fantasy

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

September, 2018

Part 1


(Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash)

Chapter 1, Part 2

Flight through the Forest

As we flew over the treetops, with the great starry dome overhead, I seemed to be flying upside down over an ocean filled with innumerable lights. The blue child led me deep into the forest, and at one point slowed down to allow me to catch up with him. Then he locked elbows and flew with me, and suddenly all was changed. The trees glowed with light of many colors, like lamps of blue, green, red and violet, each type of tree a different hue. Some trees throbbed with light, while others gave off a steady sheen. In places I saw what looked like columns of light erupting from the trees up into the sky and eventually disappearing in distance. Elsewhere, shafts of light descended suddenly from the sky and fused with particular trees. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks and poplars. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child.

Some noise in the forest woke me up at this moment. It was early morning, just around dawn. I went back to sleep and had no dreams I recalled.

At breakfast the Hægtessa seemed pleased and rested. She said she’d had the best sleep in years, for it’s tiring at times to fly with the blue child or other dryads in the forest. At least when you get up to my age,” she smiled. “But while you’re young it’s great fun, and you gradually become acquainted with the deeper forest.”

Dawn can go home tomorrow,” she continued as an afterthought. “Try again tonight with the Blue Child. See if you can get inside the Great Oak. Tell me what happened tomorrow at breakfast. If you find you like doing this, and don’t mind learning herb-lore from me, you can be hedge wizard when I am gone. But think it over; you have plenty of time to consider it.

But the times you go home,” she added, in turning, “don’t speak of your experiences here. Just say you are learning herb-lore from me. That will provide enough reason for them to ostracize you. No point in giving them more.”

* * * * *

On the following night once again I was flying with the Blue Child through the night forest. The blue child led me to a glade in the forest filled with oaks. We flew to one particular oak and passed inside it through a hollow ‘fairy door’. I was in the trunk of a massive, giant oak tree with the blue child. Blue light was all around us.

We rested inside a recess in the oak’s trunk. Not far from us was the figure of an old man sleeping. He seemed carved from wood, or else turning into wood. On his face was an expression of contentment and rest.

Who is that?” I asked the Blue Child. “My Dad,” he answered. “He is falling asleep into the tree. Dad, Dad,” he called softly. The old man’s eyelids fluttered, scattering small splinters. He looked with love at the Blue Child. “Dad, this is Bird-brow. He is taking his first flight.”

The old man’s voice came resonantly from his lips, which hardly moved. “Welcome, Bird-brow,” he said. “The gods bless you.”

And you, Sir,” I replied. “But what is happening to you?”

Oh, I am dying. It is time to return to the Tree, our Mother. My son will serve Her in my stead.”

In the garth, where I live,” I said, “to die is an occasion for sorrow.”

Not among us,” the old man said, smiling. “For we do not die entirely so long as the Tree lives. And She has lived here in the Forest a very long time.”

You can still go upstairs if you’d rather, Dad,” said the Blue Child.

No, Son. My place is here with our Mother, the Oak. But you should go upstairs to tell the Bright Ones I will stay here and subside into wood.”

The Blue Child turned to me. “Rest here awhile. I will return soon.”

The blue light grew around us and seemed to lift the Blue Child. He rose on a column of light and rushed out of the crown of the Tree, up into the sky. He was suddenly gone. I looked at the old man inquiringly.

You must pardon me,” he said, closing his eyes once again. “I am becoming very sleepy.”

I moved outside the trunk up into the lower branches of the Oak. Around me the elms were glowing green, the larches a paler shade of the same color. Here and there in the haunted forest columns of light shot up into the sky and disappeared; once in a while a column descended from the sky and passed into a tree from above, and the tree took on its color and glowed softly.

After some time had passed, a shaft of blue light descended from the sky and the Blue Child was back. “Now we must scout out the Hægtessa’s herbs,” he said. “the old beds have dried up.”

But where were you?” I asked him, as we resumed out flight.

In our star. Every tree in the forest has a star. Ours is there.” And he pointed almost directly up, to the top of the sky. “You must return with the Haegtessa in the morning and help her pick herbs.” Once again we entered the oak.

But where are the herbs?” I asked. “The trees will find them,” he said, and then called out softly “Dad…Dad.”

The old face appeared once more in the wood. “Yes, Son, what is it? I was drifting off.”

The Haegtessa needs more herbs, Dad. The old beds have dried up. We must find the closest bed of wild herbs for her.”

Right away,” said the face, and disappeared into the wood.

Where has he gone?” I asked the Blue Child. “Down into the roots,“he said. “The roots of the great oak extend far on every side and touch the roots of trees growing around us. They in turn touch the roots of their neighbors, and so on. The search for the wild herbs is even now traveling far afield, along the roots through the Deep Forest.”

Presently the old face of the Oak Father appeared once more in the wood. Little splinters flew from his eyelids and lips as he smiled and said “Tell the Hægtessa the way to the herbs has been charted. If she comes here to the Great Oak she can follow the trail with her staff” “Thank you, Oak Father,” I said, and promptly awoke in the crystal room.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was radiant. “You’ve done well, Bird-Brow,” she said. “The Blue Child and the Oak Father both like you. That is important.”

I told her what the Oak Father said. “I know,” she said, “I have done this before, many times. What he said was for your benefit. We must go together today, since you may be doing this next time.”

After breakfast she said farewell to my mother and little Dawn. “She has recovered. Keep her quiet and well-rested for a few days. Bird-Brow is going with me today on an expedition. He will return home tonight.”

The Hægtessa put on her voluminous white robe and took her carved oaken staff from her cabinet. “Take this sack with you, Bird-Brow,” she said. “We will bring back some herbs for replanting in my field.”

I had flown with the Blue Child to the Great Oak and knew vaguely how to get there in the body, but the Hægtessa knew the way very well, and in about half an hour we mounted the hill leading to the tree. It was a quiet, blue morning, punctuated with light birdsong.

The Hægtessa grounded her staff near the base of the oak. “Grasp my staff, Bird-Brow” she said. I grasped its head and felt a tingling coming up the staff from the ground. She knew I felt it, and took it back. “Now follow along. We have a journey to make.”

She walked to the next tree, a smaller, younger oak, and then beyond it to a birch, feeling the ground with her staff with every step. In this way we went down hill and up hill for about half an hour. Coming to a shallow stream, we forded it, the Hægtessa feeling the trail along the stream bottom with her staff, and picking up the trail again among the trees on the other side. The land sloped uphill from the other bank, until we reached a plateau at the edge of a cliff. Far below I could see the field of herbs. Passing to the left along the cliff, we came to a mild grassy slope downhill, and followed it down to the herb beds.

The field of herbs was the size of two yards placed side by side. Beyond them the forest continued on a shallow rise. “The herbs have come here from many places in the forest,” said the Hægtessa. “They are our partners. It is our job to protect them, to pick the weeds from among them and ring them about with guardian plants like marigolds. Some we will gather up and replant in my garden. These will be of use, like the feverfew I gave little Dawn, but once replanted, the herbs have less potency. Here, in this field, is where they retain their full magic.” She showed me how to tell weeds from herbs, and we replanted a few marigolds along the margins.

You must come here with the Blue Child, Bird-Brow,” she said, “perhaps once a week, to see if all is well. You must also come here at times in the body to dress and protect the field, and gather a few herbs for replanting. That is, if you want to.”

She looked at me carefully. “I am old, Bird-Brow,” she said. “I cannot make the journey here often. If you wish to be hedge wizard after me, you must start now to help with the fields.”

I will, gladly,” I said. “But what of my father and the boar hunt? I have never been asked to be on it before, because I was too young. He is counting on me to be with him.”

Some problems have no easy solution, Bird-Brow,” she said.

