The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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59. Growing Up is Just Learning That Living is Worth All the Pain

“These shells are amazing-”

    “Don’t touch them!”

    Estha’s hand lingered an inch or so above one of the billions of eggshell-like shards that coated the lake’s bay, striking blues and plums and tangerines and lemon coloured pieces that made up something amazing, not an inch not covered with the tiles of these smashed conches that reflected even mundane grey skies and sold it back to the world in vibrant fruit tones that skidded over the sand and stones like marbles.

    “They’re not shells,” Ichais said, her hands outstretched towards her, looking around frantically.

    “What are they then?”

    “Huh? Oh,” she looked around, at the dead paper-white woods that circled the opening, “Siren scales.”

    Estha yelped and jumped back, each step crunching like bone.

    “This is odd.”

    “That’s disgusting, why are there so many?”

    “I don’t know.  The war scarred them off, I think, and the scales make it look like a poaching.”

    “Could it of been a poaching?”

    “That’s the part I’m trying to figure out.”

    “Ichais, I do not want to be here when they come back.  Either of them,”

    “Alright, good idea,” Ichais looked around above ground, eyes trailing over a cave in the wall that was now overgrown with ivy, the only colour natural against the tropic glaze of sirens’ casing, “Up here?”

    The cave was more of an indent in the cliff, just smaller than a barn perhaps.  The remains of a wizard’s fire was still evident, even after what must have been years of abandonment.

    “What is this place?”

    Ichais ran her finger through the white ash until it flickered, a flame rising up again, “A very old hideout, I would say.  I think it’s safe to stay the night, if you’d like to?”

    “I don’t need the rest, but can we stay a while?  How curious is this?”

    There were flowers.  Poppies, aster, freesia.  Flowers, growing from the walls like miracles, even in the cold, even without light.  Nothing but the lake water, and they grew.

    “I just realised that I haven’t seen flowers in… Months, maybe?”

    “I don’t think I have either.” Ichais said.  When she touched their petals, her finger glowed white.

    Estha did the same, not daring pick one, no matter how many spells ran through her head that would thrive with even a single stem, “Do you believe in fate?”

    “I don’t.”

    “You should, because I think they lead us here.”

 

    Cinis grabbed the last of his jar, cherry wine that had grown a rubber layer on the top that he scratched off with a yellow nail, “Get out.”

    “Sir,” his men no longer called him your highness.

    “Out.”

    He waited until they walked into the woods, swords drawn and picking up colourful shells in curiousity.  Then he slipped away to the lake they watched, gently faded smoke their giveaway.  He waited at the foot of their cliff, listening in, finishing off his drink until his tongue went numb.

 

    Estha was still searching through her bags, her coat, under her shrubbery of hair for something.  Ichais, remembering how she had blamed her for her addiction for similar habits, pushed the guilt aside to ask what exactly she was looking for all this time.

    “A ribbon.” she stated, and went back to looking.

    “The red one?”

    She nodded, her head ducking into the folds of her dress that was stitched with hidden ties and pockets.

    “Do you not have more ribbons?” she asked, meaning to really ask, what was so important about this thing?

    Estha settled, their hand brushing as she pushed herself up against the wall.  The air was warm and their fingers were cold, the weather that made touches and looks linger.  This was one of these moments.  She finally gave in.

    “My mother used to tell me that I was pretty,” she said, pulling at the end of her hair still, the word “I” and “pretty” coming together in such a way somewhat shameful, “And she would tell me to not cover my face with my hair, to be brave, be good.  She was like that.  Be good, everything else will come after.”

    “She sounded like a great woman.”

    “She was.” Estha smiled into the ringlets that plagued her vision, that she loved anyway.

    “And the song, “don’t look, don’t try hide your eyes.  Your chin held to Gods-

“-Your smile held to skies, yes, she’d sing that to me every time the other kids made fun of us or hurt us.”

Ichais would always be shocked at the malicious nature of children, but she still saw how Estha played with the pixies as if she knew them to be kind, “You amaze me, Estha.”

This caught her off guard, but she smiled either way, “Thank you.”

“But let me ask one thing?  If your mother raised you to believe that you were beautiful, why do you keep drinking those horrid potions?”

