A Mobile made Of Flesh
That night, Magdalena had a dream.
Nestled into the huge, soft bed, she dreamed that she was back in the low lands. Back in her swamps. The mud oozed up between her bare toes, as she stepped slowly through the moonlit swamp. It was silent. Not even the night birds sang. In her dream, Magdalena looked up to see the moon. It was the fullest, whitest moon she had ever seen. It's light blotted out the rest of the stars, but it cast no more light than a normal moon.
Magdalena knelt, right there in the mud, and prayed, crossing herself. When she looked up, the Wolf Shaman stood before her. He was a fierce figure, in his rawhide loincloth and the cloak made from a giant black wolf, armed with his medicine shield and spear. His pale silver eyes stared down at her. She looked up at him and felt no fear. He suddenly turned and ran deeper into the swamp. Magdalena got up and started running after her. She couldn't see him clearly, but every now and then, she would see a flash of black fur between the trees.
It was like her feet had wings. She had never before experienced such freedom. They ran for what seemed to be ages. Sometimes she ran level with the Wolf Shaman, sometimes far behind and sometimes she even outstripped him. They were family, friends, lovers. They were one in the same and two different beings at once. She ran and ran, feeling the thrill of the hunt coursing through her every vein. The sounds and smells of the swamp thrilled her senses in new and strange ways. Here was the path of a deer and above, the whispers of the wind and trees. But she kept on running. She was going somewhere very important. She must hurry. She mustn't be late or something precious will be lost forever. Suddenly, the trees and swamp fell away and the Wolf Shaman stood before her, at the edge of a cliff that overlooked the ocean.
She stopped beside him, looking out at the sea, which reflected the moon and stained the world silvery blue. She looked up at the Wolf Shaman. Proud and beautiful, like all his kind. She loved him in a way that a woman feels for the Prince Charming she dreamed of as a child. He pointed, with his spear, to the horizon. Magdalena followed his gesture. At the edge of the sea was a strange place of steel and stone. The trees and plants and all the living things clanked and groaned as they moved about, no more alive than the ground on which they stood. In the center of this strange place was a tall cage of stone.
Hanging about the cage, grotesque ornaments, were the remains of a woman's corpse. Her fingers and head, with it's long flaxen hair, hung from the top of the cage like a mobile over a baby's cradle. Inside the cage was a creature, who keened and cried up at the corpse-mobile, as the woman's face leered down at him, dripping red-black sludge. It was a wolf that wasn't a wolf at all and a human that wasn't the least bit human. Half mad, it cowered below the corpse-mobile, crying. About the cage dance millions of non-toad toads and woven around and around the cage was a giant serpent with a head shaped like a man's, but without a face.
Outside the cage stood a young woman, one of the wild men. Great tears ran down her pretty face, as blood flowed out from her slit throat and between her legs. A huge red rose was clutched in her hand and the petals fell almost as steadily as her tears.
"Do you wish to help the man-dog, O child of the swamp?" asked the Wolf Shaman, in the Old Speech that was the wild man's connection to the swamp folk.
"Yes," Magdalena said simply.
"Then go, but know that the path you have chosen is far from safe. The man-dog has been shattered long ago, but remember this: that you are the True Bride of my people and a daughter of the sun. In this, there is power." Then the Wolf Shaman pointed down into the sea, "Good hunting, O bride of the moon."
With a final nod that was both a kiss and a deep embrace, but none of these things at all, Magdalena stepped off over the edge of the cliff. Down, down, down she fell, the waters below reaching up to meet her. And then...
She was awake and dressed before the sun rose. A habit that had been bred into her long before she came to the city. Magdalena picked her way across the massive grounds to the stables, where the driver, Luke, was already up and tending to the horses. Luke, a young man at 20 with a firm, muscular build and mussed dark blonde hair, smiled at the younger girl as she approached him. "You look more like a true swamp girl today, I see!" he said jovially.
"Mine papa wou'd be pleased to hear zat," returned Magdalena. It was true that she looked noting like a chorus girl from a Harperton saloon. She was dressed in a plain blue gingham dress, one from her childhood, her hair caught back in a ribbon. She hadn't bothered putting on shoes or even stockings, even though the dress fell a good five inches above her knee. The bottoms of her feet had long been resistant to even the roughest terrain, like all the swamp children who ran around barefooted.
Magdalena stepped into the large stable. It was a huge, high roofed barn, with nine stalls lining the wall, each holding a horse. She sniffed the air, liking the earthy smell horse and straw, and stroked the nose of a silver coach horse. He was a sturdy little thing and common, compared to the other high bred, finely made horses. The two of them didn't speak much for several hours. Luke was busy finishing his duties and Magdalena was planning her next move.
"An' what might I do fer you zis fine morn?" asked Luke, as he emptied the grain pail into the last feed bag.
"Yer young master has two mamas," said Magdalena, coming straight to the point, "His birth mama is of ze wild men. Zat is why he is of ze Wolf Sham'n's children."
Luke starred at her with huge eyes, "How...?"
"A spirit dream. Though I knew he was one of ze wild men when I saw his eyes."
He grimaced sourly. "So," he muttered, "Yer a dream seer?"
"Perhaps," said Magdalena with a careless shrug, "Ze spirit dreams come an' go. I have not control over zem, but zat is of no importance now." A spirit dream was a rare dream in which mortals were blessed and guided by the great spirits (or God and his angels to the swamp folk). Those able to translate these dreams were appropriately called dream seers, individuals who were capable of even summoning their own spirit dreams.
Luke took her into the tack room that also served as his living quarters. Magdalena settled on his bed, while he straddled a chair backwards. "I wonder sometimes," said Luke, "Why so many dream seers are women."
"Ze prophets were all men," observed Magdalena, "Perhaps God now finds use for women in zis way."
"Perhaps," agreed Luke, "Tell me of yer spirit dream."
Magdalena told him, every sight, every feeling, every noise. Her spirit dreams had always been vivid and she had been taught by the village's old dream seer how to hold on to those dreams, so that they never left her. The information was too valuable to lose or misinterpret.
"Bais'cally," Luke said, a little weakly, "You never had a choice in ze matter of m'lord."
"Bais'cally," said Magdalena with a nod, "I 'memeber stories of swamp women who were dest'ned to marry into ze wild men tribes, but I never thought I wou'd be one of zem."
"A dream seer an' a moon bride." Luke let out a soft snort, "One wouldna thought jus' by lookin' at you. All ze dream seers an' moon brides I've known were quiet, proper young ladies." Magdalena stuck her tongue out at him at this remark. "But serio'sly, if ya already know of ze young lord's past, why come to me now?"
"I need to understand," Magdalena said, pulling up one of her knees and resting her chin on it, "I know of his past, but I don' understand it. Why was his birth mama killed? An' why was ze Lady Donnell? Why does ze Lord Donnell keep him if only to mistreat him?" She looked up at Luke, her dark eyes grim, "Afore I can act, I must understand why."
Luke was still wary, " 's a long story, Miss, an' they'll be expectin' you back at ze house for breakfast."
"Zis is more important."
Magdalena's patience slipped a little, "If'n you won' tell me, I'll simply go to Annie or Ricardo. If'n zey won' tell me, I'll go on to ze next person I find. I WILL find out ze truth, so ya might as well jus' save me ze time an' yerself ze headache."
He gave up with a sigh and muttered something about how there was no arguing with a swamp woman. "Twas a long time ago, ya understand. I wasn' aroun' when it all happened, but...well, like I tol' you, servants are ze eyes an' ears when no one else is aroun'. Anyway, ze lord had a servant girl who was one of ze wild men. A nice girl, zey say, lovely and proper. She'd been stolen from ze low lands by slavers an' sol' to ze lord. Lord took alikin' to her, nat'rally an' decided he wanted her as his mistress."
Magdalena snorted, causing Luke to grin, "Yeah, I know. Course ze girl wanted nothin' from ze likes o' him, but..." Here Luke paused and shivered, "I tol' ya afore, Miss, ze man is ze Bog King's next o' kin! Some say he forced her, other's say he fright'ned her into doin' it, but whatever ze case, she soon became pregnant with ze young lord. Whull, ya can 'magine how ze Lady Donnell took to zat! She was a cruel one, worse zan ze lord! But she was a barren ol' hag an' ze lord wouldna touch her, so fer need of an heir, he let ze servant girl stay an' give birth to ze young lord. Ze poor girl was kept in a small room, up way in one of ze towers durin' her time, to hide it from everyone else. In zat time, ze mad Lady took to wearin' a pillow under her dress, so zat it wou'd be bel'eved zat SHE was ze mother of ze child."
