Prologue: The Birth of a Sylph
The sorcerer watched with pleasure as the sky itself began to froth and boil. He even cracked a smile as a deep rift appeared between the clouds.
He raised his staff towards the tumultuous heavens and called out a single word in an ancient language. The word burned his tongue as it left, leaving him gasping for breath. The word flew into the chasm in the sky and exploded, echoing like a thunderclap.
And then, the horrendous sound dissipated, only to be replaced by the sound of bells, sweet and cheery. From the opening in the sky's fabric came a young woman. She was clothed in the softest white gown, woven from clouds. Her night black hair curled gently down her back. And on that same back lay a tiny pair of white wings. They appeared to be made of iridescent shot silk, only they were alive. The woman was slender and slight. Every movement was a dance.
She drifted down from the sky, aided by her tiny wings and the sorcerer watched with an awed delight. When she finally reached him, she gave a tiny smile that made his hardened heart melt the smallest amount. "Hello, my sylph," he said fondly, placing a wizened hand on her pale arm. He had waited so long for her.
She looked at him with an angelic expression. "Hello, master." To the sorcerer, her voice was the sweetest sound he had ever heard.
"You're so beautiful, my sweet," the sorcerer brushed at her hair. He could hardly believe that he had had the power to call forth such a lovely sprite.
The sylph demurred. "Thank you."
"Do you have a name?" The man asked, unsure as to what the woman knew.
"Do you have a name?" She asked pertly.
"My dear, Ailsa," he already had a name for her. "You may call me Ivor." The sorcerer had not used his name in a long time.
She gave that tremulous smile again. Ivor loved that smile, she was quite the little flirt. "You are wonderful, my dear," Ivor stroked her hair again.
But now, Ailsa pulled away. Her tiny wings fluttered and she hovered an inch off the floor. Each time she breathed, she fluttered a little bit more. Like the air that created her, Ailsa moved constantly.
Ivor couldn't stop looking at his lovely girl. He was so enthralled that he barely felt the air slowly grow slower.
And by then, when he realized that he was shivering, it was far too late. He knew that this unnatural chill could mean only one thing. "Madge," he spat out.
"Here" The hag stepped from the trees with a toothless grin plastered onto her face.
Ivor frowned and took a cautious step back. "What do you want from me?" The last time he had run in with Madge, the old witch had left him imprisoned in an old oak tree. It had taken him decades to get free.
"Oh, Ivor," Madge cackled. "Must you always assume that I want something of you? Perhaps I just want to talk." She then paused and saw the woman behind Ivor, who was now trembling in fear. "Ho, who's this?"
Ivor refused to answer, hoping that Madge would be in a decent mood and let him off easily.
But, Madge would have none of it. Instead, she heaved herself forward to get a closer look at Ailsa. "A sylph?" Her voice was incredulous. "However did you manage to summon such a thing?" Her laugh questioned Ivor's power.
"It was easy," Ivor bragged. "Her creation required only the smallest drop of power." This, of course, was a blatant lie. Ivor had spent much time preparing in order to summon Ailsa. And even then, the procedure had been taxing. He was now weak, much too weak to take on a witch as strong as Madge.
"Easy?" Madge cackled. "Then, by all means, do so again. I would love to have such a sylph for myself." She paused for effect, then added, "Otherwise, I might just have to take this little one all for myself."
Behind him, Ivor could feel Ailsa's trembling. She clung to him, the only master she had ever known. He knew that she would not do well with such a woman as Madge. She needed a loving hand to guide her in this strange world. "I will do much better than that," Ivor proclaimed. "I shall make you thirteen sylphs."
At that, Madge stopped and Ivor was sure she would call his bluff. But, instead, she just folded her withered hands over her gnarly walking stick and waited.
Ivor could not go back on his word now. And he reached into his very soul for the power to fabricate new sylphs. Of course, they would not be as beautiful, as perfect, as his Ailsa, but that was to be expected.
Ivor could already feel the sky starting to tear. Soon, the hole would be large enough to let his sylphs out. He could sense them, stirring just beyond his reach. They would come readily, if he could only widen the gap just a bit more.
All his concentration poured into his work. He forgot where he was, why he was doing this. He even forgot who he was. It was simple elemental power, pouring into the fabric of the universe. He was the tailor, slowing taking out a seam that was not straight. Even strand of thread had to be removed.
It was slow, painstaking work, but finally, at long last, Ivor managed to weaken the tear enough. By now, the sylphs were crowding the entrance and they spilled out with far less grace than that of their leader, who now stood watching in awe as her sisters were born.
And Madge watched with impatience. As soon as the last fragile sylph had come through Ivor's tear, did she strike. The man had collapsed on the forest floor, overcome with the effort. She had never wanted one of those flighty being in the first place. No, she had only wanted to defeat Ivor.
It was easy, to kill the frail old sorcerer. Madge could have used magic, but why waste it when the human methods would work just as well. A simple knife in the heart worked just as well as any curse.
A minute later, Madge was wiping the still warm blood on her skirt. The little sylphs had all fled as soon as their master had died. But, she didn't care. They could do as they pleased. For now.