Darkness in the Heights- Chapter 1

Fiction By Anna // 6/29/2009

Chapter the First

 

Eighteen years later

 

Eloa swam into the cave she and her mirree, her mother, had shared all those years ago. She looked at the jars of sea plants on the shelves and the tools carved of shell. They were just the way she remembered them, from that terrible day. So much had changed, yet so little.

Eloa asked herself again- Why? Why? Was it mischance? Was it planned? She knew the Maker planned everything, so it was a silly question.

But why had Seema, her mother, her confidante, her only family, had to die?

 

Seema was a healer, one of the most skilled alive. She was rich in compassion, while most merfolk drifted along dispassionately, and perhaps that is what made her who she was.

Eloa remembered how zealously Seema had cared for the human landling all those years ago. She had even brought her to the merfolk’s only abovesea haven, the Rock Circles, to care for her.

And only a couple moons later had Eloa seen her mother carried away by those black birds. (Or, at least, Eloa identified them as "birds". To merfolk, anything that flew was a bird- perhaps better translated "skyling"- and anything that walked was a landling. Only those of the sea were given specific names, as a general rule.)

So long ago! Eloa- a younger, softer Eloa- had been arranging jars on stone shelves and admiring the way the light in the cave danced on the their glass surfaces and flitted in the water. Her mother had been asked to go after a reckless young mermaid named (quite aptly) Soona, who had apparently gotten herself into another scrape.

Eloa had shaken her head wisely. Though Eloa was several years the younger of the two, she deemed Soona exceedingly sillier than herself. But really, it was little more than a slightly unpleasant interruption in her day with Seema.

But when the shadows wavered longer in the water and the cave grew dim, Eloa began to worry. She went and mingled with other merfolk on their way to moon-singing, to see if her mother had found Soona, but the errant, irresponsible mermaid had returned long ago, never having seen Seema!

Shamelessly teasing Eloa’s sensitive anxiety, Soona said, "You can’t go losing your mirree like that, Eloa. Quite careless. It just isn’t done! Whatever will become of you both?"

Eloa’s quivering lips turned white.

Finally, as the last merfolk were leaving for the singing, Eloa spotted the gleam of her mother’s green fin and long black hair; a figure swimming out toward a rock. She sped toward it, bubbles marking her trail. "Mirree! Mirree!" she cried.

The figure, wavering in the water, turned. "Eloa?"

O blessed voice! Eloa caught her mother’s arm, panting, "You can come back now. Soona-"

Her mother nodded. "I know, Eloa. I just saw her."

Eloa jerked back. "What? Then where are you going?"

Seema placed a hand on her daughter’s head. "Would you like to come? There’s someone struggling out on that rock. Hurt, I think."

"What is it?" asked Eloa. Usually she would have jumped at the chance to help her mother, but for once her interest lacked.

"I’m not sure," Seema explained hurriedly. Eloa could see she was dying to find out. "Some kind of bird, I think. Go fetch some-"

"Mirree, birds die all the time," interrupted Eloa. "You’ll miss the singing!"

"I’ve missed singing before, Eloa," laughed Seema. "And you’ve missed it with me." Her eyes grew concerned, and she took her daughter’s shoulders. "What’s gotten into you?"

Eloa tried to wriggle out of the question, because she didn’t know the answer. What has gotten into me? she asked herself.

Seema pushed her black hair out of her eyes. "If you’re really so distressed, Eloa, then you can stay here. The moonlight is enough for me to see the bird by, and hopefully enough for you to see me. Does that make you feel any better?"

Eloa shook her head vigorously. No, she did not feel any better. No, she still wanted her mother to stay with her. No, something was still going on inside her.

She watched her mother go, and no matter how many times she tried to banish it, her heart and stomach remained in a knot somewhere at the bottom of her fin. What’s the worst that can happen? she told herself.

Then the worst happened.

Eloa saw it all in the moonlight, bright upon the rock. The creature on the rock was a lure, nothing more. The moment Seema reached it, it seized her. Spreading great, bat-like wings, the skyling-being lifted her into the air. Several more black birds appeared out of the darker corners of the waves and attacked.

Eloa swam to the rock like a madmaid, screaming for help. Merfolk drawn from their sing came quickly to her; their own kind had been threatened. But all they found on the rock was the silver-leaf necklace Seema had always worn. The black creatures had carried Seema away… and her daughter and the other merfolk never saw her again, nor any traces that would betray either her death or her escape.