"Whull, ze baby came, right on time an' as healthy as any mama would hope her baby to be. Zey say zat's when things got bad fer ze young lord an' worse still for ze mama. Oh ze Lord an' Lady would take ze boy out an' parade him about as if he were zeir own when zere were guests about, but afterwards, zey would shut him and his poor mama back up in ze tower."
"Didn' any of ze other servants try to help zem?!" protested Magdalena, angry, "Surely, if zey loved zeir young lord at all..."
"Oh, zey did in zeir way," Luke assured her, "My papa worked in ze kitchens an' he tol' me how ze cook would send him up to ze tower late at night to give zem food he had saved. But zey all feared ze wrath of ze Lord an' Lady. Zis all went on till ze young lord was perhaps two. Weaned from his mama, ze Lady decided to take her revenge on ze woman...so..." His sentence trailed off. "Ze Lord was not bothered by any of zis. However, when ze first full moon came...It was a bad sight, Miss. He beat ze poor lord bloody an' even whipped a bunch of ze servants when zey tired to save zeir little master. Ze lady went even madder zen she already was, ifn zat was possible. She took to beatin' ze boy every chance she got, claimin' twas to drive out ze evil zat infested his heart."
It was Luke's turn to snort, "I was around by zat time. Me an' ze young master became good mates. We servants tried ta take care of ze master as best we could, tired ta make his life bearable. If'n it weren' for Rosie..." He sighed, "Rosie was a sweet li'l child. No more zen four, when ze master was five and me six. All honey an' goodness she was, an' she took a real shine to ze young master. Never mind she twas only a cook's child. It 'appened one night...during a full moon...ze lady came to ze stable, where we would play. She grabbed a whip an' started beaten ze young lord. Whull, Rosie had never seen zese beatin's afore an' when she saw what was happenin' she tried to stop ze Lady." Here, his eyes turned moist, "But zat mad woman jus' turned an' slashed ze whip hard across poor Rosie's throat."
Here he paused, his voice choked from long ago emotions. "Twas a big whip...a heavy one we used fer ze draft horses. 'Tonly took one lash across her throat an' poor Rosie was bleedin' all over. I grabbed her up, but twas already too late. I started screamin' somethin' like 'she killed her, Eli! She's killed our Rosie!' But zat damn woman started laughin' an' screamin' how twas Elijah killed ze girl, twas Elijah's fault she was dead. An' all zis time, without any of us realizin' it, ze moons come out an' Eli's transformed." Luke coughed heavily and made a big show of getting out his handkerchief to whip his eyes, " 'scuse me, Miss Magdalena, ze dust in here bothers me sometimes. Anyway, Eli acts ze way any wild man would who's lost his dearest friend an' in his fury, he can' even stop himself, but all ze time he rippin' into ze lady, she's screamin' 'bout how he's a monster an' a demon an' he killed Rosie an' his mama."
His eyes became hard and ruthless, "I tell ya, Miss Magdalena, I ain't 'shamed to tell ya zat I shed not a tear at zat foul hag's demise. After it was all over, ze lady was nothin' but a bloody mess an' ze lord's zeir, yellin' 'bout how Eli's a monster an' a demon an' a killer. He don' beat Eli, like I think he's gonna, but instead waits till ze sun comes back up to tell him zat he's killed his mother an' Rosie. Course, I tell him over an' over zat twasn't true, not a word, but he won' believe me. Won' believe any of us. To zis day, he still believes he was responsible fer both his mama's, ze lady's an' Rosie's death. An' a lot more, when both ze lord and his brother Ashton became too rough and killed one of ze lady servants or when zey killed for spite."
Magdalena sat quite for a long time, after Luke's voice trailed off. When she did look up at him, there was a forest fire burning behind her eyes. Luke gulped and visibly shrank back when Magdalena rose suddenly to her feet. "My thanks brother," she said, in the Old Tongue, sweeping out of the tack room and then out of the stable.
Luke got up and watched her walk back to the house. Her steps where measured and in each movement was barely restrained violence. He let out a "whoooof" of breath, "I'd hate ta be ze block head to get in HER way zis morn."
A/N: I am so, so sorry it took me this long to update. Life just sort of went down the crapper for a while and with it, my desire to continue the story. Frankly, after all was said and done, I just couldn't stand writing anything that had to do with love and romance. But I just couldn't give up on Elijah and Magdalena, so I had to keep on truckin'!