That evening, everyone gathered at Miles and Amanda's new home. The two young couples were still talking about their exciting afternoon visit to Jon and Cecilia.
"Mom, I remember them. They sometimes visited us in Woodtown, right?" asked Geoff.
"Yes, Geoff. And they did ask how you were doing," answered Sarah.
"But they're humans, not faeryfolke. Do they know about faeryfolke? About us?" asked Geoff.
"No they don't Geoff," Miles answered. "Even though, I am sure they'd understand, believe and do us no harm, it is still best that we not tell them."
"But, you can still be friends?" asked Geoff.
"Yes," replied Sarah. "Are you missing some of your friends from Woodtown Geoff?"
"A bit. They weren't as good of friends as Belinda and Tristan are, but I did have some fun with some of them," responded Geoff. "Could I visit them sometime?"
"Yes, Geoff. You can," replied Kevin. "And you can write to them and give them an address to write you."
"But be sure to never tell them about the settlement or faeryfolke," warned Hugh.
"I won't. But Grandfather knew even when he thought he was human," commented Geoff.
"Yes, he did," Margaret responded. "I did take that risk but I thought it important to have no secrets in a marriage."
"I wish we didn't have to keep secrets," Geoff said.
"That would be ideal," said Hugh. "Unfortunately history has taught us that we must keep our secrets to survive. Sadly, there've always been humans who feel threatened by those who are different; by anyone or anything they do not understand and they seek to destroy them. There have been times that faeryfolke thought the world was ready and made themselves a part of the world but in time those that feared what they did not understand came back into power and we had to retreat deep into enchanted forests and vows of secrecy. Perhaps a day will come where we do not need to feel so protective but history has made me very skeptical. There will always be some humans though with knowledge of us. Some of them will be friends to the faeryfolke but some will be foes."
"I must admit that I wished I had told my husband," said Susannah. "I should have trusted in our love but the few times I thought of telling him, I started by just talking of the worlds of magic and enchantment in general and he seemed to be so doubtful about their very existence that I didn't pursue it."
"Amanda, didn't you say that your father told you he wished he'd told your mother he knew?"Miles asked.
"Yes! When he was ill. He didn't say what it was he knew but now I think it had to be about her being faeryfolke," said Amanda.
"But how could he?" asked Susannah.
Amanda went and and knelt in front of her mother, taking her hand."I don't know, Mama."
"It could be possible he meant something different," said Sarah.
"True," said Amanda. "Oh! I think I might know where we can find the answer."
"What is it, Amanda?" asked Miles.
"When I went through Papa's papers after he died, I found two letters; one addressed to me and one to Mama," said Amanda. "Things were so hectic and I was so sad, I never opened them."
"Do you know where they are now?" asked Miles.
"Yes. They're in the lower drawer of the desk we brought with us," answered Amanda looking over at the desk in the corner of the sitting room.
"Shall I look for them?" Miles asked.
Amanda arose and headed to the desk. "I think it would be quicker for me to get them."
Everyone waited as Amanda went through the drawer and retrieved the letters. She went to her mother handing her the one with "To my dear wife, Susannah" on it. Miles had come to stand beside Amanda. He put his arm around her shoulder and felt her tremble as she opened her letter. The note inside said -
"My dear daughter, Amanda,
Time is running out for me. I ask your forgiveness for my role in making your mother need to leave us. I hope someday you are able to find each other again. I loved her. Please believe.
"Poor Papa," whispered Amanda as Miles hugged her close to him. Amanda reached up and gave a brief kiss to Miles' cheek and turned in his arms to see her mother.
"Oh Mama!" Amanda exclaimed as she saw the tears running down Susannah's cheeks as she sat with the opened letter in front of her.
