She had been a nobody even by human standards – but the girl had also been a creature of stardust, so Pear slithered in the moonlit garden with the shroud grasped in one claw-fingered fist. The dragon – old enough to be a seer, still too young for wings – prayed to the White Moon for wisdom and to the Red Moon for courage. The marble fountain glowed in the moonlight and coiled among the adjacent flowers Apricot waited, a bored and unpleasant gleam in the Elder’s eyes. Pear had never passed judgment for a human, the Elders deemed this a simple and easy case for the apprentice seer.

“The tool for fact finding,” Apricot pointed to the water spraying from the dragon statue’s mouth. The jet arched into a cool, clear, and seemingly bottomless pool. On the bench in front of the pool lay the only remnants of the woman. Red polished fingernail, a lock of neon blue hair, a dilated eye. The Elder Apricot motioned Pear to approach those with an outstretched talon. “And the evidence.”

Pear held out the shroud with both hands. “The instrument of justice.”

“You are the instrument of justice,” Apricot took the gauzy material and wrapped it loose around the seer’s red-scaled neck. “The shroud merely a device.”

At the pool, Pear tapped a toe-claw nervously on the roughened white marble. The dragon leaned forward and, as nearly always happened at the pool except for the first time, muffled a surprised hiss of flame-breath. The reflection in the water was not of a young wingless dragon, nor of a water-spitting dragon statue, nor even of the two moons among the starry sky. A blurred image of two humans materialized in the pool, colored by the white and red moonlight. Pear concentrated on the two figures, wishing with magic to bring them to life in the water.

Apricot handed Pear the fingernail. “What the victim touched.”

The seer lashed out a forked tongue and placed the nail on the water’s surface. In the reflection, Pear peered into the world from the dead woman’s skin. Sweat, burnt wax, rough linen sheets. Pain that meandered from a physically private place to a mentally private prison. Dread, anticipation, suppression, boredom – all wrapped around a singular desire: to survive the night.

“The event,” Apricot’s voice broke the spell long enough to give the seer the lock of hair. Careful and dutiful, Pear laid the lock near the floating nail and allowed the spell to unfold the woman’s soul through the water. Sensations alien to Pear rattled and tugged. A hard slap, an afterglow of needling lack of sensation. A pull of – something. Hair. Yes… A rough fist with calloused fingers pulled her hair… And that’s when her name sparked into Pear’s mind like a torch in an dark hall. Elise. She fought back with every bit of courage and bravery left to her. Elise hit him, blood poured out of his crooked nose and down his hairy mouth.

The young dragon picked up Elise’s eye with taloned fingers and plopped it in the center of the pool. “What the victim saw,” said Apricot.

Clear as moonlight reflected, a knife pulled from a sheath and glinted in dim light. In the magic pool and in Pear’s mind, Elise fought him unarmed, unprepared, unafraid. The end of a long flight, she prayed to the Dragons, and prayed for her mother and baby brother. Elise’s prayer ended when she could no longer breathe and warm blood washed her naked body.

The Elder said, “For the wrong reasons, she sold her body to those who wished her harm.”

“A life wasted,” said Pear, “though not yet forgotten.”

“A tragedy, but shall we concern ourselves with what is already lost?”

“Retribution was never meant for the saints.” The seer untied the shroud and spread it across the grass and flowers in front of the fountain. White and red glowed on the colorless shroud.

“Then do as you judge, apprentice seer.”

Pear sought the Moons’ favor and called down the Stars’ justice. At midnight the sky whimpered and growled, a red star appeared over the horizon, a comet pierced the constellation of the Hunter. Vengeance. Pear waited until dawn, then slept on the shroud while the Sun warmed the dewy grass. Dreams invaded the seer’s mind that morning – dark dreams. In the nearby human city, a man never woke up but never quite died.

THE END

***

Word Count: 742

Forward Motion Flash Fiction Friday.

2 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Friday: Moonlight Shroud

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