I think the first thing you need to know is that I live on the Ile de Ineans; that is, the Island of Tears, an island off the coast of southern Agaise that has just recently become a part of that realm. Until recently, we weren't an island separated from the mainland by a dozen miles of water. We were an island separated from the mainland by a dozen miles of…nothing. No one remembers when that nothing first appeared. But it's the reason that life on the Ile de Ineans is the way it is.
As a people, the citizens of Ineans are…sad. Not in a pathetic type of way, but in an emotional type of way. There's a reason that it's called the Island of Tears, after all. The thing is, the island is cursed. It always has been, as far as we know, and it always will be. It dooms everyone born on it to a lifetime of sorrow and misery. But we've adapted, grown used to it. It's just a matter of course now. I think that sometimes, when something bad happens, as it always done, we barely even know we're crying. I spent the first eighteen years of my life on Ineans, and, raised in a community cut off from the rest of the world, where everyone is always crying, you begin to think that the whole world is like that, all the time. Because, why wouldn't it be?
And then a fae-touched water mage slash healer slash thief turned the Divide, the abyss that had kept our people cut off from everyone else for so long, into an ocean. With the creation of the Divided Sea, suddenly Agaise and Korane, the two southern realms of the continent, had another continent to trade with, and one that seemed oddly exotic to them. After all, the people of Symthian and Chaleece, the two northern realms of the southern continent, are quite dark-skinned in comparison to those of Agaise and its neighbor realms, and had a wide variety of the things that Agaisians didn't have, and vice versa. Trade routes developed rather quickly, and boats began cruising past the island every day. Rumors of the curse had filtered inland, of course, but it still wasn't very long before someone decided to see if it was true.
The day that Adam Ladair came to Ineans was the day of my mother's funeral. I told you already: tragedy is always striking those born on the island. My father was still alive, but I doubted that he would be for long. He was too far-gone over Mother's death. Everyone on the island knew that it was pointless to try and comfort him. After all, sorrow is our curse. Everyone got his or her dose of grief. It was simply my family's turn. So I didn't try to comfort my father; I wasn't terribly stricken, personally, as myself and Mother had never been close. I didn't try to comfort my father. But Adam Ladair did.
He came into the small port we'd been forced to build, as a courtesy to those who needed a safe harbor and wouldn't be able to make it to the main shore, sailing a small boat that could never cross the entire sea, accompanied by a little blonde who turned out to be his half-sister. She was barely four and half feet tall, with long, curly blonde hair and a pair of shimmering wings that would never be able to lift her off the ground sprouting from her back. She was beautiful, in the way that few enough girls are, but that beauty was somewhat diminished by her silver eyes. After all, silver is the immortals' color, and pixies are immortal. And Kyrie Ladair was half pixie. She never left the port; apparently, her brother had forbidden it. But he came farther onto the island, and stumbled across my mother's funeral.
We were holding it in the woods, away from everyone else, just my father and my sister and I. We'd dug out a grave the day before, and Father had made a coffin, and we were in the process of planting flowers on the grave, along with the traditional weeping willow sapling. For some reason, willows grow better here on the island than anywhere else in the world. I suppose they're our symbol. After all, they're called weeping willows for a reason. The story is that an elf maiden transformed herself into a willow tree when her lover scorned her…But that's not this story.
Adam came stumbling in; apparently he'd been looking for the local wise woman. I didn't know who he was then, of course, but I horribly angry. He had interrupted my mother's funeral. I did something very childish and threw a rock at him. He dodged it, easily, but didn't shout insults or try to throw something back. When he saw that we were standing around a grave, he simply came over, bowed his head, and paid his respects. I was shocked. He was a complete stranger to the curse of the island, but still, he was here, doing what was only proper. He only left after I turned and fled into the woods, sobbing. Despite living on an island cursed with sorrow for my entire life, I never became hardened enough to withstand it. Perhaps that was written in the curse, too.
My sister went after him, as he was following me, and she didn't want to risk him doing anything indecent or killing me, but Adam still found me a good while before she found us. I futilely tried to explain why he should just leave, but he didn't heed my advice, and simply sat down on a rock not too far from the rotting log I was sitting on. He didn't say a word for a long time. And when he did, it was possibly the worst thing he could have said. "I'm sorry."
It brought on a completely new round of sobbing, which he did his best to end, an attempt which partially succeeded. When Trinity found us, he was lightly patting my back like you would do to a small child in order to comfort them. Father invited him to eat dinner at our house; he declined, saying he had to get back to his father's ship and take his sister home. But, before he departed, he asked a question that I found far too personal at the moment, even though nothing about it was really offensive.
"Why don't you leave?"
I stared, wiped the few remaining tears from my eyes, and slowly turned away. "It's just not done."
He left without another word. It was over a year before I saw him again.
