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……