Kumi slowed to a walk as she entered the road leading into Granny’s Apple Orchard. Her hair was piled on top of her head and she even adorned her tail with some rings. She was feeling much better now knowing they all had made and stored a good lot of Invertitia and swords.
She carried with her the basket containing the Ranger’s bandages that Cinnamon had entrusted to her. A smile crossed her face as she spotted Pearl’s white head where she lie weeding her cherry tomatoes. Kumi had become particularly fond of Pearl over time. She knew her to be kind and so very smart about everything. Her skills as a witch would blend well with her own. And all of that aside, Pearl had begun to fill the empty place in Kumi’s heart that Anuta left when she’d been turned to stone.
“Good morning dear Pearl, how are you?” Kumi asked as she stepped closer.
Pearl smiled broadly at hearing Kumi’s voice as she threw a few last weeds aside and dusted the loose soil from her hands. “Oh good morning my dear! I am weary from all the farming, happy that the task is completed and happier still to see you! I was just removing a few weeds from these tomatoes.”
Kumi grinned, stepping closer and offering a hand to help the aging taur stand should she wish to. “It’s always good to see you Pearl, and your garden is looking so lush. I have a special favor to task you though. One that requires your particular skills.”
Pearl reached out and took advantage of the offered assistance and stood to her feet, sure that the creaking sound her knees made could be heard for leagues in all directions. “Thank you my friend, these old bones get weary some days. What do you need my help with? I am here for you if it’s within my power to be so.”
Kumi nodded as Pearl spoke, appreciating her willingness to lend a hand whenever it was needed. “I hold in this basket the bandages that were used to bind Ranger Rayven’s wounds. Healer Cinnamon gave them to me and asked that I seek answers as to how Rayven came to survive the poisons…. or magicks.. that was used against him. This is so very important a task that I ask you to please join with me in scrying the answers the blood contained on them might offer us.”
A worried look furrowed the brow of the old centaur as she gently placed her wrinkled hand on the basket. Her eyes closed briefly as she reached out ever-so-briefly with her “sight”. She shook her head and let her eyes meet with Kumi’s. “This is a bad business my friend. From start to finish. I have only heard in part what the Ranger went through. But the portents are bad. And yes…..Cinnamon was right to ask such questions. It would be a boon for all of us to understand the poisons…or magick that the Ranger was subjected to and how he overcame them. Of course I will lend all my sight and power to this task with you.”
Kumi controlled her breathing as best she could. The events of the past few weeks had taken their toll on the druid taur. She had worked hard, as they all had, to prepare Invertitia and make swords and now this task. She must summon the strength to perform well. It meant so much to the ranger and to all of them really, to know more about what might be coming for them. She tossed her head sending a stray strand flying from her face. Pearl’s answer sent a chill over her skin as relief flooded her, but of course Pearl would have said yes. “Thank you my friend, if you’ve time for this now I’ve prepared a circle around the celestial fountain in the grove, an alter with ever-flowing waters it should reveal it’s secrets.”
Pearl nodded her head gravely. “Of course I will come with you to your grove but first I must prepare myself. Give me just a few minutes. I must needs clean this soil from myself and put on appropriate clothes.”
Kumi nodded rapidly “Oh of course, do what you need to. I’ll wait right here for you, unless there’s something you’d like me to fetch?”
“No dear, I don’t need you to fetch anything.” Pearl turned and walked to the river that ran adjacent to her farm. She slipped off her soiled sweater and moved carefully into the water. When she was cleaned up she went into her house and donned the garments she needed for the work to be done. She left her house and walked up with determination to Kumi. “I am ready.”
Kumi rose from the ground as Pearl approached and smiled because she looked so lovely and professional in her garb. Taking a deep breath she let it out slowly “Are you up for the shortcut through to the grove or would you prefer we stick with the roads?” she asked politely.
Pearl wanted to answer “of course I am” but the wisdom she had gained over a lifetime of experience and realizing the importance of the completion of this task she answered with a sly smile “Perhaps, just this once, it would be more prudent to take the roads.”
Kumi replied quickly; “Of course the roads is much wiser, we have no way of knowing who might have sneaked in and be hiding in the forest. You see, you’re so very important to this task already.” she grinned at her friend as she turned and began to walk down the path to the road, allowing Pearl to set the pace as they traveled.
