There are some circumstances which present themselves in the course of human history that nearly always present inhumane suffering and nearly hopeless odds: men in war, citizens in a dictatorship, societies in poverty, children in broken homes, and a human raised in a faerie court. I am very sorry to tell you, reader, that the Branidris’ child fell prey to the last of these atrocities. As soon as he could talk he was singing for their amusement. As soon as he could walk he was relaying messages for them. As soon as he could lift things he was moving heavy objects and carrying great loads for them which he had seen them already move by magic moments before. He learned their language by mimicry, saying their own words back to them until he knew what they meant. In time he was able to speak their language as well as they were.
When he was very young, he had thought that he was one of the faeries. After all, he did look rather like them, having two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, hair, arms and legs. But as he got older he began to notice subtle differences that made him think maybe he wasn’t part of them at all. They were taller, for one. Hair was yet another difference. His hair was jet black, whereas theirs was mostly a wispy white. He wondered whether these differences were just because he was a child and they adults. Maybe, he thought, all faerie children’s hair is dark and it lightens as they age, like dandelions. Then another, more startling thought struck him. He had never actually seen a faerie child. Come to think of it, he was the only child at all in the faerie court. These thoughts so unsettled the young boy that one day he decided to walk to clear his head.
He walked through hallway after earthen hallway. Each hallway was lit, not by torches, but by small stones of concentrated light shining piercing through the hard rock walls like gems. Consumed by thought, he didn’t realize at first that he had left the burgh.
Sunlight hit his pale skin and he gasped. A bird chirped as it flew past him, almost hitting him in the face. He screamed and fall back. He cowered back into the shadow of the burgh. Peeking around the corner, he watched the light dance in golden rays as the wind played in the grass. Shadows of leaves frolicked like woodland fairies across pale rocks and tree bark. The wind in the boughs called to him. He answered it in it’s own language.
A lone raven perched on a rock beside his hand. It croaked a question to him. He answered it in it’s own language.
“Come.” Nature whispered. “Come.”
The boy stood transfixed. For a long moment, he could do nothing but stare at the golden light and brilliant green. Tears sprang to his eyes. He banished them and answered nature in it’s own language. “I’m coming.”
“Come,” it insisted still. “Come.”
Slowly, he stepped out of the darkness. Sunlight welcomed him with a warmth he’d never known. It was like stepping out of a nightmare and into the waking world. He breathed it in. He didn’t dare close his eyes, barely even to blink.
The raven stayed and watched him with piercing black eyes. It asked a question of him.
“I do not know my name.” He answered.
The raven made a noise deep in its throat and the boy knew he was laughing.
“Well, what is your name then?” The boy queried accusingly.
For the first time the raven made a noise he did not understand. He could only assume it what he was called. He tried to imitate it, but the raven just laughed at him and repeated it. He tried again to mimic the bird’s voice as he had the Faeries. A thought struck him.
“My name is Starling.” He stated boldly.
Once again the raven laughed. He made a sarcastic croak and the boy knew he was denying his statement.
“How would you know that’s not my name? I bet you can’t even pronounce it.” He said haughtily.
“Starling.” the raven said hoarsely. “Not Starling.”
Color rose to the boy’s cheeks. “Of course I’m not a Starling! I know that! I’m a faerie.”
“Man.” The raven corrected him.
The boy had never heard that word before. He tilted his head in a silent question.
The raven nodded to him, indicating that he was related to the word, repeating it for his better understanding. “Man.”
The raven cackled and flew away, leaving the boy stammering the unknown word. He stood motionless for some time, contemplating these things.
“Starling! There you are.” An iron grip latched to his arm. “I was worried about you.”
The boy didn’t have to look up to see who it was. His heart sank, as if dragged into the ocean tied with chains.
“Come back inside, the sunlight will ruin your skin.” The faerie held his shoulder and pulled him, none too gently, back into the earth. He spoke a word and closed the earthen tunnel. The only light came from the star-like gems in the walls. The wet smell of earth encased them. “What were you doing out there, Starling? You know there’s work for you to do!” The iron grip pulled him deeper into the earth.
If the boy had not turned around, he may not have longed so badly, he may not have suffered so horribly, and the fire that had been ignited in his soul may not have burned to fiercely. But he did turn around. And he did take one last desperate look at the entrance into the world of man.