One Shred of Light: Part Eight
Fiona was pouting again, and Magax wanted to slap the petulant look from her face. He didn't want to engage her in conversation, he knew pretty well what had caused her unhappiness, and he didn't want to have it brought up. However, Fiona was not one to suffer in silence. After her desperate attempts to get him to ask failed, she simply launched into her tale of woe in a whining voice.
"Magax, I had the perfect opportunity to cause mischief and someone thwarted me. My Werelupes were hunting down that little nuisance of yours; she happened into the woods, such a fool, and they almost had her. They told me someone attacked them. They didn't see them; they attacked from somewhere out of sight. It's a tragedy! Do you suppose that Neovia has monster hunters? That would be the worst development I could think of. I have these marvelous new powers from Master Nox and the dratted little town will be safe from me when I can return to my old ways in a few months," she wailed.
"She's not my nuisance, and I don't see why you chose to go after her when you're in a precarious place. You shouldn't take these risks for little thrills," Magax replied coldly.
Fiona tossed her hair, glowering. "She's isolated; we're likely the only people who know she exists. I doubt that if something happened to her it would reach the ears of my dear dupes. Even if it somehow did, they they would hardly think to associate it with me. It isn't like they know what Nox gave me these powers."
"What do they think of that gauntlet?" he asked.
"No one has asked," Fiona said with a smirk. "Trinkets like this are dime a dozen in Faerieland."
Magax just shrugged and went back to staring out the window.
"Don't finish her off, please?" Fiona said in pleading voice.
"What?" he demanded, turning on her with a furious light burning in his eyes.
"Well, I was just afraid that you might decide to get rid of her while I'm busy in Faerieland. She certainly seems like something of a nuisance to you. You're always very annoyed when she is brought up. I was afraid you might decide to do something about her, but I want her for my Werelupes. They are very annoyed about losing their prey," Fiona explained. "By the by, she cleaned it up well, but I was impressed with the traces of your handiwork that you left behind. You took out the entire garden. I suppose that was why she was braving the woods."
"The only nuisance is your insistence on harping on about the girl," Magax said, frowning at her. "I have no plans regarding her in any form. I would have completely forgotten her existence many times over if you didn't continually bring her up."
Fiona smiled. "A thousand pardons, friend. I did not mean to be an annoyance."
"Yes, you did," Magax shot back.
Fiona sighed and gave in. "All right, maybe a little. It is not personal, it is simply in my nature."
"I know. Shouldn't you return to Faerieland?"
Fiona glanced outside, only long time residents of the Haunted Woods could tell time by the light, and nodded sullenly. "Back to the goody-goody. Oh, how I despise my fellow faeries. They are intolerable, even most of the dark faeries there are despicably good. They are a disgrace to our proud name."
"I'm sure they feel the same way about you," Magax replied. "Enjoy yourself."
"You are more cruel than I, you realize that, don't you?" she said as she glowered at him.
Caelum spent most of the day after the ill-fated journey into the Haunted Woods in bed recuperating. Her wing would take a few days to heal, but she was well enough to return to her usual tasks by the third day. She was still unsure about what her next move should be. She had not accomplished her task of getting to Neovia to purchase new bulbs and plantings, and Magax had warned her to stay out of the woods. She was sure he would not rescue her twice, and she knew the Werelupes had her scent. They would be on her the moment she set foot into the Haunted Woods again.
She gathered the supplies she would need to forage in the field and opened the door to leave. There was a basket sitting on her doorstep. She bent down and placed her basket on the floor and looked through it. It was filled with all things she had been planning to buy in Neovia. There was no note, or anything to indicate who it had come from.
She felt a smile creeping onto her lips even before her mind made the connection. The only one who knew about her ruined garden was Magax. Only Fyora and Valeane knew where she was, and she doubted they would have risked leaving her a package in case she was still being watched. She didn't think they were even watching. They had given her a way to call them as a last resort, leaving her on her own to accomplish her mission. It could only have been Magax's doing.
She left her basket and took the new one out into the garden and got to work.
Magax was puzzled when the girl placed the basket he had left beneath the tree he had sat in while he had watched her the week before. He was still watching her, but from a hidden vantage point.
Fiona's dig about what he had done to Caelum's garden and the desperation that had driven her to brave the dangers of the Haunted Woods had gotten to him in a way he could not define. He had gone to Neovia, disguised as a traveler from deep in the woods, and had purchased what he assumed she would need and left the basket on her doorstep.
He didn't expect anything from it; he didn't want anything to do with Caelum, but he had decided to wait around to see that she got it. She came out, geared up to go out somewhere, and found the basket. Even from his distant vantage point, he could see the smile form on her lips.
He felt vindicated by that smile.
Magax jumped up, shaking his head and trying to clear his mind. He didn't have anything to be ashamed of; he was what he was. He had simply been making sure that she wasn't a threat to him. He frowned, Fiona was right; the girl was a nuisance after all.
He told himself that now that he had ascertained that she had gotten the basket he could leave, and he meant to leave, but instead he found himself watching her all day as she went about about planting. She had worked hard and finished as the sun was going down. She had gone into the house and come back out a few minutes later with the basket and left it beneath the tree.
He left it until after she closed her drapes that night and then went to have a look. The basket was empty except for a crisp white envelope sitting in the bottom of it. He left the basket, but took the envelope. He opened it and the scent of wild lavender rose from it.
He unfolded the sheet of paper that was inside and read it by the bright moonlight.
Thank you for all that you have done for me. What passed between us in my garden is forgotten and forgiven. I can never repay you for saving my life when I was attacked by the Werelupes. My offer of friendship still stands. If you want nothing to do with me, I will honor that wish, but if you ever want anything from me, my door is always open to you.
I don't know much about you, but I do know one thing. There is one shred of light in you, and I would like to see more of it. Forgive me if you think that is too bold.
Thank you again for everything.
Magax read the letter twice, trying to muster up the fury he felt it should have aroused in him. He knew that her words about a 'shred of light' should infuriate him. He wanted to destroy the paper, have his lighting blow it to shreds in his hand.
Instead, he was tucking it into his vest while looking over at the glow behind the drapes and knowing that the girl who should have made him angry was safe in there and would remain so because he wouldn't allow that to change.
He sat out in the field that night, out under the unclouded sky and watched the stars. He had never done that before; he had never noticed them, never truly just looked up and seen that they were up there. He knew they were, but knowing and actually seeing were two different things he realized. The world out there was alive; things moved and thrived and grew strong. In the Haunted Woods, the battlefield would have stayed grim forever, but out here, life had found a way.
Life had found a way.
Where there was life, it would find a way. Where there was a shred of light, things would grow and fight for that life. The night passed with these thoughts running through his mind, whispering to him that Caelum might be right.
To be continued...