Monday, October 15, 2012

Noitisnart ni Niahmas

Boo!  Just checking to see if you're awake.  Welcome to my Halloween story!  As always, this is a first draft, and as such, some things may be just a touch wonky.  But, it's going to be good wonky, trust me.  Oh, and always, Copyright 2012, by Raymond Frazee.  Enjoy.

Noitisnart ni Niahmas

Part Three

When they arrived at wherever they were headed, the first thing Laurie noticed was the darkness. There were the urban lights in the distant, but there was much darkness below—and above. The sky was fully dark, and the stars blazed. She immediately picked out Orion’s Belt and Aldebaran, and saw a bright, unblinking light near the horizon that could only be the planet Jupiter. “We’re going east!”

“You know your stars,” Celeste said. “Yes, but we’re going a little north, too.”

“Where are we?” Laurie looked about. “We’re not in the U.S.”

“You know that for a fact?”

“Orion’s up; it’s too early in the year for it to rise until late.” She turned slightly to the left, following Celeste. “Which means it has to be late at night—and that means we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Celeste was impressed with Laurie’s deduction. “Right you are.”

“Where are we, then?”

“Just to the east of Rhandirmwyn . . .” She let the consonants roll over Laurie’s ear. “Wales.”

Even from fifteen feet away, and in the dark, Celeste saw her companion’s eyebrows shoot up. “We’re in Wales?”

“Didn’t I just say that?”

“What was that thing you did back home?” Laurie answered the question nearly as soon as she asked. “You opened a portal, didn’t you?”

“Something like that. It’s a larger, stronger version of a skrying window.”

“What was that you said to open that window?” She looked down and saw a tree-covered hill rising up on her right. “Are we in a valley?”

“Just a small one.” Celeste looked around to get her bearings. “That was Welsh I spoke—Cymraeg, as one might say.”

“I didn’t realize you spoke another language.” Laurie was grinning broadly. “That’s sort of cool.”

“You didn’t know I was a witch, either.”

“That’s also sort of cool.”

That made Celeste laugh. “Just sort of cool?”

At the moment Laurie was beyond thinking anything was cool. She was flying above the Welsh countryside near—she guessed close to midnight, but she wasn’t certain. She was a witch, with another witch, and wearing a . . . This is so incredible, she thought. But why is Celeste doing this? Why did she change me? Because she’s a lesbian? Or because . . .

She wasn’t sure of anything other than magic was real and working—at least it worked tonight. Laurie wondered if the witchcraft Celeste used would vanish with the dawn, or if she could work spells all the time. As they flew between the tree-lined hills, sensing more than seeing the brook below, Laurie almost didn’t care. This was becoming the greatest night of her life, and she didn’t want it to end.

Celeste took the lead for a moment as the land began to level out. She rose over a line of trees, Laurie right behind, and then they were diving into another valley. They were suddenly in an area where the valley opened on their right. Laurie slowed, seeing the lights of a small village maybe a quarter of a mile away. “What’s that?”

Celeste backed up and hovered. “That’s Llanwrtyd Wells.” She was close enough to tap Laurie on the arm. “Come on.” She pointed off to their left. “We’re heading this way.”

They slowly rounded a hill, and Laurie saw they were back in another small valley. She could see the narrow road below, and estimated they were perhaps one hundred feet up. She saw more lights ahead, but as they grew closer she saw there were only a half dozen structures.

“That’s Cwm Irfon,” Celeste said. “We’re just to the east of the Irfon Forest; Iron Forest is up ahead.”

“You seem to know a lot about this area.” Laurie watched the houses fall behind them slowly.

“I’ve spent some time in this area.” Celeste’s smile was warm and full of memories. “I did my instruction around here when I was learning The Craft.”

“Your family from this area?”

“No. My mother trained under someone from Aberystwyth, and she wanted me to train up right.” She motioned for Laurie to follow. “Here’s our turn!”

There were a sharp left, and Laurie found herself following Celeste up into the air as they headed into a hollow leading towards a high hill. She’d found all the flying about in the night to be exhilarating, the way she imagined it might if she were driving a sports car at top speed along a dark, moon-lit night.

