The Heartwood
Dawnview Vale
Highbeck Glacier Village
Attaday, the Eighth Day of Horse

Bekkah, Daxia, Keiko, Lyric, Nizhentska, Grandmother Starwatcher, and Tomomi

...I was the number one grandson. That meant nothing and everything, but definitely, something growing up in an Italian family. My first memories come from grandmother's house — watching the launch of a Mercury Redstone, watching the funeral procession of a president because she had a TV and we didn't yet and, of course, far too many Macy's parades. Sunday was the family dinner, all of us — the aunts, the uncles, and the herd of cousins. Us kids, we ate in the living room, and the adults ate around the kitchen table, and I remember when I was finally invited to join the grown-ups. After once or twice, I returned to a special place back in the living room because it was just so crowded. I remember when she finally passed away and being furious. The hearse was a Lincoln Continental. Grandma was a Cadillac person. Always. I have no memories of my grandmother at the end. It wasn't until afterward that I discovered that my mom and my aunts purposefully kept me away. They knew how close we were and wanted to make sure my memories were only of her at her best and most loving.

I don't think I ever thanked them for such a kindness.

It truly was a great kindness.

What I remember most were her ta-dolls. Simple lemon drop cookies. I had to look up their real name, years later — tarallucci or anginetti. I don't know if it was simply a kid's mispronunciation of Italian or hers to English, but in our household, those simple cookies always were and always will be ta-dolls.

They were also heaven. I don't know why. The jam cookies were sweeter, the Christmas cookies sparkly and bright. But these?

Whenever I visited Grandmother, they were always there. It didn't matter. When I was a kid in the back seat of the car, going over the Mohawk River to grandma's house; when I was in elementary school, after trimming her hedges; when I was in high school and stopped by just to say hello; when I was in college, coming home from Virginia over break... they were always there.

Dependable. Like a simple fact of life.

It didn't matter. Such a simple cookie. They had a plain taste — just a hint of lemon and anise, and that white sugary topping.

I miss them so much.

Because they were made with love.

* * *

And she has told the first Fae story in a very long time

"Nizzy, a story told."

Grandmother Starwatcher held her book close like it was the most important thing in the world to her.

"Is that not what we do?"

* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... a dark-haired rake sat on the edge of a wall. They were watching the sunset, in that odd but beautiful space between light and dark. One, the tallest of the children, stood in her black and white tunics, watching the sun touch the far horizon. Sunset and sunrise, as if it were somehow her time. The next tallest sat next to her Mother, weaving a wreath made up of flowers she had picked. When done, she smiled and placed it on her Mother's head, fitting awkwardly between her pretty mouse ears. Somehow though, that awkward fit was not clumsy but perfectly perfect. Mother was leaning on Father's shoulder and that she was? Well, it was something she still could not believe. It was something so simple, so cherished and straightforward, for someone who had been made as a tool and had to learn to become a person. Their littlest one was tucked up beneath her Father's magical black cloak, dark as night, with no weave or woof, arms wrapped around her Father's waist.

"Alas, my love, I have an admission to make.

"My heart has been stolen by another."

Father now, had always lived life on the edge.

"A most beautiful lass, bright and innocent, and ever since I first saw her, how could I not have fallen? Even now, I can feel how close she is, even though it must forever be a love pure, chaste, and from afar."

The littlest one smiled the brightest of smiles and hugged her Father tighter.

"Oh, Daddy, stop being silly. I'm right here!"

* * *

Grandmother Starwatcher slowly moved, stepping in an odd little arc, whose purpose became apparent when she ended up facing Nizhentska with the World Clock not just in the background but rising directly behind the young, self-proclaimed storyteller.

"Could it be so simple? Of course. Of course. We always think the answer comes direct, problem, solution, solution problem.

"And yet, we were simply asking the wrong question."

Nodding to Daxia, she took a long breath before smiling again.

"All it took was a long line of troublemakers. All it took was one person to — for whatever reason — choose to step outside their self-imposed hermitage. No. Not hermitage. Isolation. From being all alone."

* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... the little lacemaker was hard at work. She was in her own little bit of heaven. Home was Home, but this, this was her home. She had been welcomed here, and by kindness — the kindness of others — she had a shop and a place, a home of her own, and worth. Oh, it was true, you had to climb a lot of stairs against the walls of Snowgate Keep, but it meant when she opened the diamond-paned window to work in the sun's light, she could see the whole town, the whole Vale, all spread out to her gaze.

