Chapter 16: A Mother’s Love?
Cyhla woke with a start from her large fluffy bed. She looked in wonder at her fleshy arms, and body, then she wondered why she had wondered, after all…
She had always been of flesh. Cyhla tried to get up from bed, but she was unused to seeing with several little eyes rather than just one. Cyhla frowned.
That wasn’t right, she had never had only one eye. She was feeling most strange this morning.
Cyhla was a gorgon. She had snakes for hair, and it was from these snakes she saw her room, and saw herself, the eyes on her face were covered with a blindfold, after all, a gorgon’s gaze could turn living beings to stone.
Gorgonism was once a curse, but now a bloodline that passed down from female descendants of the original gorgons. Technically any woman of any race could be also gorgon. It was a rare occurrence but sometimes the male children of gorgons also had gorgonism.
Cyhla had always been a little dwarfmaid. A short stocky human, with a wide face and round nose and pointed ears. Being a dwarf, she, like all dwarves ate rock and other minerals and ores. Her hair snakes were very long, this was of course because dwarf women all have very long hair, in fact it grows so fast that it can often be a problem, just like how a dwarf man’s beard always grows back quickly even if cut. Indeed, male dwarves were born with a soft fuzzy beard. Dwarf women would commonly wear their hair in elaborate braids, and frequently wrapped their long locks around their own body over their clothes.
Cyhla was a hath dwarf gorgon. The Hath are the original dwarves from which all dwarves are descended from.
Cyhla did not need to braid her hair, as she had snakes for hair that she could with little effort control, though the snakes would restlessly move about if left to their own devices. Curiously her snakes were all pure white but with brilliant blue eyes. A few of these snakes draped down over her face.
Shaking her quilt off and straightening her blue chemise, Cyhla managed to get up. Her room seemed strangely unfamiliar. Nothing was out of place, her big wooden wardrobe was there. As was her bed, her desk, strewn with musical sheets and instruments, her orange skeleton, her toy chest and a few toys she had forgotten to put away. Mother would be annoyed if she saw them.
Cyhla got to picking them up and putting them into her chest. She giggled when she realised she had been trying to put them in her own chest and not the toy chest. She was really a bit groggy today.
Cyhla paused and looked at her orange skeleton. The empty sockets didn’t seem right, there was something that was supposed to be coming out of them…
Cyhla blinked. There was no skeleton. That would be weird, and creepy. She went back to tidying up. She had just managed to put away her golden spinning top when her bedroom door opened.
It was a gorgon woman, Cyhla felt that she had seen her before. Cyhla frowned once more, really this was very odd, of course she had seen her before, after all it was her mother. Her mother was quite regal, very beautiful, her snakes had scales more like diamonds than white scales. Then there was the pretty yellow eyes her snakes had. Yellow was supposed to be a pretty colour for eyes, wasn’t it, it wasn’t supposed to mean anything else. Her mother wore a simple white dress. Cyhla didn’t like the dress.
She always felt like the black snake pattern on it was watching her.
Cyhla blinked. Her mother’s dress was plain white, there was no pattern on it.
Cyhla rushed over and hugged her mother.
“Mommy, I’m not feeling good today”
Cyhla’s mother stroked her child’s hair-snakes.
“There, there dear, you’ve been sick you know, so very sick, you had a terrible fever and it made you forget so much, and made you see all kinds of strange things.”
Cyhla buried her head in her mother’s strangely cold bosom.
“Am I better now?”
Her mother gave a smile full of fang and tooth.
“Not yet, but soon, soon you’ll be all better and you won’t see strange things again”
Her mother led her out of her room, a bit too quickly, Cyhla felt.
“Come, won’t you try singing for mommy?” Mother said.
Cyhla smiled. She liked singing. They made their way to the dining room, and there Cyhla sat on a stool to sing for her mother.
She did her best, but her best wasn’t that good. She forgot words, fell out of tune and sometimes messed up her breathing. Cyhla was confused, she was sure she had been able sing better than that before. Still her mother clapped her hands happily.
“You’ve come so far my dear. Soon you’ll have that song down, your first proper song”
First song? Hadn’t she learnt a ton from the gnomes and made up a few herself? Cyhla shook her head a little bit, that was the sickness talking. She didn’t know any gnomes.
“Well, that was very nice wasn’t it?” Mother said.
Cyhla nodded. She loved singing. Mother wasn’t very good at singing.
Her mother hugged her.
“My lovely little girl, it is so great to have you *again*”
Cyhla thought she heard something, but it was probably just the illness.
“Now, go get dressed and play while mommy makes breakfast”
She patted Cyhla’s snakes and wafted off to hew some rocks into rubble.
Cyhla returned to her room. It still didn’t seem right. Perhaps her mother had redecorated it while she was asleep. She turned to her wardrobe. It was a massive thing of dark-reddish wood. She could easily fit inside it. The doors of it caught her eyes as she moved to open it. Carved onto it was a huge wolf. The wolf had a gem in its mouth.
It was familiar to her. Cyhla breathed a sigh, it was nice to find something familiar in her own room.
Yes, it was definitely her own room. Cyhla opened the wardrobe and changed out of her blue chemise and into a turquoise sari over a white petticoat. She put on her little brown leather boots last.
Then, as she went to close her wardrobe. She saw the orange skeleton. Its empty eyes looked right through her, it reached out to her.
Cyhla screamed, such was the shock of the skeleton being there.
Her mother came rushing in, and closed the wardrobe before encircling Cyhla in a hug. She stroked Cyhla’s agitated hair-snakes.
“T-there was a skeleton, an orange skeleton!” Cyhla blubbered.
“Shh-sh-sh” Mother hushed “It is just the illness”
She opened the wardrobe again. There was no skeleton.
