I feel I have to explain this just to make sure it is understood: this. is. a. retelling. not an original fanfiction based on Melting Stones. It is Melting Stones, I just tweaked and added a few bits. I'd just finished reading it and the Evvy/Myrrhtide thing would just not leave my head, so, obeying the plot-bunny, I wrote it with more Myrrhtide. I know age difference blah bah but people have gotten together with bigger age differences. Numair-Daine is a decent age gap. ANYway, I don't own any part of this, it's all Miss Tamora's. More power to her, and more books for us plskthx. :)
Again, a modified retelling. So no comments saying I've just stolen the entire book. But please do comment, especially opinions on Evvy/Myrrhtide. Enjoy!
Again. She was hanging over the railing again. When would the stubborn-as-rock girl learn? He felt the water surge, saw the girl slip, fumble, catch herself, golden fingers and one lean leg wrapped tight around the railing.
"Evvy! There, you see? I warn and warn you, and now it's happened. You never listen."
He continued, stalking towards her, arm out ready to pull her back on the deck where she wouldn't sink to the bottom of the ocean.
"...never know when a swell like that will overtake us!"
The girl scowled at the older man as she slid back onto the deck. He had been about to touch her again. She hated being touched.
Myrrhtide halted at her scowl and lowered his hand. Rosethorn came over, there was some talk, Rosethorn taking the girl's side, as always. Myrrhtide sniffed and walked away. He didn't mean to be such a crosspatch, but he couldn't help it in the face of such obvious dislike from the girl. It was his defence. He spotted Rosethorn's hat, blown off into the sea, and asked the water to bring it to him. It obliged and he thanked it, running his hand over the tendril of water fondly, the flow and the feel of it calming him. Water understood.
They passed over and left a ridge on the ocean floor and Evvy started wailing at the rock to come back. Myrrhtide rolled his eyes and left her to it. The child.
What was she doing now? Myrrhtide went to where Evvy was lying on the deck. Had she fainted? He knelt down and touched his hand to her cheek. Her eyelids fluttered and her eyebrows drew down into an unconscious frown. He shook her shoulders, she groaned, and he shook them again. "Evvy! Evvy! Are you alright?" Her eyes snapped open, brown eyes staring up at him for a brief second...then she screamed, and slammed her head forward, into Myrrhtide's nose. He fell backwards into an awkward sitting position, eyes wide, one hand to his nose, as Evvy launched herself at him and started gnawing on his arm. He blinked down at her, more bewildered than anything else. Then, events catching up to his brain, his eyebrows snapped down in annoyance. "Make her let go of me!"
The rock-bear whispered to Evvy, and Rosethorn berated Myrrhtide for ignoring the warnings about touching her. He was only half-listening, trying to keep blood from getting all over his robes, when Rosethorn said something about a trance. He looked up. "She is too young to do a magic trance!" He was shocked, awed, more than anything else, but, as with most things, it came out of his mouth sounding like a rebuke. He groped for a handkerchief, glaring at a sailor who presumed to know about trances. Rosethorn crouched in front of him and gently lifted his hand from his nose. "It's bleeding, not broken. I have something that will fix it in a trice. Don't touch Evvy again unless it's a matter of life and death, understand?" She looked sidelong at the girl who rolled her eyes and said in an unsympathetic sounding apology "I'm sorry I almost broke your nose, Dedicate Myrrhtide." Myrrhtide sucked in air to tell her he didn't want any false apologies from her but she continued in an almost sing-song tone,"I thought you were one of the Imperial soldiers who whipped my feet."
The air left him. He looked at the almost unrepentant girl in front of him in horror that such a thing could have happened to her. Instead of rebuke, a whisper came from his lips. "They whipped your feet?"
She nodded and said matter-of-factly "I knew where people were hiding. The soldiers tried to make me tell by hitting the bottom of my feet with a cane. See?" She held up one foot and he almost could have wept. The sole of her foot, shaded from pale gold to almost white, rough and callused in parts from running barefoot across stones, was criss-crossed with thin red scars, shiny and mocking, bright and indelible. She continued, almost sadly, "I put crystal around my heart so I wouldn't tell" and then cheerfully "They gave up, finally."
Myrrhtide, tentatively, was about to ask another question but a sailor's cry of "land ho!" interrupted.
Finished packing, Myrrhtide went to the rail where Evvy was standing, longing for the shore written all over her stance. He tried to make conversation, trying to sound civil, friendly, instead of haughty like he knew he usually sounded. He told her a little about the Island and his experience there. Not even looking at him she said "You don't have to be nice to me just because I have scars on my feet. It was a long time ago." She felt him stiffen beside her, but as she wasn't looking at him, missed the fallen look on his face. She half listened to him prattle something about being civil and getting along, but was too focused on the approaching landmass. He sniffed, winced, and left her.
