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"Melhoran gehen roflmao noran…"
"Nahmen, for the thousandth time, Fae."
We're both frustrated. Why this particular spell is proving so difficult for her is a complete mystery to me. The girl has a natural gift with the complicated words from the Grimmerie and their sorcerous effects. Because of that, when she does get a mental block, it's wearisome for all parties.
After grinding her teeth for a moment, a thankfully rare habit, Delia hunches down further into her 'I'm concentrating' pose and tries to focus. Sighing in exasperation, I once again have to critique.
Something like the sound of distant thunder echoes around the cave, but I honestly can't tell if it's coming from Delia or the tunnel that leads to the bag's entrance. I'm torn between wanting to coax her through this and knuckling her stubborn streak under.
A tellingly heavy sigh that's nearly a growl accompanies Dee reaching up to clench her hands at the back of her neck, making the thick curls spike out in all directions among the pale green fingers. She's balanced carefully on the balls of her feet, chin nearly between her knees. This is a flashback to when she was very small, curled up in this strange pose to aid focus. But pulling at her hair is a sign that this lesson has degenerated perhaps too far to be salvaged.
Kneeling carefully behind her still, slender frame, I drape my arms around my daughter and regret that she flinches a bit. "Wait Mimi," she murmurs, but still relaxes slightly in my loose grip. Her crystalline eyes never leave the worn pages of the Grimmerie, her mouth shaping the words that have eluded her for so long. "Melhoran gehen roflmao nahmen."
It's enunciated perfectly and I feel a surge of pride as the focus of this child's power materializes on the small blanket in front of her.
"Figures you needed food as incentive," I tease softly as she goes limp in my arms, head falling back to the curve of my neck and shoulder. The tray of cupcakes is only half decorated and I can only imagine the look on Missus Pew's face.
"I figured they were safer than actually aiming for Missus Pew," Fae chuckles wearily and I smooth a hand over her forehead in comfort.
"Ah, but now you've interfered with her baking. She may come after you with a wooden spoon."
"True." She's amused, but melancholy, reaching out to swirl a finger through the frothy pink icing on one of the cupcakes. "I really want to be able to be able to do this stuff without your help."
Kissing her curls, I hug her tight, feeling the skinny wiriness in her that will soften with her approaching adolescence. "You will, Fae." In my memories, though faded with time, I can still remember the first time I saw her, sprawled on the ground in the snow, completely wiped out from traveling through time. "I just know it."
"How can you be so sure?" The petulance is welcome, as is the reluctant smile dancing at the corner of her mouth. "You never give up, do you?"
"What kind of example would I set if I did?"
In a sudden flurry of giggling energy, Dee is once again just a child, reaching over her shoulder to smear the sweet icing over my nose and cheek. And, in a flash, she's scrambled away to grab the tray, racing for the door and the exit beyond.
When the tray of cupcakes vanishes in the blink of an eye, Missus Pew squawks in surprise and I do my best not to laugh. "That cheeky pup of yours," she rails with no real menace and the amusement bubbles out of me.
Perched in the window, Maera smiles wearily and I feel for her. "Class over," she comments and looks back out into the sunshine. "Dee has cupcakes." The Flying Monkey mother-to-be is distinctly amused as she cranes her neck to continue watching. The sound of Delia's shrieking laughter carries in the still afternoon and I'm glad to hear it. I know she and Elphie were having troubles earlier with the teleportation spell.
"Shall we go retrieve the goodies?" I laugh and the other two women follow me into the sunshine. Dee has paused in the meadow that separates the house from the great slab of stone that conceals the cave. Elphie is climbing from the bag that lies in the shadow of the trees and carefully gathers up the thing to tuck it into her waistband.
Everyone is distracted by the thunder of hoofbeats, freezing in instinctual wariness until the sound is identified. As expected, it's Farkell, looking typically glorious in his full prime, his wife and children and the rest of the herd hot on his heels. There's no alarm in their body language, just the wild freedom that horses and Horses exhibit so well when given a chance.
Like a wind-swept leaf, Delia is carried aloft, her clothes billowing in the sudden wind about her, the herd flashing by in an earthquake of sound and dust. I recognize familiar human figures astride some of the horses that run with their few sentient brethren. Not to mention the happy shrieks of laughter. In a graceful swoop, Dee goes to the window that Maera just occupied and reaches in to place the tray back, flashing an apologetic smile at Missus Pew and shooting off after the herd.
