The End of Winter in which Azalea and GreyStone find Spring

A faint tinkling  endlessly echoed across the field, Winter’s harsh breath found it’s way under the girl’s tightly bound hood and through the seams of her woolen breeches.  Azalea shielded her eyes against the sun’s glare, but all was blinding white.  Shivering, the changeling girl child willed her heavy limbs to take another step.Her thoughts were fuzzy, but clung to a single desire to keep moving across the ice plain.

SAM_7787The soft glass like sound grew louder, a sing song melody emerged and became almost like words spoken from the other side of a closed door.  A brilliant flash of blue flickered across the desolate landscape, forming into a butterfly that landed on her nose.  It’s eyes reflecting her eyes, in an infinite reciprocating circle.   “Free us,” the blue thrummed, “and Spring will come.”

 

Azalea  awakened with a shuddering bolt, “Thank Running Water,  the fever has broken,” Juniper whispered, as she gently tucked a sweat heavy lock behind Azalea’s ear.

Time is a human construct, and exists differently in the lands of Santooshka.  However, as the denizen’s wood piles dissipated and the larders became bare, they began to feel the weight of this winter.

The keepers of this enchanted vale, listened intently to the little changling’s dream.  It seemed familiar to the Ladies, in that nagging way, like a kettle left untended.   Azalea’s tale of the ice land, was only an exaggeration of the actual state of the forest.  Winter hac seemed to linger, snowSAM_7791 stubbornly nestled between the tree trunks, and Beltaine was upon them.

Magnolia and Juniper spent the next week buried in ancient tomes, searching for the answer to the unknown question.   Finally, one late afternoon, Juniper’s voice cut through the gloom..

“Here.   It is hard to decipher the exact tale, but great gran Hazel transcribed an even older story of a winter that lasted too long.

“Jack Frost imprisoned the Spring Fay  in a pool of frozen water, under the earth, behind a frozen wall of ice.”

“Sounds impossible.  How will we be able to find such a place?” Magnolia sighed.

Grey Stone’s face scrunched as the words fell into place, “The Waterfall!”

He jumped up excitedly, the young changeling had grown much over the long winter, and he had to duck under the hanging lantern.  “Once, when I was out exploring, I chanced upon a small cave behind the falls.  I didn’t venture further but the hole was deathly cold, even in the height of summer.”

And what commenced was not unlike a thousand other conversations between mothers and their growing children, a long discussion that went something like this:

Concern. “We will journey to the Falls, it is too dangerous for small changelings.”

“We are grown enough, besides you are too big  to get down into the cave.

Resignation.  “Fine, but you must dress quite warmly, take the utmost precaution and return home quickly if there is any trouble.  And you must take Fox with you, she’s cunning and follows her nose.

*******

The last glance back showed the Keepers of Santooshka framed in the cottage’s doorway.  Juniper’s hand on her heart, and Magnolia waving frantically, calling out warnings and advice, until her voice was taken by the wind.  GreyStone eyed his changeling sister, she was as heavily dressed as himself.  Her eye’s sparked back at him, between the thick wool cap and her hearth infused enchanted scarf.

teethFox went first, bounding from rock to rock swishing her tail.  It was a morning’s hike to falls, and when they arrived, the changelings paused for a quick bite. The waterfall had indeed completely frozen.  Menacing stalactites of ice looked like dagger sharp teeth.  Just as Azalea was licking the last of the parsnip pie off her fingers, Fox beckoned them forward and disappeared.

The ice above them cast a blue glow upon the pathway between the long fingers of insidethe falls.  But it did not reach down into the cave.  It’s entrance was ice rimmed hole that shone like a beacon summing them down to the depths.

An uncharacteristically serious Fox signaled the changelings to stay as she slinked down into the cave.  She was gone a short time before she reappeared and bade them to follow.

The cold prickled GreyStone as he squeezed himself through the tunnel,  before dropping him a few feet through the air.  Azalea quick to follow, and landed on top of him.  As the changelings lay sprawled on the cold ground shrouded by the thin ray of light,  dislodged ice crystals and sparkling motes danced in the disturbed air.

