Part Three of the Winter in Azuria Faery Tale Series
Persephonie is uncertain as she begins her second story for the brumal faeries. Other storytellers, like her babu, have lived a life of love and adventure already. But that isn’t yet true for her.
A second saudad interrupts Persephonie’s story with questions that guide her toward the truths she can hear but does not yet know.
How can we know the beginning of our own stories, Persephonie wonders, when their roots have sunk deep into the earth of long ago?
The Second Night’s Story
Persephonie’s fingers danced over the fresh fallen snow of the Andel Mountains. “I asked my babu which of the brumal stories is her favorite,” she whispered, leaning down toward the hidden blades of grass. Her breath mingled with the sparkling cover of the earth and turned to mist. Persephonie smiled. “Her answer surprised me.” She tugged at her shawl and slid the top cards of Babu’s oracle deck down to the bottom.
Did the faeries care about the teller of the stories, or were they concerned only that the stories be told? Was it a way of recognizing their own part in the spinning of the world’s wheel?
Velkan had glanced back at her and Babu as he drove her wagon along the narrow mountain trail. His smile was bright against the gray sky, and he winked back at her, as amused by Babu’s answer as she was surprised.
“My own, of course,” Babu said, squinting at Persephonie. The elderly woman straightened as best she could in the swaying wagon. “And they were lucky to hear it too.” She nodded, settling the matter.
Persephonie lowered her head. Babu had shooed her away from the fire after the sun set. She had mulled throughout the day and still couldn’t decide on the perfect story to tell the faeries that evening. “I can’t tell you my story, winter faeries, not yet.” Her fingers twirled through the chilled ends of her hair. “One day, enough will happen that I’ll have a story of my own.” She shrugged. Datha had always said that she had a special glow about her, and Mama had told her countless times of the various readings for her fate before her birth. But the threads Cassandra had woven for her remained hidden, biding their time before they curled their way into an image of their own.
“Vivienne must have felt that way at the beginning of her story.” Persephonie turned to stare up at the brilliant sprinkle of stars overhead. The last time they had traveled, the stars had shown her the Mistress of the Northern Sea calling a dragon up from the depths, binding the creature to herself.
She overturned one of the cards in the center of the deck. A torch-bearing goddess stared out into unknown realms, her back to Persephonie. Reverence, the text along the card’s base read.
One step at a time, the pieces of the evening’s story laid out their image before her. “Above all other powers,” Persephonie began, “the woman who would one day rule over the Northern Sea revered the mighty ocean, for it alone possessed the strength to remake the world.”
“But that’s not why she came to rule over the Northern Sea,” a teasing, tenor voice interrupted her.
Persephonie spun around as Velkan climbed down the rise to her small storytelling camp.
Her older brother’s best friend shook his head. “You’re going to give the faeries the wrong idea.”
She scowled up at him, an exaggerated frown across her face. “The faeries asked me to tell them a story with multiple possibilities. Do you not think Vivienne a fitting example?”
“Hmm. Hers is one of the legends I would have considered.” His lips scrunched to the side. “May I?” Velkan gestured to the empty spot on the blanket beside her.
She tucked the edge of her skirt out of his way, and he settled next to her. “As I was saying,” Persephonie continued, “Vivienne revered the power of the ocean. The earth and water still remembered the days when the seas remade the world.”
Persephonie picked at the stitching of the wool blanket. There was a gap in saudad lore from the years of the flood. A great number of their people had been lost, but she suspected the lack was equally due to the sudden violence of what had passed. How were they ever to speak of what had been lost? Not even a story could capture the depth of the change, the separation that swept over what had once been called Eldura.
Velkan spoke into her hesitation. “The days were dark, in all of the realms. It was not a time for the uncompromising heroes of old, but there figures, like Vivienne, who stood out from among the survivors and sought to find a new way forward.” He leaned closer, his hand propped behind her. His shoulder curved toward her, inviting her into the warmth of his aura. “But depending upon whom you ask,” Velkan clarified, “Vivienne was not one to be emulated, but one to be feared.”
She jerked away. “Do you take the side of the shadow creatures? The faeries are not going to agree with you.”
“Ah, but I think the faeries will not agree with you.” His brown eyes darkened, but she could not discern his meaning. Velkan’s voice grew softer. “How can you tell them that you have not a story of your own, Persephonie?” He scooted closer again, bidding her to come nearer.
The spirits of her childhood heroes stood behind her, eyes narrowed as they considered his question. Daexina’s hands twitched toward the harp kept at her side—she interpreted the world through her music. Artemesia gazed up at the stars, the tapestry where she most readily found her answers. But it was Lilith who laughed, she who was most readily misunderstood through incomplete histories.
Her mother’s voice whispered through her mind. Though she was several days’ ride away behind the walls of Andel-ce Hevra, Esmeralda would have known just what to say. “We can never truly see where our own story has begun, Sephie. Our lives come to be through the work, influence, and dreams of those who have come before.” She would have kissed her on the head and wrapped her arms around her daughter’s shoulders. “But Cassandra has a special task for you. This I have known since before you were born.”
Persephonie sighed and leaned into Velkan’s chest. He smiled, his embrace tightening around her.
“Let us try another tale, faeries,” Persephonie said with a smile. “Few have puzzled storytellers through the ages as much as Lilith.” A thrill of sparks rushed through her fingertips, and the image of red, dancing flames appeared before them. To her right, hidden where Velkan could not see, her faery friend from the night before poked her head out of the snow. The faery’s black eyes widened as the image of Lilith emerged from the flames.
If you enjoyed this short story, be sure to check out some of the other short stories set in Azuria: