“You shouldn't scare them like that. My men and I are here, no harm will come to them.” “Do you know WHY your kids fear the dark?! No? You think they're just silly? – I can only hope that your wife and kids know more than you, because... THAT just won't do...” “I don't have kids, actually. Or a wife.” “That seems for the better, wouldn't you agree?” I try stopping there, I really do, but the words tumble out, quiet and angry: “We, Mr Constable, have a tradition. A long and sad and angry tradition. Do you know, for example, how many of our children live to adulthood? No? I can tell you, as can my daughter, and when she is older, bless her, my little one will tell you as well: Save half. Part we loose to the woods, wandering off, following butterfly or twinkle light, never seen again. Part is taken to the deep. Through pond, or puddle. Another part is taken in the dark. From their beds, through locked window and barred gate, gone. The most horrible but are those that we loose to the silence. Taken, they stop playing, eating, drinking, we feed them, some live, but their spark -that which made them who they are- is gone. Most slip into catatonia and die. It takes a while, it's hardest of all. They are precious, the children, for us more than for you, because for every child alive, we bare the burden of those who are not. We are not monsters, constable, far from it. And so, excuse me, sir, if I talk to my girls the way I do. There is reason. And I will be damned if I loose even one of them!” Turning away from the dumbfounded policeman, I address my daughters: “So, girls, you will not go into the backyard until I tell you it's safe. You may play in the drive or ask a neighbour across the street, if they'll allow you to sit on their lawn. If you do, take a policeman with you to cross the street -by the sky- there are enough of those standing around. And Sarah, you will teach your sister to fear the woods! Why?” "Because she might die if she don't." “Doesn't. Yes, because she might die if she doesn't. Now get the toys that you want and go play. Mommy has work to do. "Come, Sis, let's get the ponies." “Good girls.” Quietly, menace under control now, I look at the man next to me: “Do not presume to know what makes people act or speak the way they do, or the sum of your presumptions will get you killed eventually. Make sure your men don't wander off either. They are like children here. Until I'm done, no-one leaves the drive or goes farther than the yard across the street. I will not be responsible for lost policeman, of all things!” "I will speak with my men, but I will accompany you." “In the name of – I don't have anything to hide. – Fine. Fine! I will concede, but you will not distract me in any way and I will answer no questions." "What are you planning to do?", he asks right away. "Constable!” — “It's Sergeant Baird, Mrs Tarmennen.” ”No. Questions." I turn away from him. I take what I need from the legroom of the passenger seat. It's a small box, not unlike a beauty-bag. "There is coffee in the thermos on the passenger seat here. Your men are welcome to all that's left... It might take me a while to find the kitchen." If I find it at all. I look at the building wondering what awaits me inside. From the outside it's gorgeous. A dark wood and whitewashed brick cottage that has been built onto again and again, growing from simple to stately over the course of generations. It's not a mansion, but it's quite large. It doesn't really look it's age. I bind off my arm and with a disposable syringe quickly draw my blood. Sergeant Baird sees, but his boys don't and I shush him before he can draw attention to me. The blood goes into the dark red glass vial, the empty syringe into the biohazard baggy. I practically feel his policeman gaze boring into the side of my face, burning, but I try ignoring it. In go a few essential oils and my own mix: a syrup of flowers and herbs, better than relying on them being around when you need them and nearly as good as fresh plants. Stopper on top, mix well, while I mumble the names of those that went before and those that have gone. I close the box and walk across the weed strewn gravel to the stones that form the entrance to the property. The high and overgrown hedge needs a trimming too, but I have to trust that it's not too wild yet, that my two beautiful girls are safe with four policemen to stand guard over them. The stones are neither smooth nor rough, they're bluestone actually, a form of basalt. I'm surprised to recognise it, then I realize the perfect sense it makes. The wings of a wooden gate attached to them, normally restricting entry, stand wide open. Of course we opened them earlier, before parking in the