feel lucky, but often the person selected becomes desperate at that moment.

Merlin seriously said to Kate, ”We will have the luck.” Kate once saved Merlin in a hunt, their age is similar and also live nearby in the town, they became best friend. Merlin hope for both of them to be all right.

Kate went off, Merlin peels sharp wood in the yard, his father said that a good hunter makes handmade arrows. Although merlin does not has much talent as a hunter, but he still keeps it up. After all, he looks a little thinner than the strong hunters in the town.

 

Didn’t know after how long, he suddenly heard some noise behind him, Merlin turned back, a girl with long loose hair partially leaning her head at the door was watching him.

“You’re awake.” Merlin smiled back and said “Go and rest, your body has not yet recovered.”

The girl did not speak, her face was half hidden in her hair and she was looking at Merlin carefully. The girl looked as big as Merlin, seventeen or eighteen years old, Merlin noticed the the girl’s skin was clean, just a little bit pale, she has changed into a slightly thick cotton glow, it was his mother’s clothes, but it did not fit her.

“No.” The girl continued talking, “Did you save me?” She looked at the small yard and asked.

“You were down there, so I-”

“Thanks”, the girl directly interrupted Merlin’s words then fell silent as if she  doesn’t want to continue. When Merlin turned his head and planned to continue his work, he suddenly heard the girl say:

“I ll repay you.” Then, the girl bowed her head and returned to the house.

Merlin froze for a moment and then stood up.

The oil lamp is constantly burning, there is a wooden table placed in the clean room,the nearby fireplace is making a crackling sound, Merlin has repaired it last year, with the fireplace, the cabin is warmer. Compared to the snow blowing outside the window, it’s just like two different world.

Merlin was sitting before the table and the girl asked.

“If it is not an inconvenience, can i stay here for a while?” The girl asked. After the talk, she lowered her eyes and tilting her head, said: “I am a homeless nun, I cannot resist the wind and snow”

“You don’t want to go home?” Merlin asked curiously.

The girl did not respond.

“Ok, My name is Merlin. Well, I don’t  know you name.”

Merlin knows that the girl’s body needs some time to recover, so he agreed. He didn’t mention about the blood stains or how she crossed the barriers of the mountains and fainted in this remote town,the other party seems to deliberately avoid these questions.

“My name is Jenny.” The girl made an etiquette seems to express an agreement on the established idea. Merlin awkwardly sat there not knowing how to respond.

In this way, the empty cabin became more lively, the girl started to settle down, she sleeps in his parents’ room. She changed back to her refined black robe. The girl is quiet, doesn’t like to talk, Merlin looked at her dress and demeanor, it is not the same as the town, there is a special feeling to it.

Suddenly thinking of something, Merlin told her ”Do not go out before next year, otherwise they will catch you.”

……………………..

The time passed quietly, today is a special day for the snow mountain town, because a person will be selected to die for everyone. Merlin was sitting on the steps near the square, beside him was his good friend, Kate.

“Merlin, who do you think will it be?” Kate asked.

“I don’t know. We will be fine.” Merlin comforted his disturbed friend.

All of the people in the town are now concentrated in the town square, fully covering the small square. In the four corners of the square, there are four incomplete human statues, it is surrounded by steps, a lot of people are sitting on it. The fire is burning slowly at the centre of the square, reflecting the people’s cold look in the evening, this is not a happy matter.

The old man near the bonfire read loudly:”Terrible beast Beckarl, has made its nest on the snow capped mountains and determines the fate of all people, it brings snow, it brings fear, greed and brings death.” He is the town’s most prestigious elder, everyone is listening to him.

“Kate, can you say how can that thing be killed?” Merlin asked.

“That’s impossible, after all so many people have died.” Kate thought for a moment and said, ”Now everyone is thinking that Beckarl has recently started to attack, perhaps after several years it will stop? After all, it had been calm for so many years.”

The old man at the centre of the fire cried out loudly, “We have fought, we have resisted, but this is the nightmare that the snowy mountains gave, the spear broke from the body, the sword was turned into dust, ruthlessness and greed are the symbol of it.”

All the people in the square looked solemn and respectfully listened to the recitation that was read aloud. Didn’t know when the snowy wind started rising,for the people of the snow mountains, perhaps this weather is natural.

“I don’t like this kind of meeting. If there is enough ability, I want to go outside.” Merlin looked at the twilight and said, the unpredictable night sky makes the outside world attractive, but out of the snow  capped mountain, in the outside world, can he really live well?

“I heard people say that outside the mountain is not good, everywhere is war.” Kate thought for a moment and said “I want to go too. I have never seen a steam engine or radio, it has emerged in recent years, I also heard that there is magic gun, it can kill wild beasts in one shot!…it’s a pity as it is said that it is no use on Beckarl”

The voice of the old man started rising up “The existence which cannot be defeated-Beckarl! In order to subside its anger, we have decided to select one person!” The voice fell down and the crowd gradually produced a stir, the voices started coming from all sides.

“Well, all the people here thinks they will not get selected.” Merlin swept a glance at the square and concluded.

The lottery began, the old man began to put many of the wood in the square of bonfire, on each log, the name of the person will be written down, the process of this ceremony is to let everyone line up and write on the log. After confirming that all the people in town is present, the logs will eventually put in a barrel, the log that comes out after rolling will decide the fate of that person.

Shortly, people started to move towards the logs, Merlin hate this feeling, but he has to go along with everyone. In the snow, the formation of circle after circle,looks as if it strangle the person .

Barrel rolled up slowly, there is a slightly incline slope in the square. Everyone’s eyes were focused on it, as if their looks will burn the barrel. Merlin slowly swept a look, everyone eyes on the scene were downcast, the body shivering slightly told him that everybody is not as calm as it shown on the surface.

Then, the first log came out, the barrel stopped rolling. The old man stepped forward and picked up the the log.

He took a look and then lifted the log towards the sky, shouted.

“Kate!”

 

 




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