The Falcon's Trail

Chapter 10

Blind

by: Sycamore
She could tell she wasn't dreaming anymore. Her thoughts were starting to align rationally, she was more conscious of the cotton sheets tangled about her frame, hair tickling her cheeks, a warm, summery smelling breeze was floating through the air of her and her sister's room.

And she was blind again.

She sighed, laid her arms beside her, and propped herself up. Oh! That hurt!

She fumbled at the source with her fingers, feeling her way up her leg. Somehow her sheets had wrapped themselves around her right calf, climbing behind her back and forming a noose about her neck. 

Gently she tried to untangle herself, but it was difficult. The sheets had wound themselves in a stranglehold grip, and which ever way she pulled only constricted the other end. 

"Stasa!"

She had heard her sister climbing up the stairs to wake her, but she had not wanted her to see. She bit her lip, she was always relying on others to help. Tears leaked down her cheeks, 

"Curse you all!" she thought furiously /"Why would you remind me of sight only to bring me back to this?"/

Strong, sure fingers, guided by the owner's pristine vision, helped her gently unravel herself.

"Don't cry, dear," her sister begged sweetly, "I'll have you out in five seconds!"

"Thank you," Stasa choked, deciding not to tell Gwene why she was really crying.

"Oh folly!" she heard her mother gasp. "My goodness, Stasa!"

Their mother lived just across from them in the smallest room. Stasa knew Gwene had left the door open, or their mother would not have seen her tangled in this mess.

"It's alright," Gwene reassured her, "There you go!"

The pressure had been released at last. Stasa felt up her neck and rubbed it a little. It felt warm to the touch. Her mother might have said it was 'red'

Red. She had not really known the color red, until last night. She had been completely blind since she was five. Her eyesight, even as a tot, had been poor. Too poor to distinguish most colors, much less features. Her mother had been a tall wide shape, wider in the middle. Her father had been taller and lean with bright hair. Everyone said she had inherited his red hair.

She felt a lock of her hair at this thought. It was silky when she rubbed it, and stringy when she ran a fingernail across. It smelled fragrant like Begonia oil. She felt up along the strand, softly following the coil of her hair. She knew it was wavy - different from Gwene's and her mother's. Their hair was very soft and flat. Her fingers never twirled much while sampling their hair.

Carmichael - her older brother - had wavy hair too she was told, but she was afraid to ask him if she could touch it.

She heard her mother sigh. "Folly wool, Stasa. It does my heart ill to see you caught in any sort of tangle."

She said this with tenderness in her voice. Stasa knew, deep down, that these were not simply the words of a kind and doting mother. These words held a distant, but horrific memory - back when she was in her mother's womb and suffered the accident which might have killed them both, but only left her sightless instead.

"Small price to pay for my mother's life," she had always thought. "If I had to be blind so she might live - that's a price I'm willing to pay." 

Except today, the words choked in her throat. It had been easy to imagine before - she had never been able to see clearly until last night. These people came to her - tall magnificent people, who told her that while she was with them, she would have her sight. 

Her mind flew back to the wonderful dream, sampling it with a kind of rapture, as though greeting a long lost friend. Everything had been so sharp and alive. The colors had driven her wild. Faces - for the first time in her life she had clearly seen a human face!

She burst into renewed tears, stifling the tears with her fists. Bitter sobs racked her body, causing her family distress, she knew. She felt the warmth of Gwene and their mother's bodies close to her. She felt their hands caressing her back soothingly, smoothing her hair from her face, and cradling her close.

"Please!" she begged, /"Come back for me! Take me with you!"/

She had been able to feel them around her before - other people with them, who spoke to her. They were kind people who helped her and her family, the people who led her to those others; the tall powerful ones who allowed her to see.

Today however, no one answered.

Stasa could not believe it, she numbed her senses and closed off her feelings, making herself an empty chamber, and - deep inside - reached out in desperation. But no one reached back.

Disappointed bewilderment filled her soul. Why? Where were they when she needed them?

She slumped against the broad figure of their mother, forcing herself to calm down. Her face and neck were wet. 

A hand patted her back gently - Gwene, she knew. Her mother's arm circled her waist, the other stroked her hair.

She could not speak. Her heart was filled with lead. She wanted to do nothing but sit in her wicker chair. 

