Alice at heart, p.23
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       Alice At Heart, p.23

           Deborah Smith
 
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  As the centuries passed, every lover and every child left them. The three Tamerians realized it would always be so. Thus they began to harden their hearts against Landers and even Halflings, to stay alone, until some rare man lures them into love again or some Halfling descendent earns their sympathy.

  So they cannot resist loving us. In their souls they cherish their mingled descendents, neither Lander nor Tamerian, neither earth nor water, but the best of both.

  And that is a truth I believe.

  Every time I recount Grandmother Deirdre’s story I feel a bit defensive. Popular modern myths say Melasine, Acarinth, and Leirdrela continue to take lovers among the men of the earth and to birth new generations of extraordinary descendents. The more pragmatic among Water People insist that no such finned ancestors ever existed and certainly don’t exist now, and that variations in our skills and physiology are mere vagaries, easily explained by random intermingling among our kind. (Dear Readers: I will not get into any wilder claims here, but do please read my addendum about clans.)

  Many Water People claim (as, in fact, we Bonavendiers do) to be only a few generations removed from either Melasine, Acarinth, or Leirdrela. We engage in endless debates over reported sightings and encounters with the three. A certain snobbery demands that one not only claim a member of the trio as near kin but also show proof that the link actually exists.

  That proof is always suspect, however. The portrait of Melasine at Sainte’s Point has generated spirited controversy among Water People for two hundred years. Some fervently accuse us of fraud. Did she actually pose for the artist, or was her image merely conjured up by social climbing eighteenth century Bonavendiers? I assure you, dear readers, she posed.

  Regardless, let us all be proud of whatever talents we have inherited, however and whenever, at every level of clan and kinship. I fully admit that my native Southern fascination with family history is as strong as my devotion to my kind. And thus I am calling, as I said to begin with, for pride and unity.

  Like Deirdre, I do believe in legends.

  And I do believe, Dear Readers, that we are all One People, only separated by fluid degrees.

  Land People fight and struggle and yearn to find magic in their lives. Water People hide behind that magic but realize the loneliness of it. As for Bonavendiers, add to our psyche the spoiled attitudes of a silver-spoon upbringing in the deep, coastal South, and you have that most dangerous of all combinations (and here I stoop to use two common stereotypes.)

  Southern belles who are also mermaids.

  Gilding the magnolia, to say the least.

  Now you know.

  Notes

  “Halfling” is an all-purpose term, which refers to all mixed-blood descendents of the Old Ones and Landers. More specific distinctions are made through the use of generational prefixes – “first-generation Halfling, second-generation Halfling,” etc. – and by clan names. (See the addendum.) However, some Water People use the word “Halfling” as a slur when someone exhibits Lander-like traits, as Mara did once in speaking of Alice. That usage, however, is generally considered both inaccurate and ill mannered.

  Ta-Mera is an ancient Egyptian place name meaning, “Land of the Waters” or “Land of the Great Mothers,” depending upon interpretation. In the interest of accuracy I must point out that Grandmother Deirdre sometimes embroidered even everyday stories with classical allusions, whimsical imaginings, and outright untruths. After all, she was a Healer, (see the addendum on clans) and Healers are notoriously fey.

  As given names, Beckrith, Padrian, and Salasime are without discernible origins in any known language. Emilene Revere may well have made the names up entirely. She was a Singer (her clan as well as her career) and Singers are sometimes prone to improvisation. (For the record, we modern-day Bonavendiers are also classified as Singers, a fact I tell you at risk to my own reputation for veracity.)

  Addendum

  Introduction

  As I have already stated, both Land and Water People are descended from three couples in ancient mythology: Melasine and Beckrith, Acarinth and Padrian, Leirdrela and Salasime. Most of the world’s Lander population is so far removed from those origins that they have no hint of the fabulous traits left in them. But because Melasine, Acarinth, and Leirdrela still exist, still occasionally fall in love with men, and still bear children, we Water People are only a few generations removed from their original ancestry, and our talents are strong.

  A more scientific explanation? Historically, some clans of Water People have shunned Landers and intermarried only with other Water People, thus re-enforcing certain special traits. Some of our kind is even so strong in bloodline that very, very amazing talents are reported. Most such reports are suspect and very hard to believe, however.

  For example, neither I nor anyone I know have ever encountered a Swimmer (see the clan description, below.) A Swimmer—if, indeed, the Swimmer clan is more than rumor—is, by nature and circumstance, a recluse and loner, even among Water People. The more closely a person is related to one of the original three “Old Ones” (Melasine, Acarinth, and Leirdrela), the less like we two-legged folk he or she is, either in body or soul, and so will not risk love and affection. I have even heard rumors of Swimmers who are shapeshifters, but I refuse to indulge such an idea. The fantastic abilities of Water People are rooted in the physical laws of nature, not fairy tales.

  I say that quite seriously.

  The terms I’ve listed below to categorize our clans are, at best, fluid and capricious, often leading to prejudices and foolish judgments among Water People, who can be quite smug. That is why I forbade Mara and Pearl to mention such a hierarchy to Alice, though Pearl, naturally, couldn’t resist hinting at it. Oh, all right, neither can I, at this point. As I said earlier, we Bonavendiers are Singers. One of the more highly evolved clans.

