OF :: Memory’s Paths

Title: Memory’s Paths
Arc: Faerie
Rating: R for violence
Written: 2003?
Summary: Ilaria learns about some of her mother’s darker memories.
Author’s Note: This piece begins with a quote from Ilaria that is a part of some random asides on her life that I wrote in memoir format. The comment intrigued me so much that I wrote this short story, in which much about Jeanne’s life is revealed after her death to her chervari. In particular, I like the scene detailing Jeanne’s challenge to Veklond and the death of Róenon (Nijole’s brother) in Dreskara.

These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.

And yet, still I am awakened at night, as bits of dark memories come to life in my dreams. I wake, knowing them clearly to be memories… and yet not those of my own life. This, too, it seems, comes from being chervari to a woman of such power, one of the T’jalear, and one of the strongest of them.

She raised her eyes, and through the strands of dark hair that fell across her face, she saw the hood of the sorcerer’s cloak being drawn back. But the face that was there was still that of a Drayell and not that of her enemy. She tried to fling the hair out of her face with a jerk of her head. “Still won’t face me, Veklond?” As always, there was no answer but a cold smile. She could tell that he heard her, but he would not reveal himself yet. “You’re a coward.” His eyes narrowed on her, and a searing pain burnt her back. She screamed as the spear was pushed further between her shoulder blades. Her back arched, and vision blurred, losing every color but pain. For a moment, she lost herself completely, and it was only the jolt of her knees hitting the stone floor that propelled her back into her body. Thoughts whirled around her: who was she where was she what was happening—it was the awful feeling of the spear being pulled back out of her rib cage that forced her awareness back on the room around her.

Behind her someone screamed her name as she fell. Her head hit the step, and blood trickled down into her eyes, dyeing her vision half-red until she blinked. She saw one of them break free, shedding his disguise as he called her name again. His sword was drawn and bloodied, and the Drayells fell about him, as he worked his way forward. The others were struggling behind him. Should they stay or go? Had the time come for them to fight?

“Go,” she mouthed, uncertain of whether the sound came only in her head or not. He still fought on, and, with a heavy effort, she forced herself to her knees, coughing. “Go!” she ordered. Still, they did not listen. She watched as Jeassinae grabbed one of them by the shoulders and jerked him toward the door. Now was not the time. They couldn’t reveal themselves yet. But he already had.

And he was paying for it. Ten feet away from her, a Drayell body fell to the ground, and he raised his sword to slay her guards. There were yells all around them, and she tried to warn him when she saw the Drayell pick up the spear. He parried another blow from the side, but still he didn’t hear what came from behind.

Shock filled his eyes and his breath trickled from his open mouth as he fell to his knees. The sword clattered as it struck the ground, and he lowered his eyes to his stomach. Tentatively, he reached to touch the spearhead that now extended from his abdomen. His dark eyes rose to meet hers, and there were so many questions there. So many questions, and too little time and too few words to soothe them away. He started to speak, but the words were transformed into a cry as the spear left his body again.

She did not know which names were cried then. There were too many, and they came from too many people at once. But as he fell to the ground completely, and his eyes stared up at her, all the noise faded away and she only heard his whisper: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I failed you.”

“You didn’t fail,” she replied.

“I’m dying.” He touched his stomach and saw the blood. “Oh Saints, help me… I’m sorry…” His eyes returned to her. “I don’t regret it. Don’t blame yourself f—“ His sentence was never completed. His sword had been raised by the Drayell and brought down across his chest. It lay embedded in him, and a furious grief took her. Though she was bound and held by guards, she launched herself at the Drayell. Never before had she known a hatred so strong. Her cry alerted him, though, and he raised a dagger in time for it to be plunged into her left shoulder.

“Jeanne!” The cry reached her from across the hall, and she struggled to hold onto awareness. Her breath fluttered; she couldn’t inhale completely, and her grip on consciousness began to wane. The cry came again, closer now, and with her last bit of strength she called back: “Fly! Go while you can!” It was an order laced with the last bit of power that she could muster. As it left her lips, she felt all warmth fade from her body. When she hit the floor, she felt that she must shatter like ice against cobblestones—

****

—Ilaria bolted from her sleep, covered in a cold sweat. Her blood pounded in her temples, and she struggled to breathe normally. Next to her Lonnen turned over.

“Ilaria? Are you alright?”

She forced herself to take a deep breath. “Yes, I think so.” She closed her eyes and exhaled.

“Was it another one?” She nodded. His hand slid over hers, squeezing gently. “Everything will be okay.”

