Free from his enchantment, Revanth kills Eleion. He thinks he’s broken the deal between them, but because of a little clever word play on Alton’s part, he didn’t.
Holding his belly, Revanth laughed loudly as the swampland around them went wild. Furious, the land and plants, which had sustained Eleion for so long, did their best to seek their mistress’ revenge.
“Soon, they will calm down,” Old Jon assured them. “When the life returns, and they are no longer under her spell.”
“When will that be?” Revanth asked.
“It will be better by tomorrow,” Old Jon promised. “Nature is resilient. Now that she’s gone, I can reclaim what she stole and make it whole once more. The death of the dryads, I cannot counter, but I can bring forth new life, new trees.”
“But how? Are you a wizard or a god?”
“I go by many names. Perhaps, tomorrow, I will share one with you. Tonight, we celebrate, sleep and dream of better things.” He led them in the house, inviting them to sit.
The meal was delicious and filling. Along with the food, Old Jon provided mead the color of sunlight. It filled the men with warmth and made them sleepy. Curling up in their cloaks, they lay down on their palettes and slept until mid-morning.
When they woke, they found another meal waiting for them. This time, no horse food was necessary. Both men partook of the thick, rich, sweet porridge Old Jon had prepared. It was full of nuts and honey, as well as dried fruits and fresh berries. Feeling well satisfied, they gathered their belongings and went looking for their host. They found him walking the perimeter of his land, singing. The tune filled them with joy. The land around looked better, for the night without Eleion. New green flushed the dried, dead foliage. Small trees already sprouted from the ground. The land itself was less spongy and muddy. The air was sweeter, less heavy.
After thanking Old Jon, the two men made their way on foot across the damp ground. Only the deepest pools of water lingered, but the land had recuperated well overnight. Alton suspected Old Jon had something to do with that.
“What do you suppose he meant about having many names?” Revanth said as he adjusted his pack.
Alton pointed to something on one of the trees.
“It’s a face!” Revanth said after a long look.
It was the face of an old, bearded man. Smiling, he wore a wreath of leaves around his head. His chubby face curled in a smile, his tongue sticking out playfully.
“I’ve seen such things before,” Alton said. “I do believe, my horsey friend, we have been walking amongst the lands of a primordial god.”
“You’re joking, surely. What would a god be doing here in the swamp? And how could he not battle Eleion?”
“Perhaps he brokered a deal that went wrong? Or perhaps it wasn’t his battle to fight? We may never know. For now, accept the fact we’ve been in the presence of the Green Man, and we made a friend of him.”
Chuckling, the two of them walked many miles. They weren’t sure they were going the right direction, but it seemed almost as if they could smell the women on the wind. Although Revanth had lost his horse shape, many of the characteristics remained. His sight and sense of smell were better than that of a human’s. He could also hear better. His stamina was nearly equal to Alton’s, and he kept up with the wood sprite with ease.
After several hours, they stopped for a meal and a drink of water. With no clear plan in mind, they talked at great length about what they could do to battle the puka. Its master might be problematic, but they considered the puka the greater threat.
“How do you know which way to go?” Revanth asked his wood sprite friend.
“Don’t you feel them? Something pulls me, and I know it’s Velda. I can no more explain it, than I can tell you how the grass grows and wind blows—but it does just the same.”
Revanth closed his eyes, listening to the wind. He thought he heard Astrid’s voice calling to him. A breeze brought her scent to his nostrils and he smiled. “I do, brother. Somehow….”
“They are calling to us,” Alton finished.
Velda sighed softly, exhausted from the effort. She had Astrid had spent the last hour sending a message to Alton and Revanth. It wasn’t much more than a sense of direction, but it was all they could manage. With only a drop of tears to fuel her, Velda was soon out of energy. Astrid could add a little to it, but her powers were as yet untapped. She had no idea what she could do.
“Rest, Sister,” Astrid said, stroking Velda’s hair. “The men will find us as soon as they are able. Revanth will not rest until he finds me.”
“He will, because Alton will make him,” Velda smiled, remembering her lover. “While it sounds romantic, it is impractical.”
Astrid giggled. “Yes, true. Now, you rest, and try not to worry.”
Unable to keep her eyes open another moment, Velda slept with her head on Astrid’s lap. The human woman sang softly, stroking the lush, blue hair. She sang songs of the sea, all that she could remember. Her folk were of the forest, but there was a massive seaport to the northeast of her home. She imagined the crying of gulls, the splash of fish, and the chuckles of dolphins. Soon, she too, was asleep with her back and shoulders against the prison wall.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes