LITTLE BIRD
She hated humans. At best, she tolerated them. By the same magic she entranced them with, she couldn't deny the natural beauty of some of them. From time to time, she kept a few near for her own entertainment. Women she found easier to handle, save one whom she despised more than any other. Currently, that human woman's child was her apprentice, being raised by her own lover after the woman abandoned the boy at a river's edge. If the child wasn't in the care of her lover, she'd drown the boy in the deepest sea. But for her lover, she pretended to love him. She dressed him and fed him when he was in her care, and taught him magic he was unworthy of. Her dearest lover, Liliana, taught him the magic of water, and she taught him the rest. The boy was a worthless apprentice. She showed him the wonders of the world, and the boy refused to care for anything beyond what his adopted mother taught him. Today was no different. She instructed him to practice fire magic, but the boy was too preoccupied creating water between his hands. "Robin, is that what I told you to practice?"She put her hand on his shoulder and spun him around. Robin accidentally spilled the water onto the cave floor. "No, Aunt." "Why aren't you practicing what I told you to?" She asked. "I want to make a thunderstorm." He said. A frightening intensity burned in his eyes. She could see the boy's beastly father in that stare, a reminder of why she rarely enjoyed the company of human men. In time, she knew, that boy would become something far deadlier than his murderous, rapist father. She was there, giving him the tools to make those of both realms shake, and she knew very well what future lied in store for him. For Liliana, she would do anything to keep her near and others away from her dearest for as long as possible. She wanted her all to herself. "Are you trying to take my throne? I am the Queen of the Seas and Skies. Your mother may control water, but rain is mine alone to rule over." She turned the sky a dark grey as she spoke. "I don't care about that. I want rain." He stood his ground in spite of his weakness. Lightning outside the cave reflected in the boy's eyes. "You are bold. Definitely the son of that monster they call the Black Wolf." She grinned. Robin played right into her hands. He yelled, "I am nothing like that man! I have no father." "Then be a good boy and obey." She turned away from him. Underneath his courage was a self-imposed chain upon his spirit. She merely needed the right words to get him to strangle himself. That was his nature, and she used it to her advantage whenever she could. The boy went quiet, then meekly replied. "Yes, Aunt." "That's a good boy. Now, get back to training. I have a guest coming." She said. "Can't I go back to Mother now?" Robin asked. "Are you done with your lesson?" "No." He said. "Then you have your answer." She decided to rile him up one last time for fun. "I know you humans can't help being so impatient. Your kind is so weak and your lives fleeting." "I am nothing like them!" Robin shouted at her. "Prove it to me. Show me your magic." She sat down in her throne. Within seconds, the water in her cave turned to flames. She looked back at him and smiled. "You'll scorch the earth one day, and the land will be dyed red. That, I have foreseen. You cannot escape from yourself, nor his blood within you. Your mother sees a little bird, but I know you are a wolf waiting to prowl in the moon's light." Robin put out the flames with a water spell. He bowed before her throne and said, "I will not become that man. If I must spill blood, I will only do so to protect those I love." "Oh, you sweet thing. By those words alone you have damned yourself to a fate dyed in red and black." She grinned widely, thinking of how upset her lover would be when the boy would one day follow his heart and become a beast unlike anything in either of their two realms. Before Robin could say anything back to her, the guest arrived. A selkie man, carrying his seal skin in his arm and wearing nothing else, knelt down in front of the throne. He said, "My queen, it is I, Llyr of the Western Seas. I have come to beg for your mercy." "My mercy? What have I done to you?"She asked. "My queen, since you left your castle and moved here, you have been much harsher on the shores and sailors. Please, let the seas and skies know peace. Let them rest for a few decades at least, to give them time to recover." He lowered his head. "Why do you care what happens to them? Shouldn't you be happy to have so many widows' hearts to play with?" SHe crossed her legs and rested her head against her hand. "There's too many bodies in the sea. And you're taking the lives of the women too. The towns are shrinking, and fewer children are reaching adulthood." He spoke with sadness. "And you know I prefer the role of one who keeps the fire alive inside a woman's heart while she waits on a returning husband, not comforting a widow who's heart is broken and her love buried deep below." "You've been around them too long. Don't listen to their cries. I want the storms there. If they don't like it, they can leave and so can you." The selkie man begged her again. He bowed even deeper. "Please, I have half-human family and many of my sisters are married to human men. If not for the sake of humans, can you not extend your mercy for those of us born in the sea and to those born of the sea children? What must I give to you? I am willing to exchange my life for my family's safety." He extended his hands out to her. "What a worthless bargain. Move from the shores. Your sisters get what they deserve for allowing themselves to become tangled up in human affairs." She pointed to the cave's entrance. "Be on your way, Selkie, before I think of a punishment for you wasting my time." "But my queen...please...the mermaids and the haliae also wish for it to stop. Please, we are your subjects. We adore you, we serve you when you call upon us. Are we not entitled to a voice in return?" The selkie rose from the ground. He threw his seal skin at her feet. "I would gladly give away my life, my freedom, and lose my home if it meant the seas would calm again. Can you not put aside your hatred of them to care for us?" A wicked idea entered her mind. She picked up his skin and handed it to Robin. "My child, I have another lesson for you. Burn this filthy thing, then escort this foolish seal outside." Robin looked down