Under The Purple Sky
by Stacy Overby
They command attention, leaving spectators breathless in their presence.
The words, in neon letters flashed onto the massive screen lighting up the night, though why the gigantic electronic billboard drew Liana’s attention mystified her. A video of her sisters imprisoned under The Purple Sky, trapped in human-made cages, played behind those neon letters. She’d been looking for her next score, but something about the billboard kept drawing her attention away from her mission, as if it were an omen.
Cursed humans. Putting us on display like that after having feared us for millennia. You may have bested us for now, but we shall not be defeated. Just look what we have done to your cities.
She glanced around, looking for a human fool enough to roam the debris strewn street after dark. Night hours were for the Others since the war between Human and Other. The Draugur, the Sanguisuge, the Cait Sith, and more. All the things humans told stories about to scare children. Humans may rule the day, but they still feared the dark.
The billboard looped the video, enticing humans to visit The Purple Sky much to Liana’s disgust. Ethereal figures floated through treetops in a massive building. In the center grew a forest while a purple energy field enclosed it. Along the edges, high above the trees, humans lined railings. They stared and clapped and laughed as the figures made their way around the enclosure. One of the translucent purplish-blue humanoids tilted her head back and screamed. Her kind were responsible for the reason humans feared the dark, feared the Draugur’s scream. For centuries death followed darkness and keening. As it did now. Liana smiled as she watched the humans jump and cover their ears.
You haven’t forgotten your fear quite yet, have you? That is a promise from my sister, a promise of revenge and death just as it has been for centuries.
An ache drew Liana back to her need, to the deserted broken street surrounding her. Energy. A human life force. Food. A scent hit her. Intoxicating. Arousing. It stoked her hunger like nothing had in years. Liana crept down the darkened street. An old sign squeaked a little in the breeze that continued to waft the delicious scent to her.
As Liana rounded a corner trailing after the scent, it disappeared. She froze in the shadows of the wall.
Perhaps a trap?
“Come out, come out, little wraithling. I know you’re there.”
Liana’s heart raced. It is a trap, but I am Draugur, human. How do you know I am here?
She thinned herself until she hovered near the roof of an abandoned building sitting in the shadow of the building that held The Purple Sky, a vaguely humanoid shape of purplish-blue not much thicker than the shadows in which she hid and studied the sidewalk below her. Humans always looked down or around, never up. She’d learned long ago to take advantage of that hubris.
The human sauntered out from the alley watching above him despite what she’d always seen from them. He held a soul stone like he understood how to use it. The soul stones were the one weapon humans had to combat the Draugur, though how they’d found them was beyond her knowledge. It was rare to see a human be proficient with the stones despite having them for a century or more now, truly a miracle they ever figured out how to use them at all. Humans had demonstrated a notorious lack of magical ability over the centuries.
The human drew closer and Liana crouched even more. In a few steps, Liana could strike, and this human would no longer threaten her kind. She just needed him close enough to drop onto. Then her finger feelers could drain him of his energy.
Perhaps he is responsible for the disappearances of my sisters.
His energy thrummed along her nerves whetting her appetite all over again. He seemed oblivious to the danger lying in wait ten feet above his head.
Just as the human drew close enough to devour, he activated the soul stone. The brilliant blue light chased away the shadows and locked Liana into a corporeal form. The human bound her in a circle before the soul stone’s power quieted to a dim glow. Liana hissed at him as her ability to move returned but she remained trapped by the circle, and more humanoid looking than she cared for. Though her eyes, dark violet, would never let her pass long as a human.
“Now, my little wraithling, you’ll join your kin in the dome where you belong. A spectacle for all to see, never to prey on us again.”
Liana battered at the invisible walls trapping her with little heed for the pain the barrier caused. She propelled herself skyward trying to find the top edge to the binding circle but failed. The human stood there and laughed.
He manipulated the soul stone once again, stunning her into a darkness she’d never known.
Liana woke to a dim room. By human standards it would have been dark, but for her it more resembled twilight. She was being held in a container of energy and the low hum grated on her nerves. She gave a low moan. The humans had managed to use a soul stone to create magical barriers around cages, not just for The Purple Sky itself.
Am I not alone in this place?
Nae, you are not.
Liana’s heart jumped into overdrive at the feel of another Draugur’s mind-touch.
This is the place humans built to contain us.
Aye, they only let a few of us out at once. To entertain them.
Liana tasted the venom in the other Draugur’s last words as her mind whirled with possibilities. She also recognized the other Draugur, though it had been a century or more since she’d last had contact with her.
You are Josara.
How many do they allow in the open space?
Silence greeted Liana’s question.
Please answer me.
You are one of The Three.
Liana could not mistake the hesitation and awe from Josara.
Aye. I am. Now, to be free from this place, give me the information I seek.
Nine. Never more than that.
Nine. Thrice three. Power resonated in the sacred numbers. Liana’s mind whirled with possibilities.
And the others from The Three—Coursana and Enaria, are they here?
Liana’s mind spun with the possibilities. Thrice nine—and The Three—all together in their cage? She needed to have all The Three in the open space, among the trees that tried and failed to mimic the wild places of the Earth. Together, the leaders of the Draugur were unstoppable. Even the power of the soul stones had little effect on them when they were together. And they could pass that on to any Draugur near them.
How do the humans choose to put into their dome?
They choose the most docile or those they believe to be the weakest.
That explained the energy fields powered by the soul stones. They sapped the Draugur’s energy the longer they remained in the cages.
Liana drifted along the edges of her cage, looking for a weakness. And what are we to do under The Purple Sky? What do the humans expect of us?
Josara’s energy flared, a sharp heat in Liana’s mind. Nothing. Look pretty Drift through trees in entertainment for the humans.
Liana couldn’t stop her energy from spiking in response to Josara’s words. To be reduced from ancient hunters who ruled humans to that was the ultimate insult.
And are all Draugur kept here?
Nae, most all are kept elsewhere.
Why are we kept here?
Liana sensed Josara’s energy deflate and sink to the floor of her cage.
You were just brought in. All new Draugur spend time in this room first. I am here as punishment.
I killed a human under The Purple Sky. Josara’s energy flared in Liana’s mind.
Liana laughed and then sobered. They sought to punish you through isolation. Do they not understand us at all? They’ve spun tales of us, sung songs, warning of our kind. Banshee and bean nighe they’ve called us, not knowing our true name.
Nae, they do not.
Then you shall be one of the nine who will lead all Draugur in this place to freedom. Josara’s energy flared at Liana’s words.
What must I do?
Allow them to think you are meek, tamed by their pathetic punishment.
They’d attempted to move Liana the day after she’d been captured, but she fought back to where they moved her to a different room alone. It took several days before the humans moved Liana and Josara back to where all Draugur were held. Their mistake.
When she saw the interminable rows of energy cages, each containing a Draugur, her gut twisted. Instead of allowing this to crush her, Liana found Coursana and Enaria, the other leaders of the Draugur, and gave them her plan. For, in moving her to where they held the other Draugur, they’d allowed her access to the other two leaders of the Draugur, something that strengthened any Draugur in The Three’s presence due to the synergy created by The Three.
About two weeks later, Liana had her chance. It was the third time they’d moved her to The Purple Sky, only this time they’d allowed nine to go. And the other eight also included Josara, Coursana, and Enaria.
With a single shared thought, they executed Liana’s plan. Each group of three Draugur headed in opposite directions and hid among the trees. As expected, it did not take long for the human guards to enter in search of them, each guard in possession of a soul stone.
They grow overconfident with the soul stones. The humans know not the limitations when The Three are together.
The Purple Sky was meant for a spectacle and the humans grew upset when the Draugur did not cooperate. Thus, the guards to stir them up into the treetops where the humans on the balconies could watch them.
“They leap from branch to branch, soaring with grace and poise,” the narration continued in the background while Liana hid among the branches, refusing to follow the script echoing among the trees.
Liana sensed when the Enaria’s triad slipped out the open door. They paused long enough to wrap the single guard in tendrils that flowed from their hands, consuming his energy on the way by. Now it was a matter of time before Enaria and her team would destroy The Purple Sky.
Liana glanced up. The violet shell of energy hummed all around them, separating them from freedom, from the humans who held the key. She let out a keening cry, venting all her hatred and frustration. The humans above recoiled at the sound. Liana shook her head and thinned out her energetic form a little more. She had to stay focused on hunting the humans in the arena while Coursana’s triad kept the spectating humans occupied.
There, about ten feet below the branch Liana waited on, one of the guards came into view. He watched the tree branches above, but not far enough. Liana grinned.
She launched herself toward the guard, an electrical mist flowing around the branches on the way down. In the background, she heard the narration continuing to play.
“They leap from branch to branch, soaring with grace and poise.”
He didn’t have a chance to scream before she’d wrapped herself around him, her feelers extending in, sucking the life from him until he was nothing more than a leathery stick.
The energy boost from his life force allowed her to sense Ronia and Tresia dispatching two more guards in similar fashion. Liana launched herself back into the trees with a keening cry. A glimpse of the humans on the viewing balconies showed them cowering at the sound that Ronia and Tresia echoed.
Coursana leapt onto a branch next to Liana. There are no more guards. It is time to leave The Purple Sky.
Yes, let us leave this place and become the scourge we once were to humankind.
They led the remaining Draugur out the still unguarded door. Enaria had done her task well as there had been no alarm. With their exit from the area, they could not avoid drawing attention from the humans. However, Liana knew any warning the humans gave now would be useless. Enaria and her triad had reached the place where all the captured Draugur were being held.
Liana and Coursana met Enaria as she led the freed Draugur out of their now de-energized cells.
Come, let us remind the humans why they fear our cry. Then we hunt the one who sent us here.
Coursana and Enaria followed Liana to the balconies high above the now empty forest. The human screams soon echoed throughout the massive building punctuating the wailing of the Draugur as they hunted. Liana paused to admire the flow of Draugur through the cold, metal corridors. All the while, the narrated soundtrack played on under The Purple Sky.
“They leap from branch to branch, soaring with grace and poise.”