The smell of lilacs hung in the damp air.
I pushed through a heavy fog and came upon a farmhouse.
All about the home and its barn were great lilac bushes. They towered above the buildings, their out-of-season blossoms hanging low to the ground.
As I approached the home, a sense of calm settled over me. My body rebelled against it, and my hand went instinctively to the handle of my war club. The place was too quiet. Too peaceful.
I doubted all of it.
The sound of singing, soft and sweet, reached my ears.
The song pulled me to the barn, where I stopped and peered into the dim interior. There, seated on a stool in the nearest stall, was a young woman. She was clad in white and held a young child to her chest, allowing the babe to suckle. When the woman looked up, she smiled. Her teeth were sharp and white, her eyes stitched shut, but neither of those could shatter the beauty of her face.
“Duncan,” she said, and my name was music as it slipped past her lips. “It is a long time since we met.”
“I don’t remember you,” I confessed.
“Of course, you don’t,” she smiled. “And that is neither here nor there. I remember you, and I remember what you have done.”
I tightened my grip upon the club. I’d killed mothers and suckling babes before, and while I did not relish the idea, I would not shrink from my chores.
Her smile broadened into a grin. “No, you’ve done nothing wrong to me, Duncan. Quite the opposite. Had you not cut out my eyes and sewn the lids closed, I would not be here today with our daughter.”
The last word caused my breath to catch in my throat.
The woman nodded. “My past is your future, Duncan. And when we first meet, it is violence and pain. I will eat the better part of your leg as you cut out my eyes, and it is only then that I will truly see the world. You will nurse me to health, and we will fall in love. For a short time. It will be strange for both of us, and it will not last, as it should not. But we will give the world our child, and she is more than the world deserves.”
With that, the woman peeled back the fabric around the babe and showed me, my daughter.
I doubt I will ever see such beauty again.