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Chapter I

Chapter I

A Chapter by VassD
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We meet the characters, and we learn bits and pieces of Kaili's past.

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Kaili flopped backwards into the leaf pile, laughing hysterically when Cyd, her Puffsker, dived in on top of her. He landed on her stomach, and had he been as heavy as his size implied, he would have driven the wind from her lungs, but even though Cyd was roughly the size of a beach ball, he weighed about the same as a bag of cotton balls. Zee, a flying squirrel the same size as a small horse, chittered from the bare branches above.

Cyd proceeded to jump up and down on her body. She barely felt it, and accidentally sent him flying when she sat up suddenly, staring at her watch.

"Oh, no!! I only have four minutes to get home before she'll blow my head off!" The "she" in question was Kaili's stepmother, Fredricka. After Kaili's real mother, Destinæ, had died when Kaili was about five, her father had remarried a few years later. But even nine years past, Kaili referred to her as "she," "her," "the freaky woman," and "Fredricka." Not mother. Never mother.

Fredricka had a set of twins, about a year and half older than Kaili, and the three of them got along about as well as oil and water.  Luckily, they weren't home very often, because they went to some boarding school that was too far away for frequent visits. Unluckily, they were home for the next three weeks of the summer holiday.  Which was why Kaili was spending more and more of her free time in the town square, almost fifteen minutes on foot from the isolated Edraan estate.  She despised the twins.  Just being around them, with their garish dresses and pug-like faces, made every inch of her skin crawl. 

When Kaili had been old enough to really look at the situation she was living in, she had laughed. An evil stepmother and two evil stepsisters.  Textbook fairy tale. 

But even as she thought it, she realized that it wasn't really true.  She may not like them, but they weren't evil. She respected Fredricka, and knew that she had a good heart. There were times when she did things that were careless and just made the lonely ache inside of Kaili that longed for her mother hurt even worse. The twins weren't really evil either, they were just malevolent. They took some perverse pleasure in tormenting her, despite both Alec and Fredricka's frequent admonitions. They were horrible, just not evil. It was just that they never seemed like family.  It was like having strangers that don't like you living in your house. Constantly. For the past nine years. 

Zee dropped lightly to the ground, having seen the look of panic on Kaili's face, and having known Kaili as long as she had, she was able to interpret it quite easily as, "I'M GONNA BE LATE!" 

Kaili swiftly mounted, stopping only to grab Cyd out of a massive back flip that he had just done off of a tree branch, and then they were off, Zee's powerful hind legs propelling them into the sky.  Zee beat at the air, forcing them to go faster and higher.  Kaili watched as the tops of houses, and then trees flew by as the structured layout of the town gave way to raw, virgin forests.  Zee was one of the fastest flying squirrels in the country, and could have easily gotten Kaili home in five minutes, but she didn't have five minutes.  She was already down to two.  

When they reached the house, Kaili flipped off Zee while they were still at least fifteen feet up in the air.  Her dad had shown her that last month, and she had perfected it just this last week. 

She rolled to a halt, then got up running, leaving Cyd as he and Zee celebrated:  four minutes from the square to home"a new record!  But that didn't matter"she was still two minutes late.

She opened the side door, and tiptoed down the hardwood floor to her dad's study, praying he was there, knowing that any explosions on the part of Fredricka would be tempered by her father.  Alec Edraan was a fair minded man, but he was also protective of his daughter.  She let out a breath she had been holding since entering the house when she saw her father sitting at his desk.  Luckily, her father had his back to her, so she crept past unnoticed.  Normally she would have leapt for the opportunity for talk to her father"he was the only one in the house who she really could talk to, after all"but tonight she had to hurry.  Fredricka always checked her room if she was "late," and she had to get there before her stepmother did.

Kaili made it to the hallway housing her room without incident, convinced she had made it through scott-free, but stopped dead when she saw the door to her room.  It was hanging ajar ever so slightly; almost unnoticeable to any other person, but a neon sign that something was amiss to the eyes of its owner. 

Kaili always shut her door completely.  She never liked being in her room with an open door.  She wasn't sure why, but she assumed it had something to do with a fear that had been born the day she had met the twins.  

She had been in her room with Cyd, and they were working on a picture that she had planned to frame and put on her mother's grave, when all of the sudden, two eight year old girls had marched into her room through the open door and taken one look at her sitting on the bed, her hair messed up, and the painstakingly rendered"yet still only vaguely recognizable to any but her father, Cyd, and herself"picture on her lap, and  they had burst out laughing, calling her awful names and mocking her picture.  Kaili had stared in shock for one horrible minute before she ran from the room, her picture floating to the floor, yelling for her daddy.  She would never forget the feeling of sinking dread when her dad told her that the horrid girls would most likely be staying for a very long time.  She had been almost indistinguishable from the stone-faced statues, when, six months later, her father married the mother of those little vipers that had again shattered her world. 

