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A shout from beyond the pond

by Cereal Oatmeal about a year ago in Fantasy
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A Leafbranch Tale

A shout from beyond the pond
Photo by Kristina Tolmacheva on Unsplash

“Emer, wait up!” Farley called to their older brother, as he skated up ahead of them. The first frosts had come practically overnight, rolling in soft and magickal and making the siblings don their skates early that morning, wanting to get out on the pond first before any of the other kids in town got there.

“Calm down little Fern, we’re not-”

“Don’t call me Fern, Emer Laiin!” Farley stamped at the ice with their skates, sticking out their tongue. Emer for his part stopped skating, paused and then made his way closer to them.

“Whoa, middle name! You’re serious! I thought Fern was a nickname! It’s not like… I mean... it’s not your old name or anything? I thought…” he floundered and Farley shook their head.

“Nooo, it is my nickname but it’s what my friends call me not my stupid older brother.” They clarified, feeling petulant but touched all at the same time. Emer smirked.

“Oh good, ‘thought I’d messed up. In that case I’m still calling you Fern, Fern!” He laughed as Farley blew a raspberry at them. Farley skated back and forth awkwardly on their skates, like a version of pacing.

“Th-Thank you for asking…. I know this has been a bit of a change and-” Farley rubbed their neck.

Emer shrugged and skated backwards flawlessly.

“Everything’s a change in nature, little sibling o’ mine, everything is always a change.” He said so sagely and backed into a spin, toeing off and jumping into the air, his eyes closed.

Farley watched mesmerised, their brother was an amazing skater, meanwhile they were stumbling around on their skates, their arms held out to the sides to keep from falling. They both loved to skate but try as they might Farley was still struggling after all these years.

Their feet just didn’t feel their own when on the ice, and maybe sometimes that’s why they loved it. They closed their eyes and skated in small, messy circles just for the fun of it. They listened jealously at Emer’s jumps and twirls, the sounds of skates cutting into the thickly frozen pond, the clacking of metal hitting the ice when he’d allow gravity to return to doing its job.

Farley knew that thousands of years ago people would have called them faeries just for their green skin and leafy hair, even though they were human by all rights, just a little mixed with some plant DNA, but when their brother skated they wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking he was something inhuman.

Some Fae thing with wings that doesn’t behave like the rules of the Earth state it should.

They opened their eyes, looking at the messy figure eight they had skated into the pond’s surface.

They slowly skated back in their tracks, making the design a bit more stable.

“Rrrhhah!” They heard a shout loudly, from somewhere deeper in the forest.

Emer, who had been in the air at the time, spun loosely and landed a bit wrong, recovering but not enough to stop him from toppling over. He wobbled and fell onto his side, tucking and rolling so as not to break anything. He wasn’t totally successful, smacking his face against the hard ice. He pulled himself back into a standing position, blood smeared down his face from his nose.

“Speaking of change…” he began, spluttering blood into the frozen pond, not the last time this pond would see a scrape or a bloody nose but possibly the first of the year. “you’re usually the one wiping out like that, not me!” He joked and smeared the dripping blood down his dark green arm. His larger leaves of hair kept his body warmer than most people so Emer always skated with significantly less layers of clothing than what would normally be appropriate.

Farley grimaced and snarled, their nose scrunched up. They made fake gagging noises.

“Emer!” They held up their own green arms, far more emerald and vibrant than Emer’s. They had been told ages ago that their green skin would dull or get darker like the other members of the family but so far it hadn’t. Farley didn’t mind. What they did mind was the flecks of bright red now adorning their arms. “You got your nose blood on me you dork!” They groaned, making more fake gagging sounds.

Emer laughed heartily, having to put his hands on his knees to keep from falling over again.

“Psh just watering my Fern, Fern! You looked like you could use a drink.” He snickered, skating closer and ruffling Farley’s smaller leaves of hair. Farley shoved his hands off of them and wiped their arms on Emer’s shirt, to which Emer shrugged and laughed more.

“Last time you said that was earlier this fall right before you dunked me into this pond Emer, you leaf eater!” They grumbled, still using their brother’s torso as a napkin.

“Hahaha, it’s cute when you curse!” Emer retorted

“Haaghaa!” Another shout of exertion came from the forest. The two siblings looked at each other and without any need for agreement, started to make their way towards the noise, toe walking on their skates.

They made their way through brambles and leaves and branches to find a sort of clearing filled with wildflowers and small trees and all sorts of herbs and berries.

There was also a woman there, with brown and orange hair. She had very pale green skin which was stained orange from her hands down her forearms. Her back was turned to them but they could see she was pulling on a root, grumbling at the exertion it was taking to pull the root out of the ground.

“Ehrm…. hello?!” Farley asked more than said, and the woman spun around, revealing her orange stained cheeks and sweating face. She was breathing heavily and looked a bit cross and very confused.

“‘Lo” Emer said as a greeting. “I’m Emer, he him pronouns please.” He said casually shrugging.

