Elasia explored the skies for two full cycles of the moon Minoi after she discovered her ability to fly. She learned about the different kinds of wind currents and befriended every bird she could find. She made a sport of chasing rainbows, and learned that they suffered from an acute shyness. Their friendship would have to be earned, and she intended to do just that. She saw every color of sunrise and every shade of sunset, and the endless freedom still hadn’t grown old.
She had every intention of returning home, eventually, where she would have to face up to running off without a word… and there was also the matter of borrowing her father’s flute. The flute was a small thing. It fit in a pocket. One tone from either of its little silver branches, though, could reshape the world in ways she had yet to discover. She had only used it sparingly, at moments when she felt she most needed it, and each of those had come with surprises. The time when what was supposed to be a small fire was instead a throat of roaring flame as tall as the trembling pines, for instance.
There was also the matter of the Mreg. She had seen them only once, on a difficult day before she knew anything about what it meant to be her. They looked like giant spiders, and she knew that they lurked under the forest of her ancestry, but she had found every tunnel and opening blocked. Not just with silvery webs so thick that no amount of hacking away at them seemed to help, but with stones and mud, too. She knew the Mreg wanted nothing to do with her or her people, the Ean, but she also knew that the great rift between the Mreg and the Ean had been a mistake and she wanted to mend what she could. That would be a good way to return home, she decided. Her parents would be furious, but she could hand back the flute with tidings that they could safely come out from hiding. Perhaps even come back to rebuild the ruins of their once great city.
To do that, though, she would have to get the Mreg to speak with her, and that was proving difficult. She left gifts for them at anything that looked like an opening. Flowers, mostly, and when those failed to attract attention, piles of berries. Those disappeared, but she suspected they were being eaten up by rodents. She thought about them each day as she soared the skies. What did she know about them, beyond the wrongs they suffered when her father had suspected them of betrayal? She knew that they lived underground, hated the Ean, and had keen hearing. That was it! She wanted to communicate with them. Well, they were listening.
“My father made a mistake,” she said, starting with one blocked cave mouth and repeating it at each opening she found in the days to follow. “I want to find a way to make peace between our people again. I want to make right what was wronged, but I can’t help until I understand what happened to you. Please. Help me understand.”
The days passed, and though she had a constant feeling of being watched whenever her feet were on the ground, she saw no sign of the Mreg. She had always been a social child, and her solitude was weighing on her. She wasn’t accustomed to spending so much time in silence. Of course she could just go home and spend the rest of her days in hiding with her people. She’d have plenty of conversation, but she wouldn’t have the skies or the glorious sunrises and sunsets. And she wouldn’t have anything to show for her misbehavior. She began to speak. At first it was a comment here or there, describing what she was seeing on her flights or the way that a pure fresh stream tasted at its source. Soon she was talking as if to an old friend, explaining her thoughts and describing what it was like to grow up with her parents, though omitting anything that would point to how to find them.
The feeling of being watched increased, and from time to time she thought she caught movement out of the corner of her eye, but still no Mreg. Finally it happened. She guessed that the Mreg was young based on its size. It was in the ruins of the palace in the old city, trying to scramble through one of the caved in openings that had once been some kind of elaborately carved entrances to subterranean spaces. The stones had shifted, apparently, and the Mreg could no longer fit through. The noise called Elasia down from the sky.
“Don’t run,” she pleaded.
The Mreg darted back and forth, looking for a way to escape her, and finding none, finally slumped down to the ground in defeat. Elasia wasn’t sure what to do. She’d wanted to talk to the Mreg, but not like this.
“Here,” she said, pulling the flute from her pocket and placing her fingers carefully over the holes. “I can shift the rocks to let you through.”
“You can?” the Mreg asked.
It threw its front pincers over a spot under its chin, and Elasia guessed that the gesture was meant to cover its mouth. She smiled. How many times had she done the same thing when she’d spoken out of turn back home? And she’d done plenty of speaking out of turn.
“I’ll try,” she said. “I’m not very good at this yet, so you may want to move away when I do it.”
The Mreg hesitated.
“Why?” it asked quietly.
“I’m only learning how to use it,” she explained.
“Why do you want to make peace with us?” the Mreg clarified.
The flute drifted down from Elasia’s lips. “Because none of this should have happened,” she said. “I’m too young to remember the war and nobody told me about it. I did learn that my father was wrong when he turned against the Mreg. He knows he was wrong, and he’s been living with that knowledge. In all my memory my parents have carried a deep sorrow that I could never understand. I love them. I want to heal that sorrow. And your people were wronged. I want to heal that wrong.”
