07 – Book One – Toll – Chapter Six – Filí

THÝRA [shock, spoken quickly]: How is that possible? Why did you not tell me right away? Who is your teacher? Is it possibly Clýstra? Has she worked with you before? Does she travel to Sinat to teach you without my knowing somehow?

MÆVE: Are you finished? Any more outrageous questions?

THÝRA: I . . . No. My apologies. Please . . . Explain.

MÆVE: I have no teacher. I’ve taught myself from books. Two books actually that I found on a dusty bottom shelf of the Sinat library.

THÝRA: That . . . That sounds impossible. Are you really telling the truth?

MÆVE [Angry]: Are you going to let me tell it like it is, or doubt every word I say?

THÝRA: I . . . Again, I apologize. I was unaware of any books containing lore and spells of the Circé, and had been told they do not exist. Please continue.

MÆVE [Sarcastic]: Thank you. This wasn’t something my heart had been set on since I was young. I had heard about the Circé, of course; who hasn’t? This special coven of sorceresses that has been around for millennia. The secrets and spells passed down for generations. Never cis males. How many Circé are there? Nobody truly knows.

THÝRA: Does every girl or person who identifies as not a cis man wish to be one of the Circé?

MÆVE: What do you think?

THÝRA: I . . . I don’t know. It is why I asked.

MÆVE: Oh, I . . . Assumed you already knew. Sorry. Er . . . Yes. The answer is yes. Every girl I’ve ever known, be they friend or family, has wanted to be a Circé. And I have known a trans person or two expressing interest in the calling. We would all pretend when we were wee ones. Actually, I still do it now, from time to time. A little make believe with my sisters, as we cast spells to help and to heal.

THÝRA: I believe you said just moments ago the Circé was not your heart’s desire.

MÆVE: I was getting to that! Every girl wants to be Circé, which is exactly why we all know we will never become one of those special chosen. It’s an idle fantasy we all have, like being a queen, because we know it will never come true.

THÝRA: Until those books you discovered at the library.

MÆVE: Yes. Until I found the books. I love books, I love turning the pages, and discovering the wonderful and incredible stories within.

THÝRA: I have spent too many years reading and learning the spell books, and too little time enjoying a book for its story.

MÆVE [laughing]: It kind of shows actually . . . You talk a bit like a dusty old spell book.

THÝRA [hurt]: I do?

MÆVE: Oh, sorry no. I didn’t mean anything by it. I meant it more as . . . [unsure] A compliment? I find it kind of cute, actually.

THÝRA [somewhat shocked]: Really?

MÆVE: Sure. Among other things . . .

I have absolutely no response to this. I do notice as she leans over me to get some bread, she inches herself a little closer.

MÆVE: I could lie to myself and say those books showed themselves to me. Revealed themselves in a magical way in a room full of books that all looked the same. But I was just looking for something I hadn’t read . . . Umpteen times before. And there they were, all hidden away. Their covers wearing furry blankets of dust. I took them outside and blew the dust from their ancient faces. Neither of them had a title or any words. Clear of any letters except for a big C. I suppose I should’ve been a little bit suspicious.

THÝRA: All the books I have read from and learned from are the same way. Simplistic. Almost cryptic perhaps. But that is their way, I believe. They have their ways, and their power is great, and they have done what they have done for many generations, as you said. I may not be the best person to vouchsafe them, but it is the only world I know. The only world I have known.

MÆVE: You have led a very sheltered life, haven’t you?

THÝRA [fragile]: I don’t know. Clýstra found me when I was a babe. My parents were gone. I . . . I don’t know what happened. But she took me in. And raised me. And is making me one of the Circé.

MÆVE: Oh you poor thing.

THÝRA: No. You might think a choice was never given to me. And perhaps it was not. But I regret none of it. I can draw power from what is around me . . .

I reach out a hand and select a significant chunk of cheese. I clutch it tight, feeling it turn to mush and forced between my fingers. At the same time I draw the life and essence from it, feeling it grow dry and crumbly. I open my hand and the cheese that was molded from cow’s milk is now gray and lifeless and falling from my hand like dirt and dust.

Mæve watches, completely wrapt in what I am doing.

THÝRA: And now that power is within me and I can do something like this . . .