  But enough discussion or I shall digress into vanities. Here, in simple terms, are our clans and their most basic descriptions, in descending order.

  Clans of the Water People

  The Old Ones

  Melasine, Acarinth, and Leirdrela. Our real or imagined half-human, half-aquatic progenitors, also known as The Tamerians, who, according to legend, mated with three Landers after the ruin of Ta-Mera. They have continued to mate with men in all the centuries since. They are assumed to be immortal and extremely reclusive, yet also extremely seductive. No absolute proof of their existence has ever been produced.

  Swimmers

  Swimmers, if they exist at all, are either first-generation Halflings (the immediate descendents of a Tamerian and a Lander), or simply Water People of extraordinary and rare abilities. Claims of encounters and matings between Swimmers and Water People of other clans abound, but may simply be a fanciful way to cover up reckless romances or to further gild the reputations of children with unusual abilities. Example: A pregnant woman with no husband may insist she was seduced by a Swimmer—who, of course, left the scene immediately afterward. Swimmers are variously described as predatory, irresistible, incorrigible loners, and terrifyingly possessive shapeshifters. They cannot or will not live among either Land People or Water People.

  I recently received disturbing word about a young Scottish relative of ours—a brilliant and beautiful young woman of impeccable honor, whose word I have no reason to doubt. She was found murdered in waters off the Isle of Skye only hours after confiding to her brother that a volatile Swimmer fathered her three remarkable young daughters. Her murder remains a mystery, and her brother has hidden her daughters for fear their father—if indeed a Swimmer—may be the killer.

  Swimmers are said to be acutely psychic (much more than other Water People) and possess extraordinary powers in the use of sonar and sonic vibration, which can be used as a weapon. Their lifespans are impossible to calculate, but according to anecdote and speculation they may live several hundred years.

  I cannot say more about the current family situation in Scotland at this time, but I am involved in resolving it.<
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  Healers

  Healers are a small population among us. They quite often exhibit the best qualities of both Landers and Tamerians. Some are born with lightly webbed hands as well as feet and other unusual physical traits, which makes them avoid Lander society, but nonetheless they tend to be moderate souls, and, as their clan name suggests, they exhibit a marked talent for healing others. Some scientists among the Water People believe their healing abilities are related to our prevalent talent for sonar and sonic vibration, which has been shown to have a marked effect on cellular regeneration.

  One might say that if Swimmers represent the dark side of Water People, then Healers are the light. (Dear Readers: The daughters of the murdered woman are Healers.)

  Singers

  Singers represent the largest clan of Water People and are by far the most successful at coexisting in the Lander world. We are categorized by webbed feet, remarkable swimming abilities, and an average lifespan of ninety to one-hundred-ten years, among other traits. Our prevailing talent is indicated by our clan name: we are psychic “singers,” with the ability to lure, enthrall, and communicate in wordless vibratros of emotion. Virtually all of us also have extraordinary singing voices in the more conventional sense of “singing.” In fact, a notable percentage of the world’s popular singers and operatic stars are Water People.

  Good manners and common sense prevent me, of course, from naming celebrity names.

  Floaters

  Many of you, dear readers, are Floaters, though you don’t know it and probably think of yourself as just a Lander. Your Tamerian ancestry is hidden at least a few generations past, and your feet, I’m sorry to say, are indeed the feet of a plain Lander. But you have a marked love for the waters of the world, whether fresh or salt, and you can often be found on some sunny coast or shady lakeside. You may be a sea captain or an oceanographer, or simply a land-bound devotee of the water. Regardless, you revel in fluid whimsy and daydreams, you are drawn to the great marine mammals and the colorful fish, and you are quite elegant in style, in purpose, and in thought. You sense something different about yourself, something that sets you apart from the Landers—an urge, perhaps, to take a long ocean voyage and settle in some exotic cove, or to swim beneath the surface of life’s illusions and breathe against all odds.

  I firmly believe that most of the great sailors and ocean adventurers of the world are, at the very least, Floaters. Though we often refer to him as a Lander, Simon Sainte-Bonavendier belonged to the Floater clan.

  Landers

  Land people. They make up the vast bulk of the earth’s population, good and decent and special in their own way, yet so far removed from their glorious beginnings in the seas that they fear the water and try to conquer it. They are to be treated kindly and welcomed into our midst and, dare I insist, respected for their love of the earth, no matter how stubborn they are in their dominance. I intend to reform them.

  There is no more to say about them than that.

  And so, Dear Readers, I bid you adieu, for now. I hope you cherish all you’ve learned about my kind—and your own—and I promise to tell you more. But first I have a wedding to plan for Alice and Griffin, and I must address the tragic situation with my Scottish relatives.

  There is another matter as well, one involving a descendent of Emilene Revere. A truly exceptional young Floater, who needs to embrace her true legacy before it’s too late.

  Her name is Molly.

  I’m singing to her, even now.

  And though she may not know it yet, she’s listening.

  Table of Contents

  Dedication

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  14

  15

  16

  17

  18

  19

  20

  21

  22

  23

  24

  25

  26

  27

  A Note From Lilith Bonavendier

  The Legend Of Ta-Mera

  Notes

  Addendum

  Clans of the Water People

 


 

  Deborah Smith, Alice At Heart

 


 

 
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