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Azalea untangled herself and tapped on her jar of will-o-wisps.  They stirred to life, casting a warm glow upon the cavern floor.  Carefully, the changelings followed the white tip of fox’s tail to the far wall.  A mighty Oak’s roots grew down the crevasse and encircled a small pool.

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Greystone brushed the crystallized ice from the glassy surface, by the light of the will-o-wisp they could make out a rainbow hued  orb trapped beneath the ice.

Removing their gloves the children clasped hands, and placed their free hand on the pool.  They recited the spell the Ladies had taught them.  Each spoken word formed a steam cloud and settled on the frozen surface.

Azalea looked suspiciously at her brother, when slowly the ice began to melt, the colors became  an undulating oil slick bubbling to the surface.

They both smiled joyfully when the color exploded like a thousand shards of light through a prism.  A cloud of Spring Sprites and Fay filled the small cavern, weaving and bobbing in the confined space, then in an exulting flourish, they flitted up and out.   A sole fay with iridescent azure butterfly wings remained, he bowed quite handsomely mid air, swooped upon Azalea and gave her a kiss on the nose.  Only to follow his companions leaving a fading blaze of blue.

It was much harder for the two changeling children to get out of the cavern, than it was falling in.  By the time they reached the top, both were sweating beneath their layered clothing.

“Look the ice is melting,” Azalea laughed as she shook the droplets from her hair.

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As they began to pick their way up from the waterfalls, signs of spring were everywhere.  The faded moss on the rocks was a lush green, Spring Beautys and Harbinger of Spring speckled the rocky outcroppings.

 

It was as if moons were passing as they walked towards home.  At first only the red buds were in full bloom, but more trees followed.  IMG_20160407_183952

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Fiddle heads unfurled into full grown ferns.  When the cottage roof came into sight, it was as if all of spring was happening at once.  As they crested the hill, Magnolia and Juniper came running towards them.  They merged into a messy ball of hugs, and kisses, laughter and joy.

Sometimes you must journey through the darkest of places to find the light that you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnolia’s Journal: MidSummer Reflection, Past Recollections, and possible True Love

Thunder Full Moon

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Oh great Ebbing tides, what a turbulent time this is!  How can the best and the worst moment in this long life happen on the same day?  Such occurrence only proves the balance of Nature.

I have seen Titania on one other occasion before this Midsummer, but I did not share this with Juniper or the other inhabitants of our small valley.  I was quite small and my mother was a favorite of the court.  Her herb garden was renowned for its rare and medicinal plants.  She spent much time traveling from one magical enclave to the next, dispensing herbal health potions, and Still Water remedies.   This was a different time; the Purblinds had just begun to adopt their foul smelling, poison belching conveyance.  Most traveled slower, lived smaller and so it was safer for the fae folk to roam among them.

Featured imageOn a night so dark, it seemed to seep into our cottage and swallow the illumination from our own lanterns, a great storm broiled over the horizon.  The shutters rattled and tea cups clattered on their saucers every time the great thunder elements called out to each other.  We thought the storm was upon us when there was a great knocking on the door.

My mother hurried to throw open the latch.  From the window, I glimpsed a golden chariot, pulled by three aurulent griffins.  A crimson cloaked figure stood in the doorway, a dark silhouette in the lightening ravaged sky.  My mother bade them come in, and as the individual pulled back her cowl, her face glowed in our meager domicile.  Her unmistakable likeness left no question as to who this royal personage was, it was Queen Titania.

I was banished to the loft-no business for a child, but peered through the floor boards and heard bits of words as they wafted up the stairs.  The Queen’s appearance was no consequential happenstance, her paramour had fallen ill, poisoned by water flowing from a large Purblind settlement. The Queen was equally as fierce in my memory as she was this Midsummer.  imageShe stalked great circles around our small parlor, while my mother ground carefully selected herbs into a fine powder with her mortar and pestle.  As my mother offered Titania a vial full of swirling silver liquid, it makes me shiver now to think of it, the Queen warned, “This had better work, Tasha, or I will curse the Purblind, and make them suffer threefold.”

