A Child of Orn – A Prologue (part 2)
Posted by LizzyBeth
Last week I posted the first part of “A Child of Orn”
Edzel sat with his face lifted up, soaking in the moonlight that came in through a crevasse in the ceiling of the cave. The moon had reached its fullest height, but only part of it was visible. Edzel had found this place when he was a small boy. The crack in the tunnel wall that led to this cavern had been just large enough for him to squeeze through. He had been confident that none of his people knew about the crack or they would have sealed it. Cracks to the outside were forbidden. But he had managed to keep it hidden even while widening it as he grew from a small boy to a lithe young man. Edzel rationalized that technically he was not outside, nor had he violated any of the basic tenets of the Chailltaer, that is until the day she had come.
Edzel had been coming to see the moon for several phases, when one evening of the waxing Gibbous Moon she had been sitting in the pool of light with an open cut on her hand. He watched spellbound as the blood spilled out at her feet and she muttered words he did not understand. But that had been years ago when he was young and frightened. Now he was older and well versed in her arts.
He had asked her once where she had come from since she did not appear or act like any of the Chailltaer, but she had smiled at him and never answered. He stopped asking; he knew that to know that secret could in fact ruin everything and he did not want that.
“You know the power is not at its strongest.” The scratchy voice of an old woman sounded from the darkness of the inner cavern.
Edzel smiled into the darkness. “I know, M’thair.”
M’thair chuckled, but replied seriously, “You should not use the power of a waxing Gibbous.”
“Because it is the power reserved for women,” Edzel recited. “I was not going to use it. I was savoring the presence of its power while I waited for you.”
“Ha. Move away. It is my time,” the woman said coming out of the darkness to stand in the edge of the pool of moonlight. M’thair was small and hunched with frail skin and weak pale eyes. Her hair was long and silvery, held back in a myriad of braids and beads. She was old like the hills, and smelled of earth and blood.
Edzel scrambled to his feet and backed away from her. She twirled with surprising grace and agility around the light, muttering an older language under her breath. She pricked her finger and sprinkled the ground around her with blood. Edzel came back to her and offered her his hand. She smiled at him.
“You know that it can only weaken you. But for me the loss of blood can only strengthen.”
Edzel nodded. She always warned him, but he ignored her concern.
She drew her knife from its sheath on her belt and cut along the thick of his thumb. She followed the white line of a scar, which was proof of this same ritual having been performed before.
Edzel’s blood gushed out, spilling over her hands and into the moonlight. It was dark, rich blood full of youthful vitality.
M’thair cut a small slit on her hand that was covered in Edzel’s blood. Their bloods mixed. Edzel felt something in him stir and pull. His blood flowed more freely. He fell to his knees.
“I bind with blood, blood of youth, old of innocence, the blood of man, the blood of a daughter. I bind this request to the power of Gaelach.”
Edzel watched as the binding took place. M’thair changed. He had been watching her change for years but ever since he had been providing a piece of the binding, she had changed even more. Before, she went from what he would have called an old hag to a woman of nondescript age, but now she became a young woman. Her back straightened, her skin darkened and firmed. Her weak eyes brightened, but her silvery locks stayed the vibrant color of the moon.
Though she was not terribly beautiful, she was the most beautiful creature Edzel had ever seen.
For a moment while the transformation took place, the moonlight seemed to wane and Edzel thought he saw a shadow pass over M’thair’s face. “You always give me such youth,” she said, grinning to the open night sky. She turned to look at Edzel; she paused and Edzel could not read her expression. It was at once full of joy, hope, despair, and pain. She gave him a weak smile before tearing at the ragged hem of her dress to bind Edzel’s bleeding hand. “You need to rest,” she said softly. Her voice was still husky but now it had a hint of something sweet about it.
M’thair helped Edzel up and led him over to a bed of leaves and moss in the corner of the cavern. She had several bags of dried fruits and nuts and couple jugs of wine and cider stored there.
“How long do you think it will last?” Edzel asked, breathlessly. They had not found a permanent solution to her aging. In a few moons, she would start to age, and after three Sans Festivals, they would have to repeat this ritual, though sometimes it would be longer. Edzel could not tell why sometimes it would work longer and other times it did not.
“Hush, we don’t need to talk about that now.” M’thair poured some wine into a flask and gestured for Edzel to drink. Reluctantly, he took it. He was very tired, more tired than he ought to be. He shivered, chilled to his very marrow, as he drank. The wine was sour. He stared up at M’thair her brow creased with concern and he knew that he’d do anything for her. She brushed the strands of his curly black hair away from his face.
“I love you,” Edzel said in his weakness.
M’thair gasped and tried to cover it with a laugh. “Dear one, love is a very powerful binding.” She took the flask from him. He was barely holding it anyway. He was so weak.
“I know. But I…” Edzel’s strength failed him.
“Hush,” M’thair whispered, placing her fingers to his lips. “Don’t speak of such things.”
Edzel muttered something incoherently and passed out from exhaustion and pain.