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A strange short piece I put together in a day or two one summer. It's got a fairly realistic bent under all the strange goings-on; besides it has one of my earlier female (?) protagonists, for what that amounts to. I still like her and her pseudo-sword, though this story to date remains the only one of Bluemaid and her world in existence.
Late summer 2006.
Bluemaid watched through the branches, and liked what she saw. The leafy branches enveloped her in a cloud of green, but merely a mile away, on a little barren hill, all the trees had shed their leaves. This spot of autumn in the middle of the blooming nature meant Earthlings, and Earthlings meant work. Work meant food, reasonably, and was the basis of Bluemaid's thinking.
She shifted Redesire out of her way and clambered down. Shadowed by a clump of young alders a tiny stream flowed out of the rock, and Bluemaid knelt down beside it to wash her face. She sprinkled the water liberally, and gave especial care to scrubbing the bases of the bony knobs protruding from her skull. From experience she knew Earthlings respected a presentable appearance.
She also made sure no chance twigs or bits of bark were clinging to her tunic and trousers, and she brushed her boots with a clump of wet moss in order to clean them up a bit. Her cloak was dusty, and there was little she could do about it, but she took Redesire's scabbard and made sure the metal bands that adorned it were clean. She then fixed it on her back, threw her cloak on her shoulders, and took up her bag.
On the way toward the autumnal hill, she happened on a small field of dandelions and daisies, and on a sudden impulse sat down and wove a band of the flowers which she put on her head. Earthlings might find her appearance less intimidating if she wore something beautiful and natural on her. Besides, the crown of flowers served to divert attention from her bony knobs which she knew could set some people off easily.
Thus pretty and decorated, Bluemaid approached the foot of the hill, where trees already were in colours of dire brown and yellow, and dead leaves floated in the air like colourful rain. As she went on, the woods became altogether bare, and only the ground was covered in leaves as if a leathery carpet had been spread there. Several young aspens had curled up into blackened loops, and smaller plants had withered to little more than dust.
It astonished Bluemaid, every time she approached any settlement of Earthlings, temporary or permanent. Like some, she did not feel anger or sadness at the way nature died away – the Earthlings couldn't help it, and regretted it as much as anyone else – and neither did she feel pity. She was intrigued. Why did nature die when Earthlings were close? Was it a curse, or magic? Did the land itself loathe the Earthlings so much it fled before them?
No one could explain that to her. Whatever it was, it presented her a means of sustenance, of which she was more grateful than of any mystical revelation about the nature of Earthlings. As it was, they had to provide for themselves, and it was easier when they had people working for them around whom nature did not wither. Such as Bluemaid.
She neared the top of the hill, and saw the place the Earthlings had chosen for their camp. It was an old chapel, circled with pillars partly chopped or crushed by age, a dome of whitish rock on a circular pedestal. The chapel was larger than any of its like Bluemaid had seen before: likely it could shelter many broods and a whole lot of Earthlings besides. Behind the ancient dome was something very out of place, however; an enormous wooden contraption, looming several lengths above the chapel, on the deck of which she could see shapes of people scuttering back and forth. It might have been a ship, but a ship on dry land was madman's work.
Bluemaid gave a start. A pair of Earthlings were approaching her, one leading a beast of burden. She cursed herself for not noticing them sooner; all things new held a fascination to her which caused her to forget herself, and appear unprofessional. Earthlings detested that. She resolved to be unfazed by anything she might see.
Now that she took a look around her, she saw that there were more than one group of Earthlings present. The ones approaching her were of the kind which travelled much and far and often made contact with people; consequently they had a lot of hirelings working for them, handling their pack animals, guarding their wagons, preparing their food, and mending their equipment. The people of the enormous wooden contraption were of a different Earthling brood, judging by their more elaborate dresses and lesser number of people working for them – these, Bluemaid knew, were of the type who stuck mostly to themselves, but paid well for services rendered. Then, she suspected there was a third group inside the ruined chapel, but could not make sure, for just then the two Earthlings with their beast of burden came up to her.
