Fatherless Eir 02 – Power

Posted: September 14, 2018 in Eir, Handmaidens, Vanir
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Dancing in the Woods

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Chapter 2 – Power –

 

Blood thudded in her throat, loud enough to hear her heartbeat, and sweat greased her palms. Joy was marred with a nauseous dizziness, fearing she might ruin her chances with foolish words.

A date, she thought, a real date!

They sat at the same tree, facing the sounds of the ongoing celebration.

“Better,” he said, with a finger to her lower neckline.

“You like? I thought it would be… better. That you would… like it… more.”

“Stop,” he said with a hand to his forehead, “you are dazzling me with your vocabulary. I will have to seek a sage to understand your poetic elocution.”

“Hmmph,” she responded, blushing furiously as she crossed her arms. “See if I go making efforts for you again.”

“No, no, I appreciate, and have brought you a gift too. See?” He held up a bottle. Not a common clay amphora but an actual glass bottle, green with ornamentation etched into it.

“What, ale? There is plenty of that at the party.”

He shook his head. “No, this is a potion.”

She leaned forward onto her hands, eyes alight. “A p-potion? A potion for what?”

“Did you not say you wished for powers?” he asked with a smug smile. “This is a potion to help awaken them. And close your mouth, you’ll catch flies,” he laughed.

Snapping her mouth shut, she reached for the bottle, then let her hand droop. “Why have I not heard of such a thing? Surely my mother would have acquired it if such were possible.”

“What can I say,” he said, opening arms wide with a toothy smile, “I work miracles. No seriously, I know people, serious herbalists, and they have concocted this at my request. A potion for powers.”

Mouth dry, she gazed at the bottle with the longing of a woman dying of thirst. “W-what does it do?”

“Well,” he rubbed his chin, “first it helps you relax. You can’t manifest if you’re all tensed up. Then it opens your eyes so you see the world as it really is. After that, unlocking your powers is just a matter of trial and error I should think. And… dancing.”

She scrunched her face in disbelief. “What does dancing have to do with powers?”

He stood, took a step, and spun. “Why, my fair lady, it has everything to do with it! Dancing sends lifeforce flowing through your channels. Surely you’ve felt that freedom at least once, have you not?”

She nodded. It was true, though she’d only felt it when dancing alone. She didn’t like people watching her dance. It felt too… intimate? Like showing part of her soul.

“But if you don’t want it, that is fine too…” and he moved to put the bottle away in a satchel. She lay a hand on his.

“No, please,” she said softly, “I’d like to try it.”

With a wolfish grin, he pulled the cork out with his teeth and handed it over.

“How much should I take?”

He shrugged. “Start with a swig, take more as needed. But wait till you feel the effects peak before you take more. It’s potent stuff, and I wouldn’t want you to feel overwhelmed.”

She stared at it for a long moment, nodded to herself, and took a mouthful. She cocked her head as she tasted, then swallowed. “It’s mead! With something else.”

“Honey makes the medicine sweeter, or so I am told,” he winked, and then took a swig himself.

“Are.. you… looking for… powers too? Holy Nerthus… that thing is… strong!”

“Indeed. And are we not all… oh yes, it works fast!”

She was distracted from his answer by a heat suffusing her body. A terribly pleasurable tingle spread to her toes, making her eyelids droop and her muscles relax. The breeze caressed her body like a lover would, sending delightful shivers throughout. She sighed happily up at the canopy of oak leaves, a caress grazing her bare arms before realizing it was her own hands doing so. Yummy. That was the only word that fit what she felt all over. Her tongue felt thick and swollen, mouth pasty, and she reached for the bottle to have another drink.

“Nuh-uh,” he said, “one sip to start with, more later. Have some water instead.” She felt a cold bottle pressed into her hand and only now noticed her eyes were closed. She took a sip, savoring the sensation of it flowing down her throat. Then she opened her eyes and gasped.

Gösta was glowing. Not just white, but in many colors. So were the trees, the grass. So were her hands as she examined them in fascination. She waved them in front of her face, giggling as they left tracers of light behind. She played that way for a while. It could have been a minute or an hour, it was impossible to tell.

“Have I earned your favor,” he asked, “perhaps a little kiss on the cheek?”