Ilaria shook her head. “They’re so vivid, Lon. Honestly, I can’t tell that I’m not her.”

“You know that you’re not.”

“When I’m awake I do… mostly. But it’s still in my mind as clearly as though it had happened to me.” She shuddered. “I can feel exactly where she was stabbed.” She lowered herself back to the bed, and let herself be pulled into his arms. She was more secure here, and the fear of the memory began to recede somewhat. “Oh Saints,” she said with a sigh.

“They’ll go away, darling. You just have to give it a little time.”

“I don’t think that they mean for them to go away, Lonnen. It’s been nearly five years since Mama died. Yes… five years next quirë. If these were going to go away, they would have by now. Do you know what I think?”

“No. But I could read your mind, if you’d let me,” he teased.

She smiled slightly and pushed away his telepathic brush. “Quit that.”

“You brush me aside so easily. I’ve never met anyone who had such an easy time with that.”

“Except for my mother, you mean.” She glanced up at him, a teasing smile on her lips.

“Except for her, of course. No one could have read her if they wanted to.”

Ilaria’s eyes fell; she knew that all too well. “I think that’s part of why I have these dreams now.”

She waited until Lonnen laid his head against hers and whispered, “Go on.”

Ilaria swallowed, unsure of herself. “I think that I have these dreams of her memories because she refused to tell anyone so many things. All of the others, they shared their experiences with one of their children, or with their heir. But Mama was the last one, and she didn’t want to hurt anyone with her pain… And maybe she didn’t want me to know because it would change the way I think of her. She wouldn’t let anyone tell me that she was Kalisria’s heir for years. She was so upset when I looked at her differently.” Ilaria closed her eyes, as the old ache welled up again. She was still that little girl in so many ways. She wanted her mother more than anything else in the world. Why couldn’t you let me be as close to you as you were to me?

When she opened her eyes, she realized that her husband had fallen asleep again. His breath came in a slow and steady rhythm. Ilaria closed her eyes, but she knew that sleep would not come for hours now. She would only have to lay here and wonder and wander through memories…

***

“Was it hard for me to leave her? Yes, of course. It felt like ripping a piece of myself out and leaving it where I could never touch it again. Leaving hurt me as much as being away from Nijelyn ever did. You’ll understand one day, my darling, when the time comes for you to pass through K’sarus. Fate will be kinder to you, though, because she will offer you years in which you may watch your daughters grow. I had a few short weeks by their calendar… a few short weeks and a lifetime of regret…

“No, little one, I do not blame her. I’ve watched too many years pass to waste my thoughts on wishes that would never be granted. My mother did what she thought was best; I cannot help that it denied me what I always longed for.

“I do not think that I chose my path. I think that the path chose me. Some believe that I had no family because I wanted none. For me, though, the path that I wanted was denied to me, and so my feet were set against the only other path that I could find. There was certainly more danger along that path and more pain, but it offered its own rewards. You see, my dear, nothing of this magnitude can be made without pain. A mother must suffer to bring her child into the world, and then she is given the joy that new life brings. I bore the pain of making this Faerie possible.

“It does not matter to me if I am forgotten because I will always be able to look at this world and the happiness of her people. I’ll be able to look at you, and at your line, and I’ll know that this world stands today because I shed my blood to make its foundation. My sister and I each have reason to be proud of the works of our lives. But my joy goes far deeper than what pride may offer.

“You see, little one, my path gave me others to give me joy. Never doubt my love for you, mellim. You have given me strength and hope when I had none. Yes, you’re my flower of hope, my silver star in the blackest night. You came to me when I thought no one would ever find me. Such a bearer of light you are. Do you realize how many lives you’ve brightened, how many fates you’ve changed? Someday they will realize, and be thankful. I promise you that. You shall not be so easily forgotten as I was. That is the gift of my sister’s blood in you.

“I was granted one measure of immortality, I think. Nijelyn gave that to me in his Ballad. Never will any music be sweeter to my ears than his strong voice singing that to me. It’s become so very long now, and I imagine that when I see him again there will have been many verses added. He will want me to add my own parts as well. We write the song together, you see; I doubt that anyone knows of those pieces. He began it with the tale of my struggle with the verildés… You would not think that a tale of war could become a romance like ours. But the song changes as I leave our first home, and he begins to sing of his desire for me…

“I’m alright, little one. I’m only remembering when he first sang it for me. He has such skill… When he sang of Lothar, I felt as though the enemy stood before me again. I had to fight myself to keep from attacking the shapes I saw in my mind. And then… when he sang of his love… oh, mellim, I can only pray that your love has been gifted with Nijelyn’s talent. That was when I knew that I loved him completely. I knew that I wanted nothing more than to be his. I think I could have left Faerie for him. I would have done anything he asked in that moment.