Bluemaid quickly stood up straight and raised both her hands to show she wasn't holding anything, a gesture she used to calm suspicious Earthlings. They greeted her in their own language, and she responded, having long since mastered this tongue out of necessity. Few Earthlings spoke any other language but their own. She shook hands with the taller of these two. He appeared a leader judging by the red cape he wore, an accessory nobody else of the brood seemed to possess.
”Well, you're the first blue-skinned fay we've seen around here,” the man said. ”My name is Yorno Frunks, and I'm the boss of this merchant troupe. Can I be of service?”
”I am called Bluemaid,” Bluemaid said. What the man said was weird, seeing as it was she who had come to offer her skills, but Earthlings often appeared to think that people wanted something they could provide. ”I am come to offer services,” she explained, ”not receive them. I am skilled as a fighting-guard, a scout, a horse-handler, and singer. If you want, I work seven days for food and shelter with no pay.”
”That's unusual for a fay,” the man said, cocking his head curiously. ”Honest and straight to the point. Your type usually hang out in cities. What're you doing out in the wild?”
”I am travelling – how do you say – I have no family.” Earthling concepts were sometimes difficult to understand and use properly, but Bluemaid had had practice in this and knew that this was the phrase which most readily explained the fact that she had never been born from a living pair, but was the product of forest's clash with the lake and mountain – Earthlings to date had never fully understood it when she tried to explain.
”Well, Skarpian, we did lose two of our guards in the recent skirmish with the black-skins, didn't we?”
The other Earthling nodded darkly. This was a man, as well, shorter and more compact than the leader, with a curved sword hanging blade up from his waist.
”One of them was a fay, too,” this man called Skarpian said.
”Why don't you come to the camp?” the leader said, and smiled. She nodded, and the Earthlings turned to go back to their camp. Bluemaid made to follow them, but was stopped in her tracks.
The beast of burden stood its ground and stared at her. It was a hulking thing, many times heavier than the Earthlings, and protected by a skin of brown bark. Its arms and hands appeared enormous in comparison to its small crooked legs, and its squat head held two dull black pearls for eyes, and a frog-like maw which looked capable of crushing a person's head in one bite. Bluemaid did not move a muscle.
When called, the thing went shambling after its master. The Earthling boss, Yorno Frunks, watched Bluemaid wearing an amused expression.
”Don't worry. Neppo wouldn't hurt a fly, it's just that he's used to humans and your smell must have confused him for a while. We don't have your like in our troupe, you see.”
”I see,” Bluemaid said quietly. Neppo, as the beast was called, seemed familiar to her, although she was nearly certain she had not seen its ilk before. The Earthlings caught and trained many kinds of non-sapient creatures for their use, and sometimes displayed menageries that astonished even the members of Illustrious Families. It was, Bluemaid knew, because the Earthlings liked travel so much, and often in large groups such as this one.
She followed the Earthlings to their camp, erected right next to the pillars of the chapel, consisting of one big tents and two small ones, a collection of wagons and carts made of wood, most of which appeared to be built for transporting goods, and the Earthlings themselves of which there were approximately thirty, mostly adult males. The Earthlings watched her with great interest, as they always did when they saw people, and Bluemaid made sure not to return the stares, which might cause her to be seen as threatening.
There was a large number of human beings in the camp as well. Bluemaid saw several ram-horned men in delicate mail, some artisans and hunters with poisoned whips, and knew that there must be also those who took horses to graze. None of the humans paid her any mind, and she didn't recognise any familiar broods among them – they were strangers, and all in service of the Earthlings, so they would treat each other as nothing for the time being. Earthlings often found this behaviour unnerving, which contrasted paradoxically with how they were startled every time a human being came to talk to them spontaneously.
The compact swordsman, Skarpian, suddenly parted ways with the Earthling boss, taking with him the beast of burden. Bluemaid stopped, unsure whether she was expected to follow them or the boss. Their words had not indicated whether she was in their service already, or whether they were still considering it. To appear hesitant now would indicate inexperience, but if she were to follow the wrong person, she'd be taken for fool. Working for Earthlings was full of uncertainties – it was a gamble, but she decided to follow the boss.
