It rained at Martin’s funeral; Meckil made sure of it.
She wasn’t allowed at the funeral; ancient ancestral promises banned her from hallowed ground across the continent. So she stood outside, under the branches of the linden tree that had Named her, dressed in mourning as befit a widow, heedless of the scandal, and watched, working the Words of the rainfall into Martin’s eulogy.
Her maternal parent, in its favorite guise as an itinerant tinker, its clothing somber and too fine, today, for the role, stepped under the shelter of the tree, studying Meckil thoughtfully.
“He was your first.” It wasn’t a question; a mother knew. She answered anyway.
“Yes.” First love. First human. First death; the first time she’d had to confront, face-to-face, the differences between her people and those they lived beside.
“It gets easier with time.” She tasted the bitter truth in her mother’s words, and winced. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get easier.
“I loved him,” she said defiantly, stupidly.
“That, too, gets easier with time,” Tell murmured. It looked at her, its expression gentle. “Where will you go now?”
Where, indeed. Away from here, of course, choked with memories of Martin and friends of his who would be less kind to his mistress now that he wasn’t here to protect her. More importantly, away from people who had known 15-year-old Meckil in 1505 and would start murmuring that, seventeen years later, shouldn’t she, possibly, be beginning to show some grey hair, some wrinkles?
She didn’t want to show any grey. Let other Daeva “age gracefully” into dignified adulthood; she wanted to stay fresh, bright, and vibrant forever. But that meant she’d have to leave the countryside she’d grown comfortable in.
Better to leave land altogether. She glared up at Tell defiantly. “I think I’ll go to the Americas,” she declared. The rain around them was beginning to clear, her attention having faded from it.
Her mother looked her over, frowning. “Not like that, you won’t,” it pointed out.
“Of course not.” Meckil had spent childhood as a boy, but, as the Becoming came on it, had decided to slip into the skin of a girl. It was thus that it had met Martin, and so thus that it had been, while he had lived. But, like the land around them, this guise was tainted with his memory. It shed it as it talked.
“An exploration of rugged, untamed land is no place for a woman.” Its voice deepened, its chest flattened, its hips slimmed, the dress and kirtle stretching at its shoulders and drooping over the rest of the new shape.
“Remember,” Tell said gently, in that motherly tone so out of keeping with its current face, “keep your proportions within believability. ‘Oh, my’ is acceptable; ‘Oh my dear Lord in heaven’ is probably not.”
Meckil smirked. “Yes, Mother,” he teased. Holding out a sleeve, he asked, trying out the timbre of his new voice, “could you? Please?”
The proper mannerisms would come with time; another reason to leave this place while he smoothed out the rough edges in his new persona. Right now he still sounded like a girl with a too-deep voice.
It didn’t seem to bother Tell, at least, though it did serve to amuse. Chuckling, it took the sleeve in hand and began murmuring a Working. The dress began sliding under its fingers, shrinking, reshaping into clothing to fit the body. Meckil looked down. “So – my father is well-to-do, but he expects me to find my own path and not rely on him. Close?”
“Close,” Tell smiled. “You should learn to Work your clothes yourself, Linden-Blossom.”
Meckil, who had never successfully Worked so much as a thread of un-living stuff, mumbled under his breath and looked away while Tell finished fitting his clothing to him. When it was done, it patted him lightly on the arm and stepped back, examining its work with a small frown.
“You look good,” it conceded. “You look as if the role will fit you well. And you’re no longer a child; I can’t stop you from doing this.”
There were a hundred ways to stop him from doing it, the easiest of which was to hit him on the head until he passed out and then lock him up somewhere. He’d known Tell to use several of these methods. He accepted its words, then, as they were meant:I could stop you, but I won’t, as long as you do this in a manner I approve of, and waited for the manner to be given.
“The Mara Greta Broadleaf was talking about travelling in that direction,” Tell said thoughtfully, as if on a completely unrelated subject. “She asked me to accompany her, but I’ve never been really thrilled with ships. You could go with her.”
He raised an eyebrow in an arch, questioning expression that had done well with Martin, even though he was pretty sure what it was suggesting. “I don’t need a Keeper.”
“You’re young,” Tell countered easily, “you’ve been sheltered and cared for your whole short life, and the Americas, however pretty their name, are in no way civilized. Besides, I owe Greta a favor.”
“I’m not a child anymore,” Meckil pointed out, although the effort was merely a token; Tell’s mind was made up. “Your favors owed aren’t mine.”
“Then I’ll owe you a favor later.”
And so it was, a month later in a Portuguese port town, that Meckil Linden-Blossom found himself standing on a remote stretch of beach, clasping hands with Greta Broadleaf.
She was a tall woman, tall enough that he had shifted his height and broadened his shoulders to not seem dwarfed next to her, handsome, looking to be past her prime but only just, dressed to the same social standing as he in clothes that Tell must have fit to her lean, muscular body. Her forearm, which he clasped from below, was rock-solid, and her grip around his arm was nearly painful.
“From now until ten years pass,” he said, his voice not squeaking because he willed it not to, “I Belong to you. Your will is mine and my body is yours.” After all, hadn’t that been the game he’d played with Martin, if not, then, nearly so formal.
“From now until ten years pass,” she recited back to him, her voice surprisingly melodious, “you belong to me. Your well-being is my responsibility, and your actions shall be as mine.”
It didn’t quite feel like shackles. From Mother to Mentor to Martin, Meckil had never yet had any real freedom or self-determination; Belonging to the Mara felt like a well-laced dress. Still, it wasn’t the grand adventure off into the wilderness he had been dreaming of, either, safely ensconced at the side of his new wife, his rather intimidating, famously deadly, stern and unrelenting new wife.
It rained on the shores as the ships pulled away from shore; Meckil made sure of it. Standing on the deck watching the shore grow smaller, he murmured the Words of the rainfall into a sonnet on adventure, and watched the rain soak the tinker standing on the dock.