Back and forth. Up and down.
And soon the sleeve will be done.
Back and forth, up and down. And finally, the tenth shirt will be complete. But the needle and the nettle pierced her creamy white skin, letting the red flow down to her skirt. But she doesn’t pay attention, she is used to it. Amber has to continue, she must for both the sake of her brothers and for taking her revenge.
Amber lived happily; she, her eleven brothers and their father. Despite her ten years of age and being the youngest of all, she cared and loved each one of them, just like their mother used to do. Amber’s father was one of the most respected traders of the City of Commerce. He was wealthy but he cared for his children and tried to offer them a pleasant life, something his wife didn’t manage to do for she had died, giving birth to Amber.
But the only daughter of the family was carrying the traits of her mother. Light brown hair and glowing, from life, hazel eyes, she was a jewel to care. Her brothers loved her deeply and they were showing it to her every day.
The day their father brought home the young woman Amber and her brothers saw her with awe, surprised by her beauty. Blonde with a slender body but most of all, piercing eyes like ice, a pair which had made Amber shiver, when Susan, her new mother, laid her eyes on her.
“She will be your new mother. Be kind and gentle with her.” Their father had told them and the boys nodded.
But Susan’s eyes were locked on little Amber, who was too looking at her with curiosity but hope for a new start on their family’s life.
“You are beautiful.” She had said with that voice of hers.
“Not as beautiful as you Miss Susan.”
Her father had laughed, saying that Amber had to address her as “Mother”. But Susan simply nodded and by casting a glare at her, she had left with Amber’s father following her from behind.
That night Amber, after putting her brothers to sleep, she walked back to her room. The silence of the night carried a dread with it but she had paid no attention. Only when she passed outside her father’s chamber had she dared to stop and look at the closed doors.
She wanted to say her goodnight to both of them. Amber wanted to have a good relationship with Susan. But when she opened slightly the door, she came across with a horrible sight.
Susan was wearing a thin nightgown, her curves showing her skin pale like a dead man’s. She was standing on the bed, having Amber’s father lying down, his eyes wide open, his mouth a silent scream. Snakes, two dark green snakes, were curled around her waist with their heads resting on her shoulders.
“My poor, poor husband. So fragile and weak minded. But I got the jackpot. I will be eternal beautiful and you will feed me.” She giggled as she spoke and fell on him, straddling his sides.
Her lips parted and kissed the man. Amber held her breath as she saw her father’s life force being sucked by Susan, making her body glow white until she tilted her head back laughing wildly with pleasure.
Succubus. Amber thought. She had heard of them from the wandering bards; creatures from the pits of darkness, which crawled on the world of the Three Cities, searching for weak minds and hearts, playing with their lives.
She had to do something and quick. Slowly Amber stepped back and ran into the dark corridors of her home. Bursting open the door of her brothers’ large room, she laid on the bed of the smaller one and hugged him tightly.
“Sister what’s wrong?” he asked sleepily.
“Nothing brother, can I sleep here tonight?”
“Of course.” And he patted her head, before drifting back to dreams, while little Amber mouth her sobs, trying to hold everything she loved dearly.
She never expected her father to grow distant with her. After that night, Susan was always walking with her father, speaking at him close to his ear, giggling as she did so. She had met the eleven brothers and when the Demon saw them playing at the gardens, her guts twisted; Susan hated them and by ridding the eleven brothers she would have the man and his riches all for herself.
Little Amber saw her and tried to come closer. Her fluffy dress moved as she slowly walked towards them, only to be quickly dismissed by her father, earning a hateful glance from her stepmother.
“Please…let me speak with him.”
“No sweetie. He is mine.” Her icy eyes glowed with fury.
Amber stood there in the stony garden, unable and afraid to help her family. But Susan had already set her plans in motion.
The following night screams were heard from her brothers’ room. Amber ran with all her strength, pushing the doors wide open. Susan was standing in the middle of the large room, laughing wildly. The white sheets were floating around the beds, like ghosts at night. The cries above her head made her look up.
And there they were; eleven ravens were flying above her and Susan, flapping their wings wildly.
“No!” Amber screamed and Susan ran towards her, pinning her down.
“Your turn now! How about stealing your beauty?’
She kicked and cried, calling the names of her brothers. Susan glared at her and one of her snakes curled around the girl’s neck, ready to choke her.
Suddenly, white wings hit Susan and a long beak, pulled the snake from Amber. Amber gasped as she saw the ravens transforming into majestic white swans, flying outside the open balcony doors.
Two of the swans pushed with their heads Amber, indicating her to run away.
And she did. She ran fast, barefoot and alone away from her home and the Demon. She ran for her life and for the sake of the flying swans, which were flying above her head.
It was a day later when she found out that her brothers could take their human forms only at night. They cried and wept but Amber knew that she had to find a way to save them. So the siblings turned to the city where they knew where to find help.
The City of Magic.
A small, yet powerful City, where wizards and witches were dwelling. Amber walked ragged and tired into the city, leaving her brothers behind, after instructing them not to follow her. The stone road made her already blistered feet bleed and the girl finally fell to the ground, letting her tears fall.
When she opened her eyes again, her eyes met a pair of diamonds. The woman’s face was so close to hers and that made little Amber yelp.
“Fear not child. I am not a bad witch.” The melodic voice spoke and offered at her a bowl of soup.
“Thank you.” And grateful she ate.
“The sky is beautiful today and strangely there are swans flying above the roofs.”
The spoon fell from Amber’s fingers.
The woman turned and smiled kindly at her. Her grey, shining like diamonds, eyes moved at the book, which was lying on the table. Despite the old worn clothes, the witch was young with short white hair, while the way she moved was carrying a way of grace.
“Please help me. I must save my brothers!”
The witch rose her palm, asking Amber to be quiet.
“I can sense the Demon’s power on the swans. She is a succubus, isn’t she?”
When Amber nodded and explained the story, the witch opened her book and started searching.
“A succubus needs life force to survive. Either by seducing men or stealing the beauty of young children, this Demon becomes really powerful.”
“How can I stop her?”
The witch stopped moving the pages and looked at the girl. She saw her determination and then turned to her book again.
“To free your brothers you must knit eleven shirts made of stinging nettle. The nettle is the only way for a Succubus’s powers to be eliminated.”
“I will do it.”
“But there is a price to pay for the magic on the shirts to work.”The witch walked to the bed, she had laid Amber and touched her cheek.
The girl felt her warmth and left a tired sound.
“You must not talk, laugh or sing. You will not do any of the above until the day you finish the eleventh shirt. Can you bear the responsibility?”
Amber’s eyes felt teary but the girl brushed away her tears. She had to be strong. For the sake of her brothers.
“You bear courage. Remember me, when the day you’ll free your brothers come.” The witch smiled at her and kissed her forehead
“Sister, please! Say something!” her younger brother begged her once more to speak.
But Amber was already gathering the nettles from the outskirts of the City of Magic. Night had fallen and her eleven brothers were seeing her walking with her with her dress and boots, departing gifts from the witch, sinking into the muddy ground as the girl was gathering the stinging nettles.
Her white fingers had already swollen but Amber didn’t stop. Not until she had gathered enough to begin knitting. When they returned to the forest, where the eleven brothers had already secured a safe settler, Amber began knitting.
The red filled her fingers as she moved the needle back and forth, trying to connect the nettle together. She cried from pain but she didn’t let not even a sob escape her lips; Amber was keeping her promise praying for the day salvation would come.
The night left and the day came. Her brothers flew above the forest, searching for the same nettles their sister was knitting. They would fly miles away but return back at sunset, bringing her the nettles.
After two weeks the first shirt was finally made.