drive. The threshold stone, some kind of sandstone holds the hole in its centre where the gate can be arrested. But the hole is older than the gate. Older by far. As old as the three stones forming the threshold, as old as the hedge guarding the property line. As old as the cast-iron lamps to the side and the one above the door, although those probably had been torches originally. I hum a little, because it helps me focus, as I walk across the threshold and turn and look at it from the outside. It's easy to forget the people in the drive now. The power I hold in my hands vibrates, it's a near tangible thing. And because a well oiled lock and its key fit together perfectly. I don't have to crouch or pour my bottle carefully. I just pour, slow and steady, and like key to lock my blood flows down, and the breeze does not touch it. And it enters the keyhole in the front stone. But only half goes in the stone, my book said, so I stop. I touch my finger to the lip of the vial, catch a few drops and place a circle on each standing stone. First the left one, then the right one. Afterwards I step on the threshold and say my name, my full name. “I am Moira Aleesha Tarmennen, first daughter of Richard and Elisabeth Tarmennen, fourth son of Wolfgang and Elsa Tarmennen, second daughter of Karsten and Franziska Tarmennen, sixth daughter of Benedikt and Maria Tarmennen, first son of Tamara last holder and caretaker. I have come home." I stumble as the ground seems to shift and roll under my feet. My daughters draw a fearful breath jumping to their feet, but -good girls- they stay where they are. And I nearly weep with joy as the lanterns flicker to life. The one to my left first, but the right one follows suit, and then a moment later the lamp above the front door comes alight as well. I feel in my bones more than physically hear the door unlock and with the sound of old wood and dust it swings slightly ajar. "You girls stay here with the policemen, we talked about this, okay? You wait, I'll hurry up." "But you said cookies, after!" "And I gave you my word on it. Be safe. Stay out of the woods!" The constable, whatever his rank, follows me. His curiosity is an annoying itch between my shoulder blades. Stopper back on the bottle, I clean my fingers with a tissue. The house will shelter us, true, because of who I am. But to unlock it, and wake it completely, I have to find the library, put my blood in the safe there and take up as tender and holder of the manor. Nerves crawl up and down every hair on my body. I have an urge to babble and make small talk with the policeman, but I resist. The house is more important and more dangerous. A short hallway, half stone floor, half carpet with pegs for mantles and a painting of a summer's glade invite to shrug off outdoor clothes and it seems unwise to be impolite. Shoes on the shelf, jacket on a peg, I step gingerly onto the carpet. Wooden doors left, front, and right, a short staircase to the right as well. The lock in the door in the front clicks and I go there carefully. The policeman -thankfully quiet now- follows me, copying my actions. A second hallway lies beyond, all carpet, all plush and warm under my socked feet. Again one door in each direction, but the door at the end is open halfway and dim light is streaming out. We step inside a small kitchen-like room. Old-fashioned. Really old-fashioned. And my gut tells me no-one in a long while has seen this room or will see it, should I be able to wake the house. And I remember part of the book, an old part. And I know, noone would find our bodies if I fail, even if the whole police force take the house apart brick by brick. Part of the lock-spells. It will not be here once the locks are opened. It should not have been here in the first place. And I see that I'm right as I turn to close the door. The inside of the door is a piece of whitewashed wall standing ajar. "It will be dangerous in this room.", I caution my shadow. “More dangerous then outside?" I hesitate. "It's dangerous either way.", I try. He nods and steps inside. I close the door. The whitewashed walls are bare but for the shadows. The centre of the room is made up by an old-fashioned hearth, large stones with a big smoke-vent overhead. A small, old fire burns deep in the hearth and one wooden stool is provided. "You sit next to me", I whisper fiercely. "On the floor, because you're uninvited, don't talk or fidget or DO anything." And because this place should not have been here, and I'm scared too, I whisper under my breath - more to myself then to him really. "And PLEASE, don't get us killed!" Due to his sudden increase in tension I deduce, he understood that just fine, dammit. I step around the