From the author of A Shard of the Looking Glass, Prompted and Circumstanced, and the same world as The Knights’ Wishing Well, just in time for Pride month, and the march in New York City, Michael “Fynn” Lange brings you a short story about a young Nymph finding her way in the world, this excerpt from the still unnamed book is titled “Rain at the Well”, enjoy…
Once upon a time in the Land of Rue, long after two knights had wished at an ancient well to become a family, another soul made a similar wish.
The stars hung closer than they had in quite some time. Each once traced its own line across the universe. The moon watched a young girl make her way with only Oxen at her side.
Her feet bare and muddy, twelve rings lined her arm from her wrist to her elbow. She picked a cob of corn off of its long green stalk. The oxen pushed its way through the cornfield, searching for grass and water of its own. The two came upon a clearing.
In the middle of the clearing, an old stone wishing well waited, the same one a dream had shown her.
“Found our bed tonight. Settle in.” She spoke to the oxen. She let loose her pitch black hair which she had been keeping up with a plain yellow cloth.
“Think it would be alright tonight?” She asked. The oxen groaned shaking itself off. She took this answer as a yes. She shook her head and her skin turned from a human pink to the color an oak leaf looks as the sun shines through it. Her veins showed through a bright almost magically luminescent pink.
She sat against the wall of the wishing well.
“I wish we weren’t so alone all the time. No matter where we go we still end up just us.” She said aloud. She yawned, lying down with the Oxen not far. Both fell asleep easily.
The night passed and the sun rose. Rain was deep asleep for the first time in quite a while.
“Told you, told you!” Rain was woken by the noise of a young boy. “See, a new sibling. Right from the wishing well, like me and Reginald” said the boy. In front of her was the boy and two men, one taller than the other, blonde with a thin frame, the second was strong as a bull with dark short hair. By the way, they were dressed she could tell they were knights.
The taller knight placed two fingers on his temple rubbing gently.
“Sorry. Did this little ruffian wake you up?” The stronger of the two knights said to Rain. “Izer, head back home, we will see you later.” He said shooing, Izer, the young boy off, his carpet like tunic acting as a cape behind him.
“No, no, it is fine the oxen and I should be moving along.” She quickly gathered her hair. Rain made her skin look human as fast as she could.
“Well then, there is magic I don’t think I have ever seen.” The stronger knight said. Rain blushed. The taller knight rapped him gently from behind.
“Don’t mind him. He does not always think before he talks.”
“We live just a bit further, beyond the field. If you should want to join us for lunch later feel free.”
“I didn’t catch your names?”
“Sirs Galloway and Padraig.”
The two Knights bowed to her and headed back where they had come from.
Lunch came around, out of the cornfield arrived Rain and her Oxen. Both men waved her over. A slightly older girl came over with a bundle of grass in her hand. She led the Oxen to a pleasant green grazing spot.
“We figured you would drop on by sooner or later. Welcome to our little home. That is Matilda, those two are Helen and Tugid. Over by the creek is Reginald, and you met Izer.” Galloway said pointing to the young boy climbing the tree last. “Stay, for now. We have a spare bed.”
“With a window overlooking the garden,” Padraig said quickly.
For the next few moons she would act as if she were sleeping in the bed they had given her. Rain would sneak out as soon as she knew everyone else was asleep. She would leave her boots on the windowsill to keep it unlocked. Then in the garden, with the Oxen not far she would sleep till the sun came up, and sneak right back in as soon as she woke.
As fall came, Rain spent time with each child.
First was the eldest, Matilda the giant, loved to make daisy chains all day long. Then came Helen, with whom she made paints and used them to make murals on the outside walls of the house that would wash away in the summer storms. Soon followed up by Reginald, with whom she learned archery from Galloway. Izer came to her one day and the two joined as he played his enchanted stringless harp. She would dance, which in turn led the flowers to dance around her.
The one she seemed farthest from and yet felt closest to, however, was Tugid. He had a ritual every day in the same place. He would get on all fours, he would bow and chant to himself, with a small box in front of him and a hand weaved rug underneath him.
Rain watched him from her garden. She had seen him every day in his small patch of red sand at the same time.
Rain felt an unspoken connection that she did not want to break.
She closed her eyes and breathed.
“Meditation, not a bad choice. His chanting helps calm me down as well. I join him sometimes, he won’t mind.”
“In his prayers. He is from the Southern Sands. He was afraid to be himself for quite a while. He hasn’t told us why yet, our bet is on a bad past. Most of us are afraid to be who we are because of others reactions. Galloway read up on his religion and showed him positive things that his prayer was for.”
“Are all of your children like me?”
“Most, some stay, some come and go. A family is not always who is there all the time, but who will be there when you need them.”
“Where do you find them? Or do they find you?”