Waving away the dust, Elphie joins us at the kitchen door with a loving smile. I get a kiss and Maera a sympathetic hand on the shoulder. "How are you feeling today, friend?"
"Tired. Baby is restless," she shrugs and pats the tight bulge of her abdomen. This child will be the first of the third generation Flying Monkeys and everyone is eager to meet him or her. Of course, Elphie and I know who the baby will be, but have deliberately let no slip of knowledge escape. Memories of the nearly-grown Delia and Janen press close for a moment and only Elphie understands the conflict, holding me close as the herd returns.
"We sympathize," Elphie chuckles at Maera to cover the real reason for our mood shift, a melancholy edge to the sound. Farkell canters up, dancing on strong hooves, tossing his head.
"Glorious afternoon, my dears! I have something of yours, I believe," he laughs and the dust once more begins to dissipate, revealing the second miracle that graced Elphie and myself.
Five and half years ago, Delia sleepily asked for a little sister or brother. We took great delight in doing our best to comply with the sweet request. Imagine our shock, when late in spring, not I, but Elphie turned up with child.
And not just one child… but identical twins.
Teary-eyed with joyous laughter, Kelena and Zanalia still cling to Farkell's back, exhausted and exhilarated. They are so very different than their older sister, our parental traits manifesting in completely different ways. They are a pale enough green that it can nearly be overlooked, with their mother's dark eyes and nearly-straight hair that is a fascinating shade of pale burgundy, like fresh spring grapes. Happy, ordinary, active children, they have been a joy to us and their older sister since their birth. There seems little sorcerous ability to them, which has made them far easier to manage. Only time will tell if that will change.
Farkell doesn't so much as twitch a muscle as Delia lands lightly on his hindquarters and reaches out to free her sisters from the pseudo-saddle that holds them to his back. "Come on, kittens," she coaxes at them and they sleepily obey by crawling over to cling to her neck and torso. With a quick gesture, Elphie enhances Dee's flight for a moment to compensate for the weight of two four and a half year olds.
Then I have my arms full of my beloved daughters and all is perfect in the world.
The State of Things
Gathering up one of the mostly asleep twins, I grip her close and turn my attention to Farkell, sharing breath with him in equine greeting. "Good to see you back, old friend. How were the Winkie Lands?"
"Quiet, thankfully. Outside of a few random brigands, things seem settled there. Your old classmate has taken over one of the old forts."
"Oh?" I query, mildly taken aback by news of Fiyero.
"Kiamo Ko. He seems determined to refurbish it into something livable for his family."
I know the old battlements he's referring to, lying dead west of us in the center of the dry Winkie lands. "I hope he's not expecting trouble," I muse thoughtfully, the politico in me rearing its ugly head.
"No, no," my Stallion friend assures me. "I got the impression he just wanted to be his own man in some small way."
I nod, understanding that all too well.
"I told him to visit if the solitude gets to be too much." A blast of hot, grassy-scented breath makes me squint for a moment and I can hear the humor in Farkell's voice. "Just because you all had teenage angst together shouldn't mean that you can't all be friends."
I have to chuckle self-depreciatingly and stroke the velvety nose. "You are absolutely correct, o wise one. One can never have too many friends."
"Exactly. And he's got children of his own that can be friends with your brood."
After that, I get a moment to greet each member of the herd, giving Kayen and Amlie time enough to dismount and strip their mounts of tack, before the herd thunders off again.
Over the years we've made quite an interesting extended family, Glinda and I and Kayen and often Missus Pew, our intertwined lives making a new clan of sorts. Kayen avidly pursued and won Dannia and the two redheads have raised Amlie into a fascinating woman, now the same age as I was when I first became a parent. She'll have children of her own soon, no doubt.
Kayen arches her back stiffly before tossed the heavy saddle over her shoulder. "Ugh. I'm getting to old for this."
"You're forty-five, not dead," I chuckle at my old pal, echoed by Amlie, who annoys Kayen further by yanking the saddle from her adopted parent's shoulder and tucking it beneath her free arm.
"Cheeky," Kayen complains dryly, "the both of you."
