Title: Strange Ways
Theme: #29-The sound of waves
Fandom: Card Captor Sakura
Notes: AU. I don't do these very often, but I was playing around with The Fantasy Plotter
today and came up with this
, and I had to do it. HAD TO. Also for i_am_mikage
's Holiday 2007 Request
. I FAIL AND I AM VERY LATE.
The old legend went that up in the castle on the hill, high above the thorny forest of roses, there lived a sorcerer. No one knew how old he was – the story was ancient, as far as anyone who knew it was concerned – and no one knew exactly what he did. But he was magical, and dangerous, and it was forbidden and impossible for anyone to climb the mountain to him.
The source of his power, they said, was a magical pearl from the depths of the sea. It was the reason for the thorns at the base of the mountain, the spired castle he lived in, the lonely silence that shrouded his mountain. But it was also the source of the river that flowed through the village, the never-ending good harvests, and the coming of the spring. The pearl had been a gift from a mermaid whom he had loved many centuries ago, but, not understanding the pearl’s great power, when he took it to do his bidding he took the source of her life.
This was why the sea had receded over the years. Once the waves had come crashing up against the base of the mountain; now it was a good five hours’ journey by horse to reach the sandy beaches and bustling seaport. And, though the river had created a means of transportation and trade, the sea was more or less lost to the village.
Perhaps the pearl had granted the sorcerer eternal life. Perhaps he had found ways to keep himself alive, until he could resurrect his lost love. Perhaps perhaps perhaps. The stories floated through the village and through the generations.
“No, you can’t just—“ The young man was cut short by a minor explosion. “Good gods, Emily, what have you—“
“I’m sorry!” a distraught young woman apologized with a wail. “I swear I followed the instructions, Touya, I just…”
“Never mind that.” With a wave of his hand the mess was cleaned and the kitchen back in perfect order. “Now try again. Please.”
Training someone else was hard work, the young man reflected. Especially when it was clear that they had skills at neither sorcery nor cooking, the two things his family excelled at. His father was a master chef, traveling the valley and countries below the mountain. His mother had been a quiet witch, supporting the villages in the area in simple ways. Her power had been great, and her reach wide, but her untimely death had left her son to deal with her work as best as his limited skills would allow.
His younger sister was not yet old enough to have discovered, let alone mastered, her own magical power. He sensed it would be quite great, but could do nothing about it for the time being. Instead, he needed to find someone to take over the cooking, since he himself was occupied with trying to fill his mother’s shoes. Emily had her family had lived in a cottage midway up the mountain for as long as they could remember; they had always had a close relationship with Touya’s family, though never quite this intimate.
Just a few hours later, Emily had more or less mastered some basic recipes and had managed to sort out which ingredients were hers and which were Touya’s. He left her in the kitchen to prepare dinner, and took himself up to his mother’s studio. Emily had strict instructions not to disturb him, and to tend to his sister when she returned from their cousin’s home.
Touya knew he was not the sorcerer his mother was. He was only marginally more powerful than his father. Trying to care for the land as his mother had was already beginning to take its toll on him, and he was still a young man. It was no secret to his family and those closest to them that he needed help. But it was also no secret that he would not ask for such help. He spent the better part of the next four hours feeling his way through the land below him, urging crops to grow and water to run clear.
He had barely begun to tend to the forests when his body gave out, as it inevitably did every night, and he collapsed into a deep sleep.
Normally his sleep was dreamless. His body and magic needed time to recover before the next day’s tasks. But tonight his dreams were full of colors and shapes and pleasant sounds. Blues and greens and shimmering ivory and the murmur of waves and the soft swish of liquid silk and satin. It was very elegant, and yet oddly comforting at the same time.
Something warm and firm gripped Touya’s shoulder, and he turned around. A young, smiling face greeted him.
“What are you doing here?”
Touya stood still for a moment, staring. A… merman?
The pale face smiled even more. “Yes, a merman. And you’re a human sorcerer. There aren’t many of those left, I hear.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Touya admitted. “I’ve never left my home. My family rarely leaves its castle. This is an odd dream to be having,” he mused, turning so as to get a better view of the underwater scenery.
The pale-haired merman laughed and flipped his fins, swimming a slow circle around Touya. “That’s why I wanted to know why you were here. Are you dreaming?” he asked curiously, staring at Touya’s hands in some kind of wonder. Touya still hadn’t had a good chance to look at him.
“I thought I was. But you seem fairly certain I’m not.”
The merman shrugged. “I don’t know. Magic works in strange ways. Wouldn’t you agree?” There was a glimmer of something in his eyes, but Touya couldn’t place it or explain it.
“I suppose.” Now he was looking. Young and fair-haired, with a charming smile and a slim body. His lower half was a striking and alluring shifting of blues and purples that changed every time he moved. His fins were shaped oddly – not like the pointed and rounded fish fins Touya was expecting, but much larger and more elegant.
“You’re not bad-looking yourself,” the merman teased, dropping down to brush the ocean floor as he examined Touya’s legs, which made the young sorcerer feel horribly self-conscious. “I’m Yukito,” he introduced, pulling himself upright so that he was “standing” face to face with Touya.
“Touya,” he replied.
“Well, come on. While you’re dreaming, you might as well see things.” Yukito reached out to grab Touya’s hand, and pulled him along.
What felt like hours later, Touya found himself in the middle of a rock garden, being pulled through arches and secret holes by his underwater guide. The hours had been beautiful, as he’d explored a place and a landscape he had never seen and enjoyed the company of someone he’d never met and would never meet again. For the first time in his life, Touya found himself longing to leave his home.
Suddenly Yukito stopped. “I think it’s time for you to go,” he said quietly.
“How do you know?” Touya asked, placing his feet gently on the top of a rock arch, never letting go of Yukito’s hand.
“Magic works in strange ways,” Yukito repeated. He turned and smiled at Touya. “I had fun, To-ya.” An impish grin accompanied the nickname.
“I did too, Yuki.” Touya reached out and pinched Yukito’s cheek, an outwardly affectionate gesture to cover his slowly growing sorrow.
“Why do you look so sad?” Yukito asked, eyes wide and blinking.
“I probably won’t see you again.”
Yukito laughed. “I don’t think so. If that were true, I’d be sad, but the magic? Is telling me otherwise. You’ll be back,” he reassured his new friend.
“I can’t control the magic,” Touya protested.
“Yes you can,” Yukito assured. “Here.” He leaned over and kissed Touya quickly on the cheek. “It’s a promise.”
Touya woke, sitting up on his mother’s studio’s floor, the sky dark and the fire still unlit. Emily had been good to her word. He stood and collected himself, brushing his clothes off, putting books away and tidying the room. As he closed the door to return to his room, he heard the soft swirl of water around his body, as if a merman were inspecting him curiously.