Home Again (Spirit Walks Part 9)

Before Auberon and his faerie knights left, they presented the witch and the vampire with a skinny metal case hung with a leather shoulder strap. Inside was a series of six sealed glass vials with a stoppered top, all set into a firm protective foam. The blood of the sprites.

Sama shut the case and slung it across her shoulders. ‘These blood bottles were a much better idea than bringing a live sprite with us.’
‘That’s for sure,’ said Gabe. ‘They’re tasty, but I don’t want one hanging around.’
Sama felt a moment of disquiet at that, imagining her brother sucking the blood from a living creature, and loving it. Particularly since they were now alone in the dark in the middle of a forest. She could not help but glance back at him, wondering whether he was imagining draining the blood from her veins. He shook his head at her and smiled at her distrust. ‘Sama, I’m sorry I said that, but I’m not a monster, okay? I don’t have an insatiable bloodlust or an urge to drain the blood of the living,’ he said, while miming sneaking up on her, Nosferatu style.
She sighed and relaxed. ‘It’s pretty weird though. It just all caught up on me for a minute, now we’re back in the real world. But you know, you’d probably be exactly like you said, if we didn’t have a supply of this sprite blood.’
‘But we do, okay. The only reason I’ll attack you is if you bug the hell outta me like when we were little!’
Sama squealed and slapped his shoulder, all the tension gone, and they were just a normal brother and sister again.

They walked to the path from the clearing, stepping over the remnants of Sama’s circles on the ground, and Sama tensed again. A strange rustling noise was coming from the forest. Sama had spent a lot of time here, but had never heard the trees sound like that before.

…………she’s back…….
…….the witch from faerieland…….
………….they let her go……..
……tell Cernunnos she has returned……
……….. tell Cernunnos…….

Sama gasped and jumped into Gabe. ‘Did you hear that?’
‘The wind?’
‘No. The talking. Someone said to go tell Cernunnos I’m back from faerieland. I had to promise him service in exchange for him calling the faeries, or I’d never have even left here.’
‘Do you think he’d come to collect right away?’
‘Who knows how someone like that thinks!’

……..she knows………
…………how could she know?……..
…….look at her……
…………….the witch can hear us…….

‘Gabe, I’m telling you, I can hear voices all around us, and they’re talking about me.’
‘This body has fantastic senses, and I can’t hear a word. Not for miles.’
‘Oh shit, Gabe!’ she said. ‘The trees! Auberon said the plants will be my companions and help me if they can. I can hear the trees!’
‘Really?’
Sama walked up to the nearest tree. ‘Tree, can you understand me?’
……..yes, witch……..
Sama laughed and jumped into the air. ‘It IS the trees I can hear! Tree, do you know what Cernunnos wants with me?’
…….no……..
‘Will the trees help me if I need it?’
…….if you are kind to us…….
‘Cool. So, tree, where are all the woodland faeries?’
…….they are everywhere around us. They are within us and beside us…….
‘But why can’t I see any?’
………you must not be looking…….

Sama stepped back from the tree trunk and looked around the clearing. She could occasionally see little bursts of movement, but all very fleeting, and they could just as easily be animals as faeries. And then a tall figure stepped out of the side of the tree. It appeared female, but seemed stretched with features that were a little undefined.

‘Greetings, witch. There has not been a faerie-touched person through here for the longest time, and my friends are cautious.’
‘What are you?’
‘I tend this tree that you are speaking with. Together we will grow, and I am here until his passing.’
‘Every tree is like this?’
‘Every tree and every plant alive.’
‘Wow. And you all speak to each other?’
‘That is how the trees and plants get messages throughout the forest.’
‘So all the faeries are tied to plants?’
‘Of course not.’

Sama paused to look around, as now the faeries all decided that it was safe to at least come out to look at the witch that could see them. She felt like she was still in the realm of the faeries, as small butterfly-winged creatures were sitting in the trees, wingless drab-looking creatures were peering up from behind tree roots, and many many other tiny faeries were flitting through the space.

Gabe had been watching her talk to the tree in amusement, but increasingly his enhanced vampire senses were telling him something strange was happening. He could not penetrate the faerie magic, yet he had felt the moment was profound, although now he was ready to leave the sensation behind.

‘Sama, are you going to stay and talk to the trees all night?’
‘No. We need to get you home and safe for the day. C’mon.’ She turned and waved to all of the faeries, and then set off for the home she had not been back to for over a week.

Sama had a spare bedroom, so Gabe was going to get the benefit this week. They grabbed a roll of aluminium foil from the kitchen and a roll of masking tape and sealed up the glass of the window panes, and then the heavy curtains were drawn over the top. Sama emptied her linen chest, and the two of them carried it into the room and lined it with a doona and pillow. A dark box within a darkened room.

Gabe sighed and shook his head. ‘I guess I have to, right?’
‘Here dwelleth the vampire,’ Sama said, and kissed him on the cheek. ‘See you at sunset.’
‘Have that blood handy, will you. I dunno what it’ll be like, but let’s not take a chance on it.’
‘It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it,’ she said, and closed the lid of the chest.