Pearl made small talk to lighten the mood as they walked and before long they arrived at the grove.
After arriving in the grove, Kumi knelt before the celestial fountain and set the basket in the waters while she lifted the lid and set it aside. Reaching inside she pulled out the bandages and held them for a brief moment before laying them in the waters below the fountain. Holding them under the cool water she allowed them to soak a bit before standing up again and holding her hands out to Pearl. “I am ready to begin when you are Pearl.”
Pearl took a determined breath and said “Before we begin let me ask you a question. I realize that even as good friends as we have become I have never asked you much about how your magick works. For me it is a trance-like state that I can bring on at will after all these years. And…..I can see the magick in myself and in others. It is almost like an aura in that it has color and substance. Can you see such things Kumi?”
Kumi canted her head as she thought a moment “It is different every time but generally I get a sensation of emotion or pictures form in my head. Sometimes both together. I have only seen an aura twice in my life, and I believe them to be recognition of soul friends. I saw one around my mentor Anuta when I was young and the second time was when I met you, dear Pearl.” she smiled shyly at having revealed such a personal fact.
Pearl smiled gently at the mild discomfort of her friend. “Well then, let me give you some instruction as to what I shall see and what you must envision if our powers are to be combined effectively to achieve our purpose. As we clasp hands, with the bandages draped over them, I will “push” the magick that is in me out into your arms. I will then pull it back drawing your’s into my arms. Imagine a synergy of pushing and pulling our forces back and forth into each others arms. Gradually increasing the power and mixing our magick together. For this is why you called upon me. That our powers be combined for this task. And this forceful transfer and melding of our powers is the best way I can see of insuring success. Do you understand what needs to be done when we begin?”
Kumi nodded “Yes I understand and I invite your energy willingly to join with mine.” She picks up the wet bandages and as she raises her hands she extends the bandages to Pearl.
“As I invite your power to enter and join with mine.” Pearl reached out confidently and clasp hands with Kumi feeling the wet bandages greasy with the Ranger’s blood settle around her forearms and hands. Closing her eyes she focuses her power as she has done a thousand times before. But rarely on such a dire task. Nor one so important. She pushes out a gentle rush of power into the hands of her friend and pulls it back, sensing the foreign yet somehow familiar power issuing from Kumi’s hands into her own. Sensing an ability unusually adept and strong from one so young Pearl increases the flow and thus hasten the arrival of the desired visions, and gain the answers her people needed.
Kumi locked her hands with Pearls, the touch so familiar to her now brought a surge of confidence to her as she began. Closing her eyes she felt the gentle nudge of Pearl’s energy as it pushed against her hand and as it pulled she lent her energy to it to push back toward Pearl’s. She quieted her mind as she soflty spoke “Moon above, stars beyond, light and energy beyond imagining. Enlighten us this day. We seek knowledge of the secrets within the blood of our ranger, Rayven Firebrand. He survived the magic or poisons of the dark ones, reveal to us what manner or form this did take.”
Pearl joined Kumi in her supplications and, as she knew they would, the very planes of existence shifted around them. This was a place she was familiar with. The dreamscape where she dwelt in and with her visions when they came. She had been here many times before. She knew that if their magicks had been powerful enough and had co-mingled as she hoped she would see Kumi in this place with her. Unsurprised she sees Kumi through the mist. “We are here my friend in this world of dream and shadow. We must now observe as never before and see what this plane presents to us that may be of use.”
As the energy around the pair grew in intensity their surroundings brightened. The familiar ringing in Kumi’s ears began first. It was if a dozen pixies were singing to her. The sound in her head intensified until it became as loud as a swarm of angry bees disturbed at their hive. She began to rock back on her haunches causing her to tighten her grip on Pearl’s hands. Soon a mist formed and she heard Pearl’s voice as though she were so very far away, but she understood that the voice came from within her mind, not from her ears.
“I see you Pearl, I see you there as clearly as I feel your energy.” She heeded Pearl’s advice and began to look around in this vision the two of them now shared. She was struck by a feeling of sad loneliness and fear. She felt as though she were a foal, yet it was not herself she recalled in this vision. It was a young black foal, as black as the midnight sky during the new moon. The young Rayven she felt, yes it must be him, she thought. But why was he all alone and so very sad? She continued to allow the emotion and vision to fill her as she waited, observing watching for what else might be revealed to her.
