“I shouldn’t be telling you any of this…but she lives by herself in the woods with some sick, unwanted creatures,” informed Kailie. “They say she takes them in to use them in some sort of horrible spell work!” She
moved closer to Shion and lowered her voice. “Do you know she levitates at midnight and howls at the moon?” she finished with a shudder.
“Oh, Kailie, people are so
quick to judge. I like to meet the people and find out for myself.” Shion jumped on Freia, wondering how she could find this witch. “Race you back home!” she yelled, then clucked to the mare.
“Hey, wait for me! Come on, Little Bob, get out of that razzleberry patch, they give you wind!” She hurriedly pulled him out of the bush and clamored to get on for the race.
Shion’s mind raced as they headed for home. What did that vision mean, and how did I know to use that plant? I just bet if I find the witch, she can tell me of these things.
Getting closer to home, she slowed Freia so that she would cool out.All too soon the cobby came into sight through the heavy wet mist. Kailie and Little Bob had lost the race as usual and rode up, both still panting with exertion.
“I think I will just go straight home, Shion, my bum is pretty wet and a little chafed,” said Kailie, rubbing on her backside.
Shion couldn’t help but giggle at her
poor friend, and then replied, “With his short little stride, it’s no wonder. We’ll ride again when your bum is better.” She turned Freia onto the path along the stone fence that held their other horses.
Shion searched the pasture for Pippen, a strawberry-roan mare that had an interesting growth on her left shoulder. Shion smiled as she saw her in front of the barn waiting to be let in for her daily treatment.
“Hi, sweet girl, are you ready for your treatment?” Shion slid from Freia and walked her into the darkened barn. “What a ride we had today and next time, you behave yourself!” she lectured and let her go into her stall, slapping her
on the rump as she passed.
At Shion’s feet cats of every color circled, wanting a pat or snuggle. She carefully waded through them. “I’ll tend to you guys later, but
first Pippen!” She pushed hard on the heavy planked door leading to the pasture; it swung open, groaning and creaking as if in disagreement. The mist and foggy light swirled in along with Pippen.
“Hi, pretty lady, are you enjoying the rain? Yes, it does keep the flies away.” The strawberry-roan mare stopped and stared at Shion as if to answer. “Go on, sweet girl, you know where your stall is.” The mare ambled in and turned to
Shion as she picked up a small container and scooped out a handful of mashed-up plants and greasy lard. The cool weather kept the flies away today, so she didn’t have to pick any out. She walked over to Pippen and rubbed the concoction onto the hard,
solid mass on her shoulder.
Shion studied the protrusion, thinking she wasn’t sure if this brew of plants was helping, but she knew the mare enjoyed the love and attention nonetheless. She wished she knew more about the strange magical brews that
her father once hinted about. She missed him so desperately and rubbed harder on Pippen, trying to push the sad feelings away. The mare, loving the attention, pushed back. “Oh, you do like that!”
She finished with the mare, grabbed the fork hanging from an overhead beam, and forked a pile of hay for both horses.
Shion climbed the uneven, heavy wooden stepladder to the loft. This
was one of her favorite places. She stood for a moment taking in the smell of freshly put-up hay that filled her nostrils with a sweet, grass scent. The cooing of the doves above in the rafters calmed and soothed her. Looking up at them, she saw the huge web
a spider had spun some days ago. Shion didn’t like to disturb webs if at all possible and left this one as well.
The rest of the horses left outside stomped and banged on the barn.
“Don’t be so impatient,” she said and threw hay down upon them. With snorts and swishing tails, they munched happily.
With a deep sigh, Shion plopped herself down on
the hay with her arms under her head and studied the darkened rafters above. She could sit for hours and listen to the munching sound as the horses ate. It calmed her as much as it did them.
Burrowing further in the soft, sweet hay, she let her mind go back to the beginning of the day, and the fall that took her into that dream. She had many dreams, but this one was too clear. It felt like she had just stepped into it, wide awake. She wondered
how to get back to that place.
Closing her eyes she tried unsuccessfully to empty her mind of all things, wishing for the dream to return. She lay that way for a while, forcing herself
into the vision. Having no luck she gave up. She had stalled long enough. With dread she knew it was time to go into the cobby; reluctantly she trudged down the steps and out the door.
The strong scent of wood smoke filled the air, telling her that her guardian father was home and her guardian mother would be busy making supper.
Stalling another moment she looked up
at the brilliant, amber moon as it shined down upon her. “You are beautiful tonight,” Shion whispered. She took a deep breath and entered the cobby. She was hit with the scent of baking bread and stewing meat. “Can I help with anything?”
she asked, looking at her guardian mother.
