The story that follows is a little bit…disjointed. It started out as one idea and then ended somewhere unexpected. I think I might have just found Story Idea #143! I’m hoping to reach #150 by the year’s end ;P
After this one, there are only three stories left in our Advent Calendar of Narrative Shorts!
How can that be possible? I’m going to miss posting these stories, but I promise that I’ll come up with a few new ideas for posts for the new year.
For now, please enjoy this rather long & illogical piece 🙂
The winter winds were ferocious, battering against her form. Nevcaida relished in the assault, craving the bitter bite of the gusting gale. She thrived in the cold, languished in the warmth.
There was a lull, the snow settling as the air stilled.
It was only a temporary reprieve and the gusting began again through the frozen valley. This time, it carried with it the echo of the dragon’s roar.
Perched atop the craggy precipice of the tallest mountain of Noelleon, Nevcaida held sentry over her kingdom. Her eyes narrowed as she searched the skies for a sign of the beast.
It was an overcast day, the clouds a dark grey, overstuffed. The air was clear and crisp. These elements of nature promised a thick snowfall, the perfect weather for Invernyra, feast of the cold months.
Another great rumble of noise resonated through the air. Through the mass of clouds, Xeoraina burst, her majestic wings unfurled at their full expanse.
Her white form was well contrasted against the dark background. She soared with a grace that managed to steal Nevcaida’s breath, though this was more than the thousandth time she had seen Xeoraina in flight.
Bonded from the instant of their birth now nearly twenty-six years ago, they had shared every moment of their life, those of joy, those of sorrow, those of triumph, and those of defeat.
Xeoraina crested to a landing before her, her light blue eyes set upon Nevcaida’s silvery grey ones. They shared each other’s thoughts.
‘They are already gathering for Invernyra.’
‘They have been gathering for some time now.’
As one, they cast their gaze down towards the valley and the town that lay nestled at the base of their mountain home.
Even from that high distance, they could see the line of people streaming from their homes, meandering through the snow, towards the mount and the fortress set into its structure.
It was tradition for them to congregate on Invernyra, invited to come to the palace of their reigning queen and lay forth a wish. In the following year, it fell upon the queen to realize these wishes without fail.
‘They are filled with doubt. The stench of it is offensive.’
‘I am sorry.’
‘You need not apologize for them.’
‘I apologize for myself.’
Nevcaida held little confidence in her ability to uphold her role. This would be her first year taking up the mantle worn in her lifetime by her mother, Cadeneva. She had watched the ceremony many times, had marveled at the strength of her mother, listening to each person’s woes, accepting each of their wishes and always pleasing them with their just rewards.
Before her death now four months ago, Cadeneva had fulfilled the last of her subject’s wishes. Sickness had claimed her life too soon; Nevcaida still bore the weight of that loss heavily on her shoulders.
‘I miss her too, Nev.’
‘I fear that I will fail her, Xeo.’
‘I will help you. We will make her proud.’
Nevcaida stroked Xeoraina’s scales. Smooth like glass, and cool to the touch, the contact brought comfort to Nevcaida in her worry, drawing the confidence of her companion into her own being.
‘Let us prepare to greet them.’
The great Meeting Hall of the palace held only the gold crystal throne upon which Nevcaida would sit as her subjects approached. The normal round table had been removed, the space cleared to allow for the crowd that would soon fill its cavernous walls.
Xeoraina curled upon the floor to Nevcaida’s right, her head raised high upon her long neck.
They were nearly upon it now. Beyond the grand, crystal doors, Nevcaida could see the forms of her gathering people. They were waiting for her to beckon them in, to begin Invernyra in earnest.
‘Have courage. They will believe in you only if you believe in yourself.’
‘I will believe in myself as long as you believe in me.’
‘Your faith will be everlasting and unshakeable.’
Nevcaida bestowed upon her companion the most gracious of smiles. She turned her head back towards the doors.
With a word, she called them forth.
The doors swung open. Single-filed, the inhabitants of the town swept forward, guided by a castle guard garbed in a black-trimmed ivory uniform. Ordered and silent, they came, filling the room until there was no space left. Those that could not fit, waited beyond the doors.
