by Jennie Ivins
Mela stood on the edge of the massive plateau staring out at the dark horizon. The ground far below appeared flat and even, but the sound of breaking waves in the distance broke the illusion. The sun would soon rise over the water and send its golden light into world once more. Mela would be there to see it.
Mela had to see it.
The icy touch of the last winter wind whipped past her into the ancient forest at her back. The first birds were already awake and gracing the trees with their sweet songs. Mela heard something scurry into a bush at her side, but she didn’t turn to investigate. The sky fey, Sunil, had told her to watch as he left and to continue watching until the first rays of sun breached the surface of the ocean. Mela had been standing rooted to her spot for hours, determined to finish the last task of her former master.
Another gust blew up from the flatlands brushing a tear from her eye and tossing her dark hair about her shoulders. The wind didn’t seem to care that the fey were gone. Neither did the forest or the birds. Mela brushed the wetness from her cheek and added a ragged sigh to the twisting breeze.
“No one cares,” Mela said still staring at the horizon, “that’s why they left. People think they have no use for essence magic; they’d rather rely on technology to save them. But wild, untended magic is a dangerous thing, and the only beings who knew its secrets have finally abandoned humanity. We are lost, and yet the wind continues to blow and the birds continue to sing, as if nothing has changed; as if we can carry on without them.”
Sunil hadn’t told Mela why she must watch the sunrise. He hadn’t told her where the fey were going or what she was to do now that they’d left. Part of her hoped the sun’s light would cut through her body like Sunil’s last words. That the first light of spring would be the last she’d ever see, and that her spirit would stay forever watching the horizon and waiting for the fey to return.
The thought sent a shiver down her spine. Mela shifted her feet and felt the frost covered grass crunch under her boots. It was cold and her mind’s wanderings weren’t helping her repel the icy air. She rubbed her arms to warm herself, but the wind bit through her coat as if trying to thwart her efforts.
The sky was starting to lighten and Mela could just make out the waves of the sea crashing against the sandy shore. She had thought she would be too far off to smell the salt air, but even at this great distance she could hear the rhythmic crashing of the waves and the scent of the ocean drifting up the side of the plateau. It mixed with the deep earthy tones of the forest giving her chosen spot an otherworldly feel. She wanted to close her eyes and take in the sensations without the distraction of the view. But Sunil had given her an order and she could not tarnish his memory by disobeying him. So she waited. Waited for the sun, for spring, waited to complete her final task.
How could she go on without her master? Without the essence? Another tear rolled down her cheek. Her whole life had been learning the balance and understanding the ways of essence and the fey and how to use it to help her people. Now she had nothing. Nothing but the sunrise and the wind.
As if in answer, the air blew straight up the cliff face, startling Mela from her thoughts. She almost looked down, but stopped herself just in time.
“You won’t distract me,” Mela said to the breeze. “You are a trickster, but I won’t be fooled by you. The essence of the wind has no power over me. Go bother someone else!”
One last gust blew past her into the woods and then the wind fell silent. The whole world tensed, as if the forest itself was holding its breath. Then a small bit of the horizon sprung to life and the golden rays of spring’s first sun leapt up from the sea to the sky. The light was blinding and Mela had to concentrate to keep from blinking. She took a single step forward and recited the verse Sunil had taught her.
“The sun has risen from the depths and touched the sea and sky.
And with this I give one last breath and bid the fey goodbye.
We stand alone to keep the day and push away the night.
Grant us one last boon oh sun and bless us with your light.”
With that Mela closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the sun cover her face and chase all traces of winter from the air around her. The warmth was far greater than it should have been. The heat seemed to be coming not from the sun before her but from inside her very being.
She opened her eyes. The world was covered in the glow of magic. The essence floated out of the forest and into the sky twisting about like fish in a brook. Everywhere colors danced and everything alive added its own unique light to the world. Sunil had not abandoned her. He’d given her a parting gift. He’d given her the gift of magic sight.
Mela collapsed to her knees with a great sigh of relief. She would continue in her master’s footsteps and would save her people from the world and themselves. Again she had a purpose, a link to the essence. More importantly she had hope.
Smiling, Mela picked up a dried leaf and let the wind carry it from her hand, watching as the blue-green essence magic blew it off into the distance, over the flatlands to the sea beyond.
Title image by Robert Alexandersen.