On shore Myrrhtide took out his annoyance on those who were meeting them, and was irritated and prickly all evening. He knew that he was coming across as haughty and rude but he was too angry to care. He had tried to be civil. He had thought that maybe they could have gotten along, friendship at least should not have been too much to ask for, there wasn't even that big of an age difference. She was almost fifteen, he was twenty-nine. He looked older and acted older, hell, he even felt older, but there it was. He was closer in age to her than Rosethorn. Myrrhtide grumbled to himself and wished the night was over so he could get to whatever flea-infested bed was allotted to him. Tea was placed in front of him. It shivered. He told it to calm down, but it didn't, wouldn't, couldn't listen. He kept trying through the meal, and his unease grew that he couldn't make a cup of tea behave. There was something big here, something involving the earth to make his tea dance the way it did. He glanced up at Evvy, talking to the chubby dark boy. He had a bad feeling that this would involve her now too.
They were trekking to the first dead spot. Myrrhtide could feel the water. And it hurt. There was something coming from somewhere, he couldn't tell what at this point, he was too far from the water's body, but he needed to get there and fix it. He could feel it like it was flowing through his veins instead of blood; the particles that made the water, the inescapable minerals that would leak into any natural water-source, and the something that threaded its way through the flow of the water, piggybacking on it uninvited, unwanted, burning the minerals, reacting with them in a way that made him feel...wrong. He needed to get to the water ahead but the girl was running around picking up rocks and Rosethorn was stopping to get her precious plants. So he waited, and seethed, and snapped at them, getting barely noticed glares in return.
They passed they house, and went to the lake, Myrrhtide growing more fed-up as they drew close. He didn't even care when Evvy's horse ran into his. He looked at the water, the dead, skinless fish. "Acid" He said miserably. It burned. Oh gods it burned. He half listened to what was being said giving half thought snappy replies. He collected water, whispering that he would fix it, he would make it better. He must have said something really horrible to someone, because the next thing he was fully aware of was the mountain-heart booming at him. Myrrhtide felt his face drain in shame, and he raced off on his horse to get away from it, from the people, and from the poor, painful water.
He fussed over each bit of water they passed, telling them all he would help. He was concerned for the water, and concerned for the girl. She was jittery, nervous. When the shake loosed the granite he had had his heart in his mouth the entire time, not worried that she couldn't hold it, he was not surprised at her abilities, but worried for her nonetheless. When she raced off he almost raced after her. But that wouldn't do, she wouldn't thank him for that. So he waited. Waited and worried as it got dark, forced himself to sit still when they returned to the inn. As he worried, he grew cross with himself. Why should he worry, she wasn't anything to him. Not anything.
The door opened and an exhausted Evvy stumbled through, ready for whatever Rosethorn dished out to her. What she wasn't ready for was a pleased looking Fusspot mocking her. She didn't understand that he was pleased because she was back, HE didn't even really understand that himself. He mocked, because that was the easiest thing to do, it was what he knew how to do. He sat and held himself to the chair when she began to stumble up the stairs, and didn't follow. She wouldn't want him there. She stayed. People spoke. He listened and was silent. Then she claimed she knew what was making the water bad. He couldn't take that. Anger blew aside everything else. He stood up and slammed his cup on the table. "I don't believe this!..."He went on but was interrupted. He seethed, but listened, and her explanation made sense. He poured water from a pitcher into an empty bowl and swirled it with his finger, writing symbols on the rim and scrying for the spirits she had spoken of.
Evvy was relieved that Myrrhtide wasn't arguing against her idea. He talked to some villagers and asked Luvo for details. It seemed as if he might believe her. Exhaustion was making her head fuzzy. Events blurred a little. An old woman came in. People talked, argued. Evvy felt better, warmer, when Rosethorn dropped Lark's shawl with the spells woven in it onto her shoulders, felt more alert. She focused on what was happening in time to see the smith tell the Mages they were addled, believing a story from a chit like her. She opened her mouth to respond but Myrrhtide got there first. He defended himself, which was expected, but he defended her, and her idea. Evvy's mouth remained open in disbelief and a warm feeling ran through her. He believed her, really believed her. She felt relieved, and grateful that he was on her side in this, as he thrust his tea under the nose of the disbelieving smith and pointed out the water's shivering. For a moment, even though he was little and skinny, Fusspot seemed majestic, and worthy of her respect.
Myrrhtide paused a moment when Evvy staggered upstairs to let his pride in her surface, before it was dragged back down under layers of irritation at the stupid people who refused to listen.