Then the landlings on the ships had crossed the barriers merfolk had maintained for the Elves for centuries.

And without Seema, Eloa had been traded from merfamily to merfamily… But she had been young then. She had come of age now, and was in charge of herself. What that meant for her, she didn’t know quite yet. Still she lingered in the long-abandoned cave, where her innocence would always be entombed, watching shadows dance. Brokenhearted. Eloa was lost in the very place she had once found herself.

**********

Centuries earlier

 

"Wynd, for goodness’ sake, hold still!"

"I’m trying, really," laughed a young, airy voice. "Can I please see it now, Coll?"

"No! No one sees their portrait until it’s finished," said Coll. He bent back over his artwork.

Suddenly a cool breeze swept by, and a shadow fell over them and passed.

"Who was that?" asked Coll casually.

"The wind says it was Sundark," said Wynd, shivering. "I’m glad he’s gone. I don’t like him a bit!"

"Come one, Wynd. Sundark is a bit eccentric, but he’s not evil. He’s a fairy, like any one of us."

"The tips of his wings have turned black," whispered Wynd.

Coll looked up, eyebrows raised. "Now, wouldn’t that make an interesting portrait!"

"Coll, I’m serious!"

"You’re scared of your own shadow, Wynd. It’s hard to take you seriously." He paused. "Are they really turning black?"

Wynd nodded.

"Maybe- and now, I’m not saying his wings are significant!- but maybe the Men are poisoning his mind."

"Coll! I think it’s more likely to be the other way around. The men are very generous. They haven’t demanded land or service or kingship…"

"But they will soon, you mark my words, Wynd!" His voice dropped. "Actually, I think we may end up giving Llorleya to them. You only want to be a guardian- it won’t affect you much. But what about me? And the other artists? Will Men want us to draw their portraits for their secret projects?" He changed subject abruptly. "It’s done, by the way."

Wynd eagerly looked at her picture. "Coll, it’s beautiful! It’s far prettier than I am, though."

"Say, what’s this book you’re writing about, anyway?"

"Oh, nothing."

"Shall I look?" Coll persisted.

Wynd snatched it away, snapping it shut. "It’s not for you to read!"

"Who did the leaves on the cover?" he asked.

"I designed it, but Gavin fashioned it and place it on," said Wynd, glad for the subject change. She had also conveniently forgotten Sundark; and as she did not meet him again for many an age it did not seem important.

**********

Present day

 

Elvina, a girl clad in spicy green, sat in the library of Llorleya’s castle. She had just been through a flurry of business and was glad for the retreat. Her sister, Gwindreth, was preparing to wed, and Elvina was taking a part in the proceedings, as were her two older brothers, Finian and Brezdin.

Elvina was a young woman, sixteen, but in many ways still a girl. She had pale ivory hair and large brown eyes, unlike her sister Gwindreth’s bright auburn locks and piercing purple eyes. Gwindreth and Elvina were as different as two sisters could be- Gwindreth was bold; Elvina was timid. Gwindreth laughed at the world; Elvina peeked into it. Gwindreth’s emotions and feelings were intense and transparent, like a moth drawn irresistibly to a lantern; Elvina disguised herself with carefully crafted masks, like a puppet master behind his curtain.

If anyone would have gone on a wild goose chase, it would have been Gwindreth, and Elvina would have stayed at home praying fervently. It is inconceivable, humanly, that part of our tale should center on her; but the I AM uses ways Man knows not.

Elvina was not really reading in the library that day; she was napping. The wedding excited her, but it was exhausting. Not to mention that Gwindreth and her fiancé, a knight named Aiden, were too caught up being in love to be much good for anything. Elvina hoped the trend wouldn’t last.

Sleep came to her almost laughably easily, but it was restless. When she awoke, red sunlight streamed in through the window, turning the walls to blood and gold. "I didn’t mean to sleep this long!" she cried, jumping up. Her knees felt wobbly, and she didn’t feel refreshed at all.

She walked to the window and placed her hands on the sill, leaning heavily on them. Her head throbbed, and her vision blurred when she looked out the window. The landscape of Llorleya was unclear and unfamiliar.

"Something’s wrong with me," she said, shaking her head. "Maybe I have a fever."

"Go to the tower, Elvina."

Elvina whirled around. "Who said that?!" But the room was empty, and her call died.

"Go the tower, Elvina."