When I visited the herb field and pitched my tent, all was quiet. In the night I saw one herb light up within, and in it I could see the Hægtessa preparing herbs. She looked very old and tired, and suddenly I knew I would disappoint my father and remain here with her. When next I slept in the crystal room, the Blue Child flew in and said I had chosen wisely. She would not live much longer. In the morning I told her of my decision to remain with her and learn her herb-lore. She smiled and took me into her garden, pointing out the herbs which had been replanted. “These can be used in healing, Bird-Brow. But they must be boosted with wild herbs from the field.” Back in her house, she showed me how to prepare the herbs, cutting them and mixing them with the wild herbs. They seemed to quicken into new life when mixed with their wild counterparts.

At night, I flew with the Blue Child to the wild herb field, but instead of returning to the Hægtessa’s house we flew together over the wheat fields to the Hall. There was a lamp lit inside the Hall, watched over by the Hall-Sun, a young, vigorous woman with straw-colored hair. I was surprised to see my father there with her. “He won’t come, Hall-Sun.” he said sadly. I had hoped to show him hunting. The Hægtessa has bewitched him to her service.”

He can still come along to the boar-hunt,” the Hall-Sun said. “He can fly with the hunters and the Blue Child.” And she nodded to my companion.

That night the boar-hunters ran through a long tunnel in the Hedge, carrying torches. My father led them. The great wild boar had been reported in these parts, and each hunter was armed with bow, arrows and spear. I hovered over my father and the Blue Child and I flew on ahead to scout out the quarry and report its whereabouts to the hunters. Once or twice I saved my father from the boar by warning him of its murderous attack. I think he was aware of my protection and thanked me. He showed me how he stalked the boar and in this way I learned about hunting. The Hall-Sun watched me closely and I was taken by her fresh beauty. She seemed sprung from the earth, like harvest wheat. Her gaze seemed to reprove me for not being with my father on the hunt. But then I thought of the Hægtessa and her difficulties, and when I did, the Hall-Sun nodded approvingly.

End of part one

Story Series: Hedge Wizard

August, 2018

Part 1

(Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash)

Chapter 1

1. A Visit to the Hægtessa

I remember when little Dawn had a fever and had trouble sleeping, I went with Mother across the harvested fields to visit the Hægtessa. The green wall of the Hedge, tiny in the distance, grew and threw open its arms as we approached. On all sides it stretched, shutting out the Forest, except where the river ran by, downhill on the right, where the fishing lodge straddled the bank. I knew that far to the left, the hunters’ tunnel passed under the hedge.

Beyond the Hedge I could see the tops of many trees, outliers of the Forest. The Forest went on and on, they said, forever. No one went very far into it except the hunters. The Hægtessa, whose name meant ‘hedge-rider,’ went a little way in at times to gather herbs.

As we approached her house, Mother cautioned me to remain quiet unless spoken to. The Hægtessa, it was said, lived a very quiet life and disliked noise.

Her house ran right through the Hedge to the other side, and thus had two fronts, each barely extending beyond the Hedge itself. Her magic accommodated the Hedge to her house, neatly fitting it without impinging on it in the least.

I had never been in her house. I had been up to the Hedge, and down to the fishing-lodge by the river, and seen the gabled front of her house from a distance, but never herself. But now she came out.

But when the Hægtessa emerged, she was a kindly-looking middle-aged woman, getting a little stout. She was dressed in a simple farm smock and apron.

I’ve been working in the garden” she said to me, answering my thought. The morning sun peeped over the roof of the forest, and I squinted. She looked at me curiously, then turned to my mother.

Hello, Mopsy,” she said, using my mother’s little girl name.”What can I do for you?”

It’s Dawn, here,” said Mother. “She is hot and can’t sleep. I think her head hurts.”

The Hægtessa took Dawn in her arms. “She needs feverfew and a few other herbs,” she said. “Step in.”

We went up three steps and were inside her house, which seemed carved rather than built. A wide room stretched on both sides. Ahead were more steps, leading past cabinets of herbs and instruments up through the middle of the house. There were no windows to right or left.

Her magic keeps the hedge from bothering the house,” I thought. “But why the hump in the middle?”

Once again she answered my thought. “The roots of the hedge pass under the middle of my house. Else there would be two hedges.”

*

The Hægtessa ascended the inner steps and took several herbs from the shelves. She took dried leaves of feverfew and mixed them with fresh leaves. Then she prepared two or three other herbs.

When she brought the tea down, I saw a circular stairway at the back of her herb-closet. Past it steps probably started down to the forest side of her house.

We have to wait and see how she takes the herbs,” she said. “Please make yourselves comfortable. I will brew another tea.”

We sat on her cushioned carved benches and waited, while Mother applied a cool rag to Dawn’s head from time to time.

The Haegtessa kept us company. She talked about her need for an apprentice, “I’m not as young now as I once was.” She was running out of some herbs and needed help locating new gardens in the forest.

Somewhat later she felt Dawn’s head and said she felt a little cooler, but she needed to stay there for a night or two until her head was back to normal. She fixed up a bed for Mother in the room with Dawn, then turned to me.

Perhaps you’d like to sleep in the loft?” she asked, pointing to the circular stairs. “Come and see.” I followed her up the stairs. At the top, the gabled room was on the right. On the left a door opened into a circular chamber, roofed with crystal. I had heard of the dream chamber, but thought it was just a story.

In the center of the room was a wide, comfortable looking bed. Some treetops could be seen at the rim of the dome, but otherwise it was all sky.

Do you think you’d like to sleep here?” she asked.

Oh, yes,” I said. “Yes, thanks.”

That is well, Bird-brow; I give you that name in place of your boyhood name Hops. For outside, when you squinted, I saw a bird’s head, perhaps a robin’s, in the wrinkles between your brows. So I know you will profit from a night spent up here.”

The first night the dream chamber was filled with a blue light, whitened a while by the moon. I lay entranced by the starry sky and don’t know when I dropped off. Just before I woke I seemed to see a bluish figure flying around the room. It was a boy, a little smaller than I am, but I awoke before I could see more or speak to him.

At breakfast the Hægtessa was jovial. Dawn was much improved, and Mother had finally gotten some much-needed sleep. We had milk and meat and some fruit I had never seen before, juicy with a red pith. “One more night and Dawn will be well,” she said. “Did you sleep well in the chamber, Bird-brow?”

Why do you call him that?” asked Mother. “His name is Hops.”

He is growing fast, and has grown much overnight. See, already he is nearly eight years in stature. And I name him Bird-brow.”

Mother said nothing, but shifted a little uneasily in her chair. We knew that a hedge-witch has the right to assign a name to someone, and that name is not without meaning.

During the morning the Hægtessa took me out over the stair-hill and through the forest side of her house to the herb garden just outside the forest-door. Just beyond it was the blasted heath where the advancing trees of the forest had been cut down and the grass and seeds underneath them burnt brown. We picked herbs that day and she showed me how to store them in jars and prepare tinctures and other medicines.

At sunset a hunter came by with a brace of conies. “Have you heard that the great boar hunt is being prepared?” he asked me. “Your father is organizing it. Will you be with him?” I said certainly. He skinned them and stayed to supper with us, then went off again into the forest.

That night I dropped off to sleep swiftly, and before long the light of a star shone brighter, and the blue child flew or slid down the trail of light, landing at the foot of my bed.

Come, Bird-brow,” the blue child said. “You are asleep, so you can fly,” and we both flew through the crystal and out into the night of the forest.

To Be Continued…

Book Review- Gifts of the Crysnix by Lisa G. Shore

June, 2018

Book Review

Gifts of the Crysnix

Author: Lisa G. Shore

209 pages

 

(Author Lisa G. Shore courtesy https://lisagshore.com/)

 

This book brought me back to my younger years when my imagination was at its best. The author’s magical world includes fairies, kings/queens, princes, ogres, underworld creatures, laws of light, crystals, and much more.

The story is set in a small town called Galvin Colve. In the woods called Castle Forest lies a majestic Crystal Kingdom that is hidden from human kind. Inside the Crystal Kingdom are advanced beings who have unfastened the truths of the universe. They are crystal fairies who call themselves Crysnix. The Crysnix grant wishes for humans in trouble and try to guide them in the right direction while the dark side tries to create chaos. This story has celebration, love, tragedy, and war. Everything that makes a great story.

