The Name of Liir
Fire, fire everywhere, burning her insides like holy water. At the sight of the streaks she had collapsed on the hard tainted wood and the howling chasm began to tear at her until she felt rent in heart and soul.
She did not notice the words leaking out her like a faucet, filling every particle of space in the room, in the tenement, in the world.
Fiyero, Fiyero, Yero, Yero, my Yero, Yero...
A burn like acid on her cheeks. The gloss of still-bright crimson stained her green wrists. She could still hear him, see him, taste him on her lips. It was her fault, all her fault.
It was after their argument, their last big one, and the sex was succulent, deliciously passionate. She sensed the change in him before he uttered it, his sleek body taut and voice huskier, rougher than his wont. He had gone in deeper than he had ever gone before, and she was excited and slightly scared at the change. Her mission loomed not far in her mind, umbra-like. She cast about for a thread of normalcy, something that would ground, mitigate this wonderful, terrifying intimacy.
"Yero. What is liir?"
Fiyero raised his head slightly, quizzically. "Sweet?"
"You said something odd. Liir or some such."
"Oh," he said, and bowed his head again, lazily tracing her skin. "Susliir. It's an Arjiki endearment. It means sweetling, or darling. Liir is a suffix, meaning 'little'."
"Like our common tongue," she said, amused. "I can't believe you spoke Arjiki to me, of all things."
"I must have gotten carried away," he said, slightly sheepish. "You do something to me. It mystifies me. It's like you have me under your spell."
"A witch," she scoffed, but amused. "How rich. Papa would blow a gasket. Well, I look the part, I suppose."
He sobered. His dark eyes, like velvet, softened. "Not really."
Her heart, thumping wildly, warmed - and sank. She stared up at the ceiling, swallowing thickly, dryly. "Even after all this time, you could be an agent for the Palace."
"I'm not," he said. "I'm good."
"You are sure she says nothing?"
"We know her name, but as to where she came from, what her parentage is, the Unnamed God only knows. She will scarcely even eat. We've had to tie her down. And then there is the matter of the water."
The Superior Maunt sighed and, laying her spectacles aside on her desk, rubbed the bridge of her nose. She was getting too old for these mysteries. The mystery of the Unnamed God was enough for her, thank you, without adding more cosmic twists into the mix.
"She doesn't talk about the child?"
"It's more than that, mum," said the junior maunt, almost hesitant. "It's like she doesn't even know it exists, hardly. Occasionally, when she's a bit better, she rocks him with her foot in the chair. But even then..."
The Superior Maunt sighed. The babe in question, asleep in the bassinet, shifted a little. He looked ordinary, even plainly so, pudgy like the son of a Gillikenese milk maid. Hardly that of a green, traumatized Munchkinlander stranger.
"Well, wherever he came from, he'll need a name. What does she call him?"
"She doesn't call him anything." But the younger maunt noticeably hesitated.
"What? Speak up, girl."
"Well...she does say something right queer, mum, like in another language. Something like leer."
"Liir?" The Superior Maunt frowned. "That doesn't sound Munchkinlander or Gillikinese to me. That sounds Vinkun."
"I know not what it is, mum."
"Does she say anything else?"
"No, mum. Hums a bit, but that's all."
The Superior Maunt pursed her lips. She had to make a decision. This child, whether it belonged to the green woman or left by another, had to be taken care of and at least named.
"Very well, we'll call him Liir then until something better can be devised. Take him to the nursery."
For her part, she thought privately as the nurses took the child, she could only hope the baby were a drop-off, a reject the green stranger had taken a fancy to. If it was indeed related to her by blood...well, that'd be a worse fate.
Liir never liked his name much. It proved, very early on, fodder for bullies as he got older and his middle expanded like a hot air balloon. He heard taunts of "queer Liir, fear Liir, stay clear of Liir" and other inventive rhyme sequences enough for a lifetime. But it wasn't until he and the Witch arrived at Kiamo Ko that he learned what it meant. Nor was the one to tell him, in that half-guileless, half-insulting way of hers.
"How come you're named Liir?" she'd asked. "You're big, not little. What a funny name."
He had no idea. At first it didn't seem to make much of a difference. Who cared what his name meant? Then there was the incident with the Carp in the well.
It was a nigh-mystical experience. At times he wondered if he had dreamt it. But the Carp had been clear: Susliir, she called him.
He knew enough Vinkun by then to know what that word meant, and it caught his attention. Sarima doted on her children and crooned it often. No one called him such things, not even Nanny, who called him dear, but it wasn't the same.