“See, nothing there dear, don’t worry. I have you safe, and protected”
Cyhla calmed down, but even so, she heard something whisper from the darkness of the wardrobe.
“Try to remember”
Her mother held her tight.
“Maybe you should play outside today, the air might do you good, you’ve been bedridden a long time”
Cyhla dried her eyes, and nodded. Her mother led her by the hand to the front door of their house.
Outside was in fact a cavern. The house was on a hill and below was slick waxy black grasses that formed a field on the earth of the cavern. The grasses swayed back and forth in the air brought into the cavern, while feeding on the light of the shining white crystal encrusted ceiling. Pitch grass could grow without light of course, but it didn’t object. Not that grasses are in the business of showy displays like objection.
“I’ll call you when breakfast is ready!” Cyhla’s mother shouted out to her as she scuttled down the hill.
Cyhla eagerly leapt into the pitch grass, it was almost as tall as her, though she wasn’t very tall, being a dwarf. She began making a maze by flattening down some grass.
She was at this for a time, when upon pushing down some grass, she saw a small goblin-girl behind it, probably around her age, the goblin-girl seemed familiar to her. Cyhla felt like she had seen the goblin’s messy hair and brown antenna before. The way the gobling was dressed in pelts seemed familiar too.
“Oh, hello, my name is Cyhla!” Cyhla said.
The gobling smiled.
“Hello, ***** is *****, whatings youse doing?”
The name slid away from Cyhla’s attention.
“I’m making a maze, wanna help?” Cyhla asked the newcomer.
“Thats sounding fun, we plays some games afters too!” Her new playmate answered.
Cyhla and the gobling had a fine maze completing the grass maze, then they took turns hiding and seeking out the other in the maze. After a while of playing this, the goblin suggested a new game.
“Playings truth and questions! Each askings question, and other replys with truth!”
“Oooh, I’ll start!” Cyhla said, clapping her hands together.
“Do you live near here?” Cyhla asked.
“***** doesn’t, nobodies livings here” The gobling answered chillingly.
“*****’s turn” she continued “What being your real name?”
“Why I already told you, it is Cyh’Aira”
Cyhla frowned, but felt compelled to continue the game.
“Where did you come from?”
“***** came from where youse really are” The goblin girl answered.
“*****’s next question, Is she your mother?”
“No, she isn’t I don’t know her”
Cyhla’s voice sounded less like a little dwarfmaid’s and more like some woman who had a voice like crystal bells.
Cyhla was confused. Her hair snakes were agitated, hissing filled her head. She closed her eyes.
“You’ve gots to wakings!”
“Wake up dear”
Cyhla opened her eyes. Her head was in her mothers lap, they were on a cloth laid over trampled pitch grass. A basket was nearby, containing rocks, metals and crystals, aswell as flasks of fermented things.
Cyhla got up.
“Mother? Wasn’t I just playing with some goblin?”
Her mother shook her head, staring at her with those yellow eyes.
“You’ve been with me this whole time, you’ve not been well, but I thought you’d like a lunch picnic”
Cyhla’s head felt all wooly, her hair snakes wouldn’t stop hissing. She backed away from her mother.
“Lunch? Weren’t we going to have breakfast? What happened to breakfast, Mommy?”
there was something amid the hissing of her snakes, but she couldn’t make it out. She tried to concentrate on it.
Her mother got up and walked towards her, Cyhla involuntarily moved back. She had a growing sense of wrongness.
“We’ve long since had breakfast dear, come settle down, have a rockcake”
Cyhla calmed down, and reached for the basket.
She could not get it open. It was like someone was holding it down. She felt as if there was someone other than her and this woman.
She heard a mere whisper.
“Mommy? What is my name?”
Her mother looked bothered. “Why you are my dear little Saaluir!”
“That isn’t my name… that isn’t either of my names”
Her mother’s face twisted.
“What are you talking about, you are my little Saaluir, MINE”
She grabbed Cyhla’s arm.
“Ahh, it hurts, stop it, please stop it!”
The place she was grabbed ceased to be flesh, and became metal.
“You are her, you are, you are, you are!”
“LEAVE HER ALONE!” Phule burst though the air, it shattering like a mirror behind her, and punched Mother in the face. The gorgon was flung backwards.
Metal glinted behind the gorgon woman’s face.
“You think I’ll let you take her away from me again! I WON’T LET YOU TAKE MY SAALUIR AWAY FROM ME AGAIN”
“Aira, you’ve got to wakings!” Phule said, shaking Aira.
She faced the gorgon. Aira’s body began to flake off, revealing her true form beneath.
“I am not your child”
The gorgon hissed, cried and screamed, thrashing about. It lunged at Aira, whether trying to embrace or crush, it was not clear.
“You are not my mother” Aira stated.
The gorgon shattered, and Aira woke up.
The first thing Aira noticed was that Phule’s head was jammed partly into her transmutor.
“Uh, Phule, why are you in there?”
“AHH it worked! Phule glad, needings head inside to gettings inside Aira’s dream!”
Phule disentangled herself from Aira. While she did so, Aira noticed her second thing.
Bab-Lin was frantically holding something off.
It short order she saw what it was, a massive head, face covered with a grotesque mask of metal made of snakes. The snakes were arranged so that they made a hideous face. The mask’s main eyes were closed, but sickly mad yellow eyes glared from each of the snakes making up the face. The head’s neck split into a number of large snakes, all with scales like diamonds, but all the scales were misshapen, and the snakes were blind. Not only that but the snakes mouths were filled with many uneven fangs. Aira sometimes caught sight of a withered body amid the thrashing snakes.
Bab-Lin was sorely pressed keeping the snakeheads at bay.
The mask, yellow eyes and ghastly form lent no doubt. What Zalark had lead them to was a wraith.