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|Liadan returns home from her night of Becoming. Her maid, Maris, discovers something that neither of them expected. Something that will change Liadan's life forever.||
When they arrived home, the moon lit the sky with silver, ethereal light. It illuminated the house, the stables, and the grounds. Liadan stared at the beauty of her home and her eyes ached at trying to see so much perfection. As they neared the stable house, she searched desperately for a light on. There was darkness, and her heart felt heavy.
Instead of saying goodnight to her parents, she snuck in the manor to retire to her chamber. She wanted to get a good look at herself. She wanted to think the night over by herself.
She entered the room and Maris was waiting on the bed for her. She stood up quickly when she entered. “Miss! Back so soon!”
“Yes…yes I am Ari.” Liadan smiled and slipped off her petite sandals. The long dress now brushed the floor. Before Maris came to help her take off her dress, she took one long look in the full-length mirror. Yes, she did look older. She still had that childhood innocence, but her body and face looked older, more mature.
Maris stepped behind her quietly and unlaced the dress. As it slid off her shoulders, Maris gasped.
“What? What’s the matter?” Horror pierced Liadan’s heart. Her heart beat faster and she could feel herself shaking from it’s pounding.
Maris touched her back tentatively. The touch burned Liadan’s skin. The fear that was building up was making her shake. “What’s wrong?” she whispered.
“Miss…you have…wings…” Maris stuttered and backed away.
“I have what?” Her eyes widened and tears threatened to pour down her face. So she hadn’t managed to come out the same. She was deformed. Liadan let her dress fall to the ground and she stepped out of it. She was wearing just her undergarments. She stood in front of the mirror and looked at Maris’ face through the looking glass, trying not to see herself. Ari wasn’t staring in horror, but with a look of amazement and wonder. Liadan slowly turned around and grabbed a hand mirror so she could look behind her and see her back.
She gasped. She had wings. But—They weren’t sticking out of her like limbs; they were tattooed over her whole back like a beautiful masterpiece. Black feathers clustered together in a rainbow of blue, green, and purple hues. Her unbound hair mingled with the vibrant colors on her back and almost blended totally with the magnificent array of feathers and color. When the mage-light touched the tattooed feathers the midnight black wings sparkled with a rainbow of highlights. It seemed as though the wings truly were sticking out of her flesh. The tips of the wings reached down past her buttocks to the middle of the backs of her thighs. The tops of the wings reached over her shoulders to brush against her collarbones and Liadan felt that if she tried hard enough she could spread them and take to the sky like a graceful swan or an angel.
“My Lord,” Liadan whispered. “Have you ever seen anything like this, Ari?” She spun around and stared at Maris with wide, unbelieving eyes. “Can you even imagine?”
Maris slowly shook her head as though she were in shock; Ash-blond curls bobbing around her face. “I can’t even fathom that anything like that could exist.” Cornflower-blue eyes blinked in surprise and she reached out a trembling hand to pluck something from Liadan’s hair. “Lord and Lady,” she whispered, eyes wide and frightened.
The beats of Liadan’s heart were nearly audible in the silent room. “What is it Maris?” A tear formed in her eye. “Please tell me that I’m okay.”
A small ebony colored feather was resting in the palm of Maris’ hand, giving off blue, green, and purple light. “Miss,” she said slowly, almost fearfully, “I think those wings may somehow be more real than just tattoos.”
At that same moment, Liadan’s shoulder blades twitched and then shuddered. She reached a hand behind her back and came in contact with something soft and downy. “Oh, Gods…” she managed. And then the pain began.
Her arms flew to the sides of her with minds of their own, each straining towards a different wall as though they were trying to rip her in two. The black feathers that wrapped around her back seemed to rise up and become glossy and wet. Liadan gasped and her back arched, throwing her head backwards. Through the pain she could hear someone screaming and she wasn’t sure if it was Maris or herself. She didn’t care. She tried to double over on herself but only succeeded in hunching her shoulders and hanging her head. Her body would permit her to go no further. She could feel her back muscles twitching and convulsing, trying to create enough strength to push something through her skin and into the room. When they did she could feel her skin ripping and pulling apart. She screamed long, loud, and wordless. And then as quickly as it began, it ended.
Liadan collapsed on the floor too exhausted and spent to stand. She tried to raise her body and search for Maris but bolts of pain shot through her head and her vision grayed. She lay back down knowing that she wasn’t going to be able to move.
She tried to speak but all that came out was a hoarse croak. Oh gods, Liadan thought, what have I gotten myself into? What has happened to me?
“Maris?” she whispered. “Oh gods. Maris?” Liadan lifted herself to her knees, the pain suddenly diminished. “Maris? Oh my dear, sweet god, Maddone, help me. Tell me what’s happened.” She scanned the room, but couldn’t find her maid. Oh lord, she’s gone to get my parents. Liadan stood up and tentatively started to touch her back. She grasped something soft and had to swallow a scream. Wings, she broke out into hysterical laughter, which soon turned to tears. I have wings!
The mirror that stood against the wall seemed to look down upon her with a smirk, urging her to look and see what kind of horror she had become. Liadan swallowed the saliva that had gathered in her mouth as she cried and turned to face the mirror. She gasped in surprise at what she saw. There were no gruesome deformed wings marring her body and appearance. She was beautiful. The masterpiece that had decorated her back was even more beautiful as real wings.
Her half-naked body almost appeared to glow with a silver misty light, giving her a very surreal appearance. Liadan smiled tentatively at her reflection. This was nothing to be ashamed of. This was something to wear proudly and show off to the world. This was—
“Oh my dear lord!” The shriek, which only could have been uttered by her mother, shattered Liadan’s dreams that the wings on her back would be accepted. She spun around and immediately fell to the ground to cover herself. It seemed as though every single person that lived in the castle was in her room staring at her. And on every single face there was a look of horror. She moved her wings, as though she’d had them her whole life, and covered herself further.
“Please,” Liadan whispered, “please get out.” Her lips trembled with the effort to hold in the sobs that were trying to force their way out of her body. She didn’t want them to see her cry.
“Like hell we’ll get out,” hissed her mother. Her voice nearly oozed hatred and Liadan shrunk in on herself a little bit more, her wings enveloping her whole body. “What have you done to yourself? What kind of madness did you perform?” Her mother’s voice was teetering on the brink of pure rage. “Tell me, Liadan. What have you done?”
A sob escaped the cage that Liadan had locked it in. “I did nothing,” she whispered, almost choking on the sob that forced itself into the world.
Lady Lidya grabbed a chunk of Liadan’s midnight hair and pulled her daughter’s head up. “What have you done?” she asked. Hatred seemed to spark in her eyes.
“Nothing. I have done nothing.” Lady Lidya pulled on her hair harder. Liadan winced. “Mother…you’re hurting me.”
“I will ask you one more time, you ungrateful wretch: What have you done?” she screamed.
Sobs erupted from Liadan. They burst forth from her body, making her shake and shiver. “I did nothing!” she cried. “I did nothing!” She could feel her mother getting ready to yank on her hair again and she tried to melt into the floor. But, before Lidya could pull it again, something quite like a roar echoed throughout the room.
“What goes on here?” Lord Ahearn’s voice boomed and Lady Lidya dropped Liadan’s hair to cover her ears. Liadan scrambled away from her mother and curled up in a ball in the corner of her room, her wings crossed in front of her, giving her warmth.
When no one volunteered to answer Ahearn’s eyes narrowed and his body tensed. Something very wrong was happening. “Must I ask again?” His voice held a deadly note and one of the servants stepped forward.
“My Lord,” he said and bowed. He swallowed thickly and continued. “The Lady Lidya was…questioning…the Lady Liadan as to what has…uhm…happened to her.” He bowed again. “My Lord.”
Ahearn scanned the room for his daughter but she was not to be seen. “I want everyone out.” The people hesitated. “Now!” he roared. Mumbled apologies were said and soon the room was cleared for all except himself, Lidya, Maris, and Liadan, whom he could now see curled in a corner, her body shaking with sobs.
A thick quilt sat on Liadan’s bed and Ahearn grabbed it, wrapping it around his daughter’s shaking body. She cringed away from him, her head down and almost covered by her wings. He had thought he would never see wings like that again. He leaned down and touched one of them. It jerked away from his touch and Ahearn pulled his hand back as though it stung. In his mind flashed a memory of a woman he would never see again. So beautiful, he thought. He could hear Liadan whispering, “Please don’t pull my hair anymore. Please,” over and over again and rage began slowly boiling up inside of him.
He smoothed Liadan’s mussed hair and gently lifted her face to look at him. Tears streaked her cheeks and hurt filled her eyes. He would make whoever put that hurt in her eyes pay. He smiled softly at her and received a trembling smile in return.
“Oh, my dear peach,” he whispered. “Who’s done this to you? Who has made you hurt so?”
