Kaelyn was just trying to fill her belly, but she got a lot more than she bargained for when she decided to save the life of a Faerie.
Author's Note: Here's chapter 12 of The Faerie Blade. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
Chapter 12: Kaelyn's Heart
“Play? Get to know one another better?” My mind seemed to be stuck on those words, and for some reason, my heart skipped a beat at the thought of Vesha having me all to herself.
“Of course. Master Nirlyn says, ‘If yer no’ doin’ anythin’ important, ya ‘ave time t’ practice.’ We’ll have a lot of time on the road, and practicing our playing will keep us from getting too bored. It’ll help you get used to playing with others in a group too. We’ll need to take breaks though, so we can talk and get to know each other while you feed your new little friend there,” the Dragonkin girl offered.
A giggle escaped my lips as she impersonated our Master’s accent and I managed to nod as the heat from my cheeks and the fluttering in my heart subsided. “Right, playing our instruments. I used to play with my mother, but I’ve been practicing on my own whenever I could since I lost her and my father.”
“Aye, and since I didn’t see any instruments on you, you can borrow some of mine or Master Nirlyn’s until we can get you some of your own in Derevik. Some of the best instrument craftsmen on the continent live and work there. The Bardic Guild doesn’t just include those who play instruments, but those who make them as well.”
I let out a sigh at that. I missed my mother’s old instruments. They had seen better days and I had to be careful when I used them, but they were hers, and it was a connection to my mother that was solid and real. They were the only thing that I had left of her. Only now, that was not the case. I no longer had her instruments but I had her family and her people now. I had her troupe… no, our troupe.
I attempted to shake off my melancholy as I considered Vesha’s words. “I do not think that I would have the money for such finely made instruments,” I told her with a sad smile.
“You will make plenty of money as we make our way to Derevik, Kaelyn,” my fellow apprentice assured me. “The journey will take weeks, we will be plying our trade as we travel, and there will be little else to spend it on during the journey. Master Nirlyn pools the money that we get for busking and playing and then splits it equally three ways, probably four ways now. One share for each of us and one to the troupe to buy communal food and supplies and contribute to other expenses. If Daivin and Korine join us, or Selice dances for us, then they’d get shares too, but generally, we split up for security.”
“Security? Such as city guards and the like?” I asked, somewhat confused.
The Dragonkin let out a throaty giggle that made my heart do strange things. “Aye, I guess that could be the case sometimes. If we’re not all caught that means there’s someone to come to the rescue. ‘Tis true that not all people, or their cities or towns, are welcoming of Voyagers, like Majair. You, Master Nirlyn, and I would make fair targets in some of those places too since we’re not Human. I was talking mostly about financial security though. We’re all Bards and members of this troupe so we support each other. If we split up there’s more chance that at least one of our groups will make some good coin. If one of our trios has a good night, and the other does not, we’ll share the wealth. It helps us to all save up some for when the really lean times hit.”
“I have never known people to be so kind and supportive of each other before, not since my parents died. It is why I chose to live in the forest. Well, that and fear of the church,” I admitted sadly.
“It’s the Voyager way,” Vesha said with a warm smile. “We take care of our own, and avenge them if needed. I wasn’t born a Voyager, they found me as a baby and raised me as one of their own though. It is because of their kindness and love that I am here and alive today. You’ll get used to it, Kaelyn. Come, let’s find an instrument for you to practice. What do you play?”
As she took me by the hand to help me to my feet, I looked up at her transfixed for a moment. It was not her kind smile that had me staring. It was the feeling of my hand in hers, the warmth that it seemed to infuse me with, and how beautiful she was. Her face was so very pretty, and with those amber draconic eyes, her bright crimson hair, and the horns, she was exotically so.
She might have passed for a Fae if not for the horns, those majestic wings, and her tail, and the scales along the sides of her neck and arms looked so smooth, like polished rubies against her otherwise tanned skin. She was such a contrast, beautiful and fierce looking and both strong and gentle. The soft prettiness of her face and the curves of her body were captivating, but equally captivating were the less pronounced curves of the powerful muscles in her arms and shoulders.
