The journey was long and hard; hours of walking through the barreling wind, the temperatures so cold it seemd to sear her body down to the bone. Through the layers of clothing and protective veils, granite grey eyes stared out towards the ocean in front of them. Silver hair was caught by the wind and ruffled as she continued staring at the ocean, a gentle sea of small lapping waves. A flock of birds flew above, calling out to their fellows. The granite grey eyes did not blink at the interruption of thoughts.
Her horse whinnied softly, eager to continue onwards towards the grassy hills to feed. Burdened with sacks of supplies, the horse's small stature and frame was worked overtime to carry the strenous load. The lady absent mindedly stroked the horse's nose, still staring fixedly at the ocean in fron of her. Slowly she started forward, her steps hesitant at first. He stride soon became fast paced, and she quickly found herself knee deep in murky water. The sights that had once transfixed her gaze simply vanished before her eyes, leaving behind only a feeling of dissipointment and overwhelming sadness. Each full moon, as the veil of invisibility was lifted, she had traveled here, gazing upon her once time home, its transparent greatness rising high above the sea into the clouds. Each time she would run towards it only to find it vanishing before her eyes.
The hope inside her held fast, and she would return home to her cottage, more determined than before. She longed to walk through the wooden gates of her weather worn home, to smell the fresh scent of bread and cider, to see the old stone building with had become her home during her childhood. She longed to see her family and friends, the people she had so loved, the lights in her darkened life, and the stars that lit up the sky.
She waded back to shore, suppressing her emotions and concentrated on calming her horse enough to continue riding. She mounted and stirred the horse into a gentle trot along the shoreline, allowing her thoughts to return to her peacefull childhood. The times of happiness she had once owned, of playing jacks on the fire warmed stone floor, supervised only by the light of the fire from the brick hearth, the many nights she spent sleeping next to it on her tattered rug. The plague had destroyed all of it; she had watched as her friends and elders slowly succumbed to the degrading disease. Every day spent in the house meant the discovery that one less child stayed to play with her, and soon she was the only child left. The local doctor had tried many treatments, but soon lost his wits and went to the world of mortals, hoping that the contagion would not follow him there.
She remembered the fires as quaritined houses were burned to the ground, their ashes swept into the ocean. Being the only child to survive the epidemic unscathed, she was accused of bringing the horrible disease. They believed her to be some mortal agent, working for the humans in an effort to destroy the unearthly beings. She had been exiled at the tender age of thirteen, banished to the mortal world to spend her years in solitude with the humans they claimed she loved.
With one last glance at the empty ocean, she spurred her horse into a gallop. Oblivious to the pounding of the horse's hooves on the rock strewn trail, she began to hum a tune.
"Ring-a-Ring of roses, a pocket full of poses, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down."
The song that was made years after the end of the plague had been a favorite of the humans, one that was sung along the many streets of the crowded and dirty cities. Tears blurred her vision as she galloped off the trail into the woods, the branches and leaves whipping at her and sticking in her hair. She wept as she silently remembered all who had been taken by the plague, their innocent life efficiently snuffed out after weeks of terrible agony, a suffering until their life came to an end. Finally, her tears dried on her worn face and she reached her home, a wooden cottage placed significantly off the human road in a small clearing next to a stream. Her dog, a small terrier, barked merrily at her return. After leading her horse to a grazing ground, she stripped to a single layer of clothing and entered her house to be greeted by her ever-enthusiastic dog.
I do not belong here anymore. You have shown me that whatever life may present you, you must accept it with pride and honor. I will not sit here in this human world while my people may be dying.
She started the fire with logs and dried leaves, watching her house burn from a safe distance, her dog whimpering in her arms. Silently, eyes transfixed on the blaze, she stroked the dogs back soothingly. Attaching a leash of harvested plant fibers to the antique metal collar, she led her terrier towards the grazing fields. She mounted her horse, lifting her dog into her lap, and sped off, never once looking back.
She left behind a promise; a promise to return to her past and ask forgiveness of those who had once exiled her. She made a promise that day to one day return to the place she loved. Home.
Shattered dreams of past and future forgotten, she galloped past the misty beach and towards the sunset. Behind her, the skies rumbled and darkened, rain clouds gathering to cover the bright sun. A thunderclap of warning emitted from the black clouds, and she reined her horse around to find clear blue skies above the floating village. The island shone gloriously, its miraculous chrystal towers glinting in the sunlight, and she could make out the tiny figures of people going about their daily business. Children ran along the edge of the fence, laughing hysterically and chasing each other, leaving a trail of disturbed ant dunes in their path. The gates to her home stood open, beckoning her to return. Quickly, she dismounted and ran to the shoreline, diving into the depths without thought, and swam as fast as her small arms could take her. Finally she reached the edge of the island and collapsed on the tiny beach.
From the village came two children, laughing and breathless from their exhilerating run. Upon seeing her lying on the beach, the bravest one, the largest male of the group, ran up to her and knelt beside her, his broad smile glowing in the morning sun.
"Do you want to play too?" he asked, his eyes sparkling with childhood fun. She looked up and smiled warmly, then took the childs hands gently.
"Who's it?" she asked mischieviously, merryment gleaming in her eyes. The child looked at his friends, who had hesitantly joined him.
"You are!" he said, then began running, laughter drifting to her as he and his friends searched for a place to hide. She smiled, her happyness breaking through the mask of sadness she had held in place for so long.
Finally, she was free, no longer bound by the destiny of an exiled immortal, but free to enjoy her life as it once was, in her home. Once again, she was free.