It was a view that was new every single day.

She could see the path that led to the Keep's entrance too. That always made her smile. Even though they were far apart, that path connected her to her Forever Friend. Hugging herself, she closed her eyes and smiled. It was perfect. Well almost perfect. There was one thing missing. Eyes still closed she smiled gently, remembering. Thus it was that she never noticed that someone had climbed those many many steps, a tall and rugged shadow in patchwork leathers, who now leaned against the open door to her shop... who stepped back into her life once more with a single word.


Her eyes went wide. Her mouth opened as she spun around, and then, eyes brimming with happy tears, she turned and... hopped... hopped right into the tall Dayalan's arms.


The wuffish Dayalan smiled, finding herself with an armful of Tomomi.

"The witch said I needed to come up here, at least once."

Tomomi wasn't listening.

The one missing thing?

Was no longer missing.

* * *

"To save themselves, Minstrel, your people ran away. They took themselves apart. They left the world behind. And thus, in saving themselves, they lost everything."

Grandmother Starwatcher's gaze had sought out the Minstrel's. Her words spoke a harsh truth. But they were not unkind.

"Until today.

"Until you two."

* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... on a hill between two worlds.

"Did you feel that, Sister Death?"

About ten paces away, the blonde-haired lass snorted. She looked like a farmgirl, in simple tunics and surcoat, yet the black sword at her side betrayed that. She offered her companion a smirk and a quick response.

"Let me guess. Something magical happened."

Of course, she had to stand so far away from Sister Life. Kethysynthia was one of the Fair Folk, and standing any closer to Captain Dandelion Koromov would have cut her to the core. She was magic, the Koromov was very much not.

"Time has returned to us. But perhaps now my people, once again mortal, will cherish their lives once more. And thus the lives of others."

The two guardians looked to one another, over the un-crossable gap between them. The human smiled back to the Elf.

"I'd like that. After so many years being respected enemies, between you and me? I'd much rather be your friend."

* * *

"Not just Nizzy!"

Nizhentska crossed her arms, giving her teacher a fierce look.

"Stories get lonely so easily. Stories in book, on shelf, are they even stories? Lock yourself away, apart, are you even alive? Do I tell stories to myself, am I crazy Nizzy, gibbering all alone in night beneath stars?"

Stopping, she blinked, once and then twice, realizing what she had just said.

"Wait. Do not answer that."

* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... in a lovely tower, a pretty girl tapped a line of doublebluff stones, watching them fall in a clitter-clack of one after another. But before it ended she reached out, reached out and caught the very last one. She turned it over in her hand before holding it close to her chest. It was a special tablet.

It was the one that represented her Knight.

No. Daxia. It represented Daxia. Her friend, her companion, and once you took away all the trapping of being a Khorall, being a noble, of having half the world at her beck and call, Daxia was her Most Important. She missed her so much when they were apart, counting the days. But she never counted how many had passed, no. Kisa Allaine counted each one as one closer to when they would be together again.

Just the joy of seeing Daxia again, the looking forward to that moment, that first wonderful instance, made her heart skip.

Of course, there would be kissing.

She blushed.

But each one?

Each one was always a first kiss.

* * *

The Clock had understood.

Stories are just like life; they cannot exist in isolation. They cannot survive all alone.

Anything can be real, but they only become actual if they have a genuine effect on you.

It sounded like a complicated philosophy, but the Clock understood that it was anything but.

To be anything more than snow dusting across the glacier, to have any meaning, one's life and one's stories need one oh-so-simple thing.

They need to be shared.

* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... someone had had enough. There was only one bed, and the floor was cold and uncomfortable, but the black-haired one would have gladly taken it; she had slept in worse places, much worse places. She would have been happy falling asleep against the room's door, as befitted the second spear-carrier from the right, but had slowly been cajoled inside despite how wrong it might have appeared. It was the white-haired lass who had insisted, and not for anything more than kindness, caught between honest-heartfelt care and her own nightmares.

"No. This is so not happening."

Now it's not that sharing a bed was strange. When the dark-haired one was growing up, it was something she and her sisters did, back in that other, forever ago, when she was just a farmer's youngest daughter. It was just as natural as wearing her sister's clothes, once they had outgrown them. Especially as her companion had already, chastely, slid over and rolled over, safe on her half of the bed.

