Guard well thy virgin seed
Give to woman
Or childless shall you forever be
Only one chance given thee
Choose your lover wisely
She stands before him dressed in the ethereal luminosity of her skin and the cascade of her black hair. Each strand contains an impenetrable darkness and a seeming vitality that stirs about her slender form. A pair of black-veined, iridescent blue butterfly wings slowly fan open and close upon her back. Eyes devoid of white or pupil are the twin planes of an unending indigo twilight. A half-mocking, half-sorrowful expression curves the pomegranate red of her full lips. Ancient markings of chaos twine down the luminous perfection of her left arm, while runes of order encircle her right. To her bared bosom she clasps a baby as pale and unclothed as she. The child murmurs sleepily and attempts to nurse from a nipple that will only release poison.
"This is our child-yours now," she whispers with a voice of silk and crystal chimes. Carefully she holds the infant out to the man standing in the doorway. He evidences no surprise at finding an exquisite young female bereft of clothing offering him a baby-his apparently-during the waning of the night. He looks regretful and full of golden tenderness. Velvet brown eyes move between the mildly discontented child and its unearthly mother.
"I have named her Ayshe, the Sorrow, for that is my prediction of her future." The man receives the infant as though it is mankind's most precious treasure. It issues a startled cry and waves pale, chubby arms in the cool air.
"I'm sorry, Aurrin...Nathaniel."
"I know," the mancer replies with a sadness that perfectly mirrors hers.
"I never..." He nods understandingly and absently strokes the crown of black fuzz upon the baby's head. A faltering smile graces her face before she blows him a bittersweet kiss and evanesces into the windswept night.
The baby, Ayshe, mewls questioningly and regards the man with vibrant, indigo, human eyes. Nathaniel Peter Aurrin, the only true Mancer of his time, gently runs long fingers down the baby's pudgy cheeks. She blinks owlishly and then yawns, pink mouth opening to reveal pinker gums.
With the force of a cosmic hammer, the truth of the situation bludgeons him between the eyes. For a moment he reels with the sheer magnitude of his new responsibility. A tiny life, born of his blood and not a number of unremembered strangers, will now depend upon him.
She is the only child he will ever have, the one upon whom an ominous prophecy was spoken at his own birth. His destiny has now been realized, his role played out. He has fashioned the Blade of Ashes, a weapon forged in virginal semen. He does not know who or what her wielder will be, or when she will be unsheathed. All he knows is that his time is over. He must give her his time.
Cradling the baby in one arm, Nathaniel closes the thick oak door and leans back against it. A whisper of a sigh ghosts past his thin lips. He was saving his seed for a vessel of his own choosing and not for the one who did receive it. But the seduction is over and he is a father. For nine months he hoped that the sultry night of abandon was merely a wet dream. The gently burbling infant in his arms proves the reality all too well. He knows he is not ready for parenthood at the age of thirty-four. Perhaps he never will be.
"So that's it, Aurrin?" Dressed in a voluminous blue dressing gown trimmed with feathers, Ms. Laura McKennen, his long time housekeeper, regards him with sleepy curiosity. However, behind a pair of thick-rimmed, tortoiseshell glasses, her gray eyes are alert. Several big, pink curlers restrain her ginger-red hair. She looks like some strange reject from an earlier era. She will always claim to be in her mid-twenties, but she is closer to being in her mid-forties.
"Yes. Her mother brought her." The woman nods and walks over to inspect the newest addition to the Aurrin household. The child watches her with unnerving coherence.
"How do you know she's yours?" Ms. McKennen inquires as she pokes one pudgy cheek with a purple painted fingernail. The baby's face scrunches adorably and she gurgles in mild affront.
"I trust Alaira." A dark brow rises and the housekeeper snorts derisively.
"The sages say you can't trust one of her kind."
"They do, don't they? I guess that's why we call them sages." He laughs with a touch of cynicism and strokes the pads of his fingers across the baby's silken fuzz.
"You're a mancer, Aurrin, the Mancer. You can't allow that creature to foist her spawn upon you, especially if it isn't yours."
"But, Laura, this child is mine. I can feel the truth, the blood-bond. She is my spawn, as well," Nathaniel chides her gently. The housekeeper huffs with disbelief and takes the quiescent child from her father's unwilling arms.
"If that's so, then she'll grow up to be something of a snob, now won't she?"
"Are you calling me a snob?" he demands incredulously. The housekeeper raises a dark brow and smiles fondly at the indignant man.
"You are a bit full of yourself, Aurrin. And by a bit I mean completely self-absorbed." Finding herself ignored by the adults and ravenous, little Ayshe emits a gusty squeal. Her round face becomes a mottled shading of whites, purples and reds. The adults stare at her in confused horror, Nathaniel, and knowing bemusement, Ms. McKennen.
"What does she want? Is she ill?" Nathaniel's elegant hands flutter helplessly about the wailing child. Ms. McKennen shifts back as the man's agitated movements prove to be encouraging the child's distress.
"Not a bit. This little lady is just feeling hungry. There's no need to call nine-one-one, or anything," the housekeeper assures the anxious, newly crowned father.
"I'm not ready for this."
"You should have thought of that before you let that creature seduce you nine months ago. You, by yourself, may have become this world's destruction. That'll teach you to listen to your southern head, won't it?" The man blushes hotly and glances down inadvertently. The woman nods and bustles off to the kitchen with the complaining infant. Nathaniel follows with anxious steps.
Ms. McKennen gives him a reassuring smile and wraps the baby in a dishtowel before she hands her to him. Amusement tickles about the sprightly housekeeper's stomach as she watches her employer become the uncertain, hesitating young-despite his years-man beneath the mancer. As a mancer he is calm and capable and unflappable. As the Mancer he is cold and aloof and unapproachable. As a man he is merely a human bumbling through life, making mistakes and trying to find a little happiness. She prefers the latter of his three personas.
Humming a country ballad from the seventies, she heats up a cup of two-percent milk. With a small baster she feeds the red-faced infant. Upon tasting the first drop the child is calm. Her small hands attempt to grasp the plastic length of the baster, but, instead, end up pawing at it ineffectually. Her indigo eyes slowly lower and, with one final mewling burble, she drifts off to sleep.
"Well, we've cleared the first hurdle, Aurrin," Ms. McKennen announces, setting aside the improvised feeding instrument.
"The first?" He looks so confused and young that she cannot help but laugh.
"You can't expect to keep her in a dishtowel for the rest of her life, can you? Besides that we need a room made up for her with a crib and toys," she informs him archly.
"I suppose so."
"You seem so lost, Aurrin."
"Yeah. Nothing like when you're in your mancer mode or even the Mancer mode."
"I have 'mode's?"
"You do, but I prefer you like this. You're a lot more human seeming." He opens his mouth to reply, but finds only silence on his tongue. Quickly he closes his mouth.
"I am human," he manages at last.
She gives him a smile that is both indulgent and sad. "Sometimes I think you forget that."
"You want to know why you have offended me? Dear sir, you mistakenly called me a 'sorcerer.' I do not use 'magic,' as you commoners so quaintly call it. No, sir, I am a mancer. That's right, mancer. I use mancy, which is what you, again, call 'magic.' Yes, there is a difference. Only the hoste of the Twin Lords can use magic, ormagick, as we mancers call it.
"The Twin Lords? Surely you, a commoner, knows of these two. Your kind has written several books upon them. In fact, I've even read one of them. It was called…theBible, I believe. A rather poetical, if slightly inaccurate, history of the Twin Lords. Why do you look so surprised?
"Sir, I am no blasphemer. I told you already, I am a mancer."
Chapter One: Human
"Daddy?" A pair of twinkling indigo eyes peer up at him from behind the desk. A fringe of tangled black hair tickles across Ayshe Hope Aurrin's sunburned brow. Nathaniel Peter Aurrin caps his thick, gold-plated ballpoint pen and leans forward. The little girl raises herself on unsteady tiptoes and grips the smooth mahogany of the desk with dainty fingers.
"Hello, Ayshe," Nathaniel murmurs as he reaches out and ruffles the wild locks of his daughter's hair. The five-year old coos happily and leans into the touch as if she is a cat.
"Bath time," she announces carefully. Ms. McKennen has studiously schooled her to lose her puerile lisp. He has never minded the slight slur of the child's 'th' sound into and 'f' sound. He found-and finds-it unbearably endearing. However, Ms. McKennen is determined to raise Ayshe into a twenty-first century lady.
A moment's discontent sweeps through him, though his face never shows it. For all of his testing, she stubbornly refuses to evidence the slightest talent for mancy. He knows it is not her fault, but he can't help feeling a certain sense of letdown. He is a mancer, the Mancer. Should his daughter not have at least some minor mancer ability?
Perhaps his daughter takes after her mother instead of him. Perhaps she has magick, but that should be impossible. The girl is human, or as close to human as her conception allows.
"Daddy?" He drags himself from his momentary musings. The little girl pulls away from his motionless hand and stares at him reprovingly.
"Sorry, angel. I was just thinking."
"Yes, yes." He pushes his rolling chair back and stands up. Several tensed muscles spasm to remind him that he should take breaks more often. He knows he will not listen to the small warnings of his body. Life, his in particular, is too full of stress to rest. However, that does not mean that he cannot indulge in a few relaxing rituals. Every Tuesday evening he gives his charming little girl a bath. Wednesday he reads her one bedtime story. On Saturday mornings he uses weather mancy, if necessary, to clear the skies around the Aurrin estate so that they can have a picnic brunch outside. He has found fatherhood to be as filled with rewards as challenges, and most often the two go hand in hand.
Ayshe awaits him impatiently on an expensive-exorbitantly so if he feels like admitting-oriental carpet. She rocks back and forth upon her bare feet. All ten toenails have been painted mint green. Nathaniel suspects Ms. McKennen's involvement.
With an ingenuous smile she holds out one dainty hand, which he takes with a courtly bow. She giggles in a voice like crystal chimes and summer zephyrs. He cannot help but smile in a way that would shock his fellow mancers. The world outside his sanctuary only sees him as the Mancer, a cold and emotionless man who has mastery over the six primary branches of mancy. He has been called heartless more times than he cares to count. He has been called a savior even more. He dislikes both epithets.
However, inside the Aurrin estate, his sanctuary, he is simply known as Aurrin and daddy. More often than not, he wishes never to leave.
Ayshe grasps the brass door handle to his study and uses all her might to turn it. Without appearing to, he sends a small tendril of mancy into the stubborn metal. The girl turns proud eyes to him as she tugs the door open. He nods his approval and allows her to guide him down the hallway lined with portraits of his dead relatives. In halting sentences she has informed him that she dislikes their motionless eyes. He has thought of removing them to some other area of the mansion, but Ms. McKennen says that this is the only place where the outside light won't fade them. He could put up a protective shield, but why waste the energy? His daughter will simply have to outgrow her childish apprehensions.
"There you two are!" Ms. McKennen declares with mock annoyance as they take the last step onto the second floor. The woman has a fluffy white towel draped over one arm in preparation. She smiles warmly at man and child and then bustles off towards the girl's bathroom.
"Come on." The little girl takes a firmer hold on his larger hand and half skips towards the door issuing great clouds of white steam. He laughs and follows obediently. For all her young years, she has developed quite the temper, probably the influence of Ms. McKennen, and does not like to wait upon aging adults.
As they reach the door, she drops his hand and darts inside. Ms. McKennen stops him inside the doorway. There is a strange, excited look in her gray eyes.
"She has it, Aurrin. She has it!" Nathaniel stares at the housekeeper without comprehension. It? What is this it...Oh.
