Jair refuses to show any weakness to those within the tent. It takes him a long while to muster the strength to let go of the tent flap – such a weak, flimsy support, and why is he thinking of that? – and enters the tent it hides.
The first thing he notices is the light, the lantern set on the desk right in front of the tent 'door'. It strikes him as odd, having watched his own lantern revolve, sway, rotate above him, and lose shape and clarity, becoming but pure light as he sank so many times into fevered sleep; hanging from a long piece of twine from the highest pole in the tent he has started to unconsciously think of as his own.
The second thing he notices is the dark. His own tent is well lit, even from that one lantern. This tent - perhaps because of its size? – has only that one pool of light, illuminating the desk, laden as it is with numerous scrolls, and it's occupant, leaning back in that one chair, his hands joined, finger-tip to finger-tip, a steeple, above which he observes Jair. The rest of the tent is in darkness, shadowed and ambiguous.
Jair moves without any visible hesitance to the desk, where no chair awaits him, covering internal dread with calm, cool, as of a silvering lake in moonlight. He stands there, looking steadily at the man across from him, whose features are rendered indistinct, as he leans away from the light, far far back.
He rests trembling hands on the edge of the tabletop, gripping slightly to hide trembling, trusting in the scrolls to keep them from sight. And he waits.
The man only stares for a moment and in that moment Jair thinks suddenly, crazily, what the man before him sees. A young man, pale and scared, playing at adult? Or maybe something less?
He doesn't realize the affect he portrays, the cool unhesitant steps from the entrance, unfaltering, and such a contrast from the sick young man tossing in his bed that the man has seen before. He stands inside the circle of illumination, firelight flickering in his elf-gold hair, casting his sharp face in in strict contrast, emphasizing the faint hollows in his cheeks, the slant in his eyebrows, the high brow.
Jair looks otherworldly, briefly ethereal, entirely elfish for a brief instant, in his element. Then the picture flickers, as he moves, and the man realizes that the boy – really, only a young boy, and what have they sunk to, exploiting children – is trembling.
The man rises, and goes to the tent flap, opening it and calling for someone, Jair is not sure what, or who. After a little while he returns with a chair, and Jair is thankful, very thankful, briefly, before he remembers that this man is likely the one behind his kidnapping.
He breathes in deeply before resuming the hum of song, too low to be heard, weaving it skillfully into the very fabric of the background, so it became a necessary component, and it is unthinkable that it could stop, and not resume. He weaves it around himself, the protection of song, unthinkable, but strong, and he knows it. He also knows its dangers. But he will not think on them now, not when there could be danger threatening his family. Not now. He'll pray the price later.
The man resumes his seat behind the table, this time leaning forward and placing his elbows on the table. He is swarthy, dark-skinned and strong looking. His hair would have been gypsy dark, Jair guesses, but it is grayed with age, giving him a dignified look.
It takes a long while. But finally he speaks, startling Jair, his song faltering for the briefest instant, "My name is Lecena, Jair Ohmsford." His voice is smooth, honey smooth, used to the bartering that the gypsies did, though it might be called swindling more often than not. "And you have something we want."
That doesn't startle Jair. He knows it already. Wishsong, of course. Let them take it from him if they can. He doesn't think it is possible.
He hesitates, then asks, "What?" If his voice comes more melodiously, if it is but an extension of song, the man might not notice. He is counting on it, as sound dwindles again, concentrating on banking the magic that wishes to swell along with his voice, chaining it with the words his mother had repeated to him, so many times.
You are intelligent, talented, just as you are. You have no need of tricks and artifices to advance yourself. Be who and what you can without the song.
Without the song, no. Not anymore. It is his only weapon. But without the magic, for now. For now. He shivers, and knows that his kidnapper has caught it.
"Your magic." The man replies, "Your song." He shrugs slightly, "Whatever you may call it."
Jair wonders how to respond for a long long moment – too long, he realizes. The cue has passed. It is not his turn any longer.
The man speaks again. "Let me tell you a story, Scion of Shannara."
Do you know who the Gypsies are, child? Do you know where we came from?
No response, maybe a slight swelling in the low rumble threatening in the boy's throat. That was okay.
We are… well, you could call us exiles, before the beginning of time. Elves hate us, you know? Men, now they will shelter us for short amounts of time, sometimes, though we tend to repay that with stealing all their valuables and wandering away. It's what we do. It's what we are expected to do. But Elves, they won't let us get near them.
This child was the embodiment of their wishes, their fears. He didn't even know it, and watch him sitting there, sharp-faced, golden, Elvish.
I think you know the point I am arriving at.
There, finally, a response. A brief flicker of – was it fear? – passes over those bright eyes, before it is subdued, entirely except for the song which dies a little before growing again, subtle, but there in a way it wouldn't be for anyone but Lecena.
They exiled us generations ago. Neither of us remembers why. We fled, seeking refuge from further reprisals from the elves. We were afraid. Then. Now, well…
Lecena pauses, shrugs, watching the watchful child.
Now we hate them.
Sound dies, it's absence sudden, shocking, fearful. Silence spreads, maybe just within the small circle of flickering lantern light, the dark walls looming invisibly in the surrounding darkness. Lecena leans back in his chair, thoughtfully steepling his fingers, joining the tip of each finger with delicacy, softness.
The stillness is broken by a long drawn out crash-roll of thunder, sudden, startling. The child jumps; Lecena doesn't.
There is only one more thing left to say, and he says it:
There is a storm coming, Jair Ohmsford, scion of Elves. And we intend to ride it's crest back to glory. And we will harness it by, well…
He gestures negligently at the child,
The story is over.
The world wavers around him, he feels terror start overtaking him, sheer, stark terror, an pushes it back into the dark recesses of his mind with pure force of will.
He cannot let these people know of Brin's gift.
He will not.
His own folly has caught up to him, but he will not drag his sister with him if he falls.
He stands forcing every reluctant muscle to react to his will, the interview over and done with. Diziness strikes as soon as he is upright, the tent swaying and darkening before his eyes. His hands tremble; he clenches them so as to not betray it, and turns towards the tent flap.
Three long steps await. The opening beckons seductively, offering freedom from the severe claustrophobia seizing him.
He takes one step, and from then, pure momentum carries through. One more… one more…
Then he is outside, watching as the impending storm finally breaks over his head, the gray clouds darkening the sky, looming over the proceedings, menacingly close.
Rain pours down, sheets of it, visibility suffering immediately.
He has been clutching the tent supports to hold himself upright, and the storm's fury enfolds him, and suddenly he laughs in pure exhilaration, letting go of his support.
He steps into the rain, the cascading droplets hitting his skin with enough force to sting, the rush of the rain drowning out any sound. Buffeting winds push and pull at him, and for a moment he is their equal.
Then strength leaves as quickly as it came, and he falls forward, his knees sinking into the mud, and catches himself with one hand quickly enough to not fall headfirst into it.
He looks up, his vision wavering, narrowing, and sees someone approach.
And he sees rain fall straight at him, from a dark sky, silver droplets, hissing through the air, falling, so many hundred thousands, the vision making him feel insignificant for a moment.
1538 words. Maybe there should be more.
Must... get... back... to... work... on... Cross your Heart...
Real life too. Way too much procrastination going on here...