Fictional Fridays – Rural Fantasy – Campfire Scene

Fire Fire Fire by Scott Swlgart

Fire Fire Fire by Scott Swlgart who graciously shared the image of Flickr with the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0 It used under that license. Click on the photo to be take to it and view more of Scott’s work.

Today is an ending scene, almost an epilogue scene to a Rural Fantasy I have been tinkering with for years. It’s my take on Urban Fantasy but moved to a rural setting. This takes place in my home town.

All you need to know is Thea is a witch now holding the position of Crone of the Appalachian Mountains. Long story as to why such a young woman wound up in such a position but she did. Her counterpart in the scene is Nick Rask, a cop from the big city who wound up as a rookie in this setting partnered with an old timer. Thea and Nick have just solved a crime spree that was done by paranormal entity, Uya. They managed to stop the spree and keep the cover on all the things that happen behind the veil over every day. However in the process of doing this Nick was touched by Uya that forced open his third eye, second sight if you will. Not something a ‘just the facts m’am’ cop likes having had happen to him. So he is coming to accept there is more to the world than he ever knew both ugly and beautiful.

The other women named in the scene are former crones who yammer away in Thea’s head. Think of them as the old men in the balcony of the Muppets except at times they have wisdom to impart and power to add to Thea’s magical efforts.

#####
Thea sat on the back porch waiting. She had a fire in the garden chimney but sat wrapped in a blanket on the porch watching the fire. In the other chair was a folded blanket next to it sat a mug with one of her homemade teabags in it. She picked up the thermal carafe and poured hot water over her Lipton bag. She sipped and waited listening idly to the crones chat in her head.

“He’s not coming” Esther’s voice crackled

“The boy’s coming, he wants answers.” Mollie’s rasp felt as if it were Thea’s left ear. “He wants our new crone too. But more he wants answers in this life, he’s tired of keeping the world at bay for lifetime after lifetime. He wants to see it, understand what it is then he can then rest.”

“No he’s just hero at heart. He wants to protect his world just like that Dean feller does. He wants his world put back to the way it was.” Ida’s voice had an edge to it.

“Dean know, Dean sees, Dean just chooses not to tell all.” Mollie jumped to her knight’s defense.

“Hush all of you.” Thea breathed into her tea. “He’s here.”

Nick pushed open the back gate and seem puzzled by the apparently unattended fire.

“Over here Nick.” Thea’s voice carried over the unusually still night.

He looked to the porch. Thea sat by the dark kitchen door. She was bundled in a blanket away from the fire.

“Whatcha doin’ over there it’s warmer here by the fire.” Nick nodded toward two Adirondack chairs sitting in fully bathed the orange light of the roaring fire.

“I know but here I can see fine and not get too hot.” She slid an ivory white arm that was tinted bluish by the shadow out from under her blanket bundle and patted the arm of the chair next to her. “Come sit with me and if we get too cold we can move closer to the fire.”

Nick shrugged. He’d never understand the ways of this woman. Hell for the last few weeks he didn’t even understand the world he was in, was it any surprise he hadn’t gained insight into a woman? “Okay.”
As he took his seat and put the blanket in his lap.

Thea poured hot water into the waiting mug. “You are gonna want to sit on that blanket at least these old metal chairs can freeze an ass on a cold night like this.”

Nick stood up, opened the blanket and sat down. Picking up the mug he looked at the homemade tea bag. “Is this tea or a potion?”

“What’s the difference? As I suspect you’ve seen all things have an element of magic in them.” Thea cocooned herself back into her blanket sipping from her cup.

“Okay is there anything in this that’s going to show up on a random drug screening?”

“No, I left the Valerian out because I wasn’t sure about it.” She sipped. “It’s just good old herbs like lavender, lemon peel, and such to help you relax without losing your mental acuity.”

“Oh, okay.” He sipped the tea made a face and stirred in honey from the old brown ceramic bear that held a well worn honey dipper. “You were expecting me?”

“Yes, shhhh, just drink and enjoy the night.” Thea snuggled down and sat looking toward the fire.

Nick felt as if he was going to explode with the questions he came to ask but instead he sat there frustrated. As he sipped and the silence engulfed them that frustration started to fade. Instead he heard murmurings in the trees from their leaves as if they whispered to one another. He felt the heat from the distant fire. He saw small glittery fairy like folk zoom around the flames and light like sparks. He noticed the stars seemed to blink instead of twinkle. He looked to the sky and swore he heard soft music from there and felt as if the earth beneath him hummed along with the peculiarly familiar tune.

“Oh my God THEA! YOU’VE DRUGGED ME!” He jumped up and all the sensations ceased. The cold air rushed around him where the wool blanket had been. The mug tumbled from his hand and crashed breaking into shards on the porch.

“No, no I did not.” Thea answered calmly. “I merely got you relaxed enough to see the answers to the questions you came to ask me.”

“What the fuck?” Nick stood shaking his head. “That was creepy Disney doe eyed singing bird stuff.”
Thea sighed heavily and sit her now empty much on the table. “Sit down Nick, get warm again and we’ll talk when you’ve relaxed.”

“I noticed you aren’t drinking that concoction you served me. You’ve got regular tea.” He pointed accusingly to the teabag dangling from her cup.

“No it’s not regular tea, it’s decaf.” Thea pulled her blanket closer about her neck. “I’m not drinking my concoction as you call it because tonight I didn’t have trouble relaxing. When we got back from Brushy Mount I drank that concoction with a full dose of valerian and two shots of the best white lightening to come out of these mountains just to take the edge off my nerves. Now sit down Nick and get warm.”

“Why don’t we move to the fire?” Nick turned putting his hands in his pockets. “Then there you just answer some of my questions with ya know answers you speak.”

Thea moved her feet from the blanket and put them on the boards of the porch. “We can do that but I don’t think you are ready to see what’s in the full light at night when you tired or relaxed. I figured seeing from here in the lit shadow was enough for you right now. If the lampades playing about the fire freaked you out, I don’t think you want to watch the salamanders in it.”

Nick looked at the fire. “There’s lizards in your fire?”

Thea laughed. “No, what you are thinking of are amphibians and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about fire elementals. They are beings that live in fire and don’t really look that lizard like to me but to some people they do.”

Nick took a seat again. “What do they look like to you?”

“Depends. They morph based on their intent.” She tucked her feet back into her blanket. “Those in there look like a happy family on a picnic out in the mountains. Which is what they are I suppose. Some that moved into a fire that was consuming a house I saw burn once looked like the stereotypical fire breathing dragons from the East fighting. Once in a car fire that killed a woman they looked…” She shuddered and pressed her lips together at the memory. Continuing she looked away from him. “Unspeakably evil.”

“Oh.” Nick sat shuddering at the memory of the images he’d glimpsed since getting out of the hospital. The terrifying things he’d seen Thea saw every day. Either they both were insane or he had to buy into her whole there’s another world spiel. Right now he wasn’t sure which he wanted to be insane or enlightened.

They sat a long time in silence. Eventually Nick began to hear that eerily familiar tune again drifting down from the sky as earth hummed along, the trees mumble to one another, the lampades flew like embers. He concentrated on breathing like she’d had him do in mountains. “Okay it’s all back again.” He didn’t turn to see her but felt the radiance of Thea’s smile.

“It never went away. You just closed your third eye to it.” Thea’s voice sounded multi layered. Her familiar one blended with many others ones.

“Your voice sounds odd.” He breathed the words through parted lips trying hard to stay relaxed as he swore he saw people moving in the bark of the old elm tree in the far left corner of the yard. Still he felt brilliant radiance of Thea next to him. Suddenly it went dark but the shown again no longer in a bright blue white but more of a warm golden feeling, like an LED flashlight verses an incandescent beam but without the light. Oh hell now he wasn’t making sense to himself.
“Sorry, that was the other crones.” Thea’s voice sounded more like herself but a bit more melodic. “I asked them to step back and just let me speak with you.”

“Those old women that live in your head?” Nick felt himself relax again as he watched a lampade dance up high then turn dark to plummet down toward the chimney and ignite into a glimmering nude winged dancer again. Thea’s familiar voice was comforting in all this strangeness, beautiful strangeness. He felt the radiance of the smile and let his eyes flicker over in front of her. The golden light reflected on the worn boards. It looked like a warm welcoming glow, like you saw in sappy paintings of homes in the snow.

“Yeah those women. They have stepped back, given us a chance to just talk.”

Nick saw the figures from the tree descend to the ground and begin floating almost dancing to the tune from the sky and the hum of the earth. They danced like two old people in love, like a couple that after decades together still enjoyed being in each other’s arms. He couldn’t help but smile as the stick like bark covered couple danced.

“Nick what do you see?” Thea’s voice whispered floating to him like a thought instead of a spoken question.

“I see… I see an old couple made of wood dancing to the tune from the sky while earth hums along. I see naked fairy people, lampades you called them, sore on their fiery wings like sparks to plummet down dark ignite and soar again. Hear leaves whisper to one another but I can’t make out what they are saying. I see you glow like a home fire while the fire seems alive like a pet playing in the yard.” He furrowed his brow. None of this made sense. It started to fade.

“No, no, don’t shut it out yet just breathe and watch. Just observe the beauty of it all.” Thea’s whisper was urgent but kind. “I know since the Uya touched you, occupied you, it left you seeing things that make you question your sanity. Those things are real, just as the evil you encountered as a law officer is real. However, just like that evil is balanced by the good of friends, family, and love, the evil your third eye now sees is balanced by good in the world. Like the beauty that plays in the firelight on a cool fall night.”

