Today-s response to the Daily Post prompt
Grandmother Ida chewed pensively on her quill, spitting feathers quite literally as she attempted to compose her letter to Grand Mistress Abigail. She knew her time amongst those of Green Lake would end soon and had already received her scroll of invitation, assuring her of a place at the Great Congress in Magehaven, but she simply wasn’t ready. She dipped and re-dipped the nib in ink, started, discarded and restarted the letter, went outside to feed the geese and ducks, mixed up a batch of healroot for old man Barney’s rheumatics, remade a bed that was already perfect and finally flumped back into the chair by her work desk.
“If it doesn’t suit, so be it.” She muttered into the silent air of her cottage, and set nib to parchment.
Hail, Grand Mistress,
I accept with humble gratitude the offered position of High Lady of the Great Congress and acknowledge the tribute to my work at Green Lake village. I shall take up the post with great joy, seeing it as the pinnacle in my service to the Great Lady whom we serve.
However, it is with some trepidation that I ask for a delay in returning to Magehaven. I know and understand that this decision may cost me my position, and has not happened to my predecessors in living memory. I feel I must make a stand, not for myself, but for the sake of the village and all it stands for.
Mistress Abigail, I beg you to understand, things are not as they were in the mortal world. Time passes slowly for we who have the touch of immortality, but these humans move fleet of foot through that same time. Their ways have changed greatly, not only in their ability to use sciences for matters in which they once turned to us, to our powers, but also in their numbers. They do not proliferate in such great numbers as was once the case. It is this factor, above all others which has led me to this unprecedented decision.
I need time to find and train the next Grandmother. It becomes ever more difficult to find a mortal with enough of the touch to train. Once we could take our pick from dozens of girls in many villages, but no longer. In forty years I have found but three with any trace of the touch. Two are gone, one to marry far away, the other to the winter cough of last year. The remaining girl is stronger in the touch than any I have encountered since the days when it was common, but I ask again for time.
She is but three years old. Her mother has given her some understanding of the fae world, and she has a life guardian, a favour from the pixies for a kindness her mother did them. She is too young for me to leave behind, untrained, and the mother has no trace of touch to leave her in her care with any hope that the child will one day fill the post of wise woman. I must be here, Abigail, I must. Grant me a decade; that is all I ask. A decade to train this child who is so bright, brimming with untapped potential, a hope for the future of the village and of the union between mortal and fae.
I go now to the lake to send this missive, and there I will wait until your reply comes.
With greatest respect and small hope
Ida rolled up the parchment, sealed the roll with ribbon and her wax stamp, then tucked it into her apron pocket. Gathering a thick woollen shawl about herself, she stepped into the gentle chill of an autumn evening, her solid leather boots kicking through the dry, brittle fallen leaves which carpeted the rutted cart track leading to Green Lake. Reaching the shore, Ida curved left and slipped into a stand of silver birches, weaving her way until she came to a clearing which gave onto a smooth stone path leading directly into the still emerald waters of the lake.
Ida stood, the water puddling around her booted toes, sending up a prayer to the Great Lady for a favourable outcome, for the chance to aid everyone who lived in that special place, and then she drew her arm back and pitched the scroll toward the centre of the lake. As it arched and dipped, about to hit the surface an ethereal arm, a thing of mists and smokes, pierced the water’s surface, grasped the scroll and disappeared beneath the emerald shimmers once more. Ida settled on a tree stump, prepared for a long wait.
As dawn began to tint the sky with palest gold, Ida watched the ghost of an arm break the surface once more. She was puzzled when the scroll did not detach and float toward her, as was usual, but a moment later she understood why. Clamping a hand over her mouth to prevent any sound escaping which might cause a distraction, Ida’s heart thumped rapidly in her chest. Rosa skipped merrily across the lake surface causing barely a ripple. Giggling with delight, she took the scroll, dipped a childlike bow to the hand and then skipped back to where Ida waited on the shore. Ida’s hands shook so badly she almost dropped the answer she had waited all night for. Rosa grinned up at her;
“Is it important? I guess it must be for the lady to sit in the lake all night to give it back.”
Ida couldn’t quite get her head around words, stunned as she was by a toddler performing tricks it hadn’t taken Ida years to perfect, but she managed a smile and a nod.
“Are you going to open it then?”
Ida broke the seal and unrolled the parchment, noting Abigail’s eagle seal header. There was one line of text:
‘I think that little performance just earned you a decade, maybe more. Abigail.’
Damn woman and her farsight; she’d probably been watching Rosa for months! She could have saved Ida a night in the cold, but she guessed that was Abigail’s mild reproof for Ida having the temerity to hold out on a position others would kill for. For now, Ida took Rosa’s hand and started walking back to the village.
“Let’s go and have breakfast with your mother, child.”