Chapter 18 - Child's Plight
~ Sixteen cycles of the seasons - 7 Years earlier ~
Lia followed Annetta down the narrow passage that ran along one wall of the house. Refusing to be left behind, Tiffaniel was being carried by her mother, giving Lia timid glances over her shoulder. Coming to the end of the passage, Annetta turned and entered the twin’s room and sat Tiffaniel on her narrow cot.
Lia looked to the other as Annetta knelt and gently pulled back the covers, “Groyven?” she said quietly while placing her hand against his brow.
The boy was pale, his pallor almost matching the lack of colour on the sheets of the bed with dark smudges under his eyes. Sweat pasting his clothing to his chest as it rose and fell, a rattle in his breath.
“Not again, my darling boy…” Annetta said, grimacing and kissing his forehead.
She quickly pulled the covers back up again, looking at him she spoke, “Lia, if you could watch over my son, I must quickly fetch the healer in the village, I won’t be gone long. If anything gets worse, wake Selera.” she met Lia’s eyes, her brilliant blue pained.
“Tiff? Come with me.” Annetta said, holding her hand out, “We will be back shortly.”
Lia frowned and stepped forward, laying her hand on Annetta’s arm and shaking her head, “You do not need to go anywhere.”
“Lia, he is burning up and you don’t know where the healer is in the village. We will be back soon.”
“You misunderstand, you do not need to go anywhere.” Lia said again, softer as the blue embers of her ethereal fire glowered in the depths of those amber eyes.
“But Lia, you are not a healer, he is sick.”
“Mama… Lia will cure him.”
Annetta turned, her eyes immediately drawn to Selera as she stood, leaning heavily against the doorframe, “Lera, no, she has not graduated yet, she is still too young.”
Selera glanced at Lia and nodded, before meeting her mother’s eyes, “Mama, let her.”
“No, Mother.” she said, her eyes intense, “Lia will heal him before you even get to the roadside.”
Annetta looked back to Lia in confusion and nodded reluctantly.
“Tell me.” Lia said as she unbuttoned her cuffs and slid her sleeves up to her elbows.
“It is a sickness, this is not the first time. The healer in the village says it is a wasting sickness, that it is in his blood. Every time it comes suddenly.”
“He did not catch it from another?”
Annetta shook her head, “No, he had it as a babe. It comes back time and again.”
“Mama, we have to get Tiff out of the room. It will frighten her.”
Lia smiled reassuringly, “I won’t start without you.”
Watching Annetta and Selera herd Tiffaniel out of the room, she walked to Groyven’s bedside and looked at the boy. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she drew back the blankets and unbuttoned his sweat-damp shirt before peeling it back and exposing his small chest. Tremors ran through his body as he took shallow breaths, the rattling more pronounced. She frowned and took his hand, gently massaging it while waiting for Annetta to return. Lia allowed the embers to grow, flickering into life as flames. She could feel her thread, thrumming like the lowest tuned string on her guqin resonating deeply within her. Closing her eyes she could make it out, the taint in the boy’s veins, the inky black coiling away from his hand in hers.
“My own daughter tells me to trust you, to let you take my son’s life in your hands as if you are a miracle worker. She tells me as it is fact not fancy and if I did not allow you to tend to him she would return with you to the Academy. But all I see is a sixteen year old girl that is protected by the status of her adopted mother.”
Lia nodded slightly, a small smile on her lips, “Believe what you will, Annetta. Some need to see it happen before they can believe it to be true. Watch me, but do not interfere.”
“He is my child.” Annetta said.
Lia nodded, her eyes still closed, “It is not the wasting sickness.”
Annetta looked at her in shock.
“It is his thread, have you been giving him something…” Lia frowned deeply, “to slow…oh.”
Annetta quickly came to her side, “His thread?” her voice quiet, “Since he was first sick. A herbal tea to keep his temperature down.”
Lia swallowed hard as she followed the stain that coursed in his veins, “And how does he behave after drinking the tea?”
“Tired, quiet and happy.” said Annetta with panic starting to build in her voice.
“I am going to open my eyes, please don’t be alarmed.”