Nick breathed in through his mouth and out through his nose as she’d made him do on Brushy. He did more than consider her words he felt them, felt them deep in the center of him almost behind his navel. “I don’t like it.”

“You can dial it back. Just like you can squint your eyes or not pay attention to distractions.” Thea’s voice was almost in his head instead of coming from the warm glow in the chair next to him. “Take shorter shallower breaths through your nose. Don’t try to hold onto the experience anymore.”

Nick did as she said the dancing twigs went away and all else faded back to where it was in his first experience. He turned to face her. She looked beautiful, like a lover looks beautiful when relaxed in the morning light of your bedroom. She smiled raising her eyebrows.

“Better?”

“Yeah. Much better. Not so intense.” Nick took a deep breath and stretched a bit. “What is that music from the sky?”
“Music of the spheres is what it’s classically been called, harmony of the flow of the universe is the best way to describe it.” She looked up. “Listening to it can be very intense even for me. I can see why you wanted to scale back. It’s beautiful but can be frighteningly so.”

Nick looked about pulling his blanket up and tightening his shoulders things were fading back to what he still considered normal. “It’s all scary shit if you ask me. I mean yeah what you showed me here was pretty but still crashes my world view.”

“New things are scary but learning about them make them understandable. The wood dancers you saw were Mr. and Mrs. Dryfus from the diner. You’ve met them before. They’re dryads.”

“Wait in your diner they were just an old couple having breakfast.” Nick motioned to the back yard “They didn’t look like bark covered twigs.”

“Yes they did to those who saw them with their third eye. You didn’t want to see dryads so you converted them to what fit a dry wrinkled nobby pair of old creatures – an old couple, Mr. and Mrs. Dryfus. They chose that name as it seemed to fit for their jaunts about town.”

Nick frowned. “So mythical creatures go undercover among those who don’t want to see them?”

“Yes, they have for centuries. Since man was man, heck even before I suspect. I could ask the oldest crone but they are gone right now and I really don’t want to assemble that hen party in my head again. They were hard to get to go away the first time.”

“Okay, okay so I could work with a leprechaun and not know it.”

“Well I’d doubt a leprechaun would go into police work, they usually pick jeweler, stockbroker, banker stuff like that. BUT sure if one wanted to be a policeman and could pass the physical requirements yeah I’d say so.” Thea made her thinky face. “But it’d have to be a really tall one to pass the height requirements.”

“So why couldn’t I see this first but instead saw shadow creatures, trolls, and ugly stuff?”

“I think the answer is twofold. The first part is that I have very powerful wards, spells, forces and such put down by generations of highly skilled practitioners protecting this property. Only those with good intentions can enter here. Thus there aren’t any of the uglies to view in my backyard unless I call them there or they are damn powerful. The second part I think has to do with who forced open your third eye. The Uya forced open your sight with evil intent so maybe that’s why it was better able to see that first.” She cocked her head and squinted like she was guessing at an answer.
“You don’t know do you?” Nick looked back at the fire and with a few deep breathes saw the lampades again. He decided he liked them, he liked seeing them. The rest he still wasn’t so sure about but the Circe Du Soile fire fairies were kinda cool. “It might be that’s what I’m tuned to.” Mimicking Darth Vader’s voice he continued, “Join me on the dark side Nick it’s what you were born to do.” He shivered and snapped his eyes shut at the memory of the Uya’s appearance when it was trying to force itself inside him.

“No you aren’t.” Thea leaned over and took his hand. “You have strong good in you or you wouldn’t be here now. You fought it off, you saved people and now like a good person you aren’t trying to use your new experience to some nefarious purpose you are just trying to understand it.” As she spoke she moved silently to be kneeling in front of him holding his hands imploringly. “You of all people understand sometimes people are just victims of opportunity. Trust me the Uya would have preferred the serial killer to you if it had a choice in that moment. Evil to evil is much easier than evil to good.”

Nick smiled weakly but Thea’s beautiful face in such an earnest expression of caring convinced him again that he was the victim of a supernatural crime not a beacon for evil. “I’m not sure why but you make being second choice to a serial killer sound appealing.”

Thea chuckled. “Well in that very unique situation it was.”

Nick bowed his head. “I can’t live like this Thea. I’m scared at night that something I can’t see normally but is a monster will get me in my bed. I see things lurking in my peripheral vision that I don’t know if they are good or evil. I mean honestly if I saw the Dryfuses out there lurking in a park I’d think monster.” Nick took his hands from her and covered his face. “I can’t do this Thea.”