"Son of Fiyero Tigelaar," she said. "You are part of a destiny that awaits you. Awake, and take hold of it."
Son of Fiyero? Did that mean him, Nor, Irji, and Manek were siblings? The Carp assured him so, and then he knew no more until he saw the Witch's pale green face over him, gagging, bringing him back to life.
Now he questioned everything. If he was Fiyero's son, then who was his mother? Could it be the Witch herself, as unlike him as she was? He decided to try her, one day when she seemed in a good enough mood, busy measuring Chistery, recording his dimensions in her commonplace book.
"I told you not to call me that. What do you want?"
He steeled himself. Bracing. "Who named me Liir?"
To his surprise, the Witch was nonplussed. "I suppose the Superior Maunt did. She was in charge of the orphans. Why do you ask?"
"No reason." He hesitated, then recklessly went on. "What does Liir mean?"
This time she went still. Chistery looked over at his shoulder, cocked his head, and said, "Liir, here, fear?" as if in concerned inquiry. The Witch, gaunt, looked as if she had aged twenty years.
"I don't know." And then she said suddenly, abruptly. "Don't...don't ask me that again, you hear?"
So Liir gave up and put it out of his mind. He was never very observant; he only vaguely noticed how the Witch seemed to change in her behavior toward him. Once, to his outright shock, she tried to cook breakfast for him. Emphasis on tried - eggs ruined, she quit in high dungeon, stalking away to her tower.
And then there was her strange imperative, the only one he could remember her making of him.
"Why not?" He knew he whining, but didn't care. It was too unfair.
"Because I said so, that's why," she snapped, putting down the soup paddle in frustration. "Those soldiers are nothing but trouble, and that Cherrystone the worse of the lot. Why do you think they're even here? They're dangerous, Liir. Don't you dare go near them. If you do, I'll turn you into a toad."
It was only in hindsight that he realized the Witch, in a rare gesture, had been trying to protect him, and she had been absolutely right. But all he could feel at the time was the seeming arbitrariness of the demand.
"You can't make me," he said unthinkingly. "You're not my..."
It was fortunate Nanny arrived then to the kitchen, to interrupt them with one of her plaints about her sore limbs. But Auntie Witch fell silent and went into that odd, coma-like stillness again. Liir felt very uneasy then. The Witch had never hurt him before, only threatened him verbally, but what if he had pushed her too far this time? Then she snorted, quietly, almost as a comment to herself.
"Fine," she said. "Fine! I should've known you'd defy me. As you are like..."
She cut off. Then, as if in mute frustration, she left without another word.
"Who spit in her herb garden?" commented Nanny, staring. Chistery hooted low, his face wrinkling in a sad frown.
That was how matters stood between them: Indifference mixed in with low-key sniping that both pretended they did not in enjoy. Until the matter of Dorothy.
Dorothy. At the sight of her, gazing up nervously but curiously at the shadowed front of Kiamo Ko, Liir had felt his heart thump in uneven staccato, his palms sweaty. Ever since he heard the soldiers talk of her down at the Red Windmill, trading theories as to who she was, he had wanted to meet her. Incident with Nessarose and the house aside, she had sounded wonderful. And then, looking through the telescope at the Witch's tower, he had finally caught his first glimpse of her.
"What, what?" Auntie Witch whirled around, favor wild, desperate. For once she turned almost pale.
"Dorothy. She's..." His heartstrings hummed in tremolo. "...So cute."
In his bliss he missed Elphaba's animal-like growl.
But she and her companions misunderstood the missive and the messengers. When the bees were murdered before her eyes, falling like pins on the ground, she gestured wildly at the scene to Liir. "Look what your little girlfriend has done! Will you still love this Goddess of Gifts, who strews destruction at her wake, who killed Nessa and comes to kill me too?"
"Well, no one's perfect," he said, shrugging, but then he brightened. "Is that what Dorothy means? Goddess of Gifts?"
A crazed, humorless laugh in response, short but brutal. "Goddess indeed. She'll come imparting gifts, all right, a little Lurlina in the flesh." But the joke seemed to stun her a little; she fell silent, as if taken aback. Liir didn't notice.
"Well," he said, a little coolly. "It's better than Susliir any time."
He regretted it, hadn't meant it, only said it out of hurt. But words were words, and what was said was said. She closed her eyes for a long moment, as if in pain.
"Return to your post," she said finally. "Keep an eye on them, especially the Scarecrow. No more words, Liir, just...just do it."