"We both know what's going to happen."

Her back to Kay, Romana just meeped, curled tighter in a ball, biting her lip. She wasn't dumb. So far from it. She didn't know what was worse, knowing that she was blushing or admitting that her protector may just be right.

"This is how it always starts. You over there. Me over here. And I watch over you until you are asleep, because that's what I do, and then I finally fall asleep. But just as I do? That's when you roll over. Oh, I know. You are asleep. All innocent and sweet. But first, it's your arm lashing out. Now sometimes it lands on my tummy, but sometimes it's my nose. Remember the timer I woke up with a black eye? I lied. I didn't fall off the bed!"

Romana meeped a second time.

"Then you move. And I swear, by all my sisters in the sky, if you managed to miss my tummy, that's when you knee me in the gut. And you are so cute looking, how can I do anything? Until, and you know it as well as I, you end up all wrapped about me, resting your head on my chest and smiling the most perfect little smile. If you had nightmares, I could deal with that! But you, you fair Princess, Priestess, best friend, are a snuggler!"

The Easterner blinked.

"Bestus friend?"

"And come morning? I always wake first. You would sleep until noon if folks let you. But I have to lay perfectly still. I have to pretend I am asleep. When you open your eyes and panic, turn, tumbling yourself back to your side of the bed. And believe me, this is when you are at your clumsiest. If my nose wasn't bonked before, now it certainly would be. I am tired of waking up black and blue!

"Here, look at me."

Slowly, slowly Romana rolled over, blue eyes meeting dark ones, yet the dark-eyed gaze was so soft, so kind, so caring. Protective.

"Think. Look deep into your heart. You are the smartest person I have ever met. Do you truly believe I would ever do anything, anything to you that you would not wish?

"Do you truly believe I would ever hurt you?"

It was a long while before the Romana answered. And then it was only with a shake of her head.

"Good. Then no punching or thumping. You'll end up here anyway.

"Poking is my job, not yours."

Slowly, awkwardly, and so so shyly, Romana slipped closer. First, a tentative touch and then a sudden movement, as so naturally she ended up in a cuddle, arms wrapping around the shorter girl and yet, despite being so tall, somehow ending up with her head on Kay's chest. For a while, she shivered, her breath scared, rushed, but so slowly she calmed. Kay was a little less shy. She bravely let her fingers drift through Romana's hair, a so-very-gentle and comforting caress. And then. Then. That's when the tears suddenly started, they started and wouldn't stop, like a well overflowing, as Romana hugged Kay so tight and just could not stop crying.


Choking, the Eastern princess just held on tighter.

"Mother... Mother... Mother held Romanas..."

Kay wasn't very smart, not like the girl in her arms. But she knew what to say.

"I'm here."

Romana whispered back, opening her heart.

"Reminds Romanas, what it is to be loved."

Kay did not stop her gentle caress. Instead, she just closed her eyes. She knew, every heartbeat of every day that she spent with Romana, that she was, indeed, the luckiest girl in the world.

"Then all is well, Whitehair.

"Because you are."

* * *

Grandmother Starwatcher then smiled and let her arms relax a bit. It was an odd smile. It was a proud smile, it was a wistful smile. With extended arms, she offered out her book, that thick heavy tome, where she recorded all things, to her Initiate. Nizhentska's eyes went wide as she instinctively accepted that gift, only after holding it realizing what Grandmother had done, what she had done, what they had done.


* * *

...somewhere else, somewhen else... a smith looked up. He smiled, simple and so-very-honest. It was for the pretty blonde that stood in his doorway.

"Welcome home."

* * *

Tasha Varinkasdotter included both Lyric and Nizhentska in her pronouncement.

"You two have stories to tell."

Nizzy told us Kathreen’s story, told about her bravery and sacrifice. Now I won’t forget her either.

Finally, the Fair Folk had attained immortality.

Even if ten, a hundred, a thousand generations from now and only spoken of in fairy tales told to children...

They, too, will be remembered.

...a grandmother, a grandson and cookies. Part of my life, now only memories. Memories, like the Fae locked away in a little box, are lonely. Only when they are shared can they regain warmth and become more than a wistful smile in a wintery window reflection.

Now, now someone else — you — know of Margaret Buzzo, my grandmother.

Thank you.

Just like all who have walked upon The Heartwood.

Last edited by Wolf; Sun 23/02/20 23:41 UTC.