They ended up in the front of one of the small tents, which was respectably built for practicality and not looks, which was not always the case with Earthlings. The boss Yorno Frunks turned to her, and smiled again. She was relieved to know that she had been supposed to follow him, not the other man. He put his head inside the tent and called for someone. An Earthling stepped out, followed by one of those ram-horned men.
”Mr. Lorn,” Yorno Frunks said, ”see to it that Ms. Bluemaid is fed a meal along with the rest, and that she knows what her duties are. Have her fill the position Jogora recently vacated.”
”Sir,” the Earthling thus addressed said, inclining his neck. Yorno Frunks then gave her a nod, expressing his wish to see her work to the best of her ability and that, were she to cause any misfortunes to fall on the troupe, she would be dismissed immediately. Then he went on his way, and Bluemaid was left alone with the Earthling called Lorn and the ram-horned man. The man wasn't her concern, not yet, but Lorn's intense stare made her skin tingle.
”You're with the caravan of which Mr. Frunks is the boss,” Lorn said, as if stating the terms of her service. ”If there's any mishaps, you'll be answering to me. You don't pick quarrel with anybody here, and you're not anybody's boss, and nobody's your boss except me and Mr. Frunks. Get that?”
”I understand,” Bluemaid said.
”Well, good so far. There's breakfast before dawn, then it's off, and midday meal, and cold supper when we stop. You're to see no threat comes to any animals, any person, or any goods, understand? If there's some threat, you yell first, then kill 'em or scare 'em away. That clear?”
”I am to shriek loudly if there is a perceived threat?”
Lorn's expression wrinkled. ”Yeah,” he grunted. ”Just keep an eye open, is all I'm saying. Be sharp, get it?”
”I understand. What parts of the encampment are unsuitable for me?”
”Is there a place where you would not have me walk?”
Lorn looked at her as if she was somehow wrong in the head. ”Well, you sure as hell don't come into Mr. Frunks' tent, or my tent. You sleep with the rest under the wagons.”
”Is that all?”
Lorn seemed to think. ”There's a bunch of Misonites in the ship over there, and a bunch of Somites inside the chapel, so don't pick quarrel with them either, and don't listen to what they say. That's all.” Lorn finished in a tone which made clear he didn't want to hear any more questions. Bluemaid gave a nod.
”Jagorny'll keep an eye on you, and has the say to cut your head off if you're playing with the wrong cards.” With that, Lorn went inside the tent. Bluemaid turned this last phrase over a couple of times, finally interpreting it to mean that she were to cause no trouble in games as well as work, or else this ram-horned man, Jagorny, would slay her. She examined him, now that they were alone. Now he was her concern.
He was larger than she, and wore a hauberk and a notched axe. He had the sullen fire of an outcast on his handsome face, and although he had the appearance of either a Merrowny or a Hethri, Bluemaid knew he would never tell her his original lineage. In other words, he could either be completely harmless or extremely dangerous.
”I am Bluemaid,” Bluemaid said, wishing to make clear from the start that she was not about to play any games.
”I am Jagorny,” the man said. He had a voice which would have been unusual among the Merrowny, coarse, almost croaking. ”You are beautiful.”
”You are handsome.” The exchange of frankness sounded awkward in Earthling language, but Jagorny seemed unwilling to speak in any other tongue. Bluemaid could not tell anything from his speech either. After that, Jagorny became taciturn, and as it became evident after a while that nothing more could be gleaned from him, Bluemaid gave him a nod and went her way. Jagorny did not follow her.
As she seemed now at liberty to examine the camp as she pleased, Bluemaid made a short walk around it. Most of the guards were similar to Jagorny, being of that ram-horned male brood with well-wrought mail coats and large axes. Some wore boots, but some had hooves in place of feet so went without. In addition there were some Earthlings acting as guards. They dressed like the other Earthlings of the troupe, in breeches and coats of crude make, and wore swords like that which she had seen on Skarpian.
