Dreela knew the frog was hiding among the grass...his green energy
fluctuated rapidly spiked with sharp, ragged black flashes. Some
fae folk stood by near an old oak tree, their little lights dimmed
The little tree spirit's energy whipped about, stabbing fingers of lightening pain at the frog. With a croak of dismay at being found so quickly, the frog hopped quickly away towards the river and silently disappeared into the water.
The fox watched it all from the Nan Tree, a blackened stump that remained after a mysterious fire had consumed it. He too, silently disappeared and this time, was unseen by Dreela. He was very careful this time to make sure he stayed out of her range. His once beautiful, white-tipped bushy tail was now an all white, straggly thin one.
The other Dryads rustled and whispered among the Rowans. They could no longer allow Dreela to continue to hunt and harass the frogs and other creatures of the forest. The fae no longer came to their Toadstool Circle among the Rowans. The trees had not grown any new shoots in ages. The seeds did not grow. The witch no longer came to gather her special herbs for nothing grew anymore among the Rowan Trees. Soon the Rowan trees would die and the Dryads here would be no more!
They knew it had something to do with Dreela's bad blood but only the Ancient One who had inhabited The Wizards Tree, the now blackened stump, had held all the knowledge of the time Before, and she was long gone. The Nan, as the inhabitant of the Wizard's Tree was called, was the only one among them who was allowed to use magic for purposes other than healing.
They would have to contact the Lady of the Mountain. The dryads did not know if she still existed in this part of the universe. They had no idea how this hill had gotten here but they had to try. First, they would have to contact a Wizard or Witch who held the Sacred Sign, then lead them to the Stone Circle. To open a portal at the wrong time was dangerous but the Rowan Tree spirits all agreed...they couldn't wait any longer. An ominous feeling pervaded the glade that a portal had already been opened.
Dreela was very restless! She hadn't been able to rest for thinking about it and now it was daylight! It had started just before dawn.
She had sat all night watching for the Fae lights to appear and was greatly disappointed that they hadn't shown. This was the fifth night in a row the Fae hadn't come!
She had first become aware of a prickling, stinging sensation all round her aura, then the ruby flashes appeared here and there down in the darkened forest.
Now in the grey-misted light of day, she wandered among the Oaks in the gloomy half-light of the forest.
Here she came upon the dead things! There was one bird, its body not yet stiff with death but there was no lingering essence in the air around it. Its little body empty of all life. As were the other animals she came upon on her way back to the Grove. A badger among the ferns, looking like a wrung-out cloth. A pair of rabbits looking like furry toys, all flattened as if the stuffing had been ripped out...and there was no sign of external injury in any of the animals. The trail of death stopped at the edge of the marshes just beyond the Rowan Trees!
Dreela was in no mood to return to her tree. Being a young sapling it still hosted another three young sprites waiting for new shoots to grow into more saplings and be inhabited.
That was another problem! One which Dreela was sure she was being blamed for as well! She rushed past her young siblings calling out to her from her tree and made straight for The Nan Tree.
Dreela's energy clung to the blackened stump like a damp mist as she
watched her sister Dryads gathering round the stone circle like the
phantoms they were. She knew they thought it was her fault for the
little dead creatures and the stunted growth of the grove. "It
wasn't me....really...it wasn't..," she wanted to shout out to
them...but they weren't listening. Dreela didn't mean to hurt any
of the creatures. Not even the stupid frog! Come to think of
it...there hadn't been any frogs around in days! A sigh escaped
from her like the wind through the trees. She just wanted a little
Expanding her energy out towards the whispering group of dryads, she hoped to be able to pick up some information on what they were planning. She had a very bad feeling about this. There had been no gathering in the Circle since the Nan had gone! Strange! She couldn't pick up anything. They must have blocked her access to their auras. Agitated now, she gathered herself tightly round the Wizard Tree. She tried again...with little tendrils of mist crawling over the ground towards them when a buzzing vibrated through her whole system! Her energy recoiled into a tight ball and quickened in flashes as she realised with shock that they were using magic! The stones had been activated!
Dismayed at this action, she quickly returned to her tree but she couldn't settle. The little half-formed sprites within the tree wailed for more attention! The poor things couldn't understand why they were still stuck in the same tree. She couldn't help them. She didn't have any answers for them. Feeling her energy distorted and pushed about by the others...she left again.
Floating abstractedly over the marshes, Dreela came upon a very dejected looking foxglove. Amazed that there was still a plant growing near the grove she settled round it in wonder. She tried contacting the little fae spirit who dwelt within. "Too tired," came a faint whisper. "Not enough energy...will die....soon." She almost missed the last word as it faded away.
A dreadful thought entered Dreela's elfish form. They were all going to vanish...all the spirits of the forest...like The Nan...if something couldn't be done to find out what was draining all the energy away!
Oh! How she missed The Nan...the Elder of the Rowan Grove Sprites,
who had disappeared when her tree had been mysteriously burned to a
stump. No! Dreela couldn't let the foxglove die! Since The Nan
had gone, it was her only source of pleasure. She had so enjoyed the
exotic and almost euphoric energy from it on many occasions. Her
aura even now expanded and glowed at just the thought of its
strangely exciting yet calming essence.
She settled her energy round the plant then gently melded into the root of the foxglove, letting her golden healing light flow out in waves to encompass the whole plant.
She felt the foxglove straighten and a violet vibrance shone through the gold of her healing light as the little flower fae recovered.
That was all Dreela needed to know. The healing was complete...for now!