The Mreg considered her words for a while, and eventually moved to her side.
“There has been a lot of talk,” the Mreg said. “Our Tik’ha’she’tuk, um, Philosophers, want to speak with you. They believe that it is worth teaching you the history you don’t know. If you can understand, then maybe you can find a path for righting the wrongs that fell upon our ancestors. There are more though who say that all of our troubles were caused by allowing our Philosophers to lead. They are deciding now which way to turn. My parents are Philosophers. We will leave if the decision goes against us.”
“I didn’t mean to cause trouble,” Elasia gasped. “I only wanted to help.”
The Mreg made a movement much like a shrug.
“The Mreg weren’t just betrayed,” it said. “Many of the Philosophers were held captive and… worse. Whole families died. Lines of our histories were forgotten. I don’t know if this is a wrong that can find a right.”
Tears spilled from Elasia’s cheeks onto the flute forgotten in her hands. What good was a flute that could start fires and shift around stones when the real needs of the world were the scars knitted into time itself? There was no tune that could bring those families life again. No breathy note to heal the pain of generations. She didn’t know when the war had happened, but she knew that the Ean had long lives. The way this Mreg had spoken, and by the way the forest had already reclaimed so much of the destroyed city, she guessed that this betrayal of her father had happened too long ago to be forgiven. Where did that leave her?
“I’m sorry,” she whispered through her tears. “I don’t know what to do.”
The Mreg didn’t say anything for a while.
“We’ve been listening to you,” it said at last. “You’ve made friends with birds and deer. Even the rainbows like you, they just haven’t told you yet.”
Elasia let out a choked laugh.
“Perhaps the way to start is with one friendship,” the Mreg said. “You may call me Ha’sha.”
“Thank you Ha’sha,” Elasia said, wiping her cheeks and sniffing through a smile. “I had asked to understand and now I do. You have already taken the first step toward friendship. I hope you’ll find me worthy of the same.” She laughed as a sudden thought occurred to her. “You weren’t really trapped out here were you?”
Ha’sha gave her another shrug.
“There is another entrance not far from here.”
Elasia laughed in earnest.
“What will happen to you and your family if you have to leave?” she asked after a minute.
“We won’t be alone in leaving,” said Ha’sha. “There is talk of traveling to the coast and making a new settlement there.”
“If that happens, might I be able to come with you? To learn what I can? Just because I can’t see a way for peace today doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.”
“I think you would be welcome,” Ha’sha answered.
“Thank you Ha’sha,” Elasia said, tucking the flute back into her pocket.
“And thank you Elasia,” Ha’sha replied.
A twig snapped nearby but Elasia didn’t see anything. When she turned back, Ha’sha was gone. She went to investigate the noise she had heard, and was surprised to find a cloth bag pinned to a young tree with a silver broach that she recognized as belonging to her mother.
The bag contained several astonishing things, but the biggest surprise was a letter penned by her father.
“Elasia,” it said, “your mother and I could not be more proud of the young woman you have become. We have watched over you for some time now, and it is our opinion that you are ready to move forward in your life without us lurking in your shadow. You are courageous and good. Use those qualities to make this world a better place. The flute is my gift to you. I have included instructions and some tunes that I’ve found helpful. You will create your own music, and I look forward to hearing it for myself someday. You always know where to find us. Know that you are loved and always welcome where we are – though I believe you are on the path to finding your home. You are a daughter of light, Elasia. If ever you find yourself surrounded by doubt and darkness, simply shine my child. Bring forward the love that springs out of you and you will transform the world into the place it needs to be.”
Elasia glanced around, but there was no sign of her parents. That feeling of being watched was no longer there. She smiled and held the letter to her cheek. They had known where she’d gone. Of course they had. All this time, they had been watching over her, letting her make her own choices and explore her freedom. They had watched and listened through her efforts to reach out to the Mreg. They had been only a few trees away during her conversation with Ha’sha. They knew what she was trying to accomplish and they wanted her to succeed. Everything suddenly felt possible. Whether the Philosophers overcame the fears of the rest and began a conversation with her here or she ended up traveling with them to set up a new settlement, she would do what she needed to so that peace could come. If not today then possibly tomorrow. Someday, peace would find the Ean and the Mreg again.
She breathed in the fragrance that filled the air. Forest had reclaimed much of the ruined palace already and the scent from the trees was sweet and soothing. It was perfect somehow. A flavor on the tongue that sings songs of comfort, hope and home to your senses. Someday she’d have to figure out what that song might be, and play it on her new flute.
Written by W. C. McClure. This may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome! Please help support this indie author by telling your friends about this short story blog at http://www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books at http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!