The first son of the White Witch, he was full of grace.
Little Racala for little he still was, laughed to see Elverlon fly over his village by the Sea of Dust. Racala thought it must be wonderful to fly so. He held out his arms and spun in circles. He was flying.
His Da called out, "What are you doing, boy?"
He yelled, "Flying. Da, I want to fly." He imagined himself swooping over the low trees and gliding with great glittering wings of a thousand colors.
"We got no time for such foolings. We've the coral-fitches to be hauling. Come on now, I need your eyes to find the best spot." His Da waved at him impatiently.
Racala's arms fell. He wanted to fly and play and run, but even for ones as young as he, there was not much time for such things there on the shores of the Sea of Dust.
He and his Da, they sailed out that day. His Da doing all of the tacking with the sail. Racala coiling up the ropes. His Da always said that uncoiled ropes on a boat led to tangled feet and a trip into the dust waves. They didn't think to go far that day. Just out to the coral reefs that lapped some little distance from the shore. But thoughts other than theirs turned their directions. The wind suddenly grew fierce and rain fell as if someone were squeezing the sky. For the rain still fell when the White Witch had not yet gained her first son.
Da went to do as he could, but so fast did the wind come up that the little boat tossed on the waves went to a direction not of his choosing. Nor chosen would he have to have fallen into the Sea of Dust. The little boat quickly leaving him behind. Little Racala clung to the mast, "Da. Da." But yelling did not bring his Da to him. Nor Elverlon to swoop down and save him. Too small to take down the sails, he could only cling to the mast and cry.
He could not have said how long he so clung. Only that finally, the ship came to some shore. He fell asleep where he'd stood. He woke to find himself alone in a white room with glittering walls. A bird with red eyes stared at him from a perch. As he woke, the bird flew away.
Racala got up from the bed and he went out the door in the direction that the bird had flown. He wandered some long time until he came to a wide room where a great lady, taller than any he'd ever seen was weaving feathers black as the night into a throw. Rather than teal, as Racala's was, her skin was white as a cloud, for they had clouds in those days when the White Witch had yet to gain her first son.
He said, "Your skin is white."
"As your skin is teal, as the eyes of the woman who crafted you." She wove another black feather.
"My mother's eyes weren't teal. I don't think." Racala did not remember his mother. Young as he was, younger still he had been when she'd died from a fall.
"I could be your mother. For such a boy as you. I could take these feathers," she ran her hand over the cloak of feathers on her lap, "and I would weave my son wings. For I have listened to your heart," she smiled at him them, "and I know that you long to fly."
He didn't like that smile. It made him worried. But he longed for that throw of feathers. He trembled with wanting it. So he reached out and he touched the throw. One of the feathers pricked his hand, so sharp were they. He sucked the blood clean and reached out again.
The White Witch laid her hand over his and she smiled at her first son.
The second son of the White Witch, he was fair of face.
Even in those days, the Terraineans remembering the Ancient's ways, they held to the practice of slavery. They only did as the Ancients had done.
Biva was taken from his parents when he was deemed old enough. Weaned from his mother. Good stock on his father's side. He was placed on a platform with the other young slaves blinking at the great lady, who examined them.
"Oh, I like this one. He has a sweet heart." The great lady gave the magistar a coin and the sale was recorded.
She picked up Biva and whispered to him as they walked away. "You will be my son."
He sighed against her. He had been standing in the light of solstar for hours. He was happy to think that a great lady would be his mother.
He didn't ask if he'd be her slave too. He was young, but he'd already learned what price came of questions.
The third son of the White Witch, he was full of why and how and where and when.
Nikka had hopes to go to a great school in Isternes, which was far away from his home in Rani. Nikka was not the only one in the caravan of hopefuls that traveled through the rocks. There was only space for one boy and one girl from Rani, but there were many who competed to get in.
The people in Isterness had skin the color of plum, and not rose as Nikka's skin was. Which was interesting. Nikka wanted to know why his skin was rose and their skin was plum. Why? Why? Why? That was his favorite question. He also like what and how and where and when. He liked all the questions really.
That was why his parents wanted for him a space at the great school in Isternes that could teach Nikka, clever Nikka, all that there was to know of the world.
