Saturday, February 04, 2006

Chapter the 25th: Breaking the Spell

Fulsome and Scramble entered the clearing in time to see Jonathan arise, wipe his cheeks dry, and softly say, “I’m dreadfully sorry, Hermann. I never wanted to see you hurt. Do be at peace.” His companions advanced in silent awe, supposing Jonathan to have dispatched the gnord himself. As they drew closer and could see the vines, now receding from the pallid green hulk, they suspected the truth. Scramble gently stroked the still-shimmering iridescent feathers of Hermann’s wings, a wrinkled look upon his furry brow. Words were unnecessary.

It was then that the Great Parasol in Jonathan’s left hand started to ring, softly, like a distant bell. As its music spread, the fountain began to dance a little higher, the ground felt a little softer, and thousands of deep blue flowers sprung up among the grass. Hermann’s odor vanished and was forgotten, as were the fear and fatigue that had clung to the travelers throughout the long day and night.

“It is time to leave,” Fulsome urged quietly.

“Don’t you think we should honor the noble dead?” Jonathan inquired, using a phrase he had read somewhere and that felt appropriate just then.

Fulsome nodded grimly, motioned for Jonathan to remain still, then took the sword which the gnord had wielded and severed his wings. Jonathan was shocked at this, and Scramble began to protest. Fulsome laid the wings gently and reverently on the grass, then asked Jonathan for the parasol.

Jonathan had not always understood the tall fetchit but he had come to trust him. He handed over the parasol and Fulsome lightly touched Hermann’s bleeding shoulders. As the fetchit had suspected, the wounds healed instantly, leaving the green scales intact. In a final gesture of honor he also touched Hermann’s resting head and said softly, “Peace.” Perhaps they only imagined it, but Hermann’s features did seem to reflect a deep and inexpressible peace. The trio briefly bowed their heads, then turned and left the moonlit clearing.

Jonathan again bore the enchanted parasol, Fulsome the shining pinions of their erstwhile foe, and Scramble clutched a bunch of the blue flowers in his paw, occasionally wiping his nose with the other.

Rather than untangle the winding ways of the maze, Jonathan merely raised the Great Parasol before them and the hedges parted. Slowly they proceeded through the Gardens, somehow knowing which direction they should take. As they neared the bridge of Drengford, a footman from the Timnel came running toward them.

“Tell our Lady that the Timnel will await her,” he panted.

The three nodded gravely and the servant bowed, then returned to the castle. The moonlit procession continued silently toward the gate of the Gardens. As it passed, blossoms usually closed by night now opened and cast their perfumes into the warm breeze that began to stir. The song of a nightingale threaded its way among the trees of the Gardens, mingling with the music of the waters that splashed in fountains and tumbled in the brooks.

The moon was setting and the air grew still as the adventurers reached the gate. At their approach the fierce rosebush that had once resisted them now receded until only the neatly trimmed bushes they had first seen now flanked the ironwork gate. Jonathan stepped forward, opened the gate, and waited for his companions to pass through. He reclosed it and stepped aside, having guessed Fulsome’s intent. The fetchit approached one of the gilded parasols that blazoned either half of the gate, raised one of the gnordic wings to its place, then nodded to Jonathan. The boy raised the Great Parasol to touch the wing and said, “With permission of the Great Parasol of the Chlougheigns and of the Gardens, we honor the fallen castellan.”

Indeed, the Great Parasol and Gardens did permit, for the wing was forever affixed to the gate. Its partner was likewise positioned and the trio stepped back to behold the new symbol at the gates of Isapher. It was then that the sun rose behind the three, bringing the dazzling feathers to life. They glowed in a myriad subtle hues and somehow Fulsome no longer cared that the gates were labeled in French. Scramble laid the small flowers he had been carrying, and now proved to be of the same indigo hue as Hermann’s eyes, before the gates. With that, the pilgrims began their journey homeward.


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