Series: Blind Glory
Disclaimer: characters property of Software Sculpters etc.
Warnings: pre-series AU, eventual shonen-ai
Notes: If I don't start posting this now...
The Blind Glory arc is archived here.
Feedback: would be really, really nice. I'm prouder of this one.
Nature's first green is gold; her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower, but only for an hour,
Then leaf subsides to leaf: so Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
In summer's last sigh before winter, between midnight and dawn, he was born. Blue and silent, the birth caul plastering his gasping mouth, he hung red-streaked in the placenta’s coils. No comets burst overhead that night, no two-headed calves were born. The barn of the nearest house was covered with arcane scrawlings overnight, but it wasn’t uncommon for dire portents of that nature to manifest on bright-mooned nights. Anyway, it was just sidewalk chalk; parents knew better than to let little portent-makers near the paint.
Here was the Solemnity of Laughing Radiance, rural near-neighbor to the Serenity of Radiant Grace. That great city, it trickled down to them, had begun in recent decades to referring to itself as Seragrace, and to them as Solara. They had been accustomed to calling themselves Radiance and their neighbor Serenity, but it was their custom to humbly submit to the Serenity’s notions and its fashions. After all, when such an exquisite and efficient city as Seragrace spoke, a rural township like Solara could usually learn something, if it attended carefully and didn’t neglect the crops.
That Seragracian dialect had slowly become, over the last century or so, effectively incomprehensible to outsiders, and its speakers could communicate in a few words what would have taken a Solaran as many sentences. Seragrace’s elegant fashions were beyond compare, unless one’s taste ran to the bold and byzantine—two specialties of the faraway Sanctity of Loving Nurture, distant SaoLon. It was even rumored that there were, in Seragrace, ordinary people--commoners!-- who made their living merely by thinking deep thoughts. About truth and the soul and things like that, even; nothing useful.
More to the point, magic common in the city was beyond Solaran comprehension. Being mainly agriculturalists, the area’s gifted tended to content themselves with shamanism; useful, elemental magic. They lit fires, called water and wind, flew, and dug holes as daily life demanded. The magic of the gods wasn’t of much interest to those who hadn’t recently nicked themselves with rusty shears.
For this reason, the child’s disability wasn't discovered until sunrise. The midwife’s dim candles didn’t distress the boy unduly, but when the first touch of the warm sun on his long lashes stroked his eyes open on that crisp autumn morning, betrayal distorted his perfectly lumpy baby-face. His placid lips flew into a raging crimson rectangle, and he screamed loud enough to wake his new neighbors for miles all around.
This would have been a more portentous feat if Solara been less an echoing place, made up of two valleys and their skirting mountains as it was, but it was at least effective. The entire town knew before noon that young Shaeriel Greyweir up on Sweet Pine Hill had been delivered of a child with two fully functional lungs, although they had to wait until her husband came around that afternoon with the traditional lucky sachets to find out its gender. They didn't have to wait to find out that the child would be a magic-user, though; along with the scream had come the dancing orange light of Mr. Greyweir's prize plum tree bursting into flames.
It was generally agreed that Mr. Greyweir was a very fortunate man: not only was he now the proud father of a fine, healthy son, but the plums had already been harvested.
“Three and a half out of four—not bad at all,” Taro Greyweir commented. It was true: the baby was certainly fair to look on, finely made and decidedly male, but although he was strong enough, he wasn’t healthy in the way that people mean babies to be healthy. From that first touch of sunlight until the hour of his death, Resurrection Greyweir’s eyes were immutably sealed shut.
It was a pity, Rezo’s mother sighed once or twice. She reconciled herself without much trauma to a blind son; the pregnancy had been difficult and she was grateful to have any child at all, but she did regret never seeing his eyes. They were, according to her husband, who had been nearly deafened by the outraged howling in his ear, not baby-blue at all, but an attractive lavender-grey.
When he was three, and his parents had gotten used to things falling off shelves in empty rooms and setting themselves on fire, his mother happened upon a wanderer-priest of the Dragon having a drink in the pub on his way to Seragrace. Not being one to miss an opportunity, she dragged him bodily up their mountain, on the good tourist-path carpeted with spring-soft evergreen needles to give traction on the ice. She lent him her own scarf and explained her difficulty the whole way, without pause for breath. The priest seemed willing enough to be dragged, and when she, at the most difficult stretch, strategically changed the subject to hot mulled cider and the stew she’d set to simmering and the berry cake she’d mixed up that morning and put in the icebox, ready to be popped into the stove, the man became positively eager.
They fed him first, cheerfully watching as he demolished the stew that was to have lasted them all week, promised him the cake for after the examination, and suffered through his conciliatory compliments patiently. After all, the more time he spent thinking up new ways to say ‘rustic,’ the longer he wasn’t asking what exactly the meat was. City folk, Solarans had noted with puzzlement long ago, often had this unreasonable prejudice against mountain goat.
Their guest was a tall man, nearly as tall as Mrs. Greyweir, and towering over her diminutive husband, and was, furthermore, blessed with more hair than either of them had ever seen on one person. It pelted his arms, peeked out from under the collar of his ice-blue robes, and exploded from above and even under his thick lips.