But there wasn’t a moon, not tonight. The stars were startlingly bright; Laurie figured there should be enough light pollution to dim them, but it wasn’t the case. It has to be magic, she thought as they cleared a line of trees on their climb. There has to be something here that’s letting the starlight show so bright. And Celeste wanted me to see something . . . Does that mean—?

There was a glow in the hills ahead of the two witches. Celeste pointed in that direction. “That’s the coven. They’ve probably been at it for a few hours.”

“Coven?” Laurie didn’t need to ask, but did anyway. “So there are witches here?”

“There are a lot of witches here.” She nodded, and Laurie noticed Witchbaby stretched out along the handle. “Some are old friends.”

Laurie mumbled, “I’m sure.” She felt a little ill at ease, for she didn’t know how she was going to handle being in the middle of a bunch of witches. It’s not that I’m feeling strange about being a . . . She didn’t complete the thought, because she knew no one here would realize what her gender had been only thirty minutes earlier.

But these are people who can work magic, she thought, and here I am, just able to fly a broom. She wondered if she was going to have to do something to show these other witches that she was one of them. Or if Celeste was going to tell her friends she was just along to “observe”. Or if—

Something large flew overhead, blacking out the sky as it passed. “What was that?” Laurie asked.

Celeste looked up and over her right shoulder. “I think that might be . . . Tegwin.” She shook her head. “I thought she’d be sleeping this time of night.”

“Who’s—” Laurie looked in the same direction as Celeste. “What is Tegwin?”

“Oh, one of the local dragons.”

Laurie turned her attention back to Celeste. “A dragon?”

Celeste chuckled. “You sounds like Hermione when you say it that way.”

“A dragon?” She looked over her shoulder again, but saw nothing this time. “You have dragons around here?”

“It’s Wales, isn’t it.” Celeste waved at her friend. “Go shoo her away.”

What!” Laurie couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. “You want me to shoo away a dragon?”


“A dragon ain’t a stray fucking dog!”

“And you weren’t a woman when you woke up this morning.” Celeste winked. “You should be able to handle it; Tigwin’s mostly harmless.” She looked towards the approaching bonfire. “Mostly.”

“You have to be kidding!”

Celeste shook her head. “No, honey, I’m not.” She nodded up to the sky. “I’m guessing Tegwin felt you were coming—she does that to new witches—”

“I’m not a witch!”

“You’re on a broom, aren’t you?” Celeste slowed and pulled along side. “You’re wearing a hat, aren’t you? You have a wand . . .”

“All thanks to you!” Now Laurie was shaking her head. “You put me up here! This is your doing.”

“Not at all, sweets.” She leaned closer. “Anything you’re doing, it’s because it was inside you from the beginning. I made you female, but you . . . you’re the witch.” Her eyebrows wiggled. “I can’t give you the ability to do magic, ‘cause magic doesn’t work that way.”

She once again nodded towards the unseen dragon. “You got three choices. One, you land, and if the head of the coven asks you to do something, and you can’t, she might just do something bad to you. Two, you stay up here and fly about until I’m ready to go home. Or, three . . . Get Tegwin to go to her home and sleep.” Celeste reached over and patted Laurie’s hand. “I know what you can do, but you have to go do it. I can’t help you there.” And with that last, she grabbed her broom handle with both hands and plummeted towards the coven fire.

Laurie knew she was alone. She knew she wouldn’t get help on this, and if she didn’t want to spend all night flying around alone, she knew she was gonna have to put a dragon to bed.

She brought her broom to a hover and searched the sky. As bright as the stars were, it would be easier to spot something blotting out the thousands of points of light above, then noticing a shadow floating along the ground below. That doesn’t mean this Tegwin isn’t below me, she thought, but if I’m a dragon, out enjoying in the night, I’m going to stay high . . .

The Great Square of Pegasus disappeared for a moment, and she knew Tegwin was slightly above her, and coming out of the southwest. “Got ya,” she whispered, then climbed to get closer.

The night disguised the dragon’s true size, and Laurie was almost swept off her broom by Tegwin’s left wing as she approached from below. She must be a hundred feet long, Laurie thought as she regained her composure. She turned and caught up with the beast in seconds, coming in from above and behind, minding the tail flipping about.

She approached the great horned head. Tegwin looked like every classical dragon picture Laurie ever seen, though watching the dragon’s head turn and look about as Laurie flew over her wings did make her nervous. It’s one thing to see this in a movie, and something completely different to see it see it in real life . . . while sitting on a broom.

