At the evening meal, Daniel had given the diaries to Miles. Miles had felt less confusion in his father, less anxiety but some anger and sadness. He told Miles that although he did now have the answer to what was in the house, he didn't really understand about it or know what to do about it. Daniel still had many unanswered questions he was hoping to have answered in the morning when they all met with Alden and Hugh again.
As Miles and Sarah left the Dining Hall with their respective mates, Sarah told them what her mother had said to her earlier.
"Mother told me that some of this may not be easy to hear. She suggested we sit in the garden close to the comforting energy of nature and that we hold hands with our mates."
"Shall we sit in the back garden then?" asked Kevin. "I can get a lantern to use when the light fades."
When they reached the house, Sarah, Miles and Amanda went and sat on the grass in the back while Kevin went in to get the lantern to use later. When Kevin joined them, Amanda and Miles were sitting side by side with Amanda leaning against Miles and Miles arm around Amanda's back. Sarah sat opposite them. Kevin sat down behind Sarah, snuggling up close to her back with one of his legs out to either side of Sarah's and put his arms around her pulling her tight to him. Kevin knew that Sarah had once trusted and cared for Zelda and was concerned how difficult any revelations in the diary might be to his wife.
"Who shall read it to us?" asked Kevin.
"Since I did not know Zelda at all and will really only be affected second hand through my ties to the rest of you, I think I might be best suited," offered Amanda.
Miles looked down at Amanda and asked, " Are you sure?"
Amanda turned her head and looked in Miles eyes, answering, "Yes, Miles."
"Alright," said Miles giving her a soft kiss on the forehead.
"If you are sure," said Sarah.
Amanda turned to look at the other couple. "Very sure."
Amanda started to read the passages Alden had marked. She read of Zelda inheriting control of all money when her father had died; how Juliet had been controlled by her dependence on Zelda's father financially and then Zelda as Zelda had been left control; how Juliet had married a younger man who was widowed with an infant hoping to have some independence but Zelda had charmed Bejamin and convinced him that it would not be proper to leave her, a young woman of twenty and unmarried to live alone. The four, Daniel, Zelda, Juliet and Benjamin, lived in relative outward peace. But under it all Zelda was becoming a frustrated bitter woman as she had become obsessed with Benjamin. Benjamin, like Daniel and Miles, had been a very handsome man and Zelda fancied herself in love with him but he resisted all of her attempts to have an affair. Then Benjamin had become terminally ill and Zelda took over his care. Between the pain and the drugs, he had told Zelda many things he had kept secret especially about the one woman he had truly loved, Willow. Willow had told him that her father was faeryfolke although her mother was human. She grew up in the Outer World where her father worked as a landscaper. Willow had visited her father's settlement many times with him but only for short visits. Willow did have some magic and Benjamin had wondered if Daniel had inherited any but had no idea what he should do about it. He had thought of trying to find Willow's parents but in her loyalty to her heritage, she had not told even him where they might be found.
"Father, is faeryfolke!" exclaimed Sarah. She twisted to look up at Kevin. "Does that mean he'll be considered a member of the community now and not have to worry anymore?"
"I'm sure it means he can live here,"answered Kevin.
"And always could have!" said an angry Miles. "We all lost so much due to that woman!"
Amanda squeezed Miles to her. She'd not seen Miles angry before. She wanted to sooth him and make everything alright. Miles returned the hug as if he was clinging to her for dear life. Amanda stole a glance at the other couple and noticed that Sarah had tears in her eyes and Kevin was holding her tightly and whispering to her.
When the fury of the emotions dwindled down, Kevin turned on the lantern he had brought.
"Would you like me to read now?" Kevin asked Amanda.
"I think Sarah still needs you, Kevin," said Miles. "If Amanda wants to take a break, I'll continue the story."
"I'm fine," said Amanda. "Miles could you reach the lantern for me? Thank you."
Amanda picked up the story after Benjamin's death.
Benjamin's finances had been severely depleted by his illness and what was left was in a trust for Daniel. Once again Juliet found herself dependant on Zelda financially and went into a serious depression. Zelda took it as an opportunity to completely control her mother under the guise of caring for her. She kept her mother drugged and never allowed Juliet to leave her room. The fact that young Daniel might possess some type of magic worried Zelda and she sought out help. It wasn't easy but she found someone who claimed to have way of handling any and all non-human persons. It was called a Resonating Crystal. It would have no effect on humans but would hamper any from the Worlds of Magic and Enchantment by emitting negative energy. It was best left undisturbed she'd been told so she'd put it in the attic and sealed the door shut. She had been told that the crystal's effects on someone with a mixed heritage were unknown as their human side would give protection. Zelda did notice that Daniel had been sad and withdrawn but did not know if it was the effect of the stone or that his father had died and the woman he considered his mother had become 'ill' and been cutoff from him.
