By Stewart Alasdair MacDonald


A Mother's Tale

Tristin searched like a man possessed for his wife. His eyes were wild and frantic. Only she could address this issue... And she was nowhere to be found. He burst from the back door. Surely he had seen her out here earlier, collecting the clothing off of the back line! He was wrong. The laundry basket lay beside the door, all clothes neatly folded and piled. So where in Gods name? He was aware of a few hotel patrons looking down at him from their balconies, quite amused to see one of the proprietors in such distress.

His heart was uneasy, though he knew this was irrational. Perhaps it was the story that now caused this unease, and it's terrible introduction. His reasonless worries were cast aside, however, as at long last he caught sight of his love.

Maeve sat alone in the branches of the tallest ek tree, the trailings of her turquoise dress fluttering in the summer breeze. He could only vaguely see her, as the sunset shone it's dying rays directly into his eyes, and for a moment he wondered how she had gone up there, before he saw the step-ladder. Rather than yell for her, he decided to join her. "You really shouldn't leave them alone like that." Maeve Terit-Ambrose smirked, her eyes not leaving the sunset over Aeth as he expertly clambered the ladder, mounted the branch and slid an arm around her waist. "You want the hotel burned down?"

Tristan exhaled between his teeth in mock frustration and thumped his head against the tree. Maeve laughed, a sound as beautiful as it was bad at concealing the melancholy in her voice. "Rayelle is 13 now, my light, and Kile is a peaceful child, though he most certainly should be in bed by now!" Tristan roared the latter part back at the hotel, causing a goblin couple smoking upon the back patio to chuckle and shake their heads. Maeve laughed, burying her face in his neck, and he diverted his attention back to her. "What troubles you?"

"Things long gone." Maeve sighed, and looked up at him, her eyes a beautiful ocean of light brown. "The reason Kile has driven you out here. The great story which began where our hotel now stands."

Tristan nodded, not entirely surprised. He was becoming accustomed to Maeve's gifts. He much preferred this predicting as opposed to her speaking with those departed to Worlds Beyond. "He wants the story, light. Not only am I unsure of whether or not he is ready, none tell it like you. Rayelle bragged too much about being told of it for him to be satisfied with waiting."

She was silent after this, and Tristan respectfully shared her silence. "I think he is ready to hear it, at least. Whether he understands or not is up to him." She slid off the branch and landed on the ground, absorbing the shock perfectly. Tristan followed suit, though he chose the slower, safer method. "I still remember the night I saw Zeck. I saved his life. He told me that before his spirit left this world."

"Aye." Tristan smiled as he joined her. "I remember my own encounter with him. Though thats probably because Mere and Pere scarcely shut the blood up about it." He squared his thin shoulders and puffed out his chest, doing a brilliant impression of his elderly father. "'Oh yes! I traversed the Wastelands with him and rescued him from countless perils! And if not for the saintly cooking of your Mere, he'd be dragon meat and his story lost to the winds!'" He then switched to a high falsetto of his Mere. "'Oh, Gods, Jared! You flatter me so!'"

Maeve laughed, and this time it was genuine. "You would've remembered anyways. You cannot deny." She sauntered ahead of him, looking back over the soft, cream skin of her bare shoulders, and he only smiled. He didn't need to speak for her to hear his response.

Of course. They stopped outside their sons room, and he kissed her, treasuring the warmth of her skin and the taste of her mouth as though he would never touch her again. Another product of Zeck's tale, he imagined. "I will leave you two. I've heard this story enough times, and every time I cry like an infant." He rested his forehead against her own. "Goodnight, my blinding light. My very reason for sight." He grinned, quite proud of himself.

"Oh Tristan. I love you just as dearly, but should you ever attempt to be a poet, I will slay you." She giggled, quite believably, but he read the sadness that was born inside her whenever she recounted the story. He left her to her task and moved upstairs to await her.

Kile was sitting up as she entered, staring out at the sunset through his window. She supposed she could've gotten away with not telling him, the way he was entranced with the Terran skyline. "They say the sun was Medleose's gift of love for her son Alphus. Bringing life and warmth to the world, and as it falls... It creates the very picture of their love, every night reminding him that there is no beauty like that made from the heart."

He looked at her, and grinned. The open, and innocent grin of a child. Kile's love for his mother was conveyed to her not only through that smile, but in the resonant glow of his mind. "Is that true, Mere?" He asked, already knowing her reply.

"Could anything but love paint such a picture?" She smiled, and then sighed, surprising him, not only with her response, but with her grimness, which had blossomed from seemingly nowhere. She sensed his concern, and looked back towards him. "My love, I want to ask you if you are sure about hearing this tonight. You are 10 years alive. Your sister only heard this story two weeks ago, and she is your elder by three years."

He had been very excited about this, sure he would get the story tonight, but now that he saw his mother's eyes... "Yes Mere." He almost whispered. Of course he still wanted to hear. What child would he be if he didn't? But he was now assured that this was no ordinary bedtime story. Not like the story of Drazura fighting the Armoroka Crushlord single-handedly, or Otharg ending the Compass Wars, a story with four different endings, depending on which part of Terras you were in to hear it.

"Very well." Maeve said simply. "Before I tell you this story, Kile, you must know that love can paint many different pictures. It can paint the one you see outside, now, so beautiful and carefree that it steals your very breath at it's sight... But it can paint other pictures. Pictures that are wrought with tragedy and hardship, painted in blood and tears. These pictures are still beautiful, my child, but they are beautiful in ways that our sunset can never be. Do you understand what I am telling you?" Maeve sat upon the end of his bed, and folded her hands in her lap, regarding Kile with eyes that she had not looked upon him with yet. As she would look upon a fellow adult.

Kile thought he did, and so he nodded. She closed her eyes and sighed. "Indeed you do. Know then, that in these pictures, there are things that happen that should never happen to anyone. There are times you may want me to stop telling you this story, my son, but you must also know that without these terrible things, the true beauty of this tale could never be achieved. If they truly do disturb you, then stop me, and we will tell the story another night."

"I'll be brave, Mere. I won't stop you." He promised.

"That is what I was afraid of." She laughed softly, and began her story.