I felt young and happy while reading this book. It has “teachable” moments interlaced with the story which I thought was a great aspect. It’s about love, working together and helping one another mixed with magic and emotion. This book actually helped me realize how caught up I have been in my adult life that I had forgotten my whimsical creative side of me and I miss that.

I believe this book is good for children and adults. It was an easy read. I loved the fact that the author used quotes in the beginning of the book as well as in front of each chapter. The quote that hit home most for me was:

“Do not lose hold of your dreams or aspirations.

For if you do, you may still exist but you have cease to live.”

-Henry David Thoreau

At times, I wish there was more detailed explanation involved, but not enough for me not to enjoy the adventure this book brought me on.

 

Gifts of the Crysnix

 

***

About the Author:

Amy Sweryda is a Legal Assistant for a Workers Compensation Attorney.  She works at PSRB.  Amy loves the products that she sells on the side, Safe, Natural and Essential products from health to beauty.  Her website is https://www.amysweryda.arbonne.comAmy, also, enjoys reading, animals & being outdoors.

 

 

Short Story: Kiara, The Final Episode

December, 2016

kiara

 

Kiara, The Final Episode

 

Kiara allowed herself to be placed roughly into the chair. The field around her made her feel disoriented at first, but she curled her mind into a small hard sphere inside her head. She had foiled the goblin’s machine before and she felt quite confident that she could again. When she sensed Moira approaching in the form of a spider, Kiara quickly protected her from the machine. They communicated briefly, then Kiara sent her back up to the relative safety of the web above them,. She allowed a small amount of her energy to be drained, until she could find a way to protect the matron and Annabelle. Goblin warriors were pouring through the portal. Somehow, the goblins had breached the shield and were transporting a new type of warrior breed through it. She watched and waited.

Droc was working feverishly at the controls of his machine. Using the magic of the princess, he had opened a wormhole through the faery web that was around his planet. His troops were pouring through now. They no longer had to wait for bodies to be constructed. He sent them off to arm themselves and clear the manor of any humans left. His keen hearing could detect the noise of doors and furniture being smashed, then the sound of squabbling as they found the pantry, presumably. It was well stocked, he had made sure that it would be. This was their base to conquer worlds and send materials and food back home. He wished,- not for the first time, that engineering the warrior goblins had not made them so stupid. Still, he had his vanguard with him. His most loyal soldiers. They would lead the armies while their bodies stayed safely back in the mountain.

Lights started to dim on the console and Droc swore. He was checking gauges and turning dials to no avail, too preoccupied to see a small orb fly across the room. Then the chair died and the lights flickered off. When they came back on, the faeries body was slumped forward in the chair.

He went to check the body, and as he touched it, Kiara’s shell seemed to shrivel and then crumpled into dust. He was cursing as he returned to the console. The two goblins who were holding Matron and Annabelle, both died at the same moment. They fell forward just as a circle of orbs appeared around Kiara and her two charges.

Mandrell appeared first. He was almost as tall as Kiara, with jet black armour and helmet. Reaper was already in his hand and his eyes were blazing. He looked at Kiara and then to the door leading to the armoury. She drew her sword and prepared for any returning goblins, gesturing to Annabelle and Matron to stay behind her. Then Azira manifested. She was as tall as Kiara, with flaming red hair and green leather armour. She had a crossbow and was already firing into the goblins with a steady stream of bolts, as they appeared from the portal . Each bolt seemed to be replaced as soon as the last one was fired . Gortek was as round as he was high with a huge axe. He swirled into the goblins, creating a circle of decapitated bodies. His armour was bronze coloured and studded with large spikes like a porcupine. Azul was a giant, even by warrior standards. Eight foot tall and wearing only light leather armour, he carried a small circular shield and a mace. Any goblins who got past the other three were quickly crushed by the giants blows.

Drawn by the noise of battle, goblins started to return from the armoury, to be cut down by Kiara’s flashing sword as they came through the door. Another half-dozen or so faeries appeared and circled around the door in front of Kiara. Mandral sent them to secure the armoury and to clear the house and grounds of goblins. Kiara followed behind them, protecting Matron as she ran to check on James. He was weak from loss of blood but his wound was already healing rapidly from Kiara’s touch. Matron knelt beside him and cradled his head in her lap.

Mandral and the Gortek were carving a path though the goblins as the Azul and Azira ensured that none escaped from the room. Azira fired a stream of bolts that pinned Droc to the console, sending sparks flying and frying the goblin as the energy blasted into him, shorting out the equipment. The portal died and no more goblins came flooding through. Mandral and Gortek hacked and slashed their way through the oncoming troops and a stream of bolts killed any goblins beyond their reach. By the time the last of the remaining goblin troops had been slain, there was only a charred husk remaining of the king of the goblins. The large room was by now filled with corpses and the stench of charred flesh was sickening.

Gortek stood guard by the portal. Azul and Azirah went to help clear the house and to prepare for an elder to come and consecrate a new guardian tree. Moira dropped from her web and, resuming her habitual appearance, she went to her great uncle.

When two of the other faeries, Graela and Driff came back to report the house cleared. Kiara asked Graela to guard the room and went with Driff to see Mandral. Kiara was sickened by the sight and smell of the bodies. She opened out her arms and the bodies and blood vanished as the room changed into a large brightly lit marquee with chairs and cushions. She left the console and the portal in place. While waiting for Driff to give his report, she sat down on the chair which had been used to steal some of her power. She had been brought to this manor as a confused child, but now she was every inch a princess of the Fae.

Moira brought Mandral to her. He bowed, “Thank you Milady for helping us in our hour of need”. Kiara smiled, “Thank you Milord for your timely arrival. I believe we may have much to discuss”.

Several more chairs appeared beside them and she invited them to sit down. “Thank you Moira for bringing me back to my old self. Without your warning about the goblin, things may not have gone well.” Turning to Mandral, she asked if if he realised that the goblin king and his generals were still very much alive. He nodded, “They have to be dealt with, Milady, and their machines must be destroyed”. He looked grave. They both knew the cost of a sustained war with the goblins.”It is very much in my hands”, he said.”I must raise an army and invade their kingdom. Their are many outland Fae who will join me, but to insure a large enough army I need a princess by my side.” He looked at Kiara, “Milady, we have not had a warrior princess for over 10,000 years. I know that I ask a great deal, but there is much at stake. The goblins plan to spread their empire once more. When they are strong enough they will attack our home world. Win or lose, the light of the Fae will be dimmed for many aeons to come, unless some of us sacrifice our light for the many.”

They sat in silence for some time. There were tears in Kiara’s eyes as she thought of the hundreds of years of happiness that she was leaving behind,- perhaps forever. She wanted to be with Jeremiah, playing silly games and laughing at his jokes as they wandered in the woodland. She had been a carefree child for 500 years. Faeries seldom love as humans love, but that love had blossomed between them during a summer of delight. She had hoped for an eternity of joy with Jeremiah by her side. She had changed much already. Would he even know her when she returned?

“ Milady!”, Mandral spoke with urgency in his voice.”We must follow them through the portal and destroy their machinery. If we do not, then none of the worlds will be safe”.

When Kiara looked at him, her voice was cold, but, the blazing coals were burning in her eyes again. “Very well!, call your army!”. As she spoke, the console came to life and the portal began to glow.

