(This is the next installment in the new feature I’m cultivating on my Facebook Writer Page as well as here on the blog: Friday Fiction. This piece continues last week’s excerpt from my current story, Henry & Sophia, a story of lore and legend, love and faeries, oh, and an epic battle. The first 1,126 words were a Thursday warm up. The words following the forest photo are today’s 756 words).
Resolutely, Sophia turned the pages back to the picture of the meadow and her childhood home. She took several deep, shaky breaths and wiped away the last of her tears. Even though she had no idea how she would return here, to Henry’s apartment or the portal, she knew she could get back to Boston the traditional way if that’s what she needed to do, but she knew if she didn’t go now, she might not get another opportunity to access the Book’s portal. Out of nervous habit she tucked stray curls behind her ears repeatedly, smoothing them several times and staring at the picture before her as she placed the book on the floor beside her feet.
“Here goes,” she whispered, and without further thought, she closed her eyes and hopped onto meadow picture. Her landing on the hard book on the hard floor of Henry’s apartment jarred her slightly and she exhaled the breath she’d held. Obviously, there was a secret to the secret portal, she thought, and her tears started again as she crouched beside the book, running her fingers over the glossy photo. Unlike before, her hand did not pass through the picture; she felt none of the soft grasses or the cool night breeze. “What happened?” she asked herself and the book and the empty room.
“It doesn’t work that way,” a woman’s voice said from the darkened hallway.
Sophia stood quickly, squinting into the darkness but seeing little more than a soft glow of light that seemed to be pulsing. Her hand traced along the bookshelf, seeking any heavy object she might use if she needed to.
“There are rules,” the woman added, but still, Sophia saw no one.
The voice was melodic with a hint of what Sophia thought could possibly be a smile and it seemed to fill the room, as if the voice itself was a presence. It was, at least, familiar, though Sophia could not place a face with it. Was this person a friend?
The voice shimmered with laughter for a moment before its melodic tone returned. “With legends and lore and magic, yes, especially with magic, there are always rules.”
Sophia was pretty sure that the owner of the voice was quite enjoying herself. “Why can I not see you?” Sophia asked, certain her eyes were more than adjusted to the darkness of the room. Once again the room filled with a shimmering of laughter, but this time the glow of light shifted, burning brighter or at least diffusing through the room. It was almost as if the light were a hummingbird and a firefly flitting around her.
A faerie, Sophia thought as she watched the flitting shimmer of light coursing through the darkness. “Mia?” Sophia spoke into the room. Could it be Mia? Sophia wondered. It would make perfect sense, she thought, given that Henry was her childhood faerie, Anraí, and Mia was Henry’s sister. Wasn’t she? Or was she?
“Indeed it is I,” Mia’s voice was a whispering tickle by her left ear. “Though my name be Máire.”
“Where’s Henry?” Sophia asked.
Máire’s glow came to a shimmering pause above the Book of Lore & Legends and the grassy meadow seemed to come to life beneath her blue-green hue. “Like you, I believe he has returned to the Isle.”
“There is something I must tend to,” Sophia whispered. “What would cause him to go now?” she asked.
“Winds of change are rustling through the Forest of Dearbháil,” Máire replied. “But what of you?” she asked. “What draws you to the Isle and to this portal?”
Sophia wished her friend, Henry’s sister, would take the familiar shape of Mia; she found it quite disconcerting standing in the darkened library of Henry’s home speaking to a flitting, shimmering glow of light by her feet. Hoping to draw nearer to Máire and create some sense of intimacy, Sophia lowered herself to the floor, curling her legs beneath her. “It’s home,” Sophia said. She considered saying more, but thought better of it, at least for now.
“But you are going there soon already?” inquired Máire.
Sophia wiped away a tear. “Not soon enough,” she whispered. “I miss him.”
Light shimmered and glowed brightly along the pages beside her. “Who is it that you miss?” Máire asked.
Sophia breathed in a deep, shaky breath. “My father,” she said. “Lost to us many years ago this month.” Máire’s light dimmed slightly and for several moments she said nothing. Sophia stared into the picture, wishing she had been able to do whatever it was Henry had done before Mia, Máire, showed up. “You were expecting to find Henry here,” Sophia said louder than she intended. “Why is it that you are here as a faerie?”
“The winds of change in Dearbháil bring me here this night,” replied Máire. “I was coming to discuss such matters with Anrái.”
“When, then, is he not here to meet you?”
“I’ll not know the answer to that until he and I shall meet.” Máire’s light shimmered and rose, her aura ebbing and flowing in the dark library. “I should be on my way.”
“Before you go,” Sophia said, “tell me, please, how do I go through the portal?”