She smiled back at her. “Almost done, you can put the dishes out,” she answered, pushing her stone-colored hair back away from
her damp forehead.
Shion went to the shelf that neatly kept their dishes. Nervously she walked over to the table and set them down. Her guardian father sat sipping noisily at his cup
of brew. He sat in solemn silence waiting for supper to be served. Mora, their daughter, eyed her suspiciously as she sat the last bowl down. Chubby little Mora, her face spattered with tiny brown freckles, was the do-gooder of the family. Shion ignored her
as they all sat and slurped their venison, leek, and rutabaga stew.
No one said a word; words were not allowed during supper. After supper was over, it was up to Shion to clean the bowls
and tidy the small working area next to the huge glowing hearth. Mora would gather more firewood from the shed and bring it in for the night.
With a breath of relief, she brushed away
a stray strand of her chocolate-black hair; she finished her jobs and quickly disappeared up the stairs to her tiny bedroom. It was a tall loft with hand-hewn flooring. The dampness of the misty night permeated the room. Shion ignored the chill and went to
her window to look at the beautiful glow of the full moon shining through. She sat in silence, hoping the rest of the family would soon retire so she could escape to find the witch. She had found out that the witch had been living at Izzie Drummond’s
old vacant property, which was not far from theirs.
Drumming her fingers on the window, she waited for the house to grow silent. Mora slept on the other end of the loft, separated by
a half wall. She had ears like a cat and would squeal on her in an instant; she would have to escape silently.
Soon the house became still. Patiently, she waited a little while longer,
to ensure they all slept soundly. Finally her moment had come. Holding her breath to be as quiet as a mouse, she skirted out the window and down the roof to jump to the earth below. She tiptoed around the cobby and ran to the barn, staying in the shadows.
Sure that she was safe, she stopped in the darkness to let out a deep breath of air and heard a familiar nicker from the barn—it was Freia. Shion knew she wanted to go too. They were notorious for their midnight rides.
The darkness was eerily alive with sounds of night birds, crickets, and frogs. They each sang their own song, blending in a melody of a moonlit serenade. Clouds clung to the night sky in shades of black, blue, and purple. Tiny fireflies glittered and blinked
like millions of eyes following them as they rode through the woods.
The thoughts in her head were so loud, she thought someone was behind her. What would she do if she found this witch
of the forest? What would the witch do if she found her spying? These questions reverberated through her mind as she neared old Izzie’s property. Finding a break in his stone fence, they entered and stopped.
“Now that I am here, where would she be?” Shion whispered to Freia. In answer to her question, the mare jolted forward into a canter making Shion grab for mane.
long before the air of the woods began to change. She couldn’t describe it; it was just a feeling in her gut. The trees seemed to look down upon them as they rode by. Remembering the tree in her dream, she almost expected any one of them to speak.
Farther ahead, the trees seemed to have grown closer together, forming a massive wall of tangled branches. Then they came upon a tiny path that opened in the wall and rode through just as
a sudden “Hoo-Hoo” chanted in the night, breaking the silence. Through the thickness of the trees they pushed. Finally, like a tiny beacon in the night, a soft glow ahead guided them closer.
“She changes everything she touches and everything she touches changes,” sang the sweetest singing voice Shion had ever heard. Mesmerized and wanting to hear more, they edged closer. Freia suddenly halted and snorted as they heard a low
growl right next to them. Shion could feel her hair bristle at the nape of her neck. She forced her head to turn, and was met with two, enormous aqua-green orbs. She gulped loudly and squeezed her legs as tight as she could, which sent Freia into a forward
lunge, knocking Shion with a loud thud to the damp, wet earth. She scrambled up looking for the pair of orbs. Her eyes watered as she tried in vain to see deeper into the night.
Then there it was, large as life standing right in front of her,
illuminated in colors of silver and black with those piercing aqua orbs. She tried to suppress her racing heart and calm her breath. Don’t let it know you’re scared, she kept repeating in her head. Then it did something unexpected. The
silver-blue tail began to wag back and forth, and a little whine came out of its large, fanged mouth. It stepped forward and licked her hand. Shion winced, expecting it to snap its massive jaws shut, tearing her hand from her arm, but it didn’t happen.
“She sees into your heart, she will not hurt you,” said the soft singing voice from the darkness of the woods. “She knows why you have come, as do I.”
