Fairy Lights and Fireflies - a short story
Faye opened her eyes, looking at the pale gray quilt upon which she was curled up, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms tucked underneath her body. She had not been exposed to the comforts of a bed for very long, and so was not completely comfortable with the fact that most slept underneath the covers, stretched out, with their head resting on the pillows. The softness of the mattress was still a marvel to her.
After a moment, Faye sat up, shaking vigorously. She could hear movement within the house, and knew she was not the first to awaken. In fact, she could hear footsteps approaching the door to her room, and she turned to watch the approaching person enter. After a few moments, Celebrían, the lady of the Valley, entered. The silver-haired maiden had a humored smile on her face, and Faye knew immediately that she was amused about something.
"You should be relieved that Arwen is not yet awake," Celebrían said, gesturing to the barely wrinkled quilt Faye was sitting on. "How many times has she tried to teach you the proper way to sleep on a bed?"
"Confining," Faye admitted. "Like space to move."
Celebrían smiled again, and Faye knew that this smile was coming from her poor knowledge of language. She had been trying to improve her speech for a while now, but so far she had not made much progress. Faye wanted to learn the language of her new home, but such things were very difficult for her. Having lived for so long without needing to speak, she could not easily comprehend the intricacies of the Elvish language. Faye knew Celebrían understood, for the Elf-maiden had taken it upon herself to teach Faye, but she still found it frustrating. She still spoke as she had before, using broken common tongue, and she often slurred into the ancient language of her people without fully realizing it all too frequently, making communication all the more difficult.
What made all of this even more frustrating was the fact that Celebrían, Arwen, and the others Faye knew in the Valley seemed to be learning her ancient language faster than she was learning theirs.
Faye stood, shaking her mane of thick black hair off her face as she walked to the vanity and sat before it. One thing she did know was how to braid her hair in the style of the Elves, and this was quickly accomplished while Celebrían selected a dress from the nearby wardrobe for her. For a moment, Faye admired her reflection in the mirror. What she saw was drastically different from what she had been for so long. Her face was not sunken and gaunt, but full and youthful. Her skin was a rich coppery tan, and save for those dealt by the werewolf, the scars marring her were barely visible.
But there was something in the reflection Faye knew she had not possessed in the years of her mortality. Her eyes, her golden-yellow eyes, were not natural. They were as much of a trademark of her kind as her hidden fangs. She was not Elf-kind. She was not of the race of Men.
She was a vampire. A blessed one, but a vampire nonetheless. The only sustenance she ever needed was blood, though she was capable of consuming other foods for a trace amount of nutrition. Her strength was boundless, her senses keen, her movements swift and silent. Often she wondered how she could be welcome here in the Valley.
"You belong, Faye," Celebrían said suddenly, once again demonstrating her strange ability to know exactly what Faye was thinking. "You can't change what you are."
Faye rolled her eyes. One thing she had discovered to be quite annoying about Elves was how they favored speaking in riddles.
"Come, now," Celebrían continued, draping a dark blue dress with silver trim over the bed. "Arwen wishes to join you in your lessons today."
Arwen. Faye smiled as the sprightly Elfling materialized in her forethoughts. There was no other soul in this world that she loved more. A wise, energetic child with a pure, innocent heart, Arwen had been the only one to see the gentle woman inside the beast that Faye had been when she first arrived. She was very patient with Faye's language difficulty, and thoroughly enjoyed teaching her how things worked in the Valley. More than once, Faye had overheard Celebrían saying that her arrival was the best thing to have happened to Arwen, because the Elfling had become more attentive in her lessons in her eagerness to pass on her knowledge.
Faye quickly changed into the dark blue dress, following Celebrían out into the corridor. Time had faded her unease of the grand house. One could almost say she was comfortable living here now, though there were a few things she still didn't understand. Those they passed bowed formally, and Celebrían acknowledged the greetings. Faye kept her attention on the scenery outside the wide, open windows and pillared balconies. The first rays of sunlight shown through a low, wet haze, and the smell of rain-soaked earth was even stronger than before. The smell, combined with the glittering off the plants and the sound of rushing water, brought strong memories of the jungle back to mind. Faye much preferred her life now, but that didn't stop her from longing for the freedom the jungle had offered.
All memory of the jungle vanished instantly. Faye turned and smiled as she watched Arwen descend a nearby staircase. Arwen's eyes shown brightly, and with a happy laugh she wrapped her arms around Celebrían, then around Faye. Faye set her hands gently on Arwen's shoulders.
"Good morning, Arwen," she said. "Celebrían say you want to join my lesson today."
"I do," Arwen replied. "Ammë promised to take us to the falls. Right, Ammë?"
"If it ever dries," Celebrían replied, smiling. "I do not feel like ruining another dress today."
