Chapter I - Pendant of the Witch - Part one: The Journey of the Stone (pt 2)
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For Amphi, her favourite ornament was a two foot grandfather clock. She was given it when she was eighteen, the same age as Chime today. That was fifteen Circular ago. Despite that, the small clock ticked dully every second of each day. Never once did Amphi have to mend it or replace any parts. She sometimes remembered the man who gave her that clock, and remembered she once had a different life to the one she lived in Fele-Hoon. As solemn as that thought was, she always found joy in watching the brass pendulum swing inside the dark varnish wooden casing. Even the engraved rose on the frosted glass front made her smile, seeing the mechanics of the clock work through the clear parts edged from the rose shape upon the frost.
The entire house remained silent; all three floors were motionless and soundless. However, in their single rooms, both ladies were franticly getting ready for the festival, a festival which happened four times a year. The first day of the first Quarter, the second day of the second Quarter, continuing in that fashion.
Amphi, trying on many dresses, focusing on a yellow one. A long, single piece dress which dangled just above her ankles. To compliment it, she wore green, strapped sandals on her feet, fastening them softly around her feet and her calves.
Being one piece, the dress was still yellow for her top half. The dress cut neatly into a “V” shape on her front, giving Amphi a little reveal. The sleeves were armless, covering only half her shoulders. For this, she wore green woven bangles around her wrists.
Amphi was never one to look intentionally scruffy. She gave her waste long blonde hair a couple of gentle curls. She liked her hair to look bigger, she often though it helped soften her sharp features. Amphi was always very quick to get ready for occasions. She knew exactly which look she wanted, and often went for the same look.
Being a Safni, Amphi knew neatness was always important to being accepted in a human dominated society. Luckily for Amphi, her features were very human. Very little of her face was aquatic, except the colour of her skin, which remained white, with a blue tint. Her fingers and toes were all webbed to about half way. For her hands, the webbing extended just beyond the knuckles. The only other marking of her race was the three small slits just behind her ears. For Amphi, these gills were covered by her long, shiny blonde hair.
Amphi pushed the dark green curtain that hung in the doorway of her room. Standing out in the corridor she called across the hall ‘Chime, are you nearly ready?’
A hurried answer came from behind the curtain of Chimes room. ‘Yes Amphi, I’m nearly ready’ Chime replied, fastening her belt to her trousers.
After a couple of minutes, Chime emerged from her room. She was wearing a black tunic, complete with flared black trousers and a black belt. Her hair was straighter than usual. Her hair tipped just between her shoulder blades. The only accessory she wore was the purple pendant she always carried with her.
Amphi looked at her longingly, wishing Chime would try to vary her look. ‘Trousers, again? People will wonder if you have any other outfit Chime’ she said, smiling.
Chime looked at herself, then admired Amphis outfit ‘I like this outfit, it looks nice on me’ she replied, hoping to avoid getting changed once more.
Amphi nodded, folding her arms gently as her shoulder leant against the curved wall ‘you look lovely in that outfit each and every day Chime. These festivals come only four times a Circular, every ninety one Cycles. I’m sure there is something else you have in that endless wardrobe of yours’. She remarked, smiling before continuing ‘black, of course.’
Although she knew Amphi would react this way, Chime frowned before disappearing behind her curtain once more.
It took only a few minutes for Chime to reappear, in black again. This time, she had put on a strapless top, one which clung tightly to her shape. The other part was a layered skirt, flaring out with many noticeable sections. This skirt hung from Chimes belly, down so that it hid her feet.
Amphi smiled gratefully ‘thank you Chime’ she said, walking up to her. ‘You look lovely’ continued, before leading the way down the stairs, satisfied.
Chime nodded to herself whilst she followed Amphi.
Although the night was still early, darkness had set on the forest. Although there was no signs or directions in Fele-Hoon that gave lead to where the party was; the noises of music and happy chatter could be heard far into the night.
Fele-Hoon kept itself to the fashion of the forest that surrounded it for miles. There were no brick roads or tiled houses. All houses were either made from the hollow trees, or built using the resources the forest provided. Although roads were not constructed, many paths had been trodden and formed over the many circular and the many footsteps that walked them.