My laughter makes Zan whine sleepily and cling more tightly to my neck. Thankfully, the twins have remained small children and her weight is easy to manage. I still maintain that they will much more resemble their Mama's small stature, unlike Delia, who is already gaining on my height. Either that or I have perversely passed on my Munchkinlander heritage, a joke Kay never gets tired of needling me with.
"There's a storm system moving in from the north," my tall friend notes idly as we stand watching the quiet forest. "Dee'll feel it soon enough. The herd picked up on it in the northern stands of the forest. Farkell seems to think that there's something odd about it."
"He didn't mention it," I muse.
"He's not the sort to worry you over things like that and you know it. Still, he did mention it."
"I'll keep it in mind."
If only I could have known how accurate the warnings in those words are…
"How did your lesson go with Mimi?" I finally ask Delia quietly as I settle Kel into the porch hammock to sleep. Kel whines a bit at the loss of contact and I remain there, stroking her hair as she settles. Delia takes her customary spot on the overstuffed wicker chair that she has adored for many years, several of her current reading projects stacked on the porch and the small table there. The older of our daughters is broody today, the summery blue eyes looking cloudy and troubled.
"Fine, eventually," she hedges and I am again struck by how much she has changed over the years. My once sunny child is drifting towards that moody, sullen twilight of adolescence. The change has been gradual, but it is definitely happening. I still feel like there's more to it than just that, but can't figure out the enigma.
Hugging her knees to her chest, Dee looks strikingly like Elphaba suddenly. I remember all those years ago, the strange green girl that disturbed me so, her defensive and sharp personality keeping everyone at arm's length for so long. Glimpses of that have appeared in Delia. Seeing that hurts, knowing that those glimpses are proof of changes in my daughter, changes that no one necessarily likes. Least of all Delia herself. Yet this child destined for greatness must accept these things, just as I must.
But I certainly don't have to like it.
Obviously, there are no more words coming from my eldest and I sigh. This is another thing that started this last winter. She's gotten so quiet!
Elphie's soft footsteps announce her arrival to set Zan in the hammock with her twin before coming to me. She looks magnificent in a thin white blouse and a knee-length dark skirt, bare feet padding across the porch boards. "This heat is unmerciful," she complains and flops down beside me to steal my lemonade and drink from it.
"It is unnaturally still," I agree placidly, enjoying her warm closeness, despite the oppressive heat. We half expect some comment on the weather from Delia, but a glance reveals that she is engrossed in a book. But I am distracted from our daughters by the sweat collected on Elphie's skin, giving the verdant green a gorgeous sheen and making my mouth water with sudden need.
"Will you be here to keep half an eye on your sisters for a bit? I think I'm feeling the need to drag your Mimi off for a bath and a nap."
Amused and faintly suspicious blue eyes peer over the top of the book, squinting at the corners with the hidden smile. "Yes Mama," she says seriously, but I can hear the humor in her tone. She's old enough now to figure out that I need some alone time with her other parent, even if the details are thankfully beyond her comprehension for the time being.
Both of us press kisses to the inky curls as we head indoors and upstairs to our private suite.
The moment the door clicks shut behind Elphie, my own blouse is stripped off and tossed aside. I'm fumbling with the stays on my bra even as those familiar green hands circle my waist and Elphie's breath is hot and enticing at the back of my neck. "A nap, my lovely?" She purrs teasingly, the vibrations making my nerves perk up. As the hot, still air of the day touches my bared skin, Elphie's clever hands cup my breasts, stroking my hardened nipples and making me moan. She always seems to know exactly what I need.
Reaching up and over my head, I coil my arms around her neck, stroking the thick, black braid and pressing my chest into her hands. "The heat is making me a bit mad," I breathe in her ear, nuzzling there, licking her salty skin. "And you do look impossibly glorious all sweaty."
Huffing with laughter, Elphie tweaks harder at my swollen nipples and the heat of the day starts to fade in the furnace of the need building inside of me.
My darling is certainly worked up today! While this heat has killed my libido, it has had the opposite effect on Glinda and she writhes against my hands like a cat in heat. "Look at you, gorgeous girl," I tease while fondling her glorious breasts. "So sweaty and wanton." Suckling at her neck, I drop a hand down to tug at the simple tie holding her loose skirt to her body and it falls away. Thankfully her undergarments are skimpy and provide no barrier to my wandering hand, stroking over the wiry, soft curls, dipping teasingly into the pooled heat below.