The pack animals were tethered in a makeshift corral and were under the attention of three men and an Earthling who ensured the animals were fed. Others of the troupe consisted of Earthling artisans, who kept to the large tent, and some men and women of some weird brood Bluemaid had never seen before. There was additionally a group of Earthlings with markedly different dress from those of the merchant troupe who conversed with Yorno Frunks and Lorn. As the other guards seemed engrossed in idle play or talk, Bluemaid surmised her present duty allowed her to take a rest. Without further thought, she sat down next to a wagon and wrapped in her cloak, fell asleep.
She awoke suddenly. She almost sprang to her feet and was ready to draw Redesire from its scabbard, but noticed then that there was no cause for alarm. It was the beast of burden she had seen earlier; the one which looked like an ape who, halfway through its childhood, had suddenly decided to become a frog. The beast stared at her with unblinking eyes, no more than a pace away. She could make out the deep grooves in its skin and guessed that not all were a natural pattern but, rather, the marks of lashing. The eerie feeling of familiarity returned to Bluemaid, and caused her to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the beast.
Then someone called for Neppo, and the beast stirred. Bluemaid relaxed as she saw Skarpian.
”Hallo, girl!” he called, coming over. Bluemaid lifted a hand to indicate she was awake and alert. As she was, she also noticed there was a larger number of those Earthlings she had associated with the enormous wooden contraption present; they were flocking in a mass near one of the big tents, and many of the troupe were there conversing with them apparently greatly animated. She regretted she had not awoken earlier.
Skarpian did not seem disappointed in her conduct, though, for he merely said: ”Come with me. We'll take a few packs of canvas to the Misonites.”
Skarpian rapped the beast on the shoulders lightly. It ambled forward, lifted two man-sized bolts of fabric and, at another rap from Skarpian, headed toward the chapel. The burden on its shoulders, the beast looked much more like a human being than a slavering animal, even when Skarpian was constantly at its heel guiding it with a long stick. Bluemaid followed as she was instructed, and decided to take her duty more seriously.
They skirted the chapel from the right, and she saw a wide staircase run up between the pillars to the dome, where in a great ruinous opening, she saw a great number of Earthlings milling. These were again different from the troupe and those who were called Misonites – these were Somites, then, but they did not appear any different from the two other Earthling broods other than by their garb. She examined them sharply, but in spite of her best efforts could not see anything warlike or threatening in them. They did not look particularly cunning, either.
”These are Somites?” She spoke to Skarpian's back. ”I do not see how they could be a danger.”
Skarpian grunted. ”They're not, unless you take their word for giving blessings instead of cash for what you sell, in which case they'll rob you of all you've got.”
”I see. Am I to look out for the Misonites, then?”
”Take it easy. Everybody was busy, so I took you along in case I'll need somebody to handle Neppo.”
Skarpian shot her a glance over his shoulder, a mix of grin and sneer, similar to the many which Bluemaid had seen and which suggested that the Earthling thought her foolish or child-like. It was not good. Doing business with Earthlings was not easy, but surely she could do better than this. She set her mind on focusing her mission, then, which was the work animal, though not to the point that she was ignorant of her surroundings.
On this side of the chapel the grass, listless and yellow from Earthling presence, had been trampled by an army of feet. Ashen ground had become visible in large spots and clouds of dust in the air suggested either commotion or heavy work. She saw the giant construction, now, and the great holes in its sides, and the splintered underbelly. Furthermore, the prow of the thing had smashed through the roof of the chapel. By the signs of it, though, Bluemaid decided it had rested where it had crashed for years.
Earthlings, those called Misonites whom Bluemaid could only discern by their robe-like garment which favoured the colour red, were present in great numbers around this wooden colossus. It resembled a ship, but only as far as dog resembled a wolf – and as to why a ship would be so far away from any large body of water was incomprehensible. No doubt all this was the meat of the lives of these Misonite Earthlings, most of whom were conducting all manner of repairs around the wrecked ship.
