Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 6 Issues of Gravity

Exhausted but fiercely determined Heartwell and Wry finally made it to the edge of the Great Forest, their feathered entourage had veered away several hours earlier when the storm finally ended and so they traveled in the chill night until they hit the first giant trees marking the vast forest, knowing they had no choice but to camp until first light; for only fools and those protected by strong magic dared venture these woods after dark. Wry might have some magics up her sleeve and Heartwell some inherent in his nature but neither of the two were such fools as to tempt the nightmare fey which prowled the Great Forest in the evenings. They were consoled by the news the corbae had related concerning Sweatpea’s travels, she had been fortunate indeed to somehow acquire a Puca as her traveling companion, very few fey, nasty or benign would willingly choose to challenge such a powerful creature of magic and Wry was finally relieved of some of her intense worry over the girl child, though she started fretting anew as the corbae also explained that Sweatpea was a child no longer. Time bubbles were no stranger to the young woman, indeed one had caused her the greatest misery of her life and she fervently hoped Sweatpea would encounter no more in her Tourney quest.

As she and Heartwell made a quick supper over a small fire before they snatched a few hours sleep, Wry tried calculating when they would possibly intersect with the Puca and Sweatpea. “Heartwell, from whats I gather, Sweatpea and her steed be making fast course toward Solswatch and as long as they don’t be getting befuddled by the blasted Drowning Boughs, they should be makin’ it to Solswatch three to four days ahead of moons darkening. Needs be we catch them up by tomorrow or tomorrow’s morrow at the latest if’n we’s goin’ be any real helps to the young lass.” Heartwell just nodded, shivering over his dinner and getting as close to the fire as possible, for his people did poorly in the cold and he had spent the better part of the last day or so practically freezing even when the corbae kept them dry for several hours. So he was in a kind of numb stupor as Wry spit out the bad news. “You know I haveta call us a guardian if we want to catch up to her in time Heartwell….” He stopped eating and stared at her forlornly before he nodded. “Aya Wry, I knows it, I do… and I knows you’d do elsewise if’n you thought we hada better choice but this is a grave and heavy task we do be on and I hast sworn I twould ne’er again leave yer side Wry…. and if’n it means I must suffer for a small while, wells, I trust tat yous know bester and twill be aright in the ending.” She felt her heart pour out such great affection for friend then, the bravest and most self-less creature she had ever had the honor to know, for what he made light of, was in fact a great and dangerous risk to him, for Heartwell’s people had inherent magic of multiple sorts and close proximity for too long to guardians of the sort Wry must summon could actually cause his death. Yet he had made an oath and Wry knew no words of hers nor needs of his own would dissuade the loyal being from embarking on such a dangerous journey by her side. She swallowed the lump in her throat and wiped the tears from her eyes as she pulled out her panpipes. “Let me play a deep lullaby my friend, in the hope I can keep the Drowning Boughs deep in slumber afore they cause mischief in our endeavor, and fortune pray we meets up with Sweatpea before the sun sets tomorrow.”

A dark and deep melody spilled forth from the pipes, the notes heavy, cold and lethargic. Across the vast Great Forest even the ugly creeping fey felt the weight, the piercing pull of Wry’s magical lullaby, until almost all were stilled in enchanted slumber and further inside the forest, Missu the Puca heard Wry’s song and exalted in it’s grave significance.

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Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 5 La Petit Mort

Fairy tales had many common elements even across multiple cultures; some of these elements held truth and some were only fanciful imaginings thought up by bored shepherd boys and drunken townsfolk. Adventurers in fairy or fey realms were told they should not ever eat or drink of libations or victuals whilst in the fairy lands lest they be cursed to stay forever therein, while there indeed had been instances of mortals trapped in such a manner (via unscrupulous trickster fey beings) the actual truth was not that it was unsafe for mortals to consume anything in the fairy realms (indeed very few folk would have lasted more than a day without water or some sustenance in those lands) but that there were certain foods and drinks that mortals should vehemently avoid and generally those who didn’t were idiots who ignored multiple clear and concise warnings before succumbing to their curse to be forever fairy bound.

