Title: Bloodstained Thyme

Author: Keysuna

Rating: PG

Authors Note: This was originally the first chapter of a novel but it had just been sitting in my folder unused for so long I decided to change it into a short story. If I get good feedback I'd be interested in continuing it but otherwise I should probably do something a little more productive like I don't know. my Physics homework.

*~*~*~*

Magic is a most beautiful and complex language.

It makes no contrast between the living and the elements as the human tongue does. Instead of building walls around traditions so no outsider can enter, it crafts a bridge that links both the mind and body of any spirit. Language unites us, while it only tears humans apart.

I come out often in the early night when the sky has just creased into darkness. Each being has its own story and tonight I choose to listen to the coyote, a pack of which is hunting in the mountains miles from me. One I select out from the family as they rustle to life from their mid day nap. He arches his head toward the moon and howls long. I can hear without use of the voice, but identity is much more recognizable with sound. His call comes to an abrupt halt as I feel with my mind where he intends to hunt tonight. He can sense my minds presence in his and the growl he sends toward me is of warning.

This creature does not want me along for the hunt tonight.

If I wanted to, I could push away his weak shields and explore his mind. Instead I apologize and withdraw from his thoughts. He does not seek a reason for why I had tried to explore his spirit, as long as the end result is his desire, my existence and means are of no interest to him. One reason among the many I do not enjoy the company of humans is because they pry all too much. Always needing to know the business of another and never satisfied with their own.

The mind of an animal is simple and pure. They know what is needed for survival and that mistakes can mean death. But they are also carefree. The complexities of life have no meaning to them.

I reach out with my senses and feel the magic around me. The steady movement of time, the soft caress of the wind, the balance between the elements. These things I appreciate because without them the earth would be thrown into chaos. All creatures acknowledge these constants, and the recognizable touch of power that is laced within them.

A power that is deeper then the earth, which is rooted in life itself.

All creatures that is, but humans. The arrogant and proud race that have declared the earth for their own. If only they could speak the language of the land, the one that connects all beings to the power itself.

But alas, one cannot teach a most beautiful and complex language such as magic to a human.

*~*~*~*

Today is the first Monday of the second week of March and I'm counting the days until school is out. Summer is the time for spell casting under a blanket of heat, when Aunt Amelia lets me stay out all night. Listening to the spirits as I sprawl out on dry grass that sticks to my sweaty body. When the parched winds turn to cold gusts I have trouble concentrating on anything but the powerful magic that is present in the winter. With the snow you can pluck the elements like ripe fruit from a vine. The magic is it's strongest when the night stretches longer then the day and I don't even mind the beginning of school so much as I have the magic to occupy myself with.

But the months between March and June are the hardest to bear. Magic is weak, so much that if I don't search for it I nearly forget it's there. This season is one of rebirth and I must be careful that I draw my power with restriction. I have always shown a reckless tendency toward magic, absorbing more of the pure force then I needed at times. In spring while magic grows like all nature, asking to much of the power could likely kill off apart of the earth itself, or worse, upset the balance.

So I am careful now, I do not experiment with spells that call upon excess amounts of power. Nor do I indulge in a natural high by filling my body with magic and causing my senses to heighten. I still cheat however; if my bath water isn't quite warm enough I'll pick a strand of heat from the air and alter the temperature to my liking. Or if I wake up with acne covering my face I'll clear it away with a glamour. Small things don't disrupt the balance and I have yet to learn the control that Aunt Amelia has. She does not even touch magic during these long months unless it is necessary.

Today means the same routine I have been living. Human life does not know the purpose of change and so in a world ruled by them, nothing ever does. Maryanna drives me to school as always, her thin form scarcely fitting the frame of the seat. There are times when we are out shopping that a human has mistaken me for the adult. But Maryanna, even with her smaller then normal stature, is the most beautiful creature I have ever met. Then again all mermaids have an unearthly elegance to them. Her thick ebony locks are let loose, wild curls that bounce to her waist. Some of the strands are braided with yarn and beads that she threads in herself. She will do the same to my hair if I ask, but the exquisite touch does not fit me. Her skin is a soft honey brown that is always smooth to the touch. She has black eyes set under thick lashes. I love her eyes, they are large and dark and add complexities to her figure that one would think unachievable. But it is her voice I envy the most. A soft whisper of the sea with an accent that always seems to play into her words at odd moments. Her laugh is like bells rung by a breeze and her singing is the most wonderful sound of all. Mermaids are the only creatures that can sing in magic. Her voice is the sound of the ocean and water sliding off your back. Of sand sticking to your skin while you dry in the sun and the deep connection between the sea and life. It encompasses both the imagery and the emotion.

If I am a crafter of magic, surely mermaids are the storytellers of it.

But even with all of Maryanna's remarkable beauty and talent, I would never trade my skills for hers. Every third night she must relinquish her legs for that of a tail, for this reason Aunt Amelia purchased a house with a pool. I am not sure the exact history, but I know that my aunt was unable to save Maryanna's sister from a fate she shouldn't have suffered. Years later, when Maryanna came here to ask for a job, my aunt couldn't refuse her. This is how it is with most mermaids, they are servants to the witches, werewolves and vampires. I've heard of colonies that exist on islands far off into the ocean, but they are secluded from human life, and most mermaids wish to be involved in the normality of the world. They will, however, suffocate if they are not exposed to water every third day and because of that many will serve the house of a witch for both safety and a pool. There have been rumors whispered by my aunt's guests that the Council is going to fix this situation of servitude the mermaids have tied themselves in. It's come to the point that whoever might employ them has control over his or her spirit and our world has never looked kindly upon slavery.

That has always been a human custom.

My aunt treats Maryanna well and even allows her new boyfriend, Noah, to use the pool. Noah grew up with one of the few rich mermaid families until they moved to warmer climates. He had just started a job as a school teacher and could not find the heart to leave either his new position or Maryanna. So he resides in an apartment not far from my house and comes over twice a week for the change. I like Noah. He's almost the antithesis of Maryanna, blonde hair and light skinned. Large and broad shouldered, he's talkative and funny. The passion they have for each other is strong and sometimes the energy in the house is heightened when they're in the pool together. We all know it's because of the power that Noah brings to the house that Aunt Amelia lets him stay, but I think she's smitten with him as well. He is extremely good looking, but his eyes are only for Maryanna.

"Your aunt wants you straight home from school." Maryanna's voice breaks me from my thoughts and I transfer my attention from the sidewalk where a girl from my physics class is walking with a group of friends.

"Oh." I answer. "Why?"

She turns into the school parking lot before speaking again and I lose
sight of my classmate.

"Something about showing you a spell."

I nod and grab for the backpack that was sitting at my feet for the car ride. "So I'll see you later then?"

Her soft lips turn in a mischievous smile which is a rare feature on her face and I pause in opening the door. "Actually, I invited Noah to go the beach. Your aunt wants the house empty for your lesson."

I slam the door shut and wave goodbye to Marryanna, wondering what Aunt Amelia is up to. She of all people knows that power is in limited supply during these long months, surely not the time to be teaching me new spells. Usually, my learning takes place during the chilled weeks of a new winter or a sun soaked day in the middle of summer.

As Maryanna drives away her smile is still imprinted into my mind. She is happy with her life and sick on love. Just as I am jealous of her beauty I am now envois of her content. Mermaids are creatures of emotion and yearn to capture the simple pleasures of life in song and art. Maryanna succumbed to love easily, betrayal and hurt never entered her mind as a possibility. Werewolf's react to love the same way, though there mating is much more primal. They show love through bark and bite, not the pure, soft kind of love that is born from the sea.

I walk through locker hall C to get to my first class and pass a couple sharing a brief kiss before the bell will break them apart. Love is the closest humans have gotten to magic, but even still it is a perverted form of the true nature of the thing. The lips of the boy who is kissing the girl knew the taste of another's last night. And though they are still inexperienced in life, even the youngest of the witches and vampires knows that love is too potent and pure to be treated with such flippancy as it is on the stage of High School.

*~*~*~*

The bus ride home drags slowly by. I keep myself occupied by watching the scenery change outside the dirt stained window. It's noisy and I wish I had access to the kind of power that would allow me to mute the world. Instead I am subject to the constant yelling and gossip of those around me. When we finally pull up to my stop I exit quickly with a few other humans. Only two of them continue to chatter, but they break off down a different street soon after. It's quite now with only the sound of footsteps to break the natural reticence. Humanity has a way of disrupting a spell of silence whenever it is cast, choosing to voice their thoughts then keep their inner reflections private.

The day is serene and I can feel the power around me growing. I know already the summer will be stronger then normal this year with the abundant amount of unusable magic that is present in the air. In time it will blossom, and soon I won't have to worry about overexerting myself with a simple spell.

I jump the steps up to the front door and slowly creep in. The house is still around me and I feel uncomfortable as I intrude upon the silence. Aunt Amelia has an eye for the finer things of human life and so indulges often. The walls are decorated with pieces of rare and foreign art that have been shipped from all over the world. Some have mystical meaning such as the statue that sits beside the living room door. It symbolizes the God of Harvest, a deity from long ago. I remember asking Aunt Amelia if she revered the idol and she responded with a harsh bark of laughter. Only those who cannot feel the threads of magic that bind together the earth look toward religion for a reason for existence.

The downstairs is dark, Maryanna only opened the blinds in the living room and so the bulk of the floor is drenched in darkness. I walk slowly through the main hall and notice a thin strip of light from the kitchen door. Anxious for what Aunt Amelia has planned for today I push the door open to see her sitting at the table, flipping through a large book. Her eyes scan the text in interest but I know that she has noticed my entrance.

"Sophia, take a seat please." She tells me without looking up.

I walk over and pull a chair out from under the table. Before sitting I look around and notice a large pot boiling on the stove. Different herbs are laid out on the counter I recognized some as basil and thyme. Beside them is a stack of ancient books whose dusty covers keep their names hidden from me.

Moments bleed into minutes and I grow impatient watching my aunt flip the cracked pages of an ancient text. Just as I'm about to suggest I go to my room and start my homework Aunt Amelia shuts the book and turns her attention toward me. Her brown hair has aged into gray and is pulled into a tight bun. Green eyes study me as I cast my gaze to the floor.

"I think it's about time I showed you something." She finally says and stands from her seat. I follow her with my eyes as she walks toward the stove and lowers the flames under the pot. The fire cools from blue to orange and she lifts the lid to reveal bubbling water. I bring myself to my feet and go over to the other side of the counter where I can examine this demonstration more closely. I've leaned from Aunt Amelia before and she doesn't like to repeat herself. I study the materials in front of me and try to come to a conclusion about what this is going to be about.

From the assortment of herbs she places a stalk of rosemary on the cutting board and looks at me. "You know the significance of this." She states the comment but expects me to answer anyway.

"It makes people forget things." I recite for her.

She nods her approval and drops three stalks of the herb into the simmering pot. The greens sink, resting at the metal bottom.

I've never used rosemary before. The herb can be extremely dangerous considering the types of potions in which it's an ingredient. Aunt Amelia uses it often because her job is to erase any knowledge a human might have of witches or preternatural beings. This sudden exposure to heavy magic makes my throat grow dry and I swallow hard.

She opens a drawer and slides a knife out from the rack. The suns rays stream in through an open window and reflect off of the stainless blade. "You're correct in that rosemary is used to wipe clean an unwanted memory, but the same herb that takes it away can bring it back as well."

I've heard this reasoning before, but from an unreliable source. It's interesting to know that it's true.

"Memories are permanent; the mind just forgets where they are at times. They are apart of you, but sometimes the past isn't necessary to go on with your life." She pauses and examines my countenance. Her exposition has left me in the dark so I don't know why she's trying to find emotion in my placid features. She's said nothing to affect me.

At least not yet.

"It's time I returned what is rightfully yours." She breathes out in a long sigh.

I bite my lower lip and wait for her to continue.

"You were no younger then four when your parents died. You watched their blood spill and I couldn't let you live with that burden. You wouldn't speak or even cry. I had to do something."

It isn't hard to pull together the story from her sketchy explanation. It was the truth that I had been there when my parents were killed but I had never been able to recall it. Blaming my youth and fear for the lack of memory I never thought twice about why I couldn't remember it.

Now I knew.

I wasn't angry with my Aunt who stood nervously across from me. She had been justified to do what she had. And she's right; I would have ended up as a scarred and damaged child.

"Do you want to remember?"

I nod and watch her throw a pinch of thyme into the pot. "True to its namesake, thyme can help one look to the future or back toward the past." She clarifies and then picks up the first book off the stack. Flipping to a marked page she reads aloud the word in an alien tongue I've only heard a few times before.

"Give me your hand Sophia." She tells me, grasping the knife in her own.

Shaking, I hold out my arm and she grabs my wrist, turning it so my palm faces her. In a quick and practiced motion she presses the metal to my skin and makes a cut deep enough to seep red.

Blood is one of the most powerful mediums of magic and I watched in awe as my own drips from my palm into the water.

Aunt Amelia lets go of my wrist the moment enough blood had splashed in the pot. She hands me a white rag which I press to the cut to stop the flow. Her attention quickly turns back toward the text and she continues the spell in the same language.

I watched in fascination as my blood swirls with the water until the clear liquid becomes muddied with red. The rosemary and thyme fall apart as Aunt Amelia ends the spell. She instructs me to observe the pot and then leaves the kitchen leaving me alone with a forgotten memory.

It begins with the darker parts of the liquid morphing into shapes that resembled humans. An environment that could have been a park or shopping mall manifests itself around the figures. Everything is constantly moving as the objects became more defined and recognizable. The two humans are a man and women and the setting is a grocery store. I know this half from the cashier lines and my previous knowledge that is where my parent's death had taken place. Everything seems to be from an upwards angle at my mothers side. I had been a small child and constantly having to gaze up at the world.

From one of the aisles another figure appears. This one was darker then the rest and obviously holding a gun. Fear races through my veins and a picture of the mans face materializes in my mind. He raises the gun at my father and anger contortes his features.

"I know what you are!" He shrieks and I can hear it clearly in my mind. "You filthy heathens! You're the problem, you're the god damn reason!" And suddenly, but slowly as well because time doesn't move at a normal speed at moments like this, the gun fires and my father sinks to his knees, howling in pain. In an effort to protect me my mother moves forward but there is another crack of the gun and she falls to the ground, still as death.

And then there's gleeful laughter from the man that rings in my ears even as the images melt back into rust colored water. I have to blink a few times to clear my vision. Without the energy to move I direct my gaze away from the pot and try to breathe in deep.

Some memories are forgotten because we need to move on, but sometimes the only way to move on is to remember them.