Authors: Emigh Cannaday
“It would be useful at the very least. I think if you tried hard enough that you could do it.”
“How would I go about it?”
“Looking into the eyes helps, but as long as you’re really focused, you only have to concentrate on a particular thought and direct it to the receiver. You’re definitely Magda’s descendent. You look so much like her.”
“Did you know her very well? What was she like?” Annika wanted to know.
“I didn’t know her at all; I’ve only seen a drawing,” he confessed with a shrug. “Only Anthea and my parents knew her. She was very loyal, and very loving. That’s why she never came back to stay. When samodivi marry a man, they almost always steal their clothes back from him and come running home to their river. If they have any children, they rarely bring them with. They’re wild creatures; they’re rarely tamed by anything. They belong to no man for very long, if ever. You’ll soon learn that men are little more than amusement to Hilda and Runa especially. Sariel cares even less for them. Magda was a rare exception. She chose to remain mortal for the sake of her husband and their children. Now she’s only a legend, save for the ones that knew her.”
“How can samodivi just leave their kids behind so they can climb trees and play in the water?” Annika asked. “It seems beyond selfish.” At this question, Talvi became more somber than Annika had seen him in her brief time of knowing him. He gave a sigh after a moment of deep thought.
“As I said, they’re wild creatures. And for whatever reason, not all of their children carry the samodivi blood. Say one of them returns with two children. One child may mature and live as long as her mother, and the other child may remain human and die before their eyes. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why it’s forbidden here. It causes nothing but pain and confusion. It’s an act of selfishness that simply isn’t worth the brief joy it gives. The children grow up, wither and die, not understanding why their mothers stay the same. The fate is even worse for the immortal children left with their fathers. Humans never have reacted well to a creature that walks among them and remains unchanged by time.” He lifted a low tree branch out of their way as they passed underneath. “Let’s talk of other things, shall we?” he asked politely.
“Sure,” Annika agreed, and decided to shift the conversation. “Can the samodivi read minds or heal twisted ankles the way you can?”
“No. Their abilities are more subtle.”
“Can you elaborate on that? Because Runa’s convinced that I’m a samodiva like her, but I think I’d know it if I was actually a wood nymph.”
Talvi laughed to himself, and seemed much more eager to elaborate.
“Many of the half-nymphs I’ve met had no idea what they truly were. Your powers would register as random things in your life that only you would take note of. For example, have you noticed that birds and other animals don’t shy away when you walk near them? I’ve seen that already in the brief time we’ve been walking. Why, look at this little buggar right here.” He pointed to a squirrel with pointy tufted ears that was nibbling on a seed. Instead of running away, it merely watched them walk past.
“That squirrel’s too fat to run anywhere,” she dismissed. “I don’t think that means I’m a samodiva.”
“Well then, have you ever noticed that everything near you lives far longer than it ought to?”
“I had a cat that lived for nineteen years,” she joked. “Does that count?”
“Without question,” he confirmed in such a serious tone that Annika couldn’t help laughing at him.
“Yeah…I’m not sure that qualifies me as being a samodiva, either.”
“Perhaps you have incredibly good luck?” he suggested impatiently. “Perhaps you’ve had a close brush with death, only to walk away unscathed? Perhaps you sing in your band and everyone drops what they’re doing to listen? I wonder how many people tell you after a performance that you’ve utterly enchanted them with your songs? Some might say they enjoy the music, but I’ll be damned if it’s not something about your voice, isn’t it?”
Annika stopped right there in her tracks. He’d obviously struck a chord in her.
“How would you know anything about that?”
“Because nothing makes a wood nymph happier than when their soul sings, and it enchants anyone who listens to it,” he stressed, with that intense look in his eyes again. “You may have been born a human, but you have a magical twist. It’s really quite an intoxicating blend. I was expecting an ordinary human girl to be traveling with the samodivi, but that assumption was grossly mistaken.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It’s got something to do with that hair around your ring. It doesn’t matter if you’re a human, elf, samodiva, or even a fairy…unicorns rarely approach anyone. They prefer to be left alone. It means the one you saw trusted you, which means I can trust you as well.”
“Well…thanks,” she said awkwardly, not sure if he was lying or not.
“It’s the truth. I’m a very bad liar. I always get caught, one way or another.”
Talvi looked down at Annika and winked. This time, however, she felt warm and tingly inside, rather than irritable. It was a nice change from constantly being on the defensive around him.
They walked to the edge of a thicket, which was so dense that he had to search for the right spot to lead Ghassan through. Apparently he really did know every tree in the forest. When they passed through the brush they came upon a group of trees perfect for climbing. The warm autumn air carried the sunshine down from the canopy above. The pale light was bright silver, more enchanting than ever.
“I wish I would’ve eaten something before we left,” she sighed, and sat down under one of the majestic trees. Talvi joined her and opened the bag he’d brought along. He handed her a canteen of water and a large piece of dense bread.
“I ate before you woke up, so have as much as you like,” he said, and lay on his side in the lush, deep carpet of leaves.
“That was very thoughtful of you; thanks.”
“It’s nothing. So did Runa tell you about the grand celebration coming up? I expect you’ll be in attendance.”
Annika frowned as she licked some honey off the bottom of her lip. “What celebration?”
“My birthday. It’s in less than two weeks. We’ve invited just about everyone we know. Now that I know you, you’re invited as well.”
“Really?” she asked, and smiled to herself. “It
be your birthday in two weeks, wouldn’t it? That explains everything,” she laughed to herself as she recalled a bit of astrology she had picked up over the years.
“Explains what?” he asked as he leaned closer, dying to hear more about himself.
