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Authors: Jamie Day

Whisper and Rise

 

Whisper and Rise

By Jamie Day

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Whisper and Rise

Copyright 2014 by Jamie Day

All rights reserved.

 

First Kindle edition, 2015

Summary:
A fallen faerie faces an uncertain future and an adventure that will change her forever.

 

For those who need hope.

Prologue

 

Walks through my village had never felt the same as this, even with my best friend Nia at my side. Our steps marked the slow pace of two girls whose dreams had been crushed by the winter. Villagers left us alone. Even the small children didn’t wave or approach us. We were outcasts now; I was a fallen faerie, who once had been; Nia was a rejected Prospect, who never had the chance to become a faerie. We shared more than friendship, and I was grateful to travel the road with her that morning.

“This is it,” she announced, breaking the silence when we reached the narrow trail leading to the Bauer home. “Are you certain you want to come with me?”

I nodded and stared at the trees—they looked foreign and distant now. I had never walked this trail before without intending to visit Sean, but when Nia arrived at my door that morning, and had shared her intentions, I realized that I couldn’t hide forever. Despite my lingering fear and hesitation, I confirmed my answer. “Yes, I need to do this.”

We resumed our silence during a slow march down the path that used to bring me joy. After every step further into the forest, my feet seemed to grip the soil and tell my body what I refused to say aloud.
I don’t want to go there
. Still, I understood it was necessary.

Spring was changing the Bauer well. Small birds chased each other between tree branches overhead, delicate blue flowers sprouted between stones surrounding the clearing, and rain had washed away any hint of the tragedy that had befallen this place last season. Even the air felt fresh and satisfying. I smiled, suddenly glad that Nia had convinced me to come.

I glanced at Sean’s old home across the clearing. The broken glass in the window had been replaced, which bothered me a little. I used to imagine that nothing could ever change there, that life would consider what I remembered, and would honor that memory. I stared at the home, wishing that my fate would change as easily as the repaired window. Eldon’s door opened instead.

I grinned—I couldn’t help it. Seeing him again suddenly changed the day from lonely to refreshing. “Eldon!” I cried. I rushed to the little man and knelt before him, grasping his arms in greeting.

He grinned back at me with a toothless smile that startled me. I gasped and dropped back down on my heels. I had forgotten, but Eldon wasn’t bothered. He gestured at me not to worry and patted me on the arm. Then he hobbled to the well and lowered the bucket to its depths. As he turned the metal crank, he whistled a familiar tune that reminded me of my last peaceful visit here, long before the tragedy that had bloodied the courtyard and taken his words.

His music carried me back to tranquil days and carefree nights. I thought of the southern forest and the hidden waterfalls where Sean and I once shared our secrets. I remembered my younger days, chasing Sean while he weaved between the houses, promising never to give up his mischief. I remembered his younger brother. The whistling stopped.

Back to the moment, I opened my eyes.

“It’s beautiful, Eldon,” said Nia. She leaned against my back, offering her warmth.

Eldon looked up at us and grinned again. I didn’t see hatred or spite in his eyes; I saw love and hope. We had both lost Sean last season, but this man had lost much more than a nephew. His toothless beam was evidence of that. I smiled back at him. I didn’t need the words to the song; the melody communicated everything I needed to hear.

When the bucket emerged, Eldon removed a pair of small wooden cups from his pocket and dipped them into the water. He handed them to Nia and me, and I thanked him for the refreshment and the moment. Nia must have thought the same, because she started crying.

“You’re a wonderful man,” she told him. “I’m going to miss you.”

I understood what she meant, but Eldon didn’t. There was no way for him to know—Nia had only shared the news with me that morning.

As he lifted her hand, Nia spoke again. “I’m leaving Aisling,” she said. “Forever.”

Hearing her say it again struck me as hard as it had earlier. My chest heaved from the pressure. This was the last day I’d see my best friend in the village where we grew up.

