Happy Birthday, Sirielle! (and your drabble series too)
I've fallen a bit behind on posting. I have stuff written but no time to post! I should be able to catch up next week.
I'll be away again for most of the week, so I'll see you all on Monday!
He closed the book with a snap. “That is it,” he said. “The history of the Eldar.”
The girl glanced up at her tutor. Disappointment gleamed in her eyes. “But I do believe that you’ve forgotten a bit,” she said. She was a smart girl with straight shoulders and a forward way about her, but she was used to getting what she wanted. Mystique, romance: she was at the age for fairy stories, for frozen princesses and wicked queens.
And lost princes.
But her tutor only smiled. “I have not forgotten a single word. The texts you have read are secret, granted not even to kings. Yet I have found them for you. They contain all that is known.”
The girl thought about this. She stared out the window. It was winter, and the light off the snow made her face look graven, aged.
“But what about Maglor?” she blurted out finally. Eyes widened, smile youthful and naïve, the illusion was ruined.
“There is nothing to know.” He gathered the book into his arms, “and so I do not teach it.” He strode from the room before she looked too deeply into his face. Before his own illusion was ruined.
There was a legend in the town by the sea, a legend of restoration. Redemption.
People came from all over, broken treasures cradled in hands: watches, vases, rings. Dolls and wagons, broken during childish fits, then regretted.
“Leave it there, in the sand,” they were told. “When you return upon the morrow, it shall be restored to you.”
One widow brought the locket her husband had given her, the picture having been ruined long ago. She buried it in the sand, as instructed.
Come the morrow, it was fixed. Caught in the heart was a single strand of chocolate-colored hair.
One boy was cleverer than most. He always had the answers at school, jabbing his hand into the air before the other children could answer. And he was determined to learn the secret behind the “magic.”
He crept out at night to watch the beach. He’d buried a fountain pen in the sand, having broken it over his knee that morning.
But he was surprised by a hand on his shoulder and his mother, her sour face tender, somehow, in the moonlight. “Come home,” she said, “and do not worry him. Do you not see? Knowing—that would ruin it.”
The children raced to the beach. It was not a trinket in their hands; it quavered, eyes darting with fright.
The seabird with the broken wing had been found, pecked by gulls. Its fate had been debated, and it had been decided that it should be trusted to the magic.
Carefully, they covered its feathers in sand.
Come mid-night, the man came. Long-fingered hands sifted the sand, found the bird. It had stopped trembling.
Rising to face the moon, he opened his hands and set it free. That which winked in its grasp—? Nay, it was just a star.
The orphanage was a formidable place, rising from the cliffs that soared over the angry sea. Its hallways were labyrinthine, cold and damp, with drafts that came from between the stones and put rattles in their chests. “Witches’ fingers!” chanted little Samantha when the nuns weren’t looking. “Witches’ fingers! Witches’ fingers!” But all of the children—even Samantha—feared the witches’ fingers above all else, for some of the children’s chest-rattles had become blood, and they had been sent to the sanitarium, never to return.
Three of them were close in age—neither little and tearful nor big and sullen—and they snuck out at night and knelt on the cliff that hung over the sea, watching the water dash itself upon the rocks. Just visible to the east was a strip of beach, and the children imagined where it might go, when it tapered out of sight around the cliff.
“To a castle!” said Nathan and Thomas cried, “To the lair of a dragon!”
“Away from here” was Samantha’s reply.
On one night, the clouds were low and fat snowflakes spiraled slowly to the earth, and the three children crept from their beds and went to the cliff, both frightened and exhilarated by the great height and the occasional surge of wind that snapped their nightclothes like banners on the breeze. Numb fingers clutched the rocks and peered at the water—and the beach—beneath.
“Tonight is the night of magic for children,” whispered Samantha, “when the Wandering One comes and leaves a beautiful item for each of us. Sometimes pearls or sometimes gold from ships that have foundered. Special things, that come from the sea.”
Thomas snorted. A skinny, mistrustful boy, he scoffed at such storybook notions, and Samantha was prone to whimsy. “And why would he do that?” he asked.
“For once, long ago, he tossed the greatest treasure known to the world into the sea. And since then, no beautiful thing can touch his heart, and so he gives them freely to others, who shall find joy where he cannot.”
The children’s breaths steamed in the darkness as they squinted at the beach and the churning black sea. It was Nathan—sharp of eye if not of mind—who gasped and pointed. “Are there footprints? Upon the sand—?”
“Of course there are,” Samantha breathed with a smile, fingers tightening on the rocks. “If you believe.”