“Yes, I think you can.” Thea looked up at him taking his hands from his face. “As you learned tonight you can control it, dial it back to a level you can live with every day then dial it up when you want to see more. I can teach you what things are and give you some books to look things up if you want. Once your third eye is opened there’s no going back. You can’t unlearn something once you learn it. It’s there always. You just might not use it every day.”
“You can’t blind it like a regular eye?” His hopes of going back to normal were crushed.
“That’s black magic, that’s doing harm, that’s not something I do or would help another do even to themselves.” Thea squeezed his hands. “It’s kinda like my Hippocratic oath as a practitioner. But I will teach you tonight how to close it like you’d close an eye to look through a telescope. It’ll open naturally to see things like you do when sleeping and someone walks into the room but you’ll be able to close it again instead of stare like you do now.”
“Okay but want one of those books so if I see something and can’t get you I can find out if it’s going to eat me while I sleep.”

“Okay but trust me things that can eat you while you sleep are few and very far between. There aren’t many ickies as powerful as the Uay and that’s why Dego and I felt it when it woke.” Thea smiled. “Look at it this way you started at the worst and got that over first now anything you encounter will be small potatoes in comparison.”
She ran him through breathing exercises to close down the eye and open it again. He found it was like flexing a muscle but he couldn’t point to where that muscle was exactly. Within an hour or so he could close it off completely even when Thea called Mr. Dryfus to come stand in front of him. Nick could close his third eye and just see the old man from the diner there. Satisfied Thea ended the lesson and went in the house to fetch a book for him. Nick sat practicing as Mr. Dryfus went back to his tree.

“Here this is a good guide to what’s in this area.” Thea handed him a very old leather bound journal. He opened it to see drawings in brownish black ink on aged vellum with hand written descriptions. “Wow you are trusting me with THIS? It’s very old and handwritten.”

“You didn’t think there was a mass produced guide to the paranormal of the Appalachians did you?”
“Well with all the ghost shows and such I wasn’t sure.” Nick handled the book with great reverence. “I’ll take good care of it and return it soon.”

“Keep it as long as you want. I can call it back if I have too.” Thea smiled that smug smile of knowledge. He didn’t ask. She held out another object to him, a small black velvet pouch. “Once you take that out it’s keyed to protecting you. Wear it and it’ll ward off evil. Should it shatter it has done its job save the pieces and bring them back to me. It doesn’t have to be worn where it can be seen. It’s a nazar boncuğu or evil eye amulet.”

Nick took the bag and opened it dumping the contents into his palm. When it struck his hand he felt a tingle all over his body and the stylized rings of blue and black that resembled a cartoon eye blinked then stayed the same. It was on a silver chain and mounted to a pin. “Can I take it off the chain and pin to the inside of my jacket?”

“Sure just don’t prise off the pin or bail. They were part of it when the spell was cast.” Thea looked very tired. “I’d think it’d be better to wear it as a tie tack or pinned to the inside of your shirt. You might take off your jacket down here in the heat but doubt if you’ll work shirtless Agent Rask.”

He laughed. “Okay I’ll think about where I’ll wear it. And if it should break you better believe I’ll be here inside your wards with the remains of it. I don’t want to think what kind of thing would break this.”
Thea nodded. “Good. Feel better now?”

“Yes and sorry I kept you up so late. I know you work breakfast in the morning.” Nick pinned the nazar boncuğu to his shirt and stood to fold the blanket.

“Don’t worry I’ll sleep tomorrow afternoon in my quiet office. The crew will be tiling my guest bath tomorrow and sanding the floors of the ballroom on the 3rd floor.” She took his folded blanket. “Did you know Buffalo Bill performed up there.”

“No I didn’t know that.” Nick helped her fold the blanket she’d used. “What about the fire?”

“Oh once you exit the gate it’ll go out. It’ll be fine so you won’t have to report me to Smoky The Bear.” Thea took the second blanket and put them both into a wooden chest on the porch. “Good night Nick, call me if you need me or have questions.” She picked up the shards of his mug and put them on the tray with her tea mug and carafe on it.

“Night Thea.” Nick made his way to the gate. He paused to open his senses a bit at the fire and watch the lampades again and sneak a quick glance at the salamander family in the fire. They looked like gnomes to him but he didn’t stare. He’d had enough new stuff to do him for some time. As he opened the gate he steeled himself to see the world without Thea’s protective influence. He closed his third eye and stepped out into a quiet normal night in small town Greeneville. He turned back to see the fire turn off as he latched the gate. He wondered where the lampades and salamanders went and wished he’d kept his sense open a bit to watch it go out and see them. Walking to his car he smirked to himself he’d gone there to have this sight taken away and left wishing he’d left it open. Sliding into his car he nodded to the nazar boncuğu. “Okay old blue eye I’m depending on you to look out for me.” He swore the eye rolled up to look at him then winked.

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