“And do you know what he asked of me? He asked that we finish the ballad together. How I cried that night! I was so torn. I didn’t know how I could love him and still walk the path that was given to me. I was too young to see that I could balance the tasks I had set for myself and my love for him. And there was also the Ban. How many times did I curse my mother in that time, I wonder? So many long hours spent alone, hating her for taking from me everything that she had given the others, everything that she had given to my sister…

“I said that I do not blame her, yes. I’ve had many years to myself to realize that, but though I came to grips with some of it in K’sarus, I truly made peace with her only now, since you came. Yes, I spent years wishing for my own child. I avoided my sisters as they grew heavy with child; I shunned my brothers when they played with their children. Though Nijelyn never gave me any sign that he regretted being childless, I could not shed my own feelings of guilt then. I wanted a child, and I wanted a child with him. I doubt that I ever wanted anything that badly, not even when I wanted Aderana to be my mother instead of Carisae. Only Aderana knew of it. I could not speak to Nijelyn of it then; it hurt me too terribly.

“I don’t doubt that he already knows my feelings, but we will speak of them when I leave this place. I’m ready now.

“Don’t hide from the ones that you love, little one. Hiding your pain will only bring more pain, for you and for them. The truth can hurt those who it touches, but truth’s injuries heal far more swiftly than those treated with lies. Trijeson once told me that he could heal any pain, but only if he was granted the truth. He offered to help me then; but I could not answer with pure truth, and so I had to find my own healing. It takes far longer, I promise you that.

“I think that we all have a responsibility to pass on our experiences to those who remain, don’t you? What I didn’t tell my sister or Nijelyn, I have told you. I would say that you know me better now than any ever has…”

“All lives come to an end, mellim, and we may only walk these shores for so long. Then we are called away beyond K’sarus, where we may watch all that happens here. You know that I do not belong here; they would not accept me if I walked openly among them. Even your closest companions have difficulty accepting me. Why do you not? Because you are like me, mellim, in a way that they are not, in a way that they will never truly understand. No, not even your carisae could understand entirely. You are one of us, one of the T’jalear. Your time came far later, but you are still like us. For now, your place is here, among them, but the time will come when you, too, feel the call, and you will no longer wish to deny it. Your love for this place and its people will never fade, but you will reach a point when you can no longer live as one of them, and when that time comes, you will leave.

“How can I know? Because thirty others have walked this path before us, mellim, and now my time has come. I have to leave you now. Don’t cry, mellim, don’t cry. Separations last only so long. You know that in your heart. We will be together again, I promise. You and I shall walk side-by-side in a peace that we need not suffer to create. Farewell, for now, my love. I shall await you on the other side…”

***

…Ilaria struggled with her tears. She didn’t want to wake Lonnen with the sobs that tried to shake her in their grip. There was such love between them! How could anyone mistake her mother for anything but Jeassinae’s heir, if they knew of it? She hugged her arms to her chest, straining to stay silent and still.

You never spoke of it, Mama! Why didn’t you tell me all that she told you? You said that there were things between you, that she was something like a second carisae, but you could have shown me! You could have shared this with me yourself instead of haunting me like this! You could have helped me to understand it…

“The truth can hurt those who it touches,” she whispered. She could remember her mother telling her that when she was younger…

***

“The truth can hurt those who it touches, chervari, but truth’s injuries heal far more swiftly than those treated with lies. You will have to tell the boy the truth sometime,” she said, watching the girl’s reaction carefully.

The girl sat on the bed with a heavy sigh. “I don’t want to tell him, Mama. Why should I have to? I can go back with you tomorrow, and he need never know that I’m anything other than some girl he met one summer.” The girl took a moment to glare up at her mother. “Unless you tell him who I really am.”

She sat down by the girl and put an arm around her shoulder. “You know that I love you, chervari, and I would never hurt you if I could avoid it.”

“But?” the girl asked, turning her face toward her mother.

She smiled, amused by her daughter’s certainty that there was more. She was growing up now and so different from the little girl that she had played with not so long ago. But some things still had not changed. “Do you not think it rather cruel to play with his heart in such a way? You told me yourself that he spoke of love, Ilaria, and you do not feel the same. You know why. It’s because you are not the Faerie he thinks you are. You are my daughter. You could leave without telling him, yes, but you can also be certain that one day he will realize. He will find out who that girl he courted that summer was, and he will know that it was you, the Queen’s daughter, who stole his heart from him.”

