Lyli had always known of her parentage. Perhaps the old hazelnut tree, the story teller, had told her the tale when she was young, or perhaps the tale of her birth was whispered among the wild animals, or perhaps it was just in her blood to know. She had grown up on tales of the adventures of the gods and their trials and troubles, and she had always known that her father was the god of the sun, Aurum, and that her mother was a storm bringer.
The storm bringers were mortal, and they always had those stormy gray eyes as a mark of their power. They had the ability to make a storm appear out of nowhere, and people were often afraid of them, even as they depended on them to keep their crops alive. The storm bringers were gentle, but if one got angry, a village might experience tornados and hurricanes for weeks on end.
Lyli loved the stories the forest told to her, even more than the forest loves telling them. She was certain that no villager could ever tell a story half as well, and she did not miss the life she could not have.
At the age of five, the age when children receive their prophecy by the Matron, Lyli had gone to the old woman’s house to receive hers. It had ended in disaster. The old woman had declared that Lyli’s future would be filled with darkness and horrors like no other, and that Lyli was an accursed creature who must leave the village or bring terrible bad luck. The villagers had chased the little girl from the town that night, wielding burning torches and shouting curses.
That was seven years ago, and Lyli could hardly remember the event. She did not want to remember it, she was happy where she was, living with the trees and the animals, learning to speak to them and learning to trust them. Though she knew nothing of reading or writing, she knew how to mend a sparrow’s wing, how to sing the hollys to sleep, and how to care for wolf pups while their mothers were away hunting.
Yes, Lyli was happy. She didn’t care for the village, with it’s supposed bad luck and its prophecies, which she didn’t give two thistles about. She had felt out of place there, in a place so filled with anger, which she did not understand, having never felt it. But here, in the forest, she was at peace.
Lyli sat in the boughs of a maple, singing songs about flowers and rivers, feeling the happiness all around her, when suddenly the trees tensed, the animals stilled, and somewhere in the distance, a wolf cried out.
The word entered her mind easily, the trees thoughts mixed with her own.
Sliding down from the branches, Lyli began to run. She did this every time a human came to far into the forest. She didn’t want to meet them.
She could hear the human, but there was only one. She hid behind an oak tree, listening, her gold eyes intent. The footsteps grew near, and then paused.
Somewhere, an owl hooted a warning, and Lyli sank into the tree, trying to be as still as she could. She could hear the man breathing, just a stone’s throw away. She knew it was a man for the heaviness of his footfalls, and the low tones of his breath.
Why did he not go away? Why did he stand there so long?
The owl hooted again, this time sounding pleased.
You can come out, it’s all right.
The owl was wise, Lyli knew that, and if he said it was safe, it was safe. Lyli stepped out from behind the tree, and when she saw the man, she cried out with joy. The man was tall, dressed simply in a white tunic and gray, homespun pants. His hair was light and glimmered in the soft forest light, and his mouth was smiling, along with his eyes, which were a vibrant gold.
“Father!” Lyli cried, racing towards the man, who picked her up and spun her around, laughing the kind of laugh that is catching and makes others laugh too.
“How are you my little one?” he asked, setting her down, his smiling eyes meeting those of his daughter.
“Fine. You did give the wolf quite a turn though, and her with her new litter of pups!”
He laughed again. “I had best go apologize then. Will you show me the way?”
She took his hand and led him through the trees, calling out to all the animals, words of peace and friendship, and one by one they ventured out. Some recognized the man, and remembered his gentle hands and came forward to greet him.
Finally they reached the den of the wolf. Happy yapping came from within, and Lyli called out in the tongue of the wolf, “Mother wolf, my father is here and would like to meet your pups!”
At the sound of Lyli’s voice, Seath, the oldest of the litter, came bounding out yapping and tripping over his paws. Lyli scooped him up as the wolf mother came out to investigate the whereabouts of her over-adventurous son.
The cub yipped nonsense and wiggled to be free and dash off into the woods, but Lyli held firm, laughing at his high energy. Then she asked his mother again if her father might see and hold the pups.
Not that one, he’s a bit too wild today. But he is welcome to come and see Tala and Rollin and the others if he likes.
There were seven pups in the litter, and that was, in Lyli’s opinion, the perfect number. They each had their own distinct personality, and each knew Lyli. There was Seath, Tala, Rollin, Sirius, Rogue, Javerick, and Yara.
Lyli’s father smiled to see them rolling and tumbling over eachother, but when Lyli held out Yara for him to hold, he shook his head.
“No little ember. I can’t hold her. My hands would burn the poor little thing to a crisp.”
Lyli took his hand again and asked “Then why don’t I feel the heat?”
“Because you are mine.” He smiled. Then he rose and bowed to the mother wolf. “Thank you for letting me greet your pups, and I apologize for the fright I gave you coming into the forest unannounced.” Lyli translated.
“Come father, we should leave her to care for her babies now.”
As they left the cave, Lyli’s father put his arm around his daughter’s shoulder. “I cannot visit you again, little ember.”
She looked up at him, her twelve year old face showing distress and her golden eyes filling with tears. “Why not?”
“The other gods have forbidden it. They didn’t like to let you live as a child, and now they have decided that you are old enough to be without me. They granted me this last visit, but I already have stayed too long.”
“You can’t ever come back?”
He nodded, sadness etched in his usually glowing face.
She buried her fact in his shirt, tears falling down her face, and he pulled her close. Speaking into her hair he whispered “I want you to know that I will never really abandon you. I love you as I loved your mother, and I want to be with you. So I am giving you this.” And he pressed something into her hands, kissed the top of her head, and as he vanished he called “Remember me!” and left, leaving only a ray of yellow light behind, and his laughter hanging in the air.
Lyli looked down at the object in her hands, and gasped. It was a stone, round and smooth, attached to a leather string so it could be hung about ones neck. It was smaller than her fist, but it was beautiful, swirling with shades of white and gold, and etched on the front were the words “Forever shining like the sun, my love for you goes on and on”
“Thank you father.” Lyli whispered, smiling.