Another vignette, following on from Teaser #1
[for the record, this is set early November the same year after the events of Fire On the Mountain. Winter comes early and hard to the far north of Scotland.]
The night lay upon the moor like a knife blade against flesh. The world sharply divided between the glittering midnight sky above and the glittering snow below. The slowly writhing, green veils of the Northern Lights on the distant horizon made shadows dance uneasily upon the cold white shroud that covered everything.
A single warm point of light showed through the window of Moyra’s bothy, as winter prowled outside. Inside, the only sounds were the soft hiss of the paraffin lamp and an occasional pop from the peat fire.
Moyra was toiling at what she thought might well be an impossible task. She was trying to distill everything she needed to say down onto a single page.
She had her journal next to her, tightly bound in leather, into which she had poured her life, her memories and thoughts, over the years. Its closely written pages were filled with neat dense day-to-day entries and scribbled marginalia as she’d gone back over her entries, fleshing out the details, adding her memories and her thoughts. Everything she needed to remember was there, all her knowledge. But she feared that it would be unreadable to anyone else, the connections drawn obvious to her alone, like several books cut into snippets and pasted together in an order that made sense only to her.
And now she found she needed to explain more than remember.
Her life had been simple, peaceful even, over the last few years. She’d outlasted or outrun those pursuing her, and found a place of solace. The solitude and loneliness ached like the cold in her scars, but they were a familiar pain now, one that could be endured, had to be endured.
She hadn’t forgotten the child she’d given up. Her daughter, left to be found and adopted by a childless couple. She had studied them from afar for as long as she’d dared to stay and decided that they’d protect and love her heart’s treasure as if she were their own.
So, she’d left the babe with her downy wings wrapped in a blanket on the steps of their church, and flown sobbing into the night, only to be caught by one of the many foes a few hours later. Careless in her grief, that slip had nearly been her undoing. But in her arrogance, the Winter Queen hadn’t imagined that Moyra could’ve left her child with a mortal couple so close to the Fae’s own hidden demesne. A flaw Moyra had counted on to keep the babe safe, that and her silence, as no other foe would dare brave the Winter Queen’s domain to search there.
The Winter Queen had done her best to break Moyra, but all through the pain, she’d kept her silence. Oh but the cost! The cost of her silence had been higher than she’d ever imagined in her darkest fears.
Moyra shook herself, trying to dislodge the dark miasma of her memories, and unconsciously reached back to rub the withered stub of what was left of her right wing.
She stared down at the single white page laying on the rough wood table that, with her bed, comprised the only furniture in the small single room of her home. How to explain what she had done? How to warn her only daughter, to explain why she had to run, to leave the life she was making for herself, to hide and keep herself safe?
She’d used up two of the three precious pages she had to hand, trying to find the words. Oh, she could probably beg more paper in the morning. However that would take time which was now more dear to her than gold, to be spent more grudgingly than she had her own blood. She who had once flown so free, now was dependent upon train time tables... and if she spent the time to write her letter tomorrow, she’d miss the early morning train, delaying her an entire day.
Because ever since she’d seen the image of a grown woman, with eyes that matched the single remaining one Moyra saw in her own reflection, snowy white wings like those that Moyra remembered still wrapped around herself. Moyra knew that her path was set, if she was to keep her daughter safe yet.
A loud pop from the fire snapped her back from her reverie, startling her so her single remaining raven-black wing swept up and out in a defensive gesture. Her journal flew across the room, hitting the mantle-piece, before landing on the hearth stone. With a gasp, Moyra dived for it, snatching it up before the embers could do more than scorch the brown canvas cover a little on one corner. Brushing off the ash and dust, inspiration struck her.
She’d already decided to send her journal to her daughter. A visit to the local library in Inverskein had gotten her a contact address, although she was obscurely pleased to note it was a Post Office box number, so obviously her daughter was taking some precautions against being found. The problem she’d faced was how to prove her claim.
Well, her little accident just now had given her the answer. Sitting down she took out her belt knife, and slowly, reluctantly, curved her wing forward.
It was harder than she had thought, although the pain was so much less than she’d endured before, but in the end she had a secondary flight feather in her hand. It looked like something carved from the night sky outside, a deep darkness that defied the eye to follow its contours. But as she studied it, she could see the subtle shifts of green within that midnight hue, echoing the play of the Northern Lights outside.
She also noticed with some dismay that the feather was dusty, and some of the barbs had split apart. Her care of her remaining plumage had been indifferent at best. What point in maintaining it, when she could never fly again?
But the feathers of her kind were deep rooted, and she’d had to cut it free despite her neglect. The end of the quill still oozed a little blood, shockingly scarlet against the black. For a moment, the sight of her own blood sent her mind whirling back through time, as memories she’d done her best to forget rose up like ghosts from the grave.