He no longer seethed...he boiled. He was tired from sending messages, although he had enjoyed being in the water. He had thought them stupid before but now...they were actually going back to their houses. He yelled at them trying to make them see that the only thing gained by staying was a probably painful death. They ignored him, or yelled back. They called him thief, said he was a false dedicate. These were the people he was trying to save, that he had been working for. These ingrates. He noticed little vines coming out of the ground. Good. Rosethorn. He called the water in the ground together under the feet of some of the men, who promptly sank down into the newly-formed mud. Once the headwoman and Rosethorn were there, the ingrates were forced to listen, though they still didn't agree, and insisted on staying put.
Evvy laid out dry clothes for Myrrhtide on his bed, hoping that the gesture would help, that it would help him feel better. He had looked tired, and frustrated, and couldn't they see how hard he had been trying to help them? How much he deserved their gratitude, and not what they were dumping on him now?
Myrrhtide stalked up the stairs to his room, a headache throbbing in his temples like a tide, pounding relentlessly. He was wary to find the door open, and shocked to find dry clothes laid out, fresh clean towels, and a tray of hot food and tea. The inn people wouldn't have done this. Rosethorn was still downstairs. It could have only been Evvy...but why? Surprised, confused, but grateful, and with a small warm feeling inside, Myrrhtide stepped into his room and closed the door behind him.
"She looks tired" Myrrhtide thought. It was morning, the shake from the night before meaning everyone was up and about already, though it was early yet. Evvy looked tired. He wondered if she realised how special she was, how lucky they were that she was with them, how much more she would probably have to do. Yes, he decided. She knew. She was a smart young woman. He slowed to ride beside her. "How are you feeling?"
She gaped up at him. "I know it's dark, but you have to be able to tell you're speaking to me?"
"Yes I know. Your health is important young woman. Right now you and Luvo may be our best protection from a tomb of lava." He snorted at her expression. "What, just because I spent the last day in the lake I'm too preoccupied to understand the obvious? Rosethorn and I can do very little against a volcano. You are all the help we have."
She looked uncertain. "You don't think we messed up, letting people know that we'd bought some extra time? I thought you'd be saying I don't have any right to call myself a mage."
Myrrhtide rubbed his face tiredly. "The first thing every mage should learn is that magic makes fools of us. Now you may call yourself a mage. You have learned the most important lesson. Tell me then – if you did trap our young volcano children, why are we rushing along today?"
She looked up at him, bottom lip trembling, and then her face fell and it all came out. That she had bought time at the cost of making them stronger. And Myrrhtide listened. Evvy felt gratitude that he had called her a mage, that he was really listening, that he calmly went back over the story, asking questions, sorting out facts. Myrrhtide was grateful to her as well, grateful for the kindness of last night's gesture of dry clothes, grateful that she was opening up to him. Grateful that she was talking to him at all. Evvy looked around, and asked him to ask Rosethorn to lay down some vines, saying there was going to be a shake. Myrhhtide happily complied, passing the warning along the trailing company along the road, headed for the docks to await the hsips Myrrhtide had sent for, then he turned and rode back to where Evvy had taken off her boots and waded into the river. She raised her arms, holding the rock wall in place. She yelled out "SHAKE! SHAKE A BIG ONE!" and braced herself. Myrrhtide dismounted and braced himself and his horse. The ground rumbled. Myrrhtide saw Evvy stiffen and saw her eyes glaze as her magical body left her real one. He dropped his reigns and ran, sliding into the water as she fell forward, legs stiff, upper body lax and empty. He pulled her upright and wrapped his arms around her, going down on one knee to help support her weight. He kept one arm around her and with the other he held her head above the water. The shake went on, and finally stilled. Her eyes opened. Myrhhtide rememberd to breathe. Evvy blinked. "Uh-oh. I guess I fell down." He raised his eyebrows at her. "Most of you did. Your feet and legs are stiff as stone." Evvy sighed, but made no attempt to move. "Thanks for keeping me from drowning." Evvy looked up at him, eyes searching his face. Myrrhtide shifted uncomfortably. "You should create a spell so your whiskers come off in water. Think how much time you'd save. You'd make a fortune peddling it to people. Even ladies would want it, so they'd never have to get their bodies plucked again." Shifting again to ease the weight, trying to ignore the waters awareness and the warmth he could feel through fabric, Myrrhtide said dryly "shaving – or plucking – is the last thing on my mind. Will you tell me what was on yours? You nearly drowned. I couldn't carry you out. You felt like you weighed several tonnes?" Evvy started guiltily. "Oh. Right." He felt something leave her and she relaxed against him briefly before standing on her own. "I borrowed the stones weight so the shake wouldn't knock me down. I didn't realise I'd need to be stiff all over." "Why didn't you wade to the bank and do whatever you had to?" Myrrhtide watched as she blinked and blushed. "I didn't think of it." She admitted. "Ah." Myrrhtide thought it was so like her, rushing off without a thought for those who would worry. "Then the exercise is valuable, if you learned from it. Now.." but Evvy had stopped lisening, as she felt the ground move and a heartbeat later heard an explosion. Myrrhtide and Evvy raced up the riverbank to see a smoking Mount Grace.
Evvy couldn't shake it from her mind. The heat from Myrrhtides' hands surrounded by cool swirling water. His face so close. She couldn't help but feel...cared for. She was still getting used to having people that worried for her, and wouldn't have thought Myrrhtide to be one of them. But his hands had been warm, and his eyes concerned, and she hadn't wanted to stand up. She mentally berated herself. Concentrate, girl! You've got some volcano spirits to deal with. But his hands had been so warm. Thinking of Myrhhtide reminded Evvy of something. It twinkled at the back of her mind like a crystal in granite. She remembered and rushed to ask Myrrhtide, but stopped short when she saw him.
Myrrhtide was in the water again, his habit kilted up around his waist. He walked along the bottom of the river as easily as she walked along the road. He didn't slip or slide as she did. Evvy stared in awe. Fishes darted around and between his feet, some of them big ones. Now and then one of them would leap in the air and hit broadside, splashing him. His pale lashes were marked with water drops. Water beads sparkled on his short red hair. He looked...happy.
Evvy had never properly seen this Myrrhtde. He was serene, calm, kind. He sparkled in the sun like a diamond. He had a small, soft smile and he looked younger than Evvy had thought him.
"Evvy, if your face freezes like that, you will frighten small animals. Is something the matter?" Even his voice was gentle. Evvy hesitated a bit before asking "Back on the ship, when I banged you in the face, do you know where we were?"
Myrrhtide told her of the trench, wondering why she would want to know, and stroked a fish twining round his legs. He looked up as Evvy and Oswin debated over whether it would work or not. Even the water couldn't keep him completely calm."Will someone please tell me what the trench has to do with anything?" He stepped out of the water, and yelped as he stood on a sharp stick. Evvy came over and offered to help, directing him to a smooth stone to stand on. He frowned, confused, as he unhooked his sandals from his belt. "Why are you being helpful?" Evvy took them and knelt in front of him, doing up one sandal, then the other. "Because I found out you're not such a crosspatch. It's funny, the way you learn how decent people are when things get bad." Myrrhtide felt the small warm feeling get bigger. He rested a hand on her shoulder. "All right young lady. What are you up to?" She looked up at him. "Nothing bad." Moths fluttered in her belly. She stood up and smiled at Myrrhtide, ignoring the moths. "There you are, all shod and ready to visit the Emperor." Myrrhtide smiled too, the small soft smile from the river, and his hand tightened on her shoulder. The moths fluttered harder. "Good. Very good. Now let's see what you and your friends are cooking up. And try to take care of yourself. You are starting to grow on me."
Evvy was gone. He knew what she was doing. She was leading the volcano spirits to the trench. Just like her, to rush off alone. He guided people onto the ships, constantly glancing at her body on the horse. An empty body, tied down with ropes. He saw when she returned, saw the stupid blonde girl hit her, saw her face fall when she found out about the young girl going back. He saw all this, but couldn't go to her; he was busy calling the ships, helping people board, trying to control the chaos on the shore. He knew when she left too, but it was so like her. He didn't stop her, she wouldn't have listened anyway. So like her.
Rosethorn hadn't wanted to leave, not without Evvy. He had made her. There was no point going back now, she had made her decision, and was Evvy a mage or not? Outwardly he projected confidence, inwardly he trembled with fear for her, wanting to go racing back to the shore, up the path and after her. But he didn't. He felt it when she led the spirits under the water, felt it when the spirits came up through the trench into the ocean, saw it when they sprouted above the ocean's surface in a plume of smoke and steam. The island was safe. He would go back as soon as possible...
Evvy was melting. Losing herself to the thick liquid heat around her. She tried to remember herself. Her belly that loved food. Her tooth that was beginning to ache. Evvy promised herself that if she got out of his she would get it looked at. She remembered her skin, soaking in the sun, soaking in the warmth of sun-baked stone. The warmth of hands in the midst of cool swirling water. A small soft smile. Evvy tried and failed to rebuild herself, the promises to herself cracking like quartz in the heat. Then Luvo was there, and the islands, and relief, and everything was going to be ok now...
They were coming today. Evvy and the others went down to the shore to meet them. The first ship to return to the island. Luvo was with them, had been the means of communication with them, to say they were ok. They waited. Excitement growing as the boats approached. They had put down the ship's boats, not wanting to bring the ship amongst the rubble of the docks until they were sure it was deep enough. Myrrhtide was in the first boat. He jumped out in the shallows to help pull it in, looking almost like he had in the river, serene and sparkling, with a small soft smile for the girl waiting on the beach.