Annetta stared at Lia, blue flames starting to leak out from her lids as she opened them. Her amber eyes were rich and deep, with azure flames flickering from them with cold fire.
“By the old gods!”
“Your son, his thread is elemental, it is fire. I can feel it respond to my own. Resonating despite being drugged and sluggish.”
Lia nodded, looking down at Groyven with care, “Annetta, give me your hand.”
Feeling the older woman’s hand in her own Lia let her power explore, her flames reaching through the skin, probing.
Her eyes met Annetta’s, “Your thread, it is akin to Selera’s. Strong, wild if you let it be.” Lia thought carefully, “You can siphon power off others?”
“How did you?”
Lia smiled, “You can nullify your children’s power.” her eyes on Annetta’s, “Groyven’s thread is already awakened,” Lia allowed her thread to probe further, “as is Tiffaniel’s. You can keep them safe with your thread.”
Without waiting for a response Lia released her hand and placed it on Groyven’s chest, letting her ethereal flames spread out like tendrils over his skin. She leaned over him, her eyes on his as they opened, dazed and unresponsive. She chased the darkness in his body, that which was suffocating the thread within him. Lia frowned, sweat starting to bead on her brow and shook her head in frustration. She could feel his temperature dropping rapidly.
“Those were not just herbs in that tea.” Lia said between breaths as she sat back.
Quickly taking a thin, sharp needle from her belt she pricked the flesh of her thumb, tearing a hole, her blood welling up as a pearl of blinding blue-white light.
“What are you going to do?” Annetta asked with more curiosity than fear in her voice, her brush with Lia’s flames having calmed her.
“I am going to give you your son back.” she held up her hand, the pearl of blinding light growing bigger on her thumb, “My blood will revitalise his own, purge the ink that flows in him and fortify his thread while calming it.”
Without waiting for a response she leaned close over Groyven, running her hand over his chest.
“Groyven, I know you can hear me. You will feel a sharp prick of pain, then everything will be better.”
Taking the needle she drew his hand up and bent it back, exposing his wrist. In one swift movement she lanced a vein and pressed the glowing pearl to it. Watching as the impossible took place, the blinding light mixing with his blood before she pressed her thumb down hard, sealing her cut to his own. A bright and steady glow built under his skin, tracing the arteries and veins, racing though his blood. Concentrating, she rubbed her thumb away, leaving a red smear and freshly healed flesh.
Cradling his head, she watched his eyes, the dullness leaving and the first traces of his thread starting to show. Orange embers of elemental fire lighting the blue depths from within. Gently stroking his hair, she pulled him into an embrace and smiled as she felt his arms pull around her in response.
“Are you feeling better, Little Prince?” she quietly asked, pulling away for a moment to meet his eyes, smiling as his locked on hers and nodded.
The three women sat in the small lounge of the house, Selera laying half sprawled across a settee with her eyes closed but listening. Lia sitting properly in a soft chair and Annetta occasionally looking at her son Groyven in wonder as he tried his best to look at Lia without being noticed. Tiffaniel had wedged herself in beside her mother, still trying to hide her face shyly.
Annetta glanced at Lia, “How long?”
Lia smiled catching Groyven peeking over the back of the settee that Selera laid on, “Mmm… That I remember? Since I was five, but I have been told earlier by the people from my village.”
“It is a beautiful place, Mama. In the mountains, only two dozen families or so. I have visited there with Lia a few times.” Selera said, keeping her eyes closed.
Annetta stared at Lia, “Are there more of your people in the village?”
“If you are meaning like us, then no. I am the last of my line and heritage. I am the head and leader of all fyrelves with the thread. The flames of the trident. As you are for the wilderelves.” said Lia quietly.
Annetta smiled, “I would not call myself a leader, maybe of lineage, but that is all. But, how did you know?”
“I know a little, everything that Odessia wrote down over the years. Your sigil is the barbed trident, encircled. She had mentioned your parents in her journals.” Lia said, her eyes on Groyven as he slyly tried to peek at her, she gestured for him to come, patting her lap.
With a small laugh he quickly ran to her and allowed himself to be picked up. He quickly made himself comfortable on her lap, leaning against her arm. Lia chuckled as he watched her face with interest.
