Non-Zero November – Day 5 – The Promise

We didn’t actually do much today, so I’ll do something else instead. As it is Bonfire Night here in England, I thought I’d keep to the theme somewhat.

Now, I wrote this a while ago, but it counts towards my challenge as I edited it some more today. This vignette is entirely of my making, and the characters are from my imagination. This is a story that is extremely close to my heart and this is in fact the first time it is being shared publicly. I hope you enjoy it.

I stopped dead, wincing and holding in the sharp intake of breath. Had Magsa heard? She had the hearing of a bat when it suited her and the brutal dismissal of a cat when she wasn’t interested in what you had to say for yourself. She also had an uncanny sense for when a teenage girl was sneaking from her window to go and see Loftin, the Lumineer from the next village over. Last time I had gotten as far as the gate before she had caught me and marched me back to my room with a weeks’ worth of double chores and a clipped lughole.

I checked my reflection in the window, seeing my features illuminated by the moonlight – my brown hair was ruffled and in need of a bit of a brush, as usual, and I had a smudge of some sort of the side of my face. As I rubbed the smudge with the sleeve of my coat, I got a whiff of apples and smiled. I loved the scent of apples as it heralded the looming change from autumn to winter, when the air was filled with earthy notes and the wind started to get a brisk bite to it. I thought back to earlier in the day when my sister and I were picking apples in the orchard for Magsa to make into an apple pie for us. She would always make extra pastry and list my sister and my names on the lid: “Forsi and Leudi’s Pie”, to make sure everyone knew this one was just for us.

My knee looked to be fine after rubbing off the dirt from the scrape I’d got. I’d have to remember that the third row of shingles were slightly more slippery than the others next time I planned to visit Loft. I couldn’t hear any movements from in the house, and Magsa was still snoring loudly, so I had managed to get this far without any serious incidents. As I slinked off down the path I took care to tiptoe past the chickens for fear of disturbing them like I did once before. I also made sure to avoid the puddle to the side of the path: explaining my sodden boots to Magsa wouldn’t be easy, considering this was the only puddle between the house and the gate at the time, and it was muddy from the wagon’s wheels moving through it constantly.

I began to think excitedly about the new wonders I would see from Loft this time, as I began my walk down the trail that would eventually lead to the Lumineerium. Last time I had been, he had learnt how to make the basic Fulmins: they were a shower of lights from a tube that was icy cold to the touch and white in colour. I had stared in wonder when he had placed it in my hand and lit the end. I had jumped when it went off suddenly, but I needn’t have worried: it washed my hand with a pale light and spread a gentle cold all over my gloved hand. I thought it would jump out at me and hurt me but it filled me with wonder as I watched the lights dance around from the end of the silver tube. I had waved it around and it left a faint light behind it that got stronger, the faster you moved it and painted momentary pictures with this brilliant device: it was like a pen that had ink made of light.

After the white Fulmin had run out of incendiary powder, I had stood in awe, turning the tube round and round in my hand. It had small carvings in it that looked like the light that comes from the end: long straight lines ending with stars, inlaid with white enamel. Loft let me look at it for a little longer before explaining in layman’s terms how he had made the Fulmin. Each novice starts off with the silver tube called a Fulme, and will spend days and months and years pouring over ingredients and methods to learn how to make all different types of Fulmins, from the purely aesthetic, to the downright dangerous. Once the novice has managed to make the basic white Fulmin, they will start to learn how to make more powerful Fulmins such as the hot red one that would burn what it touched and cause more than one novice to visit the resident healer.

By now I could see the Lumineerium growing larger in the twilight, with its many high windows and storeys all lit up. Loft had asked me what my favourite colour was, and when I answered “the kind of green you see in the spring trees early in the morning, you know, when it’s just cold enough to wear your scarf, but not your gloves?” and he laughed at me and said “I’ll have a Fulmin of that colour for you to see on your 18th birthday, I promise. Just make sure to come and see me.” So here I was, walking through the trees to our meeting spot, on my 18th birthday.

“Leudi!” came an extremely loud whisper, “Pssst!”

I couldn’t help the smile that crept onto my face as I heard Loft being completely unsubtle, as usual. He was about as inconspicuous as a cockerel at dawn.

“Loft, you lummox. No one around here can hear us. The Lumineerium is most definitely not within earshot. Besides, you weren’t exactly whispering, were you?”