The voice echoed around her, powerful and resonant, but she saw no one, and it was not a voice she recognized.

"Go the tower, Elvina."

No, wait; she did know that voice. At least, it sounded vaguely familiar. Someone she had met before- a servant, maybe?

"Go the tower, Elvina."

No servant would speak with such confident authority; Elvina knew that much.

"Who are you?" she called. Again, her own voice died. All around her only one thing was clear: "Go to the tower, Elvina."

She felt herself turning to the window. But instead of standing by it, she was floating out it, soaring down a wide road. I know that road, she thought. It’s the Wood’s Way.

The road paved through Llorleya for some time before coming to a forest, which it also blazed through. Then all Elvina could see was a ruin on a hill- a rubble of stones laid upon each other in no formation.

"Go to the tower, Elvina."

"What tower?" Her words slipped out to the unknown being speaking to her. "All I see is ruin!"

"I will guide you to the tower. Trust Me."

Suddenly she was back in the library, dizzy and bewildered. "Who am I speaking to? I don’t know you."

A low rumbling sound, like thunder, grew in the room. It swelled to a growl, then a roar. Elvina fell to her knees, hands over her ears. "Stop, please!"

She felt something soft and warm brush her. She trembled and shut her eyes tightly.

"See Me, Elvina."

She covered her eyes. "I’m afraid," she whispered. "Please go."

"If only you look, you will see Me," said the voice. It was now in front of her. "I have chosen you."

"I don’t want to be chosen!"

"Look at Me."

Elvina opened her eyes, but her head was bowed. All she saw was a great grey paw and claws. Frightened, she sprang back against the wall- a wolf stood before her, staring at her with eyes that pierced.

"Who are you?" she whispered.

"As you walk in My way, you will come to know Me as I AM. Follow Me, and heed My call. I have chosen you."

Her eyes widened. "I know You! You… You are different then I imagined, my Lord."

Something that might have been a laugh erupted. "I have many names and many faces, but I AM One alone. Know me as I AM."

"I AM," she repeated. "I’m talking to the I AM!"

The same laughing sound.

"What did You choose me for?"

"Go to the tower, Elvina." It was that simple. "You are to be one of my ezer-warriors."

"A war- warrior?" Elvina stuttered, shocked.

"Go to the tower," He repeated.

"What tower?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Did you not see a single thing I showed you? Then listen to me well, daughter. Go the tower I will point you to. You may have to go alone, but if you can, take someone you trust and who trusts you. At all costs obey my instruction. Find the book My servant Wynd long ago wrote at my inspiration; and from there I shall reveal My will."

"Wynd," said Elvina. "I know Wynd! Are those her castle ruins I am to go to?"

But the Wolf had vanished.

 

Elvina awoke. The sun was still high in the sky, and she could hear the clamor of people making merry in preparation out the window. But her dream, if it was a dream, was firmly impressed on her mind, and she had no thought of doubt. She was very afraid at the thought of leaving, but she would go to this tower and find this book. And she would go immediately, fearful or not.

**********

It was dawn. Eloa rarely found so much joy as when singing. Some people found the merfolk’s songs mournful- Well, they could be. But mourning or rejoicing, the merfolk were always praising their Maker.

Some merfolk began to leave. Eloa stopped singing, but she stayed at the surface of the water. She twisted her bright emerald hair into a knot at the back of her head and lingered by the Drying Rocks until the sun was full in the sky.

She was about to take a dive and go on with her day when something small and white in the distance of the sky caught her eye. She realized this thing, whatever it was, was falling- and it was not a something but a someone; she could faintly hear it as though it were calling for help.

Of course the scene of her mother’s disappearance flashed through her head, but not because of fear of this thing. Seema had always been on the rescue of someone or other, and Eloa had made healing her life-mission as well. Even birds.

Eloa needed help, fast. She plunged below the surface, fin sending a blizzard of foam and bubbles out behind. "A bird! A skyling!" she cried as soon as other merfolk were in sight. "Headed our way!"

"What kind of skyling is it?" asked one. She sounded merely curious. "Beast or being?"

"Being- I think," said Eloa breathlessly. The gills on her sides couldn’t draw oxygen fast enough.

"Dangerous?" asked a merchild.

Even he spoke casually! Didn’t this concern them at all?! "I don’t know- but falling fast! It could be hurt!"

"How nice," they chorused, swimming away. And why shouldn’t they? Most merfolk gave no value to things beyond their waters; it was only Eloa, Seema’s crazy orphaned daughter, who really seemed to care.