"My dearest Susannah,
My time runs out and I must face that I will never see you again. I feel certain you are out there somewhere; that you are healthy again but unwilling or unable to risk that health to return to us. I have many regrets in my life but the biggest is that I never allowed you to tell me about the whole of who you were. I did realize there was something special about you and knew that you tried to start to tell me. But I was afraid. Afraid because there was part of you that I could possibly not share. In my youthful ignorance and arrogance, I thought that if it wasn't acknowledged, it didn't exist and that I could be your whole world. When you became ill, I suspected it was that other part of you having an unmet need. I thought, foolishly I expect, that moving to a larger city would mean more services available; that it would be a help to you. I realized after you left that it was what you had to do. If only I'd not stifled your attempts to enlighten me. I feel now that we probably could have worked out something between the worlds. You wouldn't have suffered so and Amanda wouldn't have lost her heritage. We all would not have lost all those years together. I hope you both find it in your hearts to forgive the proud and foolish young man that I was. I loved you both dearly and shall forever.
Amanda tried to break Miles hold on her to go to her mother but he leld tight. She looked up at him. He looked at her and whispered "Let Hugh."
When Amanda looked back at her mother on the couch, she saw that Hugh who was sitting next to Susannah had put his arm around Susannah and pulled her close into an embrace. After a few minutes, Hugh whispered something in Susannah's ear and she nodded.
Sitting up straight, Susannah spoke. "I think it's time for me to leave now."
"Would you like me to walk you back, Mama?" offered Amanda.
"That's okay, Amanda," answered Susannah. "Hugh is going to walk with me."
"Are you sure?" asked Amanda.
"I'm sure," said Susannah. "I'm fine, Amanda."
Miles bent to whisper in Amanda's ear.
"Alright, Mama. I'll see you at the morning meal then," said Amanda.
Susannah and Hugh made their good-byes and started the walk to Susannah's suite in the Bachelor's Quarters.
"Do you wish to talk or would you rather just have silent company?" Hugh asked Susannah.
"I'm not sure," answered Susannah. "Thinking can be confusing but talking will change nothing."
"Sometimes saying things out loud just helps to put things in their proper perspective," said Hugh.
"You might be right, Hugh," responded Susannah. "In so many ways, I was alone for years with all my thoughts; all my regrets. I had had no idea Henry had regrets too."
"You were both young," said Hugh. "Life teaches us much over the years."
"That's true. I really did love him," said Susannah. She added in a very soft voice, "I still do."
"I know," said Hugh. "We don't stop loving or forget those we loved. They have their spot in our hearts forever."
Hugh had stopped walking and Susannah stopped too.
Susannah looked Hugh in the eyes and continued to speak softly, "I think I love you too, Hugh. How can I love two men?"
"I love you, as well, Susannah. We can love many people. Each love is unique and special. How we show that love does depend on the circumstances but that doesn't diminish it. Henry will always have his section in your heart. I am very glad that I too have a section."
Hugh pulled Susannah into his arms and kissed her, gently but thoroughly. Susannah returned the kiss.
When the kiss ended, Hugh held Susannah close and said, "Susannah, I know you are my mate. My fondest wish would be to have a pledging ceremony and you to live in my house with me."
He felt Susannah stiffen as she started to speak, "Oh Hugh."
He spoke before she could continue, "I won't rush you Susannah. I just wanted you to know how I felt."
He broke the embrace but continued to hold her hand as they walked silently on to the Bachelor's Quarters.
It was March. Sarah, sitting in the morning sunshine out in her yard, drinking an herbal tea could hardly believe it. The days in this new year had passed by so quickly, she reflected.
She and Amanda had been to visit Cecilia and her baby son, Robbie just last week and he seemed to have grown so much since that exciting day they'd witnessed his entry into the world. She smiled and rubbed her abdomen. The babe in her had grown a lot too! It was hard to believe that she would see her own daughter in only a few weeks time. The new rooms had been built onto their home and all was ready for the new arrival.
