LisaAnnMcLean.com 

 

home

news

book

short stories

bio

links

email

 

Inquest

by Lisa Ann McLean

 

Prologue


The sea met shore here.

Which doesn’t sound so unusual of itself—except that this was one of the few places on this northern island of rocks and rolling fields, dark forests and harsh seasons that the sea actually met sand and not rocks and cliffs. There was a shore—a lonely shore—and it was to this shore that Eric the Good had taken to coming after his long days of study and prayer, and before his short night of sleep began under the blue-black, diamond-studded sky.

He stood motionless, watching the water. It was a rare, still night, such that the water was almost calm instead of throwing itself in crashing white waves against the land. Instead, only gentle wavelets lapped up with a quiet shush-ing sound, almost as if the sea was urging him to quiet the turmoil in his soul.

Of course, he could not.

It was actually ludicrous of the sea to even ask it of him, Eric thought to himself. The best he could do to pacify her wishes was to become numb. Numb himself to the pain and the loss...

And he had, really. He had thrown himself into his studies with a fury and a vengeance that was admirable, and he had performed well. Father Andrew had often commented on his prowess. And had also commented on the sour expression he always seemed to wear now. And, even though, he didn’t comment on it, Eric saw in Father Andrew’s eyes the searching question of why he did not fellowship with him anymore.

And could he answer? Yes.

But he wouldn’t.

Father Andrew probably wouldn’t understand, anyway.

How could an elderly priest possibly understand a yearning for a power and a beauty that was gone forever? A power of magic and brilliance, of unicorns and faery, griffins and Myr-people. And dragons...

A beauty...

A fair and delicate face framed by honey-gold hair, with huge, spring-green eyes that had smiled at him, had etched themselves into his brain with their magical grace...

Gone. Gone forever...

The moon had risen, full and round, staring down at him with her pale, mournful face. Unsmiling, as he was. He watched her reflection dance on the surface of the water with a pale, blue-white glow. It was a very bright moon...

...no, wait...

The surface of the water was breaking, and another blue-white glow cast itself from the figure arising from the water. Eric’s heart began to pound. What is this???

Am I losing my mind...?

It was a... a head. An equine head, but more. More beautiful, more graceful, bathed in a glow that it cast from within itself. A magic glow. A glow he had once been blessed to see, and thought never to see again. Was this a dream? A vision? Have I finally gone mad...?

Eric suddenly realized he had stopped breathing. He gasped and fell to his knees, scarcely daring to speak the name.

“Silverwood...?”

...but no. There was no crystal horn spiraling from the centre of this head. The foretop was uncannily long, and sparked within him a memory of another magical horse. As he spoke, the eyes of the creature turned to him--and they were glittering jewels of pink.

Eric’s voice was a hoarse whisper.

“Shol...”

It couldn’t be! It wasn’t true!!

“But... it... it’s... impossible...”

The fay horse, the Pooka, smiled, moved closer to him. And now he could see that her glow flickered from time to time, and though she was still almost perfect, she looked... tired, somehow. Eric felt an ache in his chest.

“Oh, Shol. Why?”

“For need, Eric the Good,” Shol replied softly, “See, and believe, and do not lose heart.”

Eric felt his eyes burn with tears. Shol’s equine form shifted and transformed into the child form that had been her shape the first time he had seen her. She walked up to him, pure white but for her eyes, the water swishing against her legs, and she was holding something out to him. It was a sword, intricately and exquisitely worked on both blade and hilt, and the hilt resembled the head of a shasti: a unicorn.

A Keeper’s sword.

“Tangea’s sword...” Eric was shocked and moved, and didn’t know what to say. He reached out and took it, meeting Shol’s glittering pink eyes. His hand touched hers, and the power that resonated from her jolted through him in that instant, and he felt the reality and presence of her—a creature of magic—so powerfully that he knew she was real and this was no dream. He blinked as more and more salt tears fell from his eyes into the salt sea. He stared blindly at Shol, overflowing with gratitude for her gift—a gift for which he could never, ever hope to repay her. Could never even begin to express to her what it meant to him.

But in her eyes he saw that, somehow, she understood.

And then she was gone.

Her small, white form dove into the water, and never rose again.

Eric sat down. He felt weak. The sword was still there: smooth and cold and still wet in his hands. For a long moment, Eric just looked at it, and caressed it.

Then, he did something he had thought he would never do again.

He smiled.


* * *

back