Lights flickered amongst the moss-covered tree branches, bright shadows stretched between the lights. They looked like the outlines of Arthur Rackham’s fairy folk. Both cat and woman stood stock still, staring. The lights danced around them, Isoldé could see them out of the corners of her eyes, in front the shadows danced more clearly, they were little people, slender, translucent, sharp noses, pointed ears, fine fair hair and expressions that were interested in the two newcomers to their woods, almost to the point of being predatory.
Embar stood guard in front of Isoldé although both cat and woman were well aware that the faer folk were all around them, behind as well as before. He backed carefully towards her until his huge fluffy tail touched her legs.
Isoldé relaxed, very visibly, allowing her shoulders to slump and her knees to buckle slightly. She turned her hands palm-outwards.
‘We come in peace,’ she whispered, feeling as if she was in some sci-if B movie and glad the faer folk didn’t look in the least like the victims of Roswell.
The lights came down from the trees, coalescing into Rackham-like forms. On the edge of sight were some very strange ones, more on the lines of John Anster Fitzgerald’s beasties, part animal, part human, part demon. One of these slid down a branch to land at her feet with a little bounce, making Embar flinch and emit a slight hiss. The cat checked himself immediately. The little demon stood looking up at Isoldé, he reached about to her knee.
She slowly squatted down, coming nearer to eye level with it. Him. He was rather obviously male. As she noticed so he grinned, seeing her looking at him. He pushed his hips forward and backwards at her, like Brad Pit in “Thelma & Louise”. That made her grin too.
‘Hello,’ she said softly. ‘What might I be able to do for you?’
The creature gave a crackly hissing noise, like a wet fire just getting going. She realised it was a chuckle.
‘Ssss! It’ssssssssss what we can do forrrrrrrrrrr you,’ he replied.
‘And what might that be?’ she countered, then, remembering what Uncle Brian used to say. ‘And what will it cost me?’
‘Ssssss … sssssssss …’ the little creature chuckled again. ‘Ssss–she thinks, she thinks!’ He turned to his compatriots smiling all over his face.
There was a rumbling grumbling of agreement, amused, approving.
‘You want the songs. The Trickster told you to find the songs.’
‘That’s right,’ she replied.
‘We want the songs. The Moon wants her song so she can direct all the songs so they synchronise … harmonise … match up.’
Inspiration smacked Isoldé in the mouth. ‘You mean so we all sing from the same hymn sheet?’
More hissing and rumbling, grins spread across the sharp, pointy faces surrounding her.
‘I sssss–said ssss–she’ssss ssss–sharp’ hissed the little demon.
‘So, I’m smart,’ Isoldé tried to steer back to the point of their conversation. ‘So what’s your help going to cost me?’
‘First I’ll stew and then I’ll bake, then I will the queen’s child take …’
‘No! I’ll not play Rumplestiltskin with you,’ Isoldé told him. ‘There may be prices I will not pay, that are too high.’
There was a hush for a moment. Just the dripping of the leaves punctuating the silence.
‘Tell me what the songs’ purpose is, what they’re for, what will happen if they’re not found. And what will happen if the Moon doesn’t have her song,’ she said.
The strangest thing began to happen. The grass began to draw back from the surface of the soil revealing a flat area of level dirt. A silvery vertical line stretched up away from Isoldé. Two lines crossed it at a point making three angles of sixty degrees to each side of the vertical line.
‘A … a six-armed cross …?’ Isoldé asked tentatively.
‘Yesssss … watch …’
More lines grew, threading themselves together into more six-armed crosses, becoming a web of silvery lines. The edges of the pattern reached out into the grass, disappearing under it. The demon looked at the pattern then looked pointedly at Isoldé.
‘I get it … I think …’ Isoldé said softly. ‘This is the web of life, yes? Like the ley lines. Like the wyrd. It connects everything to everything.’
‘And the Moon …?’ There were no hisses from the demon this time.
Isoldé was silent for a moment. She thought of how the moon governed and presided over the tides in the sea, the flow in a woman’s body and many other rhythms under her direction.
The little demon watched her face, nodding slowly. ‘That’s the sort of thing,’ he said, again without the hisses. ‘We need her to direct the flow. She enchants us. She sings us into life.’
Isoldé sat back on her heels, staring off into nothing. ‘And I must find the song that enchants.’
‘Yes … please,’ the demon replied.