There were several tents erected around the wreckage. Signs of long-term habitation were also present, the earth was packed with Earthling and animal prints, there were crude fireplaces built of stones, and a corral had been built for horses. Bluemaid made note of the weapons that were within reach; though mostly spears and bows, things used undoubtedly for hunting, these people were more willing to defend themselves than the Somite Earthlings were. Nevertheless, they had not the warlike quality on them, either – Yorno Frunks, the troupe boss, appeared more fearsome than any of these Misonites.
Skarpian guided the animal to the closest bunch of Misonites; to Bluemaid's surprise, they stared not at the beast, nor at Skarpian, but herself. Many Earthlings had an irrational fear of human beings, and these Misonites were a fine example. Bluemaid tried to appear as harmless as possible so as not to scare them which, in case of Earthlings, entailed the pressing down of eyelids, looking at the ground and clasping hands together in the front.
”I brought some canvas your fathers requested,” Skarpian told them bluntly. ”Where do I take it?”
”Inside the ship, if you please.”
Skarpian jerked his head at Bluemaid.
”Am I needed?”
”Lead him in and give twice a rap on the neck to get him drop it,” Skarpian told her, handing the long stick with which he had been guiding Neppo. ”I'll collect the money. Get back to camp when you're done.”
”I understand,” Bluemaid said, took the stick and gave Neppo a prod. It ambled toward the ship without a complaint.
She led the beast through the scrutiny of staring Earthlings, some of whom forgot their work in their inspection of her. The side of the ship was pierced by a cave-like hole where the bottom met the earth, and Bluemaid stepped from the bright sunlight into the hold, which was like stepping from summer to winter. The hold was cool and quiet, and she had to stop for a second to get her eyes used to the change in light.
When she could see again, she noticed Neppo had shambled on without her direction, and she wondered whether the beast was able to see in the dark better than she. Moving in the dark... that stirred something inside her. She hastened after the beast and made it drop the bolts of canvas next to a heap of flour sacks, then guided it out.
On the way to the camp, she passed the chapel stairs again. Two Somites, distinguished by their predisposition toward colours of blue and white, were discussing with a Misonite quite animatedly. On a whim, Bluemaid decided to stop and listen to the conversation. It was technically not in violation of her duty, after all, to keep her senses alert for all possible disturbances. Who knew, perhaps these Earthlings were playing a game against the troupe. They did not notice, or feigned not to notice, as she stopped a few paces from them.
Their talk was strange, full of complex Earthling words which were unfamiliar to Bluemaid, but she guessed they were academically inclined; furthermore, the words ”fae” and ”faerie”, which Earthlings used to refer to humans, were repeated often – the Misonite seemed to favour ”fae” while the Somites adhered to ”faerie”. Bluemaid deduced this was a debate about the Earthling philosophy toward humans.
”I concur,” the Misonite was saying, ”but merely as far as general behavioural pattern is concerned. I am positive that the fae do not only adopt from other types, but extensively mate with those of different type to produce the wildly varying phenotypes observed among them. In this light it seems irrational that there would be any racial segregation on their part, as Brother Immacus has claimed.”
”I do not concur,” replied one of the Somites. ”The faerie” – both parties seemed intent on stressing their variant of the word, the purpose of which remained obscure to Bluemaid – ”the faerie gather exclusively with those of the exact same, or only slightly different, phenotype, but no doubt seek to employ others with differing abilities depending on against whom the faerie of a brood – I believe this is the term they themselves use – against whom the brood is currently feuding.”
”Feuding?” The Misonite sounded as if this was an utterly ridiculous word. ”Does Brother Immacus propose to know something of fae politics? Allow me a laugh!”
