The drive up to the lake took close to an hour. Lucas grumbled the whole time that if he’d been at the wheel of the Jeep it would have been much faster. They had left before sunset so Cal was forced to drive. The vampire had lain in the back seat with Cal’s jacket over his head. The fading sunlight wasn’t enough to harm him but was still painful. 286 years old and he could still be incredibly childish.
“I swear I’m going to start keeping a ball gag in the glove box.”
“Handcuffs too?” Lucas grinned.
“Oh hell. I can’t win can I?”
It was just past 8 o’clock when she turned the Jeep up an old logging road that would get them close to the location on the map. Cal was relieved to finally hear the end of Lucas’ complaints about her driving, it’s wasn’t her fault she had normal human reflexes. The half moon had barely risen above the horizon and Cal was sure that the trees would probably block out even the slightest hint of light. Great. She thought. Lucas is going to have to lead the way. I’ll never hear the end of it.
“After you.” She said once they’d retrieved what they needed from the back of the vehicle. Lucas smirked and grabbed her hand. Yep, he’s going to tease me about this for weeks.
Lucas led the way, still holding onto her hand. She trusted him to take the most direct path while avoiding anything that would trip her up or make too much noise. Cal was convinced he could walk across bubble wrap without making a sound but she was not quite so nimble.
Cal's eyes adjusted to the darkness after a few minute but she could still see very little. There was the occasional maple or oak still mostly bare so early in the year letting in brief patches of moonlight but mostly the walked through dense pine trees. The only sounds other than her own footsteps was the constant chorus of spring peepers. How is Lucas that silent? She thought.
Maybe ten minutes later Lucas slowed their pace. They were close to their destination now and he was relying on his heightened senses over his memory of the map now. Listening, or maybe smelling, for the little boy. He stopped Cal with a hand on her shoulder. She felt him lean in close. Lips brushed her ear.
“I can smell the child.” He whispered so quietly she felt his lips forming the words against her skin more than heard them. “Maybe fifteen or twenty meters ahead. Fear but no blood.”
She squeezed his hand, letting him know she got the message. Slowly they crept closer. Cal tried to walk as silently as possible. She could hear something now, small ragged breaths and a high pitched sobbing. There was a break in the trees, a small clearing, bright after the pitch dark of the woods.. It was circled with small mushrooms that glowed silver in the moonlight. On the far edge was Matty, small and huddled with his tiny arms wrapped around his knees.
The fairy circle was expected, they tended to crop up wherever something has come through from one of the other worlds. Cal couldn’t see the fairy. She could feel it close by, like a vibration inside her head. A little bee buzzing around. It was the same feeling she’d had that night against the banshee, the feeling of something that was out of place in this world. Where was it? She needed to be able to see it in order to use the spell to send it home. If she had to force it to show itself too that would reveal her location and then she wouldn’t have much time to finish the spell. There was nothing she could do about that now.
Lucas had already left her side, following the plan they had discussed on the drive up—when he wasn’t complaining. When the spell started he needed to be close enough to Matty to get in between the toddler and the fairy. If not then it could pull him along across the Veil when Cal cast the banishment spell.
Working as quickly as she could without making noise, she pulled what she needed from her bag. This would both send the fairy back and bar it’s return, assuming it worked in time. She knelt in the mouldering remains of the previous autumn’s leaves—wet, slimy, and smelling of the new soil they were becoming—and made her preparations. A plain wooden bowl set in front of her knees filled with a piece of sourdough bread she’d grabbed from the kitchen on the way out the door. Cal quickly unbuttoned her shirt and shrugged it off, leaving her upper body bare. Next came an ointment, a recipe of her grandfather’s, it was oily and smelled of rosemary and something bitter. She started the breathing pattern that would bring the spell into focus. First dipping her fingers into the ointment she drew the symbols for the banishment spell across her chest, right over her heart.
Cal dragged the tip of the knife across the glyphs drawn on her chest, letting the pain wash over her. The ointment added an extra layer of stinging pain, like alcohol had been poured into the wound. Then a cut across each palm. As the blood flowed she could feel the magic welling up inside her.
So focused on the spell, the mix of endorphins and magic flowing through her body, that she didn’t notice the appearance of the fairy. A high, frightened, cry brought her awareness back. Looking up she saw Lucas standing in the middle of the circle. Behind him lay Matty’s small form, now quiet, Cal wasn’t sure whether he had fainted or Lucas had put him under. She hoped the latter. In front of him stood a vaguely humanoid creature. Tall, thin, glowing blue, and frighteningly beautiful.
If you've never been to New England in the spring this is what peepers sound like. It's one of the most ubiquitous sounds of spring here and one I look forward to every year. The funny thing is that it is really tiny frogs making that sound, they're less than an inch long.
Part V -- Part VII