Weeks later, news reached us that the Queen’s paramour had succumbed, dying before the Queen could return to her bower.  The Fae took this very seriously, although our spirits travel to the next dimension, our useless bodies returned to our Mother, an immortal life spent without the ones you love, can be a fate worse than death.

It was at this time when my mother began instructing me in the ways of the Still Water.  She believed in the prophecy.  A day would come, when our duty of keeping the secrets of magic would end. We would become more than mere care takes, but would usher in a new era, where humans would no longer be blinded from the natural world.   My mother taught that it was arrogant to blame all the Purblinds.  In every garden, were there not weeds?  You did not turn over the whole patch just because there was Horse Nettle in the Feverfew.  But it seems Titania has not forgiven the Purblinds for their unintentional transgression.

Featured imageAfter Titania’s polemic, she turned to me, glancing down at her talon sharp nails, she hissed “I see your mother in you, but just as she was unable to help me all those many years ago, I will not show you any favors, if you disobey me.”  Flicking her hands, she dismissed me as she might shoo a fly. Facing the others, she declared Midsummer festivities to begin.  Her temper quick to flare, now dissipated beneath an awesome calm, like that of a windless lake.

As on Titiania’s first visit, the sky opened up and rain began to fall onto our valley.  As the others rushed to the shelter of Juni’s cottage, I lifted up my face to the falling drops.  Letting the water wash over me as the Queen’s warning swept through my mind.  Before I could become completely lost in my bewilderment, a calloused hand rested upon my wrist.

Iron Root stood with his arm out stretched.  “Magnolia,” he whispered. My previous melancholy was gone in an instant, replaced by steaming anger.  I demanded Iron Root’s allegiances, and accused him of falsehoods.  I urged him to tell me why he had come one moment promising hope, only to arrive the next with Titania’s entourage damning all we had planned.  I raved until I could not tell if it was rain or tears wetting my cheeks.  Only then did I ask him the true bitterness that lay closest to my heart.

Why did he leave? His large blue eyes grew larger still, and his face wrinkled up causing lines engraved by laughter, to gather at his mouth, but he was not laughing now.  He wrapped his fingers tight on my arms and pulled me to his chest.  Jasmine and hints of May Apple blossom encircled my head, and for a moment our breath intertwined before he pressed his lips to mine.  Outrage drained from my body, and I yielded to his soft lips, tasting like raspberries.

“I have loved you from the very moment we met,” he spoke softly, nestling his face into my Featured imagehair.  These words slid into all the other thoughts in my mind, tossing and churning like a raft on the distant sea.  But they sank deep into my bones and settled into my heart.  He laughed then, shaking his curls loose in the misting rain.  He held me away from him, searching my face with his deep azure eyes, smiling he said, “Well?”

Furling my brow, weary of the warmth that threatened to engulf me, I merely replied “Well, then you have some explaining to do.”

Once again his smile dropped from his face.  “I cannot tell you many things.  In part, because my past is a tangled mire with my future and I play small roles in many games across the land, but mostly it is my desire to keep you safe from the Queen’s wrath.  There is much that your small haven has been fortunate enough to evade, and is it my deepest desire to keep you innocent of such perils.

“I implore you to trust me.  I am the same man who was here not a fortnight ago.  You must trust me in this.  Above all else I am loyal to you, Magnolia.   I am loyal to Santooshka.  There may be times in the future where my motivation for certain actions may be called into question,  but please believe me when I tell you I love you more than any creature has loved another.  I will protect the Still Water way of life even if I must give my last breath in doing so.”

“Well…I suppose there is little harm in mystery, if your intentions are true.  I will try to keep my curiosity at bay.  However, one day you must empty all that you keep locked inside that handsome head of yours, and I hope to be there.  For now, I will only ask one thing of you.  Tell me again.”

