A Magical Hour
Kari helped grab some more lanterns and candles and went outside, where a few people were. As she walked out the sun crested and dipped past the horizon. O'Beth called this one of the magical hours, when the first hour of light arises in the morning and when the last hour of light leaves in the evening. Kari passed out the remaining candles and lanterns and the guests lit them one by one. Tym and Kari mingled among the guests, embracing people, Rory did not recognize or know. They seemed familiar to them and again she was left with the impression, is this real?
As Rory approached the door, she felt a hush come over the group, a kind of awe. Some of them looked like they were bowing. She had a puzzled look on her face and Tym rushed up and held out his arm. "Milady?" Rory put her arm through his and together they walked arm and arm as people before her and behind carried the lanterns and candles gliding through the forest. The leaves on the oak trees and the bark on the silver birches gleamed in the fading sunlight as a Crescent moon began to arise in the evening sky. As they walked along the path to the meadow, she could see other candles coming from the direction of town and hear singing, again in words she could not understand. It was very pretty, and she felt warm inside and wondered at it. She became more and more quiet and contemplative the further along the path they went, so much so that Tym felt prompted to speak.
"Rory, where are you, you seem miles away from me right now in your thoughts, stay with us, keep focused. We are almost there,you can do this." Strange she thought, it was the same thing Aunt Kari had said. She looked up at him and thought, his eyes seem more green tonight, not brown. She had to ask. "Ty, are your eyes really green? Why do somethings seem more intense tonight? Its as if I had never seen them before. They seem both familiar and not familiar." He pulled her in a little closer to whisper "Good, and yes they are and yes they are not." She wondered which of the questions he was answering.
Suddenly she could smell all the candles, the dripping wax and the small flames. The pine needles that were crushed beneath their feet as they walked. The smell of the oak leaves and holly, mistletoe wafted to her. Flowers, even animal scents, it was as if she were taking in the whole forest. Delicate bursts of white evening primroses were everywhere, seeming to glow as candlelight passed over them. Almost calling attention to them, like she thought earlier with the silk. Do you see me? She could feel the air around her, it wafted in waves of heat and coolness. She could feel the cloth of Tym's clothing and saw it was similar to her own. Although it was darker, more deep in color, was it a dark green? It had not seemed that way before. His face as he watched her began to smile with joy.
He paused just outside the meadow. As she looked into the glade she could see friends, like O'Beth and the storekeeper Rikos. The small lake glistened and rippled, the moonlight reflecting off it's surface along with the lights of many stars. There were poles tied with ribbons and flowers surrounding the meadow. That people now hung the lanterns from. The entire meadow was lit up, she gasped at how beautiful it all was. Some swans suddenly landed on to the water, they were white with black beaks. They moved so gracefully in the water and it seemed as if they were watching her. Waiting for her, to attend her party. O'Beth walked towards her with a crown of white mistletoe and placed it on her head.
All of them here for her, she did not understand, she was just a child. Tym whispered softly as he gazed out over the crowd, "Not anymore." His fingers tracing her jaw from her cheekbone to chin. Smiling at her, Tym led her into the middle of the meadow. Musicians began playing a new song. It lilted and pranced like a dance around her, making her nervous and feel suddenly shy. It seemed familiar and she was not sure if she liked it or not. He took and stood her, between the water, the sky, the cresent moon and the crowd. Held her hands for a moment, "Wait here, do not be afraid, you must be very brave right now." Then he released her hands and went to sit on the grass with O'Beth and Aunt Kari.
Everyone was waiting and they turned to look at the other end of the meadow. That is when Growlers stepped into the light. His coat gleamed and glistened, it was not yellow it was beautiful like spun gold. His eyes, why had she never noticed them that time, they were a brilliant bright grass green. He looked at her as he did that day in the meadow. Assessing her, she stood very still and waited to see what he was going to do. He began purring, her eyes went wide with shock. He kept coming towards her and now he was purring. It almost seemed as if there was a smile on the big cat's face. He sat in front of her and his head reached almost to her chin. His big paw reached up and gently cupped her hand and he nuzzled it.
She didn't know why, but she reached out with her other hand in wonder and stroked along his jaw. He then rose up and placed both paws on her shoulders. She could feel his weight hold her, pressing her to stay where she was, until there was only the two of them. As if no one else was in the world but them. Rory knew she should be afraid, but she wasn't she could not explain why but she felt very safe and she realized, excited. Then he began to nuzzle her face, this time he was not purring. He was growling softly as if trying to talk to her. She could almost understand it. Rory closed her eyes for a moment. In that moment the big cat pressed his mouth against hers. Then she heard, "Rory, please wake my princess, please, we need you to come back, wake up."
Her eyes flew open and her heart began to race wildly. But it was not a big cat in front of her, it was a man. She knew this man, he searched her face again, his long blonde hair swinging around them to hide their faces. Then he leaned in and kissed her again. Fire and electricity seemed to race across her skin and she breathed in deeply. She closed her eyes again, and then opened them wide and searched his face. She reached out again with her hand. Stroking his cheek, it was Aryeh, that was his name. Her intended, they had known each other since...childhood. Her mind began to unwind and race with fleeting images. Aryeh pulled her close to him. 'It is good now, you are awake.'
