Author: silly1 PM
A strange creature is captured in a far off future where humanity has lost much of its former technology and mutations abound. Is this strange, webbed boy a mutant, or is he actually a Sprite, a creature from long lost myth?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 88 - Words: 221,231 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 02-10-13 - Published: 01-17-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2883131
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sprite: Norah, 71:
"So I can't just make a gateway appear anywhere I want just by wishing it?" Norah sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor while Neistah rummaged through the cabinets for something to eat and Valin perched on the edge of the long wooden table, looking increasingly annoyed.
"Not unless you spill some blood," Neistah called back, ignoring Valin's scowl.
"No," Valin confirmed. "As I told you, there are certain signs to look for that will indicate the presence of a gate. The red flower is one of them."
"Yes, yes, I know, but how did they get there in the first place?" Norah asked impatiently. She had been out in the woods for days on end with Valin or Neistah or both of them, looking for red flowers or shimmery curtains of air. She had a fair idea now of exactly where the nearest gateways were located, and she could find them again if she had to. But so could any other sprite. It amazed her that the gateways remained invisible to humans.
'Except a blood gate,' Valin reminded her. It was a tear in the fabric between the worlds, a wound that bled so profusely that it leaked between both places. Even humans could pass through while it was still fresh, with disastrous results for all concerned.
"Then I don't get it," Norah said in exasperation. "In what way do I hold the land?"
"Think of yourself as an anchor," Valin said.
"Or a key," Neistah added.
Which was it, then? An anchor or a key?
'Both.' Neistah sent with a note of amusement. 'You can't make a gate—except with blood—but you can limit who uses them because you connect both sides of the gate—you hold the land. Now do you get it?'
She didn't. They had been over and over the same thing for days and Norah was no closer to understanding the concept than she ever was. "Why do I hold the land and not you?" She frowned at Neistah. He was, after all, the Lady's son. Norah was just the grandchild.
"Me?" Neistah laughed. "I never wanted it. No, my daughter, it's you that has that power, wished for or no."
Norah detected a note of relief in his voice, and she stifled a sigh. Just as she'd thought. This power was less a gift than a responsibility.
'That's right,' Valin sent in all seriousness. 'During Anais' time, the ways between faerie and this world underwent tremendous changes. There were long periods when the ways were closed to us altogether. It's only been the last few decades,' his eyes slid to Neistah, 'that the ways have started to open up to us again. We have to be careful not to disturb the balance. You have to be careful not to allow the balance to be disturbed.'
And round and round they went. Norah sighed out loud.
Leane came in carrying the baby. She raised her eyebrows at the three sprites sitting in silent concentration in the spacious kitchen. 'Still at it?' she queried with a wry smile. 'Norah, dear, just let it come naturally. You're still very young. Why don't you come swim with me?'
With the baby? Norah looked up in surprise. Where was Roselle? Inwardly, she bristled at being called 'young' yet again. What did her age have to do with anything? If Norah truly held the land, she needed to know these things so she could prevent beings like Rellan from interfering in the mortal world. 'Where's Roselle?' she sent back, careful to keep her other thoughts to herself. From the looks on Valin and Neistah's faces, she hadn't succeeded very well. At least Leane seemed not to notice.
'She's off with Will,' Leane replied. 'I'm babysitting.' She let the child's tiny fingers tighten around the tip of her own. 'At least until the little one gets hungry.' Leane laughed. 'Then she goes back to her mother for feeding.'
Jenny burst into the room dressed in her swimsuit with Miriam half a step behind her holding a towel. "I'm gonna go swimming!" she announced happily.
Leane had promised she would take Jenny swimming, with Miriam's reluctant consent.
"We might as well all go," Norah conceded, her lesson in gateways over for the time being. Neistah and Valin readily agreed.
Leane quickly unwrapped baby Clarice from her blankets and, holding her gently to her bosom, fell slowly on her back into the water. She floated just under the surface, letting the water gently tickle the baby's skin so she could get used to the feeling.
"Me! Me!" Jenny jumped up and down on the edge of the pond. Leane had promised her a swim, not the new baby!
Norah chuckled as she caught that thought and, diving neatly into the water herself, she resurfaced and held out her arms. "Come to me," she bade her little sister.
Norah's deep red hair was plastered to her scalp and the fins on her neck, revitalized at the touch of water, fanned out behind her ears, glistening with just a hint of green. With her webbed hands raised in invitation, she looked like nothing human.
Jenny jumped into the water with a splash, squealing delightedly as Norah caught her and slung her around so she rested on Norah's back. "Now hold on tight," she instructed, wincing a little as the little girl tightened her arms around her neck. "Not so tight," she said dryly. "Ready? Here we go!"
Faster than a human, but careful not to splash the little girl who hung on excitedly to her back, Norah arrowed across the pond, then around its edges. Jenny shouted with laughter.
"Do you want to go under? Hold your breath. Ready? One, two, three!" Norah heard Jenny's loud inhalation. Taking that for consent, she dove under the surface, seeing the laughing faces of Neistah and Valin as they circled around her. She came up almost immediately, to Jenny's cry of "Again!" On the shore, Miriam looked on in quiet terror, trying to pretend she was fine with it all.
"Let's go see Mama," Norah suggested, undulating across the pond while Jenny clung to her neck.
