“She’s hardly eaten for three days, Findar. We have to do something.”
Kael paced back and forth across the cabin, his hands behind his back. Kael could still remember finding Kindle huddled in the cave, just a few paces from the dead WarBear. She was crying inconsolably and offered no resistance when Kael carefully picked her up. He even managed to find her sword after casting a quick finding spell. She seemed so attached to it that he could not imagine leaving it behind.
The sun shone brightly outside. It was midday, but Kindle was still in her makeshift bed. When last Kael checked, she was staring out the window, barely responsive.
There was a battle going on inside Kindle, one which she felt she was losing rapidly.
*What am I? Have I become a monster? I can’t take this.*
The words echoed around and around in her head. Deltia had tried to console her at first, but being a Dragon did not lend itself to being very gentle, nor did the old Dragon offer much sympathy.
*Kindle. Things are going very quickly for you, I know. Normally FairyKnights have years to hone their skills, and to become accustomed to this change. I would not even have told you about your full transformation except that I felt you would not have survived* Deltia had begun, but Kindle said nothing, ignoring her.
Kindle felt lost. Alone. She had lost her family, her wings, and now she had even lost herself. Her desire to somehow become this amazing Knight that would swoop in and save the world was lost in the winds of the memory of what she had done in the cave. When she let go of her fears and let herself go to the rage she didn’t know she even had.
A tear fell from her cheek as she continued to stare out the window at nothing.
Findar jumped slightly as he heard a knock at his door. He exchanged a glance with Kael and walked to the door. Kael steeled himself for a fight. Findar’s cabin was spelled to be basically invisible to anything living that the old wizard did not want around. The fact that there was someone at the door meant that some one, or some thing had broken through his defenses. Kael clenched his fists and prepared himself to call upon his magic.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” called a voice from beyond the rough wooden door. It was a woman’s voice. An old woman’s voice.
Findar arched an eyebrow at Kael and unlatched the door. His own magics were at his fingertips as he opened the door to reveal a very small, innocuous-looking old woman dressed in a brightly colored yet plain dress. She carried a wicker basket in one hand, and a gnarled walking stick in the other.
“Ah hello Findar. And you must be Kael. I’m Granny Lin. I’ve come to see Kindle. May I come in?”
Her voice was thin with age, but her eyes were bright and alive. She smiled as Findar stepped back to let the old woman into his cabin.
“I know who you are, Granny Lin. I’m just very surprised to see you here. I wasn’t aware that the location of my cabin was common knowledge.” Findar said, rubbing his chin absently.
“Ask any squirrel where the best food can be found. Ask any bird where seeds turn up more than any other. Ask the trees where it is warm even at night. You are not so difficult to find, old Mage.” Granny chuckled.
Kael found himself caught between feeling immediately at ease around this little old woman and yet intrigued at her words as well.
“Do you find yourself talking to squirrels - often?” Kael asked as he guided Granny Lin to a chair.
She gave him an appraising glance. “You’re a clever one you are, young Mage. You remind me of a certain red fox I know of.”
She winked. Kael wasn’t quite sure what to think.
“How did you know Kindle was here, Granny Lin, and what business do you have with her?” Findar asked.
“I am currently living in the village that was suffering from that terrible animal. It was me that asked the village elder to send you a message. I’m here to talk to Kindle, and give her our thanks.” Granny Lin said as she began arranging things in her basket.
“Kindle isn’t really talking to anyone right now” Kael responded as he rubbed the back of his head in frustration. “We can’t get her to talk. And barely to eat.”
“Why dearie, I know. That’s why I’m here.” Granny Lin rose and patted Kael’s hand as if he were her own grandson. “Take me to her.”
Kael was amazed that this little old woman managed to sound both kind and reassuring and yet unmistakably confident in her ability to tell two very powerful Mages what they should do without question.
Findar shrugged. “Your reputation precedes you Granny Lin. I don’t know what you are up to, but if you can help Kindle then I’m all for it. Right this way.”
He didn’t look back to see if she or Kael followed him into the adjacent room where Kindle lie.
“Kindle? You have a visitor” Kael said quietly as they entered.
“Tell them to go away. The monster will not be taking any visitors today.” Kindle replied bitterly.
Kael made a face at Granny Lin as if to say “You see?” She pursed her lips and gestured for them to leave her alone with Kindle. They walked out slowly and Granny Lin shut the door behind them. She could hear Kael whisper to Findar “I hope you know what you’re doing, leaving her alone in there...”