“Surely, you are not afraid of your thread, because you can…”
Lia looked at Annetta quickly, “Heal? Our threads have both sides. I can give life and take it away just as easily. But my nature dissuades me from doing it.”
“Papa made sure I understood my limit. How far I could go before I passed out, how to harness my emotions and… Ahh, yes?” Lia said, looking at Annetta’s shocked expression.
“Harks taught you how to, surely not?”
“He gave me the courage to not be afraid; I was already using my emotions to give my thread more power since I was little. He just showed me how to make it safe.”
“Harks is incredible, Mama. He took us out to the wastes and had me unleash everything until I could focus. He showed me that I did not need to fear it anymore. It is how we look at it, not how dangerous it could be.” Selera said, her eyes still closed.
“Harks, he has a different way of doing things, always has.” Annetta said with a faint smile.
“Mother, please enough of this. Lia, could you do that song, the one that you have been working on lately. It might calm my head, it’s like all my thoughts are on someone I have never met before.”
Lia smiled, “Because they are on someone you have never met before. I didn’t bring an instrument.” she stopped, Tiffaniel was standing and looking at her with wide eyes.
“Sister has a flute, I can go get it for you.” Tiffaniel said with a quavering voice.
“You have a flute, Lera? You can play?” Lia asked.
“I can’t play, but I do have a flute.”
Lia gave Tiffaniel a wink and the girl ran off to get it.
She looked at Groyven, “How about you sit with Lera or your Mother?”
He shook his head and snuggled deeper into her side with a giggle.
“I’ll make blue flowers grow all over the room when I play if you do so.”
He hugged her tighter, “No, I want to stay with you.” he said, his voice muffled by her clothing.
“You can hug me as much as you want, I will be here for two weeks.”
Annetta smiled, “Ven, come over here. Lia needs room so she can play.”
He quickly got down and turned, his hands on her knees and looking into Lia’s eyes, “Really?”
She laughed, tousling his hair, “Really, as many hugs as you want.”
“Be careful saying that Lia, he might permanently attach himself to your leg.” Selera quipped.
“Lera!” Annetta protested with a chuckle, watching as Tiffaniel came back into the room.
She looked at Lia with trepidation, stepping up to and offering her the thin and long silken bag shyly. Lia nodded and smiled, unlacing the top and loosening the drawstrings before sliding the flute free and inspecting it. Her breath caught in her chest as the carved flute settled in her hands, she quickly glanced at Selera then back to the instrument. The signature kerf marks and style of Harks’s craft and care were all over the flute.
A faint sigh cut through the dim light, “Please tell me you asked, Lia?” Doubt asked, turning to look at her elder counterpart.
Lia sat opposite her, her eyes closed, contemplating, “Selera recollected that it was given to her by a man with black hair and blue eyes when she was little.”
Doubt tapped her thigh with her fingers, “How little?”
“Four she said, when she was four.”
“Just before he arrived in Heimlan’s Pass. That man was Harks, wasn’t it?” asked Doubt.
Lia smiled slightly, “I did not think much of it then, there could have been many ways for her to come into possession of one of his flutes. But now, in hindsight it is proof enough.”
“Proof?” said Doubt with raised brows.
Lia nodded slowly, “Selera is Harks’s birth daughter. That discussion between Annetta and myself, she was speaking of herself.” silent tears trickled down her cheeks, “Gods, Papa… You had to teach her. Keep her close, but not say a word. I now understand his anger. It must have been torture to treat her as a student.”
Doubt looked at her, “It also explains why Hendosphyre was sent to you to be his caretaker and not Selera. Why Groyven is the head of the family now and not her.”
Lia watched Doubt as she slowly walked in circles, her shorter steps making it almost seem comical, “You used your blood, Lia. To revive him, to bring him back from the edge after his ordeal at the hands of the Enclave.” Doubt said, staring at her, “And it was more than a drop.”
Lia opened her right hand, the heavy scar from one side to the other visible and pulsing with faint blue light, “I did what I had to, Doubt.”
Doubt’s eyes fell on the sight, “That you did.”