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30 June 2014 @ 02:01 pm
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Nerea"  
Nerea
lj idol season nine | week 13 | 1111 words
Open Topic

x-x-x-x-x

Under a rock beside a forgotten well lies a necklace of finest artistry. Anyone else would think it foolish to leave something so beautiful and costly behind, but such ideas mean nothing when its wearer is lost.

It was I who put it there.

The necklace belonged to Nerea, a golden-haired girl with sky-blue eyes. Nerea was my first love. Her father was the town merchant and mine the blacksmith, and we had grown up together and transitioned into that place where someone you have known forever suddenly becomes much smarter and more beautiful than you could ever have imagined.

We walked together in the evenings, trading teasing words at first and then later, promises toward the future. We had our love, our families, and the willingness to leave everything we knew should our parents not permit our union.

It was in June, in the hour before dusk, that we came across a tiny old man standing at the edge of the woods.

"Greetings, Old Father," I said. He tilted his head in acknowledgement, but had eyes only for Nerea.

"You, dear maiden, are summer-born," he said. "A daughter of the Solstice."

Nerea, whose birth had caused her mother to miss the annual festivities, looked at him in amazement. "Indeed, it is so!"

The man nodded. "I have come to claim you," he said.

I put myself between him and Nerea. "There shall be no claiming of anyone!"

Nerea was calmer. "I have my own dear family," she said. "I need no other."

The old man scowled. "It is not your need that matters, though if it be propriety that burdens you then I shall take you as my wife."

"I am most flattered," Nerea said. "But I am promised to another." She smiled at me, and my heart swelled at the sight of it.

"You may find," the old man said, regarding us both angrily, "that promises mean very little when there is nothing left to keep."

He turned and stumped off into the forest, his stride stiff and uneven and doubtless slower than he would have liked.

"That man is not well," I said, though my thoughts were far less kind.

"Most certainly," Nerea said. She linked her arm through mine and leaned her head against my shoulder. After a time, we continued on the path back toward the village.

When blessed with good fortune, one does not always notice when it first begins to slip away. Nerea fell ill the next day, "Merely the effects of an abundant Spring," she assured me. But as days passed and soothing rains came and went, she did not get better. She grew feverish and pale, and her mother's eyes showed the same worry that haunted my own.

I walked aimlessly at times, unable to settle. One evening, I found myself in the woods above the village, where the wind stirred the trees and night birds called to one another in mournful voices. The sounds only increased my worries about Nerea's chances of recovery, and I became angry. The woods cared nothing for my sorrows. I turned instead toward the stream that ran alongside them, knowing it would help me find the way out.

The little old man appeared shortly thereafter, in the shadows that fell over the stones of an abandoned well.

"She should have come when I bade her," he said.

I rushed to him and shook him mightily, fury rising within me. "You cursed her!"

"I did no such thing," he protested, the words altered by the clattering of his yellowed teeth. "It is the way of this land. All children of the Solstice belong to us."

"Is there no way to save her?"

"You may bring her here, and the earth may yet revive her. Let her tears fall into this well, deep into the ground. If the Old Spirits will it, she may live."

The old man's words might have been the ravings of a madman, but I was desperate and could not ignore them. I ran down the old path to the village, straight to Nerea's front door. I could not offer any logic in my strange request, but her parents were as panicked as I. Together, we loaded Nerea on horseback and walked back up the hill to the old well.

It was a difficult journey in the dark, but we reached the stone circle and laid Nerea down alongside it.

"Mother," she whispered. "Nolan, what—"

"Shhhhh," her mother said.

"Nerea, do not leave us, I beg of you," I pleaded.

"I think…" She breathed in raggedly. "I have already stayed too long…"

Before the spark in her eyes faded, I could see that she loved me—loved us all—though she had no words left to give.

Her mother sobbed as I stroked Nerea's hair, tears coursing down my face. Our entire future—the only future I had ever wanted—had fled in an instant. I could not help feeling that it had been stolen just as Nerea's life had been stolen from her.

A few breaths later, Nerea herself vanished. It was if she had dissipated into the earth, leaving behind only the wrought-iron necklace I had given her on her last birthday. A matching ring waited for her coming birthday, two days hence. I ached with the thought that she would never see it.

"It is true then, what they say about fairies and iron," her father murmured.

"These cannot be fairies," I said. "They would not be so cruel!" The look he gave me was half-pitying, whether for my loss, my callow youth, or the sum of both.

I hid Nerea's necklace, there among the stones where she had lain. It belonged with her, or at least to the place she had last been.

I dared not hope it might bring her back.

I have been to the well since then, in daylight and in darkness. The necklace is always waiting, though I think none but I have ever found it. I bring it out of the stones and hold it in my hand, resting my head against the well's ruined circle. Then I close my eyes and imagine I am lying next to Nerea, holding her hand.

Time continues on as I sift through the memories of her beauty, her kindness, her bright laughter, and all the plans the two of us shared. Sometimes, I can almost feel her head against my shoulder, the press of her hand against my own.

I have no sense of how long I lie there each time. I only know that with each passing month, I find it harder and harder to leave.


--/--


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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on June 30th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
Fantastic!!!

