The sight made Kya want to run and scream, cry and rage, hide and forget. Instead, she took a tentative step forward.
“May I?” she asked, holding out her hand. Though she had been a flower of repute so small that she’d only mattered to her keeper, the greenlife and knowing was stored deep within her roots—for all that she’d left them behind for a pair of wings and a beautiful ship.
The sea gave Kya a wary look, a wounded creature that would bite the hand trying to mend and heal, like as not. But she couldn’t think of teeth right now—no matter how fierce or sharp. All she could focus on was the pain of the sea’s wound.
“There are those of . . . of my kind who might help you. That is, help the wound to heal from the festering and to knit your . . . your . . .” Kya furrowed her brow. The greenlife applied to those of the earth, how could she hope to use it to heal the sea herself?
The sea looked upon her kindly. “I will not be freed until the binding has been served and severed.”
Hearthorne narrowed her eyes. “Binding? Someone bound you? How could they have the power?”
“I am not so infallible as you think,” the sea said, sighing the sound of mist spraying against rocks. “But this was a binding I entered into of my own accord. It was meant to be just at the time, but the terms of the binding went unmet, and the enchantment is stretching thin.”
“Wait, you did this on purpose?” Hearthorne didn’t quite screech. She gestured to the raw, gaping wound at the sea’s wrist. “If this doesn’t end well for you, it doesn’t end well for any of us. You know that, right?”
Kya was confused at the sudden shift in Hearthorne’s tone from reverence to rage. Not for the first time, she wished she’d had more of an education, had had the opportunity to travel and learn of things beyond those her keeper and their visitors thought important. From her perch on the windowsill, she would have been hard pressed to understand how the sea’s troubles could have troubled her. She wanted to shake the story from Hearthorne’s roots or from the misty haze rising in the place where the sea stood on deck.
“Why?” she asked instead. “Why would you do such a thing,” she glanced at Hearthorne who was still glowering fiercely in her bowl, “if so many depend on you?”
The sea held out her arms, palms up, in supplication for understanding. “You must understand my position. As the sea, I am one, but I am also many. A careful balance must be struck between the two. For if one overpowers the other, destruction can be the only result.
“At the time, one of my daughters lost her heart to the shore. Her sister saw her pain and tried to help, but instead of leading her sister to the Happily Ever After she’d been hoping for, the sister discovered that awful peril of balancing the one with the many.”
Hearthorne made a sound of impatience, though her eyes no longer glinted with quite so much anger. “Whispers of that story have reached even the Mound. But what has it to do with you?”
“Everything.” There was a tragic sorrow that rang in the sea’s voice like a bell swallowed by night and mist. “My daughter could never have left me if I had not allowed it. Her sister did all that she could to make the terms specific enough not to cause . . . complications further down the line. But despite our care, my daughter, her sister, and I learned the hard way that no matter how carefully we spell, the heart is a free agent unto itself.”
The sea bowed her head as silver blue tears dripped down her watery face. “You see, it is not in my nature to have a heart, nor is it in the nature of my children. How could we have known what we now know only too well now that it is too late?”
“What happened to your daughter?” Kya asked. Her keeper had lived far enough inland that the sea and her stories had never been a concern. It was only now, staring into the fathomless depths of the sea’s eyes that Kya felt her lack so keenly.
The sea shrugged and tipped her face to look up at the place where the sky would have been if they hadn’t been shrouded by the fast flowing waters. “She could not complete the binding, no matter that her sister had found a way to put everything back in the balance. The moment her foot stepped upon the shore, she started to grow a heart. Before she passed beyond my reach completely, her heart had grown to its fullest extent. Due to the nature of the binding, her sister and I both bear the echoes of that heart—particularly her sister who was the focal point of the enchantment.
“It is a wretched thing to have a heart.”
Kya pressed her lips together, unsure how to respond to that. As a flower, she hadn’t needed a heart. She’d had the greenlife. As a faerie . . .
She put a hand to her chest, just to be sure, but nothing beat against her palm despite the heart she could feel listening to the sea’s plight.
Hearthorne, who’d caught her, grinned with a wry amusement. “Don’t bother checking. Folk are no more prone to hearts naturally than the sea. Were we to grow a heart, we would cease to be Folk, for the worlds needs us heartless to do what needs to be done.”
“Oh,” Kya said, oddly disappointed. Perhaps what she’d felt as a heart was only a seedling, the last remnant of the greenlife that had rested thickly about her roots.
“What must we do?” Hearthorne asked. She nodded at the sea’s wrist where the silver chains gleamed against the spray of water. “To remedy that?”
When the sea spoke, it was in the hush of the quietest of waves lapping against the shore. “You must find the one who created the binding and give her what aid she requires to right the balance.”
“I see,” Hearthorne said primly. “And the bounty?”
“Hearthorne!” Kya glared at the flower. “How can you think of demanding a price for our help? Can’t you see that she—“ she glanced at the sea and gulped, “that this is what needs doing? If we’re both heartless enough to—“
“Ha,” Hearthorne laughed mirthlessly. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.”
“But didn’t you just—“
“She is right,” the sea said, gazing upon them with her luminous eyes. “For a favor such as this, a price must be struck to keep the balance anchored.”
Kya furrowed her brow in consternation. She was missing something here, she could feel it deep down in her bones. What she wouldn’t have given to have soaked up the right kind of stories as she’d dreamed in her pot.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Saltwater Curiosities.
If this is your first time visiting, check out the first installment of this voyage, and swing by the library to read The Curious Leaf for free if this is the first time you’ve met Kya or Hearthorne. Or, subscribe to join the Wonder-Kin and receive The Curious Leaf free as part of your Free Starter Library. 🙂
Have a great day!