Granny Lin slid a rough hewn chair up to Kindle’s makeshift bed - which was a now thoroughly mixed arrangement of blankets and small pillows lying next to the window. Kindle continued to stare disconsolately out the window while Granny Lin opened her basket, pulled out some knitting needles and some yard and began to knit.
Several minutes passed with only the sound of needles clicking, the birds outside singing, and the occasional creak of the chair as Granny Lin shifted a bit in her chair while she worked.
Kindle blinked. “What are you doing here?” she asked. The sound of her own voice felt strange to her, and it was tight from crying for the past three days.
“Why, I’ve come to see you. What are you doing here?” her words cut through Kindle’s deep funk. How dare she ask such a thing!
Kindle turned over and looked at the old woman. She had stopped her knitting and was looking back intently, smiling.
“What is that supposed to mean? Who are you?” Kindle asked.
“My name is Granny Lin. I come from the village you saved. I’ve come on behalf of the village to thank you.”
Kindle fought back tears once again. “You’ve said your thanks. You can go now.” she bit her lip and looked down.
“I didn’t say I was here to say anything. I’m here to thank you.”
“What is the difference?” Kindle found herself both irritated and intrigued by this little old woman.
“One is talking. The other is listening” she said matter-of-factly. She resumed her knitting. “So many people have been telling you things, Kindle. Go here. Do this. But has anyone been listening to you? That is why I am here. Tell me Kindle. Tell me about yourself.”
“Why would you want to know anything about me? I’m a monster. A freak. I killed-” her face twisted into a sob as she raised her hands. “I killed that animal with my bare hands”
“A monster? I see only a dear child who has had too many bad things happen to her, and not nearly enough good. I’m a very good listener, Kindle, and as you can see I have all the time in the world.” she smiled and gave Kindle a wink.
Something released in Kindle right then. All the pent up anguish, fear, sadness and confusion of the past few days swept over her and she started talking about what had happened to this silly old woman. Haltingly at first, then words came pouring out.
Kindle talked about her life at home, her parents, her lifelong desire to become a Knight. Then she went over the events of the past few days. Her battle with the Knife Respers, losing her wings, then the transformation into a FairyKnight. Deltia had not spoken in her mind for quite some time and also listened to Kindle. While they shared much, Kindle had kept much of her past and family memories hidden from Deltia.
Kindle cried as she spoke. Often halting her story to weep. Granny Lin simply sat there and shushed her like a mother calming a child.
The day grew into evening before Kindle was finished, and she felt spent, empty. She had somehow told this stranger everything about herself. How she felt she had lost herself to this creature she had become. She did not know what to do now, and was afraid of losing herself completely. She felt like she was no longer a fairy, but a monster.
Granny Lin rose once Kindle had stopped talking and walked up to her. She touched her cheek gently with old, wrinkled hands.
“All your life you’ve sought to be judged not by your outward appearance but your spirit and will, why then would you want that to change? These powers you have do not define you. They are like tools resting on a table” - she gestured to the nearby table, covered with Findar’s magical devices - “waiting for an artist with the talent and desire to create something wondrous. You are like that artist. Just because you have great power doesn’t mean you are a slave to it. You have been given a special gift. I am certain you are worthy of it.”
Kindle looked up into the eyes of the old woman. A glimmer of hope sparked within her at Granny Lin’s words.
“Speaking of gifts, I almost forgot. ” She turned back to her basket and reached inside. ” One of the children of the village - the village you saved dearie - asked me to give this to you. Her family are traders and they happened upon this gold thread. ”
She walked back to Kindle.
“The person who sold it to her family did not know where it came from, but it is very strong. No knife or scissors has been able to cut it, and the girl’s father gave it to her as a gift. It was her most precious possession.”
“She insisted that I bring it to you.”
Kindle reached out for the thread - more like a soft golden rope in her hands. On a whim Kindle rose from her bed , fluttered over to the mirror, and tied the thread around her waist. It was just the right length. She thought about the lives she had saved. That a little girl would give up something so special, for someone she didn’t even know. Perhaps she wasn’t a monster after all? She held onto that glimmer of hope tightly.
“I look pretty, don’t I?” She said faintly, biting her bottom lip.
“That you do” Granny Lin said, smiling.