Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Red in Tooth and Flame 7

In the evening she gives up and lets the rain fall where it wants, and though it's only a light shower it completes the feeling of misery, and she grows so cold and sluggish she steers Beatrix almost headfirst into a rock before noticing it's there. It's a bare, jagged rock, barely large enough for Aseka to curl up on it, but she does, just to touch the ground. She may be more comfortable in the water than many other sea elves, but there's nothing in the world like feeling Mother Earth under her feet, she finds. Maybe she's just that starved for touch.

And the rain ends and the stars come out and Aseka chokes down half of her rations and washes herself furiously, carelessly, using magic every step of the way: to cleanse and heat water and heal the cuts from Beatrix's rough-edged suckers she uses to to scrub the salt out of her skin, and draining a lot of it to coerce the rock into a more welcoming shape. Then she lies with her feet in the water and watches the western horizon, imagining what it will be like to see the land rise out of the water when she gets far enough.

The heat doesn't last long, and even colder than before she urges Beatrix to hand back her clothes and recieves only the staff and the cloak. Her tunic and skirt are nowhere to be seen, and she wearily and shamefully sends Beatrix to search for them with no hope at all and spends the last of her energy pressing the water out of the cloak and wraps it around herself and drifts off to sleep.

Beatrix wakes her, much later, seeking assurance after failing her task. Aseka hugs her absently, drinking in the unfamiliar feeling of disorientation. Her body is recovered, fully rested, but her thoughts are leaden, disorganized, unsteady. So long since she last lost consciousness. But she watches the full moon walk across the sky and nibbles on a nut and lets time wash over her and feels at ease. More than at ease. Free.

It's not that there's no one to tell her what to do, she thinks, if they ever could. But there's no one to see what she does. Beatrix looks but does not judge, indeed, she can sense even the bare rock reacting to her presence in its way, and she learns the difference between being alone and being lonely, and begins meditating, warm and comfortable as if resting in the hand of Mother Earth.

And in the morning she takes a length of spider silk rope from a little pocket in the cloak and ties it around her waist and a mouthful of bitter hazelnuts from another and starts swimming. Before she knows it she spots mountains ahead, silhouetted against the setting sun, from the crest of a larger wave. She swims late into the night in a churning foaming sea, desperately spending her magic and pulling ahead of an exhausted Beatrix, when things go dark.

No comments:

Post a Comment