“Go on and make a bet where we keep finding people who are in need.”
“That old well?”
“That old wishing well indeed, it seems to attract people like us.”
“Father, father,…” Izer screamed running over.
“If you ever need to talk,…”
“I can find you.” Rain said. He began to walk away.
“What if I pray wrong?” she asked fast as she could.
“Prayer, meditation, connecting beyond oneself. You seemed to have the hang of it when you had your eyes closed. I didn’t say do what he does, just being in the same space can be nice though.” he smiled and continued on his way.
Months passed, Rain had come to meditate while Tugid prayed. When winter came to the patch of sand where he would place his rug, the spot would remain warm. Galloway had collected enchanted sand for him so he could perform his habit.
Winter tasks were tending to the pickling and preserving of fruits and vegetables with Matilda. Helen had been learning how to make canvas, so Rain joined in. The three whittled, made frames, and took up to reading about the old masters of the Here. Izer taught her how to play the flute. Reginald, Padraig, and Rain used sheered sheep wool to make all sorts of warm items. But Rain clung to her love of spending time with Tugid. The two shared quiet, peaceful, and blissful uncountable minutes of pure thought.
The day before spring, the two had been in peace side by side. Tugid turned his head to Rain as their time came drew to a close.
“I would like to one day wed a soul like yours. At peace with itself and its connection to the world as strong as mine is, as understanding.”
“I enjoy our time together as well, I am not sure it would work, however.”
“I mean in time, not now, we are too young. We both have so much road ahead of us.”
“And I mean that, even though you are a kind soul, I have never been attracted to males, of any species.”
“You are like the Knights?”
“I guess I am.” Rain felt at least a little bit less alone.
“Friends it is then,” Tugid said confidently.
“I would never turn down a friend.”
The two continued on their daily habit as if nothing had ever happened.
The night of the spring solstice, Rain was out walking in the night when she heard Padraig and Galloway talking. She listened in on them as they talked.
“I have been reading on beings with her markings, some of the magic that she has shown. I strongly believe she is a nymph.”
“None have been seen since the great fire.”
“Apparently they sent this one out. This is wonderful. She won’t stay with us much longer. When a nymph ages it usually seeks a place it has not been before. They do often return to places, so we have that in favor of seeing her again.”
“How do you know she aged?”
“The rings on her arm, there were twelve, now there are thirteen.”
In silence, Rain looked at her own arm. She tried to rub the ring off not wanting to leave. She shook off the feeling growing inside of her and went back to think in the gardens. In no time at all, she was asleep again.
“The well…” she woke from a dream that she couldn’t remember more than those two words. Even though she did not remember she knew who she had dreamt of, and where she had been when she was dreaming. That place didn’t matter to her now. Rain made her way over the fence, through the cornfield and found the well, as she had the first time, alone.
“Wishing well, are you? Thought you would show me a family?” she said leaning over it and looking down into its emptiness.
“Who me?” a voice came back out of the well. Rain fell back scared and stunned.
“I am not a wishing well. Well, maybe I am talking through one. Is this the well in the Land of Rue?”
“It is.” Rain said nervously.
“Are the knights there?”
“Off on some quest. Have I heard your voice before?”
“I showed you the well.”
“The sleeping boy?”
“The lonely nymph, seems we are not done. I see a crying baby in the clover, the dragon of soil is off on the horizon.”
“I have to leave them?”
“You will be back here, so will I. Maybe together even. One can hope.”
“Where are you?”
“I am there to you and here to me. Another time Rain.” his voice faded.
“You know my name?” there was no response. She woke for again. She had never talked to the sleeping boy in such a manner. Rain knew to get ready, it was time.
She left a note upon a leaf, leaving the leaf on the kitchen table with some fresh eggs.
Upon her note, Rain had asked Galloway and Padraig if they would meet her by the well. As they approached, the few clothes they had given her were neatly bundled up and tied with string. Galloway looked at her right arm and saw the thirteenth ring around her elbow. He knew what was about to happen.
“I think it is time that I go. I would like to find my own family.” She said standing as tall as she could.
“You will always have one here, even if you want to sleep in the garden. We know what it is to feel alone.” Galloway said.
“You left mud prints on the wall,” Padraig said
“Which to be honest needed a bit of character anyway,” Galloway said quickly cutting Padraig off.
“Thank you for having me for as long as you did.” Rain bowed, which both knights met. The other children had shown up as Rain had begun to walk away.
“We hope you find what you need.”
“I think I have.”
Rain went off with her Ox as the two Knights and their other adopted children waved farewell. They watched as her hair, longer than it had been flowed behind her, riding the wind. Her skin its proper shade of leafy green. She had a place she could go if she ever felt alone, and that was what mattered. It didn’t hurt knowing she would be back. The boy in her dreams had not been wrong yet.