“I’m Farley! They, Them pronouns!” Farley said excitedly, they were still getting used to introducing themselves that way. It felt freeing. It felt like how they imagined Emer felt while skating.

“I… uh.. I’m” the woman started, still out of breath from battling the root, and Emer shrugged, interrupting her.

“You’re Blythe Conroy, the witch who drove out the deer a few months ago.” Emer said smiling proudly. He looked at brown and orange hair, and noticed that they were in fact marigolds woven into dark brown root like hair. One was drooping down into her face and she huffed, pulling her a strand of roots up and tying it into knots to keep the marigolds secure. She huffed primly, irritated. Though she looked pleased to be recognised.

“Yes I am, now if you’ll excuse me…” she went back to pulling on the root. It didn’t budge and she groaned again. She took a deep breath and put her palms together, a faint green glow emanating from them. She placed her hands on the root, wrapping her entire palm around two sections of it. The green glow became brighter, hard to look at, then died back down. She pulled once more and the root still did not budge. She groaned and threw her hands up in the air, moving away from the root entirely.

“You stupid root!” She cursed at it, kicking dirt at the thing. The root still did not budge.

“I thought witches were supposed to be all… respectful of nature or something?” Emer quipped, raising an eyebrow. Blythe huffed and pulled on the root again.

“I’ll respect nature when it respects me back.” She grumbled, running her hands up under her marigolds, looking like she wanted to tear them and her hair out of her head.

“Hey you just want a piece of it right?” Emer asked, looking at the two sections she’d placed her hands on.

Blythe was sitting on a mossy rock, her head in her hands. She looked frustrated and miserable.

“Yeah, I found an old rite or spell or whatever it is that I wanted to use it for but I left my pruning knife at home and there’s so many herbs to collect right now and it won’t be another new moon until next month and it’s winter so that means by this time next month I’ll have to wait another three months! It’s a wonder the frost didn’t kill this vervain!” She made a sweeping motion towards the purple herbs and then dropped her head back down.

“Well maybe I can help?” Emer shrugged and toe walked over to the root.

Farley squinted at Blythe, and then again at their brother. Emer was shifting on the stops of his skates and Farley had an idea what he was about to do.

“Uhhh….” Farley started and they grabbed Blythe by the arm, pulling her back away from their brother. “I think I know what he’s going to do and if he misses you might get a skate blade to the face. Don’t want us to be the ones that felled the first witch in Leafbranch!”

Blythe looked alarmed and moved back a good 20 steps or so. Emer scoffed and rolled his eyes. Farley was such a worrier.

He stood on one stop and lifted his other skate bringing the blade down forcefully on the root once and then twice, cutting the pear tree’s root clean in two.

He leaned back down on the stops and picked up the root piece, toe walking back towards his sibling and the witch.

“Here you are!” He said holding out the root piece. Farley wrinkled their nose.

“Eugh that’s a Bradford pear!” They exclaimed, pulling their hands into their sweater sleeves and covering their nose.

Blythe laughed and took the root from Emer, who blushed a bit, not that Blythe noticed. She was busy wrapping the root tightly in what looked to be banana tree leaves and twine.

“Yeah it is, uh good luck getting the smell off your skin by the way… sorry shoulda’ warned you!” She laughed apologetic but utterly pleased that she had her conquest. Emer laughed too, shrugging.

“I’ll be fine! Besides…” he said, getting closer to Farley “I’m not the only one who’ll have to worry about it!” he rubbed his hand down Farley’s still covered face.

Farley grumbled and gagged.

“Ewwwww Emer Laiin how dare you!” They shrieked, pulling their sweater up over their head rubbing their face on the inside of their sweater. “Mom’s gonna kill you when she smells my sweater you know!”

“Yeah well Mum will find it hilarious!” Emer said happily, shoving his sibling gently.

“Psh yeah she will. I bet they’ll both make you do the laundry though.” Farley conceded, shrugging their shoulders and pulling their sweater farther away from their body.

“Come on I’d have to do it anyway I already got enough blood and sweat on my clothes from skating” Emer shrugged

“You got blood on me from skating too, you know.” Farley had given up on trying to contain the Bradford Pear smell, letting their arms and sweater down.

“Whatever! Now let’s go back to the pond before the Dunne triplets get there and hog all the ice! Oh uh, bye nice witch lady!” Emer said as an after thought, trying to hide his blushing face. Blythe smiled distractedly, not looking up from the vervain she was carefully selecting from seemingly no actual rhyme or rule.

“By weird laundry siblings who helped me!” She laughed back at them.

Once they were back at the pond, which was thankfully still Dunne triplets free, Emer began skating once again, but Farley stopped on the ice and laughed.

“You totally like her.” They said conspiratorially, grinning at their sibling.

Emer rolled his eyes.

“Shut up leaf breath, I do not!”

“You do!”

They siblings continued to argue back and forth while skating, until the Dunne triplets showed up and they began to organise a hockey game, but that is another Leafbranch tale to be told at another time.

Fantasy

About the author

Cereal Oatmeal

Autistic, Pan, Trans

I use all pronouns including neopronouns!

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