The sithen is still besieged, she said, stating the obvious. But the scream I heard in my dream, that permeated my mind, did not come from the cwn, or from the Huntsman, or from any of my brother and sister sidhe, all of whom seem to be either about to become one with our marron tree or waiting to allow others to go ahead of them. It was otherworldly, outside of our realm, a cry for help I could not ignore. And no one heard it but me.
Nualla led me through the Shadow Roads, to the bridge, where Galyanna, Orie, and Nathaniel were facing down several cwn. I thought at first this was where I was meant to be, and I began to draw the waters up and cast a shield to help protect them. But the voice wouldn’t stop. In the end, I couldn’t ignore that call, so with a shout to Galyanna to protect Nathaniel, I flew blindly toward the cry for help.
I knew Galyanna would protect Nathaniel. I wish I could say I was tremendously worried about Orie, but I don’t know Orie. He’s dropped into our lives from some WWI battlefield, and I find him foreign enough to be almost unintelligible. Nathaniel shouted at me to be careful, as they were using iron weapons against the cwn. I was completely consumed by the voice, by the cry, and so I left them, knowing they would be all right, or at least still alive, when I saw them next.
I arrived at the standing stone to find Aoibh and Aerodine, and a path of light. The call was so strong in my head.
There was a path of light before us; I didn’t know if they could see it or not. And then there was a sound, like all sounds coming together at once, like all secrets revealed immediately, and the water rose up around me like a mist, and there he was, the Forest God. There is no way to describe him, to draw him, so I will just say that all I could think of was the sun shining through his horns and the horns being the forest, and the forest being all there ever was or would be.
He regarded each of us individually, and it was a terrifying thing, to be in the gaze of a god. And he spoke to me, told me I must lead them down the path he had shown me, the path of light. Light, he said, called to light.
We walked, or maybe we flew, I don’t remember. The path was all light, but it led us into darkness, to the lake, and in the lake was a monster, a sea serpent. I cannot draw the glow of the red gems that spotted the monster’s spine, its eyes. It said nothing, but thrashed and flailed in the lake, too large for the body of water it was in. It seemed like a moment before Nathaniel and Galyanna and Orie were all there, the cwn unable to follow into the realm we passed into.
Aerodine, Nathaniel, Orie, and I stared at the monster, and then Galyanna and the men began attacking while Aerodine and I worked at revealing what was inside of it. A gem, like Father’s gems that were really the prisons for criminals, seemed lodged in its throat somehow, down its neck, nearly to its belly– and I saw clearly through some vision that I cannot say was sight: imprisoned in that ruby glowing gem was Her Unseelie Majesty, Faermorn. She looked as if she’d had only seconds to live when she locked herself inside:
there was a deep gash on her neck and a scar that could only have come from her last encounter with the Huntsman. Aerodine began to sing, and I began and seek some answers from the gem itself, weaving the water to lend me its wisdom.
In the end, Galyanna, the strongest warrior I have ever known or seen, finished the monster with help from Nathaniel and Orie. And Aerodine rose from the water, as in my vision, with the red gem in her hands as if it were light as the leaves she carries with her everywhere. Now, we will have to free Faermorn, but first we had to rest. In one side of my vision, the water was dark with the monster’s blood, but my other senses told me the lake appeared calm and undisturbed: we had been somewhere else. Somewhere I had lead them and somewhere I could lead them back from. And so with a certainty I didn’t know I could feel, we walked the road of light back to the standing stone, Aerodine took Faermorn’s gem to the Unseelie Sithen, Galyanna retreated to the demon isle to tend her considerable wounds, and I led the others back to the village. I knew I would not sleep, but I was weary beyond imagining.