Being very small, Fele-Hoon had a very circular feel to its layout. Most the housing was on the outside of the village, whilst the shops and facilities formed a smaller circle closer to the middle. At the heart of Fele-Hoon was the unofficially designated village square. This was where most town meetings or public events were held. This had been named by the people of Fele-Hoon as the “Circleade”.
From their home, it usually took Amphi and Chime around fifteen minutes to walk through Fele-Hoon. Many people were migrating to the Circleade, coming from the infinite directions like rain filling a bowl. The mood in the air was high. Many of the residents of Fele-Hoon were joyful on these festivals, bringing with them their families and their hopes for the future. For many, the day of the festival gave significance to marking each past success and welcoming the future in high hopes, and with open arms.
For this, everyone brought offering of food and drink, to be shared amongst everyone, for the enjoyment and fulfilment of others. There was no law which stated this, but to not would be considered bad manners. Amphi and Chime had laboured many nights to perfect their skills in making many small cakes. Each of the cakes they made seemed bland on the outside, having only a sprinkle of sugar to dust the top. However, inside every individual palm sized cake was a small, still fresh fruit. Some had strawberries, cherries, even slices of orange or banana.
When Chime and Amphi arrived at the Circleade, they placed the carefully wrapped plates onto one of the many large tables. It was easy to see in the night air as there were many small fires dotted around the Circleade. The fires, although only small, attracted many people to sit around them or to dance near them. The orange glow filled the air and gentle warmth could be felt from these fires. Sometimes a little ash would drift high, sparkling red, orange and yellow as it scattered and waved itself out. In the middle of the Circleade was a large group of musicians. These musicians were not professionals, but they were good at their hobby and more importantly, loved to perform at festivals such as this one.
The evening was going well for both Amphi and Chime. Amphi did not take long to get into the party spirit; it took little over an hour before she was dancing franticly and clumsily with another woman. She was throwing her legs high, kicking them in rhythm with the music and clapping her hands joyfully as she linked arms with the other dancer.
The other dancer was a woman in her late forties, a red haired Elf named Halisha. She was just as jolly as Amphi as she giggled in the firelight, occasionally linking arms with Amphi while she turned and clapped hands playfully with her children.
Amphi giggled, clapping hands as she danced with her feet, trying to get Halishas’ children to join in with their dancing. ‘Come, let’s show your mother we’re better dancers’ she joked.
Two of the three children laughed, the third blushed and ran off as he giggled. The two that remained, the oldest girl and the youngest boy turned on Amphi. They began dancing with their mother, trying to dance better than Amphi. The third and middle child, who ran away, had a secret schoolboy crush on Amphi. He was in one of the classes Amphi taught in the village. He always looked forward to Amphis alchemy lessons and he always arrived early so he could get a seat at the front of the class. Amphi saw a lot of potential in him, she called him “Blitzo”, being that he was always the first to complete practical experiments and that his name was Ophenal.
Chimes evening was a lot different. She was not one for dancing and being in the middle of attention. She preferred to sit quietly, even if people sat with her. As the music danced in the air, she sat with a familiar man, talking lightly and enjoying her time in the sole company of Sonthal. She enjoyed his company a lot, but she did not wish Amphi to find out. Chime dreaded the idea of Amphi sitting up all night, questioning her playfully about her love life and any embarrassing topics which related to her love life. Although Chime loved Amphi, she had grown to know that Amphi was rather blunt about such subject and had little shame in asking personal questions. Chime knew Amphi never questioned her out of cruelty, but to Chime, Amphi was a little too open about these subjects than she preferred.
The air was warm for the time of year. The fourth quarter was the winter season, but with the warm evenings continuing, frost seemed less likely. Although this was hoped, everyone knew the frost would come eventually. For that reason, the warmth was welcomed even more, and heartedly celebrated by everyone.
It was in this warm evening, Sonthal was sitting next to chime on a long, half cut log on the outskirts of the Circleade. He had eaten long before he came to Chime, and offered her some of his wine. To his joy, Chime accepted and sipped it gratefully. For the many Circular he had known her, he knew Chime was fond of red wine when the occasion called for it.
