Piercing the Veil
I have come to find that there is a certain, unique peril in being in love with
a scholar, and that peril is how easily the lines between "lover" and
"experiment" get blurred. Tonight is one of those perilous nights, indeed.
I am sitting before the fire in Rosegate gazing into the lovely, sparkling
sapphire of Moriana's eyes. As it turns out, however, this is a business trip.
She has, as of late, become preoccupied with the mystery of my antlers. I
agree that it is a mystery, but whereas I delight in the presence of mystery,
she sees it as a challenge to be overcome. Perhaps that is one of the reasons
we actually are so good for one another.
I should probably just cut the damnable things from my skull. Most in the
Glomdoring have the personal graces not to mention them, but I see their eyes
flicking up to them from time to time, as if I will unbutton a hidden button
and reveal myself to be Hart stuffed into a faeling suit.
Nevertheless, I have drunk a bowl of Moriana's latest concoction of spores,
faeleaf, and broth, and I am listening to her whisper in low tones. I have to
admit, for a soup made of ingredients so vile, her skills are such that it just
tastes vaguely of hazelnut. She believes that the drug and her words will
enable me to remember my life beyond the Portal, although why anyone would want
to do this is beyond me. Still, I love her, and if this will make her smile,
that is all the motive I need. I do feel all this is a bit absuâ€¦.
I am in the Serenwilde, and I am a child.
Each day, my mother stops our lessons at a particular time and brings me to the
grotto where I play with the other children. What games we play! There is no
finer feeling than having been the swiftest in a round of Owl in the Treetops
or gathering the last acorn in a heated session of Red Fox, Red Fox. Our
elders believe these games shall teach us to be scholars and warriors, but we
do not play them to learn. We play because we love it. Even Charune Himself
will sometimes appear. Kaliel once said He even let her climb on His horns,
but I don't believe her. She's always making up stories.
My best friend in the whole Basin is Lianna. She is a faeling, like me. Her
wings are pretty and soft, but she isn't at all afraid of either dirt or sweat.
Many a new boy has joined our play thinking himself the swiftest or the most
clever, only to find Lianna waiting for him at the finish line. Oh, how she
loves this forest, too. My mother says that, someday, I shall get married like
her and father. I find this idea distasteful, but if I have to get married, it
probably wouldn't be too bad if I married Lianna.
Today, a new boy is in our group. His name is Jirreth â€" a human. I like
most humans all right, but Jirreth is very mean. He calls everyone names. He
pushes people down. He likes to fight. Sometimes, I even see him chasing or
kicking animals. Mother says I should try to be nice to Jirreth because his
father was killed by people in the bad forest, and the Fates did not send him
back. I try, because it must be sad to not have a father, but he is very, very
It is the next day, and as I'm going to the river to collect some water, I hear
Lianna make a noise. It's a strange noise. She sounds frightened. I flow
through the trees as my mother taught me, and I see her. Jirreth is kneeling
over her. What is he doing? He has something in his hand. He'sâ€¦ Elders!
He's cutting Lianna's wings! Her beautiful wings!
All I see is a haze of red. I fly as fast as I can into Jirreth and knock him
over. He's surprised, but he's much bigger than I am, and I was never the
strongest boy in Serenwilde. It isn't long before his knees are in my stomach,
and he hits me again and again and again. There is blood on his fist, which I
guess is mine. The pain in my face, and especially my nose, is more than I've
ever felt. The world around me seems to shine with stars and lights. As I
begin to fall asleep, the last thing I see is him climbing off my chest and
reaching once more for Lianna.
It is the next day. Lianna is not at the grotto. Mother says Lianna is very
sick, today. Maybe mother will let me visit her, later. Jirreth is gone, too.
I never told mother what happened with Jirreth. I am ashamed. I am so weak.
A Serenwilder defends his own, my father says.
It is several days later. Lianna has never come back. Mother says that she
plays in a different grotto, now, and won't be coming back to play. When I ask
to visit her, she tells me, "Maybe when you're older." I am very sad. I miss
Lianna so much.
Jirreth is back at the grotto, now, and he seems different. I don't know what
happened while he was gone, but he behaves very differently, now. He is quiet
and keeps to himself. He doesn't play with the other children. He seems to be
distant when our elders teach us. Sometimes, he just wanders off by himself for
a few minutes, an hour, or the rest of the day. When he comes back, his face is
streaked with tears. Is Jirreth crying?
The next time Jirreth wanders off, I follow him, blending in with the forest as
my mother taught me. Jirreth doesn't know how to do this. Mother says his
family is teaching him to be a warrior. All warriors know how to do is swing
things around. I am glad I am being prepared for Hartstone.
Jirreth goes to that spot near the Moon River where, so many days ago, we
fought. He sits down at the spot, gazing at the river in the distance. It
isn't long before his lips begin to quaver and he starts to cry.
"Jirreth?" I say, emerging from the foliage.
He seems startled. "Agh! Go away, Xinemus!" he says.
"Are you crying? Why are you crying?"
He screws up his face, trying to make it look like he was never crying at all,
but he cannot stop himself. He is very, very sad, I think. He looks down at
"I hurt Lianna. Really hurt her bad," he says.
I draw closer and put my hand on his shoulder. He flinches.
"Well, I'm sure if you tell her that you're sorry that she'll forgive you."
He shakes his head.
"No, no. I hurt her -really- bad, Xin. Iâ€¦ didâ€¦."
He bursts into tears afresh. I've never seen anyone this upset about anything.
"Jirreth, look. You did do something very bad, but you're sorry, right?"
"Sometimes, people do really bad things, but if you're sorry and promise not to
do it again and try to make things right, then people forgive you. You just
have to try to be a better person. If Lianna were here, she would say the
same. I know it."
He looks up at me and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. It's a big
hand. Humans are pretty big if you think about it.
"You really believe that?" he asks.
"I do," I reply. "You should decide right now to be a better person, and grow
up to help the Serenwilde as much as you can, and the people who live here."
He nods and wipes his eyes once more.
"I will. Oh, I definitely will! Thank you, Xin."
He extends his hand toward me.
In a flash, I summon my sickle and swing it in a silver arc across his throat.
There is a slight popping sound that I wasn't expecting, and blood begins to
fountain from his neck, which I was sort of expecting. He looks at me, not
angry, not fearful, but confused.
"You evil, evil worm," I hiss. "I will never forgive you for what you did to
Lianna. Never! And if the Fates are merciful to you, you should beg them to
keep you, or I will kill you a thousand times for what you did. I will never
forget. I will never be merciful to you, just as you were not merciful to her.
I hope you get lost in the wastes of Nil, scum."
The light has gone out of Jirreth's eyes, but he still has that dumb look on
Serenwilde's elders appear around me, instantly. They can sense when someone
dies. My mother is there. She is crying. I don't know why. "He was a very
bad person, mother. Do you not see? He was very, very bad."
I have not been back to the grotto in many days. Mother will not let me leave
our home, even to take our nightly walk. I miss that, but that's all right.
I'm tired, anyway.