When he came back, he was accompanied by his father, and was traveling on a much larger ship than he had been on the previous time. I should know; I'd gone out to the Point and watched him board it, greet his sister, and leave. Now, he had returned, and he and his father were offering the people of the island a way out, free passage to the mainland. After all, it was only a dozen or so miles. Far enough for us not to be able to see it, but not far enough that several trips couldn't be made in a day. I urged Trinity to go, but she was too shy. She insisted she would never be able to get by all by herself on the mainland. So Father told me to go, instead, even if it was to purchase some of the goods we didn't get often on the island and return, though he told me to stay as long as I liked.
As long as I liked ended up being several years. In addition to free passage, Adam's father was offering lodging to the islanders until we could get up on our feet. Such charity didn't seem at all odd to us; we are a community that is constantly giving to others. However, before long we began to figure out how unusual it was in a place like the mainland. I cornered Adam one day; I barely knew him at all, but I had at least had contact with him before, something I lacked with his father. He reluctantly revealed that his father was hoping that, by being kind to us islanders, his father hoped to open a permanent trade route between the Ile de Ineans and his father's business.
I felt a bit offended; they were using us, after all. The next day, I left the Ladair residence and found a cheap room in the lower portions of the city of Port Lendan. It was barely three days before he tracked me down, insisting that I go back and stay with the only people I really knew: the others that had come over from the island.
"You can't stay here! It's a dump, there're probably rats and dozens of diseases you've never been exposed to before. You'll die."
I glared at him. "No. Your family is using us for a trade agreement. I won't be part of it." I attempted to close the door in his face; unfortunately, he was a good deal stronger than me, and managed to keep it open.
"Then at least let me rent you a better room."
"I can manage perfectly well on my own, thank you very much." I tried closing the door again, and again he stopped me.
"Fine. But when you need help, you know where to find me."
Adam was right when he said that I wouldn't be able to handle the mainland by myself. People were so…so…vulgar. They attempted to do unmentionable things to innocent passerby on whims. Four days after Adam tried to convince me to go back, I went. I didn't even bother clearing out the small room I'd rented. I was planning on begging for him to take me back to the island. All of that stopped when he told me that I'd be perfectly fine…if I had someone to show me the ropes. Namely, him.
Over the course of the next few months, Adam served as my tour guide for the city, acquainting me with its sights and the people that lived there. He showed me the quick escape routes, the hidden havens, the places with suitable food, and the good hotels, as well as the markets, wharfs, and temple districts. The whole time, we carefully avoided the slums. Over the time, our relationship slowly began to change, from student and mentor to friends.
To my surprise, life on the mainland was…good. It was plagued by none of the tragedies that followed me on the island. For the first time in my life, I was truly and honestly happy. I learned to smile, and it was in that time when Adam was teaching me that I laughed for the first time. Of course, there was still unhappiness occasionally, but the bad times were always followed by good. But one of those bad times nearly put an end to the good ones. Six months into my stay on the mainland, I received news from my father. Trinity had died, drowned in a tidal pool while searching for crabs.
That day, it rained. I let myself out of my room, still at the Ladair residence; I didn't have enough money for a nice room at a decent inn. I fled to the roof and simply stood there, hugging myself, and letting the rain pour down my cheeks, mixing with the tears. Trinity had always been a bright point in my life. Although her life was as touched by sorrow as the others on the island, she was young enough to still retain that innocence that left a spark of happiness in the core of everything.
Adam came up behind me, stooping down to rest his chin on my shoulder and hug me, just as a good friend would do in a time of trouble. "I just heard," he murmured. "I'm sorry."
The first words he'd ever said to me, on a similar occasion. It was too much. Before, I'd simply been crying. Now, I broke out in sobs.
"Come inside," he said, trying to steer me to the door down into the house. "Sit by the fire. Get warm. I'll take you back to the island tomorrow."
I balked, shaking my head and firmly planting my feet on the roof. "No," I said. "No. I don't want to go inside. And…and I can't go back to the island. Not yet. Not now." I should, and I knew that, but I just couldn't. My mother's death had been one thing. No one on Ineans lived to a very old age. But Trinity had been only thirteen…much younger than most who died once they lived past infancy. Trinity, the person I was closer to than anyone else…gone. "I want to stay out here."
"In the rain? Why?"
"I love the rain," I said quietly. I never had before I'd come to the mainland. Rain had been bothersome, it had made things more dangerous. And on Ineans, no one cared if you cried. It was an everyday occurrence. But on the mainland, people thought that crying was a weakness, and one I hated to display. When people on the mainland see you crying, they give you odd looks, a mixture of scorn, sympathy, and fear, as if whatever has hurt you is going to come after them. Therefore, I'd come to love the rain. "I love it. Because in the rain…No one knows I'm crying."
