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Light Above Water   1506.07.10  
Creators: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer)
Fala and her age-mates have a lesson about the northern lights.
Posted: 10/24/12      [No comments yet] ~ 752 words.

This piece is non-canon. It may not correctly reflect setting details and established plotlines.

Fala and her age-mates sat on the cliff
above the dark rippling waters of the northern sound.
On either side of her, Anler and Birka pressed close.
Inav, Komesh, and Emeina sat on another blanket
while Tetefii sprawled between the two.

The children whispered and giggled
as they waited for the lesson to begin.
They were old enough to study for the adulthood tests,
but young enough not to take things too seriously.
Staying out at night to watch the sky was still novel.

Fala kept an eye on Arfon,
the old ranger who led them out here.
He was a skywatcher and knew everything
there was to know about the clouds and the stars,
the light dancers and the Others.

"Look up, children," Arfon murmured. "They're here."
Fala turned her sharp gaze upward and saw
a faint ripple of green, then a whisker of gold.
They faded, and the deep indigo of night returned.
"That was pretty, I guess," said Tetefii.

Then a ribbon of emerald twisted itself out of darkness
and billowed across the sky, yellow threads trailing behind.
The children gasped, and Arfon chuckled.
"What makes it change colors like that?" Fala asked.
"Why does it move that way?" Birka asked.

"The world wears a veil of energy to protect itself
from the sun," Arfon explained. "Sometimes,
the sun's touch stirs the veil and then we can see it move.
The veil is so sheer that we can only see it
when the sunlight catches in the folds and shows the colors."

The sky riffled yellow and then green again,
with glints of blue like beads on a woman's scarf.
"The Ancients called this phenomenon the northern lights,"
Arfon continued, "and we call it the light dancers,
because the motion and colors look like people dancing."

The old ranger continued with more details
about the light dancers and the sun and the world.
Fala listened, rapt, for nature fascinated her
and she looked forward to becoming a ranger
with Anler and Birka by her side.

It was a fine night for skywatching,
with no clouds and no moons to obscure the view.
Even the Others hung low on the southern horizon,
eerie little bubbles of not-quite-light
that shimmered ominously between the trees.

Fala studied the luminous curtains
and noticed the streaks within them, like woodgrain,
like the lines of an inked comb pulled across cloth.
She wondered if the pattern of the light dancers
meant anything, the way cloud patterns did.

The brilliant display reflected in the sound,
light above water, the rolling waves
covered in skeins of green and gold.
Fala listened to the lesson and carefully
folded the knowledge into the baskets of her mind.

The Others plucked at her attention,
weird dimples of iridescence rising above the horizon.
Rising? Yes, rising, Fala realized as she looked closer.
She held out a fist against the sky as she had been taught
to measure the degrees of stars and moons in their courses.

"Arfon, the Others are moving higher in the sky," she said.
The skywatcher flicked his gaze to the south
where a narrow, glimmering stream now looped above the trees.
"So they are," he said. "You have sharp eyes, young one.
See how they follow a path, but not the same as the light dancers?"

Fala saw that the Others moved in a curling line;
she could not see the line, just the glowing orbs.
It was like watching leaves in the wind,
or bubbles in a creek, to see only
what moved but not what was moving them.

A shiver crept along her back, lifting the hairs on her skin.
The Others were beautiful, but it was a deadly beauty
like a black stormcloud with its threat of harsh weather.
A single touch could kill, and so rangers watched the Others
to warn people if they drifted too low in the sky.

Fala watched the light dancers twirl their colors across the sound,
but she could feel the Others behind her, always there,
and she kept sneaking glances over her shoulder.
It was rare to see a sky mostly empty of them,
and even so young she did not trust it.

When the lesson concluded, they walked back to their camp,
where the fires gave off columns of fragrant smoke.
The stars still shone in the darkness, and the light dancers swirled,
but the Others were hidden by a cluster of wind-worn spruces.
Fala lay down and slept, her dreams filled with light and water.

Author's Notes

This poem was inspired by the "Northern/Southern Lights" square on my Cottoncandy Bingo card from 8-24-12.

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