Not certain what she should do, Laurie decided upon the direct approach. She jinxed over to the right and drew even with Tegwin’s enormous head. “Hey, Tegwin,” she said as conversationally as possible, “How you doing? Enjoying the flying?” The dragon eyed her, then turned her head slightly to the right while pealing off to the left.

“Damn it!” Laurie brought her broom around and chased after Tegwin. “Hey, I’m talking to you!” she yelled. “Where do you think you’re going, missy?”

Tegwin looked back, then leveled off about two hundred feet over a large body of dark water. It was becoming obvious to Laurie that this dragon was going to be difficult as a cat. Though I’ve not encountered that many cats that are a hundred feet long and can fly . . .

“Hey, Tegwin!” Laurie pulled along side and began waving her arms to get the creature’s attention. “Why don’t you do me a favor and head on off to your . . .” She wasn’t certain where this dragon’s home was. Maybe a cave? Or somewhere in the woods? Probably anywhere she wants to stay. “Head on off and go to bed now, okay?”

The dragon shook its head and snorted. She spread her wings and begin to soar upward, leaving a bemused Laurie behind. She followed along, wondering how best to get this huge beast out of the sky so she could join Celeste.

Maybe I’m not being stern enough, she thought, then realized how silly that sounded. How could she be stern with a dragon? How could you make something bigger than a truck do something it didn’t want to do? Yelling at it won’t do any good, but it doesn’t seem like I can sweet talk this thing out of the air—

Then it hit her: how can I talk it into going to bed? Am I even speaking its language? She remembered the words Celeste spoke to open a window that brought them here. She told me she spoke Welsh. And we’re in Wales. So maybe Tegwin knows only Welsh. But how the hell am I gonna speak Welsh to her? I can’t even speak backwards!

“Yo, Tegwin!” Laurie zoomed over the left wing and pulled close to her head. “I don’t know if you understand English, but I need you to go to bed.” She placed her hands together and rested her head against them, pantomiming someone sleeping. “Please. I wanna go stand around a warm fire with my friend, so . . .  She wiggled her fingers, trying to shoo the dragon away. “Of ta bed wit ya!”

Tegwin turned her head towards Laurie, then snorted loud. She turned away, looking straight ahead.

That was too much for Laurie to take. “Damn you, dragon!” She considered reaching over and slapping the big lizard, then thought that might be pushing things too far. “Get off to bed, will you? Go on: get!” She flapped her hands at Tegwin. “Go to bed! Go, now!” She felt her exasperation growing. “You’re pissing me off, you know that? Go to sleep! Go! Go!” But Tegwin wasn’t listening; she flew onward, appearing as if she were about to make a long, sweeping turn to the right.

That was enough to drive Laurie right to the edge of anger. “I am through fucking with you!” she yelled. “You better get going now, or I’ll . . .” She pointed at Tegwin in a threatening manor. “I’m gonna get all magical on your ass.”

Tegwin blew the dragon equivalent of a raspberry at Laurie, ignoring her rant.

Her eyes grew wide as Laurie drew in a breath. “Listen to me,” she screamed. “Listen to me! I want you to . . .” She screwed up her eyes, her head feeling close to exploding. “Téigh a chodladh anois, Tegwin! Ciallaíonn mé é!”

The dragon slowly turned her head, looking at Laurie with both eyes. They stared at each other for almost five seconds, then Tegwin nodded. She flapped her wings hard three times, and vanished from view in a matter of seconds.

Laurie brought her broom to a halt and looked around. Nothing. The dragon had disappeared. Did I really get her to head off to bed? she thought. And what the hell did I say? She’d never heard anyone say something like that before—much less expected to hear those words emerge from her own mouth.

After a minute of scanning the sky, Laurie was satisfied she’d vanquished the sky of the difficult dragon. But was that magic, or was it me? Or . . . She had no idea if there was an “Or” that applied. About the only way I’m going to know if I did the right thing is head for the party

And see if anything bad happens to me.

Spotting the bonfire off to her left, Laurie turned and flew toward whatever fate awaited.

What happens next?  Do you really think Tegwin went straight to bed?  Are you able to make your kids get to sleep that fast?  Tune in next week.  And if you have something to say, leave me a message.

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