I am posting each chapter of my story as i go along, but this is where I’m putting the whole story, and editing it. please add any comments, suggestions, ect :)
There is much whispering if a baby is born and does not cry, but if a baby is born and sleeps, folks shake their heads and say ‘tis black fortune for the mother. That was how it was with the baby born to dark-haired Amaya, storm-bringer. Her baby was born sleeping, but as Amaya gazed at her baby, curled in her arms, she only smiled, her storm gray eyes tired, their light going out. The baby had her mother’s dark hair, and it was assumed that she would have the gray eyes of the storm-bringers.
Amaya didn’t live to see her baby open her eyes, but when the baby did open them, they were not gray, but a bright, glowing gold, the color of the sun. And the villagers were afraid.
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 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 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.
Lyli’s father smiled to see them rolling and tumbling over eachother, but when Lyli held out one 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 and his expression grew somber. “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.
“We can’t let this go an any longer, you know that Simir.” Katon’s expression was fearful as he leaned forward in his chair. “We have to get that girl out of our forest. She’s bad luck, even if she’s not in our town, she’s in our woods.”
Simir’s black eyes were serious, and he nodded. “I know, and until she’s out of Caamden, none of us is safe, even in our own homes.” He looked around nervously, as though death itself hid in a shadowy corner. Leaning in, he whispered “Our crops haven’t been the same since that girl’s prophecy came. People are getting sick left and right.” He leaned even closer, his voice barely audible, “Some even say the red fever is creeping back in at the edges of the land.” He nodded impressively. “If you ask me, it’s not a coincidence.”
Katon yelped. His small eyes darting from one side of the room to the other, sweat beading his forehead, he thumped both hands over his heart, all his fingers curved, a gesture for warding off evil. “Not the fever! Not again! We lost so many!”
“That’s why she has to go. I think it should be tonight. We’ve waited long enough. Let’s get everyone together, and finish what we started seven years ago.”
“But Simir, she’s just a girl, we can’t kill her.”
Simir raised an eyebrow.
“Well, we could just banish her, send her off in a boat, wouldn’t that do just as well?” Katon was a weak-hearted man, who scared easily and he was greatly intimidated by the larger man, but he was very much against killing.
Simir considered for a moment, “I suppose that we could give her the choice, she leaves without a struggle or we kill her…”
“Yes! Exactly! Then surely, she will never trouble our shores again!”
* * *
It was midnight, and Lyli awoke to the sound of angry humans approaching. The forest was full of the noises of fleeing animals, the trees whispered about fire and blades.
Lyli rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and stood up.
Why are they here? What do they want? She asked a passing hedgehog.
He was too distracted to give a straight answer, They come with flaming sticks, and axes and knives, and no one can stop them!
Lyli began to run, along with every creature form the forest, trying to outrun the angry towns folk.
Why after so many years have they come back? Lyli wondered, as she began to run.
She could not run fast enough. No matter how far she went, the villagers kept up, and even gained on her.
She ran, farther and farther, till the trees thinned, the dirt changed to sand and the air tasted of the sea. She stopped, listening. They were closer than ever.
Maybe she should just confront them and ask what they wanted. She couldn’t run forever.
In her moment of hesitation, the mob broke from the edge of the wood. Two strong men grabbed her roughly by the arms and within moments she was surrounded by angry, yelling mobsters wielding flaming torches and knives the size of her entire arm.
Lyli panicked. She began kicking and flailing, trying to get away. As she struggled, someone grabbed at her father’s stone, which was hung about her neck, and tried to choke her. She grabbed at his hands, prying them off, and clutched at the stone.
The touch reminded her of her father, the look in his eyes as he had handed her the gift, and in a fit of desperation, she cried out, “Please father! Help!”
And then it happened. Light burst from the stone clutched in her hands, shooting out from between her fingers, and Lyli felt an immense power flow through her, and the men were letting go of her, and she was stepping away, radiating so much energy that they couldn’t touch her.
“What do you want?” she asked them, still holding the stone, the light still shooting out, causing most to drop their torches and weapons to cover their eyes. The wind fingered through her long, dark hair and her skirt whipped around her ankles.
The villagers were all crying out, tumbling over one another in confusion. The blinding light was sending shadows dancing across the sand, and no one could see properly.
A young man of around 16 fell to his knees at Lyli’s feet. He was skinny and frail looking, and defenseless now that he had cast his scythe aside. His hands clasped, his blue eyes streaming from the intense light, he begged, “Please, daughter of Light, spare us!”
Lyli suddenly felt very tired, as though the glowing rock had drained her of every ounce of energy. She let go of it, and the glowing stopped.
“Thank you!” the young man murmured, smiling faintly, before promptly falling over in a dead faint.
Lyli looked up at all of the villagers, only about a third of them with torches and weapons now. They all looked scared, no longer the forceful mob of a few moments ago. “What do you want?” she asked again.
The villagers were still too confused and upset to answer. A young boy near the front was crying, while the man next to him patted him awkwardly on the back.
After a long pause, a big burly man stepped forward. “We’ve come with a request.”
Lyli looked skeptically at the weapons, but decided not to question his use of the word ‘request’.
“You see miss…” the man looked around at his follow villagers, as if asking for help.
“We want you to leave.” A thin woman with curly brown hair tied back with a kerchief spoke up.
Lyli’s heart sank. She had been afraid of this for some time
“We would give you a boat and provisions enough for two months, and then we’d set you off in the right direction.”
“I can’t leave. This is my home.” Looking around, Lyli saw the shore, the waves, and to her left, the forest. She still felt weak, and she wanted desperately to sink to the ground and just cry, but she didn’t let herself.
The villagers all shifted uncomfortably, till finally, the burly man in front spoke again. “We understand that, but ever since your prophecy, all our crops are dying before their full grown, we’ve had droughts turn into floods overnight, and lightning striking from a clear sky. We’ve talked it all over and decided that it’s not a coincidence.”
Lyli looked down at her hands. She wasn’t sure it really was her fault that all these things were happening, but what if it was? What was the right thing to do? Lyli wasn’t a fighter, it wasn’t her way. She had never had to answer to anyone before though, and she didn’t know how to respond.
“Where would I go?” she stuttered, looking from one face to another, searching for a sympathetic face. She found none. All she saw was anger, and fear.
“There are lands across the sea, everyone knows that.”
That was true, everyone had heard the stories of the lands across the sea. There were tales of lands filled with flowers and fruit trees where people lived forever as near-gods, and then there were stories of floating islands ringed by fire, islands filled with demons and monsters. But when Lyli considered, she realized that there were dozens of stories about the nice lands, and almost no stories about the bad ones.
She wasn’t a particularly adventurous girl, but as Lyli thought about her options, it was like a whole new world unfolded before her eyes. She didn’t have to stay, she could go search for a land no one had ever found before, somewhere wonderful. She could learn new things.
“You would give me a boat?” she asked slowly, looking down at her hands and considering.
They all nodded.
Lyli looked out over the ocean. She imagined sailing over it, alone for who knows how long. No one knew how far it was till the next land. What if it actually did take two whole months? Would she be able to stand being alone in a boat for that long? And if she were to reach an island, would she be able to survive without help? Would the creatures there be willing to help her? Would there be humans? Would she simply be forced from that land as well?
There were so many things she did not know, things she would never know.
Unless she said yes.
“I’ll do it.”
She could see the surprise in their faces. They hadn’t expected her to be so cooperative.
“I’ll do it. I’ll go.”
The boat they gave her was a solid log, hollowed out to make a boat, and flattened on the bottom so it wouldn’t capsize. Lyli hadn’t ever been in a boat before. She had swum in the ocean but a boat was an entirely new experience. At first she clutched the sides of the boat for fear of falling off, but after a few minutes she was brave enough to let go and even to stand up.
