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Wayland Revisited

by Meredith Harmon 9 months ago in Fable
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Little magics, subtle magics....

Three of the most magical things that exist.

I knew from the cradle of my wyrd. Such was my fate sealed in blood and pain that I saw it in the candle flame, I breathed it in the wind blowing from the moor, the images raced by in every drop of water that splashed from my face.

My mother forbade anyone to speak of it, as if that would turn it aside. I was only five years of age when I saw my father's casual cruelty to those he squatted over. By the age of six I could see that his sons were fair bidding to be copies of his filthiness, so I avoided them on my own counsel. Later I would help other women of all stations to stay out of their clutches.

I found places to hide from them and their pack. And from my father, and his sick creatures. And from my mother, and her stifling fluttery creatures. Of all things, the best alcove looked down upon the smithy. So, resigned to my fate that first time, I climbed in and waited for my doom to fall.

And it did not. I was puzzled, for he knew I was there. My father only took out his legs, not his other senses. And he was a magic maker and user. I was within his range, but he did not strike. He continued some fiddly work on the little anvil, shaping something that glittered and twisted in the strange light. I squinted as much as I could, but no matter which way he shuffled, he was always in shadow. The glare of the forge fire was always in my eyes.

Over time, I watched. I saw that he seldom talked, but he was capable of speech. I could hear him whisper to the metal he moved, and some days the words were clearer than others. I saw people come to give him work, arrogant in their supposed superiority. I also saw they couldn't meet his eyes while they ordered him about. I saw how they underestimated him, his strength, his knowledge. He knew much more than they did, he could see the movements of people in this castle like you can see pawns on the tafl board.

And over time, I did as well. Out of dire need I could see the pools of trouble swirl through the walls, and learned to avoid them. I could even move pawns out of the coming trouble, most times. The pack would go for easier prey outside where I could not reach. Sometimes one of the pack would not return, and excuses were made. Sometimes blame would be placed instead, and my father's creatures would go out to exact retribution. Then my mother's creatures would turn on them, and I'd hide for days in the alcove near the place where no one wanted to go.

He became the spider in the center of the web, forging waves of emotion to waft out and snare the unwary. I did not blame him at all. Like a forge fire, he was only fanning to greater height what was already planted there.

Once, I wasn't paying attention, and the pack caught my scent. I fled, those boys baying after my heels, and I was forced to run directly into the forge area. He grunted in surprise when I flung the door open, and heedless, run past him to his small room. If my wyrd was so strong, then, I would face it headlong. But I didn't want the pack to have me first.

They piled in, the brave ones, and made some sort of stand. There was a roar from the forge master, a hammer singing through the air, and the clang of it hitting - something. Bellows, later full-throated shrieks. Then the sounds of galloping, and wet smacking sounds. Later I heard my father-king had all of them whipped for disturbing his prize, who refused to work for three months after the incursion. I also heard them plotting revenge for their debasement, saw it in every fire and mirror I passed, saw my wyrd flicker and adapt to the changes.

But at the moment after the fight, when all got quiet except for the hiss of the fire in the forge, all I knew was his breathing as he looked at me, curled, shaking, in the corner of his room. He did not touch me. I don't think I could have borne it if he did. All he did was wait till the trembles finally stilled. Even then, through the heated air, I could hear the whispered "Now what to do?"

"Please kill me," I whispered back in the same manner. "I cannot bear living like this."

He snorted at that. "Try living like me! Seventeen long years!"

"It is no better for any others living here. We all suffer. My father's wyrd dooms us all."

And his rage-fire banked, again stored against need of it. "Ah. You know."

"How can I not? It chokes us, bleeds our very existence!"

"But only you feel it in the heart. The others do not, or not as much." He shifted to sit on the pallet, patted the space aside as invitation. I sat, resigned to my fate, but he shook his head. "Let us talk of your wyrd, and of making choices...."

With that, we talked. I returned his ring, stolen from him by my father, that I have always kept on a ribbon around my neck. It may have been given to me, but it never belonged to me. It was his, always his. And hers. And he received it with more calm that I expected. I knew what I held, when it whispered to me of nights under the polar lights, and of passion and yearning that my mortal frame couldn't encompass. Its return could restore much of his sanity, for it could become a compass and orientation in the hands of its maker.

The next few months were both unbearable and glorious. The king and the pack sparred, the flutter creatures took first one side than another, and the workers hid. Or fled, they could see the wyrd descend like a flock of harpies. I could not flee, so I hid - in the bedroom of the blacksmith, gods all help me.

He taught me as much as I could learn, of the workings of the world. I crammed knowledge into the corners of my mind, saving them like stores against a famine. I helped him in the workings, learned some of the secrets of fire and metal, but the higher things were far beyond my strength. He taught me to use what strength I had for smaller things, and to build them up like a mortared wall. He showed me water secrets, and how to refine my few air secrets. He was kind, and even gentle in a rough way, and I didn't know how to respond to the person destined to defile me.

I fell in love. That wasn't part of the wyrd. But he said that wyrd can be adapted to the force brought to bear upon it, and though not turned from its purpose, can be refined and reforged and repurposed.

And so he did take me, but with my permission. An enthralling interlude, while the world crumbled beneath us and carried us all away.

I collected feathers, my brothers collected their bruised self-importance. I stole leather for the wings, my mother whined that she wasn't seeing enough of me and scrabbled after me as I slipped her clawing grasp. I stole food for the journey, and my father finally noticed I had transformed into a woman and sought me for his own perversions. My pregnancy was around two months' long, and my body was swelling in obvious places to prepare for the coming life.

It all came crashing down when my idiot brothers broke into the forge to take their revenge. The door was narrow, and this was the blacksmith's lair, how could they not see the advantage would never be theirs? So they were all killed, the entire pack, and the blacksmith forged the poison weapons from their bodies to take out the remainder of the cursed castle.

My father died screaming, my mother died weeping. What was left of either side of the court went noisily mad scrambling for the treasures they thought would save them. Those treasures turned on them in inventive ways that made their deaths both spectacle and horrible. Eventually I was able to collect each one and destroy them on the forge that birthed them. Small magics, but when positioned right, they can crack the toughest of workings.

But I found a cold forge, the fire gone to ash. He had fled, on the wings we had fashioned, with the food I had collected. Left me to pick up the pieces of a shattered kingdom with a babe growing in my womb. When I saw he'd taken the ring, I knew he went searching for his wife. I, a mortal, could not compare, could not compete.

The pain pierced my person, but languishing people perish while pining. I collected those who had fled the madness, and we returned to secure the castle for both winter and enemies, with supplies and more fortifications. Small magics build walls, indeed. We will attempt to survive as long as we can. We must, if we are to survive.

I never did see his face.

Fable

About the author

Meredith Harmon

Mix equal parts anthropologist, biologist, geologist, and artisan, stir and heat in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, sprinkle with a heaping pile of odd life experiences. Half-baked.

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