“Dear Sophia, there are rules that govern the portal.”
“Please,” pleaded Sophia. “I will tell no one. But I must go.”
“There are not rules only that govern the portal,” began Máire. “It’s magic, it is extremely powerful.”
“Please, this cannot wait.”
“Your presence will be no secret to those in Dearbháil.”
“I pose no danger.”
“Perhaps not,” replied Máire, “but I fear you will find yourself in danger.”
Beside her, the image on the page shifted, and Sophia was sure she saw a soft glow among the grasses in the meadow just along the edge of the wood. “I have been warned,” said Sophia. “Please. Please Máire.”
“As you wish.”
Máire wrapped Sophia in her glowing aura and chanted softly words that Sophia could not make out. As Máire continued chanting blue-green light blazed before Sophia’s eyes and she felt the rushing of wind, prickly cold over her skin as they were swallowed by a sound that Sophia could only picture as a fast-moving freight train; her body trembled and her head, toes and fingers seemed to spark and sizzle with a cold that reminded her of dry ice or liquid nitrogen. Just when she thought her body would dissolve into mist, there was only quiet dewy coolness and darkness all around her.
“Máire?” Sophia pushed herself into a sitting position and blinked several times. There, to her right, stood her childhood home, and, to her left, the woods where she first met Anrái. But Máire was nowhere to be found.
It was still at least two hours until dawn and Sophia decided to follow the path behind the house down to the tiny inlet where her father had moored his fishing boat. She couldn’t remember the last time she had stood upon its rocky shore or even wanted to, but tonight, she was drawn to its tidal rhythm, the roar of the breakers a siren song to her aching heart. Every thunderous crash was a crushing reminder of her father leaving that day never to return. She slowed her steps as she neared the end of the path where the dunes rose up and the salty mist carried thicker in the air. If she closed her eyes, she was that little girl coming to meet her father at the end of his long fishing day, coming to help him inspect and repair the nets before heading home for dinner.
“Oh, Papa,” she said to the sea, “where are you?”
Under the hazy glow of the moon, Sophia slid of her sandals and cuffed her capris higher and stepped generally over the rocky places until her feet sank into the wet sand covered by the chilly sea that circled around her ankles and then receded back into the sea. The night was perfectly serene without a cloud to cover the stars that twinkled and shimmered overhead, and, yet, Sophia felt a dread resting in her gut, a dread so strong it caused her to shiver. As she scanned the sandy dunes around her, she saw no one but felt she was being watched nonetheless. To calm herself she took several deep breaths and let her eyes travel across the night sky, whispering wordless but heartfelt prayers for her father. In the distance above, she watched what appeared to be a shooting star streak toward the ocean horizon and marveled that it seemed to glow brighter as it neared the water than when it moved across the sky.
The faint but steady glow reminded her of Henry and she wondered where he was right now. Surely, he, too had landed in the meadow if he had indeed come through the Book’s portal. Again, she felt the sense of dread spreading deep in her stomach and she shuddered. Although she saw nothing to cause her dread, she presumed that Máire’s strange allusion to the winds of change, together with her ambiguous warnings of danger and the late hour were probably affecting Sophia’s sense of reason. Of course, there was still the matter that she had seen that picture of her father in the Book of Lore & Legends, and although it made no sense, Sophia was sure there was like a lot more she didn’t know than did. And she was sure that whatever answers she sought likely would be found in the forest, not the sea. The sea held too many unanswered questions; it was time to head into the forest in search of answers and the mysterious Dearbháil.
From the edge of the woods, Sophia watched the living room window of her house, wondering if her mom were asleep upstairs or if she had dozed off in the high back chair beside the piano. There was only a faint glow of light behind the curtain of the picture window. All else was dark and quiet from what she could see. “I’ll be back, Mama,” Sophia whispered, “as soon as I can.”
Sophia took a few steps into the woods and peered past the first rows of trees in search of a path but she could see none. Whatever path she traveled as a girl was long-since overgrown leaving no hint of the passage along which she followed Anrái all those years ago. She closed her eyes and tried to recall the few times she’d ventured into the darker parts of the forest following Anrái’s alluring glow past honeysuckles, bluebells, wood violets, and common wood sorrel. Even now, the sweet summer flower smells awoke her memories of those nights of faerie lights and magic. Of course, back then, the magic held not the uncertainty it had now, the dread that grew in Sophia’s gut with each step away from the meadow she took. The picture of her father, the Book of Lore & Legends, Mia as a faerie, and those strange warnings Mia had spoken, all of it stripped away some of the joy and adventure of those memories Sophia had of spinning and laughing with Anrái as the songs her mother sang filled the night air around them.