“Hey, I was too whispering!” Loft said as he rounded a tree and stepped into the clearing I had just entered. “I just wasn’t sure whether you had heard me or not.”

Image by /u/newduude, via RedditImage by /u/newduude, via Reddit

“Yes, I did hear you, and so did all the squirrels and the rabbits and the spiders.” I wasn’t angry at him at all, but I couldn’t help but wind him up. It was working as I could see him pouting a little in the moonlight. “Anyway, Ser Stealthy, it’s my 18th birthday and I’m here, as promised.”

I looked expectantly at him with my hands on my hips, and a sardonic expression on my face. He was grinning at me, and I could practically feel the excitement pouring out of him. As I stood there expectantly, I took him in. He had thick but fluffy looking blonde hair that was perpetually doing whatever it wanted and was constantly being begged to be patted down into place. Easy confidence was a trait of his that was portrayed by the way he held himself: he could be arrogant, but mostly had a quiet grace about him. I looked to his mouth. Always the first to crack a joke, his smile was an ice breaker and his secret weapon, since nobody could stay angry when those pearly whites showed themselves. His eyes were blue one day, green the next and every now and then a pale grey. Today, they were blue.

“Hold out your hand,” he said to me, “I promised you a birthday present.”

As I gave him my hand, he removed my glove. “You won’t need it. This one isn’t cold like the last one.”

I looked at him with doubt. The white one had been cold through my gloves, let alone on bare skin, so how could this next one not be. I could feel the mixture of apprehensiveness and wonder coiling and bubbling in my belly. Loft was just an apprentice Lumineer, albeit a promising one, and I found myself torn between wondering whether he was ready to give someone a newly learnt Fulmin, and throwing caution to the wind and just going with it. I looked into his eyes and couldn’t find any nervousness. He was proud of this Fulmin, I could see that.

“Okay. What is this one?” I said, extending my hand towards him.

As he placed the Fulme in my hand, he said “I call this one ‘Spring Trees’”. As he was looking for the lighter, I studied the Fulme. This one was bark brown and had green lines etched into it, in the shape of vines and tree branches. He lit the end and stood across from me, the other side of the clearing.

I looked at him and I saw him smile gently. The fuse burnt out and I looked down expecting the sudden spray of light from the end, only to find that was not the case. The end of the Fulme glowed gently, with a soft green the colour of spring trees early in the morning. My eyes widened and glowing vines of green light started to grow outwards, curling this way and that, entwining themselves with each other. Some of the vines grew long thin leaves with white veins in them, and others had larger, wider leaves with a shine to them as light hit them.

“Leudi, hold it upright.” Loft urged me.

I moved my hand towards me and up righted the Fulme. The vines gently started to fall towards my hand and arm, and where the lights touched me I felt a mild sensation that made me tingle all over and I shivered. Six thin branches had started growing upwards from the end now, and were the green of rose stems, each with three white buds forming on them. I reached out my other hand and gently touched one of the buds, causing it to slowly unfurl its petals and bloom into a pale white flower with blue markings on the center. All of the buds then started to bloom, giving off a serene shade of blue: the same blue as Loft’s eyes. I counted the blooms and made 18 of them. I looked up at Loft, speechless.

“Do you like it?” He asked, his eyes wide and hopeful.

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. How did you even make this?” I asked him, “It’s the exact shade of green I described to you.”

“I made you a promise.” Loft said, with a smile to make even the moonlight seem dim. “And I had a friend bring me some leaves from the orchard you get your apples from.”

The Fulme finished its bloom and the vines and twigs slowly started to fade. The tiny flowers dropped off and were caught on a gentle gust of wind, rising up into the air and through the gaps in the trees. As I turned back to look at Loft, he stepped towards me and took my hands that were cold, but not so cold that I needed to put my gloves back on. His hands were warm and calloused. He looked me in the eyes and moved towards me. He pressed his mouth delicately against mine and I kissed him back. After a moment, he pulled away and said “Happy birthday Leudi”.

I leant up and wrapped my arms around his neck, smelling the clean scent of his hair. As I opened my eyes, I saw a figure walking away from the clearing, through the trees back the way I came to the clearing. It was Forsi, and she was eating an apple.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and a follow if you enjoyed this short story.

~TFAS

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