Ha! She's making proper noises now, not foolishly attempting to keep her cries quiet for the sake of the rest of the household. We should be far enough away not to scandalize Fae! Turning Glinda in my arms, I crouch enough to get a good grip around her waist and claim her mouth with mine. While I can't manage her weight for long, her legs wrapping around my waist, I do love to carry her to the bed for a good romp.
"Oh Elphie," Glinda sighs into my mouth as the bed jars my knees gently. "I do love it when you can read my mind."
Chortling, I carefully lower her to the bed, unsurprised that her legs don't unwind their lock around my body. "Not your mind, darling, just your libido."
"Whatever," she snorts and airily waves a hand about to make me laugh. "Right now, my mind is the last thing on…well, my mind."
Now I'm laughing for real, her girlish chuckle joining in. "How eloquent you are."
"Such a mouth on you, Miss Glinda," I growl into her throat, licking and nibbling at the flesh.
"Oh, and don't you love it. You do realize that you are entirely overdressed for this particular sport."
Snorting with humor, I make her squeal with a sharp nip at the curve of one breast, pushing at the grip of her hands on my head playfully. "Ah, but you and I react to heat so differently. You might want to go out and win one for the team, but me? I'm just melting."
"Well as long as you're still willing to cheer me on… Elphie!" The shriek is half sex and half outrage as I duck down suddenly to twirl my tongue into her navel, tickling her mightily. "No, no, no!" She squeals and tugs at me, but I persist until she finally slaps me ringingly on the back of my skull, making me laugh and tickle her further. But, grabbing her wrists so that she can't pull at my scalp so hard, I duck down and grab the lacy frills in aggressive teeth. Growling, I shake my head like an animal, making Glinda laugh and laugh, finally releasing her abused panties to strip them unceremoniously off.
Now I can get to my prize, settling my weight onto my heels and pressing Glinda's legs up to get proper access. She groans with need, half-chuckles interspersed with the needy little noises, making me grin. Breathing hotly over the blonde fur at her groin, I note a cooling breeze fluttering in from the open windows.
My name might be choked up in the litany of sounds coming from my lover, but she's generally incoherent by this point and I only keep half an ear out for cues. The taste here, at the deepest source of Glinda's heat and need, is exquisite as always.
Wrapping my arms around Glinda's bent legs, her shins digging into my shoulders, I have her truly trapped now, suckling at her sex with enthusiasm. Grunting and moaning, Glinda pulls at my scalp and her legs fight their confinement, pulling her attention in too many directions. Once frustration colors her voice, I pull away to let her legs free and they twine around my neck and shoulders, her hips rocking to the beat of her lust.
Yes, her feet can hurt when she gets this worked up, kicking and digging at my back and shoulders, but I like it. She's always been a gloriously uninhibited lover, which in turn has never allowed me to hold back.
She's close now, her voice gone tight and strangled, the pitch climbing steadily. I love her like this, her sounds gone almost musical, the notes climbing higher and higher. The crescendo is pure and piercing, carrying through the afternoon air.
Chortling arrogantly to myself, I scoop up Glinda's limp legs and toss her unceremoniously to her side to relax. Then I strip naked and climb in beside to spoon her small body to mine in the slightly cooled air. "I love you."
She mumbles something incoherent in response, reaching back to settle a limp hand on my disarrayed hair.
Sleep comes easily to us both.
Danger From the North
Sleep is shattered violently with a roar of wind and thunder, broiling, thick air blasting through the open windows, slamming several hard enough to shatter glass. There is only a moment of disoriented terror, the windows gone from sunny to twilight with incomprehensible suddenness, the sheet torn away from our naked bodies.
Lightning splits the sudden darkness, thunder rattling the house like a bear with prey.
"The children!" Elphie yells urgently, rolling out of the bed, her arm up to protect her head.
What happens next will forever be burned in my mind's eye.
Like slashing claws, the tree rips into the house with a sickening chorus of splintering wood and shrieking wind. I know I'm screaming, but I can't hear over the cacophony, and I watch in horror as Elphie disappears beneath the onslaught. Branches and leaves whip hard enough across my skin to split it, the heavier hits bruising and breaking me. Agony burns along my legs and lower torso as the tree settles into the debris of our house.
