Chapter Seven: Flowers in The Forest

     I slept fitfully that night.  The wood-dwelling stranger’s home was rough and rustic.  Moonbeams shone through the dust floor and cobwebs.  I dreamed of fields, fields of red . . . Leon . . . in a field of red flowers . . . and Stephane . . . he turned to me, as if blind, but said nothing . . . then Lenora’s portrait, and a corpse like form gliding slowly downstairs . . .
     I woke to find the soft sun breaking on my face.  Raven smiled at me.  He said it was time to leave and whistled for his twin pets, who greeted me, this time, with anxious sniffs . . .
     We traveled far; past marsh and swamp; past dark clumps of dead trees; past shanties; past cities; he pointed, “Look . . .”
     “We will stay here tonight.”
     It was a forest, full of flowers, their fragrance unlike anything I had ever known.
     “You can almost smell the sea from here . . . we must cross a steep mountain first though.”
     That night, he explained to me what I must do.
     “In my father’s time, this ancestor of ours would be called in our tongue the equivalent of a wraith, but much more dangerous — our people would say a S’ath’anit — a restless corpse.  Yes, she is more than that; she is also demonic and cannot be stopped unless you go to where the body is and burn it.  Also, these herbs and potions, you must need to use them first, must take the heart of this thing and anoint it. Then, taking the heart, put it into the ground.  Her heart must be in the ground.”
     “And where must it be buried?”
     He pointed at the moon as we reclined against a grassy knoll.
     “An evil man took her from her home . . . she died on the shores across the seas, that is all I know, for I have also seen the same visions as the Seer.  Lenora choked on the blue waters trying to escape him, or so they thought, but he put her, while still alive, into the tomb of your family there –“
     He pointed across the sea.
     “Your family, do you know by the way the reasoning for this summons?  It could be that they are aware of Lenora’s presence and intend to help her grow stronger.”
     “All that I know is their family name: Murcilagos.  They still live there, on the coast, but there might be a vault there if I remember the stories correctly.  A family vault.”
     “When you find it, do as I say, but, no one must find you.  Then, as you asked, the heart, which should still be intact, for all demons’ hearts do not rot, it needs to be put into that very earth of her native soil, for that is where she came from, across the seas.  Her curse will end when she is at rest.  I have the feeling that much dark magics were used by these very family members you will be visiting in order to raise her spirit — so be forewarned.  They do not have friendly intentions and I feel much darkness around their very family name and the land where they live — is said to also be cursed because the peoples there have refused to give up their evil.”
     He told me much about folklore and magic and that, until we were both tired and the skies changed colours from blue, to red, to black.
     But I swore I would never forget the wild beauty of this place, nor the field of flowers.
     We headed for shore the next morning, the sun strong on our face.  I felt free, there in the rugged range.  My heart, for once, free.  Raven’s twin wolves circled us in protection the entire way, and, once or twice he looked back to check on me as I rambled to pick a wild flower here and there.
     As we neared the shipyard, he looked at me with deep, troubled eyes and procured a golden locket on a chain and just looked silently. He spoke.
     “Put this on child.  It is mine — it will offer some protection against the evils you will face.  Please.”
     And he gently slid the roped chain around my neck and clasped it.  As he did so I felt a strange lightness about me, almost as if I had become as air — I felt, strangely attuned to everything around me, the sea, the sky, the very breath of life.
     “You will feel its power every so often, and, the charm itself is a link to me — if you open it, once every day, it will link my spirit to yours.”
     He pleaded with me to be careful, and, as the ship was about to depart, he held my hand once and then let go . . . his eyes seemed lost. I remembered the money I had to pay and offered it to him but he shrugged and pushed it away.
     “No, it’s quite alright.  I will wait until your safe return.  Take care child.”
     He led me to the ship, and I watched as his smooth face reflected the sheen of the water — melting into a sad expression that mirrored my own.  The sea parted us from between water to land, and I watched his form disappear among the banks as we traveled faster, among the fields of flowers that I would never forget, their fragrance still in my memory.
     That memory would remain, forever.
     We traveled faster, and he was gone.  Gone into that forest of flowers and evergreen trees.


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