Chapter 2

Written by: Hemali Ajmera

It was a beautiful place reflecting nature’s countless marvels. The mountains were steep and majestic, dotted with bushes and trees, where sturdy goats and sheep grazed. A rippling river snaked through the deep gorge, creating a lush green valley.  The region was yet untouched by the ravages of modern civilization.

Dilara’s ancestors had lived in this valley for centuries. Their village was small, consisting of only 80 houses. It was a close-knit clan, a large extended family. The neighboring villages, made-up of similar clans, were quite far apart by local standards because the inhabitants usually travelled by foot or on a donkey or on a horse (if one was wealthy). Festivals, fairs and marriages were occasions when the neighboring clans came together to celebrate their culture and heritage.   

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Dilara limped along the stony, mountainous path with determination in her stride and courage in her heart. The air was bone chilling cold and the mid-afternoon sun had barely managed to warm the crisp air. It had been three days of incessant walking and drifting in and out of consciousness. A handful of wild berries were not enough to satisfy the hunger gnawing in her belly. And yet revenge was oozing from every pore of Dilara’s sore body and revenge she would take, no matter what!!

She knew the perpetrators who had inflicted this atrocity on her village and she knew why. It was in the middle of the night that they had chosen to strike, when everyone was in deep slumber after a hard day’s work.  They had come stealthily by foot for there had been no braying of donkeys or neighing of horses.  They had put to torch the entire village in a matter of minutes.  The neat mud and straw houses had started collapsing, entrapping the unsuspecting occupants and charring them to a gruesome death.

Panic had gripped the entire village. Heart-piercing shrieks and shouts for help had filled the air. The deep darkness of the moonless night was replaced by an eerie amber glow. Those who had managed to escape their burning homes had been slaughtered like sheep with traditional knives and draggers. No one was spared - men, women, children or animals.            

Dilara’s hut had also been set on fire. Shreds of burning straw falling from the roof had burned her young body. She and her family had tried to escape by the back door. But they had been spotted by a vicious slayer who rounded up Dilara’s father, mother and brother. Fear of death had made Dilara run into the pitch dark night, toward the mountains, barely glancing back. She had raced unbridled, ignoring the sharp stones and thorns cutting her tender soles.

She had stopped to look around only after she could hear the awful wails no more. By then it was too late. In the distance she could see the dying fires and a ghost village.    

Only Dilara had escaped. Or so she thought.                 

Comments

This is nicely written piece of work and I love the opening. I felt, again, although well written, that the second part of this chapter could have been the start of the plot as a lot of the information here we already know about in the previous chapters. Loved "A rippling river snaked..." Nice chapter, Hemali.