Faye almost laughed. The last time the three of them had gone for a walk together, both Faye and Celebrían had ended up falling into a bog. Faye had been chasing a rabbit for Arwen's amusement when the little creature had run between the legs of a scout's horse. Spooked, the animal had bolted, hitting Faye as it passed and knocking her into Celebrían. Both had tumbled backward down a muddy embankment, landing with a wet splat in the muddy, algae-coated water. Celebrían had gotten entangled in the weeds, and Faye had swallowed a mouthful of mud and bracken. Arwen had not known which was more funny, the sight of Faye trying to spit up the mud, or Celebrían struggling hopelessly in the weeds like a fish out of water.
Even Faye could find it funny now. An hour afterwards, while she was attempting to clean the mud from her hair, she had spat up a fat, live tadpole. She heard Arwen giggle, and knew she was remembering the same thing. Celebrían rolled her eyes.
"Come on," she said, though Faye spotted the smile she tried to hide behind her hand. "Breakfast awaits us."
* * * * * *
After breakfast, Celebrían decided that it was dry enough to walk to the falls, though Faye had a suspicion that she would have found a way to manage the outing even if it had been storming. The eager expression on Arwen's face was just too much to ignore.
As they walked along, Arwen skipping ahead of them, leading the way, Faye looked around. She knew where they were going, but was not sure if she liked the idea. Arwen was leading them to the shallow pool where they had first met. It had not been a gentle encounter. Injured and fearful, Faye had attacked Arwen and her friend Maida in a fit of agitation. Luckily for them all, Faye's strength had failed before she could seriously harm either of the Elflings, and had later redeemed herself by saving Arwen from drowning. As the pool came into view, she felt Celebrían touch her shoulder.
"No mud," she said teasingly, motioning to a patch of dry grass by the water's edge, a spot that gave a perfect view of the pool and the waterfall that supplied it.
Settling down, Celebrían opened the book she had been carrying and began the lesson. Faye listened patiently, trying to absorb what Celebrían was teaching her, but her gaze often drifted to the trees. Tiny beads of moisture still clung to the leaves, and as the sun rose steadily, the beads caught the light. After a moment, Faye cast a glance towards the nearest tree. Some of its branches hung out over the water, and water droplets fell as the breeze rustled the branches. Back in the jungle, a very interesting effect occurred of the sun struck falling droplets at the right angle. Faye had once seen a white man admiring the effect on one of her wanderings. Perhaps, if she was lucky. . . .
Tensing, Faye leapt up, springing effortlessly onto a low branch of the tree, derailing Celebrían's speech and causing both her and Arwen to stare in bewilderment.
"Faye, what are you doing?" Celebrían demanded.
"Watch water," Faye replied, crawling out onto the branches over the pool.
Faye watched the leaves above her closely. The moment they started to glow with the rays of the sun, she began to shake the branches closest to her, causing a shower of water to fall to the pool below.
The echo of Arwen's delighted laughter confirmed what Faye was hoping would happen. As the water droplets fell, they caught the rays of the sun, causing a flash of light. The effect didn't last long, for the sun quickly moved out of position, but Arwen continued to laugh. Even Celebrían was smiling.
"Did you learn that in your old home, Faye?" she asked as Arwen tried to stifle her giggling.
"White man called them fairy lights," Faye replied, lowering herself to the ground and shaking moisture from her hair.
"White man?" Celebrían asked.
"Visitors to the jungle," Faye explained, sitting down. "Did not like them. Too bold, too disrespectful." She trailed off. She had no intention of telling Celebrían and Arwen that the white man who had named the effect had ended up with her fangs in his throat.
"What is a fairy?" Arwen asked suddenly.
Faye shook her head. She had no idea what a fairy was.
"White man myth," she suggested.
Arwen was clearly still confused, but Celebrían held up a hand to silence further questions.
"Come now," she said gently. "We still have a great deal of work to do."
* * * * * *
Later that afternoon, Arwen scampered off to play in the fields further down in the Valley. Faye followed, like she always did, staying in the shadows as she watched Arwen chase butterflies. A small herd of horses grazed nearby, and they too were watching the little Elfling play, though with much less attentiveness. Faye kept a wary eye on the animals, though she knew it was unlikely there would be any danger. The horses were quite tame, and did not react even when Arwen sat down among them and started picking the little blue and yellow flowers growing in the tall grass.
Arwen kept herself occupied for almost an hour. Finally, with a full bouquet of flowers in hand, she stood and started walking back toward the house. Faye kept to the shadows, and Arwen passed her without noticing her presence. She smiled, then cut through the woods and stepped onto the path further ahead, waiting for Arwen to reappear around the corner. When Arwen appeared and spotted her, she smiled brightly.
"Look what I picked for Ammë!" she said happily.
"Beautiful, Arwen," Faye replied, smiling.
Faye grasped Arwen's outstretched hand and turned to walk back to the house, but Arwen surprised her by suddenly pulling her back.
"Come with me," she said, pulling Faye back toward the field. "I want to show you something."
Faye was very confused, but she allowed Arwen to lead her back to where the horses still grazed. Once in plain sight of the animals, they stopped grazing and stared warily at them. Faye froze, suddenly realizing what Arwen was intending to do. The one problem that had plagued her since her arrival had been how the horses seemed wary, almost frightened, of her presence. Elrond, the Elf-lord of the Valley, had assured her that the horses were merely sensing that she was a vampire, and would grow used to her presence in time, and would start ignoring her as they did everyone else.
Thus far, the only horse that had ignored her had been the one spooked by the rabbit.
"No, Arwen," Faye said firmly, taking a step away from the now tense and restless horses. "Afraid."
"You're afraid of the horses?" Arwen asked, bewildered. "They are not going to hurt us. I just spent an hour with them, and they didn't do anything to me."
"Not me," Faye replied through gritted teeth. "Them."
Arwen now seemed to notice how nervous the horses had become. A few were now starting to snort loudly and paw at the ground. Her smile vanished instantly, and she cast a worried frown at Faye.
"Why do the horses react this way?" she asked.
"They know," Faye replied, gathering Arwen in her arms and jogging quickly back into the trees, the wild snorting rapidly silencing behind them. "They know what I am."
"They know you're a vampire," Arwen whispered, realization in her voice. "They fear you the way rabbits fear foxes."
Faye nodded, patting Arwen's back comfortingly. The bouquet of flowers in Arwen's hands was now sadly compressed, having been damaged in her grip. She frowned sorrowfully.
"Come," Faye said, setting her down and taking the flowers. "Find new flowers."
Being late spring, it did not take long for Faye to search out more patches of wildflowers. Arwen's spirits were soon lifted, and as she gathered more flowers for Celebrían, Faye sat down on the soft grass, resting against a nearby tree and closing her eyes lazily. The afternoon air was warm and thick, but the skies above were clear. It would not rain again today.
Nothing disturbed her light sleep for a long while. Finally, she was aroused by the sound of approaching footsteps. Arwen was sitting nearby, arranging the flowers she had picked, and she turned to the source.
"Ammë, I made this for you!" she said happily, standing and scampering out of Faye's line of sight.
"It is beautiful, my Evenstar," Celebrían replied. "But where is Faye?"
"She is over there," Arwen replied. "I think she is sleeping."
Faye quietly stood and leapt up into the branches above, smiling as she watched Arwen and Celebrían walk into view. Arwen appeared confused, and looked around. Celebrían, who was holding Arwen's bouquet, also glanced around.
"Where did she go?" Arwen asked. "She was right here."
Faye shifted her weight to a different branch, and after Arwen turned away, she dropped down silently beside Celebrían. The Elf-maiden startled only slightly, slapping her lightly on the shoulder in mock annoyance. She smiled at Celebrían, approaching Arwen and crouching down behind her.
"I think she went back to the house," Arwen said, taking no notice of Faye. "Though I don't know why. . ."
Faye reached out and grabbed the Elfling around the waist, lifting her into the air as she yelped in surprise, then began to laugh.
"Put me down!" she protested between laughs. "Faye, that was not nice!"
"But it was fun," Faye replied.
The sun had begun to set by the time the three of them finally headed back to the house. The Valley stretched out before them as they walked along the well-traveled path. Faye sighed as the sights and sounds of early evening filled her senses. The breeze carried the smell of the waterfalls, the crickets chirped merrily all around, little lights flashed in the tall grass. . . .
Faye froze, stopping so abruptly that Celebrían bumped into her. Ignoring her for the moment, she turned and stepped off the path, approaching one of the tiny blinking lights. In her old home, she had seen several types of moss capable of glowing in the dark, but she had never seen anything like the tiny insect that fluttered before her eyes. She stared at it in bewilderment, finally catching it and holding it in her hand.
"That's a firefly, Faye," Arwen said. "Haven't you ever seen a firefly before?"
"No," Faye replied, fascinated as she watched the insect crawl to the tip of her finger, open its wings, and fly off. "Firefly?"
"They're really fun to catch," Arwen explained excitedly, jogging past and quickly grabbing another, bringing it back. "If you put several in a jar, you can watch them blink all night."
"Of course," Celebrían interrupted, "it would be better for the fireflies to simply watch them from your bedroom window."
Arwen and Celebrían sat down on either side of Faye, watching as twilight passed and the fireflies flashed through the starlit night. Both had seemingly forgotten about going back to the house for the evening meal.
"Fairy lights and fireflies," Celebrían finally said, breaking the peaceful silence. "I guess we've all seen something wondrous today."