The sea was beautiful. The light from the rising sun shone off it, causing it to look like a vast ocean of diamonds. Lyli had never been far from shore and it amazed her how big the water was. She wondered where it all came from, and if the water was getting bigger all the time, since it rained pretty regularly. And when the water fell from the sky, where did that water come from?
Time seemed to pass differently out on the sea as well. Some days seemed only an hour long while others dragged on for weeks.
Lyli missed home already. She missed the trees and the animals, and even though the salt-water fish were friendly, they never stayed long to chat, so Lyli often sat in silence.
The gulls told her of the land before she actually saw it. The black line on the horizon was the only relief she had from the unending sameness all around her. It seemed to be the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
As she drew nearer, she could make out trees and a little waterfall. It was a pretty little island, small but picturesque.
Lyli watched as mist rose from the waterfall, seeming to shape pictures in it’s midst.
Yes, it was definitely pretty, and Lyli definitely approved.
It was hard work, getting to shore. Lyli had no clue how to use the oars, so she swam, tugging the little boat after her.
“I should have asked-“ a wave smacked her in the face and she spluttered, “should have asked how to—“ smack, splutter, “how to use the—” smack, splutter, “oars!” she gasped gratefully as her feet touched bottom, and with one final heave, she pulled the boat ashore.
She coughed out water and collapsed. Her peeling, sunburned skin was soothed by the soft sand, but she only allowed herself a moment of rest. The boat had to be secured or it would be lost. Lyli tied it to a nearby tree with a bit of rope, hoping her knot would hold.
Then, finally, Lyli took stock of her surroundings. The island was even more beautiful than it had seemed from afar, as it was covered in flowers, from tiny, baby blue ones, like shards of the sky, to vibrant red ones as wide an Lyli was tall.
And the birds. Oh, the bird song was beautiful, it almost seemed to have a melody. As Lyli ventured farther into the island, she discovered all kinds of birds, ones she knew and ones she had never seen before. She even came across one that was brightly colored, like the rainbow, and howled like a wolf.
That sound made Lyli homesick. She missed the mother wolf and her litter of seven little cubs. She missed the trees, the old willow, with its emotional spouts and hysterical fits, the hazelnut, with its beautiful stories, the pines…
She missed it all.
Sitting down hard beneath a tree, (not the kind she knew, but one with an odd, rough trunk, spiky leaves and large green fruits hanging high up) Lyli began to cry. She wasn’t the kind of girl who often cried, she thought it was a silly waste of good water and that there was enough salt water in the ocean and the world didn’t need more pouring from the eyes of girls like open faucets. But this was an occasion where crying was acceptable. She had just spent three days out at sea, her eyes burning from the salt spray and the glaring sun, her skin peeling like a snakes.
So she sat there, her head in her hands, her long hair hanging matted around her face, and tears flowing.
It was a while before Lyli realized that she could feel something touching the top of her head. She jerked up, and smacked at whatever it was, thinking perhaps some animal thought to make it nest out of her hair.
She could not have been more surprised to see what had been touching her head.
It was a boy.
A boy of around thirteen or so, with soft, light blonde hair falling into his eyes, which were a beautiful shade of bright blue, and for some reason, his eyes rang a bell in Lyli’s mind. He stared at her with those big, blue eyes, and she stared back.
“Um, Hello.” Lyli stood to face him, noting that he was several inches taller than herself, and much broader, and that there was no way, if he came to fight, that she could beat him.
He cocked his head in an oddly canine way, as though he were a dog listening to an odd sound.
Lyli coughed uncomfortably. The boy had yet to take those blue eyes off of her and it was making her nervous. “Who are you?” she asked, trying to sound polite.
He only stared intently. His gaze was not malicious, or happy, or even curious. He just stared as though he intended to memorize every detail of Lyli’s appearance, from her bare feet to her round, sun-tanned face and golden eyes.
Then he did the most unexpected thing in the world.
The boy barked. And it wasn’t a pitiful little yap either, it was true wolf speech.
Lyli was so startled that she did not understand him, so he repeated himself.
“Who are you?”
Lyli’s mouth was hanging open, but she quickly closed it and responded, trying not to gawk. “Lyli. Who are you?”
“They call me Wanderer.”
“Whose ‘they’? And why do you speak wolf? Do you speak human as well?”
“Human?” The boy tipped his head again, and he reminded Lyli forcefully of a puppy who does not understand a direction.
For the first time, Lyli really looked at the boy. He was rugged, with muscles that only a grown man should have, and he wore torn and dirty clothes that were several sizes too big for him.
“Yes, human… don’t you know what a human is?” that was a stupid question, of course he knew what a human was.
“No I don’t.” His expression wasn’t embarrassed, or even curious. His eyes were full of life, yet they seemed oddly blank in some way… as though a piece of him was missing.
“But…” Lyli stuttered, almost reverting to human again, “You are human!”
The boy looked down at himself, “So by human, you mean a two-legged?”
“Uhh… I guess so.” This was a very strange boy indeed if he didn’t even know the proper name for his own race. “So um, Wanderer, why do you speak wolf? You never told me.”
“I speak wolf because I was brought up by a wolf. I came to this Island, before it became trapped in time. I was just a babe, and the mother wolf found me, and raised me with her own pups. She taught me to speak, and to hunt.”
Lyli was staring at him again, her mouth hanging open like a fish’s. “You were raised by a wolf?”
“Yes. Why do you speak wolf? Were you raised by one too?”
Lyli shook her head “No, I was raised by the forest, and I learned the languages of all the creatures, including the wolf.” Something occurred to her, and she suddenly became worried. “Did you say this island was trapped in time? What do you mean?”
“I mean that this island can only continue to travel through time if it has love. It had love for thousands of years, the same love that the wolf mother gave me when I arrived. When she died, the entire island stopped aging.”
“How long ago was that? How old are you really?”
“It was over a hundred years ago. And I’m fourteen.”
“A hundred and fourteen you mean.” Lyli imagined being a teenager for a hundred years. She thought about the boy, his wolf mother dead, and him alone for a hundred years. “I’m sorry. About your wolf mother I mean. It must have been… hard… to lose her.” Lyli knew well the pain of that kind of loss, she felt it every time a tree was cut down and its spirit went on, and every time an animal died, she felt it as it passed.
“What do you mean by sorry?”
Lyli’s eyes were getting tired of staring, but again she gaped at the boy. What did she mean by sorry, what kind of a question was that?
His eyes bored into her, as though he knew her thoughts, but still it was as if a piece of him was missing from those unreadable eyes, and it clicked.
There were tales of people with eyes as blue as the sky, as blue as the sea, bluer than blue. They were a race of people, who generally kept to themselves, a race that was both feared and respected.
This boy was a Heartless.
A Heartless. How had she not seen at the first second? His hair was unusual, as most Heartless had darker brown or black hair, and his was that soft, light blonde.
“Are you a Heartless?” The question seemed to startle the boy, Wanderer, did he say they called him?
“They say I am, how did you know?”
“Your blue eyes. Only the Heartless have eyes that blue.” That explained his missing piece. This boy, this Wanderer, had no emotions.
The Heartless were a race of people who had no feelings. They had all their internal organs intact, but the name “Heartless” had stuck none-the-less. They had come about through a defected human, a prince, who had been born with no emotions. He married for politics, since he could not love, and had three children, a boy and two girls, and his son and youngest daughter, like him, had no emotions. Thus the race spread, and they became feared outcasts, living together in small, run-down villages, marrying not for love but for money and situation.