This is just perfection - we had grown up together and transitioned into that place where someone you have known forever suddenly becomes much smarter and more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on June 30th, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! It borders on being a tragic fairy tale (the only kind I write, apparently), but the passage you mentioned there... some people never get past the 'near-sibling' feeling with someone they've known forever, while others are lucky enough to awaken to a new possibility suddenly there before them.
(no subject) - bleodswean on June 30th, 2014 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on June 30th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bleodswean on June 30th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on June 30th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Jennkickthehobbit on July 1st, 2014 04:27 am (UTC)
This is amazing.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 1st, 2014 06:51 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. :D
☾witches on July 1st, 2014 01:07 pm (UTC)
i always love your entries!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 1st, 2014 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! What a wonderful thing to say. :)
(no subject) - witches on July 1st, 2014 11:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 1st, 2014 06:10 pm (UTC)
this is really sad! but i love how fairy-tale-ish it is.

>>"These cannot be fairies," I said. "They would not be so cruel!"<<

dude, do you not know that fairies are ALWAYS cruel in these kinds of stories? or at least their ways and reasons are not human ways and reasons.

i admit i kind of wondered if the necklace ever rusted....
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 1st, 2014 06:35 pm (UTC)
Depending on your exposure to the idea of fairies, you might not know how cruel and dangerous they can be. The Irish versions of them are a lot harsher than most cultures, though since fairies are not human you really should not trust that you understand them or their motives.

That necklace was originally intended to be gold, but as the story worked around to the ending, iron suddenly seemed much better. I'm not sure Nolan would have noticed if the necklace rusted, or that he would have cared. Poor guy. :(
whipchickwhipchick on July 1st, 2014 11:32 pm (UTC)
The wistfulness here is such a lovely thread, and I liked how you kept the masculine voice even with softer emotions.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
I wanted to make sure the narrator still sounded like a young man, despite his politeness, without making the female character voiceless (because that's how this kind of setting usually goes).

But mostly, I'm glad the emotion came through. :)
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on July 2nd, 2014 02:44 am (UTC)
This was well-written. The poor narrator.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I feel for him, knowing what he's lost and never having prepared himself for the possibility of his future never even getting off the ground.
(no subject) - jem0000000 on July 15th, 2014 06:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
A Karmic Sandbox: Smotheredkarmasoup on July 2nd, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
Oh, what a sad fable, and what a terrible fate! So seemingly senseless... you've captured that genuinely here.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:36 pm (UTC)
I hope it's still clear to the reader, even if the narrator still cannot quite believe what has happened, or that there can be pacts or rituals outside his knowledge that still very much triumph.
Teo Sayseternal_ot on July 2nd, 2014 06:15 am (UTC)
*Sigh* I wished she came back..even if on a full moon/no moon...(would that make her something else than a fairy..:P)
A beautiful tale..:) well written..the emotions were captured really well. Loved it in a sad way! Good Job!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
I don't think she herself was a fairy... but I do think the timing of her birth was unfortunate!

What is left to the reader to wonder is, did her parents know that they could not keep her, and they hoped to circumvent it? Or is this a condition that only magic folk know about, that humans are sacrified to?
(no subject) - eternal_ot on July 3rd, 2014 05:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
mamas_minionmamas_minion on July 2nd, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
Wonderful I loved this tale, you can feel the melancholoy coming from the character and thier sense of longing. Is the character slowly dying from sorrow or transforming into something I wonder.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed it!

I would say that the character is losing touch with the real world, even if only in a mental sense. Grief can be so very destructive.
lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on July 2nd, 2014 04:34 pm (UTC)
<3 This is a wonderful sad little fairy tale. Well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Fairy Tale Castleroina_arwen on July 2nd, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC)
Sad but well written. Great atmosphere, too.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
I'm glad the atmosphere caught you-- that is often one of my favorite parts of fairy tales, thought sometimes it is minor and other times (The 12 Dancing Princesses, for instance) consistently told in more detail.
D.binaryorchid on July 2nd, 2014 06:59 pm (UTC)
Wow! Amazing! I love this piece of yours!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you very much. :D
elledangerelledanger on July 2nd, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC)
What a lovely piece - I love the quiet melancholy and the inevitableness, and so very enchanting.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 2nd, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad that you felt there was an inevitability to it-- even if Nerea and Nolan hoped or assumed otherwise.
ArmagedDanhosticle_fifer on July 3rd, 2014 12:18 am (UTC)
Very "elven king calling to the child in the forest". I also love the ending that could be construed as the promise of a happy ending, an unhappier ending, or both at once. Awesome stuff!

Edited at 2014-07-03 12:19 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 3rd, 2014 07:08 am (UTC)
I also love the ending that could be construed as the promise of a happy ending, an unhappier ending, or both at once.
It's one that might be happier for the narrator, considering what he's been through, but would certainly cause pain to everyone else. So it is, exactly, a mixed outcome!

Thanks for reading! :D
tatdatcmtatdatcm on July 3rd, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
So sad and forlorn. I liked the inevitability of it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 3rd, 2014 07:09 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad the emotions are coming through clearly, too. So much hope at the beginning, and then so much devastation when it is gone.