In the Lyzeille area, where tilted, folded eyes and brown and black and plum-frost hair was the norm, where moustaches were carefully scraped together and three hairs out of a facial mole were considered a sign of extraordinary strength and wisdom (except in Seragrace proper, where even the ability to grow facial or body hair was considered distasteful and a little barbaric), this man was a phenomenon. Mr. Greyweir was one of those who had something to shave and would do so for modesty’s sake until his hair grayed, but even to him the priest’s bristling black shocks were intimidating. It was just as well their son’s difficulty was with his eyes, they agreed in silent glances, or he might have been frightened.
He didn't seem inclined to be frightened, although he started a little at the man’s deep, harsh, voice.
He had grown into a quiet, thoughtful child. Two years of words poured into delicate, shell-like baby ears had been met with gurgles that subsided into a placid silence. Finally, in desperation at the thought of a child not only blind but mute, his mother had begged him to please say ‘mama’ for Mama. Puzzled but agreeable, he had complied at once.
He was a good boy, his parents had no qualms about that. There had been poltergeist activity since shortly after his birth, but he’d cleaned up after it, ineffectively but without prompting, from the moment his chubby hands could grasp a rag.
Now he sat where he was told, tilted his head with its sleek fall of red-plum hair as he was directed, bowed his head politely in the direction his father’s gentle hands turned him, said nothing, and would not open his eyes. When the priest finally decided that coaxing just wasn’t going to work, he tried to pry one of the boy’s lids open with an enormous, calloused, thumb. He tried for long minutes, in spite of the child’s stiff fear. Finally he had to resort to a diagnostic spell, which burned bright to the three year old’s terrified, agonized howls. The parents clutched each other, bit through their lips, and prayed that their son would forgive them.
When it was over, he ran unerringly to his mother to be scooped up high, held and caressed against her tall, broad shoulder, weeping more like a broken man than a vexed child.
“You won’t be doing that again, will you?” Mr. Greyweir asked. It was only nominally a question.
“No,” the priest assured him. “I saw well enough.”
“Can you fix his eyes?” Mrs. Greyweir asked, anxious.
The priest shrugged. “There’s nothing to fix.” He grinned briefly at their slack-jawed astonishment, baring strong teeth that were only a little yellow. “Really. There’s nothing wrong with his eyes. Probably light-sensitive, that’s all, and not surprising with fair skin like that. I expect he sunburns easily?”
“We don’t know,” Mr. Greyweir confessed. “He won’t leave the house unless it’s dark.” He pitched fits of bonfire proportions when they tried to make him, in fact, but that was none of the priest’s business, and he was good as silver the rest of the time.
The priest nodded his black bushy head, satisfied. “There are lotions against sunburn, and dark glasses will shield his eyes well enough. Get him those. Tell him about color, and beauty. He may come around, sooner or later, if you can get him to want to.”
The grim work done and the child calmed, they sat down with the berry cake and relaxed a little. The priest, pressed for the nature of his journey, told them that his wife in the city, a cook in the King’s castle, would be giving birth in the spring or summer. He called the city Serenity, marking himself, as if his size and hair hadn’t been enough, as a native of SaoLon; the Sanctity of Loving Nurture had it's own notions and fashions, and didn't use Seragrace's city cant.
“That’s wonderful!” Mrs. Greyweir exclaimed warmly.
“You’d think so,” he returned with a grim smile, his bristling moustache contracting. “But it’s a six-month journey from Sanctity without a carpet.”
“Oh,” Mr. Greyweir said, sympathetic without empathy, not even thinking to be smug about the faithfulness of his own wife. Infidelity was something that, he had heard rumored, happened to other people. This revelation, he felt, accounted for the stiff set of his guest’s enormous shoulders. Such a world-shaking alteration in the state of the universe would certainly be upsetting. “Oh, dear. What will you do?”
The priest shrugged. “Track down the noble responsible and put him in mortal terror of his immortal soul, I suppose. I doubt it was her fault. Besides, it’s not as if this one’s going to be my heir; my wife and I have our own children.” He smiled, then, bearing large teeth again, and began to speak with enthusiasm about his progeny and his plans for them. They began to feel that he was a hard man, this priest of the Dragon’s Breath, although reasonable in the matter of his wife.
When the cake was consumed and he set off on his way down the mountain in the midafternoon sun, it was not without guilt. He hadn’t lied to them, exactly; the boy’s retinas were perfect. His sin had been one of omission. Although he had been able to detect no physical cause, it was a fact, and one that he would not have told them under any circumstances, that the boy’s pupils had shown themselves wide and uncontracted to his spell, even when the rest of him had reacted so violently to the light.
He thought he had ‘seen’ a hint of sullen, crimson glow, buried deep in the boy’s brain; thought he’d seen the flickering light of what could almost have been a delicate array sealed deep into the bone between his sockets. Most likely it had been his imagination, and even if it hadn’t been, he couldn’t explain it. He was of the Breath, no philosopher or great thaumatologist. His healing skills were field magic, and his business was only the spread of faith and the carriage of news and messages.
He wondered, as he trudged down their mountain, whether hope and slow resignation, that defeat of despair, were worth a little falsehood. Of course they were, he reassured himself staunchly. After all, his wife had decided to be honest with him instead of just keeping her silence and putting the little bastard up for adoption, and she always was a wrongheaded ninny. She had certainly done the wrong thing this time. The sullen anger building in him was most inappropriate for a priest of the Water Dragon God, and he didn’t like it in the least. What he liked least of all was that he couldn't make it leave him.