Wanderer’s voice broke into Lyli’s thoughts. “I didn’t know my eyes were blue.” For the first time Wanderer looked away from her face and walked over to a little pool nearby, fed by a quiet little stream, to look at his reflection. “Yep, they’re blue.” He looked back at Lyli. “Your eyes are very pretty. They look like my wolf mother’s eyes.”
Lyli turned pink. She had never been given a compliment like that before, much less from a boy. She hadn’t really ever talked to any boys, but she was sure this one was very, very different.
“Thank you. Most people fear me because of my eyes, saying it’s unnatural.”
“It is unnatural, but that’s why I like it. I’m unnatural to they say, since I can’t do this thing they call loving, and they all can.”
“Who is they?”
“The island of course.” He gestured out over the land, as though trying to show her everything at once.
“Will you show me?” Lyli was eager to meet the creatures and plants of this place, it was so alien, yet somehow, so very close to home.
He nodded, and began walking. He explained everything he saw to her, and as her fingers brushed the leaves and the dew drops and the surface of the still lakes, she began to feel more at peace. She knew how to handle this.
Wanderer’s voice was unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was wild and wolfish, yet calming in some insane way. As he explained things, snarling and barking in his animal way, Lyli imagined what he would sound like if he spoke human. It would be beautiful, like the sound of the wind in the trees, like the sound of raindrops on a pond, like waves on the shore. He speaks like he is part of the forest. She though to herself. His voice cracked occasionally, proving that it wasn’t changed all the way. Lyli laughed to herself when she realized that his voice had probably been changing for a hundred years, but when Wanderer asked what she was doing, and she realized he had never heard laughter before, she sobered up.
He was explaining the odd rough-barked tree with the large green fruits. “It’s called a coconut tree. The bark is really easy to-“
Lyli’s thoughts kept getting distracted by little things like the beauty of the sun glinting off a birds red wing. I wonder what it feels like to fly.
“And once you get to the top you only have to-“
If I could fly I would want to look at the ocean from above. I bet that’s pretty
“…they come falling down, you have to make sure no one is underneath though—“
I bet he has a nice laugh.
“And then you split them open and—“
And thus it went on. Lyli did learn quite a bit though, and every bit of it was interesting.
The sun climbed higher and higher until it began dipping down again, and finally it burned its way right down into the ocean, leaving a blazing sunset behind it, and Lyli and Wanderer made their way up to the highest point on the island, where they could see out over the entire island and over miles and miles of ocean.
“Wow” Lyli breathed. The sunset was incredible, the reds and pinks and golds streaming out over the water, painting a picture of pure beauty.
Wanderer didn’t even glance at the sunset. It occurred to Lyli that maybe he could not appreciate it, maybe it took emotions to see beauty like that.
“What are you staring at?” Wanderer was watching her stare at the water.
“The sunset.” She watched him carefully out of the corners of her eyes, trying to see what he thought of the beauty. Nothing. His face was as unreadable and empty as ever.
“Where did you come from?”
Lyli looked back at Wanderer, a little surprised by his question. He had yet to ask her anything about herself, but she supposed it was beyond him to be curious.
“I came from Caamden. It’s three days sailing across the east sea.”
“What’s it like there?” his voice cracked.
“Well the part where I lived was all forest. There was a village not far away but I—“
“What’s a village?” he interrupted.
“A place where lots of humans live together in houses, those are like caves only people make them above ground and out of wood.”
“Oh.” His lack of curiosity was bizarre, he asked questions but it was almost like he didn’t care about the answer. Maybe he didn’t even care if he got an answer.
Lyli sat in silence, a few paces away from Wanderer, who was absent-mindedly weaving blades of grass together.
This boy didn’t deserve to be stuck here on an island, never to grow up, never to be a man. He was indifferent of course but still, it wasn’t right! He should be taught to speak like a human, taught to socialize, and besides, his voice should be allowed to change all the way.
She would ask him in the morning. For now, she needed to sleep.
Wanderer took her to the cave where he lived, tucked away in a pretty little corner of the island. The doorway was almost invisible since it was hung over with wisteria, but once the flowers were pulled aside, the cave inside was comfortable and spacious. There was a single bed of leaves in a corner, and Wanderer insisted that Lyli use it for the night.
The bed was surprisingly comfortable for being made of leaves, and Lyli slept well, and dreamed of home.
* * *
Lyli awoke to the sounds of a wolf barking. For a moment, she was sure that she was home, in her own forest, and that the mob, the boat, and Wanderer had all been part of some bizarre dream. But when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t a wolf, it was Wanderer, his light hair sticking up from his nights rest, and his blue eyes fixed on Lyli.
Lyli rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and sat up. “Yes, I can see that.” She thought about taking wanderer with her when she sailed away. Would he want to go with her? Well he couldn’t want to… but he couldn’t not want to either. Something about him had piqued Lyli’s interest and she wanted to be able to, someday, understand him.
But how could she ask something like that of him? She knew what I was like to be forced from your home, to be forced to leave the place you had known all your life.
“Your eyebrows are doing something funny, they’re pulling together… why?” Wanderer was watching her. Again.
“It’s something human’s do called frowning. We do it when we are upset, sad, or angry.”
What a terrible thing, to not even know what it was to be happy. “Wanderer, being happy is… it’s when, well, when something good happens, you feel…” he won’t know what ‘feel’ means either. “Okay, the difference between happy and sad is like the difference between touching a soft animal and getting cut. One is soft and warm and the other is, well, it hurts right?”
“So it’s pain versus no pain?”
“Um, not really. Sort of yes, but not really…” how could one ever even attempt to explain emotions to someone who had never felt them? “Never mind.”
“You know sometimes I wonder what it would be like to get off this Island, because I don’t know any other place. They can’t all be the same, and maybe I could learn something new.”
He was almost talking to himself, but it was obvious Lyli’s mentioning Caamden had set Wanderer to thinking.
Lyli saw the perfect opportunity and seized it. “I’m going away on a boat. I could take you if you like. We could go find some new place and learn everything there is to know. I can…” she hesitated, then plunged on, “I can even teach you to speak the tongue of the humans if you like.”
He looked at her, and spoke as though he had always known his answer. “I will go. If you are sure you will take me that is, and if you are certain you can teach me to speak in the language of the humans.”
Lyli was a bit surprised at his readiness, but her face broke into a smile and she clapper her hands. “Of course I can teach you! I’d be ha…” she stopped herself, “Yes, I will teach you if you will come.”
They shook hands on it, and the broad, blue-eyed boy and the fragile-looking golden-eyed girl prepared to set out on a journey that would change both their lives forever.
The boat was much lighter with Wanderer helping her push. He had few belongings, only the clothes he was wearing, (which hadn’t gotten a day more ragged in a hundred years), a set of reed pipes, and a dagger.
The pair filled the boat with provisions: skins of fresh water and a variety of fruits from off the island trees.
One good thing about bringing Wanderer along was that he knew how to use the oars. Getting off the island was much simpler than getting onto it had been with the strong boy pulling away at the oars.
Lyli was a little bid sad to see the beautiful island vanish into the distance, but she knew that she had to go on. She had to find a place where she could live, permanently. That island was not one of them. And the whole trapped-in-time thing was not exactly Lyli’s cup of tea.
* * *
Wanderer did not make a very good conversationalist as he had no opinions whatsoever. Didn’t mind as much as most people would have, as she was used to long silences. Occasionally Wanderer would speak up to tell her about a fish or a bird he saw, but usually they sat in silence.
It would have been awkward, but it wasn’t, since he so obviously didn’t think it was.
They went on for a day like this, and when night came, they were presented with a problem.
“If we both lay down, we won’t fit inside the boat.” Wanderer commented when Lyli began to yawn. It was about three hours after sundown, and Lyli was very ready for sleep.
