It was good to be out in the countryside after that interminably harsh winter.
The morning dew was evaporating, and the smell of the earth’s loam in the wetness stirred up visions of being in this place when it was primeval, far removed from the intrusions of men, and filled with mysteries unknown.
The vibrant thick growth that sprawled like an emerald carpet across the ground softened the harsh angles of the tree limbs, cushioned the late mid-morning shadows, and overwhelmed by the sheer joy of the sensory assault I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, filling my lungs with the cool, clean air.
When I opened them again, I noticed a short distance away a small cave entrance in a mound of dirt, as if a large animal had burrowed in and made its home inside.
Curiosity overrode caution; at first glance it seemed abandoned, but I wasn’t sure. Still I walked toward it, a dreamlike state settling over me the closer I got. My hunting knife was a reassuring in the sheathe on my right hip, and I kept a cautionary grip on it as I arrived at the entrance, and waited.
Silence. Not a snarl, growl, warning rumble, or even a shuffling and snuffling of anything that might be living in there.
Peering in, it was a solid block of darkness, no holes in the roof to let in any light.
Then a pair of eyes opened, green as the surrounding fauna, but with a slight glow.
I swallowed, and tightened the grip on my knife, staring at whatever was staring back at me, still silent at first, and then a voice, soft and low, female, spoke in the darkness.
“So typical of your kind. Are you here to kill me?”
“No, so long as you don’t move to kill me.”
There was a slight echo to our voices, surprising in so seemingly small a place.
The green things that passed for eyes blinked slowly. “Have you fire?”
“No. I wasn’t expecting to…encounter…anything that needed one.”
The being gave a heavy sigh. “Very well.” A soft aura of shifting shades of green surrounded it. It was a being of sepia brown, with short, chestnut hair, and winged, but the wings were torn, its knee length dress was torn, and it had been cut, but its blood was a sticky sap.
“I am the last.”
“The last…of what?”
“The last of the Magic, the ones who inspired the legends of so many tales, so many suspicions, and traditions that gave rise to the tales of gods.”
“You’re of the fey?”
“And more. I am the last of the ones who tied them all together to the earth, and gave them their powers and missions.”
“Again, one name among many.”
I was surprised to find myself crying. “What can I do to help? Can I help?”
“There is a way… come here.”
“Will I need to kill you?” I sat down on the fallen log next to her.
“No. We will share lives.”
“Share…?” I thought of running, of bolting away like a frightened deer, not giving a backward glance or a thought other than my own survival. But I was alone in the world, and had been a long time away from caring about anyone, or anything.
Perhaps it was a last chance, a seed, for my own redemption; I had no reason to go back to the life I’d known. This forest was more full of life than my loneliness.
She pushed against the log to stand, and held out her arms, the green of her eyes and aura growing dim. “Hurry.”
We held each other tight, as if clinging to driftwood in a raging storm, and the soft green aura flared around the both of us.
You are now the way of our return. As long as there is a remnant of magic in the world, there is hope.
I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but the seasons have changed many times.
Her body has long since faded from my grasp, from my sight, but I thrum with the power of a burgeoning earth as when it first grew green and flush, and I see the visions of castles, hear the songs of battle, the dirges, the choirs of coronations of royalty, the songs of the workmen, and the solemn, sibilant spells of pagan ritual sacrifice and the joyful, whirling dances of holy marriage.
I see the hands of the old gods, open in blessing and love, and clenched with malice and rage.
My reflection in the river water shows my green eyes, my skin as dark as wet oak, my hair like the bounteous sprawl of a fertile vineyard, and I hear her voice in my dreams, as full of longing as when she fused her soul to mine.
And when I lay down to sleep in the cave, I pray to whatever gods are yet listening that they send someone in time, when it becomes my turn to pass the emerald aura of the last of the magic.
….there is hope.