I promised to finish this and the prompt today reminded me of that promise. So here is the full tale of Brack, Kate and Rosa, at least for now *wink*
The image of Brack came from here, and this is pretty much how he looks in my head.
Brack poled his craft slowly over the surface of Green Lake, barely causing a ripple in the calm, emerald waters. He sniffed appreciatively at the damp night air, squinting a little against the pale light of the full moon. He could hear his neighbours, assorted Fae folk, going about their business just beyond the lake shore as his prow bumped against sloping earth. He hopped out, swung his pack over his shoulder and headed into the shrubbery lining the path that lead from the village to the shore.
His slender, almost wizened frame, topped by an outsized head and huge ears, loped along a path beaten permanent by countless generations of elves, pixies, fairies, gnomes, trolls, and boggis’, Brack’s people. He’d first followed the path, tagging behind the grumpy coat-tails of Gramps Boden, struck dumb with awe on stepping into the hustle and bustle of the night market. It could still have the same effect on Brack, two centuries later. It did now, and he paused, a one-sided smile crossing his usually grumpy features – had he thought about it, he’d have seen the resemblance to Gramps Boden.
Stalls filled every nook and cranny, nestled between the tangled roots of ancient oaks and beeches. Fireflies hovered in helpful little groups above each stall, lighting the way for sellers and buyers alike. The market was an explosion of sound, colour and smell. From delicately woven fairy fabrics, via ironwork weapons and armour crafted by gnomes, to delicious, enticing scents of trollish cookery, if a Fae needed something, they would be sure to find it at the night market. If not, it could be ordered.
Brack hoisted his pack a little higher and began to thread his way through the throng, heading into the gnomish quarter. He had many items to sell, their strange angles digging into his back as the pack bounced with each stride. At dawn and dusk Brack could be found threading his way amongst the tall grasses and reeds of the lake shore. Most Green Lake humans were careful not to litter the land which fed and clothed them, but outcomers trekked to the lake regularly, fishermen who spoke of the wealth of lake fish and children who came to swim in the emerald waters. Those folk could be trusted to leave something behind other than their tracks.
Brack collected metal. Long ago, before Gramps headed out to Bracken Falls – where all elderly Boggis went to pass their final years – he’d taken Brack aside.
“Lad, you’ll be a guardian one day, as all Boggis must. Til then you has to earn ya keep. I’m off now. I teached ya all I could, and I give ya this as me parting. Guard it well an’ it’ll see ya right. Jus’ ‘old it ‘gainst human stuffs and you’ll know what’s metal and what’s nae metal.”
He’d pressed a small, horseshoe-shaped item into Brack’s hand, hefted his pack a little higher on his back and walked into the twilight. Brack had never seen him again, but he’d treasured the small blue horseshoe thing which stuck to anything metal. It had turned Brack into a fought over guest in the gnomish quarter where metal made weapons, and Brack brought the most as well as the best.
He sauntered into the spreading circle of roots beneath an ancient oak, pretending to be occupied with adjusting his pack, but waiting. They came at speed and many muttered imprecations against the family heritage of Master Steamsteel who hurtled to a stop in front of Brack and grasped his hand in a grip as well forged as his weapons.
“What h’an h’unexpected pleasure, Sir Brack. Please, please, h’allow me to h’offer you some acorn tea, straight from the trollish gardens in Densfield, I swear.”
Brack allowed himself to be steered to the stall and forge of Steamsteel. He didn’t mind dealing with gnomes, but their tendency to put on airs and graces, as well as h’s where they didn’t belong, became wearing very fast. Toasting his feet against the forge grate, seated on Steamsteel’s own stool, Brack sipped the delicate tea. Although it was a sort after commodity, he didn’t understand the appeal, and rather wished it were some of Madame Kizi’s bramble root beer which he could see being served across the market at her tent in the troll quarter.
Brack was weary and decided not to prevaricate, rather surprising Steamsteel when his guest simply upended his pack, allowed a pile of precious metal items to heap at his feet and waved a hand at them.
“You know me, Steamsteel, it’s all good. How much, and don’t barter. I want to be away to my bed.”
