“And one always talked first, no matter the animosities between their clans, for they knew this was the only interaction of love they would have, and though it was never discussed, the night of the breeding was the most magical of an adult’s life, and the only memory all of the Ekembra have to share.”
-Traskarillabelldonon, Tamali of the Gardens.
The boy’s legs were going numb. How was the creature lasting this long? That was sound though, wasn’t it? The boy let out a breath of air at the thought. He may not recall his name, or anyone’s name really, or where home was, or what his shoes were made of, for that matter; but he knew if he ever made it home and had to admit he lost a stare down, his brothers would never let him forget. One worry solved.
He read the recognition of its mistake on the creature’s face. They both collapsed to seated positions on the floor of the cave. A small cloud of spores came up. The boy held his breath. He wasn’t trying to become too friendly with spores. The longer he was in this cave, the more his eyes adjusted to the weird light from the moss on the wall, the more he realized individual spores floated through the air. He went searching in his haversack for a handkerchief, a piece of cloth, a rag, anything to tie over his nose and mouth, to stem the tide of the phosphorescent spores. He found a bandanna in his haversack and put it on for piece of mind more than anything else. Much longer here and his lungs would be full of the little green particles. It wouldn’t worry him as much if the things didn’t grow.
“Why have you tied that cloth around your mouth,” the creature asked, leaning forward.
The boy tried to stop himself, but the answer poured right out of him. “The cloth is to protect myself. I’m sure you are used to the air around here, but the floating spores are strange to me.” He tugged at the cloth around his face to get it in position over his mouth.
“Spores? In the air? What are you talking about?” the creature peered all around, lilac hair giving off a dust of green with each twist of its head.
“Your skin is green from them, I’m not surprised you don’t notice!”
“Oh, you mean the moss? But it is barely present here. This is the farthest the gardeners have gotten the spores to grow from Dwensical,” it said, a hint of pride in its voice.
“Your home is more overgrown than this?” The boy flinched back from the creature.
“Yes, Dwensical is bright enough to blind me when I return from the caves and I’ve lived there all ten years of my life. How many years are you. and what is your name, anyway?”
“Um, well, as far as I can remember, I don’t have one. I think I bumped my head somewhere along the way, back closer to home, trying to explore all the charou caves.” The boy pointed vaguely back down the tunnel he emerged from, and shrugged his shoulders. “I will remember it eventually, or not. I am ten, that much I know, and I lost the Family.”
The boy looked down at his unidentifiable shoes. He could not recall the name of the material or the style. Big things and petty things seemed to have been stolen from his mind.
“You know not your name?”
Its voice rose high as if startled. The boy didn’t know what to say. It was important, but the least of his worries in this world of moss and blood.
“Your name? You know it not? How did you manage to forget your name? Surely a little tap to the head would not have removed such a precious thing from you. And what are you, male, female, I must know.” It snapped its mouth closed.
A deep silence set over both boys, though a light pattering could be heard from their tapping feet. The boy rummaged in his haversack again, praying to the Family he would find a morsel of unsullied food.
“So what are you going to do?” it said, cocking its head to the side.
I don’t know what to do, the boy thought. My map is lost. I don’t have enough provisions to wander through the tunnels. If the moss was thicker at Dwensical I certainly don’t want to follow the creature home. I’ll have to ask carefully.
“I would like to find my Family again, but I no longer have rations enough for such a journey. You have been kind to me so far, could you maybe go get some and bring them back to me here? I would be forever in your debt.”
The creature kept its tilted stare, eyes wide and needy. The boy gripped the strap of his haversack and set himself for a sprint to the nearest tunnel mouth. He would have to run over the creature, but its small frame looked easy to topple. He waited, free hand clasped to his knee. It would serve him better on the ground, but there was the moss to think of.
The creature switched its head to the other side, as if it heard a sound in the other direction. Then a few swift nods. The boy lost his balance and fell when its lilac hair threw off a green mist of spores and he had to lean back so they wouldn’t hit his face.
“Would you, by chance, be willing to hide here for a few days while I try to gather supplies for you? Maybe some rest will help you remember the way, and your name, too. Can you hide well? Can you be silent?”
The creature kept nodding his head. The boy wanted to scream.
“Yes, I’m good at being sneaky. Your name?” The boy couldn’t believe the danger he was still in. Breathing was a trial, and he had agreed to stay here.
“Mateo, son of Morati. May his name sink in Lake Norooz.”
The boy smiled behind the bandanna. He looked at the creature and set to moving sheets of moss over the alcove to hide it from any who might stumble in. The creature had an extra set of gloves the boy took gratefully, though his fingers and palm strained the seams.
It even tried to wipe the spores off the back of my coat, the boy thought, as he watched Mateo slink back down the tunnels. Satisfied, he went inside to wait, and try to remember his name.
“Forget it Mother
I have sinned.
This time I let
We do not have
the care within-
our children fight us,
-Sivenia, High Queen of Velan
“It is time for you to go, my son,” the Mother said.
“How do I explain where I have been,” Sergio asked, knowing what she would answer. He needed reassurance.
“I have contained myself in this place, child. You will disguise yourself, if necessary, until you are sure it is safe to explain. Pull the water around you and make it show what you need to show. The eyes are easily tricked with reflections. Do not worry yourself with these things, my son. You will be well.”
A feel of calm and confidence enfolded Sergio. His blood was now water, his stature lengthened by his long stay within the Well. His days filled with lessons on magic, resonating in his head; nights were dreams of home, while enfolded in the embrace of the Mother. He was ready.
“Are you sure I will remember when I wake, Mother?”
“I am within you. You will remember. It is time to go.”
“It is not goodbye, my son, only the beginning. Remember that I am with you.”
The water swirled around Sergio, and he felt himself move upwards, rising faster and faster. He saw the stars, making tracers of light in the water as he sped by them. Sergio was caught in a reverse whirlpool, taking him closer and closer to the Diamond Dome.
That was what the Mother called the Eye.
Sergio looked up, and saw the glistening wall that held the Well within the earth. In front of the opening where he broke through, the hole where he was supposed to emerge triumphantly after being separated from his brethren for an eternity, was an apple. The pinpoints of light beyond the Dome were not stars, as the monks thought, as Sergio still sometimes thought of them, they were fruit. Fruit of the Lattice of Chaos, plucked by the doves of Laerte and sent to the well through the tree, so they could be purified and cause no harm. He had always wondered how they would taste, and one was right in his way. Sergio grabbed the fruit, took a bite-
And woke to see his shadow on the river bed shaking its head.
Sergio swam to the surface. Seeing no one from the river, he made his way to the bank. What had that been all about, he thought, none of those things could be true. The Mother? The mother of the Tamali is Kuitanina, and she is only found at Ecumbul or her Gates. We have no other Mother.
The fruit, as well. There were stars beyond the Diamond Eye, not fruit.
He had been able to perform water magic without a focus, however, and there was that feeling of resonance inside him. Maybe something could be salvaged from this fantasy.
Drawing the water droplets clinging to his body together, he matched the resonance within him to theirs. Standing in the river, he began to change the nature of the water, forcing it to flow together into a long, light green robe. He wanted to be able to blend into the grass of the plain. He seemed to know which tones would generate the desired effect. Turning around so he could peer at his back, he
added a deep hood so that he could hide the mulberry color of his lips and the pure, watery blue of his eyes. The water would not change those features, the resonances resisted his will.
Boots to the knee with loose pants tucked into the tops, like the Khazadian wore, completed his outfit. Sergio wondered if Korin was out there. He hoped he had not sparked much interest. He had not remembered his mission in the dream, only that he had one.
As he set out towards the great lattice again, walking along the riverbank so he could jump back in at any signs of life, Sergio tried to sort it all out. He’d used a method of disguise learned in his dream. It worked. By the Laws, that made the rest true as well. Not that the monks who explored the dream were sure any of the laws held true. Many said the meaning of the dream was that it had no meaning.
He couldn’t try to sort it out any longer. He saw a bridge spanning the river and its banks straight ahead with a tower full of Khazadian guards on each side. Looking up to the banks, he could see the stakes that marked the border with Khazad, with a guard leaning on each, watching the plain on both sides of the border. Sergio dove back in.
Realizing he made a splash, Sergio swam towards the bottom, cursing the shallowness of the water. Anyone could see him underneath if they looked from the banks. He had to move. Careful to maintain his breathing, Sergio tried to become one with the river, one with the flow. He listened to the resonance of his own water, purer in pitch than that which surrounded him, yet he thought he could make them match. Yes, there it was.
He rushed along in the flow, no different than any other molecule of water in the river. Anyone who came looking after the splash would think it a flying fish coming back into the water, nothing to be concerned with. Relief flowed through him as well, a feeling of wholeness. It seemed he craved the water now, no matter how lackluster it was compared to the pure blue liquid of his dream. He felt his blood calling to it, and the water answering. He flowed right across the border, lost in their song.
June Faramore is a poet, songwriter, and novelist from Baltimore, MD. Her 365 Days of Poetry blog can be found at http://junefaramore.com