And, fortunately for the bird, Eloa was her mother’s daughter through and through. In a huff of anger, she turned back for the Drying Rocks to attempt a rescue.

The Drying Rocks were really just lumps of stone rising out of the water. Merfolk laid strips of seaweed there to dry for weaving. If the bird hit the Rocks full on, it would die- but perhaps they could be, instead, her savior.

Eloa grabbed a drying, somewhat unfinished net from among the weaving and took a loose rope, tying it around a rock’s tip.

The skyling was still falling fast, and Eloa could hear it. Its singing is horrendous! she thought. Or perhaps it’s screaming.

Eloa stretched out the net, hoping the bird would fall somewhere in range.

In reality, it only fell mostly on the net. One of its legs hit a rock with a sharp crack, and she screamed again.

It was indeed a "she." In all honesty, Eloa though she looked like the landling the sea had brought her mother years ago. But smaller, whiter. A lighter shade of brown for hair.

She was evidently more alive than the other, too. Using her arms (her leg being out of service, possibly fractured or broken), she pulled her way to rock and held on for dear life.

*********

One minute flying; the next falling.

That was Cala’s horrific experience.

She had been tired, but not to the point of plummeting out of the sky.

How many times had her parents admonished her not fly alone far from a floating dwelling? Apparently not enough!

That voice clutching at her mind- it shredded her thoughts like a knife to paper. It had screamed in her head, "Fall! Fall, I command you!" She had been so unprepared, unguarded.

She had dropped like a rock, unable to regain flight.

She could still feel the hold on her mind far after, laughing in her as she still fell. But when her leg struck the stone on the sea- just her convenience that she had fallen on a stone!- it had fled suddenly, perhaps shocked out of her consciousness.

But she couldn’t fly. Maybe it was just the pain disorienting her, but she couldn’t fly.

A star who couldn’t fly. A star who couldn’t fly and was stranded on a rock in the ocean. Stranded on a rock in the ocean talking to mermaid.

"Are you all right?" asked the seamaiden. Her voice was silky and limpid. She had emerald green hair and a silvery fin- at least, Cala thought it was silver. The rainbow sheen made it difficult to tell.

The mermaid’s skin seemed normal at first, but on closer inspection Cala saw it was really a pale silver. Her shoulders, neck, forehead, and collarbone were dappled with green- perhaps a mermaid’s version of sunburn.

"Are you all right?" repeated the mermaid, more slowly.

"No," Cala managed to say. Pain stabbed her leg.

"It’s broken, I think," murmured the mermaid. Gently, she lifted a hand and touched the star. Her wet fingers, webbed with translucent skin, were surprisingly warm, not cool as Cala had expected. "I am Eloa," said the mermaid. At least, Cala thought she said Eloa. It may have been a segment of a longer, more liquid name.

"I’m Cala," said Cala.

"Khala," said Eloa. It seemed hard for her to wrap her voice around the K sound. (Merfolk usually name their children without hard consonants.)

"If you don’t mind my asking," said Eloa, taking strips of seaweed from the rocks, "what are you?"

"A star," said Cala, gritting her teeth. A falling star, more accurately, she thought.

"You dropped a good distance," observed Eloa. Her eyebrows raised, and something like a smile twitched on her lips.

"Umm… yes," said Cala, not knowing what else to say.

"Hold still," said Eloa suddenly. "This may hurt-"

And before Cala could react, Eloa had straightened her injured leg against a piece of driftwood and begun binding it up with seaweed. To the star’s credit, she stifled her cry of pain.

"How queer," Eloa was saying eagerly. "How very, very curious. What funny… legs? Legs, you call them?"

Cala nodded. Even that was painful.

"Odd. Very odd. Like a human’s, but… I don’t know… shimmery."

"You’ve seen humans?" asked Cala hopefully. "How far from shore are we?"

"Too far for you to swim," said Eloa, guessing what was in her new patient’s mind.

"How have you seen humans, then?"

Eloa hesitated. "My mirree- my mother- once healed one."

Cala’s arms were aching from wrapping around the rock. "Does she have experience in setting bones?"

Her voice was like the wind mourning its inability to pin the waves down, but all she said was, "She did. She is dead now."

She’s more lost and broken than I am, thought Cala, and this realization surprised her. She’s lost a life; I’ve only lost my way. I have a broken leg, but she’s been through far more pain than that. The only death ever to affect me happened before my birth, and my parents won’t even mention it.

