Today is a continuation of yesterday's stories. If you missed them, they're all here.
The waiting was the hardest part.
Clara rocked mechanically in the creaky glider. As soon as her feet hit the leafy ground, she pushed off with her toes. Back, forth, back, forth. The night creatures chirped and rustled around her, an eerie counterpoint to the horrible song jangling through her head.
If she kept this up, she was going to get seasick. Either from Tom Petty’s musical stylings or her nervous rocking. But she’d been here eighteen nights in a row, and she only had three left before it would be too late. It was getting to her.
The waiting was the hardest part.
The ring of mushrooms gleamed in the moonlight like river rocks. Perfectly symmetrical. Clearly not of the human realm. Sliced and sautéed with butter and a splash of red wine, they’d be more useful at this point. Except for the fact they were deadly poisonous.
Perhaps she could trick Furlicht into eating them, and it would solve her problem without the waiting.
Unfortunately, he only ate what his own hands prepared.
Clara forced herself to stop anxiously rocking and pressed a hand to her roiling stomach. She should have taken the meal he’d offered before he’d dismissed her from the day’s training—food his own hands had prepared—but she’d been so anxious to get here that she’d run.
Was the grimoire wrong? She’d found it in his library, covered in dust. Not one he’d notice gone, she hoped. When she’d performed the ritual, it had hurt like being burned alive.
Had she sacrificed her soul for nothing? Had the tribute had been deemed insufficient? She was only half elf, after all.
The waiting was the hardest part.
That’s why she’d stolen the chair. She wasn’t sure it made the waiting easier, but the padded cushion in the seat was sure easier on her ass.
A panther yowled deep in the woods, close to the feyland veil. The noise shivered through her, reminding here there were creatures in these woods a lot more dangerous than a panther. That one, she could control. If only Furlicht were as simple.
If only Furlicht hadn’t noticed her ears.
If only she’d ignored him when he had.
If only that pale glow in the ring was something besides the full moon.
Clara rubbed her sleepy eyes. A bright spark puffed in the center of the ring. Another. Five. Ten. Their tiny explosions highlighted the mist rising throughout the clearing.
Holy crap. Holy crap. She jumped out of the chair and stumbled toward the mushrooms. The sparks combined until she had to shield her eyes from the glare. A wind whipped up, tangling her hair, swirling debris so hard it stung when it hit her.
A figure materialized in the center of the ring. Large, red, radiant. Horned.
Uh-oh. That was no elf.
Furlicht returned to human form when he reached the clearing. Clever halfling. She’d hidden her tracks well, proving how right he’d been to choose her. But now this nonsense would end. In two more days, they’d be joined, and she’d devote herself to...
He sniffed. Sniffed again.
That’s when he noticed the precise ring of scorch marks in the center of the clearing and the old rocking chair beside it.
The dark grimoire—the one he’d thought lost—under it.
Furlicht wasn’t the demonstrative sort, but when he finished bashing the chair to splinters, he realized an unpleasant thing. Because of who and what he was, he was superb at playing the villain. It suited him. His powers, his ugly face, his suspicious nature.
What woman would have him, what feyling would apprentice to him, if not forced?
Clara. Oh, bright Clara, whom he’d prayed would come to understand. It wasn’t as if he could go amongst the humans himself, not with their cellphone cameras and disbelief in the old ways. Meeting Clara had seemed fated. Had he been such a villain that she would give up her soul to escape?
Now he was going to have to be her hero, and she’d probably never forgive him for it.
The berries Olivia had gathered tumbled forgotten from her hands. A tremor touched her lips while the vision slammed behind her eyes. She didn’t doubt the vision’s truth. Sometimes a bright light, warm and comforting, accompanied the vision; other times the wind howled, cold and disturbing. Today, panic clearly filled the air.
She spun around trying to pinpoint a direction and abruptly stopped. Facing east, she licked her lips nervously and tasted the sweetness of the river. Her head snapped west and she watched the sun begin to dip behind the mountain and she ran. As she careened down the narrow trail, the outstretched branches tugged at her dress, pulled off her shawl and clawed at her face and arms. She took no notice. The cadence of her footfalls beat out a mantra, not yet, not yet, not yet. She rushed on faster, mumbling enchanted words under her breath.
She exploded out of the forest and stood on the wide riverbank. She scanned the area closely looking for signs. The old chair was under the canopy of trees, the boundary of her clan’s territory. She had dragged the chair there the day Colin left. How many days, weeks, months, ah yes, years ago? She came every evening and sat in the rocking chair to watch for him, to pray for him, to cry herself to sleep for him.
“Thank goodness,” she murmured and let loose a heavy sigh. She strained to make out the shadows in the darkening forest. The last red gold ray of sun was slipping behind the mountain. “Oh, Colin, you promised you’d come back to me in the red gold of sunset. How you promised to come back to me.” She gathered her strength. “How I love you.”
“Aye Lass, that you did and I didna tell you a tale.” Colin got up from the chair and turned toward her.
She looked at the warrior who was gone these two score years. “Colin?”
He said not a word only looked deeply into her eyes with a passion that made her heart skip a beat.
“I’ve waited Colin,” her eyes misted over.
“Yes, Livy. Come to me my love,” his hand reached for her.
She looked up the rise to the house noisy with family. A moment of fear ran through her and she quickly turned back to Colin relieved to see him still there. Her eyes slowly traced from his outstretched arm, up his broad strong chest but it was his eyes. “Oh,” she signed. She closed her eyes, how she loved those piercing gray eyes, how she had longed to see them again.
She took tentative steps towards him and suddenly turned and rushed back to the planted flowerbed in front of the rocking chair. On her knees she dug until she pulled out a small package wrapped in a swatch of tartan. She got up, sat in the rocking chair, and fumbled to remove the contents. At last a gold band spilt into her lap. She slipped it onto her withered finger. “Forever with you, my love,” she whispered seeing the passion in his eyes. She went willingly into his arms feeling light and young again.
“For eternity,” he whispered in the wind.