With a silly grin on her face, she answered, “you most certainly have,” and proceeded to lean over to him. She would have fallen on her face if he hadn’t caught her.

“It does take a bit of getting used to, but I’ve had other potions before. You’ll adjust as well.” She nodded at his words but didn’t care, a small dimple on his cheek becoming the whole of her awareness until she managed to plant a kiss. And as she did, her heart overflowed with love and joy. My boyfriend, she thought. This is my boyfriend and I‘m kissing him. Hooray. So much hooray. She wanted more, but he stopped her.

“Perish the thought of me being a gentleman, but if I let you go further you’ll regret it in the morning. Let us dance instead.”

Dancing. Dancing sounded good to her too. She rose with his help but it felt more like flying, hovering. Despite that, he kept her from tipping over as he led her to the celebration. All those people, they were glowing too. They were beautiful. The music, she took notice of it now, was also beautiful. It made her body move and flow, like a stream carrying a boat. Unbound of all concerns, she let herself dance freely.

One of her tormentors approached and started talking. She didn’t really care what he was saying, so she slapped him. Even that felt delightful against her skin, and she shushed him with fingers to her lips, “I am dancing. Do not interrupt the dancing.” Stunned, he stared and walked away as she returned to her revelry, basking in the glowing colors of the music and feeling invulnerable.

===

The next morning was significantly less delightful. Her body ached all over, her mouth felt like something had crawled in and died. Best of all, her head was pounding a drummer’s march. Yesterday, she had felt like a queen. Today, she was weak and insignificant once more, a half-breed failure even her father couldn’t love. Still, a thin smile graced her lips. She had a boyfriend. And she’d kissed him too. Maybe next time, he’d be the one to kiss her. Mentally, she reviewed the clothing she owned as it was less effort than getting out of bed. What would he like to see her wear? What would win… his approval? Something more revealing, no doubt.

With a groan she crawled out of bed, vaguely remembering his advice to drink more water. This much she could do.

One hand supported her head at the long breakfast table. A plate of milk porridge appeared before her, and she glanced up to thank Otto, their old family attendant. He smiled, and set down a steaming mug of spiced nettle tea, the perfect pick me up after a night of dancing. Her stomach gurgled, not quite ready for food, so she warmed her hands on the cup and inhaled the hot steam. Gay tapestries of bees pollinating flowering crops lined the outer limestone walls, mocking her in their industriousness. She leveled a baleful gaze at the tiny embroidered workers, and gazed out the narrow colored glass windows which thankfully muted the excessive sunlight.

“Is there anything more you might like, young mistress?” She shook her head and stared at him. He wore the brown robes of a servant with an long yellow overcoat indicating he was nevertheless of gold caste. She rarely had reason to interact with the lesser castes, as even their servants were golds. He was a kind man but also a proud one, keeping his salt and pepper beard neatly trimmed. He was also a living, breathing warning of what she’d become if she didn’t manifest her divine powers soon. Her face took a sour expression as she imagined herself becoming like him, a handmaiden to some uppity gold heiress; brushing her hair, serving her porridge, and asking if she would like anything else. There would be no dancing then, just the drudgery of service.

I have to ascend. I just have to, she told herself. I can‘t become like that. Death was almost preferable. Almost.

He was the last of his line too. His parents hadn’t ascended either, so he was not deemed fit for fertility rites by any of the other ladies of his sub-caste. At least her own mother was a goddess, so she would have the option to marry if she revealed herself to be a tarnished gold. Someone would probably take a chance in mating her with a first generation tarn servant, in the hopes of producing a true gold child.

Breeding mare, or lady in waiting. Great options there, Eir, she thought with a scowl.

“Are you displeased with your breakfast, young mistress? Is there anything else I could get you?” Otto said with a crease in his forehead. She covered her eyes. His worry at displeasing her, and the potential consequences of displeasing her, made the headache and fear all the worse. She wanted him to go away, to stop reminding her of her fate, to just stop talking.

She stopped herself from snapping at him and said, “No, everything’s fine, your service is impeccable. I’m simply not feeling well this morning. You may go.” Smiling back, he bowed and excused himself.