She knew she should be resting, but too many thoughts circled within her mind to let her. To separate from her own thoughts, she took a blanket from a cupboard and sat out on her back lawn in the sun. She thought she could relax in the light, and prepare for the darkness, but she was wrong.

Before her widening eyes, she watched the constant activity of little faeries flying around her garden. Small wingless creatures emerged from trapdoors in the ground, and others from brightly coloured doors in the trees. The plants themselves had their own spirit faeries willingly tethered to them. Sama watched a bird pull a small carrot from her vegetable patch, and the bond with the carrot’s faerie dissolved. It watched its plant fly off in the bird’s mouth before itself flying off and settling within another emerging seedling.
‘This is too much,’ she whispered.

…..why are you unhappy?….. asked the grass.
…..you should be pleased to see all that is truly here to see…… said the tree behind her.

‘I know. But, there’s so much going on right now. I’ve got to look after Gabe, and I don’t know when Cernunnos is going to come and take me. And the Cult of Cybele. I don’t know what they’ll do if they know Gabe’s not completely dead anymore.’ She sighed and rubbed her tired eyes. Then it dawned on her. ‘Tree, can you get information for me? Can you send word through to the plants around the cult and ask what they know?’

………yes, we can do that for you……
……………wait………

So Sama spent a day in her garden, not relaxing, but information gathering. She ran inside and collected a notebook and pencil, then ran out again. The yard sounded like a rustling, murmuring Chinese whisper, with versions of her questions moving in waves through the plants and faeries.

The first wave of answers came back within thirty minutes, and Sama was excited, and then terrified. It was so much worse than she had imagined. The trees whispered to her that the spells woven by the cult had crumbled. The priestesses were concerned, and then furious when they divined the cause. Gabe, their sacrifice, was no longer a part of the spirit world. Their fields sprouted weeds, and their power waned. For their return to glory, they needed to find Gabe, kill him again, and make sure he stayed dead.

They were marshalling their agents, and they would locate Gabe through the divine magic of their Goddess. They would come and strike in the confusion of night-time.

After an hour of frantic scribbling, Sama was exhausted. She knew the Cult was strong, as they had been able to block her access to spirit communication, but it seemed they had a physical reach as well as magical. The night would not be a problem to Gabe, and obviously they hadn’t gained a full understanding of the nature of his return, or they would be coming for him right now.

She brewed a coffee and went back to her tree. ‘Can you ask what they will use when they attack? Guns, blades or whatever, and what magic they will use. And then, what is a good defence?’ She sat and waited with her coffee and notebook, watching the finger-sized flower faeries tending her herb garden. In a moment of inspiration, she decided to go and talk to them as well.

The faeries fled at her approach, vanishing behind leaves and sticks, but Sama knew they were there. ‘Hello? Faeries? I know you’re there, I was just watching you.’ A few cautious little faces peered out, so she went on, ‘I’m trying to help Gabe survive until Auberon comes back to get us, and was hoping we could be friends.’

The garden burst into faeries. They erupted from every plant and hiding place nearby and those that could flew in front of her face talking excitedly. The dazzle of colour and motion startled Sama, and she plopped back onto the grass. Their joy and wonder was for the fact that their mortal was now a personal friend of their King, something that they could never imagine.
‘Faeries, thank you, I’m so pleased you want to talk to me!’ said Sama, smiling. She let them chat to her in a frenzy of dozens of different voices, barely following what was being said.

Eventually she brought the conversation to business. ‘Faeries, were you listening to the questions I was asking the trees earlier?’
The mood shifted, and the excitement dropped away. ‘No, please don’t be upset. I want to sit and tell you about the time I spent in Auberon’s castle in Faerieland, but I can’t do that if the Priestesses come and kill us tonight. If you can help me, I’ll be your personal storyteller.’
The faeries could see how Sama being dead would be a problem for them and stopped sulking. One flew close again and said, ‘But what do you expect us to do against mortal witches? Their magic will destroy us if we show ourselves to attack them.’
‘What magic do you do, my garden faeries?’
‘We keep the plant-souls company, or get them things, or entertain them.’
‘I thought you could shoot mortals to send them to sleep, or make them forget? What about making flashes of colour and light, or herbal potions?’
‘Well, we can’t shoot mortals, but we can make light and potions. There’s one here that could attack mortals, if he was pushed to it. He lives in the heights of the giant grey popular tree, but he doesn’t talk to garden faeries.’

Sama promised her garden faeries a full account of her trip to Faerieland, and in exchange they agreed to help her prepare for the night, as well as ask the large tree if it could convince its treetop recluse to come down to talk.

Concluded here in part 10

Constructive criticism welcome.

© 2008 Damian Herde

Home Again (Spirit Walks Part 9)

Damian

Toowoomba, Australia

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Artist's Description

A continuation of a story that travelled across many of the groups in the Spirit Walks multi-group challenge.

Still not finished, and I think it has grown to be at least a further two chapters after this one. Hey, it’s not a novel, don’t panic ;)

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here

Part 5 is here

Part 6 is here

Part 7 is here

Part 8 is here

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