Things were not going Elyse’s way. Being rejected from the university brought thoughts of simmering revenge and a bit of panic. They had called her impatient and irrational. It was preposterous. Elyse didn’t cope well when things changed her plans. But she reined in her anger and was able to shift her goals. If she couldn’t learn from official teachers, she would learn magic the old fashioned way. From nature itself. But Elyse’s new plan seemed to be teetering on the edge of collapse as well. Because the fleetmaster had given her the worst job possible. Everyone seemed to be against her. It was infuriating.
Winnifred didn’t have many aspirations in life. Why would he? Winnifred was able to relax while he earned his food and sometimes a little extra silver. That paid for the taffy and the Wasserman District made the best salted-taffy in the whole country. And Lake Kante had definitely been kind to Winnifred this year. His larger than normal belly could attest to that. Life was so good that Winnifred decided to take on a little adventure, like his brother was always pushing him to, and accept a hireling. It might be nice to have a spare hand in the boat and who knows, maybe Winnifred would find he was a good fishing teacher too.
Elyse was waiting on the east dock with a scowl that could curdle milk. She had finally gotten on board to accept being a fisherman’s hand and her captain was late. If you could call a fisherman that, owning their own boat or not. But perhaps if Elyse thought of him as a captain, she would find things more bearable.
Winnifred didn’t have any expectations for when he arrived at the docks, but when he realized that his new hand was a thin, wavy, black-haired woman with a pout that could melt hearts, he knew he was in trouble. She was too pretty to be in a boat with him. She didn’t say much, but Winnifred knew she was disappointed to be working with a sloven like him. So Winnifred did his best to pull her attention to the job at hand instead.
Her captain ended up being a surprisingly stern leader. Before Elyse could even find her balance in the small boat, the large man was ordering her to pull on this and that. The names flew in one ear and out another but she was able to locate the necessary ropes from his pointing. He at least knew what he was doing and before long, they had made it to the middle of the lake. Elyse thought she might have some time to think about the natural element water once the poles were in the water, but she was wrong again. The man liked to talk and make continuous comments about the subtleties of fishing, the history of the lake, and what characteristics made a good fisher. It was exhausting, to say the least.
She was definitely bored. Winnifred tried to keep her mind active by sharing everything he knew about the lake with her, especially when he found she wanted to be a water mage. In Winnifred’s opinion, wild mages knew their stuff better than the schooled ones and he was impressed lady Elyse had chosen this path. She couldn’t be anything but a lady in his mind. And he would treat her right.
As the days went on, Elyse began to long for her captain to start another long conversation about the shifting currents under the water or the insects that relied on the lake’s ecosystem to survive. Not that she cared much for those things, but staring at the water for hours every day was even more boring. Surely the students at the university never had to deal with these kinds of lectures. At least Winnifred gave her proper respect. He was a dear gentleman. It was…sweet.
The day that Winnifred brought his sack of taffies to the fishing trip was the day that everything changed. She had never tried the candy and once she placed the blue nugget onto her tongue her whole face lit up. Her smile was a sunrise sparkling on the water’s surface. It was then he knew that there was much more to her. So he began to ask about her. And by the elements, she answered him!
One day everything changed. Winni brought some delicious salted taffy that he couldn’t seem to get enough of himself. Strangely the greed of a child with sweets made Elyse laugh many times. Winnifred probably thought she was drunk. And maybe she was because she opened up to the man. She told him about her aspirations and goals to be a great storm mage having learned all about water and air. Perhaps she would dabble in fire as well. Elyse planned on gaining her magic, then roaming the land by request of large houses who would pamper her while she watered their crops and calmed storms. Her power would scare off any would-be thieves that tried to steal her large collection of gems. Elyse had a great fascination with precious jewels. But of course, she didn’t want to do the mining herself. Earth mages were always too dirty.
After lady Elyse poured her heart out to him, Winnifred decided to take that adventure. It would be dangerous. He might lose her. It was astounding how much Elyse meant to him now. But he felt greedy for the first time in his life. He wanted more. So one day, Winnifred got to his boat early and filled it with flowers of all colors. A rainbow of gems it seemed to him. When Elyse got there, she was definitely surprised, and at his earliness more than the flowers. With a final breath, Winnifred pulled out the tiniest of sapphires that he had bought with his savings and asked Elyse if maybe, sometime, if would be okay if they went for a walk through the city and held hands. Then he stood there with the gem in his hands and sweated.
Elyse couldn’t believe it. She wanted to accept his offer. She wanted more than a simple walk. He would never ask for more, but Elyse could push him into it. He would marry her if she asked. And she was considering it. Marriage! It would ruin everything. Her plans, her dreams, all her work would be for nothing. Elyse couldn’t help but step close to that tender man and take the beautiful jewel from him. She smiled her sparkling smile and it reflected in the sapphire. Then with tears in her eyes, Elyse pulled a knife from her boot and stabbed Winni in the throat. Blood spurted everywhere and Winni’s eyes stared at Elyse. She knew his eyes would haunt her, but she pushed him into his dear lake anyway. Then she ran from the docks. To hide from the guard and to hide her heart. She couldn’t afford to love. But she would never lose his sapphire. She would never forget.
Photo by Karim MANJRA