'Rory your eyes though, they are not, I do not understand, they dance in colors and flames, they are no longer just blue anymore." Rory, her name, but yet not her name, her real name was Luminare de Aurora,
the lights of dawn. All at once the crowd around them gasped and some pointed towards the sky. As everyone turned and looked north over the water, the northern lights began to dance in blue's and greens across the sky. As she watched them, she recalled her mother telling her she was named for them and also the sunrise, because on the day of her birth, they shown in the sky just as the dawn broke and she came into the world. Luminare de Aurora, or Rory, was awake. She could see now with her eyes both worlds she had been existing in. One in a state of sleep and one as a different entity.
She looked down and saw now, saw the rings, on her and Aryeh's left hands. The gems in the stones now flashing emeralds, the metal a beautiful white gold, the pearl a pretty blue. The symbol of marriage, she closed her eyes for a moment, this was not her birthday party. It was her wedding day. That would mean she would be at least in her thirties now, an adult, to be tied to Aryeh bound as her parents had always intended. She was beginning to get angry. There was so much she did not understand. Aryeh felt her tense and pulled her close. Turned her back around to face him. He growled deep in his throat "Rory listen to me, it was the only way, we tried everything else, for years and years we did. It was O'Beth who came up with the idea. Who knew it would take a druid to break your curse."
O'Beth walked towards them, with two ribbons in her hands, white as snow. She hugged Rory to her and whispered, "Be calm, you are Queen now, you must behave so." As Rory's eyes searched the crowd, she now recognized faces from her childhood that she had not seen in such a long time. Then she remembered, really remembered and a single tear tracked down her face. Rory closed her eyes, took a deep breath, re-opened them and looked into Aryeh's eyes and then O'Beth's. She nodded her agreement, as O'Beth began to speak the vows to the crowd. While her hands gracefully wrapped the ribbons around both of their wrists and loosely braided them together. Completing the ceremony that at once made her an adult, a queen and a wife.
She looked around at everyone, she now could see that Tym's eyes were always the same color they had been, a beautiful forest green, his hair now cropped short and curling. His hair however was the color of deepest night an ebony. As she thought about it she must be about 34, not 17 as she had thought, barely an adult in elf-kind. She has been asleep within her own mind for 17 years. Friends now came up to greet her. Good wishes, congratulations and thoughts of welcome she felt. Music began again and food was laid out on blankets in the meadow with pillows for people to lay on and relax. Others began dancing in the meadow , spinning and twirling beneath the stars.
People from the village, came to bid her farewell, to wish congratulations and leave her small tokens of their affection. Small hand wood carved items, some made from metal, jams and preserved meats. Laughter filled the air , Rory could only smile, the joy had left the night, with the memory of another day that now weighed her shoulders with responsibilities. She could see concern in Aryeh's eyes, as he tried to tease her by feeding her with his hands, making small jokes and jests as he did so. Finally, Aryeh pulled her to her feet, twirling her into a dance, spinning her around and round, til Tym would step in and spin her off another direction until finally she began to laugh.
The hours began to pass as dawn was soon approaching, she could sense it, and as she sensed it, she also felt, hate. A hateful presence, a darker evil thing at the far edge of the forest. A great evil, that it was, headed towards them to harm her and her people. She had felt it before all those years ago, her parents, again she recalled what happened that day. When it had harmed her, she would not let it do so again. Rory hesitated for only a moment and suddenly she gracefully wove among the crowd. Glided through her wedding guests heading towards the trees. The crowd gasped not understanding, Tym and Aryeh close behind her, he was still trying to hold on to her hand. She pulled free of his grasp and at the same time she grabbed three arrows from her quiver and loaded them into her new bow Tym gave her.
Not fully understanding how she knew to do this, she aimed the bow sideways and shot the arrows high up into the air. Whilst speaking old words of magic as she did so. Her spell, as she cast it, lit the sky above the forest as if day. Anything of evil turned black, shown out starkly like a smudge of dirt on a child's cheek would. Tym was by her side in a moment and so was Aryeh, both of them pulled out their bows and began to shoot with her, she became aware of Antaquay speaking, for that was her real name, not Aunt Kari. "Quickly everyone, gather what you have, those who do not have weapons go to the lake. There are boats in the rushes we placed there just in case."
The crowd began to disperse, she could hear them behind her, some coming to stand with her and her brother, others heading towards the boats. Some of the villains, fell with each stroke but others kept weaving and moving closer towards the meadow. Suddenly a rush of stank air came rushing over the forest and with it, turning it black as pitch. Rory could feel her skin crawl as the magic was released it felt like when she fell into a fire ant bed as a child. They could no longer see to attack them. Aryeh growled again to her left, and Tym hissed on her right, both of them pulling out their swords. Her protectors, they always had been, sent to guard the princess.
However, it was Rory who would not allow anything to harm them, and that is what had gotten her in this mess to begin with. She had used her budding magic to put a shield around them, but when the evil spell had struck sharply it held for only a moment to repel then snapped. Falling inward into her and that is what caused her to sleep in her mind. She was getting very angry right now, for the lost years, loss of memories, her parents. She would protect not just her loved ones, but her people as well. She pressed her hands together and began to hum and chant. She could feel that moment of quiet before it occurred.
Slowly the sky began to lighten and as it did the northern lights began to fade. Like a slow moving turtle reaching for the surface of the water on a sandy shore, the sun crept out over the mountains. As it did, there were screams in the forest when her spell released. Cries of agony and with it a dark sickly green flame licked and began to consume the trees. O'Beth then began to chant, low and kind of hushed in a different language, just as old as hers. Clouds began to appear over the forest and with it, rain and lightning, lightning lashed out and struck the remaining attackers killing them instantly. The rain also soothed and put out the flames. The forest was hissing and steaming as the fire ended.