Staring in stunned horror, I recognize the great maple that once stood a dozen long strides from the porch. Then, despite my terror for my family, I look up…
And I cannot move.
Twelve and half years ago, I faced down a tornado with my lover and our time-traveling daughter. But I never saw one like this, the spiraling funnel almost directly overhead like some baleful creature out to kill us all.
Like a snake, its violent tip rears up as though to strike. Then… just as before, it pauses there as though frozen…
And I swear that I can hear Delia screaming words at the thing.
I have never been so torn in my life. My wife, my daughters, my own suffocating fear, what do I do? With great effort, I tear my eyes away from the hovering funnel cloud and realize that I am trapped in the debris. The bed is sagging towards the shattered floor, only the broken tree holding this whole room together. Half blind with pain, slashing rain and the flashes of lightning, I force myself to move. Somewhere in what's left of the maple's canopy is Elphie. Somewhere on the other end of the house are the girls. My mind is too fractured to conjure; only animal instinct pushes me past the pain and fear, forcing me to crawl into the tangle of branches to begin the search for my family.
A miracle leads me to Elphie, the warmth of her flesh against my hand startling me back into my wits. She doesn't respond to my touch and terror makes me cold. Ruthlessly shoving down my fear, I demand calm enough to help my dearest love. The familiar bubble of light blinks into existence, the only thing in the room to be unaffected by the screaming wind. The splintered branch thicker than my thigh buried through the floorboards a hands-breadth from her dark head once more makes my guts go cold, but I push the feeling away. She is breathing beneath my hand and that's all that matters. My right leg throbs in sympathy to where I can see another broken branch, about the same size as the flying broomstick, that has skewered poor Elphie's leg.
The noise is fading suddenly, Delia's yelling carrying far now. She sounds angry and determined and I can only do the same.
"Dig deep, Glinda," I hiss at myself, reaching out with everything I have, pushing with every fiber of my will.
With a creak and groan, wood scraping on wood… the tree lifts away.
Grabbing what turns out to be my discarded skirt from the retreating branches, I wrap it tight over the puncture. Then I can grab Elphie's hands and drag her as best I can across the flooded floor and into the hallway.
The great maple settles to its gravesite with a rustle and a sigh.
Groaning, Elphie raises her head, hissing with pain.
Something deep and primitive responds in both of us, our eyes drawn to the north and Delia's panicked shout. Only when my instincts respond, dropping my body in paralyzing, blinding agony, do I realize that my lower leg is spectacularly broken.
The need to answer that call is like nothing I have ever felt before. Our babies are in danger somewhere, Delia screaming for help, but I'm light headed with blood loss and shaky with pain. Right now I will be less help than the fallen tree.
Focusing through the burn in my punctured leg, the dull throb in my entire body and the light-headedness of blood loss, I clamp down and force magic through me, tempered by sheer will.
I will not let some random act of natural violence destroy me! I will not!
The effort will cost me later, but the screaming burn in my leg lessens and feeling begins to return to my toes. Good enough for now. When I turn to Glinda, she is so ashen even her eyes look paler in the returning light of afternoon. But she raises an imperious hand, halting any effort to my panicked mind.
"The children, Elphie," she says clearly and implacably. "My injuries are not life-threatening. Get to the children."
Kissing her quickly and harshly, I pour my heart into that heartbeat of time, agonizing over the slow trickles of blood all over her lower half, the horrifically twisted lower leg.
But I have to limp away, because our children need me now.
The hobbling shuffle through the wrecked house barely registers on my perceptions; it is all just obstacles to be overcome, no matter the cost. There are more trees that have punched through the sturdy walls and ceilings and I call the broom, willing it to me as darkness flutters at the edges of my vision. Thankfully it comes, carrying my damaged body the remaining distance to Delia.
The scene is chaos and the ringing in my ears has nearly deafened me, but I see the twins huddled in wide-eyed terror at their older sister's side, clinging to her blouse and skirt in desperate fingers. Delia hovers over Maera, who has been half-crushed beneath the fallen chimney.
I have seen death hover close to so many in my days and it hovers very close now.