*****

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 14

November, 2016

Kiara, Episode 14

kiara

 

The moment that Kiara touched the daisy, Moira became aware of her. She watched as she changed the daisy symbol she had given to her and hung it on her ear. The long corridor seemed dark and much too quiet. Moira could sense the servants huddled in the kitchen. She felt their uncertainty and drifted into the kitchen. Although they were unaware of her, they seemed to brighten a little under the influence of her presence. Cook was sitting at the big old wooden table in the centre of the room. The servants were all sitting around the table. Jed, the gardener, sat at her right, facing the big sink and worktop where the sunlight was beginning to seep in His son Michael sat opposite with the light shining through his fair hair, forming a halo effect around his head. Moira paused to admire the lad. He was broad shouldered and handsome, with a round friendly face. Annabelle sat further down the table beside Maria, holding her hand for comfort. They both looked pale and nervous. Two shotguns lay on the table between the gardener and his son. She stopped and listened to them for a moment. Michael broke the silence. “I should go and see if mistress needs any help”, he said. Jed shook his head. “ No!, we are to stay here and protect the youngsters”. He spoke kindly, but with an edge in his voice. Matron said that we are to leave her behind if necessary and take ourselves and Annabelle as far away as possible!”. Like his son, it made him feel like a coward, but his instructions had been very clear. He was not sure what was going on, but he knew it was bad. The purse of gold, handed to him by Matron, had convinced him of that. He would stay here until forced to leave, then he would return to help once the children were safe.

Moira returned to Kiara and noted the many racks of armour in the anteroom. She realised that she must report it to Mandral as soon as possible, but the noise and the roars from one of the rooms ahead, pushed everything from her mind. Kiara rushed through the door and she followed her.
As she passed the body of the servant, James, Kiara leaned over him and touched the wound and the blood stopped flowing. He was very weak and Moira was not too sure if he would survive. She hovered over him, sending healing as Kiara stepped into the next room. She followed as far as the doorway and watched as Kiara challenged a giant goblin. She felt no need to intervene as she felt that Kiara was more likely to find her a hindrance than a help.. The huge size of the goblin in the room still surprised her, despite seeing the armour in the anteroom. Kiara, however seemed totally unconcerned, so Moira continued to watch the scene without interfering. She almost gave herself away as Kiara’s fight with the goblin made her giggle. The magic of the royal faeries was legendary, but Moira had never expected such an easy victory. As Droc hung his head in defeat, she broke off her contact and sought out her great uncle. She needed to let him know that the goblins seemed to have amassed an army of giant warriors. Although the princess had foiled the goblin’s plans without any real effort, this was still worrying.. She left the scene behind as she focused on her home world.

******
In the kitchen, the calm that had settled on the occupants was short lived, after Moira had left. The initial breaking of the door had startled them, but both Jed and his son grabbed the shotguns as the roar of the goblin echoed through the house. Alice’s scream rang down the long corridor next making them feel sick with fright. Annabelle pulled away from Maria and ran from the kitchen shouting for her mother.
Michael ran after her, calling to his father to take the rest to safety. He grabbed a belt of cartridges from a hook near the door and slung it across his neck. Annabelle was already down the corridor and passing into the goblins lair as he left the kitchen. He hurried after her, but by the time he reached the anteroom, there was no sign of her. It went deathly quiet. He paused and listened. He could hear muffled voices somewhere ahead. A huge creature was growling as it approached him from the doorway ahead of him. He loosed both barrels into the creature and it collapsed in the doorway. A second goblin was trying to get past, and Michael quickly reloaded. As it climbed over its comrade he fired again stopping it in his tracks. More creatures were fighting to get through the doorway and he backed away as he loaded again. They tore the furniture in the room apart and started throwing it at him, forcing him to retreat further.
He retreated to the armoury and propped the door with anything he could find. First, he jammed some spears against it. He then put the shotgun down and pushed over one of the big racks to brace the wooden door. As he picked up the gun again, the goblins were pounding at the door. He heard what might the huge table from the room beyond being used as a battering ram. He realised that they would be through the door very soon. He took a sword from the rack and left the armoury. Closing the damaged outer door, he used the sword to jam it shut by sliding it through the iron handle. He checked the kitchen, which was empty, and left the manor to search for the others. When he got to the gate, Jed was waiting for him in the car with the others. They all sat there, reluctant to leave without the others. They decided to wait until the very last moment in case anyone should escape. Michael went back down the access road to keep watch. He hid behind a bush at a bend in the road, and watched the house carefully for any sign of activity.
As Kiara stepped forward to attack, the goblins started to growl, building themselves into a frenzy.
At that moment, Annabelle ran into the room and was grabbed by a goblin who was nearest the door. As kiara darted a glance at the girl, Droc grabbed Alice from the chair and placed his sword across her throat. “Put your sword down or they both die!”, he screamed above the growling.
The room grew silent as Kiara paused. There was no way to reach them both in time. The hellish fires in her eyes began to die down. She seemed to shrink as she dropped the sword from her hand.
“Put her in the chair!” commanded Droc, and in seconds she was trapped by the energy field.
The machine began to glow as it greedily sucked the magical energy from the faerie princess.
She seemed to be shrinking as she returned to the familiar shape of the little girl who had first come to the manor. Droc finally relaxed. He threw Alice to another goblin. “Guard these two with your lives!, I have plans for them!. He ordered the rest of them to get themselves armed and ready, and they headed to the armoury. He was distracted by the sound of a shogun in the entrance room, and he never noticed the small spider slipping through the energy field and landing on Kiara’s head.
It dropped down behind her left ear, where she had placed the earring earlier.

******

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 13

October, 2016

KIARA EPISODE 13

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Cook carefully removed the bandage to change the poultice as Kiara slept. The child was no longer feverish and was in a deep peaceful sleep. When she cleaned the area and saw no sign of either a wound or a scar, she began praying and making the sign of the cross over and over again. Just at that moment the door gave way to the goblins lair and she jumped with fright as the noise rang through the house. Kiara awoke and smiled at her. Somehow, the smile brought tears of relief. Then the girl was standing beside her and gave her hug. “Thank you! You must be exhausted ! Why don’t you go to the kitchen and make yourself a nice cup of tea!”. Before she knew it, cook was heading to the kitchen.

“You’re taller!”, said Annabelle accusingly. Kiara laughed. It was like the sound of a hundred tiny bells tinkling. She grew taller still and a pair of beautiful wings appeared . They sparkled and shone with rainbow colours that made Annabelle’s eyes go funny, and then they vanished and Kiara stood before her again, looking just like her old self. Annabelle rushed across the room and hugged her.

“Hold on Hold on! I must dress” said Kiara laughing. She stepped back for a moment and she created a beautiful silver frock with bows and ribbons and two big pockets. As she put the daisy into one pocket, she realised that the dress was a little long, so she grew into it. “That’s better!”, she said.

“Put your hand out!” Annabelle put her hand out and Kiara placed a bright red pebble into it. “Now, say Elsewhere!”. She did what she asked and found herself on the far side of the room.

“Listen carefully, you must go with cook and stay in the kitchen. If anything should happen, or you get scared, grab her hand and hold the pebble and say elsewhere! Okay?”

Annabelle nodded , and giving Kiara a last big hug, she ran after the cook.

Kiara had, of course, almost returned to her old self and in typical faerie fashion she only had a vague memory of what had happened. She remembered the boy and promised herself to visit him, once she had dealt with the silly goblin. Then the memory flooded back of the fire and the destruction of the goblins in the woods. Her shine dimmed a little, but she pushed it out of her mind. After all, she thought, they were not real bodies. It was just like breaking toys that belonged to naughty children. She brightened up for a moment, then realised that unless she smashed the machines, she might have to kill a lot more of the goblin troops on their own world, where they would be very real. It was a promise that she had avoided making just yet, but she knew that she could not abandon her own kind when they needed her. On impulse, she took the daisy from her pocket and turned it into a small earring which she placed in her ear, for safekeeping.

James opened the next door and the stench that hit them was overpowering. It as a large room filled with large heavy tables and benches. There was a large pipe with an open cover in the corner of the room where the smell seemed strongest. It had to be some sort of waste pipe, judging from the bones scattered around it. James held his breath and went to check it. They quickly moved on and shut the door behind them. They heard a humming sound from the next room and realised that they must be near the goblins machinery. They stood still, listening for any sounds before opening the door. James carefully closed the shotgun and handed it to Alice. Indicating that he wanted her to stay and watch the door. He opened it quietly and stepped through. He looked around in amazement at the lights and dials set into what looked like large wooden cupboards spaced all around the walls and joined by some sort of tubing. Seeing the next door open, he cautiously approached it and looked through.