Nevcaida took a steadying breath, latching onto the exuding swell of support Xeoraina leant her and the image of her mother seated on the throne she now occupied to fortify her heart. They buoyed her spirit and she rose.
“People of Noelleon. Peace be with you all. And Happy Invernyra.”
“Happy Invernyra,” her subjects chorused in return.
“I am ready to hear your wishes and I do pledge to honour them and see them to fruition.”
She glanced at the first person waiting in line, a young girl not yet in her third decade of life. “Come forward. I am ready to hear. I am ready to serve.”
Hours passed. The day vanished into the night. The light dipped while the storm brewed beyond, a frightful strength. The Guards had been sent to escort those who’d already made their wishes in groups down the mountain, back to the safety of their homes.
Only fifty people remained, and Nevcaida was drained by the day’s events. Listening to people’s grievances was no easy task. It was far more emotionally taxing than physically so. Hearing how her people suffered afflicted her heart with a sadness that she could not just wish away. Even Xeoraina’s eyes were tinged with a sense of grief.
Even more surprising was the amount of sympathy she received from them. How many had told her that they regretted the loss of her mother? How many had offered her condolences? How many had commended her for her strength? She had lost count after the first two hundred.
‘Despite their own sorrows, they still offer me compassion. I wish I could help them more.’
‘We help them as we can. They have greater faith in you than I thought.’
‘I hope to not disappoint them.’
‘We will not.’
Nevcaida nodded in solemn accord and steeled herself for the last of the requests.
Twilight faded to dawn and the glorious streams of the sun’s beaming rays cut through the obscurity of the clouds. The snowfall ceased and the sky appeared, a canvas of red gold.
The last of her subjects came before her then as the light of the brilliant fiery orb cascaded into the room. Reflected on the glass, the prism of light created an illusion of a hundred rainbows through the chambers, colouring those within in a vibrant hue.
It was an elderly woman who stepped forward, hunched over. She limped as she approached, her arms laden with a bundle tightly wrapped in a blanket.
Concealed under layers of fabric, Nevcaida could only discern that it was a babe she held in her grasp. No more.
The woman’s eye were faded, worn and tired, not with a weariness from waiting through the hours to make her request, but from an exhaustion wrought through years of living.
“My lady,” she whispered and fell on her knees.
Nevcaida swept down from her seat, drawn to this woman without even hearing her plight. She helped her to rise.
“You poor thing. Come rest.” She guided the woman to her throne before she could protest.
Tears glittered in her orbs, her eyes conveying at once a deep gratitude and a hopeful yearning.
“What wish might I fulfill for you?”
“Oh, my queen, forgive me if this is too forward, but I would ask for your aid in caring for this child.” She shifted her hold on the child with a tenderness used for only the most precious and fragile of items.
At last, the babe was revealed to be a young girl only in her first months of life.
“Her parents have both passed on. Her mother was taken in childbirth, her father—my son—was taken before that, lost on a hunt. I have cared for her since, but I have not much more time left in this world. I cannot leave it without knowing that she is taken care of.”
Nevcaida heard the woman’s words, but her attention was ensnared by the silvery orbs of the small girl. In them she found the conviction to fulfill her first wish as queen.
“I will raise her as my own,” she swore, forcing her gaze to find the woman’s, to offer her peace. “And you will live here with me until your ending, so that you might find your peace.”
A sob broke from the woman’s lips, her appreciation fleeing in waves, until her voice cracked and she could utter no more.
‘It is a most gracious offering, Nev.’
‘See her eyes through mine.’
Nevcaida felt Xeoraina’s presence in her mind, momentarily sharing her sight as it searched for the child’s silver regard.
Xeoraina’s comprehension was immediate and it resonated in Nevcaida’s mind as if it were her own. She fled then, releasing Nevcaida’s consciousness.
They had both been raised on the stories of never ending cycles, of lives lived and gone and then reborn. They had always heard them, but never seen and so never really believed.
Silent, Nevcaida continued to stare upon the child, a deep compassion building in her soul, unable to tear her gaze from her silver eyes. Her mother’s eyes.
May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,
© 2015. Faith Rivens.