The girl looked away, and her mother knew that her gaze had become too strong. You should know better than that, by now. Not even your chervari can stand it when you become so intense. Oh Jea, how right you were! She waited silently for the girl to return to her. “I didn’t mean for it to happen, Mama! I didn’t mean for him to ever think that it was serious—that I was available to him…”

“Shh.” She wiped at her daughter’s tears. “I know that. But he needs to be told. By you, chervari, and not by anyone else.”

The girl turned into her mother’s embrace. “I don’t think I could manage if he started to cry—and he will, I know it! I can’t do it. Not alone. Come with me.”

She laughed. Yes, this was still her little daughter, the one who had been afraid to leave her arms the first time she was brought before the court. “Do you truly think that would make anything any easier? You, my child, may still be mistaken for someone else, but he would know me immediately, and that would not help you to tell him the truth. Just think of all the thoughts that would fill his mind. He would probably think that I was there to punish him for daring to say that he loved my daughter. His sort love me, but only when I’m still distant from them. If I stood before him at a time like that, he would have nothing but a heart full of fear. That is not what he needs, my Ilaria. He needs only the truth, from your own mouth.”

She felt her daughter swallow and then nod. “I’ll tell him, Mama.”

“Good,” she whispered before kissing the girl’s forehead. “Someday you will be glad of it.”

Ilaria nodded again. Then she laughed a little bit. “Papa certainly wouldn’t be happy if I came home with some poor man’s broken heart in my possession, would he?”

“No, chervari. Your father has a soft spot for men whose hearts are broken by women. You would think that I’d crushed him completely and left him alone instead of marrying him and giving him two beautiful daughters,” she said with a teasing smile, knowing that her husband was behind them at the door. “Wouldn’t you agree, Nijole?”

Ilaria gasped and turned. “Papa?”

Nijole spread his arms and smiled. “Is that the only greeting that I get after an entire summer apart?”

She watched as the girl leapt away from her side and ran into her father’s arms. It was good to see that her chervari loved her father so much. I feared that my own childhood might have ill effects with her in that respect. Her eyes rose to her husband, and she took the hand that he offered to raise her. They embraced, and as he kissed her cheek, she thought to herself that Nijole was a far better man than that. I need not have feared, but memory’s paths hold many fears for us as we journey on the road to the future…

***

…Carefully, Ilaria extracted herself from her sleeping husband’s arms. Tonight would grant her no more sleep, she knew. She retrieved her robe from where she’d dropped it by the vanity earlier in the night and slipped it on as she walked to her daughter’s room. The corridors were darkened and empty, but Ilaria needed no candle; her bare feet knew the way. Silently, she opened the door and slipped like a shadow into her daughter’s room.

She crept closer to the bed, studying the way the moonlight danced across her daughter’s skin and sparkled on her wings, the way her dark hair stood out against the white of the coverlet. You’re nearly the age I was when I spent my first summer entirely away from home. She ran a finger along the girl’s ear, so lightly that her child hardly stirred. Has so much time passed already? I should dread to live a human’s life. I fear that it would pass in the blink of an eye, and that would not be time enough for me to share all that I want with you. I would stay by you forever, if I could, mellim.

Her breath caught in her throat as she realized what she had said. Then she looked away. Others had uttered that before, many times. What difference would it make if one more whispered it? She bent over the sleeping form and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “J’isrieali ror, chervari,” she whispered before leaving.

Ilaria stood outside the door for a moment, crossing her arms as she felt a sudden chill. Where should she go now? Morning was still several hours off, and she didn’t want to wake Lonnen from his sleep. One of us, at least, should be rested for today, she thought wryly. Before she could consciously decide, though, she found herself walking to her study, where she removed a volume from the bottom drawer of her desk. This was a book that she had never opened, one that she had found among the things that Jeanne had hidden. Spells and wardings had been cast into it to keep it from being opened, but there was a key to them, and Ilaria knew it.

She set the book before her, studying the simple leather that bound it. The book was not very large; it could not have been thicker than her thumb’s width, but somehow Ilaria knew that she would only be able to read it when she was ready. Once before, she had thought to open the book, and she nearly had before she realized that she would find nothing but blank pages.

Did you hide your thoughts from me, too, because I was unready?