“I—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean t-to spy on you,” Shion stammered nervously. “We were in the woods riding and I heard your singing.”
happy you did. Come, we will go to my cobby where you may warm yourself.”
Shion stood up just as a burst of silvery light sliced through the denseness of the woods, illuminating
the figure with the tiny voice. She isn’t very big, she thought; she doesn’t look like a witch—well, not what’s been described to me. Searching her face for a wart only revealed a sweet sadness underneath what she
thought looked like a faerie face. Yes, she looks like a little wood faerie with her golden halo of curly, waist-length hair framing her tiny, heart-shaped face and impish nose. But what caught her attention the most were her haunting blue eyes, Shion
felt if she looked deep enough, they would reveal a deep, dark secret held within.
“Your mare is very sweet, what is her name?” she asked.
“Ah, her name is Freia. She loves to take midnight rides.”
“Well, Freia, I am glad your midnight ride brought you to my door,” said the little lady as she turned
and walked toward the cobby, the mare following as if she were tied to her.
The soft, silver head of the wolf stayed at Shion’s hand, bumping it in hopes of getting a scratch behind
the ear. They walked in silence. Shion had a thousand questions but could not find a single word to express them.
The sound of a babbling spring caught her attention. It glistened and
bubbled like thousands of tiny purple and silver diamonds. Past the spring, a warm amber glow emanated from the tiny cobby, complete with grass roof and pounded-earth chimney puffing small swirls of grey smoke. There was also a matching barn. The baa-baa
of a sheep and a clink-clink of a cowbell could be heard from within.
“Will your mare stay here, untethered?” the lady asked.
“Oh yes, she will stay and munch on the grass.”
The lady put her hand lightly on the bridge of Freia’s long nose and whispered. Shion strained to hear the words but
Leaving the mare, they both walked into the tiny cobby. Shion, feeling uneasy, stopped for a split second before entering. But the smells and sights within made her instantly
forget her unease. Curiosity got the better of her. Stacked here and there were jars of oils, flowers, powders, rocks, sticks, and even things she couldn’t put a name to. The smell was hard to describe, a most pleasant mixture of sweet flowers, spices,
grass, and earth. The fire from the fireplace illuminated the jars of oils in hues of gold, red, yellow, and mossy green. Her questioning words escaped her mouth without thinking: “What do you do with all this stuff?”
The lady giggled. “Well, I use them for a lot of things, but mostly I use them for healing. People bring their sick animals to me…they just leave them in my yard.” She paused, holding an expression as if puzzled as to why.
“My name is Lhayan, and I have been expecting you for quite some time. We have much work to do together, little child of the wind.”
Shion sat in stunned silence.
She has been expecting me? What could she want with me? And, she just called me the same thing my father used to call me.
Once again words just slipped out of her mouth: “Are
you a witch?” Mortified at what she just asked, her hand flew to cover her mouth.
“Hmm,” Lhayan said, looking up in thought. “I am someone who loves the earth,
who believes Mother Earth is a living being—like us. I live in tune with nature and respect all of it. Every living thing has its own reason for being here. I try as hard as I possibly can to never harm another. I want to be a sweet whisper as I tread
upon our Mother”—her sweet voice deepened—“when others chose to destroy and take, never thinking about the repercussions or wanting to give back.” Looking squarely at Shion, she asked, “Is that what you think a witch is?”
Shion stared back, the words stuck in her throat. This is not what people have been telling me, she thought angrily. “I pride myself on finding things out for myself,”
Shion finally answered.
Seeming pleased with her answer, Lhayan smiled. “So tell me, Shion, what is the biggest question in your head right now?”
Shion did wonder how she knew her name but had bigger questions. “What can you tell me…about me?” she said somewhat sheepishly.
“Come, let’s sit by the
fire and warm ourselves before we venture into that realm.” Lhayan pointed to the fireplace, where there were two small wooden chairs. “Come, Luna, sit down next to us,” she beckoned to the wolf.
They both sat. Lhayan pulled her chair to face Shion and gently held both her hands. She sat silent for a short moment, with closed eyes. “Good, yes…you feel out of sorts…you feel different…special—like you have a special purpose
with this lifetime. But you do not believe in yourself and your abilities…others make you feel unsure of yourself, and say that which you are is strange and bad.”
Lhayan opened her eyes, holding Shion’s hands ever tighter. “You
are special. Do not fear those gifts you have—gifts we all have. You need to learn how to use them, but in good time. One can be overwhelmed with one’s own true path…things only come when the timing is right and only when you are
ready and have done the work prior.” She paused again. “You are like others among us, but they all are at different stages in their growth. What must be done with you first is to open your healing channel, so that you may allow healing for yourself.