Home. I want to go home, where things seem so much less broken, she thought for the first time of many. But even stars hide darkness from their past.

**********

Comments

OoOoOoO!!! I love it....it

OoOoOoO!!! I love it....it does seem a little confusing right now, but I'm sure you'll fix that, right? RIGHT?!?! Heheheh...can't wait until NEXT monday :)

Ariel | Mon, 06/29/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

muahaha! I am the first to comment!

Lovely chapter, Anna! Is Cala Aria and Gills' daughter?

KatieSara | Mon, 06/29/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

oops

I guess OFG wrote her comment at the same time I did and hit save first...ah, well. I'll get it next time. :-P

KatieSara | Mon, 06/29/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

Oooo!!! I'm happy. Joyous

Oooo!!! I'm happy. Joyous day! I think Cala is Aria and Gil's daughter, right?

Erin | Mon, 06/29/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Eloa is, I think, my new

Eloa is, I think, my new favorite character-not that she's replacing any of my old favorites, she's just taking her place among them! Anyway, Cala seems a little impetuous....like her father Gill perhaps, hm?

 

Sarah | Mon, 06/29/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

Emerald hair!  I would love

Emerald hair!  I would love to have hair like that!  Hurry and get the next chapter up!

Bridget | Mon, 06/29/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

 I am so excited for this

 I am so excited for this sequel! 

Tamerah | Tue, 06/30/2009

Oh, this is so exciting!  I

Oh, this is so exciting!  I don't have a favorite yet. Are these mermaids kind of like the mermaids in Peter Pan? I liked those mermaids. Alright, so they were a little creepy, so what! And yes of course that's their daughter! Also, I didn't know that Wynd had conversation-ish things with Sundark. Hey, and there was a line in here that I really liked. It was "Still she lingered in the long-abandoned cave, where her innocence would always be entombed, watching shadows dance." I liked that. Very good, very good.

Oh! This is so exciting!

The Brit | Tue, 06/30/2009

YAY!!!!!

I'm so glad you have this up, Anna! It definitely has an amazing start! I can't wait to hear more about Wynd--she seems quite knowledgable of Sundark. And Cala...hmmm, you're making me wonder....

Heather | Tue, 06/30/2009

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Sad...very interesting

Sad...very interesting though!

Julie | Tue, 06/30/2009

Formerly Kestrel

Again, as usual, Anna: So

Again, as usual, Anna: So good! Wonderfully written!

I really like the names Elvina and Eloa. Gwindreth is also a nice name. Please post more soon.

I'm perfectly certain that Cala is Aria and Gill's daughter; but Anna has a way of surprising us... :) :) :)

Laura Elizabeth | Wed, 07/01/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

ANNA: URGENT

Another thing, Anna: PLEASE READ

I opened Drawing Beauty Part Two and all that came up were the comments on it; where is the story? I really, really want to read it.

Laura Elizabeth | Wed, 07/01/2009

*************************************************
The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

Oooh, wow, great

Oooh, wow, great beginning!!  I hate to sound like a broken record, but Cala is Gill and Aria's daughter, right?  :D

Love it. :)

Clare Marie | Sun, 07/05/2009

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

OFG: Don't rush

OFG: Don't rush me! :)

KatieSara, Erin, and Clare: You tell me. Is she or isn't she? You'll know soon enough...

Actually, I have no problem with telling you right now that she is. Celebrate your cleverness, go on. ;)

Sarah: Cala is a mixture of odd parts. That is what she is. Whether she takes after her father, you'll have to wait and see, and so will I, because she's still a developing star.

Bridget: I envy all magical creatures, and somehow all the best ones have green hair. I'm not gonna lie.

Tamerah: You commented! You rarely comment. :)

Brit: It depends if you're referring to the live action movie. If you are, I would have to say they are rather indifferent to humans than malevolent.

After writing Wynd's run-in with Sundark, I realized that in Stars Over Llorleya she said she had never met a fairy who had "gone bad." I would like to clarify that this means not that she had never met Sundark (obviously), but that she had never really suspected he was wicked, or found out that he had turned completely and utterly.

Heather: Thanks!

Kestrel: It may be beneficial for you to read Stars Over Llorleya first. :)

Laura Elizabeth: Elvina means "Elf-friend." :D

I will try to send Drawing Beauty to you.

 

Anna | Mon, 07/06/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

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