Her smile faltered, “Because no one hunts the pretty, do they?”

“Well,” Ichais laughed and gestured to herself.  Estha seemed to agree, falling into her side as she held her hand to her heart.

“But I don’t eat flesh!”

“With those teeth?  Are you sure?”

 

Cinis grunted, laughing with them.

The ribbon burned a hole in his pocket.

 

“You never told me what you did after that night.”

Estha shrugged, “What's there to tell?  I went home to Mavros, my aunts were crying, shouting through the halls - “She's come home, she's still alive,”, they were sure I had died.  I was going to stay a while, thinking it was where trolls belonged after all, but I'm my mother's child, and it wasn't before I knew that I had to go out again and see the world or whatever else.  So I’ve been paying my way ever since, picking up thieving jobs and hunts, whatever people would pay for.”

“Our stories aren’t so different I suppose?  I did nothing except for get paid, no matter what it meant,” Ichais thought for a beat, and Estha found it out of character when she said, “Living for pay is no way to live at all.”

She smiled, “No, I think you’re right about that.”

“So the addiction, when did that set in?” she was back to her normal self, quick to turn a thought into a confession.

“My aunts,” she sighed, running her hands across the petals until she shone like chalk, or sugar,  “They taught me a masking spell, one that would last for hours if I had fresh ingredients.  I suppose I got used to being able to just go into the village and not be stared at.  But then I as I improved what little wicca I had, people stared again.  Do you know what it’s like for people to speak to you after so long?”

Ichais wiped the white ash from Estha’s fingers absentmindedly, “I can imagine.”

“I suppose from there I wasn’t as much addicted to the spells as I was their effect.  I had my first kiss like that, isn’t that odd?”

“Did you see the ocean?” Ichais’ voice was cold.

“Yes, actually.”

“You did?”

Estha pulled her hand back, “It was nice, but… It was a lot like the lake, I suppose.  It wasn’t all I needed.”

“What do you need?”

Estha met her eye, not realising how she missed how dark they grew, how many stories they had died to retrieve,

“I don’t know yet,” her voice was small, “But for some reason, I don’t think I was meant to be that girl.  I think I was meant to be ugly like this.”

 

Cinis growled.  His mind belonged to the animal inside him, the one urging him to move up and grab Ichais by the throat and throw her from the ledge and inject Estha with masking potions until her body gave out.  He threw the bottle into the lake.

 

“You’re not ugly.” Ichais said.

“You’re funny.”

“Estha, do you really think that you’re ugly?”

It was her turn to gesture to her entire self, “What else could I think?”

 

Cinis carried a cord, tied to two posts not bigger than the length of his forearm.  This cord was so sharp it could cut through bone like butter, and he stood up, pulling it tightly until a sharp twang hit the air like a battle cry left unheard.

 

“So… What now?”

“Hm?”

“I mean,” Ichais shook her head, “Where do we go?”

“Did Cinis not tell you the night you met?”

Ichais stopped.

 

Cinis stopped, resting against the slope just under their cave.  He smiled, his head filled with her pretty face belonging to him, only him.

 

    “You knew?”

    Estha laughed, “Of course I knew, you act as if I couldn’t survive without you.  I saw you sit beside him first, and then your surprise.  He looked a mess, war does that to a man, but you were so sure of where to go from then on, I thought I’d give you the pride.”

    “And you kept that to yourself?”

    She nodded.

    “You’re the worst!” Ichais said, pinching into her palms to keep herself from laughing, “I thought you were too…”

    “Drugged,” she smiled, although this time the pain was clearer, “I know that too.”

    Ichais bit her lip, “Cinis told me to come here, no more.”

    “No more?”

    “He… He asked me if I was willing to sell such a powerful spell, if I was willing to let this war fall on my conscience.”

    “Says the man who is fighting in it?”

    “I know, but maybe he’s right, Estha.”

    She looked into her hands, as if they could guide her way, and then to Ichais, knowing she would, “Maybe the money… It isn’t worth it?”

    “I know a place in Mavros where the river runs midnight black, do you want to see?  It’s no ocean but…”

    “I don’t need the sea,” Estha said, letting her fingers ghost over Ichais’ hand.  Old friends.

    

    For Cinis, everything was falling into place.

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