She still had sad dreams of the past though less frequently; of the time she and Geoff were on their own. They'd wake her and she'd be afraid to open her eyes and find herself back in her bedroom in the house in Woodtown all alone. Eyes closed, she'd gingerly reach over to feel the other side of the bed and, upon feeling Kevin lying there beside her, relief and joy would wash over her. Kevin would wake from the intense emotions he felt from her and gather her into his arms and hold her till she fell back to sleep.
Learning his new duties on the council, was keeping Kevin quite busy. Hugh had had the responsibilty of the internet communications for the settlement but no longer had time with his new position replacing Alden as the Elder of the community. It had become Kevin's responsibility. With Miles help, Kevin was learning about computers and the World Wide Web. Miles was always helping someone, mused Sarah. And he'd been especially helpful to her for all those years and she knew that, in her misery, she'd not made that easy for him. But he never wavered and was always there for her and Geoff. Her brother was a very special man. She was so pleased that he had finally found his life-mate in Amanda.
Watching Geoff become part of the faeryfolke community, was especially rewarding. Perhaps because of her own suffering, she'd not fully realized how difficult life had been for him in Woodtown. She couldn't help but feel some guilt over that but it was in the past. He was doing so marvelously well here where he felt a sense of belonging. Geoff had never been neglected in any way and she and Miles had given him love but now he had so much more - his father, his grandparents, friends ... and, soon, a baby sister. There had been some benefits from living in Woodtown as he now knew two cultures and enjoyed showing his new friends his old life as they helped him learn about his faeryfolke heritage.
"Hello!" The greeting broke through Sarah's thoughts and she looked up to see Amanda entering the yard.
"Good morning Amanda!" Sarah stood up and walked toward her sister-in-law.
After they exchanged a hug, Amanda said "I hope I didn't come at a bad time. You looked a million miles away."
Sarah smiled. "Nope. Right here. Just reflecting on life."
"I find myself doing that a lot, too," said Amanda. "I wonder if it's pregnancy related!"
Sarah laughed at that and Amanda joined in.
"We've both been through a lot of changes," commented Sarah.
"Yes. Wonderful, amazing changes!" added Amanda. "Daniel is taking Mama and Margaret into Woodtown to shop for baby things."
"Is there anything they've not already gotten?" Sarah asked with a laugh.
"Not that I can think of!" Amanda grinned at her. "Our daughters will be mightily spoiled by their grandmothers."
"And have their grandfathers wrapt around their teeny fingers along with their fathers, I'm sure," Sarah added.
"Sarah," Amanda started more seriously, "do you and Kevin think of Hugh as a grandparent to your children?"
"Yes. He was more a father than an uncle to Kevin. Why?" asked Sarah.
"I don't know why I asked really. I guess because he and Mama are spending so much time together," said Amanda.
"Does that still bother you Amanda?" Sarah asked.
Amanda took a deep breath. "Not so much anymore. I know that Hugh has been good for Mama. She has come a long way from the sad woman Miles and I found sitting at the edge of the lake."
Sarah smiled and gave Amanda a quick hug.
"Where has the morning gone?" Sarah asked rhetorically. "Amazing how doing nothing at all can use up so much time! Shall we head over to the Dining Hall for the midday meal?"
"Sounds good to me," agreed Amanda.
On their way to the Dining Hall, Sarah and Amanda were joined by Kevin and Miles who greeted their respective mates with a kiss and a hug. Geoff was waiting outside the entrance to the Dining Hall to say hello to his parents but then went to sit at a table with his classmates. Sarah watched him. It had become his practise to eat with his friends for the morning and midday meals although he joined the family table for the evening meal. Kevin, noticing the direction of Sarah's gaze, went and put an arm around her shoulder.
"He's adjusted very well, don't you think?" Kevin asked.
"Yes. Although I don't think he was truly unhappy in Woodtown, he certainly didn't have the joy and confidence he's developed since we came to live here," answered Sarah.
"But? I think there's a 'but' in there," Kevin prompted.