She had such strength to her but she held it back, choosing to be gentle rather than fierce, and I could feel that in the grip she held my hand with. What was this heat building up inside me at her mere touch and smile? Why did she make me shiver, even with this heat building up inside me? Why did looking into her eyes seem to make me forget how to breathe?
Wait, she asked me a question, did she not? I had not answered her yet and with each second that a reply seemed to elude my lips, I became ever more self-conscious. “Oh… I… I play the fiddle, pipes, lute, and harp,” I managed to respond haltingly after a long and awkward silence where my words refused to heed my call.
I tried to focus on my breathing, and not the Dragonkin’s pretty face or those powerful arms and shoulders. Why did I wish to be held in those arms? My heart fluttered, and my efforts to get my breathing under control seemed to be for naught. As she nodded and turned to lead me to the cupboards where the instruments were stored, I despaired in my mind, “What is wrong with me?”
Sharai’s voice was gentle and warm inside my thoughts as she offered, -Love is strange, is it not? The feelings that it generates seem to come out of nowhere sometimes, darting in and out like a playful Pixie and leaving you feeling topsy-turvy with no sense of which way is up and which is down.-
“Love?!” My breath seemed to catch in my throat and my heart beat a wild and frenzied rhythm in my chest as I repeated the word in my mind and allowed Vesha to pull me along to the instruments cupboards.
-Aye, Kaelyn. It remains to be seen whether it is love at first sight or a mere fanciful and brief attraction though. We shall see if it is the lasting kind in time, if you wish to pursue it that is. At the very least, you seem to be attracted to her.-
“But are not love and attraction between man and woman?” I asked frantically in my mind. The church had said as much. Usually, I would not put much mind to what the church said but I did not recall my parents teaching me about such things. They were in love, even as a child I had been able to see that. Such things as this were far outside my experience though.
-Often it is,- Sharai agreed in a gentle tone. -Not always though. We Fae believe that love is a connection between souls, and what matters what flesh or form the bodies wear when two souls are bound so closely? The Touched are proof of that. Your mother was a Changeling and your father a Human, but they loved one another, did they not? In my time I have seen love between different forms of Fae, love between different species altogether, love between two men, love between two women, and even love between more than two people.-
“But I cannot…”
My spirit guide did not let me finish that thought. -Obviously, you can, or we would not be having this conversation, Kaelyn. There is nothing wrong with feeling love for another person, there is even less wrong if she finds that she loves you back. Only giving in to the preconceptions of others and denying both of you that love would be truly wrong. We are Fae; we do not allow others to dictate our hearts, words, or actions, less so if they do so through mindless prejudice.-
I tried to control my breathing and focus my eyes on the three instruments that Vesha was showing me in one of the cupboards as I asked, “What do I do then?”
-You take your time. Get to know Vesha and see if your feelings for her are true or just attraction, though there is nothing wrong with spending a night in the company of someone to whom you are attracted. It can be enjoyable, but it is far too often a fleeting affair. If your feelings for her seem to grow stronger rather than fade away, try to find out if she feels the same. For now though, I suggest that you choose an instrument before you end up looking like a fool.- The words were offered tenderly with a hint of a laugh in her mental voice at the end.
I gave a mental nod of affirmation, took a deep breath, and tried to calm myself as I scrutinized the instruments being offered. The first was the fiddle that Master Nirlyn had me play when we met, another was a delicate lap harp with an intricately carved body that was meticulously maintained, and the third was a set of reed pipes that looked to have been dyed a vibrant blue-green hue. The ten lengths of reed were firmly lashed together with cord and beeswax, smooth to the touch, and it reminded me of music lessons with my mother when I was very young. She had had a set of pipes very much like this one.
I tentatively took the pipes in hand, caressing them as the memory of playing a similar set with my mother brought a bittersweet smile to my face. A sigh slipped forth between my curled-up lips as I said, “My mother had pipes like these. I think that they were even dyed the same color.”
