Today in The Matticus Kingdom, the gauntlet was thrown. Challenge accepted.
~ ~ ~
The night howled, sucked at the windows, and rattled fences. Trees, arched with the onslaught, whipped and branches reached out for anything to unleash their frustration and torment on. The wind pushed against everything, a bully on a rampage, the world its victim.
The cloud shrouded darkness ate away at the edges of the dim pools of light cast by the street lamps. The polka dot glows shimmered in the swaying black. They seemed resigned to their fate, destined to be swallowed and complete the end of all things, but too stubborn to wink out quickly. Fading, little by little, the long hours of the night stretched thin.
A single door on the block creaked open, straining against the arms of the storm, and then banged shut. The hunched man winced in anticipation of the sound even though the echoes of the escape were lost below the fury of the wind. His strained eyes swept the scoured landscape and saw nothing but the traces of lights ominously urging him forward.
The way is here.
It is not safe.
Follow the dancing lights.
If you dare…
And now for my part:
Part 1: Change Winds
At least the rain has stopped, Holden thought. The cloud cover made the darkness complete beyond the reach of the street’s dim lanterns. Holden’s imagination began to run wild into the shadowy depths around him. Fighting the wind and fears his own memories incited, he tried to get his bearings. He knew better than to stand still very long on a night like this. He also knew never to follow the winking lights.
He had been a young, arrogant fool the first time he had weathered a Faerie Storm. Laughing at the doom-laden tales warning against the lights, he had followed them into the chaotic mist. His folly had cost him more than his freedom. Time had ceased to exist through long years of agony at the Faerie’s hands. Holden was no longer young, nor was he particularly brave. He certainly wasn’t foolish. He was too smart to be easily caught again. Escaping his cage had been a long, difficult process, and he chafed at the decade lost in hiding, unable to protect his daughter or avenge his long-dead wife. But this storm sparked something buried deep inside him: a hunger for his old life had awakened. Aodhan help them, he would have his revenge!
A flash of lightning showed him the right path to take – away from the bobbing balls of fire strung out before him in the direction of swirling mists. He carefully turned, and as he began creeping soundlessly through the shadows around his hovel, he took the time to dismiss the spell protecting him these last 10 years. He could only hope the rest of the villagers believed he had ventured out and been lost to the storm’s rage.
Rhys stepped into the forest standing tall once more. His long, flaxen hair billowed behind him, seemingly against the winds. No one would recognize him as the stooped, old man the villagers knew as Holden. It had been so long since he had walked in his own skin, he forgot how good it felt to stand upright. As he strode through ancient trees, he worked the kinks out of his neck and questions began forming in his mind.
In the relative safety of Aldain’s canopy he could think freely, without fear, about what the storm’s coming could mean. Had he been betrayed? But who was left who knew him for what he was? Had someone in the village discovered his true identity? No, he had been there too long and was too careful for that. What then? There was only one who could answer that question, but how was he to find her? What would happen to her if he did? Part of her protection had been the severing of every tie between them – right down to her last memory of her former life. Despite years of separation, memories of her still filled him. If Aodhan willed it, she was now strong enough to weather any storm his coming to her might bring.
Muted rays of the rising sun began to stream through the trunks surrounding him as he outdistanced the Faerie winds. He could still barely hear the slam of shutters in the distance as the storm assaulting his former home continued unabated. He felt a pang of sorrow for the villagers he had abandoned to the Faerie lights. Perhaps they would remember his warnings and stay inside until it was over. Most of them thought that Faeries were the superstitious imaginings of the young or ignorant. Poor fools. Well, he had done what he could to bring truth to that one small corner of the Land – in nothing more than vague innuendo, of course. He had never ventured to risk exposing himself. Now exposure became inevitable.
The morning wore on and his stomach started to growl. He would need food and water soon. Turning Eastward, he decided to make for Bryndale. There were still a handful of outposts along the way where provisions could be found, and perhaps even a little news from the wider world might be gleaned. He realized with chagrin that he had spent too long in hiding. Aodhan forgive him; hopefully he was not too late!