Fiction Friday; Homesick

She walked the barren hilltops like a ghost of the old world, her pale skirts billowing around her as the remnants of a proud banner, whispering of a defeat so old no one could remember the uniforms of the fallen. Her bare feet only just touched the grass, skimming past the blind eyes of daisies and buttercups in the dewey darkness. Without fail, she turned her eyes skyward and watched the dance of those precious stars, gems of the velvet night circling one another like distant nobles on an infinite dance floor. The politics of the night were far too subtle for the humans to truly grasp the intricate patterns of circle and sway, of clasp and separate, of glorious end and mysterious beginning. Maybe some of them were clever enough to catch hints, but she doubted any of them would truly understand.

"My lady!" Breathless, young, cracking. She turned, drawing her eyes reluctantly from the sky above to look down at the youth on the slope beneath her. He was gangly and awkward, all skinny arms and coltish legs, adam's apple bobbing in his scrawny throat. "My... my lady," he said again, eyes bulging in his pock-marked face. He wasn't a bad one, as far as boys went, but she couldn't understand his purpose here.

"Yes?" She tried to soften her voice, warm its cool silvered edges and round off the sharp hiss of the sibilant S. Though she did her best, the boy still flinched. Really, she suspected that even if she had said nothing at all, he still would have jerked like a puppet on a taut string.

"My lady," he repeated, his voice breaking into an undignified squeak. "Please let me serve you!"

The silence between them swelled and expanded, an infinite void and a breathless instant. He balanced on the very toes of his scuffed leather boots, hands clasped imploringly, leaning up the slope toward her as though proximity might somehow coax a positive answer from her where earnest words and pleading stares could not.

"Serve me?" Try as she might, the skeptical tone would not be kept from her words. For a moment, her eyes closed, dark lashes concealing bright silver in black mourning. Too long, she whispered. Too long and far too long. An age of the world - two ages? Two ages in the world of men had tainted her despite her attempts to stay apart. Would the world she knew ever be given back to her?

"Yes, my lady," gasped the youth. "I might fetch and carry for you, or take messages, or... or tend to your other needs." He was floundering now, and she wondered if he was in love with her. He wouldn't be the first, but it had been a long time since such a one had come to her with songs of beauty and praise that weren't hers to hear. Sometimes, when she rejected them, they returned in anger and sharpness, with bloodshed in their hands and fire in their eyes. How often had they found her? How often had she felt them lay their mortal hands on her?

"My lady?"

Ah. She'd turned her eyes back to the endless deepness of the sky above, and could only just persuade herself to look back down at the pale, pimply face of a mortal youth. Whatever he saw in her face made him take a step back. She wondered what it was. Longing? Disgust? Indifference?

"I need no service," she told him, and turned away. If he too set fire to his own soul with passion and lust and sharpness, that was his own business. He would taint himself far more than she could be, though she would suffer if he touched her in anger.

But there was no sharpness, not of voice or hand or blade. Only a gentle tug on her skirt. Surprised, she looked down, and there was the youth, on his knees in the grass.

"Please. Let me come back tomorrow. Let me try to serve you in any way I can."

Was there any point in denying him? She could see in his face he wouldn't be satisfied until he had tried at least three more nights. But she was not here to satisfy coltish boys with fragile dreams. She crouched, skirts billowing out about her like the deflated remains of a torn balloon, bracing elbows on her own supple knees.

"Unless you know of a way to return me to my home," and she pointed upward, to the eternally beckoning sky, a billion eyes of tiny silver stars looking down at her, "then there is no service I can ask of you, save to find your own life and live it as well as you know how." #FictionFriday

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©2020 by Eleanor Taylor.

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