“They’re not dyed,” Vesha told me as she extracted a lute for herself. “Those are kava reeds. They grow along the shore of the Afshan River and are hard to find, but they make the sweetest-sounding woodwind pipes that I’ve ever heard. They’re very durable and their color doesn’t fade over time after being cut. Those are Master Nirlyn’s, she mentioned that their Master taught her and your mother to make them not long after they became his apprentices. I’m hoping that we can find some kava reeds so you and I can make our own sets soon. We’ll be traveling along the Afshan River on our way to Derevik since the city is built where the river flows into the Sea of Storms.”
I barely heard her explanation. At first, it was because I was lost in the memory. I was four summers old, and my mother thought that I was finally a big enough girl to be allowed to touch her instruments. It was a beautiful spring day; the sky was blue, birds were singing, and she sat me in her lap as she showed me where to place my fingers and where to blow. From those first experimental sounds on those pipes, while sitting in my mother’s lap under an old oak tree and a cloudless blue sky, I fell in love with music. More than that. I found a deeper love for my mother, and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
I clutched the pipes in my hands as the memory faded, holding them close to my chest as I fell to my knees and started to sob uncontrollably. The cold emptiness that I had been carrying inside me for years now filled with grief, sorrow, anger, and a burning need to make the Church of One and the Demons pay tenfold for what they had taken from me. It was as if all the pain and sorrow that I had not been able to allow myself to give in to since my parents were murdered decided to burst free from me all at once. Hot tears streamed down my face and sobs wracked my chest, leaving my lungs burning with the effort of trying to breathe and set free my anguish at the same time.
I am not entirely certain why I broke down at that moment. Perhaps it was because it was finally safe to do so, or because I was with family now and that just brought it all to the surface of my thoughts. Maybe I had just been detached from it this whole time while trying to survive and it was all just catching up to me now as I held those pipes and relived a cherished memory in my mind. Likely, it was all of the above. It mattered not why though, as all the while I could not bring myself to say a word of explanation to my fellow apprentice as I clutched those pipes, so like my mother’s, tightly to my chest.
For a long while, Vesha said nothing, but her actions spoke volumes. She placed her lute aside and knelt beside me on the floor of the wagon, wrapping me up in her strong arms. She held me close as I cried it all out. She did not try to tell me that it would get better or that she understood what I was feeling. She just quietly held me, rubbed my back between my wings, and made me feel truly safe and secure for the first time since my parents had died.
It was some time before I managed to calm myself, long enough that it was time to feed my new owlet again. Vesha said nothing about my breakdown, nor did she try to push me to talk about it or start practicing as we had planned to do before. Instead, she sat beside me and watched me feed the green-eyed owlet. When the Dragonkin girl finally spoke, it was to suggest, “You should give her a name.”
There was a long silence as we both thought on the matter. I could not think of anything that appealed to me and Sharai had been silent since my emotional outburst. I think that she was trying to give me what space and privacy she could while I sorted through my thoughts and feelings. It was she who finally suggested the name though. -How about Zaiya? It can mean either ‘gentle breeze’ or ‘small treasure’ in the Fae language.-
“Zaiya?” I said, trying to get the feel of it on my tongue as I stroked the owlet’s feathers. She was finished eating for the moment and I nodded as I looked down at the owlet and offered a weak smile. “Your name is Zaiya,” I told her, and I could have sworn that I saw comprehension in those bright green eyes as I spoke the name.
“Seems like she likes it,” Vesha offered with an encouraging smile as I placed Zaiya back in her improvised nest.
I nodded in agreement and moved to retrieve the pipes and the lute from where Vesha had placed them while I fed the owlet in question. Then I handed my fellow apprentice the lute, sat cross-legged across from her, placed the pipes to my lips as I fingered the reeds gently, and then began to experimentally play the opening notes of a dirge that my mother taught me when my paternal grandmother died. It was only half-remembered, but it quickly came back to me, as Vesha seemed to recognize the song and joined in on her lute.
I listened and tried to match her pace and it did not seem to take long before we were in harmony, despite my lack of experience accompanying others. Then I allowed myself to get lost in the music that we were playing, pouring my grief and loss into those pipes and the music. For a long while, as our wagon traveled along the road in the caravan, the only sound inside was that mournful, melancholy melody as Vesha helped me to say my last goodbye to my parents.
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