M3 Margueritte: Beltane, part 2 of 3

With great care, and all the quiet they could muster, they went down the stairs and out the front door.  Luckily, Father began to snore, and that racket helped hide the sound of the creaky floor.  Once outside, they straddled the broom, Tomberlain in the back and Margueritte up front.  Goldenrod could fly on her own, of course, without help.  Grimly could hover, but not move fast in the air.

“Come.”  Margueritte called him and set him in the middle between her and her brother.

“But what if we fall?” Tomberlain asked

“I just thought of that,” Grimly said.  “I’ll make sure we keep our seats.  That much I can do.”

“Okay now.”  Margueritte addressed the broom which shuttered and shook, but finally rose to a height just above the house and trees.  It could go no higher because of the weight and she would have to steer around the tower and any big trees, like the old oak in the triangle, but it was a great deal faster than walking and much easier on the feet.

“Come on, come on.”  Goldenrod fluttered about, impatient.

They started out slowly and Margueritte almost lost control right at the start as they heard a horse whinny and saw it raise its’ front hooves briefly in their direction.  They saw two riders, hidden down the road, back behind the near trees.  Both rushed off quickly on being spotted.  They headed toward Vergen and the roads to the south and the coast. Margueritte very much wanted to know who it was.  Tomberlain said so.

“No time to find out who the spies are,” Grimly said.  Goldenrod started tugging on the end of the broomstick.

“Come on, come on,” she kept saying.

They flew, barely fast enough to feel the breeze in their faces.  Margueritte wished then that she had changed from her nightgown, or at least taken the time to get her cloak.  The wind felt cold and a little damp.

Goldenrod lead them past the fields and out over the deep woods of the Vergen.  There were miles of trees, leaves green now in the freshness of spring and many an apple blossom could be seen.  People did not often go into the depths of the forest unless they were hunters, and even they tended to keep to familiar trails and favorite spots for fear of getting altogether lost.  They traveled for several miles before Margueritte heard the first wisps of music.  Then she saw the light of the great fire, and at last, the clearing where great stones, taller than a man, had been set up on a small hill in a perfect circle.  She began to guide the broom toward the ground.

“But why are we falling?”  Tomberlain asked in his voice too loud against the wind.  “I see nothing but a clearing of sorts in the moonlight, but it looks cold and empty to me.”

“Shh.”  Margueritte hushed him.  “I’ll show you when we get there.”  And Tomberlain appeared willing to wait, though he felt anxious for Elsbeth’s sake.

Once on the ground, the children walked slowly to where they could see.  Grimly stood out front, ready, just in case.  Margueritte took her brother’s hand and he drew in his breath, sharply as a whole scene, not entirely in this world, opened up in front of him.  The enchanted music that he heard made him want to tap his feet, and run, and fight, and become delirious for joy in the night

“No!”  Margueritte cried and barely held on to Tomberlain’s hand.  “You are my brother.  You are not to be enchanted by the little ones.”

Tomberlain stopped tugging for his freedom after a moment.  He rubbed his eyes and shook his head like one who had tried to stay awake but nearly fell asleep.

“Of course,” he said.  “What was I thinking?”  And he turned to take in what he could see.  The fire blazed in the center of the circle and shot sparks higher than the stones and deep into the night sky where they looked like little stars. There were creatures feasting and dancing all about, and there, in the midst of them, Elsbeth smiled as broadly as she could, and danced in sheer joy.

Margueritte stopped Tomberlain short of the circle.

“Aren’t we going to get her?” he asked.

“I don’t know how, yet,” Margueritte answered.  “The magic here is much greater than just the magic of my little ones.  They participate, but do not originate.”  She knew what she meant.

“This is the fire of strength,” Grimly explained.  “It is thousands of years old and was set to honor the god of the North, the son of Thor who became the third husband of the Don and whose children became the great gods of the Celts and all the people in this land.

“But the Breton call it the fire of peace,” Tomberlain objected.

“A later name,” Grimly said.  “There is strength of peace in the flames, but also strength of war, for the god was strong to do all things well.”

Margueritte sighed.

“And Samhain then is not just a village thing?”  Tomberlain asked.  He remembered something vague from his youngest years before his mother Brianna came to Jesus.