Ever since then, she had always kept her door shut tight, and her room was always immaculate, anything she valued hid away from the mocking eyes of her new sisters. She had found a loose floor board in her closet, and had taken to hiding anything her mother had made for her in the box that was fit snugly into the cavity. The only things that would betray to any intruder that Kaili had any memory of her mother were two pictures, one hanging on the wall, the other on her dresser:  a photo of Kaili, Cyd and Zee on her fourth birthday that her mother had signed and had planned to give her for her fifth birthday; and a black and white photo of Kaili and Destinæ, each smiling broadly, each hugging the other fiercely.  Kaili couldn't bear to hide her mother's smile away.

This was why Kaili's blood ran cold in her veins as she stared at the open door, and now, as she listened for it, the faint rustling of something or someone moving about her room.  She had a good idea of who it was, although it didn't quite make sense. Fredricka had always before simply stuck her head into the room, and then, upon discovery that Kaili was not present, stood in the hallway with a disappointed, exasperated frown on her face. 

Unable to stand it any more, Kaili burst through the door"and once more stopped dead.  Fredricka was pacing back and forth, a look of fierce determination on her face. Kaili's room was in a state of vague disarray, drawers open and shut haphazardly, the normally immaculate bed creased and rumpled, and"perhaps the most distressing fact of all"a pile of suitcases in the corner.

For several agonizing moments, nothing was said, nor was any move made.  Finally Kaili was able to force a feeble "What are doing in my room?" out of her throat before the shock of the strange situation robbed her vocal chords of any of the powers of speech they still held. 

Fredricka looked up at her quickly, only meeting her gave for a few moments before darting away. The look of determination on her face had faded slightly, giving way to a frazzled, vaguely disoriented look on her face. "I… I can't… You don't… it…" 

Kaili couldn't take it for much longer.  Something inside her snapped, and she yelled, "What are you doing in my room, Fredricka?!" 

The look of determination snapped back into place, and Fredricka's eyes hardened in resolve. "It is things like that that lead to this, Kaili. I try my hardest to be a mother to you, but you just push me away. You've left me no choice!"

Kaili blinked in confusion. "No choice about what? What are you talking about?"

"You disrespect me, you disobey the rules I have set in place, and I can't take it any more. I don't know how to handle you, and so I'm sending you to be taught by someone who can." 

Her head was spinning. She still couldn't figure out what exactly was going on. Someone who could handle her? What did that even mean? Like some kind of school? This didn't make any sense!

As it slowly eked into her mind, she could only bring herself to ask the simplest of questions. "Where are you sending me?"

A flicker of…something passed over Fredricka's eyes, so quickly that Kaili wasn't sure that it had even happened, but before she could puzzle out the meaning of this oddity, Fredricka spoke. "My late first husband's brother runs a finishing school in my home country. He told me… he told me if I ever needed to get some of the children off my plate, I could send them there. When I remarried your father, my brother-in-law said the offer still stood." 

"What is?" Kaili whirled to the door, and was relieved to see her father was coming to the door.  Alec had heard the sound of their voices, and had put two and two together, no doubt coming to the conclusion that a confrontation was brewing.  

Kaili didn't wait for Fredricka to speak, but plowed forward, telling him all, starting with how she had only been two minutes late, moving to how she had come in to see her room in its current state, and finished with, "And now she's sending me to some  school in Terigmahthn!" 

Alec stood there, and Kaili was too busy looking back and forth between the two adults to notice the look of absolute pain and grief that passed over his eyes. He cleared his throat, and when Kaili and Fredricka turned to him, the look had passed. "How soon?"

Fredricka started in on some speech about how if she left tomorrow, she would arrive in time to get herself situated before the term started. Normally Kaili would have stepped in, demanding to know why Fredricka was allowed to make such a huge decision without any real provocation, but the rest of the world had settled into a low drone around her, Alec and Fredricka's voices coming to her as if from the far end of a tunnel.  How soon, her father had said. Not No, absolutely not, or even Now, let's be reasonable about this.  He hadn't said anything to dissuade Fredricka from this.  He wasn't going to try to keep her here.  He was going to make her go. 

For what seemed like the millionth time in her short life, Kaili's world shattered, and this time, with it went her heart. 

Her eyes started to burn, further blurring the scene before her.  Kaili pushed past her father, ignoring his calls and Fredricka's admonitions.  She burst through door, almost bowling over the twins where they crouched by the door, eagerly listening for the verbal beating they had surely hoped would come.  Again ignoring the sea of protests she left in her wake, Kaili ran down the hall, taking the steps three at a time, jumping the last six, and flung open the front door. She ran through the vast lawns, running for the corner plot where her mother was buried.

Hurdling over the fence in a single leap, Kaili staggered to the door of the small above-ground monument. Wrenching it open, she almost tripped down the stairs revealed by the soft glow of the light sensitive crystals lining the walls. Coming to an unsteady halt in the center of the subterranean mausoleum, she made her way slowly toward the walls where the stone cabinet-like hollows housed the family dead. 

Blinded more by her own tears than by any lack of light, Kaili walked the familiar length to the stone slab that covered the opening in the wall that held her mother's casket. Falling to her knees, she laid her head against the cool marble, and the tears that began to fall more freely etched paths in the previously untouched dust. 