“If your birthday’s coming up, then that makes you a full-fledged Scorpio.”
“I hope that’s not a problem,” he smiled and raised an eyebrow.
“Only if you make it a problem,” she said, and shot him a stern look.
“Regardless of when my birthday is, there’s an important meeting shortly afterwards that my father has arranged. We’re trying to find out why the gates are being closed.”
“You mean the portals that have me trapped here?”
“Yes,” he said, examining one of the milky white leaves he was lying in.
“I didn’t think it would take two whole weeks just to get home,” she sighed. Can’t I at least make a phone call or send a letter to my family?” Talvi looked at her skeptically.
“I don’t think you understand the situation you’re in. You’re not being realistic. You’re still thinking of your automatic modern world, where you simply push a button and have what you want. It’s not like that here. You have to realize that it could be some time before you can go home. It could be months, or years, if ever. I really don’t know.”
“Months? Years?” she wailed. “What about my mom and dad? What about Charlie? What about Vince?” Her eyes began to water, and she fought to keep the tears at bay.
“Who is Vince?” he asked casually.
“He’s going to think this is his fault, because I came to Sofia to be with him!” she said, choking on sobs that threatened to become larger if left unchecked. Talvi stopped twirling the leaf and looked up at her.
“Is Vince your lover back home?”
“Eww, gross! No, he’s my uncle!” The thought of Vince as anything but a shaggy, chain-smoking insect nerd was repulsive, and Annika was quickly distracted from her crying.
“What about this Charlie fellow?” Talvi asked. “Is he the one who gave you that exquisite ring?”
“Huh?” she said, looking down at her left hand. “No, Charlie’s my brother. I don’t even know why I’m still wearing this.” She took it off and put it on her right ring finger instead. An image of Danny’s hurt face in the restaurant came to her mind. She could see their fight happening all over again in front of the entire wait staff and other diners. She could have been to Hawaii and back already, married on a nice beach to a nice man with a nice car, a nice job, and a nice house. But she was sitting on a carpet of dried leaves and dirt in the middle of nowhere with a Scorpio elf who oozed sexual innuendo from every pore in his skin.
“Who is he?”
“Who is who?” she replied, and looked over her shoulder to see no one there.
“Who’s the fellow who gave that ring?” he asked. Annika sighed heavily, and realized that her thoughts were no longer private.
“Just some guy.”
?” Talvi seemed perplexed by the ambiguity of her answer.
“That ring is far too lovely to be given to you by just some
“Fine. He asked me to marry him and I said no.”
“Really?” he cried. He sat up a little straighter, as if he had misunderstood her. “I thought that’s what ladies want more than anything, is to trap themselves a husband. That’s certainly been my experience.”
“I suppose a lot of them do want that,” she said with a shrug. “But you said it yourself; I’m not ordinary.”
“So why did you tell him no? Did he philander about? Or perhaps
did?” he crooned, leaning closer with interest. She gave him a mean look.
“It wasn’t anything like that. Danny’s a total sweetheart. My whole family thinks he’s perfect. I just wish…” Annika buried her face in her hands, not wanting him to see the tears in her eyes.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Talvi apologized, looking sheepish. “Perhaps things will sort themselves out in the future? You know what they say; absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
His well-meant words sent Annika’s tears down her cheeks, and despite her best efforts she began to cry.
“I just wish I could see my family and tell them I’m alright. I know they’re worried by now.” She could just imagine her mother getting the phone call from Vince and felt sick at the thought. Annika had always been in relative control of her life, in control of her goals, but now she was in a strange land where she could only rely on the kindness of strangers. She hated movies where the Hollywood starlet always fell down or was taken hostage and had to be rescued by the leading man, and now she was the girl she despised, sitting on the ground, helpless, and needing to be rescued. Talvi put his arm around her and wiped away her tears with his other hand.
“If you’re as close to your family as I think you are, then they’ll know you’re safe,” he gently assured her. “Picture them in your mind and focus on that one single thought. They’ll most likely hear you.” Annika closed her eyes and pictured her parents, Charlie, Vince, and even James. She repeated over and over in her head to them,
I’m safe…I’m safe
. It was like a meditation mantra, and had a calming effect on her. After a few moments, she wiped away the tears that Talvi had missed.
“I suppose there’s nothing else I can do, is there?” she asked. Talvi gave her nose an affectionate tap and went back to lying on his side.
“You can try to find something enjoyable about being here,” he said with a soft smile. “A pleasant distraction always makes time go by quickly.”
“Yeah, I guess riding deer around the woods is kind of awesome,” she agreed. “And sleeping under the stars and shooting arrows is pretty fun, too. That reminds me; aren’t we supposed to be finding wood to replace the arrows I lost?”
“I believe we’ve found it,” he said, motioning to the trees surrounding them. He grabbed a narrow stick lying on the ground near him and began to scratch a glyph into the dirt. “All you have to do is climb those trees and cut down a few handfuls of branches.”
Annika took one look at the trees and raised a skeptical eyebrow at him.
“Did you not happen to notice I’m over a foot shorter than you? And even if I could climb up there, what would I cut the branches with?”
“I expect you’ll have to ask someone taller than you who keeps a well-sharpened knife with him at all times,” Talvi chirped with a grin. Annika held back a smile of her own, yet refused to ask him for help. Instead, she watched as he continued to write in the dirt. He strung together a series of characters until it formed a sentence. The writing resembled Japanese kanji combined with ancient runes, but with even more flourishes.
“What language is that? It’s really pretty.”
“It is quite lovely, isn’t it? It’s Fae,” he explained. “The fairies’ native tongue.”