"Not really a but. Well perhaps. He's growing up and becoming so independant," said Sarah.
"You'll always be his Mom," reassured Kevin.
Sarah smiled up at Kevin. "Thank you. I think we better join the others at our table."
"Alright," said Kevin as he lead her to the table where Miles, Amanda, Margaret, Daniel, Susannah and Hugh waited.
As they finished their lunch, the group started to dwindle. Miles went with Kevin and Hugh back to the Council Building. Daniel was off to the school to give some music lessons. He had been delighted to learn there was a way for him to use his musical talent in the settlement.
Soon there was just the four women left.
"Well," said Sarah with a smile, "I'm afraid my main activity this afternoon will be resting."
She patted her abdomen. "That is, if the little one will stop kicking and let me rest."
The other three women laughed. Sarah looked at Amanda's face; then her abdomen; then back to her face. "It won't be long till you are just as big and knowing exactly what I mean."
Amanda grinned and gently rubbed her expanding middle. "Yes," she said in a half whisper. "It's still so unbelievable."
The four set off walking Sarah home before heading to their respective homes.
Sarah awoke from her nap with a sense of unease but couldn't quite figure out the source. She thought it was mainly from Miles but somehow Kevin was involved too. When they all gathered again at the evening meal, Sarah was sure she felt tension in Kevin and Miles most strongly but it was there in Hugh as well. Outwardly all seemed normal, so she concluded that they might not want to talk about whatever it was here in the Dining Hall.
"Amanda, are you and Miles coming over to the house this evening?" Sarah asked.
"Sorry, Sarah," Miles spoke before Amanda had a chance. "we can't tonight."
"We can't?" Amanda asked looking at Miles.
"I want you to myself tonight," Miles said lightly but Sarah felt the stress in him. She hoped Kevin would tell her what was going on later.
Sarah was not the only one to feel the undercurrents. Margaret did not know what was going on but thought that each of the young couples might need time with their mates so asked Geoff to join her and Daniel when they left the Hall.
"I'll see you all tomorrow morning for breakfast?" Miles made a point of asking.
After everyone had assured him that he would, Miles escorted Amanda from the Dining Hall.
They walked together silently hand in hand to their home. As they started up the walk, Amanda broke the silence.
"Are you going to tell me what is going on Miles?"
"Let's go around to the back yard," said Miles.
"Alright," agreed Amanda.
Miles lead her to a spot beside the back porch and sat on the grass with his back leaning against the porch. He reached up to Amanda in an invitation to sit on his lap. Amanda gladly took her place there snuggling up to Miles chest and was enveloped in Miles' embrace. For a while they just sat there. Amanda felt Miles take a deep breath and braced herself for what she expected to be unpleasant news.
"Amanda, I'm going to have to take a trip from the settlement," he said finally.
"Oh?" asked Amanda.
"I think I once told you that I sometimes act as a liason between the faeryfolke world and the Outer World. There are various jobs that I get asked to do because my human side allows me to live in the Outer World," he explained.
"Could I not go with you?" asked Amanda. "I can live in the Outer World too."
"I know you could but I don't know what effect the contaminants in the Outer World might have on our growing baby," replied Miles while gently rubbing Amanda's abdomen.
"I'm sorry. I should have thought of that" Amanda said looking down.
Miles gathered her more tightly against him and, resting his chin on the top of her head, continued,"I don't want to leave you for even a day. I'm going to miss you so much."
Amanda drew back and turned to look up into Miles face. She put her arms around his neck and pulled his face down to hers to kiss him gently on the lips. "I'll miss you, too, Miles. I love you."
Miles kissed Amanda deeply. "I love you Amanda."
"When do you have to leave?" Amanda asked.
"In the morning. After breakfast," Miles answered. "I don't know how long I might be gone. It'll take me a couple of days to just get there and a couple more to return. I won't know how long I'll be needed when I am there."