“Honey,” her mother enquired from the other end of the table, “what’s wrong?” Eyes wide and suddenly alert, Eir’s mouth worked soundlessly as she tried to assemble what she could safely tell her mother. What would her mother want to hear? She couldn’t just say she’d been given a potion…

“I… I met a boy last night, Mother. We drank too much. And danced too much. And now I have a hangover and my head is splitting and I don’t want to answer questions about him.” In an instant she found her head cradled in the gold and orange brocade of her mother’s bosom.

“Oh darling, that’s wonderful! Well, not the drinking too much of course – I know you’re not used to that – but that you made a friend and finally had fun dancing at the celebration. You know I’ve been worrying about you, and this is fantastic news.”

“Mother…” she groaned.

“Yes, yes,” she beamed, “I won’t ask you questions yet. I’m just happy for you, that’s all. You’re finally growing into a woman and I want you to know I’m very proud.”

Eir grunted. Her mother’s breasts were always comforting, but she also felt a tinge of guilt. It wasn’t exactly a lie, just not the whole truth, and she’d never kept secrets from her mother. But then, she’d never had a boyfriend either. Maybe secrets were part of growing up into an adult.

She couldn’t wait for the next Folksday evening celebration. That gave her three days to plan her outfit and brush up on her makeup skills. She grinned. Mother would be happy to help with that. Perfection was her passion, and she’d always been enthusiastic about teaching her makeup. Make that two days, she thought with a yawn. She’d cancel her dance lessons and head back to bed after breakfast.

===

Gösta sat alone at his small table, nursing an ale, watching the tavern’s patrons without looking up from the mug between his hands. He was not the only one wearing a worn cloak with the hood up, hiding his much finer clothes. The Rickety Barrel was exactly the sort of place where a noble could find shady characters to do their bidding with no questions asked. Far from the stone buildings of the gold district, this wooden shack was illuminated only by dirty clay oil lamps hanging from the rafters. A woman gave a shrill laugh and stumbled, drunk. An emerging fight was quieted by the barkeep bringing a round of mead to pacify a table of dice players. His forehead pinched, he waited.

Finally, another cloaked figure sat at his table.

“Progress?” the stranger asked.

“Indeed,” Gösta responded. “She is naive and isolated, never had a boyfriend. Doesn’t suspect a thing. I’ll need more of your special mead for the next phase. Number seven should do I think.”

“Very well, you’ll have it. Anything else?”

Gösta ran his toungue along his teeth. “No. Everything’s in place.”

“And after you are done?”

“She dies, of course,” the young noble shrugged. “Her power becomes mine. No witnesses.”

“Time is running short. Don’t frack this up, godling.”

The young man’s face soured, lips pursed. “No, of course.”

“It will be at the usual drop site then. Good day.” The stranger stood and left. Gösta let out a breath, looked around for any onlookers, then drained his sorry excuse for an ale. This had to work. He would make it work. Then they would all respect him and give him the dues he richly deserved.

===

Her head swam as she awoke, with hazy memories of the previous night. She smiled, even through the headache, and pulled the pillow over her face.

Her new friends weren’t so bad, once you got to know them. The crowd of teenagers that had surrounded Jaden were now her coterie, treating her like a princess at all the celebrations and eager to win her attention.

“Your makeup is so original,” one girl had said. “You simply must teach me how you do it.”

“I love your hair, darling, is it that your natural color or alchemy?”

“What an impressive outfit,” said another. “I’m not sure I could have pulled off wearing it!”

“Oh, you’re just so darling tonight. You simply must share your skin care secrets.”

That was how the women spoke with her. The men were different.

“Oh, that is so clever, princess! I never would have thought of such an insult. Why don’t you kick him again? Then we can find another of those fools who snubbed you and make them pay.”

“To party is to live, and to live is to party? Why yes, I agree. You’re a poet, milady. I shall take note of your words in my diary for safekeeping.”

“Ho, nice cleavage! But why stop at the belly button, let the slit go to your crotch next time. What have you got to hide? You’re gorgeous all the way down.”

She reveled in the attention, though they never came to her house or see her outside the parties. When she crossed their path during the day, they simply nodded to her and walked on, even when she called out to them. That had disquieted her at first, until one night when she confronted them about it.

