In the Dark

In the Dark – Chapter 1

THEN

 Through the open shutters of the kitchen window, Siobhan watched her oldest friend make her way to the door. “Are you sure you don’t want to join us?” Siobhan looked over her shoulder, “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

“I know, mom. I just don’t know if I have it in me today.” Brenna sat at the small table and rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Siobhan moved to the door to let Margot in.

Brenna narrowed her eyes, “The same thing that’s always wrong: Me. Apparently I’m a freak.”

Margot stepped in, a large woven basket in her hands. “Are we ready to go?” Excitement lit her eyes. “The fields are in bloom. It’s officially Spring!”

“Hi, Aunt Margot.” Brenna’s voice counteracting Margot’s cheer.

              Margot walked towards Brenna and kissed her cheek. “Happy birthday, darling.”

              “Thank you.”

“So you comin’ with us, dearie?

“No.”

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Concerned, Margot sat at the table across from Brenna.

Siobhan spoke up, “She’s still upset that her power hasn’t come.” A subtle, knowing look passed between the two women.

Margot looked back to Brenna, “I know it’s uncommon, Brenna, but I hope you understand that this isn’t a bad thing. It makes you unique. In a town of wielders, you get to be our anchor.”

Brenna smirked poorly and looked at the table, scraping the old wood with her nail. “Yeah, I’ll try to remember that.” Her voice was soft.

Siobhan kissed the top of Brenna’s head, “I love you, powers or not.”

Brenna winced, “Alright, you two, it’s too early for all of this mushy stuff. Go get the blooms for the ritual.”

“What are you going to do today?” Siobhon asked.

“Probably get my dress ready. The least I can do is look good while standing around and doing nothing tonight.”

“That’s my girl, always the optimist.” Margot winked.

As Siobhan followed Margot out the door, she looked at Brenna and the disappointed expression still prominent on her face. “It’ll get better, my light. I love you.”

“Love you, mom.” Brenna whispered in return, watching Siobhan leave.

______________________________

Siobhan and Margot entered the thin patch of woods between their home and the cliffside meadow. 

“You ever gonna tell her?”

Siobhan gripped the strap of her satchel. “I know I should.”

“She’s more than old enough.” Margot looked at Siobhan as they continued walking. “Maybe it’ll make her feel better to know why.”

Siobhan took a deep breath, hoping to gain the strength to hold back the coming tears. “I know. I know, but there’s so many questions she’ll have that I won’t be able to answer.” She sniffed, trying not to burst into tears. 

“Have you even talked about him?”

“Not to her. She never asked. She just always accepted that it’s just me and her. I just don’t want it to change how she feels.” A single tear escaped and rolled down Siobhan’s cheek.

Margot stopped and hugged her friend tight. “She’ll always be your daughter.”

Siobhan closed her eyes and embraced Margot. “I know. Maybe I’ll tell her after the ceremony. I’m not sure how she’ll take it.”

They broke away from their hug. Siobhan wiped away the tears and they continued their trek to the meadow in sullen silence.

________________________________

The early spring sunshine stretched across the grass-strewn cliffside. Siobhan lay in the tall greens, watching the puffs of white clouds shift with the breeze.  Nearby, Margot hummed old lullabies as she picked fresh wildflowers. Siobhan’s mind raced with memories, this day reminding her of the day she met the mysterious stranger she’d come to know as the greatest love of her life.

It was a day just like this, many years ago, Siobhan had been singing old lullabies that her  grandmother had once sung to her while they tended the garden. She let the magic ripple from her fingertips as she tugged the plants, the blooms always sparkled when she did this. 

   She spun to pick flowers from a different patch of soft earth when a dark blemish on the bright landscape startled her. She squinted trying to see clearly. It was a man, donning armor as black as his hair. The distance between them was waning as he marched directly toward her.

Curious about each other, they’d made eye contact until he was within speaking range. His voice was hoarse; his lips looked dry, despite the moisture clinging to his skin. “What is this place?” His question was fitting for an armor-clad man in such a peaceful place.

Siobhan watched his eyes move across the landscape while keeping his large knapsack close to his chest. “This meadow is on the outskirts of Kaern, my home. You must be lost.”

“Yes, and in great need of some shelter.”

“Well, follow me. I’ll take you to our High Priest, she usually has an answer for everything.”

“Thank you.”

She had begun to walk briskly toward the little village hidden by a patch of woods when she turned back with an unexpected smile. “Oh, by the way, I’m Siobhan.”

“Sondair.”

Her heart still fluttered when she remembered the way he smiled back. Margot’s soft singing sounded distant as Siobhan fell further into memories.

Siobhan remembered the weary look on Sondair’s face to hear how far the nearest city with an inn had been; how her grandmother showed no hesitation to open their home to this strange man with hair as black as night and battle-worn armor just as dark. 

Sondair had been hesitant, but grateful. He’d offered to keep to the borrowed room, but when her grandmother reached up and flicked his ear, they all knew there would be no hiding for Sondair.

When the sun rose over Sondair’s first night in their home, he expressed how comfortably he had slept, but how he didn’t feel ready for another long trek so soon. Her grandmother had smiled and offered him their home as long as he needed.

Days turned to weeks when he took a job with Farmer Brandel. “I left my home with nothing. I really should have money before I go anywhere. I doubt everyone is as hospitable.” He’d told her grandmother. After hard days in the fields, he’d spent the evenings with Siobhan and her grandmother. He’d help cook and clean. Siobhan would listen to the odd stories of creatures and places that sounded more like fairy tales than real life. 

Weeks turned to months. Siobhan found herself seeking out Sondair’s company. He’d watch her practice magic, she’d tell him the town gossip. And on one cool, autumn night, stolen glances turned into stolen kisses. 

When her grandmother passed, their sadness sparked something more than the simple kisses stolen in the night and locked hands during summer walks.

Siobhan had been crying on her bed, holding her grandmother’s favorite scarf when he opened the door. Standing in the doorway, he looked at her through swollen, red eyes. “I’m so sorry, Siobhan.” His deep voice was soft, comforting.

“I’m glad you were here, Sondair.  That she had the chance to meet you. You meant more to her than you realize.” Siobhan looked toward the window, rain beating heavily against the panes. She coughed and straightened her back. “I think you mean more to me than you realize. But if you’re ready to leave, I understand.” 

Sondair had sat in front of her, his gentle fingers on her chin pulling her gaze toward him. “The first time I kissed you, I knew I’d never leave. I’ll stay right by your side.”

“Always?”

“Always.”

It had been years since she let herself think of him so clearly. He had been everything to her in such a short time. He even gave her Brenna; such a beautiful and bright child, she practically glowed in the night. She remembered how Sondair’s arms would wrap so tightly around Brenna after she had fallen asleep, his hands in her straw colored hair.

“My Brenna,” he’d whisper, rocking her in the moonlight of the small room-

“Siobhan,” Margot interrupted. “Do you feel that?” Lost in memories, Siobhan hadn’t noticed when Margot stopped serenading the wildflowers. But she felt it, the subtle shift in the atmosphere not many would have noticed. 

Eyes wide, Margot looked to the direction of their small village, hidden in a cluster of trees as if in its own realm. She leaned forward and squinted, hoping to see something, anything that denied the sudden anxiety that had swept over her. “Siobhan, something’s wrong. We need to go back now,” she stammered. “The barrier – I can’t feel it anymore.”

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