"That's all the marked entries," said Amanda.
"Thank you for reading it, Amanda," said Sarah.
"Thank you," said Kevin.
Miles had drawn Amanda into a closer embrace when she put the book down and whispered his thanks along with a soft kiss on the temple.
"Alden only sent the year of Benjamin and Juliet's marriage and the year of Benjamin's death," said Miles. They explain much but I've still questions."
"What kind of questions,Miles?" asked Sarah.
"That only takes us up to Father's life at age 10. I wonder how things went after. I know he left young at only 16 and that was probably a very good thing for him,"answered Miles.
"I'm sure it was," said Sarah. "I wonder how we never realized he was part faeryfolke."
"Without guidance to develop, faeryfolke qualities can stay submerged," said Kevin.
"Yes," said Amanda. "I had no idea about being faeryfolke and, with the exception of the cleaning sponge, I never really noticed any special senses till after I'd met Miles. Through him I learnt I might have faeryfolke senses and they started to emerge."
"And Daniel had had years of exposure to the crystal as well," added Kevin.
"Another thing I wonder if we will find out in the diaries," said Miles, "is whether she used more than Sarah's insecurity in her role as a young mother to get her to leave."
"Oh!" was Sarah's reaction to that idea. "And I exposed Geoffie to her for a year and to the house for 9 years."
Kevin held her tight and said, "You did what you thought best. Geoff is fine now and his faeryfolke qualities are being given total freedom to grow now. As Alden said, we need to focus on the good and on the future."
It was a subdued group that met in the Council Library the next morning. There was sense of relief that Daniel no longer needed to worry about his future in the settlement. But it was accompanied by a huge sense of loss. How different their lives would have been.
When the greetings had been exchanged and they were seated around the conference table again, Alden spoke to them.
"I know this will not be easy to do, but you must look forward and not back. We have no power to change the past. We learn from it and move on. Do not let that woman continue to take from you. This is the time of beginnings."
"Thank you for the wise words, Alden," said Daniel. "I know you are right and that my family and I will work on that."
"Good," said Alden. "I sense some beginnings that have not yet been revealed to you. The future is bright. I'm sure you all have questions about Resonating Crystals and Hugh is very knowledgeable about them."
"I remember reading about them in my studies," said Kevin, "But do not remember much beyond the fact that they can be programmed to emit negative or positive energy that will affect non-humans."
"Resonating Crystals are a stone of sorts that emit energy felt only by people from the Worlds of Magic and Enchantment. In their natural form, they are balanced and so have no real effect. But they can be have that balance altered or, as you said, be programmed. Likewise they can be put back in balance."
"What about setting it to positive energy?" asked Daniel.
"That can be done and, in theory, sounds like a good move. Unfortunately, it is similar in effect to mind-altering drugs and creates a dependency," explained Hugh.
"So, how do we get this crystal in the attic balanced?" asked Daniel.
"I have never been called upon to use it, but I do have training in the technique," said Hugh.
"Is it dangerous?" asked Kevin.
"There are risks," replied Hugh.
"Such as?" asked Kevin.
"To put it back into balance, I do have to come into contact with the crstyal and hold it. I also must focus on it completely and clear all else from my mind," replied Hugh.
"That sounds too much like what I did the other day," said Miles. "Except that I had distance and my human side to give me some protection."
"I would not enter without safeguards," replied Hugh.
"The amulets we wore before?" asked Daniel.
"That would be one of them," said Hugh.
"What else, Hugh?" asked Margaret.
"This is where I could use assistance from each of you," said Hugh.
"Anything you need," replied Daniel and the others nodded their assent.
"What I will need is a positive energy flow from you. It would be too dangerous for any of you to enter the attic with me so direct contact will not be possible. If you were to all sit in one of the bedrooms though I should receive a good flow. With amulets for protection you will be quite safe at that distance. A small personal token from each of you that I might place next to my skin will help to draw the flow as well."
"We'll be glad to help," Daniel said for them all.
"I do need to add a word of warning. Although the amulet will protect you from the crystals emissions, the energy transmissions to me will be quite draining. Each of you needs to decide whether you wish to participate. I'll be going after the noon meal with those that wish to accompany me. You can give me your tokens at that time. We'll return in time for resting before the evening meal."
After the noon meal, the eight had met outside the Dining Hall and given Hugh their tokens which he placed inside his shirt. They set off in pairs to the house.
"Sarah, are you really sure you should go?" Kevin asked his wife.
"Kevin, I understand your concern, but I need to do this," said Sarah. "I need to see this resolved."