"Oh Miles! So long?" cried Amanda.
"I'm afraid so," he answered. "I'll be in contact with Kevin through the phone and internet at the Council Building."
"Sarah's house still has phone connections too, right? And a computer?" asked Amanda. "I could stay there and you could contact me too."
"Visits into Woodtown would probably be ok but I don't think you should stay there," said Miles. "I'll set up an email address that you can reach me through and, after I know what is going on there, we can probably set up times to talk on the phone."
"Alright. I'll check everyday," said Amanda.
"I don't know if that would be wise, Amanda," said Miles. "You don't need to go so often and, promise me you'll never go alone. In fact, the more people with you, the better."
"Why? What is going on?" asked Amanda anxiously. "Will you be in danger Miles?"
"Amanda, I'm going to be honest with you. I do not know. Faeryfolke are a gentle, peace-loving people. But that does not mean we do not have enemies," answered Miles.
"I remember Hugh mentioning humans that feared those they did not understand," remarked Amanda.
"We were discussing the need to keep our settlements secret from humans at the time," recalled Miles. "There are segments in the worlds of magic and enchantment who, unfortunately, are a greater threat."
"Oh Miles!" exclaimed Amanda.
Miles held her close rubbing her back. "I have so little information right now. I don't know what I'll face but I'll go prepared. I will return Amanda. I just wish I didn't have to leave you at all."
"I know," Amanda said. "Let's go in now."
Sarah, Kevin and Geoff had left the Dining Hall with Margaret and Daniel. Sarah was anxious to talk with Kevin. They were soon in front of Sarah and Kevin's house. Geoff continued on with his grandparents as Kevin and Sarah went into their house. The door had barely been closed when Sarah spoke.
"What is going on, Kevin?" she said.
"Let's get comfortable in the sitting room and then I'll tell you as much as I know," answered Kevin.
Sarah went in and got comfortable in a reclining chair with her legs raised. Being in the last month of the pregnancy made getting comfortable more of a challenge.
"Alright. I'm sitting now. Kevin?" she asked of her husband sitting on the sofa across from her.
"I don't have a lot of details," started Kevin. "I'm not sure how much you know of the type of work Miles has carried out for faeryfolke over the years."
"Not much at all really," said Sarah. "I had made faeryfolke an unmentionable subject in the years I lived in the Outer World."
"He helped out different faeryfolke communities in different ways," explained Kevin. "He is well known in the faeryfolke world for this and we'd get requests from time to time for him to assist a group. Sometimes it was just simple things that needed someone capable of staying in the Outer World to handle. Some things were more serious."
"You got a request today, didn't you?" asked Sarah.
"Yes," answered Kevin.
"Poor Amanda! She'll miss him so much," said Sarah.
"As Miles will miss her," said Kevin.
"True," agreed Sarah. "How far? How long? Why?"
"I don't know how long he'll be gone. I would expect at least a week," Kevin answered. "But we really won't know till he gets there what he is facing. He will need at least 2 full days travelling each way and that is if he takes only a minimal number of restorative stops."
Kevin paused. Then took a big breath and continued. "There are missing faeryfolke children."
"Oh no!" exclaimed Sarah.
"A couple of days ago, a family, an 18 year old girl and her parents, went into their nearest Outer World town to shop. They separated for a short time agreeing to meet at the park. The girl never showed up. Her parents searched but could not find her. They reported it to the police in that town but the police didn't seem to be very interested since she was 18. They figured she was just off having fun. Her parents found that hard to believe but weren't sure as they'd not felt any distress from her."
"That must be so hard for them," said Sarah.
"It is. Then yesterday another faeryfolke family went to town. They didn't separate but somehow their 12 year old son disappeared."
"Oh my! The same age as Geoff!" exclaimed Sarah.
"They've no idea how it happened," Kevin continued. "He seemed to be with them one minute and gone the next. In this case too, the parents felt no signals of distress. The local police took this more seriously but wouldn't connect it with the other disappearance. It is complicated too in that both families were vistors to the town and not residents."
