Hey guys, here is a short (though rather longer than I was expecting, at 3000+ words) story about Aiden and stuff! Please comment and let me know what should be done with it! Although I was not expecting it to be this long… If you have suggestions specifically for making it shorter, let me know!
Stars in Mysidia
Midsummer Mysidia, green, brown and gold, surrounded by the azure of the sea, was pleasant in the years before the darkness – but cause for worry was around every corner, as always.
And that was why Aiden KluYa was running barefoot (as usual) through the forest, his long snowy hair streaming behind him, in search of a small boy – his son, Zeb.
Today was special cause for concern, because there was a big hunt going on that day, and Zeb, with his dark brown hair and inferior stalking skills, could be mistaken for an animal… A hunter with a twitchy bow-finger could easily injure or even kill him.
“Did I not tell him to stay at home?” Aiden gritted. “Today, of all days?” It wasn’t as if Aiden really had the time to spare, either; as the foremost magic user of his village (although they didn’t know the half of it) he was respected and had many responsibilities, despite his foreign accent and appearance. Of course, he always had time to spare to rescue his son, but it would have been so much simpler if Zeb didn’t need rescuing.
The birds were completely unconcerned, their twittering and scolding forming an inappropriate dichotomy with his dark and worried thoughts.
“He is going to get such a lecture…”
He leaped over a fallen log, swung round a tree – and skidded to a stop.
There was a green clearing ahead of him; young green ivy leaves swathed thick short trees, wild fruit trees, and on his side a tall willow, the tendrils of which were swinging around his shoulders now and catching on his shining hair. Green, greener than his bright Lunar eyes was the grass in the clearing, knee-height, dotted with wildflowers in red and blue and yellow and white. Aiden felt out of place; his red and white healer’s tunic were made specifically to not blend in, so that others could come to him for help, and his white hair never let him off lightly. But he would have liked to blend in now.
Standing in the middle of the clearing was a tall, tall man, with a small child in his arms – Zeb.
The man turned, and although he towered over Aiden, had the two been standing next to each other, he had the face of a boy – smooth, pale, and cheerful.
“Hello!” he called, and his light tenor voice was also foreign, but not the same as a Lunar, although his brown hair gave that away immediately.
“Hello…” Aiden replied warily. “Who are you?”
“His name’s Math!” squawked Zeb in great glee. “That’s a funny name, isn’t it?”
“Zeb, be polite,” Aiden warned.
“It’s fine,” the tall boy said. “My full name’s Mathaning, but Math is so much easier, isn’t it?”
“Yeah!” Zeb nodded enthusiastically.
“I came across your son… he is your son, yes? He was hunting. And I felt like giving him a hug…”
Aiden let the willow tendrils fall behind him as he stepped forward, ready at any moment to dive in and snatch Zeb away if it should prove necessary. He wondered how the man had recognized Zeb as his son; the child had dark hair and dark eyes, taking more or less completely after his mother. He was also tall for his age. “Yes… Zeb is my son. I am Aiden. Where are you from?”
“I couldn’t tell you,” Mathaning said, looking around. “I came from over there. But I’m from a different country altogether… It’s called the Lilemlen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it…”
“I have not,” Aiden answered. “I am afraid I should be taking Zeb home, now. There are hunters out today and-”
“But Father!” Zeb whined.
“It’s surely…” began Mathaning.
An arrow had whizzed past Mathaning’s ear and embedded itself in the willow tree by Aiden’s hand. The ear twitched, and Aiden noted that it was pointed at the tip. He wondered if the boy was some kind of elf, although he didn’t look like any elf he’d met before…
Everyone jumped; Aiden away from the tree, and the tall boy, still carrying Zeb, around to see where the arrow had come from.
Someone swore roughly. There were the hunters, now, clambering through the bushes.
“Sorry, Master Ya!” called one of them, but they were still fitting arrows to their bows.
“Hold on!” Mathaning cried, alarmed. “What are you doing?”
“Rescue the boy! Save little Zeb!”
“Stoppit!” Zeb shouted, pouting with all his might. “He’s not bad!”
Mathaning ducked as another arrow flitted through the space where his head had been. “Can we… maybe… talk about this?”
