The Unbrella

Emaline looked out at her village and the noticeably dimmed glowstones lighting the streets of their large cavern. The crops had been reaped and it would be another thirty sleeps worth of guided rest and reflection with the Elders before they could sew the next crop.

Oh how I hate the Yule season. Nothing to do other than watch other people go off on their rites of passage. Her rite wouldn’t be for another two harvests thanks to a promise she had made to her father. He had insisted that she take Kenan with her, and it had seemed like a small thing to promise at the time.

She watched the procession as the elders guided the two boys to the edge of town and gave them blessings from the gods of travel, speed, and luck. I would have been perfectly safe if I had gone with those boys.

“Emaline?” Kenan, the object of her irritation, called from the base of her tree.


“Sheena wants you to come home.” His timid reply echoed up through the branches. “She made nectar seeds.”

Emaline looked out at the pair of receding glowstones the boys carried upon their quest one last time before hopping from her branch to begin her controlled fall down to the earth.

Kenan’s eyes were big when she landed next to him. He’s always so impressed by such a small trick, but he has only seen twelve harvests.

“Pick your jaw up then, and let’s be on our way.”

“You’re amazing, Emaline.”

She looked down suspiciously at the boy.  “Why are you trying to sweet talk me?”

He averted his face as they walked home, but she saw his ears turning red. “I wasn’t. Why can’t you just take a complement.” His surly answer wasn’t at all what she had been expecting.

“Okay, what’s got your knickers in a twist.”

“Nothing.” He walked faster with his thin shoulders squared angrily.

“Kenan, seriously, what’s wrong?” She grabbed his arm and turned him back toward her.

“I just hate that you don’t see me as a person.”

“What? I see you as a person, what other way is there to see you.”

“Nothing, never mind. Let’s just get home.” He yanked his arm free with a surprising force. “Your mother is waiting for us.”

When he slammed through the door, Emaline winced. She knew her mother would be wearing a reproachful look meant just for her the minute she went in.

And I’m not disappointed, Emaline thought as Sheena demanded an answer without even saying a word. She shrugged in reply though she knew her mother would think she was being flippant.

“Thank you for bringing Emaline home, Kenan. As always your skills at finding her are legendary.”

Emaline looked at the strangely shaped parcel wrapped in a giant leaf.

“We wanted to give you this since this is the cycle of your birth. Kenan search for many hours to find this beautiful leaf for you. The veins are strong and will make quite a lovely fabric.”

“Thanks, Kenan. It’s beautiful.”

“Sure,” he mumbled.

“Well open it.” Sheena held out the bundle.

Emaline looked at the strangely shaped package dubiously. It would appear that this birthcycle would be no different than any of her previous. Another useless gift from the trunks of generations pasts.

The leaf rolled open to reveal a bundle of spears with some finely woven fabric attached to it and a walking stick protruding from the middle.

“Uh… what is it?” Emaline wondered if she would regret the question.

“It’s an unbrella!” Sheena grinned with pride. “It has been passed down my line since the time before, and now it’s your to pass down to your children.”

“Okay. What does this one do?” She remembered some of the other strange things that had been gifted to her.

“It keeps the rain off you.”

“The what?”

“Here.” She held out her hand to demonstrate the strange tool. Emaline backed up with a start as the thing popped open to three times its size. The spears held the fabric tight and it was all connected to the walking stick somehow.

“Okay? What does that do?” The best Emaline could figure is it would prevent the guano from hitting her when working in the fields. But how would I hold it and work? It just doesn’t make sense.

“My mother told me that rain was this sort of condensation that falls from these things called clouds.”

“It’s not like a little condensation warrants this strange contraption.”

“My mother told me that her mother said that above ground, there were times when the condensation would fall so thickly that you couldn’t see beyond the reach of your arm.”

Emaline raised her brows skeptically. “How is that possible? If there is no ceiling for moisture to condense on, then how can there be such thick condensation?”

“I don’t know Emaline, but surely it must be true, or the unbrella wouldn’t exist.”

“Why is it called an unbrella if it keep this rain stuff off you then? Wouldn’t it be called an unrain?”

“Maybe “brella” means rain in another tongue.” Kenan finally spoke up.

“Could be.” Sheena smiled proudly at the boy.

“Whatever. Thanks for the unbrella, and the leaf, and the nectar seeds.” Emaline grabbed a handful of the sweet crunchy treats and marvelled at a strange new undertone. “Wow, these are even better than usual, what did you put in them?”

“So full of questions. Elder Eidald gave us some of the nectar from his private stock. He said he appreciates your sacrificing your rite of passage this year for the sake of Kenan and wanted to share a gift with you.”

“That was sweet of him.”

“Yes, it was.”

“Guess I’ll go thank him.”

“Take your unbrella with you!”

“Mom! Seriously?”

“Yes! You should be proud of it. We are one of the few families that still has such treasures.”

“Fine.” Emaline took the strange contraption and folded it back down to its more manageable walking stick form and headed out. Kenan attempted to follow and she shook her head. “I just want to be alone this birthcycle. You understand don’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess.” His crestfallen look was nearly enough for her to retract the statement but as much as she cared about him, his presence kept reminding her that she should be on a trek to obtain her own glowstone—the only way to be recognised as an adult.

She walked through the street garnering a few curious looks. When she passed the village’s bully and heard cruel whispers behind her, she wished she could just disappear. There’s a reason I hang out in trees all day.

At last she reached the door of Elder Eidald and knocked softly in the hopes that he wouldn’t hear. Footsteps emanating from the other side dashed those hopes.

“Emaline, how lovely to see you. I see your mother has given you your birthcycle gifts.”

“Yeah, thank you for your contribution to the nectar seed. They are truly amazing.”

“I understand the sacrifice that you have made for Kenan perhaps better than anyone else. I too waited for a sibling to come of age.”

“He’s not even my brother.”

“Which is what makes your sacrifice all the more noble. I believe, in time, you will become a great leader. You have a wonderful heart and a quizzical mind. Both are necessary traits in the trying times that lay ahead of us.”

“What do you mean, Elder?”

“Oh… I’d rather not say just yet, but nonetheless. Don’t change, and be strong for you and your Kenan and perhaps for all of us. Maybe one day you might make use of that umbrella.”


“Unbrella then. Keep it close.”

Emaline walked to her favourite tree, confused and worried about the meaning behind Elder Eidald’s words. Using this artifact would mean returning to the frozen surface…



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