In answer to the Daily prompt Oasis: A sanctuary is a place you can escape to, to catch your breath and remember who you are. Write about the place you go to when everything is a bit too much.
This one will probably end up in another one of my stories… It is the first time little Freya finds her Oasis. She’ll go back to it many times after that.
“I hate you!”
Freya cried and ran out of her sister’s room. Blinded by her tears, Freya didn’t even realise she raced past her mother who was coming to wake her daughters. Only both of them were already up and the oldest had managed to upset the youngest within moments of getting out of bed. Isabel could be so mean sometimes. Freya didn’t have magic; she was no monster. She wasn’t a freak; it wasn’t her fault if she had eyes of a colour never seen anywhere. She hated her eyes and their silver light; why couldn’t she have green eyes like her siblings and mother or grey like her father? No some stupid colour that scared everybody even the people who lived in the nearby village and they were said to carry magic.
She ran for a long time, as fast and far as her six year old legs would allow her. She was faster than all the children her age – the ones who didn’t tremble at the idea of racing the Duke’s daughter – but even then, she started tiring before she reached the forest. So when she finally did, she collapsed scattering the autumn leaves into the wind. Breathing hard because of the race rendered her sobbing difficult so her tears abated though not her anger.
Isabel always looked so perfect – a replica of their mother as if she had no father but for the fact that her hair was a shade darker than the lady d’Elfwine – but when nobody was there to see she could be really mean. She always called Freya names she didn’t like. “Fey”, “child of magic” or other names that Isabel knew annoyed her sister and then she pretended it was all right. Everyone thought that Freya was the baby crying for nothing. Isabel never said anything if someone else was with them, not even Dunstan. It wasn’t fair. She wasn’t a baby. And Freya didn’t need to be told she was different; her parents acted like she was. She wasn’t even sure they even wanted or loved her. Her mother always seemed to expect her to grow wings or a beak and her father always looked sad when he met her eyes. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t her fault.
She was crying after all. Nobody could understand not even Dunstan who was the kindest brother. He couldn’t console her today and Isabel didn’t listen to him; she would only listen to her parents and Freya wouldn’t tell; she wouldn’t be a baby. Instead, she let the tears fall and the wind and the trees and the birds soothe her. The forest was her favourite place. Ever since her father brought her here the first time she had come back when she fought with her sister. Or when she wanted to be alone. Well alone usually meant with a guard or her father. But not today, today she truly was all alone for the first time. And it made her happy. She could do what she wanted.
“Not really child.” A voice resounded behind her. She stood quickly her head spinning with the speed. She had left without her little knife the one Dunstan gave her to learn how to fight. The man was really tall, taller than her father and he looked young but old at the same time.
“What?” She knew she should not speak to strangers but the man had eyes the same colour as hers and she was hypnotised. He was handsome, more beautiful than Dunstan or Prince Godric, her cousin, and even Aurelian who was going to be king in Darijan.
“You cannot do everything that you want.”
“Who are you?” She whispered. It must be a dream: her father said there were once fairies in the old forest band she had always wished she could meet one but it couldn’t be true.
“My name is Aodhan young Freya d’Elfwine.”
“How do you know my name?”
“We know of all your family. Your father Cedric. Your mother Eleanor. She is the eldest daughter of Roderick d’Elmonte. Then there are your sister Isabel and your brother Dunstan, whom you love most.”
“That doesn’t tell me how you know my name or theirs.” People needed to stop treating her like a baby. She was six years old not stupid. They seemed to think that meant she couldn’t tell when they didn’t answer her question.
“We heard them in the wind and in the trees when we listen.”
“The wind and the trees don’t talk.”
“Of course they do; but not everyone understands them. I am sure you do; you heard their songs before, did you not?”
She must have made a face because the man smiled.
“You let them soothe your anger. They helped you, am I right?”
He was, and she sometimes felt trees and birds tried to talk to her. That was one reason why Isabel called her names. She told her sister once and since then Isabel tormented her.
“You are no monster Freya. You are like one of us or at least closer to us than any other born before you.”
“You hear my thoughts?”
“Not really. Sometimes but mostly I see what is written in your eyes and on your face. It is fairly obvious that what you can do scares you.”
Again she must have made a face because he smiled once more.
“It is good that a child knows not how to pretend Freya. You are too young to be putting on airs. And it is true that my kin can see past most pretence.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know but one day, you will. In the meantime, let me show you something. I believe you will like it.”
And he walked with her through the wood for a while showing her the paths to take and how to change the way she walked to not disturb animals. He showed her a foal and its mother, a beautiful doe with gorgeous eyes. He was right; she liked it. And then there was the spring hawk. She knew hawks and other birds of prey. Her mother loved them and there was a falconer in Elfwine. All the children learned with Amaury how to care for the birds. But this one was something else: it was so fast she barely could see it and it was over her head and then up on a tree and down catching a small mouse. She clapped her hands giggling.
“He is wooing you Freya,” the fairy said.
“He likes you. He wants you to like him.”
“Oh I like him too.”
“Give him your hand.”
“Without a glove?”
“Yes. He will not hurt you.”
She trusted him; he had the same eyes she did. So she extended her hand. The bird flew and softly landed on her wrist his talons barely grazing her skin. She gasped more out of surprise than real pain but it was so really exciting. Before long she was caressing the bird’s neck. She had never known a bird of prey that accepted petting as this one did.
“So are you Freya. So will you be.” The man kissed her cheek. It felt nice and warm. And she knew that it didn’t feel that way when her parents or brother kissed her. She giggled softly… and felt something as if she heard a sound.
“Aethelric…” She had heard the name before but she couldn’t have said where or when. And now it came again, as if it were meant for that bird, which wanted her to like him.
“What do you mean?” Something in his voice told her he knew but asked anyway.
“His name… if he will let me give him one.”
“Why that name?”
“I don’t know. It feels right. Doesn’t it?” She asked the bird. The hawk cocked its head as if to consider before nodding – at least that was what it looked like.
“It seems he likes it.” The man’s hand on her shoulder tightened. “I think people are looking for you.”
She turned surprising the hawk into flying. Its talons bit slightly into her skin; she bit her lips. She wouldn’t cry. And the bird had not drawn blood. When she listened carefully she did hear voices calling her name. Her father! She smiled.
“I must go. I think.” She turned to the man wanting to apologize. He had given her a beautiful gift: a nice time.
“You should. I shall see you again.”
“Thank you for today. It was wonderful.”
“The pleasure was all mine Freya. Be certain of it.”
This time instead of kissing her cheek he brought her hand to his lips and pressed them on her fingers, like some men did to her mother after offering compliments about her beauty. Did that mean the man found her beautiful? He said so before.
“Until we meet again.” And with that he disappeared. It was as if the foliage had swallowed him. She gasped and smiled. This was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to her; and she would never tell anyone, especially not Isabel, because they would spoil it. This was her secret; she would come back… maybe see the fairy Aodhan again. She turned and walked towards the voices; her father had come to find her. And he wasn’t particularly happy; Dunstan had come too. The truth was that she had not expected her father to be this angry. Eventually he would forgive her, as he always did, but she had been gone for most of the day. Both her parents had been worried and even Dunstan berated her for worrying her mother this much. She didn’t comment but she didn’t believe her mother ever worried; in fact she had never seen her mother look anything but calm, as if all the terrors of the world didn’t bother her.