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title Chapter 10
name Aileen Doll (ip:)
  • date 2017-03-03
  • Recommend Recommend
  • hit 139
point 0points

Hill of Sidh


Novelist : Judit Elias



CHAPTER 10


The sunset filled the sky with orange and pink. Ashes could see the sun setting over the distant hills from the windowsill of the tower. Soft knocks on the door interrupted his thoughts.


“Ashes?”


Lapis poked his head through the door.


“Come in.”


The blue dragon entered and stood by their sleeping mother.


“I thought you ought to know, Seed and Rot are not back yet.”


That got Ashes’ attention.


“They should have been here by midday.”


“That’s what Rot told Becky, but we haven’t heard from them.”


Ashes thought they had probably just lost track of time and were already on their way.


“I know where Seed’s meadow is,” he said. “I’ll go and fetch them.”


“That’s the problem,” said Lapis, his voice thick with anxiety. “I have just been there.”


Ashes could see the worry on his brother’s face.


“Ashes, they haven’t been there! I could not sense a trace of their scent. Something must have happened while they were on their way. What can we do?”


Ashes had not yet answered when a pinkish ball of scales flew in at high speed, crashing into them. It was Rot. She was panting, out of breath, her body shivering violently and her eyes full of tears.


“Rot…”


Lapis could feel his throat suddenly dry. Somehow, inside him, he could feel his sister’s fear, her sorrow and worry.


“Rot, what happened?”


“Where’s Seed?” asked Ashes.


Rot was sobbing uncontrollably, unable to speak. Lapis took her in his arms and pressed his cheek against her warm wet face.


“Take a deep breath,” he said, sensing her heart rate steadily slowing down. “We’re here with you now, but you need to tell us what’s wrong. Otherwise we won’t be able to help.”


Rot finally seemed to calm down. With a trembling voice, she told her brother everything that had happened. She showed them the vial she had taken from the cabin. Ashes took it, then opened the vial and sniffed. He flew quickly out of the room through the arcades, then entered the library through the window. When Lapis and Rot followed he was already examining the liquid.


“Belladonna leaves and mandragora root. And something I can’t work out… This is dangerous,” he sighed. “Potent enough to paralyse and knock out any one of us.”


             “He grabbed Seed and they disappeared.”


Ashes didn’t want to wait to hear any more.


             “Take us to that cabin, now.”


They left the tower immediately, leaving a worried Becky behind.


“I don’t know how long this will take,” Ashes told the bunny. “You will have to stay and protect the eggs.”


She nodded in agreement


“Please, be careful!”


And they took off, Ashes carried a small satchel with a few provisions, in case the search took longer than expected.


 


As they approached the area it was becoming more and more difficult to see the ground because of the dense treetops. They flew in circles until Rot caught a glimpse of yellow and remembered the daffodils in the meadow. She plunged down to the ground, followed by her brothers. But when she landed, she was surprised to discover that the cabin was not there any more.


“It was here,” muttered Rot, confused. “I know it was…”


“Are you sure?” asked Ashes. “Maybe this place is just similar.”


Rot shook her head. Not only was the meadow exactly as she remembered, but she could also still see the stone well.


“I am sure of it,” she replied approaching the well. “It was next to this well and now it is as if the hut has vanished into thin air.”


Lapis looked over the edge of the well.


“Seed!” he shouted, surprised.


He was already jumping in, almost touching the water when Ashes grabbed him.


“What are you doing?” Lapis cried. “Let me go!”


Lapis seemed quite unlike himself as he turned to his brother with a snarl.


“I saw Seed’s reflection, he is trapped inside here!”


Rot joined Ashes, holding Lapis’ tail.


“Stop it, Lapis! There is only water there!”


“But!”


Lapis gazed down into the well again. His brother and sister were right. Now he could see only water and their reflections. But just a moment ago he had seen Seed, he was sure of it. He had seen the green dragon, his eyes looking at him with a sad lonely gaze, his mouth open in a soundless cry for help. Had he imagined it?


“We have to remain calm. I am worried too but if we lose our nerve we won’t be able to help Seed,” Ashes said.


They searched the area with no success. The woods surrounding the cabin seemed normal, unchanged. Eventually, they came back together again.


“What can we do?” asked Rot.


Ashes could think of only one solution.


“We have to ask the forest’s soul,” he concluded.


 


The large forests of Sidh were lush and full of life. In their depths, where outsiders ventured only very rarely, lived the arbras. To an unsuspecting traveller, arbras looked like majestic trees of different shapes and kinds, all clustered together. But, for those who knew, they were much more, for it was said that the arbras were the true soul of the forest. Ashes had never seen them but he knew where he could find them, and he now led his brother and sister to the heart of the woods.


The dragons landed in an area surrounded by enormous trees. There was a solemn silence, broken only by the tiny droplets that fell from the moist leaves. Their wide trunks were covered with a light grey rough bark. Spirals of large ivy leaves curled around them, extending to the multiple branches that formed a huge dome of crowns. The trunks separated into several roots that extended like long fingers through the damp ground of the forest, creating a network of roots and low branches that touched one another before disappearing into the ground. Several of the bigger arbras had some marks around the base of their trunks, large cavities that made one think of grimacing faces. Others merely had a few features, just the eyes, or half a mouth. It was eerie, but that was not what surprised Rot the most.


“Ashes, Lapis, look,” she said, pointing at the treetops.


Dozens of pinkish gourds hung from the branches. They were filled with a transparent sap that allowed the dragons to see what was inside them. Small creatures with pearly white and green fur and big ivy leaves on their foreheads were curled, sleeping peacefully, one inside each sack. They were clearly alive, as it was easy to see them moving their short legs, one kick at a time, or stirring lazily, their eyes shut. The gourds gave off a sweet smell that made the dragons think of wild berries.


“We need to ask the arbras about Seed,” Lapis reminded them.


Ashes nodded… But how? On closer inspection, it didn’t look like the bark faces could see or talk. He decided to ask anyway.


“Wise arbras,” he said, speaking loudly, “we have come for your counsel. Please help us.”


They received no reply. Even the wind had seemed to stop, allowing an unsettling silence to surround them. Ashes and Lapis dared not to breathe, afraid anything they might say would disturb the response. Rot, however, was growing impatient. She was ready to ask again when a frenetic buzzing filled the air. From behind the big leaves they appeared, flying and crawling, their wings iridescent in the light of the moon.


“Fairies,” muttered Ashes.


They were tiny, their skin pale yet colourful, some of them pinkish, others green, some even with a blue tinge. On the top of each of their heads a single flower or mushroom grew like a hat. The pixies stood looking at the three dragons and hundreds of voices spoke in unison.


“Who is it that wakes us from our slumber?”


Ashes swallowed before answering.


“My name is Ashes, the dragon, son of the sorceress Nari. We need to speak with the arbras.”


Having so many pairs of eyes gazing at him made him uneasy. Again, all the fairies spoke at the same time.


“We are the fairy folk and we are the arbras.”


“I don’t understand,” whispered Rot. “How can you be two things?”


A swarm of tiny bodies approached her, buzzing and flitting around her.


“We are one and we are both.”


Rot shook her head. That had not clarified much.


“Then please, fairies and arbras,” Lapis said, “will you help us?”


But instead of answering, all the pixies suddenly turned their heads upwards.


“It is time,” they said, repeating the same phrase excitedly. “It is time.”


And up they flew to the pinkish sacks. Suddenly, the fairies were singing and it was the most beautiful song the dragons had ever heard. Every fairy sang the same song at a different pitch and speed but, instead of creating a chaotic racket, it was a perfect enchanting harmony.


 


Friendship entangling in the woods.


Arms holding the soul of the forest.


Bringing the song together, singing like rain,


falling from the leaves into the moist terrain.


 


The woodland is celebrating.


Lights are dancing between the trees.


Like dandelions left alone in the wind,


coating the dark bark with a silver gleam.


 


Be born, arbras!


Free in nature as ever,


this cycle echoing forever.


Join the explosion of sounds, the smell of flowers around.


All of its creatures holding hands.


That is the essence of the woodlands.


 


The sacks were now glowing faintly. The fairy folk with flowers on their heads surrounded them, dancing around them with coordinated, precise movements. The dragons stared, amazed. With a sudden high-pitched note, all the pixies placed their hands on the gourds. Dozens and dozens of pairs of eyes opened inside the sacks and the little creatures started to move, raising their big ears as if listening to the song. The gourds were now swinging while the offspring inside stirred, and soon they began to detach from the branches and fall, all the way down to the ground. They crashed into the mossy roots with a muffed ‘ploff’. Most of them just rolled on the moss, the membranes too thick to break on impact, while others opened with a splash. The fairies with the mushroom hats had descended to them and busied themselves tearing a small gash on each and every sack. Lapis approached the nearest gourd.


“What are you doing?” asked Rot, confused.


“I am going to help them,” he muttered, not paying much attention to his sister, too fascinated by the creature that now regarded him across the membrane. “You should too.”


With all the care he could muster he extended one claw and pierced the elastic sack. A few droplets came from it, and he made the hole bigger. A stream of crystalline liquid sploshed onto his feet, but he didn’t care, for after it came a small wet furry head. The newborn, whose body was still inside the now deflated sack, yelped a series of short yips and shook its head. The ivy leaves on his forehead curled open as they dried. Lapis helped the animal out. Trembling and with some uncertainty, the little one stood up and took his first steps. A mushroom fairy came to them, a handful of fresh moss in her hands, and instructed Lapis to give it to the offspring, who didn’t hesitate in taking a bite. The dragon decided to move to another sack, and the young animal followed him happily. It didn’t take long for Lapis to bring more of them out, and those he helped followed him wherever he went. Rot could not help but laugh when he saw his brother followed by a line of yelping and demanding little creatures, all eager to be petted and cuddled.


It soon became apparent that the fairies wouldn’t pay any attention to the dragons until all the offspring had been born, so Ashes and Rot decided to join in and, a razor claw scratch or a careful bite at a time, help them open the gourds. It took them all night and day was already breaking when all the small creatures roamed together over the long roots, never moving too far away from the safety of the wide trunks. Exhausted, Rot had sat down with her brothers. Most of the fairy folk had returned to the domed treetops, although a few of them were still checking on the newborns who, now with full stomachs, were lying down cuddling together in groups and dozing off to sleep, their mouths still munching on their delicious meal. A group of pixies surrounded the dragons. One of them took a step closer. She had a mushroom on her head, red with white and yellow spots.


“We thank you, Ashes the dragon and companions,” she said, her voice like the single tinkle of a bell, “for your help in the birthing of the greeneries.”


Ashes approached her.


“We need your help. Our brother…” he pleaded, but the fairy stopped him before he could continue.


“We know about the green dragon,” she interrupted. “We see everything that happens in this forest.”


“Do you know where he is?” Rot asked.


The pixies all shook their heads.


“An evil has appeared in these woods. We have sensed it. We heard and felt the cries and sorrows of many animals who have fallen into its claws,” said the fairy.


“You are speaking of that big man,” added Rot, a chill running down her spine at the mere memory of him.


“He is now away from the forest,” the pixie continued, “in a place our roots cannot reach.”


Ashes thought for a moment.


“If he is not in this forest… where is he?”


He received no direct response, but the fairies regarded him solemnly and, speaking again in unison, they said:


“The evil must be stopped. The arbras have conferred and wish to help.”


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