Seated in the shade of the wooden arbour of the castle courtyard, Lady Midori enjoyed the warmth of the Ffionite summer as much as she was able. Her constitution was delicate, but despite that and being originally from the snowy continent of Tsumetai before her marriage, she found the warmth pleasant. She had to be careful, but she refused to spend half of the year cooped up inside the Keep alone. Instead, she would come out here and watch from the safety of the shade as her daughter Naomi played on the open lawns, enjoying the sound of her sweet laughter.
Now five years of age, Naomi had recently come into her magical skill and had learnt that she could make trails of flowers sprout up behind where she walked if she took off her shoes. She was currently dancing across the grass, laughing and singing, leaving swirling trails of daisies behind her. Midori smiled at the sight her daughter made, hair loose and skirts hefted above her knees as she twirled and waved to her mother in between her innocent activities.
Magic was rare in Tsumetai, even something frowned upon and regarded with suspicion by many. Naomi’s gift had come from her father, along with her bright green eyes and disobedient hair, and despite Midori’s discomfort with the first, she had grown quickly to love and accept it as just another wonderful part of her child. Gerrard, the guardsman that had been present at Naomi’s birth and silently taken it upon himself to care for her when Midori was unable, had been much more at ease with the magic and explained that the child would need to be taught soon how to use it safely.
It had also transpired that while magic was more common here in Ffion than in Tsumetai, Naomi’s gift had revealed itself far more early than was normal. The news worried Midori, but pleased her husband, something the little girl seemed rarely able to accomplish no matter how hard she tried. Midori knew her daughter would understand one day, but for now she felt a keen sympathy for her, growing up hated by her own father simply for being a girl.
It might not have been so bad had Midori been able to provide him with more children, but Naomi’s birth had removed all chance of that, yet more that the child was unfairly blamed for by her father. Now he was cold to them both, and there was very little either of them could do about it. Midori did everything in her power to make certain Naomi felt love from her, and Gerrard had become a sturdy pillar of support to them both, already an important fixture in the child’s life. She also had her uncles and aunts who doted on her, both here in Ffion and across the sea in Tsumetai, and so far she hadn’t seemed wanting. She might never know the love of her father, but she would still know love.
Watching her daughter spinning on the spot and giggling as flowers grew up rapidly around her little bare feet, Midori mentally chased away the shadows that had begun to plague her thoughts. The sun again felt warm on her skin, and she sighed, closing her eyes and tilting her head back to bask. She stayed that way for a while, listening to Naomi laughing and singing a strange little tune that seemed somehow familiar. It was only when Midori realised that Naomi was laughing and the song still played that she looked up in confusion.
Her daughter was still twirling around, but rather than just daisies there were other shrubs and plants growing up around her, magic coiling and singing with her voice. Midori gasped as her daughter became swept up by it, but before she could call her to stop, there was a huge, thundering sound, and the ground shook violently.
‘Naomi!’ she cried, coming to her feet, even as the magic blasted up beneath her tiny daughter and a huge explosion of rock and soil shot upwards, lifting the girl out of sight. Midori cried out in horror, terrified by the shriek Naomi made as she was raised by the rocky outcrop to a point almost level with the second floor of the Keep.
‘Mama!’ came Naomi’s startled little voice from far too high above her, loud now that the noise of moving land and singing magic had ceased. Suddenly her head popped over the side and Midori felt like she might faint. ‘Mama, I broke the garden!’
‘Oh Gods!’ Midori gasped, her hands over her mouth. ‘Oh, my darling, stay where you are! Don’t move!’
‘What the cuss happened?’
Midori whirled about to see Gerrard running across the courtyard, his eyes bulging slightly as he looked up to the great spike of rock and her daughter perched right on the top of it. He let out a low whistle as he stopped before it, clearly impressed, but Midori had no time for such things. Her little girl was only a breath away from falling to her end, and for all she loved her dearly, Naomi had a wilfulness that had also come from her father and was still hanging precariously over the edge.
‘It’s so high!’ she giggled, bouncing excitedly. ‘I can see the whole world!’
‘I seriously doubt that, lassie,’ Gerrard snorted. ‘You’d have to go a lot higher for that.’
‘I can go higher!’ came the horrifyingly fearless answer.
Midori suddenly felt her legs give under her and sank down to the soft grass faintly. Gerrard seemed to suddenly realise how distressed she was and winced apologetically at her. He was a good man and he had done such a lot for them both already, but Naomi needed no further encouragement to test things a five year old had absolutely no business testing.
Clearing his throat, Gerrard crossed his arms and called up in a serious tone. ‘Alright lassie, time to come back down.’
‘Nope!’ the child sniggered. ‘Come get me!’
‘I hope you ain’t talking back to me,’ he frowned. ‘Come on, now. That’s enough worrying your poor mama for one day.’
Midori suspected she was pouting if the little whine of disappointment was anything to go by, but she was too high up to be sure. Looking up made her dizzy and she covered her eyes, unable to watch any longer. No sooner had she done it than the ground shook again and a breath later she found her daughter cuddling up to her, trying to pull her hands down from her eyes.
‘It’s okay mama, don’t be scared. I’m sorry.’
Midori clutched her daughter to her like a lifeline, her heart beating far too quickly in her chest and her vision blurred and distorted from the sheer terror of what had just happened. She was shaking desperately, clearly far more distressed than the little girl in her arms. Naomi just seemed to be enjoying the attention.
‘Her father will need to know,’ said Gerrard quietly. ‘That much power is rare. Dangerous, even.’
Looking in horror at the guardsman, Midori instinctively covered her daughter’s ears, despite on some level knowing it was too late. Her little Naomi, dangerous? Gerrard looked sympathetically back at her and then the child in her lap. Midori only held her closer, wishing she could keep her safe forever from a world that seemed to have already marked her for purpose.