at the fragile seal skin in his hands. He looked at the selkie man, naked and afraid. He saw across his body scars, deep cuts, and bruises. From the magic his queen taught him, he used the only healing spell he knew to see into the source of those marks. He couldn't heal the man with the spell, but he could see the source of the pain. He searched the man's spirit. From jagged rocks to angry human men with knives and spears, he saw all the blood and pain. Robin didn't understand the man's care for humans, as they'd done more damage to his body than any storm or current. Then, he looked deeper. Within his soul, thousands more scars covered him. He saw the selkie carrying dead children back to their mothers and the man's nieces and nephews torn from him on human ships traveling with their human fathers. He saw the selkie trying to comfort a grieving widow at a cliff's edge, holding her back and using every bit of magic he could in the form of sweet words and empty promises. He saw the selkie holding a mermaid who turned herself human to be with a man she fell in love with, dying on the shore with her lover just beyond an arm's reach. Robin wanted to cry. He walked over to the selkie and returned his skin. His queen rose from her throne. She raised her voice. "What are you doing, boy?" "I told you very well who I am. See me for a wolf, if you wish." He stared at her with that same burning intensity. "If I must be like that man to protect life, then I am a wolf. Show me the moon." "Are you challenging me, child? You're nine, and a complete novice at magic. None of the protection spells your mother has placed on you will save you from my power." She walked over to him, glaring as intensely as he was at her. He smirked at her. "I've learned a lot from you, Aunt. I don't need magic to protect myself from you. You won't hurt me. You'd break my mother's heart, and she will know it was you who did it. You and I both know this." "Insolent, little brat. I must congratulate you. Defeating magic greater than your own with words is a most impressive skill. You'd do well to train yourself further in that regard." She smiled, but under the surface, she was boiling over with rage at not being able to strike the boy down dead. "I can do nothing to you, child, but as for him..." Robin raised his arm to protect the selkie. "I do have a challenge for you, Aunt." The queen's anger grew. "Oh, is that so?" "If I can calm the skies and seas in his home from this distance, you will not interfere there until I draw my last breath and I will be the overseer of the Western Seas." "I will not give you that power, but I will leave it be if you can accomplish this feat. If you fail, I will slay the selkie and have you return his corpse to the sea." She laces her words with cruelty to test the boy's resolve. She expected he would refuse, but Robin did not. "I accept. Don't worry, friend, I will keep you safe." Llyr looked down at him in confusion. The boy was human and only nine years old, yet he trusted that somehow the boy would make good on his promise. The selkie came to that place already willing to risk his life for his family and friends. He put his faith in the boy and hoped for a miracle. Robin closed his eyes and concentrated. Wind moved around him and the selkie felt the boy's energy surging through and out of the cave. Only the queen could sense far out enough to know Robin succeeded. It took everything in her to control her rage. She wanted to drown him. The queen composed herself. "So, you succeeded. I shouldn't be surprised. It is all you bother to do well. Go on home, Selkie. The boy has gained you my mercy." Llyr bowed to the boy. "Thank you. Thank you so much. One day, I swear I will repay you." Robin smiled and shook his head. "I need no repayment. That was a gift." "Thank you again. I will let those in the Western Seas know what you have done for us." With that, the selkie made his way home. Robin was pleased with himself. The queen couldn't stand it. "Get back to your lessons, Robin." He nodded and created small flames in his hands. Within a few minutes, his adopted mother was at the cave entrance. The queen's lover called out to her. "Hello, my love. I've come to collect my little bird." Robin tossed of the coat the queen had him wear inside the cave. Underneath, he wore nothing but leaves, just as his adopted mother did. He hugged Liliana tightly. "Mother! I missed you." "We're going home now, dear. Were you a good boy for Morgan?" Liliana asked. She patted him on the head. "Yes, Mother." "What a lie." The queen said. "Did he give you trouble again?" Liliana turned her attention back to Morgan. "What else is new?" She said. "Please, forgive him." Liliana said. She looked at Morgan with a seductive gaze. "Come by later tonight, won't you?" "As you wish, my love." The queen said. Liliana led the boy out of the cave. Alone, Morgan turned the water to flames herself and screamed. She couldn't stop her rage. One day, she knew from casting their futures, Liliana would leave her for that boy's human birth mother and she would be left alone. Her screaming turned to laughter. "I'll make sure your entire bloodline suffers. I'll burn away the whole damn tree. And you, boy, I'll turn you into a beast, just as I did with your father. If no future exists where I can have her, then I will take the cruelest path to lead you all on." When her laughter ceased, quiet cries echoed within the cave walls. She cursed herself for predicting their futures. She cursed Liliana for not being her twin flame. She cursed her creator for giving her any magic at all. Most of all, she cursed the human woman who was born to be with her lover. All her words, all the suffering she could cause--it was meaningless. No matter how she used her magic to manipulate the seas or the wind, humans and those in her realm, she could only control the future to a degree. Some events were set in stone, and changing that was beyond her powers. She cast her magic into the air to view the future once again, only to see that woman with Liliana. If she'd never dared to look, her heart would be kinder. That knowledge drove her mad. Every time she searched the future, she lost a little more of herself. She knew she should stop, but the anger was too great. She slipped out of the cave to arrange a few more tragedies before she ended her night in her lover's arms.
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