Another common element of these tales of fairy realms deals with the passage of time, whether it be the dreadfully fleeting acceleration of years in the span of normal hours or the painfully lethargic standstill of minutes stretching for days in the fairy lands, time was a very fickle creature in feydom and not even the denizens of the lands themselves could predict when or where pockets or bubbles of abnormal time would manifest. Sometimes the bubbles of abnormal time were curses and sometimes they were blessings, while it’s debatable which one applied in their current circumstance, as Sweatpea and Missu continued their unflagging gallop in a night now calm and black as pitch, the Puca felt the girl child fall into deep slumber upon her broad back and tasted the change in time as they rode into a time bubble. Without breaking her stride the Puca willed her mane to lasso round the sleeping girl, creating a sort of netted and secure blanket so that her mistress would stay safely asleep and astride, noting that already a few minutes in this time bubble seemed to be slowly accelerating the girl’s growth, she fervently hoped the abnormal time wouldn’t last for longer than an hour as she knew Sweatpea would be more than a little startled and perhaps cross should she awaken a woman suddenly past her prime. She would probably feel more than a little cheated out of her years as well should that happen, but the Puca finally let out her extreme tension as it seemed they had passed through the bubble and the girl had mayhap only added three to four years to her life, though she was bound to be startled when she awoke, no longer a wee child but closer to a grown adult. As Missu continued her steady run through inky dark, she vowed she would do everything within the realm of her power and her people to protect Sweatpea and ensure she finished the Tourney, even if the Puca had to bend certain restrictions on magical interference to do so, it was high time the Royal Court paid for the various insults, injuries and infractions against mortals and all other feydom and that meant Sweatpea must win whatever the cost. The Puca just wished she could tell the girl there wasn’t any training for the Queen’s Ride, she was already riding in the Tourney, she just needed to make it to Solswatch in one piece, uncursed and lay her bridle down before the Queen before the two moons went dark. Should she make it in time, the next leg of the Race began- the wild hunt and Sweatpea would be competing against the remainder of the riders who completed the first leg in time and that was when the greatest danger to the mortal would arise. Though she wished with all her heart she could tell the young woman, in accordance to Royal Edict she was under an enchantment binding all save the Royal Family and all her own powers and magics could not outweigh that of Royal Fey, so she furiously schemed in the quiet long night, because everyone knows the fey excel at loopholes and omissions.

Upon the broad sleek back, Sweatpea twitched and murmured in her sleep, the young woman, child no longer, dreamed of a beautiful garden and somewhere in a blaze of brilliant sunlight a strong hand and charming smile tenderly offering her welcome. She strained her eyes against the bright light, watching crystalline butterflies and hummingbirds flitter past, yet try as she might she couldn’t see the face of the person reaching out to her, only the edges of a smile caught in profile and a dazzling sensation of safety and comfort. The figure turned away from her and ran into a maze of hedges, beckoning with a silver laugh for her to follow and as Sweatpea traveled many leagues asleep and safe on Missu’s back, she ran mile after mile in the hedge maze of her dreams, searching ceaselessly for an unseen face she somehow thought she should remember and the yearning feeling of something precious misplaced.

Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 4 Musical Intervention

Far from the raging storm over the crossroads, though not far enough to completely escape its raging violence, two soaked and miserable friends continued their journey toward Solswatch. The rain was particularly unpleasant as it was not only freezing but occasionally dropped wriggling snake like and frog like creatures onto the travelers as they stubbornly slogged through the resulting mud.

“I’s really tink it might be bester if we stop and wait this out Wry, tusn’t looks as if it do be quitting anytime soonish.” Heartwell entreated to the stiffly trudging form of Wry as he flung yet another squishy creature off of him. He shuddered at the unwelcome contact of another creature against his fur before hurrying after Wry’s retreating figure.

“I know this is definitely not fun Heartwell but we HAVE to get to Solswatch in time to advise Sweatpea. You of all creatures should know exactly how important it be that we not lose any time… if Sweatpea were to go through all of her trials without our assistance…” Wry deeply exhaled as she slowed her gait a bit for him to catch even with her before continuing. “You know how long her odds are already, even if those bastard snakes did follow all the rules which we both already know isn’t the case… well she’s still just a girl Heartwell and you know I made a vow I would protect the next human invited by the Queen. So as much as I hate this, just as you do… we can’t afford to stop right now.. although… maybe a lil bit of music could help us out.” So saying she reached into her pack and brought out her panpipes, an intense glimmer in her eye as she paused but a second before starting an intricate, trilling melody. Heartwell stopped beside her as she played in the freezing downpour, completely ignoring the random falling creatures as he watched the magic of her music come to life.