With a half-strangled noise somewhere between a sob and a choked wail, she blindly opened the journal and slammed it shut on her feather. Eye squeezed shut, she concentrated on breathing, counting her heartbeat, focusing on the now until her pulse slowed to it’s customary pace.
When she opened her eyes again, the last few inches of the forearm long feather stuck out of her journal like an improbable bookmark. Hastily she scooped up the journal, wrapping its leather cord around it to bind it closed, and shoved it into the cardboard box she’d begged yesterday from a local crofter a few miles away.
That taken care of at least, she turned her attention back to the letter. Purposely, slowly, she wrote.
My Dearest Heart,
Know that although I had to leave you behind, I never stopped loving you with all of my being. Everything I have done, I did to keep you safe. I knew that the couple I left you with would raise you as their own, loving you and protecting you as I could not.
There are not the words, or time enough, to explain why I had to do what I did. Know that we are an ancient race, not of any human kind, and we are haunted yet by the misdeeds of our ancestors.
I cannot tell you by what, and expect you to believe. But we are hunted. I hope to stop those that would hurt you. I cannot say if I will succeed or not, but I am done fleeing now.
Fly swiftly, my daughter. Fly high and far. Fly silent and stay hidden. I hope to find you again, someday, but if I do not then my journal contains all that you need to know of our people’s legacy. Use it well, or burn it and let us be buried in the dust of history, that is your choice now. I only wish I could be there to guide you.
But if you choose to embrace our heritage, then know that you were born Teircel, daughter of Morwynn and Corvin, of the Barbet linage. And you may not be the last of us... although I cannot even now write to say where they might be.
I hope to see you someday, in this life or the next. But until then, if you have any feeling for me, do not let my sacrifice be in vain. Stay safe.
Your mother, Morwynn ap’Barbet.
She hesitated for moment. Her daughter, Teircel or Theodora as the humans had called her, would not understand the significance of it, but it had to be done. Twisting the ring around on her left hand, she pressed the setting against the still oozing blood coming from her wing, and carefully used that to ‘ink’ the signet ring’s design at the bottom of the single page.
That done, she waited until the blood had dried, and folded the single page into a small flat box. With some effort she twisted the ring off her finger, slipping it into the packet she made of her letter, before placing that into the larger box and sealing it shut.
The last ritual done, Moyra, or Morwynn, looked around the tiny house she’d called her own for some years now. Although she’d worked hard to make it livable, she’d never collected anything she didn’t need. Always, somewhere at the back of her mind, had been the thought that this day would eventually come. That no place could ever again be her home, because she would have to leave in the end.
Home was where the heart was, or so they said, and if that was so then her home lay buried on a hillside she wasn’t even sure she could find now, alongside her mate Corvin. Or it lay over the sea, with the daughter she’d only held for a heart-breakingly brief span of days.
She took down her cloak from the nail in the wall, and made sure the fire was safely banked. Outside she hung the key by its iron ring from the door knob, and made sure the door was firmly latched. Someone would have need of the bothy this winter, a hiker or a shepherd caught out in a winter storm. They would have no complaints about the former owner. The cupboard was stocked, there was a bin of peat sods drying next to the hearth and the bed linens were clean. She felt oddly satisfied that in some small way, she was leaving the world a little better off behind her.
With nothing but starlight and the lights of the Celestial Dancers to the north lighting her way, she set off down the winding track to the village.
In the morning Aggie would find the neatly addressed parcel inside the inglenook by the post-office door, with the correct amount for postage on top of it, and she’d wonder... and make sure the stamps were firmly fixed before placing it in the post bag to be picked up by the mail train as it thundered through the station.
It would only be at the end of the day that word would get around the village that the cloaked figure of Moyra had been seen boarding the dawn south-bound milk train, and it would be remarked over a pint or two that she’d been standing taller and straighter than anyone had ever seen her before.
“Aye, ye ken, she looked lik sum kinda fairy Queen. I hardly knew her to see her now.” as Ol’Ben had remarked.
Neeve the barmaid had scowled at him. “Wist, if she’s a Queen from a fairy story, it’s not one of your poncy modern ones, but the old sort. With blood an’ teeth in it.”
There was a general muttering of agreement, and more than a few glances out towards the cold-filled darkness beyond the lights of the pub. A few of the older folk made warding signs under the table, while the younger ones loudly ordered another round.
And Aggie, she kept her peace about the small bloodstains on the brown paper parcel done up in green string, with its neatly written label to an address in New York.
Crossposted from: http://siliconshaman.dreamwidth.org/1230
comments so far over there.