Nerissa's War: Teaser: A Fairy Tale

"Once upon a time," Lady Zephyr crooned, voice smooth as velvet as she rocked her young son to sleep, "There was a great and powerful queen. She was so beautiful that she could strike men blind upon sight, and so wealthy that even her lowest servants wore clothing spun with gold. When she smiled, the sun came out from behind a cloud, and the wind whispered sweetly through the trees, flowers burst from the ground in a splash of color, and water laughed merrily as it bubbled through the streams and brooks of the land. The crops grew, and the earth smiled upon all its inhabitants. But when she was angry, the seas boiled, and the sun bore down on the earth, lighting it afire. The ground shook and trembled and cracked open in huge fissures, and the wind stripped the earth bare and barren. She could hear the news of distant lands whispered on the winds, and bubbled in the streams, she could stop the sun in its path across the sky, she could turn the earth to barren stone, and she could fly on the back of the wind. Her name was Morgaine."

Kenton murmured in his crib, sleepily, and Lady Zephyr stroked his head tenderly before continuing. "She had four sons, and each of them as unlike the others as could be. Her eldest son was born in summer, and loved the sun and the warmth of its rays. He was dark of complexion and of eye, for the sun had baked his skin a deep brown. And he was of a sunny disposition, loving and carefree and warm to new acquaintances, and everyone loved him and remarked on how warm his heart was, and how kind his demeanor. To him, she gave the power over the sun, and he made it rise each morning and warm the lands, and he blessed the earth with its light and its radiance, and he went to live in the desert, where he would always have the sun for company.

"Her second son was born in fall, and was spry and nimble as the winds. His hair was the bright golden color of autumn leaves, flecked with red and chestnut brown, and it fell in waves to his shoulders, and his eyes were the clear crisp blue of the autumn sky. He could be flighty and unreliable, but he was joyous and playful and adventurous, and so everyone rejoiced in his company. He longed for nothing more than to travel the world, and see great cities and mountains, to know all there was to know and see all there was to see. To him, the great queen gave the power over the winds, and he blew at times fair and at times foul, and he travelled on their backs across the whole world, and finally came back and settled in a deep forest, where he would always be able to hear the voices of the wind in the leaves of the trees.

"Her third son was born in winter, and was silent and stolid of temper. His hair was dark as shale, and his face as pale as limestone, and he was as stubborn and unmoving as the mountains in the east. His temper flared up, at times, in unpredictable bursts, and he would erupt with anger and rage. But he loved the earth, and the things that grew from it, and he alone of all her sons took any interest in the fields and farms that surrounded their palace, and so he was respected, feared, and generally liked by the peasants. To him she gave power over the lands, and he made them fertile and bountiful, and went up into the mountains to make his home.

"Her last son was born in the spring, and had a temper as changing, and yet as constant, as the sea. His hair was so dark black that it appeared tinged with blue, and his eyes were the green color of the tropics. He was fluid, and refused to meet any problem head on, but slowly worked his way around it through wiles and subtleties. To him she gave the power over the sea, and the rains, and he brought water from the heavens to feed the streams that he loved, and he made his home on the side of the ocean, where he could always be within its sight. And that was the beginning of the four Estates, the four houses of the fairies."

Kenton wriggled in his crib; he was not yet asleep. His mother smiled warmly as she continued.

"The great queen also had a mirror, and she would sit in front of her mirror each morning and each evening as she combed her long, lustrous hair, and her power and her image seeped into the mirror and poisoned it, so that after so many days of seeing so great and beautiful a portrait everything else looked puny, small, and ugly in comparison. Her eldest son laughed at the mirror, saying it was a harmless toy of a great old lady who deserved all of their respect. Her second son did not care for the mirror, but argued that it could hardly harm anyone, sitting as it did in their mother's palace all day. Her third son hated the mirror, for it showed the cruelty of his mother, and wanted it ground up into fine dust and scattered to the wind, so it could do no harm. Her youngest son claimed that he did not have an opinion on the mirror, but all knew that he would destroy it if he had the chance. And so, on the day she died, her two youngest sons stole the mirror from her room and shattered it into a million pieces, and scattered it to the wind, where her second son spread it across the world."

Kenton yawned, finally succumbing to sleep. He had a knack for knowing when a story was about to end.

"But each shard of that mirror contained the power of the whole, and as they spread across the world they carried disdain, and ugliness, and ridicule. They tarnished the ground they landed upon with a permanent stain, and they made that which they pierced wither and lose its vigor. If one pierced your eye, you would be struck not blind but mirror-blind: you would see only the worthless, puny, ugly parts of the world. And if one pierced your heart, you would cease to feel the beauty of the world entirely."

"Her eldest son, seeing what his brothers had done, was shocked and saddened. They had befouled the land, he said, they had spoiled it. The only perfect thing remained the sun, he said, and he sadly turned his back on them. Her second son, immediately guilty and abject, tried with the winds to gather up all the shards, but they were too small and too scattered and he could not do it. Her third son was resolute, and proclaimed that he had been right – for if the mirror could do this much damage after it was destroyed, think of the damage it could have done if whole! And her youngest son sighed, and looked at the ocean, and shook his head sadly. For none of her sons could undo what had been done, and it remained only to live through the evil and pestilence that they had created."

Lady Zephyr looked down at her son, sleeping peacefully, his blonde hair a halo upon his head. She smiled to herself, and gently shut the door.

Author's Note: This is, in fact, the very beginning of what I was doing in November, and which I will soon begin to post as its own story. It is, to put it bluntly, a sequel. Slightly longer than the original (and yet to be edited and fleshed out), and slightly more grown up. ETA for Chapter 1 is January first, to give myself a head start and some breathing room. I will aim to post one chapter per week until I run out of chapters.

See you in the new year!

Edited to add: The new story has now begun; the prologue and chapter 1 of "Nerissa's War" are now posted. Check them out!