“A fixed gateway cannot be claimed by anyone, regardless of its placement. All thirteen houses share this jurisdiction,” the disapproving Councilor of Orrend said, averting his eye, providing Tineka of Orrend a moment to regain decorum. As anticipated, her face rapidly cycled through every untoward emotion. He’d witnessed this display far too many times to remain tolerant. He judged her sidelong, as the brooding cloud dispersed and was replaced with pleading hope.
“Please, wise Orrend, just come study it before informing the entire council… I will not suggest that we claim it,” she whispered, calmly, as her eyes flashed with the emerald spark of their shared lineage, betraying her passion.
He envied her that, and was certain she knew it. An admirably-refined stoicism harnessed nearly all of his passion and had since his transition to statuesque elder, centuries ago. Fair, tow-headed Tineka, yet decades from her own transition, could not be held accountable for her spark. Before the change, the spark was as inescapable as the beating heart. A brazen spark from an elder was very rare—and deserving of peer condemnation. As the councilor of his house, he could not indulge. He grunted— dispassionately— at the thought, drumming long fingers on the imposing, darkwood desk. Standing barely taller than it, Tineka secured his gaze. Yes, she knew, the heart of this esteemed councilor still beat with the memory of his emerald spark. As though to prove it, she crinkled her tiny nose and employed her full dazzle.
“I ask only that you come to my flat and pass through my door. First, see for yourself,” she shrugged, grinning as he frowned at her emphasis.
Atlan of Orrend conceded, standing while withholding a grimace. Certainly, she would not have waited more than a clock’s bell for her turn at his ear, only to beseech him with a fiction. A portal was an important matter. He despised the outer city, hated leaving the keep—avoided outside completely if at all possible, and it usually was. The tubes provided easy transport to all areas beneath the Royal Spires. The Orrend could not remember when last he’d donned a respirator. He gestured for Tineka to lead the way.
As the tube approached District O, Tineka faced the Orrend and stifled her giggle—she’d never seen a masked councilor. She led him out and through the hectic bazaar, which was buzzing with the tinny static of voices modulated through too many masks. They caused a spectacle; even typically heedless faereys halted mid-dalliance to remark at the sight of a councilor afoot.
They crossed onto the second column and Atlan perked up, scanning above the bustling heads, perhaps seeking some nostalgic landmark. His tiny escort went on tip-toe to tap his arm, and point over the crowd to Tower 3.
Tineka clucked her tongue, unheard. Honestly, if only this wondrous gift from the Else—obviously, a gift to her—had manifested as her water closet doorway! Had the marvelous gateway not made it essentially impossible to enter her flat, she might have kept it a marvelous secret. How she wished she could. Five days, four different neighborly windows, all belonging now to neighbors believing her mad. ‘She’s a salted one—that Tineka, creepin’ along the ledge of the 91st storey—to spare the cost of a new lock!’ She dreaded the certain gossip.
The portal had remained for five days. If she’d told any other that she’d crossed by herself, a dozen times already—she’d be arrested. The Orrend was her trusted ally. He would pass through her door but not into her fine flat. Her door now opened only unto an intoxicating, undiscovered forest, in what must be a perfect world, an exotic world with a blue sky.
No previously documented portal had remained viable for more than a day. Portals belonged to horror stories, often leading to less than hospitable planes. Portals had vanished with exploration underway, permanently stranding whole teams of brave faereys elsewhere. No previous portal had opened upon a world with a blue sky.
Tineka removed her respirator, inhaling the familiar saccharin tinge upon the filtered air of the empty residence corridor. She motioned for Atlan to do the same. They would not be needing masks. Key in the lock, her mind stilled with the memory—blue sky was beyond beautiful; it tasted of more than purity. It tasted of life. Grasping the doorknob, her face lit, spying shared anticipation in the faintest green spark of the speechless councilor’s eye. The acrid residue that infiltrated even the best respirator—the putrid, greenish smog destroying their system’s last life-sustaining orb was nothing like blue sky. She opened the door.
“Wise Orrend, breathe this…”
© Caitlin Ann Easter, 2014, All Rights Reserved
Blue Sky is a short story that I wrote specifically for a contest– and it won! It is an ancient history prequel to my ongoing book series, The Ark of Traeadon, which takes place in our far future. Fae and the Faerinnian (’fer-än-ēən) race have played an important role in my work for more than twenty years. This glimpse of ancient Fae was conceived entirely for this contest and it was a very satisfying giant leap back in time.
Please see my interview with weBOOK about Blue Sky here: