breakfastofchampions: (acacia)
[personal profile] breakfastofchampions
Title: The Quality of Light
Universe: Goldenhour
Characters, pairings: Fiorel/Acacia, Selwyn
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Word count: 1,239
Summary: Fiorel is planning a surprise for Acacia, with Selwyn's help.
Notes: Written for [community profile] origfic_bingo, for the prompt "candles". Also, this was written especially for Resemble; it just happened to fit with a prompt as well.



"How do you make candles?"

Selwyn, eyes widening, did not say anything at first. The question must have taken him by surprise, an easy thing to do.

"Do you know how to make them?" Fiorel asked, when he didn't respond at once.

"Yes, my family used to make candles sometimes, to sell." Selwyn smiled faintly at the memory.

Fiorel had already known this, but asking Selwyn direct questions was a good way to get him talking. "How did you do it?"

"We used wax made from a certain kind of berry. We'd boil them, and the wax would separate from the rest of the berry. Then we would--well, it was a long process."

"Good. Then you can make me candles."

"I--" Selwyn considered this. "I don't know if there are any waxberries growing here. I suppose it's the season for them, if they are."

"Then you can look for them."

Selwyn nodded, slowly, but there was reluctance in his eyes. "Couldn't we steal candles from somewhere?" he asked.

She was pleased by the fact that he would make such a practical suggestion, but unfortunately, it showed his ignorance. "No. They don't use candles in Eastland. They use lanterns or aether-lights."

"Oh. Yes. That makes sense," he said. As a foreigner herself, Fiorel knew what foreigners thought of Eastlanders. They didn't do anything for themselves, always relying on the Aetherians. Which might have explained why the Aetherians seemed to prefer Eastland.

"So you'll make candles for me," Fiorel said.

"I'll try. If I can't find the berries..." Selwyn let his voice trail off rather than admit that he might let her down.

"Trying is all I ask." She thought of something. "Make them ordinary candles. No magic."

"I wouldn't! They're only berries. I can't do anything with them. You can also make candles from animal fat, but I wouldn't try that. Oh, I never would."

Fiorel shuddered at the thought of what such candles might be like, shaped by the necromancer's unfortunately gifted hands. "Candles," she said. "And don't tell anyone you're making them. It's a secret."

"Of course, Fiorel!"

Fiorel didn't ask him about his progress. She assumed he would tell her when he had something to report. She was not mistaken. Several days later, he crept up beside her when she was alone. "I have good news," he whispered.

"What?"

"I asked Roland to help me look for the berries, and he did!"

That was good news, and unexpected news at that. It was difficult to convince the elusive Roland to do anything remotely useful. "I assume he found some?"

"No--not yet. But he's looking. That's good, isn't it?"

She supposed it was something. Two people looking were more likely to succeed than one. Also, the image of Selwyn and Roland hunting for berries in the woods together was amusing enough to warrant a smirk. "Tell me if you find them."

It was several more days before Selwyn had more news for her. "We found some berries that are sort of like them. The color is a little different, but they're very similar. I'm going to try and see if they work. I think there's a good chance that they will."

"Remember, no magic."

"I remember!" Selwyn paused. "What do you want the candles for?"

If it had been anyone else, she would have been surprised it had taken him so long to ask the question. Probably Roland had been the one to give him the idea of questioning her. "It's for a present."

"Oh," said Selwyn, then, as he understood, "Oh! Yes, I'll make you wonderful candles. I promise. You'll see. I made so many of them when I was young." He seemed to have forgotten the fact that he wasn't sure yet whether the berries were suitable.

"Do what you can."

For all his mildness, Selwyn was a competent man, and Fiorel trusted him. Her trust was not in vain. The sun set only a few times before he filled her hands with candles. Not that it took that many candles to fill her hands, but they were thick, smooth, and quite serviceable candles. Suspicious, she peered at them intently, but they seemed normal as well; there was no ghostly sheen to their surface. Good. You couldn't be too careful with necromancer handicrafts. "Thank you," she said. "They're perfect."

Selwyn's answering grin was bright. He liked to be useful.

Acacia had told her stories about the candlelight of home, the way that the great hall had been filled with tapers, the flickering of the warm, soft light. Southlanders loved their candles. Fiorel had never had much use for them. A fire was all she needed at night if she wanted to see or keep warm, but Soutlanders liked delicate, constrained things, even when they themselves were neither delicate nor constrained.

Fiorel had heard the wistfulness in Acacia's voice when she'd spoken of those times. She must have missed them. Who wouldn't miss the time they'd been happy and alive? A lonely life--or was it a life, if Acacia was not truly alive?--in the woods was no one's first choice. Even Fiorel would not have chosen it, if she'd been able to choose.

Fiorel placed the candles carefully. Selwyn had thoughtfully made them wider at their bases so they could stand alone, but she steadied them with rocks, to be sure none of them would fall. She lit them all, then let them stand alone, the camp's sole illumination for the night. Their light was soft, changeable, golden. It hardly staved off the darkness of the shadows between the trees.

Acacia was sleeping, as she so often did. Fiorel slipped into the tent. "Wake up," she said, but Acacia did not stir until she shook her, and even then, it took another few minutes before she was fully awake. It was hard to wake the dead.

"Good morning," said Acacia, although it wasn't morning and she probably had no idea what time it was.

Fiorel kissed her cold mouth. "I have a present for you," she said, then took Acacia's hand. Acacia allowed herself to be drawn from the tent, smiling.

When she saw the candles, her smile spread, as did the whites of her eyes, when she regarded the small arrangement of lights in surprise. "Why a present?" she asked.

"I thought you'd like it." Before Acacia had come, day and night had seemed much the same to Fiorel. It hadn't mattered which was which, and one day had not been much different from the next. Acacia liked the light. She always noticed it: starlight, moonlight, sunlight, firelight. She'd shown Fiorel the difference.

"They're beautiful," she said. She laughed, and Fiorel watched the light flicker as it illuminated her dark skin. "Where did you find candles out here?"

"It so happens I know a candlemaker." Fiorel put her arm around Acacia's waist, and for some reason, it seemed natural to twirl her around. Acacia laughed and put her hands on Fiorel's shoulders, leaning in to kiss her cheek. They were alone. Selwyn was hiding politely in his tent, farther up the streambank, and Roland was probably asleep somewhere. No one would interrupt them, not when they were the only people in the world, dancing in the candlelight.

If the light from the candles was momentarily faintly greenish, in a way nature could not explain--Fiorel pretended not to notice.
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