DISCLAIMER: This character is the property of Renaissance Pictures. What they choose to do with her is their business, but this is my short story! I love feedback and I always reply to it at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THANKYOU: Kam, the nutter, from his little hidey-hole in Hell. <g> November, 2000.
"Where IS that child?"
Mother Deliah leaned over the parapet a little further than she would have liked, her dowdy linen skirts bunching at her wrinkled knees. "GIRL! If I have to come down there looking for you again, I swear your back end's going to be tanned darker'n a horse's saddle!"
"DO YOU HEAR ME?"
Nothing. The valley and its living carpet of trees lay undisturbed.
Huffing in irritation, Mother Deliah settled back onto her sizeable heels. "Swear that girl's going to be the death of me yet." Her stout shoes clunked on the cobblestones as she swept her way down to the kitchens. There was supper to see about. If the girl didn't come, she didn't eat. Simple as that. Special case or no.
Deep in the forest, the girl in question was perched high upon a rotting stump, her dark waist-length locks hanging in tousled snarls. The effect was oddly becoming, fitting nicely with the startling blue of her eyes.
She could not have been more than nine. Her little legs swung idly against the bark of the tree, scuffed boots kicking tiny splinters and clouds of dust down the sloping trunk. The afternoon sun filtered through the canopy above her in warm speckles, and the girl thought to herself with a sigh that this was one of the nicest days she could remember.
There was a tickle across her knee, and the piercing blue eyes quickly found the source - a lumbering insect forced from his home by her languid kicking. Her face lit up. With a quick movement, quicker than thought, the bug was a splatter on her skin, her little thumb grinding him mercilessly to chunks.
"You shouldn't do that, you know," came the voice of her companion.
"Why not, Raistun?" demanded the little girl, wiping her hand off on her stockings. "It's just a bug."
"Bugs are living creatures, too. Would you treat the horses that way?"
The small girls' eyes became dreamy. "Noooo," she breathed reverently. "I love the horses."
"Then let you remember that love always," said Raistun carefully. "And never raise a hand against any living creature, big or small."
The girl giggled, but there was an edge to it. Behind her back, she scooped the remains of the bug into her palm and continued to mash it to pulp. "Why do you always talk like you're reading from a book?"
"Yup." She shaded her eyes, squinting at the old man stretched beneath the tree. "Don't raise a hand against living creatures, remember to protect the weak, just because I'm so strong doesn't mean I'm the best "
Raistun sighed. "I talk that way because you have so much to learn, child. And it's my job to teach you."
The girl pouted. "What if I don't wanna learn that stuff?" She leapt to her feet on the stump, lithely, unbelievably balanced. "What if I like being strong?"
Raistun shook his head. "I value your strength, too. It is one of your greatest assets. But I need to teach you to channel it in the right directions. It's part of who you are to become."
The girl flipped then, tumbling forward into the air, once, twice, landed on her feet lightly. "When is he coming to see me again?"
Raistun looked up. "I don't know. He's a very busy man. And he's a long way away."
The girl sniffed, and there was a suspicious glimmer in her eyes when she asked, "Doesn't he love me?"
"He has told you as much, hasn't he?"
A pause. "Yes."
"Then don't ask me to put words into his mouth," said Raistun, not unkindly. "One thing you must learn about people is that they alone are responsible for their actions and words. You cannot second-guess another's thoughts any more than you can blame another for your deeds."
She sighed. "There you go again."
A twin sigh mirrored her own. "One day, child, it is my greatest wish that you will listen to my words, not just hear them."
The girl grinned. "Old fart."
Raistun smiled then, couldn't help himself. "Yes, I am," he agreed. "And it's getting too late for my old bones to be lying on damp ground. I'm going back to the tower. It's supper time."
The pout reappeared, and Raistun noted it with mild despondency. A far too frequent expression for his liking, but if the Mothers would insist upon granting the child's every whim, well, there was nothing he could do about it. "Are you coming? I thought I heard Mother calling you earlier."
The girl, who knew very well that Mother Deliah had been calling her, shook her head.
"Two more candlemarks?" she begged, although both of them knew that she would do exactly as she pleased.
"Very well." Raistun climbed slowly to his feet, brushing the forest litter from his robes. "But think about what I said."
He was very nearly gone when she tapped his shoulder. He had not even heard her approach.
"Where is she?" The girl's face was nothing but that - a little girl's face. All of the petulance, the spoilt arrogance, was gone, leaving a husked out shadow of a sad young creature.
Raistun put his arm around her, gently. At last, the question. I wish I could tell you. "She's gone. I'm sorry."
The girl buried herself in the crook of his arm. "I KNOW that! WHY?"
He could not see her tears, but he knew they were there. Here, then, was the source of all the anger and grief that manifested itself in her rages and violence. Here was her core. And here was something he was forbidden to heal.
He disentangled himself from her clutches and cupped his hands to her cheeks. How he loved this angry child, had loved her ever since she came into his care so many years ago. His heart broke as he saw the tears slide down the curve of her cheeks, the furious swipe of her arm to scrub them away.
"Don't be afraid of pain, love," he told her gently. "Pain is what makes us human."
"I don't WANT your book stories now, Raistun!" she implored. "I want HER!"
Raistun swallowed. "I can't help you." He took a deep breath. "She's dead."
"NO!" The girl pulled away from him with such force that he felt the cloth of his robe tear beneath her fingers. "NO, SHE ISN'T!"
"I'M NOT A CHILD!" she screamed, frenzied. "I HAVE A NAME!" She broke and bolted then, like a startled deer, and disappeared through the trees as if a shadow killed by sunlight.
Raistun stood alone, and though he listened as hard as he could, her passage was silent. He could not even tell in which direction she had gone. "So you do," he said quietly to himself. "Pray you never find out what it is."
Deeper into the weald now, and the girl had exhausted herself with her tears. She was crumpled on the forest floor, so still that the animals who had fled at her appearance were beginning to lose their fear. The girl lay as motionless as she could, the ache in her chest eating at her and twisting until she thought she would die of it. If I can just stay still enough, she thought, the hurt can't find me, ever, ever again.
From the corner of her eye, she could see the rabbit, unconcerned, nibbling ever closer to her foot. Without thinking, with the speed that characterised all her actions, she swooped. The rabbit did not even have time to prick up his ears before he was clutched to her chest, being stroked with a fever that approached passion.
"I have a name, I have a name, she gave me a name," the girl told the rabbit quietly, and the tears began anew.
Little fingers clenched tight then, and the rabbit's death squeal cut short with a choked snapping sound. The girl felt her heart racing in her chest and realised that the pain had eased.
"I'm Livia," she whispered to nobody, and began to run.
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