As she was leaving the plant, she felt a sudden dizziness shake her. A blue beam of light had just pierced her energy! "What...was that?" she thought as her aura trembled. Realization hit her as the light shot through again. Something was probing for her energy...and had found her!
"Not possible...," she worried, looking all around for the source. There weren't any creatures in these woods capable of mind-probe.
Watching her from the trees nearby, a fox slipped quickly away through the undergrowth looking for a hiding place. "Too close, too close," the fox muttered, not wanting to lose any more fur from his tail. Panting, he rested near a rotted moss-covered tree stump.
Fretting about what kind of creature would be able to mind-probe, Dreela was distracted by a very strange yet almost familiar scent! A woodsy, tobacco smell...but more potent! There it was, just over by that big mossy hummock. Loosening her energy into a vaporous mist, she flowed quickly towards it.
Dreela was just about to solve the mystery of the mind-probing when an eerie blue luminescence lit up the trees above her. Her energy
tingled with apprehension, recoiling quickly into a tight ball as the
blue light passed overhead. Her aura filled with flashes of frogs-
legs and wings! Red spikes of colour radiated through her as a
ghastly vision entered her thoughts. A giant blue, flying frog!
Lady forbid such a horror! She had to find out more about this
monstrosity! Forgetting all about the mind-probe she started to
follow this new energy.
She weaved in and out among the Oaks and Birches for some time had not noticed that any Rowans Trees had been left far behind. Instead, she had come upon a range of Juniper and Fir trees on a strange mountainside.
In the distance was a shining pillar of white light. Unaware of her diminishing energy, she continued on towards this strange structure, just in time to see the blue energy disappear inside it.
Having reached the gleaming white structure, Dreela floated up to where she had seen the blue light enter. Finding a black hole, she tried to pierce it with a finger-probe of light, but it kept rebounding back.
Her energy whirled round and round the pillar in frustration while her wails of anger sounded like a storm had besieged the mountainside, centering on the white marble structure.
Hiding within the hummock of moss and brambles the fox breathed a sigh of relief! Thank goodness for dragons! He slinked silently off through the undergrowth. Eventually he came to a wooden hut which he entered through a hole in a hidden corner.
From the top of a nearby tree, a little pair of eyes peered through the leafy green branches as the fox disappeared inside the make-shift hut.
Chattering to itself, the creature twitched its furry tail in excitement...and waited. There! It was right! The leaves trembled slightly as the creature moved closer to the end of the branch. That was no ordinary fox!
In an opening in the tree-hut stood a man in doe-skin jacket and trousers. Cam MacCorran ran his hand through his thin, ginger hair, a very sly smile curving his mouth downwards. "Good", he laughed to himself as he watched the dragon disappear round the other side of the mountain. "That should keep that pesky sprite out my hair for a while".
Cam's once-upon-atime thick hair was streaked with grey. He was almost baldy in places! Some rowan berry juice would sort that! He shivered in the cooling night air. Before he went back in, a slight movement above attracted his attention. Looking up, he caught sight of a squirrel darting away in the trees.
No time to think of rejuvenating potions now! That squirrel was becoming a real menace! He ducked back into his tree-hut - an old shell of a tree overgrown with ivy. It made an excellent dwelling place.
Cam went over to a corner of the room and checked his clay pots of herbs and berries. "Drat that squirrel", he breathed heavily, his frustration rising as he noted how low his supplies were. The squirrel kept darting down from the trees and scurrying off with his pouch of herbs he kept hanging round his waist. Pilfering creature would wait until he was "otherwise engaged" before making his move.
He was beginning to think it was something more than an animal! He would have to place the new pouch under his vest. At last, he could go and collect more bark and berries, now that annoying tree-sprite was busy with the dragon. If she had zapped him any more with her strange energy, she would have discovered his secret! His FoxWear Spell had almost worn out by the time he had reached his tree-hut!
He rubbed his goatee absently as he thought of the best route through the forest. Now that he couldn't shape-shift for a while 'til he got more supplies for his spells, he was stuck with crashing around the forest in human form. NOT his favourite thing! Not in these ancient woods. It was because of the hummocks and trenches making this land very dangerous to traverse that made it all the more safe for him to dwell. In animal form, it was the easiest way to travel but now he would have to tread very carefully. He still had enough energy to use Sky-Map! Grabbing his bear cloak from an oak stump that did him for a seat and fastening his cloak with its silver seahorse pin, he made for the opening into the forest.
Once more he stood at his doorway surveying the forest, calling for the Blackbird he fondly referred to as Nipster. He wondered briefly about the seahorse pin his Guardian had given him before he had disappeared. It seemed so long ago now! He had been just a lad, 10 winters. The tenth winter had been a winter of great sadness and sorrow. That had changed when Bree the She-bear had taken him to her heart, sheltering him in her den and had been his first real test of the lessons he had learned. Mind-speak! Thankfully, the bear had understood or he would surely have perished that winter! He was 25 summers now and still he had not been able to contact his mentor. His spirit seemed neither here...nor there...in the Otherworlds!
A rustling in the leaves above broke into his thoughts, alerting him to the arrival of Nipster, who chirped a greeting.
"Try not to peck the hair," he whispered gently to the bird. "I am almost baldy as it is." The bird made no reply but rolled his eyes and warbled softly.
Cam took a Rowan berry and a pinch of powder out of his pouch and closing his eyes, breathed deeply.
Nipster sat on Cam's head and pecked out a red hair. As Cam's breathing deepened, a faint, wispy grey smoke curled out and up from his mouth and surrounded the bird. A cloudiness came over the bird's eyes a moment before he took off, still holding the strand of hair in his beak.
Cam's journey through the ShadeVale had begun.
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