There was a chair similar to the one in the doctors office, with tubes leading from it to a cabinet and from there, to huge covered cubicle. He checked the room carefully before calling Alice to come in. “ I think I found it!, he shouted. Alice followed him in quickly, not wanting to be outside on her own. They stood and inspected the room, wondering what exactly they could do to put the equipment out of action.

James was very unsure of what would happen if he sliced through the tubes. He knew nothing about electricity except that it could be dangerous and that metal conducted it. He looked at the cabinet that lit up the wall behind the chair. Alice seemed to read his mind. “Let’s go back and get the sledgehammer”, she said. She handed him the shotgun and he led the way.

As they stepped back through the door, the goblin pounced. The knife flashed between them and by the time James had turned, the broadsword was sweeping through the air. He blocked it with the barrel of the shotgun. It was almost torn from his hands by the impact, but he somehow managed to swing it back up and fired both barrels at the goblin. The noise was deafening and Droc stumbled backwards, giving James a chance to remove his sword from its scabbard. He shouted to Alice to run, but she stood near the door, frozen in fear. “Run!”, he screamed above the roar of the goblin.

Droc was a terrifying sight with his armour blackened and peppered with shot and one side of his cheek torn and bleeding. He raised the huge sword and James knew he moments left to live. James swung low with his sword and slashed across the goblin’s leg as he rolled out of reach of the sword. Droc ignored the wound and swung downwards as James got to his feet. He blocked the swing, but it sent him reeling backwards across the room. The goblin stepped forward, trapping Alice at the doorway.

He began to swing the sword down on James but as James raised his sword, Droc kicked out and sent him sprawling against the wall. Alice tried to take out her gun from her pocket, but the goblin was too fast and pinned her hands together. He swung her around and onto his hip as if she was a child and walked over to James. He kicked him over onto his back and casually thrust his sword into his belly. Alice screamed. “scream all you like, hag! You will scream much more before this day is through. He carried her back into the portal room and threw her onto the chair before sheathing his sword. He flicked a switch and she was trapped in the chair by invisible cords. Numb with shock, she hardly felt the tingling of the energy that held her in place.

“I think I will let you watch your little brat die before I show you what this little toy can do to ungrateful hags, he said. He turned a dial and searing pain flowed through her whole body. She felt blood in her mouth were she had bitten her tongue. He turned the dial back down. “Ah!, I see I have your full attention”. He smiled, showing two huge canines. “I think you had better let her go!,- said a voice from the doorway, making him turn around. There stood Kiara, still in the form of a child, and leaning on a sword that reached up to her chin. To hear a goblin laughing is a terrible thing. His bellow echoed across the whole manor.

Kiara began to laugh too and before he realised it, Droc was laughing until there were tears in his eyes. He was still laughing when the flat of her sword crashed down on his helmet. He screamed out in rage and frustration as he fought to remove the battered metal pressing into his skull. The leather strap tore away and he flung the crushed helmet at her and charged forward swinging his sword. All thoughts of needing her alive had vanished from his mind in his fury. She vaulted the huge arc of his swing, but he carried on in a huge circle of flying steel like a scythe. By the time he had swung around in a full circle, she had turned and blocked. The swords met in a flash of sparks and a piercing screech as metal slid against metal. As he powered through her block, and her sword slid away, she again vaulted over the swing and struck him in the face with the handle of her sword as she leapt to the other side of the room.

He spat blood and shook his head to clear it. Kiara was leaning on her sword in front of the cabinet, and laughing as if it was a great game. His rage knew no bounds. He ran across the room and sliced down in an effort to cut the arrogant faerie in two and silence her maddening laughter.

At the last moment she sidestepped and his sword bit into the cabinet, sending a pulse of energy back though the sword that knocked him off his feet. She turned to face him, when Alice started to scream. As she looked at Alice a goblin came out of the portal and pinned her arms from behind.

Droc smiled as he ran her sword right through her. He looked totally bewildered as he stared at the goblin warrior skewered on his sword. Kiara had vanished and was at the portal. She struck another goblin with the flat of her sword as he came through,- sending him sprawling across the room. With a wave of her hand a huge sticky web grew across the opening to the portal.

Kiara turned to look at Droc as he drew his sword from the dead warrior. “Enough!”, she said. “Release the matron and I will allow you to return to your world”. As she stared at him, Droc felt all the fight and the fury drain away. How could one little girl thwart all his plans? He was thinking furiously as she spoke. In the portal chamber more troops were arriving and soon they would be crushed by their own numbers. He put his sword down. “Okay faerie, You win”, he said, and walked slowly over to the control panel. He turned the dial up to full and Alice started to scream as the chair tried to draw energy from her body. Kiara rushed over and as she drew near, the energy field from the chair arced towards her, and began drawing on her power. He knocked her to the ground with his fist and ran back to pick up his sword. The web disappeared and goblins started to flood into the room. Kiara jumped up and switched of the machine. It as all or nothing now, she decided, and manifested her warrior form. Before the eyes of the goblins, she grew to seven foot tall and long black braids of raven hair, tipped with razor sharp blades hung down the silver of her gleaming armour.

The sword she had used earlier, now looked like a child’s toy in her hands. She threw it at the goblin and drew a long curved katana that glowed with a dull red, almost the colour of drying blood. Her eyes glowed like large black pits filled with glowing embers. Instinctively, the goblins backed away.

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 12

September, 2016

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Kiara: Episode 12
Alice felt much better after a good nights sleep. She had slept well much to her surprise,- having James outside the door made her feel much safer. She thought of that night she had seen him hanging around beneath the gas light, obviously up to no good. She had thrown him a shilling, thinking to keep him out of gaol for at least one more night. Then something in his expression had struck a chord with her. She remembered her own rebellious childhood. She thought she had found love but had been forced to run away from home in disgrace. The kindness of one person had saved her and she had worked hard for many years until she became a matron in a large hospital. In all that time, she had closed her heart to everyone. Then something in the roguish urchin touched her, and she decided that perhaps it was time to pay back for the gift of a new life that she had been given herself. Not for a moment had she imagined just how much she would come to depend on this scruffy urchin in the years to come.
Annabelle stirred. “Go back to sleep, sweetheart” she said.” Later, after breakfast, I want you to go and sit with Kiara in the infirmary and to stay there until I come for you. Bring a book and read it to her. It will comfort her”.
There was a softness in her voice that Annabelle had never heard before. She had been forced to have dinner with the servants the previous night. Mama had dinner with James and she had never done that before. Although she had said it was to discuss the household, both of them seemed different somehow, when they had escorted her to her mamas room to sleep for the night. As she drifted back to sleep, she wondered what had happened to Kiara. There had been a fire in the woods and Kiara had been injured, but no one would tell her what had happened. Perhaps Kiara would tell her later.

James straightened in the chair and his eyes flew open as Alice unlocked the door and stepped into the hallway. She smiled at him and he smiled back. “Come and have a hot drink with me in the kitchen before we tackle Docter Boglins quarters. Who knows what will greet us there”. He crooked the open shotgun on his arm and they walked slowly down the quiet corridor to the kitchen. Their hands brushed together by accident as they walked and she felt herself blushing. She was almost thirty years his senior, but he looked twice her age. She knew that the goblins treatments had a cumulative effect and she might have years of youth before they wore off. She did not know what would happen then. Would she begin to age again, or would she wake up one day to find a lady in her seventies peering back from the mirror?. She refused to entertain the question any longer. It seemed pointless, when he could reappear at any moment to take a terrible revenge on them all. She knew that she loved this man whom she had known since he was a child, but that was another problem that would have to wait. She knew that he loved her and that was enough for now. The future would sort itself out,- if indeed they had any future at all.

Despite the early hour, cook was up, and there was fresh bread and jam with their early morning tea.
There was an energy between them that made them feel breathless, but both of them were afraid to speak..Alice and James sat opposite each other and said little until cook went upstairs to relieve Maria and bring a fresh poultice for Kiara. “We will need something to break the door down”, Alice said, “It is quite solid and he always keeps it locked”. James left the shotgun open on the table near her and went to the garage to find what he needed. A few minute later he came back with a wooden wedge, a pry bar, a sledgehammer and some thick gloves, and they set off for the goblins quarters.

The goblin had taken an entire wing of the massive old manor. In many ways the building was constructed to look like a castle, with an exterior made from huge stone blocks, but using modern materials and design to allow much larger rooms on the interior. It had been some rich man’s folly,- built on the flood of wealth that had poured in from the empire. It had been totally sealed of from the rest of the house with solid brick walls and a small oak door on the ground floor giving access. Beside this door was the entry to his office. Dr. Boglin would see the children in there and there was some equipment in those rooms. Many would then be sent back to their parents, cured of many nervous diseases and thereby building the wealth and prestige of the home. Those who went through the little door , however, were never seen again.
Matron had a key to the office and a quick check revealed nothing unusual. James handed the shotgun to Alice and set to work on the door. There was no room to get the pry bar near the lock.
He placed the wedge against the base of the door and tapped it in with the sledgehammer. It took several large blows to force a gap. The noise echoed around the hallway. They paused and listened for sounds within, but it was impossible to hear much through the thick door. James managed to get the pry bar into the small gap near the lock, but even with all his weight behind it, it refused to budge. He hammered the end of the bar into the gap then using the wooden wedge between the lock and frame, he swung the sledgehammer with all his strength until the door flew open with as the jam splintered apart.
They stood amazed as they walked into the anteroom. It was lit by what looked like electric light bulbs. There were racks all around the large room filled with medieval armour and weapons. They stood there for a moment, puzzled. The armour looked much larger than the doctor or his fellow goblins. James, who was almost six foot tall would have found them large and cumbersome. There were bows, arrows, crossbows maces and huge swords. James picked up a sword, it was incredibly light and gleamed blue in the strange light.. He decided to keep it just for the moment and tied a scabbard around his waist to free his arms for the shotgun. Without a word, they pressed on. They did not even know what they were looking for. But the goblins had gotten here somehow. They needed to find out how and destroy his machinery. Otherwise, they suspected, there was no place on earth that they would ever be safe.
As Droc stepped out if the portal which was attached to the Cradle, he beamed with satisfaction. It had taken him thirty years to build it, but now, from the tiny gap in the shield around his planet, he had created a highway. Once he boosted its power with the magic from the faery princess he could transport many troops at once and make a new base here on this planet. They would harvest it’s resources to prepare for their invasion of the faery home world. He paused for a moment as he tried to remember the name of the home word of the Fae. It slipped through his mind like quicksilver. Never mind!, he thought, they had found a way in and they would find many others as they prepared for the final assault. First ,there was a hag to kill and an entire planet to feed from.

He picked up a chair and tore it apart. He was pleased,- perhaps he would not kill the weasel, Hrirc after all. He went to a rack and donned his armour, adding a belt of razor sharp knives and a long broad sword. He tested the sword, slicing through a table with a single blow. He had to stoop down to get through the door to the next room. Others would follow soon, when the power had built up, but he had no patience to wait. He would go and find the princess and get his plans moving. For an inferior race, the humans were proving to be less easy to control that he had imagined. He had lost four days and his biggest fear was that the faeries had somehow saved the guardian tree. For all he knew they might have warriors waiting in the woods to surround his troops and put a stop to his plans. He remembered nothing after the blow to the head that had crushed his old body. He needed to find out what had happened. He also needed to feel his claws dig into the neck of that treacherous hag.
He checked the instruments in the room and patted the chair fondly that was attached to them. From this spot, the empire of the goblins would be rebuilt, and he, Droc, would be their greatest ever warlord and Archdeacon.
He heard the noise of the door to the rest of the manor being breached. He could smell her, and that lackey of hers. That lapdog that she had kept with her for far too long. She had resisted every attempt to remove him. She must have planned treachery even then. Let her come into his cell. He would have some fun with her, away from distractions, while he waited for his troops. She would tell him all he needed to know before she died. He unsheathed a knife and hid behind one of the large control panels to wait.

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 9

April, 2016

Kiara4

 

Kiara, Episode 9

Annabelle appeared as Matron was having breakfast. Matron rang down for another serving for her adopted daughter, despite her protests about not being hungry. Matron had never been a soft person, but the noisy child with a head full of butterflies had somehow found a caring place in her heart, that even she had never known existed. The child’s arrival, – and the callous instructions to dispose of her, had begun the rift between the matron and the goblin which had led to the events of last night. Matron smiled as the child chattered away gaily. She was obviously totally unaware of the events of last night and her presence created an illusion of normality that matron desperately needed just at that moment.

After breakfast, she sat on the sofa and bid Annabelle to join her. She put her arm around the child and hugged her to her, unsure of how much to tell her about the dangers of their new situation.

The child spoke first. “What’s wrong mama?” Matron looked at her worried face and spoke softly and slowly, “Kiara will not be able to play with you for a few days”. She caught the child as she tried to launch herself off the sofa. “Stay! There is more that I must tell you”. The child settled back in the seat. “There have been intruders in the woods and you must stay in the house until I say otherwise”. “Okay mama!, – may I go and see Kiara?”. “Not just yet. You may see her later when she is awake” I want you to go and pack a case with travel clothes and put a warm coat and your winter boots where you can grab them easily. Tell no one!” Matron went to a drawer and measured out a handful of gold coins into a small pouch, – followed by some silver ones. She wrote a name and address on a piece of paper, blotted it and folded it into the pouch. “Put this in the bottom of your case, I pray that you will never need it. Put only what you really need into the case, you may have to carry it yourself, do you understand?” Annabelle nodded, although she did not really understand. For the first time in her life, the child was quiet as she hugged matron and went off to do as she was asked.

Matron packed a small case and placed the handgun and a bag of gold coins into it. She put it in the bottom of the wardrobe before going to check on Kiara.

The child was hot and feverish when matron returned to the infirmary. She put on a fresh white coat and washed her hands thoroughly before checking the girls wound. The skin around the puncture was red and inflamed, and she could see swelling already beginning to form. “Maria!. Go to cook and tell her to make me a sugar and soap poultice. Bring it back as soon as it is ready”. She cleaned the wound with surgical alcohol.. The child was delirious and totally unaware of her actions as she muttered away in a strange tongue. Matron place a fresh bandage over the wound and cooled her forehead with a damp cloth as she waited for Maria to return with the poultice.

Moira had felt nothing more than a sudden shock as the goblin arrows had peppered her human body and somehow thrown her into the guardian tree. It was a few moments before she realised what had happened. She was caught in the web of the guardian’s energy and watched in horror as Kiara fell to the ground when the arrow had pierced her. She felt the sudden blast of power as goblins began to burst into flames, but that was all she knew of the goblin attack. She felt herself somehow stretched as the guardian drew her up through the tree and transported her back to her own world.

Such was her delight to be back in the primeval forests of her home-world that she forgot all about Kiara and the goblins for a while, as she slowly drew all her energies back together and healed.

Eventually, she remembered and decided it would be best to contact the elders and she focused on the image of Mandral, her own family head. He accepted her touch and in a moment, she was standing before him beneath the giant ancestor tree. Although well in excess of a thousand years old, his long braided hair was still jet black. Tall and muscular, he was again wearing the fabled sword that they called the Reaper. She had only ever seen it mounted in the Hall of Tears before this day, and she realised that things must be serious. Although he had been less affected than many who had fought in the last goblin war, He exuded an uncomfortable nervous energy, as dark as his penetrating black eyes. Many who had fought in the war had become insane and taken their own lives after the realms were again safe. Others had travelled to many worlds and settled on uninhabited planets or in underground cities, far away from prying eyes. It was said that when the ancient lust for blood overtook the Fae, they became fearless, implacable, whirlwinds of death. Moving with lightning speed and incredible strength they killed all around them without pause or pity until there were none left to slay. Some even took their own lives when there where no others left to take.