Adam slowly hugged me again. "It's okay to cry, you know. You sister just died. You don't have to be a stone."
"I know." I bit my lip, staring off into the distance. "But people here don't seem to like it. That's why I came out here." I wiped my face, sending both tears and raindrops flying. "I can't go back there yet, Adam," I whispered. "I just can't."
"No." He slowly turned me so I faced him. "But I want to. I want to help." He just looked at me for a moment…and then he kissed me. Looking back, it was wildly inappropriate. A good friend does not kiss you for the first time just after you've received the news that your sister died. But at the moment, it was exactly what I needed. He tasted like the rain we were standing in. Cool, clean, slightly acidic. I slowly relaxed into his arms, letting him support me. To this day, I insist that kiss was the best I've ever experienced, and that being kissed in the rain is one of the most romantic things you can experience.
I didn't go back to the island for Trinity's funeral. Several months later, I did return, and planted the traditional willow before returning to the mainland. What I really needed was time away from that place that was eternally touched by sorrow. I continued staying with the Ladairs, long after everyone else from the island had either returned or moved out to start new lives of their own.
A full year later, to the day, I went back to Ineans for the final time. It was time I talked to my father. I wanted to stay on the mainland permanently, but I didn't want to simply abandon Father. I asked Adam to take me back, just for a day, and he agreed. We were barely halfway to the island when the storm struck. We made it there safely, and were well into the harbor when disaster struck. Lightning snaked down from the sky and struck the main mast of the ship. It burst into flame, and, after a single groan, fell. Adam shoved me out of the way; I pulled him after me. The mast crashed through the deck, and the one under it, and through the hull, into the water. The ship collapsed, dumping Adam and I into the sea.
I struggled to the surface. Growing up on an island, I had, of course, learned to swim. But something was wrong. Adam was nowhere to be seen. "Adam!" The scream tore itself out of my throat, and I surged into the ship's wreckage, not noticing the cuts and gouges the splintered wood and shattered metal left in my flesh. The water around me was bloody, but I didn't care. I forced myself beneath the waves, searching. I couldn't see him anywhere.
And then…a dim shape, lying on the bottom. I kicked my way to the surface, gasped air, preparing to dive again. Before I could, several pairs of hands pulled me from the water. "NO! Adam, Adam's drowning!" I tried to fight my way free, but with panic comes exhaustion, and I couldn't struggle against so many people holding me back. One of the men that had pulled me from the water dove off the dock, avoided the wreckage, and went for the bottom as I collapsed into a fit of sobs. Several moments later, the man resurfaced, pulling a limp form behind him. He stumbled onto the beach, lay Adam down, looked at me, and shook his head.
I tore loose of my captors, ran to his side, collapsed by him, sobbed, pressing my cheek to his chest. He had to be alive. He had to be. He couldn't die, not after Mother, not after Trinity. But there wasn't a pulse against my skin. He was gone. I felt like my heart had been torn out. And I lay on the sand, my cheek against his chest, and sobbed for what might have been hours, what might have been only seconds. I don't really know. But all too soon, I was being gently pulled away, taken home, to my home, while they performed the funeral rites.
The day I buried Adam, it rained again, the same bone-drenching rain that had fallen from the sky the year before, when Trinity had died, when he'd kissed me on that rooftop for the first time. I swallowed as I tossed the flowers into the grave, and Adam's father slowly began to fill it with dirt. He couldn't handle his son's death, couldn't handle the sight of that grave like I could. I had seen so many graves all ready…And so he left, barely pausing to press something into my hand.
"They found it in his pocket," he murmured, and vanished into the trees.
I stood there, the willow sapling beside me, ready to plant, and simply stared at that grave, letting the rain soak me and mingle with my tears. I was crying so hard, I could barely see. And with the rain, it seemed like the whole world was crying. And it seemed oddly appropriate. After I ran out of tears, exhaustion crept in. I clumsily planted the sapling, feeling oddly numb, turned my back on the grave, and stumbled into the woods.
As I passed out of the clearing, I looked at the object still clenched in my hand. It was a ring, a simple band of silver, ornamented with a single diamond. Tears welled in my eyes all over again. It was an engagement ring…with my name engraved inside the band. I slowly slid it onto my finger. I won't ever take it off. I looked up at the sky, with the tears pouring down my face, joined by my mother's tears, and Trinity's, and those of everyone else who had ever cared, falling from the sky. And I stood there and cried, the whole world crying with me.
That day, I realized that there was no escaping from the island's curse. It would always have its hold on me, simply because I had been born there. Tragedy would follow me where ever I went, forever. That day, I realized that trying to cry was futile. I would cry all I wanted, and the world would cry with me, millions of tears falling from the clouds, and it wouldn't change anything. Ever. That day, I changed my name to Raine.