Nia continued. “It’s not a bad thing, sir. I’m going to get married soon. I’m promised to a man in DarMattey.”

That made Eldon smile.

Nia took a drink. “I want you to know that you’re my favorite well guardian—”

Eldon beamed.

“—and that I’ll miss you forever.” Nia’s words were powerful and honest. Though directed at Eldon, they seemed to carry a meaning intended for both of us. “I want you to come to my wedding,” she said. “My father can take you over the mountain to be there. Please come.”

Eldon continued smiling and touched his hand to Nia’s face. Then he drew a tear from her cheek. He kissed her hand and lowered it before replacing the bucket back to its place at the well. Without a sound, he reached to me and hugged me. The man’s chest burned hot with kindness. I wanted more of his warmth, but he released me and wandered back toward his little home. He never answered Nia, not even with a nod, but I knew he wouldn’t travel over the mountain. The man had once told me once that a good well guardian would never leave his water.

I lifted the cup he had given to me, finally tasting his gift. As the cold water filled me with energy, I realized there was someone I needed to see. “Will you come with me to Cael’s?” I asked Nia. “The day shouldn’t end until I speak with him again.”

Life was moving forward. It was a lesson I had learned moments earlier, taught to me by a little old man who couldn’t speak. The next stage waited deep in the forest, at the end of another trail. Nia and I left our cups on the stone and waved toward Eldon’s window, hoping he was watching us. Then we left the Bauer Well and headed toward her home.

 

~ O ~

 

“Are you still okay with this?” Nia stopped walking when we reached the main road. “I don’t want you to give in to anger when you see him again.”

“This is something I need to do,” I insisted. “I’m not mad at Cael anymore.”

Nia didn’t follow me. “I’m talking about the bandit,” she said. “The Elders keep him in the smokehouse next to the home my father lent to Cael.”

Mention of the man who had changed my life made chills drain down my back. I hadn’t planned on
that
. I hadn’t planned on anything until a moment ago. I stared at my best friend without focusing.
What am I supposed to feel?
The moment changed from certain determination to doubt about what I should do next. I closed my eyes and, in my vision, I saw Eldon again. He smiled at me—with that toothless grin—and told me without words that I could be happy like him. I smiled back at his image and opened my eyes.

“It’s all right,” I told Nia. “This won’t be a problem.” I hoped as much.

During the walk into her father’s land, we entertained ourselves with stories about the adventures we had shared growing up. They were countless, and I stopped walking many times, allowing the words to linger between us. I already missed having her so close. Nia was the best friend a person could have.

Then Nia brought the past forward. “Do you remember your Prospect Ceremony?” she asked, squeezing my hand as though she intended to draw a memory from my pulse.

I replied with a flat smile, unsure of her intention. Certainly, she meant
her
Prospect Ceremony. Mine was so long ago. I had spent the last several days trying to forget about my life as a faerie—it pained me too much to remember—but her words had just broken the shield of my silence.

“Do you remember my gift to you that morning?” Nia released my hand. “It was meant to bring good fortune.”

She meant
mine
. I closed my eyes and saw her in my mind—she looked like a child.
Were we ever that young?
She had reached as high as she could to pluck a leaf from an old oak tree. After careful examination, she had given it to me.

I opened my eyes and saw my friend’s face still watching me. “Nia and Rhia,” I whispered. I didn’t fight the tears that came; this was a happy memory. I reached above her and pulled a young leaf from the nearest tree. “We’ll be friends forever.”

Nia smiled. “I was jealous of you that day,” she told me. She took the leaf from my hand and gave it the same examination from my remembrance. “I’ve been jealous since. I wanted to be like my sister and thought I deserved to dance at Stone Meadow.” Nia pulled me close to a hug. “You deserved happiness, and I’m sorry for your pain.”

I couldn’t let her go; I wouldn’t. I had known one best friend in my life—Nia—and she understood me better than anyone did. “Don’t leave me,” I cried. “I need you here in Aisling.”