He listened patiently to her report and thanked her. He explained that the elders were having problems of their own as goblin raiding parties were breaking through the barriers and into their realm with disturbing frequency. Already there were battalions of Dwarf mercenaries being assembled to cover the possibility of a major breakthrough. Neither was Mandral comforted by the apparent death of the goblin prince at the hands of his human helper. The destruction of his bio-energy body on earth would cause him only minor trauma and possibly delay his plans slightly. They needed to know more about the magic that he had harnessed which was allowing him to enter their world. He instructed Moira to try to contact Kiera and find out what was happening. Whatever strange machines he had constructed on earth needed to be destroyed as soon as possible.

War was looming over them. Whether by invasion, – or by retaliation by the Fae for the raids, mattered little. Mandral had little stomach for yet another war, but there were worse things to worry about. Already some of the elders were speaking of using the Dark Magic to totally destroy the goblins. It was true that the Fae had the ability to totally destroy the goblins without needing to resort to crude combat. But, in doing so, they would change the gentle, loving nature of their people for many generations to come, if not forever. In destroying the goblins, they would become the very thing that they were fighting against, and also destroy everything that made their world a place of joy and contentment.

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 8

March, 2016

Kiara

 

Kiara, Episode 8

Matron almost dropped the poker to the floor as she woke. Oddly, as she lay it to the floor to allow herself to stretch and awaken properly, she felt calm, – despite the initial instinctive lunge to catch the poker. She badly needed a cup of tea and a chance to freshen up. She got up and pulled the cord to summon a servant. She needed someone to stay with Kiara while she washed and dresses in fresh clothes. She had much to do. She felt the girls forehead, she was warm to the touch. Still, she was young and strong. She would send for Maria to sit with her, the young servant girl was quiet and somewhat withdrawn, but dependable. There was a quiet tap on the door. She walked over and opened it, pressing her finger to her lips as James entered. Beckoning him to the end of the room away from the sleeping child, she opened a small cupboard and took out a bottle of brandy and two glasses. She poured a large measure into both and handed one to him. He slowly raised the glass to his lips and waited for her to speak, as he took a gulp of the brandy. He knew there was trouble, – just not exactly how much. “James”, she said softly,” We have known each other a long time”… she paused to sip her brandy and he nodded. “I need to know that I still have your full support,- things have changed much since yesterday”. “Always! Madam”, he said, in a soft voice. Matron had taken him as a starving urchin from the streets, and had brought him here. It had taken him many years, but he had gone from rat-catcher to her personal assistant under her care and guidance. He knew that he would do anything for her.

“I take it that you have noticed our little blaze?” He just nodded in reply. “I need you to go to the woods and remove any evidence that you might find that would cause embarrassment or awkward questions”, she continued. He raised an eyebrow. “I am afraid that the good doctor is no longer with us. You may need a spade and a wheelbarrow”. In less than a heartbeat, he reached his conclusions as to the previous night’s activities. “You may leave it with me, Madam”, he said. She took a deep swallow from her glass and stared at him for a moment, – “there may be quite a few bodies!”. Her face was unreadable. He simply nodded. He was sure that he would know all in good time.

“First, I would like you to send up Maria, and arrange for a bath, and my breakfast to be brought to my room in 45 minutes. Oh! And arrange for dinner for two in my private quarters for 7.30. I have need of your agile mind and we have much to talk about.

Maria arrived just as James was leaving the room. Her little sparrow eyes darted all around and settled on Matron’s blood stained dress for a moment, and she twitched like a little mouse. “I am Fine, Maria!””, Matron said in a firm but quiet voice. “I need you to sit and watch over Kiara for a while. Get a bowl of water and a cloth and cool her forehead, but do not let her get chilled. I will need that fire relit. Then stay with her at all times and ring the bell if you need any help. Do you understand?” Maria bowed slightly, “Yes Ma’am”. “Well get to it! I will be back as soon as I can.

Matron locked her door when she got to her room, and pulled a stool over to the wardrobe. Pulling down a small travel chest, she threw it on the table and quickly opened it, removing a small well-varnished, wooden box. She removed the smith and Wesson ‘Ladysmith’ and placed six rounds from the neat row of indentations inside the baize lined box. She had bought it on impulse, but the gun still frightened her. She wondered how much use it would be if the goblin was still alive. Having seen his speed and strength, she doubted that she would get a chance to use it,- should he somehow reappear. Still, it made her feel safer to have it near her. She placed it in a drawer for the moment, and returned the boxes to where they had been. There was a knock on the door.

Matron waited patiently as the tub was brought into her bedroom and filled jug by jug. She again locked the door and placed the gun on the bed as she removed the layers of stained clothing. She would feel better once she had bathed and had a good breakfast.

James gave the servants their instructions before changing into his working clothes and fetching a spade and a wheelbarrow. He had performed many dubious deeds on the Matron’s behalf since their first meeting, but he was guessing that today would mark a new milestone in their strange journey together. He wondered if he was now about to be an accomplice in mass murder. It did not matter to him. He would gladly hang in her place if need be. All he would ask in return was her gratitude. James had no religion, unless his devotion to the matron could be counted as one. In the forty years he had known her and the strange doctor, neither had aged by a minute. He knew that the doctor would have slit his throat to keep their secret safe, but for some strange reason, the matron had trusted and protected him from the very beginning. Many staff had come and went, but she had always favoured him , first by insisting he learn alongside the succession of children who passed through the manor, and then eventually promoting him until he had finally reached his position of personal assistant.

James took the long route to the forest through the fields. As he slowly trundled along he had to admit to himself, that even he was not too anxious to face what he might find in the shelter of the trees. He thought back to the day he was standing in the foggy street and the large black carriage had stopped beside him. He was about ten, he reckoned, and picked an uneasy living by any means possible. He was fast on his feet, with an equally fast mind. which was why he had not ended up in a prison or workhouse like many others. He would lure the occasional drunk into an alleyway in return for a cut of the purse, when the unfortunate man had been mugged.

He was about to run away when a shiny coin was thrown to the pavement by his feet. A beautiful young lady leaned out of the window. “Boy! Would you like some more coins like that, and a hot meal and dry bed?”

He bent down and grabbed the coin as he prepared to escape. But something about her made him stop dead in his tracks. He heard himself say, “Yes Ma’am”. “well, climb up with the driver”, then she added,” Quickly boy!”, and he ran to the rear of the carriage and climbed on as it began to move off.

He knew that he had loved her from that first meeting, and that he still loved her. His loyalty was total. He could never untangle his feelings for her. From his first hopeless, childish crush, to the friendship and trust that had grown between them in their strange situation, his feelings for her had grown until she was the centre of his world.

He shook away his memories as he drew near the forest. Luckily, it had rained during the night. When he was near enough to see through the fog, he could tell that the outer trees were still sound.

He could catch the acrid smell of wet ash as he walked through the trees. Then another smell which made him want to gag. It was the smell of burnt flesh. As he passed the partially scorched trees and into the clearing created by the fire, there were charred trees all around. Some had fallen, making it difficult to move with the wheelbarrow. He abandoned it to search for the bodies that he could so clearly smell. It was overpowering and made it impossible to trace the source easily.

When he found the first body, he thought it was a child. But enough of it was left to realise it was something else entirely. He decided that the simplest approach was to dig a hole beside each body and lever it in with the spade. The bodies were naked and quite inhuman, with large heads and bulging bellies. He pulled his scarf tighter around his face and began digging.

By the time he was finished it was almost dark, and he was more tired than he had ever been in his life. Ignoring the wheelbarrow, he used the spade as a makeshift walking stick and made his way back through the gloomy forest and went straight to his room.