She stopped mid-yawn. Sleeping on the boat hadn’t even crossed her mind. This would be a problem.
“We’ll have to take turns sleeping.” She concluded. “You can sleep first if you want, since you lent me your bed last night.”
“Okay.” Without another word, Wanderer slumped against an oar and began to snore.
“Wow, that was fast.” Lyli muttered to herself. She hadn’t spoken in human for a while and it was a relief to her throat to speak naturally again. She wasn’t used to speaking wolf for such a long period of time. “If I go on like this, I’ll end up thinking in wolf!” she stared out into the darkness, black as ink. “I wonder if it was right to bring him.”
The darkness did not reply.
* * *
The next days became blurred in Lyli’s memory. Did she and Wanderer sail on that endless blanket of blue water for fifty days, or a thousand? She could never be sure.
She did remember the day that was different, the day they first saw the land.
It was just a dark blotch on the horizon, but Lyli laughed so gladly when she saw it that she fell out of the boat, and Wanderer had to pull her, dripping wet, back in. Lyli didn’t mind falling in the sea, she was just so happy to see land at last that getting a little more wet than she already was seemed a trivial matter. What mattered was getting to that land as fast as possible.
It didn’t feel like a long time from that point till the time they reached the shore, but it must have been all day because the sun had set when they finally pulled their little boat up onto the sand.
The pair collapsed from exhaustion, panting for breath.
“We should wait for morning, and then go exploring.” Wanderer mumbled, his voice just barely audible.
Lyli merely nodded, unable to muster the strength for words. Right now, she only wanted to rest. Morning will come, in its own due time. Lyli thought as her eyes closed.
If only she had known how very, very wrong she was.
Lyli’s eyes opened, and she wondered if she had slept at all. The sun had not yet risen, or perhaps it had risen and sunk again.
She rolled onto her side and found herself nose-to-nose with a sleeping Wanderer. She pulled away, startled. His eyes fluttered open.
“Is it the same night or the next?” he asked, sitting up and yawning.
“I haven’t any clue. I was hoping you knew.”
He shook his head. “I think it must be the next night though, since I feel like I’ve slept for quite a while.”
“So do I, but that makes no sense, I always wake up when the sun comes up. Always.”
“So you think it’s the same night?”
“Does it even matter?”
“Oh, yes. It matters very much.”
In an instant, Wanderer was on his feet with his dagger in his hand. Lyli turned slowly, fear turning her heart to ice. The man who had spoken leaned against a nearby tree, looking at her and Wanderer. He held no weapon, brandished no flaming sticks, wielded no sword, but he didn’t look afraid.
He was tall, in about his late thirties, with dark hair, a dirty worker’s tunic, and green eyes that had an interesting steely glint that was almost silver, but not quite.
He looked directly at Lyli, his steely green eyes hitting her with a force she could almost feel, and asked “Do you speak human?”
Lyli studied him for a moment, swallowed, and then nodded.
He nodded back and then turned to Wanderer. “Do you?”
Wanderer only watched him, his blonde hair in his face, his knife held tightly.
Lyli spoke up for him. “He speaks wolf. Only wolf.”
The man nodded. Then he surprised Lyli by holding out a hand to Wanderer, and introducing himself. In wolf.
“I’m Ryder. I’m guessing you’re a Heartless, since you have those eyes, but what’s your name, son?”
Wanderer didn’t take the hand but introduced himself as well.
The man, Ryder, then turned to Lyli. “And… do you prefer I use wolf or human to speak to you?”
“Wolf. I’d rather Wanderer would understand you as well.”
“As you wish. Now tell me, who are you? While this Wanderer boy had the blue eyes of the heartless, your eyes are… golden?”
Lyli wasn’t about to share her life story with some random guy who happened to speak wolf. “Yeah, they are, aren’t they? Who are you? Where are we?”
The man shifted on his feet, and looked unhappy. “I am sorry for you, that you ended up here. It should not have happened to two so young.”