Kaili had only ever cried this hard when her mother died. Destinæ had been twenty-seven; Kaili, only five. Before that, Kaili could remember only the love that had seemed to constantly enfold her. 

As if bidden by her thoughts, Kaili's mind drifted to happier times. She remembered the time when she and her mother had found a little hatchling sparrow that was too young to fly and had fallen from its nest. Kaili had been so happy to see it finally fly back home to its mother, but Destinæ had said, "Even if you helped them on their way, it still hurts to let them go." Kaili had never really understood what her mother had meant. 

Once set on the road of remembrance, her mind seemed unwilling to leave it.  She traveled then to her fourth birthday, when her parents had surprised her by giving her one of the newborn flying squirrels that their family had bred for the past seven generations. The fledgling squirrel was the size of a small pony, and its chocolate brown fur already covering the tight muscles that made up the flesh stretched between the arms and legs. She remembered how right it had felt the first time she had looked into Zee's eye, and how wonderful it had felt the first time they flew. 

As she came even closer to the present day, her mind moved forward a few months to a day they had been on a family picnic in the woods surrounding their home. She had been playing hide and seek with her mother when all of the sudden out of the bushes this little red thing had come barreling into her stomach, knocking her flat on her back.

Dazed for only a moment, she had looked up to see a pair of vivid emerald eyes staring at her through the leaves of a small fern. Being the undaunted little girl she was, she had crawled on all fours toward him, keeping a steady eye contact with the little creature at all times. 

Stopping about three feet from the strange animal, she had done nothing but sit and keep a fixed gaze between her eyes and the brilliant green eyes before her. After a few seconds of silence, the odd little thing had come shuffling out of the underbrush on short little legs, and Kaili had then recognized it as a much bigger version of the Puffskers she had seen in many of the local shops. The Puffsker-thing had waved at her and said hello in a high pitched voice that wasn't exactly squeaky, but seemed natural for that body. She had then asked it its name, and it had taken a deep breath as if preparing for a very long statement, but all that had come out when it spoke was "Cyd."

It hadn't taken a lot to convince her parents to let her keep it, and they had been constant companions ever since. 

Kaili's mind now drew her down darker roads, taking her to the day her mother died.  Kaili had been standing by her mother's bed for hours, keeping a silent vigil with her father, when her mother had suddenly woken up from a fevered sleep and cried for her daughter. Kaili had nearly tripped over her own feet in the rush to take hold of her mother's outstretched hand.  "Promise me, little Kaili, promise me you'll never hate me. Promise me you won't hate me for the lies." Kaili had been so shocked that she hadn't thought about what Destinæ had asked before saying yes. Later on, Kaili had sat, trying to make some sense of what her mother had said. She never could.

After Kaili had answered her, her mother had pressed a necklace into Kaili's palm, and while their hands remained touching, Kaili felt the life leave her mother. Her fingers could still remember the feel of her mother's had as it fell limp from her grasp. 

Kaili pressed her forehead against the carved marble, feeling the inscription of "Destinæ Edraan, beloved wife and mother," bite into her skin. She put her hand against her mother's name, and she could see her mother as she was, laughing and smiling at something Kaili had said or done. It seemed so real, but as she watched, the image faded into another, so clear it had to be a memory, but Kaili could have sworn she had never been there before, even though something about it sang of familiarity. 

In a beautiful grove, covered in dappled sunlight, so real Kaili could almost feel the warmth of it on her face, Kaili could see her mother and father dancing. Her mother was wearing a gorgeous white gown, so white and pristine that it shone just to look at it. Her father was in his simple everyday clothes, but instead of being overshadowed by her mother's glory, her radiance just seemed to add to his own.

Looking about at the trees, Kaili was astonished to see that the bark on the trunks and branches seemed to have grown in strangely recognizable patterns, the meanings of which seemed to hover just beyond her comprehension. One symbol that seemed to be wherever she looked resembled a crescent moon with a star enclosed within it. No matter where it was, it always seemed that the part with the star was covered in shadow. Somehow, the strange figure reminded her of home.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a sharp pounding started, getting louder as the scene before her faded. She felt the pounding reverberate in her skull, and it was a moment before she heard her father calling her name. She looked over at the closed door of the crypt, just as her father yelled, "Kaili, please! I'm sorry, I'll explain everything, just open the door! Please!"


© 2011 VassD


Author's Note

VassD
This was a bit of a rough chapter to write, namely because this whole project is actually a big re-write. I had to re-define some of the characters, and try and give the events and reactions a little more substance. If it sounds shaky, let me know.

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Added on November 16, 2011
Last Updated on November 16, 2011
Tags: cerulean, blaze, elves, magic


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VassD
VassD

A tiny random town-city-dimension, ID



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I'm a fledgling author with dreams about as big as one of Robert Jordan's books. Maybe more than one on top of each other. I love writing fantasy and science fiction stories (No matter how long a piec.. more..

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A Chapter by VassD