But Maera has made one last great effort as her body spasms in contractions, her body doing its dying best to save her child. It's too soon for him, but he will have to face the world now, ready or not. Half collapsing, I drag myself to my daughters, touching each of them in reassurance. Only close to Delia's wiry, utterly focused body, do I even register the wings. Like a sweeping fog bank, they arch over all of us, the trapped storm flashing angry lightning in miniature across the great vanes and arches. I feel the pulse of raw power in the girls, the young twins somehow focusing their combined wills to Delia's, determined to save this new baby's life.
He does not cry, the tiny, bloody bundle that escapes his mother's dying body and lies still in Fae's hands. Kel whimpers, completely overwhelmed by this new horror visited on her, Zan frozen in shock, but the sound galvanizes Fae.
"Your shirts, kittens, take them off. Do it!"
She does the same, carefully juggling the stillborn.
"Rub his wings and tail, but be extra careful gentle, okay?"
Nodding jerkily, the twins obey, rubbing at the baby Flying Monkey while Dee firmly chafes his little torso and legs, murmuring over him. The slow rush of power builds again, washing over the entire room, flaring as I hear the dying rattle in Maera's chest, her dulling eyes staring at her son.
His squawking cry of newborn outrage at the rough handling faintly curls her mouth as the spark within flickers to ashes and my heart mourns for the loss of this friend. Stunned, the girls stare at the weakly struggling newborn as he begins to fight for his own life.
"Wrap him up," I whisper as the storm begins to fade for good, the rain stopping. "Kittens, will you hold him close for warmth for a moment? Fae, come here."
I have to tug at her, finally giving a good yank to topple her over and break the wide-eyed trance she appears to be caught in. "You saved him, Fae, my good girl. And you saved your sisters. No one could have saved Maera, let it go my darling, let it go."
And like a crumbling sea cliff in a raging storm, she slowly collapses into me, the stress and exhaustion escaping in a wailing cry of grief. Then the twins join us and we cling together, the baby wriggling, reminding us that we will carry on.
Live to Fight Another Day
A third of the village is gone, our house is wrecked, half the crops have been stripped to bare earth and the forest looks like gigantic hungry goats came through and gorged themselves. But those things can be replaced.
The lives lost are forever: Maera, Farkell's beautiful mate, and so many others. Considering the violence of the storm, it's shocking that there aren't more.
It has been three days now and help has begun to trickle in from all over Oz. Ironic who is the first to arrive.
"Glinda! Elphaba! Are you two alive?"
I remember the voice and I'm half delighted and half rueful as I look down at my mangled leg. I haven't allowed Elphie to heal the break yet, as there are many others whose injuries are far worse than mine. When I can force my focus past the pain, I'm making slow inroads on doing it myself.
"The kitchen!" I manage to shout out with enough volume to alert my visitor to where I am.
Time has made Fiyero impossibly handsome, his looks tempered with good character and wisdom. His eyes round in horror at the violent purple of my swollen foot, my lower leg wrapped and splinted and propped high on pillows.
"We survived," I say simply and he swallows whatever undignified response he might have made.
"I brought supplies and the craftsfolk working for me at Kiamo Ko. We came to help."
My smile is not feigned and I reach out until he takes my hand. "You would have been welcome, regardless, but bless you for bringing the help."
"There's another caravan not an hour out, coming from the east. We spotted them. Our scout is fairly certain they're flying Munchkinland colors."
"Nessarose then," I muse. "Excellent. You should head into the village to see what Elphaba and the others need. The few of us here aren't in any immediate danger."
His eyes skitter down to my leg as though afraid to look, before jerking back to my face.
"My children and my wife are safe, Fiyero. That's all that matters. I can deal with the pain for now, knowing that they are safe."
"Be that as it may," he's back to business, squeezing my hand before leaning back and shouting the way he'd come. "Milla! Bring the opiate!"
Argh! How could I forget that he and Milla are married? I was at the wedding for Oz sake! Blanching at the gory color of my poor leg, my old school chum smiles weakly. "Oh Glinda, when we heard…"
"You must have been on the road quickly to have gotten a caravan here this quickly in the dead of summer."
"It's worth it to help out in such a tragedy. I grow just a few of a rare poppy that provides a very potent drug. It's very easy to abuse, so I guard it for safety sake, but I brought what little I have in hopes it will help."