"Come darling, have some breakfast," Her mother said quietly at last.

She could have sooner swallowed a rock, but she nodded. She rose, hearing Gwene and her mother do the same. 

"I can walk by myself," she said dully.

"Of course," said Gwene, in what was meant to be a reassuring tone.

She left the room, feeling her way along the banister that ringed the second floor, until she reached the round knob that was the top of the stairwell. The house smelled of cleaning wax mingled with spiced eggs and toast. She felt warmth from the window to her left, knowing that she was feeling the morning sun on her cheek. 

She clutched the rail - it sloped a little lower than the knob, she had to be careful - and felt her way down. Ten steps in all. 

She heard the door bang open, and a small dart crossed her heart. Her brother was home. 

She didn't speak to him. She found her chair and sat in it, listening to him stomp to the table, and drag a chair out. She heard the clatter of dishes, and a loud crunch of toast.

"Not hungry?" he asked her after a long time. He seemed so casual, as though nothing had happened last night.

"No," she whispered.

There was a pause. "Are you mad at me?" he asked somewhat stiffly.

"No, no!" she shook her head. "I'm not really, I - I had a bad dream," she finished with a disappointed sigh.

He grunted. "The war, uh? Hmmph. Those will never stop," he said bitterly.

"Yes," she sighed. She didn't want to correct him. He needed to be humored as best as possible, lest he get into another temper and run away again, and be gone for weeks this time. 

She heard a move, and the scraping of a bowl. 

"You should try to eat something anyway," he said, "Starving yourself is no way to deal with it. You have to be strong. You'll never know when it's time to take action,"

"Mm-hmm," she responded. She knew he was trying to help, but his answer confused her.

She heard his heavy footsteps come toward her. She felt warmth under her chin, and the smell of spiced eggs assaulted her nostrils, making her cough a little.

"Eat," he insisted from far above her. "You of all people need strength."

She sighed in defeat, and reached out. He placed the rim of the plate into her hand and closed her fingers over them. 

"Just because we're handicapped, doesn't mean we can't be treated like everyone else. Don't let those bad feelings get to you," he said.

She knew when he tried to give advice, that he was trying to help, even if the advice he gave would have better benefited himself. She decided to focus on his intentions, rather than his actions. She smiled. 

"Thank you, Carmichael."

"Mm-hmm," he grunted. She heard him shuffle past her to the sitting room, and leave through the back door.

He was usually kinder to her these days. Before, back in their old home, he hadn't noticed her much. He was Gwene's friend before. They had done everything together despite their age difference. They would explore the town, Gwene would help him build his treehouse, and together they had discovered a cave who's end was blocked by boulders, with something like a brass doorknob peeping through where a piece of boulder had been chipped away. 

Gwene would relate the stories of their adventures to her, careful to describe every detail. Gwene had always looked out for her. 

Stasa had to smile grimly, as she lifted a fork tentatively to her mouth, making sure some eggs remained on it. She couldn't help being jealous in those days, as she stayed behind with Killy the housemaid, or Mandra, or her mother. When she was little, they would leave her household objects to play with, and as she grew older they would read her lovely stories, or simplified histories for children. 

Despite her own adventures in her dark world, they never compared to the delightful stories Gwene would share. She would hear her siblings bursting into the house at the end of the day, their voices filled with glee, and she would feel left out.

She bit a piece of toast. Things were different now. Much different. Carmichael was not the carefree boy of thirteen anymore. Gwene and Carmichael hardly spoke anymore, and when they did, it was with frosty tones or outright rage.

Gwene had changed too. She did her best not to show it to her, but Stasa knew that Gwene had been affected as Carmichael had. Although she remained caring and attentive, she was more solemn and prone to melancholy. Sometimes they would sit together in silence for ages before Stasa would realize with a start, that Gwene had even been there. She would be so still and quiet.

She touched her plate tentatively, making certain it was clean before rising to place it in the dishbowl. 

THUNK! she had stubbed her bare big toe against the leg of the chair Carmichael had left out of its place. Before she could think, she had exclaimed, "Ouch!"

Footsteps rushed from the floor above her. 

"Stasa!" Gwene called out, worry in her tone.

"I'm fine!" Stasa replied, but her sister rushed downstairs anyway.