Faye smiled softly. Things were very different in the Valley, and there were things she knew she would probably never understand. However, in comparison, she realized that given the choice and chance, she would not choose to return to the jungle. She liked it in the Valley. For the first time in many years, she was a part of a family.
"This is my home," she said aloud. "I pray that I will be allowed to stay forever."
Both Arwen and Celebrían turned to stare at her in shock. Faye had not spoken in broken common tongue. She had spoken, to the best of her ability, in the language of the Elves. She smiled slightly, and with a cry of delight, Arwen pounced on her. Caught off-guard, Faye fell onto her back, but she was echoing Arwen's laughter all the same.
"You're learning!" Arwen cried joyfully.
Faye glanced at Celebrían, seeing the pink shade of her cheeks as she fought to keep from laughing. She grinned, and then turned to Arwen.
"I think Celebrían wishes to join in," she whispered.
Arwen smiled as well, moving to allow Faye to sit up. Faye watched as the Elfling turned to her mother, feigning an innocent smile. For a moment, Celebrían did not notice Arwen's intention, but when she did, she narrowed her eyes.
"No, Arwen," she said, but without the slightest hint of warning in her voice. Arwen clearly noticed, for she kept advancing. "Arwen. . ."
Celebrían only just managed to rise to her feet. Arwen missed, but quickly turned around. Faye laughed as Celebrían tossed her hair over her shoulder.
"Very well, my Evenstar," she said. "But not if I can catch you first!"
Faye watched as Celebrían and Arwen began chasing one another, sending several fireflies into the air as they passed. She doubled over in laughter, unable to remember a time in the past when she had found any situation more humorous. Arwen darted behind her, laughing as she avoided Celebrian's playful swipe. Faye caught the Elf-maiden's wrist and leapt to her feet, hearing Arwen cheer.
"Faye is on my side!" the Elfling declared triumphantly.
Faye glanced from Arwen to Celebrían, and then smiled mischievously.
"Am I?" she asked, releasing Celebrían and turning to the Elfling.
Eyes now very wide, Arwen turned on her heels and darted off, Faye and Celebrían in pursuit. Faye kept her pace slow, not wishing to end the fun by purposely catching the Elfling. Being a vampire, she could run exceedingly fast if she wished to.
The chase did not last long. Arwen quickly became tired, her pace slowing as she started fighting for breath. Faye saw this, and with a smile she easily caught up and lifted Arwen into her arms. This time, Arwen did not protest, resting her head wearily on Faye's shoulder. Celebrían approached them, smiling.
"I think it is time to head home," she said. "Elrond might be worried by now."
Sure enough, they reached the central courtyard just in time to prevent the search party, led by Elrond himself, from departing. The Elf-lord seemed relieved, and quickly dismounted and approached.
"Where were you?" he asked, gripping Celebrian's shoulder.
"Faye saw her first firefly, Ada!" Arwen replied, now quite rested since Faye had carried her all the way. "We were having fun."
Faye released Arwen, watching as she approached her parents and began explaining excitedly. She knew her presence was no longer needed, so after making sure Elrond did not wish to question her, she turned and walked unnoticed back into the house. Although it was still rather early, she retired to her bedchamber and sat down on a chair, lighting the candles with an absentminded flick of her wrist. A piece of parchment rested on the bedside table, and she picked it up and looked at it.
It was a portrait of the family Arwen had drawn for her. There was Celebrían and Elrond, standing with their hands clasped. Off to one side stood Elladan and Elrohir, Arwen's elder twin brothers, and Glorfindel, a family friend. On the other side was Arwen and Faye herself. Faye loved this drawing, made only weeks after her arrival, and looked at it so often that the edges were worn. On quiet evenings like this, she often sank into deep thought staring at this drawing, sometimes remaining for hours, letting the candles burn themselves to extinction before retiring.
As time passed, the sounds of activity slowly faded. Letting her thoughts wander, Faye had not noticed the passing of the hours--as what normally occurred--and only snapped out of her trancelike reverie when she saw two of the candles extinguish. Finally setting the picture aside, she changed into nightclothes and glanced back at the bed. Approaching, she hesitated momentarily before pulling the quilt back and sitting down on the soft white sheets underneath. It felt strange to drape the quilt over her legs, but with a resigned sigh, she lay back on the pillow.
Almost immediately, she wondered why she had not tried this before. It really was quite comfortable. Faye felt herself relax, and drowsily glanced up at the feeble light of the few candles that had not yet drowned in melted wax. As she watched, they finally extinguished, casting the room into quiet darkness.
Although she was to be awakened the next morning by Arwen jumping onto her, thoroughly overexcited at seeing her sleeping underneath the covers, and face the prospect of more intensive lessons now that Celebrían was convinced she was finally understanding, for now she was at peace. The last thing she thought as she sank into a deep dreamless sleep was that all the trials in her life were behind her.
There was nothing that could shatter this blissful peace.