Tears welled in Liadan’s eyes again and slowly trickled down her face. “Father?” she whispered, her voice small and sad. Sadness stabbed at Ahearn’s heart.
“Yes, darling? I’m here.”
“Father, why does mother hate me so?” Liadan stared up at her father, her eyes huge. “And why do I have wings? What’s wrong with me?”
Ahearn glanced at his wife, who was slowly moving to the other side of the room, raw madness and hatred adorning her face. He looked back to Liadan and she stared at him.
It was time to tell her. Lord Ahearn knew that he had to tell her now. If only I knew how. Oh gods. How do you say something like this? “My little peach blossom. You’re… mother…doesn’t hate you. She loves you very much. Very, very much.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “But, because I love you so much and I loved your mother so much, I suppose that makes Lady Lidya resents you.”
Shock crossed Liadan’s features. “What do you mean? I don’t understand.” She looked across the room at Lady Lidya. “Mother? I don’t understand this.”
Lidya threw her hands up in the air and laughed cruelly. “Oh, you little idiot. How can you not get it? I’m not your mother. I never was your mother. I’ll never be your mother.” She stalked across the room, pushing Maris aside when she got in her path. “Your real mother is dead. Died the day she gave birth to you.” Gray eyes flashed like steel and she pointed at Liadan. “You…you look just like her. Even when you were a baby I could see it in your eyes. I could see that wench staring out at me and mocking me. Letting me know that your father loved her more than me.”
Gray fabric swished on the floor as Lidya turned and paced to the other side of the room. Pieces of her white-blonde hair were sticking out of the bun they were supposed to be in. She spun around and pointed her black lacquered fingernail at Lord Ahearn. “You see, I promised you that I would pretend to be her mother.” She looked down and then when she looked up again her eyes were filled with tears. “I promised you because I loved you. I still do. Gods how I still do. But I know that I have always been second in your heart. I was second to that…that bitch,” she spat the word out like it had a bad taste, “and now I am second to her offspring.”
“Lidya, enough!” Ahearn bellowed, rage still bubbling beneath his skin. “I will hear no more words on how you feel about Rina.” Lidya opened her mouth to protest and Ahearn quieted her with a raised hand. “I said that is enough. Sit yourself down. You as well Maris.”
He knelt beside Liadan and took her chin in his hands. How to begin? Oh lords, how to begin? “Sweetling, your mother…” he strove for a way to say it, “was not fully human.” He placed a finger across Liadan’s lips so that she wouldn’t speak and continued. “Her name was Larina and, oh lords, she was beautiful. In fact, she looked just like you do now.” Ahearn’s eyes closed in memory and when he opened them again they were shiny with unshed tears. He smiled softly. “Perhaps she was just a touch older. When I met her, I was engaged to Lady Lidya, and very much in love with her, as well. But, there was something about your mother that held me in awe and soon I was as much in love with her as I was with Lidya.” Lord Ahearn smiled wistfully. “And there was nothing I could do about it either. I couldn’t get her out of my mind no matter how hard I tried. And then you came to be, darling.” He smiled at Liadan and she tried to smile back.
“I still don’t understand. What has this to do with these wings?”
“Liadan, your mother was bird-blessed. She had the ability to change into a black swan.” He squeezed her chin a little. “Don’t you see now where your wings came from? They are not a curse, or something that came to be from your Becoming. They are a blessing!” Ahearn stood up quickly and raised his arms. “Darling, don’t you see? You could fly!”
A small feather drifted down into one of Liadan’s hands. She stared at it and then slowly clenched her hand around it. Fly? I could fly? Oh lord, I don’t want to have to think about this now. She grabbed a pair of dirty breeches and a riding shirt that were lying on the floor next to her. She slowly stood, her wings folding together behind her, pressed against her back. She glanced at the Lady Lidya, who was sitting stiffly in one of Liadan’s chairs. Hatred still seeped out of her eyes but now Liadan had a slight understanding as to why. She turned her head and looked at Maris who was sitting on her bed, a small tear coursing down her cheek. She knew what Liadan was going to do.
“I…I have to go,” Liadan stuttered. “I have to think this through.” She took a step towards her door and looked at her father. “I’m sorry, Father. I have to go.” Liadan swallowed the lump in her throat and fled the changes that were occurring in her room.
|Liadan, Chapter 6||Liadan, Chapter 11|
|The Otherking - Chapter Two||Liadan, Chapter 9|
|Liadan, Chapter 3|