It’s Friday Fiction, which means I did a one-hour writing sprint today; but I also participated in a one-hour sprint yesterday. (For those who aren’t familiar with writing sprints, it’s mainly about writing forward and limiting the use of the delete or backspace button. Put the inner critic on holiday and write your story.)
This includes a small bit of last week’s Writing Sprint and then then picks up the story from there.
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.
Darkness cloaked around her and she longed for her father’s embrace and so she pushed forward into the forest in search of the balm for which her grieving soul still yearned so deeply. As she walked, she brushed the tips of her fingers along the wisps of leaves that shuddered faintly against the night’s slight breeze. She moved slowly, deliberately, her eyes squinting to see something to help point her in the right direction. How she wished she had Anrái’s presence to guide her and to keep her company. Instead, she hummed the familiar piano strains of her childhood to comfort her fears. She shivered with the coolness that grew thicker as she moved deeper into the trees and as she considered for a moment turning back to home, she caught a flitting light that seemed to dart among the leaves several yards away. She paused and peered all about her, but did not see it again.
Until she set forth again, and, then, she was certain, it was there, keeping pace alongside her and hidden among the shadows and the leaves. She slowed her steps and then picked up her pace, all the while monitoring the flitting, flickering light she now was certain was accompanying her. Sophia hummed another familiar tune from her mother’s selections and moved in the direction of the light. Was it Henry, she wondered? Or someone else? Maybe Mia. Whoever it might be darted off into the thicker shadows at her hint of movements in its direction and Sophia thought it wiser to focus on her finding her way than on the accompanying faerie.
“There has been a shift in the forest,” Myrddin said, interrupting Máire’s words. “The Magic is closer now than ever.”
“Because of Uilleam’s return,” replied Máire.
“No. This shift is new and yet familiar.” Myrddin’s words coiled like smoke around them. “Certainly you sense it, my darling.” What Máire sensed was his closeness and his longing. Was it for her or for the Magic? “Let us enter the forest together, my darling Máire.”
Wishing to hold him here, Máire brushed his hand with the tips of her fingers. “Does Myrddin forget that I am needed to care for the returned Guardian, to learn his secrets and thereby learn the source of the Magic and the hidden location of the sacred pages from —”
At the mention of Uilleam as Guardian, Myrddin’s aura shifted, growing darker than the cave in which the two were meeting and he moved outside of her reach. When he spoke, his voice was as ominous as his presence, something she had experienced only once before. “Yet again I sense your doubt and your words are a rift that separates my trust from your heart.”
“Not so, my Lord, not so,” said Máire. “My presence will be missed and then questioned. If you need me no longer in proximity to the returned Uilleam, speak it now and I will venture forth into the forest by your side.” Slowly, she approached him and allowed her aura to bend into his as once again she let her fingers trace his. His power coursed through her and around her as she wove her aura around him. “Like you, I want only to see the return of the Magic to its fullness.”
The silence between them was as thick has her desires to draw him near to her again, to steep in his need and his confidence. She allowed several moments to pass and then looked up into his face, baring her eyes and her thoughts and her longing to his power. “Shall we then venture forth together?” Her words, like his, coiled around them with the sweet taste of spring honeysuckle and the scent of flowers winding up through the wet earth after the spring rains.
“Not tonight,” Myrddin told her. “Though the Magic shifts and there is something unknown moving about the forest, the sacred pages must remain a priority. And, so, you shall return to your duties at the edge of the village.”
“And what of you, Myrddin? Where will you go?”
He offered her no answer though he bent low to brush her cheek with his lips. “Await my summons, dear Máire. It will come soon of that I am certain.”
He was gone before she could form her next words and she breathed out the tension she’d been holding at bay from both of them through their meeting.
* * * * *
Sophia spotted a rock formation just off from the overgrown path she’d been following and wove her way through the tangle of branches toward its perfect resting spot. Perfect not for her physical exhaustion, which was great, but for her emotional strain. From her perch upon the rock she searched the darkness for anything that might tell her she was moving toward something, or someone, either Henry or Papa or even Mia. At this point she wasn’t sure she could find her way back to her mother’s cottage and she wondered what it was that had prompted her to this journey. The weight of worry and fear and sorrow wracked her hope and she clasped her balled fists against her chest, hoping to stem the pain of it all from overwhelming her. As she hugged her arms tighter to herself, her left hand brushed the cool metal pendant around her neck and she let her fingers trace around its intricate knotted design.
Sophia had learned that the design was referred to as a Dara Celtic Knot and could be traced to the Irish word, doire which means ‘oak tree’. Apparently, it represented sacred beliefs associated with the oak tree held by the Druids and based on the note her father had left her all those years ago, it was also associated with divine and inner strength, neither of which Sophia felt she possessed at this moment. Her fingers closed around the worn metal and her eyes closed against the darkness and the forest and the fears she felt building. “Papa,” she whispered, “where are you?” She paused as if she might hear him answer her. “Oh, Papa, I need you.” She sat with her eyes closed and raised her face toward the heavens where the stars looked down and she remembered her father’s strength, his faith, as he told her about how those stars were placed with great care where they were by the Creator. The familiar words of his words brought her comfort. She searched the sky now, tracing the constellations with her eyes, seeking the strength her father seemed certain she held within.
Not far from where Sophia sat staring up at the stars, Myrddin paused in his movements, certain that the night hid the secrets for which he searched. An unfamiliar breeze whispered sacred truths upon his ear and his aura prickled with a strong sense that somewhere nearby the divine was taking a new form. With a renewed sense of purpose, Myrddin resumed his search of the forest for the source of the shift he’d felt earlier in the evening. Despite his intensity, he moved slowly, like a shadow along the forest floor just beneath the moon’s pooling light.
At last, having whispered a prayer for guidance and taking hold of the hope the pendant provided her, Sophia slid from the rock and began moving deeper into the forest. She moved slowly, deliberately, and seeking the glow of the faerie she’d seen earlier. She longed for the company of one who might lead her to the place from which Anrái had come to her as a child. Could her heart help her find that place, she wondered. Was her connection to Henry as strong if now he were once more Anrái? She pictured them both in her mind; Henry beside her on the swing outside his apartment in Boston and Anrái outside her window, bidding her come into the meadow to dance and twirl beneath the stars. The memories brought her more peace and she whispered his faerie name as if he might hear her voice upon the night breezes.
“There,” Myrddin said as he paused once more. “You are near, you who are sacred and who draw near to my darkness with your being. Soon, we shall meet.” As his words wisped and wound through the shadows and the leaves, Myrrdin’s dark form drew strength and power from the darkness tinged with the electric divine nature that wove through the forest around him. He stood and yet his aura and the darkness grew thicker, though the light of dawn would soon pierce through the shadows, Myrrdin moved expectantly toward the source of the power he felt around him, drawn by its lightness and its promise of power.
Sophia shivered and stumbled over a tangle of roots beneath her feet. Although her eyes had grown accustomed to the night, the forest seemed to have become ever darker so that she could see not even a tree beside her. The cold she felt seemed to fill her from the inside out and again she shivered. With care, she picked her way past one tree and then another, fingering the celtic knot around her neck often in order to draw the strength she needed and felt was wavering once more. She came upon a fragrant patch of honeysuckle nestled between the trees and paused to breathe in its sweetness, her mind once again returning to her time with Anrái on the edge of these woods. Gently, she brushed her fingers along the soft petals and fixed Henry and Anrái in her mind’s eye once more, willing them to draw her to the place where she would find them.
Behind the honeysuckle she saw movement, as faint as a shadow…(and here is where the hour ended and I turned my attention back to my sweet girls)