“In truth,” Grimly said.  “It is the fire of healing, lit in honor of the Don’s second husband, the god of the sun and of life.”

“But he was not allowed to follow her north of the Pyrenees,” Margueritte said, as she remembered more clearly.  She had remembered Danna in Gerraint’s time, and now she remembered that she lived Danna’s life those thousands of years ago.  Danna came north on the urging of all the gods to confront the Titaness who had stolen the most western lands and was becoming a threat to all.

“But what then of her first husband?” Tomberlain asked in all innocence.

“We don’t speak of him,” Grimly said, but Marguerite spoke all the same.

“He was a god of the dead who wrongly abused Danna as a young child.  She bore him twin son, who grew tall and strong, but then that one son married Morrigu, a wicked, evil creature who bore him the daughters of fury.  Those girls could set a man’s blood to boil and go berserk for the killing of war.”  She confused her stories a little, but Grimly did not correct her.

“Only a mother-in-law would remember her in that way.”  A woman’s voice took their attention.  Margueritte and Tomberlain looked up to see the fairy queen, and Goldenrod who had vanished for a time came with her.  Grimly bowed once before looking.

The fairy queen and Goldenrod curtsied to Margueritte who curtsied in return and named the little one.  “Lady LeFleur,” she said.  “Majesty.”  And she nudged her brother who bowed, though he never lowered his eyes.  Lady LeFleur was queen of all the fee in that region, and as two and two came together in Margueritte’s mind, she knew that the queen was also Goldenrod’s mother.

“If your majesty may help,” Margueritte said.  “I cannot think of how to get her out of there.”

“Nor I, exactly,” Lady LeFleur said.  “There are too many lesser and greater spirits at the feast, and most have no interest in being reasonable, but if we do not get her out of there, she may well dance forever.  If the fire is not extinguished before sunrise, she will be trapped, and you might not see her again until next Beltain.”

At that moment, one beautiful and utterly naked woman came to the edge of the circle and stared at the watchers.  Fifteen-year-old Tomberlain’s blood got the better of his tongue.  The woman laughed, seductively, and reached for the boy.  His hand started to rise, but Grimly slapped it down.

“All hollow,” he said, and the woman, with another short laugh, turned and danced away, and, in fact, from the back she did appear to be hollow, like no more than a woman imposed on a piece of bark that had been stripped from a tree.

“Woodwife,” Grimly named her.

“Not mine,” Margueritte said frankly.  And the more she looked around, the less she saw of her own little ones.

“Fauns.”  Tomberlain pointed.  Sure enough, several goat-hooved creatures came dancing into the circle, adding their pipes to the never-ending music.  Margueritte felt her own feet tap a little at that, until one of the fauns twirled Elsbeth like a ballerina, and then all Margueritte felt was anger.

“It is getting too strong,” Lady LeFleur admitted.  “There is one chance, but I have hesitated because I will face consequences, and it is very dangerous.”

“I will defend you.”  Tomberlain spoke up too quickly.  He became keen to play a part and win some knightly honor.

“And I am sure you will, good sir, but perhaps not this evening.”  Lady LeFleur smiled for his sake.

“Unsavories.”  Goldenrod whispered in Margueritte’s ear, though Margueritte did not feel sure what that meant.  All at once, Lady LeFleur let out a great cry.  She let out a call that echoed all through the woods, and with such force, if not volume, Margueritte wondered if it might wake her parents, miles from there.  The music stopped and a hush fell on the crowd in the circle.  Then, there came an echoing cry, near to hand, and it came with such evil intent, Margueritte screamed.  The fire went out.  The feasters all vanished.  Elsbeth collapsed to the ground and Grimly and Lady LeFleur rushed to her side.  Tomberlain got distracted by the sound of horse hooves on the rocks, and fortunately for him, Margueritte got distracted with him.

“What a magnificent beast,” Tomberlain breathed.

“No!”  Margueritte shouted once more, having some idea of what the horse was; but the enchantment fell very strong on Tomberlain.  The beast drew him in like an insect to the light.  There was nothing Margueritte could do but rush ahead of her brother and leap on the horse’s back.  Immediately, the horse took to the air and headed at great speed toward the sea.

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