Juniper and the First Fall

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I followed the music after the ceremony. I left Magnolia gleefully wrapped in Ironroot’s arms just after the handfasting. It was a low thudding, much like the steady heartbeat of a large animal. There were golden mid-tones, and glittering- almost metallic high notes rippling through like water flowing; an endlessly cycling, yet never exactly repeating, song. I studied the faces of the guests at the wedding- no one else seemed to be hearing the music. After a time, I made my way to the outskirts of the soiree and found myself in the forest again.

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I could almost hear the trees sighing and swaying to the rhythms that rippled through the dendritic canopy over the worn footpath. The heat that clung to my dress and skin began to fall away behind me as I moved deeper into the woods. The bright Lughnasadh sunshine splashed across my face, and as the tunes became sweeter, and I found the corners of my mouth turned up involuntarily.

What a gift music is to the soul. It touches places where words cannot reach, and cleanses and realigns the spirit in the most gentle of ways. Like the wind wears away the mountain, music wipes clean the arenaceous sediment of sadness from the heart. As the moments dissolved into a singular liquid presence, I began to run through the forest as though in a rapturous chase.

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A snapping turtle crossed the path as I drew near the creekside. “Turtle! Do you hear that music?” I was almost giggling.
“You speak much too fast for me to understand. Slow down!” He snapped and with determination and focus, kept striding determined toward his destination.

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The woodland darkened and the light became the divine even green, as it does when it is ready to tell you it’s secrets. The music played on and it drew me deeper and away from the hard packed game trails through a thicket. Stinging Nettle hissed and lapped at my ankles and calves as I wove in and out of vines and low hanging branches.

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I tripped over a large root and landed squarely in front of a mother Turkey and her clutch, at once upsetting their afternoon tea. “I’m sorry for the intrusion But, do you hear that sound?” I queried like a madwoman.
“Dear me! Come and brush the dirt from your knees and have some seed cake and blackberry tea. We have more than enough to go around.” Her voice warbled the invitation. “Please, sit, rest, you have everything you need here with us. Rest. Sit in our circle. Share our food. Heal.” Her kind black eyes revealed nothing but unconditional concern.

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The music played on and I felt now compelled to find it’s source. I would not be deterred by turtles, turkeys or tea. And on I tramped through briar and boughs toward the unknown.

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Slowly the soft, moist forest floor gave way to smooth sandstone. The trees began to shift and space themselves between root-impenetrable rocky outcroppings. Instead of the moss and mycelium majesty of the inner forest, grass and the occasional prickly pear cactus grew in between boulders.

A rather large timber rattler sidled up next to me and shook his scaley segmented tale. “Ssssay, ssssissster. Where you headed?” He wound around in front of me to meet my face.
“Don’t you hear the music? I’m going to find out where it’s coming from.” I trudged forward but was met with a coil and a warning.
“I will grant no sssuch passsage through my kingdom. I know your sssort. Alwaysss russshing about on some fool’sss errand- never sssatisssfied with what you’ve got, and ssseverely lacking in ssspiritual qualitiesss. I ssshall bite you and make you sssuffer.” He coiled and licked at me.

“Perhaps you would like a taste of my pemmican, instead?” I was always taught to keep a secret stash of pemmican in a pocket, for time is a beast that does not dwell in the forest as hunger does. When I reached into my pocket, I realized that the snake would strike me and that there was no fear that would change a destiny that was already written, and so I closed my eyes and held out my open hand.
“I sssmell your fear.” he hissed.
“I wish I could say the same for your mercy!” My breathing became shallow and I braced for the needle toothed attack.
As I stood there hand outstretched and trembling, the music quickened and a blustery wind blew up through the boulders. A shadow fell across my face. In an instant, the snake was snapped up in the clutches of an eagle, and I heard the head being severed as the bird landed mere feet away to devour it’s dinner. Not another second was spent to gape at the serpent’s body in sharp-taloned grasp. I was gone in an instant.

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Bright and baking in the sunlight, I stepped out onto a large sandstone bluff overlooking the green enchanted forest of Santooshka. The music became a bell-like ringing in my ears as I searched for the source.

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I stopped, chewed my pemmican, and then, after some time, stood open-armed in complete gratitude for the sweet sounds. I started to dance; whirling atop the bluffs in joy. The music began to fade, and slowly turning in time with the aria, a single Autumn-painted Maple leaf descended from the sky. As soon as I grasped the golden thing, the music stopped.

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“It was the chiming of the trees!” Magnolia clasped her hand over her heart. I was able to sneak back to the gardens before the cake was sliced.
“Yes, and to hear it on such an auspicious day, must only mean glad tidings!” I smiled at my friend who now wore the same toothy grin, having been reassured from my afternoon adventure. We locked arms and re-joined the wedding feasting aglow with renewed hope for the future.