stool and in front of the hearth. A question hangs in the air, strong and heavy. Unfinished spells. There is no time for fear any more. I take another conscious breath -hold- and as I exhale I pour the remaining mixture from my bottle onto the glowing coals. A hiss and pungent smoke rises. I stumble back and fall. But all is well. The wooden stool hits my backside hard, as I am sat down. The smoke goes out the vent, but the blood is not answer enough. The magic in the room is primal, and strong, and angry. I have to sit on this hard stool and be judged. How dare they?! I am Moira Aleesha Tarmennen, my brother Zachary was lost to the woods 2nd June 1984, my brother Jake was lost to the deep 13th November 1988, my baby-sister Laura died of a broken heart 22nd February 2012 after her only daughter, Carlotta was lost to the silence 21st December 2011 and died 16th January 2012 at age 3. Closely followed by her husband, Daniel, 12th May 2012. My daughters Sarah and Julianna are the last of my line. Four Generations have lived and loved and lost away from these grounds. Grounds that we as a family have tended for 3000 years and more. Once 1/3 of our children died, now it's more than half! Being away has made us weak. How dare they sit me down and judge me! My grandmother was not even conceived when my great-great-grandfather packed his remaining kids and fled into hiding. After my great-great-great-grandmother Tamara died. She was such a fierce woman, Tamara, strong-willed and wise before her years. I wish I'd known her. What would she have done? I breathe and centre myself, summoning my power. It's not much, we've not had proper training in generations, but I summon what I got and, tenderly, I touch with it the hearth fire. Light explodes before my eyes, golden and bright and warm. Yes. It sings in my blood, dances in my bones "Yes!" The policemen doesn't see. He looks at me silent and alert. I like how the light that is not actually physically there, rolls across his hair and face. Maybe we are not enemies after all. What did he say his name was again? His uniform is strangely unaffected by the glow. The lock turns again, with the same feeling of shifting and rolling, but not all the locks open, I can feel it. And I know why. A door opens behind me. It's not the same one that we came through earlier, but an actual door. The house is mine now. We're home. I stands up again, in front of the fire. And because I don't know how else to do it, I lace my magic through my words as I speak: "I don't know the words, for four generations we were neither tended nor tending. I am willing to learn, if we can find a way to teach me. I am here to stay. For Tamara and for my daughters and for all those gone but remembered." A glow forms in the hearth's opening. It's like a thread, twisting and turning, a ball of yarn, a ball of light, a knot growing. I leave my bottle on the stone and look around, but there is nothing here. My eyes are drawn back to the glow. Nothing here, but me. I step up close, reach with my hand. The first steps are difficult, but my hands fall into rhythm easily, as if I'm weaving a knot, as if I'm winding it up, knitting or braiding, it's easy, so easy. As my hands touch the light, the yarn knowledge touches me back. And I think the policeman sees something too. I try to make room, I really try, but it doesn't all fit inside my head and heart. I try but, there's not enough room. After a moment the pressure ceases, but I feel better, wholer, more. The light-yarn knots and weaves itself around my wrist. A bracelet. Encased in rope —the light - part of the house— rests at my hand. Words flow from, from the knowledge that is new to me but so very old. "We know the woods, the woods know us. We tend the wilderness and bring light to dark places. I am Moira Aleesha, Matriarch of Wildwood Manor." The door behind me swings open all the way. The policeman swings around, scared. I pat him on the shoulder: "It's done, all safe now." He sputters "What was that?" He takes my hand looks at the bracelet. I carefully extricate myself from his grasp, I stand in the door until he has stepped outside and close it politely, quietly saying my “thank you”s. When I open it again the kitchen behind it is nice enough, even though it has been modern a few decades ago: dark wooden counter tops, white cupboards and shelves, dark stone floors, a huge bank of multi-lit windows overlooking the green jungle of a backyard and letting the beautiful afternoon sun in. The manor's hearth is gone of course, it never should have been here in the first place after all. I smile to myself, closing the door a second time. Home.
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