Both of them jump in surprise when the lump on my chest moves suddenly, the cloth jumping. "Ah yes," I chuckle as Janen sticks his furry head out to peer sleepily at the visitors. "Meet the newest member of the family. His mother died in the storm." Squeaking, Janen stretches out his tiny hands and touches my face to reassure himself before rolling lazily to his back so that his small wings can splay more comfortably over my upper chest.
"He's one of the Flying Monkeys," Fiyero marvels and reaches out so that Janen can playfully swipe at his finger.
"First born of the third generation. His name is Janen. His grandfather named him."
At first, I think I'm hallucinating. A regiment of troops in Winkie colors, laden wagons, folk carrying the tools of their trades. Men, women and children, all with sober faces, tired from long travels.
It's not until the Fiyero phantasm grabs my upper arms that the hallucination solidifies into reality, making me jerk away in shock. But he doesn't let go, searching my face with alert eyes. "You look awful."
"Flattery, Fiyero," I can't help but rasp at him, his grip on my biceps reminding me of every ache in my poor body. "What are you…?"
"I brought help."
With somber nods to me and the girls, the caravan disperses into the ruins of Tolerance to help where they can. A gentle but firm shake returns my attention to my old classmate.
"Go back to the house. You're so exhausted that you can barely stand and Glinda and the children need you now. We'll provide strong backs for awhile. Give yourself a bit to heal, and I don't just mean the physical hurts."
All the memories that have been threatening for three days to push past the numbness crowd close again and my eyes tear up. Making a distressed sound, this man who I shared such a brief, powerful connection with all of those years ago pulls me into a strong hug and rocks me like a child.
Even the brief respite from the horrors of the last few days shores up my defenses, made physical in the tears I shed on his shirt. Then I can pull away and follow his eyes to where my daughters huddle nearby, looking every bit as awful as I feel. There has been no dissuading them from helping and all of these tragedies have left their mark on their young souls. Breathing a 'thank you' to Fiyero, I open my arms to them and we all cling together. "Let's go get Mama and make her all better too."
Approaching the house hurts, seeing the glorious old maple wilting in its grave that was once our western-facing bedroom. Several smaller trees also damaged the big house; only one pushed to the ground so that we could retrieve Maera's body and give her a proper funeral on the second day. Thankfully, the major damage appears to be completely confined to the upper story and the house should be salvageable. Kel and Zan cling to my hands, still holding the near-silence that all three girls have maintained since the storm.
Missus Pew stands outside the kitchen door, looking off down the road, her posture weary but proud. She had been thankfully spared in her private rooms beside the unscathed kitchen and has been invaluable as always. Kayen and her family are well too, hard at work in the village. Farkell and what's left of his herd have been moving heavy debris and the entire clan of Flying Monkeys arrived the second day to help wherever they can. Chackle and Tolo are running the triage center for the more minor injuries.
We will carry on here, despite the storm and the devastation left behind.
"Oh poppets," Missus Pew coos and wraps all of us to her. She has grown so much older in these intervening years and I rely so heavily on her endless kindness and strength of character. "Lady Milla has helped and Glinda is resting more quietly than I've seen since the storm. Come in and get cleaned up and have some food. Besides, young Janen will want to see his sisters!"
The familiar chatter heartens me, as the does the confines of the beloved kitchen and the presence within. Even battered and bruised, Glinda is still the most beautiful woman in the world to me and I limp over to press my lips to her warm forehead.
"It's time," Delia says quietly and I raise my head to see her staring down at her Mama's discolored leg. Part of me wants to object, knowing just how exhausted we all are, but the twins press close to their sister's ribs and I understand that healing their Mama is something they need to do to heal themselves. Glinda has not allowed us to mend her, because there were so many worse injuries, but now it is time for our own family.
Taking Delia's dirty hands in mine, we stand on either side of Glinda's propped up legs and focus the last of our strength. Holding the crystal blue eyes in the spring-green face, I marvel at this child once again. Reverent, the twins cling to Delia and add their strength to hers and the power swells around us, the great storm wings growing from nothing to arch dramatically over the girls.
The violence of the storm that killed so many has been harnessed by Fae to be used to heal the damage left behind. It's a fitting end I think.
Our physical pains, all of them, wash away like dirt in water in the face of our combined sorcery. Our other pains, the wounds left on us by this tragedy will take longer to heal, but we are together as a family and we can overcome anything.
After all, we already have.
To Be Continued…