The same hand points towards the river, palm down. I slowly rotate it and from the rushing water a column of liquid draws up, reaching four feet into the air. The river may be running at a steady pace beneath it, but this water I am drawing up with my magic pays no heed to what is happening to its source below.

I bring my other hand around and make a shaping motion. In turn, the water thickens and begins to form a vague body shape. I continue moving my hands ever so slightly, focusing on creating the solid image that is in my mind to the best of my abilities.

A few moments later Mæve loudly gasps.

MÆVE: [GASP]

MÆVE [shock]: It’s . . . It’s me. How is that possible?

THÝRA: It is the magic of the Circé. No more. No less.

And without further ado, the column of water that looks akin to Mæve’s form quickly collapses, rejoining its rushing origination.

MÆVE [Disappointed]: What? What happened?

THÝRA: No magic is forever. It cannot be. There must always be balance. Life and energy is taken from that piece of organic matter and is transmuted, through my ability, to become a sculpted column of water. But it is a finite resource. Not self-sustaining. Never so. Once the life, the essence has been all used up, the magic collapses in upon itself and is undone.

MÆVE: Can you do it again?

THÝRA: Of course. But it will require another chunk of cheese, and I do not want to waste such a delicacy.

Mæve looks right at me then, looking deep within me. I believe I see her intentions for a brief fraction of a second, before she is upon me, her arms wrapping around my shoulders. Her warm, full lips on mine.

I am shocked. At first. We continue kissing for some time.

[Break]

We return to the market place hand it hand. I have never felt so at ease before; a calm has descended upon me like a comforting blanket that I never wish to lose. I soon find Clýstra and introduced Mæve to her. She wears a bemused grin. I am still unsure if she knows what we have been up to, but she does not have a single negative word to say, and I am immensely happy. She leads us over to some tables and soon we are served platters of cooked meat and baked potatoes and boiled vegetables. Even though Mæve and I have enjoyed meats and cheeses and breads, we find ourselves famished once again.

I suppose our time . . . Enjoying each other has taken something from us, made us hungry.

I am also willing to admit that I am hungry for more of what we were doing.

Much more.

[Short break]

The food is delicious, and as the sun begins setting on this day before Mayday, the bonfires are lit, as are the many torches throughout the town. It seems as if we have been transported to somewhere new, a place of ethereal beauty where the many glowing, flickering flames bathe our faces in a very favorable light.

By the time we are done with our supper, Clýstra is already talking with some other people, ignoring us for the time being. Mæve seizes the moment, taking my hand, and we are off again, disappearing into the trees and the darkness of the night.

[Break]

MÆVE: Did you hear the story Goran was telling?

THÝRA: Who is Goran?

MÆVE: The elder sitting at the table across from us?

THÝRA: I regret to inform you I did not.

I had been enjoying my food too much, as well as being entranced with Mæve’s beautiful face in the flickering firelight. I very much wish to be kissing her again.

And now my heart is beating fast with such hopes . . .

MÆVE: He was telling the tale he fully believes but everyone thinks is a load of poppycock.

THÝRA [awkwardly]: Poppy . . . Cock?

MÆVE [sighing]: Yes. Lies! It’s the story that on the night before Mayday there are certain girls – and though he never outright says so, he undoubtedly means Circé – who transform into hares to steal the milk and churn of the successful farmers so that they will have a poor summer and poor harvest and all starve. And that on one such night long ago, so he says, he set his greyhound, Axe, upon the hare. The dog bit it but did not slay it. When Goran called back his dog, the animal had the hare’s leg in its mouth. Goran says he then chased after the hare to a house known to belong to that of a witch, a Circé no doubt, and inside found an old woman knitting . . . And her leg was missing!

THÝRA: That sounds . . . Absolutely preposterous. 

MÆVE [laughing]: It is! Absolute codswallop!

THÝRA: Another strange expression that I am unable to decipher.

MÆVE: Then let me help you, if I may.

THÝRA [giggling]: You certainly may . . .

But before our lips touch again, we both hear a strange singing coming from a copse of trees away from us. Suddenly we are bathed in a blue light.

MÆVE: Oh wonderful! I had hoped this would happen soon.

THÝRA: What is this? MÆVE: Dear Thýra, something very special is about to happen . . . The elves are coming . . .