The addressed Somite stood up straighter. ”I not only propose to know, I have extensively researched the subject of – of faerie politics! The faerie are divided up in broods, a word I remarked they use of their familial organisations, each of whom controls a strictly defined fief of sorts, which they seek to expand or defend depending on their current political disposition, dictated to them by their brood leaders from whom every single faerie in the brood descends – a type of patriarchal society, in other words, ruled by the eldest.”
”So Brother Immacus would claim they lead bipolar existences, either aggressive or defensive depending on their psychological disposition? Laughable!”
”You simplify the idea too much – I by no means exclusively claimed they would lead bipolar existences – though my research suggests they are affected in high degree by natural phenomena; in other words, change of seasons, local weather, and natural disasters.”
The two debating Earthlings had covertly moved toward each other as they exchanged words, and were now almost toe-to-toe. Bluemaid would have considered raving lunatics easier to comprehend, and in all likelihood so did the other Somite who just then laid a hand on his friend's shoulder, and said: ”Brother Immacus, friend Juson, what do we really know about the faerie?”
The two others looked at him as if he had lost his mind and his manners besides. The Somite was unfazed, but continued on calmly.
”My meaning is, simplified, this: behind you stand two faerie. Certainly the one who knows the faerie best is a faerie; why not ask either of them?”
All three turned. Bluemaid returned a somewhat startled expression; for one, it was a rude thing to say to a lady with a beast of burden next to her, and secondly, it was an unusually bold move coming from an Earthling, to spontaneously and indirectly address a human. It gave Bluemaid the resolution to test what she had suspected, regarding the beast, and although it might infringe on her promise not to play games, she was resolved to do it.
”So,” said the Somite who had put forth the suggestion, ”lady and sir of faerie-kind, what do you say? Has there been a grain of truth in what has been said?”
”Ask him,” Bluemaid said simply, nodding her head toward Neppo, standing stolidly by her side. Three eager faces turned toward Neppo. The beast at first made no response, simply stared ahead as if the three Earthlings were just big blades of grass. After a while, when the Earthlings began to move restlessly, the animal began to react to the anticipation and at first hunched its shoulders, then shuffled its feet, and finally opened its drooling frog-like maw.
”Onh,” it grunted.
The Earthlings regarded this like it was an exclamation of great wisdom to come, and leaned closer to catch what else the thick lips of the beast might let fall. Bluemaid laughed in her heart. To the Earthlings, she said: ”I am sorry. He has said all that can be said about the matter, and much wisdom it was, too. Pardon, but we must now go.”
She tapped discreetly Neppo on the heel, and the beast lurched forward. The Earthlings remained silent, yet Bluemaid dared not turn her head to see if they were bemused by what she had said or had simply discovered their own foolishness.
When she began to near the camp, though, she directed the animal away from it and down the hillside. Its response felt jerky to her. It was as if the beast flinched from the touch of the stick. She took it almost to where the woods began, and where the camps of the Earthlings were too far away for anyone to see what she was about to do. Sitting on a lichen-covered rock, she observed the beast.
She began to speak, and she spoke in her own tongue, in which words flowed like raindrops from weeds. ”When I was born,” she said, ”in the rejoicement of the forest, in a glittering pond under the rock's glare, there were present some people of which I have merely a dim, hazy memory, and the likes of which I've never seen since. I am sure, though, that one of them blessed me with water, which is why my skin is this dull greenish-grey of hue – to these people, the name of whom I don't know, I owe the happiness of my childhood. Do you know of what people I speak?”
The beast did not answer, but just scratched its sides with its claws.
”You don't understand my speech, is that it? Would you rather I switch back to the Earthling tongue, the use of which is awkward and tedious? I asked you a question and expect an answer, or else I shall take it that you mortally insult me.” She moved her hand toward the hilt of Redesire as if meaning to draw it from its sheath. ”I repeat: do you know of what people I speak? I believe I have again seen one of their kind this very day. Do you know this people, Onah?”
The beast flinched as if someone had stuck a splinter in its eye. Bluemaid laughed.
”Yes, I recognised that word you said to those Earthlings. It wasn't just an animal sound. It was your name. The discussion reminded you of it, didn't it? You were reminded that once you were not a beast of burden but a human being – just like me!”