As if her eyes were not her own Pearl shared in the vision that was appearing before Kumi’s senses. She too was overcome by loneliness and experienced the sadness of the young foal as if it were her own. Then, just as these emotions had waxed, so in Pearl they began to wane. The scene began to shift in an almost sickening way. Pearl steeled herself and called on the strength she needed to stabilize what she was seeing. She stood on the bank of a rushing dark river. The river was forbidding and dark as night. It almost did not look like water but like a living, swirling mass. And then her eyes were drawn to a black boulder standing alone in the middle of the torrent. Unmoving. Undamaged. The black boulder stood in strength against the river of darkness. Pearl committed every detail to memory as best she could before this scene too began to shimmer and become less of substance and more of dream.
Kumi squeezed Pearl’s hand instinctively as her vision began to swirl causing momentary dizziness and the nausea that so often follows. But then it calmed again and she saw herself standing with Pearl on the bank of a dark river, one as dark as night. The swirling waters felt so foreboding and the intensity of the emotion she felt from this scene made her feel as though she could cry. But there stood that giant black boulder. And through it she felt hope. Hope cleared her mind and the swirling waters began to fade but she kept her eyes on that boulder.
As the scene before them began to fade and shift again Pearl expected the end of this vision was at hand. But then almost as quick as a flash of lightning crosses the sky before her appeared an image that momentarily took her breath away causing her to grip Kumi’s hands with a strength she’d not summoned before. Her breath caught in her throat. When she had controlled her surprise she asked Kumi without looking at her “Do you see this?” For she was not sure of her own vision at this point.
Kumi blinks as her pupils go wide open, her lips part as she holds her breath. She swallows the lump in her throat then licks her lips before she can speak. “I do…..” She is unable to tear her eyes away from the sight but when she does she looks into Pearl’s eyes and opens her mouth to speak again, but nothing comes out.
Pearl gently places two fingers on the soundless lips of her friend in that gesture so well known to mothers everywhere….”Child of this last vision we must not speak. Bury it deep and vow to keep it between us only for now. There may come a time when it must be told to the Queen….or to others. But trust me when I tell you that time is not now.” She could tell from the look in Kumi’s eyes that her warning was clear and understood. Ready as never before to be away from this plane of vision Pearl withdrew her magick almost abruptly and once again she and Kumi stood in the warm spring day at the grove.
Kumi nods as Pearl speaks and as she feels Pearl withdrawing her energies Kumi’s own energy returns to her center and in a blink she feels the warmth of the sun, hears the birds singing in the trees and smells the musky smell of the damp earth. She stares at Pearl a moment and her mouth opens as if to speak, but then closes again.
Pearl speaks softly “So now, you are the one who talked to Cinnamon and you must be the one to carry our message to her. What shall you tell her?”
Still trying to shake off the vision Kumi takes a moment to gather her wits. “I tell her that we believe Rayven to be the last of his kind to walk this world and that there were no magicks involved in his resistance to the poisons believed to be on the sword he was injured with, that his resistance is natural within himself as is the strength of a stone….. and… and nothing of what came after. Nothing of that to anyone, not even the Queen.” Kumi squeezed her hands into a fist as this last declaration was difficult for her to make, but she saw the wisdom in what Pearl counseled.
Pearl reached out and clasp the tight fists of her friend gently. “Those are the facts of what we saw and simple answers and true. I know the conflict that fights in your mind over keeping even a small part of what we saw a carefully guarded secret for now. For I feel it too. There may come a time when we must reveal it. Or there may never come such a time….may the Gods grant it be the latter. But you will see the wisdom of doing so. Now I am weary and I must take my rest.”
Kumi nodded quickly knowing how tired she too now felt after such an effort. “Yes, yes we should rest. I’ll look for Cinnamon after I’ve had time to sleep.”
Pearl reached out and patted Kumi lovingly on the cheek. “You have done well today dear and shown your mettle. Such an effort was one not many as young as you could meet as well. I will see you later.” Pearl leans forward and hugs her friend, turns and departs for home.