This channel is connected by a tiny golden thread to the Goddess—the place of final destination, where we strive to ascend as masters of infinite knowledge.”
Shion was amazed.
Everything she said was exactly how she felt. She was hungry for this knowledge, and soaked it up like a parched sponge, wanting more. The dream she had when she fell off Freia popped into her mind. She needed to know more.
“Lhayan…I had a dream the other day. But it ended too soon. Can you tell me how I can go back to that dream?”
Lhayan shifted in her chair and answered, “You
will need to find a sacred place, and a way to quiet your mind from this present world. It is difficult at first, but with practice it can come very easily. Breathing helps you to get to that place where your mind holds the knowledge you seek. Here, let me
She pulled from Shion’s grasp and stood up, then walked to a stack of oils. “Start by sitting in your chair as squarely and as comfortably as you can. There are herbs and oils that can help you relax and clear your mind.
I will apply them. Some of these herbs are for protection also. You must always set up protection for yourself whenever doing this.” She applied the oils to Shion’s temples. “Are you nervous about proceeding, Shion?”
“No, not at all!” she answered, feeling excited and loving the scent of the herbs.
“We will start. Now, begin by breathing slowly and deeply. As you inhale count to
four…then hold your breath for four…and exhale for four. Do this a few times until you begin to feel calm and relaxed. As you are breathing and counting, try to relax all parts of your body, beginning with your feet and ending with your head.
Keep your eyes closed and I will lead you into a journey, back to your dream.”
Lhayan sat quiet for a few moments, waiting for Shion to relax. Once she felt she was ready, she
began to guide her into a journey.
“You are standing in a meadow; it is warm and calm. There is a path that leads down a hill and through an emerald forest. You walk along this path and down and down until you come to a clearing inthe forest…You
leave the cool greenness of the forest and walk to a shimmering, brilliant blue lake to stand upon the warm sand. All around you is a buzzing sound. Looking closer, you notice it is a group of honey bees. You are not afraid, and they begin to fly around you
like one continuous rope of black and yellow until you are completely surrounded. They are your connection to the Mother, and they are your protection. Now sit down on the warm moist sand in front of the beautiful, clear, glass lake. This lake is the holder
of your inner mirror. Look deeply into her and your inner self will be revealed.”
Lhayan paused again. “Now, think back to your dream…recall it in your mind and allow it to appear in the lake. Let the pictures unfold on the mirror
calmness of the water.”
Shion opened her eyes to see Mergus standing before her with staff in hand.
“Mergus, I have come back,” replied Shion, feeling the smile spread across her face.
“Yes, it is good. And you have met Lady Lhayan. She has been expecting you as we have!” The wizard held out his white-cloaked arm for her and together they began a descent
down the cave of the tree. It was dark and damp; the sent of the musty, wet earth filled her nose, the ground felt spongy and soft beneath her feet. They walked for some time in silence.
The steepness of the cave began to level out and it started to get warmer. Going around what Shion hoped was the last turn, they came upon a beautiful pool of water, the color of liquid amber. She couldn’t resist the urge to go in.
“Go ahead, child, jump in,” ordered the wizard. “You will be guided on what next to do.” Quickly stripping her clothing, she jumped in and was enveloped in a warm, silky liquid. She glided easily as if she were an otter, amazed at how
long she could stay beneath the healing water. She wanted to stay forever in this womb-like pool, warm, safe, and happy.
But she felt a pull to leave; remembering the wizard’s
words, she climbed from the pool. The cave suddenly illuminated a slice of silvery blue; she walked toward the color. It was coming from an orb sitting on top of a strange cone-shaped stone. She walked forward and put her hands on both sides of this pulsating,
sky-colored orb; instantly tiny rivers of electricity rushed through her body, exploding out the top of her head. In that very moment she felt and saw what she thought was the entire universe opening above her. A complete feeling of oneness, compassion, and
love permeated through her. As quick as it came, it was gone. The orb stopped pulsating. Wiping tears of released emotions from her cheeks, she turned to look back at the pool.
This time there was another call, this one stronger. It felt ancient, mysterious, and a little unnerving.
Mergus stood waiting for her as she exited the pool and dressed. “You
have experienced a cleansing—a release of thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve you. You must first heal yourself.”
“I saw a veil beyond the pool. Who
was behind there? I feel I know them.”
The wizard stepped toward her. “You are correct, but they are not ready to reveal themselves to you…”