If Roselle had been here, she would have been a lot more vocal than Miriam, although Leane was being exceedingly gentle with the tiny baby, considering the capricious nature of sprites. Jenny ran over to her mother, who wrapped her up in the towel, hugging her tightly. Miriam caught Norah's eyes and smiled. Norah smiled back. It was a credit to her mother that she had let Jenny swim among the water sprites, but then again, Miriam had some experience in that area herself, after all.
Leane swam to the very edge of the pond with the baby, who seemed to like being in the water. 'Of course,' Leane sent, 'it reminds her of the womb.' She handed the infant over to Lara, who had suddenly appeared at the water's edge holding another towel. She was dressed once again in her silks, although she had removed the overlapping wooden armor.
'She is not one of ours,' Lara reprimanded, swaddling the child and holding her tenderly. Clarice gazed upon her with solemn eyes. 'She gets cold quickly.'
'I know that,' Leane sent as she flipped in the water and sped away under the surface. 'I was careful. She loved it.'
'Yes, she did, didn't she?' Lara smiled fondly at the baby. She was as smitten as Leane with the tiny new life. It held them away from the water far longer than Norah would have thought.
'Away from me, too,' Neistah sent, appearing briefly on the surface to lock eyes with his lady love. 'Lara, join me soon.'
'Soon,' Lara promised. She had already started walking towards the house. 'When Roselle gets back.'
Where were Roselle and Will? A part of Norah felt guilty for begrudging them this little time away with each other. She waved good-bye to her mother and Jenny, however, and slipped back beneath the water to join the other sprites. They were very lucky to have a pond so close to the house where they could go whenever they felt the urge, which was most of the time. She frowned as she thought of something.
'Valin?' Quickly arrowing over to where her grandfather swam lazily near the bottom, Norah asked, 'How did Leane and this pond get here if there wasn't already a gateway? And why did it disappear after she arrived?'
'There is something called a gateway of desire,' Valin replied. He had been waiting for her to ask this question. 'This is one such. There are two others where Neistah and I both came through from the Great Northern Lake. It is very rare. Why the gateways disappeared after we came through them even I do not know. We all gathered here for a reason, including you. It remains to be seen what that reason is. However, I have no doubt is has something to do with your holding the land.'
Round and round. Norah wondered if she would have any better luck talking to Anais.
She circled down to the very depths of Leane's pond, trying to see where the mysterious gate had originally formed. There was truly nothing there now, no tingling, no red flower, if such a thing could even grow underwater. Perhaps she should shed a drop of blood here, where it would do little harm . . . .it would be nice to have a gateway nearby.
'No!' Both Valin and Neistah raced towards her. Blood would dissipate in the water opening a hole between the realms as large as the entire pond! Anyone who was near it would be sucked into the maelstrom, including her mother and Jenny! In less than a second the sprites conveyed their fears to Norah. She veered away, horrified of what she might have done in her ignorance.
'Your idea has merit, however,' Valin sent, twisting around her sending 'comfort' and 'calm' throughout the ambient. 'A gateway here and perhaps in our twin ponds as well would be convenient, if you choose to remain in the mortal world.'
Norah had forgotten she was supposed to choose. 'It doesn't matter which realm I live in—I will still hold the land?'
'You hold the land because of who you are, not where.'
Neistah nudged Valin out of the way and circled tightly around his daughter. 'There's no reason you can't stay in both,' he sent, mostly because he wanted to do just that. 'Breyan will wait, and Pup won't live forever.' His eyes gleamed. He didn't mean to be cruel; it was just how he was, how they all were to a greater or lesser degree.
Norah broke away and arrowed for the surface, leaping out to land feet-first on the grass. She wasn't like that. She couldn't live one lifetime with Pup and then go on to live another lifetime with Breyan. She squeezed the excess water out of her hair and let the sun dry her body as she made her way back towards the house. Pup was still not back from his mission with Jordy and Adam. When he returned, they really needed to talk.
"Roselle and Will aren't back yet?" Norah came downstairs dressed once more in her faerie gown which she had been relieved to discover was still at Black Pond. Where had they gone for so long? It had been hours, past the time when baby Clarice should have been fed. The baby fussed in Lara's arms and Miriam was in the kitchen making a bottle with boiled goat's milk, which they all hoped the baby would take. "Should I go look for them?" Norah's face reddened as she envisioned herself stumbling over the two lovers in a forest glen.
Lara grinned. 'It will be all right,' she sent, catching the image in Norah's thoughts. 'From what I understood, they went out to meet Pup at one of the other changeling villages. I'm sure they're all on their way back already.'
'Pup!' Norah's heart surged. He would be here soon! She wondered how they had made out on their quest to find the other changelings and the families they had left behind. "Then I'll wait for them outside," Norah said out loud, as much to get away from the crying baby as to actually wait for the travelers to return. She wondered briefly why Roselle had chosen to accompany Will, but then dismissed it, figuring her friend was due for a break from mothering for a few short hours.
The hours stretched into evening before the returning changelings—and Roselle—trudged up the dirt road to the house. Clarice had grudgingly taken a bit of fluid from the bottle Miriam provided, then fallen into a fitful sleep still in Lara's arms. It would be time for another feeding soon. Norah couldn't imagine what would have kept Roselle from returning back to her baby for this long—even if their meetings had run over, surely Will would have brought Roselle home sooner.
Norah squinted against the setting sun. There seemed to be a lot more people than she expected. Roselle waved to her. She had her arms around two other people. Norah squinted again.
"Look, Norah! See who Pup found! He brought my parents!" Roselle called.