“Oh, we’re just so busy during the day, darling. And to be frank, you’re not much fun when you’re sober. We like you much better like this.”

It‘s true, she thought as she squeezed the pillow against her face, I‘m pretty boring when I’m sober. And I don’t enjoy people as much. I’m too shy. I worry what people will think. Maybe I should ask for a vial to carry home, a little morning pick me up to get me through the day?

It was near noon when she made her way to the dining room table, and she groaned when she saw Mother there waiting for her.

“Darling,” the woman said with a curt nod. “Have a seat. Otto will bring breakfast shortly.”

“What now, Mother?” She sat and let her forehead rest on her hand atop the table.

“I’m not sure I like these new friends of yours.” Vanagreta’s lips worked in and out of a pucker, as if undecided between a bitter or sour flavor. “And you’ve been drinking altogether too much this past month.”

Silence stretched out until their manservant set down soft boiled eggs, bread and butter. With a sharp breath, Eir sat up and brought the plate closer.

“Mother, you were wild when you were young too. Don’t criticize me for doing the same, and don’t tell me who I can have as friends. Need I remind you how I came to be born once more?” She glared at her, and took an angry bite of her bread.

Looking skyward in a silent plea for patience, Gretta stared at her daughter, then rubbed her face.

“I don’t know what to do with you. Yes, I was happy you found friends, happy you had fun. But this? You’re falling apart. Look at those circles under your eyes! You’re coming home drunk as a soldier on leave, and you spend your days moping around. Or working on new outfits. This has to stop. I’m putting my foot down. No more.”

A deep anger boiled within Eir, rising up like a sea serpent from the depths, and she bared her teeth.

“You’ve had enough, have you Mother? Well I’ve had enough too!” she shouted. “Maybe if you’d bedded a Vanir instead of a foreigner, I’d have a father. Maybe I wouldn’t be a half-breed everyone shunned. Maybe I wouldn’t have a whore for a mother trying to teach me morality!”

As soon as the words were out, she gasped and covered her mouth. Her mother gaped, white as a sheet.

Eir’s hands trembled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t… didn’t mean to… you’re not a…”

“To. Your. Room. Now! And I don’t want to see you until supper. You are grounded. No more parties. No more boyfriend. If you will not respect your own self, then by the Holy Mother of Gods, you will bloody well learn to respect your own Mother. Go. Out of my sight!”

The girl rose, mutely walked back to her room and closed the door behind her. Tapestries of birds covered the wall where her gaze fell. They were free, and she was not. Guilt and anger warred across her face as she went to flop face first on her bed. How would she meet her boyfriend if she was grounded? He’d said tonight was a special night, that he had something important to ask her.

She bit her lower lip, trying to imagine what he would ask. Betrothal? That was a bit premature. To make their courtship official, to declare his love? She rolled onto her back, smiling. Yes, that must be it. He would give her a crown of flowers and declare his love, shouting for all to hear. Finally, someone to love her.

But she frowned. He was not a patient man. If she didn’t show up, if he was there all night alone, might he not choose another woman for company? She was nothing special, she knew that. He could find someone prettier, more fun, more social, one who didn’t need potions to be interesting. He’d give up on her, and then all of her entourage would go with him and she’d be all alone again.

All alone, again. The thought spun around and around. And she remembered how badly she’d treated her old friends these past few weeks. Without him and the group, they would seek revenge. She would be worse off than before. Alone and without powers.

I can‘t lose him. I just can’t, she decided. Whatever it takes, I‘ll be out there tonight with him. I’ll sneak off, that’s all. Mother is being unreasonable and I’m not a child anymore. When our love is official, she will have to concede.

She crawled out of bed and started assembling her latest dress. It would be fabulous. And everything would work out, as long as she didn’t get caught. What was the worst that could happen?

 

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Comments
  1. […] Fatherless Eir 02 – Power […]

    Like

  2. Ly says:

    I’m sorry, but not surprised, to see the new boy isn’t exactly legit :p

    What a place to leave it though.. more please!

    Like

  3. Amber Drake says:

    Ooo, this is exiting!
    Poor Eir.

    Like

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