"It seems to be a very dangerous town," said Sarah.
"It had never been before. Still, it had become dangerous so the settlements Protectors were no longer allowing anyone to leave the settlement. Today a faeryfolke family though was passing through the town as they were returning from visiting relatives in another community."
"Another child missing?" she asked.
"Yes. A 9 year old girl this time," answered Kevin."After her disappearance, we got the call for Miles' help. He'll leave right after breakfast."
"But so much time will pass!" exclaimed Sarah. "The poor parents."
"I know but it's the best we can do," responded Kevin. "Miles did set some things in motion this afternoon. He also has a contact on the Woodtown police force who got some information for him. At least we know none of the parents has felt any distress."
"That sounds like a good sign," said Sarah.
"It does," agreed Kevin.
"Where is he going?" Sarah asked.
Kevin didn't answer her right away.
"Kevin?" asked Sarah.
She had felt a tumbled rush of emotions in him when she'd asked where Miles was going to help with the missing children. He was looking down as he seemed to get a grip on his emotions but now raised his head.
"Miles is going to Forrest," he finally answered. He waited but it was only seconds till it hit Sarah.
"Forrest! That's the town by the Whispering Woods!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, it is," said Kevin.
"That's where your parents and brothers and sisters are; your mother's family, too," said Sarah." Oh Kevin. Do you know any of the children?"
"I do," he answered and took a deep breath. "The 18 year old girl is my youngest sister, Jennifer."
Although the pregnancy made it a bit awkward, Sarah rose from the recliner and went to sit next to Kevin on the sofa and put her arms around him. For a few minutes they just sat in silence.
"Are you going to go with Miles?" Sarah asked softly.
"No. There's not much I can really do there," he replied. "We don't know how long it would take either. You are so close to your time. I need to be here when our little daughter joins the world."
"I feel rather selfish, but I'm glad you aren't going," said Sarah. "Do you know how your parents are doing?"
"I talked to them today on the telephone from the Council Building," replied Kevin. 'They're scared. They're confused. But they are hopeful as neither has felt any negative emotions from her."
"I'm sure Miles will help," said Sarah. "Do you think that a human is involved?"
"We really don't think so," answered Kevin. "There are no other children missing in the town. Three children and all faeryfolke would be too much of a coincidence."
"If none of the children are distressed maybe it's just a silly trick of an imp," suggested Sarah.
"We thought of that and, if a short period of time was involved, maybe," Kevin responded. "But imps like their fun quick and simple. They wouldn't want to be taking care of children. Also, faeryfolke children of even a young age, see the imps for what they are."
"You are right," said Sarah. "Who do you consider likely?"
"Grogres are first on our list," replied Kevin.
"Oh?" said Sarah. "If I remember right, they aren't considered dangerous beings."
"You're right," said Kevin. "They tend to stay in their own realm and not bother anyone. We mainly consider them likely because they'd be able to do this and they'd most likely not harm the children."
"But why take them?" asked Sarah.
"That's the big question. IF it is Grogres, they must have a reason," said Kevin. "They would not do this for sport."
"What are some of the other possibilities?" Sarah asked.
"We thought of time-travellers. If the children were taken to another time, their parents would not be able to 'feel' them but we think they'd feel a void. Actually we've no record of connections through time travel so are only speculating how it would affect faery senses.
"There are the Trolks, the Griffords and so many more from the Worlds of Magic and Enchantment. Some are quite violent peoples but the Faeryfolke have had a lasting peace with all of them and we know of no reason they'd wish to change that."
"Miles could be going into a dangerous situation, couldn't he?" Sarah asked.
"He could be," replied Kevin. "But he will not go unprepared. He will wear Amulets of Protection and Strength."
Kevin pulled Sarah into a close embrace.
[Whimsical Woods Index]