I was born in Ruahden 333 After Kings twenty-five years ago. I’m the child of Diana Skagora and High Speaker Mikkel Andrews. My mother was a whore, or some sort of entertainer of men. She was barely twenty when she gave birth to me. All red hair and life, my auburn hair is a poor contrast to judge her color from. She was fire.
We had a place in Coastown: the slum district in Ruahden. It was a single room we shared in a boarding house. I was left alone much of the time, my mother having to work. I never saw my father. I just knew his name. My mother made sure I knew his name. I figured I should hate him for his absence, but it would be years before I thought of him with any real emotion.
Life in Coastown wasn’t easy, but if we were ever having any difficulties, I never knew about it. Children living in Coastown learned quickly whose toes not to step on, who you could steal from, and who you couldn’t. Coastown couldn’t ever be called a safe place to live. People starved to death every day, and muggings and thefts were real risks. My mother though, she had just enough money and just enough wit to keep us safe.
I should mention the steps my mother took to educate me. Without that I doubt that I would ever have joined the Church. She wanted me to get out of Coastown, so she invested what little extra money she had on books, teaching me how to read at an early age. I never thought to ask how she had learned. I loved it. Reading was something that my mother and I had that other Coastowners didn’t.
I was ten, it was early spring, the Spring Light Festival had just ended two days prior. While we were walking toward the boarding house, I noticed that a small crowd had begun to gather outside the building my mother and I lived in. A Glren could be seen entering the building. I was watching the scene carefully when I heard my mother’s voice in my ear. “Dmitry, honey, let’s go for a walk.” Her fiery hair brushing against my face.
“Everything’s fine Dmitry. Come on now, let’s leave the Church to its business.” She grabbed my hand and we began to walk. I watched my mother, her face paling what little more it could as she guided me through Coastown. There were Glren everywhere. My mother’s grip tightened around my hand. She tied her hair back with a bandanna, hiding most of it from sight.
We walked for an hour till we were along the shore where the waves lapped at the closest buildings. It was then I heard a voice call to us.
“Diana, think this man’s looking for you.” Olin, who was a friend of my mother, was waving at us. He had been talking to a Glren. My mother froze. The Glren turned and looked at us. Olin saw my mother’s face and tried to reengage the Glren in conversation. “Oh wait, sorry sir that’s not Diana.” The Glren ignored him and started in our direction.
My mother was beginning to hurt my hand. She turned and briskly walked away, almost forcing me to run. “Mom?!” I pleaded.
We kept taking corners and changing streets. My mother never looked back. I did. We hadn’t lost him. The Glren was gaining on us. The busy streets hindered us while they parted for the Glren.
We were about to change streets again when another Glren appeared around the corner. At first, she ignored us. Then the other one called out, “It’s her!” My mother broke out running. The closest Glren took off after us. Snagging my mother’s arm in a strong grip, she pulled her to a dead stop. I was almost yanked off my feet.
“This the whore?” She asked the other Glren, while holding my mother tightly.
“Pretty red head, living Coastown, she’ll do if she’s not,” he said. “Got a boy too, and grey eyed.”
My mother released her grip on my hand and screamed at me. “Run!”
I didn’t know what to do. “Stay put, boy, and we won’t harm your mother,” the male Glren said to me.
“Dmitry, go!” She yelled.
“Mom?” I pleaded.
“Run!” My mother screamed. The Glren took a step towards me. I turned and bolted, sprinting across Coastown in a mad panic. I didn’t know why they’d taken her. I didn’t know anything at the time.
That night I didn’t return to the boarding house. Instead I found a crate in an alley to hide in. My head rested on cold wood, and my stomach complained. But it was my mother I cried for.
Tyler W. Golec