Categories > Original > Fantasy > After

After

by total_stranger 1 Reviews

Moranwen dedicated her entire life to lifting the Frost's taint from her people - and herself. Now, as an old woman, she sees her plans come to fruition; now, she has the time - and the capacity - ...

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Fantasy - Characters:  - Published: 2005/08/16 - Updated: 2005/08/16 - 1097 words

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After
It is over.
Everything I have done was to this end, to bring this to pass - and now it is done. My promise to Grandfather is fulfilled. The conduit he opened has been severed. We are a free people once more.
Those of us who survived.
Those of us who are not so scarred by our shared past that we can never relinquish it.
Perhaps it is only the children yet unborn who will reap the benefit of what I have done. We who lived through the Frost years will never be free of its' legacy.
A grim thought, for what should be a triumphant moment.

You feel my approach; the wind rises, whips up foam on the sea. Oh, but I still have power, my son; my bare feet are light on the waves, and the trailing edges of my skirts and cloak are dry. The man you were named for, the Isle's last Lord, was my father; you may be Lord now, but you cannot keep me from this place, no matter what power you call.
And you barely gather even the smallest part of that which is at your command. I think that you resist more from resentment and old anger than from any real determination to turn me away. You always hated me, at least a little; Finian and I were pieces of each other.
As I step onto the shore, the wind whips around me; this place that shares your soul is fighting my every footstep. My son, oh my son, do you understand now? Your roots were here, on the Windward Isle, but its power, inherited so young, would have cosseted you into weakness. When I took you from here, you had already tasted this power of which you drink so deeply now; you carried it within you, a strength that would sustain you through all that was to come.
I could not have allowed you more.
The Isle of Innocence was a place in the sun when the world around us was turning to an endless winter. It was a haven, a stolen moment in which you could grow - and it was more than that. It lent you its own strengths.
And yet to send you there was an act of cruelty on my part. I have always thought of it as an unwitting one, but now, freed of the Frost-taint, I begin to doubt that assertion. How much harsher must the Academy have seemed, to one fresh from the idyll of Innocence?
Not that it needed that additional sting to heighten its' atrocities.

Two grey shapes unfold on the shingle; wolves, wolf-men, boys with animal snarls. This island which shares your soul is part of their pack-mind, for the moment at least; they glare at me but make no hostile move. The third, darker shadow is another boy who hisses and stares as though only a hair of self-control keeps him from my throat. That may be true, of a child of the hunt, a fury's son; my guilt must chime like bells in the halls of his soul. But something stays him - perhaps, he, too, is part of that pack-mind?
My granddaughter is weeping soundlessly, curled in her best friend's arms. I learnt long ago to close my ears to the screams of the Isle, to shut out the echoes of your agony, even when the very briar withered and the grasses died of it. But she has no such luxury; she is folded within your soul as I was once folded within my father's. Her tears are tears for you, and for the horrors we put you through, Finian and I.
I pass them by.
The doors to the tower open at my touch, and I climb.

The Academy at Greymere. Nothing less could have plumbed the depths of your soul so completely; nothing less could have dragged every last scrap of hidden strength to the surface. That has been my justification for many years, and yet, again, I begin to doubt.
I almost envy Finian, that he surrendered to it, that he died of it, that he passed out of this world believing utterly in the rightness of what he did. He never had to pay the piper; never had to look upon his own deeds with clear sight. What we did to you, my son; what we forced you to endure, what we made you...

You lie crumpled on the tower's roof, oblivious to the howling wind; broken. Finally broken, after everything has been said and done, now that it is over. The Frost-children, my niece and nephew, cling to each other, racked by the same hollow sense of loss that echoes within me. At least my loss is tempered by triumph.
As I go to you, you open your eyes and drag yourself to your feet, defiant, although you can barely stand upright. We beat that strength into you, we taught you that defiance, and I am no longer proud of what we did.
I meant to come here and explain to you what I had done and why; I meant to show you the rightness of my choices... Then, I thought, you would no longer reject me; you would understand that all the pain you had endured was for the greater good.
I hold out my hands. All the justifications that supported me through this terrible course ring hollow; all the conviction I had is gone. Now that the end is here and I can think clearly once more, I know that the means were not justified, after all.
"I'm sorry." I whisper, and you smile through your pain. You look more like your name-sake than you know, Fian-bach, my little fair one, grandson of Fian Maefelyn. By my reckoning, you are closer to forty than thirty, now, but your face is less lined than many a man ten years younger. Blood tells true in you: blood, and the Isle's power. You wear your hair in braids these days, green-ribboned; it has become something of a signature note for you.
"I know." Your voice is hoarse and weary. "Mother." You take my hands, draw me close, and then - wonder of wonders - you lean on me, let me guide you down from the rooftop. The wind dies, no longer fighting me; you have given me your trust.
I hoped to make you understand the truth, but instead it is you who showed that truth to me.
We made a hero, Finian and I, flawed though we were. We made a hero after all.
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