Nia laid her head on my shoulder and soaked the top of my dress with her tears. “I don’t want to leave you,” she whispered. “But my future is away from here. Life is moving forward.”

Nia was right. She was always right. Her words matched the thoughts swirling in my head. We stood in the forest, hugging each other tight while our cries announced our fears of the future. Life
was
moving forward, and the certainty that existed before Moon Season had faded like the cold. I had promised her once that no matter the distance between our dreams, we would always be close. Fate, it seemed, had found a way to bind me to my words.

When there was nothing left to share, except sighs and smiles, we resumed our walk to Cael’s home.

At the small clearing, we saw Cameron first. He sat behind a flameless ring of stones, watching a thin trail of smoke rise from the ashes within. Near the edge of the clearing stood the smokehouse where the Elders held the bandit captive. If Cameron was his guard, he didn’t look the part. His bow stood helpless against a tree trunk and several arrows lay scattered around him. As if hearing my thoughts, Cameron lifted his head to look at me, but lowered it again once he saw Nia.

“Is Cael home?” she asked him, pointing to the tiny home behind him.

The man grunted and didn’t look up. He sat uncaring while Nia and I stood quietly and waited. Nothing moved. Even the forest grew still around us. I was about to step toward the home, when its door swung open.

“This is a surprise.” Cael sauntered from his home and down the uneven steps toward us. His hair was longer and unkempt, but it didn’t cover the scar that marked his pain from last season. He smiled as he neared us and then dismissed Cameron, who stood—having decided that Cael was more important to acknowledge than we were. “How are you these days, Rhiannon?” He held his arms open and offered me a hug.

I stared at him, waiting, attempting to understand how fate had placed us in this position. I needed his friendship. I needed hope. My misery since the cold had wrenched all meaning from my life. This was an opportunity to change that. I leaned over Cael’s shoulder and accepted his embrace. He felt thin, weak—, and cold. It was a sharp contrast to the way I used to feel in Sean’s arms.

“Lonely,” was the only word I managed to whisper.

Cael responded into my ear. “I think I understand that better than anyone.”

He was right. Cael lost a brother when I lost my love. No one else fully understood what we had endured. No one else had to live with our failed attempt to save Sean. I squeezed him tighter and drew a breath of determination.

Then I stared at the smokehouse, hoping the man inside was watching me. I wanted him to hear my coming words. “I know it’s not your fault,” I told Cael, louder than I needed, so that my voice would carry. I pulled away from him, allowing the resolve in my eyes to show. “I want to make things right again. Let’s change the tragedy of last season into something honest.”

Cael smiled back and motioned to Nia, who had been watching us from a distance. “You have a wonderful friend,” he told her. He turned back to me. “Did she tell you she’s leaving?”

I nodded.

“Life is moving on without us,” he said, He stared at the thin trail of smoke from the dead fire. “I never thought it could.”

“Then let’s go forward.” My words struggled to form, but sounded remarkably strong once I spoke them. “We don’t have to linger in the cold.”

Cael took a deep breath and pointed at the smokehouse. “Do you know what it’s like living so close to the enemy? I feel helpless and trapped. I might as well be the prisoner.”

I shook my head, though he wasn’t watching me. “I’m sorry, Cael.”

“I’m learning strength, though, and control.” Cael turned to face us again and held out his hands. “I want to move on, but I need friends.”

“I am your friend, Cael.” I stepped closer to him. “I’ve always been your friend.”

Cael reached for my hand. I let him take it. Then I pulled him close and hugged him again. As I looked over his shoulder, I noticed movement between broken boards in the smokehouse. I saw the eyes of the bandit, the man who had ruined my life. His name was Darian and he
had
been watching.

I aimed my words toward the author of my pain. “I’m going to find the missing Faerie scrolls and return them to the village.” I squeezed Cael tighter, offering my warmth, and glared back at Darian to declare my intentions. “I’ll reclaim what I lost. And I promise, I’ll uncover your secrets.”

 

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