Liir needn't have doubted. Dorothy was clearly an innocent, if chatty. He didn't mind at all - it was nice to talk to someone other than a surly Witch and a dotty nanny - though it was clear the Witch did. But whatever strength she seemed to draw from within her was gone and the girl began to cry, silently, in the middle of dinner. He longed to go comfort her, but the Witch stopped him with one of her looks. For some reason, out of instinct, he heeded her. Her aspect had changed; her eye had a manic gleam he had never seen before, and that scared him.
"Chistery," said the Witch, picking up that hideous dog, Toto, "go dump this thing in the well."
Pandemonium ensued. The Lion bristled and followed in a thrice. Liir, without a conscious decision on his part, made his choice. The Witch paused as he blocked the entrance, Dorothy struggling to break the green grip on her wrist. She looked surprised and, for a moment, almost sad.
"Liir," she said quietly. "You picked a hell of a time to grow a backbone. Get out of the way."
Was it right, was it wrong? He'd struggle to answer that question years later, shifting his reasons, his motives. It wasn't as if he had turned against the Witch, necessarily. He was just trying to protect Dorothy, trembling in fear and confusion, a stranger in a strange land. He had been young, too, even more callow than she. And yet he had to admit something did break, some unspoken, fragile thread of accord, of knowledge that had grown over the years, a thread woven in despite of the neglect on her side, indifference on his. It was a tenuous bond based on a quiet, unutterable, but persistent tenet of their relationship; one that may not even have been true, but was, in all probability, likely so.
She had named him Liir. The magic of the name held fast. A magic he then violated.
"Leave her alone, you - you wicked old witch!"
A flicker - of surprise? Hurt? Longing? - before it extinguished, like a candle flame by a breeze. She had frozen, stunned. Dorothy seized the opportunity to wrench her hand out of her grip, but she knew better than to run.
"I'll be fine, Liir," she said bravely enough, lip trembling. "Just don't let them hurt Toto, don't let them hurt my little dog. I don't trust the Lion, he's useless. Please, Liir -"
He had never loved his name as he loved it on her lips then. His kiss, closed-mouthed and chaste, was intense. Dorothy sank to her knees, stunned, just as it broke the Witch's own reverie. She muttered something, Liir didn't catch it over the blood pounding on his ears, and then, taking Dorothy's wrist again, jerked her up. Liir felt her magic push him roughly aside, the kitchen doors swinging. That was the last he ever saw of her, the last the ever saw of each other.
Fire, fire everywhere, for the second and last time, a blinding liquid light. How could it hurt, the burn, when she had nothing inside to burn or be burnt? Life's cruelest irony, realizing before her eyes.
Names and faces, whirling about her, intimates, friends, enemies, acquaintances. Frex, in a cringing knot; Melena, perennially beautiful, a flowing grace. Nessarose glacial, Shell whole and feckless. Boq peered at her, short and anxious; Crope and Tibbett twin-like and forever together. Morrible and the Wizard like tending shadows, waiting for a spot of weakness. Her namesake even appeared, Saint Aelphaba, a brief snatch of rich brown hair which morphed into a waterfall.
And then her Yero, his sapphire-starred arms around her like a second fire. Glinda flashed on by, glittering and pretty and patient, waiting ever for her turn to shine.
And Liir, poor hapless Liir, the peapod boy she had inadvertently named (she remembered too late, too late). Another casualty in the vicious circle of human frailty. Another victim of her hollowness.
The last face, more an echo of a voice than anything else, was in shadowy white fog, crying and calling to her. Will you forgive me, give me, give me...
The Goddess of Gifts had rendered her up at last.
A/N: This came about as a random muse I had about Liir and how he got his name if Elphaba didn't know she had given birth to him. The most logical answer would be that the maunts chose a name for him, but it's strange that a bunch of Gilikinese maunts would choose an odd and not very pious name like Liir. Nor Gilikinese-sounding. Gilikinese names like Glinda (who shares her namesake with a saint) and Avaric and Munchkinlander names like Boq, Bfee, Frex seem different in style and etymology, either vaguely Germanic or Latin-sounding. Liir, however, like Nor, Irji, and Manek, sounds typical Vinkun, with an Eastern flavor to them. This fic is an attempt to answer that question.
For the made-up Arjiki, since I have limited and slender knowledge of Eastern languages, I went Germanic, combining the German süß (sweet) with the -ling suffix, a diminutive, I think. Feedback is appreciated, reviews, etc.