Further down the line, Hugh was expressing similar concerns, but with different reasons, to Susannah.
"Susannah, I know you have permanent limitations from your illness. Do you really think this is wise?" asked Hugh.
"I find I am growing stronger each day since Amanda and Miles found me," answered Susannah. "I think it is because I feel I've a future now. I want to do this, Hugh."
"I think you've much to look forward to in the future," said Hugh and he offered her his hand into which Susannah happily placed hers.
When they reached the house, Hugh handed out amulets to each. They entered the house and went up the stairs. Through his wand, Hugh was able to unseal the attic door. The other seven sat on the floor of what had been Sarah's room, as it was closest to the attic door, in a circle, holding hands to focus their energy together to send to Hugh as he ascended to the Attic. Hugh felt their force as a group and individually. He was surprised and pleased by the stong connection he felt with Susannah.
It did not take Hugh long to locate the crystal. He went to it with confidence even though he had never been called upon to perform such a task before. It was amazing to him that something so small could wreak such havoc. When he picked it up, he could feel the negative energy, even through the protection he had armored himself with. He focused his mind on it and on balance. He drew on the strength of the others to force the negativity down. Although it seemed to take forever, in reality it was minutes and the crystal had been put back in balance. He placed it into a special case he had brought. He would take the neutralized crystal back to the council building and place it in a special locked room for potentially dangerous items. It was one of the very few places in the settlement to have a lock. He was exhausted. He knew he'd have never managed without the extra strength from the others. He descended the stairs to let the others know that the mission had been successful.
Hugh was a bit taken aback when he entered the bedroom. Everyone looked tired but Susannah especially so as she leaned on Amanda. But a bigger shock was Sarah being held on Kevin's lap seemingly unconscious with Kevin whispering to her. Sarah opened her eyes and weakly smiled at Kevin.
"It's done," she spoke barely above a whisper. "I feel the difference."
"Yes, it is," said Hugh. "Sarah, what happened?"
"I'll be fine," she said looking up at all the concerned faces turned her way. She smiled at Kevin. "Shall we tell them?"
"I think it might be a good idea," he replied smiling at her as he could feel her strength growing again.
"Alright. We were going to wait till after Amanda and Miles' pledging ceremony to say anything. We're going to have a baby!" Sarah told the group.
Miles lifted Sarah to her feet and hugged her. "Oh, Sarah, Kevin, I'm so happy for you both."
Sarah was hugged in turn by each of those present and her strength grew with each embrace.
Susannah's strength had partially returned, too, so the group started the walk back to the settlement where they'd all rest until the evening meal. They were tired but, also, happy as Zelda's legacy had been vanquished.
At the evening meal, they all met together again, much refreshed from their respective rests. They had decided on the walk home that Sarah, Kevin and Miles would tell Geoff the story of Zelda and the Resonating Crystal following the evening meal and so Miles left with Geoff, Kevin and Sarah. Amanda went to spend some time with her mother and await Miles.
Once the four were comfortable in the sitting room, Kevin started.
"Geoff, I promised to tell you what we found out about the house," started Kevin.
Geoff looked at each of his parents very seriously. "I know something happened today. I felt something from Mom I don't know how to describe and then I felt your worry, Dad. I was scared but you both seemed okay a few minutes later. What happened?"
"I think we should start at the beginning Geoff," said Miles. "we found out that Zelda was actually your grandfather's step-sister and not a half-sister as he had always thought. His mother's name was Willow and she was half faeryfolke."
"Wow," said Geoff. "Then Grandfather will never have to leave. Right?"
"That is right," Sarah continued the story. "His father was a handsome man and much younger than the woman he had thought was his mother. Zelda was twenty years old when Benjamin, your great-grandfather married her mother bringing along a two year old son. It was really a marriage for convenience. He needed help to raise his infant son and Juliet, Zelda's mother, needed some freedom from the control Zelda held over her with financial dependence. Zelda was attracted to him and became obsessed with him but he was really still in love with Willow. When Benjamin became ill, Zelda cared for him and he spoke of Willow and of the faeryfolke and his concerns for Daniel."
As Sarah paused, Miles took up the story, "Zelda was a person that liked to be in control of everything. She was concerned that Daniel might have some power over which she'd have no influence so she sought help and found it in the form of a Resonating Crystal. In balance, the emissions from such a crystal are harmless."
Kevin took over telling the story,"But the balance can be upset. Zelda got one that emitted negative energy and put in the attic which she sealed shut. This afternoon, Hugh restored the balance. To do it, he needed to draw strength from the rest of us. The reason that your mother was so strongly affected is that the baby growing in her is also drawing from her." Kevin smiled as he saw Geoff realize the import of those words.