Bluemaid directed her will through Redesire, and forced a matrix around the beast. Slowly, like a flooding river turns over a rock, Onah the beast turned its head and fixed two unblinking eyes on her. Neppo, a silly name ignorant Earthlings had given the being, oozed off that face which could have belonged to an earth-prince, and vestiges of what were Onah, bit by bit returned. Bluemaid waited, hands clasped on her lap, feeling herself tense.
”Onah,” Onah finally said, not grunting but voicing its name. ”Onah, Onah. I am Onah.”
”I am Bluemaid,” Bluemaid said calmly.
”You are plain,” Onah said in an exchange of frankness.
”You are powerful.”
They stared at each other. Bluemaid felt strange; it was like wind was blowing furiously to her face while she was being cradled by her loved one; a feeling at once exhilarating and safe. Her recollection indeed were dim, but she fancied she saw in Onah some features of those people who had blessed her as a child. The little things she had felt when in the presence of ”the beast of burden” confirmed it: this was no stupid animal but a human being.
”What happened to you, Onah?” she asked. The other shook its head, like a rock trying to shake off the soil clinging to it.
”When the Earthlings approach a place,” Onah said, wresting each word fresh from the lips which were not used to speaking, ”the place dies. The people are part of the land. Then, the people die. Onah did not die – I was young. Onah, I, was mistaken for a forest animal. Onah was terrified of the death of the land – it was the first time. Onah lost himself.”
Bluemaid smiled. ”But you know who you are now, don't you?”
Onah nodded. ”How do you do it? Onah thought himself lost forever.”
Almost unbidden, Redesire leapt from its sheath. The liquid blade streamed toward the tip, clean as silver, protean as clay. Bluemaid held it carefully tip down, away from Onah. He watched it, part rapturous, part ravenous. It was as if he desired to consume Redesire.
”It is called Redesire,” Bluemaid said, ”but you mustn't ask me how it came to me, or anything else about its particulars. I shall just say that it has the power to make one reclaim those emotions one has long since abandoned.”
And she cut air with the blade, cut over Onah's head, then past his left arm, and lastly past his right arm. Onah's eyes leapt with joy, and his bulky body was like a young child's in giddiness. Bluemaid slid Redesire back into the scabbard; Onah sprang to the ground, scooped up two enormous handfuls of earth, strewn with dead leaves and brown grass, and offered it to her. She spread her fingers and Onah let the earth sift through her hands. Bluemaid was delighted: human expressions were so much more vibrant than the dull smiles and frowns of Earthlings.
”I am sorry that it is only dead earth,” Onah said.
”I don't mind. You're yourself again, Onah. What will you do?”
Onah cast a glance up at the Earthling encampments. Bluemaid knew what he was thinking; there were the creatures which had enslaved him and made him do menial tasks, treating him like an animal. Onah thumped his fingers into the ground.
”Punishing the Earthlings is like punishing an ignorant child. What will it do? Onah will once more go and be together with his earth.”
”I'll be glad,” Bluemaid said.
”What will you do?”
The question surprised her.
”What do you mean?”
”You work with the Earthlings. Do you want to serve those who made Onah a simple beast?”
Bluemaid shrugged. ”I must do what I can to survive. Right now I need their money to buy their food, and if I must treat a hundred Onahs like stupid beasts, I will do so. Hate me for it if you will.”
”Onah will never hate the one who bears Redesire. You make me myself.”
With no more words, Onah bounded down the hillside and was soon lost in the woods. When he was out of sight, Bluemaid stood up, rolled herself in the ground so as to appear having been knocked over by an escaping beast, then began running toward the camp of the merchant troupe as fast as she could manage. Verily, in this world in which Earthlings trod, one must serve many kinds of strange masters to survive.
”Help!” she shrieked as she ran. ”Help! Beast has run loose! Help! Beast has run loose!”
Gods of the Wind, Gods of the Mould
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