Beneath the Icewood Trees

Beneath the Icewood Trees

What is fae and what is magic?

Eried Black is a son of a privileged house, one granted magic to guard and use and sell. When he sees it used amiss, it angers him, but has he finally gotten in over his head?

02. Second Era - Fae 19
Faeology Science Fiction Fantasy
Short Story

The small cottage grew in the deep of the damp woods, where native trees towered in ever thickening circles. Permanent snowdrifts covered the ground, but the cottage panes were heated glass, and the cottage door was heated alloy from the old ships. There should have been no snow there on the roof of that cottage nor frost across those window panes.

Ice hung in latticed patterns over the glass. Abomination, the villagers whispered to themselves. Barbarous.

But Fae was one of theirs, once a little girl trotting through the frozen streets from her family’s grand house alongside cook or governess, smiling at each one she passed, playing with their children, asking innumerable curious questions of every man or woman she met. They still liked to think of Fae as theirs. She was a pleasant young woman, who still had a kind word and smile when she wandered through Surrey village in her pretty blue cloak and with her pretty manners and her crown of auburn hair. One must make allowances for eccentricities.

~

Outsiders from Shipper’s Field and the outlying villages never heard the whispers about the cottage up the way in the deep woods. No one wanted to admit to it, for who else could be blamed but those who raised the child? No, they put on their week’s end best and their finest, thickest cloaks and went out into the light swirls of snow to purchase their goods and disparage and praise each one their neighbor and exchange news of the other villagers with those who passed through.

Eried was a bulky, dark-haired man of the Black family, founders of his village and one of the largest settlements on their icebound world. It was said he even knew the instruments of the old ships and could take measurements from the other side of the night. When he came and spread his wares on Surrey’s steps, bits of metal and glass, maps and copies of old journeys—”From the settlers,” he claimed—the villagers came out and looked and admired and discussed among themselves.

The men asked him questions.

“Is it true you’ve measured the night?”

“Half span the world and fifty lengths,” he replied.

“Is it true that Black village has felled a native tree?”

“They are our most important, vital resource, to block the snow and icefalls. We have not felled a tree,” he replied, not answering their real question—was it even possible to do so. Some called them icewood; they were too frozen to saw open.

“Is it true you’re engaged to the daughter of Allistair?” That was the family up Shipper’s Field and in control of most of the wealth that had not passed to magic families.

“I have not engaged a wife,” he answered, grinning for he could have and he wanted them to know it. Eried was not a proud man, but he was not humble. He took great pleasure in knowing his own strength.

No one knew how he ferreted out some meaning from the packed drifts among those dusty with snow and loose. None even noticed him later, after he had packed up his unsold goods into carefully cases for carrying, when he noticed those drifts and followed them out of Surrey and into the deep woods. No one knew that the sight of that barbaric ice on her heated window panes angered him.

Magic was not to be used as a trifle, not to decorate the glass in lacey patterns, not by a family not granted magic. He knew that the cottage belonged to no Surrey, for the great man named Surrey had turned his back on Eried, had sniffed at him and his ideas of what the villages could make of themselves if they tried. He had seen Surrey’s house and that of his sister, met their families, for as a son of the Blacks, he must needs offer his greetings or else be rude.

Eried trudged up to the front of the cottage through the snow and stopped in front of a window. He walked to the left, then returned to the right, his shadow pendulous through the unnatural frost. Magic it was. He was certain of it. Magic cast over the glass in abominable waste. He strained his eyes to peer through it, but saw only the faint darkness of a dimly lit cottage.

“Looking for me?”

He whirled, then scowled at the slender, tall woman with her thick auburn hair trailing over radiant blue cloak. Her eyes were silver-grey and silver jewelry gleamed at her throat. Alloys and metals were precious, too precious to spare for jewelry. His scowl darkened and he glared at her.

“I am Eried Black,” he said, “and you use the magic falsely.”

The woman lifted one brow and her delicate features shifted from one unreadable expression to another. “Do I?” she asked, and the air trembled with the tension between them.

“Tell me you are a Surrey, and I will trouble you no more,” he said, offering her at least that. Apostate mage she may be, but if the magic was rightfully hers—well. The magic itself could exact a vengeance.

She laughed at him them with a sound like bells and silver and the shaking of the icewood trees when snow and icefalls rattled the giants. “I am Fae,” she said, and her eyes sparkled with silver. “And Surrey gave me my magic.”

“You bought it for such a frivolous purpose?” Eried gestured at the windows. It was obscene. “Magic is dangerous when handled improperly, and you are not worthy of it,” he roared and took a step toward her.

Fae looked at him, tilted her head, and shifted from one unreadable expression to another. He heard the tinkling, as of glass, and she said very softly, “It is not frivolous at all.” A cloud of silvery magic shimmered around him, engulfed him so it stung his skin, and passed into her hands. She wrapped them full of it, let the magic cover her like a glowing aura and brighten the sparkle in her eyes. “But of course, you would not wish to harm me,” she said softly, peeked up from underneath her lashes, looked innocence and warning in a way he could hardly fathom.

“What are you?” he whispered, suddenly horrified, suddenly realizing that this was no pinch of magic bought and told to obey her first command.

She smiled, almost sadly. “No, Eried Black. What is magic?” She breathed the words and let loose of the silver in her hands.

It reached out to him with unfathomable, frightening embrace, and he stepped backward with a cry, turning to flee, but the magic engulfed him and dragged him into darkness.

~

No one in Surrey saw Eried Black leave, so when frightened messengers arrived from Black village the following week, their questions were received with bewilderment. “Where is Eried? Have you seen Eried?”

Only the great man named Surrey frowned over his chopping block and said, “There is no magic for what you seek. Not here.”

And out in the snow of the deep woods, far beyond even the small cottage sheltered by overhanging limbs of icewood trees, a great big bear of a man with black hair and frown lines already set in his weathered skin awoke with a start in the dimness of day beneath such ancient trees. He looked about him, uncertain, unremembering, but his skin had not frozen and his cases contained tools and maps that might guide him, could he but decipher where he was.

He gathered his things, stood, and glanced through the woods again before choosing which way to walk.

#


Faeology Science Fiction Fantasy

If you liked this story, you may also like Queen of Heaven. Please consider sharing this story or tipping the author at left.

Share on TumblrShare via email

3 Responses to Beneath the Icewood Trees

  1. Pingback: The #FridayFlash Report – Vol 4 Number 34 | Friday Flash

  2. Sarah Snell-Pym says:

    This is good though a few typos in there I think and the use of fathom and unfathomable are too close together for my personal taste. It left me wanting to know more and wondering if she has set him up to find something that is needed or weather she is an evilness.

    Thankyou for sharing

    Sarah/Saffy

    • Liana says:

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm working on a couple stories in this world that will probably help those questions of yours come clear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


three × 9 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>