"A baby! Really Mom?" Geoff excitedly asked Sarah.
"Yes, Geoff. You'll be having a new brother or sister," Sarah smiled at Geoff as he hugged her.
"You don't know which?" he asked.
"I've not decided whether I wish to know in advance yet," explained Sarah. "So for now, I've asked the Midwife not to tell me."
"Okay. What happened to Willow?" asked Geoff.
"That's one of the things we still don't know," answered Miles. "We're having another meeting with Alden in the morning. I guess we'll get more answers then."
"Okay," said Geoffie. "I'm glad Grandfather doesn't have to worry anymore about having to leave and that the house is just a house now. But it's kind of sad that we lost all that time with Grandfather and Grandmother for no reason. Why would someone do that?"
"It is sad,Geoff," said Kevin. "I don't understand why someone would be so hurtful either but it is the past and, as Alden has said, we must concentrate on the future. It looks mighty bright to me."
"Me too, Dad," said Geoff as he hugged his father.
"I think I'll be going now," said Miles.
"Give Aunt Amanda a hug from me," said Geoff.
"I'll be happy to," said Miles as he gave Geoff a good night hug. He made his goodnights to Kevin and Sarah and left to get Amanda from her mother's knowing he needed her to help him to focus on the future.
The next morning found the adults once again in the Council Library with Alden. Alden could feel that they were starting to get over the shock of finding out the depth of Zelda's wickedness and starting to prepare to move ahead. They would need time to heal but he felt certain that they would heal.
"Daniel, I give over to you the diaries and other items to do with as you like," said Alden. "I think you have seen the most relevant information. It will be your choice whether you wish to learn more or be satisfied with what you know."
"I'm not sure," started Daniel, "that it would be wise to read more. I think I might read more that would make me angry but not that would enlighten me in any way."
"Father, how could you not want to know all of it?" asked an incredulous Miles.
"Miles, I just want to be free of it all. The only real question I have I do not think I'll find the answer in the diaries. I would like to know what happened to Willow," replied Daniel.
"I think I can help you there, Daniel," replied Alden.
Everyone looked in Alden's direction. "It has been a lot of years but I believe I met her when she was a child. I was visiting a friend in another settlement. His son had married a human and was living in the outer world. While I was staying with him, his son and granddaughter came to visit for a day. The little girl's name was Willow."
"You know what happened to my mother?" asked Daniel.
"I remember that my friend wrote me many years later to tell me of the anguish he was going through because his granddaughter had died. But it paled compared to that of his son. Even humans will tell you there is no pain like that of losing a child. After Willow married, she kept only infrequent contact with her parents. She thought it was necessary for the safety of the settlement. She did bring her infant son to see her parents one time. They told her to trust in her husband and tell him the truth so that they might have closer contact. Willow confessed that she had told her husband about her self but had been unsure that she should mention anything else. She left promising to tell her husband more about her parents and how to contact them. She did not get to see the promise through. Her father felt the accident and knew he'd lost his daughter. He was so overcome with grief that he acted like a robot for several months. When he started to feel more himself, he went in search of his grandson but his son-in-law and grandson had moved and he could not find a trail to follow. My friend would be very proud to see how his great-grandson turned out."
"Thank you, Alden. Would my great-grandfather or grandfather still be living?" asked Daniel.
"Sadly, no," answered Alden. "One of the less pleasant sides of living an extra long life, is having to say good bye to so many friends along the way. I grow weary now and must rest. I spend more and more time each day resting. I think my time of eternal rest is not far off now. Continue on. You will not disturb me."
Alden then fell asleep in his special chair. Hugh was quite used to working in the Council Library as Alden slept. He went over to a cupboard and opened the doors. To the great surprise of the others, there sat a mini office complete with phone and computer.
"I had no idea you had phone lines in the settlement," Miles said.
"We do tend to keep quiet about it," said Hugh.
"How?" asked Daniel.
"Quite easily really," answered Hugh. "As you know we have a business building in Woodtown. We use it for some of our business with the Outer World but mainly it acts as a terminal. The phone and computer lines are brought in there and billed to there. Our own technicians then extended the lines to the settlement."
"I see," said Miles.
"In this day and age we need to keep in contact with the other settlements," said Hugh. "I spoke to Alden about Willow last evening. Her father was Shawn of the Verdant Woods settlement. I contected the Council of the Verdant Woods asking for information on Shawn and Willow. I see they've replied."
Hugh read from the screen,"Shawn and his wife lived into their 80s and are buried side by side in the cemetary of the town they lived in, Emerton. Shawn did find Willow's gravesite when he went to find his grandson. It is located in Arborville."
"Thank you, Hugh," said Daniel. "I feel a sense of completion now."
[Whimsical Woods Index]