Child of the Green Wood
A Dark Jewels One-Shot
In the dark, in the shadows, there is nothing but silence.
I tuck my hair behind my ears and shiver, cold. I'm too old to do the Birthright Ceremony. I'm ten, not seven. I'm supposed to be seven. But Mother said it was too dangerous, that he might find us. I don't know who he is, but I know it is bad for him to know where we are. Besides, I had no training. Mother couldn't teach me anything but basic Craft, because of him, the one we're hiding from. Whoever he is.
Now I sit in the shadows before Cassandra's Altar, shivering as the darkness deepens. Or maybe it's the Darkness. Tersa and the other, the man with the golden eyes, told me about the Darkness. Mother speaks of it too. It is like a psychic forest, she says, where only those bearing Jewels deep in the Darkness may safely tread its paths. She taught me about the levels of the Darkness, how the abyss is broken into shades of power. Into forests like faceted rainbow Jewels.
Sudden brightness flares as the thirteen candles on the Altar light with witchfire. I know how to make witchfire. The man with the golden eyes, Daemon, taught me. He is one of the ones, my mother said, whose Jewel is deep in the Darkness. He taught me to make witchfire, but the strange woman with the tangles of dark hair - Tersa, who is like Mother and wears no Jewel - taught me what it means for the candles of the Altar to be lit. It's time for the Ceremony.
I'm scared, as the darkness grows as deep as a night without stars or moon. I'm scared, and shaking, and I wish Mother was with me because she is big and strong and beautiful, and she would never let anything happen to me. But that is not how it's done. The Birthright Ceremony is done alone inside the Sanctuary.
That doesn't mean I'm not scared.
And then there is something there in the darkness and the Darkness, something with me, something old and cold and powerful. Something that scares me even more than the men who come home with my mother and watch me with glittering eyes like beetles. It brushes against my skin. Whispers inside my head.
My heart pounds and I squeeze my eyes shut because I don't want to see whatever it is. Maybe if I don't look at it, it won't look at me, either. Some animals are that way, my mother says. Some predators are that way, Daemon says.
That old, cold, powerful thing is inside my head now, and it is cool like starlight and sweet like shadows when Mother holds me and sings to me in a language I don't know except for a few words, one she won't tell me. It is not the Old Tongue that Daemon talks about sometimes, the language of the living myth, the Tongue of Witch. It is softer, more fluid, newer and younger. And the strange thing in my head is whispering to me in that same language now. Whispering something about being ready, about a forest, about the Darkness filling me to the brim and showing me the path.
Then I can feel that Darkness filling me, flowing through me like it's in my blood, like it's under my skin. It warms me, pushes away the cold of the Sanctuary. The witchfire-lit candles flicker. It expands like a bubble of blackness inside my head. Grows and grows and grows, pressing against my skull. It morphs and twists inside me. Slips down my spine like drops of water after a cold bath. Fills me from my toes and up and up and up, through my body. It tingles and sizzles and tickles.
It's not scary anymore. It's different, but it's not scary. It feels the same way as when Daemon speaks to me, mind to mind. A brush of the Darkness as deep as abyss, he says. It feels dark like that. Feels strange, like when Tersa shows me pieces of Craft in my head.
And then it begins to hurt a little. Begins to push too hard against my skull, against my brain. Like it slips and slides between my brain and skull and is trying to squish one and splinter the other. I grit my teeth and feel a trickle of blood from my nose. I taste salt when I lick my lips. Now it's a little scary, but I don't back down. Tersa said it could be scary. Daemon said it could hurt. I'm not seven, like they were when they did the Birthright Ceremony. I'm ten, and I'm strong like my mother, and I won't run away from the Darkness.
When the pain feels like my head will explode into a burst of witchfire, when my eyes are blurry from tears and I can't see the candles on the Altar anymore, I fall to my knees. The Darkness recedes like waves, like the tide pulling away from the shore. My shirt is dripping sweat. My hair is wild and tangled around my face, like I've run really far through the woods my mother sings about in that language she refuses to teach me.
I close my eyes as weakness floods my body. I'm so tired, and my head throbs. I pushed myself really far. That's what Daemon would say. Tersa would remind me that I'm stronger than anyone thought. All I know is my arms are shaking as I try to hold myself up.
For just a moment I smell forest. I don't know how I know that, since I live in the city and I've never been to the country before. I smell green growing things, like in city parks, and fresh water. Feel soft dawn light on my skin, even though the Sanctuary is dark now that the candles have blinked out. Shadows lengthen behind my eyelids. Resolve into dark green shapes like leaves and branches. And I hear Mother singing about the forest, singing about the wild woods of a place called the Shadow Realm.
Then the Priestess at the Sanctuary comes into the room and helps me to my feet. I stagger as she helps me out to where Mother, Tersa, and Daemon wait for me. I know the Priestess thinks Daemon is my father. She waits for Mother to acknowledge paternity.
I don't wait. I stagger to my mother and Tersa and show them the uncut Jewel that has appeared in my sweat-damp hands. For just a second there is a flicker of something in the depths of my new Jewel - lithe shapes darting across the viridian depths, slim and pale as the stiletto Daemon had promised to teach me to use. Shapes that remind me of Mother when she speaks of the forest and the moon shines down on her. Then they're gone, those shapes, and I am holding my Green Jewel for my family to see.
"Congratulations," a cultured voice murmurs beside me, and I look up into warm golden eyes, "little Sister. That Jewel will come in handy one day." I nod. Daemon smiles and slips his hands into his pockets.
"The Dea al Mon are made proud today," Mother murmurs, and I grin, even though I am tired.
So, this is actually the third flash-fic in my Jewels Series (the first being my drabble-collection about the Ebon-Gray and the short piece about Marian and her Birthright Rose Jewel), even though the title says 08. The reason it says 08 is because, ranking-wise, the Green Jewel is the 8th darkest Jewel. Just an fyi. Hope you all enjoyed it. =)
- LA Knight