Lasher - Anne Rice

One

IN THE BEGINNING was the voice of Father.

“Emaleth!” whispering close to her mother’s belly while her mother slept. And then singing to her, the long songs of the past. Songs of the Glen of Donnelaith and of the castle, and of where they would sometime come together, and how she would be born knowing all that Father knew. It is our way, he said to her in the fast language, which others could not understand.

To others it sounded like humming, or whistling. It was their secret tongue, for they could hear syllables which ran too fast for the others to grasp. They could sing out to each other. Emaleth could almost do it, almost speak—

“Emaleth, my darling, Emaleth, my daughter, Emaleth, my mate.” Father was waiting for her. She had to grow fast and grow strong for Father. When the time came, Mother had to help her. She had to drink Mother’s milk.

Mother slept. Mother cried. Mother dreamed. Mother was sick. And when Father and Mother quarreled, the world trembled. Emaleth knew dread.

But Father always came after, singing to her, reminding her that the words of his song were too rapid for Mother to comprehend. The melody made Emaleth feel as if the tiny round world in which she lived had expanded and she was floating in a place without limits, pushed hither and thither by Father’s song.

Father said poetry which was beautiful, especially words that rhyme. Rhymes made a thrill pass through Emaleth. She stretched her legs and her arms, and turned her head this way and that, it felt so good, the rhymes.

Mother didn’t talk to Emaleth. Mother wasn’t supposed to know that Emaleth was there. Emaleth was tiny, said Father, but perfectly formed. Emaleth already had her long hair.

But when Mother talked, Emaleth understood her; when Mother wrote, Emaleth saw the words. Emaleth heard Mother’s frequent whisper. She knew that Mother was afraid. Sometimes she saw Mother’s dreams. She saw the face of Michael. She saw fighting. She saw Father’s face as Mother saw it and it made Mother sad.

Father loved Mother, but Mother made him fiercely angry, and when he struck Mother, Mother suffered, even falling, and Emaleth screamed, or tried to scream. But Father always came after, while Mother slept, and said Emaleth must not fear. That they would come together in the circle of stones at Donnelaith, and then he told stories to her of the old days, when all the beautiful ones had lived on an island, and it was Paradise, before the others and the little people had come.

Sad and sorrowful the weakness of humans and the tragedy of the little people, and is it not better that all be driven from the Earth?

“I tell you the things I know now. And things that were told to me,” he said. And Emaleth saw the circle of stones, and the tall figure of Father as he was now, strumming the strings of the harp. Everyone was dancing. She saw the little people hiding in the shadows, spiteful and angry. She did not like them, she did not want them to steal down into the town. They loathe us instinctively, said Father, of the little people. How can they not? But they do not matter now. They are only a lingering from dreams which failed to come true.

Now is the hour. The hour for Emaleth and Father.

She saw Father in the old days, with his arms outstretched. This was Christmas and the glen was filled with snow. The Scots pines were close. Hymns rose from the people. Emaleth loved the rise and fall of the