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Hearth





Happy birthday suchaprince !! I am sorry this is late, but I am terrible:P I hope you enjoy your sort-of-faerietale:)


 
Hearth


The spread of your fire spills through the paper screen. I am so cold and it has been raining so long.

I crouch under the bamboo planks of your floor, my belly fur matted with mud. I can taste the fish you are cooking on the air, and glimpse the sizzling iron plate through the cracks in the flooring above my snout. Would you open your house to a creature that steals from your table?

I smell powdered matcha tea and shiver from nose to tail. I can trade you a story for a sip of company and relief from the downpour. I dig my toes into the dirt below and twitch the guard hairs on my ears. It is no use—I sneeze.

I hear the tick of the iron teapot as you set it down. Your sigh drifts into the damp air around me. My paws whisper as I slink to the edge of your porch. I hear you walk to the screen and pull it aside.

“Enter and be welcome. This is a night for misery shared.”

I fluff out my tails, tensing to run. I can part the veil to return home, but I am so tired. I close my eyes and gather the last of my strength as you walk away.

My fox-shape dissolves, and I remember what it is to be human. So heavy and awkward. I feel my tails settle under the layers of my red kimono. I touch my face—no pointed ears or snout--it will do. The gold of my family crest peeks from the transparent silk under the outer shell of my kimono. I tuck it away and walk over to tap on the screen. My fingers are stiff, and I want to curl them inward like paws; yet I have remembered a little of manners.

“I asked you to enter. I haven’t changed my mind.” You tell me.

I can see the black gloss of your hair as I cross the threshold. It is pulled tight into a knot, your midnight kimono spread around your hakama as you sit, waiting.

“Blessings on your house.” My voice is ragged from disuse.

You smile and I see the flames reflected in your irises. “Please sit my lady.”

I cross the floor, careful to keep my tails still as I walk.

“You have set a place for me?” I look away from the bowl of rice and fish, my stomach cramps with hunger. An empty green-glazed cup sits waiting beside the bowl. I don’t know what to do, and I want to run. My bare feet tense against the wood floor. Slippers—I have forgotten so many details.

“Sit. I will make tea.”

I glance back at you, terrified my gold eyes reveal too much. I cannot change their colour.

I watch as you take the kettle from the fire, pouring boiling water high over the tea bowl, not spilling a drop. You whisk the powered tea, your fingers almost longer than mine. I avoid your eyes. Why would you waste such a precious gift on a stranger caught spying under your floor?

I glide closer slowly, standing across from you. I hold the kimono out to hide my feet. I spread the fabric around me as I sit down, tucking my tails against my toes for warmth.

I hear a mouse under the floor, drawn by the smell of fish. I taste a hundred pots of tea fused with the iron of the teapot, I hear the smile before it graces your face, smell the oil in your hair—but I cannot lift my eyes.

“I have left the sashimi for you. I know you prefer fish uncooked.”

You pour the tea into my cup. I reach for it, and my fingers envelop the sides. I close my eyes and the heat travels up my arm. I draw the warmth of the fire into my mouth with the tea and trap it behind my chest. I feel a little more energy trickle in with my tiny spell.

I can never stay warm in this form. I sip my tea and finally open my eyes. I feel like my skin is covered in fur, it tingles under your stare. But I am still human enough to pass.

“My name is Toshiro.” You tell me.

I must speak. My mouth feels tangled. I take a sip of tea and curl my other hand over my knee, brushing the silk.

“I am Keori. Thank you for your—“Words fracture in my mouth, the room feels too small “Gift.” I finish with a gasp.

My tails shiver in embarrassment. The smell of fish overwhelms me then, and I feel the pull of running on four legs, tearing into flesh, inhaling life—

 I feel warmer with the tea, but not safe. Never safe.

“Please eat. Manners are not important in the face of such need.” Toshiro smiles kindly and his face dimples

 My mouth waters before I place the fish on my tongue, forcing myself to chew. I barely remember to put the cup down before I spill it over my kimono.

Toshiro turns his head and whispers to the fire in the centre of the room. It flares up, an ember flying out and rolling to his side, smoldering on the floor. He picks it up in his bare hand, and a tiny flame emerges over his skin.

I move away, but I can smell the warmth of his skin, the burning pine chip in his palm.

“Don’t worry my lady. I just wanted you to know that I will not share your secret. I have one of my own.” Toshiro blows on his hand, the flame moves to hover in the air between us, and then blinks out.

“I…understand. You knew what I was when I sneezed.” I reply.

“No. When you stole my goose.” Toshiro laughs.

I look away. “It was too easy. No hunt, no thrill, but I couldn’t leave it.” I feel my lips curl up in a smile.

Toshiro holds his hand out for my cup.

I pass it to him, the edge of my kimono falling away from my tails. I hiss, horrified, and pull it down.

“No need to hide your fur.” Toshiro shrugs his kimono off his shoulders and sighs. The cream and brown wings of a hawk-eagle lift from his back. He moves his feet from under his hakama.

Now I can see his clawed bird feet, legs covered in scales to the ankle. I can smell the wind on his breath, and his wings flex to touch the floor.

I move my hand behind me, growing a black claw on one finger. I rip the back of my kimono, and my tails spring free. I sigh in relief.

“Thank you.” He smiles.

I nod back at him as he hands me my cup. “Would you—“I grimace. My eight tails twitch with annoyance in my struggle with words. “I will tell you a story if you wish. To repay you for your kindness.”

“A tale, fine company, and tea. I can think of no better way to spend an evening.” I see the flame in his eyes again; I know it isn’t a reflection now.

I remember how to blush. The one human trait I wished to forget. I start to speak to cover my falter. “It begins in a palace made of starlight…”

I forget what it is to be alone as I share Toshiro’s fire. The rain becomes distant as I speak, and Toshiro renews my tea as the night wears on. The shadows are burned away and at last I forget to run.



Keori is a Kitsune--a Japanese fox-spirit. The higher the number of tails it has, the wiser, older, and more powerful it is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune


Toshiro is a Tengu--a bird-man.  I made his fingers overly long, rather than his nose;) I sort of named him after one of the greatest Japanese samurai actors in history, Toshiro Mifune.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitsune

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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
suchaprince
May. 4th, 2011 08:14 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness, this was positively magical. So, so very lovely.

Thank you so much! Reading it was a bit like a spell being cast. Just absolutely gorgeous. <3
ciaranbochna
May. 4th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. Oh I am so thrilled you liked it!! That is exactly the mood I was going for, but I never know how these things turn out--or if all my tenses are correct, since I am crap at that..lol
samalander_dawn
May. 7th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
wonderful :)
ciaranbochna
May. 7th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
You are too kind:) Thanks;)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )