Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Deep in a cavern, two children stood face to face in silence.  One, a little girl with bright blonde hair streaked by white wore a hugely oversized shirt as a simple smock and stared at the little boy in front of her who was dressed in velvet and lace in the manner of a nobleman’s son of some fantasy world, his black hair curling at his shoulders and one lock of hair falling between his eyes.

The boy grinned at her.  “Hello.”  Of the two, he was most certainly not the least bit hesitant.

Her mouth worked for a moment without sound.  How long had it been since she had last heard a voice other than her own?  When she got her voice back she made herself be as calm as possible.  “H-hello.”  No sense in frightening the boy.

“You’re the girl my mother dreamed about, aren’t you?  Don’t be afraid.  I’m going to be your brother, and my mother will be yours, too.”  He reached a hand out to her, fearlessly trusting that she wouldn’t resist him.  She didn’t have the strength to.  Contact with another living being, another person, after so long alone sapped her of the will to resist.  She followed him easily enough, listening to his sturdy, boyish voice with the strangely formal cast to it.  “We’re the same age.  We can play together.  I know lots of games.  Though… do girls play the same games that boys do?”  She didn’t have an answer for him.  “I don’t know many girls.  We can ask Mother.  She’ll be so happy.”

She stopped in her tracks, a thought dancing across her mind and she pulled the boy to a halt with her.  “Wait.”

He looked back at her, his head tilting in curiosity, but not any real concern.  “What’s wrong?”

She blushed slightly.  She couldn’t believe that she had forgotten, but now that she’d remembered, she couldn’t move forward without moving back slightly.  “I – I need to get some things.”

He nodded in understanding.  It made perfect sense to him.  “Where?”

“This way.”  She led him through the trees to her nest among the roots.  He was mightily impressed with the accommodations.  She would have preferred something a bit higher up, but as small as she was, and without the ability to shape the trees to create a nest in the branches, this little den was the best she had.  She crawled into the nest and gathered up her few belongings, stuffing them into a bag she’d kept all this time and putting it across her back, with both straps across her chest from shoulder to hip.  Then she crawled out, taking care not to trip over her shirt hem this time.  She stood and looked at the boy.  “Okay.  Take me to… take me to Mother.”  She almost stumbled over the word.

He grinned and took her hand.

“Illian!”  Jules shouted for the fourteenth time.  He sighed in frustration and turned back to Marus and their mother.  “Where did that boy run off to?”

Grainne smiled through her worry.  “He wanted so to find a sister.”

Marus wasn’t ready yet to give up the hope he carried.  The dream had held up to the challenges so far.  “We all wanted to find a sister here.  We have found so much, perhaps she is here somewhere.”  He paused, noting that she had become very pale.  “Mother?  Are you well?”

Jules became very concerned as well.  Grainne tried to reassure her sons, but could not catch her breath for a moment, wavering on her feet.  Marus immediately took her hand, helping her to sit on a nearby rock and watching her face in concern until she regained color and breath.  She gave a shaky laugh.  “It is nothing.  I am well.”

“Are you certain, Mother?”  Jules sounded doubtful.

She nodded, breathing deeply.  “I am certain.”

“Nonetheless,” Marus said, “when we return to Pallantia, I would like to call the physicians for you.”

She smiled, trying to sound stronger than she felt.  “Truly, it is nothing.  My sons, you worry for nothing.”

“Mother!”  They all turned at the sound of the boyish voice.  “Mother!  I found her!”  Illian came running towards them holding the hand of a little girl with golden blonde hair streaked by white, pointed ears peeked through the hair on each side.  She looked to be Illian’s age, a tender five years, and she wore only a shirt that seemed to have been made to fit loosely on a grown woman.  Across her chest were the straps to a bag that hung on her back.  The girl looked at them all, eyes wide and disbelieving.

Jules stared at the child his mind had told him could not be.  She truly was.  His mother had dreamed of a child, and here she was.  He was stunned silent.  He shook his head, denying what he saw with the one detail that was amiss.  “Her eyes are blue.”