"I didn't put my hand out," said Stasa, some of her earlier bitterness crawling back in. "My fault. I hadn't seen it,"

"Who left this chair out? Did he come back?" the last sentence was asked with some anger in her voice.

"Please Gwene -" Stasa started, still clutching her plate in one hand, and - bent over the hurt toe - caressing it with the other.

"Did he apologize?" Gwene asked coldly.

"Gwene-" 

Gwene chortled, "No, of course not. He's too busy feeling sorry for himself!" 

"Don't fight again, please?" Stasa begged. "He's just come home, you'll only chase him away again - who knows for how long! Please?" 

"Serve him right if I did," Gwene growled under her breath, scooting the chair back into its proper place and helping Stasa locate the dishbowl. "The nerve, shows up only to grab a bite. Self-absorbed ingrate."

"Where's Carmichael?" asked their mother from upstairs. Her tone revealed nothing, but the tension emitting from her was palpable.

"He went out back," said Stasa quietly, sighing a little. She was now positive that another row was on its way.

Her mother sighed. "I'm surprised he's back so soon. Probably forgot to take money for breakfast."

"So he mooches off of us," Gwene said with a snarl.

"This is his home too, Gwene, however inconvenient that may be," Their mother added this in an undertone.

As if on cue, the back door banged open - the way it would when Carmichael's arms were too full to open properly with his hands - and Stasa heard his big shuffling footsteps come to a halt. She couldn't see, but the tension in the room was as thick as wool.

"I brought wood," Carmichael said at last. Stasa heard logs rattling behind her. "Should last you a few days maybe,"

Footsteps had descended. Stasa knew her mother was downstairs.

"Thank you, son," she said placidly. 

Gwene was silent. Stasa imagined her sister was staring daggers.

There was an awkward shuffling. Then Carmichael spoke again.

"There's a meeting in town, mother. There is talk of hands needed for an expedition to the mines. Business has been slow, if I can get the job ... well, some extra Heads might help."

"Alright," their mother responded, "How long will you be gone?"

"A day or two maybe, I'm not sure. If I get the job, I might be gone a couple months,"

This was the calmest he had sounded in a very long time. For the past three years, he had seldom spoken unless spoken to, and it was usually unpleasant. 

"Do what you must then," their mother responded. "Take care of yourself, my boy."

He grunted in response. Stasa heard him approach, and felt him place a hand on her hair.

"If all goes well, I'll be back soon." He seemed to be addressing her, 

"I-I hope so," she responded, not sure what else to say.

"Goodbye, mother," 

"Goodbye," she responded. Carmichael shuffled to the front door, opened it, and took his leave.

He had not so much as bid Gwene farewell. Stasa noticed that Gwene had made no attempt at reconciliation either.

There was a loud STAMP! from where Gwene's voice had come (it made Stasa jump at its suddenness) and Gwene's voice exclaimed,


"Good riddance to bad rubbish! The old pig!" and she marched away.

Stasa quietly washed her plate, dried it down with the dishtowel from the peg above the sink, and left the plate beside the dishbowl, knowing Gwene or her mother would replace it in the dish cupboard too high for her to reach.

She felt her way back to her chair in the kitchen and sat, feeling unable to complete her share of the chores today - few as they were.

She toyed idly with her fingers, remembering how they had looked the night before. The world of sight and touch were so unalike. Last night she would not have believed how her hands had looked if she had not touched them to confirm and remember their familiar shape. 

How wonderful it had been to see clearly! How well did her senses combine with her vision! They had worked together in effortless harmony, as though she had been able to see all her life, the simple mechanic movements of opening and closing her hands, watching the twirl of her gown, and wiggling her toes had filled her soul with delight. 

And yet, it had been nothing compared to the glorious scene she had witnessed next.

Just as she had been accommodating her new eyes to the image of her own body, she was lifted gently off her feet by a beautiful woman with long streaming bright hair and an array of dazzling jewels crowning her head and face. Her big liquid eyes showered her with fondness, and - even as an unbelieving Stasa watched - she melted to an elegant bird, carrying her across a vast blanket of colors that had made Stasa's heart stop. 

She had lowered her bare toes over the bird's shoulder and felt wetness. This was water.

They breezed across gracefully, as tears of rapture had leaked down her cheeks. Gigantic torrents of water sprayed them along either side, as they swept through this wonderful body of water.