She traced a curved, four-armed star—like the one that adorned her mother’s standards—on the front cover of the book. Her finger left behind a dull silver light, and she whispered a few words to strengthen the light. Her right hand, palm down, hovered a few inches over the book, and she closed her eyes. In her mind, she whispered, “I would stay by you forever, chervari, but I fear that still it would not give me time enough to share everything with you.” There was a click and a soft creak, and when Ilaria opened her eyes, the book was open to the first page.

It was blank, and for an instant, anger filled Ilaria—You said that I would know when I was ready! Has the time still not come?—but then long stripes of black appear and started to shape themselves into the letters, and slowly the letters formed words. Ilaria leaned closer to the book, almost afraid to touch it for fear of destroying the letters that were coming together. The movement stilled, though, and she was able to read the first page:

I do not doubt that you are angry with me, my chervari. There is much that I never told you, and you, no doubt, have many ideas as to my reasons. I need not tell you those because you will know yourself in time. Yes, already I can see the anger in your eyes as you read that; you dislike it when I speak cryptically. But that is the way of the T’jalear; we can never speak of such matters in words truly unveiled because that would destroy some part of your understanding of the truth. I could tell you everything I know, every truth of our world, and it would mean nothing to you because you would not know it. To truly understand truths such as those, you must travel the path to knowing on your own. I can help you along the way, but if I were to lead you, you would not know the end, even if I lead you directly to it. That is not a matter for now, though it is a lesson that I fear I should have taught you earlier.

You will wish to know when I wrote these things. As I sit here in this study, in the same chair that you will sit in to read this, the sun will rise seven times more before I pass through K’sarus. How can I know that? It is said that it is given to the T’jalear that they may know the time of their deaths, but that is not really true. There is a call, one which reaches us from beyond the circles of this world; it calls us to come home, for our time on these shores is short, though we could walk it in our minds forever. A time comes when Faerie no longer needs us or perhaps we no longer need her as we once did. And when the time comes, the call grows stronger, until we have no desire to deny it any longer, and our feet are turned toward the Gate without our knowledge. I feel that I must stay just a few days more, for there remains one thing for me to do. One last battle must be fought with this hand before I can lay down my sword and pass on my Crown.

I think that I shall be happy to let my burden fall upon other shoulders. It is too much for one Faerie, I think, but you and your sister will be able to carry it together.

I realize now that there is much that I should have told you. Jeassinae spent much of our time together telling me of her life, and I’d always thought that she only told me because I was an avid listener. Only now do I realize the importance of such things. With my death, many things will pass beyond the reach of Faeries… unless I have spoken of it or written the experience out. I have done too little of both. I was selfish to stay silent, I think, for, though I feared what it might do to you if you knew, I remained quiet also to soothe my own pain. As you know, many horrid things have happened in my life, and I did not want to remember most of them. There was so much happiness after I married your father; why should I ever bring back the ghosts of my past?

But there are yet things that must be recorded, and there is too little time now to tell you, even if I spent all of these next seven days writing of them and telling you of everything. So I shall do something different. I will write what I can here, and the rest you shall have in another way. By the time you read this, you will already know far more about my life than you ever knew while I lived. You will remember things as I remember them; you will feel the same pain and the same joy.

Forgive me, chervari, for laying it upon you so. Memory’s paths are many and twisted; it will take you time to sort through what you see. If I could spare you the pain, I think I would, but this must be done as truthfully as possible, and if I were to separate my feelings from the images and sounds, it would do you no good. Jeassinae once told me that creation can come only from pain. I had some small part in the making of the world in which you now live, and so I must have suffered. I pray that you forgive me for making you suffer the same way.

I love you, mellim, and nothing will ever change that. You will miss me when I am gone, and I, too, will long for you to be by me, but this is life. There comes a time when separation is necessary for one to grow. If she could, the flower would hold her seed forever, but the wind must blow the seed free for the seed to become a flower. In the end, though, both of the flowers will return to the ground and be together again. I must leave you now so that you may fly on your own. I shall await you, love, on the other side…

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2 Responses to “OF :: Memory’s Paths”


  • I’m so going to be coming back to re-read this because the complexity of this is quite astounding. Of course, I loved it – as I love reading anything Faerie.
    (Also, yes, I did squee at the mentions of Neija. :X )

  • You know, this is about the closest thing I have to a finished short story as far as Faerie is concerned. Everything else is either unfinished or simply an excerpt from a larger work. This, on the other hand, just floats around as its own (complex) entity. (Mentions of Neija are completely worth squeeing over.)

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