“I love you Mistress Magnolia Magpie.”  He hoisted me up and we spun in lazy circles beneath a dark gray sky.  His strong hands clung to my arms as we embraced.

Featured image“And that will have to suffice me on this strangest of MidSummers.  Let us join the others to celebrate this season and your proclamation.”  I pulled him towards Juni’s cottage. I do not know all there is to know about the one named Iron Root, but I believe him when he says he loves me, and Santooska.   I may not trust him on all things, but I do not fear giving him my love.  A chance to be happy with another, is worth the risk of a broken heart.

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Mid Summer night was magical. Juni’s cottage  was lit by tallows on every shelf, table or surface that was not covered by food platters or drink cups.  Her humble dwelling was transformed into a great royal hall.  The musicians played many reels, sprites and nymphs held hands, dancing and spinning between the chairs.  At some point early in the evening Juniper’s Cottage Brownies took over the labor of serving, so Juni and I were allowed to join in the comfortable chaos.

Featured imageThe Queen completely assured of our acquiescence, played the role of honored guest graciously.   She tittered over meadow wine with some young dryads discussing this century’s courtly fae fashion.  She gave belated royal blessings to many woodland folk.  She graciously accepted gifts and goodwill.  Once, Titania  even declared  an acorn from one of the Old Oaks,  the fairest she had ever encountered.

Featured imageAs the new sun’s rays began to peek through the slender trees the Queen readied to return to her bower.

She did not remind uFeatured images of her will, but gave us a steely

glare.  “I will leave Iron Root here, as he wishes but, know that I may again be in need of his services.  I bid you Good Summer.”  At that she  stepped inside a large blue flame and was gone, just  as the last of her caravan rounded a corner and was out of sight.

Juniper and I looked at each other in deadly serious silence.  Then my eye twitched and her lips quivered.  A smile grew on my face and was matched by hers.

“Holy Still Water, Did that just happen?” Juniper asked around a widening grin.

“I am not quite sure I can say.”  And I started to giggle.

Iron Root looked between us, shaking his head.  “Do you ladies take last eve’s warning as jest?”

“No, but oft times, laughter is better than any other options.”  Juniper tittered.

“I think it may be too late for the likes of you two.”  Iron Root’s face cracked into something that almost resembled a smile.

“Come on in, let’s have ourselves the last of this year’s Ambrosia, I saved back one bottle of honey suckle Cordial just for us.”  Juniper smiled, but this time it did not reach her eyes.  “We have many things to think on.”

It is hard to comprehend that Mid Summer was nigh a fortnight ago. My days are so queer now, with laughter and happiness, but always a nagging of uneasiness.  Iron Root and I have spent every moment together.  It is almost as if we are the only ones in existence and all else is faded like an unreal dream. It is no wonder Juniper and I have only touched on the subject of Titania and the Purblinds. It has been too easy to forget the troubles that lay beyond my love’s embrace.  I must make time to speak with her.

I do not know what the future holds, but for now I am content in my mother’s teachings. I know in my heart there is hope for the Purblinds.  That is not just our duty but our right to share the wealth of magic with them.  But I cannot yet reconcile this inner knowledge with Queen Titaina’s warning.  I think I would surely perish outside the enchanted veil of Santooshka.

Mid Summer Santooshkan Hand Pies

For unexpected entourages

Featured imageThe Still Water Grimoire for Crust and  Honey Basil Berry Jam Recipes

1.  Mix an ounce of goat cheese (from your best Nanny) with freshly chopped basil and rosemary.

2.  Remove chilled crust from larder, roll out to 1/8″ thick

3.  Use Granny’s large biscuit cutter to make as many mini crusts as will fit.

4.  With a small fairy spoon, dip a teaspoon of berry jam into center of “bottom” crust

5.  Add a dollop of goat cheese mix on top of jam

6.  Place a second crust on top of entire pile

7.  Using a fork, press around the edges, squishing the two layers

8. Don’t forget to poke some holes on the top, so it can vent steam

9. Place in jelly roll pan

10. Cook in hot oven for eighteen  minutes or until center crust is a golden brown