Eighth Chapter, First Part: Remembrance

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Iris yawned as the warm numbness of her last meal slowly dissipated. She clung lazily to her tree, quietly acknowledging and ignoring that she'd have to flutter to another soon for more food. Her mothy wings beat slowly, letting the heat of an endless summer evening seep in. Soft and feathery, with a pleasing dusky palette, they made the faintest breeze, nudging warm air over Iris. Her antennae, curving gently, tasted the haze for another feast and sensed more than her eyes, perpetually half-lidded, ever did. A candletree, not too far a flutter away, beckoned with a warmth both sapid and sultry. Iris considered the flight and her lazy limbs, then snugged up to her tree instead to sleep.

She woke to the trills of music down on the floor of the forest. She was hungry, sluggish bliss beginning to wear off, but she was also curious, so she spread her forewings and shook out her hindwings and pushed off her cooling tree.

Drifting, heavy air billowing under wings, hair streaming around each antenna: she reveled in soft touch of gentle wind, the languorous stretch of muscles sleepy-warm. Every second was a sensuous pleasure, just as it should be.

She fluttered to a halt just a bit above the ground and let her feet drop down. Better, she was getting better. Which was strange. Had not her whole life been amongst these trees, tasting their strange foreign stories? Why, then, was she still so clumsy? Something sharp and uncomfortable lurked in her mind, ready to answer, but she ignored it and instead walked towards the music.

Candle wax some bug had brought back cast soft shadows of the gathered Candlekin. They huddled around the glowing morsel, sitting nearly wing-to-wing, as the musician, thin and green, played the violin, his thin long arms jutting out violently to the wild rhythm. The memories in the candle morsel were not as sweet as Iris usually sought. They seemed to be all of a port city: houses with their bright colors weathered and peeling leaning against the ocean breeze, cobbled streets cluttered by passengers salt-sticky and too busy to mourn properly for their stolen city, fear and disdain and mistrust painting faces as the oddly dressed mingled with the country's true people, and threading through it all was the folk song and prayer.

The memories were not sweet, not the come-again memories of warmer days that most people left in candles when they prayed. They were bitterly real and, despite their pungency, still intoxicating. It was not too late to turn back, to return to the numbing warmth of the canopy, but Iris drew cautiously nearer the odd group. Their wings all drooped but their eyes were bright, brighter than any Iris had seen, so she settled down on the cold ground right behind them.

Though the song was new to her, its rhythm was not. In its structure and rhymes was a familiar sort of logic, though she knew not where she had picked it up. Swaying with the other Candlekin, she hummed along to the song, learning the words:

Oh Candlemaiden, Candlemaiden
Eyes aflame with gold
Light your candles, trap the devil
As in days of old

And through our streets runs
A monster, a madness
Foreign and vile
Its fumes are contagious
So cut it, excise it,
In your wisdom exorcise it
And in the end remind us
Of who we used to be

Oh Candlemaiden, Candlemaiden
History like a shroud
Hides your ken, harks to when
We knew our own selves proud

And through our veins runs
A legacy, a heritage
Stark and perverse
The most unlikely marriage
So water, and fire
And a survive-it-all desire
Are all that we require
To be who we used to be

Oh Candlemaiden, Candlemaiden
You set your own self free
Now we await the self-same fate
When you lead us to victory
Back to who we used to be

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