Stasa laughed, recognizing the sound. "Waterfalls!" she shouted, elated.

The bird - it must've been a swan. No other bird paddled along gracefully like this, she knew from stories -  swept them both along until the waterfalls and their sound was behind them. Stasa turned her head to see them one last time, and her heart jumped at the array of colors they displayed. They were so... so ... 

Words failed her. She had not ever been able to see much color in her life, and suddenly colors and shapes of all sorts seemed to be leaping out from the world at her, begging her new eyes to examine them. 

She had been crying the whole time, and only realized when she reached up to her cheek to brush a tickle. Both cheeks were damp, and her nose was runny, but she did not care. She could see water. She could see her wet fingers. Even the contents of her nose made her laugh, though she blushed and bent over to wash her finger in the water.

She had looked back up immediately, not wishing to miss even a moment of the sights her new eyes could see. They were passing under long green ... threads, with odd shapes attached far up, up, up until her eyes could reach no higher. She reached to grab one, and recognized the delicate, papery feel of a leaf. 

"So this is green," she marveled, tracing the spiky thin contour. She looked up and saw a tall, fat object, with arms that held more small arms from which the threads with leaves hung. This must be a tree.

They had passed under many more trees too quickly, she thought. She did her best to examine each one as they passed under a dark thick blanket of leaves, wishing she could beg the swan to be still for just a moment, but she was afraid to. 

At last, they reached a surface, and the swan bowed her neck, sliding her off. Stasa sampled the new ground with her toes. This was also green, much like the leaf, but there were so many of them, they covered the ground. Grass, she knew - feeling a new surge of rapture spread through her chest. She bent down to touch it with her fingers, brushing them along the thin green ticklish strands. Yes, this was definitely grass.

Stasa turned and saw the woman once more. Her lips were turned upward in what Stasa instinctively knew was a smile. 

More people were joining them - they seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. They were the same people who had told her to open her eyes and to not be afraid. 

The excited frenzy and overwhelming rapture at her new vision had been too much for her body to stand. Her legs gave way and she collapsed on the ground at their feet. They were all much taller than the woman who brought her here. 

She flung her face to the ground, relishing the sight and smell of the grass and earth below. 

"Thank you!" she whispered, a tear rolling down her nose. The perfect little drop landed on a blade of grass, pushing it down with the force of its fall. "Thank you-!" and the words were choked in her throat. She was huddled in a ball at their feet, enraptured, overcome with gratitude.

"It was wise to bring her," a man's voice observed, "Feels like old times, eh?"

"The poor child," said a woman's voice, moved. "She has never had anything so splendid in all her life,"

"Nevertheless," said a solemn man's voice, "she is too young. She would not survive the bonding,"

"Look at her!" another woman insisted, "her heart makes up for her age! Khione was much younger when she was bonded to me,"

"It isn't the same anymore," the man insisted, "Khione was directly of your blood, and fiercely loyal to us - to you,"

"Tell me this one is any different," the woman insisted. "What I'd give to find such a noble and humble heart in those of mine who remain! Why do you hesitate, Meerake? She is yours for the taking!"

Stasa looked up, and met the eyes of the man looking down on her. She lifted her face off the ground, kneeling. The man was taller even than the tallest man she knew - her brother. The man's mouth was slightly curved downward, frowning perhaps? His eyes were bright, like little lights. He had a long, hooked nose. 

She cowered a little, feeling as though a chill came off of him. Why was he looking at her like that?

When he spoke, his voice was kinder. He was addressing her.

"Understand me, I would take you Stasa. I thought you were ready. You had the gift before many of our children do. I thought that surely ... but I see you here, and I see now that it is only because of my merciful gift to your family eons ago, that you appeared as one ready.

'You are valuable, Stasa. One like you has not appeared in four hundred years. It is for this reason I would not risk your life this night. Remember us, remember this."

Before she could speak, his face swirled into darkness, and she had woken up.

Her mind returned to the present, feeling the resentment welling up in her soul anew at the now bittersweet memory.

"Why?" she insisted, "Why would you show me how to see, knowing how much I would want it?"

She paused a moment, before continuing wholeheartedly, /"What must I do to go back? Show me! I want to go back! I want to be with you!"/

When all she heard in response was the ringing of the doorbell heralding the first customer of the day, she sighed in defeat and rose to attend the door.

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