This is the second freebie for today's session, courtesy of new prompter DW user elliemurasaki. It was inspired by a prompt from minor_architect, and also by the World Walkers setting of kajones_writing. You can read about the magic of the thirteen families on the author's website. There are shyders in this poem again, and it's posted here prior to approval, so its canon status is indeterminate at this time. The poem also fills the "hiding" square in my card for the Dark Fantasy Bingo fest.
It was said that the fae loved children,
and they had better,
because they lost too many people
when the magic ran out of their homeworld
forcing them to flee.
It was said,
and for the most part it was so,
but for every saying, there are ... exceptions.
did not love children,
or more specifically, not Vala.
He was of the Green House
while her mother was of the Brown House,
an arranged marriage -- no love to be found there either.
He suspected that Vala was not his
for she lacked his green eyes, and although
she had her mother's tinted skin with brown hair,
there were those highlights, almost orange in the sun,
that no dye could cover.
She wished for her father's eyes,
so that he would love her, but even more,
she wished for her father's magic,
so that she could make herself a door
and go away, really far away,
where she might find a family
who wouldn't care
about the color of her eyes or her hair
or what kind of magic she did.
But no matter how she wished,
she could not find the key to the magic of doors,
and her eyes remained stubbornly brown
and her hair glinted like banked coals in the sunbeams,
and her father hated the very sight of her.
So he hit her.
And her mother did nothing.
So Vala hid from him.
Vala got a lot of practice at hiding.
She hid on the nights her mother had headaches.
She hid on the days her father came home
from making doors, complaining about demons.
She hid during parties when there was too much mead.
She hid whenever she heard boots on the stairs
coming up to her little room in the attic.
Vala's favorite game
which she played with friends
as often as she could.
Vala became quite good at it.
She could fit into places
amazingly small, almost as if
they shaped themselves around her
or she poured herself into them like liquid.
She could creep into cabinets,
wedge herself into wardrobes already full
of fur coats and mothballs.
She could squeeze through a thicket
where a rabbit couldn't go.
She could blend into tree branches, unseen,
slipping through the shadows overhead
until she reached home base.
One day while playing hide-and-seek,
Vala found a small round hole beneath the bushes
where no hole had ever been before.
She crawled into it carefully, because
sometimes there were sharp rocks in holes,
but the floor felt smooth under her hands, almost silky.
Vala's father shouted behind her,
calling through the rose garden in search of her.
Vala quit being careful and scrambled forward
as fast as she could go.
Suddenly a trap door snapped shut
and the tunnel went dim.
She felt a gentle prick in her shoulder
and grew quite sleepy,
slumping to the floor of the tunnel.
Someone picked her up then
and carried her further into the dimness, swaying softly,
away from the rose garden and the ranting father
who would surely never find her now.
When Vala woke,
she found herself somewhere hot and dry,
full of spiky plants festooned with beautiful flowers
that looked nothing like roses.
She heard voices,
but no yelling.
So that was good.
Vala dragged herself to her feet,
still feeling a little light-headed.
She rubbed the double welt on her shoulder
and wondered how she had come to a place
with such a vividly blue sky
and a pair of light-and-dark moons,
when she had no grasp of door magic.
She followed the voices
into a camp of -- kangaroos? people?
Vala had never seen anything like that before.
The kangaroo people flicked their huge ears
and plucked at their colorful clothing
and murmured to each other as if
they'd never seen anything like Vala either.
Then one kangaroo with a huge belly
hopped forward and said,
"Come sit beside our fire, child."
Vala sat down,
and there was soup
with good brown bread
and some kind of fruit juice
that was unfamiliar but utterly delicious.
A little kangaroo popped its head
out of the mother's pouch,
followed by a second head
that looked nothing like a kangaroo.
Vala was a bit shocked.
Her parents always said that
nice people didn't mix across species.
Well. The kangaroos seemed
nicer than her parents.
She would just wait and see
what they had to say about this.
"Whozis?" squeaked the two little heads.
"Mama, mama! Whozis?"
The kangaroo lady smiled and said,
"Girls, this is your new sister ..."
"Vala," the young fae filled in.
"Vala," the kangaroo echoed,
"That means chosen.
I'd say you've chosen well,
or perhaps, been well chosen."
She turned back to the fire
to rake a bundle of some dessert-like substance
out of the glowing orange coals.
As she moved, Vala caught a glimpse
of a mark on the kangaroo's flank,
glistening faintly with inner magic.
Something about it whispered to Vala's instincts
that she would never need to hide
from anyone with such a mark.
So when the kangaroo
finished unwrapping the dessert
and put it in Vala's bowl,
Vala smiled shyly at her
"Thank you, Mama."