His eyes were aflame in the glow of the fires. He gazed forward, one knee by his chest as he spoke, occasionally moving the hand that held the wine skin.
He made a small gesture to Amphi, who was clearly enjoying herself while she danced 'when do you think she’ll get too drunk this time?’ he asked, his mouth opening a small gap to show his teeth.
Chime giggled as she glanced briefly at Sonthal ‘it will be some time yet. She has yet to throw her arms around anyone’ she said, giggling gently at Amphis confidence.
Sonthal laughed, a few people nearby turned to him briefly. ‘I don’t think she’s scared about showing her affections even when she is sober’ he said, taking a sip of wine from his skin.
As she let out a soft giggle, Chime looked upon Sonthal. She was never a fan of shaved hair, but she loved his black shaven hair on his dark skin. She glanced occasionally at his shaped muscles whenever he wore short sleeves. Tonight he decided to put on s dark blue short sleeved tunic. Chime liked him in blue.
After Chime studied Sonthal, she looked at the rest of Fele-Hoon enjoying the night time festivities. Looking at Amphi and the many other people dancing, she wondered what it would be like to dance with Sonthal. She wanted to lean against him; his stature was stoic and alive.
She took a sip of the wine he poured into her mug, feeling the maroon liquid slide inside her. ‘I never see sense in what she does, but Amphi always has a lot of confidence about her’ she said, trying to move herself from the subject.
When Chime was not looking at him, Sonthal was studying Chime. He noticed her shapely body, even behind the loose garments she chose to wear. As she sat, her ankles protruded under her skirt, the white flesh catching his eye. She was lean, but he liked that about her. Sonthal was not a man who liked bigger hips. As with any man, he could not help but notice Chimes chest, curved outwards and moving as she breathed the air that kept her alive. But for Sonthal, it was her soft cheekbones that attracted him the most. Those eyes of hers, dark yellow with an ever accurate stare; even as children he was mystified by her eyes.
He took a large, chest moving breath before speaking ‘how do you live with her?’ he asked, half joking and half curious.
With the question, Chime sighed. Taking another sip of wine she answered ‘she is a very kind woman. I think many people misunderstand her, Solthar. She does what she can to teach children the skills to read and write. She makes sure the people she knows are looked after’ she started, thumbing the lip of her mug.
Chime smiled distantly, recollecting events from her past she had shared with Amphi. ‘She goes out of her way, to make people feel better about themselves. Often, I think she plays the fool on purpose. She is very clever, her work in alchemy is brilliant and she can speak many languages’. Chime paused for a moment, wondering what Sonthal would say to her response.
Sonthal said nothing. Chime felt his lips warmly press against hers. Chime tilted her head towards his, relaxing her eyes and the rest of her body as she tastes his salty mouth upon her.
Solthar pressed in, enjoying her velvet lips against his, her gentle touch sweetening the tip of his tongue.
As both Chime and Sonthal pulled gently away, Chime took a long and deep breath. This was not her first kiss, but it was certainly one of the better ones Chime had received. The pause after the kiss left all sounds to echo, as if calling from a great distance. Both Chime and Sonthal continued to talk quietly after, moving a little closer to each other. They remained like this until both Chime and Sonthal decided they had been out late enough.
Amphi was enjoying her night, dancing and swaying playfully with the children she taught nearly every day. Admittedly, Amphi had also been enjoying some of the beverages that were on offer. Due to her many hours of teaching, Amphi did not often have time to relax and enjoy herself in this fashion. When she did find time, she took every opportunity to have as much fun for herself as she could.
Her night came to a gentle end after she helped Halisha put her children to bed. She shared a little food with her before setting off on her own way home, slowly stepping through Fele-Hoon before reaching her front door.
Amphi opened her door and called out for Chime. There was no response, the house was characteristically quiet. Amphi saw the letter on the table, exactly where Chime said she had placed it. Slowly Amphi picked it up, holding it at eye level. For a moment she wanted to read it, she was curious to its importance. On the wax seal, there was no signature or marking to identify the writer, only a blank red spot. Slowly she placed the letter back onto the small table, deciding the letter could wait until the morning. With nothing else to keep her busy for the Cycle, Amphi crept upstairs and fell asleep in her bed.