Lelaima laid her head against the silky fluff that lined her flat, and listened to the wood. She had not noticed any of sounds in the forest truly, more all her sense were before hazy and comfortable, but Lelaima had forever been an observer of things that were to be noticed, even before the darkness had come upon her and before Aekin had been killed and Aipela’s mind disrupted and Arkun’s intentions turned ill.
Always as a child, she remembered, she would run out onto the sward in front of their house and listen, curled into a ball on the damp grass, to the crickets sing their midsummer song. And her tiny childish lips would taper into a smile as she felt the prickle of a cricket’s foot run over her arms and feet, but then there would be sent the servants looking for her, and they would raise her up and brush the insects from her limbs and tell her the damp chill air was bad for her and that surely she’d be ill by that time tomorrow.
The world had seemed so alive then, so full of other little beings that seemingly loved her, like crickets. She had taken such delight in crickets.
And though before the wood had seemed silent and pitch dark, she knew began to hear the minute creaks and chirps of frogs that dwelt in the ever-present pools of water in the low dips of the forest floor, and the coo of the night birds far off in the most shadowed trees. And it seemed to Lelaima that they all sang to her, and that they rejoiced with her in her escape from the madness of her house.
The wind had died down into a gentle breeze, and it filtered lazily through the branches and stirred her strings of hair, and stroked her cheek with intangible fingers, and she smiled absently, and turned onto her side.
She then heard the scrape of a boot on bark, and Frideor emerged from under the massive shadow of the Tree’s trunk.
He took a seat beside her on the flocked planks of the flat and leaned back onto his elbows, and sighed.
“It is near the morn,” he said, so softly that Lelaima barely caught his words. He lay facing her, and in the pale gleam of the moon his eyes seemed luminous, like the mushrooms that glowed from the edges of trees in some places, the fairy lamps, they were called.
“Is it? The moon is still high. See?” She pointed through the sheltering leaves.
“It will sink swiftly, I know. Things are different here.”
This piqued her attention.
“How do you know?” she queried, and lifted her neck, but the weight of her head seemed so great suddenly that she had to put it back down again.
She could tell he stiffened, quite visibly, though she knew he had not meant for her to notice, for he attempted to relax again, but failed nearly entirely.
He rose onto his knees and leaned unnaturally against the trunk, and crossed his arms and shivered.
“Things, you know. Books, and all. There are books in Fonarcla, of course and there—” His speech faltered and broke off.
“What things, Frideor?” She made her voice to be unsuspicious, and merely curious, like an innocent girl asking of wonders far off and unknown.
“Books. Lore; you’ve a library in Ilomia, do you not?” he said quickly and tightly.
“We do. And how is the moon’s fall different here?”
“More rapid, more quick. Near to the morning…it is but high still, and drops like rain before dawn.”
“Does. It…does. Yes.”
She knew it now. There quality of his voice was bizarre and shaken, and his eyes had seemingly shrunk, though they gleamed pale gray still it seemed now like a muddy ashy hue than the twilit tint it had before. And his shoulders were drawn in as if he was cold, but the air was not so chill then, but rather clement and warm.
And all around him there was rigidity, and he was tight lipped and tense.
She had struck the mine of secrecy in him, and now she had only to delve, and she would find some odd thing that he had hidden.
But what would he keep from her? Had he not always been kind and gentle to her, even as the glooming shadowy fog had descended?
She would not press him, then. For in all her confusion and madness in what had come before she had nearly forgot the meaning of loyalty to friends, for she had had none to be loyal to, save her parents and Aipela. And things had deteriorated so that she could not even speak entirely honestly with them, or tell them her true thoughts as she longed to.
“So it does,” she said, and though she did not mean it to be, her voice came out very soft, and almost gentle.
And they spoke no more for several long moments.
After such a time, Frideor’s tenseness wore off, and he became like a creature again that lies draped in the night and wears it like a comfortable old cloak, and he lay down beside Lelaima again on the flat, and slept a while, and Lelaima watched him in rest, and watched his eyes that rolled and twitched slightly under their lids as he dreamt, and she wondered what it was he dreamt of.
She had thought he would sleep for the rest of the night, and wondered what she would do when the morning came, but he awoke, though she did not know it, for he lay still as if he were as deep as ever in sleep.
He did not open his eyes, nor stir nor shift, but whispered some low chant under his breath; his voice had a hypnotic quality at that moment, and was slow and lovely like molten gold. The chant evolved into a song, with a melody that twisted and turned unexpectedly. The song was undeniably a song of sorrow, for the words he uttered with a weeping wistfulness and stone cold regret ran in the tune.
Lelaima’s heart, though it was for the hour devoid of discontent, wept, and soon these tears of her mind extended to her eyes, and she covered her face in the woolen blanket and cried for the sake of crying, though it seemed entirely reasonless to her.
Frideor stopped his song, and she heard him shift as he turned towards her. He was very near her and it made her cry all the worse, but she did not know why.
On an impulse she raised her head, and she knew Frideor saw her pale and pathetically wet face in the moon-glow, but she did not think long on that.
“What words are those? Some foreign tongue, I have heard you speak them before though, and mean to ask you of them.” She hastily drew a hand over her face and rid it of its tears for the moment.
“My peoples’ tongue,” he answered, and did not look at her at all, but gazed unmoving past her, or through her; she could not tell, but she watched him with all attentiveness.
“The tongue of Fonarcla does not differ from my tongue of Ilomia, Frideor.” Lelaima said this not as a question, but as a statement, a confirmation.
“No, I am not talking about Fonarcla. I am talking about the tongue of my kin: my kin, the ruin of your house, the shadow upon your sister’s heart and upon yours. The murderers, my kin.”
There was a hush. It fell upon them both, and they turned towards each other and the stare of each matched the other’s, blank and motionless, and their thoughts both were not at all, and silent as nothingness.
It held him the longest, and finally Lelaima lowered her gaze, and pressed it into his eyes, hard as cold metal.
She retreated into her memory, and saw no more the dark trees and the pale moon, but her sister’s tear-stained face against her claret pillow.
Aipela repeated the words for the third time, but still they were chopped with her frantic sobs.
“I cannot, cannot, Lelaima!”
“What did they say, Aipela? What, my dear, my sister?” Her own voice from days bygone echoed through Lelaima’s mind, and she put a cool hand to her sister’s flame-hot brow, just as she had the week after Aekin was slain, and Aipela was racked with grief and constant fever.
“Twisting, and—and evil things they spoke!” she gasped. “I cannot, cannot say them, Le-Lelaima! It kills my heart, oh it is dead already, it kills it, it kills my heart!” Her cries were panicked, and she stared in horror into the air in front of her, as if witnessing the blood and the black fay axes that had hewed her love’s flesh.
“Please tell me, my love, my dear. What was it? We must know them, we must know the words.”
Aipela’s breath softened for a moment, and her chest did not heave so, and she unclenched her hands. Her teeth chattered and she dropped her eyes, and stared into her wrinkled bedspread.
“I cannot recall—I cannot remember mostly. They all came so fast and in torrents—like in a wind, so fast. But there was—adrath, I think, and fener sin ma, and that the greatest of them wailed as a mocking question as she brought down upon me her black spear, and that—that is all I know.”
She dropped limp then and fell into the bedclothes and her throat strained and she choked briefly but again began to cry, and it seemed her desperate tears depleted her utterly.
Hey--everyone who is reading this, let me know if you still are interested in actually reading any of the stuff I put here. I know it's long and boring, etc. but if you do regularly read (or at all), please tell me, as I may at some time be doing some narrowing of friends-listage.