Posted by Elenore
As she stepped over the threshold, it felt as if all the blood in her veins suddenly ran ice cold. Nyleth shuddered involuntarily, pausing for a moment to regain her equilibrium as she felt Sylvara’s protections suddenly fall away. Ahead of her, heedless of both the border and the imminent rain, the Faerie woman moved noiselessly through the trees.
“Máthair, please wait,” Nyleth called, her voice almost disappearing in the rising wind. The figure paused, and it only took a moment for her to catch up to the elfwoman, almost invisible in her gray gown in the eerie pre-storm twilight. “I’m sorry, it just…”
“It is always a shock, Inion.” Her mother, Hithiel, was waiting for her just ahead. “You will feel it less each time you cross. Though, I have never learned where exactly the border lies. It seems to shift of its own accord at times.” she said quietly, then turned again to face the path ahead. She pulled the silver-white veil tighter around her shoulders. Were it not for the blue-gray eyes, the two Faerie could be mistaken for sisters.
Nyleth shivered involuntarily. It was cold and growing colder by the moment. She had two warmer cloaks safely secreted away in her bag, but her mother seemed not to notice the chill. “How far would you wish to travel tonight? I fear the weather will not be kind to us this evening.” The haunted look in Hithiel’s eyes told her all she needed to know. There would be little rest.
Without speaking, the older elf began to walk briskly down the abandoned trail. Nyleth paused long enough to pull out something warmer to wear, then hurried down the path behind her. The muted plop of raindrops was the only sound as they slipped away.
The first night was most assuredly the worst. The rain was unrelenting, and Nyleth did not trust her mother enough to rest. Throughout the night they lay curled on bedrolls and pillows that still smelled of home, magically erected in an attempt to provide them with some respite. She sang every calming song she knew that night, it seemed. Her mother, wrapped in the delicate Faerie blankets, lay unmoving, her head pillowed on Nyleth’s lap. Occasionally her eyes would close, and for a moment she hoped that perhaps Hithiel would find some measure of calm. It was not to be.
For three days they made their way through the forests that surrounded Faerie, skirting away from any Dalesman that they heard in the forests. Her mother moved with a lightening of step the farther the distance, but Nyleth’s heart grew ever heavier.
On the fourth day, they reached the sea.
The change in her mother was profound. She stood for hours, ankle-deep in the surf, unmoving but smiling. The waves washed over her, and when she finally returned to the little camp on the shore, the haunted look in her eyes had been replaced with a sadness of certainty. Nyleth knew what lay ahead.
Together, they assembled the structure from Faerie. It was an ingenious bit of magic, one that built a cottage from a handful of seeds, but it took both of their concentration to grow it properly. From Nyleth’s bag came the pillows, bedrolls, blankets and a few precious things from their family home. Hithiel anxiously unpacked the rolls of canvas and boxes of paints and brushes from her own satchel. In no time, the little cottage looked like home, and the spells properly placed to keep it safely hidden.
On the morning of the fourth day since they reached the sea, Nyleth knew it was time.
“I will return in a year, Máthair.” She said gently, but her mother’s gaze was only on the crashing waves. “Please be safe, and may your paintbrush be guided by serenity.”
Hithiel looked at her daughter, and for a moment, there was a flash of the woman that was.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, suddenly hugging Nyleth tightly to her. For many minutes they stood, then she stepped back. “A year.”
When she looked back, her mother had disappeared.