The grass was very green and the sun shone brightly over the forest’s clearing, in which there was gathered a small group of people. Adara stood a few steps away from everyone else, looking at the ground. ‘Look up’. That was what Torio used to tell her. She remembered perfectly the very first time he said that. Soon enough, she was lost in that memory.
It had been a cold night. She walked with her arms crossed on her chest, trying to keep herself warm. She stared at her feet while carefully going through the swamp. The place stank. The water was cold and dirty and her feet wet and muddy. Even if she was looking down, Adara almost bumped into a tree’s root, which she hadn’t noticed in the midst of the mud and the darkness. She frowned as she looked for a safer place to step in.
She had thought freedom would be prettier, and feel better. That cold, dirty, stinky place was not that different from her cell-room. But unlike the swamp, her cell-room was dry and had a ceiling. She cursed under her breath. She wasn’t even completely aware that Torio was walking beside her until he spoke.
“You should look up.” He said.
Adara sensed cheer in his words. She didn’t understand where it came from.
In Obsidian Fortress, she had heard ‘look up’ a lot. Most of times it meant the obvious thing, to lift one’s gaze. For most of the Obsidian people, to ‘look up’ was a way to show their so-called superiority. Non-Obsidians couldn’t look up or make eye contact with natives unless their Master specifically told them so. However, she had heard Non-Obsidians say ‘to look up’ with a different meaning. They ‘looked up’ when they were cheerful despite the hardships and hoped for a brighter tomorrow.
By Torio’s cheerful voice, she assumed he meant it with the sense ‘to be hopeful’. Adara hadn’t ‘looked up’ very much in Obsidian Fortress, it didn’t seem like it would change a thing. Now that she was out, she felt like ‘looking up’ was possible, maybe even useful, but she couldn’t quite manage to do it.
“As if it were so easy to look up in such a place. I’m freezing, and all my body hurts. I’m still bitten by iron, you know.” She said, daring a sideway look at Torio’s chest. He had said she could look him at the eye. However, she found out that, in fact, she couldn’t.
Torio let out a small laugh, which confused young Adara. Why was he laughing? She hadn’t said anything funny…
“That’s not what I meant.” He said kindly, “Even if a little bit of hope would help you, I know it’s not as easy as asking one to be hopeful. What I meant is you should lift your gaze. Look up.”
Adara frowned. Torio’s words seemed even so slightly patronizing to her. Moreover, she was sure all his kindness was only a trap; once she trusted him, he would take her back to the Fortress. Even if he didn’t take her back, he surely would act as his new Master. So she said nothing and kept walking with her gaze fixed on her feet.
“Adara…” Torio rested a hand on Adara’s shoulder, who went very still at the touching of his hand. “Adara, you’re not in the Fortress anymore. There are no Obsidians around.”
There’s you. You’re an Obsidian. She thought, but said nothing.
“You can look me at the eye. You can look up.” Torio kept saying.
He paused for a moment and closed her hand around Adara’s shoulder. It was meant to be a gesture of sympathy. However, Adara had knew no Obsidian’s sympathy, only their forceful authority. Therefore, she went scared at the gentle pressure on her shoulder, fearing that it would turn into a painful grip soon enough.
“Come on. Just for this time, look up.” He requested.
Adara let out a relieved, silent sigh when he put away his hand. Maybe there was no need to be that much untrusting about Torio. Just maybe. However…
“Okay. Just for this time.” Not knowing entirely if it was out of fear of disobeying, or out of a glimpse of trust, Adara looked up.
What she saw took away her breath. When she looked down, the swamp was all dirty water, mud and twisted roots. If she dared to look around, she could see dark trees with no leaves at all as well, nothing fancy. However, the sight above her head was something entirely different.
The sky was clean, dark blue coloured, and from it hanged thousands of bright stars. There was no moon that night, but even so, it was an astonishing sight. The night-sky was the only beautiful thing to look at in that place. Moreover, the stars were the key to leave that filthy swamp behind.
Adara looked at the sky with eyes wide open, not even realizing that she was smiling. She had never before left the inside of Obsidian Fortress, and even if she did, the heavy clouds that hid the sky would’ve prevented her to see anything. That was the very first time she saw the stars.
“That’s what you have to look at now, Adara. You’re out of Obsidian Fortress. The sky is yours. So look up, and don’t let anyone make you bow down.” Torio said behind her.
Adara nodded idly, lost in the wonders of the sight before her eyes. For the first time in her life, she felt free. She wasn’t scared anymore. Not even when she felt the touch of Torio in her shoulder again. It felt weird, but looking up helped her to overcome that feeling.
“You’re free now, Adara. Never stop looking up.”
Adara smiled faintly at the memory of that first night out of Obsidian Fortress. Several years had passed since then. She silently thanked Torio for freeing her. She was looking down as they returned him to the Earth. Everyone belonged to the Earth, and sooner or later everyone must return to Her. She dared to smile widely and looked up. The sky was clear, and the sun shone brightly above her head. That was what she aimed for. The sky and its light.
Thus, while everyone looked down and wept, Adara looked up and smiled. Torio had had a good life. She knew that the Earth would take good care of him until the time for her to return to Her came, making the two of them meet again. So she turned round and started walking away from the small group dressed in black. She sensed how some of them turned to look at her white-dressed-self walk away. She didn’t care. White was a more appropriate colour. Both Torio and her had agreed on that long ago.
Dressed in white and looking up, Adara left the forest behind. Long ago, Torio had freed her. And during all that time, he had taken good care of her. Things had been so nice since then that she had almost forgotten her time in Obsidian Fortress. Almost. However, lately, her early memories had returned more strongly than ever before. She aimed for the sky. She always looked up. It was time to end the tyranny of the so-called ‘superiors beings’ once and for all. She would free Non-Obsidians from their imprisoned lives. Obsidian Fortress shall fall.