“Just put down the kid and back away from him!”
“Father! Can’t you make them stop? He’s not bad. They’re gonna hurt him!”
“You don’t know that, Zebbah,” Aiden said, soothingly, as Mathaning put Zeb down carefully and raised his hands. A look around confirmed that he had no chance of escaping; he was extremely fast, as evidenced by his dodging, but every bow was trained on him and any untoward twitch would result in instant pain.
The hunters jumped on him and looped ropes around his arms, pulling him down so that he had to walk in a stooping posture. Aiden took Zeb’s hand to keep him out of the way. He noted that the hunters had found two deer, so there would be food for a week or so.
They brought him back and tied him up in the village centre, leaving Aiden and the village elders to interrogate him. But first Zeb had to be returned home, and he immediately told his mother Miran everything, which brought her down right away to see what could be done.
“Oh, the poor boy!” was her first reaction. “James, you’re too impulsive!”
The leader of the hunters pouted at her through his bushy beard. “He’s a funny looking stranger! He could be exceedingly dangerous! His cute behaviour could all be an act!”
Aiden had been evaluating that, and he turned back to the others. “He has no magic to speak of, unless it’s sealed away or he has a ridiculously good cloaking spell.”
“I have no magic,” the prisoner said cheerfully. “Magic is for unicorns.”
“James Hawthorn, you let that boy go right now.”
“Just a minute, Miran,” Aiden said. “We can’t let him go until we’ve asked a few more questions.”
“Really!” Miran crossed her arms and looked sceptical. “Well, I’ll be making pie for when you do let him go.” She turned and huffed away. “Foolish men! Can’t even make a stranger comfortable!”
“Pie sounds good,” murmured Mathaning towards the ground.
Aiden took the opportunity to study the captive more closely. He had wavy light brown hair that fell to the back of his neck, and his white tunic was finely made, although quite plain and completely rumpled, with drawstrings hanging loose at the throat and a belt catching it at the waist. His eyes flicked up, feeling Aiden’s gaze, and they were pale blue – open, innocent, naive. Aiden felt his face frowning a little, but he couldn’t help it. His own son’s dark green eyes had held that expression in the past, but already they had been turning resentful against him, and him alone. And the boy was only five.
Then the village leader stepped up, and Aiden began to pay attention again. In fact, most of the village began to pay attention; Zeb was creeping up behind a pile of firewood, his small backside wriggling like a puppy’s. Everyone wanted to hear the strange person’s outlandish answers.
“My name is Mathaning, and I come from a land far away called Lilemlen.”
“I don’t know how I got here…”
“There’s no one else with me that I know of. But my family… I’m the youngest of six brothers and a sister. My mother is the eldest dancer, and my father is the king of the Lilemlen…” That one drew a few gasps and murmurs.
“I really don’t know how I got here. But I hope that I don’t have to stay too long, because my brother needs me tomorrow…”
“Well, my family’s fighting in a war… I’m the captain of a small troop of knights, and we’re going to be attacked tomorrow. Marteth, my brother, is the general on our side.”
“No, I doubt they’re here… I would have heard them.”
“No, I really don’t have any magic. Only unicorns have magic. The rest of us are pretty prosaic, really.”
“I don’t even have any weapons… I don’t mean you any harm, really! You don’t seem like bad people, so I wouldn’t hurt you! I only defend people who are getting hurt.”
“Well, he’s a prince, we’d better let him go,” said James, with a fair amount of worry.
Mathaning smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “You needn’t worry; I’m not mad. But untying me would be a lot more comfortable.”
As they untied the tall boy, Zeb ran up to James. “See, he wasn’t mean at all!” And he kicked him in the ankle. James stood and took it, rather bemused.
“Zebbaaaaah,” Aiden moaned a little.
But his son grabbed Mathaning’s hand, dragging him away already. “Come on! I found an adventure. I’ll show you exactly what to do!” Mathaning followed him, still half bent, laughing a little. The others watched them go quizzically.
After an hour or two, the strange boy returned, again carrying Zeb, who was asleep. Miran met him at the door of their house with a smile, a hug, and the smell of apple pie.
“Have a good time?” she asked.
“Yes, very much,” Mathaning answered, grinning. “We were stalking unicorns, once I explained what those were. We didn’t catch any, but we might have seen one…”
“Well, let me put that boy to bed, and then we’ll all have some pie. He can have his piece when he wakes up again, but it’s going to be bedtime for him in a few hours anyway… Come in! Don’t be shy!”
Even Aiden looked up, a lot more comfortable with the stranger than before. His wife and son had been right, and he wasn’t too proud to admit it in this case. He had even followed the two for a few minutes, taking care to keep out of sight, but they had done nothing but play. His trust had, this time, been rewarded.
“So!” said Mathaning, sitting across from him. “You know all about me. Tell me about yourself! Why do you seem so tightly wound?”
Aiden’s head tilted to one side in wild confusion. “Tightly… wound? Like a spring? I’m not a spring.”
Miran chuckled as she set the table. “Honey, he means stressed and suspicious.”
“Oh.” Aiden traced the grain on the table. “I’m not sure I can tell you that…”
“Well, tell me something else. I’m curious! Fair lady, would you tell me about yourself?”
“Well for starters, ‘fair lady’ I ain’t,” Miran retorted, grinning her face off. “My name’s Miran. I was a full-time huntress before I married this adorable cotton-ball, and now I’m a part-time huntress, full-time wife, and full-time mother. It’s a big job!”
“I guess your parents had their hands full, too. Seven kids! How did you do it? But I suppose you were a prince and all.”
Mathaning shrugged uncomfortably. “Well, funny story… I was stolen from my parents as a baby… by a pixie. Many years later, a traveller saw me playing with her in the woods, and the pixies all got together and decided that my three other stolen brothers and I should go back to our real parents. It was…”
“That’s rather sad,” Miran said.
“Well, now I have an even bigger family!” chirped the boy, perking up. “Someday I’ll find my adopted mother again, but my real mother’s happy to have me back too.”
“Oh, of course!”
“Tell me about this land! You have magic?”
“We do,” said Aiden. “Some among us can use the unseen forces of magic, in many ways… some can summon fire, some wind, some the friendly monsters of the Underworld. Some can heal! I use mostly healing magic, although I can use other kinds… This land is called Mysidia, although I’m sure Zeb told you that. The Elder of Mysidia is a good friend of mine, although he lives in the main city some way westward.”
And he paused… there were the arguments he’d had with Max, and others… His only quarrel with Elder Max, though, was the pressure from him to send Zeb to the magic academy. Of course Zeb had talent. He had too much talent. Of course Aiden wanted his son to do well, but this one thing was too dangerous for all of them. And then there was the lord of the other city, who had heard of Aiden and wanted to recruit him for his little army… And then there were the hunters, who were nice enough fellows but their stubbornness on certain matters was a huge neck in the pain…
And he found himself pouring out all these things to the man on the other side of the table, who sat and listened and nodded sympathetically, offering no words of encouragement, discouragement, or advice… That was nice of the boy. He really didn’t need any. He had everything under control, just it was so… hard! and tiring to deal with it all on a daily basis.
Aiden fell silent eventually; the sky darkening to twilight outside. Fires and lamps were being lit in the village, and there was the smell of venison already in the smoking huts.
“You!” Aiden cried suddenly in exasperation. “What is it with you?”
“What?” Mathaning frowned in surprise and some hurt, Aiden thought. “What is with me?”
“Your adopted mother kicked you out when you were a small child. You’re fighting in a war. You have to see dark and dangerous things on a daily basis. You got abused by strangers today. Why are you still smiling like… like a kid on holiday? Forgive me for being so blunt…”
Mathaning blinked and began to smile again, somewhat infuriatingly. “Oh. That. That’s easy.”
“Well, tell me about it,” Aiden said, and Miran came to his side, embracing his narrow shoulders soothingly.
Mathaning made himself comfortable, blue eyes fixed on some distant point. “Well, for one thing, I knew your people weren’t going to hurt me in the end. …I think… the first reason is that I’m the youngest of seven siblings. I was the last to grow up, and to them, I think sometimes I never did grow up. They still want to protect me… But when I smile, it makes them happy.”
“The other reason… the next reason is that the world is beautiful.”
“Even in your situation?”
“Oh, yes,” and those guileless eyes focussed on his own doubtful green ones, flickering also to Miran. She seemed to take in his message more easily. Lucky for her. She had not had an easy life, but she didn’t have to live a half-lie. Perhaps that was what made it easier for her. Perhaps she could teach him.
“I’m in a pretty dark spot right now, but… I can’t let it take over. It does… to be sure… I have broken down sometimes, but when I do, my brother Gullac is there for me. But then, it passes. It always passes. And I go and look at the stars-” and abruptly he got up and flung open the door, loping out to the edge of the village to the little cliff that gave such a good view of the ocean – and now, the night sky.
“Look!” he cried, his voice hushed in awe. “They are so beautiful!”
And Aiden and Miran, following him slowly, looked, and saw, cast over the sky like a careless stream of jewels, a river of diamonds, glittering dust.
“A philosopher would say that the world will end someday, and though this beauty is more enduring than us, it will end too,” Aiden mumbled.
Mathaning smiled. “And that’s my third point. It doesn’t matter what the philosophers say, really, in the end. There is something deeper in the world than matter, than beauty, than philosophy.”
“Love,” Miran breathed.
“Of course,” Aiden murmured beside her.
“Of course,” echoed the elf. “Love is not defined by time and space. The world could end tomorrow, and the love that you have for each other, you two and your son, that wouldn’t end, would it? Even if there is no state of conscious personal existence after the world ends, your love is still there, will still be there.” He broke off, laughing awkwardly, and the mood broke. “At least, that’s what I think. My older brothers would beat me up if they knew I was talking sentimentally like this though.”
“I thought you loved each other,” Miran replied, laughing back.
Math’s laugh turned to a rather high-pitched giggle. “Yeah, well, they don’t really care for public displays of affection, except for Flairé. But they’re not here, hahaha!”
“So what does that mean, do you think?” Aiden asked his wife, tracing the headband on her forehead, brushing her dark hair back from her face affectionately.
“Well, we started talking about this because you’re so stressed, Master of magic,” she replied, snuggling closer to him. “So I think what we should take from this is that yoooouuuu need to find some way to meditate past the frustrations of daily life. And about Zeb…”
“Just to have faith. That everything will turn out all right in the end.”
They were silent for a long time.
“I guess you don’t need me anymore, really,” Mathaning said at last. “That’s good. …I was worried I’d wake up before I’d been able to help…”
“You’re asleep?” Miran asked wonderingly.
“I think so!” Math answered. “Based on my experiences so far. I could be wrong. But I don’t think so… Dreamwalking is maybe the technical term for it. I don’t know. I’ve never done it before, and I don’t have any control over it… I certainly didn’t come here on purpose… but I’m glad I did.”
“I’m glad we got to meet you,” she said.
“I’m glad too,” he whispered, smiling at their happy duo.
He raised a hand and brushed it through the sky – and his fingers began to fade. “Oops, there I go.”
“You’re leaving?” Miran said, half getting up.
“I’m afraid so. …You’ll be all right!”
“What about you?” Aiden asked, concern colouring his voice.
“I’ll be all right, too. Don’t worry about me. My brothers will help me, and I’ll help them.”
Miran scooted over to the tall boy and gave him a quick hug before he disappeared completely. “Thanks for visiting. I hope you can come back!”
“Me too!” Math said, hugging her back with one arm – the other was already gone. “Take care.”
And then he was gone, no sparkles of magic, no ripples in the air, just an absence.
“Well, well,” Aiden said indulgently. “He is right about a few things. Perhaps I can… how did you say? Unwind, a little.”
“Father?” Zeb came shuffling out behind them, his blanket around his shoulders. “Why are you out here? Where’s Math?”
“He had to go home,” Aiden said softly. “But he told us to look at the stars. Aren’t they beautiful?”
“Um, yeah, I guess,” Zeb said, yawning. “Can I have some pie?”
Miran laughed. “I’ll get Mr. Sleepy some pie and I’ll be right back.”
Aiden watched them go, and then turned back to the cool majesty of the sky. “I’ll do my best.”