Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aldwin, Jone, and Elin

Aldwin was bent over a thin white parchment, examining the mark his stick of lead had made upon it. His pencil had curved in a round shape, down and around, had slipped its point with the precision of his fingers, tracing out a shape, and shed its shadows across the paper.
He lifted it up, and tacked its corners to a bark easel. Behind him the sea rushed against the edges of his island home. The sun laid its yellow light over his work. It pushed through the thin fibers of the parchment and painted shadows against the underside.

His eyes had caught the picture only a moment before, his sister, Jone, sitting serenely against the protruding root of a tree, pulling a thin needle through blue cloth. The light was wrapping in thin spirals over her fair face and pushing its color into the brown-blonde tones of her hair. The way the light and shadow framed her face had made him rise from his seat to capture it.  Now his pencil darted across the page, sketching the shape of her face, the curve of her cheek, marking softly the places where the shadows lay thin, and darkening the spots of heavier shadow.

He stopped for a moment to watch her. Her fingers were nimble with the needle, pushing through the filmy blue garment draped across her lap, in and out, in and out.

There was movement beside her, and Elin slipped in from behind the great tree root. She sat on the rough, flat surface of a root stem, pulling her knees up with her. Her deep green dress swept the ground beneath the tree root as she leant against the bark rippling behind her. Elin was Jone’s elder sister, the third in the family, after Aldwin and his brother, Verus. She was an artist in her own way, and had designed the garment Jone’s nimble fingers were putting together.

“How is it, Jone?” she asked. “Does your needle finds its way stiffly through all those layers?”

“No.” Jone’s eyes bent on her work, her supple fingers tugging at the needle. It slipped through. “No, the thinness of the material works with the needle.” She was tying a knot now, hiding it against a seam. She snipped off the end with the knife bound at her waist, threaded her needle into the sleeve of her dress, and held up her work for Elin to see.

“See? All finished.”

Elin reached out to finger the gauzy blue garment. She lifted one filmy layer from the other and held it out to catch the light. Her fingers left a gentle touch on the carefully created flowers that drifted, diagonally, from the garment’s waist to its hem.

“Do you like it, Jone?"

“Of course I do!”

“Well, when I drew it out, I was thinking of you, and you seemed rather excited to begin on it.” She lifted her face to her sister’s in a foolish grin. “So, I guess you do like it.” Her eyes fell to the tiny pleats creeping up from the waist into the bodice. “I think it’s lovely.”

Aldwin heard their voices only dimly now, as the work before him had pulled his mind away. He had seen the light play over Elin’s rectangular face, seen the silhouette of her small nose against the background of tree bark, and his pencil was sketching her in, just in front of Jone, her face filling the bottom-right hand corner and forming the foreground of the picture.  

Just beyond them, where the sea was raising his voice in great, foaming words, and the sun was sending its whisper over the turbulent water, the yellow light caught the glitter of faerie wings.  A wandrian, moving his wings jerkily with the weariness of his long flight, approached the island of Esallan.

Elin left Jone in that quiet glade and traced her steps to her own quiet place, where the sound of the sea was muted by the immeasurable weight of the island foliage. It was a place for her to think her thoughts aloud, where her voice could be lost in the height of her hiding place. She had found the narrow branch that held its own at the peak of an ancient elm, noticed the way the branches laid themselves around it, seen the warm curve of the bark beneath the moss that lay like a garment over it. It became her own in that instant, and her wings found it second nature to carry her there when her mind was crowded with thought.  

She beat her way near to the place now, her mind shrouded, as if she were holding back the onward rush of the army of thought-filled soldiers in her head. Her fingers ached to hold her small quill pen and feel its nub scratching across parchment. Her heart ached to press its shape into words.

A sort of thin, hanging moss wove a green curtain across her secret place, letting small shafts of light through its lattice of tangled growth. She crept beneath it and ensconced herself within the busy softness of the moss. Then her hands found their way to a narrow opening in the face of the tree, just behind her. From the brown crevice she pulled a stack of parchment, bound at the sides with generous lacings of hand-woven green ribbon. She had woven it herself, and bound the pages carefully together. It was her book, the thing she had filled with words all her own, with a story that had wrapped itself around her heart.

She turned it over so her eyes could see the words written last. She felt her chest swell with peaceful warmth as the words drifted to her, touching the corners of her soul, feeding her hunger to create. She laid a piece of parchment on a sturdy layer of bark that lay over her lap, and her pen touched the paper, spreading ink in gentle sweeps of letter, one line after the next, the story slipping from her.

Her pen had scraped to a stop, her work dropping from her lap as she pulled her knees up and her brow creased in thought, when her ears caught the lonely, quiet sound of feet treading ground beneath a noiseless body, of wings beating to a stop, brushing disconsolately against the passing wind.