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In Which Magnolia and Juniper Receive Tidings from the Fay Court, and Prepare for MidSummer

Midsummers Eve,

Four days ago, we received a sparrow post from the Fae Court. Over the years we have added our own voice to the other magical enclaves in requesting a parousia of the royal court to our Midsummer Celebration, though she has customarily declined politely, sending lower Elven aristocracy in her stead. This Midsummer, Queen Titaina is coming to Santooshka.

Her arrival adds frenzy to our preparations. The valley hums with activity. We spent that first afternoon airing out all the linens.Featured image The way side Thistle Pixie triplets; Iota, Speck, and Jot (it is impossible to tell them apart, and so I think of them as a single chaotic force), appeared just as Juniper and I were hanging them out. Crooning a quiet flaxen tune, they flitted among the flapping cloths. Diving in and out, causing a tiny wind storm. Now, and until long after Midsummer, the sweetness of the meadow wind will diffuse from all the linens.

Thank goodness for small eddies, the larder is full, our garden bountiful, and Ripple only just delivered four more parcels of flour, milled at the beaver’s dam. Azalea has been diligent in her foraging and we have good store of wild berries in the cellar. Greystone took a few jars of honey and traded with the Water Sprites for several large crayfish and a handful of salt.

Featured imageIt’s as if the very forest is jubilant, giddy for the Queen, composing symphonies. The myriad of cicada’s tidal buzz washes over us in near tangible waves. The tree frogs song weave in and out, trilling out the chorus. The deep resonating thrumming of the bull frogs makes a slow percussion, whilst woodland warblers carry arias from branch to branch. They are spreading the news.

Featured imageAnd news from the royal court spreads quickly, all manner of forest folk are arriving daily to lend a hand. The Willow Nymphs brought strands of pebbles and Robin eggs. Their long slender bodies easily strung them in the Oak bows just above the common. An earth of foxes spent an afternoon weeding in the flower beds. Garden spiders have spun lacy spirals, with dew pearls in along the fences.

At least a single member of every community has appeared with contributions, both in labor and supplies. A cave troll, Long Tooth, has shored up some old and neglected stone work along the path. A magnificent stag left a packet of powder on Juni’s doorstep. A rare root concoction, from the high plain at the very edge of Santooshka, it is said to lighten the spirit and will be added to guests’ cups. Our humble vale is done up in ribbon slender, looking better than it has in many seasons. Even, a flock of woodland birds collected all the debris from off the paths,weaving the small twigs and leafs into intricate works of art. I’ve noticed the few Magpies have tucked pieces of shiny mica and bits of quartz into the crevices.Featured image

All these days of shared labors have had an undertone of magical revelry. It delights me to see our friends and fellow denizens work in such perfect unison. I feel it is this spark of unity that will ignite us in the future. I cannot be alone in this thought. In the coming days our mission to quell the darkness, will need to be mortared with fellowship.

Featured imageAfter day lit hours our work concludes, but our guests stay and share the hearth. Meade and Elder Berry Blossom Tea is passed around and stories woven. Never able to be idle, I’ve been embroidering during these happy evenings. The silk from Iron Root is truly radiant, glinting in the dim light of dusk.

One day, I desire to look upon the Rainbow River where the silk was dyed. I can hear Iron Root, speaking softly, his deep voice vibrating my hollows and sending tingles down my spine. He told of an old river meandering slowly across a golden stalked plain. At every long bend, a different mineral spring effervesces pigment into the ox bow. From afar it appears as a brilliant scaled dragon slithering through the grass.

The most renowned Elven Guild of dyers has a Hall on the banks of the river. All day there is perpetual motion, every stage of production occurring simultaneously. Women with dyed legs are said to stand in the slow current with long staffs, stirring the steeping textiles. Their long, lazy, strokes send brilliant ripples downstream. Other workers are a literal blur as they heft the wet fiber to the drying racks. There is a constant stream of wagons, hauling plain bolts of cloth, mohair, yarn, silk, every fiber imaginable in and leaving with stacks of brightly hued bundles.

I wonder if Iron Root has passed safely onto the next leg of his journey, wherever that damn torrent of a man is.

Featured imageToday, the first of the Fairy Court has begun to filter in through the wood. They seem eager as a lark to take some leave of responsibilities before their monarch graces us with her presence. Dice and card games are scattered along the commons. My favorite early attendants are the queen’s own musicians. They have set up off the side, allowing their music to flow down the valley, but remain tucked out the way of the bustle.

Featured imageGossamer gowns swirl in ever expanding and collapsing circles like billowing sails along the forest paths.

Everyone has begun celebrating already! I think Juniper, Azalea and Greystone have done all we can in the kitchen, that needs prepping before tomorrow. The practical details of feeding so many mouths has lead us to preparing berry and cheese- filled hand pies. A recipe from the Still Water Grimoire.  An enchanted Crust that is known to fill even the largest of appetites.  However, they are taken from the ovens as soon as we can bake them! Despite our pleas to allow the pies to cool, they disappear so quickly, the baking seems a Sisyphean endeavor.

The Queen arrives tomorrow, a merry concept I can barely contain!

MM

Still Water Grimoire Recipe:

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