Steamsteel started to puff himself full of self-importance and disbelief at Brack’s desire to avoid the usual hour of dealing and drinking, but something hard glinted in the boggis’ eyes and he backed down, offered a good price and Brack was on his way. He passed Madame Kizi’s and was sorely tempted to join a couple of his people who were propping up the bar with foaming jars of beer, but he knew he had a long day on the morrow. Mistress Kate’s babe was due any day and he had to be ready.
Brack had barely closed his front door – a well concealed entrance carved from the living bark of a willow, consent given by the tree’s spirit, Nirida – when a vibrant purple light flashed in his eyes. The fairy ability to appear wherever they wanted and announce their presence with their birth colour drove Brack distracted but he held his temper.
“Lady Briar, you have news?” Brack managed polite, the annoying creature was royalty after all.
“Mistress Kate bore a daughter not one hour since. I will take you.”
It was no use. Brack barely managed to grab the small, leaf-wrapped bundle from his dresser before he was enveloped in rushing air and blinding silver sparkles – fairy travel was ridiculously fast and far too showy for Brack, always leaving him with a headache and spots in his vision. He was deposited outside the home of Mistress Kate, Lady Briar vanishing without a word.
“And just how am I supposed to get home, you ridiculous creature?” Brack grumbled, sidling carefully around the house until he was under the bedroom window. He nearly fell into the water butt he was climbing on for a better view when a voice tinkled at his ear; ‘Call me when you are ready, Grumpy”. He tightened his grip on the sill, swallowed the many curses he wished to hurl after the fairy and peered in the window.
A candle burned by the low wooden bed, flickering in the slight breeze from the open window. Buried under snowy white blankets and a rich brown fur, Mistress Kate lay with her eyes closed and her babe wrapped securely to her breast. Brack hauled himself over the sill, dropped lightly to the floor and crept across the wooden boards, begging the gods to quiet any creaks. It didn’t work. As Brack reached the bed, Kate opened her eyes and looked down, smiling.
“Welcome to my home. I am Kate. May I know your name?”
This wasn’t how it was supposed to work and Brack was wrong-footed. He mumbled, fumbling with the parcel in his hands, desperate to just throw it on the bed and run, but he knew his responsibility to the babe this strange woman held. He swept a bow.
“I am Brack, a Boggis, Mistress Kate. I’m to share something with the babe, as the pixies asked.”
“Ah, I wondered what would happen.”
“You put the carving in the babe’s hand?”
“Her name is Rosa. Come.”
Kate reached a hand, aiding Brack onto the pristine counterpane. He felt grubby and out of place, but Kate beamed, unfolded the shawl about Rosa and showed him her chubby, tiny hand gripping the swan carved from a conker. Brack carefully unwrapped his leaf parcel, stepped up to Rosa and gently took her hand in his. He placed an identical swan back to back with the one Rosa held and recited the words Queen Nib had taught him;
“Mortal child, our lives are bound, from journeys start to breathings end. Call my name when dangers abound, I will ever guard, on that you can depend.”
A tiny shimmer of light began at the heart of each swan and slowly grew until it enveloped Brack’s hand and Rosa’s together. When it faded Brack swapped the swans, tucking his into Rosa’s grasp and depositing hers back in the leaf bundle. He slid off the bed, preparing to leave, but Kate called to him.
“Sir Brack? What now? I wish you would stay. I have been given a great gift for Rosa, I know, but I do not understand it.”
Brack turned slowly, shook his head in exasperation and returned to the bed.
“Mistress Kate, I am Rosa’s guardian for life. I will watch over her, keep her safe, and if she should stray into dark places she has but to call my name and I will come to her aid. For now, please, I have to be up at dawn and I am tired. If you will allow, I will return tomorrow and explain further, but I must rest.”
Kate leaned forward, taking Brack by surprise with a swift kiss to his brow.
“Forgive me, Sir Brack. Away to your bed, and you will be welcomed to my home always.”
Brack mumbled mortified thanks and fled, suddenly aware that he was not going to have an easy life from the next dawn into many decades.