Wry played for a few minutes, her music surging out into the fairy forest even above the sounds of the raging storm… and she was answered. Out of the forest streamed a wave of feathered darkness, a multitude of shy, clever birds responding to the request Wry had made. They gathered in a perfectly synchronized cloud above the two travelers and such were their numbers and such was their coverage that finally for the first time in hours, the two friends were no longer being rained upon.

Wry pulled the pipes away from her lips, putting it away and after solemnly offering thanks to the living umbrella now sheltering them, she snagged Heartwell’s furry arm and hurried faster down the trail.

“Come on Heartwell, the corbae will travel with us until this storm has died or we have reached the edge of the Great Forest, we cannot afford to tax them too greatly so needs we must push our pace faster. Soon enough we will be able to make a camp and build a fire but we have lost a lot of time already to this damnable rain so we must make haste!!” Heartwell nodded wearily before increasing his stride, a soft thank you falling from his lips to the feathered canopy now hovering protectively overhead.

The next several hours were interesting only in that they were both quite dry and they startled several of the sentient fey creatures of the forest as they passed by with their flying entourage.

Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 3 Missulena Occatoria

Sweatpea opened her eyes and saw she was standing perfectly centered in the crossroads of a small cobbled highway of sorts, the area surrounding the crossroads was clear of foliage for a few acres before turning once more to forest in each of the four directions radiating outward from the crossroads and though she carefully looked around she could see no signposts nor travel guideposts of any sort.

“Ugh… this popping up somewhere new is starting to get really old!” She muttered under her breath before unfastening the strap of the leather satchel and reaching in a hand. “Open  the satchel for further directions and details… yeah yeah I got it.” Her hand felt the smooth end of a message cylinder of the sort used by heralds on official dispatch and she pulled it out, eager to finally get started on… well anything really. Only once she had it in her hand she was completely confounded on how to open the damn thing for it seemed to be all of one piece and looked like it was crafted out of the femur of a horse yet was entirely smooth on all edges save for a curious circular slight depression that had a highly stylized spider emblem burned into the bone. “Of course it’s never easy with the fey, why would I even think it would be?” She sighed before reaching again into the satchel and once more pulling out the invitation scroll and after unrolling it, flipped it to look closer at the backside of the parchment until sure enough she spied super faint writing at the very bottom of the page.

“Bravo Sweatpea, they said you were clever, I only hope it will be enough to keep you alive. Here’s your clue: without flesh and blood we are all just bare bone and sometimes the poisoned kiss is our only path back home. Remember this, whatever choice you try- only the pure and loving heart will ever be sent awry. ~Fairest Fortune to you,  Briar”

Sweatpea shoved the parchment angrily back into the satchel, beginning to finally get frustrated at the many silly games it seemed the fairy folk loved to play, who had time for stupid riddles when they were supposed to be doing a grand tourney thingy?Besides the end part of that made no sense whatsoever, everybody knew that in tales of the fairy lands only the pure and loving heart would find the right choices and paths, they didn’t get sent in the wrong direction (aside from their stumbling before they became heroes of course). She sighed deeply before once more looking at the bone cylinder and frowning as she hesitantly placed the tip of her right ring finger in the shallow depression over the top of the spider emblem, the bone warmed a bit but it seemed nothing was happening until she felt a sharp pain like she’d been stuck with a red hot fire poker in the tip of her finger and her entire hand went numb but the cylinder adhered to her finger.

“Owww! What the heck is this crud? Is there a flipping needle in the cylinder now fused to my hand?” She tried shaking her hand but at that moment the bone fell to the ground in front of her feet with a solid thump. She grimaced as she looked at her right hand and the blood pooling down from her ring finger where the very tip of her finger was now missing a small chunk of flesh but her attention suddenly veered back to the bone on the ground which started violently spinning. She backed away as the velocity increased until it seemed there was a tornado growing in the center of the crossroads as loose leaves, dirt and branches started flying toward the center of the frenzied activity. A light at once dark and yet brilliant started pulsing out from the center of the mass of movement, with each pulse increasing in luminosity, Sweatpea had to cover her eyes after the third such pulse and was startled as she suddenly sensed the cessation of the frenzied activity.

Opening her eyes she felt her jaw drop as she took in the huge creature now standing before her in the center of the crossroads. Easily over eighteen hands tall with a super shiny black coat and vermillion hair and tail stood the most majestic horse-like creature Sweatpea had ever seen in her life, she knew it wasn’t a horse because there was an “offness” about it if she tried thinking about it as a horse but she also somehow knew it was in many ways similar to a horse.

“Hey there lovely one… what’s your name?” She murmured as she took a small step forward, one hand outstretched. She stopped in amazement as the huge creature dipped one foreleg down and one foreward as it bowed its shapely head respectfully in her direction and she heard words softly issue from its mouth.

“Mistress, if it pleases you, my name is Missulena Occatoria, but as you must be aware of the power of names and the danger of others knowing such I urge you to address me as Lena or Missu so that your enemies may not gain power over me. I am the last matriarch of my peoples and your flesh and blood might be the key to our salvation, as such I am deeply in your debt and you will not want for a more loyal companion. Please forgive my assumption in what form I chose to appear to you in, I could taste the love you have in your blood for these horse creatures and wanted you to see me in a form you would have greater familiarity and comfort with… my true form is one most of your mortal folk would consider monstrous and unsightly, one that parents would whisper about to keep their naughty children in line. I also urge you to deposit three drops of your blood into that small silver bottle in your pocket. Your blood has been infected with my venom and while it shall not have an effect on you because you are human, aside from that temporary numbness of course, it will be a potent weapon against any enemy that might slip too close to you.”

Dazedly Sweatpea fished out the silver bottle and let three drops of blood fall into it before recapping it and placing it back into her pocket. “So Missu, uh… exactly how is it that I might be your peoples’ savior? I’m only a little girl with small dreams and a huge horse obsession, there’s not really anything remarkable or special about me in anyway.” Sweatpea shook her head and walked closer to the giant creature. “Please stop the bowing and scraping, I’m not royalty you know? Besides what exactly are your people called? Like what’s the name for creatures like you?” Missu straightened herself and nudged Sweatpea with her head. “You humans call us Puca so I guess that’s what you should call us though some day I will tell you what we call ourselves. But right now we really need to get going and most especially get out of the crossroads, I can smell a bad storm coming and in the fairy realm it’s a really bad idea to stay at a crossroads for too long and during a storm. Hop onto my back and tell me where we should go Mistress.” Missu walked up to a rock so Sweatpea could get a handful of her mane and pull herself up and over the strong, sleek back. Sweatpea looked in the four directions frowning, clueless as to where they were supposed to be heading. “Hey Missu, I know we just met and you kinda nibbled on me a little bit and all… but I feel like I can really trust you ya know… so how about you pick a direction for us ok?” Sweatpea felt the large Puca still for a second. “Are you sure you are willing to put blind trust in my decision Mistress? I will only be following what my heart is telling me to do and I am not prescient of the future so I could very well lead us awry..” Missu queried hesitantly.

Sweatpea felt a smile stretch over her lips as she bent her head to rest her cheek against silky warm skin. “Yes Missu! I think I will trust your heart even if it should lead us awry. So let’s go get ourselves lost or get ourselves found, it won’t matter as long as we are together.!”

Missu did a full circle in place, glanced briefly down each road before breaking into a thundering gallop, her long legs blurring as she carried her small companion into the cover of the forest just as a jagged lightning bolt fiercely struck the center of the crossroads and sent scorched pieces of cobblestones flying. Overhead the storm broke out in intense fury and fairy creatures in all directions scrambled for cover as a little girl and a big puca raced toward their common destiny.

TO BE CONTINUED……

Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 2 Betting Odds

From their hiding place amongst the trees at the edge of the clearing two figures observed the dark haired girl called Sweatpea as she accepted the royal invitation and put the ring on her finger, averting their eyes as the resulting magical light display exploded over the forest and the clearing was once again empty.  The smaller of the figures, a curious looking creature resembling a rabbit possibly bred to  a cat with long flexible ears, slender serpentine tail and an upright bipedal posture, loudly sighed before reluctantly opening a small pouch and handing the taller figure a beautiful uncut ruby.