Excitement bubbles up in his stomach. He feels joyous and nauseous. The girl is not her mother's heir. She has mancy; she is human.
"H-How do you know?" he demands with a soft hiss. The little girl, oblivious to the tense excitement thrumming through the steamy room, undresses and hops into the large, circular bathtub with a splash. "I've tested her and she showed no evidence..."
"You, sir, were looking for the wrong signs. Unlike some people, the manifestation of her talent doesn't cause tornadoes, firestorms, earthquakes, tsunamis, mass hallucinations, unexplained mass deaths and miraculous cures."
"I was acquitted because I was a minor and untrained," he reminds her peevishly. "I had no idea that I was doing those things. I'm innocent."
She smirks. "Sure."
"All I'm saying is that some people's first use of mancy is subtle. You've been expecting her to level a city or something, because that's how you first evidenced mancy. You have to realize that she might not be as powerful as you. She may just be a mancer, not a Mancer."
"Daddy?" Ayshe calls indignantly from the bathtub. Indigo eyes glare childish reproach upon the conversing adults.
"Just a minute, angel," Nathaniel replies with a wave to reassure her that he has no intention of missing their Tuesday ritual. She pouts and sinks into the hot water. Small bubbles of irritation rise to the surface.
"What…what branch of mancy does she do?"
"Summoning aquemancy for certain, summoning aeromancy maybe." The man's warm brown eyes light up and a rather foolish grin breaks out across his face.
"She can see the Undine, Aurrin."
"How do you know?"
"She sings a lot while bathing, as you know." Even as the housekeeper says that, a lilting young voice fills the room. He glances at the tub to find Ayshe singing as she splashes carefully about. He nods as he watches his daughter. "Have you ever listened to what she sings?"
"No," he replies suddenly feeling like an idiot. He hasn't felt like that since the girl's mother left her with him.
"Listen, Aurrin. Not just hear, but Listen." He closes his eyes and Listens to the nonsensical song of his child. Slowly the liquid syllables become words-ancient words of mancy, of the Undine.
"She is singing to the water elementals," Nathaniel murmurs. Slowly his eyes open and meet those of Ms. McKennen. She smiles and sniffs back tears of poignant happiness.
"She told me one time, when I asked her about her songs, that the people in the water taught her them. I haven't asked her if she can see the Sylphs, but, if you've noticed, she sings whenever there's a breeze." He nods and laughs and almost cries, but doesn't because Ayshe wouldn't understand. She believes tears are only signs of sadness. She doesn't yet realize that people cry when overwhelmed by joy.
"She's human," he whispers. Ayshe's song ceases.
"She's human, Aurrin." They embrace tenderly and then Nathaniel hurries across the damp tile to apologize to his impatiently waiting daughter.
"What do you talk about?" she demands as he kneels by the tub.
"About the people in the water," he replies. The Undine smile up at him as they flit through the warm bath water. Several hold onto the slick skin of the girl and watch him with flirtatious, miniscule green eyes. He whispers a greeting to which they respond with a gentle burbling.
"They teach songs to me. Water people are nice." The girl nods and hums. The Undine sing along with her as they play about her young limbs.
"Turn around, angel." She complies, revealing the delicate stained-glass pattern of black-veined, blue butterfly wings. The strange pattern is the legacy of her mother. The wings, nothing more than pigmented skin, start at her shoulder blades and continue to the crease on the back of each knee. The mark has always repulsed him, angered him, but now he no longer needs to fear its presence. His daughter is human.
She is a mancer.
This idea and magical system, as far as my knowledge goes, belongs to me. I am in the process of getting this story published (wish me luck) so I would appreciate comments, questions, and criticisms. I will not, however, accept flames. I leave it up to your discretion to know the difference between criticisms and flames. Suffice it to say, one helps and the other merely insults without lending anything to the improvement of the work.
My dream is to have this little project published and then people like it enough to write fanfiction. Maybe someday I'll be browsing through and find my series under the Book section.