He might have gotten in for as clever as he was, he soaked in the answers that he was given. But there was only space for one and Myrna's mother wanted that space for her son. That he might grow rich as the wise men do.
When the black bird with the red eyes told her what she had to do, she only questioned it a minute. Questioned it and volunteered to watch over the boys and girls on the caravan that was going to far away Isternes.
Nikka was mostly just curious to find himself thrown in a deep mere. To find himself in a great white palace under the dull thick water. To find himself facing a great lady with skin as white as the walls around them.
He was an asker of questions. He asked. "How did you get your skin that way? Did you bleach it like the weavers do? Or is that the way your people look? Who are you people? Where do you come from? What are the walls made of? Why is the water so thick?"
She laughed. "I can answer your every question. I can teach you a thousand times more than than you would ever learn in Isternes. For I know what they have forgotten. What do you want to know, little one?"
The answer was simple. It jumped out of him. "I want to know everything."
"To learn everything, why then you would have to be my son. I cannot share everything with just anyone." The great lady smiled widely.
That seemed fair and he knew his parents would understand if he had another mother in addition to the one he had. He nodded.
She took her third son by the hand and taught him a great deal.
The fourth son of the White Witch, he had far to go.
He had seen all the lands by the time he came to her.
Jaco had skin as blue as the dust sea, but he didn't live in Bern. His mother and his father were wandering merchants with wandering feet. He heard stories in the kirks of Isterness. He ate fruit in Terrain. He climbed the high passes into Zambul. All not yet having reached the age of five.
He had two older siblings. Risha, his sister, and Balu, his brother. Life was rough as the youngest. Risha thought he was her doll. Balu though he existed to be kicked.
So it was that when that he ran away from home, which was the road, when he was just five.
He hadn't meant to go that far. Just as far as around one or two or three of the rocks in which they traveled. But as Solstar set, he got turned around. He ran faster and faster, but he couldn't find their camp. He fell asleep on the shores of a great mere.
He woke to find a great lady stroking his hair softly. She said, "If you were my son, I would raise you to be the strongest of your siblings. You would never feel pain and you would be able to fly."
He was still angry with his sister and his brother. He liked the idea of being the strongest. It might be nice to have such a great lady as his mother for a little while.
Her fourth son fell back to sleep as she stroked his hair.
The fifth son of the White Witch, he might have been loving and giving.
He came to her still swaddled and squished from birthing.
He did not know himself to be a son of Pirs. He did not have a name.
The mother of his birth had not given him one.
His own mother handed him to the little man with pale eyes herself. She wanted to do it. She was in love with a boy in her village. She'd loved him and that's why she'd lain down with him. But when she'd grown fat with a baby, he'd turned away from her. Now he went walking in the fields with another girl.
She knew that if she could just get rid of the burden in her arms, he'd turn back to her. He would.
She handed her son away to be raised by a great lady, but as he left her arms she was already thinking back to her village and the boy that she loved.
The sixth son of the White Witch, he worked hard for a living.
His parents raised herds of woolly mountain eels for their milk and scales. Xan was the next to youngest of eleven children, but he was his mother's favorite and the one that she would pull aside for the best chores.
He worked hard. He loved his chores. He made up silly songs as he worked and his mother loved to hear his sweet voice.
Still, all the children had to go up into the mountains to watch the mountain eels birth and make sure none of them fell off a cliff.
There were black birds aplenty when the ten brothers, the youngest being too young to walk, set out into the mountains. The eldest ones had been charged to look after young Xan.
They did not look after him. They listened to the whispers of the black birds with their red eyes.
They listened to their whispers in the thin air. They listened to them as Xan sang to the mountain eels with his silly made up songs.
They told their mother that he fell from a cliff. He didn't fall. They fed him the dinner that the little men gave them. They tied him up as he slept and gave their brother away. Each certain that he would now be his mother's favorite.
Xan cried in the home of the White Witch. He cried and he cried and he cried. But eventually, he forgot as everyone did in that still place.
Eventually, he came willingly when she called her sixth son's name. Although, as she prized silence, she did have to remove his voice.
The seventh son of the White Witch, he was bonny and blithe and good and gay.
She had some difficulties with that one.