“I’s still dunno hows yous knew she’d be so tapped as to actually accept the Queen’s invitation Wry. Any smart mortal twould know bester than to get mixt in fey affairs by my reckoning, e’en if they do be cursed forever.”  He ruefully twitched his ears down as he put his pouch back to rights and looked to his companion for an answer.  Wry snatched the ruby and peered at it, a contemplative look in her eye as she whistled at the brilliant luster before tucking it into one of the many pockets adorning her smart leafy colored vest and gestured that they should get going themselves as they weren’t getting the magical express ride to where they needed to be.

“Tis simple Heartwell, I know her type… she’s stubborn, smart, ambitious which might make her a tad too impulsive or reckless but above all she loves her craft and her craft is all things horses. I been watching her for the last three years and I figured twas only a matter of time afore she came to the notice of the Queen, ’cause though she do be only a mortal human child, Sweatpea has the potential to become the world’s greatest horse handler because she was born with some kind of magic for it. So I knew there was no way in the seven hells of fairydom that she would refuse such a great opportunity to acquire greater skills even if she risked everything to do it. Now if we are to be of any real use to her at all in this Tourney against bloodthirsty cheats and rogues, we HAVE to get to Solswatch before she finishes her Tourney training, she will not be safe left alone in the company of those other fiends!” Wry twisted her nose in disgust as she broke into a steady distance eating trot and called over her shoulder. “Do keep up Heartwell!!” Her shorter companion huffed and grumbled under his breath as he also started trotting. “Why does she always have to run? What’s bad wit walking fast? She’ll be the death of me yet I’s do swear.”

Several hours and quite some distance later the two friends supped around a crackling fire and stretched out their wearied feet as the two moons rose overhead and gentle nocturnal fairy creatures of the forest started their nightly choruses.  Wry reached into her small backpack and pulled out a very worn set of panpipes, playing a sweet and slightly sad tune in tandem with the night creatures, a pensive look in her brilliant green eyes as she let the last note fade into the quieting night air. Heartwell looked at her serious expression and let out a deep sigh. “Twon’t be like the last time Wry, please stop yer fretting, we’ll make sure she goes through it aright my friend, ye needs to let the past go Wry, there’s none that can be done to undo it my darling and it only hurts yer heart to keep thinking ‘pon it overly much.” He awkwardly rubbed at her back, his small furry hands hesitant in personal touch as he overcame his people’s aversion to physical contact in order to offer his closest friend a measure of comfort. Wry sighed in return, rubbing a hand over her eyes before tugging off her deep green cap and running twitchy fingers through wild crimson curls.

“I know it’s the past Heartwell and I am not trying to dwell there… it’s just that all that came before, well it made me who I am today and there’s much I would change if I could, just to make better you see… but then I wouldn’t be me at all would I? And we have a hard long road ahead of us ’cause you n I, welp we both knows tat almost none of them as will be riding for the Queen will actually abide by the rules…” She smiled wryly at Heartwell’s over exaggerated nod and continued. ” And honestly, I do think one of me do be enough in all the worlds don’t yous? So we best make sure the past stays dead and doesn’t repeat itself eh? Now it’s right time we gets a few winks of sleep because we still have a lot of distance to cover.” She matched action to her words and slid into her slim bedroll by the fire, snagging her cap over her eyes as she rolled over. Heartwell climbed into his own bedroll, a giant yawn erupting from his furry face as he softly heard her say: “Thank you my friend for your care, thank you always, I know how hard it is for you.” A small smile stretched over his face as the dying fire lulled him to a gentle sleep and the two moons watched the two brave and foolish friends dream for a little while.

TO BE CONTINUED……

Sweatpea & Wry: Chapter 1 Choices

Once upon a time in a small cozy village atop a mountain, a little girl named Sweatpea lived and dreamed of grand adventures as the Head Groom in the King’s Royal Stables. She knew she had a magical touch with horses and knew the current stable folk weren’t doing the best that could be done. So she vowed that she would learn all the things there was to know concerning the care, training and keeping of horses. And one day, when she was older than twelve. she would present herself to the King and prove to him how invaluable a horse person she was.

But one day while she was gathering elder flowers, holy thistle, chamomile and arnica on the hillside she slipped and tumbled down the hill. She hit her head on a rock on the way down and felt blood pooling on her face as her free fall tumble continued. She was flung out into open air, a scream building but choked back as she suddenly plunged into an icy pool of water. She blacked out as the water closed around her, only coming to at a strange music teasing her ears. Sweatpea opened her eyes disoriented and feeling woozy, she ran a hand over her forehead and blinked as her blurry vision took in the blood on her hand. Her head started pounding as she sat up but she immediately forgot about her pain as the strange ethereal music once again intruded into her awareness.

She was… well she had no idea exactly where she was but she took in her surroundings as the haunting music continued distantly playing. She remembered falling into freezing water yet here she was in some sort of forest clearing. Her simple homespun clothes were gone, she found herself dressed in a dark emerald gown of a material she had never felt or seen before. She noted the gown was designed as a riding garment as there were appropriate splits in the skirt section to allow for mounted travel. She was sitting next to an oak stump and as she marveled at her dress, she noticed there were a few curious items on the stump. She peered closer, there was a leather satchel, all black with strange silver markings laying next to a beautiful black leather bit-less bridle. Near the bridle was a small silver bottle and underneath the bottle she spied a partially rolled scroll of parchment with an intricate silver ring beside it.

She reached out a tentative hand to snag the ring and brought it closer to examine it. Silver in color, it felt light as a feather, a complicated triple braided design made up most of the band while the centerpiece was an ornate triskelle with a horseshoe surrounding the gemstone, a deeply faceted and flawless sapphire. She sat the ring aside and lifted the bottle to pick up the scroll, her heart starting to pound as she read her name and slowly unrolled the parchment.

“Fair Sweatpea!- We beg your most gracious forgiveness for the abrupt manner of your arrival into our desmene and pray you shall not bear grievance for the minor injury you sustained as a result thereof. You have been honored to have been deemed worthy enough to compete in the Triannunal Queen’s Ride, Hunt & Race Tourney.

Should you accept this honor and challenge and all sundry risks associated therewith, up to and including possible possession, maiming, insanity and or death, grasp the bridle in your left hand and place the ring upon your right ring finger. Should you choose to decline this prestigious and quite literally once in a lifetime offer, place the ring on your left ring finger and drink the contents of the silver bottle. If you choose to accept this offer, after putting on the ring you must open the leather satchel for further instructions and details.

This is the highest possible honor to ever be accorded to a mere human girl child by the most Exalted, Fair & Gracious Queen Merrisoli, Sovereign of all realms fairy, fey and demifey. Please do consider carefully and choose wisely as our Queen does not well accept rejection of her personal invitations and while she most certainly shall not cause your immediate demise should you decline… she WILL be most displeased and consequently you might find the rest of your short human life plagued by uncountable episodes of horrendous bad luck. (We strongly advise you to accept her royal invitation!)

We await your decision by your actions… should you accept we wish you blessed fortune on your quest to complete the Tourney, we refrain from offering anything should you be so foolish to refuse.

Most Sincerely,

Her Majesty’s Royal Spokesperson Briar”

Sweatpea shook her head and pinched her arm, convinced she was dreaming or perhaps experiencing an injury induced delusion, but her head started pounding quite realistically and her arm smarted at the pinch so she exhaled and stood up, rolling the scroll and tapping it against her lips as she considered the items on the stump and the choice it seemed she had to make. She frowned as she considered the risks each choice could bring but she decided she had no desire to potentially live the rest of her life with rotten luck even if some of the risks for the Tourney seemed extreme and the possibility to gain untold knowledge and advantage in such a dangerous adventure finally made her firmly grasp the leather bridle in her left hand. She eyed the silver bottle and satchel,  knowing that nothing in the fairy realms was ever just what it appeared to be and oftentimes served multiple purposes so she stuck the silver bottle in a small pocket in her skirt, slung the satchel over her shoulder by its braided strap and finally put the ornate ring onto her right ring finger.  A soundless explosion of brilliant lights blinded her and she covered her eyes as the once distant music washed over her in an overwhelming cacophony, there was a feeling of intense vibration and then sudden silence so complete she feared she had gone deaf. Sweatpea opened her eyes and saw….

 

TO BE CONTINUED…..