Everywhere he turned, there was more whispering. It was either about the loss of his parents or his coming of age ceremony. Both strands of gossip followed him wherever he went. Now that Rilo was dead, he was going to be the only eligible male within their group.
For Alarn, that meant even more restrictions.
There would be no leaving their river sanctuary unless his powers were needed on the battlefield. It was the only time male nymphs ever emerged from the sanctuary. With the exception of Selkies, all the races of Persea were female dominated. Males were rare and hidden away from the other races like treasure. It wasn’t uncommon that males were taken hostage in times of war, which made his father’s death in battle all the more disturbing.
Unable to take any more whispers, he shouldered his way through towards his own room. It was an honor and for once, he was glad to have his own space. Nobody would bother him there until the ceremony at least.
But even the water in his room felt cold and empty. There was no one left that treated him as anything but a tool, a means to an end. Mortals only had stories of the female nymphs because only the females were allowed to leave the sanctuary and further than that, leave Persea to the mortal plane.
It didn’t matter that he was the strongest out of them all, able to create illusions that could fool even the best of the other nymphs. He was their ticket to ensure that they remained strong and were able to add more Nymphs. Flings with humans or the Gods led to unpredictable offspring; humans, demigods, maybe a nymph or two. It wasn’t easy to guess.
All he wished for was the freedom to go out, to explore. The trips that his mother used to take him on to the surface to teach him about the world beyond their river had fed his curiosity and expanded his knowledge. But at the same time, he had no desire to leave his people forever. They did need him.
A knock against the opening that led to his room drew him out of his dark thoughts of his purpose and the possibility of escape. Running a hand through his hair, his gaze darkened as it landed on his grandmother. They had never really seen eye to eye on anything and he couldn’t believe that she’d decide to visit now of all times.
Unlike the rest of them though, she was family and she was all the family that he had left. That one little nugget of attachment was all that kept him from sending her away so that he could brood in peace.
His gaze followed her as she moved across the room and sank down onto his bed. Like many of the others, Mideia looked ageless and beautiful. Nothing about her gave away her true age, at least, not to anyone who knew her by mere acquaintance. Alarn knew she was over a hundred and getting close to the age of a natural death because of the way she moved.
No longer was his grandmother a fearful force in the water, she had lost much of the grace that he remembered from his childhood. She knew it too and because of it, did not go to the surface or the mortal world anymore. Instead, she took up the mantle of watching the young and schooling them in their magic.
“Come sit with me Alarn,” her voice was clouded with an emotion that he had never heard from her mouth. She was always the stern rock, drilling into him the duties and rules that he was expected to follow. It finally occurred to him then that he wasn’t the only one that had suffered a loss. Mideia had lost a daughter, not her only one by far, but the only one that she had any contact with.
Silently, he moved from the corner of his room where he had perched himself so that he could look out into open water and sat down next her. He didn’t really know what to say to her and she didn’t seem to know what to say either. In fact, she was fiddling with something and whatever it was, it had her full attention.
“What is that?” After three minutes of awkward silence and her continuing to fiddle with the item in her hands, Alarn couldn’t take it anymore. It was not the way his interactions with his grandmother usually went. These conversations usually included quite a bit more yelling and glaring and a hell of a lot more tension.
“You remind me so much of her at that age,” That wasn’t exactly what he was expecting and it was enough to stop the thoughts in his head in their tracks. He couldn’t even begin to form words when she held out a single earring. There was a shining black pearl hanging from a gleaming peace of curved bone. “It’s hers. We couldn’t find Rilo for a matching pair but I thought you’d still like to have this.”
Silently, he nodded and reached up to remove the earring from his right ear. His father had pierced his ears years before as part of a ceremony after his first kill and it was as good as he was going to get. After it was out, he let his grandmother put the earring in.
“Do not forget all that she did for you Alarn, you were her pride and joy.” Mideia spoke softly, running a hand over his hair. The fiery hair was all that he shared with his mother and grandmother.
“I won’t,” He assured her, reaching up to touch the earring gently. Young nymphs were gifted a piece of jewelry, usually a necklace, made of their mother’s bones as way of remembering them and everything they did to give them life. Both of his parents were nymph so he should’ve been gifted two earrings but he’d take just the one for now.
As his grandmother pressed a kiss into his forehead and left, he tried to push away the feelings of grief. With this, he was only supposed to remember the good and everything his parents did. Still, the longing for freedom from his caged life didn’t leave him but with it grew resentment towards the ones that had turned his life upside down. One day, he’d find his freedom and then he’d seek out his revenge. He’d carve his matching earring out of a Siren bone since they destroyed his father’s body.
Alarn’s eyes glinted darkly as he glanced towards the surface where he could see the sun. He’d carve the earring, slowly, out of a live Siren. It’d be fair.
Another Alarn piece! 😀
Next Creature: Naiad