Short Story: Kiara, Episode 7

February, 2016

Kiara

 

Kiara, Episode 7

Jeremiah returned home tired and disappointed after his search for Kiara. His mother seemed distracted. Much to his relief, he did not get the expected lecture and there were no questions as to where he had been. She felt his forehead and then sat him down at the table and set a large bowl of beef broth and a huge wedge of bread in front of him. She then chased him off to bed. There was no sign of his father, even though the bakery closed earlier on a Saturday. The strange atmosphere in the house had unsettled him, and he took out his copy of Peter Pan and Wendy to read. It had been a Christmas present and even though it was now late autumn, he had not yet finished it.

He had struggled bravely at first, though he had been confused by the strange use of language and all the sums at the beginning. The he had given up and took to glossing through it occasionally.

He liked the bits about the pirates and the alligator. He was very unsure that someone could lose their shadow.. it seemed a bit silly. And of course he had never believed in fairies. At least, not until he had met the strange girl in the woods, and then he had begun to wonder. Early that summer, he had been walking in the woods one Saturday. He had brought a piece of string with him and was looking for some suitable wood to make a bow and arrows. He had his penknife with him, but so far he had not seen any fallen branches that were straight enough for arrows, or bendy enough for a bow,- for that matter!

Bored with searching, he was pretending that he was Peter Pan. He crept through the jungle. If the pirates found him with no weapons to defend himself, he would be walking the plank before sunset.

Creeping quietly, he heard the distinct sound of a tiny bell. “Ah” he said, “Tinkerbell is near”.

He peered around a tree and was blinded by a stray bolt of sunlight peering back through the canopy. It dazzled his eyes and made him see flashes like tiny flying creatures in the clearing.

Stepping forward, he fell over a tree root. He heard laughter as the soft, forest floor rushed up to greet him. He jumped back up quickly, brushing himself off. Before him stood a little girl. “It is rude to laugh at people!”, he said sulkily. “Don’t be mad at me”, She said, I know a great trick!”.

He eyed her suspiciously. She picked a leaf from a shrub and showed it to him.” Watch!”, she said. She curled her hands around the leaf and blew on it. She then held it close to his face and opened her hands. He jumped back as a large green butterfly flew from her palms. “ You had that all along “, he said.

She looked him up and down thoughtfully. “Okay”, she said, “hand me a twig!” He hesitated. “ Go on!, Find me a twig and I will turn it into a caterpillar!” He looked around and found a small twig. “Well keep both hands open then!”, he said, still very suspicious. He placed the twig across her palms. It was slightly wider that both palms together, he noticed, with some satisfaction.

She folded her palms together as if in prayer, then rolled them as if she was moulding dough into a ball. The twig had never fallen to the ground. It had folded into the space between her palms as if it was liquorice. He had watched her every move very carefully.

“I want a green and yellow caterpillar”, he demanded. “Oh No!”, she said.. they are very poisonous.

He thought for a moment. “Then I want a pink and purple one!”, he said. “Now I have her”, he thought,” She cannot possibly have a pink and purple caterpillar hidden somewhere. “Done!”, she said, “Hold your hands out!” He held out one hand and she poured something into it from her to cupped hands. It tickled. There, on his palm, was a big, furry, purple and black caterpillar.

“There is no pink!”, he said. She shrugged. She knew she had him beat. He laughed as the caterpillar crept up his arm with its funny walk,- tickling all the way. She carefully picked it off his arm and then tossed it into the air, where it immediately turned into a butterfly. He looked at her with respect. “You like butterflies,- don’t you!, he said. She smiled. “Some of my best friends are butterflies”, she said. Would you like to be my friend? “. “But, you’re a girl”, he said, a bit taken aback by the sudden request. “Hmmm”, she said, “not really. I am more like Tinkerbell, and she had a boy as a friend!”. Jeremiah was mortified. He had not realised that he had spoken out loud in his game. All he could do was agree to be friends and move the conversation on as quickly as possible.

“Where do you live?”,he asked. “Here in the woods” He gave her a suspicious look.-” No one lives in these woods!”. “Well, I do!”, she stated in a tone which indicated that the subject was closed.

“Let’s play peter Pan and Wendy!”, she said suddenly. They spent all afternoon hunting pirates and before tea-time they had become the best of friends.

Before he went home, she made him promise to tell no one about their friendship, Which made him realise that he did not even know her name. “I am Kiara”, she said,- as if she had read his mind. “And you are Jeremiah” she added,- before he could tell her his name.

He walked home slowly. He felt quite puzzled by the events of the day. He kind of liked her. She looked younger than he, but sometimes she seemed much older. There were two things he was pretty sure about, though. It was not going to be a boring summer after all. He was also certain that he would definitely keep her secret. There was no way he was about to tell anyone that he played with girls,- especially girls who turned leaves into butterflies. His mind made up, Jeremiah began to whistle as he picked up his pace and finished the journey home.

Jeremiah put down the book. He had hardly looked at it. He was wondering what had become of Kiara. He had a feeling that something terrible had happened that day. He really wanted to see her and tell her that he was sorry. He had convinced himself all summer long, that she was a gypsy, and knew all sorts of tricks to amuse him. He parents must have been entertainers,- perhaps working with a circus or something. She was certainly very different from any other girl he knew. Sometimes she was rougher than any boy, and other times, she was so ladylike that she could make him become red-faced and tongue twisted with just a word and a look.

His head was spinning again. He had a drink from the jug of water beside his bed and curled up under the blankets. He felt hot and cold almost at the same time. He did not want to disturb his mum, so he decided to try counting sheep. Hopefully he would be fine in the morning.

The sheep were milling about and refused to be counted. Finally he made them stand in a row and walked along touching each one on the head as he counted. He liked the sound that they made, though it got a bit noisy at times. By the time he reached one hundred,- he realised that they had been playing a trick on him.

He quickly jumped up and looked over the solid line of sheep, who were squeezed shoulder to shoulder, and saw one creeping from the front of the row to where he had not counted them yet.

He heard a familiar laugh from behind. “Naughty sheep”, said Kiara. He turned to see her and they ran to each other and she gave him a big hug. She gave a grimace of pain. “Sorry”, she said, “ I must sit down. With that a tree with a swing seat appeared and they were both sitting on it. She was holding her stomach. “Are you all right?”, he asked. “Oh, it will be fine”, she said. But, she looked very pale and thin. “I am so glad I found you, I have had such a time since we last met”. There was a pause as they both remembered that awful day. “I am sorry”, he said. “Don’t worry”, she said, “It was not your fault. Please do not take this the wrong way,- we will still be friends. But, I do need to take that kiss back. I am stuck in your world as a little girl. That was why I could not find you. Then an awful goblin tried to kill me.”. She looked at his wide eyes and open mouth and she had to laugh.

“I am okay now, silly!. But, I need to find my way home. So, will you give me that kiss back and I promise that we will always be friends and that I will find you someday”. ”But”, he said,”You have found me now!”.

She smiled as she leaned across him and placed her lips against his. This time he did not resist, although his head began to spin and he felt very strange indeed. As she moved away, he slumped back in the seat with his eyes closed and his heart pounding. In that single moment his whole world had changed, perhaps in its own way, as much as hers had changed at the first kiss. He knew now that he loved her and that some day they would marry. He opened his eyes and saw that she looked sad. “What’s wrong?”, he asked. “I don’t think it worked”, she said, “probably because this is only a dream”.

He looked so puzzled that she explained exactly who she was and all that had happened since the first kiss. He felt very sad and guilty, but, she said that he did not know and she did not blame him in the least. She hugged him again. They sat swinging and holding hands for a long long time. Neither knew what to do or say next,- or even if they would find each other again, so they held hands tightly and tried hard to think of a solution. But not one single idea came to them. The sheep got bored and wandered off. Kiara was too sad, and feeling too weak to play or do any tricks, and poor Jeremiah felt very sorry for both of them and felt that it really was his fault. They both swore to find each other again, somehow, and they drifted away,- each into a different world of dreams.

We can only hope that their dreams were pleasant and happy ones. The young girl who had once been a princess of the fae, and the young man who had once been a boy, would be fighting for their lives the next day,- and for many days to come.

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