Marus shook his head; he could not doubt his mother’s dreams, not after he had come this far.  “But Mother dreamed of the door, and the cavern, and the girl herself…”  He had tested the dream and it had held true.  He knew without a doubt that this girl-child was his sister.  His mother had dreamed; they had found her; their father would approve.  The dreams of Castellan’s royal daughters would not be denied.

Grainne felt her heart leap into her throat at the sight of the child with her sorrow-haunted eyes.  Where had she come from?  Why was she all alone in this place?  What secrets lay behind the eyes that seemed too old for her face?  It didn’t matter to her that the child’s eyes didn’t match the ones she’d seen in the dream, or the obvious fact that this child was something other than human; this was a child in need of her.  She started to reach out her arms to the little girl.

The girl saw the woman first; saw her face turn tender and her arms reach out.  Mother.  So this was the woman who would be her mother.  It had been a long time since she had last had a mother, even a foster one.  She started to run to her, then stopped, stopping the boy with her.  There were two others, older than the boy, younger than the woman.  All were dressed in clothing of similar quality.  Older sons.  Brothers.  She looked from one to the other and felt her heart sink.  Sinister.  Both were sinister.  The boy was innocent, as was the woman.  She started to growl.  She had to protect them.  It was who she was.  It was what she was.  Her legacy from a woman she’d never met.  She ran forward, putting the boy beside his mother and putting herself between the innocent and the sinister.  She couldn’t reach her knife; it was in the bag.  No time.  She growled again.

“You can’t have them.  I won’t let you hurt them.  If you try, I’ll kill you.”  Her child’s voice didn’t sound near as threatening as she would have liked.  No help for it.  She had been in the cavern too long.  Her eyes, though, her eyes shifted from the strangely bright but still normal seeming blue, flooding with metallic golden color until they were seemingly formed completely of it.

The elder sinister stared at her in disbelief.  The younger grinned wide, then wider, then opened his mouth and laughed in sheer delight.  The elder now stared at the younger.

“Are you mad, Marus?”  So the younger sinister was named Marus.

His voice still laughed, even in speech.  “Such a valiant barbarian child you have dreamed us for a sister, Mother.  And look at her perfect eyes of gold.”

She straightened; her eyes wide and shocked, the gold falling away from them as her anger was doused by surprise.  Some part of her mind noted his use of the word “barbarian”, creating connections to cultural preconceptions that were likely with such a use, for all that they weren’t accurate in her case.  But most of her mind… was silent in surprise.  “Dreamed?”  Her voice was awestruck and she turned to look at the woman.  “You… dreamed of me?”  That was right; a scrap of memory came back, a comment that she had lost in the shock of seeing the boy after so many years alone.  He had said something about dreams when he found her.

The woman nodded.  “Yes, little child, I dreamed that you would be my daughter and a sister to my sons.”

“Dreams… come true in your world?”  Her eyes started to fill with tears.  She was ashamed of herself for the weakness, for the tears that betrayed her.  It wasn’t possible; so why was she suddenly filled with such hope?

Marus looked at her with growing curiosity.  What dreams did this child have at her young age that would cause this reaction to even the hope of fulfillment?  Was she, in fact, more than simply a foundling through his mother’s Castellan dream and descended from the royal blood of Castellan herself, through one of the dryad-kin perhaps?  Could she be his sister in truth and heir to Castellan dreams of her own?

The boy nodded vehemently at the girl.  “Mother is from Castellan.  She dreamed of you, and here you are.”  For a child of his age, perhaps things really were that simple.  Belief was sometimes more powerful and more real than fact.  She should know that by now.  It was what made the people of her birth so powerful, in spite of what logic would say that they should be.

The girl looked carefully at the two sinisters.  Their darkness was not so strong, perhaps… .  And the younger, Marus, still smiled at her with affection.  They had come into the cavern seeking her.  Doubtless they could find the way out.  At least she wouldn’t be alone with her dreams.  And maybe… if dreams could come true… .  She turned and bowed to the woman, to her mother.  “I will be your daughter, and a sister to your sons, Mother, but I… I will need a name.”  Her voice wavered.  It was the best advice she’d ever gotten from the woman who had raised her, accept the name that is given to her by a strange culture.  When someone gives a name, they are less likely to reject the one they name.  “I do not have one.”

The discussion of just what name to give the little girl lasted a good while.  She walked beside Grainne, her hand in her mother’s, seemingly uninterested in participating as various names were presented and either immediately rejected, or held over as possibilities.

She was a treasure, a gift of great value, the child of a dream.  The gemstone names were rejected quickly. As tempting as it was to name her for the sapphire of her natural eyes, the gold was too dramatic, too dream-portended not to reference in a name.

Jules listened to her humming some unknown tune as they walked.  He suggested Cantrix, it meant “songstress” or something similar.  It was held over.

Marus suggested Doris, it meant gift.  Illian wanted gold in her name; he liked her strange eyes when the gold was in them.  Grainne suggested a slight alteration to please both, a golden gift, Dauris.  There were thoughtful looks all around.  It had possibilities.

The girl hissed in pain as she stubbed a toe as they approached the tunnel exit.  She had not complained, so they had not noticed.  She was barefoot and the wind beyond the tunnel was not warm.  Marus quickly pulled off his half cloak and wrapped her in it and then lifted her into his arms.  For a moment she was stiff with surprise and then made herself relax.  It had been a very long time since she had last been small enough to be carried by a brother.  And she so wanted to believe that he could be redeemed.  That, also, was part of the legacy which marked her.

The girl’s first sight, though, of the shuttle, drove all thoughts of names from her mind as she stared in shock.  Mother, the boy, the two sinisters, they all looked and spoke with a formality that told her Medieval, possibly Fantasy.  They were nobility in a world where the term still meant something, like it meant something to her.  The vessel, vehicle, the ship she was looking at… was most definitely not Medieval.  The sleekness of it… it didn’t shine silver in an unbroken line like some spacecraft that she had seen.  It was made, apparently, of wood and metal and cloth in the manner of the old sailing vessels, but it was made for flying.

“What is that?”  Her voice sounded as shocked as she was.

Marus, carrying her, laughed.  “Our skyship, little sister.  How did you think we got here?”

“How does it fly?”  Her curiosity ran over.

Marus laughed again.  He felt a sudden kinship to the child that went beyond his mother’s dream.  He nodded to Jules as the elder opened the hatch for them to enter.  He carried his little sister over to the compartment that housed the engine.  “It’s magic.”

She looked at him with an expression that would wither Spring.  “Magic?”  There was a note of disgust in her repetition of the word.  “That has been used to describe everything from fireballs to childbirth.  Please.  I’m not stupid.  What kind of magic?”

He grinned.  This little girl was extraordinarily odd, and he liked her tremendously.  “Levitation.  In proximity to ancient towers.  It was a gift from a wandering engineer four hundred years past and enabled our world to develop and expand.”

He showed her how the engines worked around a core of enchanted crystal that resonated alongside the towers, providing lift and direction.  She nodded in understanding and Marus felt his own curiosity waken at how mature she acted.  Finally he lifted her back in his arms and found a seat back in the main cabin, holding her in his lap as the discussion drifted back to the question of names.

Dauris Cantrix?  Cantrix Dauris?  Neither possibility sounded quite right.  For a long time the ship was quiet as Jules flew them back to Pallantia. Finally Jules spoke up.  She was a treasure, so why not create a name for her?  A new name, one not held by anyone else in all the Empire of the North?  Tresoria.  Name her Tresoria Dauris, but call her Dauris.

There were nods all around and then everyone glanced at the little girl who sat on Marus’ lap still wrapped in his cloak.  She nodded slowly.  “I will be Tresoria Dauris.”

Categories: The Firebird's Daughter | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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