“Strato saw a human in the wood, much as you saw this one. He was handsome, too, with golden hair and eyes as deep brown as the eagle’s. She followed him about, neglecting her duties, hovering close to him, fluttering through his hair and caressing his skin with gentle breezes. No one was entirely surprised when, one day, she disappeared. Though we looked everywhere for her, she was nowhere to be found. On the seventh sun, one of her sisters finally
disclosed what had happened. She told us Strato had gone to the gnome king, Gob, for a body of flesh and bone. Being in charge of the dominion connected with the earth and living creatures, only he, of all the elemental rulers, could bestow a living body upon a being of ether. And so he did, and she became a woman, taking on all the human illus and pleasures that befall beings of fleshly form.”
“It is possible then—to become human?”
Tempesta turned her wide, silver-blue eyes upon me. “You sound too eager, Aeris. Surely you’re not thinking—?”
I raised my hand to interrupt her. “Of course not, Tempesta. I was merely surprised such a thing was possible. Anyway, what happened to Strato?”
Tempesta shook her head. “She didn’t know the human’s heart belonged to another. A human woman.” She fell silent again.
“Well then, did Paralda discover her transgression?” I asked, impatiently.
Tempesta looked at me with large, haunted eyes. “Far worse than that. Strato’s sisters found her, in human form, hanging by her neck from a tree. She had fashioned a noose and killed herself.”
I quietly pictured the horrible scene in my mind, imagining the anguish the poor sylphid must have suffered. To have given up everything—even her beautiful wings—to join the groundlings, earthbound forever, and to have failed to win the love of the human who had captured her heart. It was all too dreadful to contemplate.
“So, you now know why I was concerned when I saw you looking at that boy,” Tempesta explained. “Trust me, Aeris, no good can ever come of it.”
I gazed back at Daniel and Delilah frolicking in the lake, their bodies flecked with water, sparkling in the sunlight. He was made of flesh, blood, and bone, as was she. Whatever their differences, they were made of the same stuff. I bit my lip and watched them embrace, shivering against the chill as they warmed each other’s bodies.
For the first time in my long life, looking at Delilah, I envied a groundling.
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