She stands on shattered rock at the edge of this existence. Beyond – the Unending Ocean rolls away into the stars. She watches a great wave peel over and thunder down onto the shore sending up a flaring thrust of white wrath into the evening air as thick as ink. Here her world meets another, clashing violently with the the rest of the Astroverse. She spies star trails in the deeps and not all of them are in the sky. The ocean and view are roiled in a stew; washing together in a melange of strange magic and nature forced and wrought to man’s will, as soon as the sorcery that holds it in place pales and fades it springs back vengefully and violently. The coastline is a battleground torn between the dueling fates of light and dark magic that rolled here around the shores of land’s end and space, the fluxing forces were everywhere, were everything.
Here at the edge of the Fringe it was still possible to feel alive, close to this power. She had been to the center of the Spectrum, having been dragged there in chains as a slave to be sacrificed for her sight. She had escaped and had fled as far from the dead, dark-center as she could run. She had run to the edge of the world, and now she could go no further.
She closes her eyes and feels the ebb and flow of the unseen tides behind her eyes, sees the currents of magic swirling and rolling around her mind; waiting for her to step in. She wants no part of it. She does not want this power; her sight. She does not want to be a witch. The gale drags at her hair and cloak, buffeting her with a power that is not so easy to lure or be lured by; be tainted by. The wind is real power she thinks – honest – it giveth and taketh as it wishes. It cares not for who or what effect or harm is has; it just is – magic could be pleaded with, played, seduced, dominated and defiled. It was a callous mistress and fickle and almost always treacherous. At least these days it was. The old magic was almost all gone – the good magic. The wasted world they dwelt in was proof that the well was nearly dry, or that the silt at the bottom of the well had been reached. Silt – she thought, and shuddered, it was flooding the Spectrum and soon everything would choke under it’s wasting power.
The cry of the birds sailing upon the wind only feet from her above the abyss dare her to join them. If she stopped resisting the wind would embrace her, and the power of the wind and the rage of the ocean below would carry her away from this broken land and the darkness rising in it’s heart to swallow it.
One step and she is free…
release, she thinks.
A voice calls to her, a voice from within the ramshackle croft where she has dwelt with the one who took her in; the old woman who found her as a filthy, frightened child, scavenging a living with the other rats and wastrels and wanderers who had washed up here at the edge of the Spectrum, eking out a life amongst the great heaps of detritus that washed up here on the shore of their world at a magical high-tide mark. Reluctant – she goes inside to see what Ganna wants.
Ganna is very old. Very, very old. She is just a translucent sack of skin slung over sticks of bones. She hides her wasted, ravaged body under a hood and cloak as thread-bare as the wefts that hold this world together; beneath the folds of her veils she trembles with age and sickness, Saallassa knows that death comes soon to call, as does Ganna it seems.
She raises her sagging, weather beaten face – as dry and cracked with salt and wind as the rocks on the cliff – to greet the girl she thinks of as a child. By the mere comparison of times change she is correct, but only in that respect. She peers at Saallassa from within the shadows of her hood; her milky eyes swoon softly upon the girl, their dying light seemingly taking an age to reach her – like that from faraway stars that no-longer shine. She smiles a thin smile; weakly, like dawn breaking under a heavy storm.
“Come close, child.” she whispers, as if each word she expels accelerates the inevitable.
She cups Saallassa’s face within her soft tiny hands, who does not resist the old woman’s touch.
“I must be sure.”
“Of what Ganna?”
“Of who I give this too.”
Her hands fall from Saallassa’s face and bunch together in her lap, where she slides a ring from her twisted fingers. She holds it up to the girl – offering it to her – Blue Two.
“It is yours now.” she says. Saallassa does not care for the heavy weight that carries those last words away from Ganna’s mouth. Ganna’s hand falls back to her side and the light of those distant stars dwindles and dims down to cold black. Saallassa sheds a tear for the old woman but no more.
‘Save your tears lest they make someone else smile;’ that was what Ganna used to say to her, and Ganna was the only real friend she had ever had. She kissed the old woman on the fore-head and left her in peace by the fire. Outside she went back to the cliffs and stood for a time staring out to sea, watching the birds fly away; wishing for a release. When they came to take the ring from her as Ganna had always said they would – she had put it on.