Mirror, Mirror!: Part Two
The memories of the Zafara Double Agent’s former life, when she had been called by the name Alana, moved through her mind, bringing with them a comfort that only home can. She had been a happy young peasant girl with an ear for gossip, stories, and a cunning mind. She chuckled half-heartedly to herself as her eyes shut, remembering the times with her family, and her happiness swelled her confidence.
The mirror seemed to gleam and glow as she found herself smiling and laughing. She opened her eyes to look at it once more, as it seemed to radiate warmth. The room looked cleaner, whiter even. Her joy swirled through her mind like a flurry of snow, and she smiled to her reflection, which smiled back, almost with a further boldness.
Yet, her joy was short-lived, and faded quickly as she remembered what had happened to her to cause her to turn those skills of hers into a career. Her stomach turned and groaned, as her eyes widened, remembering the acres of dead, dark crops, the thin bodies of the babaa, wandering aimlessly for a blade of grass. The crops, the sickness, the desperation of the great Meridell/Darigan war, the need to know why, for money, for a cure, for a handful of the life they used to have! She had to go, to whisper, to listen, to lie, to cheat, to steal to bring back even a handful of food for her and her family. They never asked what she had done, but it repulsed her all the same. She hugged her arms tight and looked up into the mirror, trembling faintly.
That quick glimpse into the silvery surface vanished all sorrow and doubt. That pretty glass reassured her, and she found her eyes held an innocence she thought had long been lost. Yes, she figured, it was all right. She brushed her hair from her eyes, before letting it fall down to her shoulders. She laughed aloud—it’d been so long! She ran her fingers through it.
“Once, you know, I couldn’t have dreamt such things,” she said, speaking only for the company of her voice, nodding in response to her own statement.
“Once, times were hard. But, oh! We still found ways to laugh. We still tried to be happy.” Her thoughts rolled around, finding strange corners unexplored yet by her own thoughts. She frowned somewhat. Her own voice interrupted—but she was silent. Her fur went on end.
“But you aren’t happy now, are you?”
Startled, she looked up. Her reflection bore her own face, but it smiled in contrast to the fear on her own features. She stared, starting for her knife, but it spoke again, causing her to recoil in a panic.
“You wouldn’t even have thought of such pretty times were it not for this mirror! You wouldn’t have been happy. You’d have just done your job and gone on, wishing, wouldn’t you?”
Alana frowned. She seemed to question herself a lot, now, didn’t she? She swallowed her panic, and snapped back defensively, “I may have been happy!”
“Oh, would you?” The reflection tilted her pretty head; her face was cleaner, her eyes brighter, smile more truthful. Those pretty eyes gleamed, but with what, she couldn’t tell. The reflection continued speaking,
“Things are pretty here, in this mirror. Your world outside is so dirty. So cold.”
Alana turned her gaze from her reflection, her heart beating wildly—but found that her eyes couldn’t stray from her reflection’s own. She tried for something familiar in the room, to tear her gaze away—
The reflection smiled.
“Here I might make things pretty again. You can have all you’ve ever wanted, and—“
“Yes,” breathed Alana, and startled herself with her own quick wanting. Yet, it felt so right! She missed her home and her family, and she missed the happiness they had had. She missed the quiet songs by the fire, the stories they would tell before bed. She missed herding babaas, picking wildflowers and adventuring with her dear brother Norman, a roughish Wocky with a hearty laugh and a broad smile. Her father! Oh, she missed him, the old Bruce and his charming stories, and the neighbors, and her friends...
She found her breath caught in her throat and looked up, expectantly to the mirror and her reflection, who smiled.
“They’re all here.”
Alana leaned forward, her voice a bare whisper.
“Let me see them.”
The mirror chuckled, and Alana’s eyes widened. The candle beside her went out without a single noise, not even a puff of breath or hiss of smoke. The sheet on the floor seemed to fade away, as though it had never been, and the wood and brickwork of the rickety, ram-shackle place vanished.
Her world filled suddenly with light and wind. The smell of grass and homemade bread filled her senses, and the room was light, sky, and meadow! Alana inhaled, laughing aloud. It wasn’t a room any longer!
The sunlight beamed down onto her cold fur, while fields stretched before her on acres of beautiful hills and valleys. She sat up against rows of song daisies stretched to the sun, and lifted her arms to join them, laughing all the while.
Home, sweet, dear home!
Alana Wellstone, known to her adoring and sometimes bewildered fans and enemies as the Zafara Double Agent, sat up in a field of flowers on the far, rocky side of Meridell, and nearly cried with joy. She looked down at herself; she was still in her agent's gear, wasn't she, all cloaked and daggered? No—No! Home.
The outfit of home! From the happy headband to her flowing skirts, rimmed with dust and grass stains. Picking herself up, she smiled a little, feeling quite dazed. In the grass beside her rested her crook, and only a hilltop away stood dear Norward, and nervous old Ferval, her dear brother and wonderful friend! She picked herself up and dusted herself off, laughing all the while. Shifting the crook to her left hand, she turned her way toward them and began to move through the long grasses, making her way towards the duo. Babaa bleated behind her and through the grass, startled by her sudden stirring, and following reluctantly to where the grass was lesser. Ferval and Norward turned, seeming almost startled for a reason she could not quite discern, but waved happily. She found herself before them in a manner of minutes, panting and exhilarated.
"Norward! Ferval! Oh, goodness, I've missed you all so!" She laughed, and flung her arms around the closest of the two, Ferval, who stuttered vaguely and glanced helplessly back to Norward, who snickered and nudged Alana cheerily, rolling his eyes.
"How could you miss us? You've only been in nappin' 'fer a good five minutes!"
Alana stopped, and smiled weakly, her mind revolting. Five minutes? It'd been years since she'd last seen them! She was therefore quite startled to hear herself saying, as though her mind were far, far away from the scene,
"Why, yes, suppose I have." She stepped back, feeling her expression as a sort of mask, frozen with her own smile. Her fingers twitched on the crook. She fought back the urge to ask what they'd meant, and felt suddenly, with a chill, that she couldn't, nor wouldn't, permit herself to start asking such things.
Ferval stepped back, hesitant. His eyes flickered nervously and he wrung his hands, but smiled aloft all the same, chortling softly. The brown Korbat had a habit of doing so, and she'd never have teased him about it, but the way he did so seemed false. She swallowed her pride, ignoring this—she had been away a long time, after all, and they surely were only jesting. Being in the bright presence of Norward seemed to make everyone feel a little uncomfortable, pushed aside. He absorbed attentions faster than a sponge Lupe trying to swim in Maraqua, and his gleaming eyes behind his carefully brushed corn-yellow hair made the gold Wocky seem a tad intimidating.
Alana turned from their attention however, to survey the lands. The familiar arch of hills and crests of mountains far away, the dips of valleys and quiet noise of underground streams and artisan wells pulsed beneath her boots. It was beautiful—a painter would have ached at the sight. The myriad and blurry acreage of greens met the pale blue of the sky and honey-brushed yellow of clouds, darting in and out behind the sun.
"Home," she breathed, smiling. It was beautiful to be back. She turned to her dear friends once more, and together, joined paws with each.
"Let's bring the babaa back down the fold, boys. They've done well enough for today."
They moved off, chuckling and chattering to one another, the happy monotony broken by the occasional laugh and rush to lead a stray or two back into the lines. Slowly but surely, they meandered down the hills, over crescents and hillock towards the small grouping of cottages in the distance, the sun setting sweetly on their backs, and their company warming each other's hearts.
To be continued...