All female infants that show signs of Furia are to be taken to the Lethra Apothecary for further inspection during their sixth month of life. Signs of Furia may include, but are not limited to, ashen hair, silver ringed pupils, unnatural calm, and rapid development either mentally or physically. Failure to deliver female infants for inspection within the specified timeframe is punishable by death.
The Order of The Furies
Sam looked up at the nearly faded writing on the weathered parchment. The nail that held it had become rusted and frail over the many seasons, but not one person would dare move it out of fear of what the Furies would do. Sam sighed and thought back to the earlier years, where Furia had run rampant, and many of the townsfolk had lost their babes to the mountain fortress of the Furies. The last infant to show signs of Furia was taken nearly ten years ago to the day, but the decree was always in effect, even now. After five years of a dry spell, the Furies appeared to become desperate. They sent out representatives to every home in Lethra, combing through hay and linens, looking for any infant showing signs of Furia that might have been hidden away. They turned every cot upside down but left empty handed and disappointed. Lethra grew quiet—until a few days back.
Sam had been taking his morning walks before patrons at the inn awoke from a late night of drinking to either gather the makings of the morning meal or just to get a smell of something other than smoke, cheap ale, and vomit. Five women, that week, had entered the apothecary at the wee hours of the morning, carrying something in then leaving quickly without it. He’d seen them later in the day, spending coin at the vendors on the most floral of soaps and freshest of produce. He couldn’t help feeling that something wasn’t right.
He stared up into the smog that covered the highest peak of the Lethra Mountains, knowing that somewhere within its vastness, Furies remained there, keeping a watchful eye on the entire Western end of Maber. They may not have been getting the infants they needed, but that didn’t stop the Furies from operating their nightly bouts of justice. Steal an apple, lose a hand. Tell lies, lose a tongue. The list went on and hung directly beside the old decree for all of Lethra to see during their daily excursions to the shops in the center of town. Many folks didn’t need to see the list. The crimes and their punishments were parts of horrific bedtime stories told to all children at the earliest of ages.
Bringing a hand up, Sam felt the skin around the hole of what used to be his right ear and grimaced. He couldn’t entirely hear out of it anymore and sleeping at night had become more terrifying. The itch of whatever had creeped into the remainder of his ear would twitch in terror at the realization that it was stuck, and more often than not, Sam would need to dig and pull out the mites or spiders. Sometimes they were so far in, he would have to endure the pain in his head until it had suffocated and died. Luckily, after learning his lesson, Sam had crafted a small patch that he had to apply every night before and sometimes during the hot months when the biting insects were plentiful and merciless.
It had been a good twenty-five years since his first encounter with a Fury, and hopefully his last, but it still stung as if it were yesterday. He had extinguished his last candle and looked out his window at the moonless night before bringing a makeshift blind made of an old grain sack over it. His quarters at the lower level of the inn sat in absolute darkness, and he had tucked himself beneath three blankets on that cold night. It took him longer than he had wanted to fall asleep due to the shudders that ran through him. Eventually, he watched his breaths hit the air in a large puff of smoke and counted them until his eyes began to feel heavy. As he drifted, his eyes fluttered, and out of the darkness he saw two small illuminated silver spheres floating within the confines of his room. Before the realization set it, the glow and sting of flames against the side of his face sent him into a panic. Only briefly did he see the silhouette of a caped figure standing nearby. She stood there motionless, watching as his ear burned away. He screamed and screamed, but no sound left his mouth. The room remained as quiet as it was just a minute ago.
“Samuel Freylin, on this day, the second of the Frost, you are guilty of excessive eavesdropping.”
He put a hand up to the freshly burned ear and winced. The smell of burning flesh assaulted his nose, and the heat that radiated from the side of his face warmed his frigid hand.
And with that, she was gone. He rose out of bed and began rocking back and forth, feeling the wetness of the bed beneath him and tasting the salt from the sweat around his upper lip. Sam had not noticed where exactly she had went or how she got in without making a sound, but even till this day, the silver lining of her eyes haunted him, especially on the darkest of nights.
The sound of chimes from the opening of the apothecary door was what brought him back to reality.
A woman, no more than twenty, held tightly to the shawl that covered all but her eyes. She peered around suspiciously before entering the shop. Against her breast, she held a mass beneath thick linen. Sam raised a brow and began his walk back to the inn right outside the center of town. He nonchalantly passed the front entrance to the Lethra Apothecary and heard the small muffled cries of a baby.